On the heels of the Craft-Beer monster that in recent decades dominated pub spigots and posh groceries comes the age of thrill-seeking distillers who know good hops and barley when they see them. The result is a class of Spirits so evolved you’d think they spend their weekends on a transcendental meditation retreat.
At the helm of this convention-shattering development is none other than Rhonda Kallman, a pioneer of the Craft-Beer movement who earned her stripes as a co-founder of category giant Samuel Adams. Hooked on the adrenalin rush that only a slew of shiny new tanks and a vault of iron-hooped barrels can bring, Kallman renovated a 19th-century mill building on Boston Harbor and aptly named it Boston Harbor Distillery.
A self-proclaimed lover of almost any alcoholic beverage on earth, Kallman is no poser. Perched on the leading edge once again, she saw the authentic potential of a craft Beer laden with complex characteristics — citrus, spice, ginger, clove, hops — as the foundation of an unexpected kind of Whiskey-like Spirit. After all, Whiskey is distilled Beer without the hops. Her bonds with her alma mater are so tight that she uses Sam Adams Beer varieties to make award-winning, one-of-a-kind Spirits called Spirit of Boston.
We’ve got such a mad crush on Boston Harbor Distillery’s tenacious tumblers that we’ve dedicated an entire Tasting Box to them alone:
Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout amplifies the spices used in its Beer, including ginger, clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Santa suit optional.
Demon Seed Whiskey is as it sounds: a dangerously delicious Whiskey made using scorpion pepper, which were soaked in Rye Whiskey and later blended with maple syrup and fresh ginger.
Putnam New England Rye — with a grain bill of 95% rye and 5% malted two-row barley, the resulting Spirit is smooth and soft with powerful spicy notes.
Lay some of slick facts on your boss the next time you go out for drinks... and get promoted a day later:
1) Multiple choices: In Brewhiskey speak, what’s the wash? a) the concrete trough where a brewer scrubs her hands after nosing a nascent Spirit; b) the liquid that develops between fermentation and distillation, also known as "distiller’s Beer"; c) the spot in the harbor where Bostonians launder their Brady jerseys.
2) Yo! Don’t knock the politics, bro. Craft breweries are the reason federal excise taxes are lower, which means consumer prices are lower. Plus they made sure that breweries, wineries, and distilleries would have the freedom to distribute all of the stuff we love all of the time. Well, not all of the time.
3) What word denotes an element of the distilling process yet sounds like something you might have removed from your foot? Wort. And it refers to the combination of fermentation ingredients including big boys yeast, grain, and water.
4) What is it with 1984? Boston Harbor’s Spirits are bottled at 84 proof in part because the Boston Beer Company (Rhonda Kallman’s alma mater) was founded in 1984. And then there’s poor George Orwell. If he’d just downed a couple of pints of Sam, George wouldn’t have been so bloody depressing in his novel by the same name.
5) Boston Harbor Distillery puts the swanky in Whiskey Joint. Douglas Fir post-and-beam construction, 40-foot ceilings, and more than 100 windows through which fans can ogle. Up there they call it Booze Envy.
6) True or false? Back in the day, when sales were slower than a snail’s daily commute, Boston Beer Company Founder Jim Koch, who recruited Kallman as his co-founder, would pack a suitcase full of Beer and work the neighborhood, door to door. And you thought that technique was reserved for paint brushes and encyclopedias.
7) What a rip-off! Jim Koch got the recipe for Sam Adams Boston Lager from his great, great grandfather. We assume Great, Great Grandaddy didn’t put up a fight.
8) With barrels of money between them, funny guys John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. Rockefeller sent Carnegie a cardboard vest to make fun of his poor childhood. In return, Carnegie sent a fine Whiskey to Rockefeller, a devout baptist who had given up drinking.
9) In 1830, the average person over 15 years old drank 88 bottles of Whiskey per year. That’s one bottle every 4.2 days. And you thought you had a problem.