Last year, beer fans started noticing vehicle signage and a “golden IPA” from an unknown entity throughout San Diego County. They inquired to me directly and questioned the masses via social media: “Anybody know anything about this Beach Grease Beer Co. I’ve been seeing around?”
This went on for most of 2018 until last November when I was able to get the background on what turned out to be a local operation from owner James Banuelos. A fan of beach culture and classic automobiles, he had a spot on Scott Street in Vista that served as his headquarters. The only problem—it lacks brewing equipment.
Until now, Banuelos has gotten around that by having his beer contract brewed by Mission Brewery. Additionally, Banuelos has assisted that East Village interest by helping out with marketing duties. All the while, he maintained a search for a facility of his own, and he found it in the brewery-equipped space recently shut down by the owners of Vista’s SpecHops Brewing.
Located at 1280 Activity Drive, the 6,500-square-foot industrial-park suite is part of a cluster of Vista ale-and-lager interests that includes Latitude 33 Brewing, Toolbox Brewing, Belching Beaver Brewery’s Pub980, Barrel Harbor Brewing and Booze Brothers Brewing. Its 15-barrel brewing system was lightly used in the 10 or so months SpecHops was open to the public before shutting down at the end of the year.
Banuelos is pleased to now have a base of operations that will allow him to get his beers to market. Those will include various IPAs as well as a hoppy pilsner called Piston Palm. He is currently in search of a brewer and reports a great deal of interest on that front.
In addition to brewing capabilities, Beach Grease’s new home offers a tasting room with an L-shaped bar and a spacious interior area on the building’s south side that was previously furnished with sofas and picnic tables. The manufacturing area is completely visible and separated from public space by a rail bar. There is no immediate timetable for its debut under the Beach Grease flag.
Those not living in or frequenting inland North County might not be as familiar with the Booze Brothers Brewing brand, but beer enthusiasts in and around Vista are keyed in on this five-year-old company’s tremendous growth and popularity. Founded in 2013 by brothers Donny and Dave Firth, it started in a single business-park suite. Each year, the Firths took over a next-door suite until they had the entire building, which is now divided into a large, patio-equipped tasting room, with two spaces dedicated to production and the last converted into a stylish private-event space dubbed the Wood Shed. On top of that, Booze Brothers has secured a building across the street with high ceilings where it eventually hopes to move large-scale production. That may include products from an offshoot brand called Owl Farm Unique Fermentations.
Owl Farm is a project that has been in the works for the past two years. The goal of the new brand is to offer a constantly rotating line of fermented beverages that are less traditional than the beers sold under the Booze Brothers handle; concoctions that blur the lines between ales, lagers, cider, mead, wine and cocktails. Thorough explanation of just what that means is provided by Owl Farm’s initial offerings, the most straightforward of which is Peachy Monkey, a 6.4% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) peach ale fermented using Brettanomyces. It will hit shelves along with Gin Gose, a 4.5% ABV kettle sour brewed with juniper berries, coriander, lemon peel and dill that’s loosely based on a spiced German Gose ale, and built to be a refreshing, beery take on its namesake spirit. Last up is Blackberry Cruiser, a 5.6% ABV, mildly tart ale brewed with blackberries, lemon, oolong tea and honey.
Owl Farm beers will be available on-tap and in four-packs of 16-ounce cans at Booze Brothers’ tasting room and retail accounts. When asked about the decision to hit the market with niche, more outlandish beer styles when the India pale ale (IPA) is king, Booze Brothers manager Kris Anacleto speaks of a desire to reach demographics ranging from craft connoisseurs to newcomers who appreciate non-hoppy styles of beer. He also describes the challenges of calling on a new account and leading with an IPA in a county stocked with more than 130 brewing companies, the majority of which offer quality IPAs. There is only so much tap and shelf space to go around and bringing something unique to customers is attractive to the Booze Brothers crew. So, too, is the ability to continually come out with new beverages, a benefit given beer-drinkers’ growing obsession with shiny new things
To give Owl Farm its own identity, management is consulting with artist Clay Halling. Anacleto spied Halling’s work on a skateboard a few years ago and reached out to the Phoenix, Arizona-based artist to see if he would be interested in holding a show at Booze Brothers. Halling accepted the offer and stayed in touch. Though original, Owl Farm’s whimsical artwork isn’t too much of a departure from that of Ben Horton, who handles all of the branding and packaging art for the Booze Brothers brand. His bottle and can adornments have received greater visibility of late, as Booze Brothers expands its self-distributed network into Orange and Los Angeles counties with greater frequency. Owl Farm beers will find their way to market via those same channels, beginning February 9.
Each month, we present several best-bet local beer-related events for the following 28 to 31 days, but as we all know, November isn’t any normal month in America’s Finest City. It’s the month that houses San Diego Beer Week (SDBW), a ten-day span encompassing literally hundreds of events. So, we’re doing things a little different this month, providing a little insight on some of the biggest and most unique happenings taking place from November 3-12. Enjoy, but don’t forget to check out other goings-on via our events page and the official SDBW website.
Friday, November 3
Saturday, November 4
Sunday, November 5
Monday, November 6
Tuesday, November 7
Wednesday, November 8
Thursday, November 9
Friday, November 10
Saturday, November 11
Sunday, November 12
It was mid-2014 when I first reached out to the crew at Ebullition Brew Works after receiving a tip that the business was going in a space near a deli in San Marcos. They weren’t quite ready to talk. I remained persistent, but they stayed close-lipped over the past three years…and it’s probably good that they did. Plans for Ebullition shifted here and there, including a relocation to another municipality altogether. Today, Ebullition, which has been in soft-open mode since July, operates out of a business suite in Vista. An initial three-barrel system that would churn out just enough beer so ownership could open on the weekends has been replaced by a 10-barrel direct-fire model feeding into 10-barrel tanks. Yet, as much as the company has changed from a production standpoint, its thematic, approach and team remain the same.
The idea for Ebullition sprouted from co-founder Jesse Richardson’s discovery of craft beer and the joy of homebrewing. His wife took a job in the accounting department at Escondido’s Stone Brewing, allowing him exposure to world-class beer events as well as brands and styles of beer he had theretofore never heard of, much less experienced. He started down the rabbit hole and was soon brewing his own beer at home, to the point where he says he was “addicted.” This was just before the more intense stretch of the local boom that saw the number of brewhouses in the county rise sharply from roughly 40 to the 150-plus of today. A lot has changed since Richardson and a group of his colleagues decided to ditch the corporate world to give their brewing-industry dreams a go. Richardson and company admit they went a lot bigger than they originally expected, but so much changed from conceptualization to execution that they feel adjusting their business plan was necessary. Going big out of the gate was necessitated by the plethora of breweries in North County built to do just that, such as Mother Earth Brew Co. and Booze Brothers Brewing Company. Like those operations, the Ebullition team selected Vista in large part because of how welcoming and supportive local government is to breweries, and the fact they understand the positive impact breweries have on their City’s economy.
Beer-making is the domain of brewmaster Mike Reidy, a former teacher, certified beer judge and award-winning homebrewer of more than two decades. His goal is to focus on brewing clean, true-to-style ales and lagers, and eventually push boundaries with less familiar styles and modern-day creations such as Northeast-inspired India pale ales (IPAs). His first, simply dubbed Hazy IPA, is currently available and the best of a sextet of Ebullition beers I sampled during a recent visit. Aromas of gooseberries and grapefruit give way to a burst of citrus rind and a finish that’s wheaty, bitter and a touch peppery. Another favorite of mine was The General, a stout brewed with coffee that starts out Starbucks and ends out like a mouthful of Ghirardelli milk chocolate. Also impressive is a saison called Gidget with bright lemon and orange character. It’s rounder than it is dry, but brewed within style guidelines and plenty enjoyable. On the fun anomaly front, Deli Rye Pilsner takes one of today’s hottest styles in a different direction with the addition of moderately spicy rye. Nuances of banana make it taste a bit like a hefeweizen, making for a completely unique tasting experience.
IBU (international bittering unit) measures are presented down to the hundredth. Originally, that count was listed as EBU (ebullition bittering units), but it was too difficult for customers to wrap their heads around, so they changed it. But they’re sticking with Ebullition as an overriding theme. The team stumbled upon the term in an old encyclopedia. It refers to both the boiling of wort (unfermented beer) and hops as well as sudden, intense passion…like that of someone who would become so enamored with brewing they would change their entire life to chase that interest. Richardson and his partners hope patrons will celebrate ebullition-inspiring pursuits, realizing not everybody draws the intense feelings they do from beer. Numerous hobbies and interests are illustrated via murals on the walls of Ebullition’s tasting room, which is also equipped with scads of games and activities spanning far beyond those of the average sampling venue.
And though they love beer, Ebullition’s owners aren’t limiting their ebullition to ales and lagers. They purposely chose to refer to their business as “Brew Works” to leave the door open for delving into mead, cold-brew coffee, kombucha and other brewed beverages. But for now, Ebullition is focusing its energy on a long-time coming grand-opening celebration. That fete will take place over two weekends and kick off this Saturday, October 14 with a day packed full of promotional activities such as a brewer Q&A, brewery tour, live music and more, followed Saturday, October 21 by “Dia de Ebullition”, featuring a Mexican-inspired beer release, art show, face-painting and a live performance by The Sleepwalkers.