The grandfather of craft distilling inspires a law
“As far as small and craft distilling, Ted Huber of Huber's Orchard and Winery, and his Starlight Distillery is kind of the grandfather of Indiana distilling,” said Wuslich.
Huber -- whose family has been in the winemaking business for over 100 years -- started a brandy distillery in the early 2000s, and it had a specific license that only allowed distillation of things grown on the property. Lucky for Huber, having enough land to grow on that wasn’t an issue.
Huber also helped spearhead the change in distilling laws and the creation of the Artisan Distillery Permit. As the result of his lobbying, the News-Tribune reported, at least 60 percent of all artisan spirits must be fermented and distilled from raw materials grown on-site.
“I think Ted’s done a great job of nudging the legislature in the right way to open these laws up for Indiana,” said Barnes.
Still, the artisan moniker has limitations.
“We are not allowed to have satellite locations, and we are tapped at 10,000 gallons per year that we can sell from our location,” said Barnes. “Distribution through the federal license does not have a limit.”
But business is good, both distilleries noted. Hotel Tango wrapped its second year, and Cardinal is heading into its second. On top of that, a law passed just this summer allows distilleries to sell on Sundays -- just like the competition.
“We lobbied really hard for that last year. And what we were looking for is parity with wineries and breweries,” said Wuslich. “This was something we lobbied for because especially since a lot of our distillery locations are tourist-driven.”
The distillers want to get the visitors who come to town for events like the Indy 500 to take a tour and get excited to try local spirits. If visitors come on a Sunday, the distilleries must awkwardly explain why so-called “blue laws” prohibit sales.
“It's been heart-breaking when you got folks coming in from out of state wanting to buy a bottle and we gotta turn them down. For us that is a huge piece of our marketing and advertising,” said Barnes. “Now, when you see a bottle on somebody's back bar, and you ask where it's from, they can tell you ‘I got that in Indianapolis!’ That's a big help for us.”
Both distilleries said that it’s too soon to tell the impact of Sunday sales, but they’re hopeful. Wuslich said Sunday sales have already started to match Saturday sales.