Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Peter B's Grows Up and Celebrates a Big Birthday
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann
Twenty years ago this month, Carmel Brewing Co. and the Monterey Doubletree Hotel—now Portola Hotel & Spa—joined forces and opened a 150-seat brewpub and restaurant to serve as a tasting room for the brewing company. Over the course of two decades, Peter B’s has expanded, earned accolades, collaborated with local food purveyors, earned even more accolades, and cemented itself as a pillar in the local craft beer scene.
For instance, every Wednesday, the brewpub hosts KRML’s live broadcast of Pub Talk featuring the Beer Geek, Chris Nelson, and the Girl Beer Geek, Merideth Canham-Nelson. Chris says of their broadcast, “This is a great opportunity to highlight Peter B’s and the greater beer community on the Monterey Peninsula. In my beer travels, I have seen how the pub, or public house, can be the soul and social center of a community. In a small way, I hope to recreate that feeling with this show.”
Next week, Peter B’s Brewpub turns twenty. And the team is celebrating by shaking things up with new brews and new dishes.
Some things won’t change, however. Home to eighteen high-definition televisions, Peter B’s will remain a favorite haunt for sports fans and beer enthusiasts alike. And the patio will continue to provide pet-lovers a comfortable place to lounge around cozy fire pits.
I recently sat down with head brewer Justin Rivard, executive chef Danny Abbruzzese, food and beverage director Brian Hein, and restaurant manager Sean Wall to hear what the next decade has in store.
While each one has vast experience in their fields, they are new as a team. They joined Peter B’s recently—with Chef Danny coming in three months ago and Justin moving to the area just two months ago. But they are already running smoothly and forging ahead to up Peter B’s game.
As Wall said, “The three most important things to me as the manager are the beer, the food, and the service. The beer? That’s Justin. The food? That’s Danny. And the service? That’s me.” He talked about the process of evolution and having to balance volume, quality, and diversity. “We want to make sure the local clientele can have all of their favorites, while making seasonal changes. And we have to appeal to tourists. It’s a push and a pull.”
Justin chimed in about making small tweaks, using Belly Up Blonde as an example, “I knew I had to keep the flagship beers, but I stripped down the recipe for the blonde, incorporated new hops, and spiced it up.” While it is a perceptible difference, it’s just as accessible and easy drinking. With a background in cognitive neuroscience, Justin credits his consistency to his scientific training. “Anyone can craft a good brew once. The trick is brewing it the same way over and over.”
After being part of a larger brewery in Michigan, Justin is excited to get back to the craft of small-batch brewing where he can incorporate local ingredients, support the community, and push the envelope. He talked about a smoked beer that he has planned. Smoked beer is a traditional German style, named for the process of drying the brewer’s malt over open flames in a kiln; the grains absorb the smokiness and impart that flavor to the beers brewed with them. Justin’s smoked beer will include local poison oak honey from the Honey Ladies in Los Gatos. The day we met, he was working on a sour beer and had just added a tropical IPA to the menu that was made with a glut of imperfect passionfruit.
“We like ugly fruit,” Chef Danny chuckled. With more than 160 pounds of imperfect peaches in the kitchen, he said, “I think imperfections equal beauty.” Danny spoke with pride about how local farmers will do a second harvest just for him. Because ugly fruit may have blemishes or not be perfectly round, they can’t be sold in most grocery stores. But they taste just as good and using those aesthetically challenged pieces increases a farm’s productivity and sustainability.
Aligned with Portola Hotel & Spa’s commitment to sustainability—they are Monterey’s first (and only) U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified hotel, after all—Peter B’s embraces the tenets of reducing, reusing, and recycling. They donate leftover spent mash to local farmers to use as feed for livestock. Some of the mash is also made into a signature dog biscuit available for the four-legged guests. The brewpub’s barrel room seats sixteen for private beer tastings and features a reclaimed wood table made from Randazzo Salvage wood.
Just as Justin is revamping the beer recipes, Chef Danny is putting his own spin on the food menu. He has added ceviche to the starters. His sweet potato tater tots are served with a curry aioli. And his Coke Farm Heirloom Tomato Salad elevates the traditional caprese with the addition of caper berries and pickled onions.
Danny talked about creating great food and I pressed him to define great food. He paused, then said, “Great food is about chasing memories. It invokes memories and creates new ones.”
His menu pays homage to some of his food memories and experiences. His Bamma Po’ Boy was created in honor of a po’ boy joint he once helmed in Alabama. Large shrimp are seasoned with traditional Bayou spices, breaded, fried, and served on a soft roll. Turning to Justin, I asked what he’d pair with the sandwich. He said the biscuity-quality of the Belly Up Blonde would complement the pillowy Bamma.
The new Peter B’s team is raising the sophistication of their offerings. We can look forward to collaborations on brewer’s dinners which will feature a themed menu of four courses paired with small-batch brews. They plan on incorporating more educational opportunities to engage the community. Justin is considering leading foraging treks to source wild ingredients for his beer. Those are more long-term projects.
But on the immediate horizon, on September 20 they are having a party. To celebrate Peter B’s 20th anniversary, guests will enjoy 20% off food all day long; bottles of Dancing Goat Russian Imperial Espresso Stout will be specially priced at $3; and 20 raffle prizes will be awarded throughout the day.