Square One’s Hop Schnapps: A New Spirit for St. Louis

When Square One Brewery and Distillery owner Steve Neukomm became a licensed spirits distiller in ’08, he began crafting a fine family of core liquors labeled the Spirits of St. Louis. But this entrepreneur didn’t stop with gin, rum and vodka. He’s released some standout inventive craft liquors, and his latest, a beer schnapps Neukomm’s dubbed Hop Schnapps, has us clambering for a barstool.

The schnapps, nearly 100 proof, starts with 50 gallons of Belgium Tripel, selected not for the style but because it’s got the highest alcohol content – 10 percent – of any of Square One’s brews. It’s fed into the shiny Vendome Copper Works still and heated to 78 degrees Celsius. Citrusy Amarillo hops are added, and four to six hours later, the folks in Lafayette Square collect about 4 gallons of the hoppy firewater. The result is a liquor that’s smooth and drinkable, with mild citrus notes from the Amarillo hops.

Expect to see Hop Schnapps behind the Square One bar this month; it won’t be available for retail sales, but Neukomm said it will appear in cocktails. In fact, it’s such a new product that Square One’s crew of cocktail makers, with Kevin King taking the R&D lead, are still experimenting with snappy schnapps creations. A bit of the very first batch went into a simple hot toddy: a shot of Hop Schnapps with Earl Grey tea, something warm and cozy for chilly January. Next, a Square One schnapps martini, a traditional two-to-one mix using Spirits of St. Louis gin and the schnapps in a vermouth-washed glass, served up. Swirl a lemon twist around the rim of the glass for an extra dose of clean, refreshing citrus.

Refreshing – and different. “We are trying to do things that other distillers aren’t doing. With the restaurant and the brew pub, we can make just one batch and put it out there,” said Neukomm.