“This story was originally published in the March 7, 2018 issue of Input Fort Wayne as “A taste of hometown spirit.”
There is a rebirth happening in the 46803, and one key reason is Three Rivers Distilling Co. (TRDC).
They’re the first craft distillery to open in northeast Indiana since prohibition, and they have been creating spirits in their warehouse-turned-distillery at 224 East Wallace Street since 2016.
The wheat and corn that they use grows within 100 miles of the distillery, and they take pride in using Hoosier resources they can give back to the community in their Harvester Vodka, Three Rivers Wheated Bourbon, Summit City Gin, River City Rum, Coffee Liqueur, 122 Corn Whiskey, and Franklin B. Rye Whiskey.
If some of these names sound familiar, it is because they honor both the history of Fort Wayne and the local military.
Until this year, TRDC’s products have been available at restaurants, groceries, and liquor stores.
Now, the distillery is taking its impact to the next level by adding a tasting room to its facilities where residents can discover a previously unvisited corner of town.
Veteran owned and made
Perhaps the first thing to know about TRDC is everything is veteran owned and veteran made.
Aaron Pence, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, has served in the National Guard 122nd Fighter Wing for 15 years and has served in 4 tours overseas.
The 122nd Fighter Wing has contributed multiple combat medical teams, vehicle drivers, security forces squads, and pilots to the military forces at large. Combat zone assignments include Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Iraq, Oman, and more.
The TRDC 122 Corn Whiskey is named in honor of the 122nd Fighter Wing. TRDC describes it as “an intense, un-aged corn whiskey honoring the servicemen and women of our local community.”
“Veteran made and owned is very important,” Pence says. “It’s a way to give back to those who have served. It’s a brotherhood and sisterhood, and we share the same work ethic, values, and integrity as well as a desire for excellence. We all share a passion, and it translates into the spirits we make.”
The passion Pence talks about translates from his military career to the downtown neighborhood TRDC calls home.
Doing business in 46803
Pence says one of the first things that mattered to TRDC was being as close to downtown as possible. They also needed to be in an area zoned for industrial use to distill spirits.
That combination of factors led them to a neighborhood just south of downtown, between Calhoun Street and Lafayette.
“We found a beautiful historic building in this neighborhood that overlooks downtown and is right off of Highway 27,” Pence says. “We are so excited for downtown growth, from the GE Campus to the Calhoun Street staples. We feel like we are part of the excitement.”
The excitement within the distillery is unique as well. TRDC is a fully functioning distillery that runs through all of the steps of creating spirits in one location.
Three Rivers Distilling Co. creates all of their spirits onsite.
With a full range of shiny distilling equipment and bourbon barrels filling the wide space, there is still room for the main offices, an event area that is available to the public, and their new tasting room that opened in February 2018.
“There is so much growth on the south side, and it is incredible to see our company in this environment with such an awesome group working here,” Pence says.
The awesome group Pence is referring to includes seven employees who work in the production of spirits and another 10 who work in the new tasting room.
Marla Schneider is President of TRDC and is equally optimistic about its future.
“My goal is for the company to be the premier distillery in the Midwest in the next 5 years,” Schneider says.
As a former Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Greater Fort Wayne, Inc., she has a background in economic development. She explains that one of the reasons she is most excited about being President of the distillery is being able to help Fort Wayne evolve and create destinations that attract talent.
“What I like about our location is that we are changing how downtown and Fort Wayne looks,” Schneider says. “Similar to what Parkview Field did, we are helping to expand the area and people’s outlook about where to go in the downtown area.”
The tasting room
There has been a massive growth in the Fort Wayne market for local breweries.
When you add Three Rivers Distilling Co. into the mix, you can see the potential it holds not just for locals, but also for visitors.
The new tasting room boasts a full bar, a large dining space, and an even bigger outdoor patio area that will be opening anytime the weather allows.
Pence says an added benefit of an onsite tasting room is showing the artistry of craft distilling to the public.
“There’s been a resurgence of interest in bourbon, and we wanted to show that to the Fort Wayne community,” Pence says. “We wanted to bring an upscale experience to highlight the quality of our spirits.”
After a recent change to Indiana law, the tasting room was allowed to open sooner than originally expected.
Thanks to a recent change in legislation, TRDC only had to wait 18 months (instead of three years) after opening the distillery to add a tasting room for the public.
Construction on the addition started in May 2017, and nine months later, it opened to the public, offering a specialty drink menu, a Sunday brunch menu, and unique lunch and dinner menus.
The tasting room is open Tuesday through Sunday each week.
Its floor to ceiling windows give patrons a unique view of the downtown skyline while they enjoy drinks like the “Savannah Gentleman” or the “Grapefruit Three Ways.”
Whatever the name, all of the drinks are made from TRDC’s products, giving residents a taste of that hometown spirit so many have come to enjoy.
“This story was originally published in the March 7, 2018 issue of Input Fort Wayne as “A taste of hometown spirit.” This story is the first in a series of shared articles between Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana and Input Fort Wayne.