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San Diego's Best Craft Distillery (They Make Beer Too)

Devil's Share Whiskey and Bourbon, February 2013 release
Devil's Share Whiskey and Bourbon, February 2013 release
[All photos by Candice Woo]

Ballast Point Brewing Company's always been serious about making great beer, in fact, head brewer Yuseff Cherney just returned from Germany where he picked up European Beer Star gold medal for the brewery's Calico Amber Ale. But Ballast Point's stepping up their spirits game too, and Cherney (also Ballast Point's head distiller), took Eater San Diego on a tour of Ballast Point Spirits' microdistillery (housed in their Scripps Ranch production brewery) and gave us a preview of what we'll all be drinking in the coming year.

The current bottle lineup includes their award-winning Three Sheets White Rum and Aged Rum, Fugu Vodka and Old Grove Gin; though the Devil's Share Whiskey and Bourbon have picked up top honors at the American Distilling Institute's annual awards, the four year old spirits are still sitting in barrels and not in thirsty mouths. Not for long, Cherney said that final artwork for the bottles is being approved and they should be on shelves by February, along with an un-aged white whiskey.

Ballast Point's Bloody Mary Mix is already a hair of the dog staple in many bars and brunch spots, and in January, they'll release a new Mai Tai Mix which combines the classic trinity of flavors (orgeat, lime and cane sugar) with tropical guava and pineapple. They're unveiling their newest Tiki mug, sculpted by Ballast Point's resident artist Paul Elder, at a December 14 event at the High Dive. A first taste of the Mai Tai Mix might happen too.

A recent expansion at the brewery increased their beer output to 85,000 barrels a year; now Ballast Point's on the hunt for a third location (a specialty brewery, linked with Home Brew Mart is in Linda Vista), a new 60,000 to 100,000 square foot space to hold an 150 barrel brewhouse that Cherney picked up on one of his trips to Germany (it landed in SD on Tuesday). A potential spot in Rancho Bernardo fell through, so they're widening their search — as Cherney put it, "from Vista to the border". Once the new brewhouse gets situated in their new production brewery, Cherney would like to expand the distillery, hoping to add a continuous column still(like those used in Kentucky Bourbon country) that would seriously ramp up their spirits yield.

There's more to drink? Yes, Cherney's currently tinkering with an absinthe and San Diego-inspired spirit and Director of Sales, Earl Kight, also hinted at a batch of flavored spirits with San Diego significance that'll be out by May. Ballast Point's rebottling and rebranding their spirits with a more modern, craft look and plans to expand the distillery's distribution throughout California and other national markets where Ballast Point beer is big. Kight and Cherney also shared the cool news that the company plans to put together a craft distillery-focused festival for San Diego in late 2013. Now, who's thirsty?
· Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits [Official Site]
· Ballast Point Brewing Expansion Highlights [LA Weekly]