By Jeff & Stephanie Sylva
Local, fresh, handcrafted, high quality: These were the goals Sourland Mountain Spirits founder Ray Disch had in mind when he decided he was ready for a new challenge. In 2015, craft distilling became legal in New Jersey. And that’s when Disch—an entrepreneur at heart—decided to establish the “first farm distillery in New Jersey since prohibition.”
Just 60 miles from Manhattan in Hopewell, New Jersey, Sourland Mountain Spirits Distillery is situated on the idyllic Double Brook Farm. Also located on the farm is Troon Brewing and Brick Farm Tavern & Bar, making it the only location with a craft distillery, a craft brewery, and a pasture-to-fork restaurant in one place.
THE SOURLAND STORY
The Sourland Mountains have a rich history of farmers, bootleggers, rebels and patriots, fine craftsmen and artisans. It is, in Disch’s mind, the perfect setting for the distillery. And with the Sourland Mountains as a backdrop to this pastoral scene, we grew envious when Ray said, “Some scene, huh? This is my office.” His decision to start a distillery was engendered from his experience as a craft beer brewer. He and his wife Erica, a partner and sales manager for the distillery, were co-founders of Triumph Brewing in Princeton, New Jersey. In fact, it was the Disches who were instrumental in lobbying the legislature to permit craft brewing in New Jersey.
The process of distilling began at the base of the Sourland range, as Disch’s distilling team crafted their spirits with pure water filtered through micro-fractures in the mountains protected by the largest contiguous forest in Central New Jersey. Not too long after offering their spirits to the public in 2017, Sourland Mountain Spirits began to garner praises and awards from various experts and competitions. The team’s proudest moment came when, following 70 consecutive test runs, they felt they had hit on the right formula for their gin. The American Distilling Institute and San Francisco World Spirits Competition concurred, awarding the gin Silver Medals. The 12-botanical gins are smooth to the taste, yet have a complex flavor profile with just the right amount of juniper notes as to not overpower the spirit.
Sourland’s Vodka is also derived from a corn-based neutral spirit, and its ten separate distillations achieve a precision of flavor evident in the spirit’s smooth, natural tang without any bite. Other spirits available include a Silver Rum, a Spiced Rum, an Apple Brandy (made with local Terhune Orchard apples), and an enticing Reserved Gin, which has rested for four months in lightly-charred new American Oak barrels. Soon to be released is their Bourbon (the distillery’s take on small-batch, baby bourbon they refer to as a “toddler” bourbon.)
Tours and tastings are offered weekends on the hour from 12 to 4 pm. A great way to enjoy Sourland Mountain Spirits is to visit their tasting room bar, the Rick Haus, which is open 5 to 8 pm Thursdays and Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 pm. Order hand-crafted cocktails and sit out back behind the distillery and enjoy the beautiful Double Brook Farm scenery.
With holidays approaching, consider attending one of the Sourland’s monthly special events. On November 13th join “Sip n’ Feed” and sample some hand-crafted cocktails while creating thoughtful inspirational memory boards. The event is a fundraiser for HomeFront, an organization dedicated to helping families break the cycle of poverty. On December 4th “Sip n’ Decorate” will have you choosing some festive cocktails while creating your holiday wreath.
In 2004, Robin and Jon McConaughy, the owners of Double Brook Farm decided that they wanted to raise animals for personal consumption. Their initial success led to their scaling things up to raise enough to sell to local consumers craving all-natural, pasture-fed products. The farm’s mission is “to create an enterprise that combines a sustainable farm, local market, and tavern.” The result: the Brick Farm Tavern and the Brick Farm Market.
Brick Farm Tavern is housed in a wonderfully renovated 1800’s farmhouse and sits adjacent to the Farm’s fields on which many of the animals have pastured. Locavore enthusiasts will love dining here as the menu reflects the farm’s commitment to sustainable farming as well as a variety of products from local artisans. The Peking Duck Breast or the Wood Fired, Spiced Honey Glazed Berkshire Pork are just a couple of menu options sourced from the farm. Four of Troon Brewing’s craft beers are on tap, while the rest of the draft selections are various NJ craft brews. Sourland Mountain Spirits are also featured at the bar. The Tavern serves lunch Friday through Sunday; dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
After enjoying your meal at the Tavern, take the short ride into Hopewell and visit the Brick Farm Market. The Market features a bakery, butcher shop, charcuterie, cheese shop, café, and coffee bar. Tell them what you enjoyed at the Tavern, and they can help you purchase the right products to re-create the dish.
For more information on Sourland Mountain Spirits, visit sourlandspirits.com; Brick Farm Tavern, visit brickfarmtavern.com; and for Brick Farm Market, visit brickfarmmarket.com.