Think tomato soup, phở or Carolina bbq sauce don’t rhyme with beer? Think again!
Huy Vu, a creative home brewer in Salinas, really likes to push the boundaries when it comes to beer flavors and comes up with very interesting combinations. Now, it’s one thing to come up with a crazy idea and an entirely different thing to know how to execute it. It’s not like making tomato soup beer was ever really a given for anyone, and therefore Huy has to come up with a recipe that works well.
“I’ll do any kind of flavor,” Huy said. “It’s the spur of the moment, but then it takes a certain process to actually make it.”
I visited him over the weekend, and he was working on something he had never done before —a cider. He will usually blast music and invite his neighbors over when he is brewing. “I want to have fun with it and not make it a job,” he said. “Otherwise I’d be doing something wrong.”
Huy was born in Saigon in 1988, Vietnam and went to UC Santa Barbara to study Business Economics. When he graduated in 2011, the recession had already hit and he couldn’t find a job. Huy found himself dive more and more into his passions for growing succulents, growing all kinds of things… and drinking good beer. The latter is what drove him to start brewing. Huy is self-taught. He learned most of what he knows about brewing beer from watching Youtube videos and reading books from the library.
His ideas may seem eccentric at times and his demeanor nonchalant, but he really knows what he is doing. Trust me. I really don’t think that I know anyone else who could make a phở beer and not make it taste plain gross. Honestly. Not to say that it had never been done before, but this guy has some serious skills.
Also, you may think that the MiraCal Brew name is clever and that he came up with it after weeks of research. Nope! “I was on the beach in Santa Barbara with a friend, tripping on acid,” he said. The Vatican was in the midst of electing a new pope as John Paul II had just passed away. “We thought ‘Why don’t we become popes’?” I guess that would be nothing short of a MiraCal… Right? His friend spelled the word wrong unintentionally, but it definitely fits in with the state of California. So what the heck?! Since then, he’s thought of more ways to incorporate some of the Catholic symbols into his brand. The latest addition is a wax stamp in the shape of a dove carrying an olive branch in its beak. He now stamps all his bottle caps with it. “Crack it open, throw the cap away, and drink for peace!,” he exclaimed. Pretty cool concept!
Other than that, Huy also works at English Ales Brewery in Marina, CA. He has hopes of owning his own food truck because he said he wouldn’t want to own a taproom that doesn’t have food. You know what, Huy? I agree with you. Permits can be hard to obtain and brewpubs are hard to manage, but it’s certainly nice to be able to have a bite to eat with a nice brew. He is thinking about making bomb Bánh mì sandwiches to pair with his beer. That should work just fine if you ask me!
I got to try some of his brews and I’m impressed. The Sin of Eden apple sour is absolutely delish. I tried both the 2016 and 2019 iterations. They are obviously different. One had time to sit and clear up; the other one was a little cloudier and a little less flavorful. The Phở Eva Belgian Brown, my favorite, is exquisite and surprising. It took me right back to my trip in Vietnam about 15 years ago…
Huy, can you please go public with this whole thing and start selling your beer?! I’ll be your customer… phở eva!
More photos from MiraCal Brew: