Peter B’s Brewpub
True Brew: Kevin Clark has all sorts of fun and flavorful craft beer stuff happening at Peter B’s Brewpub in Monterey.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Beer is a social beverage, says Kevin Clark, the affable brewmaster at Peter B’s Brewpub, as he pours a taste of Otto Pale Ale.
He’s using his local ties, brew acumen and the social power of beer to affect promising changes, collaborating with a variety of players to produce more varieties of local beer than this area has seen historically. And he’s doing it while reducing his operation’s waste, which just might qualify him as the most ambitious and inspired Monterey Bay brewer this side of Santa Cruz.
A case in point appeared in pints this fall when Clark and Rancho Cielo, a Salinas-based vocational education program for disadvantaged youth, teamed up to plant a crop of Humulus lupulus, or common hops. The ultimate result was the Otto Pale Ale, a 5 percent ABV fresh hop ale that’s aromatic, refreshing and, yes, damn hoppy.
Hops are like any other flower in that as soon as they are cut from the plant they begin to die, losing their aromatic and palatable qualities. Clark says there’s something about freshly harvested hops that brings a desirable and often hard-to-find quality to beer, a quality that’s lost on hops that are harvested, processed and flown in from as far away as New Zealand. (Most hops used in domestic beers are grown in Germany or in the northwestern United States.)
After a false start last season due to a herd of elk that, evidently, enjoy hops as much as beer drinkers, the hops were harvested in September, then immediately used, wet-hop style, to make the OPA. As of press time, Peter B’s had run out, but word is that once the restaurant at Rancho Cielo gets a tap installed, the beer will be served there as part of the Friday dinner service. (Otto, by the way, is the name of the dog belonging to Rancho Cielo founder and retired Superior Court Judge John Phillips.)
About seven Rancho Cielo youth were involved in the hops planting and harvesting. “It’s an excellent collaboration that I would have never thought of,” Phillips says. “[Clark] educated us; in turn it’s a good learning tool for kids, learning what you have to do to grow hops.”
The judge says he received a growler full of the beer after it was brewed. For the rest of us, the latch-top, 32-ounce bottles come filled with any beer for $25, with refills $10. The to-go growler service is a first for the area. There are other breakthroughs where that came from, like the new 100-ounce beer vat that can be ordered to your table at Peter B’s Brewpub.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Clark is in the glass-enclosed brewery at the front of Peter B’s. He swings open the door of his mash tun – a more-than-man-sized vestibule used in the primary stages of the brewing process – and gestures to the false bottom installed at the midpoint. The trapdoor, he says, is what allows him to salvage grains used in brewing some 2,400 pounds of grain from his last batch, which he gives to a local cattle farm to use for feed, keeping the waste out of a landfill and saving cash by reducing the cost of disposal. He’s also installed a system that saves an estimated 40,000 gallons of water a year by reusing boiled water.
The mash tun is shining and clean, as is the rest of the brewroom; everything has to be immaculate so Clark can ensure it’s only his own yeasts in the brew.
“Being a brewer is more or less a glorified janitorial position,” he jokes.
That labor just landed silver medals at the World Beer Championships for his Alvarado Street Raspberry Wheat and Legend of Laguna IPA.
A tube running out from the top of a fermenter along the wall spews CO2 into a bucket like a college kid after too many rounds of beer pong. Inside the fermenter is Clark’s first-ever take on a Russian Imperial Stout. Clark plans to team with the folks at Acme Coffee Roasting Co. to add dark bean flavor to the brew.
There will be room for more inventions. The brewery just added a cold storage annex which houses several 500-gallon kegs, which dramatically increased the brewery’s storage capabilities and allowed Clark to double his production.
Beerheads around the county will take well to another initiative, a Brewer’s Dinner series ($45) at Peter B’s, in which Portola Executive Chef Jason Giles teams up with Clark to deliver fun pairings of food and ales. Upcoming dates include this Tuesday, Nov. 27, and Dec. 18. November’s four-courser riffs on a Thanksgiving theme, featuring “deconstructed” bérnaise popcorn with Belly Up Blonde Ale, avocado-and-orange salad paired with 40 Acre Pale Ale, turkey pot pie and Inclusion Amber Ale and a flourless chocolate torte with the Acme-infused Russian Imperial Stout.
There’s more local collaboration on the horizon as well: Clark meets once a month with regional brewers in the Bay Brewers Guild to talk shop and dream new things. There’s talk of a Scotch ale collaboration with Campbell Brewing Company and some future tag-team brewing with English Ales in Marina. Meanwhile, the newest 16-ounce pints ($5.50) available at Peter B’s are the seasonal 40 Acre and Sleep Tight Belgian Dubbel, buttressed by five regulars: Fort Ord Wheat, Inclusion Amber, Stout Resistance, Belly Up Blonde and the award-winning Legend of Laguna IPA, which for a limited time is also available in a special cask style ($3) – naturally carbonated and needing to be consumed quickly, before it goes flat.
All told Clark’s got a lot of tasty stuff brewing. But as it’s a social art, we’re not without our own duties, like sharing the local brew news with others and tipping back a pint ourselves.
PETER B’S BREWPUB 2 Portola Plaza, Monterey • 4-11pm Mon-Thu; 11am-1am Fri-Sat; 11am-11pm Sun. •649-2699, www.peterbsbrewpub.com