BY JASON DERUSHA - Published: March 2016
There’s a style of gin I’ve never heard of before. You’ve probably never heard of it, either. Until now.
Black Forest Inn always had a German Steinhäger-style gin behind its bar. Erica Christ, the manager of Black Forest, told me it’s her favorite style of gin. It’s native to Germany (of course) dating to the 17th Century. Traditionally it’s made from red winter wheat and juniper from the Teutoburg Forest (she says that’s where Hermann the German defeated the Romans).
Unfortunately for her, the two remaining distilleries in Steinhägen aren’t exporting their gin any more. So she talked to her wine distributor about finding a local gin distillery to make it. Two weeks later, Gina Holman showed up at the Black Forest Inn, from J. Carver Distillery in Waconia.
Erica said that Gina couldn’t believe there was a gin she never heard of! “I had one bottle left, and we tasted it, and Erica said she could make it on the first try.”
It took two tries, but J. Carver created a Steinhäger-style gin, not using German wheat. J. Carver sourced some Minnesota red winter wheat added juniper in the middle of the distilling process, not at the end, and now Black Forest Inn has it behind the bar. They’re serving it in two-ounce pours, up, cold.
“I love it,” Erica told me, as she poured me a sample of the new J. Carver Steinhäger.
It’s smooth, crisp, and a little bit sweet. You detect the juniper (this is not one of those gins that tastes more like vodka), although it’s not a strong fragrant gin. It’s not spiced either, like some gins with a large variety of botanicals. This is simple and delightful: wheat and juniper.
It’s also a great story: “This is a German bar, we should have a German-style gin,” said Christ.
J. Carver has a barrel program where they make custom gins for a number of local restaurants and liquor stores. Black Forest has one of those barrels as well—they have a more oaky-flavor because of the barrel-aging.
But check it out! Black Forest is having a release party on Wednesday, April 6: you can talk with Gina and Erica, and party like Hermann the German!
Black Forest Inn
1 E. 26th St., Minneapolis, 612-872-0812