In 1985, Stephen McCarthy set out to turn Oregon fruit into brandy that would rival the best French bottles. His friends thought he was crazy. After all, it takes nearly nine tons of Bartlett pears to yield only 100 gallons of brandy. But McCarthy ignored the naysayers, bought a German still, installed it in a small warehouse in Northwest Portland, and began distilling pure eau de vie—first with pears from his family orchards, and later with cherries, plums, and apples from all over Oregon.
Today, the brandies from McCarthy’s company, Clear Creek Distillery, are considered the finest quality in America. “The single most important thing in making a good fruit brandy is using perfectly ripe fruit,” McCarthy acknowledges. “Then we do as little to it as possible.”