The Westward Whiskey Tasting Room is hopping: People are browsing, tasting, buying. But this isn’t the producer’s distillery-side location in Portland, Oregon. It’s Concourse C at Portland International Airport.
A growing number of beverage producers are opening up similar venues in or near airports, creating ideal spots to spend a layover, or to kick off or conclude a trip.
Breweries were first to offer such outposts. Ohio’s Great Lakes Brewing Company was one to lead the charge when it established a space at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Another was Harpoon, which built a taproom at Boston Logan International, followed by Stone Brewing, with a hangout at San Diego’s airport.
In 2016, Westward Whiskey opened what it claims is the world’s first-ever airport spirits tasting room, a sleek, traveler-friendly rendition of its flagship. High West Distillery later opened a “saloon” in Salt Lake City, Utah’s airport. And, last year, Quantum Spirits staged a pop-up space at Pittsburgh International Airport during the lead-up to the holiday season.
Tattersall Distilling Company plans to open a tasting room at Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport this spring.
“One of the biggest challenges with craft spirits is getting new customers to try our products for the first time,” says Jon Kreidler, Tattersall’s co-founder/chief officer.
He believes an airport location creates an opportunity to connect with a broader, national audience. It may not be the same as marveling at shiny distillation equipment or taking in the aromas of whiskey production, but, says Kreidler, “it gives a taste of the local scene.”
Perhaps the most ambitious of these projects is at Washington’s tiny Walla Walla Regional Airport. A whopping 19 wineries, including Shaw Estates and Bontzu Cellars, as well as three breweries and two distilleries offer quick access before or after a flight. All are in the nearby airport business park, technically on airport grounds.
From rustic wood paneling at High West to antique chandeliers at Tattersall, most of these venues channel the feel of their original locations.
“It’s a much different, elevated experience [than] your typical airport bar,” says Kreidler. “Just because you’re stuck in an airport, doesn’t mean you have to drink swill.”