Why Rosen Rye?

Of all the grains that could have been chosen to begin work with on the Seed Spark Project, why choose Rosen rye? The choice to focus on Rosen was made for two main reasons:

1. Rosen rye is historically documented as being an important part of the grain bills at Michter’s Distillery in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania. Michter’s Distillery (a.k.a. Bomberger’s) was not only one of the oldest and most well-respected distilleries in Pennsylvania, it was also the most recent of hundreds of historic distilleries in Pennsylvania to close its doors for good. Paying homage to the whiskey recipes that helped define PA whiskey in its heyday was always an important part of the inspiration to use Rosen rye.

2. Rosen rye was of specific interest to the owners of Stoll & Wolfe Distillery, Erik Wolfe and Avianna Ponzi. Their master distiller, Dick Stoll, expressed his desire to work with the grains he had used at Michter’s Distillery, but they knew Rosen rye was no longer commercially available to them. When Laura Fields met and spoke with them about their desire to use Rosen in their rye whiskey recipes, the decision to work with Rosen was firmly resolved.

From 5 oz. to 6,000 lbs!

Work on this special project began in 2015 when the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation partnered with Greg Roth at Penn State’s Agricultural Extension. The mission was to return Rosen Rye to Pennsylvania farmers and, in turn, to its distillers. The first very small amount of Rosen (5 ounces) from the USDA seed bank was planted in the fall of 2015. By 2016, Penn State had grown a few pounds of seed, and by the following year (funded by the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation), they had nearly an acre! By harvest in the summer of 2018, there was enough Rosen rye to distill into whiskey with about 50 pounds of seed left over to replant in the fall. After the harvest in July of 2019, Stoll & Wolfe Distillery had over 500 pounds of milled Rosen Rye (donated by the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation), and on September 7th, 2019 that rye was distilled into Pennsylvania rye whiskey. 

The 2020 summer harvest has yielded nearly 6,000 pounds of Keystone Rosen rye from our 3 growing locations across Pennsylvania. In the fall of 2020, over 20 acres of Keystone Rosen rye seed (2,650 pounds) was planted.

Why Stoll & Wolfe Distillery?

No one has produced rye whiskey using Rosen Rye since Dick Stoll ceased using it to make whiskey at Michters Distillery in Schaefferstown, PA. When Michters slowed down production and finally closed in February of 1990, the distillery's demand for the grain disappeared along with any reason for farmers to grow it. 30 years later, when Dick Stoll took on the role of master distiller at Stoll & Wolfe Distillery, his interest in using Rosen again revealed how impossible it would be to source. Laura Fields and the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation recognized that this vacuum in the grain market was actually an exciting economic opportunity for local farmers! Distilleries had been an enormous economic driver in Pennsylvania's agricultural supply chain before Prohibition and could perform that important role again. Stoll and Wolfe Distillery is among the first of many craft distilleries that will offer competitive pricing on heritage grains to farmers who choose to grow them.

“It’s amazing that the last person to use Rosen Rye will be the first person to use Rosen Rye again,” said Fields. “When the variety of rye being used to make whiskey is shown to be an important factor in the taste and quality of the final product, I’ll be thrilled!”  

September 2019

Four years of turning a handful of seeds into a harvest finally came to pass and enough Rosen rye grain was produced by the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation to run through a still. The milled Rosen was mashed and the yeast was added to begin the fermentation process on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 in Lititz,Pa. That fermented mash was pumped into their column still and doubler at Stoll & Wolfe Distillery on Saturday, September 7th. The resulting rye whiskey distillate was barreled the next day. It was the first time this heritage rye has been made into whiskey since Dick Stoll mashed and distilled Rosen rye at Michter’s Distillery in Shaefferstown, Pa decades ago. How appropriate that the last man to distill at Michter’s will be the first to bring Rosen back again.

The rye whiskey distilled on September 7, 2019 was barreled in an 8-year-seasoned, 30 gallon charred oak cask. It will be aged at Stoll & Wolfe Distillery for a minimum of 2 years. The release date will be determined by the whiskey and its progress in the barrel.

The Delaware Valley Fields Foundation will continue to work to return to Rosen rye to Pennsylvania’s farms and distilleries. Each year, the harvests will be gifted to different farmers and distillers to maintain and preserve the hundreds-of years-old tradition of making Pennsylvania rye whiskey right here in the Keystone State. The goal has always been to ensure that the beneficiaries of the Seed Spark Campaign be our local farmers, businesses and the communities that they support.

The SeedSpark Project's work continued in September 2019 with deliveries of Keystone Rosen rye seed to 3 new planting locations across Pennsylvania. Those locations produced a harvest of nearly 6000 pounds of Keystone Rosen rye in the summer of 2020. In the fall of 2020, over 20 acres of seed were planted.

 American Whiskey Convention

The American Whiskey Convention,  which takes place each spring in Philadelphia, Pa,  was founded in 2016 by the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation to support local agriculture through education of the public, outreach to the agricultural community, and economic stimulus to participating vendors. In other words, you come for the whiskey, but you can’t help but learn all about the grain it’s made from while meeting the members of an agricultural supply chain that every distillery needs to function while you’re there. The AWC demonstrates for every guest what’s truly involved from "grain to glass". 

Proceeds from the American Whiskey Convention fund the DVFF’s Seed Spark Project, a partnership with Penn State’s Agricultural Extension, which supports the research and development of heritage grains. Funding helps with research on crop treatments, studies on fertilizer application, harvesting and planting costs, testing of seeds for any disease as well as testing for malting capabilities, and the distribution of this information to farmers. This partnership with Penn State, which began over five years ago, has expanded to now include many others partners in 2019 and 2020.