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San Diego Beer News

Report: San Diego Craft Breweries Generate $600 Million Economic Impact

Feb 18

national universitySAN DIEGO – Craft breweries and brewpubs in San Diego generated a $600 million economic impact in 2014, according to a new analysis published today by the National University System Institute for Policy Research (NUSIPR).

San Diego’s craft brewing industry has undergone a rapid expansion over the last few years.  As craft breweries take a growing share of national beer sales, San Diego brewpubs and breweries have noticeably increased production, creating jobs and new tasting rooms throughout the region. Using survey data and business records from late- 2014, NUSIPR has updated its analysis of the industry’s impact on San Diego.

Overall, we found that:

  • Craft brewing’s economic impact has grown substantially. The industry’s economic value to the region has doubled in the last three years, from an estimated $300 million ($299.5) in 2011 to $600 million ($599.4) in 2014. This surpasses the estimated economic impact of the 2015 Super Bowl to the Arizona state economy ($500 million).
  • Industry job growth has soared. San Diego breweries and brewpubs directly created 3,752 jobs in 2014, and overall created or sustained 6,203 jobs that year, a 122% increase since 2011, when the industry directly employed 1,630 workers and created or sustained 2,796 jobs. Year-to-year growth has mostly been driven by the expansion efforts of larger breweries.
  • The number of breweries and brewpubs has more than doubled.  At the end of 2014, there were 97 breweries and brewpubs in San Diego County, a 165% increase from 2011’s tally (37). Growth is driven both by new enterprises as well as additional expansions of established breweries and brewpubs.
  • Total annual industry sales have reached more than $847 million.  This figure reflects more than a $90 million increase from 2013 ($752 million) and a $160 million increase since 2011 ($681 million).

“San Diego’s craft breweries have made significant inroads in the marketplace, and that’s good for the regional economy,” remarked NUSIPR Senior Policy Analyst Vince Vasquez, the author of the analysis. “To foster greater industry development, local elected officials and business community leaders should build more working relationships with breweries and brewpubs. Long-term, industry issues that will need to be addressed on the local level include water usage and land use policy.”


The full version of the craft brewing analysis can be found at the NUSIPR website,


About the National University System Institute for Policy Research

The National University System Institute for Policy Research (NUSIPR) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that formulates and promotes high quality economic policy, and public opinion research so as to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local governments in San Diego County and to improve the quality of life enjoyed by the region’s residents.

NUSIPR publishes regular independent research and analysis for the public on a range of topics, including unemployment, business growth, and the San Diego housing market. The Institute also works collaboratively with clients to develop high quality research products that are tailored to their policy needs.

This report was conducted by West Coaster contributor Vince Vasquez. He is a Senior Policy Analyst for the National University System Institute for Policy Research and has previously published reports on the economic impact of craft beer in the region.

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Homebrewing in SD

Feb 13

There are some great events and competitions in homebrewing happening around San Diego the first half of the year.

The America’s Finest City 2015 competition kicks off the season with one of the largest homebrew competitions in California. Last year the competition had over 550 entries with judging taking place over two days. The competition is hosted by QUAFF, San Diego’s largest homebrew club. Registration has already ended, but keep this in mind next year, as it’s a great competition to enter and get feedback from BJCP sanctioned judges and professional brewers. The competition is registered with the BJCP and is also a MCAB (Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing) qualifying event.


Last year’s AFC event. Photo by Tim Stahl

Stone AHA Rally
Mid Late March the AHA (American Homebrewers Association) hosts a rally at Stone Brewing Co. as a membership drive and homebrew competition. Attendees are given a glass and allowed to sample 30+ homebrews and submit a ballot of their favorite three beers. The top 5 or 6 beers will go to a judging table consisting of Stone’s co-founders, brewers, and other employees with the winning beer to be scaled up on Stone’s 120 barrel brew house for a national release. The roots of the event started with local homebrew club Society Of Barley Engineers taking a batch of wort brewed at Stone and turning it into a surprising array of different beers with whatever additions and alterations each brewer made to it. At the time of printing there has been no confirmation of the rally happening this year on Stone or the AHA’s website so be on the lookout for updates on social media regarding entering this competition or the status of it. Update 2/17: Stone has just released details regarding the competition & rally, set for Saturday, March 28 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Big Brew for National Homebrew Day
In 1988, May 7 was announced before Congress as National Homebrew Day. To celebrate each year, an annual AHA Big Brew is held in early May with an official Big Brew recipe created for the day. While brewing up the recipe, a toast is held at noon CDT to honor the occasion. Last year there were 437 scheduled events around the world with 8,000 participants brewing up over 17,000 gallons of beer. The event was held in 49 states and 14 countries. The 2015 recipe has yet to be revealed but check for updates on the recipe and locations in San Diego that are participating.

Registration is now open for the 2015 Southern California Homebrewers Festival (SCHF) which was canceled last year after some legislation made it illegal in 2014. Thanks to the efforts of AHA and its members, AB2609 was signed into law making it legal again in 2015. This year on May 1 and 2, the festival returns to Vail Lake, located off Highway 79 in Temecula. The festival is a much shorter drive for homebrewers located in San Diego after the festival has been held much further north in recent years. For more information on the festival, for details.

Unfortunately going on the same weekend is the annual Spring Fling gathering for San Diego homebrewing clubs in east county. Most of the campsites at Potrero County Park Campground are filled but you might find someone looking to take their site who switched to SCHF.


AHA Director Gary Glass with Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo at NHC 2011. Photo by Ryan Lamb

The National Homebrewers Conference returns to San Diego in 2015 after the city last hosted the event in 2011. The conference will once again take place at the Town & Country Resort but this time it will be taking over the entire resort in order to accommodate 4,000+ attendees. In doing so, many of the events will take place outdoors around the venue, creating a different experience from past conferences. A registration application period will happen from February 18 through 24 for potential attendees. If the response is greater than maximum number of attendees, the AHA will have a random selection process for attendees. This year they are also bringing back the lower-priced Social Package which allows you attend the conference events but not the more than 50 conference seminars scheduled during June 11 through 13. Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey will be giving the keynote address while many local homebrewers, professional brewers, and industry heavy weights will be speaking. For more information visit for important dates and the full list of speakers.

The conference will also host the final round of judging for the National Homebrew Competition, the world’s largest international beer competition recognizing the most outstanding homebrewed beer, mead, and cider produced by amateur brewers worldwide.

The first round of the competition will take place in 12 regions throughout North America. The application window for the first round is from February 2-8, with the first round judging taking place March 13 through April 12. So get your finest beers ready and see how you stack up against the rest of the country. Visit for more information and all the important dates you need to know.

With all the competitions and events scheduled and those yet to come, it will be a great year for the San Diego homebrewing community. So it’s time to get brewing, cheers!

Fathom Bistro’s 2nd Anniversary

Feb 3

314704_342423792501653_1537531537_n“At the end of the day I’m the guy with a little hot dog stand on the pier,” states Dennis Borlek, proprietor of Fathom Bistro, Bait & Tackle. Armed with a simple menu and 15 taps on Shelter Island’s pier – the place isn’t large. However, Fathom and its owner occupies a special spot in San Diego beer lore. The pub celebrates 2 years in business Saturday, February 7th.

In 1989, Dennis was working at a record store by San Diego State and living in a house nearby. One of his roommates, Chenin Cilurzo, went to study abroad for a semester. Wanting to get out of his hometown of Temecula for a change of pace, Chenin’s brother Vinnie moved into her room – bringing with him cases of Cilurzo Family Vineyard wine. During a night of enjoying wine, the idea was hatched to start homebrewing. The following day, Vinnie & Dennis visited Beer & Wine Arts in El Cajon – which was then the only homebrewing supply store in San Diego. That night, a batch of beer was made. The laundry room of the house was promptly converted into a home brewery. The brewing bug took hold, and Danger Brothers Brewing was born.

After a few years, Vinnie went on to start Blind Pig Brewing Co. and eventually Russian River Brewing Co. Dennis remained in San Diego, frequenting Montana’s American Grill (now closed). “In 1989-90, Montana’s was probably one of the first restaurants in San Diego to really care about craft beer,” says Dennis. The late Beer Hunter and critic Michael Jackson was in attendance for one of Montana’s beer pairing dinners.

Working as a licensed vocational nurse full time, Dennis continued to work in the beer community part-time. In 2004, Dennis helped open Liar’s Club in Mission Beach with high school friend Louis Mello. When Hamilton’s Tavern opened down the road from his South Park house, Dennis approached owner Scot Blair for a few shifts. One shift turned into several, and eventually Dennis became the General Manager of Hamilton’s. He quit his nursing job at Grossmont Hospital at 2006: “I couldn’t work two full-time jobs – working at Hammie’s was way more fun and paid more money.”

Dennis helped with opening up Small Bar, Eleven, and then also Monkey Paw. He then went off on his own. “I always planned on having a bar called ‘Danger Abbey’’, however, the name and idea for Fathom came to him in a dream. “My father was a submariner in the Navy and I’ve been a fisherman and scuba diver my entire life. I wanted something nautical, but not junky. I wanted something to reflect my interest and my family’s interest in the sea.” By chance, Dennis saw the “For Lease” sign posted in Shelter Island’s bait shop.

He made the call that day and then went to buy books on how to put together a business plan that night, submitting his business proposal to the Port Authority. Port officials accepted his proposal, citing that Fathom’s concept was the most unique use of an underutilized property. Fathom opened for Groundhog’s day 2013, February 2nd.

Thanks to connections made over the years, Fathom enjoys tremendous support from the brewing community. While the draft list is just 15 beers strong, there’s an emphasis on quality and supporting friends. “I try and keep beer on tap from breweries that I have a personal connection with,” nodding to the chalk beer list with offerings from established breweries like Russian River and Sierra Nevada as well as newer breweries such as Societe, Mike Hess and Fall Brewing.

This Saturday, February 7th, Fathom celebrates its 2nd Anniversary with 10-12 sour beers going on tap. Beer drinkers can expect to see Russian River’s Supplication & Temptation, Black Market’s 5th Anniversary, Lost Abbey’s Cuvee de Tomme, Brasserie de Silly’s Stupid Silly Sour and more.

Dennis shortly after opening circa 2012

Dennis shortly after opening circa 2012


North Park Beer Co. Secures Space

Jan 25

DSC_0107Award-winning homebrewer Kelsey McNair will open North Park Beer Company at 3038 University Avenue. With terms for a long-term lease negotiated, the nearly 9000 square foot space will contain a 15 barrel brewhouse in addition to a kitchen. McNair won Stone Brewing Co.’s March Madness homebrewing competition with his San Diego County Session Ale in 2010, and won Gold in the 2010, 2012 and 2014 National Homebrewing Competition with Hop-Fu! IPA.

North Park Beer Co. will occupy the former location of Undisputed Gym on the corner of Ohio and University, joining nearby beer neighbors Mike Hess Brewing, Bottlecraft and Seven Grand. Construction on the brewpub is expected to begin in six months.

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Friday News Sips

Jan 23

First, some news on what’s happening today, Friday, January 23:

— According to their Facebook page, Half Door Brewing Company in the East Village opens for the first time today at 5 p.m. That will make them the 99th brewery in San Diego County, right on the heels of Wavelength and Kuracali.

mission|alpine– Close to Half Door, Mission Brewery releases their “Don’t Act Like You’re Not Impressed” collaboration with Alpine Beer Co. at 4 p.m. The beer is, of course, an IPA, with 9 hop varieties. Dueling casks of the 7.5% beer — one dry-hopped with Mosaic, the other dry-hopped with Citra — will be tapped at the same time. Alpine will release the beer next Tuesday at their tap room, as will a few lucky SD accounts.

—  Today is also the last day of the 59th Annual American Hop Convention, hosted by Hop Growers of America and held at Rancho Bernardo Inn & Stone Brewing Co. There, Douglas MacKinnon (CEO of 47 Hops and former executive director of Hop Growers of America) provided some interesting insight: yields were down in 2014 and prices continue to rise as growers attempt to keep up with the increased demand for hops.

Hop growers last year planted an additional 3,600 acres of hops for a total of 38,011 acres — the most since 39,726 in 2009 — but yields dropped by 4.79 percent because of an unseasonably hot July in the Pacific Northwest, where 98 percent of all commercially-grown hops were harvested.

“In 2015 there’s no margin for error for hops growers,” MacKinnon said. “The hop acreage increased by 10 percent in 2014, but the craft beer industry grew by 20 percent.”

More interesting tidbits: 1) CTZ made up 23 percent of the hops planted, with Cascade second at 16.6 percent. 2) Germany is the world’s top alpha producer, owning 44 percent of the market. The U.S. is second at 39 percent; less than a decade ago these roles were reversed. 3) The top countries from which the U.S. imported hops: Germany, UK, and Australia.

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Hop growers from Roy Farms (Moxee, Washington) visit Gwen Conley at The Lost Abbey after wrapping up a day at the Hop Convention. Photo by Tim Stahl

– And for those who like to plan ahead, here’s a short list of events coming up in Febrewary:

  • 2/7 Blind Lady Ale House 6th Anniversary Cape Run
  • 2/7 Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle 2nd Anniversary / Sour Saturday
  • 2/7 Arcana 2nd Anniversary & Twisted Manzanita Collaboration Release
  • 2/9 Pliny the Younger ships from Russian River – expect to see it on tap around town throughout the week
  • 2/10 Beer & Chocolate Pairing @ Prohibition Brewing Co.
  • 2/12 Twisted Manzanita Beer Pairing Dinner @ Table 926
  • 2/14 6th Annual Brewbies Beer Festival @ Bagby Beer
  • 2/14 2nd Saturday w/ Karl Strauss @ Hamilton’s
  • 2/18 DrinkAbout @ Blind Lady Ale House, Small Bar, Live Wire, Toronado, Station Tavern, Hamilton’s, Ritual Tavern & Tiger!Tiger!
  • 2/20 Winter Brew Fest @ Hall of Champions (Balboa Park)
  • 2/21 8th Annual Masquerade di Lost Abbey
  • 2/22 50/50 Eclipse Tasting at Holiday Wine Cellar
  • 2/22 Culture 2nd Anniversary
  • 2/22 Belgian Fest @ Stone Liberty Station

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