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!
He’s competed on a national level in the Olympics of cocktail crafting and oversees prestigious wine and spirit programs for one of San Diego’s most iconic spots, the historic U.S. Grant Hotel. And over the past several years, Jeff Josenhans has deepened his exploration of adult beverages to include craft beer, gaining his Cicerone certification and expanding the Grant’s drink offerings to include not only craft beer, but ales he has worked hard to procure as well as help birth using industry connections and experience earned over many years of deep thinking about the art of drinking. Thanks to him, the Grant offers a number of interesting beer options the likes of which are unavailable anywhere else, including a delicious, barrel-aged beer brewed and matured at the nearby Mission Brewery.
You are a certified Sommelier and Cicerone. How do these two worlds stack up against each other?
The Somm’ and Cicerone worlds are very different culturally, yet are similar in the sense that those within them are extremely passionate people. I think Cicerones all have a little homebrewer in them, so by nature they are perhaps a little more creative, while Somm’s are more on the studious side. Both certifications require a lot of tasting and studying, but the Cicerone exam definitely is aided by some home and draft system experience. An aspiring Somm’ will have to study a much wider array of wine styles and regions than what you find with the BJCP, as well. These are generalizations, of course.
What inspired you to go to the lengths required to become a certified Cicerone?
I always had an appreciation for beer, but had never put the study time into it that I had done with spirits and wine. It just made sense to complete the circle and give the U.S. Grant a beverage program that complimented that knowledge.
What are the specifics behind your Gentleman Grant collaboration with Mission Brewery?
Gentleman Grant is an imperial red ale that has been barrel-aged in Manhattan-seasoned barrels we get from High West Distilling in Park City, Utah. The base ale is more towards the malty side, with spicy rye malt and sweeter caramel malt notes added to the grain bill. Chinook and Summit hops provide a strong hop backbone, but are not pronounced enough to take over the aromatics. Barrel-aging provides what I consider to be the sexy side of this beer. We added cigar-smoked Luxardo cherries to the barrels and let the beer soak up the Manhattan from the oak for almost six months. The result is a powerful, yet unexpectedly smooth beer showing a lot of spice, dried fruit and caramel notes. It’s available exclusively at Grant Grill (inside the U.S. Grant Hotel, 326 Broadway, Downtown) while supplies last.
What sort of cask offerings have you added to Grant Grill’s beverage program?
We will be rotating cask ale in on the weekends. We plan on using small- to medium-size breweries for the cask program. Our first partner on this front was Fall Brewing Company and its Green Hat IPA. Moving forward, guests can expect an integration of our cocktail and beer programs. I’m pretty determined to become one of San Diego’s best cellarmen, and with that I will be looking to get our casks right after racking, so we can make additions here on property as opposed to at the brewery.
What other beer-related projects do you have in the works?
Our next big beer project is to drive craft beer and cask ale into the meeting and wedding worlds. We are in the process of putting cask ale on wedding menus as well as changing more and more of our offerings on the banquet side to local craft beers.