this month's issue free!

San Diego Beer News

Beer of the Week: Eppig Natural Bridge Festbier

Feb 17

Natural Bridge Festbier from North Park’s Eppig Brewing Co.

From the Beer Writer: Of the most recent entrants to the San Diego brewing industry, few have been so impressive from the get-go as Eppig Brewing. The first interest to open in North Park’s Craft by Brewery Igniter complex, it has a lot to offer. There are currently well over a dozen beers on-tap, but even when they had less than half of that available early on, that handful included some real winners. Tops among those first drafts was Eppig Natural Bridge Festbier. Much like Christmas ales or Lent beers, most brewers only produce this lager-style during a certain period, in this case Germany’s Oktoberfest season. But not at Eppig, where they smartly realize their Festbier’s quality is such that it should be a year-round offering. Bready yet light with bristly mineral notes, it’s a study in balance and elegance that comes in at 6% alcohol-by-volume. Behind this and the other members of Eppig’s Natural Bridge family of lagers (Baltic porter, hoppy Pilsner, schwarzbier, zwickelbier and, soon, a lightly oak-smoked Vienna lager), this young brewery belongs among the small number of breweries brewing top-notch lagers in ale-heavy San Diego.

From the Brewer: “At Eppig, lager-beer is a major part of our history. The original Eppig brewery in Brooklyn, New York, brewed nothing but lagers when it opened in 1866. The name ‘Natural Bridge’ applies to our family of lagers for a variety of reasons. The word ‘bridge’, itself, is both the symbolic and physical embodiment of connecting two points. Symbolically, we are bridging both geographic distance and a journey of over 150 years in the making. Joseph and Leonard Eppig both emigrated from Bavaria in the 1860s to establish breweries on the east coast of the ‘New World’. Post prohibition, the breweries were lost. Now, in San Diego, we have brought Eppig Brewing back to life. Natural Bridge is a reminder to keep traditions alive by making a commitment to brewing great lager-beer! Furthermore, New York City and San Diego are both, in part, defined by iconic bridges. Neither city’s skyline would be complete without the Brooklyn or Coronado Bridge respectively presiding over their waterfronts. This beer is one of the reasons we were drawn to brewing as a profession. We wanted to create beers that put you in a time and place. For us, when we are enjoying a pint of Festbier, in our minds we are transported to a sunny, Bavarian beer garden. For those who have experienced it, they know there are few better places to be than riding a bike through Munich’s English Garden and stopping by the lake for a stein or two. When a customer drinks our beer, there is nothing more satisfying than when we can tap into these kinds of emotions. Our Natural Bridge Festbier falls somewhere between a Pilsner and a Märzen. It’s slightly maltier than a Pilsner, leading to a more complex, interesting aroma and flavor profile. It’s less sweet with a drier finish than a Märzen. The clean fermentation profile and overall balance of the beer make it a great choice for any season, and that is why we have chosen to brew it year round.”Nathan Stephens, Principal Brewer, Eppig Brewing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bitter Brothers’ Family Dinner series an inspired hit

Feb 15

With a name like Bitter Brothers Brewing Company (4170 Morena Boulevard, Bay Ho), one might think it a bit of a standoffish operation and think twice about attending its “family dinner” events. But taking part in one of these affairs is actually rather sweet. Company co-founder Bill Warnke was a professional chef for many years before getting into the beer-biz. Not only does all that experience mean he has chops in the kitchen. It also means he has a vast number of friends in kitchens all over San Diego County. It’s these very taste buds that help make Bitter Brothers’ Family Dinner series so special.

Each quarter, Bill invites several of his chef-friends to his brewery to put together a multi-course, beer-paired meal to be served to 50 ticket-wielding guests in his tasting room. That space is reconfigured to feature a long, pieced-together communal table from which patrons can converse between courses and take in explanatory orations from participating chefs and head brewer John Hunter. The most recent of these communal affairs took place last fall and included culinary contributions from Olivier Bioteau (A.R. Valentien, The Lodge at Torrey Pines’ vaunted white-linen restaurant), Steve Brown (Cosecha), Melissa Mayer (Martini Media) and beertender Travis Clifford, a chef best known in beer-circles for working food events at North Park’s Toronado.

Though cooking with limited equipment from the back-end of a brewery, all of the chefs were able to both bring and deliver their A-game. The meal started with a pair of dueling oysters plucked from West and East Coast waters, respectively, anointed with exotic accoutrements. The earthiness of toasted quinoa, basil and Thai chilies atop a Shigoku bivalve were provided needed acid from Bitter Brothers’ Family Tart Berliner weisse. Meanwhile, that same beer found harmony with yeast added in tandem with mushrooms and cuttlefish ink to a Puffer Wellfleet oyster. And that was just the first course.

Midway through the meal, the table was graced by duck served two-ways. A seared breast rubbed with Chinese five-spice and classic confited leg came across as autumn on a plate thanks to fried sage, purée of kombucha squash and a sweet, foresty huckleberry sauce. Bready in its malt-character, Extra Special Brother, the brewery’s English-style bitter, was perfectly suited for the dish and amplified the seasonality. Similarly, a beef cheek cooked to tender perfection over 72 hours in an immersion circulator was ideal for the brisk, chilly season, and its heartiness was complimented by another beer rich with dark malts,  Brotherly Love dunkelweizen. Unlike the previous dish, however, kimchee and hop ash provided bright counterpoints to keep the dish from getting to heavy.

Hunter is known for what he calls “candy-bar beers”. While with Karl Strauss Brewing Company, he developed the recipe for its popular Peanut Butter Cup Porter. His latest confection-inspired creation, Aunt Joy—a riff on an Almond Joy bar—could have served as dessert all by itself. Instead, it came across as a bonus piece to a multi-component assortment of sweet treats assembled by Bioteau, who served up beer-soaked “baba” cake (a dessert typically moistened with rum), from-scratch marshmallows and more. It was a fun way to close things out with dinner-guests who by then felt more like friends…or family.

The next edition of this series will take place at 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 30. That affair will be based around a Baja theme. Tickets will go on-sale in early March and proceeds from the event will go to local non-profit Feeding America San Diego. To keep abreast of future family dinners, follow Bitter Brothers’ social media. In the meantime, try your hand at “Bitter Bill’s” contribution from the aforementioned autumnal affair—risotto topped with seared sea scallops—which he’s been kind enough to share. May it reach “old family recipe” in your own household.

Bitter Bill’s Risotto
with Seared Scallops and Bitter Bill’s Pils
Yield: 4 servings

  • 3-4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter (or extra virgin olive oil, to substitute)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • ½ cup Asiago Pressato cheese, grated
  • Seared Scallops (recipe follows)
  • microgreens, to garnish
  • Bitter Bill’s Pils, to pair

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and shallot and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Use a ladle to add 1 cup of the broth to the rice mixture. Cook the risotto, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Keep liquid at a simmer—do not boil. Begin adding the liquid, ½ a cup at a time, and cooking, stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat as needed until the rice has softened, but the center of each grain of rice remains somewhat firm in the center, and its starches have been released to create a creamy consistency. Note: If you run out of stock, continue the process using hot water. Season with salt and stir in the cheese. To serve, ladle equal servings of the rice into bowls, top with scallops and microgreens, and serve immediately with the beer.

Seared Scallops
Yield: 4 scallops

  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 U/10-U/15-sized scallops
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over high heat. Place the scallops in the pan and sear until scallops is golden-brown on both sides and slightly opaque in the center, 1½ to 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and serve immediately.

—Recipes courtesy of Bill Warnke, owner, Bitter Brothers Brewing Company

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Q&A: Jade Malkin

Feb 14

Co-owner, Little Miss Brewing

Last year, Little Miss Brewing debuted in Miramar. Though the brewery has a tasting room built into it, that wasn’t part of the original business-plan. Owners Jade and Greg Malkin, bar-owner transplants from Arizona, intended to keep that purely a production-facility and construct satellite tasting rooms with an activity-fortified bar atmosphere in which to introduce their beers to the public at-large. The couple is currently at work on the first two of those venues, which are located in Normal Heights and Ocean Beach. We recently spoke with Jade to get a better idea of what to expect when those spots open later this year.

OB is home to may brewery-owned venues. What opportunities and challenges do you see there?
OB and, more specifically Newport Ave, has quickly become known for brewery tasting rooms. There is such a great scene there and we are excited to be a part of it. Yes, in theory this draws contrast to Normal Heights, but we actually see a lot of similarities, too. Normal Heights, and again, more specifically Adams Avenue, has a great bar and restaurant scene. These are both neighborhoods that people live in and take pride in. They have great communities and with that comes some awesome events; OB with its weekly farmer’s market on Newport and Normal Heights with Adams Avenue Unplugged and the Adams Avenue Street Fair. Going into neighborhoods that have a great sense of community behind them and their own identities was important to us.

What are some of the features of the bars you opened prior to moving to San Diego?
Greg opened The Whining Pig in Phoenix in 2013. It was just under 500 square feet, so it would be almost impossible not to use the word “cozy “to describe it. It ended up being such an advantage, though, because it brought people together. From a customer perspective, you would inadvertently overhear the conversations around you and, with a little liquid courage, you would jump in and end up meeting new people every time you went. You’d play the board games scattered across the bar-top with people who were total strangers only seconds before. It had such a great neighborhood feel. At the end of 2014, Greg helped his mom open The Pig’s Meow Beer and Wine Bar about five miles down the road. He helped her keep a similar design, but the main goal was to keep that cozy, charming, neighborhood feel in double the square-footage. Using lighting, some more intimate seating areas and a narrow U-shaped bar so you could still chat with the people sitting across it allowed The Pig’s Meow to maintain that same feel. To keep things fresh, he added a Lego wall and, eventually, we helped her expand that bar by an additional 1,000 square feet where we designed a lounge area, and built an oversized pool table that was large enough to stand on and roll bowling balls into the pockets. We tend to frequent the places we feel comfortable in; that feel like home, but better. We try our best to provide that in our brewery, but it’s difficult just due to how cavernous it is. So you’ll see a better example of our vision going forward with our satellite spaces.

How will you put your fun-and-cozy stamp on Little Miss’ satellite locations provide?
We want these tasting rooms to be places you want to come, hang out and stay a while. At the OB location, we have these little booth areas that were already built into the space where we are going to put in console games, like Nintendo, Sega and Atari. At the Adams Avenue location, the walls are covered in chalkboard paint so customers can draw and challenge their friends to tic-tac-toe. We also plan on having tons of card and board games at both locations. Additionally, we’ll institute a mug club at both locations. A monthly membership fee will fetch you a personalized pint glass with your name etched on it for you to take home in addition to one we’ll hold for you at the tasting room, special holiday pint glasses, a dollar off every pint, access to some members-only events and beer releases. We’re planning to keep this limited to about 100 customers per location due to space and because we’ll be etching the glasses ourselves.

What are some locales you’re considering beyond OB and Normal Heights?
Greg, (head brewer) Joe Lisica and I have been talking about looking north to Oceanside. We love the beer-scene up there and, much like Miramar, there is a great military community there.The military community in Miramar has been very kind to us and we love taking care of them. Other than Oceanside, it is still up for discussion and we’re still weighing the pros and cons of a lot of neighborhoods.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Meet Viewpoint Brewing Company

Feb 13

Sometimes brewery leads come from the most unexpected sources. I was at a white-linen restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe recently, when a young chef emerged from the kitchen to explain a complex and delicious clam and pork belly appetizer to me. After doing so, he said he knew I wrote about beer and thought I should talk to a friend of his who was in the midst of opening a brewery in Del Mar. I asked him if he was referring to Viewpoint Brewing Company. He replied in the affirmative and, a few days later, the three of us were chatting about this work-in-progress brewpub over a few beers.

Viewpoint is a chef-driven brainchild of Charles Koll, who went to culinary school in Colorado and cooked in San Francisco, before returning home to San Diego, where he worked at Mille Fleurs and Prepkitchen. It was at Mille Fleurs that he took up the hobby of homebrewing and befriended co-worker Gunnar Planter, the toque-slash-informant I met over clams and pork-belly. But Planter’s no longer at the restaurant where we met. He resigned shortly after to become executive chef at Viewpoint, where he’ll work with Koll to come up with a menu of seasonally driven dishes that are casual in composition yet exhibit culinary skill.

The project-site for Viewpoint Brewing as it stood when photographed in 2015

Viewpoint has been in the works for more than two years, but is on-track to open this spring. Those who follow San Diego’s beer scene may recognize the operation under its original handle, Vigilante Brewing Company. Located at 2201 San Dieguito Drive along the San Dieguito Lagoon just south of Jimmy Durante Boulevard, it will be Del Mar’s first brewery. The space’s interior space comes in at 4,500 square feet with an additional 2,500 square feet of exterior area that will be outfitted with various seating options, including fire-pit tables.

One-third of the facility will be devoted to beer-manufacturing. Viewpoint is equipped with a 15-barrel brewing system, four 15-barrel fermenters and a pair of 15-barrel bright-beer tanks. Koll will be focused on brewing and intends to strive for drinkability above all else. His core line-up will include both a Kölsch and saison, and he intends to add indigenous edible plants during the brewing process to develop a terroir of sorts. Flights of the beers will be available in tandem with flights of paired bites, creating a unique feature among local brewpubs.

Koll says the building he took over left a lot to be desire. In his words, he’s working to convert an eyesore into something useful and cool. To that end, he is installing bocce ball courts, trellises lined with hop-bines, porch swings and other family-friendly elements. The current estimate for Viewpoint’s debut is April 1. (No foolin’!)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Beer of the Week: Culture Amarillo SIPA

Feb 10

Amarillo SIPA photographed at Culture’s Ocean Beach tasting room

From the Beer Writer: While I understand their purpose and appreciate their existence, higher-alcohol beer-styles crafted at “session” strengths (generally regarded as lower than 5% alcohol-by-volume) don’t usually do much for me. I tend to prefer styles brewed to their traditional ABVs, especially when it comes to India pale ales. Many session IPAs lack the body to complement the big hops San Diego brewers pack into such creations. It’s a tall order, delivering our region’s hallmark hoppiness in a low-ABV package, and I’d say the success-rate of local breweries is like that of a great baseball player…somewhere in the high-20 to low-30 percentile. But stellar session IPAs are out there, and that contingent includes  Culture Amarillo SIPA. One of the session IPAs focused on high-profile hops by Solana Beach-based Culture Brewing Company, this centers on its namesake component, delivering assertive pine-cone and resin notes. Recently, I had the opportunity to try this beer alongside its El Dorado counterpart and, despite not being as fresh, Amarillo won out. Not only was it richer in flavor, but it felt more like a balanced, standard-ABV IPA. It had all the hop-punch I wanted at just 4.8% ABV with zero trace of dilution. A fresh batch of this beer will be on-tap with a whopping 30-plus others brewed for Culture’s fourth anniversary celebration, taking place on Saturday, February 18 from 12 to 6 p.m. at its Solana Beach headquarters.

From the Brewer: “Personally, I have always liked coming up with wacky and clever names for beer, but I do believe that keeping our beers nameless has the benefit of making a visit to our tasting rooms very simple and straightforward. Having said that, the Amarillo SIPA literally speaks for itself. Since all of our session IPAs are single-hopped with whichever hop sounds best for that brew-day, the Amarillo SIPA–you guessed it–is single-hopped from start-to-finish with Amarillo hops. The great part about using the same hop for bittering, finishing and dry-hopping, is that it allows the beer enthusiast to really gain an understanding and appreciation for that one specific hop; in this case, Amarillo. You’ll notice an orange bouquet greeting your nose followed by slightly spicy and lemon-like notes even before taking that first sip. Utilizing only Amarillo hops makes this SIPA more aromatic and refreshing, yet less bitter than most other session beers. Munich and caramel malts, traditionally used for more robust and darker ales, add pleasant biscuity and malty flavor to the body while providing a clean finish and beautiful golden hue. What I’m trying to get across is that this seemingly simple SIPA is actually full of character and very well balanced…not to mention it has a low alcohol-content so you can have as much as your heart desires.”–Aleks Kostka, Head Brewer, Culture Brewing Company

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,