The perfect partner to Philly’s booming restaurant scene is the its fast-growing community of beer, wine and spirits makers and evangelists. The people who move that industry forward are highlighted in this edition of Who’s Next, a monthly feature at Billy Penn where we showcase some of the most dynamic leaders in their field.
From pioneers who’ve launched breweries and distilleries in underutilized neighborhoods to self-taught experts who spread knowledge that helps producers and consumers navigate the expanding drink landscape, these are the folks to keep an eye on in the world of booze in Philadelphia.
Sean and Andy Arsenault
Title: Co-founders, Brewery ARS
Who’s Next because: When they open their new brewery later this year, these twins will become part of the wave of breweries returning to Philadelphia proper — and also part of the revitaliziation of West Passyunk Ave. Building on a wealth of experience that includes brewing at Victory and with various breweries across Europe, they plan a lineup focused on cold-conditioned saisons, leaving no doubt that the beer will stand out. Find them on Twitter at @BreweryARS.
Title: Co-owner, Bibou and Le Cheri
Who’s Next because: While her husband (chef Pierre Calmels) brings the flavors of their native France to Philadelphians through food, Charlotte does the same with wine. Her pairing recommendations are one of the draws at the couple’s lauded Bella Vista BYO, and her well-considered list — full of unprecedented value — does the same for their Rittenhouse bistro. Find her on Twitter at @LeCheriPhilly.
Title: Co-founder and master distiller, Millstone Spirits Group
Who’s Next because: Along with his uncle, Cassell helped launch the state’s first distillery since Prohibition: Philadelphia Distilling. His liquor-making prowess, built on a background in brewing, helped lead to Bluecoat gin’s international success. In 2013, he branched out to open New Liberty Distillery in Kensington, where he’s revived classic old-time Pennsylvania whiskey label Kinsey. Find him on Twitter at @RobertJCassell.
Title: Mid-Atlantic sales manager, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Who’s Next because: This Norristown native blazed a trail for female beer reps, first in her role with a local distributor and then with Dogfish, a company she’s worked with for an impressive eight years now. Biting wit, a no-nonsense attitude and tons of beer knowledge combine to make her a minor celebrity in the Philadelphia brewing community. Find her on Twitter at @WendyLovesBeer.
Title: Co-owner, Coeur, Clarkville, Strangelove’s, Local 44 and Memphis Taproom
Who’s Next because: With his wife Leigh Maida, this Northeast Philly native has built a mini-empire of bars you actually want to hang out in, from a food-truck-equipped beer garden in Kensington to a Bella Vista wine haven to a West Philly bottle shop. If something sippable is new, interesting or delicious, Hartranft will not only encourage customers to try it, he’ll sing a soliloquy that makes it impossible to refuse. He doesn’t really do Twitter (that’s Leigh’s gig).
Meredith Maciolek Komorowsky
Title: Field sales representative, Sazerac Company
Who’s Next because: As brand manager for Philadelphia Distilling, this native of Montco was a key figure in the growth of local labels like Bluecoat gin and Vieux Carre absinthe. In her current role with Sazerac, she helps spread the good word and good spirits of the country’s largest distilling company, teaching bartenders and consumers what to do with great bourbon, rye and others booze. She’s not on Twitter (next year, she says) but find her on Instagram at @Mackmerry77.
Title: Co-founder and CEO, Faber Spirits
Who’s Next because: Instead of going the usual route after business school, Lorubbio partnered with a friend to launch a Midnight Madness Distilling in Bucks County and turn the local craft booze industry on its ear. Instead presented as precious, Faber rum, vodkas and gin come in stripped down bottles that are designed for value instead of prestige, which explains why they’ve popped up as house spirits in bars all over town. Find him on Twitter at @FaberSpirits.
Who’s Next because: The craft brewing and craft distilling booms mean lots of new great things to drink, but the companies that make them also face lots of never-before-examined legal and licensing situations. Where do they turn? To Mather, who also acts as an advocate for the growing industries and writes periodic articles about the issues they face. She’s also a board member for Philly local farming nonprofit Fair Food. Find her on Twitter at @alcohollawyer.
Title: Co-owner, Martha
Who’s Next because: During his time behind the bar at various Philadelphia institutions (Amada, Khyber Pass Pub), Medlinsky — aka Jonny Blueshoes — played a huge role in introducing Philly drinkers to sour beers, back before most people had even heard of them. His passion for natural fermentation is on display at his new bar in Kensington, where sour brews are complemented by local kombucha, pickles and cheese. Find him on Twitter at @jmedlinsky.
Title: Co-founder and head brewer, Double Nickel Brewing Co.
Who’s Next because: A native of Haddonfield whose father was a liquor salesman, Perry now lives in Fishtown, but he jumped back across the river last year to launch his new brewery in Pennsauken. His skills come from a half dozen years at NJ’s Flying Fish and Virginia’s Beltway brewing, a path he took after deciding a career in medicine wasn’t for him. They’re currently growler only, but Perry’s promised releases in bottles and cans later this year. Find him on Twitter at @dblnickelbrew.
Matt & Bryan Quigley
Title: Co-founders, Federal Distilling
Age: 31 and 30
Who’s Next because: In less than five years, these brothers went from playing with a still in their parents’ Fort Washington basement to launching the Stateside Vodka brand. Matt put time in the trenches, learning the craft and inventing his own method of super-clean gas filtration, while Bryan scored the funds and investors to make their sleek distillery with attached tasting room in Kensington a reality. Find them on Twitter at @statesidevodka.
Title: Co-owner, Aldine
Who’s Next because: This Florida native found her true calling in Philadelphia when she met husband George Sabatino and helped develop a the bar program for Stateside on East Passyunk — all-local, all the time, way before the idea was played out. Making her own shrubs, amaros and tinctures from fresh herbs and ingredients is part of the basis for her innovative cocktail program at the couple’s new restaurant on a second-floor corner in Rittenhouse. Find her on Twitter at @jsabatino15.
Title: Co-founder, Crime & Punishment Brewing Co.
Who’s Next because: That beer is fermenting in Brewerytown once again is mostly thanks to this Pottstown native, who gathered a group of friends and convinced them to launch a brewery in the neighborhood he’d been living in for several years and wanted to help revitalize. Originally a theology student, Wambolt switched his graduate studies to philosophy and started homebrewing along the way. Appears deep thinking leads to some pretty great beers. Find him on Twitter at @CandPBrewingCo.