Blondes on Beers
If there's one thing Ketch head brewer Sam Billheimer would like to hit home, it's that a flavorful, enjoyable beer doesn't have to be over the head with alcohol. Billheimer helms Ketch Brewing and its sister restaurant, Ketch Grill & Taps, in Point Loma.
"Once you have one of our beers, you want to have another one, and you can!" he said. "We have a lot of lighter, drier, crisper beers that compliment food, and our food works well with our beers. I love light, sessionable beers and classic European styles like Kolsch and Vienna Lagers, and German and Czech-style pilsners. I think we'll see more and more of these styles in the next few years."
As part of the Brigantine and Miguel's family of restaurants, Ketch brewing began with the "Brig Brew," the flagship Brigantine beer made with another brewer. However, soon afterward, the restaurants wanted to make their own. The beers are brewed at a location in Kearny Mesa.
Right now, Ketch has four core beers — Brig Brew, a hop-forward extra pale ale; the Alta Mar Vienna Lager, a light and dry lager with a toasty malt character (house beer for Miguel's restaurants); the Ketch Kolsch, a German-style ale with more malt than hops (house beer for Ketch Grill & Taps); and the Celestial Navigation IPA, a fruit-forward, easy-drinking West Coast-style brew.
There are also seasonal beers, which at the moment are the Dr. Billheimer's Magic Pilsner and the Day Cruise Extra Pale Ale.
"I'd eventually like to have the four, core beers year round, and two or three seasonal that rotate," Billheimer said, adding he plans to brew at least a Double IPA at Ketch in the near future.
Billheimer pointed out that the name of the seasonal Pilsner is a nod to a recent accomplishment — his Ph.D. from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "We wanted to take advantage of the 'Dr.' title," Billheimer laughed. While earning his doctorate, Billheimer said he began brewing at home "for fun" .... "actually it was to save money on beer."
As his interest grew, and to enhance his skills, he enrolled in UC San Diego Extension's professional brewing certification program. "Gradually, I got more interested in the commercial side of brewing," he explained. "I ended up finishing my Ph.D. in Oceanography and then I went into brewing full time after that. I was at Mike Hess for a while, I did an internship at Benchmark brewing, and worked as a brewer at Fall Brewing before coming here."
Now, he's responsible for the production of beers at Ketch, and is slowly integrating his brews into bars and tap rooms outside the family of restaurants.
Impressions of the venue
Crystal: Different from other breweries and tasting rooms we've visited in OB/Point Loma, Ketch has a distinct restaurant quality. The venue is large with a great view of the marina. The decor and vibe are upscale and modern.
Ashley: The Shelter Island-area restaurant is a little dark, unless you're sitting right on the patio or next to the window. But the view is really nice — seems like a good place to bring people from out of town.
Impressions of the beer
(Note: We each had the same flight of five.)
Crystal: Ketch Kolsch: Very filling. Your typical beer flavors are the main players: malt and yeast, giving it a nice, bready taste with an earthy, haylike aroma.
Dr. Billheimer's Magic Pilsner: Lighter in taste and body than the Kolsch, but the Pilsner was just as bready. I noticed a sweetness in the flavor and subtle fruit notes.
Day Cruise Extra Pale Ale: The extra pale ale is my favorite offering from Ketch Brewing. It smells and tastes like a West Coast-style IPA with lots of tropical fruit and hops minus the high alcohol content. It's dry hopped, medium-bodied and minimally bitter. Two thumbs up.
Celestial Navigation IPA: It has some body to it, but remains effervescent until the end. The flavor profile includes hops, citrus fruits, pine and resin. It's sweet and fruity, yet packed with bitter hops flavor.
Alta Mar Vienna Lager: I love Vienna lagers and Ketch's recipe is true to style. It's sweet like honey and molasses with a strong malt flavor.
Ashley: Ketch Kolsch: This has almost no hop-quality to it, which makes for a really clean finish. Kolsch beers aren't really my thing, but this one feels very true-to-style. If you enjoy Kolschs, this might be the one to try.
Dr. Billheimer's Magic Pilsner: Has a nice honey smell to it, and follows through with a nice, slightly sweet taste, but nothing too strong or anything that lingers. It's slightly fruity and really light, but flavorful.
Day Cruise Extra Pale Ale: This has a strong tropical fruit aroma (perhaps a pineapple or mango quality?) and a nice body. It has a little bitterness in the back, but nothing too aggressive. It's also dry-hopped to bring a nice complexity. I could easily have a few of these!
Celestial Navigation IPA: Less bitter than some of the other IPAs in the area (but more hop flavor than anything we've had thus far), this one has a lot more bitter agents like perhaps pine or resin mixed with fruit notes. Ketch offers IPAs from other local breweries, so it has some stiff competition.
Alta Mar Vienna Lager: This beer has a nice clean, crisp smell, with a slightly toasty quality without being too bitter or too sweet, and a lot of malt. It has a light caramel quality without being creamy. Our beer-tender compared this to a Modelo Negra, and I could definitely see that. I'm glad these are making a comeback.
—Next month, Blondes on Beers visit Two Roots in Ocean Beach.
Ketch Grill & Taps by the numbers
• No. of taps: 5 house, 13 guest
• Hours: Mon-Fri 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Sat-Sun 7:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.
• Happy Hour: Daily from 3 p.m. - 5 p.m.
• Address: 2614 Shelter Island Dr., Point Loma
• Contact: (619) 814-8080; ketchgrillandtaps.com