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Whether you’re celebrating a birthday or impressing corporate clients, winery tours and brewery tours always make for a memorable afternoon, especially when your pair California flavor with the finest luxury limo buses. If you’ve sipped your way through Napa Valley and tasted from all the San Francisco taps, you’re officially ready to graduate to the next big boozy craze: Bay Area distillery tours.
Don’t know what a distillery is? Not to worry: you do, you just don’t realize it yet. While you can find wine at a winery, you can find hard liquor and other spirits at a distillery. And much like the wine industry, distilleries are embracing the tour and tasting experience. So, it’s like wine tasting, but with whiskey.
The San Francisco Bay Area is ahead of the trend, already home to numerous craft distilleries both in the city and across the bay. Vodka lovers will rejoice over the retro-glam tasting bar at Hangar 1, and devoted beer drinkers should check out Seven Stills – where they make whiskey from local beer. Thrill seekers should visit Raff Distillerie for absinthe made from grapes on Treasure Island, and view seekers should gather in rooftop garden surrounds at the beer-free Anchor Distilling Company.
Just remember, friends: hard liquor is much stronger than sparkling wine. There are two keys to a successful Bay Area distillery tour. 1. Drink plenty of water and enjoy lunch with your group before or during the tour. 2. Reserve luxury group transportation with Cali Party Bus to visit each distillery safely and in style.
Top 5 Bay Area Distilleries for Group Tours & Tastings
Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery
Can’t decide between craft beer or whiskey? We get it. Life is hard. Lucky for us, Seven Stills blends the best of both worlds: they make whiskey from craft beer. Whoa. They partner with local Bay Area brewmasters to create new whiskey flavors, like the must-try Peanut Butter Whiskey, inspired by and distilled from Belching Beaver’s signature Peanut Butter Milk Stout. Each flavor in the Experimental Series is more intriguing than the last. One question though: Is it socially acceptable to drink the Iced Coffee Whiskey before noon?
Tours: Seven Stills offers a signature Distillery Tour and Whiskey Tasting Experience, which includes a behind the scenes session on how the beer-whiskey-magic is made, followed by a whiskey flight tasting. Tours start at $23 per person, and are offered Thursday through Sunday.
Neighborhood: Dogpatch, San Francisco
More Info: (415) 914-0936 // sevenstillsofsf.com // @sevenstills
Hangar 1 Distillery
Calling all first class vodka aficionados: Your tasting itinerary is not complete without a layover at Hangar 1 – a modern vodka distillery housed in a WWII-era airplane hangar. Yes please. Hangar 1 distills and serves strictly vodka, but there is still plenty of variety to sample, including Buddha’s Hand Citron, Makrut Lime, Honeycomb and even Pink Peppercorn from the Distiller’s Exclusive collection. More perks of the recently added tasting room include a botanical garden and grove, with views of San Francisco, from across the bay.
Tours: Hangar 1 offers vodka tasting and tour options ranging from $15 per person, up to $45 per person, depending on your group size and appetizer cravings. We recommend the Private Charter: a private group distillery tour, followed by a private vodka tasting in the ‘laboratory’ room (from $33 per person).
Neighborhood: Alameda, Oakland
More Info: (510) 871-4951 // hangarone.com // @hangar1vodka
St. George Spirits
The history of this O.G. distillery dates all the way back to Prohibition; in fact, St. George was the first small distillery to open after Prohibition. In other words, mad street cred. Fast-forward to today, St. George distills a variety of artisanal gins, vodkas and whiskeys, plus unique concoctions like Coffee Liqueur and Bruto Americano – a Campari-like aperitivo. You’ll find St. George over the bay in Alameda, and the impressive distillery grounds are worth the trek. Plus, you can enjoy a guided flight tasting for as low as $15 per person. But we recommend splurging on the full distillery tour and tasting experience.
Tours: St. George tours take patrons through the production area (with a front row look at fermentation, barrel storage and the bottling line), followed by six spirit flights in the tasting room. Tours start at $20 per person, and are offered Wednesday through Sunday.
Neighborhood: Alameda, Oakland
More Info: (510) 769-1601 // stgeorgespirits.com // @stgeorgespirits
Anchor Distilling Company
While anyone can get their hands on an Anchor Steam beer these days, the Anchor Distilling Tasting Room tours are totally unique to the Bay Area. This San Francisco-based global beer brand quietly opened a distillery passion project in the early 90s, and only now are they opening doors to the public for a dreamy rooftop tasting experience. The tour starts with a stroll through Anchor’s garden, home to many botanicals used to make their spirits, including Junípero Gin, Hophead Vodka and Old Potrero Straight Rye Whiskey. Oh, and the views of San Francisco from the rooftop bar: even more refreshing than an ice cold Anchor Steam.
Tours: On the Anchor Distillery tour, guests learn about the botanical infusions, soak in the surroundings, then taste house-made spirits. Tours start at $35 per person and are offered Thursday through Sunday.
Neighborhood: Potrero Hill, San Francisco
More Info: (415) 863-8350 // anchordistilling.com // @anchorspirits
The Raff Distillerie is rad on so many levels: You can sip local spirits distilled by a bad-ass fifth generation San Franciscan on the iconic Treasure Island. While the charming island is famous for its stunning view of San Francisco, the distillery is building a strong reputation for its Emperor Norton Absinthe Dieu, and its Bummer & Lazarus Gin. What’s the secret ingredient? Both are grape-based spirits. Mind = blown. Keep an eye out for their latest creation, Rhum Agricole, made from sugar cane.Request A Tour Quote!
More Bay Area Craft Distilleries
Not all northern California alcohol distilleries welcome group tours (not yet, anyway…). These craft distilleries should be on your radar, but make sure to check their updated tour policies.
Distillery No. 209: Pier 50, San Francisco
Bender’s Rye Whiskey: Treasure Island, San Francisco
Workhorse Rye: The Mission, San Francisco
Sutherland Distilling Company: Livermore
Alley 6 Craft Distillery: Healdsburg
Stillwater Spirits/Moylan Distilling Co.: Petaluma
Spirit Works Distillery: Sebastopol