Speakeasy Brewery- A Love Story
I excitedly grab an Uber, 4 hours alone, and for a couple of hours, I’m spending time at Speakeasy Brewery.
I chose them to start off my favorite local beer series because I have loved their Big Daddy IPA since I moved to San Francisco.
They’re located in a slightly sketchy part of town.
Well to me, it’s sketchy, I basically never go there.
The Uber pulls up, I get out, look around the outside for a moment. Trying to figure out what I’m going to say and to calm my nerves.
On one half of building, you see the tasting room, an outdoor seating area. On the other half, you see warehouse. A few silos, an 18-wheeler that seems to be obtaining spent grain.
I breathe in deep.
Gain my confidence.
And step through the doors.
The tasting room is so amazing.
It takes to the brand like no other tasting room that I have ever seen.
It’s set up like a speakeasy, there are books of Capone, photos from the Prohibition era, the mood is dark and mysterious.
It almost looks like a dive bar, which makes me beyond happy, and a little more comfortable.
There’s a girl behind the bar.
I ask for Brian.
Brian is my contact, he is the one who was generous enough to show me around, give me a tour, and a tasting of a few of their beers.
He shows up, he’s wearing a Speakeasy hat, friendly demeanour; shakes my hand and asks me where I want to begin.
I have a million thoughts going through my head at this point, I mean obviously I want to see the brewery, the taproom, learn more about the process, but where do I start?
The brewery, I must see the brewery.
We step outside, he confirms my suspicion that the truck is getting spent grain. Apparently, it comes a few times a week. That is a lot of grain going in and out of this little brewery.
Brian explains to me that they started expanding last year. They are growing into a 90k barrel facility.
They have 4 new fermentors outside, only 2 are full right now, but they will be filling them up soon!
We walk into the brewery.
I stop and breath in. The air is a mixture of hops and grains, it’s a glorious smell that reminds me of when we were homebrewing.
My eyes are first fixed to the brew house. Stainless steel with a copper finish. So incredibly beautiful. And new.
It’s a 60 barrel brewhouse, installed last June. It’s so new that it still has that new brewhouse smell!
The coolest thing is everything is pretty much computerized now.
It’s insane to think about how much technology has affected everything, including how our beer is made for us.
While we are up there, I spot a bucket of bright green hops.
They are for the Baby Daddy IPA, whirlpool portion of brewing, for aroma. Brian tells me that the hops at the beginning of the brewing process are for bittering and at the end are for the smell.
So when you pop open your favorite IPA, they probably added extra hops so the nose you get is even better.
We continue on to the fermentation silos. (I call them silos, because I grew up in the country and the image in my brain just really goes towards a silo.)
Brian tells me about their process, they usually ferment 2-6 weeks depending on what they are making.
We go to their bottling machine.
There are thousands of bottles everywhere.
Brian said that this machine has went through about 6 million bottles. That is insane to me.
The machine cleans out the bottle, pours in the beer, caps, and cleans again.
It was really cool.
Brian tells me that they’re moving over to all cans, because it’s more efficient and has a better shelf life.
After they bottle, they ship to their warehouse in Bayview, which is full of beer ready to go out, packing material. He said that it’s about the same size as the brewery, but super full.
I get to see their new baby.
The machine that they were more excited than anything else.
The centrifuge spins the beer at almost 7G and separates liquids from the solids.
It much more efficient than what they used to use, which would take a lot of the hop oil out of the beer and would bring the flavor down.
The centrifuge allows for the hop oil to still be in the beer, which allows a crisp, clean finish.
Tastes better, lasts longer, and much much less work.
They can also control the level of brightness with this machine.
They started really canning last July with the premiere of Baby Daddy IPA.
On our way to the lab, I had a few questions that I wanted to ask.
Especially about their hops and how they choose them.
Brian says the brewers go and visit the farms during harvest season. They get to smell, feel, and pick the best for what they want to make that season. Of course they have their hops that they use for their usuals, but if there is anything interesting, they get to talk to the farmers and really get into the growing.
Speakeasy is very tied to agriculture through this. I think it’s absolutely amazing.
We go to their mini lab, in the future they hope for the lab to expand and to be 2 stories, but for now it’s a desk and a few machines.
They use the lab to test oxygen levels and healthy yeast, to make a better beer for us.
Making beer is a freaking science.
Most people don’t think about it when they’re buying their craft brew off the shelf, but how many man hours were put in that beer to make it have the flavor.
By this part of the tour, we head to their taproom.
This taproom has only been open since 2012, so it’s still relatively new, but it has an old bar feel to it. It really brings you into the 1920’s theme.
I take a few photos and come back to a taster of IPA’s.
He knows the way to a girls heart, doesn’t he?
I start off with the Baby Daddy, this beer has an unfiltered taste. It feels bolder on the tongue than it really is. On the nose on on the tongue you get an immense amount of hops. This is definitely something that you could sip on during a hot summer day.
Next, Big Daddy. As I said before, this is my favorite beer and the whole reason that I wanted to tour the facility.
Brian tells me that this beer has been one that has changed very little over time. It has a very hoppy nose, but it doesn’t burn your nose. At first sip, you get hops, at second sip, you get citrus. It is one of the most balanced IPA’s that I have ever had.
Double Daddy came next. At 9% alcohol, you can tell why this is called a daddy. Although it is still very balanced, the hops hit you in the face.
This beer feels smooth on your tongue though, much smoother than the Baby or Big predecessor.
I tried Vendetta next. Brian said he probably should have given this to me before Big Daddy, but you have to do the series together, right?
Vendetta has a lot more citrus, less hops, very mellow. Something that you could drink more than one of and still stand straight.
The final IPA I try is The Blind Tiger. And all I have to say is, no wonder the tiger is blind. 9.5% with 100 IBUs, this is a very hoppy beer. It almost burns your tongue.
Although, you can’t really taste above 30 IBUs, I feel that putting 100 on the label makes your brain think that you’re tasting something different.
If you like hops, that is your beer.
I ask Brian if they’ve ever done a homebrew competition, like some of the other local breweries have. He said, not publically, but they did one among the brewers and actually came up with the seasonal wheat beer that they had this year from it!
I think that’s amazing and super fun for a company to do.
I decided that I wasn’t familiar with the rest of their line, so maybe I should taste whatever else that they had on tap.
He starts me out with their take on a Pilsner, Pop Gun.
This may be the most traditional beer that I have tasted since I got there. It is just a pils, bready tasting with a little bit of a sweet note on top.
They just turned 19, which is the bronze anniversary, so they came out with Bronze Anniversary Ale. It has a very sweet nose, very mellow taste, and a sweet aftertaste.
I don’t usually like browns, but I feel like I could get behind this one. The malt doesn’t take over, but neither does the hop. It is very balanced and the subtle sweet taste makes it refreshing.
Prohibition is their flagship beer. It has won multiple awards.
This red ale has it all. You get a caramel taste when you first sip it, next sip is spicy, but not too spicy. The nose is pine with a slight fruit background. If you close your eyes, it makes you feel like you’re in a forest.
This is a good beer for people who like reds, I’m not much of a fan.
Next up, Payback Coffee Porter. Which is actually what I’m drinking as I type this up.
They use Philz coffee for the flavor, but what is interesting about this particular beer is the porter itself.
This Porter could hold up on it’s own. You smell coffee, with a dark chocolate undertone and when you take a sip, it’s not the coffee you taste at first. You taste chocolate, then on top of that you have espresso, then finally the coffee.
They use their Porter for more than just a Coffee Porter, they sell it as a plain porter and are coming up with a recipe for a Pumpkin Porter. Which, being me, I am super excited about and can’t wait to try it.
I’m excited to see what they do with the spices that make a ‘pumpkin’ taste and how they really incorporate the pumpkin flavor. I’m slightly afraid that the porter might be too bold and just swallow the pumpkin up completely.
Next up Fixed Fight, doesn’t that just make you think of all of the things going on in the 20’s? It instantly brought up Boardwalk Empire into my head.
Nuckie would love this beer.
It’s 20% barrel aged, so you don’t get a lot of the bourbon flavor, but just enough on the tongue to really appreciate the barrels.
The vanilla shines through from the barrels, the oak sits on your tongue, but doesn’t overpower the toffee flavor of the old ale.
This is a sipping beer. It packs a punch! *I just crack myself up!*
Finally I tried their Syndicate. This beer is never the same. It changes a little every year. It’s a blend of barrel aged beers, this year the primary suspect was Scarface Imperial aged for 37 months.
This is the ode to barrel aged beers.
First sip- vanilla and caramel. It’s sweet, but not overly so. Second sip- coffee and dark chocolate. Wait, what? I have to keep sipping. The flavors are so complex, it feels as if it’s layered, yet all the layers fit perfectly together.
I may have found my new favorite beer at Speakeasy.
Unfortunately the next one probably won’t come up till spring of 2017, but I am willing to wait.
I ask Brian if they have felt the blow of all of the craft brews that have come out lately.
His reply is simple.
“Most craft breweries are to a specific audience, we want to be the beer for everyone.”
And that they are. I feel that they have something for every taste.
I type up a few more notes, thank Brian, check in on Swarm, and take a snap video.
Those few hours, I was in heaven.
I highly suggest a visit if you are in the area, the people are cool, the taproom is amazing.
If you see the beer around, pick up one, see how you like it.
Do you drink beer?
If so what type is your favorite?
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