Tenth Ward Distilling: A New Craft Distillery in Frederick

by AJ Dronkers 

The tasting room at Tenth Ward Distilling. (Photo by David Amini)

The tasting room at Tenth Ward Distilling. (Photo by David Amini)

We met the Tenth Ward Distilling team at the annual Future Harvest CASA Conference for Sustainable Agriculture in January at a session called "Starting a Craft Alcohol Business: What you Need to Know!" -- and decided to swing by their distillery and tasting room in Frederick, MD to see what they were up to.

The number of local small batch distilleries across the Maryland has been nothing short of amazing, and reflects the state's past heritage of being a top U.S. producer of rye whiskey with small shop, mom-and-pop distillers dotted across the state. In fact, Maryland's craft distilling movement has grown to a point where spirit makers have formed a Distillers Guild with now over two dozen members to aid in building a top class distillery movement and help advocate for favorable legislation for their businesses. 

Kyle pfalzer   and Monica Pearce, founders of Tenth Ward Distilling. (Photo by David Amini)

Kyle pfalzer and Monica Pearce, founders of Tenth Ward Distilling. (Photo by David Amini)

Opened in July 2016, the distillery was founded by Monica Pearce and Kyle Pfalzer to primarily focus on whiskey and brandy. For their apple brandy, they source their cider from local McCutcheon's Orchard in Frederick, MD. Their whiskeys and rye are made from grains and malts from Ripon Lodge Farm in West Virginia. 

Tenth Ward Distilling line of spirits in the tasting room. (Photo by David Amini)

Tenth Ward Distilling line of spirits in the tasting room. (Photo by David Amini)

Edible DC: Why did you decide to start a distillery?

10th Ward: We definitely wanted to get into the craft distilling industry, especially as it's been rising on the tails of the craft brewing boom. Kyle started with a love of craft beer, then learned distilling by transitioning into an internship at Copper Fox Distillery. I also had been in the bar and restaurant industry for a long time so it was a smooth transition for me. The rest was just having the willingness to jump off the cliff and go for it!

We are located in what has long been an industrial area of the city called "the 10th Ward", (a long-established industrial area of Frederick), hence our name. It reflects how the city was originally divided up and the names given to each section. Tenth Ward Distilling Company loves everything Frederick and we're committed to sharing the history of our region, including info on famous Frederick bootleggers and historic distillation techniques.

EDC: What are your plans after getting the distillery started?

A: We definitely want to grow, but starting here to make our name. We are marketing on a grass roots scale as we build our customer base locally first in the Frederick area and surrounding communities. I'd love to be supplying most of Frederick by the end of 2017, so we can start to branch our sales further out into DC and Baltimore.

You can visit, sample, and buy Tenth Ward spirits Wednesday-Sunday 12-6 pm for only $5 on your next trip to Frederick, MD. 

Spirited Away to 14th Street

by Andrew Marder

I can't imagine I'll actually die here. There's probably some system in place at restaurants to revive idiots like me, right? I have never been more interested in the emergency preparedness of a business than I am at this point in time, sitting among the stills of District Distilling, stuffing my stupid face with food.

At one point in the dinner, another diner noticed that I was cleaning my plate with every course.

"You're eating all of it?"

"Am I not supposed to?"

No. I was not supposed to. Or maybe I was supposed to, but only because it's a sort of social experiment wherein the chef wants to know what true gluttony looks like.

By the time this whole thing wraps up, I'll barely be able to take a single bite out of one of the most gorgeous, Scarlett Johansson-esque chocolate chip cookies I've ever seen. I take that one bite only because the woman across from me effectively dares me to.

"You don't want to be the guy who bails out of the marathon at 24 miles."

So instead I opt to die at the finish line.

Let's run it down. Deviled eggs, smoked rainbow trout on homemade cheese crackers, pork trotter fritter things, foie gras on toasts, fried chicken on a biscuit with pickles and honey, shrimp toast with a quail egg, pork shoulder poutine with bourbon gravy, shrimp and grits with tasso ham, suckling pig on Carolina Gold rice with beans, a crème brulee yeasted doughnut, and the crazy cookie with a side of milk.

This embarrassing list doesn't include all the liquor and mixed drinks that I managed to gullet, either. I've edited it down for clarity and to keep a small dollop of my dignity intact, though there seems little room for it in my system.

It was worth it.

There were points in the proceedings where I told myself, "I'd die for this man." Chef Justin Bittner (nee Saint-Ex and Bar Pilar) cares deeply about the food he makes. Touring of his prep kitchen is like stumbling through the evidence dungeon of a serial feeder, who lures hungry people into his unmarked van and then, inexplicably, feeds them.

He's smoking meat in one corner, making his own hot sauce with hatch chilies on a shelf, freezing cookie dough pucks in the walk-in, and there is - and I'm not making this up - a beat-up, rolling suitcase full of god-knows-what in the fridge.

I feel bad that I've gotten this far and haven't talked about Matt Strickland. It's just that, when you've come so close to death, you tend to forget some of the details along the way.

Strickland is District's distiller, formerly of Nashville's Corsair Distillery. In most books, there's the crazy guy (Bittner) and the sane guy. District Distilling has two mad scientists, instead.

Strickland has copper stills and stainless steel vats towering over him like boozy skyscrapers. The copper column still has two trunks that run up from the distillery into the restaurant upstairs, dotted with portholes that allow you to watch the liquor being produced. It sounds confusing, but it's a striking image.

District Distilling opened with four spirits - vodka, gin, a blended whiskey, and white rum. They're all excellent. The standout, to me, was the rum. It's a crystal clear spirit made with panela and the flavor of that sugar shines through.  There was also a rye in the works, and even without any age on it, it was excellent.

I didn't die. There was a moment where I thought, "This would be an alright place to fall asleep forever in," but then I remembered a party I was supposed to go to and decided to live.

I ended up with a to-go box for some cookies and an unearned and imperfect sense of accomplishment. Sure, the woman across from me had stood out in the cold all night to cover reactions to the election in front of the White House and slept something like 30 minutes. That's impressive - I guess.

I, however, ate a whole bunch of incredible food while downing awesome drinks. So, really, who's to say which one of us is most dedicated to the pursuit of the Truth?

If you need me, I'll be not eating for the next six months. So I guess you'll find me at the bar.