The idea of building one’s own distillery is a dream for many. The tales of building one’s own distillery and becoming an overnight success are not just tales but, fairytales. Building one’s own distillery takes years from the ideation stage, to the permitting (and approval) stage, to the distillation stage, to the distribution stage. And, as I’ve heard from many craft distillers, when it comes to estimating the cost of a distillery, a good rule of thumb is to take whatever that initial number is and double it. Such is the tale for the owners of Hope Springs Distillery in Lilburn, Georgia. But, at the end of the day, after attending many industry trade shows, traveling across the U.S. and two trips to Scotland to learn the art of distillation, they are in fact, livin’ the dream!
From Retirement to Startup Distillery
At a time when most people are ready for retirement and the “good life,” the husband and wife team of Paul Allen and Betsey Dahlberg decided to start what was to become Hope Springs Distillery. The distillery name comes from Betsey’s home, Hope Springs Farm in Stone Mountain, GA. One of the trickiest parts of starting a distillery is that you cannot legally make spirits at home. And as Paul explained when working on getting your Distilled Spirits Plant – DSP permit, there are a few trick questions on the form basically asking how you know how to make distilled spirits. In the case of Paul and Betsey, they didn’t have a history of distilled spirits but, they had been brewing beer, wine and mead for the last 20 years so they did have quite a bit of knowledge tucked away.
Their journey from retirement to entrepreneurship officially started in 2014 when Paul, a retired engineer and Betsey, a retired attorney, formed their LLC.
“My wife and I are actively avoiding retirement by starting up a micro-distillery in Lilburn, Georgia. I began our journey by applying 40 plus years of experience as an Industrial Manufacturing Engineer in conducting a thorough international search for the equipment that would best fit our requirements. We were looking for a “Swiss Army Knife, do anything” system, and I was off and running.”
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Paul began ordering his equipment in October 2015. Around the time production was about to ramp up in 2016, the couple met Jaz Jarzewiak, a local spirit connoisseur who was looking for facilities to produce absinthe and other specialty products. Jarzewiak soon after teamed up with the startup distillers and as Paul and Betsey say, “His superb distilling skills led to his title of Master Distiller.”
By the time all the parts and pieces arrived, some starts, stops and equipment tweaking, they were up and distilling in July 2017.
1st Release of Top Hat Vodka and Jetty, Georgia’s 1st Absinthe
The trio released their first batch of Top Hat Vodka in July 2017, featuring a prominent photo of Lilburn’s namesake, Lilburn Trigg Myers on every hand applied label. They say the vodka’s smooth taste and crisp, clean finish pairs perfectly with mixers for craft cocktails or as a standalone beverage. The distillery’s second signature spirit is Jetty Absinthe, distilled and colored with a handpicked selection of herbs including green anise, sweet fennel, wormwood and thyme added to wheat based spirit. They say their absinthe features flavors and scents inspired by the outdoors, offering a fresh, rich taste with infusions of peppermint, lemon balm, hyssop and black peppercorn to add a natural green-olive color. Paul says, “Jetty is the only absinthe made and bottled for sale in Georgia.”
4,000 Square Foot Distillery and Tasting Room Open to Public
Hope Springs opened up their 4,000 square foot distillery and new tasting room to the public in April 2018.
“We’re thrilled to open our doors to the public and share our top-quality products with our community,” said Betsey Dahlberg. “We take great strides to create thoughtfully made, locally-sourced spirits with all-natural products for our neighbors and friends.”
Guests to the newly opened tasting room can enjoy a tour of the distillery and sample both the vodka and absinthe either neat or in a mixed cocktail. Once patrons have had a taste, they can purchase up to three 750 ml. bottles of spirits per day, per person. Hope Springs plans to expand its product line in the coming months with the addition of gin and liquors as well as a whiskey in the future.
In addition to the distillery, their products can be found in retail liquor stores, restaurants across Georgia including King + Duke, Lean Draft House, Kimball House, H&F Bottle Shop and select Total Wine stores.