A clear-cut approach

Kensington’s Red Brick Craft Distillery opens the distilling process to patrons and stresses the use of locally-grown ingredients.

Brian Forrest, co-owner of Red Brick Craft Distillery, keeps watch over a barrel of brewing whiskey. Red Brick Craft Distillery in Kensington crafts rum, whiskey, and birch beer.

I like the relationships and knowing who we are working with. We just kind of naturally gravitated towards the things that we like and are passionate about.
~Zachary Cohen | co-owner of Red Brick Craft Distillery

The clear glass bottles and pickle jars used to bottle spirits are not the only transparent aspect of the distillation process at the Red Brick Craft Distillery in Kensington.

Brian Forrest and Zachary Cohen craft rum, whiskey and birch beer at the new distillery at 2628 Martha St.—and let patrons observe the whole process. Visitors on Saturdays and Sundays can watch through a wall of windows in the tasting room.

“The most interesting thing about coming here is to see this place,” Forrest said. “We have nothing to hide.”

Three years ago, Forrest, who attended the Tyler School of Art from 1998-2003, and Cohen decided to turn their creative interests into a distillation business focused around quality products and local patrons.

Forrest focuses his co-ownership role on creating, distilling and maintaining the building, while Cohen deals with partnerships, marketing and brand development.

“I like the relationships and knowing who we are working with,” Cohen said. “We just kind of naturally gravitated towards the things that we like and are passionate about.”

Mark Brault, one of three owners of Deer Creek Malthouse in Glen Mills, supplies malt to Red Brick Distillery. Brault said they have distributed products to Maine and California, but focusing on local productivity is better for sustainability, freshness and creating a sense of community.

“Being able to interact and see who your suppliers and who your customers are and really collaborate with them is a really nice benefit,” Brault said about working as a local supplier and consumer.

The distillery opened Oct. 24, 2015, after an online Kickstarter campaign raised $27,641 to fund the initial ingredient expenses.

“We realized that we were both passionate about it and both were willing to take the risk that starting a small business entails,” Cohen said.

Forrest works in construction during the day and spends his time at the distillery on evenings and weekends. Cohen is currently studying at University of Pennsylvania to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Intern Casey Newman plans on moving to California to open his own distillery after graduating from Drexel University with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

Newman was attracted to working at Red Brick because the small business atmosphere allowed him to get first-hand experience with distilling.

“It’s just a couple of guys, so we’re getting better at doing it,” he said. “You’re getting a better and better product instead of the same thing every time.”

“The most appealing part is that there’s a face behind the whiskey,” he added.

Forrest said he hopes to see the business expand and attract even more patrons from Kensington because neighborly service and patronage is a primary goal for the distillery.

With a limited-distillery license, Red Brick Craft Distillery is allowed to sell drinks to patrons in the tasting room until 11 p.m. Forrest and Cohen have partnered with two bartenders and will open to serve mixed drinks and samples on Saturdays from 12-11 p.m. in the near future.

“We are excited to expand because that means more people can try our whiskey, but we want to make sure to do it responsibly,” Cohen said. “We’re trying to keep everything on a small enough scale so we know a lot about what we use to get our whiskey, and that’s important to us.”

Margo Reed can be reached at margo.reed@temple.edu.

Video by Harrison Brink

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