Many are the brewers and brewery personnel whose passion for music rivals their fervor for fermentation, but when analyzing the degree to which the musical bug has sunk its teeth into an entire business, no local operation is as afflicted as Amplified Ale Works. From the day it opened within its Pacific Beach kebaberie home, head brewer Cy Henley (you might not know it, but you’ve definitely shared space with him at a local live-music venue numerous times in your life) and company have driven home their love of aurally conveyed entertainment via beer names, apparel, graphics and more. So it’s no wonder that, when the estate of famed Motörhead front-man, Lemmy, sought a business to brew a beer commemorating the metal legend, they hit up Amplified.
Brewery owner and co-founder Alex Pierson was approached by a licensing firm last year. At first, he wasn’t 100% sold on the legitimacy of the company’s request, but when he ventured to an L.A. hotspot to meet with an entertainment exec, and that man was greeted with a knowing wave by star and recent Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, that gesture bolstered his faith level significantly. The two came to terms quickly, leading to Born to Lose IPA, a Citra-heavy India pale ale in the mid-6% ABV (alcohol-by-volume) range that takes cues from the recipe for Amplified’s Pig Nose Pale Ale. A prototype of the beer was on-tap at a Christmas Eve (its honoree’s birthday) release-party at famous West Hollywood live-music venue and Lemmy haunt, the Rainbow Bar & Grill, which now includes features a life-sized statue of Lemmy. A refined version of the beer is scheduled to come out in cans in February or March of this year, and a bourbon barrel-aged version of Amplified’s Belgian-style quadrupel is aging in bourbon barrels, waiting for its own Christmas Eve coming-out party later this year and a date with a bottling machine. That creation will be called Ace of Spades.
On the reunion tour front, Henley, Pierson and director of brewery operations Jeff Campbell spent a day collaborating at their Miramar brewhouse with Amplified co-founder JC Hill. Hill who now calls the coastal city of Monterey home and spends his time on the larger project he’s since moved on to, Alvarado Street Brewery. The fruits of the foursome’s enjoyable labors, Trois Cabrones (a name inspired by a classic album by The Melvins), will go on-tap at Amplified’s Miramar tasting room tomorrow, Thursday, January 12. The beer is a “hazy IPA” that had Summer and Nelson Sauvin hops added in the kettle, followed by Nelson and Mosaic in the whirlpool. It incorporates a combination of wheat, rice hulls and oats in its malt bill and was designed to smell and taste of big hops…and look like custard. The quartet admits this collaboration should have happened a long time ago. In an effort to make up for lost time, the Amplified crew will travel to north the last week of this month to brew the beer again at Alvarado Street, where it will be canned as well.
From the Beer Writer: I showed up at Amplified Ale Works’ new brewery-tasting room in Miramar the day after it opened. A hop, skip and a jump from my day-job, I was eager to see what sort of beers I’d have easier access to now that getting a hold of them wouldn’t require a trip out to the company’s original Pacific Beach location. As I perused the board, I was informed of a new offering that had been brewed specifically for the opening of the “Beeramar” space—Amplified Whammy Bar Wheat. I promptly added it to my taster-flight and made it the first of the quartet of samples I swigged. I didn’t expect to be blown away by a wheat beer as the beauty of such styles tends to be in their subtlety and balance. Whammy Bar had plenty of the latter plus nice assertiveness on the palate and a crisp finish. It tasted like, well, beer…and in this age of massive infusion and living outside the box, it was a welcomed change of pace. I thought it was really nice, but wondered if others would appreciate it. The following week, it won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup in the American-style Wheat Beer category. So, I guess that answered my question!
From the Brewers: “As an American wheat ale, Whammy Bar has a light, crisp flavor almost reminiscent of a lager, but the 40% wheat in the malt bill helps build in a nice body that provides a pleasant mouth-feel while still keeping the beer extremely drinkable. It’s the perfect beer for our brewpub patio. Having a larger, dedicated brewing facility outside of the brewpub has made our lives a lot easier. And the use of our newly installed reverse-osmosis system has really helped brewing styles like Whammy Bar Wheat, which call for a clean water-profile.”—Cy Henley, Head Brewer, Amplified Ale Works
Even with limited capacity, Amplified Ale Works has built a solid fan base brewing out of California Kebab on the second floor of Pacific Beach’s beach-adjacent Pacific Promenade shopping center. In the business’ early days, it was common to see the beer board completely devoid of head brewer Cy Henley’s creations. There was only so much to go around and, whenever they went on tap, the beers were quickly drained by fans of hoppy brews like Electrocution IPA and Pig Nose Pale Ale as well as numerous Belgian-inspired ales. Increasing fermentation capacity helped improve the situation to a degree, but availability is still nowhere near where Henley and Amplified co-owner Alex Pierson want it to be. So, they’re doing something about it.
Recently, Pierson and company signed a deal with H.G. Fenton Company to utilize a ready-made brewing facility, available as part of its Brewery Igniter program, to significantly increase Amplified’s production capacity. Located at 9030 Kenamar Drive—right behind Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits’ newest and largest facility—the industrial park suite comes in at 1,625 square feet and is equipped with a seven-barrel Premier Stainless brewhouse plus four 15-barrel fermenters and a quartet of 15-barrel bright tanks. Amplified hopes this will result in the production of an additional 1,000 barrels of beer in the first full year brewing in Miramar.
Last year, Amplified produced 400 barrels of beer, a significant increase from a mere 275 the previous 12 months. So, adding an extra thousand barrels represents a 250% jump in production. And that’s not even figuring in the full potential of the Miramar facility. Maxing out the space would equal anywhere from 1,800 to 2,000 barrels, annually. Pierson selected H.G. Fenton’s brewery igniter location because of its unique floorplan and brewery build-out, feeling it offered Amplified a good short-to-medium-term solution to its supply-and-demand disparities.
Initially, Amplified will limit production in Miramar to its best-known core offerings: Electrocution, Pig Nose, Leggy Blonde Belgian singel and Bearded Guard biere de garde. Distribution of those beers will be split between California Kebab, several beer bar accounts and the Miramar brewery’s on-site tasting room. The latter will likely take up 300 or so square feet and, hopefully, be supplemented post-opening with an outdoor sampling space. Moving primary production to Miramar will allow Henley to have some fun back in PB. He is currently preparing to brew one-off beers with experimental hops as part of a project with the working title “Distorted Hop Series.”
In addition to kegging, mobile canning or bottling options will be utilized to package core beers, one-offs and barrel-aged ales. As far as a packaged oak-matured Amplified beer that will be available much sooner, bottles of its Rare Form Belgian-style quad that has been resting in bourbon barrels for four months will go on sale at California Kebab on July 9. Each wax-dipped, 12-ounce bottle will cost $10 while (rather limited) supplies last.