‘Pioneering a revolution:’ Wilton non-alcoholic spirit company looks to expand during trend boom

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

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

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

The Danbury native left his job at a web design agency started Seir Hill two years ago out of his converted 1744 barn on Seir Hill Road in Wilton, which served as the inspiration for the brand’s name and logo. 

"Mashville" is Seir Hill's whiskey-inspired, non-alcoholic spirit.

“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 the growth of our company. A lot of that went into how we built the business,” Miller said. 

The coming month will see Miller release the company’s first-ever non-alcoholic tequila and rum alternatives, which have been delayed for months due to supply chain issues. Those mixers are available to 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 beverages rather than consumed on their own. 


“If you try to drink it over the rocks, it will be disappointing. That is not the purpose of the beverage,” Miller said. 

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

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

Miller said he works with his own co-packer in New York and also works with a flavor house in order to perfect the whiskey taste in his alternatives. To Miller, making a good whiskey alternative requires a “three-legged stool”: aroma, viscosity and taste. Feedback that Miller has received for his whiskey alternative range from “this tastes exactly like maker’s mark” to “this tastes like turpentine filtered through cat litter.”

"Mashville" is Seir Hill's whiskey-inspired, non-alcoholic spirit.

“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 years old and I drank whiskey for the first time, if I was honest with myself, I would have described it as turpentine filtered through cat litter,” Miller joked. 

Despite facing woes with ongoing shortages in the alcohol community with bottles and other packaging materials, Miller said the company was still able to consistently put out their product and still sell it out.

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

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

After two years of sell-out business with Seir Hill, Miller is looking to expand upon his dream by finally dipping into mass production and most recently, signing a distribution contract with the “largest non-alcoholic distributor in the country.” Miller hopes to secure another round of funding — roughly $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, no one heard of it. I was not only trying to educate them on my brand, I was also trying to educate them on the industry,” Miller said. “I grew up in the 80s, and in the 80s, there was this group of ‘lunatics’ and they called themselves vegetarians. You fast-forward to today and you can’t pick up a menu in a restaurant without a vegetarian option or a complete vegetarian section.” 

“I really feel that we are pioneering the same type of revolution here,” Miller added. “My daughter is nine now. When she gets married, I’m hoping that there is a mocktail bar at her wedding alongside the cocktail bar.”    

Part of that revolution has been Miller’s involvement as a founding member of the Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association (ANBA), which is looking to bring awareness to non-alcoholic alternatives as well as lobby the government to not include non-alcoholic beverages in the current three-tier system for alcoholic beverages. According to the ANBA, the non-alcoholic spirits market rose 113.4 percent from 2020 to 2021 while the non-alcoholic drinks market is expected to grow to $30 billion in revenue by 2025.


https://www.thehour.com/business/article/Seir-Hill-non-alcoholic-whiskey-Wilton-16971311.php

Nigarai M Grusio

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