You find the most beautiful stains in desolate places.
Spent the day with friends wandering around the abandoned hangars and seemingly endless blocks of abandoned buildings at the decommissioned Alameda Naval Base after visiting the St. George artisan distillery in Hangar One. The distillery sits on the northern edge of the base, within view of the San Francisco skyline. The exterior of the hangar is still rusty and weathered, like all the structures here. Somehow it would seem wrong for the outside to be restored to a new and shiny condition, yet the interior is sleek and inviting. Massive vats and copper stills from Germany sit in rows like glorious sculptures, the coils and tubes and vessels busily transforming fruit or grain into something mind-altering. Jars of infused buddha hand citrons sit on the bar like some sea creature that somehow never found its way back to the watery depths. A sign proclaims that "consumption of beer, wine, and distilled spirits may actually cause pregnancy".
And even if you don't have to go, please visit all three of their bathrooms. You'll see why.
St. George, which has been in operation since 1982, crafts bourbon, whiskey, gin, eau de vie, rye, you name it. They offer tastings of several of these, poured by a friendly and incredibly knowledgeable server. You can also take a tour of the facility and learn more about their process of making and distilling small batches of fine spirits.
Their Mt. Tam terroir gin is the most exquisite I've ever tasted. It contains bay laurel (Umbellularia californica), California sage (Artemisia californica), juniper berries (Juniperus californica), and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). It tastes like the forest. The master distiller, Lance Winters, sounds like a mad scientist of the highest degree. His unconventional and experimental approach to creating spirits really appeals to me. He knows how to blend botanicals and fruit to make an exemplary product. I highly recommend visiting if you can, and treating yourself to a bottle as well. Believe me, you will savor it.