Thursday, May 29, 2008


Recently I got the notion in my head that it might be interesting to try deconstructing beer via such things as infusions, bitters, tinctures, etc. and rebuilding the holy brew in my own graven cocktail image. Of course, I had to bounce ideas off Rob (obvious piece of advice I almost certainly would have overlooked -- Don't even think about trying to buy hops), and in the midst of our off and on conversations I came across a spirit of some non-trivial interest.

Essential Spirits, based just a stones train ride from San Francisco in Mountain View, is producing a little something they call Bierschnaps. They brew their own California style Pale Ale, and then distil it into a spirit they claim is similar to Vodka. I really hope this is just marketing speak as it seems a shame to go to all the trouble to brew your own beer only to distill it into flavorless dreck. What really interests me most about Bierschnaps is that beer and whiskey begin their lives the same, so the idea of a whiskey, turned into a beer, then into a different spirit grips my heart like some sort of grippy thing.

I looked over their site to see where I might procure some of this delightful dram, but was unable to locate any mention of outlets. A quickly answered e-mail to the company turned up some bad news -- It seems nobody in the city stocks Bierschnaps. The closest place for me to get it is Ledgers Liquors in Berkeley, but I don’t really see myself BARTing out there. I'm also pretty hesitant to mail order something which runs about $35 and could be a total bust. I know I should be a bit more adventurous, but for those of us on a fairly tight booze budget adventure isn't our middle name (it's Ferdinand by the way).

So the questions of the day are these -- Has anybody out there tried this product? If so, what did you think? More importantly might any locals know any bars that have this on their shelves that I might avail myself of a taste?

Comments always welcome or feel free to e-mail us at drinkaweek [at] gmail [dot] com.


Rob said...

And a question to layer on top of that: Has anyone tasted Essential Spirits' original bierschnaps, a distillation of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale? And on top of that! Anyone actually do a side-by-side comparison of the two?

And to clarify the comment about purchasing hops, what I meant was it's totally possible to run into your local homebrew shop and buy some, but they're not likely to let you out of the door without purchasing your weight in malt to go with it...

drinkaweek said...

Yeah, I think if I just waltzed into a brew store and bought some hops, telling them I was experimenting with making cocktails of course, I'd be dead in seconds.

Classick said...

As the distiller of Classick Bierschnaps, perhaps i can supply some information regarding the product.

Firstly, it most certainly is NOT just marketing speak. We take great pride in producing a beer specifically for the purpose of distilling it. Both the hops and the malt were specially chosen so the flavor profile of the spirit would be enhanced. Because of the unique properties of our still, we are able to capture the very essence of whatever it is we are distilling at the time. What this means is that any spirit we produce from beer, will taste almost exactly like drinking the beer itself, only in a concentrated form. For our Classick Original, we under hopped the beer as we wanted the sweeter malt notes to be the dominant flavor in the product. In the case of the Sierra Nevada Bierschnaps, well we all know how hoppy that beer is, and as a result, so is the SN Bierschnaps (which is a discontinued product, but we still have some library samples at the distillery). As a result, the maltier Classick Bierschnaps is fine to taste at room temp or chilled, but the Sierra Nevada Bierschnaps, like the beer, should only be enjoyed absolutely ICE cold, lest the hops hit you over the head and knock you down.

Also, We are happy to announce that K & L Wines in both Redwood City and San Francisco now carry the Bierschnaps on the shelf, so if you'd still like to try it, its available.

If there are any more questions about the product, Id be happy to respond.


Dave Classick Jr
Distiller | Essential Spirits

drinkaweek said...


Thanks for popping in to provide some clarification!

I'm still interested in giving it a try so am glad to hear it's in SF now.

Mike Reis said...

Trying this now for the first time. Glass is in hand. Purchased at K&L Wines RWC for $35.

Perfectly clear, the aroma is intoxicating: somewhat reminiscent of Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA, there is a lot of hops here, to be sure, but its the maltiness that keeps things in check. Taste is intense and delicious as well. I can see where the vodka comparison comes in--the flavors here are really clean. This really tastes like a beer-infused vodka. The malty flavors are really great, and the hops are appreciable--citrusy, to be sure.

Recommended to any craft beer fan.