There has been plenty of well-publicized research about the potential health benefits of beer. We’ve heard that it has electrolytes, it has antioxidants, it has cardiovascular and mental benefits, and it has even been brewed specifically as an aphrodisiac. Now Dr. Jekyll’s, a new craft brewery based in Altadena, is brewing with a whole new set of new-agey superfoods.
Dr. Jekyll's has recently introduced a lineup of three flagship beers. Bio Beer, the IPA, takes the immune-boosting powers of hops and amplifies them with what the brewery describes as a series of other immune-focused ingredients. The ingredients for Beer Belly, a kolsch, were chosen to pile on some metabolic boosters. Beer Attack is an Irish red ale meant to keep the blood pumping through your veins by giving you an infusion of heart-healthy spices and oils.
Dr. Jekyll CEO Tom Costa has been an avid homebrewer and craft beer drinker for decades. As he tells it, his beer journey began 25 years ago in 130-degree heat in a bunker on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. His buddy back home sent him an article about the rise of brewpubs, and he was inspired to begin brewing. A few years later, as a result of a conversation with a bodybuilding friend (Jimmy T, who's now his partner in Dr. Jekyll’s), Costa began experimenting with flaxseed-oil beers. Basically, he says, he just dumped it in like any other adjunct. It didn’t work — the mouthfeel was all wrong, to say nothing of the flavor — and the idea faded for a while.
Years later, Costa happened to meet a scientist from Virun Inc., a “nutra-biosciences” company in Walnut. Virun has developed technology to make normally insoluble foods and oils water-soluble. Costa says that this technology allows Dr. Jekyll's to add normally impossible-to-blend ingredients and successfully integrate them into beer. These adjuncts include clove oil, omega-3, maitake mushrooms, maqui berry, algal oil, flax and other things that you’ve heard people mention in lists of healthy tonics and elixirs. In beer, they definitely impart flavor and aroma, but there are no tests yet to prove if they actually contribute any of their nutritional benefits.
Costa, his partner and brewer Ray McNeill developed their recipes over several years of experimentation and fine-tuning, brewing batches of different sizes in a few different locations. The IPA is spice-forward, with distinct notes of ginger and clove — and thankfully no notes of the garlic or maitake mushroom that they also put in it. It’s not going to rip you away from your favorite hoppy Beachwood banger, but if you’re in the mood for something outside the typical West Coast IPA box, then it’s a nice hoppy change of pace.
The kolsch is similarly unusual. More fruity than spiced, it isn’t exactly the clean, crisp light beer you might expect, but it makes up for it with gentle berry notes that lightly play off of the beer’s mild sweetness, more scone than cracker malt flavor. As with the IPA, if you’re looking for a classic kolsch, you probably want to look elsewhere.
Beer Attack, the Irish red ale — as you may have guessed by now — is also an unusual combination of flavors, though it's not quite so harmonious as the other two. It features cinnamon and maqui berry and flaxseed oil, among other things, though the flavor is actually dominated by the peated malt they use as a base. The smoke makes a peculiar pair with the cinnamon and berry additions. It’s certainly interesting and unorthodox, but it just doesn’t quite come together in the way that the others do.
At the moment Dr. Jekyll's is bottling and distributing only those three, but they have several more beers in the later stages of development: an imperial stout, an altbier, a Vienna lager and a cider, among others. They have expansion plans in the works, too: a tasting room with fancy pizzas from a wood-fired oven that Costa designed and built himself. Until then, you can find their beers at retail outlets around town, both in bottles and on tap.