Many know Ryan Brooks for his work as brewmaster at Coronado Brewing Company. During his tenure, that interest has won numerous awards, including Champion Mid-Size Brewing Company at the 2014 World Beer Cup. That’s dream-come-true territory, but Brooks isn’t finished dreaming. He’s about to realize another long-held aspiration—opening his own brewery. The name of that business will be SouthNorte Beer Company, and it’s scheduled to debut this summer.
Brooks will get by with a little help from his friends, most ostensibly his family at Coronado Brewing. That company’s founders, brothers Ron and Rick Chapman, are key investors and that’s where the initial brewing of SouthNorte’s beers will be done (the search is on for a separate facility to house the business). But he’ll also garner inspiration from friends he’s made spending a great deal of time exploring the craft-brewing culture south of the border. As the name implies, SouthNorte will combine elements of Mexico’s burgeoning beer scene with the craft culture here in San Diego. A press release describes the business as “an American brewery that blends the rustic flair of Mexico with the art of San Diego craft brewing.” Brooks sees pulling from two cultures as a way to extract the best from both and end up with the finest end-result.
In the course of my reporting on the San Diego brewing industry, I have met a number of brewers from Baja locales including Tijuana, Ensenada and Mexicali. Nearly all of them have mentioned receiving assistance, tutelage or encouragement from Brooks. He is something of a cult figure down there who has forged many legitimate friendships during innumerable cross-border visits. Few would be better suited to bring this intercultural vision to life and it should be exciting to watch…and taste.
Since the moment Green Flash Brewing Company acquired Alpine Beer Company back in 2014, there has been concern among protective fans of the latter about that brand’s future. Over the past two-plus years, numerous rumors have popped up, but never in such abundance and covering so many topics as in the weeks following Green Flash’s recent round of layoffs. The company dismissed approximately 25 employees over the span of a few days. Since then, numerous sources have signaled the beginning of the end in talks with industry colleagues. Enough so, that we recently went to Green Flash owner Mike Hinkley and other company representatives for direct responses to each of them.
Rumor: It’s been reported that Hinkley has stepped down from the CEO position.
Response (from Green Flash): Hinkley is still the CEO and his title has not changed. Chris Ross was recently promoted from chief operating officer to president, and is reporting to Hinkley. This promotion recognizes the great knowledge and vast experience that Ross brings to the Green Flash organization. Over the past year-and-a-half, Ross has built a solid operations department. In his expanded role as president, every department at Green Flash will benefit from his insight and business acumen.
Rumor: Hinkley has moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Response (from Green Flash): Hinkley is dividing his time between both coasts to be close to the Virginia Beach brewery, the San Diego brewery and Florida. He plans to spend less time in the brewery and more time on the road with his beloved sales team, the Road Warriors.
Rumor: Alpine’s founding family—Pat, Val and Shawn McIlhenney—will soon have no affiliation with the company.
Response (from Hinkley): The Hinkleys and the McIlhenney’s continue to own Alpine Beer and Green Flash. McIlhenneys forever is the retention plan. If Shawn has children someday, we will send them all to brew-school and hope for the best. Pat is an awesome brewer. Shawn is an awesome brewer. Hoping it’s in the genes. None of us will live forever, but Alpine Beer will.
Rumor: Brewing operations will cease permanently at Alpine Beer’s brewery in Alpine.
Response (from Hinkley): We plan to brew Alpine Beer in Alpine forever. We are currently working with the landlord on site-development and hope to build a new brewery in Alpine as soon as possible.
Rumor: Green Flash is working on constructing a facility in Texas.
Response (from Hinkley): Green Flash will eventually build a brewery in the middle of the country. The motivation? We are in the business of making and selling beer. It makes great business-sense to bring fresh beer to market and connect with customers close to the point-of-sale. We love Texas, but there are no specific plans to build there, or anywhere else, yet. We are just getting comfortable in our Virginia digs.
Many are the brewers and brewery personnel whose passion for music rivals their fervor for fermentation, but when analyzing the degree to which the musical bug has sunk its teeth into an entire business, no local operation is as afflicted as Amplified Ale Works. From the day it opened within its Pacific Beach kebaberie home, head brewer Cy Henley (you might not know it, but you’ve definitely shared space with him at a local live-music venue numerous times in your life) and company have driven home their love of aurally conveyed entertainment via beer names, apparel, graphics and more. So it’s no wonder that, when the estate of famed Motörhead front-man, Lemmy, sought a business to brew a beer commemorating the metal legend, they hit up Amplified.
Brewery owner and co-founder Alex Pierson was approached by a licensing firm last year. At first, he wasn’t 100% sold on the legitimacy of the company’s request, but when he ventured to an L.A. hotspot to meet with an entertainment exec, and that man was greeted with a knowing wave by star and recent Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, that gesture bolstered his faith level significantly. The two came to terms quickly, leading to Born to Lose IPA, a Citra-heavy India pale ale in the mid-6% ABV (alcohol-by-volume) range that takes cues from the recipe for Amplified’s Pig Nose Pale Ale. A prototype of the beer was on-tap at a Christmas Eve (its honoree’s birthday) release-party at famous West Hollywood live-music venue and Lemmy haunt, the Rainbow Bar & Grill, which now includes features a life-sized statue of Lemmy. A refined version of the beer is scheduled to come out in cans in February or March of this year, and a bourbon barrel-aged version of Amplified’s Belgian-style quadrupel is aging in bourbon barrels, waiting for its own Christmas Eve coming-out party later this year and a date with a bottling machine. That creation will be called Ace of Spades.
On the reunion tour front, Henley, Pierson and director of brewery operations Jeff Campbell spent a day collaborating at their Miramar brewhouse with Amplified co-founder JC Hill. Hill who now calls the coastal city of Monterey home and spends his time on the larger project he’s since moved on to, Alvarado Street Brewery. The fruits of the foursome’s enjoyable labors, Trois Cabrones (a name inspired by a classic album by The Melvins), will go on-tap at Amplified’s Miramar tasting room tomorrow, Thursday, January 12. The beer is a “hazy IPA” that had Summer and Nelson Sauvin hops added in the kettle, followed by Nelson and Mosaic in the whirlpool. It incorporates a combination of wheat, rice hulls and oats in its malt bill and was designed to smell and taste of big hops…and look like custard. The quartet admits this collaboration should have happened a long time ago. In an effort to make up for lost time, the Amplified crew will travel to north the last week of this month to brew the beer again at Alvarado Street, where it will be canned as well.
They say it takes a lot of good beer to make good wine. The tons of empty bottles and cans littering vintners’ trash cans in wine-country is testament to that. Soon, those grape-driven artisans will have even more ales to fuel their endeavors—and seriously hoppy ales at that—courtesy of Stone Brewing. Today, the company announced that it will begin renovations to a space in Napa, California’s historic Borreo building to convert it into a venue that will go by the name Stone Brewing Tap Room – Napa
Located on the corner of Third Street and Soscol Avenue in downtown Napa, the 10,000-square-foot spot will include many of the same components as the Stone Brewing Tap Room abutting Petco Park in downtown San Diego’s East Village—a bar, on-site kitchen and merchandise availability. Unlike its local predecessor, the Napa iteration will bring outdoor-seating into the fold and be equipped with its very own 10-barrel pilot-brewery.
Beers produced in Napa will include riffs on core offerings as well as beers incorporating indigenous ingredients. Local edibles will also be folded into the food menu, which will take cues from its sister Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens restaurants. Much of that will be sourced from small, local, organic farms in and around Napa.
This announcement comes in the midst of construction on two of the company’s high-profile projects, Stone Brewing Richmond and Stone Brewing Berlin, both of which have experienced significant delays, but are on-track to open before the close of 2016. Stone Brewing Tap Room – Napa is scheduled to open sometime in 2017.
The passage of Assembly Bill 2004 was huge for craft-brewers in that it allowed California brewing companies to sell their wares at farmers’ markets across the state. It was while doing just that at the Thursday North Park Farmers Market that the married co-founders of ChuckAlek Independent Brewers came up with a plan for the next phase of their Ramona-based business, a mostly-al fresco satellite sampling space inspired by German culture and excursions to Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe.
While stationed beneath a telephone pole near the intersection of University and Herman Avenues, Grant Fraley and Marta Jankowska took notice of a fenced-but-open outdoor garden space owned by non-profit organization Art Produce, and thought it was ideally suited to house a German-style beer-garden. One day, Art Produce owner Lynn Susholtz was walking her dog by ChuckAlek’s farmers’ market space. They struck up a conversation, she toured them around and instant understanding and mutual respect gave way to a long-term partnership and the ChuckAlek Biergarten (3139 University Avenue, North Park).
The satellite tasting venue includes a small 300-square-foot indoor space (some of that area is taken up by an eight-foot-by-six-foot cold-box) featuring a large mural of Grant and Marta’s grandfathers, Chuck and Alek, in the company’s red-and-black color-scheme. This is where guest can order in addition to a walk-up window. But when it comes to enjoying the beer, it’s all about the 3,000 square feet of outdoor space.
A number of shaded picnic tables are located on the east side of the space with several other wooden tables and chairs situated along a pathway bisecting gardens housing a bevy of produce (strawberries, Japanese eggplant, kale, kumquats, guavas, chile de arbol and assorted herbs). Family-friendly to the nth-degree, there is also space for kids to sit when they’re not meandering between trees and planters. Fraley and Jannkowska are parents. Providing a place for modern moms and dads who integrate beer-tasting into their family lives was of great importance to them.
The aforementioned area is supplemented by a private-event space that can be rented as well as utilized by ChuckAlek ad Art Produce. On Mother’s Day, both organizations got together to offer activities there as well as in Art Produce’s studio bordering ChuckAlek’s indoor ordering space. The building’s other tenant, Tostadas, gets in on the action as well. Their Mexican cuisine can be ordered and delivered straight to the garden; a rather delectable value-added feature. On the grand-scale event front, ChuckAlek intends to celebrate Oktoberfest and other obvious biergarten-geared events. Also in the works is holding a traditional German-style Christmas market on Herman Avenue.
Jankowska takes the lead at the biergarten while Fraley spends the majority of his time on brewery operations at the Ramona brewery. Beer is transported from the latter to the former roughly once a week to stock North Park’s 16 taps (which are stocked with an assortment of lesser-seen styles, including beers from ChuckAlek’s specialty Trading Co. series), house-made radlers and root beer.
The ChuckAlek Biergarten will help Fraley and Jankowska get to the next chapter for their business. When asked what that will be, they envision a small brewery that follows a model much like that of their shared North Park space. They want something programming- and experience-driven for people of the community to enjoy in tandem with their beer. Being involved with a non-profit as they are with Art Produce (a portion of their proceeds go to the organization as part of the lease agreement) is something they hope very much to replicate.