East Bay Express: A Small Victory for Craft Distilleries, September 25, 2013


When Governor Brown signed AB 933 into law Thursday, craft distilleries in California won a modest victory: The ability to offer tastings (limited to six per customer and capped at a quarter of an ounce per sample pour) for a fee. AB 933, which was sponsored by local Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, is a watered-down version of Taste California, a proposal put forth this past spring by a statewide coalition of craft distillers called the California Artisanal Distillers Guild.

When German-born Jörg Rupf founded St. George Spirits as an eau-de-vie distillery in 1982, he made the East Bay the birthplace of the American craft spirits movement. The rest of the country slowly caught on: Today, the American Distilling Institute estimates that there are more than four hundred licensed artisanal producers in the United States. But according to Lance Winters, master distiller at St. George and vice-president of the Guild, artisan distilleries in other states have grown at a per capita rate seven times that of California's.


The reason St. George is able to sell its spirits on-site is because it leases the space to a third-party retailer, who has to order the product from the distributor. Yes, that's right: A bottle of gin is made in Alameda, shipped 75 miles away, and shipped back again.