‘Pioneer of a revolution’: Non-alcoholic spirits company Wilton seeks to expand during trend boom

After quitting alcohol in 2019, Wilton resident Brian Miller wanted to drink more than seltzer water and lime on a Friday night.

Experimenting with different formulas to create non-alcoholic whiskey, Miller successfully developed one that would lay the foundation for Seir Hill, a company specializing in non-alcoholic spirit alternatives.

“The world is kind of spoiled for the non-alcoholic beer experience, which exactly replicates the experience of drinking a beer but just without alcohol,” Miller said.

The Danbury native quit his job at a web design agency which founded Seir Hill two years ago in his 1744 converted barn on Seir Hill Road in Wilton, which inspired the brand’s name and logo .

“Mashville” is Seir Hill’s whiskey-inspired non-alcoholic spirit.

Contributed by Brian Miller/Seir Hill

“My ability to do branding and web design has been critical to growing our business. A lot of that has contributed to how we’ve built the business,” Miller said.

The coming month will see Miller launch the company’s first-ever non-alcoholic tequila and rum alternatives, which have been delayed for months due to supply chain issues. These mixers are available for pre-order on the Seir Hill website, while the whiskey alternative can be purchased on the website and on Amazon.

According to Miller, these non-alcoholic spirits are meant to be mixers for drinks rather than consumed on their own.

“If you try to drink it with rocks, it will be disappointing. That’s not the purpose of the drink,” Miller said.

Seir Hill can also be found at local Fairfield County restaurants, such as Craft 14 Kitchen + Bar in Wilton, Little Barn in Westport, and Little Pub in Wilton.

“I have a crate in my trunk and every day at lunch I go to a new restaurant and say ‘hey, do you want to add non-alcoholic whiskey to your menu’, and 99% of the time the restaurants where I go are absolutely receptive,” Miller said. “When people understand this concept, they really like our product.”

Miller said he works with his own co-packer in New York and also works with a flavor house to perfect the taste of whiskey in his alternatives. For Miller, making a good alternative to whiskey requires a “three-legged stool”: aroma, viscosity and taste. The comments Miller has received for his whiskey alternative range from “it tastes exactly like the maker’s mark” to “it tastes like turpentine strained through kitty litter”.

“Mashville” is Seir Hill’s whiskey-inspired non-alcoholic spirit.

Contributed by Brian Miller/Seir Hill

However, Miller isn’t offended by the cat litter comment.

“When I was 17 and first drank whiskey, if I was honest with myself, I would have described it as turpentine filtered through kitty litter,” said joked Miller.

Despite issues with ongoing shortages in the liquor community with bottles and other packaging materials, Miller said the company is still able to consistently market and sell its product.

“We just keep selling. We make about 2,000 bottles at a time and within a month or two they’re sold out and we’re constantly struggling,” Miller said.

When he first started, Miller said he would sell four to eight bottles a day, which equated to about $4,000 a month. In January of this year alone, Miller said he saw a 400% growth in sales, totaling $12,000 in products sold.

After two years of sold-out business with Seir Hill, Miller is looking to expand on his dream by finally moving into mass production and, most recently, signing a distribution deal with “the world’s largest soft drink distributor.” country”. Miller hopes to secure another round of funding – around $500,000 for mass production. This is after investing $100,000 of his own capital after the sale of his web design agency as well as a $250,000 investment from Fish Taco Ventures in Stamford.

“When I started this, nobody heard of it. I was not only trying to educate them about my brand, I was also trying to educate them about the industry,” Miller said. “I grew up in the 80s, and in the 80s, there was this group of ‘nuts’ and they called themselves vegetarians. Fast forward to today and you can’t choose a menu in a restaurant without a vegetarian option or a full vegetarian section.

“I really feel like we’re pioneering the same type of revolution here,” Miller added. “My daughter is nine years old now. When she gets married, I hope there will be a non-alcoholic cocktail bar at her wedding next to the cocktail bar.

Part of this revolution was Miller’s involvement as a founding member of the Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association (ANBA), which seeks to raise awareness of non-alcoholic alternatives and lobby the government to it does not include non-alcoholic beverages in the current three-tier system for alcoholic beverages. According to ANBA, the non-alcoholic spirits market grew by 113.4% from 2020 to 2021, while the soft drinks market is expected to reach $30 billion in revenue by 2025.

“I think this trend is sustainable because we’ve seen both consumer demand and brands’ desire to meet that demand by delivering exciting new formats without the buzz,” Mary Guiver, Whole Foods Senior Global Merchant for beer and spirits, Insider said in November. Guiver said she can also see sparkling waters and teas being rebranded under the umbrella term “non-alcoholic alternative.”

Miller said he noticed it when he walked into Total Wine. Two years ago, there was only one shelf dedicated to soft drinks, but today, and there are many more, he noted. Additionally, Miller has noticed that different mocktail bars and non-alcoholic liquor shops are popping up across the country as the soft drink movement gains momentum. Athletic Brewing Company, a non-alcoholic brewery in Connecticut, was even named the best brewery in the state by the food blog Tasting Table.

“Hopefully the channels will continue to open up,” Miller said. “Where does it go from here?” I’m not sure, but I’m excited about it.

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