Bellefonte microdistillery in works: Big Spring Spirits to craft whiskeys, liqueurs, sodas

Craig Rogers, of Josph C. Hazel, Inc., rakes gravel over plumbing that was installed at Big Spring Distillery in Bellefonte on Wednesday, March 12, 2014.
Craig Rogers, of Josph C. Hazel, Inc., rakes gravel over plumbing that was installed at Big Spring Distillery in Bellefonte on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. CDT photo

The inside of 198 Match Factory Place is wet, muddy and empty. Some pipes have been installed for plumbing purposes, but construction still has a long way to go.

Come the end of May, the 5,200-square-foot space at the Match Factory will be transformed into Big Spring Spirits, a microdistillery with a vision to reuse, recycle and repurpose.

“We’re really thinking green and thinking local,” said co-owner Kevin Lloyd.

The facility will reuse water that comes from adjacent Big Spring, for which the business is named.

The microbrewed liquors, liqueurs and sodas will be made using chlorinated, purified water directly from the spring.

Lloyd said that the microdistillery will make two kinds of whiskeys — a bourbon and a rye — a rum, vodka and gin. Corn, wheat and barley will come from local farms, as Big Spring Spirits has a partnership with Evergreen Farms in Spruce Creek, Huntingdon County.

A batch of 300 gallons can be made at a time, Lloyd said. Each batch of whiskey takes about a ton of grain and needs to be aged. Lloyd said that the clear drinks, on the other hand, do not need to be aged.

Carbon dioxide, produced during fermentation, will be captured to help carbonate flavored sodas, Lloyd said.

“That’s all part of our reuse, recycle, repurpose method,” Lloyd said.

Interior renovations

On Wednesday, Joseph C. Hazel Inc. workers were installing the pipes for the plumbing, and construction workers from Veronesi Builders and Remodelers were finalizing plans for the facility.

While not considered a “full-blown restaurant,” Lloyd said the facility will, however, offer a limited menu. The site will include a tasting area, a production area, and indoor and outdoor seating that overlook Talleyrand Park.

The microdistillery will hire about a dozen people and will hold 100 people at the site, Lloyd said.

Last year, Lloyd and business partner Paula Cipar signed a five-year lease agreement for the space from Ken Martin, executive director of the American Philatelic Society, which owns the Match Factory.

“We think this is going to be a good thing for the Match Factory,” Martin said. “Any time we can see a new business that encourages economic growth, we see that as a good sign for Bellefonte.”

About a year ago, Lloyd and Cipar began looking for a site to open up shop in State College. When they were unsuccessful, Bellefonte Borough Manager Ralph Stewart suggested they look at vacancies in the Match Factory.

“It was perfect,” Lloyd said. “We ordered equipment, and construction began in the late fall.”

Match Factory history

Martin said the first two buildings of the Match Factory were built in 1899. By 1900, the Pennsylvania Match Factory occupied the facility.

All but two sites at the Match Factory were built by 1920 and were occupied by the Pennsylvania Match Factory, which eventually merged with the Universal Match Corporation. It closed in 1947 after failing to keep up with cigarette lighters, Martin said.

At its peak, it employed about 400 people, he added.

When the Match Factory closed, it went into the hands of Jay Claster for a home improvement-type store from 1947 to 1996, and then was operated by the borough afterClaster’s closed.

In 2002, the structure changed owners to the American Philatelic Society, which began to renovate and find businesses to occupy vacant space. It now houses 14 businesses, Martin said.

The American Philatelic Society is a national nonprofit stamp-collecting foundation.

Microdistillery future

A chemist by trade, Lloyd was the owner of a State College-based pharmaceutical research company and wanted to put his knowledge of chemistry to use in a different direction.

“My work was chemistry-based, and this new business venture is also chemistry-based, so it attracted me, and we see that the microdistillery business (is) growing,” Lloyd said.

On Dec. 22, 2011, Gov. Tom Corbett signed House Bill No. 242 into law. Known as Act 113, the bill made changes to numerous sections of the liquor code, including allowing mircodistilleries to self-distribute its liquors and liqueurs.

“It’s similar to the way a winery can sell its wine,” Lloyd said, but explained that he is not able to sell beers or wines.

In the future, however, Lloyd said he’d think about leasing additional space at the Match Factory and starting a microbrewery.

“We don’t have space to do it here, but it’s not out of the question to look that way in a few years,” Lloyd said.