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Posts Tagged chuckalek

2017 Recap: Beers of the Week

Dec 22

Each week, I feature a locally produced beer that is special from one of numerous standpoints. Sometimes it’s an anniversary beer, other times I go with collaborations. The draw of something unique often piques my interest, then there are times when a beer just tastes outstanding. But the basic plan of action is to highlight quality ales and lagers from around the county without featuring the same brewery twice during a single calendar year. This year, I decided to list all of the weekly standouts and rank them. In order to best do this, I broke them into categories (apples-to-apples versus triple-IPA-to-cream-ale). As one would expect from a beat this drenched in hop oil, IPAs of all ilks were featured most often, but there were plenty of lagers, Belgian-style ales, stouts and other concoctions. All were good, but some were outstanding enough that they should be recognized here.

Alpine HFS India Pale Ale


A collaboratively brewed Nelson Lager from Dos Desperados Brewery and Prodigy Brewing Company


  • Nelson Lager, Dos Desperados Brewery & Prodigy Brewing, San Marcos: This wasn’t just one of the best lagers I had all year, it was one of the best beers overall; crisp, clean and bursting with Nelson Sauvin character.
  • Natural Bridge Festbier, Eppig Brewing, North Park: This is a beer so well-crafted, true-to-style and absolutely perfect for everyday consumption that I find myself thinking about it just about every day.
  • Herd of Turtles Baltic Porter, Bagby Beer Co., Oceanside: With so few Baltic-style porters in the county, they could have passed any dark lager off as one, but of course, this standout operation aced it.
  • Bird Park Bohemian Pilsner, North Park Beer Co., North Park
  • Helles Yeah! Helles, Division 23 Brewing, Miramar
  • Ragnabock Doppelbock, Longship Brewing, Mira Mesa
  • Sea Señor Mexican Lager, SouthNorte Brewing, Coronado

Origin of Shame from The Lost Abbey

Belgian-style Ales

Bear Cookie Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout seved on nitro at Vista’s Bear Roots Brewing


Hop Slap’d #5 American Pale Ale from New English Brewing

Other Styles

* Author’s Note: This year, Nickel Beer Co. had two Beer of the Week features due to the untimely passing of local publican Larry Koger, for whom owner and business partner Tom Nickel brewed a commemorative beer. It was a good reason to break policy.

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San Diego winners from 2017’s Great American Beer Festival

Oct 7

The team from Karl Strauss Brewing Company accepts a gold medal in the Honey Beer category at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival

Winners from the 2017 edition of the Great American Beer Festival were announced earlier this morning. Held annually by brewing-industry trade organization, the Brewers Association, in Denver, Colorado, this year’s GABF saw nearly 8,000 beers entered by more than 2,000 breweries in 98 style categories. 293 were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals after being evaluated by 276 judges. GABF is the country’s largest and most prestigious professional brewing competition. San Diego County breweries have historically fared incredibly well. This year saw another strong showing with the region’s brewers racking up double-digit awards.

Eleven local brewing companies brought home 14 medals this time around, including five golds in the Robust Porter (Second Chance Beer Co.) Honey Beer (Karl Strauss Brewing Company‘s Carlsbad brewpub), Imperial India Pale Ale (Ballast Point Brewing) Other Specialty Belgian Ale (Stone Brewing World Brewing & Gardens – Liberty Station) and Session Beer (Pizza Port‘s Ocean Beach brewpub) categories. That went along with six silver medals and three bronzes.

The Bagby Beer Company crew accepts its silver medal in the Baltic-style Porter category

Notable is the fact only one individual brewing facility in the county won more than one medal, Carmel Mountain Ranch’s Second Chance with a gold and a silver. Newly launched SouthNorte Brewing Company garnered a bronze medal in the Specialty Beer category for a beer called AgaveMente that hasn’t even been released to the public yet. And Monkey Paw Brewing, which Coronado acquired earlier this year, earned a silver medal in the English-style Summer Ale category. Also, Vista-based Mother Earth Brew Co. medaled in the Fresh or Wet Hop Ale category for Fresh As It Gets, a beer brewed at its Nampa, Idaho production facility.

Adding to the unofficial medal count was Belching Beaver Brewery, which for the second time in its history won top honors at the Alpha King Competition. Held in conjunction with GABF each year, this friendly competition crowns the brewing company that submits the hoppiest offering amid a stacked field of IPAs. Belching Beaver previously won Alpha King in 2014. On top of that, Chula Vista Brewery owners Timothy and Dalia Parker received the Samuel Adams Brewing and Business Experienceship, following in the footsteps of Ramona-based ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, who earned the same opportunity in 2014.

The following is a complete list of the winners from brewing facilities located within San Diego County…

Gold Medals

  • Honey Beer: Orange Blossom Common, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Carlsbad
  • Imperial India Pale Ale: Manta Ray, Ballast Point Brewing, Miramar
  • Other Belgian-style Ale: Witty Moron, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens—Liberty Station, Point Loma
  • Robust Porter: Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter, Second Chance Beer Co., Carmel Mountain Ranch
  • Session Beer: Guillaume, Pizza Port, Ocean Beach

Silver Medals

  • American-style Amber or Red Ale: Legally Red, Second Chance Beer Co., Carmel Mountain Ranch
  • Baltic-style Porter: Herd of Turtles, Bagby Beer Company, Oceanside
  • English-style Summer Ale: Back in the ESSA, Monkey Paw Brewing, East Village
  • Export Stout: Z-Man Stout, Pizza Port, Carlsbad
  • Fruited American-style Sour Ale: Sour Wench Blackberry Ale, Ballast Point Brewing—Home Brew Mart, Linda Vista (no gold awarded)
  • German-style Wheat Ale: Hidden Gem, OB Brewery, Ocean Beach

Bronze Medals

  • Golden or Blonde Ale: Blonde, Culture Brewing Company, Solana Beach
  • Scotch Ale: Wee Heavy, AleSmith Brewing Company, Miramar
  • Specialty Beer: AgaveMente, SouthNorte Brewing Company, Bay Park

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Q&A: Grant Fraley

Jul 17

Grant Fraley (far right) poses with The Boston Beer Company’s Jim Koch (third from left) and other mentorees from the Brewing the American Dream experienceship

Co-owner & Head Brewer, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers

In 2015, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers entered into an “experienceship” with The Boston Beer Company—the producers of Samuel Adams beers—via the Brewing the American Dream program. This business mentorship opportunity included an influential meeting with Boston Beer founder Jim Koch that helped ChuckAlek’s owners, Grant Fraley and Marta Jankowska, refine their business strategy and led to their decision to open a second location in North Park. The experience also birthed Time Hop Porter, a beer brewed in collaboration with Samuel Adams. It was released during several events in the San Diego area in 2015, providing valuable exposure for ChuckAlek. That business stands to get a great deal exposure starting today, when that beer is re-released in limited-edition Brewing the American Dream Collaboration Packs that will go on-sale nationwide. ChuckAlek’s beer wil share space with brews from fellow experienceship mentoriees Roc Brewing, Bosque Brewing, Woods Beer and Brewery Rickoli. We caught up with Fraley to get some insight on this big development and ask about his experiences with Boston Beer.

How did the concept for Time Hop Porter beer come about?
Porter has always been a passion at ChuckAlek and we’d experimented with a dry-hopped porter, as was traditionally in 19th century England. It turned out Eryn Bottens, who oversaw the impressive research-and-development nano-brewery run alongside the 10-barrel system at Sam Adams’ Boston brewery, also had interest in pushing big citrus notes from American hops on the back of a chocolaty British-style porter.

Have you interacted with other Brewing the American Dream mentorees?
I visited Boston and had the opportunity to meet the other brewers in 2016 as we all prepared to scale up our collaborations for the 12-pack release. It was really inspiring to hear the business journey of each of them and the impact that Brewing the American Dream has had on us all. Jim Koch’s book, Quench Your Own Thirst, was released not long before our visit and we had a great time chatting with him over some of the stories and lessons in the book while sharing beers from each of our respective breweries.

What led you to seek mentorship through Brewing the American Dream and what’s it been like?
Early in our company’s days, we received a small loan to kickstart distribution of our beer beyond our tasting room, which was funded by Brewing the American Dream through The Boston Beer Company’s lending partner Accion. We attended many events such as speed coaching and webinars, and caught wind of the experienceship program that recipients of Brewing the American Dream loans could apply for. Marta and I spend two days in Boston to kick off the experienceship, during which we met with many of the executives and brewers at The Boston Beer Company. We’ve maintained connections with several of them and they’ve continued to mentor us. Marta also had the opportunity to travel to Bavaria with members of the Pink Boots Society via a Brewing the American Dream scholarship, which was great given our big focus on German-style beers.

What do you think of the profits from the Brewing the American Dream 12-packs going to Accion?
Many of the awesome food and beverage businesses in San Diego have received loans from Brewing the American Dream through Accion in their salad days. It’s tough to obtain funding from the big banks when you’re just getting going, especially for a capital-intensive business like brewing. Accion also takes it a step further and engages with business resources to help their clients succeed. It’s great to be a part of giving back to their mission and the Brewing the American Dream program.

Will you have any events around this beer that San Diegans can take part in?
We are having a release event with Sam Adams this Tuesday, July 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at ChuckAlek Biergarten (3139 University Avenue, Northh Park). Time Hop Porter will be poured alongside hosted food by Nana’s Heavenly Hot Dogs (another BTAD loan recipient) with live music by Peter Hall. Details can be found online.

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Best San Diego Beer Futures: East

May 10

Every six months, I take a look at the work-in-progress breweries throughout San Diego County and offer opinions on those that show the most promise. My current list has more than 40 upcoming brewery-owned venues, so there are plenty to consider. I’m breaking down this series into a once-per-week piece taking on one section of the county at a time, starting with the eastern expanses.

Depot Springs Beer Co., La Mesa: In the works for more than two years, this project’s greatest obstacle is its ambition. A combination brewery, distillery, restaurant, coffee shop, kid-zone and music venue, it has struggled every step of the way, causing a level of interest-fatigue for those awaiting its arrival. Still, it’s a heck of a project on paper and figures to be worth visiting when it eventually jumps off the page. Ownership hopes that will happen this summer.
Click here to read more about this project

Julian Brewing Co., Julian: Last year, Pizza Port co-owner Vince Marsaglia shuttered this operation and its associated Bailey BBQ restaurant in order to re-concept it. Stainless vessels were recently delivered to the project-site and there is a chance Marsaglia may grow ingredients on-site to infuse into house beers, a la the farmhouse-brewery model. It’s a concept that seems fitting for JBC’s rural, small-town environs.

Smoking Cannon Brewery, Ramona: Ramona got its first brewery when ChuckAlek Independent Brewers opened in 2013. Its second will open this Saturday in the former home of Brown Chevrolet at 780 Main Street, Suite I, offering an IPA, cream ale, pale chili ale, rye, brown mild, American stout and smoked peanut butter ale. Extra faith in these initial products is provided by the knowledge Green Flash Brewing brewer Lucas Nelson consulted on them.
Click here to read more about this project

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Smoking Cannon Brewery opening in Ramona

May 8

A craft beer desert received its first rainfall of local ales and lagers when ChuckAlek Independent Brewers opened in Ramona in 2014. Local thirst in that small unincorporated northeast town was enough for that business to spawn a satellite tasting room and beer garden in San Diego proper’s North Park community. And in the minds of Mike Nelson and Natallie Phillips, Ramona is at the point in its sudsy development where it’s ready for a second fermentation interest. They are poised to deliver that this Saturday when they open the doors to their Smoking Cannon Brewery at 780 Main Street, Suite I.

That couple has been together for 20 years—12 of which Nelson has spent homebrewing and winning awards. (Phillips claims only three out of more than 100 recipes have failed to take honors at one competition or another.) They’ve spent the better part of the past year burning the midnight hours beyond their day-job regimens to get Smoking Cannon ready for business. Part of that process was building a three-barrel electric brewhouse to feed a pair each of three- and six-barrel fermenters, and developing recipes for beer as well as home-made ginger soda and root beer.

Non-sarsaparilla brews are largely English and American-inspired. The latter include an India pale ale, cream ale, stout, rye ale and chili pale ale, while British influence comes via a brown mild, pale ale, extra special bitter and various porters. Belgium is also represented, with a strong ale and a pumpkin-infused saison in the works. Sours and holiday-inspired seasonals will eventually figure into the equation, but for now it’s more about introducing more everyday beers.

Smoking Cannon’s grand opening will take place from 12 to 11 p.m. on May 13 and feature live music plus close friends of the owners attending dressed in Civil War-era attire. That nation-shaping skirmish is a focal point of the brewery and where it derives its name. Both brewing and the history of that era will be communicated at the tasting room, which will be open 4:30 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays, 4:30 to 10 p.m. on Fridays, 12 to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 12 to 9 p.m. on Sundays. Phillips warns that the entrance to the business is actually on Eighth Street, so don’t let your map app fool you. Parking is available in plentitude in a large lot on the corner of Eighth and D Street.

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