Seven Stills Whiskeys are are mostly made from distilling ales, lagers, and beers from around the San Francisco Bay area. And there is no focus or core product — they distill from what’s available. The distilling beer usually delivers products that meet the legal definition of a Whiskey.
Their products are refreshing, interesting, and unique. There is just no way to share that experience with you via words. It’s like a farmers market — you show up and see what is on the shelf today.
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Throughout history, more than seventy major cities have called themselves “City of the Seven Hills.” San Francisco is one of them. The name “7 Stills of San Francisco” is a pun based on the nickname.
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Tim Obert and Clint Potter of 7 Stills of San Francisco, met at a dorm party while in college. After college they became friends and — as the story goes — one night while sharing a beer, they discussed how Whiskey is basically a form of distilled beer.
Clint, who was a student teaching a class in distillation at Berkley, was able to use his expertise. Opening their doors in 2013, they have been gathering local craft beer and wines a few barrels at a time, and distilling them into Whiskeys — exploring how the source beverage influences the tastes of the final spirit.
Things are going fairly well so far, with strong local demand and a few international distributions of their popular offerings -- which include several Whiskeys, a Vodka, and a range of aromatic bitters. Everything is produced in very small quantities in a single still on site.
A transcript for non-audio situations
Bryan: We are about to embark on the Whiskey Train. We are in Twin Peaks Tavern, the meeting spot. And we're gonna board the train on Market, the F train, go down Market, go up Embarcadero, and end up at Fisherman's Wharf for some hot chocolate and Beers.
So we were going to do the open top trolley car. But it rained. So we got a really sweet, teal-looking closed top. We're serving Whiskey and Beer. And the Whiskey was made from the Beer. So that adds an extra twist. We've got the camera on board. Yes! All right, this song is apparently called Trains and Whiskey.
Tim: My names Tim Obert. I'm the master brewer.
Clint: And I'm Clint Potter, the distiller. And we're Seven Stills.
Bryan: They made the Whiskey. I made the Beer. And together, we have the Whiskey Train. So welcome aboard.
Tim: I've basically been brewing from my apartment. And I started out kind of just doing it on a kitchen stove. One day, I was sitting with Clint in a bar. And then he was telling me about how Whiskey was actually made from a very low-quality Beer, from a distiller's Beer. And then kind of something just clicked in my mind, and I was like "Why don't we try making different craft Beers and distilling them into Whiskeys and see how that happens." Experimenting with different Beer recipes and seeing how they translate into Whiskeys, and we saw that the results were just totally different from any Whiskeys that we've had before. And we thought it was something that we had to pursue fulltime.
I basically go through the same process that any brewer would take to make a Beer. I ferment it out in the exact same way. I don't even use distillers yeast or anything like that. I use the actual yeast that would be involved in making a Beer.
Clint: So we dump that into the still and, basically, distilling, you're separating the chemicals in the Beer. The target chemical is ethanol alcohol. It runs out the still, cools back down. And you wanna collect that. It's called the hearts cut. And then we put it in barrels, and we wait.
A Beer that translates really well into a Whiskey has to have big flavor. So we're talking a lot of hops, a lot of malty flavor. And then in this Whiskey that's almost gone, there's actually Vermont maple sugar in there, which provides a little bit of sweetness.
Bryan: When you're making a Whiskey, you make Beer that doesn't have hops in it. So if you have a single malt Whiskey or a Scotch, it has one kind of malt and no hops. In Beer, you typically have many different kinds of malt. We saw a lot of similarities. So we're like "Why don't we just take a Beer, make it a Whiskey?" Like, that is an awesome way to sort of, like, bring two companies together, try something new. And if it's good, then, you know, perfect.
Tim: This is something that we have to take to market. We have to have other people try this. So we set about getting 1,600 gallons of it brewed by Pac Brew Labs. And we distilled it and made about 165 gallons of Whiskey, which is gonna come out in June. And we're showcasing it today on the Whiskey Train.