Barrels of Local Spirit: Massachusetts Distillers Alliance
Being a Massachusetts resident for the last two and a half years has made “buying local” a practical and attainable goal. Whether it’s a festival, flea market or grocery store chain, I’m bound to find a local product made by a local artisan who loves their craft.
A year and a half ago I was buying wine and liquor for my wedding, when a bottle of Bully Boy rum caught my eye. I scanned the label and saw that it was produced in Massachusetts—sealing the deal for me (even though I’d never tried it). I had no idea that Bully Boy belonged to a network of 14 other distillers (called the Massachusetts Distillers Alliance), or that the founders of Bully Boy co-established it. All I knew was that I’d found a local product to serve to my guests visiting from all over the country.
Feeling a sense of pride in locally distilled spirits is part of the reason the MDA exists. With Massachusetts-produced rum, gin, vodka, whiskey, brandy and other specialty spirits in our liquor stores, we have more opportunities than ever to get to know the businesses we’re supporting.
I recently stopped for a drink at GrandTen Distilling in South Boston, where a foosball match, multiple distillery tours and Friday evening cocktails were happening all at once. Matt Nuernberger, founder of GrandTen and president of the MDA, described the alliance’s mission simply: to collectively drive the Massachusetts craft spirits industry forward. I could see why as I sat in the bar, surrounded by people who love their work. GrandTen and their fellow distillers in the alliance have spent years developing their products and building their distilleries, nearly all of which hold tours and tastings.
I wondered during my chat with Matt how the MDA distillers—many of whom with their own unique version of the same type of spirit—could belong to an alliance without competing. Matt assured me that instead of competing with one another, the Massachusetts distillers compete collectively with large, national distilleries whose resources and brand recognition may overshadow a local product. By generating awareness of local distillers as a whole, the MDA sees a bigger win of putting Massachusetts on the map as a heavy hitter in the craft spirits industry.
For as old as the Commonwealth’s craft spirits tradition is, its laws and regulations are in an early stage of development. Through a continual dialogue surrounding legislative issues, the alliance can look toward the future for practicing and expanding their craft. Future benefits to the distillers could include laws that facilitate the production and sales of their products. Future benefits to you and me could include better access to lovingly crafted spirits.
For now, there are plenty of ways to try these products, beginning at the liquor store and ending at the many MDA-affiliated distilleries that host tours and tastings. There’s an abundance of talented distillers in our area, who if you show any interest, would be more than willing to share their story and a toast.