There are many great places to have a drink in the East Bay, but none of them come even close to the experience at St. George Spirits in Alameda. Okay, so it's not your typical bar, but come around 5:30pm on a weekday and you'll find the tasting room to be lively, fun and entertaining, full of what seems to be, repeat visitors and newbies. What draws many people to visit are three things: the appeal of tasting 6 excellent and unique distilled spirits, the knowledgeable staff, and the spectacular view of the city skyline and bridges. Plus, it's pretty cool to hang out at a distillery that fills a 65,000-square-foot airplane hangar on the former naval air station.
I recently had the honor of spending time with my friend Christina (East Bay Dish) on her birthday and it just so happens that her birthday fell on the same day as St. George's Day. To celebrate the occasion, the distillery added a special pour to their tasting menu: Lot 14 of St. George Single Malt Whiskey. Bottles of Lot 14 are sold out nationally, so we jumped at the chance to taste the spirit that Whisky Advocate named Craft Whisky of the Year.
I've tried a few different spirits by St. George before, and even have a bottle of the lovely St. George Terroir Mt. Tam Gin. Shamefully, I've never been to a tasting prior to this and I'm so glad I finally checked it out. It's the kind of experience that will make anyone say "Whoa!".
For $15 per person, you get six 1/4 oz samples from their current tasting menu. Here's a look at what I tried.
Lot 14 of St. George Single Malt Whiskey
St. George Single Malt Whiskey is an elegant and expressive American single malt whiskey. The technique is to use various roast levels of two-row barley to elicit rich aromas of hazelnut and cocoa, and smoking a portion of unroasted barley over beech and alder wood to add base notes and additional complexity. After distillation, the whiskey is aged in a number of different types of wood, including used bourbon, French oak, sherry and port barrels.
The whiskey is drawn from barrels ranging between four and fifteen years old. Lot 14 has a nose of cocoa, roasted nuts and sweet fruits. The palate is complex, offering a taste of grain, honeysuckle and cocoa. The finish is on the dry side, but sweet with notes of spice and fruit.
St. George All Purpose Vodka
Pear brandy is distilled up to 95.1% ABV and blended with a base spirit to make this all purpose vodka. It tastes clean yet full-bodied enough to be the star ingredient in any vodka cocktail.
St. George Green Chile Vodka
St. George Green Chile Vodka is made with tens of thousands of pounds of crushed green jalapenos in a 1,500-liter still. It's incredibly fresh, sweet, and bright with just enough heat. It's surprisingly really smooth.
Infused with four other types of peppers (serrano, habanero, red and yellow sweet bell peppers) separately, and then blended with the distillate of jalapenos, lime, and cilantro.
St. George California Citrus Vodka
The nose and taste of this citrus vodka is really something special - bright and beautifully aromatic of fresh peeled oranges.
Made from California-grown Valencia oranges, Seville oranges, and bergamot. Each is distilled separately and then blended together. A wonderful taste of orange vanilla cream. This vodka is definitely one for sipping.
St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur
A stunningly well balanced, delicate and sweet spirit that tastes like a pear pie with a warm touch of cinnamon and cloves. It has the complexity of a perfectly ripe Bartlett pear.
St. George Dry Rye Gin
It almost smelled like tequila, a very strong and powerful fragrance. The taste is tough with a peppery burn. Of all that I've sampled, this is my least favorite.
I was glad to share this fun experience with Christina! I wanted to end this post with this photo of her happily groovin' to her brother singing "Happy Birthday" over the phone. You can probably tell that she's definitely in good "spirits". If you ever get a chance to meet her, you'll want to start dancing with her, too.
St. George Spirits is open to the public Wednesday–Saturday from 12pm–7pm and Sunday 12pm–5pm for distillery tours and spirits tastings by reservation.