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Posts by Brandon Hernández

Beer of the Week: SouthNorte Sea Señor Mex Lager

Sep 22

Sea Señor Mexican-style lager from SouthNorte Brewing Company

From the Beer Writer: If there’s any gringo brewer that’s going to do right by both San Diego and Baja, it’s Ryan Brooks. He has lived a cross-cultural life, residing in Tijuana and working with brewers spanning as far east as Mexicali, soaking up the cross-border brewing culture along the way. Brooks is so enamored with the exciting things happening in his adopted region’s brewing scene that his new business, SouthNorte Beer Company (a spin-off brand of parent-operation Coronado Brewing Company), aims to celebrate the flavors and ingredients of Mexico along with the personal brewing heritage he amassed in Southern California. A key component to doing so is forging a flagship Mexican-style lager, and Brooks has done so with SouthNorte Sea Señor. Rather than rely on bells, whistles and adjuncts to add extra character, this inaugural 4.5% alcohol-by-volume offering is as true-to-form as it gets, relying on traditional ingredients to produce a crystal-clear, clean and incredibly refreshing beer. Tinged with the slightest bit of sweetness and complimentary herbal notes (think thyme and marjoram), it has what it takes to serve as an ambassador to the glories of craft beer for Latinos, who until recently, haven’t been marketed to all that well nor given much reason to give locally produced ales and lagers a shot. That changes here and now. Viva la revolución de la cerveza artesanal!

From the Brewers: “Sea Señor is the flagship beer that really kickstarted the idea of SouthNorte Beer Co. I was experimenting with the flavors and ingredients of Mexico, and brewing my take on a Mexican lager. I wanted something refreshing and easy to drink—like the beers I was enjoying in Baja—but brewed locally with quality ingredients. I use crisp pilsner malt and a classic yeast strain to get the smoothness typical of the style, but with a fuller flavor. We use European Noble hops at low hopping rates so the beer is balanced but not overly bitter. We then lager for three weeks so the beer is incredibly smooth and goes down easy, whether it’s by the pool or over a meal with friends. I’m excited for people to experience what SouthNorte is all about. Sea Señor is just the first of what’s to come—I am so inspired by our border culture and I can’t wait to brew recipes that showcase our ‘crossroads of cultures’ style.”Ryan Brooks, Founder/Head Brewer, SouthNorte Beer Company

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Portland expat installing Attitude Brewing in Barrio Logan

Sep 20

Kurt Bach began homebrewing with his friends in 1983 in Portland, Oregon. They may or may not have been of legal drinking age at the time, but they kept at the hobby until they were…and far beyond. Fifteen years ago, Bach really wanted to open a brewery in The Beaver State, but he felt it was too saturated. There were 50 breweries in Oregon at the time, with roughly 10 opening each year. Fast-forward and there are now more than 230 breweries there. He kicks himself regularly. But instead of wondering what could have been, Bach, now a San Diego resident, is finally in the process of building his passion project, Attitude Brewing Company, at the Mercado Del Barrio development at 1985 National Avenue in Barrio Logan. He says it was “now or never.”

Specifics such as system size, cellar capacity and exact styles are still being worked out, but Bach has a lot in store for his 4,500-square-foot space. In addition to the brewing component, Bach is installing a quick-service food venue called Attitude Gourmet Wraps, Burgers and Beers. It will be the first of several planned locations for that eventual chain, all of which will serve beers produced at the Barrio Logan progenitor. Those beers will combine American and Mexican suds sensibilities with the goal to someday distribute them in Mexico. Bach sees Barrio Logan as the perfect neighborhood to base this sort of cross-cultural operation, but there are many other positives that drew Bach to Mercado Del Barrio. Chief among them were its accessibility to freeways and an abundance of parking. A five-story parking garage will be available to patrons directly across the street.

Bach has participated in many brew days at professional breweries over the years, doing it for both joy and education, but he is particularly excited to mash in on his own system. He remembers the “cool guy at the party” effect beer had for him back in those maybe-legal days, and hopes to build a warm, down-to-earth place where employees make customers feel like the cool ones. That feeling will also be available to go care of crowlers. Attitude is currently on-track for a December soft opening.

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​The Perfect Pairing

Sep 19

I never grow weary of the incredulous if not reviled looks I receive when telling the unindoctrinated about the harmonious beer-and-dessert pairing that is carrot cake and India pale ale. I can relate. The first time Ballast Point Brewing veteran Colby Chandler shared this one-two punch with me, I was floored. It sounded ridiculous to marry any confectionery creation – much less one fueled by beta carotene – with a hoppy beer, but once we put that theory to practice during a cookbook shoot, I found out how meant to be this unlikely duo actually is.

In the years since, I’ve indulged in this pairing numerous times and found that what takes it from being a good pairing to a great pairing is beer selection. For the most part carrot cake tastes the same from baker to baker, but IPAs can vary dramatically. Those that are more of the old-fashioned English or imperial kind tend to be sweeter with more malt-born caramel notes, while San Diego-style IPAs are drier with unimpeded hop aromas and flavors. All these types of IPAs will work, but hop-profile is key. Classic C hops – Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus – lead with resinous, pine-like characteristics that are among the few that don’t mesh well with carrot cake. IPAs brewed with hops exhibiting the essence of tropical and citrus fruit – Citra, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin – fare much better with this classic dessert.

Carrot cake with Pure Project beer

Until recently, this was the extent of my technique for pairing IPAs and carrot cake, but the emergence of a new ilk of India pale ale recently inspired me further refinement, and it turns out that, with its unbelievably fruit-forward flavors and low-grade bitterness, hazy Northeast-style IPAs brewed with hops packed with tropical punch are the penultimate option in this sweets-and-suds game. Options abound from breweries all throughout San Diego County, but when experimenting I ventured into the heart of the “Murklands”, Miramar’s Pure Project Brewing. In just over a year they have made a big name for themselves thanks much in part to their ever-hazy line of hop-heavy offerings. After some trial with very little error, I can attest that their Northeast-style IPAs pair nicely with carrot cake, but I wanted to take things to a new level, by not only selecting a well-suited beer, but tweaking the cake to blend especially well with its liquid counterpart.

Enter my tropical take on carrot cake. I start with a time-tested recipe for that dessert, then adjust its many mix-ins, which often include raisins, nuts, pineapple, coconut flakes and carrots. The latter remain, of course, as does the pineapple, which is the most obvious flavor-bridge for the tropical-fruit essence of the hops in the IPA. The coconut and raisins stay, as well, but the latter are made to soak in a substantial dose of spiced rum before going in, adding to the tropical nature of the finished product. And though popular, I do not add any walnuts or pecans, as they don’t bring much flavor to the party, and none that aids in pairing with the IPA.

On the frosting front, it would be downright sacrilege to mess with the glory that is cream cheese, butter and sugar, but instead of adding milk or lemon juice, I substitute in some pineapple juice. A generous sprinkling of toasted coconut helps bring things together while adding texture. It also makes this dessert a shoe-in pairing with Vacation Coconut IPA from Resident Brewing, which comes across as the Piña Colada of beer.

Pure Project head brewer Winslow Sawyer suggested grilling the pineapple, but given the lack of caramel notes in the beer I selected, a murky IPA hopped exclusively with Mosaic called Thousands of Money, I felt it was best to go with unadulterated pineapple. But by all means, switch things up and try your own forms of experimentation. The results will be as fun to savor as your friends’ reactions when you tell them how well carrot cake pairs with hoppy beer.

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Beer of the Week: Resident Everyday California IPA

Sep 15

Everyday California IPA from Resident Brewing Company

From the Beer Writer: The week before last, I wrote about the San Diego Tourism Authority teaming up with Bay City Brewing Company to create an official beer for San Diego. Backed by the SDTA’s powerful marketing engine, that brew received a great deal of press. Bonus, it tasted really good, too! Carrying the name and reputation of a beer Mecca isn’t easy, especially San Diego, so props to Bay City for coming through. Ditto Resident Brewing Company, which recently teamed with La Jolla-based ocean-adventure apparel company Everyday California to produce a “California-inspired” India pale ale (IPA). Considering ours is considered the finest of the 50 states where the manufacture of hoppy beers is concerned, that’s a tall order, especially since IPA styles are different from NorCal to the Central and Southern regions. Modern Cali drinkers are all about the “juicy” flavors of citrus, stone and tropical fruits, but it’s massively piney beers that first brought IPA to prominence. Knowing this, head brewer Robert Masterson and company combined both of these eras in Resident Everyday California IPA, which comes across like many IPAs you’ve likely had before…and that’s a good thing. It’s the whole point when trying to epitomize such a vast and vibrant beer region. Aromas of pine cone, passion fruit, papaya and dewy grass transition to flavors of clementine, peach and more passion fruit followed by a lightly resinous tail-end bitterness. It may not be the official beer of the Golden State, but the Resident team clearly approached the creation of this beer as thought it would be.

From the Brewer: “Everyday California is a traditional West Coast-style India pale ale. This hoppy yet surprisingly drinkable beer is a throwback to when hops from the Pacific Northwest dominated the craft-beer scene. It has a medium body with a light malt backbone, and was brewed with Eureka, Amarillo and Columbus hops for a tropical-fruit aroma with hints of pine and citrus. At Resident, we always hope people feel like they are a part of our brewery family…a ‘resident.’ To do that, we work hard to create a relaxed, inviting atmosphere and tasting experience. Our collaborators at the San Diego-based outdoor adventure and apparel company, Everyday California, embody that same family-like, relaxed vibe, so this IPA speaks to the family of outdoor adventure lovers that they have created.”Craig Nelson, Brewer, Resident Brewing Company

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Shake-ups abound for Little Miss Brewing

Sep 14

Earlier this month a for-lease sign went up beside the signage for Little Miss Brewing’s much-anticipated tasting room on Ocean Beach’s Newport Avenue. The conversion of the site’s interior into a French World War II-themed sampling space is roughly halfway complete and the company’s logo has been mounted outside, making this an unexpected turn of events for everyone, including owners Greg and Jade Malkin. The marrieds behind this Miramar-based company’s satellite project have been paying rent on the space since last December and, in the time it has taken to attempt to obtain approval from the local faction of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), have opened another tasting room in Normal Heights. But the ABC process for their would-be OB interest has been nothing short of a bureaucratic nightmare.

The Malkins submitted their ABC application for the OB tasting room a week after sending the same paperwork for the Normal Heights project. Early on, things went as expected, including receipt of protests during the 30-day period when residents are allowed to formally raise issues. The majority of the protests were rescinded once the Malkins reached out to the individuals who had initiated them. What the Malkins were unaware of, however, is that a private meeting had been held without their notification or knowledge in late-April—outside of the public-protest period—between ABC supervisors, representatives of the San Diego Police Department (SDPD), a State Assembly member and additional OB residents not in favor of the tasting room. ABC representatives claimed the meeting was not specifically about Little Miss, but rather all tasting-room licenses pending on Newport Avenue, but Little Miss’ was the only license of that type pending at the time. The negatives that came out of that meeting, where the project was scrutinized without the applicants being able to defend their business, followed the Little Miss project file through its lifespan without the Malkins even knowing. But this constitutes only a portion of the obstacles.

While the Malkins respect the job and authority of the ABC and appreciate the hard-working nature of ABC employees, they echo the opinion of most (including ABC employees) that the department and its local offices are severely understaffed during this time of unprecedented brewery openings. During the many months they spent trying to open the OB tasting room, meetings with ABC agents typically yielded little in the way of concrete answers or reliable advice. Often, one agent would contradict the other. In the cases where they agreed, other governmental factions saw things differently. Additionally, the Malkins were told to call ABC reps at different offices as well as various individuals at the City of San Diego offices and SDPD. Most calls went unanswered, as did requests for information.

The key piece of info they coveted during the process were crime logs. During a meeting with the ABC on July 20, the Malkins were shown a letter from the SDPD dated June 29 stating it would not support the issuance of Little Miss’ OB license. The reason: the neighborhoods the Western Patrol Division serves (Ocean Beach, Hillcrest, La Playa, Linda Vista, Loma Portal, Midtown, Midway District, Mission Hills, Mission Valley West, Morena, Old Town, Point Loma Heights, Roseville-Fleetridge, Sunset Cliffs, University Heights and “Wooded Area”) had experienced an overall increase in crime and could not handle another ABC license issued in the area. The ABC said they would not go against the SDPD’s recommendation because they felt it was impossible to change their opinion. Determined to give that a try on their own, the Malkins asked to see the crime reports for the aforementioned communities. The ABC had those reports, but said they were not allowed to provide them to the Malkins, and directed them to obtain the data from the City. They attempted to do so, but after more unanswered calls, ended up downloading the information they needed from the City of San Diego’s website instead.

Through this fact-finding exercise, they discovered that, although alcohol-related crime had gone up in the Western Patrol Division’s patrol area as a whole, it had gone down in OB by a whopping 40% since the November 2014 introduction of the neighborhood’s first brewery tasting room—Culture Brewing Company on Newport Avenue. Also, the number-one alcohol-related crime in OB is open-container violations, primarily on the beach. They presented this information to multiple City Councilmembers, the Mayor’s office and ABC, even going so far as to waive Little Miss’ ability to sell packaged beer or growlers to go, but never received an answer. The final straw was a call earlier this week when the Malkins say it seemed like someone at the ABC had decided they were going to deny the license long ago—possibly as far back as the meeting that they weren’t given the opportunity to attend—but nobody wanted to be the bearer of bad news. It prompted them to officially pull the plug on the OB project.

New Little Miss Brewing brewmaster Mike Morbitzer

This drama isn’t the only turbulence for the company, which last week parted ways with the only brewmaster it has known during its first year of existence. This seems a much easier hurdle to get over than ABC issues. Former Green Flash Brewing Company brewer Joe Lisica spearheaded brewery and tasting room construction and beer production for Little Miss. His desire was to create clean, clear beers, including an assortment of single-malt-and-single-hop (SMASH) beers. While quality was never an issue and ownership appreciated Lisica and his beers, their vision for Little Miss’ portfolio was vastly different, leading to an amicable parting of ways. Mike Morbitzer, a fellow Green Flash alum Lisica hired as his assistant, has been promoted to brewmaster and will be responsible for reshaping Little Miss’ offerings to match the Malkin’s desires, which includes more new-school beers such as hazy IPAs and beers brewed with fruits and other adjuncts across varying styles. Meanwhile, Lisica is taking a brief hiatus from the industry to contemplate his next move, while entertaining offers from companies in need of his services.

Little Miss’ business model from the get-go has been to open six satellite tasting rooms under their manufacturing license, focusing on unsaturated neighborhoods — besides the planned OB location. The Malkins are leery of filing through the San Diego office again. A local ABC agent advised them to apply in La Mesa, a municipality that only recently began encouraging brewing companies to lay down stakes, but they will also likely look north once they have some time to gain some distance and lick their wounds.

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