The Sample Sacramento series is written by BJCP Judge Mike Ungerbuhler. Mike has given himself the task to visit all of the breweries in the Sacramento area and provide a review of both the beer as well as the atmosphere. He will sample what he feels are a good representation of the brewery and give you his tasting notes. His intent is to continue this series until he has covered all of the local breweries; as that list continues to grow, he will be busy for quite a while. Join Mike as he Samples Sacramento
July 25, 2015
I struck the hop mother lode with my second Gold Country brewery visit at Knee Deep Brewing Company. The brewery’s owner, Jeremy Warren, was gracious enough to grab a seat with me on the patio and tell the story of Knee Deep.
Jeremy was inspired by his father’s love of craft beer and a gift of a homebrew kit from his wife. He developed a passion for homebrewing while still in college. Shortly after landing a corporate job, he facilitated beer Fridays where he’d bring in homebrew and/or other craft beers to share with his coworkers on Friday afternoons. Times got rough in the corporate world and Warren was offered a severance package. The VP of the corporation was flown out to deliver the news and told him that he should follow his passion for beer. Seeing the lay-off as an opportunity, he came home with good news and better news. The good news being that he was let go and the better news being that he was going to start a brewery. His love for hoppy beers and his dedication to the craft is how he became the Hoptologist. Fast forward to present day and Warren and his fiancé created Bride of Hoptologist as a beer for their wedding. I have not yet had the opportunity to try said beer, though I am sure that it will be delicious.
Three Months after being laid off of work, Warren started Knee Deep Brewing Company in his Reno garage in June of 2010. Demand for Knee Deep beers grew quickly in the northern Nevada area and it became necessary to find more brewing capacity. He walked into Mt. Tallac Brewing Company wearing a Sierra Nevada shirt and when he asked if he could brew his beers on their system, the owner agreed assuming that Warren was with Sierra Nevada. At that point Warren had not brewed a single batch on a commercial system and watched the brewmaster brew two batches prior to taking the leap. It was not long until the owner found out that Warren was not with Sierra Nevada but allowed him to continue brewing there because he thought that what Warren did was ballsy. Capacity restraints again forced the necessity of growth. Warren found a business partner in Jerry Moore and together, they leased half of the former Beermanns Brewery in Lincoln, CA. In May of 2011, Knee Deep brewed its first batch at their new facility. Brewing continued seven days a week in that tiny space. They outgrew that space and built the new location in Auburn which opened in September of 2014. Plans are being made now to expand in that location by taking over the adjoining space. Knee Deep’s dog friendly taproom and patio are open 7 days a week from 12 to 8 Sun-Tues and 12 to 9 Weds-Sat.
It is not hard to miss Knee Deep with its large grain silo sitting next to the roll up door and patio. Walking into the brewery, one follows a huge mural that leads to the brewhouse at the back of the ginormous space. The tasting area sits just to the right of the roll up door and is larger than the former location in Lincoln. There is plenty of seating, with picnic tables spread about and two corn-hole set ups. Most days, one can find food trucks out by silo, but please keep your beer on the patio or in the taproom when ordering food.
This was my third visit, but the first time with a pen and a pad. I love IPAs and was anticipating a hop heavy flight. I was pleasantly surprised by the newer variety on the board. After being given a tour by the Hoptologist himself, I got down to sampling and note taking.
Wet Witte – Knee Deep’s version of a Belgian White is, not surprisingly, hop forward. Citrus notes fade to crackery malt character with a faint pepper quality rounding out the aroma. Wet Wittee is a slightly hazy straw with a thin and bright white head. The light body is smooth with an effervescence that aids in its refreshing qualities.
Breaking Bud – One of many IPAs available at Knee Deep, Breaking Bud is by far the dankest. I try to stay clear of using dank as adjective in beer, but it truly fits in this instance. Grapefruit aromas rolled with the dank and slightly bready aromas create an enticing bouquet. It is clear, light amber with a thin lid of fine white bubbles. The flavors are reminiscent of toking up and munching on grapefruit candy and wheat bread. Breaking Bud has a medium body and moderately high carbonation that leaves one craving more.
Spring Sipper – This double IPA has aromas of citrus blossoms, caramel and bread crust; delicious. This brightly clear amber elixir has a thin ring of off-white bubbles that clung to the sample glass. Flavors of peach and citrus rind graced the slight caramel and bread crust noted in the aroma. Spring Sipper has a medium body paired with a moderate carbonation that makes for a satiating beverage.
Dark Horse – Honestly, I was surprised to find a beer like this on the board at Knee Deep. The aromas remind me of breakfast and desert simultaneously. Dark chocolate, toast, plum, coffee and black cherry all coalesce with rich coffee. It is a deep brown with a beige head that quickly faded to a ring at the top of the brew and was reminiscent of a rich cup of coffee. The flavors follow the nose with the addition of tobacco and practically beg to be paired with ice cream (I will indulge). This is a desert /breakfast unto itself. The full body and moderate carbonation leave one feeling quite satisfied.
Knee Deep is unapologetic about being aggressively hoppy. Jeremy Warren’s love of hops and of finding great combinations of hop character is what has made Knee Deep such a successful brewery. Change and growth have been a constant for Knee Deep and a huge change is coming. As of August 3rd, Jeremy Warren is resigning from the company. He can’t yet say what his next adventure will be, though I am certain that he will take his ballsy, can do attitude to even greater heights.