BEDFORD – When Derek Dowler and Nate Haupt first came up with the idea to open their own distillery, neither of them even liked whiskey.
The two had careers with the U.S. Department of Defense IT sector, and had been working as government contractors in the United Kingdom for years when they came up with the concept of opening a distillery on a weekend trip to Scotland, which included tours of several distilleries there.
“As we visited each one, we got more and more intrigued,” Dowler said.
On the eight-hour trip home, the two talked about the stories and history of each distillery and decided to begin researching distilling methods and learning about whiskey.
“We said, ‘Let’s give it a go,’ ” Dowler said.
Dowler and Haupt kept the distillery project between them at first, but eventually let a co-worker in on their secret when he started talking about his passion for brewing his own beer.
Because Dowler and Haupt hoped to open a distillery in the United States, but in a setting with rolling hillsides similar to those in England and Scotland, they were hooked when Mike Wood began talking about his family’s roots in Bedford.
‘Part of the family’
All three men then started working on a concept to expand the distillery idea into a brewery. For the past year and a half, they’ve been touring distilleries, networking with brewers and taking whiskey-tasting classes.
“That was an epiphany for us,” Dowler said, as they all now enjoy whiskey.
Haupt said learning more about brewing and distilleries led the trio to become interested in single-cask ales and spirits.
“We love those styles of beers,” he said.
“We want to bring some of that stuff from England back home.”
When Dalesmen Distillery & Brewery began looking for a location, they initially looked at property in New York and then reached out to officials in Bedford.
“(Bedford) just knocked it out of the park,” Dowler said.
The community’s interest and willingness to collaborate to welcome the distillery and brewery was another selling factor, Haupt said.
“We felt like we were part of the family instantly,” he said.
Bedford’s historical ties didn’t hurt either, considering the Espy House on Pitt Street is where President George Washington stayed in 1794 while trying to subdue the Whiskey Rebellion.
‘So many different ideas’
Three weeks ago, the three men officially purchased the old Ford building, just down the street from the Espy House, located in the heart of downtown Bedford at the corner of Richard and Pitt streets.
“That was a huge step for us – an iconic building in a great location,” Dowler said.
“It was one more thing that fell into place,” Haupt added.
Dowler said the goal is to open Dalesmen Distillery & Brewery in spring or summer of 2020, with an overall vision of an authentic English-style pub that offers tours, tastings, new twists on classic cocktails and capabilities for a restaurant and event space in the future.
“We’ve got an aggressive schedule, but we also know there’s reality,” he said.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Haupt added.
Haupt said the goal is to provide single-malt English ales, along with vodka, gin, single-malt whiskey, bourbon and other spirits brewed and distilled on site.
The team also has four casks of scotch they distilled in Scotland that they plan to bring back for their customers.
“We’re going to be a craft brewery and a craft distillery,” Haupt said.
All three men hope to get the community involved, collaborate with their future neighbors at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, offer classes to local students and contribute to plans for a Whiskey Rebellion trail, which is being spearheaded by Pittsburgh’s Wigle Whiskey.
“We want to integrate ourselves into the community,” Haupt said.
Another idea the team got from England is the concept of “bottling angels,” which are senior citizen volunteers who assist with bottling products at breweries or distilleries without costly bottling systems.
“Bottling angels” are typically given a bottle of spirits for every four hours of help.
“We’ve got so many different ideas,” Dowler said. “We can’t wait to get started.”
For more information on Dalesmen Distillery & Brewery, visit www.dalesmendb.com or find them on Facebook and Instagram.