From the Beer Writer: Last week’s featured beer was a double IPA. For most local craft-fans, that’s the only double-referencing beer-style they’re bound to seek out, but I’ve been a long-time fan of Belgian dubbels. The middle-ground member of the monastic family of Belgian beers, they traditionally come in a chestnut-to-brown-hued package registering between six-and-eight percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV), and are the complete opposite of the hop-forward, dry, sun-geared ales San Diego is famous for. As such, few local breweries produce dubbels, so when I sample any I come across. Such was the case last week at Lomaland’s Bay City Brewing Company, when I found myself in the midst of a raucous pre-Gulls game packed-house. Once the hockey fans cleared out, I ordered the 7% ABV Bay City Dubbel and, before even taking a taste, felt myself falling in love thanks to big, flowery, banana-like aromas. Those sensory clues were in keeping with the flavor-profile of the beer, which is big on Belgian yeast character coming across as banana bread, baking spices and calendulas. Unlike poor examples of this style, the beer was not overly sweet and was above-average from a drinkability standpoint.
From the Brewer: “Bay City Dubbel is a dark, amber-colored ale inspired by the monks of the Franciscan Order. Dark crystal malts from both Europe and the U.S. give this beer its darker appearance and a subtle caramel flavor. The Belgian yeast used during fermentation lends a spicy character that balances the malty sweetness and creates a medium-bodied beer. Belgian yeasts are unique to brew with because of the phenols, esters and glycerin that they produce at various levels. This particular strain creates a medium bodied beer that is easier to drink than some more traditional versions of the style.”—Chris West, Head Brewer, Bay City Brewing Company
One of San Diego County’s most popular—and, frankly, beloved—brewers is moving on. Cosimo Sorrentino has announced that he is walking away from his post heading brewing operations for sister establishments, Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery and South Park Brewing Company. Sorrentino tendered his resignation last Friday, stating he feels he is in a place in his career where it is time to move on to the next chapter. He has yet to identify what exactly the next phase will entail.
Sorrentino accepted a job offer from publican Scot Blair to come on as head brewer at Monkey Paw in 2013, the same weekend former head brewer Derek Freese resigned to accept an offer at Modern Times Beer Company. Up to that point, Sorrentino had been a long-time homebrewer, working largely in tandem with friend, Chris West (who later came on to assist at Monkey Paw before departing to head brewery operations at Bay City Brewing Company). In the years that followed, he played a major role in opening South Park Brewing and brewed a number of award-winning beers for both operations.
One thing he very much enjoyed about his role at Monkey Paw and South Park Brewing was the fact that it allowed him to travel, and both meet and collaborate with brewers from all over the world. Known throughout the county by beer-makers and beer-fans alike as a serial collaborator, he not only brewed beers with numerous brewers, but also worked very hard over the past year or so to keep the friendly, collegial nature of San Diego’s brewing industry intact after sales of craft breweries to Big Beer interests took place, dividing many members of the local suds scene. He even went so far as to put together a public forum in the East Village, wherein a discussion attempting to define craft and encourage inclusiveness among industry personnel at independent and acquired brewing companies. It was a bold step that had a definite impact.
Two of the beers Sorrentino most recently brewed for Monkey Paw will make their debuts in 22-ounce bottles later this month. It’s a rare glass-run for a company that serves its beers almost exclusively in kegs. Both will go on-sale November 19 at Monkey Paw as part of its five-year anniversary. A double IPA dubbed “Thank You!” will be available for $4 per bottle, and the iconic holiday strong stout Santa’s Pet Monkey will go for $6.50 a bottle, making for rather affordable mementos of a brewer who not only made good beer, but made a positive (and hopefully lasting) impression on an entire community.
From the Beer Writer: When people think of coffee beers, they naturally gravitate toward stouts and porters. Roasted malts with a touch of hop bitterness is the closest thing to a bitter, roasty cup of Joe. So adding coffee makes a great deal of sense when one is looking to add depth of flavor and extra oomph to a dark beer. However, brewers looking to display the flavor of the coffee itself within a beer are beginning to experiment with lighter-colored beers devoid of dark-roasted malts. Cream ales, pale ales and the occasional India pale ale are the most popular styles when it comes to this method. In the case of the latter two, brewers look to select coffee and hop varieties that have similar flavors, which typically come in the form of citrus, berry or earthy nuances. That’s what Chris West, head brewer at newly opened Bay City Brewing Company did when devising the recipe for his Coffee Pale Ale, an extremely flavorful yet balanced beer that delivers hop sensations worthy of a San Diegan’s lupulin-craving palate plus a caffeinated java jolt. The 6% alcohol-by-volume beer is currently on tap, both on CO2 and nitrogen, at Bay City’s tasting room just north of Valley View Casino Center.
From the Brewer: “The inspiration for the Coffee Pale Ale started with our neighborhood. There are now two breweries and multiple coffee roasters in this unique corner of town and we’re excited to see what else develops here. We worked with Swell Coffee Co. and their roaster, John Hermann, to select a bean and roasting profile that created a fruity yet still earthy coffee. Once the bean was selected, we decided to go with a pale ale as the base beer for two reasons. We didn’t want dark roasted grains to interfere with the coffee’s profile, which we all loved during cuppings. Additionally, Swell had recently begun experimenting with dry-hopped, cold-brewed coffee, so the conversation inevitably led to a coffee pale ale as our final product. The beer pours a golden-pale color with a dense white head that lasts. The aroma is coffee-forward with a floral earthiness from Simcoe hops. The taste begins slightly sweet, then finishes with mild bitterness. We hope you enjoy it and help us benefit Beer to the Rescue and the campaign’s goal to fund lupus research.”—Chris West, Head Brewer, Bay City Brewing Co.
It was exactly a year ago that brewer Chris West pulled me aside at a crowded beer festival to tell me he’d be departing his then-employer Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery to take the helm as head fermenter at an upcoming and, as-of-then-unnamed, local project. That business now has a building, brewing system, beers and a name—Bay City Brewing Company (3760 Hancock Street, Point Loma). It also has an official opening date set: August 27.
Soft-opened since earlier this month, the tasting room is open for business, though admittedly not at the level it will be when the curtain goes up for real. Now is a time for getting systems in place and details down, but ownership and staff know where they’re going and what they want to be, starting with West, who is determined to “work really hard and make people happy.” Back at Monkey Paw, he enjoyed seeing patrons order the house-made Bonobos “San Diego-style” (read: HOPPY) pale ale, take a sip and, before being able to set the beer down, take another sip because they enjoyed it so much. He hopes to see that happen at his new spot, which is located on the backside of Valley View Casino Center, not far from Lomaland’s only other brewery, Modern Times Beer.
Siting Bay City Brewing in Point Loma was the plan from the start, according to co-owner Ben Dubois. He, like his partners, live in and have history in the neighborhood. Finding an industrial space that worked for a brewery model was tough, but they are happy with their location as well as the parking it provides for customers, enough that they have also leased the 2,100-square-foot space next door for the next five years.
Bay City Brewing’s future 1,200-square-foot outdoor drinking area and logo-adorned north wall is visible from Interstate 8. Inside, roughly 750 square feet of space are devoted to the tasting room, which includes a stylish, hand-crafted bar. Assisting West in the brewery beyond that L-shaped structure is Aaron Williams, a recent UCSD graduate with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Williams met West two years ago over beers at Monkey Paw, and the two formed a fast and mutual respect for one another.
Together, West and Williams have crafted an initial line-up of beers that includes a Vienna lager, stout, nitro porter, session India pale ale, San Diego-style pale ale and an experimental pale ale. That last one is a piney, mossy 5.5% ABV beer brewed with Nelson Sauvin and Columbus hops which features nice tropical fruit aromas. Future editions of the beer will change from batch-to-batch, but the initial recipe was brewed using techniques gleaned from Fall Brewing Company brewmaster Ray Astamendi, and Monkey Paw and South Park Brewing Company head brewer Cosimo Sorrentino, plus findings from discussions about hops with Half Door Brewing Company brewmaster Dan Drayne.
With a 20-barrel brewhouse double-batching into 40-barrel fermenters, Bay City Brewing’s current annual capacity is 2,400 barrels, but could be pushed to 3,500 according to West. The company projects it will sell roughly 20% of its beer at its tasting room, with the rest being kegged and sent to accounts. They also plan on doing very limited micro-bottling using friends and a trusty beer gun.
In the not-too-distant future, West and Williams will get more experimental, tackling what the former refers to as “the next frontier”—beers fermented with Brettanomyces. He says that, for the most part, many breweries have a “pitch and pray” approach to Brett beers, but he hopes to spend time learning how to consistently harness the positive attributes of these wild yeast strains then, hopefully, share that information with fellow brewers to help raise the collective tide.