Charbay R5 Clear Whiskey From Racer 5 IPA

Charbay's new whiskeys are made from Racer 5 IPA

Step one for making whiskey: Brew beer.

Step two: Distill it.

Yes, whiskey is made from beer, but it's not typically a draft you'd drink by the mug. The hop-free mash tastes like weak soup, after all.

Now Marko Karakasevic, whose family owns Charbay in St. Helena, is challenging this idea with last week's release of two R5 whiskeys. Working with Healdsburg's Bear Republic Brewing, Charbay distills 6,000 gallons of Racer 5 IPA down to 590 gallons of spirit.

To create the Charbay R5 Clear Whiskey ($54 for 750 ml), the liquor that comes out of the copper pot still then spends 22 months in stainless-steel tanks. The IPA's pronounced floral and pine notes, courtesy of West Coast hops, predominate.

By contrast, the 22 months that the Charbay R5 Aged Whiskey ($75 for 750 ml) spends in French oak barrels alters the focus of the spirit toward the grain. Big malted-barley flavors shine, with the hops contributing a faint floral sweetness.

The last step in whiskey production is the best one: Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Available from Cask SF, 17 Third St. (at Market St.), 415-281-6486 or; and area bars such as Elixir, 3200 16th St. (at Guerrero St.), 415-552-1633 or