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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Meet the Five Beers Rich Higgins Has Wrought for Social Kitchen & Brewery

Posted By on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 4:21 PM

click to enlarge Social Kitchen's brewmaster Rich Higgins is aiming for supple, food-friendly beers. - BRIAN YAEGER
  • Brian Yaeger
  • Social Kitchen's brewmaster Rich Higgins is aiming for supple, food-friendly beers.
After seemingly eons of anticipation, Social Kitchen & Brewery commences its conviviality next Tuesday, April 20 to coincide with the SF Brewers Guild's monthly Meet the Brewers event. The city's sixth brewpub will make its debut, interestingly, as the sixth brewpub in the same location in the past 12 years (one closed before it could even open). To ensure its success, Rex Tabora brings his experience from Zebulon, chef Rob Lam from Eastside West and Butterfly is behind the menu (cop a sneak peek here), and veteran brewmaster Rich Higgins is piloting the brew system, where he recently poured samples for us fresh from the tanks.

Working on the original 15-barrel system installed directly above the kitchen, Higgins prepared five beers that will be served year-round (he plans on introducing a seasonal offering down the road). Just don't expect the stunt beers that West Coast brewers are famous for, as Higgins aims for technically proficient beers that are, across the board, dry, not overly bitter, and balanced. "I enjoy the intersection of science and art," Higgins said. "My guiding inspiration is accessibility."

Behold the five beers Higgins has brewed for Social Kitchen & Brewery (after the jump):

click to enlarge The Inner Sunset brewpub opens April 20. - AKSHAYS ./YELP
  • AkshayS ./Yelp
  • The Inner Sunset brewpub opens April 20.
1. Social Kölsch: Authentic Cologne-style light golden ale that avoids being too sweet by incorporating flavors of lemon, white pepper, and bread. (5 percent alcohol by volume)

2. Old Time Alt: This Düsseldorf-style altbier ("alt" is German for old) has yet to catch on among commercial craft brewers but Higgins' version of this light brown beer is mild and dry and should quickly find fans. (4.5 percent ABV)

3. Rapscallion Belgian Dark: This is what happens when a Belgian goes "session." Whereas the Dubbel-style ales such as Chimay Red that Higgins used as a model are generally 7 to 9 percent ABV, he has retained the rich fruit flavors of plums, dates, and figs, all while keeping it dry. (4.5 percent ABV)

4. Easy IPA: Caught between a milder British and pungent California India Pale Ale, this eschews big citrus flavor and what Higgins calls "zillions of Bitter Units" but keeps the floral aroma and dirty flavor by dry-hopping with Chinook. (7 percent ABV)

5. L'Enfant Terrible Strong Belgian Golden: Generally rich and chewy, Higgins' curveball on this one is that it's what he calls "well attenuated," meaning much of the sugars from the malt have been converted into alcohol, leaving it crisp and comparatively dry, canceling any tell-tale residual sweetness. (8 percent ABV)

Being social means interacting. Ultimately, Higgins' goal is to make sure Social Kitchen & Brewery's staff -- and patrons -- become educated about these and other beer styles. Social is a bar as well as a sort of classroom. Look for tours and open brew days where spectators and learn about brewing in real time. Incidentally, for those interested in homework, yeast will be available free to homebrewers (provided they bring back samples of the results to share what they learned). Ideally, the atmosphere will be conducive to comfortably approaching flavors and characteristics of beer and how they riff off the menu items, inspired by the French/Belgian "cuisine à la bière" with dashes of California comfort food. More on the menu tomorrow.

Opening April 20, 6-9 p.m.:

Social Kitchen & Brewery 1326 Ninth Ave. (at Irving), 681-0330

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Brian Yaeger


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