Explore: Micro-Booze

Raise a glass to craft spirits and the local distilleries putting St. Louis on the map

 

Everyone knows St. Louis is a serious beer town—but beer isn’t the only thing brewing at local distilleries. A couple of popular brewsky spots are branching out and creating fine spirits along with their craft beers.

Square One Brewery & Distillery in Lafayette Square and Amalgamated Brewing Company in Soulard both began distilling operations within weeks of each other just a few years back, and in that short time, both have received national recognition. Square One recently snagged a bronze medal in the American Whiskey category at the American Distilling Institute’s 2011 Craft Distillers Conference for its J.J. Neukomm Whiskey; meanwhile, its whiskey liqueur, Vermont Night, won gold and a “best of” category designation. Only blocks away, the dark version of Amalgamated’s flagship 85 Lashes Rum beat out 61 competing countries and took home a silver medal at the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. As Amalgamated’s head distiller Jake Jones says, “We’re doing really well with what we’re doing.”

Doing well indeed. For relatively small operations, these two distilleries put out quite a bit of product. Square One currently distills 13 different spirits in-house, not counting one-off specialty creations like their pineapple and jalapeño infused tequila. In addition to its rums, Amalgamated’s locally distilled offerings include grappa, gin, peach brandy and sambuca.

Fans of the locally distilled trend can find these custom spirits on the shelves of select local liquor stores, and of course, in Square One’s eponymous brew pub or Amalgamated’s restaurant, The Stable (straight or in cocktail form). They’re even known to pop up in the makers’ kitchen creations, as well as on cocktail menus around town.

However you shake it, these spirits are making waves. Square One owner Steve Neukomm says he sees the same thing happening with micro-distilleries that occurred in years past with boutique wineries and breweries, as craft boozes build their followings. “They’re attracting their own fan base of spirits aficionados,” he says. “It’s a different crowd than the beer drinkers. The people who come in and have our spirits are coming in specifically for that. It’s a passion thing.”

Current success aside, Amalgamated and Square One are continuing to look for new spirits frontiers to conquer. Neukomm is hard at work on a wheat vodka, and Jones is currently aging a bourbon, dubbed Batch One, which will be ready for drinking in 2013.

For now, these two distilleries are the only ones of their kind in St. Louis, but there are some stirrings outside the metro area. Crown Valley Brewing & Distilling Company in St. Genevieve recently debuted its first vodka offering, and is reportedly aging an American whiskey for release in the next 18 months, as well as a white whiskey, to be enjoyed as early as this fall. Who knows, maybe someday St. Louis will be known as much for its booze as it is for its beer.

 

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Micro-booze St. Louis

Square One Brewery & Distillery

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St. Louis micro-booze

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St. Louis micro-booze

Malt Whiskey at Square One Brewery & Distillery

 

Photo credit: Photos by Ben Rieder

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