Gwinnett County is getting its first distillery

Around the time most of their peers are spending their days at the golf club or at the pool in the name of a relaxing retirement, Paul Allen and Betsey Dahlberg are embarking on an undertaking that might give people half their age pause -- they're building the first distillery in Gwinnett County.

The husband and wife are set to open Hope Springs Distillery at 4839 Railroad Ave. NW in Lilburn this summer. Named for the 50-acre farm Dahlberg's family lived on in Stone Mountain when she was growing up, the distillery has been in the works for about three years.

"This isn't a business you can get into easily or quickly," Dahlberg said.

Though the couple had dabbled in making their own beer, wine and mead (legally, Dahlberg is quick to point out) for years, they hadn't done anything on a large scale. Recognizing that the local craft beer market was oversaturated, they turned their attention to spirits, reading everything they could get their hands on and taking classes at the American Distilling Institute.

Knowing they wanted to stay in Gwinnett County, where they've lived for more than two decades, they said Lilburn introduced them to an ideal 4,000 square-foot facility and "were so incredibly welcoming," Dahlberg said.

Hope Springs will start out distilling vodka ("It's easy to make and doesn't require any aging," Dahlberg said), with an eye toward gins, bitters, amaros and, eventually, bourbon. Though they haven't signed a distribution deal yet, they plan to distribute statewide and hope to start giving tours in the future.

When it opens, Hope Springs will be one of several distilleries in Georgia, including Old Fourth Ward Distillery in Atlanta and Independent Distilling Co. in Decatur.

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