There I was, at Blue Palms Brewhouse, in the middle of American Craft Beer Week and I was seriously mulling skipping the beer for the evening and ordering a cocktail. Before you cry sacrilege, this was no ordinary cocktail.
It was a gin martini made with artisanal care by a brewery: Ballast Point of San Diego. They are one of the latest breweries to add spirits to their repertoire. They are following in the footsteps of Rogue in Oregon and Anchor Steam here in California.
Brewers have been utilizing barrels for their beers for years now and the aged beauties that they create are highly prized and highly rated. Think Angel’s Share from The Lost Abbey or the 2nd Anniversary release of Coton from The Bruery that is aged in bourbon barrels. But today, the focus is squarely on the spirits.
Rogue established their distillery operations in 2003. They distill small batches using traditional copper pot stills. Their line-up of spirits includes Dark Rum, Dead Guy Whiskey, White Rum, Hazelnut Spice rum, Spruce Gin and Pink Gin (which is the one that I would like to get my hands on).
The 90 proof Pink is “ocean aged in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels resulting in a slightly fruity, mellow and definitely Pink Gin…” It is made with no chemicals or additives and 14 natural ingredients like spruce, cucumber, angelica root, orange peel, coriander, lemon peel, ginger, orris root, grains of paradise, tangerine and juniper berries.
The recently sold Anchor Steam has The Anchor Distilling Company that started up in 1993; they are also dedicated to creating small batches of traditionally distilled spirits.
Anchor Distilling has created Junípero Gin and a couple different versions of Old Potrero Whiskey. But the distinctive spirit that caught my attention is their Genevieve™. It is a re-creation of one of histories earliest inspirations for gin. Also known as “genever”, Anchor carefully crafts theirs with wheat, barley, and rye malts, which is distilled in a traditional copper pot still with the same botanicals as their Gin. You can create a unique taste test of the forerunner to modern gin compared with the new version.
Ballast Point has expanded from a small brewer to over 10,000 barrels per year. But they caught the distilling bug and put together a hybrid still and started making Old Grove Gin, Devil’s Share Whiskey and their Three Sheets Rum, which is made by fermenting organic cane sugar with the special Ballast Point yeast and then distilled. It is then aged in a charred American oak barrel.
Your homework for the week is to create a beer cocktail. You can grab a nice pale ale, add some lime juice and put into a daiquiri glass to make a Michelada, craft beer style. Or you can experiment with lemonade and beer until you find the perfect version of the British favorite, the Shandy.
The Beer of the Week will be hard to find. One of the two Rogue John John series of beers aged in spirits made by Rogue. There is the Dead Guy version aged in Whiskey barrels or the Juniper version aged in gin barrels.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.