High Wash

We at Amanti Vino like to stay on the cutting edge of the beverage world. So today I’d like to tell you about an exciting new trend in the world of craft spirits. Distilled Beer. Yeah, that’s right. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t that what whiskey is?” Well, I’m glad you asked. My answer: Yes. BUT commercial beer is almost never used. A whiskey distillery will almost always ferment their own “beer” (called “low wash” or “distiller’s beer”) before distilling it into whiskey. The “beer” is never bottled or sold. (Also, they almost never use brewer’s yeast.) There’s a handful of breweries that have started putting their (commercially available) beer through the distillation process in order to create a new kind of spirit. So simple, yet so smart. These brewers-turned-distillers are on to something special. A few notables:

Kiuchi Brewery, known for its line of Hitachino Nest Beers, has been distilling it’s famed White Ale into a spirit. The label calls the product simply “grain alcohol distilled with hops, orange peel and coriander.” Unaged, this spirit is clear and makes a fantastic beer cocktail. – $19.99

G. Schneider & Sohn, a family owned brewery known for its award winning Hefe-Weizen, distilled its Aventinus, a wheat doppelbock, into a spirit called “Edelster Aventinus.” Also unaged and clear, this spirit boasts a malty, grainy flavor profile with an incredibly smooth texture. – $92.99

Schlenkerla, an historic Bavarian brewery and tavern, distilled its decorated Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier. After coming off the still, the spirit is matured in Michel Couvreur barrels. But that’s not all! Freshly smoked barley is thrown in the barrel with the spirit to ensure that the barrel aging doesn’t overpower the smoke character that made the beer famous. Bold, rich and full-flavored, this unique spirit is choc-full of smokey, baconey goodness. – $121.99

The previous three spirits, although technically falling under the whiskey umbrella, don’t call themselves “whiskey” (or “whisky” for that matter). There is, however, at least one distillery that uses commercial beer AND calls their product “whiskey.” Charbay. Charbay Distillery is run by father and son distillers. They represent the 12th and 13th generations of a distilling lineage that began in Yugoslavia in the mid-18th century. These geniuses purchased 6,000 gallons of Bear Republic’s decorated Racer 5 IPA and distilled it into their upcoming “IPA Light Whiskey.” Like I said, Genius. (This stuff I haven’t seen yet, but be sure to keep checking back.)

As this new trend continues to develop, you can be sure that you’ll see more and more interesting incarnations of this fantastic new idea of turning beer into a distillate.

– Tim “The Schooner” Martone

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2 Comments »

  1. Rachel Unger said

    Who knew! I love Hitachino’s White Ale so I’m expecting to love the spirit version too. How obvious are the distilled spirits’ similarities to their original beers? Learning something new every day, thanks Schooner!

    • The Schooner said

      These brewers/distillers definitely strive to keep the final spirit in line with the beer’s original profile. Admittedly, this is no easy task. As with any spirit, the base ingredients show themselves pretty subtley. I think Schlenkerla, through their unique barrel process, does the best job of making a spirit that tastes very similar to the beer. I hope I’ve shed some light for you Rachel, and thanks so much for commenting!

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