Evan Smith enjoys creating things and pushing the envelope in the process. That’s the approach he took with his family business, Escondido Feed and Pet Supply, which has been in operation for decades but gained a reputation as one of the nation’s best stores of its kind only after Evan took the reins. When looking to take on a new entrepreneurial enterprise, he set his sights on craft brewing. A friend of Jordan Hoffart, he had discussions about investing in the pro-skateboarder’s Black Plague Brewing, which recently opened in Oceanside with a 20-barrel system, and grand-scale sales and distribution ambitions. In the end, the big-time wasn’t for Evan. So he went the exact opposite route, building San Diego County’s smallest fermentation interest, Escondido Brewing Company (649 Rock Springs Road, Escondido), which opened last weekend.
In doing so, Evan enlisted the services of an Escondidian homebrewer with scads of beer-competition wins under his medal-clad belt, Ketchen Smith. Together, they went to work building their brewery “like a tiny home.” With only 300 square feet at their disposal, even the most common construction tasks had to be analyzed and strategically managed. They had to cut a vertical foot off the cold-box and reverse the door. They had to install a sink small enough that it would allow them to open doors to that cold-box and the dishwasher on either side of it. And they had to install a bar-top that can be removed to allow a roll-up garage door to fully close. But they relished these challenges and maximized their space in the process. That removable bar-top can also be shifted to a lower rung to allow for service to patrons in wheelchairs, and visible fermenters stored in a converted liquor-store refrigeration unit are lit in a way they lend ambience to the place.
Having seen many a brewery in my day, Escondido Brewing is a testament to thoughtfulness, elbow grease and sheer will to make something happen. The Smiths smithed most of this big little project on their own, and what they didn’t do themselves, they got help from courtesy of friends and relatives. The business is a sterling example of what a hometown brewery should be, right down to founders whose aspirations are entirely confined to the city they love and live in. With shaded bar-seating and a trio of picnic tables making up the entirety of Escondido Brewing’s seating options, the business is a far cry from the sprawling gardens and critically acclaimed two-story restaurant at nearby Stone Brewing, the county’s largest independent craft-beer producer. And that’s the point. It’s a nice departure, especially for locals looking to avoid out-of-town beer geeks and tourists; a polar-opposite option that larger, regional breweries needn’t worry about competing with.
Amore for Escondido is further communicated through the names of the brewery’s beers—Hidden City Pale, Rock Springs Red, Hopcondido IPA—and most are based off homebrew recipes Ketchen has won multiple awards for. The most pertinent of those is the first release in a rotating Hop Animal series of ever-changing India pale ales called Marshall Nose IPA, the recipe for which took second overall at last month’s Homebrew Con, the country’s foremost amateur-brewing competition. Pale gold in color and hopped with massive amounts of Citra and Mosaic, it features big aromas of lemon balm, hay and loam accented by flavors of melon, mango, lemon and orange. Smith says it’s inspired by West Coast breweries that have pushed for so long to develop hop-forward beers devoid of caramel color and heavy malt presence. Smith’s other IPA, Hopcondido, comes across like lemon meringue pie on the nose and fresh-cut grass on the tongue, while his pale (which was previously brewed at Coachella Valley Brewing Company following a win at the Hops and Crops homebrew competition) goes from delicate in the front to assertive, late-90’s bitterness on the back end. A milk stout referencing Escondido’s year of incorporation (1888) is all chocolate and cola, while a whiskey barrel-aged version brings vanilla and caramel into the equation without lending over-the-top booziness. All in all, it’s a fun and enjoyable opening line-up, especially given the intimate environs in which these ales were birthed.
Being so small and brewing beer one-and-a-half barrels at a time makes for the real and constant possibility that the Smiths will run out of beer. To combat that, they have trimmed their hours of operation to Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 2 to 8 p.m. However, they do plan to play off a description lauded on them by several of their customers deeming them the brewery equivalent of a food-truck, by having spontaneous pop-up openings when beer inventory allows for it. Another fun twist that couldn’t exist at a brewery registering as any more than “tiny”.
San Diego’s year of the homebrewer is in full swing. Karl Strauss just announced their Pro-Am competition. The winners will be entered & judged in the upcoming American Homebrewer’s Association National Homebrewers Conference. Entries are due late March so get brewing! Excerpt below.
Are you a Homebrewer? Do you want to spend a day brewing with the Karl Strauss Brewing Team and have your beer tasted by thousands of fans? Well, here’s your shot.
Karl Strauss Brewing Company is participating in the 2011 American Homebrewers Association National Homebrewers Conference being held in San Diego, June 16-18, 2011. Each year, one of the conference highlights is the Pro-Am competition where a local brewery partners with a homebrewer to recreate a homebrew recipe on a professional scale.
This is where you come in. We know you’ve got great ideas and some tasty brews just waiting to be brewed on a large-scale system. So, dust off that carboy and get the creative juices flowing. The contest is open to any beer style and is free to enter. Read the details below and good luck! Cheers.
More details can be found here.
Speaking of the NHC, West Coaster learned last night that the Town and County Resort, the hosts of the NHC, gave the conference an upgrade in venues. This extra space allows for ~30% more participants. Check out the full update on the NHC website
Jacob McKean of Stone Brewing Co. fired this over via the homebrewers email list. This year the competition is extra special because the NHC is going to take place in San Diego. All bold and links are added were added by me. More information can be found here.
“Jacob McKean here again, letting you know that Stone’s annual March Madness Homebrew Competition and AHA Rally has been scheduled for Saturday, March 12th at 1:00 pm in the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.
For those of you who remember last year’s competition, you know that Kelsey McNair’s West Coast Bitter was the big winner and went on to big-time brewing fame. So if you want to follow in Kelsey’s illustrious footsteps you will need to do two things right away, if you haven’t already: 1) read the guidelines copied below to make sure you’re eligible for the competition, and 2) START BREWING!”