I say not quite San Diego brewed because Butcher’s Brewing is currently contract brewing their beers at other locations (including Irvine’s Bayhawk) while they are working towards opening their own brewery in Carlsbad.
Butcher’s Brewing is the brainchild of Rey Knight, formerly of Knight Salumi Co. I talked to Knight at Bottlecraft a few weeks ago for the Free Range IPA release and one thing that stood out was the fact that he wasn’t shy about the beer being contract brewed for now. In my opinion there’s nothing inherently wrong about contract brewed beers, it’s when companies try to hide the fact that their beer is contract brewed that bothers me. Knight told me where the beer was made (they use two different facilities) and told me about his plans to open their own brewery here in San Diego County.
Free Range IPA isn’t a perfect beer, but it’s a great start from such a young brewery. The 7% ABV beer is hoppy with that sweet tropical fruit smell and flavor of Nelon Sauvin hops. Free Range IPA also uses Summit hops, which some people perceive as smelling and tasting like garlic or onions, but I don’t get any of that from this beer. It’s hoppy, but not a total hop bomb, there’s a bit of toasty malt, not overly sweet but it’s there. I prefer a more dry, totally hop forward, hop bomb of an IPA, which this isn’t, but it’s not bad and isn’t a bad start.
Free Range IPA is worth trying, but it may be hard for them to compete in such a crowded market. I paid $8.59 for this 22oz bottle at Bine and Vine, which is around the same price (or even more expensive) than other tried and true IPAs and Double IPAs like Alpine’s Nelson, Ballast Point’s Sculpin or Port Brewing’s Mongo. (This problem of pricing isn’t unique to Butcher’s Brewing, it’s a problem many new breweries face). This is one style of beer where Butcher’s will have plenty of competition, but this isn’t a bad start. Free Range IPA might not be my favorite IPA, but I’ll certainly drink it again.