long beach's first distillery

Local is the Word at Long Beach’s First Distillery

by | Jul 24, 2019

When relationships with local farmers become the foundation of a distillery, you know you’re on to something tasty. Like those that were the inspiration for starting Adrift Distillers, located on the Long Beach Peninsula in southwestern Washington, a sibling distillery to the popular Adrift Hotel. “The distillery started with us wanting to do a cranberry liqueur,” says Matt Lessnau, the chief distiller for Long Beach’s first distillery. “As far as agriculture goes, cranberries have a rich history on the Long Beach Peninsula and Starvation Alley Farms was farm-blazing a new trail with organic fruit.”

That first collaboration with the local cranberry bog and farm then inspired the Collaborative Spirit Series which now contains their most popular spirits: the Cranberry Liqueur, made from Starvation Alley’s organic cranberries; a coffee liqueur created in partnership with Columbia River Coffee Roasters in Astoria, Oregon; an amaro that uses herbs from Long Beach’s Pink Poppy Farms and Love Warrior Gin, which is made with local spruce tips and botanicals from Love Warrior Gardens in Astoria.

“We wanted to expand this series as a way to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the industry, to enhance our own story with those of the other growers, creators and artists in the area,” Lessnau says.

Ultimately, each bottle captures the spirit and terroir of the land, the values of the community and the distinctive and sometimes contradictory character of this area known best for having the longest drivable beach on the west coast. Adrift somehow seems to occupy the spaces in between — it lies between the rolling farmland juxtaposed with wilderness, in a place that straddles both the land and the sea and with a philosophy that relies on tradition as much as it does innovation.

With practically endless beaches and old growth rainforests, the Long Beach Peninsula is a picturesque and unique stretch of land bounded by the Pacific Ocean, Columbia River and Willapa Bay. Inspired by these breathtaking surroundings, and in tandem with the community that inhabits it, Adrift Distillers is crafting truly distinctive spirits reflecting the place it calls home. But at the core of it all is the pride in the relationships and products that come from local farms.

“All of our spirits start from waves of cereal grain grown by Washington farmers,” Lessnau explains. “We carefully select farmers who share our values of fostering community, preserving heritage and responsible stewardship of the land. We buy directly from our producers and distil our own base alcohol from their harvest, including. MJW Grain and Skagit Valley Malting.”

Keeping Washington’s distillery laws in mind — at least 51 percent of the agricultural products must be from within the state to have the state designation on the label — Adrift sources 100 percent of its products, including local grains, fruit, botanicals and other ingredients, from the state, and largely its close, surrounding area. Whether it’s sodden cranberry bogs, or the ancient forests of the peninsula, Adrift proudly weaves the story of its landscape into every bottle.


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