Kushal Hall grew up in the SoCal college town of Claremont and fell hard for home brew before heading north to the land of (brewpub) plenty. Three years ago, he utilized Craigslist to catch on at Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, a San Francisco brewery that’s been “legit since 1997.” Since then, Hall has risen to the rank of lead brewer. During my visit to Speakeasy, it was Firkin Friday, but there were no casks in sight. Instead, we found draught beers like Double Daddy double IPA and The Don, their just released triple IPA. Before Hall led a recent brewery tour, he shared more insights about his brewing background and approach.
How did you end up at Speakeasy?
I started homebrewing with my dad after college and decided I liked brewing, so I came up to the Bay Area – there are a lot of breweries up here – and got a job on Craigslist on the bottling line. I just kind of worked my way up through the company and they trained me here.
How did you become so interested in beer?
It started near the end of college. I was more of a whiskey and wine guy, because I hated Coors Light and the stuff you’d find at a kegger. I went on a trip with my grandma and my brother to Alaska and my brother ordered me a black and tan. That was sort of the first beer with flavor that I ever had and it kind of got me really interested in beer. Then after college I moved home for awhile because my art degree didn’t make me much money. My dad used to homebrew a lot, but moved out of state, so we started homebrewing. I was drinking and got into stouts and dark beers first, then IPAs, Belgians and sours, and got really passionate about beer.
What was the first beer you homebrewed?
It was an Imperial stout, or an almost Imperial stout. We called it Baronial Stote. That was good. In hindsight it probably wasn’t that great, but we thought it was fucking excellent at the time. That got me really interested in it. We brewed a few of those. A lot of English-style ESBs, and then we tried our hands at a few lagers, but those were kind of iffy because we didn’t have good temperature control. It took me awhile to get into IPAs. I never really home brewed a good one back then. I sort of learned how to brew IPAs here, but it was mostly dark beers.
Tell me about The Don.
That was originally brewed as the 10-year anniversary beer for Johnny Bazala, who is our warehouse guy here, and the longest employee here other than the owner. We already made The Godfather barleywine. The owner’s sort of the Godfather. Johnny Balls is The Don, so this is for him. He’s a big hop head. We made the hoppiest beer we’ve ever made before.
What’s your nickname?
I don’t have one that they call me to my face.
What do you think differentiates Speakeasy beer from other breweries?
Aside from our specialties and seasonals, we want all our standard beers to be clean, drinkable beers, something you can have with food. That’s one aspect of it. Our IPA, which is our flagship beer right now, about 50% of our sales, Big Daddy, has a lot of hop flavor. About 90% of the hops are in the whirlpool in the dry-hop, and it has enough bitterness to be balanced, but it doesn’t come across as really bitter. That’s something that we strive for in the beers, to make them very balanced, drinkable, sessionable beers with a lot of flavor.
What’s the most recent beer that you brewed, and what was your approach with it?
November 24, 2010 at 5:48 PM
this is wonderful; hope i will be able to taste some of your brews soon love
Thomas Labs Brewer
November 19, 2010 at 3:19 PM
[…] Food GPS » Q&A with lead brewer Kushal Hall (Speakeasy Ales & Lagers) Since then, Hall has risen to the rank of lead brewer During my visit to Speakeasy, it was Firkin Friday, but there were no casks in sight. Instead, we found draught beers like Double Daddy double IPA and The Don, their just released . […]
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