Greg Peters, 39, is director of brewing and barreling programs at Saint Archer Brewery in San Diego.
Upon joining the Miramar-based brewery in 2014, he launched Tusk & Grain. This series of barrel-aged Saint Archer beers soars on offbeat ingredients and reckless amounts of alcohol.
These extreme beers seemed a perfect fit for the extreme athletes - skateboarders, snowboarders, surfers - who acted as Saint Archer’s “brand ambassadors.” In fact, Peters often samples these brews with pro surfer Taylor Knox.
Still, like many brewers, Peters is not entirely comfortable with the “extreme beer” label.
PACIFIC: What’s an extreme beer?
GREG PETERS: That’s not really a term that I use very often. But when people think of extreme beers, usually they are beers with extremely high alcohol or a ton of adjuncts.
Don’t many beer drinkers turn up their noses when you say “adjuncts”?
It’s definitely considered a dirty word, unless you work in a brewery. Then you understand what “adjuncts” means - it’s any ingredient other than the four primary ingredients in beer: water, malt, yeast and hops.
So, crazy ingredients plus a ton of booze equals an extreme beer?
No. You want to achieve intense aromas and flavors and have them still be pleasant. You can take any beer and pump it full of peanut butter and cherry extract, say. But that’s not what we are trying to do.
OK, then let’s talk about your Tusk & Grain beers. These all spend months or years in barrels, right?
Yes. Maybe aging beer in barrels for two years isn’t “extreme” - you just have to sit on it. But the wood pulls out different flavors.
Tell me about the Tusk & Grain Wee Heavy you released this spring.
The Wee Heavy was aged in bourbon barrels, with roasted hazelnuts and cacao nibs from Nibble, a chocolate company in Sorrento Valley.
Why those ingredients?
You can already taste some nuts and chocolate in a wee heavy beer. You’re just trying to intensify those flavors.
Why use bourbon barrels?
I like spirits in general, and tequila and bourbon in particular. Knowing what you like, there’s an aroma and a flavor that you are going after.
How did you learn this craft?
I spent four years in the barrel program at The Lost Abbey in San Marcos - filling, racking, doing everything that was barrel-related.
What did this teach you?
They are always pretty high on the list of breweries that make barrel-aged beer. They strike out sometimes and they hit home runs sometimes, but they are never afraid. And that’s commendable.