Maker of Green Hat Gin Is Acquired by One of the Country’s Largest Spirit Suppliers

For drinkers, not much will change

John Uselton and Michael Lowe, founders of New Columbia Distillers (now Green Hat). Photograph by Jeff Elkins

New Columbia Distillers, the maker of Green Hat Gin and Straight Rye Whiskey, has been acquired by mega-spirit company MGP Ingredients.

When John Uselton and his father-in-law Michael Lowe launched the distillery in 2012, no one had been legally distilling alcohol in the District since before Prohibition. In the years since, they’ve expanded sales to Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware—plus special orders to Florida and South Carolina. But Uselton says they’ve had difficulties getting distributed in other states. The sale to MGP will give them the connections to widen their reach.

“They’re the number one gin manufacturer in the country—not many people know that—and one of the top whiskey producers,” Uselton says. The company is best know for supplying spirits (as well as specialty wheat proteins and starches) to other distilleries, who then age or blend the products and bottle them under their own labels. But MGP also now has their own line of spirits and was looking for a gin to add to that portfolio.

For drinkers, not much will change. New Columbia will continue to produce their spirits the same way, and the staff will remain the same. You can still visit the distillery on weekends and have a cocktail at their new adjoining bar and gin garden.

Uselton will take on a new role as MGP’s brand rep for the region, promoting Green Hat as well as their other products, including Till Vodka and George Remus Bourbon. Lowe will still on for a few months during the transition before retiring again (he was previously a lawyer).

Capitoline Vermouth, which was partnered with New Columbia and operated out of the same facility, will be splitting off its own. While they’ll remain at the same Ivy City warehouse short-term, they’re searching for a new space and will move to a new distributor.

“It takes a long time and it’s difficult, but we’re happy with how it turned out,” Uselton says about the acquisition. “Michael and I started a company that we’re very proud of, and I think with this we’re going to be able to really take the company we started to the next level.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.