Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Liquid Courage: Meet Tim Obert and Clint Potter of Seven Stills

Clint Potter and Tim Obert, of Seven Stills in Dogpatch,  sit on barrels that will be used for their whiskey dubbed, Chocasmoke.
When Tim Obert of the new craft distillery, Seven Stills,  asked us to meet him at his office on 23rd Street, we were a bit puzzled -- we weren't familiar with an office building or even a warehouse at that address -- just a building dedicated to storage units.

We discovered that it is pretty amazing what can be done with a few sheets of plywood these days.  Tim Obert and his business partner, Clint Potter, have set up shop in about 800 square feet in the Storage San Francisco building where they finally relocated after suffering through much less desirable digs nearby.

Although their actual distillery is located in Petaluma, their small office functions as their laboratory and maybe eventually, law permitting, a small tasting room for customers and the general public.  With their official liquor license prominently and proudly displayed, Obert and Potter showed us around their compact space.   The majority of the space was taken up with about 300 cases of their first product, California Courage, a vodka made from a base of corn that they describe as having sweet citrus and floral overtones.  Describing how they enlisted family and friends to help them to bottle and cork their first product, Obert and Potter flexed their fingers and massaged their wrists at the memory of the effort. 

Another wall was lined with jars filled with lemons, oranges and other herbs, fruits and spices that they are tinkering with for the bitters program they also hope to launch.  Chris Barry, one of the owners of the Dogpatch Saloon was stopping by later to taste some of their latest concoctions. 

But their true passion lined yet another wall where small kegs filled with their first efforts of using different beer styles as a basis for whiskey rested.  These kegs were filled with a whiskey inspired by a chocolate stout beer from Mill Valley Beer Works.  Their first whiskey, dubbed Chocasmoke, should be ready to drink in 2014. 

Obert and Potter met at U.C. Santa Cruz and kept in touch after graduation with both eventually moving to San Francisco.  It seems fitting that they two figured out how to be in business together over drinks one night at Dobbs Ferry.  On that night they had what Potter described as a "light bulb moment" -- why not combine their passions for beer and whiskey with their own financial resources into their own craft distillery business. 
Bitters sit on a shelf at Seven Stills in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA.

Why do you do what you do?

Tim Obert:
I've long been a home beer brewer and after college had a few internships in the beer industry.  The idea of making something from scratch really appeals to me.  And I love to take traditional ideas and put my own spin on them.  That's why we use our own beer recipes as well as adapt existing recipes at Seven Stills.

But the craft beer market has become pretty saturated in San Francisco.  We see a real opportunity to take a local, artisan focus on spirits just as small producers have done in the beer industry. 

Clint Potter:
I was studying at Berkeley and was preparing to go to grad school in San Diego to study engineering when I met and became inspired by Fionnan O'Connor who is well known as Mr. Whiskey and teaches class on Irish whiskey at Berkeley. 

When Tim and I decided to combine our two passions of whiskey and craft beer, I decided to use my grad school money to help form Seven Stills. I decided this business might be a bit more fun and social than engineering. 

Why Dogpatch?

We didn't know a lot about this neighborhood but we did know that it was becoming a mecca for craft beer and spirit ventures and knew this is where we wanted to base our company.  

What is an interesting story that has happened to you in Dogpatch? 

We started Seven Stills in January 2013 and in August we finally got our liquor license.  We had just eaten at Marcella's Lasagneria and thought we would check out Reno's Liquor Store as a possible place to one day stock our spirits.  We introduced ourselves to Dames, the owner.  He ordered two cases on the spot!

We walked next door to the Dogpatch Saloon and they ordered two bottles.

We were thrilled -- we really felt like we were on our way.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

I would be brewing beer and making moonshine but not legally.....

I would have gone to grad school but since that money is gone now....

So explain why you called your company Seven Stills?

We really want to be known as a local craft spirits company.  There are really few spirit companies left that are truly local anymore.  So our label has all these great San Francisco landmarks on it.  And the name is meant to honor the seven hills of San Francisco.  We hope to have a whiskey for each hill.

A sign above the bench at Seven Stills in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA.

Article written by Patricia Kline
Photographs by Scott R. Kline

1 comment:

  1. Pretty cool. I didn't know these guys were there. Best of luck to them.
    Hogan's Goat Tavern