University Heights and Samuel Beam

Choosing a name for something as unique and timeless as a home brewery is not an easy task. However it also isn't something you "work" at. In our case, the name Flightless Bird comes from two avenues of life important to the three of us.

San Diego is a city of neighborhoods. In our immediate vicinity there are several, going by names such as Hillcrest, North Park, Normal Heights, and our own University Heights. Each has it's own neon illuminated neighborhood sign and flavor, some more unique than others. Our name and logo find their origins in the history of University Heights. In the late 1800's the land where University Heights now sits used to be an ostrich farm. This piece of history lives on and can be
appreciated on neighborhood stone pillars with the silhouette of an ostrich, which we have adapted as the bird you see on our labels and blog. And it probably needn't be mentioned that the ostrich can't fly.

The second piece of our inspiration comes from our love of music. Iron and Wine (Samuel Beam) wrote a song on the album The Shepherd's Dog (2007) called "Flightless Bird, American Mouth." While the meaning of the song is elusive, I gather it to be something about growth and searching, which are themes we find important in our brewing and our lives. The harmonies and falsetto are dynamic and beautiful.

Thus, combining the history of this place with our love of music, the name Flightless Bird was born. -jk


Sanitation is Key

Recent Reflections

It happens to me every so often with music.  I feel like I've exhausted my itunes library.  Despite the few thousand songs in it, nothing feels fresh and new.  I begin to wonder if music will really progress any further.  Will any new bands come on the scene that don't differ much from the hundreds already in existence in the same genre?  Now that it has happened to me a number of times I know there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Take Bon Iver for example.  The chords have all been used before, maybe a hundred zillion times in the exact same progression.  However, Justin Vernon's airy, falsetto, northwoods Wisconsin voice has never before layered on top of them. This is different enough that it is, in fact, delightfully unfamiliar.  It stays with you throughout the day, still lingering as your head hits the pillow and you turn in for the night.  I enjoy that.  It is just what I need sometimes. 

Lately I've felt like I've hit one of these stalemates with beer.  I love a bold amber or a hoppy IPA as much as anyone.  I've tried dozens by now.  I'm beginning to lose my sense of being able to distinguish one from the other.  Sure, I can tell you if I think one is far inferior than another, but give me two, quality made ambers and a week later all I could tell you is that I liked it.  Rogue American Amber or Deschutes Red Cone?  Both were delicious is what I'd say. 

It seems that California, perhaps all of the west coast, is infatuated with IPA's.  Today I stopped by a small, local grocer in Ocean Beach that carries a fine selection of craft beers and belgian ales.  An entire fridge was full of 22 oz bombers of different IPA's or Double IPA's.  I decided not to bark up that tree.  I imagine that if I did, however, and grabbed a couple to try, I would scarcely find much variety.  Hops are an overwhelming flavor.  You've got to keep the reigns tight on those guys, lest they get away and overpower a beer.

So today I decided to venture out.  Right there in the store I made up my mind to explore what left I have to explore.  I'm no Magellan.  He sailed around the world.  Today my ship only made it to Maui where it docked and found Maui Brewing Company's Coconut Porter.  It's a robust porter brewed with six varieties of malted barley, hops, and hand-toasted coconut.  I enjoyed it.  It was just what I needed.  -nhc




Branding Iron

I wandered the scrap metal piles in the recycle yard at Freds in The Dalles, OR looking for some flatbar for FBB's branding iron. One could get lost daydreaming of the endless creations to be made from all this cool stuff, but my nursing experience and accident prone nature told me to keep my visit to tetanus playground brief. Back at the shop the metal bending began and welding followed. Like most projects without plans I found myself looking at a finished product twice the size than expected. TSA couldn't help themselves looking in my checked luggage on the flight back to SD; however, something tells me I would have never made it past security with the medieval looking weapon had I carried it on.
Look for the official FBB brand on our crates. ~gp

#4 Pale Ale

This particular beer is of humble origins; a half batch from leftover hops. The aromatic hop was chosen by olfactory discernment. Our chosen hop went in at semi-precise weight/volume conversion due to lack of scale. Time past and it was bottled one day while I slept. Come May 11: Pale Ale and party favorite, flavorful and smooth finish. Peer consensus: a legit brew. I secretly call this the arrogant bastard... but only secretly since the name is taken. ~gp


The First Bottling

#3 Kolsch

Hoping to be ready for the arrival of summer with a lighter bodied, refreshing beer, we at Flightless Bird decided to try our hand at a Kolsch. Cologne, Germany is the home of this specialty German beer that many describe as a cross between an ale and a lager. It looks, and has similar tastes as a lager, but is top fermented like an ale.

My inclination to have this be our next brew came from memories of one summer when I was still an infant in the beer world. I happened upon Goose Island's Summertime, a kolsch. Nothing had tasted that good to me yet, especially with a juicy bratwurst in one hand, and a Summertime in the other.

Our very own kolsch didn't exactly turn out the way my memory would have liked. First and foremost, it was opaque; a sort of faded straw color with a slight orange hue. Kolschs are straw color and crystal clear. The hop head in me found it a bit lacking in that department as well. We also tried something new for us; substituting some of the malt extract in the recipe for dextrose (corn sugar). This is done to increase the alcohol content of the beer. We think it worked. Although the brewmasters out there say that adding dextrose will not add any sweet flavor to your beer, I still felt there was a bit of sweet bite to it. Perhaps we have not let it bottle condition long enough to let the yeast fully convert all of the sugar. Anyways, it was an experiment we tried on our fourth beer as well, but will probably not attempt again. I know, I haven't described much of the taste yet, but it has been over five days since I've had one. You'll probably have to catch me some other time for that. Apparently it didn't leave much of an impression. All in all, not a failed batch by any means. I've enjoyed drinking it and think it will only get better as it ages a few more weeks or months. Time will tell. -nhc


#2 Rhinelander Marzen

This lager, typically brewed in March and served at the famed German Oktoberfest, was a surprise. Lagers are typically brewed at cool temperatures requiring refrigeration, which we are currently unable to accommodate, however with the help of our brewers guide, The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, by Charlie Papazian, we fermented this lager at room temperatures like we would an ale. It turned out to be a great dessert pairing, while not being too sweet at the same time. It has a nice balance of complex flavors without the home brew taste we experienced with our first. It was also our first and only to date attempt at secondary fermentation, yielding 4 gallons instead of the full batch 5. Needless to say we were a bit disappointed there wasn't more. --jk

#1 Red Ale

Our first attempt at greatness, this kit beer came out better than we hoped. With a yeasty finish we knew we could do better-it tasted like a home brew and several friends told us so. It lacked body and hops, but for our first attempt it put a smile on our face. And there is no denying that it was the beer that began our obsession. --jk