From the Beer Writer: In last month’s issue of West Coaster, I proclaimed my love of Belgian-style farmhouse ales, better known as saisons. In the February issue, I spoke highly of the quarterly beer-pairing dinners put on at Bay Ho’s Bitter Brothers Brewing Company. So you can imagine my anticipation when I found out Bitter Brothers was crafting a special saison for its most recent Family Dinner affair. That excitement was compounded when brewery owner Bill Warnke offered to contribute a portion of all proceeds from the sale of this beer during the month of May to Beer to the Rescue, a campaign I established to raise funds for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California. Brewed with food pairability and seasonality in mind, Bitter Brothers Spring Fling Saison prominently features lemon verbena, a citrus-flavored subshrub that lends big flavors that meld nicely with the beer’s Belgian yeast esters. It tastes like a pint-glass full of spring, making for an easy and enjoyable way to support a local charity.
From the Brewer: “Spring Fling is a 5.5% saison brewed with lemon verbena and fermented with a French saison yeast strain. It was brewed in collaboration with Eugenio Romero-Wendlandt from Wendlandt Cerveceria to tie in with the next installment of our Family Dinner series, this one focusing exclusively on Baja chefs. The beer is an opaque, straw color with a white, pillowy, sustained head. The aroma is typical French saison phenolics with lemon verbena notes and light banana esters. The flavor follows the aroma, with more prominent lemon verbena herbal presence and a crisp, dry, lightly bitter finish. This is definitely a beer meant to be paired with food and would go great with ceviche, moules frites or other seafoods.”—John Hunter, Head Brewer, Bitter Brothers Brewing Company
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 »
Yeah, yeah, we can pretend we’re going to stick to all those healthful resolutions that sounded so good when we were way inebriated at midnight on December 31, or we can get real and start planning for some beer-inspired fun. If you, like me, are opting for the latter, check out these higher-profile events, then head to our Events Page for even more #SDBeer happenings.
January 7 | San Diego Brew Fest: Don’t be a quitter. Get right back into the sudsy swing of things a mere seven daze after swearing off alcohol. You know you want to and, with plenty of breweries converging on the festival-ready grounds of Liberty Station, why fight what is clearly a fermented form of fate. Say good-bye to better judgment and hello to a good time. | NTC Park, 2455 Cushing Road, Point Loma, 12 p.m.
January 14 | Two-Year Anniversary: Last month, Rip Current Brewing celebrated its fourth year in business at its San Marcos brewery. Fast-forward several weeks and it’s time to celebrate the not-so-terrible twos at its North Park satellite tasting room. Expect a tap-list chock full of specialties, including a boat-load of barrel-aged beers, plus some discount special deals. | Rip Current Brewing Company, 4101 30th Street, North Park, 12 p.m.
January 22 | Family Dinner: Much like brewers, chefs like to hang with other chefs. So when Bitter Brothers Brewing’s veteran chef owner invites culinary contemporaries over to cook a beer-paired dinner with him at his brewery, he has plenty of willing participants to choose from, all of which are top-notch kitchen practitioners who enjoy beer as much as the people they’re serving. | Bitter Brothers Brewing Company, 4170 Morena Boulevard, Bay Ho, 5 p.m.
January 28 | Changing of the Barrels: Each year, Karl Strauss Brewing holds a suds-filled soiree at its PB headquarters where it unveils a barrel-aged beer that’s been aged for a year, serving it alongside a long list of staples and specialties. It’s the greatest single-night of beer-sampling one can experience at San Diego’s longest-running post-Prohibition era brewing interest. | Karl Strauss Brewing Company; 5985 Santa Fe Street; Pacific Beach; 4 p.m. (VIP), 5 p.m. (General Admission)
Looks like the New Year will feature plenty of new San Diego beer…immediately! Right after Mason Ale Works (the brewing component of Oceanside’s Urge Gastropub and Whiskey Bar brewpub) announced it will open its doors before the curtain comes down on 2015, another new operation has cemented January 2 as the start of its soft-open period. That business is Bitter Brothers Brewing Company (4170 Morena Boulevard, Bay Ho), a chef-led project that’s been in the works for roughly two years. It was originally slated to open in time for the 2014 edition of San Diego Beer Week, but delays in construction and equipment delivery pushed things out considerably.
Often, when a business experiences time-consuming hiccups en route to opening, its plan of action can undergo numerous revisions, but this is not true of Bitter Brothers. Armed with a detailed business plan, co-owner Bill Warnke has stuck to his guns. The core beer line-up he rolled out to me back in June of 2014 remains largely the same, featuring India pale ales (IPAs) of varying flavor and bitterness (hence the business’ name)—a low-alcohol “session” variety brewed with Citra hops going by the name Little Brother, an Amarillo hop-based IPA called The Prodigal Son, and a Big C-hopped throwback to Pacific Northwest IPAs of yore dubbed Sibling Rivalry—as well as a south German hefeweizen and two traditional, English-style beers in the form of an extra special bitter (ESB) and porter.
But that’s not to say everything’s the same. Take, for instance, a pair of Berliner Weisses flavored with pomegranate and ginger, respectively. They seem to have replaced the Belgian-style witbier Warnke foretold of last year. And the aforementioned porter will now be brewed with a third-of-a-pound of local coffee per-barrel from fellow Bay Ho business, Caffé Arcidiacono. Barrel-aged beers (a porter, sours and an altbier from younger Bitter Brother, Kurt Warnke) are also part of the plan.
Also different than the early version of Bitter Brothers is the addition of John Hunter, a brewer with recent experience at 32 North Brewing Company, White Labs and Karl Strauss Brewing Company. He will take the lead fermentationist role over the company’s 15-barrel brewhouse, joining Bruce McSurdy, formerly of Poway’s Lightning Brewery (which Bill once had a financial stake in), who has been part of the Bitter Brothers equation nearly from the start. Additionally, Kurt will work on new recipes on top of his role as operations manager, making for a true team effort where each brewer’s distinct style is reflected. Hunter was popular for what he refers to as “candy-bar beers” after his Peanut Butter Cup Porter became wildly popular during his Karl Strauss days. Building off that, he is planning on a chocolate dunkelweizen built to emulate the flavors of a chocolate-covered banana. The aforementioned Berliner weisses are his, too.
Warnke says there are two missions where Bitter Brothers’ beers are concerned. To create ales and lagers that are both poignantly flavored yet balanced and (ironically enough) restrained in their bitterness. Also, hailing from the culinary world, Warnke wants his beers to be extremely food-friendly. That pairability will be displayed via numerous food-and-beer events held at Bitter Brothers’ tasting room, which was designed so it would be large enough at 700 square feet to hold such sipping-and-supping soirees. That sampling space is located between two big draws—a Costco and the largest Harley-Davidson dealership in the country. This should provide plenty of traffic for the business. Fortunately there is plenty of parking to handle passers-by who decide to give Bitter Brothers a chance.
Bitter Brothers’ entire facility comes in at 3,200 square feet and equipped with 14 total taps, two of which are nitro in nature. Warnke hopes to produce 600 barrels of beer in 2016, but the brewery is equipped to hit 1,440 barrels annually. The purchase of additional fermentation vessels would max out the facility at 3,150 barrels per year. At some point between now and 2017, Bitter Brothers will begin canning its beers. It’s a lot to accomplish in the first 12 months, but the crew has had plenty of time to strategize. They’re excited to stop planning and start doing.