Tasting craft-distilled spirits at St. George (Hangar One)

Last weekend Teel, Joe, Alex and I headed out into the rain and went to St. George Spirits in Alameda.  (And, yes, we followed St. George with that crazy food bender on Monday…love out of town visitors!)

Alameda Point is the decommissioned military base at the end of Alameda island.  The whole area is amazing.  The base shut down in 1997 and has been more or less vacant ever since.  A few of the former aircraft hangars are leased out, but for the most part it’s acres of asphalt.  One of the hangars is occupied by St. George Spirits, which is most well known for its Hangar One vodka.

Here’s a view looking out from the parking lot in front of St. George, over the end of the Alameda and toward San Francisco:

Inside the hangar, St. George distills eau-de-vie brandies, vodka, whiskey and absinthe.  They have beautiful copper stills that were hand-hammered in Germany to St. George’s specifications, in which they cook up all their fruits, herbs, spices and grains.

This one is exclusively dedicated to absinthe production:

They also have a shark.  Why not?

Last weekend’s tasting menu included nine (!) different spirits.  Each time I’ve visited they have a slightly different selection, based on what’s available.  The menu:

  • Pear Aqua Perfecta Eau-de-Vie (15 pounds of pears in every bottle!)
  • Hangar One vodka
  • Hangar One vodka, fruit infused: Buddha’s Hand; Mandarin Blossom; Kaphir Lime
  • St. George Single Malt whiskey (made from a 17 different barrels aged 8-14 years)
  • Aqua Perfecta Pear Liqueur (pear eau-de-vie mixed with pure pear juice)
  • Aqua Perfecta Framboise Liqueur (raspberry eau-de-vie mixed with pure raspberry juice — it has such a wonderfully intense raspberry flavor I started wondering if I should introduce after dinner cordials into my life)
  • St. George Absinthe (while I haven’t had many absinthes, I still feel confident saying that this is undoubtedly one of the finest absinthes in the world — the combination of herbs and the quality of flavor extracted from each is remarkable)

In addition to their standard menu, off-menu they were tasting Firelit, a coffee liquor I can’t get enough of (this round is made from Weaver mocha java coffee, roasted in San Rafael).  They also were tasting a newly released chipotle infused vodka that had me dreaming of Bloody Marys, though the pourer claimed she liked it best in hot chocolate.

Each and every one of their liquors is smooth and packed with intensely fresh, layered flavors (I even appreciate the nuances in the whiskey, despite not being much of a whiskey drinker).  Every trip I like their product more and more.  Maybe their liquors are genuinely improving over time or maybe I’m developing a soft spot in my heart, but now it takes all my effort to resist buying a bunch of bottles on exit.  The only downside to St. George is that, while I think their alcohol is fairly priced considering the quality and sourcing, it’s definitely not cheap.

This was my third trip to St. George and we’ll go back again soon.  The location and space are wonderfully unique, their product is special and the tasting, at $15 (glass included), is the perfect way to sample their evolving collection of liquors, many of which are near impossible to find in stores.  You’re allowed to split a tasting (Teel and I did), which makes the whole experience a pretty fantastic value.  They serve up a lot of booze.  They also do a free, fun tour with an amazingly enthusiastic tour guide every Saturday and Sunday.

In case you can’t make it to St. George yourself any time soon, here’s a short video to tide you over.  It’s on the nitty-gritty of making absinthe, which has only been legal in the U.S. since 2007:

Have a fun weekend!

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