Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is cancelled, but you should still feel lucky. Wigle Whiskey debuts its new Strip District distillery restaurant and tasting room on Friday the 13th.
After a decade in the business, co-owner Meredith Meyer Grelli says there’s no better time than now.
The expanded facility at 2401 Smallman St., Pittsburgh’s first distillery since Prohibition, has doubled in size. It includes a restaurant, bar, retail bottle shop, dedicated tour and event spaces and an interactive museum featuring historical vignettes detailing Western Pennsylvania’s whiskey heritage. A ticketed kick-off celebration will be held on March 13 from 6 to 9 p.m.
On Tuesday, friends, family and officials from the city, county and the commonwealth participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. With glasses raised, they gave a toast in unison, “You can pour me a little. You can pour me a lot. As long as it’s Wigle, I’ll take another shot.”
Co-owner Mary Ellen Meyer, who has hand-labeled more than 500,000 bottles, cut the ribbon and welcomed guests inside.
Customers who wind their way through the museum will find themselves in the new restaurant. Executive Chef Dan Okren, a former Wigle distilling team member and sous chef at Eleven, helms the site’s new kitchen. The menu will feature classic and adapted bar fare, such as a classic burger, bourbon honey snap peas, rye and wheat berry grain salads and beer-battered fish and chips.
“I am thankful for the opportunity to blend my love of cooking with my passion for craft spirits,” Okren says. “Wigle’s goal of providing a unique and local experience for locals and visitors to our region is something that I am extremely excited to be a part of.”
Wigle’s expansion is thanks, in part, to the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RCAP). The company was awarded a $1 million grant to revitalize its historic site, increase its production capabilities and offer an educational experience that spans two centuries.
Preserving Pittsburgh’s heritage as the birthplace of the Whiskey Rebellion is important, says Dan Gilman, Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff. “People don’t realize that what Kentucky has with bourbon, we have with whiskey,” he says. “This is an incredible tourism opportunity. It’s exactly what the RCAP is meant for.”
During construction, the Wigle team stashed a bottle of their Monongahela Rye behind the drywall with a note: “To the unsinkable Pittsburghers of the future; those of the past send greetings. P.S. If you’re tearing down these walls to turn our beloved distillery into condos, hopefully we’re dead.”