When I first met Alex Van Horne he was looking to install a sci-fi-themed brewery in Poway. The plot reminded me of that of Jim Crute, who installed his science-themed Lightning Brewery in Poway a half-decade or so before. Crute sold his manufacturing assets to Orange County-based Cismontane Brewing Company earlier this month after failing to find a buyer for his struggling operation. Though Van Horne eventually opened his Intergalactic Brewing Company in the Miramar community, his plot-line remains similar to Crute’s. Today, the business-owner and brewmaster announced that he is beginning the process of “exploring all options” for the future of his brewery, “including, but not limited to, putting the business assets up for sale.”
Van Horne says he opened his business with insufficient capital; a mere $25,000. In spite of this, Intergalactic earned a strong cult following, enough that the award-winning brewery was able to take over a larger suite in Intergalactic’s business-park home and convert it to a tasting room, in turn expanding brewing operations at the original location. Still, Van Horne says that over the past year “it has become increasingly obvious that the brewery in its current formulation is not able to provide a stable economic foundation [for him and his wife] to begin the next chapters of [their] lives.”
Van Horne has sought out investors, but did not secure enough money to sufficiently modernize his brewery. So the boot-strapping continued, and it went rather well, but this may be the end for Intergalactic in its current form. He will be fielding inquiries from interested parties and, with any luck, the brand will survive, but Intergalactic may go the way of Lightning, and Van Horne may bow out of the brewing industry altogether. But for now, the business remains open. Van Horne hopes to see long-time fans in the coming months, so they—and he—can enjoy the brewery in its current form. Van Horne says he is “infinitely grateful” for the help and support he has received from his contemporaries in the craft-beer industry. He is keen to stay aboard for his brewery’s next chapter, but will be alright even if that’s not in the cards. “At the end of the day, it’s a business,” he says. “I’ll still have my friends, colleagues and many customers supporting me wherever I go or whatever I do. That’s the most rewarding part.”
From the Beer Writer: Large doses of CTZ, Cascade and Chinook hops went into this week’s featured beer, Duck Foot KASHI-entious IPA, but the ingredients that make it particularly special are those that make up the malt bill: oats and wheat. Pretty sexy, eh? Under normal circumstances, this is hardly noteworthy, but the components in question are “transitional”. Few know what this means, but that’s why this India pale ale was brewed, to help educate the public on ingredients produced by American farmers during the lengthy period required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to gain Organic certification. The idea for this came from Solana Beach-based Kashi, who helped Duck Foot Brewing Company procure the transitional oats and wheat for this beer, which comes in at 7.4% alcohol-by-volume and comes across as a bit of a throwback to the days when IPAs had long-lasting, assertive bitterness. A lemon bouquet gives way to grapefruit and toasted biscuit notes on the palate, leaving a tacky pithiness in the back of one’s throat. Much like newfound info about Organic certification, it’s a lot for the mind and taste buds to contemplate. The beer debuts today and will also be on tap at Duck Foot’s second anniversary party, which will take place on Saturday, July 8.
From the Brewer: We’ve collaborated with San Diego’s own Kashi on this IPA brewed with transitional ingredients in order to help American farmers in the process of increasing organic farmland. It takes three years for farmers to convert their fields to be eligible for USDA Organic certification. During this time, they cannot use pesticides, but they also cannot yet call their crops Organic. Kashi…and now Duck Foot…is trying to raise awareness of the hardship that these farmers endure during this ‘transitional’ period. By featuring transitional ingredients in this beer—in this case, rolled oats and hard red winter wheat—we hope to help promote their cause. As Kashi would say: ‘Don’t just brew something awesome, do something awesome!’”—Brett Goldstock, Chief Fermentation Officer, Duck Foot Brewing Company
From the Beer Writer: It’s been a big couple of months for Kearny Mesa’s Common Theory Public House. After three years in business, the bar and restaurant picked up popular gastronome A.G. Warfield (formerly of San Marcos craft-beer haven Churchill’s Pub & Grille), who promptly got to work overhauling CT’s entire menu. A bevy of new dishes from that revamped bill of fare (which includes sweet and spicy pork belly with kimchi, a field-and-stream duo of fried chicken and crab cake, and a “Convoy Burger” featuring ground chuck, a duck egg, pork belly and duck gravy between ramen-noodle “buns”) debuted last week as part of the venue’s third-anniversary weekend. There was another new and special consumable available to event-goers, as well: Pure Project CT3 Triple IPA. Produced by Miramar’s Pure Project Brewing especially for Common Theory, it’s a 10.3% alcohol-by-volume, hazy IPA brewed with 600 pounds of strawberries sourced in Escondido. On paper, it’s a bruising brew from a booze perspective, but the fresh fruit and late-addition hops come together to give this beer a dose of refinement and flavors of citrus and strawberries that keeps it almost dangerously drinkable. Only one batch of this beer was produced and it’s going fast…but Common Theory is tapping a fresh keg today. Just sayin’.
From the Brewer: “The team here at Pure Project was really excited to be approached by the Common Theory crew to brew a beer for their third anniversary. Seeing as it was a very special occasion, we decided to brew a truly lavish beer. Strawberry season is one our favorite times here at Pure, so we decided to blend one of our favorite fruits with a big, murky triple IPA in order to really show off hand-picked, organic strawberries that seamlessly meld with the fruitiest designer hops. A huge, multi-dimensional dry-hopping of Mosaic and Hallertau Blanc hops bring all the fruit you could want from a juicy IPA, while still leaving room for the strawberries to shine through in their local, agricultural elegance. Grab some while it’s still around!”—Winslow Sawyer, Head Brewer, Pure Project Brewing
A lot goes with trying to open San Diego County’s first all-organic brewery—sourcing ingredients, all of which are more costly than non-organic, securing enough of them, finding price-points that work for patrons and, of course, making quality beer. These are all very real challenges, but pale in comparison to the obstacles and consequences the founders of Protector Brewery faced in their former lives as Navy SEALs. By comparison, this should be a fairly straightforward mission. One thing is for sure. They’re going to war fully prepared.
Sean Haggerty is leading the charge from a base of operations located at 8680 Miralani Drive. If that address sounds familiar, it’s because the business park Protector calls home has become well known as a center of artisanality. Other businesses sited there include 2kids Brewing, Align Brewing, Setting Sun Sake Brewery and several urban wineries, with Thunderhawk Alements, a cidery and meadery in the works directly across the street. The fact Protector can bring something completely unique to such a saturated complex is impressive.
Haggerty—who produces beer with fellow brewer Ben Betz—brewed his first beer seven years ago in the most unlikely of places…while on deployment in Iraq. His team had just returned from a direct-action raid at 3 a.m. and he really wanted to drink a good beer to toast his team’s success. The only problem was, being at a military installation halfway across the world, there was no beer to be had. It was then Haggerty had the epiphany that he should make his own. He had ingredients shipped to him and used a five-gallon Gatorade jug for his debut brew. He’s significantly upgraded his equipment at Protector, where beers are brewed on a direct-fire stainless system that figures to produce 200 barrels of beer annually.
Protector’s portfolio will include a hefeweizen, imperial stout, a pair of pale ales (one of which is New World in its hop profundity) and a pair of IPAs (English and West Coast). The hardest part about creating the latter quartet is sourcing quality hops, but Haggerty is confident in the stock he’s secured. He has Cascade, Centennial, Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe and Zeus in cold storage. Only five states house organic hop purveyors and the price of those hops is three times higher than non-organic hops, on average, with highly coveted varietals like Nelson Sauvin going for as much as ten times its garden-variety counterparts. And unlike other local brewers, Haggerty can’t just head to White Labs when he needs yeast. He currently gets his strains from an Oregan-based company.
Given the increased costs, one would expect extremely expensive beers at Protector, but prices are competitive and Haggerty says even his costliest beers will never go higher than seven or eight bucks. He knows an organic brewery wouldn’t be feasible at the size of a Ballast Point or Stone, but believes he can make it work at his smaller size. And if he is successful, he’ll look to expand.
For now, it’s about producing four barrels of beer per week, teaching people about organic beer and showing them it can taste every bit as good as everyday craft ales and lagers. Initially, that will be done exclusively at Protector’s tasting room, a neutral-toned spot punched up with organic color from a framed piece of art made of black barley and hops, depicting a Spartan helmet. Sketched artwork of fantasy-style defenders lines one wall while the brewery’s motto, “people, planet, progression, protector” is painted on the wall beside the bar. Haggerty and company hope to improve the planet through their actions, pushing the organic movement and market forward, not just for themselves, but for farmers, their families, wildlife and the environment.
Protector’s soft-open period begins June 2. The tasting room will be open from 2 to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, leading up to a grand opening in July.
Miramar’s Carrol Way is home to a pair of businesses that couldn’t be more different from each other. On one side of the street is the colossal manufacturing headquarters of Ballast Point Brewing, a business with such astronomical growth and distribution of award-winning, to-style beers that it garnered $1 billion from Constellation Brands when that company took it over in 2015. Equipped with a large restaurant outfitted with an expansive, outdoor deck, it is the largest brewery and brewing entity in San Diego County.
Directly across the street is Reckless Brewing Company (9040 Carroll Way, Miramar), a quirky little brewery producing beer on a much more modest scale. But it’s not just size and quantity that form a Grand Canyon-sized divide between these otherwise similar businesses. The beer is worlds different, as well. And that’s just how owner Dave Hyndman likes it. An outlier who revels in marching to his own beat, he crafts beers that defy numerous style guidelines and has cultivated a clientele that sees the beauty in that non-conformity. Ditto the unique design of his tasting room, which draws together innumerable random and disparate items to further illustrate the nature of Hyndman and his brewery. But that sampling space closed last week…because Hyndman recently finished construction on a new tasting room in the suite next door.
Reckless Brewing’s new tasting room is still one of a kind. In time it will surely be equipped with the bric-a-brac and visual accessories that made its predecessor such a standout. But for now a colorful Twister grid painted onto the floor goes a long way to communicating Hyndman’s spirit to visitors. And while there are still amateur-constructed pieces of furniture making up most of the bar, the cold-box is outfitted in a nice-looking brick façade. Back at ground zero, Reckless Brewing’s original suite will now be devoted solely to brewing.