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: In a two-year span that’s seen dozens of breweries flood into the San Diego scene, few have come on with as much instant and sustained fanfare as Fall Brewing Company. Some point to it being in North Park, where pretty much everything is cool and there’s a built-in staunchly locavorian clientele. Others point to the fact it is run by a long-term veteran of the Southern California brewing industry. Knowing how many, myself included, travel from other neighborhoods throughout the county to visit Fall’s tasting room, and armed with the knowledge that few really know all that much about the people making their beer, I would contest that the reason for Fall’s long-term popularity has nothing to do with its geography or origin-story. I think it’s all about the beer, which is consistently solid, stylistically sound and, above all, drinkable. It all goes down easy while satisfying one’s taste-buds. Case in point, Fall Plenty For All, a beer crafted to be part Pilsner and part California Common (or “steam beer”, as the style was more commonly known before Anchor Brewing Company trademarked the term). It was the first beer I had when visiting Fall shortly after it opened in 2014. Fast-forward to a week ago, and it was the first bottled-beer I tasted from the company, which just started putting out six-packs of this 4.9% alcohol-by-volume thirst-quencher. In addition to being light yet flavorful, with pleasantly grainy yet clean mid-palate appeal followed by dagger-like dryness in the finish. And a combo Pilsner and Cali-Common seems perfect for Oktoberfest season (happening now) in California.
From the Brewer: “Plenty For All has become my go-to beer at Fall. To me, it’s everything that the big industrial brewers claim their lagers are–crisp, clean, refreshing, wards off voodoo curses, etc. Plenty For All is a blend of a few different styles. First, we use the finest Pilsner malt available in order to impart a pleasant honey and graham-cracker undertone, similar to a Czech-style Pilsner. Then, we blend a variety of Noble hops in order to provide a firm hop bitterness and aroma landing somewhere between what you would expect from a German and Czech Pilsner. We ferment the beer similarly to a California Common in order to allow the yeast to impart it’s subtle fingerprint on the flavor profile, and then we spund (cap) the tank towards the end of fermentation in order to develop most of the carbonation naturally. The end result is a Pilsner that is uniquely ours. We hope you like it.”–Ramon Astamendi, President & Brewmaster, Fall Brewing Company
In April, I named Northern Pine Brewing Company (326 North Horne Street, Oceanside) as one of the North County work-in-progress breweries I was most greatly anticipating. At the time, I had to admit that there really wasn’t much to go by, but a commitment to helping out charities via their business seemed a good reason for added faith. Recently I had the opportunity to learn more about this operation and am able to provide more detail—of which there’s quite a bit.
The owners of the business, Bobby Parsons, Aaron and Anne Ortega recently signed a lease on a 6,100-square-foot building located on the corner of Horne Street and Civic Center Drive, several blocks east of Oceanside Pier and close to Interstate 5’s Mission Avenue exit. They are currently filling out applications for permits and licenses, but still hope to be up-and-running before the end of 2016. Their newly acquired one-story digs are fairly non-descript, but will be designed to convey a “modern-farmhouse vibe” through natural elements that help to convey the trio’s love of the outdoors.
But Northern Pine won’t be the only business occupying that farmhouse. That Boy Good Southern BBQ Joint, a downtown Oceanside business fostering a downhome Southern motif, will share space with the brewery. This will be a satellite space to the original location, go by the name That Good Boy Po’ Boy Shoppe, and serve menu items that differ from the flagship eatery. Northern Pine plans on brewing beers to pair specifically with that cuisine, and the team’s interior designer will work to incorporate the themes of both businesses for a north-meets-south rusticity.
Bobby and Aaron will handle the brewing for Northern Pine. Both are former Marines, and their devotion to the Corps fueled a noteworthy endeavor in 2012 when they brewed a beer to honor seven fallen Marines. The project was supported by Mother Earth Brew Co., which allowed the duo to brew the beer on their system in Vista. At Northern Pine, they will preside over a six-barrel brewhouse that was built on the Discovery Channel program, Monster Garage featuring former Stone Brewing brewer Lee Chase (now the owner of Automatic Brewing Company and its pair of restaurants, Blind Lady Ale House and Tiger! Tiger! Tavern).
That unique apparatus will be used to produce a 30-deep catalog of beers, spanning traditional and newer American beer-styles. Some initial beers that will be brewed include a cream ale, saison, Czech-style Pilsner, a pineapple dry-hopped India pale ale (IPA) and series of SMaSH beers (single malt and single hop). A bourbon whiskey barrel-aged porter will also find its way into the mix. Currently, annual production is estimated at 600 barrels. Though all early product will be kegged, Northern Pine plans to “aggressively pursue bottling and canning.”
From the Beer Writer: It took me a while to get up to Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern & Grill, but the delay served me well in that, by the time I came in, a good number of beers from Thomas Peters (BB’s director of quality assurance and master of the brewpub’s 10-barrel system) were up for grabs. Peters’ goal is to brew one-offs that are both traditional and unique. On the to-style front, a Helles is everything one would want from that refreshing Germanic lager. But I was most taken with Belching Beaver Peaches Be Crazy, a 5.2% alcohol-by-volume pale ale brewed with copious amounts of peach purée and Galaxy hops. After coming in from our current heat-wave, this beer welcomed me and downed my core-temp in the most refreshing and delicious manner possible. It also did a nice job washing down the Tavern’s fair-like fried squash and andouille corn-dog appetizers. Next up on Peters’ brew schedule are an Ameican IPA brewed for the Deftones, a sour Belgian-style wit with hibiscus, rose-hips and chamomile, and the Pilsner recipe from West Coaster columnist Ryan Reschan that just took gold at this year’s National Homebrew Competition.
From the Brewer: “Peaches Be Crazy is an easy-drinking pale ale brewed for the hot summer months. The goal was to complement the big stone fruit qualities of Australian Galaxy hops with the bright flavors of puréed peaches. I used a very soft water profile to keep the beer clean with a crisp finish. The peach flavor is enough to balance the flavor of the hops and does not overwhelm, making this beer very drinkable and a perfect sipper for our outdoor patio at the Tavern.”—Thomas Peters, Director of Quality Assurance, Belching Beaver Brewery
Why is San Diego such a hotbed of quality brewing? It’s a popular question with many answers. Most brewing professionals agree that a major key to the permeation of the suds subculture into the board-short fabric of San Diego is the prominence of homebrewing throughout the county. Many of San Diego’s commercial brewers and brewery owners spent years honing their craft on a recreational level before going into business. As hobbyists, homebrewers collaborate, learning from each other as well as the numerous pro-brewers who revel in maintaining their connection to the amateur-fermentation ranks. For many in San Diego, homebrewing is as big a deal as what goes on at Stone, Ballast Point or Green Flash. And once a year, the county’s homebrewers pit their best beers against those of homebrew clubs throughout the world at the American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrew Competition (NHC), winners of which were announced over the weekend from Homebrew Con in Baltimore, Maryland.
San Diego’s largest homebrew-club, QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity), was named the NHC Homebrew Club of the Year—the most prestigious honor of the entire competition. The 2016 NHC featured 7,692 entries from 3,396 homebrewers hailing from every U.S. state as well as 13 other countries. Numbers like that equate to big-time bragging rights for the hundreds of members of Carlsbad-based QUAFF. But the QUAFF member who gets to do the most bragging is San Marcos’ own Nick Corona, who earned Homebrewer of the Year honors after beating out 175 other entrants in the German Wheat and Rye Beer category with his homespun weissbier.
Other local winners include West Coaster staffer Ryan Reschan, who took first-place in the heavily contested Pilsner category (215 total entries). The runner-up to Reschan was also a local, Jeremy Castellano, who entered without affiliation to any particular homebrew club. Other successful QUAFFers included Curt Wittenburg (first-place in the Other American Ale category), Mike Habrat (second-place in Traditional Mead) and Tim Wang (third-place in Light Hybrid Beer). This isn’t the first time QUAFF has experienced success at the NHC. Quite the contrary. From 2001 to 2006, the organization won Homebrew Club of the Year a record six consecutive times. In 2011, Paul Sangster—co-owner of San Marcos’ Rip Current Brewing Company earned the Ninkasi Award for most wins at that year’s competition. These are just some of the major accomplishments this standout organization has amassed at the country’s premier homebrewing competition.