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!
Last week, we provided a sneak peek of Belching Beaver Brewery‘s upcoming Vista brewpub. This week’s follow-up post is about the North County brewing company’s new production facility at 1334 Rocky Point in Oceanside. The new brewery, which is much larger than Belching Beaver’s original location, is equipped with a 30-barrel Prospero System designed by Speakeasy Ales and Lagers, that was selected for its consistency and high-tech software package. The system can pump out 120 barrels in 11-to-12 hours, which is a far cry from what its 15-barrel Vista brewhouse could brew up. That vessel is now under the charge of brewer Peter Perrecone, who will utilize it for production of barrel-aged sour beers, a number of which are maturing in oak at the Oceanside facility.
Meanwhile, master brewer Troy Smith is full-time at the new brewery, which he, his father and a single assistant assembled, piped, welded and got up-and-running mostly with their own six hands. Completion of the Oceanside brewery will allow Belching Beaver to up its production to 40,000-barrels-per-year. Should they max-out the facility, they’ll be able to get to 100,000 barrels annually. Now, they are able to distribute beers to Northern California, a territory they’ve eyed for a long time. They will start with the Bay Area, then simultaneously expand into Sacramento and Bakersfield as well as Idaho and Washington. The idea of opening a facility in Arizona and self-distributing is also appealing to ownership.
Currently the Oceanside facility is not open to the public, however, that will be rectified in the near future. A tasting room is planned, initially as a small patio at the front of the building, though they hope to eventually install a second-story catwalk that will allow visitors to tour the brewery from above and view all brewing, cellaring and packaging operations. The latter will be done using an atmosphere-controlled GAI bottling system (replacing Belching Beaver’s Meheen bottling line at its original brewery) that can fill a palate’s worth of glass in 30 minutes. It will allow the company to finally launch six-packs of 12-ounce bottles of company mainstays, Peanut Butter Milk Stout, Hop Highway IPA and Me So Honey, followed later by Beaver’s Milk milk-stout, Dammed and Great Lei IPA. Also coming are more 22-ounce beers, including a chocolate-peanut butter stout called Viva Le Beaver and brews from a rotating milk-stout series as well as a rotating coffee-beer series.
When Belching Beaver’s impressive growth is pointed out—the company plans to grow to 80 employees by the close of April—co-founder Tom Vogel downplays it, citing the much faster growth of entities such as Modern Times Beer, Saint Archer Brewery and, more recently, Coronado Brewing Company. According to Vogel, Belching Beaver is still a little company just trying to make its way while striving to make better beer. And as for those who might see production-growth and new venues as signs of a potential sale, he says that will never happen, stating, “First off, no one will want to buy a company called Belching Beaver. Secondly, I’d be the first one they’d replace and I happen to love my job.”
This is the second of a four-part series assessing the most hopeful of San Diego’s in-progress brewery projects. Last week, I looked at upcoming businesses in North County. Today is all about the western expanses of the region. Additionally, I’m taking a look back at how some other brewery-owned venues I thought had promise actually turned out over the past three years.
Mikkeller Brewing San Diego, Miramar: Uber beer geeks are excited to see what outlandish gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergso does with this brick-and-mortar (a creative partnership with AleSmith Brewing Company owner Peter Zien) and they’ll find out on April 16, when the tasting room opens to the public with a beer-festival featuring standout locals and some of Bjergso’s far-flung friends. Fans who remember when the business housed AleSmith’s original tasting room won’t recognize the joint…or the beers.
Amplified Ale Works, Miramar: The quality of this Pacific Beach-based brewpub’s beers has gained it a nice following, but there’s nothing quite so disappointing as driving there only to find the nano-kebabery is out of house-beer. Opening a production operation in one of H.G. Fenton’s ready-to-brew Brewery Igniter suites in the heart of “Beeramar” should fix that and allow this business to get to the next level and bring beers like Electrocution IPA to an inland clientele.
OB Brewery, Ocean Beach: It’s been years in the making, but the skeleton of this three-story brewery, bar and restaurant at the end of Newport Avenue looks darn good. OB’s in the midst of a massive influx of brewery tasting rooms (Culture Brewing Company and Mike Hess Brewing Company with Belching Beaver Brewery and two small Kearny Mesa ops on the way), but a new brewery hasn’t touched down since Pizza Port set up shop in 2010. The time is right for this project, so long as the beer is of good quality.
Past Promising Projects: West
2013: Benchmark Brewing Company (Grantville; Grade—A; to-style “beer-flavored beer” and a delightful sampling space); Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens—Liberty Station (Point Loma; Grade—A; the best Stone beers are coming from this beautiful brewpub’s 10-barrel system); Modern Times Beer (Lomaland; Grade—B; beers don’t wow, but are defect-free, biggest points earned for tasting-room and can décor); Saint Archer Brewery (Miramar; Grade—C; they figured out how to make good beer just in time to sell out, but never figured out how to develop heart or soul)
2014: AleSmith Brewing Company (Miramar; Grade—A; from 20,000SF to 105,500SF with no quality collapse and county’s largest tasting room), Bitter Brothers Brewing Company (Bay Ho; Grade—B; brewing by-committee an interesting MO, but initial beers are solid); Duck Foot Brewing Company (Miramar; Grade—B; went beyond all-gluten-free angle to just-plain-good beer, gluten or no)
Miramar’s 32 North Brewing Company recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, and it’s looking like Years Two and Three will be big ones for the young interest. Owner Steve Peterson has accepted the invitation of the Moniker Group to be a tenant business at a collective retail establishment being installed at 2860 Sims Road in Liberty Station later this year. Moniker currently runs an East Village warehouse housing roughly 20 brands manufacturing apparel, furniture, bicycles and a variety of other local products. The new location will be similarly eclectic, serving as home to a lifestyle retail shop curated by Del Mar’s Lone Flag Supply Company, a coffee concept dubbed Moniker Coffee and the 32 North Taproom. The total interior space comes in at 4,200 square feet with 1,200 additional square feet available via an outdoor patio.
No brewing will take place at the Taproom, but in order to sufficiently supply that space with beer, more fermentation vessels will need to be purchased and utilized at 32 North’s brewery. The company is already having trouble fulfilling demand for three of its beers—Landfall Berliner Weisse, Nautical Mile IPA and Pennant Pale Ale. Peterson is excited to increase exposure for 32 North’s beers in general and cites Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens – Liberty Station and Modern Times Beer as businesses that has gotten people used to visiting Point Loma for beer. The soon-to-open Liberty Public Market next to the aforementioned Stone also figures to be a great draw among diverse demographic sects.
Peterson expresses zero concerns when asked if he has reservations about having high-profile competition so near (in addition to Stone, an iteration of popular craft beer outlet, Bottlecraft, will be installed within the Liberty Public Market project). 32 North’s brewery is in the heart of Miramar, one of the most brewery-saturated areas of San Diego with major players such as Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits, Green Flash Brewing Company and AleSmith Brewing Company. Peterson says those businesses help to bring in business, as do recommendations from employees of those businesses to their patrons.
Because it fits the model of a collective, Moniker Warehouse will not allow 32 North to maximize its individual branding, but Peterson is enthusiastic about being a productive member of this communal operation, which is currently set to open in January 2016.
Last week, we kicked off a four-part series exploring the most intriguing and promising work-in-progress brewery-owned venues in San Diego County. In this, the second installment, we affix our horizon-trained line of sight below Interstate 8. (In case you missed it, click the following link for a list of the most intriguing brewing projects from North County.)
North Park Beer Co., North Park: This project was the talk of the town for years, even before headman and homebrewing all-star Kelsey McNair had located a place to house his community-labeled commercial brewery. Now that he has that space, a former gymnasium on University Avenue, anticipation is reaching a fever pitch. But there’s a little more waiting to do, as grand scale renovations that will include a two-story tasting room experience and subterranean barrel cellar will take some time. The waiting should be worth it, however, as McNair’s award-winning Hop Fu! IPA will finally be available to more than just the beer judges who regularly award it gold in high-profile homebrewing competitions.
Brewery Igniter, North Park: Like many, developer H.G. Fenton recognizes the impact of the local brewing industry and the potential to profit from it by providing resources to its member companies. As such, it is installing two brew-ready business park suites in the Beeramar area. Those fermentoriums have been snatched up by Amplified Ale Works and newcomer Pure Project Brewing, encouraging H.G. Fenton to build another Brewery Igniter campus in another beer-dazzled San Diego neighborhood—North Park. Details are scarce on this project, but leasing facilities offering full brewing capabilities right off the bat seems a sound business model that should help new and established brewing companies make their dreams come true.
ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, North Park: Perhaps this piece should have been titled Best Beer Futures: North Park, for it would seem this already beery part of town will continue to get even beerier. Already home to three satellite tasting rooms (Belching Beaver Brewery, Modern Times Beer, Rip Current Brewing Co.), North Park will welcome one of the hardest-to-visit breweries in the county, Ramona-based ChuckAlek Independent Brewers. The easterly mom-and-pop raised its visibility by winning the 2014 edition of Boston Beer Co.’s Brewing the American Dream competition, and looks poised to keep its star on the rise with this bold expansion into the urban core.
NOTE: The items above have been selected from a list of public projects. There are a number of projects that are quite exciting throughout San Diego, but cannot be disclosed as they are confidential in nature and must be kept under wraps by request of the business owners.