The San Francisco Craft Spirits Carnival has become an annual tradition in the world of California distilling, and 2016’s installment proved as big a hit as ever. This year marked the transition to a new venue—the City View space atop SoMa’s Metreon theater—and the debut of dozens of impressive new spirits from some of the best distillers in the world.
The Carnival is California-centric by nature, and we were delighted to reconnect with a number of the booze geeks we’ve covered since last year’s event. Most have been hard at work developing new, experimental products, like the umeshu barrel-aged whiskey from Berkeley’s Mosswood Distillers.
We also got the chance to catch up with several of our other interview subjects, like Sweet Potato Spirits (makers of Corbin Cash) founder David Souza, distiller Anthony Caspary of Ventura Spirits, cinnamon guru Joe Cannella of Cannella Spirits, and Ward Karson of Supernova Spirits, whose Marz Vodka line recently became an official partner of the San Jose Sharks.
We were equally excited to chat with Carter Raff, founder and master distiller at Treasure Island’s Raff Distillerie, as well as the team at Do Good Distillery in Modesto. And for a mountainous change of pace, we tasted a few of Old Tahoe’s impressive line of craft rye whiskey.
Some larger brands made appearances as well, perhaps the most memorable of which was The Bowmore‘s scotch and oyster booth—which was exactly what it sounds like, offering a delicious combination of the subtly peaty Bowmore 12 Year Old and 15 Year Old whiskies alongside freshly-shucked oysters.
As always, it was a treat to join Summer-Jane Bell, President of the San Francisco US Bartender’s Guild, at the House of Angostura booth. The legendary brand (probably best known for their ubiquitous Angostura bitters) had a wide swath of its products on display, including the phenomenal 1919 8 Year Old and 1824 12 Year Old rums.
In all, the 2016 Craft Spirits Carnival seemed to be yet another success. Though on-site sales were much more limited than in previous years (an unfortunate side effect of moving into San Francisco proper, and one that likely affected smaller distillers for the worse), the atmosphere was just as lively as we’ve come to expect. Here’s looking forward to the next one.
Photos: Will Shenton