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Old beer finds new life in the spirit

Upcycling unsellable craft beer

ReBru's upcycled cocktails.
ReBru's upcycled cocktails.
Place

ReBru Spirit Co.

1735 National Avenue, San Diego

Wasting good beer is a serious faux pas. Leaving wounded soldiers stranded on the living room table after a party is bad enough, but what happens at a brewery when gallons upon gallons of craft beer are deemed undrinkable? The problem is thorny enough to inspire former Thorn Brewing employees Dennis O’Connor and Neil Lotz to found ReBru Spirits, which is in the process of finalizing a rum, a whiskey, and an absinthe for release. “It’s all excess craft beer, mostly from San Diego,” explains distiller Wili Fleming. “Essentially, the beer has gone stale, but the alcohol is still good, and that’s what we’re after. We are literally distilling the alcohol out of craft beer and turning it into spirits. This not only solves a problem for our oceans and waterways, but also saves local breweries a lot of money. Processing all that beer waste is expensive for the breweries, but ReBru saves them a lot of money by accepting thousands of gallons of beer and returning empty kegs to be reused.”

ReBru gives wasted beer new life.

ReBru whiskey is a collaboration with Baja Brewing; the spirit is aged in charred barrels to help it pick up whiffs of burnt caramel with a vanilla finish. The Rebooch White Rum is a collaboration with BoochCraft that distills multiple styles of hard kombucha to produce a funky concoction with notes of citrus, berries, and spice. And ReBru Absinthe is a powerful, 138-proof Swiss-style absinthe with an anise nose and finish that really opens up when ice water is added. The new spirits will soon join ReBru’s other products: its flagship gin and award-winning vodka.

Along with upcycling unsellable craft beer, ReBru is big on using botanicals to create unique flavors. Fleming explains, “Gin and absinthe are botanical spirits. Several herbs and spices are blended and added to our spirits at a very high proof in order to get a deep extraction of the essential oils. Our gin is a blend of 10 botanicals, mainly juniper berries, coriander, and citrus peel. Absinthe must have wormwood, anise, and fennel in order to be considered a true absinthe. Our main recipe for absinthe calls for six different botanicals.”

Waste not want not at ReBru.

The whiskey and absinthe are due for release soon, although Flaming can’t be specific on the date. “Everything takes longer than expected, so we’ve gotten good at practicing patience in order to get things done the right way.” For now, a tour provides tasters of the upcoming releases, and their available spirits can be found in cocktails at their Barrio Logan location, which also features a restaurant featuring items that employ the distillery’s spent grain, and a speakeasy where DJ Kimmy serves as resident DJ every Friday night.

In addition to distilling the spirits, Fleming is on hand on Sundays to help people wind down the weekend while enjoying the fruits of his labor. “Every Sunday afternoon is the Sunday Sip, where I play mellow folk music live from 1-3 pm — mostly old songs about moonshining and whiskey-related topics. It’s family- and dog-friendly, as well as the perfect way to nurse a hangover from Saturday night.”

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ReBru's upcycled cocktails.
ReBru's upcycled cocktails.
Place

ReBru Spirit Co.

1735 National Avenue, San Diego

Wasting good beer is a serious faux pas. Leaving wounded soldiers stranded on the living room table after a party is bad enough, but what happens at a brewery when gallons upon gallons of craft beer are deemed undrinkable? The problem is thorny enough to inspire former Thorn Brewing employees Dennis O’Connor and Neil Lotz to found ReBru Spirits, which is in the process of finalizing a rum, a whiskey, and an absinthe for release. “It’s all excess craft beer, mostly from San Diego,” explains distiller Wili Fleming. “Essentially, the beer has gone stale, but the alcohol is still good, and that’s what we’re after. We are literally distilling the alcohol out of craft beer and turning it into spirits. This not only solves a problem for our oceans and waterways, but also saves local breweries a lot of money. Processing all that beer waste is expensive for the breweries, but ReBru saves them a lot of money by accepting thousands of gallons of beer and returning empty kegs to be reused.”

ReBru gives wasted beer new life.

ReBru whiskey is a collaboration with Baja Brewing; the spirit is aged in charred barrels to help it pick up whiffs of burnt caramel with a vanilla finish. The Rebooch White Rum is a collaboration with BoochCraft that distills multiple styles of hard kombucha to produce a funky concoction with notes of citrus, berries, and spice. And ReBru Absinthe is a powerful, 138-proof Swiss-style absinthe with an anise nose and finish that really opens up when ice water is added. The new spirits will soon join ReBru’s other products: its flagship gin and award-winning vodka.

Along with upcycling unsellable craft beer, ReBru is big on using botanicals to create unique flavors. Fleming explains, “Gin and absinthe are botanical spirits. Several herbs and spices are blended and added to our spirits at a very high proof in order to get a deep extraction of the essential oils. Our gin is a blend of 10 botanicals, mainly juniper berries, coriander, and citrus peel. Absinthe must have wormwood, anise, and fennel in order to be considered a true absinthe. Our main recipe for absinthe calls for six different botanicals.”

Waste not want not at ReBru.

The whiskey and absinthe are due for release soon, although Flaming can’t be specific on the date. “Everything takes longer than expected, so we’ve gotten good at practicing patience in order to get things done the right way.” For now, a tour provides tasters of the upcoming releases, and their available spirits can be found in cocktails at their Barrio Logan location, which also features a restaurant featuring items that employ the distillery’s spent grain, and a speakeasy where DJ Kimmy serves as resident DJ every Friday night.

In addition to distilling the spirits, Fleming is on hand on Sundays to help people wind down the weekend while enjoying the fruits of his labor. “Every Sunday afternoon is the Sunday Sip, where I play mellow folk music live from 1-3 pm — mostly old songs about moonshining and whiskey-related topics. It’s family- and dog-friendly, as well as the perfect way to nurse a hangover from Saturday night.”

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