Many are those who tour Ballast Point Brewing’s enormous Miramar headquarters with its 300-barrel and 150-barrel brewhouses and rows of sky-high fermenters feel the county’s largest brewing company must have all the room it needs, especially with additional brewing facilities in Scripps Ranch, Little Italy, Long Beach and Roanoke, Virginia. The Miramar facility comes in with greater production capability than any other in San Diego, but rapid expansion has rendered it out of space, leading parent company Constellation Brands to secure an 80,000-square-foot building directly north of the Miramar home base.
Ballast Point currently has control of 60,000 square feet of that structure for what it calls its Trade Street Facility. It has been divided into three equal-sized sections serving completely different purposes. One third is simply storage, while the middle third houses an abundant and growing stock of beer-filled oak barrels procured from various wineries and distilleries. The current barrel count comes in at approximately 1,400, with an additional 900 barrels in another facility less than a mile west on Crestmar Point. There are three full-time employees manning this section, and it will soon have tanks added to handle production of beers destined for those oak receptacles, which include about every type of liquor and wine imaginable with more on the way.
Ballast Point intends to up its number of barrel-aged beer releases which are currently held quarterly and locally. Those specialties will be distributed nationally, including four-pack releases of popular beers such as aged versions of its vanilla- and coffee-infused imperial porter, Victory at Sea. Other beers the team is looking forward to debuting include Sea Monster imperial stout and Piper Down Scottish ale in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, Navigator Doppelbock in brandy barrels, Barmy apricot and honey golden strong ale in neutral oak, plus various Belgian-style farmhouse, tripel and quadruple ales. In addition to its own needs, Ballast Point regularly fulfills requests from other breweries for barrels from its stock, including nearby Green Flash Brewing Company and 32 North Brewing Company.
The remaining third of the Trade Street facility is for “dirty beer”, referring to sours and bacteria-laden wild ales that, if not sectioned off, would stand a significant chance of infecting the clean beer as well as their production and storage mechanisms. This area has its own 40-barrel brewhouse feeding into more than 30 fermenters. It can produce up to 20,000 barrels of beer annually, some of which will make its way into six new 40-barrel, glycol-equipped, temperature-controlled fouders. The dirty area also has its own devoted bottling line, which recently packaged a national release’s worth of six-packs of Sour Wench blackberry ale.
Key to the new dirty beer operations is a state-of-the-art laboratory capable of providing as many quality assurance touch-points as the large lab at Ballast Point’s HQ. Prior to brewing Sour Wench for the most recent release, technicians conducted numerous tests, including analysis of myriad brands of blackberry puree and Lactobacillus strains, in search of the most ideal types for the beer. What they found was that the puree and strain the company was already using worked best, meaning the current batch of Sour Wench is very similar to the first batch ever homebrewed in 1998 (back when it went by the name Marion Berry’s Better-Than-A-Crack-Whore). While primary wild ale operations will now take place on Trade Street, Ballast Point hopes the aforementioned Long Beach facility will become the research-and-development feeder for the new facility.
The season of good-will and merriment is upon us…also, holiday beers and celebrating. Submitted for your enjoyment are several local events taking place this December. Salt-and-pepper (cinnamon-and-nutmeg?) them into your holiday plans, and refer to the West Coaster events page for a comprehensive list of goings-on throughout San Diego County.
December 3 | West Coaster Party: Your favorite local craft-beer publication doesn’t throw a ton of events, but when we do, we try to make it count. In that spirit, we’re teaming with 32 North Brewing Company to offer a four-pronged fete focusing on beer, meat, coffee and chocolate, San Diego-made iterations of which will be on-hand for mixing, matching, meshing and massacring. | 32 North Brewing Company, 8655 Production Avenue, Miramar, 12 p.m.
December 4 | SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off: It’s a merging of neighborhoods, a feast for the senses and a telling test of one’s ability to withstand extreme heat all wrapped up into one enchanted afternoon, when North Parkers and South Parkers come together to throw down with multiple takes on America’s spicy, stewed national dish and temper all that inherent incendiary heat with quality craft ales and lagers. | 32nd & Thorn Street, North & South Park, 11 a.m.
December 10 | Sore Eye Sudsmas: The co-host of San Diego BeerTalk Radio is holding a holiday party where attendees are encouraged to bring in food donations to a food drive being held by host-site, Societe Brewing Company. Prizes will be awarded to those who bring the most edibles and if a total of 2,000 pounds comes in, Societe will tap the only keg of cranberry sour, The Urchin, in existence. | Societe Brewing Company, 8262 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Kearny Mesa, 5 p.m.
December 15-17 | Ugly Sweater Events: ‘Tis the weekend for events celebrating ironic yuletide-wear. Start early on Thursday with an ugly sweater Christmas party at OB’s Raglan Public House, then roll up on the Ales ‘n’ Rails beer-tasting at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum before taking in a Saturday suds-and-sweaters soiree at Tap That in Oceanside. | Multiple Locations, Times Vary
Editor’s Note: In addition to his role as Editor at Large for West Coaster, the author is also employed by Societe Brewing Company.
Though small and not widely known just yet, 32 North Brewing Company (8655 Production Avenue, Miramar) is looking to push above its below-the-radar position in the San Diego brewing scene. The company has steadily upped its draft accounts over the past several months and, in May, debuted a satellite tasting-bar inside Liberty Station’s new Moniker General collective. But owner Steve Peterson wasn’t done there. In the past week, he picked up two known industry vets like an NBA GM sifting through the free-agent market.
First came Mike Mellow, a long-time local beer-sales force who recently left his post at North Park’s Fall Brewing Company. A mutual friend reached out to Peterson to tell him of Mellow’s availability. Over a four-day span, the pair hammered out an employment agreement. During those negotiations, Mellow shared with Peterson that Fall’s head brewer, Nick Ceniceros, was on the lookout for new opportunities as well. A meeting was scheduled and now Ceniceros will be in charge of 32 North’s brewing program.
Mellow is a San Diego veteran who held lead sales roles for Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, Mission Brewery, Saint Archer Brewery and Mike Hess Brewing Company prior to Fall. Prior to Fall, Ceniceros worked as an assistant brewer with Green Flash Brewing Company after getting his start on the bottling line at Ballast Point. He will step onto a brew-deck vacated by former head-brewer Will Gallaspy, who took over for original 32 North brewer John Hunter, who is now with Bay Ho’s Bitter Brothers Brewing Company.
Additional fermentation tanks are currently on order as 32 North poises itself for increased production. Peterson is also readying for the introduction of three beers in 12-ounce cans. Those aluminum receptacles will be filled via a recently purchased in-house canning line.
From the Beer Writer: What’s 23 plus 32? I’ve always been horrible at math, so it shouldn’t surprise you that my answer isn’t 55. That’s OK, because the solution to this equation isn’t a number at all. The answer is maibock, because in this case I’m talking about the sum (or product, in this case) of Division 23 Brewing Company and 32 North Brewing Company. Both operations are based in Miramar and each of their head brewers recently put their heads together for a collaboration beer that will debut when Division 23 celebrates its one-year anniversary today starting at 3 p.m. Six-and-a-half percent alcohol-by-volume, it’s light in body, bright with mineral-like expressions of lager yeast and easy to love. Making its name Playor Hator Maibock a tad ironic, but still pretty darn funny. For more on that handle, I’ll defer to one of the individuals responsible for it…
From the Brewer: “This strong, pale lager was brewed to celebrate both the change of seasons and Division 23’s one-year anniversary. It was our first collaboration brew with our friends and neighbors at 32 North Brewing Company. (32 North head brewery) Will Gallaspy and I both share a love for traditional German lagers, so a maibock was a natural choice. This beer is light and easy drinking, with a mellow bitterness and slight honey aroma. We chose to follow the German tradition of naming bocks with the -ator suffix, and so the name Playor Hator was born. It will be available on tap at both of our tasting rooms for a limited time, starting with our two-day anniversary on June 10 and 11, where we’ll be releasing our first barrel-aged beer—a bourbon barrel-aged version of our Night Shift imperial stout—as well as a new barley-wine and our Sour Superintendent Berliner weisse served with a quintet of special syrups such as chipotle, Sichuan-spice and lemongrass.”—Kevin Daugherty, Head Brewer, Division 23 Brewing Company
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station is the undisputed big-kid-on-the-block when it comes to beer in Point Loma’s Liberty Station development (it’s also San Diego’s largest restaurant). But it’s far from the only game in town. There are now a lot more ale-and-lager options, and they’re surrounding the gargoyle clan’s brewery-equipped resto. Slater’s 50/50 is on the same block, the recently opened Liberty Public Market brought with it the third iteration of popular bar and beer-shop hybrid Bottlecraft next-door, and last Friday, retail collective Moniker General soft-opened across a small side-street featuring a tasting-bar stocked with beers from Miramar’s 32 North Brewing Company.
Moniker General is 4,200-square-feet and also plays home to Moniker Coffee bar and various retailers managed by Other Sons. But getting back to the beer, 32 North owner Steve Peterson is excited to gain exposure beyond his Beeramar headquarters, and actually sees the proximity to Stone as a plus as that venue attracts numerous beer-fans looking for something new and interesting. This, despite the fact that a contractual clause instituted by Stone limits the number of beer taps 32 North can have to eight.
The bar is equipped with ten taps, so the remaining two will dispense kombucha and cold-brew coffee. The remainder are initially pouring Landfill Berliner weisse, Nautical Mile India pale ale, Pennant pale ale, Shelter Island blonde, Fly By Night nitro milk stout, Orange is the New Black porter, The Olde Ship Irish-style red ale and Common Theory hoppy wheat aale Ale. Those beers will be available on-site and to-go in growlers.
Moniker General is open Mondays and Tuesdays, 4 to 9 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.