I was there when charcuterie ace-turned-brewmaster Rey Knight sold the first of his beers to the public at Ritual Tavern in 2011. I hardly knew what to expect. I knew the guy could fashion fantastic salumi, but knew nothing of his brewing experience which, as it turned out, was extensive. He’d been at it for some time and his initial brew, Mucho Aloha Hawaiian Pale Ale, displayed his early prowess, delivering juicy, hop fruitiness in a nicely balanced, refreshing package. I was instantly enamored and have since kept an eye on Knight.
In the past two years, he’s got his beers on at over 200 accounts. That and the many different types of beers he’s sold to those bars and restaurants have been well documented on his company’s website. Unfortunately, reading about those beers was about all I was able to do as it was rare that I stumbled upon one of those many accounts, and on the times that I did, only the aforementioned HPA or an imperial India pale ale called Double Shaka was on tap. But that all changed earlier this year when Knight took over the brewery and tasting room vacated when Manzanita Brewing Company moved to a larger facility. He’s since made the space his own and stocked the taps with a rotating line-up of the beers crafted under his pig diagram-adorned Butcher’s Brewing (9962 Prospect Avenue, Suite E, Santee) flag.
Gone are the Manzanita trees that were once painted on the tasting room’s walls. The interiors are now hop green with chalk art displaying animals (the type Knight is used to seeing as dissected sides hanging on hooks) lounging in traditional drinking environments. Other than that, the place is mostly the same, which is probably a good thing considering what a hot-spot this place was under its former tenant’s regime.
During a recent visit, Butcher’s was pouring four IPAs of varying strengths and varieties and a hoppy pale ale that’s not to be confused with the Mucho Aloha HPA. There was also a chocolaty breakfast stout and perhaps the lowest alcohol barleywine I’ve ever come across (just 8.8% ABV). But in the end, it was a simple, low octane cream ale—something of a rarity in San Diego—that really stood out. Knight uses Madagascar vanilla beans and toasted coconut to make Butcher’s Haupia Cream Ale.
The vanilla is present without being overbearing, and using unsweetened coconut keeps the beer from coming off as sugary. The abundance of oil brought on by the coconut lessens the amount of natural carbonation in the beer, but Knight serves it on Nitro, which negates that issue while enhancing the creamy mouthfeel of the beer. It’s a highly refreshing, easy-drinking beer that should provide plenty of much needed refreshment during hot summer months in East County.
Note: All photos by Tyler Graham.