From the Beer Writer: When endeavoring to locate Division 23 Brewing Company for the first time, one relies heavily on a series of A-frame signs leading from Trade Street through a labyrinthian Miramar industrial park. In addition to helpful arrows, those signs tout the amenities of that business’ tasting room, including “air conditioning.” Talk about an understatement. Division 23 is a spin-off business of HVAC company, DMG Corporation, the offices for which are directly above the brewery and tasting room. Both are equipped with numerous sample units mounted on the ceiling directly above plush seating, a trio of TVS, shuffleboard and a ping-pong table. A beer drinker couldn’t ask for a cushier place to imbibe. Equally as comforting is Division 23 Helles Yeah!, a to-style take on a type of lager that, despite its high level of drinkability and compatibility with nearly year-round sunshine, isn’t widely produced in San Diego. With its scone-like touch of sweetness and light earthiness, it’s a less hop-forward lager that goes down easy and will appeal to many, especially those less familiar with craft who may be turned off by the bitterness of, say, a Pilsner. Spend an afternoon drinking this beer in what it is one of the coolest tasting rooms in the county, both literally and figuratively.
From the Brewer: “Here at Division 23, we love when fall comes around in San Diego. Not only is the weather perfect for tipping a pint, but German-style beers start popping up all over town. We have also been in love with lagers lately, so to celebrate the season we decided to brew a traditional German Helles. Light in color, big in body, our Helles Yeah! starts off a little sweet and finishes crisp and dry…with a little lingering floral hoppiness on the tongue. It’s a great beer to soak in the season.”—Jimmy Lewis, Brewer, Division 23 Brewing Company
Miramar-based White Labs is well known worldwide for its expertise in yeast used in the manufacture of beer, wine and other libations, but starting tomorrow, it will take its work with edible-based fermentation to the people when it opens its first-ever restaurant, White Labs Kitchen and Tap in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. White Labs debuted at its East Coast digs in January of this year, with the establishment of a full-scale laboratory and yeast-production facility complete with a tasting room similar to that of its San Diego predecessor, elements of which—such as hanging Erlenmeyer flask light fixtures—will be on display at the company’s new 5,200-square-foot eatery.
Like White Labs’ sampling venues, multiple versions of singular beers produced by the company (via the in-house brewery at the San Diego facility) and differentiated by the type of yeast used to ferment them will be available side-by-side. Doing so allows patrons to taste the significant influence yeast has on a finished beer. A portion of White Labs Kitchen and Tap’s 28 taps will dispense those house ales and lagers while a rotating stock of guest beers (including collaboration creations worked up by neighbor breweries including Burial Beer Co., Hi-Wire Brewing and Mad Co. Brewing specifically for the restaurant’s opening) will round out the beverage program along with wine and specialty cocktails.
The restaurant’s total square-footage is divided into 3,000 indoors with an outdoor patio coming in at roughly 2,200. Up to 100 guests at a time may partake from an eclectic menu that focuses heavily on dishes incorporating fermented components. The most obvious of them are wood-fired pizzas produced using slow-risen dough made using White Labs pure liquid yeast cultures. Then there are French fries brined in lactobacillus and bread made with WLP830 German Lager Yeast. Other adventurous accoutrements include a sour-beer vinaigrette on a kale salad, whey toffee, and a burger-topping barbecue sauce incorporating barley miso and White Labs’ Pasteur Porter ale slathered on a roll made with WLP002 English Ale Yeast. It’s anything but your everyday take on everyday food.
White Labs Kitchen and Tap is located adjacent from the company’s Asheville facility at 172 South Charlotte Street. Should you find yourself in that easterly locale and looking for a taste of home, its hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays.
Last month, Joe Lisica resigned from his post heading fermentation operations for Miramar-based Little Miss Brewing. He cited an amicable parting of ways with owners Greg and Jade Malkin, who brought him on as the company’s first-ever brewmaster and a partner (though goals that would have triggered part-ownership were not reached prior to Lisica leaving). The Malkins wanted to go one direction with the beers they produced, while Lisica favored an altogether different creative trajectory.
Lisica departed without a plan for his next step. He said he was actually looking forward to enjoying a little down-time after spending the past year-plus planning, hammering together and running a brand-new brewery. A life of rest and refueling must not have agreed with him, because he went back to work yesterday after being hired by Mikkeller Brewing San Diego to serve as its head brewer. Lisica worked at Green Flash Brewing Company in Mira Mesa before moving on to move up with Little Miss. Here, he will be responsible for the manufacture of many more styles than he tackled at his last place of employ, filling a beer-board 19 strong and crafting weekly new releases.
This will be the Miramar-based brewery’s second head brewer. Initially, the company—the brick-and-mortar overseas interest of Copenhagen, Denmark-based entrepreneur Mikkel Borg Bjergso—brought veteran brewer Bill Batten over from sister-company AleSmith Brewing Company to lead brewery operations. Batten resigned in March and has gone on to consult for several San Diego County brewing companies while waiting to take the reins at his eventual home, TapRoom Beer Company, which is currently being birthed in North Park by the owners of Pacific Beach bar SD TapRoom.
Back at Mikkeller San Diego, the company maintains a cult following, but appears to be struggling with the inherent difficulties of having an owner that spends the majority of his time away from the business while guiding brewery decisions from afar. In other Mikkeller San Diego news, the company has removed the anvil that was formerly a component of its logo meant to communicate its partnership with AleSmith. AleSmith owner Peter Zien says that, although he sold stocks in 2016 to give control of Mikkeller San Diego to Bjergso, he remains a partner from an artistic and financial perspective until Mikkeller San Diego’s lease expiration, at which time Zien will transition to a point where he is no longer a financial principal.
Author’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect facts presented following its initial posting.
Winners from the 2017 edition of the Great American Beer Festival were announced earlier this morning. Held annually by brewing-industry trade organization, the Brewers Association, in Denver, Colorado, this year’s GABF saw nearly 8,000 beers entered by more than 2,000 breweries in 98 style categories. 293 were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals after being evaluated by 276 judges. GABF is the country’s largest and most prestigious professional brewing competition. San Diego County breweries have historically fared incredibly well. This year saw another strong showing with the region’s brewers racking up double-digit awards.
Eleven local brewing companies brought home 14 medals this time around, including five golds in the Robust Porter (Second Chance Beer Co.) Honey Beer (Karl Strauss Brewing Company‘s Carlsbad brewpub), Imperial India Pale Ale (Ballast Point Brewing) Other Specialty Belgian Ale (Stone Brewing World Brewing & Gardens – Liberty Station) and Session Beer (Pizza Port‘s Ocean Beach brewpub) categories. That went along with six silver medals and three bronzes.
Notable is the fact only one individual brewing facility in the county won more than one medal, Carmel Mountain Ranch’s Second Chance with a gold and a silver. Newly launched SouthNorte Brewing Company garnered a bronze medal in the Specialty Beer category for a beer called AgaveMente that hasn’t even been released to the public yet. And Monkey Paw Brewing, which Coronado acquired earlier this year, earned a silver medal in the English-style Summer Ale category. Also, Vista-based Mother Earth Brew Co. medaled in the Fresh or Wet Hop Ale category for Fresh As It Gets, a beer brewed at its Nampa, Idaho production facility.
Adding to the unofficial medal count was Belching Beaver Brewery, which for the second time in its history won top honors at the Alpha King Competition. Held in conjunction with GABF each year, this friendly competition crowns the brewing company that submits the hoppiest offering amid a stacked field of IPAs. Belching Beaver previously won Alpha King in 2014. On top of that, Chula Vista Brewery owners Timothy and Dalia Parker received the Samuel Adams Brewing and Business Experienceship, following in the footsteps of Ramona-based ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, who earned the same opportunity in 2014.
The following is a complete list of the winners from brewing facilities located within San Diego County…
In early April of this year, Tom and Brett Gent realized a dream, opening the doors to Wiseguy Brewing in Carlsbad. The father-son duo signed a lease to install their business in one of the ready-to-brew units at developer H.G. Fenton’s North County Brewery Igniter campus. The pair of suites in that facility house identical brewhouses, cellar setups and tasting-room footprints, and are blank slates for tenants to personalize as they please. As one would expect, the Gents were excited at the prospect and approached the project with gusto, but unfortunately, less than six months after its debut, an A-frame sign stands outside of Wiseguy’s tasting room proclaiming that this Saturday, September 30 will be its last day of operation.
The Gents set out to craft traditional beers using the 10-barrel system that came as part of their lease with H.G. Fenton. Early on, they were able to cultivate a following, literally working side-by-side with Brewery Igniter neighbors at Rouleur Brewing Company. The breweries even held a dual grand-opening event using their shared front lawn. While Rouleur has begun to distribute its beers in North County San Diego and begun the process of regular can-release events, Wiseguy has made the decision to exit the industry.
When reached for comment, Brett Gent cited difficulties with the overhead for his facility, a lack of steady business in Carlsbad, and the inability to put up street-facing signage as reasons for pulling out. Online, he expressed that he is “super-bummed,” adding he “will take another crack at this one day” and stating he “learned a lot.” Other Brewery Igniter tenants attest that the model is expensive and unsustainable over a prolonged period. For most, it is a means of achieving proof of concept before garnering additional financial backing and moving on to open a permanent brick-and-mortar elsewhere. One Brewery Igniter tenant, speaking on condition of anonymity, shared that H.G. Fenton has exhibited a tendency to be strict even with struggling tenants, stating they tend to compare them all to Pure Project Brewing. That business is easily the most successful of the septet of companies leasing space between the three Brewery Igniter sites.
Pure Project and Amplified Ale Works were the first to experiment with the model at H.G. Fenton’s initial rentable brewing campus in Miramar. The former has been a runaway success behind frequent can-release events and barrel-aged bottle releases, but appears to be an anomaly. Arguably the next most successful Brewery Igniter tenant is Eppig Brewing Company, which is nearing its one-year anniversary as the first business to open at H.G. Fenton’s second beer-making site, a three-suite facility in North Park. Eppig has earned acclaim for its beers, primarily its lagers, prompting its owners’ recent securing of a satellite tasting room in Point Loma, but even with solid returns out of the gate, that business will inevitably reach a point—sooner than later—where it must move to a larger facility with greater production capabilities, more space for customers and lower monthly expenses.
Brewery Igniter was developed as a stepping stone for aspiring brewers as well as an option for existing companies seeking a secondary brewing facility as a means to increase production. Amplified Ale Works and San Diego Brewing Company, a 20-plus-year stalwart of the local industry that leased space at the North Park campus to brew enough beer to start distributing beyond its namesake pub, fit into the latter, less common category, while Pure Project, Eppig, Rouleur and Pariah Brewing Company (also in North Park) fit the bill of entrepreneurs looking to realize fermentation aspirations, a faction Wiseguy was part of for a sadly far-too-short period of time.