The Cho’Sen One

The Cho’Sen One

What’s the best beer to pair with sushi? The one that knows when to stay the heck out of the way. That’s what brewmaster (and sushi lover) Steve McCarthy was going for when he made Cho’Sen for Spicewood’s Solid Rock Brewing. 

Unlike for the cream ale, IPA and Irish red that Solid Rock sells, there was no ready-made recipe or guidebook for producing an American sushi ale. “We had to grow it from the ground up,” says McCarthy. To complement the delicate flavors of sushi, he chose rice as the main grain, which became a “sticky” point. “Rice in brewing has a jaded history,” says McCarthy. Because big breweries use rice as an inexpensive source of grain sugar to make alcohol, craft-brewing associations poo-poo its use as a main ingredient. But in this case, McCarthy assures, they made an exception. “We keep it below the level of use they’ve set,” he says. “And they understand that we’re only doing it for taste.”

The end result is a clean, light-bodied beer designed to gently stand on its own, or to clear a palate primed for raw fish. “It’s not a particularly beery-tasting beer,” says McCarthy.

On the surface, Cho’Sen stands apart from Solid Rock’s more traditional offerings, beginning with the name. “We were playing around with names like ‘Zen’ but it was too goofy,” says McCarthy. “This was the final recipe that was chosen, so we went with that.” Still, the beer’s less-fussy nature makes it very much like the other Solid Rock products. McCarthy and his co-founders, Steve Jones and Curt Webber—all of whom met at church—prefer the tried and true to the flashy and fussy for their two-year-old company. Other than Cho’Sen, the craziest they’ve gotten is a seasonal vanilla milk stout. “We brew simple beers that we ourselves would like to drink over and over,” says McCarthy. “We’re not out to make the craziest craft beer. I don’t ever want to hand one of my beers to a friend and have them say, ‘That was…interesting.’ ‘Interesting’ is the worst word you can ever hear.” —Steve Wilson 

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