The Bay Area reminds me of a huge puzzle box. If you can figure out how to unlock it’s twists and turns you are rewarded with wonderful surprises. This is the case with the quaint city of Alameda…..well actually the island of Alameda. The city is on an island in the East Bay off the tip of Oakland and only a ferry ride’s away from San Francisco. It is home to a variety of beautiful Victorian homes, a quaint downtown and of course the infamous Alameda Flea Market. However, what alot of people don’t realize is that the city use to be home to a large military base that was decommissioned in the 90s.
What was left was a large swath of barren concrete dotted with large hangers. It could have easily been taken by nature and left to disrepair but being that “developable” land is at a premium in Northern California, the hangers quickly became home to a multitude of business, both industrial and commercial. Nestled on the edge of the base is small but impressive distillery called St. George Spirits ……
With friends from out of the country visiting for the weekend, a visit to St. George seemed the perfect alternative to fighting traffic (and costly tasting fees) in wine country. A 15 minute drive from the house, we arrived at the location and was greeted with a beautiful tasting room in muted greys, dark woods and gleaming copper. A $15 dollar fee gives you a 30 minute tour of the facilities but a tasting of 7 different spirits at the tasting bar…..
The tour itself was more informative than I imagined yet simple enough for the non-chemists and bio majors in the group (raises my hand….). The tour takes you through the process that the distillery uses to make their most popular liquors including vodka, gin and whisky. On a side note, did you know that you can make vodka out of anything? Vodka is merely a term that means a liquor was distilled to have 95% alcohol. Interesting huh?
After the tour, we tasted a variety of different spirits all made on premise including their signature Hanger One vodka. However, I was pleasantly surprised by their wonderful gins – clean with a hint of juniper berry. This isn’t the gin that we had in college; this is for sipping and for a classic cocktail. You don’t need to hide these liquors under heavy and sweet mixers …. this is booze for grown-ups (who occasionally act like kids when tipsy)….
As the afternoon tasting ended, I think I scored the perfect trifecta of (1) impressing out-of-town guests with a hidden gem, (2) got to explore and play “tourist” with my guests and (3) score some good booze for the bar! I think is this is called winning……
[photography: courtney lake – don’t laugh]