[Note added March 2018: Finest Made is no more. They ceased operations a few months ago and put their system and location up for auction. Council Brewing was the buyer, and they will open their second location in the former FInest Made Ales location by summer 2018.]
Finest Made Ales has one of the best names and brands I’ve seen in craft beer. I love it. They could easily take it national, in my opinion. On top of that, the beer is very good, so I really wish they would take it national.
I made my way out to Santee on a Monday afternoon, pleased to find that (a) there are breweries like Finest Made that open on Mondays and (b) that there are breweries like Finest Made that open at 2pm rather than later. Tip of the hat for both these things. Hopefully more breweries will do this. Day drinkers would thank them with business, I know. (I actually just saw a tweet announcing that Burgeon Beer is now open on Mondays, too–although not until 4pm.)
About a year and a half ago, the name of this brewery was changed from Butcher’s Brewing. Apparently, they felt the old name put them in too narrow a category. And they used to get both requests for meat and flak from vegetarians. Easier to just avoid the whole issue and focus on the beer!
The tap room, expanded in a recent renovation, has a lot of space with small and large tables, and a small bar off to the side of where you go to order. There’s a display case that was probably designed for meats or pastries next to the cash, too, and it contains t-shirts and other merchandise for sale. (I don’t really understand why, but I thought that was very clever and funny.)
Beers on regular rotation get a number assigned to them–low for IPAs, high for darker things. Its another good graphic element in the design of the place, and you can imagine an ad campaign along the lines of, “Finest Made Ales–What’s your number?” They have a large production brewery (10 barrel, if I remember correctly, with larger fermenters) and they supply kegs to local bars as well as large bottles of a couple of their most popular brews for liquor stores. There are some as-yet-nonspecific plans for canning in the future. (Nearby BNS has a canning line and labeler.)
My bartender was a very nice guy who spent a lot of time chatting with me about the brewery and the San Diego craft beer scene. (To be fair, he didn’t have a lot of choice since I was the only customer in the place on a Monday at 2pm.) In the end I tried seven of the 12 beers on tap, but since I was chatting I didn’t remember to rate them all on Untappd.
22 Hoppy Pilsner (6% ABV). I normally don’t enjoy pilsners, but this one drinks like an IPA. It has the “round” mouthfeel and a slight sweetness of a pils, but with an added hoppy kick. Clean, drinkable. 3.25/5
19 Blood Orange IPA (7% ABV). Wow, this is super. No wonder it is their most popular offering. Full, thick and smooth mouthfeel; lots of orange flavor (but none of the bitterness I associate with blood orange); a pleasant hoppy finish that perfectly completes the whole. They need to get this beer into competitions. 4.25/5
08 Hazy IPA (6% ABV). Fruity, sweet, background funky/earthy, nicely full flavor. For some reason, though, there was no haze at all at this point in the keg. 3.75/5
12 Rye India Pale Ale (7% ABV). The Citra hops make a nice complement to the rye. I’d be happy to drink this any time. It reminds me of Mike Hess Habitus. 3.5/5
31 Imperial Red Ale (8.25% ABV). Another “wow” moment. Interesting and delicious, with a spicy kick. This one definitely deserves its gold medal from the 2016 San Diego International Beer Competition. 4.25/5
With such good beers and a great brand, it can only be a matter of time before Finest Made Ales becomes a household name. Visit them now so you can say, “I was a fan before they made it big.”
http://www.finestmade.com/ 9962 Prospect Ave, Santee, CA 92071