From the Beer Writer: With so many different beers on store shelves, it can be challenging for consumers to know which best fits their personal tastes. This is particularly true of India pale ales. Thanks to the ever-growing abundance of hops both Old and New World, IPAs have a broader spectrum of flavors than ever before. Many brewing companies seek to explain the palate characteristics of their beers by including descriptors on their bottles and cans. Pine, citrus and tropical are some of the most common, but some go far beyond the adjective box. This is true of Vista’s Mother Earth Brew Co., which recently released an IPA as part of its Resonator Series with the following flavor breakdown: gooseberry pie, passion fruit meringue, tea leaf. I’ve experienced earthy, tea-like nuances in beers before, particularly those made with English hop varietals, but those dessert-y assessments I have as of yet only found in certain sour ales and saisons. After thoroughly analyzing Mother Earth Say When IPA, I can’t say I picked up the tartness of gooseberries or passion fruit, but given its bounty of more common citrus flavors—Naval orange, grapefruit, lemon rind—and enjoyably balancing herbal accents (tea leaf, indeed), it in no way took away from this well-crafted beer.
From the Brewer: “Say When is a culmination of improved hop availability and experimentation over the last few years. We wanted an IPA that showcased lower IBUs (international bittering units) with tropical and juicy notes drinkers are craving these days, especially with the advent of ‘hazy’ IPAs. When we think ‘juicy’, Galaxy and Citra immediately come to mind, and after a very successful release of our 100% Idaho 7 wet-hop beer last year, which had huge papaya and guava flavor and aroma, we knew how to knock Say When out of the park. A higher-ABV (7.5% alcohol by volume), light malt backbone and heavy-handed hop additions throughout the brew process produce an easy-drinking, juicy IPA that is not only clear (not hazy) but demands you know how to ‘say when.'”—Chris Baker, Head Brewer, Mother Earth Brew Co.
From the Beer Writer: Craft beer options at casinos can be a real crap-shoot. The odds are long on finding legitimate craft options at all, much less something exceptional…unless you’re at Harrah’s Resort Southern California. When revamping the property two years ago, the property installed a bar called Corked, stocking it with more than 20 ales and lagers, many hailing from local brewing companies. Recently, Harrah’s went a step further, striking up a relationship with Mother Earth Brew Co. where the casino provided the Vista brewery with a second-use bourbon barrel. The Mother Earth crew brewed an imperial porter and aged that roasty, chocolaty, 10.5% alcohol-by-volume brew in it for an extended period. Now, that rather spectacular beer is available exclusively at Corked. And while it’s the nature of casino-goers to press their luck, everyone leaves a winner when ordering this luxurious quaff. Not only is it exquisite in its caramely bourbon essence with big notes of coconut, but its eight-dollar price-tag will fetch you a hefty 12-ounce pour. Sip, gamble, sip, watch live music, sip, dine, repeat as needed.
From the Brewer: “A blend of two barrel-aged stouts, it pours an opaque black with a brown head. The aroma is straight out of a local coffee shop with notes of coffee, chocolate and vanilla. The ABV is masked by a thick body, residual sweetness and oak tannins from the barrel. Deep and complex, this stout is one we can all enjoy with tons of depth for long conversation and enjoyment by new and experienced craft beer drinkers.”—Chris Baker, Head Brewer, Mother Earth Brew Co.
From the Bar: “We sent Mother Earth the barrel that aged our Spiked Four Roses OBSK Bourbon early last year, and asked them to make an imperial vanilla bean porter and age it in the barrel. They started it off by making a Russian imperial porter and aging it in the barrel. Over the course of several months, they noticed that the beer was taking on a very noticeable vanilla characteristic just from the barrel itself, so they omitted any direct vanilla additions and just let the barrel do its work. The beer aged for nine-and-a-half months in the barrel. The beer itself has a rich velvety mouthfeel with aromas of bourbon, chocolate and bread dough. The taste is similar with baker’s chocolate, bourbon, caramel, vanilla and a sweet breadiness. And the finish is mildly slick and warm with a bright bourbon kick in the back of the mouth. It definitely has a lot going on and we’ve seen a lot of people who do not typically drink dark beer fall in love with this one.”—Mike Lewis, Bar Manager, Corked
From the Beer Writer: Though located four miles away from its headquarters and brewery, Mother Earth Brew Co.’s “Tap House” bar draws in big crowds on a consistent basis. Roomy, set up for food deliveries from nearby restaurants in Vista’s Old Town area, and just plain fun, it’s arguably the most alluring spot for artisanal ale enjoyment in a municipality stocked with more than a dozen such options. Part of the draw is Mother Earth’s homebrew shop next-door. Last week, the company announced it will be closing that business and replacing it with a “provisions” concept offering yet-to-be-disclosed food to-go. Recreational fermentationists are advised to head over and get in on deals for the remaining homebrew inventory. They are further advised to celebrate their discounted haul with a stop at the Tap House and a pint of a newly tapped Berliner weisse. Branded Mother Earth Ma’s Kettle Sour, it’s a low-alcohol, kettle-soured offering that’s mildly acidic and extremely refreshing, making it a great entry-level beer for folks looking to give sours a try.
From the Brewer: “True to tradition, this kettle sour was brewed with 25% wheat malt and fermented with our German house yeast. Souring was done on the brew stand using Lactobacillus cultures and after our target pH (a numeric scale used to assess acidity) was met, the brew was transferred to the fermenter where our house yeast finished the process. What’s left is a 3.4% alcohol-by-volume beer with extreme sessionability and a light tartness every drinker can enjoy.”—Chris Baker, Head Brewer, Mother Earth Brew Co.
There are few San Diego County businesses viewed to be as locally focused and engrained in their community’s fibrous being as Mother Earth Brew Co. This family-run operation started as a tiny nano-sized brewery and homebrew supply store in a single business suite measuring just over 2,000 square feet. It has since taken over most of its home-base business park, moved the recreational retail component to a large combo homebrew store and bar in the heart of Vista’s old town area, grown into a “mid-sized brewery” (per classification of industry group, the Brewers Association) with a staff of nearly 50 employees, and upped distribution to seven states. All that without leaving what has become one of the county’s densest municipalities, brewery-wise (with 11 operating brewhouses, it’s second only to the City of San Diego). But the next step in Mother Earth’s evolution will take it far from Vista—namely…Idaho?
MEBC chief branding officer Kevin Hopkins reports that the company is building a second, much larger brewery in Nampa, about 20 miles west of Boise. At first, it may seem a bit of an odd choice, constructing a second production facility so far from home, and in a part of the country that lacks a defined craft beer culture. But the decision falls in line with Mother Earth’s geographically strategic growth plan, which sees the company attempting to build out across the country in a regional manner. Idaho presents a cost-effective option with the potential for increased distribution to the Pacific Northwest and various markets where MEBC beer is not currently sold west of the Mississippi.
The Nampa facility will come in at 40,000 square feet and include room and options for expansion. A four-vessel, 40-barel Mueller brewing system will also be configured for add-ons, as needed. There will also be a public tasting room and corporate office space. Adding the second brewery should allow MEBC to double its current beer barrelage. Initially, Nampa production should mirror that of Vista—which will support distribution throughout California, Arizona and Hawaii, with remaining markets being supplied by the new brewery—but should demand justify it, the Idaho facility can ramp up so that total annual totals exceed 100,000 barrels.
Mother Earth founder and CEO Dan Love and head brewer Chris Baker will relocate to Nampa to head the new project. Back in Vista, expansion will continue until maximum capacity is reached. Hopkins estimates that will occur sometime next year. Items on the nearer horizon for the company include the release of several limited-edition beers, including a barrel-aged Belgian-style quadrupel and barrel-aged version of MEBC’s Sin Tax imperial peanut butter stout for the autumn and winter editions of its Four Seasons of Mother Earth line, plus the return of a Russian imperial stout called Quit Stalin during San Diego Beer Week.