Last month, I shared that the business formerly known as Butcher’s Brewing would be reconcepting and coming out the other side of the branding machine as Finest Made Ales (9962 Prospect Avenue, Santee). Earlier today, I was afforded a sneak-peek at the business, and the difference from its former identity is day-and-Knight. Forgive the pun, but the business-founder and brewmaster’s name is Rey Knight. Before going into brewing, he was a chef with a very specific set of skills where charcuterie and butchery are concerned. It was his yen to get back into the culinary world and do more with food, plus the installation of improved brewing-equipment and a soon-to-be-expanded cellar operation, which led him to shift gears toward the Finest Made model.
Knight now brews his beers on a 15-barrel pro-style brewhouse that feeds a pair of 15-barrel fermenters. In two weeks, those tanks will be joined by five 30-barrel models. This should result in Finest Made producing roughly 4,000 barrels of beer, annually. Knight says that as he upped the quality of his tools—which includes a U/V water stabilizer and what he believes is the first HEPA filter clean-lab in a local brewery of his’ size—he aimed to make the best quality beers possible, hence the name Finest Made Ales.
The quality of the visitor experience has also been upgraded. Though he always owned two adjoining suites in his business-park home, the front-facing side of one of those units was utilized as office-space. Now, the wall separating the former administrative component from the tasting-room is gone, expanding the latter to double its previous size. The main reason Knight did this was to have room for a long, communal table capable of seating up to a dozen people. Growing up, Knight remembers the dinner table being a daily sanctuary come meal-time; a place where life’s biggest decisions were made. Now, he wants Finest Made’s 12-seater to serve the same purpose during regular beer-and-food-pairing dinners, which he hopes to hold on a monthly basis following the brewery’s August 19 grand opening shindig.
In addition to the doubling in square-footage, the tasting-room looks completely different. The walls have been painted white and will soon sport local artwork. There is an expanded bar on the north wall of the building plus a beer-board that will display up to 22 house-beers once a new tap-system is put in. Knight says he has designed those beers with food pairability in mind. The aforementioned dinners will showcase those attributes using dishes comprised of ingredients from local growers and purveyors. A pre-open dinner is taking place this week as a dry-run of sorts, so I asked Knight to explain his pairing logic on each of that event’s four courses.
Watermelon, Heirloom Tomato and Arugula Salad with Feta Cheese and Red Wine Vinaigrette paired with Hefeweizen: The Hefeweizen has a lot of clove, allspice and coriander notes, plus good effervescence and carbonation to break up the salad’s sweet-and-sour combo. The cheese brings a creaminess and some salt, which I believes makes the beer’s flavor pop.
Bratwurst, German-style Potato Salad and Horseradish-Whole Grain Mustard Sauce paired with Brown Ale: The Brown Ale has bread crustiness that goes well with the Maillard reaction (caramelization of an ingredient’s sugars during heating) from grilling the bratwurst, which prior to that step is braised in the beer. And the bacon-fat used in the potato salad dressing is balanced by the Brown Ale’s bitterness.
Braised Pork Belly, Sorrel and Golden Beets paired with Rye India Pale Ale: This dish is designed as a take on sweet-and-sour pork, with the sweetness coming from the beets and the sourness from the sorrel. The pork belly is marinated with salt, pepper, garlic and thyme, then sous vide for 12 hours. The rye spice of the IPA compliments the dish while the character from Citra hops melds with the other ingredients to create a third flavor that’s like some sort of fruit ganache.
Vanilla-Bean Panna Cotta with Raspberries and Rhubarb paired with Stout: Our Stout, which is a hybrid of a milk and oatmeal stout, has big coffee phenols. I wanted to create a deconstructed pairing of sorts that comes across as a perfect cup of coffee. The panna cotta—which is made using vanilla beans I aged in a nitrogen bag in our cold-box for two years—is like the cream while rhubarb pickled in ginger-spiked simple-syrup is like flavored sweetener.
Once open, Finest Made Ales’ hours will be 2 to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 12 to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays.