No. 209 Gin (credit: Randy Yagi)
Much like the surging popularity in the farm-to-fork concept in the Bay Area, there’s a rising interest in grain-to-glass craft spirits. Over the last few years, several craft distilleries have opened their doors in the Bay Area and all are producing exceptional spirits like whiskey, vodka and gin. But it’s not just new micro-distilleries that are reaping the benefits of the rising craft spirits movement in the Bay Area. Here is a look at five of the best local distilleries that also rank among the best in the world.
401 Terry Francois Blvd.
Pier 50, Shed B
San Francisco, CA 94158
Located just south of AT&T Park, on Pier 50, Distillery No. 209 is the world’s only distillery built completely over water. But that’s not what makes this distillery so special. It’s people like Arne Hilllesland, the incredibly talented ginerator and its award winning premium gins, described as elegant, smooth and a “vibrant melody of flavors.” The SoMa distillery got its name from the original 19th century distillery that was once headquartered in the Napa Valley but due to lack of available space, moved to San Francisco. Another notable distinction of Distillery No. 209 is that it produces the world’s only Passover-certified gin. No standard tours are offered here although people who sign up for the company newsletter are notified of special cocktail events.
1705 Mariposa St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
Named the 2015 Whiskey Importer of the Year by Whisky Magazine, Anchor Distillery is the in-house spirits section of San Francisco’s landmark Anchor Brewing. Located in Potrero Hill, Anchor Distillery produces nearly 400 varieties of premium sprits from 23 countries and has a particular strength in whiskey, such as Old Potrero, named one of the most influential spirits of the last 25 years. Weekday tours of the historic Anchor Brewery are by appointment only and only paid tour guests can enjoy a tasting session. In 1993, Anchor Brewery became the world’s first brewery with an in-house distillery, when it opened its now celebrated distillery.
5625 State Farm Dr. #118
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
Sonoma County is best known for its world-class wine, dining, hotels and even craft beers. But this universally acclaimed wine region also features nearly a dozen spirits distilleries including Sonoma County Distilling Company. Known as California’s premier whiskey distillery, the Rohnert Park-based business was originally named 1512 Spirits, in reference to 1512 Barbershop in San Francisco and a tribute to other barbershops that acted as a front for bootlegged liquor during the Prohibition Era. Today Sonoma County Distilling Company is now led by owner/distiller Adam Speigel and is best known for phenomenal rye whiskey, made from 100 percent rye grain with a particular focus on the grain to glass concept. Sonoma County Distilling Company is not open to the public unless interested people book a tour online or have made previous arrangements.
Spirit Works Distillery
6790 McKinley St. #100
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Led by the husband and wife team of Timo and Ashby Marshall, Spirit Works Distillery combines traditional British and West Coast methods to produce top tiered artisan spirits that are distilled by hand. Located at The Barlow, one of the Bay Area’s hottest new destinations, Spirit Works utilizes the grain to glass process where spirits are bottled by hand using a copper hybrid still handmade by one of the world’s best still makers. Spirit Works Distillery is said to be one of the few places in the world to produce traditional sloe gin and offer other premium spirits, such as barrel gin and vodka, both using organic California Red Winter wheat. The micro-distillery’s tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday and tours and tastings available Friday through Sunday with advance reservations.
2601 Monarch St.
Alameda, CA 94501
Located on Alameda’s former Naval Air Station, St. George Spirits is known as “America’s original craft distillery.” The distillery described as “a leading light in the American artisanal spirits movement” has won numerous awards, including the 2015 Whiskey Producer of the Year and the 2014 Whiskey of the Year award for its St. George Single Malt. The widely acclaimed East Bay distillery meticulously crafts a number of other premium spirits, including gins, vodkas, rum and in 2007, introduced the first American-made absinthe in nearly 100 years. St. George Distillery is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday and offers tours and tastings with reservations are strongly recommended. Another nearby Alameda distillery known for its world-class vodka is Hangar 1, a former extension of St. George Spirits.