For our first "Ask a Brewer," Kushal Hall ― lead brewer at Speakeasy ― spoke easy.
SFoodie: When did you start brewing and what was your first homebrewed beer?
Hall: After getting my B.A. in Fine Art at UCSC, I found myself with absolutely no idea how to make rent, so I moved home to my parents' place for a while in Claremont, California, where I grew up. There, my dad and I started homebrewing together. I had recently discovered that there was beer with flavor after having a Black and Tan, which had spurred a great interest in dark beers in particular. My first brew was a partial grain stout that my dad and I brewed on the stovetop using an old recipe of my dad's, "Frothingslosh."
How'd you become a professional brewer? It didn't take long for me to realize that brewing beer would be a lot more fulfilling than shooting portraits of crying babies, and off to San Francisco I went. I started calling brewpubs and sending out resumes (embarrassing ones, listing all the types of beer I had homebrewed). I saw a Craigslist job posting to work on the packaging line at Speakeasy. That was my in; I spent the next nine months pestering every bit of information I could out of our packaging manager and the brewers while stacking cases and scrubbing floors. Soon I assisted operating our bottling line and training new employees on it. After some turnover on the brew side I was offered a position as the night brewer. I ecstatically accepted, and two years later I'm leading our three-person brew team.Best part about brewing in the Bay Area? Being in the Bay Area! I love this town, our beautiful coast, and the people here, not to mention that this is a beer town. Unlike Southern California when I was living there, even the smallest dive bar in the Bay has a Sierra or a New Belgium tap on, and most bars have a fair selection of craft brews. Between the Toronado, the Trappist, City Beer, and so many others, there are more great beers here than you'll ever be able to drink, but it is fun trying.
Craziest idea for a beer that failed or you never made? One crazy recipe I did make (actually the first recipe I wrote) was a porter made with honey, blackberries, and ― probably where everything went wrong ― fresh Thai ginger. Even the smell burnt your eyes. I still have a few bottles in the back of a closet that I occasionally sample to see if it has gotten any less bad, and to remind myself that, at least when referring to the number of unusual ingredients you're gonna throw into a perfectly good porter, less is more.
It's your last meal. What is it and what do you pair it with? Big homemade burger topped with blue cheese, cheddar, bacon, pastrami, a fried egg, and all the regular trimmings with a pint of IPA to wash it down and an Imperial Stout to round out the food coma.
Speakeasy Ales and Lagers 1195 Evans (at Keith), Ste. A, 642-3371; brewery open house Fri., 4-9 p.m. Catch Kushal Hall as he conducts tours at 4:30.