Since October, work days have started early and ended late for J.C. Hill. The Director of Brewing Operations and visionary behind the Alvarado Street Brewing empire is currently overseeing the birth of his next major project: a brewpub in Carmel Plaza for his Yeast of Eden brand.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of time over here,” says Hill. “At this point, it’s all about getting the infrastructure in place for a brewery. Plumbing lines for the refrigerant, wiring, coordinating subcontractors. All the equipment is pretty much ready. We just need to finish.”
The work remaining is largely unseen while guests filter in. The restaurant portion of the brewpub commenced a soft opening on December 13, inviting diners and drinkers to stop by and sample Eden’s array of nosh and tipples.
“The grand opening will probably be in mid-January. We wanted to open the restaurant as soon as possible and get the concept moving. Let the kitchen get some experience executing the food, and get our staff and diners used to thinking and talking about our mixed fermentation beer,” says Hill.
That last point is the most important. The brewery portion of Yeast of Eden is devoted to a terroir-driven mixed fermentation process. (For those of us who aren’t brewing geeks, that means Yeast of Eden relies on a symphony of brewer’s yeast, wild yeast, and lactic acid bacteria to turn the ingredients into an alcoholic libation.) The process creates flavors that are nuanced and bold, crisp and tart, and sometimes a little funky.
Hill and head brewer Andrew Rose have been tinkering with their mixed ferment recipes for two-and-a-half years. To date, Yeast of Eden is made in mega-batches in the 600-gallon tanks at Alvarado Street’s brewery in Salinas. Once functional, Yeast of Eden will take on some, though not all, of the brand’s production in its more agile 150-gallon tanks.
“The Carmel facility is just another outlet for us to be creative and expand our offerings,” says Hill. “The smaller system in Carmel allows us to explore a lot of different styles.”
Beers fermented at Hill’s Carmel location will have the added benefit of Yeast of Eden’s open ferment vessel. It is basically a stainless steel tub in a glassed-in room that sits between the bar and the kitchen. A ventilation system allows Carmel’s foggy air to enter and mingle with the beer, introducing wild yeast to impart a uniquely Carmel taste into every batch. The beer will then be transferred to an American white oak barrel for aging. Six 150-gallon barrels are on-site at Yeast of Eden, located in an intimate alcove off the main dining area, bringing a touch of rustic charm to the modern and clean aesthetic.
One of Hill’s biggest concerns is ensuring diners can learn about the brewpub’s focus. “Anyone coming in with a taste for mixed ferments will probably find something to like on draft. To help introduce those who aren’t familiar, we greet guests with a splash of our Skeptics & Believers, which won a Great American Beer Festival bronze medal in 2017. It’s really fruity, with nice acidity, that crisp and dry factor, and is a great representation of what mixed fermentation is. The style is not for everyone, though, so there’s plenty of beer from Alvarado Street and other breweries, along with wine and other options,” says Hill.
The menu, furthermore, is designed to help diners approach mixed fermentation with an open mind. Each dish, according to Hill, will pair perfectly with any Yeast of Eden brew. The food concept is rooted in Southeast Asian and Mexican flavors and are largely either tapas-style or shareable. Many dishes pack significant richness and heat that is tempered by the tart-dry quality of mixed fermentation beers. Hill and Rose enliven their iteration of mixed ferments with an especially high carbonation that, at once, complements the food and might remind some of an exceptionally dry wine.
So far, the duo of education and the beer-centric menu have worked splendidly. Guests are ordering mixed fermentation beer in droves, “exceeding” Hill’s expectations. Kegs of Yeast of Eden beer have been in such high rotation that other styles are sitting in the cooler.
Hill says, “It is all exciting. I love this. Bringing a team together around something we are all passionate about and then conveying that to guests is the most satisfying feeling in the world. I feel really lucky to be able to share my passion for beer and food in this capacity.”
Yeast of Eden Restaurant & Brewery is located at Carmel Plaza, Suite 112, Mission Street and Ocean Avenue, Carmel. For more information, call 831/293-8621 or go to yoebeer.com.