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Posts Tagged bay ho

Bitter Brothers’ Family Dinner series an inspired hit

Feb 15

With a name like Bitter Brothers Brewing Company (4170 Morena Boulevard, Bay Ho), one might think it a bit of a standoffish operation and think twice about attending its “family dinner” events. But taking part in one of these affairs is actually rather sweet. Company co-founder Bill Warnke was a professional chef for many years before getting into the beer-biz. Not only does all that experience mean he has chops in the kitchen. It also means he has a vast number of friends in kitchens all over San Diego County. It’s these very taste buds that help make Bitter Brothers’ Family Dinner series so special. Read more »

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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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Beer of the Week: Bitter Brothers Family Tart with Guava

Sep 2
Family Tart Berliner weisse with guava from Bitter Brothers Brewing Company

Family Tart Berliner weisse with guava from Bitter Brothers Brewing Company

From the Beer Writer: While I can and will eat anything, and have very few food aversions, we all have things we enjoy and those we don’t care for all that much. Personally, I’m not big on olives, cheap caviar (I sound like such a highbrow jerk saying that), watercress or guava. I’m pretty sure I know the reason for my aversion to the latter, and it stems from my first job, where there was a locker room that constantly stunk with the funk of this tropical fruit, which my co-workers would keep on-hand with great regularity. It produced a constant and potent stench that prompted me to hold my breath when passing through that space en route to the shipping warehouse. So, I don’t eagerly seek this ingredient out, but I’ve found it to be a rather pleasant addition to beers. The Lost Abbey’s rare Duck Duck Guava and Legacy Brewing Company’s award-winning Guava Beer are good examples, but the best yet is Bitter Brothers Family Tart with Guava. I was already a fan of Bitter Brothers Brewing Company’s house Berliner weisse, but adding a dose of pink guava to this bacteria-driven, kettle-sour gives it character that goes beyond the fruit itself. If anything, it makes the beer taste like an explosion of multiple tropical fruits, which is probably why I don’t necessarily associate it with guava (that and the fact it doesn’t smell like a used sweat-sock fished from a urinal) and, thus, abhor it. Upon tasting it, I was happy to find this easy-drinking and assertively tart 4.5% alcohol-by-volume beer will eventually be packaged and available to the masses.

From the Brewer: “The Family Tart with Guava is our base Berliner weisse done with pink guava purée. It’s soured with our house mix culture that has multiple strains of Lactobacillus, Pediococcus and Brettanomyces, and is finished with a Saccharomyces yeast strain. This process gives the base-beer overtones of tropical fruit—especially pineapple—and lighter notes of stone fruits like apricot and peach. Up to this point we have done a new fruited flavor every month. Going forward, we are going to limit that exclusively to tasting room with wider release of seasonal flavors. This ties in with our plans to start canning in the fourth quarter of this year and having the Family Tart be one of those beers we can. The next fruited Berliner weisse will come out in the fall and be a blood orange-based purée with light additions of pomegranate and passion fruit. Winter will be prickly pear, spring will be peach and in the summer we will return to guava. If we do something we really like in the tasting room one of those flavors might change, but for now that’s what we are going with.”—John Hunter, Head Brewer, Bitter Brothers Brewing Company

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The best new San Diego breweries of 2016…so far

Jul 6

We’ve reached the halfway mark of 2016. Over the past six months, roughly a dozen new breweries have opened (including one that had been producing beer without a tasting room for a couple of years). This seems a good time to assess this field of newcomers and pick out those that are producing the best beer thus far. It’s but one writer’s opinion, so feel free to disagree and share who you think is best in the comment section. And if you haven’t checked any of these places out just yet, they’re definitely worth a visit.

bbeard_02Burning Beard Brewing, El Cajon: At a time when El Cajon needed a suds-savior like never before, this op touched down like a caped superhero, bringing with it a beer list offering great diversity plus quality across styles. The pilsner, pale, IPAs and coffee-stout are standouts but don’t overlook the ESB or Belgian singel. All are made even better when enjoyed in a rockin’ tasting room by a staff that’s as exuberant as the punk power chords pumping out of the sound-system. And they have foudres!

Resident Brewing Company, Downtown: Does this operation’s coconut IPA taste as good as the award-winning batch its brewmaster created as an amateur. Yes, but there’s so much more to this newbie than that. Abutting its parent-business, the Gaslamp’s long-running watering hole, The Local, the brewhouse is pumping out Americanized takes on English styles that are crisp, balanced and refreshing yet big on hop-driven flavors. It’s good to see them starting to trickle to outside accounts.

pureproject_01Pure Project Brewing, Miramar: This One Percent for the Planet operation (1% of profits to go to non-profit organizations) has endeared itself to beer-lovers behind a beautiful earth-and-elemental tasting room motif, friendly service and beers that go down easy while bringing forth lesser-seen adjuncts and flavor combinations (coconut quad or strawberry-vanilla cream ale, anyone?). The majority of the beers are sessionable, making it easy to taste their rotating rainbow of selections.

Bitter Brothers Brewing Co., Bay Ho: They’re the fastest success story of the upstarts, getting signed by Stone Distribution straight out of the gate and selling enough beer that they’re already adding fermentation space. The interest’s name might lead you to believe they are all about hoppy beers (they have some and they’re quite tasty), but theirs is a varied young tap list offering numerous flavor-oddities, and their subtler wheat ales are very enjoyable…and not the least bit bitter.

Mikkeller Brewing San Diego, Miramar: There’s a lot of pressure for a gypsy brewer opening their first brick-and-mortar, especially half-a-world away from their home, but the brew-crew assisting said nomad, Mikkel Borg-Bjergso, has stepped up admirably. Numerous takes on java-rich Beer Geek Breakfast and a Brett IPA have been fab, but most people are still waiting to be wowed by beers exhibiting the ingenuity and whimsy that Bjergso built his reputation on over the past decade.

urge_AMason Ale Works, Oceanside: So the restaurant- and bar-owners behind Urge Gastropub & Whiskey Bank love beer, but what do they know about brewing it? Not enough, so they went out and got an industry veteran who once headed The Lost Abbey‘s production. That key move allowed the brewpub to put out solid beers from the start. Mason has also secured early distribution and its array of hoppy, dark and Belgian-inspired beers are doing well, though they face stiff competition from impressive guest beers on a daily basis.

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Best Beer Futures: West

Apr 12

mikkellersdThis is the second of a four-part series assessing the most hopeful of San Diego’s in-progress brewery projects. Last week, I looked at upcoming businesses in North County. Today is all about the western expanses of the region. Additionally, I’m taking a look back at how some other brewery-owned venues I thought had promise actually turned out over the past three years.

Mikkeller Brewing San Diego, Miramar: Uber beer geeks are excited to see what outlandish gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergso does with this brick-and-mortar (a creative partnership with AleSmith Brewing Company owner Peter Zien) and they’ll find out on April 16, when the tasting room opens to the public with a beer-festival featuring standout locals and some of Bjergso’s far-flung friends. Fans who remember when the business housed AleSmith’s original tasting room won’t recognize the joint…or the beers.

Amplified Ale Works, Miramar: The quality of this Pacific Beach-based brewpub’s beers has gained it a nice following, but there’s nothing quite so disappointing as driving there only to find the nano-kebabery is out of house-beer. Opening a production operation in one of H.G. Fenton’s ready-to-brew Brewery Igniter suites in the heart of “Beeramar” should fix that and allow this business to get to the next level and bring beers like Electrocution IPA to an inland clientele.

OB Brewery, Ocean Beach: It’s been years in the making, but the skeleton of this three-story brewery, bar and restaurant at the end of Newport Avenue looks darn good. OB’s in the midst of a massive influx of brewery tasting rooms (Culture Brewing Company and Mike Hess Brewing Company with Belching Beaver Brewery and two small Kearny Mesa ops on the way), but a new brewery hasn’t touched down since Pizza Port set up shop in 2010. The time is right for this project, so long as the beer is of good quality.

Past Promising Projects: West

2013: Benchmark Brewing Company (Grantville; Grade—A; to-style “beer-flavored beer” and a delightful sampling space); Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens—Liberty Station (Point Loma; Grade—A; the best Stone beers are coming from this beautiful brewpub’s 10-barrel system); Modern Times Beer (Lomaland; Grade—B; beers don’t wow, but are defect-free, biggest points earned for tasting-room and can décor); Saint Archer Brewery (Miramar; Grade—C; they figured out how to make good beer just in time to sell out, but never figured out how to develop heart or soul)

2014: AleSmith Brewing Company (Miramar; Grade—A; from 20,000SF to 105,500SF with no quality collapse and county’s largest tasting room), Bitter Brothers Brewing Company (Bay Ho; Grade—B; brewing by-committee an interesting MO, but initial beers are solid); Duck Foot Brewing Company (Miramar; Grade—B; went beyond all-gluten-free angle to just-plain-good beer, gluten or no)

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