Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA Becomes a Whiskey

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Bear Republic's Racer 5 Photo: Adactio via Flickr

Drink.Eat.Play's cocktail classic was staged last Friday in Downtown L.A., giving drunk and drunker attendees a glimpse at newfangled spirits like Douglas Fir eau de vie, Death's Door white whiskey, and vermouths aspiring to greater peaks through ever-stranger infusions of botanicals. But what really blew our minds was the ground-breaking meld of craft beer and whiskey in what St. Helena's coveted Charbay distillery calls its "hop whiskey."

The product, which will soon see release under the name "R5 Aged Whiskey," is basically whiskey made through the distillation of, not of grain nor fruit, but Healdsburg-based Bear Republic's famed Racer 5 IPA. The beer is distilled in double copper alambic charentais pots 24 hours a day for nine days straight before being aged for 22 months in French Oak. The result offers a definite whiskey taste profile with clear notes of hops, fruit, and malt when sipped.

Distiller Marko Karakasevic, who started such experimentation with a pilsner-fueled light whiskey for Charbay nearly fourteen years ago, says he used 6,000 gallons of Racer 5 to produce 590 gallons of the spirit. Karakasevic is also working on a version using Bear Republic's stout, and is releasing a new tequila under the name Tapatio (unfortunately, without Tapatio hot sauce) and vodkas infused with blood orange and Meyer lemon.

The biggest challenge will most likely not be in handling this 99-proof R5 Aged, but of course, finding it. A source at Charbay tells us the product is bottled and currently awaiting its labels for a release nationwide (depending on the state) in the next few weeks. In the meantime, check out Charbay's website for more info.