We might be fast approaching the golden age of “micro distilling”. With the many law changes over the last several years in many states, it’s become a lot easier to set up a still and make some excellent small batch hooch. Add to that a growing market that’s interested in locally made, quality booze and, well, small batch distillers are no longer just shaggy dudes in overalls with poor dentistry hiding out in the woods making paint thinner in homemade stills.
One distillery that’s helped to lead the way in this charge is St. George Spirits in Alameda, CA. Alameda, a charming community just south of Oakland, is perhaps best known for the downsized naval base on its West end. St. George Spirits is located here on the decommissioned side of the base in a large building that informs the name of their most popular spirit, Hanger One Vodka.
The Distillery was founded in 1982 by Jörg Rupf, a native of Freiburg, Germany from a family of distillers, who had fallen in love with the Bay Area in general and specifically the access to the region’s fantastic fresh produce. He began the distillery making traditional eau de vies using the fruits of the area and over the years has added vodka, absinthe, tequila and a single malt whiskey to the line of spirits. The magic happens in 2 pot stills, 2 column stills, and two combination stills, all polished, hand-hammered copper beauties from the Arnold Holstein still makers of Bavaria. Along with the distilling, all infusing, aging, bottling and packaging is also done on site.
St. George’s eau de vies, flavored vodkas, and infusions set themselves apart from their larger, more well-known and “big box” spirits by using simple, quality, natural ingredients, no artificial colorants or flavorings. This approach really comes through in their flavored vodkas which are all crisp and bright with wonderful mouth feel and balance. St. George also has the distinction of being the first American producer of recently de-criminalized absinthe.
They have a beautiful tasting room that is open much of the week, complete with great views of San Francisco across the Bay, and on Saturdays and Sundays they offer a 1:00pm tour that is informative, a lot of fun, and includes tasting the stuff. They clearly love what their doing here and have a good time distilling whatever they can get their hands on including foie gras and a Christmas tree (gin, anyone?). They also regaled us with tales of other mis-steps like the peach pit/cyanide fiasco and the unfortunate by-product of distilling wasabi…mustard gas (consider yourself warned). They are on to something really good here and with the unique setting, St. George Spirits is definitely worth a visit.St. George Spirits 2601 Monarch Street Alameda, CA 94501 (510) 769-1601 Tasting Room is open Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 7pm, Sunday noon-6pm Tours at 1pm, Saturday and Sunday
oh, the shark…right…do you remember the movie Deep Blue Sea? Yeah, neither do I, but that’s the shark that was in the movie. It wasn’t real.