“If you can follow a recipe, you can make a beer,” Joe said.
Joe Utschig and his son Stephen started home-brewing about 4 years ago but went to all-grain last October. Their Salinas, CA home-brewery, Martha’s Hopyard, was named after Joe’s wife Martha. I have to say the name is what caught my attention at first, but their beer is what made me want to write about them.
Joe is an engineer by day and works as a contractor for CalFire. His company, Displayed Geographics does mapping, mostly during the wildfire season. He applies the same rigorous techniques to beer-making and follows recipes. That’s his secret. “I get my inspiration from recipes,” he said. “Then I discuss it with my son and we think of ways to make it better.” Joe, like most of his peers in the craft beer community, is self-taught. He said he has learned quite a bit from his son but has also taken a few online courses on the subject.
They haven’t sold anything yet and just participated in their first home brew fest a couple weeks ago. The response was rather positive, and they are hoping to scale their business. “I want to be able to sell a beer I made at a profit,” Joe said. “But I don’t have the trendy beers like IPAs.” That’s probably ok, Joe. There are plenty of people who would rather drink something else anyway. “We make good European-style beers that don’t rhyme with the letters IPA.” Good for you! Joe lived in Germany for a total of fours years. The first time was in 1991 when he was in Naval Postgraduate School. The second time was in 2004 when he worked in the semi-conductor industry. I’m sure his stays in Germany must have influenced his taste for more traditional beers..
As of now, most of their beer is given out to friends and family, but they may have an opportunity to make beer for a catering company that has a large event coming up in November. “I have a lot of friends and they like drinking my beer,” Joe said. “But there is only so much you can make.” He currently brews on a 5-gallon system but is getting equipped to expand his operation. He also has plans on moving from gas to electric to be able to control the process and temperatures better. Understandable! Especially if you are the kind of guy who believes on following recipes to a T.
The Salinas resident is also a Girls Lacrosse coach at Salinas Highschool, where the Cowboys just won the title for the 3rd year in a row. Nice work! His wife Martha is a teacher at that same high school, and their son Stephen works for NuGEN Technologies. I’ll tell you one thing: It seems this trio may make it far in the home brewing community and possibly beyond. I had the opportunity to try three of their brews: J&S Porter, 4yEaster Mixed Fermentation and Biere Dats Good Bière de Garde. They are all very solid, but I have a slight preference for the Biere Dats Good. I could sip on that thing all day!
More photos from Martha’s Hopyard: