Turning Beer into Booze

I only knew of Charbay Distillery since they make the best infused vodkas–flavors like green tea–so while I don’t recall how I first heard about their experimental whiskey made from distilled pilsner, I knew I had to try it and get the story (for DRAFT, vol 5.5, 2010). Days after reaching out to them, I found myself on their Napa Valley property, talking to the father-son duo of Miles and Marko Karakasevic, master distillers, and, yes, sampling an array of beers spun into golden whiskeys (and some white ones).

Beer in Good Spirits

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Photo: Kyle Bursaw

Thinking back, I honestly don’t remember how Tom Griffin, aka the Barrel Guy, even landed on my radar. He flies under almost every radar. This one guy–he doesn’t like the term barrel broker because spent barrels are more like a canvas to him than a commodity–helped shift the direction of the craft beer business in the 21st century but no one outside the brewers really knew about it. Certainly no one had written about him. Nor was he trying to be written about. I think it was an off-handed comment by Matt Brynildson, Firestone-Walker’s brewmaster, where I casually heard his name and some time later that set me off looking for him, but he doesn’t have a website or anything. That’s why how we first met face to face is part of this story, my first for DRAFT Magazine (vol. 5.4, July, 2010). Of course, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, but this remains one of my favorite stories.

Cheers to Tom, wherever he may presently be driving.

Gray Market/White Whale

Gray Market/White Whale wasn’t just a fun story to write for All About Beer (Vol. 31, Iss. 2, 2010), I got to expense three beers at the top of my own personal Wants list! Livin’ and drinkin’ the dream. The story about the pursuit of so-called “white whales” also opens with the line I’m happy to say amused editor Julie Johnson to pieces: Call me BeerMail.

Kids in the Brewhouse

Kids in the Brewhouse is the first story I wrote for this magazine in 2008 (Vol. 30, Iss. 2, 2009) about the second generation of craft brewers. Not the men and women who opened the second-wave of craft breweries, mind you, but the first wave’s founders’ kids.