When the Anchor Brewing Company and its beer was sold to Sapporo a few years ago, Anchor Distilling, crammed into a corner of the Potrero Hill brewery for about 25 years, needed a new home.
The former Anchor Distilling Company is now Hotaling & Co., named for the whiskey storehouse that survived the 1906 earthquake and fire and was immortalized in the line, "If, as they say, God spanked the town for being over-frisky, why did He burn His churches down and spare Hotaling's whiskey?"
Old Potrero Whiskey was the first distilled product launched by legendary former Anchor Brewing owner Fritz Maytag. It was/is a malted rye whiskey aged in toasted and charred, custom-bade barrels. More on it in a second.
The new(ish) Hotaling & Co is also the importer of Luxardo products, Nikka Japanese whiskies, Kavalan Taiwanese whisky, Chinaco tequila, Christian Drouin brandy, and more. That part of the business is located near the Transamerica Pyramid (and the original Hotaling building), but you can't exactly distill in an office building.
Stills at the former Potrero Hill brewery.
Junipero's New Home
209 Gin was located on Pier 50, so it's technically a distillery over water. I first visited the site in 2007, to report this piece for the San Francisco Chronicle on a bitters-making activity that the brand hosted.
The 209 Gin brand was purchased by Vintage Wine Estates in 2018. It wasn't a big transition, as VWE's head was Leslie Rudd, founder of 209.
But now Junipero Gin will be made and bottled at the Pier 50 site, on the small equipment relocated from Anchor, in the shadow of the 1000-gallon still for 209 Gin that is now the property of Hotaling.
209 Gin will likely still be contract-distilled in the same still on the pier going forward- and be made by its former distiller Arne Hillesland, as he is now in the employ of Hotaling & Co. Hillesland is the Head Distiller at Hotaling, while Bruce Joseph is the Master Distiller. Joseph worked with Maytag to launch the Old Potrero whiskies, Junipero Gin, and a now-discontinued genever that I covered in 2007.
The tiny stills from Anchor's Potrero Hill brewery will still make Junipero Gin, at least for now. They sit in the shadow of the massive 209 Gin still, and I would imagine they'll find some use for the piece of equipment. In addition to their stills, Hotaling brought over their liquor bottling line from the Potrero brewery, and had just assembled it before their christening a few weeks ago.
Where's the Whiskey?
Old Potrero whiskey will not be made on the Pier, but in Sonoma (as it has been for a few years) due to logistics with fermenting and waste disposal on-site. (I think at Sonoma Distilling Co but I didn't confirm that.) If I understood correctly, they have plenty in barrel that allowed the company to not have to produce a lot of whiskey right now. But also because Old Potrero is increasing to a six-year age statement.
To celebrate that, and to match the far-fancier bottles of Junipero Gin and their Hirsch Bourbon (that is sourced from MGP), they'll be releasing the whiskey in a new bottle, though I'm not sure how soon it will be on store shelves.
Future plans for the Pier 50 distillery space might include a tasting room of some sort open to the public, though that won't happen soon as the move is still fresh.