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Posts Tagged abnormal beer

Q&A: Mikkel Borg Bjergsø

Jan 10

Owner & Brewmaster, Mikkeller Brewing San Diego

Last year, 10-year Denmark-based gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø hammered down stakes in Miramar, transforming AleSmith Brewing Co.’s original brewery into Mikkeller Brewing San Diego. His brewing team spent most of 2016 getting the feel of the facility. Now that group feels ready to be more aggressive in its fermentation activities. Bjergsø has vowed his brick-and-mortar will debut one new small-batch beer on a weekly basis beginning January 12 at its tasting room with a trio of new offerings: bourbon barrel-aged Beer Geek Brunch imperial oatmeal coffee stout, Fruit Face raspberry-coffee Berliner weisse and Uklar IPA. Future “San Diego Beer Release Series” debuts will take place every Saturday starting January 21. Keeping up with such a rapid rate of innovation and execution is no easy task. Curious about this and what it’s been like for this world-famous brewer to find his feet in San Diego, we sat down with him to pick his brain.

WC: What are some surprises you’ve encountered in San Diego?
Mikkel Borg Bjergsø: It’s been surprising how different the beer scene is in the U.S. compared to Europe. There are so many great players—especially in San Diego—and so many great beers. You really have to make an effort to stand out. I think with the new special-release series we will.

WC: What drove the decision to release a new beer every week?
MBB: Brewing a lot of different beers and beer-styles is in our DNA, and it was only a matter of time before we set out to launch a similar release schedule in San Diego. At this point we have an amazing crew in place, the brewing equipment is all dialed in, and our management setup is so in tune with our vision that we are confident now is the time. Most people will associate us with a hectic output of beers in all styles, shapes and formats, which is exactly what they should expect. That, and the totally unexpected, of course. Having your own brewery opens up a world of possibilities that are not usually doable when working in someone else’s brewery, whether it’s contract brewing or on a collaboration basis.

WC: What is your day-to-day involvement like regarding brewing at Mikkeller SD?

MBB: We’ve had to adjust to both the physical distance and time difference, but I am fortunate in the sense that I have to rely on the very capable hands of our head brewer Bill Batten and his team of skilled assistant brewers. It’s still my recipes and vision, which we will discuss through our daily email chains and our weekly conference-call.

WC: What other interesting or exciting developments are on the horizon for Mikkeller SD?
MBB: There are a lot of super-exciting things under development, but the sour and barrel-aged beer programs are two projects we are putting a lot of effort into. We have such a creative team over there, and it seems that no matter how crazy the idea and/or recipe I throw at them, they enthusiastically turn those into great beer. We are also working on new collaborations with other breweries, and non-brewers as well.

WC: You’ve spent more time than ever in San Diego. What are some of your favorite local breweries?
MBB:
I hate to name favorite breweries as it pushes the rest to the side. In the San Diego area there are obviously a ton of amazing brewers, from the old guys like Stone Brewing, Green Flash Brewing Co. and Ballast Point Brewing, to the young guns like Abnormal Beer Co., Toolbox Brewing Co., Modern Times Beer Co. and many others. I still have a big heart for our friends at AleSmith, so if I have to name one…

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2016 Recap: San Diego’s Best New Breweries

Dec 13

It’s the final month of the year, and time to reflect on the year nearly gone-by. For me, that means assessing San Diego County’s brewery landscape. That’s what I’ll be doing in a three-part series of posts this week, starting with a look at the plethora of new brewing operations that opened in 2016. More breweries opened this year than any in history. And it’s important to note that more good breweries opened in 2016 than in the past several years. Many tout the double-digit number of rookie fermentation operations added to San Diego’s brewery-count each year, but I’ll be honest and say that the past half-decade has seen too many average-to-subpar businesses join the fold. Sure, some duds opened in 2016, but the same can be said of any food-and-beverage business. The bottom-line is, aspiring entrants into the local suds-scene seem to understand, now more than ever, that they better have good beer if they’re going to compete, and that’s leading to better breweries, from conception to birth and beyond. The following are my picks (in order) for best new breweries of the past 365 days (with the exception of some that were simply too new to be fairly evaluated).

Burning Beard Brewing Company in El Cajon

Burning Beard Brewing Co., El Cajon: Rockin’ beers and rock-and-roll make for amenities worth an East County excursion at this small but well-run spot featuring a variety of beers ranging from Belgians to San Diego-style hop-elixirs to deep, dark stouts and, eventually, fouder-aged ales. Throw in employee exuberance that ranges from the brew-crew to the bar staff, and it’s sort of a holy-grail situation.

North Park Beer Co., North Park: One of the most anticipated new brewery project of the past four years, the brainchild of its namesake community’s proud denizen Kelsey McNair finally came to life. Its former MMA gym home has been transformed into a beautiful, two-story, wood-paneled den of communal enjoyment of beers that are largely sessionable and rely on impressive balance versus belligerent brawn.

Downtown’s Resident Brewing Company

Resident Brewing Co., Downtown: Urban bar and eatery, The Local, is a long-time supporter of the craft-beer movement, but when it added on-site fermentation to its equation, the resulting product was something special. An award-winning homebrewer-turned-pro is pumping out some of the bolder, ideally hopped West Coast-style beers of the rookie-class while bringing flavor with myriad other styles.

Pure Project Brewing, Miramar: If a wide array of easy-drinking beers—crisp to full-bodied, clear to hazy, fruited to (GABF medal-garnering) barrel-aged—weren’t enough reason to become enamored with this, the first brewery to test out the Brewery Igniter ready-to-brew model, the fact it’s a generous One Percent for the Planet business is enough to pull the wishy-washy off the fence.

Bear Roots Brewing in Vista

Bear Roots Brewing, Vista: A small homebrew-supply store opening a three-barrel nano-brewery with a bar that takes up half its shop…sounds risky if not ill-advised, but a husband-wife duo have not only made it work, but amassed such a cult-following behind a varied beer line-up that includes a tasty cookie-inspired dessert beer that they’re looking at growing their baby to papa-bear status in 2017.

Bitter Brothers Brewing Co., Bay Ho: The first brewery to open in 2016 has done well for itself, producing a solid line-up of hoppy beers offset by a number of English-style malt-driven styles and “candy-bar” beers. Further refinement of its wares in the coming year should keep this operation on its upward trajectory, as should fun, well-done quarterly beer dinners in its tasting room.

It’s important to note that, in previous years, a half-dozen picks for best new brewery would have been excessive. This year, I could have added another two or three rather easily. The following are those that missed the cut, but never before has the division between the best and the rest been so slim. Cheers to that!

This Year’s Contenders: Culver Beer Co. (Carlsbad), Guadalupe Brewery (Carlsbad), Kensington Brewing Co. (Mission Valley), Little Miss Brewing Co. (Miramar), Longship Brewery (Mira Mesa), Mason Ale Works (Oceanside), Midnight Jack Brewing Co. (Oceanside), Mikkeller Brewing San Diego (Miramar), Oceanside Brewing Co. (Oceanside),

Maybe Next Year: Burgeon Beer Co. (Carlsbad), Eppig Brewing Co. (North Park), Knotty Brewing (East Village), OB Brewery (Ocean Beach), Thunderhawk Alements (Miramar)

Previous Top-Ranked Breweries

2015: Fall Brewing Co. (North Park), Second Chance Beer Co. (Carmel Mountain), South Park Brewing Co. (South Park), Bay City Brewing Co. (Point Loma), Abnormal Beer Co. (Rancho Bernardo), Duck Foot Brewing Co. (Miramar)

2014: Bagby Beer Co. (Oceanside), Nickel Beer Co. (Julian), Council Brewing Co. (Kearny Mesa), URBN St. Brewing Co. (El Cajon), Toolbox Brewing Co. (Vista)

2013: Rip Current Brewing Co. (San Marcos), Benchmark Brewing Co. (Grantville), Amplified Ale Works (Pacific Beach), Belching Beaver Brewery (Vista), Modern Times Beer (Point Loma)

2012: Societe Brewing Co. (Kearny Mesa), Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery (East Village), Latitude 33 Brewing Co. (Vista)

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November Events Sampler Flight: Best of Beer Week

Nov 1

sdbw_logoIf ever there were a month made for craft-beer revelry, November is it. San Diego Beer Week takes place from November 4-13 and includes literally hundreds of events throughout the county. They range from pint-nights to full-on festivals. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure of sorts, allowing beer-fans to tailor these ten days to their personal tastes. I urge everyone to have it your way, but in an effort to guide those looking for a good time as I see it, I’ve listed my dream Beer Week scenario below. Enjoy the hoppiest time of the year, but don’t forget there are plenty of other awesome events taking place before and after Beer Week. For the most comprehensive list of local events around, consult the constantly updated West Coaster events calendar.

Friday, November 4

  • Rare Beer Breakfast, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Escondido
  • 4-Year Anniversary & Barrel-Aged Bottle Release, Amplified Ale Works, Pacific Beach
  • VIP Brewer’s Takeover, Port Pavilion at Broadway Pier, Downtown

Saturday, November 5

  • Beer for Breakfast with Abnormal Beer Co., Small Bar, University Heights
  • San Diego Brewers Guild Festival, Port Pavilion at Broadway Pier, Downtown
  • Fall Brewing 2nd Anniversary with The Creepy Creeps, Casbah San Diego, Little Italy

Sunday, November 6

  • Modern Times Vegan Brunch, Churchill’s Pub & Grille, San Marcos
  • Barrel-Aged Vanilla Storm Bottle Release, Rip Current Brewing Company, North Park
  • The Bruery Beer Dinner, George’s at the Cove, La Jolla

Monday, November 7

  • Fishing with the Brewers; Fathom Bistro, Bail & Tackle; Shelter Island
  • Pink Boots Society Special Release, Rock Bottom, La Jolla
  • Brew, Views & Chews, Tom Ham’s Lighthouse, Harbor Island

Tuesday, November 8

  • Table Beer Tap Takeover, Benchmark Brewing Company, Grantville
  • Beer to the Rescue Bad Hombre Release, White Labs, Miramar
  • Chicks for Beer with Laura Ulrich, The High Dive, Bay Park

Wednesday, November 9

  • Sour Beer Fest, Intergalactic Brewing Company, Miramar
  • Speedway Grand Prix, AleSmith Brewing Company, Miramar
  • Tyson’s Big Ass Barrel Night, O’Brien’s Pub, Kearny Mesa

Thursday, November 10

  • San Diego County Beer Week Frisbee Golf Tourney, Morley Field & Hamilton’s Tavern, South Park
  • The New Kids Brewing & Distilling Festival, Marina Village, Mission Bay
  • Paradox Beer Dinner, The Bellows, San Marcos

Friday, November 11

  • We Got the Funk, Pizza Port, Ocean Beach
  • Battle of the Guilds, Toronado, North Park
  • Roll Out the Barrels, North Park Beer Co., North Park

Saturday, November 12

  • Stone AHA Rally, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Liberty Station
  • Carnitas’ Snack Shack Beer Brunch Buffet, Thorn St. Brewery, North Park
  • 2nd Anniversary Celebration, O’Sullivan Bros. Brewing Company, Scripps Ranch

Sunday, November 13

  • Danksauce & Dog Show, The Quartyard, East Village
  • Garage Sale with Garage Project, Sessions Public, Ocean Beach
  • Beer Garden, The Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla

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Beer of the Week: Abnormal Boss Pour IPA

Oct 7
Boss Pour IPA from Abnormal Beer Co. inside Rancho Bernardo's The Cork & Craft

Boss Pour IPA from Abnormal Beer Co. inside Rancho Bernardo’s The Cork & Craft

From the Beer Writer: In addition to writing, I am fortunate enough to be a part of the local brewing industry. It’s a special scene where the majority of its members truly champion San Diego craft-beer as a whole over our individual companies. This is aided by several trade organizations, including the California Craft Brewers Association, which holds a number of events each year to keep the ties of camaraderie that bind Golden State brewers taut and well-fortified. My favorite event is the CCBA Summit, which took place last month in Sacramento. A combination industry-conference and beer-festival, it shows beer professionals and fans alike what makes our local ales and lagers so special. On the first day of the conference, I volunteered to pour beer at a bar set-up within the Summit grounds by the San Diego Brewers Guild. We were pouring a trio of beers, including one I’m very familiar with as a Rancho Bernardo resident, Boss Pour IPA from Abnormal Beer Company. A thirst- and taste-bud-quenching, 7% alcohol-by-volume India pale ale projecting myriad hop flavors and aromas ranging from fruity to piney to wine-y, it’s a go-to for me whenever I’m visiting the brewery in closest proximity to my house…given it’s on-tap at the time. That’s not always the case, unfortunately. But just as when I was pouring samples in Sacramento, I am happy to say Boss Pour is currently pouring, and pleased to let more people in on a favorite of mine from my immediate neck of the woods.

From the Brewer: “In Southern California we like our IPAs dry, light in color and packed with hop flavor and aroma. This beer will give the people what they want. Most of the bittering is produced at the end of the boil with a heavy dose of Simcoe hops. Then the entire batch is run through our hop-back, which is loaded with whole-leaf Cascade hops, an entire pound-per-barrel. But the hop additions do not stop there. After fermentation, we dry-hop with Nelson Sauvin and Citra at 2.2 pounds-per-barrel, giving the beer a heavy, dank aroma that you can smell a few feet away.”—Derek Gallanosa, Head Brewer, Abnormal Beer Company

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Q&A: Tom Nickel

May 26

tom nickelOrganizer, San Diego International Beer Festival

There’s more to the San Diego County Fair than tilt-a-whirls, geode collections, hot-tub shows and deep-fried everything. It also plays host to one of the largest annual craft-beer festivals, here or anywhere on the West Coast, the San Diego International Beer Festival (SDIBF). This year’s event will feature hundreds of beers from multiple states and countries, all of which can be sampled in an all-you-can-drink (responsibly) format during five sessions taking place over three days from June 17 to 19. In addition to fun for the general public, there is also a brewing-competition component, the winners of which were recently announced. For the second straight year, AleSmith Brewing Company earned Champion Brewery bragging rights, with 23 gold medals (and 41 medals total) awarded to local breweries. It’s quite an event with a rich history and promising future. For more on both, we sat down with event organizer Tom Nickel (who also owns Nickel Beer Company, O’Brien’s Pub and West Coast Barbecue and Brews).

What was the impetus for the SDIBF?
The original idea came from Chad Stevens, who was a member of (local homebrew club) QUAFF. He’d been running the homebrew competition at the fair for a number of years and felt there should be a professional competition there as well. He brought me in because he felt he needed someone on the professional side to legitimize the idea it was a professional competition. The vision was for a competition for professional brewers by professional brewers. We had like 200 entries the first year and thought it was highly successful. We held it in the paddock area and it was a one-day afternoon festival. It was fun, and it’s grown from there.

Tell me about the tremendous growth of the field and competition over the years.
Twice before we’ve had exponential growth where we’ve reached another plateau. We slowly grew by a hundred or so each year, then four-or-five years ago, when the real boom of brewery openings occurred, we had a jump from 600 to 900 and we hovered at just under 1,000 for the last three years. This year, we jumped from 979 to 1,356 total entries, over 1,300 of which were beers—a 44% increase overall.

Who are some of the individuals who’ve been integral to the SDIBF’s success?
Chad was with us the first three years, then moved on. That’s when I brought (Bagby Beer Company founder) Jeff Bagby in to help me. He was there a number of years, and the last two years that slot’s been filled by (O’Brien’s Pub general manager) Tyson Blake. Throughout the whole time—from Chad to now—Chris Shadrick has run the homebrew competition and served as judging coordinator. He helps coordinate all the judges for the competition, as well. Tyson and I do the festival and entries, marketing and promotion of the competition and festival.

How are judges solicited for the competition?
We have two avenues. One is registering in the competition with the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program). The SDIBF is posted on their website so all BJCP judges can see and access the event. What really sets SDIBF apart from most events is most BJCP-certified homebrewers don’t have the opportunity to judge professional beers. That’s a real carrot as far as enticing the judges. Secondly, we solicit through the local professional brewing community; from people who enter through the San Diego Brewers Guild and also, for the first time ever this year, through the craft-beer programs at UCSD and SDSU.

What can attendees to this year’s SDIBF look forward to?
There’ll be an expanded VIP area with food pairings and more space on the festival floor as we continually grow our footprint. We’re expecting beers from 15 countries, and the selection of beer in terms of number of different places it’s sent from will be unparalleled compared to any festival west of Denver’s Great American Beer Festival. Ditto the number of different beers and the diversity of international beers that we’ll have. We’ll also have a special beer, Steampunk Ale, a California common brewed specifically for the SDIBF by Abnormal Beer Company, and rare beer tappings throughout the festival.

Where is the SDIBF going?
The competition component is only going to continue to grow and we’re expanding our paid staff to accommodate that. The Del Mar Fairgrounds are doing everything they can to keep SDIBF growing at whatever pace it naturally grows at. If it doubled in the next 10 years, I don’t feel like there will end up being a cap. With the festival itself, there are a lot of interesting ideas. It’s always been my belief that the SDIBF will become enough of an event that, eventually, it won’t be part of the fair, but will instead take place as its own event over a weekend. I feel like for some connoisseurs, they don’t want to deal with the fair crowds, tickets, etc., but I do see us easily doing an independent festival. But having a presence at the fair is always important, so maybe we’ll do two events. I feel like part of the benefit for brewers is not only getting to expose their products to die-hard beer-fans, but also make new converts in an all-you-can-taste setting.

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