From the Beer Writer: Last week’s featured beer was a double IPA. For most local craft-fans, that’s the only double-referencing beer-style they’re bound to seek out, but I’ve been a long-time fan of Belgian dubbels. The middle-ground member of the monastic family of Belgian beers, they traditionally come in a chestnut-to-brown-hued package registering between six-and-eight percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV), and are the complete opposite of the hop-forward, dry, sun-geared ales San Diego is famous for. As such, few local breweries produce dubbels, so when I sample any I come across. Such was the case last week at Lomaland’s Bay City Brewing Company, when I found myself in the midst of a raucous pre-Gulls game packed-house. Once the hockey fans cleared out, I ordered the 7% ABV Bay City Dubbel and, before even taking a taste, felt myself falling in love thanks to big, flowery, banana-like aromas. Those sensory clues were in keeping with the flavor-profile of the beer, which is big on Belgian yeast character coming across as banana bread, baking spices and calendulas. Unlike poor examples of this style, the beer was not overly sweet and was above-average from a drinkability standpoint.
From the Brewer: “Bay City Dubbel is a dark, amber-colored ale inspired by the monks of the Franciscan Order. Dark crystal malts from both Europe and the U.S. give this beer its darker appearance and a subtle caramel flavor. The Belgian yeast used during fermentation lends a spicy character that balances the malty sweetness and creates a medium-bodied beer. Belgian yeasts are unique to brew with because of the phenols, esters and glycerin that they produce at various levels. This particular strain creates a medium bodied beer that is easier to drink than some more traditional versions of the style.”—Chris West, Head Brewer, Bay City Brewing Company
I was one of the first to find out about Chris West’s new brewing project. I visited the site of said brewery numerous times before it had any beer at the ready or its doors open to the public. Yet, once the business went live, it took me way too long to get back to check it out, even with the positive buzz that, despite me trying to keep from hearing, I couldn’t help but catch wind of. So, it was with great pleasure—and more anticipation than usual—that I finally had the chance to try West’s wares at the recently opened Bay City Brewing Company (3760 Hancock Street, Point Loma).
I will disclose upfront that the night I was there was the same night of a fundraiser hosted by Bay City for the Beer to the Rescue lupus awareness campaign I set up earlier this year. That said, the company’s generosity in no way swayed my views of West’s beers. In fact, the special Coffee Pale Ale he conjured to help raise funds for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California drives home the main thing I took away from Bay City. This newbie’s beers are best when they aren’t messed with! Allow me to explain.
The aforementioned pale ale (which was infused with beans roasted down the street at Swell Coffee Co.’s Point Loma roastery) had plenty of java potency that was deliciously in sync with the beer’s hop bill when served on CO2. For fun, the tasting room served the beer on nitrogen. The result was a beer with a fantastically soft and coating mouthfeel, but far less vibrant flavors. Diminishing taste and aroma returns is the lament of anti-nitro imbibers. I happen to believe there are plenty of right times, places and beers for nitro technology to be employed, but the fall-off was so severe in this case that sticking with a standard delivery method did the Coffee Pale Ale far more justice.
Similarly, Bay City’s Session IPA (no silly, clever, fancy or stupid monikers here, West and company simply label beers by their style) may be my favorite low-alcohol India pale ale in a county, nay, a country, overflowing with this trendy style, but only in its original form, which comes packed with bright piney, tropical fruit flavors and aromas brought on via Chinook and Equinox hops. But a version of the SIPA altered by the addition of cucumber and basil was easily the worst thing I had all night. It rendered the beer pickle-like in nature and took it to a nearly undrinkable place for me, leaving me pawing for more of the original version.
While improvisations were mostly unsuccessful, one experiment was rather fruitful; an Experimental San Diego Pale Ale to be exact. Huge scents akin to melon and peach give way to similar flavors. A Southern Hemisphere Pale Ale brewed with Wakatu and Helga hops is well rounded with a surprising bit of bubble gum in the mid-palate. A Vienna-style lager was the best surprise of the night next to the SIPA; a poundable beer delivering plenty of the yeast character that lager fans crave. Admirable, but not quite as fine-tuned as I’d have liked, was a pair of sour ales that feel like first drafts and offer hope for future creations as well as flavors that go beyond the typical tart scope.
Bay City lived up to the hype and provides a great option for pre- and post-game and concert fun at Valley View Casino Center across the street. Though easy to find from the freeway—the logo-swathed building looks out onto Interstate 8—one must venture deep into the industrial sections of Lomaland to get to the actual tasting room. But once there, a fenced-in outdoor patio provides a nice buffer from the traffic. A similarly pleasant respite can be had in the sleek if not a tad stark (it’s still a work-in-progress) indoor tasting bar.
From the Beer Writer: When people think of coffee beers, they naturally gravitate toward stouts and porters. Roasted malts with a touch of hop bitterness is the closest thing to a bitter, roasty cup of Joe. So adding coffee makes a great deal of sense when one is looking to add depth of flavor and extra oomph to a dark beer. However, brewers looking to display the flavor of the coffee itself within a beer are beginning to experiment with lighter-colored beers devoid of dark-roasted malts. Cream ales, pale ales and the occasional India pale ale are the most popular styles when it comes to this method. In the case of the latter two, brewers look to select coffee and hop varieties that have similar flavors, which typically come in the form of citrus, berry or earthy nuances. That’s what Chris West, head brewer at newly opened Bay City Brewing Company did when devising the recipe for his Coffee Pale Ale, an extremely flavorful yet balanced beer that delivers hop sensations worthy of a San Diegan’s lupulin-craving palate plus a caffeinated java jolt. The 6% alcohol-by-volume beer is currently on tap, both on CO2 and nitrogen, at Bay City’s tasting room just north of Valley View Casino Center.
From the Brewer: “The inspiration for the Coffee Pale Ale started with our neighborhood. There are now two breweries and multiple coffee roasters in this unique corner of town and we’re excited to see what else develops here. We worked with Swell Coffee Co. and their roaster, John Hermann, to select a bean and roasting profile that created a fruity yet still earthy coffee. Once the bean was selected, we decided to go with a pale ale as the base beer for two reasons. We didn’t want dark roasted grains to interfere with the coffee’s profile, which we all loved during cuppings. Additionally, Swell had recently begun experimenting with dry-hopped, cold-brewed coffee, so the conversation inevitably led to a coffee pale ale as our final product. The beer pours a golden-pale color with a dense white head that lasts. The aroma is coffee-forward with a floral earthiness from Simcoe hops. The taste begins slightly sweet, then finishes with mild bitterness. We hope you enjoy it and help us benefit Beer to the Rescue and the campaign’s goal to fund lupus research.”—Chris West, Head Brewer, Bay City Brewing Co.
When perusing the latest issue of West Coaster, I saw that publisher Mike Shess had taken time to outline the manner in which he would choose to spend San Diego Beer Week (Nov. 6-15). It got me to thinking: How would I spend my Beer Week if I had the unlimited funds, ability to teleport, ungodly hepatic fortitude and lack of dietary qualms (and two full-time jobs) necessary to stay at it for 10 whole days? The following is the result of this exercise in pint-in-the-sky dreaming with the events Mr. Shess and I agree on bolded.
Friday, Nov. 6
– Rare Beer Breakfast, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Escondido
– 3-Year Anniversary Party, Amplified Ale Works, Pacific Beach
– Guild Fest: VIP Brewer Takeover, Broadway Pier, Downtown
Saturday, Nov. 7
– San Diego Brewers Guild Festival, Broadway Pier, Downtown
– Everyone’s Out to Get You Mother Pucker, O’Brien’s Pub, Kearny Mesa
– Barrel Night, The Lost Abbey, San Marcos
Sunday, Nov. 8
– Nomad Donuts Beer Pairing, Thorn St. Brewery, North Park
– Ultimate Beer & Chocolate, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Escondido
– Wine Country Beer vs. Wine with Almanac Brewing, Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant, Bankers Hill
Monday, Nov. 9
– Fishing with the Brewers, Fathom Bistro, Point Loma
– Seven-Course Rip Current Brewing Beer Dinner, Slater’s 50/50, San Marcos
– Brews, Views & Chews, Tom Ham’s Lighthouse, Harbor Island
Tuesday, Nov. 10
– Full Table, Benchmark Brewing Co., Grantville
– Pizza Port Family Tap Takeover, Pizza Port, Ocean Beach
– Green Flash Cellar 3 Dinner, Churchill’s Pub & Grille, San Marcos
Wednesday, Nov. 11
– Sour Beer Tap Takeover, Rip Current Brewing Co. Tasting Room, North Park
– Three-Day Speedway Stout Grand Prix, AleSmith Brewing Co., Miramar
– Fall Brewing Beer Dinner, Waypoint Public, North Park
Thursday, Nov. 12
– 7th Annual Disc Golf Fling, Hamilton’s Tavern, South Park
– Barrel-Aged Beer & Single-Barrel Whiskey Pairing, Seven Grand, North Park
– Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey Rare Beer Dinner, Churchill’s Pub & Grille, San Marcos
Friday, Nov. 13
– Battle of the Guilds, Toronado, North Park
– Beer to the Rescue Swell Coffee Pale Ale Collaboration Release, Bay City Brewing Co., Point Loma
– Beer without Borders, Machete Beer House, National City
Saturday, Nov. 14
– San Diego Cheese & Beer Festival, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Liberty Station
– Barrel-Aged Speedway Stout & Hawaiian Speedway Stout Release Party, AleSmith Brewing Co., Miramar
– Three Amigos (Bagby Beer, Nickel Beer, Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey), O’Brien’s Pub, Kearny Mesa
Sun., Nov. 15
– Ballast Point Victory at Sea Bonanza, Hamilton’s Tavern
– Beer Garden, The Lodge at Torrey Pines
– The Lost Abbey Tasting with Gwen Conley, O’Brien’s Pub, Kearny Mesa
It was exactly a year ago that brewer Chris West pulled me aside at a crowded beer festival to tell me he’d be departing his then-employer Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery to take the helm as head fermenter at an upcoming and, as-of-then-unnamed, local project. That business now has a building, brewing system, beers and a name—Bay City Brewing Company (3760 Hancock Street, Point Loma). It also has an official opening date set: August 27.
Soft-opened since earlier this month, the tasting room is open for business, though admittedly not at the level it will be when the curtain goes up for real. Now is a time for getting systems in place and details down, but ownership and staff know where they’re going and what they want to be, starting with West, who is determined to “work really hard and make people happy.” Back at Monkey Paw, he enjoyed seeing patrons order the house-made Bonobos “San Diego-style” (read: HOPPY) pale ale, take a sip and, before being able to set the beer down, take another sip because they enjoyed it so much. He hopes to see that happen at his new spot, which is located on the backside of Valley View Casino Center, not far from Lomaland’s only other brewery, Modern Times Beer.
Siting Bay City Brewing in Point Loma was the plan from the start, according to co-owner Ben Dubois. He, like his partners, live in and have history in the neighborhood. Finding an industrial space that worked for a brewery model was tough, but they are happy with their location as well as the parking it provides for customers, enough that they have also leased the 2,100-square-foot space next door for the next five years.
Bay City Brewing’s future 1,200-square-foot outdoor drinking area and logo-adorned north wall is visible from Interstate 8. Inside, roughly 750 square feet of space are devoted to the tasting room, which includes a stylish, hand-crafted bar. Assisting West in the brewery beyond that L-shaped structure is Aaron Williams, a recent UCSD graduate with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Williams met West two years ago over beers at Monkey Paw, and the two formed a fast and mutual respect for one another.
Together, West and Williams have crafted an initial line-up of beers that includes a Vienna lager, stout, nitro porter, session India pale ale, San Diego-style pale ale and an experimental pale ale. That last one is a piney, mossy 5.5% ABV beer brewed with Nelson Sauvin and Columbus hops which features nice tropical fruit aromas. Future editions of the beer will change from batch-to-batch, but the initial recipe was brewed using techniques gleaned from Fall Brewing Company brewmaster Ray Astamendi, and Monkey Paw and South Park Brewing Company head brewer Cosimo Sorrentino, plus findings from discussions about hops with Half Door Brewing Company brewmaster Dan Drayne.
With a 20-barrel brewhouse double-batching into 40-barrel fermenters, Bay City Brewing’s current annual capacity is 2,400 barrels, but could be pushed to 3,500 according to West. The company projects it will sell roughly 20% of its beer at its tasting room, with the rest being kegged and sent to accounts. They also plan on doing very limited micro-bottling using friends and a trusty beer gun.
In the not-too-distant future, West and Williams will get more experimental, tackling what the former refers to as “the next frontier”—beers fermented with Brettanomyces. He says that, for the most part, many breweries have a “pitch and pray” approach to Brett beers, but he hopes to spend time learning how to consistently harness the positive attributes of these wild yeast strains then, hopefully, share that information with fellow brewers to help raise the collective tide.