From the Beer Writer: Marketing really resonated with me in my youth. Living in an age of cartoon series’ built to market action figures, transforming robots, brands of candy, video games and all sorts of other things, I was not in the minority. But there aren’t many kids out there so in-tune with and fascinated by marketing that they spend hours designing their own catalogs of made-up product-lines, print-ads for their own dreamt-up magazines and even stamp-books selling subscriptions to said magazines. Clearly, I belong in the profession I ended up in. I realized what marketers were doing and marveled at their ability to captivate people to the point where they could alter their ways of thinking in meaningful ways. One thing I always thought was pretty interesting was how Coca-Cola used old Saint Nick and, later, computer-generated polar bears, to make its flagship soda a perceived mainstay of Christmas. To this day, I know tons of folks who pick up Coke in its limited-edition holiday-packaging every year and crack an old-fashioned bottle on Christmas Day. Now that there is some powerful marketing and an improbably successful outcome for Coca-Cola. Where am I going with this, you ask? Well, if you are one of the many red-blooded, marketing persuaded Americans who has memories of enjoying a cold Coke come the holidays, Santee’s Finest Made Ales has the beer for you. Finest Made Fruit Cake Brown Ale is an ambitious beer built to come across on the palate like fruitcake—not the gross kind littered with machined jelly candies, but one baked on the home-front with real fruit…and lots of it. Brewmaster Rey Knight rehydrated dried hoshigaki persimmons, dates, raisins, cranberries, pineapples and mangoes using dark rum, and added them to a brown ale along with candied ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, toasted hazelnuts and house-made Maraschino cherries. To me, the resulting 6.5% alcohol-by-volume beer tastes, not like a fruitcake (though, once it warms a bit, the presence of the baking spices and dried fruit becomes much more prevalant), but oddly enough, a lot like Coca-Cola. Thanks to some Madison Avenue marketing maven, that tastes awfully Christmas-y to me; about as much as fruitcake. It’s a nostalgically welcomed taste-experience that goes well with the holiday season.
From the Brewer: “We brewed a brown ale for the holiday party we held in our tasting room, and wanted to have some fun with some things we don’t do that often. In this case, that’s fruiting and blending of beer. Our ‘iron-brewer challenge’ was to not use any of the extracts that we see so readily available, and do something with all-natural ‘real ingredients’. We settled on a fruitcake challenge, because fruitcake is a love-it-or-hate-it item at a lot of holiday gatherings. We wanted liquid fruitcake, and we used all the ingredients we would put into a fruitcake, minus the flour and eggs. We chose the brown ale with its toffee malty backbone for the base, then layered in all the macerated fruits to create a full-bodied beer with a touch of sweetness and candied-fruit notes that could capture the essence of fruitcake in a glass.”—Rey Knight, Owner & Brewmaster, Finest Made Ales
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.
He went from his own butchery to his own brewery, and now Rey Knight is shining up his stainless steel armor with a revised operation that fuses his culinary and fermentation passions. That business will go by the name Finest Made Ales (9962 Prospect Ave., Suite E, Santee), and aim to produce beers that are ideally suited for beer-and-food pairing.
Work is currently underway to revamp the tasting room of Knight’s former interest, Butchers Brewing Company, to a state befitting its new identity. That space will debut to the public next month during a grand opening launch party. Eventually, charcuterie plates featuring Knight’s handiwork will be available in that sampling space. Prior to delving into brewing, he founded Knight’s Salumi. It was a cult favorite among local foodies that fizzled out far before its time.
Finest Made Ales’ launch party will take place on Friday, August 19 from 4 p.m. until closing. Ten taps’ worth of beer will be available along with food (that’s pairable, one would presume) from a variety of food trucks.
Earlier this week, news broke that Twisted Manzanita Ales and Spirits (10151 Prospect Avenue, Santee) had shuttered its satellite tasting room in Pacific Beach. Today, the company’s employees were notified that the business is actually folding its brewing operations entirely. Twisted Manzanita’s spirit production will continue, but Friday will be the last day for production at what was the incorporated East County’s first and largest brewery. The last day for the tasting room will be Sunday.
Established as Manzanita Brewing Company in 2010, the interest originally opened in a combination brewery-tasting room in a business suite at 9962 Mission Gorge Road. After two years of solid growth, Manzanita took over a much-larger, 12,000 square-foot facility on the same block, where it was able to increase its production significantly while spreading its beers to numerous new states and territories. Its original facility was turn-keyed to Rey Knight where he installed Butcher’s Brewing.
In 2012, Manzanita won a bronze medal in the experimental beer category at the World Beer Cup for Where There’s Smoke…, a smoked rye ale with chile peppers. In 2013, original brewmaster Garry Pittman left the business and the brewing industry altogether. In 2014, owner Jeff Trevaskis launched a distillery side of operations and renamed the company Twisted Manzanita Ales & Spirits. In 2015, Twisted Manzanita partnered with Fat Cat Beer Co., forming a parent-company that aimed to provide strength in numbers. That interest intended to take on additional brands, though that never came to pass. The company’s most recent head brewer, Daniel Cady, left the company a few weeks ago to begin work at Mikkeller Brewing San Diego. Twisted Manzanita also signed a number of contract-brewing deals to help boost production for such brands as URBN St. Brewing Co., Thorn St. Brewery and Pacific Islander Beer Co.
Twisted Manzanita Ales is survived in the City of Santee by Butcher’s, Pacific Islander and BNS Brewing and Distilling Co., operations it most certainly helped pave the way for in East County.
Yesterday, I met up with Rey Knight of Butcher’s Brewing at Bottlecraft for a few minutes.
You’re currently making the transition from contract brewing to in-house production brewing. Why?
There’s a stigma against contract brewing. You have no identity, and we want to have an identity.
What are the details on your new operation?
We’re currently producing 700 barrels between Bayhawk Ales in Irvine and Minhas Craft Brewery in Wisconsin. Our new location will be located off Palomar Airport Road and will have a 30-barrel brewhouse, capacity for 1200 barrels a year, a bottling line, and a 650 sq. ft. tasting room. We’re shooting to have this open within 9 months. We currently can our beers by way of Minhas, and we’re hoping to bring our canning operation in-house as soon as possible to our new location.
What can you tell me about your current distribution?
We have beer in most Southern California Whole Foods and Sprouts. We’re also selling beer on five islands in Hawaii, and we’re even shipping some beer to Japan. Our number of draft accounts is around 45 currently. Right now we’re exploring options for distribution.
What’s new with your beers?
Think of Butchers and Mucho Aloha as you would Port and Lost Abbey. Butchers is our more American beer lineup, while Mucho Aloha is our creative, Hawaiian-influenced line. For Butcher’s, we have our meat-inspired IPA series: Prime, Choice, Select and Standard – all referring to cuts of meat. For ABV, Prime is 8%, Choice is 7% and so on. The Prime is our big Imperial IPA, while Standard is our 6& Black IPA (more info on the beers, here). Our newest release is the Free Range IPA, which is brewed with Nelson Sauvin and Summit hops. The recipe for Free Range will change from season to season. There’s also a Barleywine that will become our winter release.
There’s tons of breweries opening up right now. How will you set Butcher’s and Mucho Aloha apart?
As long as I spend most of my time worrying about what’s in the bottle, I’ll be OK.
Have a question for Rey that you didn’t see? Leave me a comment below and I’ll ask!