It’s common for distilleries to age their spirits in barrels sourced from local breweries, and some breweries also use the returned barrels to add flavor to their beers. But local distilleries are now making spirits out of beer; the resulting whiskeys have hop notes along with classic barrel-aged flavors, citrus and floral aromas.
Barley Wine Whiskey
The first legal distillery in the Ozarks since Prohibition, Copper Run Distillery in Walnut Shade, Missouri, previously released a spirit made with excess beer from Mother’s Brewing Co. in Springfield, Missouri. The distillery used the brewery’s Sandy beer for an experimental Hopped Wheat Whiskey. Sandy was double-distilled in Copper Run’s direct-fire copper pot still and aged in new, deep-char Missouri oak for two years. With aromas of orange blossom, grapefruit zest and pine, the medium-bodied whiskey had a long finish with a touch of hop bitterness, plus cedar and blackberry. The Hopped Wheat Whiskey was a one-batch special release, but Copper Run founder Jim Blansit says another collaboration with Mother’s will be available this fall: Foggy Notion Barley Wine Whiskey made with the brewery’s Foggy Notion barley wine.
417.587.3456, copperrundistillery.com; 417.862.0423, mothersbrewing.com
Steve Neukomm of Spirits of St. Louis – the distillery branch of Square One Brewery & Distillery in Lafayette Square – has been making Hopskey, a hop-infused whiskey, for the past four or five years. The experiment started a year earlier, when alcohol was run through the still once and then infused with hops using the still’s gin basket, which normally contains that spirit’s botanicals. It came out as sort of a hop schnapps, which was really only good in a Martini. The next year, Neukomm and his team tried it again, but afterward, they aged it in one of their whiskey barrels for six months. “We pulled it out, and it was like, ‘Oh, my god – we made magic!’” Neukomm says with a laugh. The key is using the gin basket, which transfers only the hops’ aroma to the whiskey, not its bitterness or flavor. Spirits of St. Louis uses Sterling hops, which are more citrus-based and very aromatic, making it perfect to accentuate the citrus notes in an Old Fashioned. A pumpkin-ale whiskey was released this fall, too: Neukomm and his brewers had a ton of Square One Pumpkin Ale left over from last year, so they added pumpkin pie spice and the skin and inside wall of pumpkins to the whiskey, ran it all through the still and aged it for almost a year leading up to its October debut.
StilL Modern Whiskey
In St. Louis, distillery StilL 630 is using Modern Brewery’s bière de garde and distilling it into StilL Modern Whiskey as part of the distillery’s Brewery Collaboration Series. The beer was distilled and then aged in new oak barrels to create a floral aroma and “candied taste.” Modern Brewery also aged the bière de garde in StilL 630’s RallyPoint rye barrels to produce another version, Cambre de Garde, which is on tap at the brewery’s tasting room in the Kings Oak neighborhood of St. Louis. StilL 630 only made 306 bottles of Modern Whiskey, and at press time, founder David Weglarz expected to be sold out by November.
314.513.2275, still630.com; modernbrewery.com
Left for Dead
This year, J. Rieger & Co. Distillery teamed up with Boulevard Brewing Co., both based in Kansas City, to produce a spirit distilled from leftover beer called Left for Dead. It’s no coincidence that J. Rieger head distiller Nathan Perry worked at Boulevard for five years. Perry used Boulevard beer that was past its prime or left over from a test batch, for example, to use as the base for the distillate; he’s made one that had 22 different beers in it, including Early Riser Coffee Porter, and another that was only made with The Calling IPA. All batches are distilled to 89 proof as a nod to Boulevard’s founding in 1989. The first batch of Left for Dead was released in June at area bars, restaurants and stores, but look for new releases; each batch is numbered and features a distinct flavor profile.