Martin Beaulieu: “I don’t want to brag, but clearly I know a thing or two about what’s going on in the mashing process, for example, which is biochemistry."
Quantum Brewing is going thorough a phase of uncertainty. The owners have changed, the beers are changing, and even the name is liable to change.
Martin Beaulieu became officially entangled with the two-year-old brewery last Friday (August 12), when he took full ownership of the Kearny Mesa locale. Holding a PhD in bio-chemistry, Beaulieu worked for 20 years as executive director of R&D at a number of biotech and pharma labs throughout San Diego and Quebec. He’s been homebrewing for just as long, so when the thrill of management wore off, a 45-year-old Beaulieu tapped back into his creative side and bought a brewery as an early retirement plan.
5375 Kearny Villa Road, San Diego
“This is Quantum Brewing,” Beaulieu says in a pronounced French Canadian accent. “It’s funny because the science won’t leave me alone.”
I chanced upon the brewery on a recent afternoon while killing time before traffic court. I’d spotted their signage across the street and jumped at the opportunity to get familiar with Clairemont Mesa Boulevard’s ever-expanding beer scene. Inside, Beaulieu seemed at home in his new role as bartender, conversing enthusiastically with patrons as he pulled pints.
Quantum was originally named for it’s small-batch production, but the place has taken on a Reuben H. Fleet Space Center vibe over the years. It’s as if Doctor Emmett Brown opened a bar with equations scribbled on a giant chalkboard along one wall and portraits of famous inventors dotting the other. Beaulieu says he plans to make the tasting room more comfortable by adding couches and backed-chairs, hanging a projector and screen for scientific presentations, and installing a friend’s art on the walls.
The 1800-square-foot purchase included Quantum’s brewing equipment, and Martin is in the process of adapting his homebrewing formula to Quantum’s one-barrel (31-gallon) nano-system, saying: “The great thing about a small system is the intimacy with the production process. I plan to trade it for a larger system sometime next year. But not too large.”
The system also came with recipes, most of which failed to stand up under critical scrutiny during Quantum Brewing’s original tenure. Beaulieu plans to modify a handful of Quantum’s thematically named brews such as Planck’s Peppers (7.53%, 18.81IBU — a smoky habanero pale ale and popular growler pick that is gentle on the palette but leaves lips tingling), Hadron Collider (5.18%, 10.65IBU — a banana-forward Bavarian wheat), Solar Flare (5.16%, 10.65IBU — Hadron with blood orange infusion, resulting in a pink, fruity, and thoroughly refreshing drink), and Chain Reaction (4.86%, 38.21IBU — a smooth yet mildly puckering session IPA).
“Uncertainty Red, well, I’m uncertain about it,” Beaulieu says. “It’s too smoky in my taste and I hear that a lot, that there’s a burned taste. But I know what the problem is. I’m going to fix it. As a biochemist I saw it right away. So the beer is going to get better.”
As for Beaulieu’s new additions?
“Well, my wife’s favorite is the chocolate stout with just the right amount of good oatmeal chocolate malt. You can really smell and taste the dark chocolate flavor.”
Martin’s wife, whose résumé includes work on the Human Genome Project, was instrumental in Martin’s decision to buy the brewery. For his birthday in March, she gave him the California Brewmasters coffee table book, pushing him toward his current position. In addition to her favorite beer, he plan’s to make homage to home by replacing the Singularity Stout with an East Coast–style stout and, down the line, a lager.
When I suggest that his field of expertise makes him the ideal brewer, he replies: “I don’t want to brag, but clearly I know a thing or two about what’s going on in the mashing process, for example, which is biochemistry. People say brewing is microbiology, no. Microbiology starts and ends when you choose a yeast and you put it at the right temperature. That’s it. It’s very important, but it’s not rocket science. And we have good help with White Labs. They make great yeast, so we don’t have to worry about that. But with biochemistry you get to know what’s happening. For example, if you don’t cool down your wort fast enough, you’re going to get a lot of DME left. So some beers have a corn-like taste. Now, you don’t perceive that so much in a strong IPA or a strong stout. That’s probably why a lot of people stick with ales. They’re easier to make. A nice lager, if you made that mistake, you’re going to taste it. I think that’s why there aren’t so many lagers around. So, I want to invest in a lagering system and reintroduce lagers, maybe next year when things are coming together.”
Beaulieu will be announcing his grand opening in a few months when the beers are "not just good, but great." In the meantime, pay him a visit to see how he’s fluxing Quantum’s recipes in his own direction, one reaction at a time.