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San Diego Beer News

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2016 in San Diego Brewers’ Words

Feb 10

In 2014, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company reached out to breweries across the country to brew collaboration brews as part of a mammoth undertaking called Beer Camp Across America. That program saw a dozen collaboration beers (including one with local business Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits) nationally released in six-packs and multiple beer fests featuring hundreds of craft breweries held throughout the nation. It was such a tremendous success that the company is rolling out a second edition of Beer Camp Across America. This time around, the company has reached out to brewers in six beery regions of the United States. Not surprisingly, Southern California is one of them and, as one would expect, the prowess of not one, but several San Diego County breweries were solicited—Oceanside’s Bagby Beer Company, San Marcos’ Port Brewing Company / The Lost Abbey and Kearny Mesa’s Societe Brewing Company. That trio was teamed with Los Angeles County interests Beachwood BBQ and Brewing and Smog City Brewing Company to create a beer that will be offered in this year’s Beer Camp Across America 12-pack.

I make my living as a storyteller, but the opportunity to peel back the tent door and let the Beer Campers themselves share insights from this world-class collaboration is too rich to pass up. Read on for more about this prestigious project.

Tomme Arthur | Director of Brewery Operations, The Lost Abbey
It was a pleasant surprise when we were contacted last fall about this opportunity. Working with Sierra Nevada on this was a lot like having the Vatican call up and ask if we’d like to participate in Easter Mass. How could we say no? The Beer Camp Across America program was such an amazing accomplishment when they first launched it. I wasn’t sure it was ever going to make a comeback, so I was very pleased at the opportunity it presented us when we were solicited to be a part of this new set of beers. All of the contributors to our beer are brewers that I admire and consider to be some of the very best in this great region for brewing. I’ve known [Beachwood BBQ brewmaster] Julian Shrago for 10-plus years now and trust him completely to lead this band of miscreants. In terms of the actual working process with Sierra Nevada, the level of interaction and staffing that it takes to pull off a project like this is mind-numbing. For every email we receive detailing the process, I am certain there have been multiple meetings that needed to take place ensuring everything keeps running on schedule. These guys are the pro’s pros of doing big great things for brewers and it’s always a pleasure to be around passionate employees who believe in such a great project. I believe we have an exceptional beer in the works and everyone who tastes it should see what happens when some bitchin’ brewers put their thinking caps on and agree on a solution to a simple request: What kind of beer do you want to make?

Jeff Bagby | Owner & Brewmaster, Bagby Beer Company
The beer is an American-style stout. Getting together with such a great group has been awesome. We all brewed the original pilot batch at Beachwood. After we all had a chance to taste it, the recipe was just slightly tweaked before we all joined up to brew another pilot batch at Sierra Nevada in Chico, Calif. That was quite an experience. We will be able to taste that batch very soon, and the main batch will be brewed and packaged later this year so that it can be combined with the other five beers for the 12-pack release, which will include two bottles of each beer brewed for this project.

Douglas Constantiner | Brewery Curator & Brewer, Societe Brewing Company
The brew-day up at Sierra Nevada was incredible and, without a doubt, the highlight of my career. Julian, Bagby, Tomme, [Smog City brewmaster] Jonathan Porter, [Societe co-founder and brewmaster] Travis Smith and I decided to brew a stout for this collaboration rather than an IPA in order to showcase our diversity as brewers. San Diego and Southern California’s fame for hoppy IPAs can, unfortunately, overshadow other styles we love to brew and drink…like stouts. The five breweries representing our region have won medals for stouts, so we thought it would be suiting to show the country that there’s more to Southern California than IPAs. It’s hard to put into words what it was like to sit down at a table with brewing legends like Bagby, Tomme and Julian to discuss the direction, process and recipe of this beer. And then to have Sierra Nevada bring it to life is beyond imaginable.

Tomme Arthur | Director of Brewery Operations, Port Brewing Company / The Lost Abbey
All told, it continues to be exciting each time we get together as we approach the next benchmark which will be the actual brewing on the big system of the beer for the release. At that point, the heavy lifting will be done and the chance to sit back and enjoy the release will be imminent. There will be no sadness, only joy knowing we were part of this great thing called Beer Camp Across America 2016.

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Pariah Brewing Company coming to North Park

Feb 9
Paraiah Brewing's Brian Mitchell (photo courtesy Stone Brewing Co.)

Paraiah Brewing’s Brian Mitchell (photo courtesy Stone Brewing Co.)

Perpetually dressed in black and looking like a tad like a lord of the gothic underworld, Brian Mitchell cuts an imposing figure. Back that up with the fact he isn’t scared to speak his mind about his beer or anybody else’s and one might expect him to be a bit of an outsider among local brewers. Quite the contrary. He’s made a great many friends in the industry who admire his frankness, because its rooted in a love for the craft of brewing and desire to see the industry remain innovative and artistic versus revenue-focused and cookie-cutter. Those in his inner-circle get him, but as one might expect, companies chasing trends (e.g., fruit-extract beers, session-for-the-sake-of-being-session beers) simply peg him a curmudgeon. So, it’s fitting that, in staking out to build his own business, he’s gone with the name Pariah Brewing Company (3052 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park).

Mitchell’s interest is the first of three brewing companies that will lease space at Brewery Igniter’s upcoming North Park, ready-to-brew facility. Developed by H.G. Fenton, Pariah’s 2,000-square-foot combined brewery and tasting room suite will be outfitted with a 10-barrel Premier Stainless System. Completely customizable, it will be up to the Pariah team to breathe life and personality into. Mitchell says they’re going for a place where Jack the Ripper and Louis Carroll can both feel comfortable enjoying a pint. Not exactly conventional, but that’s the point…and that’s Mitchell.

“Pariah really speaks to how I’ve gone about my life. I’ve never made decisions based solely on what others believed to be correct and that’s something I feel strongly about…even if it does get me in trouble from time to time,” says Mitchell. “Being called crazy or a moron never really bothers me because I’m just doing what I believe to be best at that moment. It will translate to the business ethos as our team is both comprised and surrounded by ‘morons’ who are equally individualistic.”

Mitchell recalls being called a moron, literally, when he brewed 10 barrels of Gose in 2010 when a previous employer asked him to brew a “German wheat beer.” At the time, no local breweries were producing the kettle-soured, salt-infused Gose beer style. Now, kettle-sours are one of the fastest growing styles in the brewing industry with Gose and Berliner Weiss (both Germanic wheat-based beers) leading the charge. Recently, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company released its own mass-distributed take on Gose to rave reviews. This puts Mitchell a half-decade or so ahead of the country’s second-largest independent craft brewing company. Not too shabby.

Mitchell, who previously brewed at La Jolla Brew House, Helm’s Brewing Company and, most recently, Stone Brewing Co., plans to be similarly unconventional at Pariah, where he says he intends to push buttons and attempt to break new ground. Like most local beer enthusiasts, Mitchell loves a good India pale ale. He intends to brew several spins on the style, but he and his team are looking forward to exploring different ingredients and processes to make special beers that aren’t so much like those already available throughout the county. One he is particularly excited about is a beer exclusively fermented using a yeast culture captured from a flowering tree in his own backyard. Not “backyard” as in North Park or San Diego…his actual backyard. Bone-dry, hoppy and “funky fresh,” it’s like nothing he or the veterans he’s shared it with have ever experienced.

The aforementioned beer is bound to elicit interest from beer fanatics, but they’ll need to wait until the third quarter of 2016. That is the current debut estimate for Pariah, which will aim to produce 1,700 barrels per year once up and running. And if your interest is particularly high, as in you might be interested in taking part in the business, Mitchell and partner, Dennis Schoenwald are actively seeking strategic partners and can be reached via email.

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Black Plague Brewing breaking out in Vista

Feb 8

blackplagueTrademark issues are common in the brewing industry. With thousands of businesses in operation and plenty more looking to get into the business, brewing companies are often forced to abandon names they are fond of because somebody got there first. Such was the case with the founders of Dark Ages Brewing. After coming up with that name and drawing up a “plague doctor” logo, they were forced to let the name go and come up with something new. But they loved that logo, so now that business, which is slated to open in Vista, shall be known by the rather menacing handle, Black Plague Brewing Company.

According to company co-founder John Kilby, England’s infamous Black Plague gave rise to the tavern in certain townships as people gathered in search of communalism during the worst of times. In a much brighter sense, Black Plague Brewing hopes to celebrate bringing people together for purposes of socializing and celebration. But first, there’s much work to be done. KIlby and company are about to close on a spot sharing space with an existing restaurant that includes a 2,000-square-foot outside patio. That may be done by the time this article goes to print. After that will come the installation of a brewhouse—likely a 15-barrel system—followed by brewing. Even with all of that, the Black Plague team is aiming for a summer opening.

Once constructed, the brewery will be the domain of Dr. Philip Vieira, a neuroscientist with experience working at a Southern California nanobrewery after earning numerous awards as a homebrewer. The amount of beer he’ll brew annually has yet to be determined (between 1,500 and 10,500 barrels), but his standard portfolio should come in around 10 beers with a quartet of specialty offerings. Core beers will be varied from a body standpoint (light, medium, dark) and include a cream ale, golden rye ale, Irish red ale, Scotch ale, India pale ale, black IPA and stout. Expect more adventurous styles—sours and Brettanomyces-fermented beers—from their specialty brews.

Though too early to be working toward steps two through 200, Black Plague’s ownership team says the sky is the limit and is entertaining out-of-state distribution and multiple taprooms in the future. For now, it’s about incubation in hopes of effecting a full-on mid-summer outbreak.

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Beer of the Week: The Hop Concept Hull Melon and Blanc IPA

Feb 5
The Hop Concept Hull Melon and Blanc IPA

The Hop Concept Hull Melon and Blanc IPA

From the Beer Writer: “Now that’s a mouthful,” I remember uttering through my own mouthful of duck-wing meat at Plan 9 Ale House as I read the name of the latest India pale ale (IPA) from Port Brewing Co. and The Lost Abbey’s newest spinoff operation. The beer in question was The Hop Concept (THC) Hull Melon and Blanc IPA. Told you! Believe it or not, that name could have been longer. The moniker describes the two hop varietals used to dry-hop this 8% alcohol-by-volume IPA—Hull Melon and Hallertau Blanc. They left the word Hallertau out (thank God), but it’s still challenging from a linguistic standpoint. Fortunately, thanks to its ultra-dry nature, it’s very simple to drink. Big tropical aromas come on strong, but the beer’s flavors are more citrusy and followed by a white pepper note I find reminiscent of the finish on sister-biz saison, The Lost Abbey’s Carnevale Ale. There’s no correlation between these beers, that’s just how it hit my palate. And, psst, want to sound super-smart when you order the beer? The Hull Melon is missing an umlaut. It’s actually pronounced “Yule Malone.” Busting that out at the bar should make you at least a tenth as impressive as this tasty IPA!

From the Brewer: “With the four THC IPAs all being an exploration of different combinations in the dry-hopping process, Hull Melon and Hallertau Blanc were some of the first hops that came to mind. ​Both being new German aroma varietals, the first THC IPA seemed like the perfect fit to highlight these hops and let them do their thing. We’re really excited on how the beer turned out and can’t wait to use these hops again in future recipes.”—Steve Burchill, Lead Brewer, Port Brewing Co./The Lost Abbey/The Hop Concept 

From the Bottle: Our flagship series of dry-hopped IPAs explores the limitless combinations of our favorite classic, new and experimental hops. Each one is crafted to bring out the complementary characteristics of the different varietals–and deliver a solid hit of bold, crispy freshness. This big, bright, fruity IPA celebrates some of the newest hop varietals cultivated in the Hallertau region of Bavaria, the epicenter of the hop universe. Huge aromas of passion fruit, pineapple and grapefruit from the Hallertau Blanc hops lead the charge. While the Hull Melon balances things out with floral honeydew and strawberry notes you won’t typically find in other hops.

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Q&A: Mike Sardina

Feb 3
San Diego Brewers Guild president Mike Sardina (Photo: Matthew "Fuj" Scher)

San Diego Brewers Guild president Mike Sardina (Photo: Matthew “Fuj” Scher)

President, San Diego Brewers Guild

Each year, the San Diego Brewers Guild elevates a member of the local brewing industry to the role of president. Unlike the American presidency, candidate selection comes without muckraking, spouting of platitudes or child-like behavior. The Guild is all for one and one for all, with this year’s one-for-all being Mike Sardina. The assistant executive officer for Kearny Mesa’s Societe Brewing Company, Sardina volunteered for the position, serving first as vice president under last year’s leader, Kevin Hopkins (Mother Earth Brew Co.) to get a feel for the position before taking it on. A trip to the SDBG’s oval office resulted in the following presidential interview outlining some of Sardina’s initiatives for 2016.

What inspired you to throw your hat in the ring for Guild presidency?
Mike Sardina: Even before I transitioned into the industry, I was a fan of the beer community and the camaraderie among the brewers here in San Diego. Coming down here from San Francisco to visit and explore all-things-beer, it was clear that the Guild played a big role in making San Diego a magical place for beer. After I joined Societe, I started attending Guild meetings. At an early meeting, I saw (California Craft Brewers Association executive director) Tom McCormick present his legislative update and I knew then and there that I wanted to be as involved as possible with the Guild to help promote San Diego beer and the interests of local brewers. This led me to the Board of Directors and into the position of vice president in 2015.

What does being president of the Guild entail?
MS: There are many facets to the position, but it ultimately comes down to working as hard as possible at every opportunity to achieve the mission of the Guild, which was founded in 1997 in order to promote San Diego breweries, create an open line of communication between brewers and advocate for more modern beer laws. I am involved with fielding media inquiries, hosting folks from out of town and sharing my favorite San Diego breweries with beer tourists. I host the Guild’s general meetings and organize formal and informal meetings between brewers. I also work on legislative issues facing brewers at the local, state and national levels.

What are some initiatives you are excited to introduce and work on?
MS: I am excited to push harder this year to get more people involved and working collectively toward advancing the idea and the story of San Diego beer. Two specific areas of interest are establishing working committees within the Guild, one that focuses on technical brewing and quality, and another that focuses on beer tourism, hospitality and marketing the concept of “San Diego beer” at the national level. I fully believe that if we all focus on quality beer and technical brewing proficiency at each San Diego brewery, and if we all focus on promoting San Diego and the incredible beers being brewed here, we can help our county achieve the recognition that it deserves as being the best beer city in the world.

What are some opportunities for success for local brewers that the Guild can help with?
MS: Getting exposure for breweries, introducing beer drinkers to their beers and stories. The Guild publishes the San Diego Brewers map, an important resource and tool to help promote beer tourism and brewery visits in San Diego. Third is San Diego Beer Week. Get involved with the Guild during San Diego’s biggest annual celebration of beer. SDBW should be a highlight for beer brewed and poured locally, and the brewers and bars here are directly responsible for that.

What is a major problem facing local brewers?
MS: First and foremost is beer quality. If you’re not brewing good beer, that is an issue, and you are doing a disservice to the entire community in San Diego. We can’t accept bad (or even mediocre) beer.  If we want San Diego beer to be representative of the best beers in the world, then every brewery here needs to be brewing world-class beer. Fortunately, there are members of the Guild who are willing and able to help fix quality issues. Be open and honest about your beer and don’t be afraid to ask for help. One bad glass of San Diego beer reflects poorly on us all. Don’t cut corners.

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