Every Feb. 2 since 1886, Punxsutawney Phil – Pennsylvania’s prognosticating groundhog – emerges from his burrow to predict the weather. Legend has it that one annual sip of “the elixir of life” is what keeps the old rodent young.
This year, thanks to Pittsburgh-based booze makers, the furry meteorologist might overindulge and live forever.
Wigle Whiskey, a Strip District-based distillery, recently released a rye whiskey called Phil’s Shadow. (According to Groundhog Day folklore, if he casts a dark image, there will be six more weeks of winter; if Friday is cloudy, folks can expect an early spring.) The liquid was aged for 18 months before it was transferred into maple syrup barrels for an additional four months.
The small cask produced only a few hundred bottles, which are already sold out at the Smallman Street tasting room, but will be available for purchase at the Celebration Tent Event at Barclay Square in Punxsutawney on the big day.
Wigle co-founder Meredith Meyer Grelli says she expects to see Phil’s Shadow every year.
“Phil is such a local legend,” she says. “We approached the Groundhog Club because we saw a kindred spirit that appreciates the quirky, eccentric traditions of Pennsylvania.”
On Jan. 19-20, Wigle welcomed the whistlepig to both its distillery and its sister location, Threadbare Cider House in Troy Hill.
Nearly 400 folks attended Phil-a-Palooza events to enjoy a dram and mingle with the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, a group of top hat-wearing gents who attend to Phil’s every need.
Last weekend, Phil wanted beer, so his handlers took him to Penn Brewery in Troy Hill. Approximately 600 “phans” joined in the “phun”.
Several years ago, the company began selling Punxsutawney Philsner, a malty, sweet, easy-drinking Helles lager – the only beer officially licensed to carry Phil’s name and image.
Penn sells six-packs and pints of the 4.5-percent ABV beverage throughout January and February and a special September batch is brewed for the Groundhog Club’s annual Phil Phest.
Folks willing to brave the cold on Gobbler’s Knob – site of Phil’s famous forecast – can warm up with the drink at Punxsutawney bars and stores including Laska’s Pizza, The Burrow, Shop ‘n Save, Frank ‘n Steins, The Country Club, The Crazy Horse, The Moose, The Walston Club and The Eagles.
“Phil is such a universally well-know and well-loved figured – and he’s also really cute! – that beer drinkers can’t help but want to try his namesake beer,” says Linda Nyman, the brewery’s marketing director. “In a world that’s chaotic and not always so civil, Phil offers a fun respite and is a cultural touchstone we all grew up with, and I think that’s comforting to people, beer drinkers included.”