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Guest Post by Jenna Littlejohn
The world of alcohol can be one of fruitful exploration or, it can be a simple ‘glug glug’ of your dad’s favorite beer.  Mainstays and staples are important but so are new experiences! As I learned this past Thursday, that’s exactly what The Crafty Cask seeks to do, by presenting a series of Meet the Maker craft alcohol events at the beautiful Pied Piper bar in downtown San Francisco.

Don’t miss the next event on December 6th…grab your tickets here!

Suzanne Henricksen, The Crafty Cask’s founder, has envisioned a miraculous pairing: tasting some finely crafted alcohol and learning from the makers themselves in the confines of one of the most historical watering holes in the city.

Feel Like Royalty at The Palace’s Pied Piper Bar

View of the full room with guests and panel and beautiful atmosphere at the Pied Piper Bar

Stepping into the Palace Hotel, is just that – stepping into a palace. Long halls and careful detail make one feel like they must be in the oldie times, and oh what a time that probably was! This feeling only ripens when you find the Pied Piper, a bar famous for its sprawling mural created by Maxfield Parish. The bar itself leads to a massive event space where we now find blue velvet couches and tables filled with your focus of the evening – whiskey!

After grabbing our welcome hot toddy and learning a bit about our venue, Suzanne greeted the intimate audience of about 25 and introduced us to 3 craft producers while giving us a rundown of the night’s fun ahead. Although this could have been a foray into how much we didn’t know about whiskey, it instead took on an immediately casual and simple platform. Get to know these producers and why their whiskies are unique, ask them questions, talk to your fellow whiskey spectators, and learn how to truly taste spirits.

Meet the Makers…

David of Corbin Cash talking with the rest of the panel laughing and Suzanne watching on with a smile

The three makers were Clint of Seven Stills of San Francisco, David of Corbin Cash Sweet Potato Spirits, and Sam and Alex of Home Base Spirits. All three were happy to respond to the audiences questions ranging from the simple to the complex. Again, the casual nature of this event and the openness of discussion was a comfort. I’m sure we’ve all gone to a fancy event and have felt out of place or like we were being talked at. Not here, even the director of events from the hotel, Kevin spoke to us about his eagerness to introduce this event series and that was equally refreshing. Once the introductions were complete and before we even started to taste I had to wonder – how could this possibly be a $10 dollar event? I felt like I won the San Francisco event jackpot!

There sat 3 glasses of whiskey atop a mat. What was on the mat that sat? All good rhymes aside, it was a whiskey flavor wheel that the audience could use to mark which flavors they were tasting in each glass. Suzanne made sure to give us all the tips of the trade in terms of how to taste whiskey to maximize our experience before getting started. Then there came the food brought out by the gracious and graceful staff. Each plate came with all the things one may consider the pleasure principles of life, steak, cheese and chocolate – you know  the food pyramid of deliciousness (again, this was only $10!).

Sipping, Savoring and Storytelling

Food pairing and whiskey tasting on The Crafty Cask tasting mat

Once the food arrived the tasting experience began. First, all three makers gave us a brief overview and primer on how whiskey is made…including some hilarious stories about their own disastrous experiments and mishaps prompted by an audience question. As we began to taste each whiskey the maker told their story and explained what we were tasting. Clint gave us a brief description of how his operation distills whiskey from finished craft beer, a fascinating fact that the audience devoured. Corbin Cash founder, David, gave us the scoop on his 100 percent rye whiskey, a rarity in the market. The sister duo from Home Base spirits gave us the run down on bourbon and the common misperception that it can only be made in Kentucky.

The participation between Suzanne, the makers, and the audience was all at once playful and informative. Although this is the tech capital of the world, there was not a ‘drone’ in sight. No dumb questions or tedious answers just a group of people taking the time consider and appreciate the work it took to create these three whiskies. And when the formal tasting was over we were all invited to get up and mix and mingle with the makers and Suzanne and try MORE craft spirts they brought for us to taste!

Guest mingling with the makers

My Personal Takeaways from the Evening

  1. I was blown away by the details about distilling that I was blissfully unaware of until now
  2. I couldn’t believe that it was my first time inside the Pied Piper! The staff, the decor, and the overall feeling of nostalgia were far too powerful a presence to deny. I’ll surely be there for after work drinks in the not so distant future.
  3. The Crafty Cask has an undeniable dedication to these producers and telling their stories. It’s hard to not want to be a part of the craft spirit world after attending this whiskey tasting. If you’re not ready to quit your day job just yet you can at least stay connected here.
  4. AND since we couldn’t buy bottles to bring home on site The Crafty Cask shared their just launched craft spirits membership with a company called Shots Box in which you receive 10 different mini bottles of craft spirits at home each month to fuel your newfound passion and appreciation of this world Definitely putting that on my Christmas list!
  5. Is this real life??? So much fun learning and things to explore in the future.

Honestly I’d like to come up with some criticisms since I know I’m waxing poetic here (ok, ok – there were some microphone issues) but really, a huge congratulations is in order to everyone involved with these Meet the Makers events and I hope they continue monthly.  At the very least I know there is one next month, and I certainly plan to be there for the December 6th Rum event. I can only hope you make the wise decision to purchase those (insanely cheap) $10 tickets before they sell out here and join me.

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