This month, the two craft-brewing industry trade organizations of the greatest importance to local breweries—national entity, the Brewers Association, and the San Diego Brewers Guild—have unveiled initiatives seeking to assist consumers in identifying products from authentically independent brewing companies. It started with the latter introducing decals that can be placed on the exterior of member organizations (all of which meet the SDBG’s independence standards). That was followed this week by the BA rolling out a seal of independence that qualifying breweries can feature on their beer-packaging at retail.
Both organizations share the same motivation. With macro-beer producers’ long-standing practice of creating faux craft brands, and the more recent phenomenon of those conglomerates purchasing craft breweries, in part or in whole, and using misleading and often times false information via advertising campaigns and product labeling to disguise their non-craft products, it has become essential for authentically independent operations to help educate consumers that they are, indeed, the real thing, as opposed to the likes of AB InBev-, MillerCoors– and Constellation Brands-owned interests.
In the words of the Brewers Association: When it comes to the origins of food and beverages, there is increasing public interest in transparency. Beer lovers are no exception. As Big Beer acquires former craft brands, beer drinkers have become increasingly confused about which brewers remain independent. They want to know who makes their beer. With the launch of [the BA’s independence] seal, the BA is making it easy to identify which beer is made by independent craft brewers.
The BA’s seal features an upturned beer bottle (signifying the manner in which craft brewers have turned the industry upside-down over the past several decades) and the words “Brewers Association Certified Independent Craft”. To be able to use the seal, companies must meet the BA’s criteria, which includes: annual production of six million barrels or less and being less than 25% owned or controlled by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. In addition to bottles, cans, six-pack holders, case-boxes and other packaging, the seal can also be used at places of business and on marketing materials.
In San Diego County, the SDBG’s decals read “Proud Member San Diego Brewers Guild” and note the current calendar year. In addition to the decals, the SDBG is also creating flags and tap-handle danglers for use at tasting rooms and on-premise accounts. These are key components of the organization’s Conscious Consumer Campaign.
When I first met Alex Van Horne he was looking to install a sci-fi-themed brewery in Poway. The plot reminded me of that of Jim Crute, who installed his science-themed Lightning Brewery in Poway a half-decade or so before. Crute sold his manufacturing assets to Orange County-based Cismontane Brewing Company earlier this month after failing to find a buyer for his struggling operation. Though Van Horne eventually opened his Intergalactic Brewing Company in the Miramar community, his plot-line remains similar to Crute’s. Today, the business-owner and brewmaster announced that he is beginning the process of “exploring all options” for the future of his brewery, “including, but not limited to, putting the business assets up for sale.”
Van Horne says he opened his business with insufficient capital; a mere $25,000. In spite of this, Intergalactic earned a strong cult following, enough that the award-winning brewery was able to take over a larger suite in Intergalactic’s business-park home and convert it to a tasting room, in turn expanding brewing operations at the original location. Still, Van Horne says that over the past year “it has become increasingly obvious that the brewery in its current formulation is not able to provide a stable economic foundation [for him and his wife] to begin the next chapters of [their] lives.”
Van Horne has sought out investors, but did not secure enough money to sufficiently modernize his brewery. So the boot-strapping continued, and it went rather well, but this may be the end for Intergalactic in its current form. He will be fielding inquiries from interested parties and, with any luck, the brand will survive, but Intergalactic may go the way of Lightning, and Van Horne may bow out of the brewing industry altogether. But for now, the business remains open. Van Horne hopes to see long-time fans in the coming months, so they—and he—can enjoy the brewery in its current form. Van Horne says he is “infinitely grateful” for the help and support he has received from his contemporaries in the craft-beer industry. He is keen to stay aboard for his brewery’s next chapter, but will be alright even if that’s not in the cards. “At the end of the day, it’s a business,” he says. “I’ll still have my friends, colleagues and many customers supporting me wherever I go or whatever I do. That’s the most rewarding part.”
From the Beer Writer: Large doses of CTZ, Cascade and Chinook hops went into this week’s featured beer, Duck Foot KASHI-entious IPA, but the ingredients that make it particularly special are those that make up the malt bill: oats and wheat. Pretty sexy, eh? Under normal circumstances, this is hardly noteworthy, but the components in question are “transitional”. Few know what this means, but that’s why this India pale ale was brewed, to help educate the public on ingredients produced by American farmers during the lengthy period required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to gain Organic certification. The idea for this came from Solana Beach-based Kashi, who helped Duck Foot Brewing Company procure the transitional oats and wheat for this beer, which comes in at 7.4% alcohol-by-volume and comes across as a bit of a throwback to the days when IPAs had long-lasting, assertive bitterness. A lemon bouquet gives way to grapefruit and toasted biscuit notes on the palate, leaving a tacky pithiness in the back of one’s throat. Much like newfound info about Organic certification, it’s a lot for the mind and taste buds to contemplate. The beer debuts today and will also be on tap at Duck Foot’s second anniversary party, which will take place on Saturday, July 8.
From the Brewer: We’ve collaborated with San Diego’s own Kashi on this IPA brewed with transitional ingredients in order to help American farmers in the process of increasing organic farmland. It takes three years for farmers to convert their fields to be eligible for USDA Organic certification. During this time, they cannot use pesticides, but they also cannot yet call their crops Organic. Kashi…and now Duck Foot…is trying to raise awareness of the hardship that these farmers endure during this ‘transitional’ period. By featuring transitional ingredients in this beer—in this case, rolled oats and hard red winter wheat—we hope to help promote their cause. As Kashi would say: ‘Don’t just brew something awesome, do something awesome!’”—Brett Goldstock, Chief Fermentation Officer, Duck Foot Brewing Company
In 2012, North Park’s Lafayette Hotel underwent a $6 million renovation and restoration that modernized its environs without wiping away its historic landmark charm. Many lodgings undergo such makeovers. It’s an essential component to achieving longevity, particularly with one-of-a-kind properties. But few would have expected the phenomenal success the Lafayette’s rebrand and improvements would bring. It is the venue of choice for most visitors to North Park, but there’s more to this spot’s triumphs than additional heads in beds. Locals are flocking to the Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows as well… and part of that has to do with the property’s wide-ranging incorporation of local craft beer.
Particularly innovative and fun are Suds Social Pool Parties, which started with Coronado Brewing Company debuting its canned offerings at a pool party last year. This year’s slate of sudsy pool fetes (SPF, get it) kicked off last month with Mother Earth Brew Co. and will continue with 32 North Brewing (“dad bod”-themed on June 18), Novo Brazil Brewing (July 23), the return of Coronado Brewing (August 20) and Second Chance Beer Co. (September 17). Other collaborations with local breweries have included St. Patrick’s Day beer-tastings, a fundraiser for a young cancer patient with 32 North, the Rockstar Beer Fest and a multi-course “culinary conspiracy” dinner paired with beers from Mike Hess Brewing.
That conspiratorial affair is far from the only way in which artisanal ales and lagers are worked into the food program at The Lafayette. HOPE 46, the hotel’s three-squares-a-day restaurant features a nicely stocked list, the contents of which are considered during menu composition. That job is handled by Ryan Gilbert, a well-traveled chef whose local experience includes Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa as well as Maderas Golf Club. He’s kept his head down in the kitchen en route to his current position, but not so much that he hasn’t seen the rise of local beer.
The base for the broth in the restaurant’s black mussels and pork-belly appetizer is Saint Archer Blonde Ale. And he also enjoys pairing items from his menu with beers he has on tap. Case in point, HOPE 46’s blackened wahoo tacos with citrus-dressed cabbage and pico de gallo paired with Mike Hess 8 West Orange Honey Wheat. “The beer complements the tacos in a subtle yet effective manner,” says Gilbert. “The crisp, citrus-laden flavor does not overshadow the light flavor of the Ono, but accentuates it with naturally earthy tones, and the fact that the dish has a lighter overall profile plays into the drinkability of the beer.”
Another pairing Gilbert is fond of is Acoustic Ales’ Shake Your Money Maker Brown Ale with his wild boar orecchiette. “The richness of the brown ale holds up well against the acidity of the Bolognese sauce, while the earthy tones accentuate the gamey flavor of the wild boar. The pairing allows the flavor of the dish to heighten the flavor of the beer.” Gilbert saw fit to provide readers the recipe for this dish so they can try making it and pairing it with a variety of beers.
Gilbert is not alone in his embrace of our region’s liquid gold. The staff at The Lafayette continue to conjure craft beer amenities for their lodgers. They are currently working on a beer tour package that will shuttle customers around North Park. With 14 breweries and brewing company tasting rooms in the area, this figures to be quite the value-added, particularly when participants will not only have a comfy bed to come back to, but even more beer and thoughtful cuisine—plus some epic pool parties—to go with it.
Drink beer and eat food…a perfect pairing. Such is the equation for ideal connoisseurship outlined by Coronado Brewing Company COO Kasey Chapman. It’s proven successful at the company’s original island brewpub and Imperial Beach satellite bar-and-restaurant, and soon will be called into service at its headquarters on Knoxville Street in Bay Park. CBC is in the process of installing a kitchen to service the tasting room at that production facility, the largest of its properties.
While mobile food vendors have done a good job for CBC, they are looking forward to providing a consistent food option for tasting room patrons. They believe being able to rely on that constant amenity will encourage customers to stick around longer rather than leave in search of edible sustenance.
The kitchen will be 1,000 square feet and outfitted with countertop cooking equipment as well as a double-decker pizza oven. Those mechanisms will be used to produce casual fare that will include, pizzas, calzones, panini sandwiches, wraps, salads and an assortment of appetizers. Beer will be incorporated into select dishes, but that will not be a focus of the menu.
The project has taken longer than expected, but is expected to be completed by August. Next up for the Bay Park tasting room will be installing additional seating. Even after that, it will retain its identity as a sampling space rather than take on a restaurant feel. Counter service and delivery care of food runners will make up day-to-day operations, and CBC is looking forward to holding special events such as beer brunches and barbecues.