This past week I spent a delightful evening at the Manatawny Still Works in Pottstown. No, I wasn't picking up additional bottles of their delicious Coffee Whiskey, I was participating in one of their bottling nights. What's that? Well, I'm glad you asked.
The most crucial part between spirits aging in barrels and pouring them out of a bottle and into your glass is putting it in the bottle in the first place. The bottling of their spirits is a labor-intensive process. Everything is done by hand, and therefore you need quite a few pairs of hands to bottle all of the spirits. Fortunately, the wonderful folks at the Manatawny Still Works have the process down pat, so it functions like a well-oiled machined. Which is good, because a well-liquored machine would probably be less efficient as the night goes on.
The bottling night in Pottstown starts at around 6 pm with pizza for everyone that attends. You need a solid 15 or so people for things to run efficiently. First, they hook up the spirits to a gravity fed pourer that can fill eight bottles at a time. While someone is taking empty bottles out of boxes and spraying some air into them to push out any dust, someone is filling up and removing bottles from the pourer. The filled bottles then go to someone else who weighs them to make sure there is enough liquor in the bottles. Too little, they add some. Too much, they pour some out. After an acceptable weight is verified, then someone else puts a cork in and pounds it down.
Next, the bottles get labeled with whatever liquor is being poured into them, either Whiskey, Gin, or Rum. (It's usually whiskey or one of their small batch whiskeys.) The only exception to this rule is their vodka, which is labeled first and is in a different bottle. Why? Well, swing by for a tour on Saturday or Sunday and find out. It's very interesting. When the bottle is labeled, they are marked with what "batch" they are from so people know where the spirit came from.
After the bottle is labeled, a plastic wrap is shrunk on top with a heat gun, and then the bottles are repacked back into the boxes for shipment. All in all, the entire process takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. I've participated in two bottling events, and each time my group bottled over 1,300 bottles in less than three hours.
While you don't get paid for your time, the wonderful folks at the Manatawny Still Works get you pizza, and you do get a cocktail. You also get an exclusive T-Shirt that isn't for sale there as well as a special discount if you decide to buy any of their product that evening.
This last week, I helped bottle their special vodka, Three Bitches Wheat Vodka. The bottle of this vodka features three very sweet dogs on the label and proceeds from every sale of this bottle go to local dog rescue centers. The Piper Project has special fundraisers the 1st Friday of every month where they raise money for a different no-kill shelter in the area. Piper (pictured to the right) is the distillery dog who, if you visit the Pottstown location, often greets people at the front door. She's a barker, but she is an absolute sweetheart.
So by now, you are asking yourself, "Colt, how do I get in on this bottling stuff? What's the deal?" Well, I'm glad you asked. If you are in the Pottstown, PA area, you should contact them and say you are interested in coming to one of their bottling nights. Click here to message them directly.
Tell them, "Colt Sebastian Taylor sent me!" You won't get anything extra, but it'll be funny if that gets back to me.
Photos from the last two bottling nights.
Drink responsibly, my fellow adventurers!
Bonus video! If you haven't already, pick up a bottle of their small batch coffee whiskey, made with Rival Bros. Coffee, based out of Philadelphia.