BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK — Craft distilleries are continuing to rise as a niche industry, and one of the newest members of the community is up and running in Clifton Park.
On July 23, Yankee Distillers opened its production facility, tasting room and retail outlet at 5 Fairchild Drive, hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony and rolling out the barrel. (Well, actually, the barrel was standing up with bottles of rye and bourbon whiskey resting on top of it.)
Thus began the latest stage of upstate New York’s craft beverage boom.
The three co-founders — Matthew Jager, Walter Kleemeier and Scott Luning — settled in Clifton Park right across from Schmaltz Brewing Company.
Measuring in at 9,000 square feet, Yankee is the largest distilling facility in the Capital Region.
Jager, Kleemeier and Luning are living the American dream. “We are three guys who decided two year ago the we wanted to make whiskey,” Kleemeier said. “We love whiskey and we love the idea of making something so we shook hands and started going. We agreed to three principles. The first is that we make our products ourselves with our own hands and our own equipment. We would use only the best products, 90 percent of which we would get through local and state farms. And the third is that we would make traditional American products using traditional techniques. We have managed to stick to that.”
He continued: “Since New York state allowed for farm-based distilleries such as Yankee to open in the past decade, craft spirits and their producers have become destinations to attract spirits enthusiasts and tourists to areas across the Empire State. For an enterprise like us — in our case a craft distillery, but also wineries, breweries and cideries to really get off the ground and flourish — it’s opened up this industry and we appreciate it.”
A pug named Barley laid down on the cool floor, all four legs spread eagle, with his wrinkled face staring up as several people stepped up to the podium.
“Another new business in the town of Clifton Park,” Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said.
“We are very pleased to have you as part of our community. We support the growth of our tax base in good, local business; small business is the backbone of the country and it certainly is the backbone of Clifton Park.”
He continued: “They are supporting the farming community with local products; we have a thriving agricultural sector in the town of Clifton Park, that is a driving force of the economy still today. I thank you for using local products.”
As the ribbon was cut, the partners threw their hands into the air. In that moment, it was official, they had triumphed.
That called for a round of whiskey.