When David Weglarz launched his St. Louis distillery, StilL 630, in 2012, he wanted to create spirits that were anything but cookie-cutter. As he began to meet other fellow Missouri distillers, he became infatuated with how so much of life is shared over a drink, and he sought to share that message with others in the industry.
Last year, he co-founded the Missouri Craft Distillers Guild, a nonprofit with more than 30 member distilleries from across the state. The guild focuses on advancing the local industry through tastings, promotions and even state legislation to reduce the barriers of entry for new distilleries.
What has the guild accomplished in its first year? We got everybody organized. We’ve raised our membership from the original nine to 33. It was a lot of writing up the bylaws and establishing how we’re going to operate. We [want] the guild to be a viable and important [part] of [the] Missouri [distilling industry] for generations to come; we’re trying to take our time and really do it right.
What is the purpose of the guild? We’re working to generally promote all of us, so we're working on organizing some tastings around the state this year, [we recently launched] a distillery trail and [want to] pass legislation that hopefully helps us all and helps create unique Missouri spirits.
What does the future of the guild look like? Hopefully the guild becomes a respected arbiter of high-quality craft spirits, so that if you’re a guild member, you’re doing the right things the right way and making fine spirits. When the Missouri Division of Alcohol & Tobacco Control has changes it wants to make, hopefully it’ll look out to the guild to say, “Let’s get feedback from people who are in the industry and leading the industry.” I hope that [from a tourism standpoint, distilleries can be] a valuable industry in Missouri. We’re [an] agricultural [state], but we're also manufacturing, and we're a tourist destination. So I hope that we’re a part of the pride and joy that Missourians see in our great state.
Last month, the Missouri Craft Distillers Guild announced the Missouri Spirits Expedition, a statewide distillery trail. Visit missouricraftdistillersguild.com to learn more.
3 Local Distilling Trends
“I think gin is the next big category ripe for growth, especially in Missouri. There’s so many different botanicals to play with that every distillery out there can make their own expression and come up with something very unique and delicious. Gin also lends itself to an enormous array of cocktail opportunities for our local bartenders to play with.”
“Bitters are a high-proof flavor extract used in many cocktails. They’re very popular in Europe and elsewhere around the world, and it's something, along with amaro, that’s really catching fire here in Missouri.”
“I'm personally very excited about the trend of canned cocktails. I foresee smaller distilleries like [StilL 630] putting out delicious cocktails in the convenience of a can. And as we’ve seen with our incredibly talented local mixologists, there's no end to the flavor combinations that are possible. I'd love to be kayaking and pull over to enjoy an awesome cocktail with a killer Missouri sunset.”
Missouri Craft Distillers Guild, missouricraftdistillersguild.com