I recently spent a week in my hometown Seattle, where I was surprised to find that a whole microdistilling scene had sprung up. The city is now home to nearly a dozen craft distilleries making creative versions of whiskey, gin, vodka, and more (when I left in 2008, there was one). It made me wonder why San Francisco, with all of its emphasis on local, small-batch food, doesn't have many craft distilleries of its own.
It looks like that's changing. Falcon Spirits, a new distillery making a gin called Botanica Spiritvs and with plans to expand more, is going into Richmond. It joins Seven Stills, Anchor, 1512, No. 209, and St. George Spirits in the Bay Area's small but growing distilling community.
We'll see more small distilleries opening in 2014 and beyond. The California state Legislature recently passed Assembly Bill 933, which gave craft distilleries the power to charge for alcohol tastings on-site as of Jan. 1. (Previously they could offer samples but not charge for them; the new law made distillery tasting rooms more like those of wineries and breweries.) Give it five years, and we'll have a distilling scene to rival Seattle's.
Truly local whiskey and other grain-based spirits still have some time coming, however. Incredibly, California has no malting house, so brewers and distillers need to go out of state for malted grains. But that could be changing too. St. George Spirits' Lance Winters and others are working to build the state's first malting house in Sonoma; with it, the local booze scene can really take off. We'll drink to that.