By Vince Meehan
What do San Diego hotspots like Barely Mash, Carnitas Snack Shack, Princess Pub and URBN Pizza have in common? They all feature Saint Archer beer on their taps.
The Saint Archer Beer Co. has been a prominent brewer in the local craft beer scene since its birth in 2013. But like other San Diego breweries in the last year, Saint Archer has had to deal with bar shutdowns, which takes away a huge part of their revenue stream. And 2020 has also forced the brewers to be creative in order to survive in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has forced a lot of companies to pivot in order to survive. Staff reductions and updated operating procedures are the new normal in this turbulent time of restrictions. But Saint Archer is now reaching out to other local companies who have had to adapt to the lock-downs as well.
Greg Garrity is the head brewer of Saint Archer, and is also in charge of their Research and Development (R&D) department, which focuses on creating new and exciting recipes for avant garde beer projects. The R&D department acts as the “special forces” of Saint Archer Brewing Co. in a quest to keep the company on the tip of the spear in San Diego’s craft beer scene. The idea is to create new and exciting beer recipes utilizing unorthodox ingredients. But the R&D department has received new orders due to the Covid shutdowns. Their yearlong mission is to seek out small, local specialty companies impacted by the shutdowns and to collaborate with them for mutual benefit. The result of this partnership is a new line of creative and delicious small-batch beers with a personality all their own and uniquely local.
“I’ve been with Saint Archer coming up on four years now,” Garrity said. “I started in the cellar – cleaning tanks, cleaning pretty much everything – and worked my way up to a brewer eventually. After I brewed for a couple of years, I got the opportunity to become the Research and Development Brewer where I helped develop recipes like our Hazy IPA, Tropical IPA, IPA 99, Coffee Brown, and Saint Archer Gold. And just recently I got moved to head brewer, so now I’m running the pilot system and the production system as well.”
Garrity’s first collaboration beer is called Peaches & Cream Milkshake IPA, which is now available for sale at the two Saint Archer tasting rooms. “It’s a collaboration with Paru Tea Bar, a local tea company located in Point Loma,” added Garrity. He decided to visit the tea bar personally, and learn about tea in general as well as to see if there was a possibility of using their product in a recipe. “They told me about this Taiwanese Milk Oolong Tea and they said it was bursting with Stone Fruit taste with Butter Cream aromas, and that it’s almost like peaches and cream. And so that just clicked and I decided to do a Peaches & Cream IPA. It’s brewed with fresh peaches, lactose – which is dried milk sugar – and ten pounds of the Milk Oolong tea steeped in it.”
The IPA, which serves as a base for the beer, is hazy (unfiltered) and that in addition to the peaches and lactose give the collaboration beer a rich and creamy texture. Garrity is extremely pleased with his creation as he previously had little experience in brewing beer with tea. “I’ve seen other breweries work with tea, but this was actually my first time working with tea and beer,” Garrity stated. “I had tried to use it before on a small scale, and I did a jasmine tea but it just came out soapy a little bit. So I’ve kinda been thrown off by it, but there’s something different about Paru Tea, that tea is just amazing! That Milk Oolong was just so unique that I told myself I could definitely see this working in beer.”
Garrity’s R&D department has been tasked with doing one collaboration with a local company per month for the entirety of 2021. His next project is to work with a local bakery to create a unique beer which will be released in mid-March. “We’re collaborating with a local baker named Cathy de Leon who owns the I Love Banana Bread Bakery and were doing a peanut butter, banana, marshmallow and banana bread stout, alongside a raspberry Berliner Weiss. And when you mix the two together it becomes a peanut butter and jelly beer!”
In her own example of pivoting, de Leon describes herself as a “furloughed meeting and catering professional gone rogue,” and has given herself the new title of small batch baker/micro business owner. She now sells small batch craft dessert breads online.
That attitude is exactly what Garrity is hoping to foster with fellow businesses. “Essentially, we’re using the R&D series to collaborate with local companies that might be struggling or need business just as much as we do, right? Like, trying to help each other and provide that sense of community that we all need right now.”
The specialty beers are available to-go in limited edition 16 ounce can four-packs, and the Peaches & Cream Milk IPA comes with a half-ounce packet of the Milk Oolong, which produces four to six servings of tea. Garrity considers this collaboration a huge success and is looking forward to the future brews. “It was exactly what I hoped for in what we’re calling the Research and Development Series. I really wanted to take local businesses that do something outside of my expertise – outside of beer. I really wanted to take a back seat and learn something new. About baking, tea, art, wine or anything you know? And this one really did it for me.
“We also got to introduce our beer crowd to a tea company, and their tea company crowd to beer, so really bringing a sense of community during a time where this is not a whole lot of sense of community. That was my hope, my hope and dream – to introduce the two crowds to each other. And I think – brewing beer or making tea – we’re not like curing cancer or Covid or anything like that. But one thing we do offer as a place of business is a sense of normalcy and I think that’s something that people need right now.”
— Vince Meehan can be reached at email@example.com.