Inside Ballast Point Brewery, from the Los Angeles Times.

In today's Los Angeles Times, Jenn Garbee contributed a story that's sure to resonate with spirits geeks like me: "West Coast brewers pick up the distilling spirit."

Small-scale distilleries are on the upswing nationwide, as consumers take greater interest in locally sourced products and states reassess the tax revenue such operations can generate. And while many distilleries are truly independent startups, many talented brewers who have learned the business from making quality beer are either adding distilleries to existing operations, or working in tandem with like-minded distillers.

Garbee spotlights Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego, which has been making beer since 1996. Now with a 600-square-foot distillery, the owners are planning to add whiskey and rum to the list of libations they produce. This is a similar tack taken by Oregon-based McMenamins, a brewery that expanded into distilling whiskey, brandy, and gin (as well as opening restaurants and hotels), and by Rogue, another brewery in Oregon that now produces rum and gin.

These budding distillers are following the footsteps of Fritz Maytag, considered the godfather of American craft brewing by many after revamping Anchor Steam Beer in the early 1970s. Maytag opened Anchor Distilling in the 1990s, and ever since he's been producing some of the most highly regarded whiskeys and gins from any American distillery, big or small.

These are all West Coast operations, but the story is repeated in states such as Colorado, Wisconsin, and Delaware. Are there examples near you of brewers exploring the idea of adding whiskey, brandy, or other spirits? Any of your favorite small breweries that should try their hands at small-batch spirits?

About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.


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