After a year of record growth in 2017, the St. Louis-based 4 Hands Brewing Co. recently celebrated its 6th anniversary by branching out from beer to distilling, launching its 1220 Artisan Spirits brand. Its first release is Origin, a 42.5% ABV gin distilled from 75% grapes and 25% corn along with interesting ingredients including Croatian juniper, coriander, orris root, bergamot orange, and neroli (an essential oil extracted from the orange blossom flower). The aroma is delightful and the flavor that follows confirms what your olfactory nerves suggest, a mélange of the aforementioned ingredients with a dominant juniper presence. The gin is packaged in an attractive 750 ml blue-tinted bottle with label art depicting an all-seeing eye, a nod to the 1220 Artisan Spirits logos inspired by the icons of secret societies and freemasons.
Two Brothers Atom Smasher
‘Tis the season to partake in Oktoberfest beers, but a problem I have with them is most of them taste quite similar. Now the Atom Smasher, a seasonal release from the Warrenville, IL-based Two Brothers Artisan Brewing, steps up adding a twist to the German lager style, as it is aged in oak foeders (large wooden vat used to age beer or wine), bringing complexity compliments of the oak to go along with notes of toasty malts, caramel, toffee and earthy hops. And, at 7.7% ABV and 22.6 IBUs, it’s heftier than the usual run-of-the-mill versions of the style.
Founded in 1848, Royal Wine Corp. has been owned and operated in the US by the Herzog family, whose winemaking roots date back eight generations to 19th century Czechoslovakia. I had the pleasure to sample a portion of its portfolio of domestic and international sweet wines: Tzafona 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Ice Wine—produced by Tzafona Cellars in Toronto, Canada, made from grapes that were picked frozen on the vine in Canada’s Niagara Peninsula, vegan-friendly, aromas of cherry, plum and strawberry with a balance of acidity and texture on the palate; Herzog 2016 Late Harvest Monterey County White Riesling—from Herzog Cellars in Oxnard, CA, with pineapple, dried apricot and baked apple aromas and balanced acidity and sweetness; Zahav 2016 Sonoma Mountain Late Harvest Botrytis Chardonnay—from Sonoma County, a dessert wine made in the classic Sauternes method that allows noble rot (botrytis) to perforate the grape skins creating a delicate, sweet, honeyed beverage; and 2005 Porto Cordovero, a late bottled vintage from Portugal aged in oak barrels and bottled in 2009, a full-bodied blend of fine wines produced in the Upper Douro Valley, a classic port with flavors of sweet black currant with a firm tannic backbone.
A brewery with funk in its name draws my attention, with the hope that its brews will live up to its name. I’m happy to report the good news that such is the case with this Fort Collins, CO-based brewery. Founded in 2009, Funkwerks was selected as the 2012 Great American Beer Festival Small Brewing Company of the Year and specializes in Belgian-style saison and sour beer styles. I sampled the Funkwerks Saison—three-time GABF medal winner, 6.8% ABV, with notes of passion fruit, tangerine and spices; Tropic King—8% ABV imperial saison, with fruity tropical characteristics from the use of New Zealand hop varietals along with notes of pepper and ginger; and Raspberry Provincial—2014 GABF gold medal winner, 4.2% ABV sour ale brewed with raspberries with notes of lemon and tart raspberries. More good news is that Funkwerks beers are now being distributing in California and Nevada (as well as Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Missouri).