DC Beer’s Richard speaks with John Ustleton, Co-founder of New Columbia Distillery, and Alex Laufer, Head Distiller and Co-founder of One Eight Distilling, to talk about distilling spirits using local DC beers.
Made in DC, for the Love of DC
New Columbia and One Eight are located in Ivy City, a small neighborhood in Northeast DC that is also home to DC breweries Atlas Brew Works and The Public Option. They take pride in their city and focus on providing local clientele with a broad range of spirits offerings.
New Columbia opened its doors in Ivy City in 2011 as the first of several distilleries to begin operations in DC over the past decade. Its main product line consists of eight gins, all produced under the “Green Hat Gin” label. The Green Hat moniker is a tribute to George Cassiday, a Prohibition-era bootlegger who operated in the Cannon Office Building (House of Representatives) from 1920 until he was arrested in 1925. Soon after his arrest, Cassiday restarted operations in the Russell Office Building (Senate) for another five years until 1930. His signature green felt hat earned him the nickname “The Man in the Green Hat.”
One Eight’s name is also a tribute to DC, as it refers to Article One, Section 8 of the Constitution, which (among other things) establishes a National Capital District for the United States. One Eight set up shop in Ivy City soon after New Columbia opened. Its core lineup includes a selection of vodka, gin, rye, and bourbon.
Distilling Spirits using DC Brews
Distillation from beer is just like any other distillation process: heating a liquid until the alcohol evaporates, and then cooling the vapor to condense it into a distillate. In essence, beer-distilled spirits are highly concentrated forms of beer. These drinks usually end up with a sweet component from malts and a floral profile from hops.
John began distilling beer a few years ago when his friends at DC Brau offered him a leftover keg with which to experiment. Since then, John and his coworkers at New Columbia have made several iterations of spirits distilled from beer, each time improving their craft. One current offering is Eau de Brau, a whiskey-like spirit made from DC Brau beer (technically speaking, spirits distilled from finished beers cannot be labeled as whiskeys).
Alex gave Richard a tasting of three spirits from One Eight. First, the Spirit of Grampus is distilled from Hellbender Brewing Company’s Grampus (a nut brown ale) and aged for a bit less than two years in a charred new oak barrel. Next, the Spirit of the Stone is distilled from DC Brau’s Stone of Arbroath (a scotch ale) and aged for two years in an ex-bourbon barrel that was previously used to age a DC Brau porter beer. Lastly, Hopcreek is a traditional rye whiskey infused with Chinook and Cascade hops and aged in an oak barrel for six months.
Visiting New Columbia and One-Eight in Ivy City
Although distilling spirits from beer is not (yet) in high demand, New Columbia and One Eight plan to continue to experiment with these distillations when they have time and space to do so.
To try out their beer-distilled spirits (and all of their other offerings), check out their visitor schedules below:
- New Columbia is open on Saturday from 1PM – 8PM and Sunday from 2PM – 6PM. It has indoor and outdoor seating and often offers food truck service.
- One Eight is open on Saturday from 1PM – 10PM and Sunday from 1PM – 7PM. It also offers pop-up food options.