Picture it: You sit down at a bar, enjoy two or three IPAs rich with the fruity, piney aromas and flavors of hops, then get right up and immediately drive home. This is ill-advised, irresponsible and downright illegal behavior. But the information I didn’t supply you with before introducing this scenario is that those hypothetical beers are non-alcoholic. And though it sounds like a riddle based on fiction—c’mon, there’s no such thing as a vibrantly hoppy non-alcoholic IPA—this is a real-world situation that can be played out at the U.S. Grant Hotel’s bar, lounge and restaurant, Grant Grill, where level two Cicerone Jeff Josenhans has taken to removing alcohol from cask ales, before recarbonating, bottling and adding them to the menu. It’s the latest step in the venue’s non-alcoholic craft beverage program, which also includes spirits and cocktails. We sat down with Josenhans to find out more about his methods and what could be perceived by some purists as madness.
West Coaster: What inspired you to explore non-alcoholic beers in this manner?
Jeff Josenhans: It literally just dawned on me how there are no craft non-alcoholic beers on the market, and I thought to myself “how can this be possible?” The non-alcoholic quality beverage segment as a whole—wine, cocktails, etc.—is growing as well, so I just put two and two together. There’s really no reason you can’t drink craft beer at work in a non-alcoholic form.
WC: Walk us through the process of removing alcohol from traditional beers.
JJ: Basically, we maintain the temperature of the beer at 180 degrees Fahrenheit using an immersion circulator, which also keeps the beer in motion. We keep that process going for about 30 minutes or until we can’t detect any alcohol fumes for at least five minutes. Like other commercial non-alcoholic beers or kombucha, there is still a minute amount of alcohol expected to remain in the beer, albeit less than one percent. There really is no such thing as 100% guaranteed no-alcohol beer. O’Doul’s states 0.5% alcohol-by-volume (ABV), Becks Non-Alcoholic states 0.3% ABV and, similarly, when reducing wine into a sauce, you cannot completely guarantee there is no alcohol and that it is at a level which is considered safe to consume and drive, for example. What we do is measure the volume of the liquid and equate it with the loss in volume per the original ABV. For example, if we have 10 liters of 6% ABV pale ale, after the 30-minute process we should have 9.4 liters left.
WC: What styles do you offer and what led you to select them?
JJ: Our current bottled beers are Office IPA, Strawberry Blonde, PC Pilsner, Safe and Sour, and Button-Down Beer. The selection process is directly correlated to the casks we run at Grant Grill. If we don’t have enough left over from a cask at the end of a night, we do not produce any non-alcoholic beer. If there is at least one-third of the cask left, we make a decision to bottle and start the process. We are creating craft-beverage offerings and avoiding waste at the same time.
WC: You’re using local cask ales. Where are you procuring them?
JJ: We always have cask ale on Fridays and Saturdays, and currently partner with New English Brewing, 32 North Brewing, Mike Hess Brewing, Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment, Fall Brewing and Modern Times Beer.
WC: What would you say to those who don’t see a need for non-alcoholic craft beer?
JJ: There’s no shame in offering people who can’t drink for whatever reason—designated driver, pregnant, religion, whatever—a craft-beer alternative. To be honest, I really don’t understand how the craft market hasn’t got to this yet. It think it’s about time!
From the Beer Writer: The first year of Beer to the Rescue (the charity campaign established to raise money for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California) numerous local breweries crafted specialty beers to tap in the name of humanitarianism. The majority of them were kind enough to ask me what I’d like them to brew or for input on what they wanted to brew. I took this as an opportunity to try to hit all beer styles and take many of them in interesting directions. They all turned out nice, but their esoteric nature hurt their sales. So, this year, when kindly brewers asked what I’d like, I consistently responded with one word: HOPS! As a result IPAs and other hoppy brews make up the majority of the beers that are riding in to the rescue. One that’s on tap at all three of Urge Gastropub‘s locations in Rancho Bernardo, San Marcos and Oceanside is Mason Ale Works Vera Lynn Double IPA. I can’t take any credit for the hop-bill, because it was made without any of my influence other than the “hops” mandate, but in using Citra, Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin hops, they pretty much read my mind. These are some of my favorite, big-flavor varietals and they did a brilliant job with this imperial, massively flavorful and aromatic charity beer!
From the Brewer: “Vera Lynn is the latest release from Mason Ale Works. It gets its name from the Pink Floyd song ‘Vera’ and serves as a reminder that, over time, all vanishes. The song references Vera Lynn, who turned 100 this year, and has dedicated her life to supporting charitable causes. Her relentless efforts to better this world should be an inspiration to all. Vera Lynn IPA is a collaboration to promote Lupus awareness and support Lupus research so that one day we quote the lyrics in regards to Lupus and ask, ‘What has become of you?’ This bright and juicy imperial IPA has been dry-hopped with two-pounds-per-barrel of Citra, Nelson and Mosaic hops, bringing some serious tropical fruit and pine to your nostrils. At 9.2% alcohol-by-volume, this sneaky little lady will have you sipping till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away. As hazy as these times seem, I know we’ll meet again some sunny day…”—Jason De La Torre, Research & Development Brewer, Mason Ale Works
From the Beer Writer: You know that feeling when you arrive at a bar or a friend’s house and, before you can even say a word, you’re handed a beverage that you hastily take a sip of and instantly find yourself completely blown away by? Of course you do. It’s one of those magic moments beer-lovers live for: the exciting discovery of something brand new and exquisite. That happened to me last weekend at Dos Desperados Brewery. I arrived at that San Marcos establishment to help staff one of my Beer to the Rescue fundraising events and was greeted by a full pour of a lovely golden beer with a fluffy white head, Dos Desperados Nelson Lager. Happy to be there and off State Route 78, I dove right in…and fell in love. It was the perfect beer for the sunny day I was in the midst of—light in body yet big on hop and lager-yeast character in the nose and on the palate. The limestone and floral notes from the yeast dovetailed beautifully with vinous flavors from the Nelson Sauvin making up the beer’s entire hop-bill. It was simple yet special, so much that I could have spent hours drinking pint after pint, something that wouldn’t have been too tough given the beer’s 4.9% alcohol-by-volume stat. The recipe for this all-day pleaser (which, as good as it was, is only in its R&D phase) was developed with fellow San Marcos operation, Prodigy Brewing Company, with assistance from a noted lager expert at Mission Valley’s Gordon Biersch brewpub. I’m glad to report it will be on-tap and helping Beer to the Rescue tomorrow, and soon become a staple in Dos Desperados’ year-round portfolio.
From the Brewer: “Our Nelson Lager is a Prodigy Brewing, Gordon Biersch and Dos Desperados Brewery collaboration for Beer to the Rescue that benefits the Lupus Foundation of Southern California. A special thanks goes out to Dean Rouleau and Doug Hasker for this Czech-style lager with rich, crisp maltiness and freshly crushed gooseberry flavor—think Sauvignon Blanc grapes from New Zealand, which come care of the Nelson Sauvin hops we used.”—Steve Munson, Owner & Brewmaster, Dos Desperados Brewery
In less than two years, The Cork and Craft has established itself as one of inland North County’s best restaurants. The food and ambience are enough that it would be a draw even without its onsite winery and brewery. Those amenities—particularly Abnormal Beer Company—are tremendous value-addeds, particularly when their wares are incorporated into special pairing dinners featuring guest chefs, vintners and breweries.
C&C opened with adventurous chef Phillip Esteban at the helm. He made such a name for himself, both in RB and at the many offsite events he participated in—that he was hired away by powerhouse bar-and-restaurant entity Consortium Holdings to serve as its culinary research-and-development mastermind. His departure left big clogs to fill at C&C, but current executive chef Scott Cannon has been on the job for three months and is turning out solid cuisine that might even be better suited for the tastes of RB denizens.
Dishes remain intelligent, but are a bit easier for the average diner to get their head around. They’re less fussy but just as flavorful. And in some cases, even more flavorful. A prime example is a seemingly simple salad of raw and grilled endive. It’s the only first-course greenery I’ve felt deserving of must-try status, but it’s perfection on a plate. Spiced pecans bring in a gingerbread-like flavor segueing beautifully with the sweetness of cider-like vanilla-poached pears complement and Moody Blue goat cheese contrasts. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a breakfast-for-dinner starter, seared foie gras over French toast with a fried quail egg and nasturtium. The toast is golden and not the least bit soggy while the edible flowers serve a purpose by lending a touch of balancing bitterness.
A Colorado lamb entrée features nicely cooked chops, but the star of the plate are tender agnolotti stuffed with tender braised shoulder-meat. It’s an edible education in what al dente pasta should feel like. Other dishes like a Hamachi crudo appetizer served with a shishito pepper relish as well as scallops with meaty king trumpet mushrooms (and, oddly, more shishito peppers) lack the wow-factor of the previously mentioned recipes in Cannon’s current canon, but they’re in keeping with fare offered at C&C from day one.
Back on the beer-front, Abnormal is set to release its first two canned beers at a release-party this Saturday, March 18 starting at 11 a.m. at C&C. Both of those aluminum-clad brews are hazy (AKA: New England-style or Vermont-style) India pale ales. The first is New Money IPA, a juicy, 7% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) offering massively dry-hopped with Amarillo and Simcoe, followed by its industrial-strength cousin, Turbidity, an 8.5% ABV double IPA brewed with Mosaic and Idaho 7, that pours thicker than the average hop-bomb. Both beers will be sold in four-packs and dishes from the restaurant’s bar-menu will be available.
From the Beer Writer: If you ask the team at Booze Brothers Brewing Company what their most popular beer is, the clear-cut front-runner is their Ol’ Grandaddy’s double IPA. Given its popularity, one might wonder why the family-forged Vista interest would sink time into developing another India pale ale, and a single at that. But one whiff of citrusy new addition, Buena Vista IPA, brilliantly communicates its raison d’être. Big tangerine aromas—the product of generous dry-hopping with New World hops—bombard one’s olfactory senses. That’s followed by matching citrusiness on the taste-buds plus a touch of pineapple-like tang that’s in no way impeded by overbearing bitterness or belligerent booze (the beer registers 6.8% alcohol-by-volume). Brand new and pouring super-fresh at present, it’s a welcomed addition to the Brothers’ portfolio that will be packaged in the near future.
From the Brewer: “To those who know us over at Booze Brothers, they know that we like to drink beer. We don’t sip and taste, then spit out our beer. We sit at the bar with our friends, co-workers and customers, and drink pints. But once in awhile, we feel like drinking something different than our typical line-up. Buena Vista is one of those brews, a strongly aromatic IPA with loads of tropical, citrus, pear and pine, exactly what we felt like drinking. We named it Buena Vista, which means ‘good view’, not only because it’s a beautiful beer to look at, but also after the beautiful city we call home…Vista, California. Buena Vista IPA has a low-medium body, and is lightly golden in color, with a grain-bill built specifically to allow the hops to shine. We dry-hop each batch with a generous amount of Eureka, Citra and El Dorado hops. In fact, it is our hoppiest beer to-date.”—Donny Firth, Co-owner & Brewmaster, Booze Brothers Brewing Company