Most people’s familiarity with ChuckAlek Independent Brewers started and stopped with its married-couple owners. Their amour for historical styles made for great contributions to the local scene, but it inadvertently relegated the company’s head brewer, Samantha Olson, to the shadows of beer hype land, even though she also managed the tasting room, purchasing, distribution and coordination of special events. Since ChuckAlek’s closure over the summer, Olson has moved on to head brewing at Fourpenny House, a Scottish-themed brewpub in La Mesa. It’s apt she finds herself at a Scottish-themed brewpub, given a trip to the UK that included a life-altering visit to BrewDog’s Ellon brewery inspired her to leave a career as an engineer doing research and development work for agricultural products so she could travel across the country to attend UC San Diego and Davis with intentions to enter the brewing industry. The rest is a history leading to her future, and it’s a future that goes beyond beer. Read on.
What made Fourpenny House the right opportunity for you?
Honestly, I love going to a great brewpub. In my mind, there is nothing better than knowing that the whole experience is created in-house by everyone who is working hard under this one roof. Putting together an exceptional dining experience is no easy task, but I know that Fourpenny is up to the challenge. The other two things that made this the right opportunity for me are my knowledge obtained from the UC Davis Master Brewers Program and my experience from being head brewer at ChuckAlek. These have allowed me to hit the ground running, and I’ll be putting out some really fun new beers during the month of November and onward.
Fun new brews…do tell?
I currently have a 7% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) cranberry IPA called Bog Fairy in the tanks, along with Flemish Invader, a 10.4% Belgian quad with jaggery (Southeast Asian cane sugar). Coming up next are a 5% ABV pilsner with balsam pine needles called Boun, a 4.5% seasonally-fruited Gose called Revolution Von Sauer, and a 6.5% traditional dry apple cider called Sèider. Other than that, we’ll see what sparks our interests.
What are you most excited about with your new position?
I’m mostly excited to be working at a business that is gearing up in a new, up-and-coming area. As we get more styles of beer, we will start to have house beer-and-dinner pairings. Chef David (Chenelle) and I will work together to create fabulous pairings for the guests. I’m not sure when we will begin doing this because I am only working with three fermentation tanks, so it takes a little more time to build up the beer portfolio.
Are you instituting any changes at Fourpenny House?
Before I came onboard, Fourpenny only had three core beers on tap: Fourpenny Ale (Scotch ale), Beatrix Blonde (spiced blonde ale) and Pacific Crest Ale (spiced pale ale). I added a fourth beer to this list called Stout du Monde, an imperial milk stout with chicory coffee. The core beers that were here will remain similar with a few tweaks to show my own brewing style, but not enough so that our regulars that currently enjoy those choices will be blindsided when they order the new version. Over the next three months, I hope to add at least seven new specialty or seasonal beers to our lineup!
What’s our favorite aspect of brewing?
R&D continues to be my favorite part of brewing. Collaboration brews are an awesome opportunity for learning new techniques from partner brewers and try new recipes. I like to experiment with flavors to create beers for adventurous palates. In a recent collaboration with the Good Seed Food Company, we made a fruit juice blend and added a variation of Tajin directly to the beer. We didn’t allow the consumer to just place Tajin on the rim of the glass, but instead created a true Mexican fruit salad inside the glass. One of the advantages of being on a small, artisan system is the ability to brew a wide variety of styles and to constantly be creative.