Moonlight Brewing is often viewed as being rather mysterious. You can’t get the beer in bottles. You can’t get it outside of Northern California. You can’t tour the brewery. It remains a one man show–brewed, distributed, and marketed by Brian Hunt. The beer is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
Considering that I run a very high risk of getting all fangirly over Brian Hunt (who is just about the nicest guy you’ll ever meet) and his beer (which is so delicious and unique as to be entirely unclassifiable), I should just cut straight to the tastes I’ve had over the past two days.
The first beer week Moonlight event we went to was at Bobby G’s (which has pretty tasty pizza) in Berkeley. The place was mobbed. Joe and I immediately split up–he went to the bar to order beer and I went to the counter for food–a smart move, since we got our beer at least fifteen minutes before the couple next to us who ordered both beer and food at the food counter. We tried a sampler of everything and Mr. Hunt himself came over to answer questions and tell us about the beer.
Reality Czech-style Pils: now, I’m not a pilsner fan. In general, I think they taste like cigarettes. But Reality Czech is lightly sweet, with almost a honey aftertaste. I kept going back to it (you can see the results).
Misspent Youth Pale Ale: this was the really special one–he only made one batch of this. It was crisp and hoppy, but not at all bitter. “I put hops in the mash tun,” Brian told us. “There’s not enough heat to extract bitterness. People say you just don’t do that. I went to a high-tech hops conference and nobody could tell me why. But you can see how it tastes. I also put hops in the secondary wort. Again, nobody does that. I use more hops but they’re more subtle.”
Working for Tips: This is a neat beer. It’s brewed with redwood tips instead of hops (it was also available at Monk’s Kettle the next night). Smooth and herbal, but not woody to me, it does kinda make you want to go skip around in the woods naked. It comes off like a cask-poured red ale, a little.
Death and Taxes: We’ve all had it. We all love it.
Bony Fingers: Black (so black it’s nearly purple) and rich and heady, Bony Fingers is his Halloween beer. When I asked what the difference between this and Death and Taxes was, Brian said he used “four different dark roast malts. They say you shouldn’t do that. I argue with them a lot.” It’s a pretty sweet brew–tough to drink a ton of. The kind of beer you’d want to make a beer float out of.
My second night of Moonlight was at Monk’s Kettle in the Mission for a night of hopless beers. I tried Artemis first. It is very herbal, with straight up hints of garden herbs like rosemary and sage, but it’s not heavy-handed about it. There’s a honey sweetness that balances it nicely. Brian explained that he “brews Artemis with mugwort, which is artemisia vulgaris, while absinthe is made with artemisia-something else. It can give you incredibly vivid dreams.” So it’s related to absinthe, but is not the same thing. Apparently you have to drink three or more in a night, or for a few days in a row, to have the vivid dream effect.
Next was Uncle Fudd. Tasting a bit like a cross between a sour and an amber, Uncle Fudd is a beer I could have a pint of every night. It’s perfectly balanced and has a some funk to it–I would love to pair this with some cheese. I wasn’t sure what it was brewed with, but my guess was cedar, since it tasted like a lightly sweet two-by-four. I was right. Brian explained that he used Northern white cedar (if I quoted the exact tree type wrong, blame the Uncle Fudd), which does not normally grow as far south as his house. Fortunately, he has a neighbor with a landscaped yard who has a row of them. When I wondered exactly what part of the tree a person brews with, he gave me his recipe for Uncle Fudd. You ready? “You cut a few of the branches–I didn’t need too many, so it doesn’t hurt the trees. Then you put the whole branch into the boil, with the needles and everything. When you start to smell cedar, you take them out.” Continue to brew as directed–it also contains some peat moss, but only about 10 pounds per 20 barrels. Alright folks, now you can run out with a hacksaw and brew up a homemade version of Uncle Fudd. Please send a bottle to Beer at Joe’s when it’s finished.
I also got to taste the mussels they were making with Artemis–they definitely had a good beer flavor, but I couldn’t necessarily tell it was Artemis. They did taste perfectly seasoned, though, so maybe that was the effect such an herbal beer had.
I now feel the need to track all Moonlight events to get my hands on any special brew he does–it’s worth any time and effort it takes!