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
In May, O’Sullivan Bros. Brewing Company owner Ed O’Sullivan put his two-year-old Scripps Ranch brewery up for sale. Shortly after, Darrel Brown, the owner of Savagewood Brewing Company came to take a look. Earlier in the year he had toured defunct Escondido business Offbeat Brewing Company. He also took a look at Helm’s Brewing Company in Kearny Mesa, but passed on all three due to his desire to settle his interest in Rancho Bernardo. But as the months passed, he came to realize the best place for the community- and family-focused venue he aimed to establish was right in his backyard. He and O’Sullivan reconnected and forged a deal that makes Brown the new owner of O’Sullivan Bros.’ brewery and tasting room. And while others might wipe the slate completely clean, Brown will integrate the O’Sullivan Bros. brand into his own.
Brown’s plan—which is already underway—is to remove all O’Sullivan Bros. branding from the exterior and interior of the facility, which is located on the west side of an industrial park on Hibert Street catty-corner to a large shopping area that includes a grocery store and numerous restaurants. All branding will be changed to reflect Savagewood Brewing and his beers will take up the lion’s share of the faucets in the tasting room, but he will also keep on some of O’Sullivan Bros.’ best-selling beers, including Catholic Guilt smoked porter, Our Father’s Stout and Finn McCool’s Big Thirsty red ale. A Scripps Ranch resident who lives mere blocks away, Brown patronized the brewery he now owns and believed in the product and the people behind the brand. He was saddened that the O’Sullivan family had to exit the industry—not due to poor quality, but personal issues that couldn’t be avoided—and feels strongly that their legacy should live on.
While O’Sullivan Bros. beers largely fell on the darker side, Savagewood ales come in lighter on the SRM spectrum. Brown’s recipes are hoppy, fruity and light on malt to produce a dry finish associated with Southern California offerings. That said, he’s not afraid to dabble in the East Coast arts, and is planning to brew a West Coast-Northeast India pale ale hybrid using yeast used for hazy IPAs against a decidedly “San Diego-style” grain bill. That will join his pineapple pale ale and other beers that, up until now, have been contract brewed at Groundswell Brewing Company’s Santee headquarters. Since the total annual production capability of his new facility is just 550 barrels, he will continue to utilize his contract relationship to increase yearly barrelage to between 1,600 and 1,700 barrels.
But it’s not all about the adult beverages. Savagewood will have cold-brew coffee and house-made craft sodas on tap. It will also hold various youth-oriented events such as movie nights featuring ‘80’s movies and popcorn. Also on-tap will be at least one event raising money for local charities per month. A portion of proceeds from one of his beers, Exquisite Blonde, already go to the cancer non-profit Keep A Breast Foundation. “Scripps Ranch is my home and I want Savagewood to be the neighborhood brewery,” says Brown. “Every decision I make will center around that.”
Brown will open the revamped tasting room on November 2, just in time for San Diego Beer Week, which takes place November 3-12. He plans to hold events throughout that span, including beer-release promotions, a trivia night and a beer-brunch event. And near the end of November, Savagewood will hold its official grand-opening party. In the meantime, he’ll work on expanding the floor-plan of the tasting room and cinch up negotiations with a brewer he intends to bring on. As for the rest of his staff, he is keeping all of O’Sullivan Bros.’ existing employees, making for one of the true feel-good stories of this year in local craft beer.
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.
For the past three years, Kearny Mesa-based Kilowatt Brewing Company has been the little brewery that could. Bolstered by flamboyantly outlandish beers and striking interior lighting design, the nano-brewery has earned a cult following, patronage from which allowed owners Steve Kozyk and Rachel Fischer to open a flashy satellite tasting room in Ocean Beach that has been quite the hit. Yet, the company has never had a brewer with previous professional fermentation experience. Until now. A recent search for a new head brewer that can take Kilowatt to the next level ended with the hiring of Brian Crecely, who came over from Miramar’s AleSmith Brewing Company last month to fill a crucial role at a critical time for the soon-to-expand business.
What road led you to your current position with Kilowatt?
I was a homebrewer and member of QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity) before beginning my professional career at AleSmith in 2011. I started on the packaging line, much like a lot of people do when they first get into the industry. The company saw a tremendous amount of growth during my time there and I was able to grow a lot with them. I managed to work my way up to become a cellarman and, eventually, a brewer. After gaining experience as a brewer, they gave me the opportunity to complete the American Brewers Guild: Brewing Science and Engineering Program, which really helped me add to my brewing knowledge. During this time and until I left AleSmith, I assisted the company with developing (then managing) its barrel-aged sour beer program and took on the role of specialty brewer working with one-off and pilot batches.
What inspired you to leave AleSmith?
Being AleSmith’s specialty brewer gave me the chance to be creative and experiment with lots of different ingredients and ideas. When I heard Kilowatt was hiring a head brewer, I saw a great opportunity for me to continue exploring new beers and styles, and the chance to learn more about brewery management. I also really liked the small, close-knit vibe at Kilowatt, and it was very appealing to have the chance to work closely with the owners on their vision of the brewery and have an impact on making that a reality.
Will Kilowatt’s brewing direction change at all now that you’re on-board?
The focus at Kilowatt has always been to offer a wide range of styles and flavors. I am hoping to continue doing that, but also fine-tune our lineup of beers and try to constantly find ways to innovate and improve each batch that we brew. One of the best parts of being a small brewery is that we have the chance to experiment with new ideas. I am very much looking forward to brewing some mixed-fermentation and barrel-aged sour beers while expanding Kilowatt’s barrel-aging program and IPA (India pale ale) varieties, and adding more classic and session styles to our lineup.
What are you most excited about?
I am excited about our upcoming brewhouse expansion and the new possibilities that are going to come along with it. During the first quarter of next year, we will upgrade from our three-barrel brewhouse to a seven-barrel brewhouse. We will also install a new glycol system, three 15-barrel fermenters and a seven-barrel fermenter, while keeping a few of our existing three-barrel fermenters for experimental and specialty batches. The new system is really going to allow us to bring in more consistency to our beers, and more accurately monitor and control each batch. I saw AleSmith go through some major changes over the years and I feel like I really learned a lot from it, however, back then I was mostly on the sideliens. This time around I’ll be able to be much more hands-on and have the ability to shape the company’s success and how the brewery will operate.
What are the greatest opportunities you see for Kilowatt?
Currently, we sell the vast majority of our beer in our two tasting rooms, and have a limited number of off-site accounts that carry our beer due to our small production. With the expansion, we will be able to reach a lot more people than before. It’s going to be a lot of fun to be a part of that and try to contribute to building the Kilowatt brand.
A pleasant surprise on Friday the thirteenth is always welcomed. In the case of the team at Deft Brewing Company that’s especially true. After waiting two weeks for approval of a utility fix at its project site, that blessing was issued by San Diego Gas and Electric this morning. And with that, they are able to open the doors to their brand-new tasting room and serve up their stock of varied European-inspired liquid offerings.
Deft Brewing is located at 5328 Banks Street in the Bay Park/Morena area of San Diego Proper. The brewing modus operandi is to celebrate Old World styles, including some that are harder to come by in San Diego County. A touch of New World is sprinkled in here and there in the form of American hops and such. The opening beer-list is as follows:
Deft’s brewery and tasting room are housed in the hull of a former boat-building facility with a high, pointed ceiling that will allow ownership to replace the current two-barrel setup with an eventual 10-barrel brewhouse and fermenters to match. Right now, the team is working to dial in its beers and make sure it is speaking to the desires of customers—particularly those in the Bay Park neighborhood—before ramping up production. The tasting room juxtaposes red bar stools against a mostly neutral color pallet featuring a main bar and rail bars made from live-edge wood procured from next-door neighbors, Made Lumber Supply, and reclaimed wood slats from Deft co-owner Morris Nuspl‘s backyard fence. Mostly windowed walls let in plenty of natural light and give a view of an outdoor space that is very close to being converted into a patio with al fresco seating.