Kevin Clark was born in Orange County, but has spent the past 14 years in Monterey. He attended Cal State University, Monterey Bay, and later got hooked on homebrew. Clark took brewing correspondence courses through Chicago’s beer-intensive Siebel Institute of Technology to bolster his knowledge. He initially accepted the #2 role with Peter B’s Brewpub. The city’s only craft brewery resides on the bay-side of downtown’s Portola Hotel & Spa and refers to hotel owner Peter Bidstrup. In 2010, Clark took control of Peter B’s seven-barrel brewhouse. He immediately started diversifying the beer program, which now includes barrel aging and cask ales. On February 25, we met Clark at Peter B’s Brewpub, and he shared several hop-fueled insights.
At what point did you know that you’d work with beer professionally?
I think every homebrewer knows that they want to, or that it’s initially a desire. You brew your first homebrew and then you’re sucked in. I started homebrewing quite a bit and fell in love with the array of beverages you can create. I wanted to make a job out of it.
What was your very first homebrew and how did it turn out?
My very first homebrew was a red ale, and it was a lot of work. You brew your first homebrew and you don’t have anyone showing you, well, “Do this and don’t do this.” You’re trying to teach yourself, look at the book the whole time, “Okay, how have I got to do this?” It was a really ridiculously long day. The red ale, I believe it turned out quite nice, but it was just over it and I wanted to brew something else all of a sudden. I remember the carbonation was nice, the flavor was good, but I think there were some things I’d like to change. I think every brewer has some things they’d like to change about their beer.
Is there anybody who mentored you along the way?
Not until I started getting into a professional brewing setting and that would be Peter Licht. He’s with Tied House and Hermitage Brewing Company out of San Jose and he would be my mentor, definitely.
What was it that he taught you that proved to be so valuable?
Everything. When I started here, I was working under the previous brewer. He moved on rather quickly, so I ended up taking over the brewer and there were a lot of questions I had, going from homebrewing and Siebel Institute, then an actual brewery, there were many questions I had. So Peter was definitely there to help, make it down several times to brew with me and help me out. That’s what so wonderful about the brewing community, as long as one brewery’s succeeding, everyone’s succeeding. Definitely a cool guy.
Do you have a very first beer memory, good or bad?
First beer memory, I don’t know how old I was, but I remember it was a really nice, sunny day, and my mom and my step dad were out of the porch drinking – I remember vividly it was Corona, and they had the lime in the neck – it just looked so refreshing. I remember seeing that beautiful color, that pale malt, and I had no idea what it was. I remember my mother gave me a taste of it, and I didn’t like it. Whether that was my palate at the time, not enjoying that beer, I don’t think any beer would have been good to me at that point, but I think that’s my first memory of beer.
What’s a Peter B’s beer? Has that changed since you took over?
That has changed a lot since I’ve been here. At Peter B’s, we’re still experimenting a lot. The brewpub has lacked enthusiasm for quite awhile. They were brewing with German lager yeast before I got here, so it was more or less a steam beer style, lager yeast strains at ale temperatures. It was interesting, but a lot of the beers ended up tasting quite similar. What goes into Peter B’s beer is a lot of love and as many different – I like bringing in fun yeast strains – I have some Belgians and love working with Belgian yeast strains. I brought in an ale yeast. I love hops too, so my beers tend to be a little kissing the hoppy side. Some people don’t like that so much, but I do. I have to balance that out and learn as a brewer, to have a really nice, well balanced set of beers. That’s what I strive for.
What’s the most recent beer that you brewed, and what was your approach and inspiration?
I brewed that Pale Ale that’s in the fermenter. That’s the first time I brewed that pale, and the inspiration behind that beer was minimalist. It’s all 2 Row barley. There’s no crystal, no Munich, nothing in that pale. That’s the Belgian blonde. I used a whole cone hops. I used the hopbaack, so trying to get a lot more aroma out of those Cascade hops. And I dry hopped it two times, so the aroma, I’m really trying to bring out this huge floral bomb, and I’m really allowing that grain to be just the 2 Row, and the hops be whatever it wants to be with flavor and aroma as well. I’m really excited. It’s coming out quite nice.
This rye is really a lot of fun. I brewed it with a Kolsch yeast strain. I’ve been finding a lot of brewers doing rye IPAs. Sierra Nevada did a rye IPA, a lot of bitterness, and it kind of overpowers some of that rye, but I did it with a Kolsch yeast strain and hopping was minimal, so allowing that rye to stand out, it’s fun. Definitely people hate it or love it, like with rye breads.
How do you go about naming your beers?
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