Winners from the 2017 edition of the Great American Beer Festival were announced earlier this morning. Held annually by brewing-industry trade organization, the Brewers Association, in Denver, Colorado, this year’s GABF saw nearly 8,000 beers entered by more than 2,000 breweries in 98 style categories. 293 were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals after being evaluated by 276 judges. GABF is the country’s largest and most prestigious professional brewing competition. San Diego County breweries have historically fared incredibly well. This year saw another strong showing with the region’s brewers racking up double-digit awards.
Eleven local brewing companies brought home 14 medals this time around, including five golds in the Robust Porter (Second Chance Beer Co.) Honey Beer (Karl Strauss Brewing Company‘s Carlsbad brewpub), Imperial India Pale Ale (Ballast Point Brewing) Other Specialty Belgian Ale (Stone Brewing World Brewing & Gardens – Liberty Station) and Session Beer (Pizza Port‘s Ocean Beach brewpub) categories. That went along with six silver medals and three bronzes.
Notable is the fact only one individual brewing facility in the county won more than one medal, Carmel Mountain Ranch’s Second Chance with a gold and a silver. Newly launched SouthNorte Brewing Company garnered a bronze medal in the Specialty Beer category for a beer called AgaveMente that hasn’t even been released to the public yet. And Monkey Paw Brewing, which Coronado acquired earlier this year, earned a silver medal in the English-style Summer Ale category. Also, Vista-based Mother Earth Brew Co. medaled in the Fresh or Wet Hop Ale category for Fresh As It Gets, a beer brewed at its Nampa, Idaho production facility.
Adding to the unofficial medal count was Belching Beaver Brewery, which for the second time in its history won top honors at the Alpha King Competition. Held in conjunction with GABF each year, this friendly competition crowns the brewing company that submits the hoppiest offering amid a stacked field of IPAs. Belching Beaver previously won Alpha King in 2014. On top of that, Chula Vista Brewery owners Timothy and Dalia Parker received the Samuel Adams Brewing and Business Experienceship, following in the footsteps of Ramona-based ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, who earned the same opportunity in 2014.
The following is a complete list of the winners from brewing facilities located within San Diego County…
In the beverage-industry, they say it takes until March for beer-consumption to rebound to normal levels after the holidays. Good thing San Diego’s beer-slingers didn’t get that memo, because February is jam-packed with a broad array of fun events celebrating local ales and lagers. Check out these standout events, and see a full list on our events page.
February 4 | Sour Saturday & Fourth Anniversary: Squeeze into one of the smallest but coolest beer-bars in San Diego for the ale-equivalent of an acid-drop. Cast your line and reel in a variety of sour beers tapped in celebration of this pier-mounted saloon, eatery and bait-and-tackle shop. | Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle, 1776 Shelter Island Drive, Shelter Island, 10 a.m.
February 4 | National 2×4 Day: Wyoming-based Melvin Brewing is tapping its award-winning 2×4 imperial IPA (it’s taken top-honors at the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival and multiple Alpha King Challenges) across the country, and Hamilton’s Tavern is where you can taste it and other Melvin hop-bombs. | Hamilton’s Tavern, 1521 30th Street, South Park, 12 p.m.
February 11 | Brewbies Festival: Brewers from throughout Southern California will not only show up in-force to help raise funds for the Keep A Breast Foundation, many of them will bring creatively crafted, pink-hued beers brewed especially for this fest, one of the best in our county each year. | Bagby Beer Company; 601 South Coast Highway; Oceanside; VIP: 12 p.m., General Admission: 1 p.m.
February 11 | Carnival of Caffeination: Like beer? Like coffee? Like beer and coffee infused into a buzzworthy beverage? Then head to this fest celebrating all you hold sacred via top-quality beers from breweries plucked from around the country, and watch as stimulants and depressants go head-to-head! | North Promenade; 2848 Dewey Road; Point Loma; VIP: 11 a.m., General Admission: 12 p.m.
February 18 | Winter Brew Fest: Because winter in San Diego is pretty much like every other season in San Diego from a weather standpoint, this night-time fest won’t center around brawny stouts and strong ales. Come expecting an array of all styles, including SD’s sun-ready IPAs. | San Diego Hall of Champions; 2131 Pan American Plaza; Balboa Park; VIP: 6 p.m., General Admission: 7 p.m.
February 25-26 | 10th Anniversary Beer Fest: For a decade, SD TapRoom has gone big in the bday department, throwing suds-soaked parties over multiple days. The big 1-0 will be no different thanks to 100 specialty beers, including Pliny the Younger and venue-exclusive Boxcar Speedway. | SD TapRoom, 1269 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach, Times Vary
Vista-based Belching Beaver Brewery has carved out a good fan-base behind a line of mostly hoppy beers augmented by various forms of milk stout, including its popular peanut butter-flavored version. Enough of a fan-base that the company has been able to grow rather quickly, adding numerous brick-and-mortars to its wide-ranging empire faster than most of its contemporaries. Not long after opening its initial Vista brewery, Belching Beaver opened a satellite tasting-room in North Park, something only Stone Brewing had attempted at that point (2013). Last year, the company had two big construction projects going simultaneously—a new, larger brewing facility in Oceanside and renovation of a Vista Village bank into a brewery-equipped restaurant. The latter, Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern and Grill (302 East Broadway, Vista) scheduled to open very soon—if all goes as planned, the brewpub’s outdoor area will be open in time to welcome patrons this Saturday (it’s perfect timing with the San Diego Brewers Guild’s annual Rhythm and Brews Festival happening right next-door that very day.
Though this is their first food-equipped venue, the Tavern is a rather polished product with a number of stylish touches. Were it not for the safe-door off the bar, which remains the shiny, sturdy, heavy-metal icon it was in the building’s previous use, it would be tough to peg this place as a former money depository. (That portal leads into the former 17-foot-by-17-foot vault, which is being converted into a wine-room.) All this from a project originally conceived strictly as a tasting room. But the 6,740-square-foot building (roughly 12,000 SF, including the outdoor area) spot was simply too large, so they challenged themselves to take things to the next level. In doing so, they enlisted the services of chef Ramiro Guerra, who has put together a menu of familiar proteins made interesting through the inspiration of multiple culinary cultures and Belching Beaver’s beers.
An early draft of the opening-day bill of fare was broken down into “beaver small nibbles”, “brewers flat breads”, “beaver building materials (vegetation)” and “the beaver’s tail”. That last category encompasses main-course meats, poultry and fish plus sandwiches with house-made dressings (e.g., lillekoi kombucha or soy-smoked lemongrass vinaigrettes, Me So Honey mustard dressing) or “fat sauce” as they’re affectionately known here. Once more, all naming conventions aside, the menu sounds rather good, as does the fact vegetables are sourced from Cyclops Farms, Olive Crest Farms and Palmquist Elementary School Farm, along with herbs and citrus from the Tavern’s own outdoor area.
The flatbreads are made with a combination of brewer’s yeast and Belching Beaver’s Dammed IPA, and come in four varieties—sausage and leeks, four-cheese, pepperoni and sausage, and a blend of smoked duck breast with barbecue sauce. The “vegetation” equates to salads, including a soy-dressed, sesame-crusted ahi number drawing Asian inspiration, a duck-fortified riff on a Cobb, and a “San Diego Salad” with chili-rubbed chicken, black bean-corn relish and southwestern Ranch dressing. Starters include house-smoked chicken wings, roasted bone marrow, a duo of “dueling” poke (tropical vs. smoked) and a trio of sliders (bratwurst, chorizo and braised pork Cubano).
The entrées range from a pork Bahn mi sandwich and burger (beef or turkey patty) with milk stout-infused ketchup to miso-coated white-fish steamed in a banana leaf, chicken cooked in a corn husk with Ranchero sauce, passion fruit-glazed pork chop with pineapple fried rice, and three regionally inspired steak dishes—Central America with chimichurri and Peruvian beans, Brasilian Picanha with yucca fries and a U.S. version with cold-brew coffee steak sauce and mashed cauliflower. Belching Beaver could easily have gone with standard pub fare. It would have been both expected and easier, so an A for effort and ambition are in order.
The same goes for the décor. There could have been sawdust on the floor and lame neon and tin bric-a-brac lining every wall, but roll-up garage doors give way to a put-together spot. Varying shades of reclaimed wood, patina-enhanced copper and stained concrete flooring make for a complete, earthen color palette punched up by TVs at the 70-tap bar displaying the full beer list. Separating the 40-foot bar from the dining room (which seats around 120, though the entire venue can hold about 350) is a 30-foot-long faux fire-feature that uses colored lights to make mist look like flames. Outside, there’s a bar equipped with 15 taps, a quartet of fire-pits surrounded by Adirondack chairs and plenty of space for the weekend barbecues the venue intends to hold.
On the brewing side, the 10-barrel system will be manned by veteran Belching Beaver brewer Thomas Peters. Most famous for crafting Pound Town, the triple IPA that took top honors at the annual Great American Beer Festival-aligned Alpha King Challenge in 2013 (as well as a malt liquor called Hot Liquor Stank), Peters will get to brew exactly what he wants, which is essentially the dream of every brewer on the planet. Up first will be a pale ale, Helles lager and a “malt liquor IPA.” For now, I’ll leave you to ponder that, but check back to West Coaster next week for a look at The Beav’s new main brewery in Oceanside.