Founder Rey Knight talks meat and beer, and what he’s carving up at San Diego’s Butcher’s Brewing.
If you’re a self-respecting carnivore, it’s pretty much impossible not to feel hunger pangs as Rey Knight delves into his work history. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Knight relocated to southern France, where
he worked under a couple Michelin-starred chefs before hopping the border into Italy to apprentice with a traveling butcher. It was there, while providing custom slaughter services, that Knight fell in love with cured meats, a passion he’d take back to the States to work at
venues like San Diego’s The Linkery before opening his own Knight Salumi Co. in 2009.
“I homebrewed, but never on an educated, professional level,” notes Knight. “But it was in the process of making cured meats that I started experimenting with beer bacteria.” While sourcing bacteria for salami curing (certain bacteria’s lactic acid adds flavor and prevents bad bacteria from developing), Knight met Chris White, founder of the beer yeast and fermentation consultant company White Labs, which helped Knight develop his own custom bacteria blend for curing. In late 2010, Knight closed his salami company and turned his attention to brewing full time, the following year opening Butcher’s Brewing and guest-brewing his beers at Bayhawk Ales.
Knight carves Butcher’s lineup into two lines, the most widely known being Hawaiian-themed Mucho Aloha, which includes a pale ale and a Belgian-style imperial IPA. But it’s the “hyper-local” line, as Knight calls it, where the legacy of that traveling Italian butchery emerges. The first of six beers inspired by the USDA grading system launched this spring: Free Range IPA will be followed by Prime Imperial IPA, Choice Red IPA and other “cuts” before the year’s out.
Free Range IPA: “This is the first release in our Butcher’s line. It’s brewed with New Zealand’s Nelson Sauvin hops and comes in at 7% ABV. It’s pretty dry and bitter because it’s got 5½ pounds of hops per barrel.”
Mucho Aloha HPA: “We wanted an after-surf beer that we could kick back with. It has a tropical floral nose with muted Belgian yeast phenols, a light crisp, clean body—very sessionable—with subtle hop bitterness in the finish.”
Bengali Tiger: “It’s piney, with a bit of white pepper on the nose and a heavier body filled with sweet malty notes, accents of tobacco and leather, and a sweet finish softening the [higher alcohol] heat.”
PAIRS WITH PIG: When searching for the best IPA to pair with pork, Knight considers three things: effervescence, flavor strength and bitterness. Here, his three favorite pairings.
IPA and pulled pork: Knight likes to add crushed pineapple to his pulled pork; the fruit connects with the tropical notes of a New Zealand-hopped IPA.
Imperial IPA and ham: Knight’s tip: Spend the extra scratch on an 18-month-aged, salt-cured ham. The salty, buttery-sweet meat plays well with nuttier imperial IPAs; the beer’s hop bitterness washes it all down.
Belgian-style IPA and kahlua pig: Knight’s a fan of tender, salty pork roasted the slow, old-fashioned way; a Belgian IPA kicks up each bite with banana and bright citrus notes.