Santee’s Butcher’s Brewery re-brands as Finest Made Ales
Having carved out an impressive career as a chef, Rey Knight always had a vision for pairing good food and homemade beer, and he realized that vision in Santee.
His small business Butcher’s Brewery re-launched this month as Finest Made Ales, continuing to make quality craft beer, with the food element on the way.
“This was an evolution for me. I was a chef for 15 years before getting into the brewery business. But I always had a plan to pair food with beer,” Knight said.
Founded in 2013, Butcher’s expanded its output in recent years, moving from a nano brewery to a micro brewery, and building up a customer base to some 80 clients, mainly local restaurants and brew pubs.
The revamped brewery at 9962 Prospect Ave. now has five, 30-barrel tanks, and two 15-barrel ones, an increase from 10 seven barrel tanks. The new equipment allows Finest Made to increase its annual capacity from 1,400 barrels to 4,000 barrels. One barrel equals 31 gallons.
Besides increased manufacturing capacity, Finest Made also expanded and remodeled its 4,000 square foot tasting room, installing stylish, sleek tables and chairs inside a bright, white interior that features a high ceiling and de rigor exposed beams and air ducts. Knight said he and partner Jim Serbia invested about $500,000 into the remodel.
At the center of the expansion is a longer table—one that Knight calls a community table that can accommodate a dozen folks.
The concept is to hold catered meals from local restaurants where people could sit for a leisurely repast while enjoying some great brews, and hashing out issues of common concern.
It is a concept that Knight says comes from his heart and derived from his upbringing in Montana where all the major life decisions he and his family made were done around the dinner table and over a big meal.
“We would all sit down to dinner with Mom and Dad, and have a dinner that would last for hours, and talk about all the things that were important to us,” he said.
To introduce his new brewery and idea, Knight invited several guests to a carefully constructed four-course meal, with each course having a distinctive beer complementing gourmet dishes. The main course featured braised pork belly, golden beets and sorrel. The desert was vanilla bean panna cotta, with raspberries and rhubarb. Guests applauded after the last course was served.
While Knight says the details of the dining element have not been nailed down, he is more certain about how the new equipment will translate to a much better quality of beer. A new quality control lab features a Hepa filter (Knight says it is a first for a brewery of his size) that will keep the air sterile, and is a far more effective place to create new beer recipes.
The increased capacity will be necessary to accommodate Finest Made bottles that should roll off the line by the end of this year, he says. The retail outlets aren’t determined as yet, but will include local bottle shops and food stores.
Finest Ales re-launch is just a small part of changes happening on a regular basis throughout San Diego’s still-booming craft beer industry, particularly in East County. Just across Prospect Avenue, Manzanita Brewing shuttered its brewing operation in March, but retains a distillery that makes rye and flavored vodkas.
In El Cajon, Urbn St. Brewing Co. stopped making beer in February, but continues as a brewpub offering other brews and food. Pacific Islander Beer Co., also on Prospect Avenue in Santee, launched last year, and joins BNS Brewing & Distilling as Santee’s three breweries.
According to West Coaster, a monthly publication tracking the local beer scene, there are 128 active brew houses in the county as of August. That means a site that is brewing beer licensed by the state. The number includes multiple brewing locations for a single brand such as six for Karl Strauss Brewing, which is incidentally, considering opening a new brewery and tasting room in Santee.
Knight echoes what many other local brewers say, that there is still room to grow the expanding market of craft beer in San Diego, and more cooperation than competition among the brewers. But it’s also an industry that will inevitably have winners and losers.
“If you look at the craft beer industry, it’s attracting all kinds of people, some who are solely in it to make a profit, and some of whom are solely in it to make great craft beer, and there are a lot of people in between,” he said. “There’s certainly more collaboration than competition here but at the end of the day, when it comes to the market shelf, yes, there’s competition.”
Finest Made Ales can be found at 9962 Prospect Ave. in Santee. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. It is closed Sundays.