Construction, permitting and the majority of trial-run services are in the books, and North Park-based Eppig Brewing is ready to open its new Point Loma tasting room to the public. That will officially take place noon this Friday, February 9. While most breweries’ satellites are smaller than their home bases, the Eppig Brewing Waterfront Biergarten is significantly larger than its North Park Brewery Igniter progenitor, solving what has been the company’s biggest problem in its just-over-a-year of existence—providing enough space for the many that wish to consume its beers.
With 1,200 square feet of interior space, much of which is taken up by a cold box and service space, the Biergarten’s public space is comparable to North Park, but this venue is not about indoor drinking. Ownership selected it (outbidding other breweries in the process) for its immense outdoor space and position right along the water. Eppig’s Biergarten is the first-ever harborside brewery-owned venue in the county. Though currently in the midst of phase-construction that will eventually expand the patio to a whopping 2,000 square feet and introduce sculptured pillars supporting shade sails mounted to the building’s exterior, even in its current truncated state, there is plenty of room for patrons to imbibe al fresco, on rail bars overlooking the water or German-style Biergarten tables offering cross-bay views of the downtown San Diego skyline.
Back inside, approximately 16 beers will be available, including one brewed specifically to celebrate the Biergarten’s launch—Buoyancy Control, a 7.4% alcohol-by-volume IPA with peach and pear notes brought about by Citra and El Dorado hops. Food will also be available on-site by the end of February once ownership has finalized details of that service aspect. Punching up the interior design is inclusion of the recipe for Eppig’s San Diego summer ale, Civility, which is penned in its entirety on the inside walls for any homebrewers who care to try their hand at it.
Eppig Brewing Waterfront Biergarten is located at 2817 Dickens Street and will be open daily from noon to 8 p.m. Parking is available in a large lot south of the venue next to The Brigantine restaurant. That lot gives way to a waterfront walkway leading directly to the tasting room. An official grand-opening event is planned for early March, right around the time patio construction is scheduled for completion.
From the Beer Writer: My preference for clear beers sometimes makes me come off like I have no use for hazy IPAs, but I actually see them as just another style of beer. Some of them are good, some not so much. But there’s no denying (and no reason to deny) the pleasureful, bright, and yes, juicy hop flavors and aromas well-done pea-soup IPAs offer those who give them a chance. Burgeon Beer Company has gained a fast following behind such beers (though it should be noted they make some fine traditional IPAs as well), the most recent of which debuted at the Carlsbad interest’s one-year-anniversary celebration last weekend. Going by the name Burgeon Can’t Stop Juicin’, it’s an amped-up double version of their Northeast-style IPA “Everybody’s Juicin’.” Fed a hefty diet of Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops (with sides of wheat and other girth-fortifying ingredients) it pours so solid you could mistake it for a novelty pint-glass candle. Fortunately, the beer’s flavor matches its density, coming on strong with tangerine, pineapple and passion fruit tones that coat the tongue thanks to that trademark NEIPA viscosity.
From the Brewer: “For our Northeast-style IPAs, our main goals are to achieve massive aroma and flavor while coming through with big restraint on bitterness. This leads to beers that are very soft on the palate with a much chewier mouthfeel than the West Coast IPAs we produce. We attribute the haziness of these beers to our house yeast strain and heavy percentages of malted wheat, unmalted wheat and flaked malts. We also utilize a softer water profile. Can’t Stop Juicin’ gets a massive charge of Nelson and Citra in the whirlpool and dry hop. We were at about a one-pound-per-barrel in the whirlpool and three-pounds-per-barrel in the dry-hop stage. We get huge tropical, mango and papaya notes from the Citra, and the quintessential white wine, passion fruit and otherwise fruity notes from the Nelson. This double IPA clocks in at 8.2% and 66 IBUs (international bittering units). We always make a huge argument over calculated bitterness versus perceived bitterness…but you be the judge!”—Anthony Tallman, Brewmaster, Burgeon Beer Company
Typically, I try to wait a while before visiting a new brewery so the brewing team has time to work out any early kinks, but recently I was so inspired by pre-open samples of beers at Wild Barrel Brewing (692 Rancheros Drive, San Marcos) that I deviated from my SOP. Also, I didn’t want to be the last beer fan in the county to make it to this early success from Stone Brewing expats Bill Sysak and Bill Sobieski (editor’s note: Hernández himself is a Stone expat). The former is known as “Dr.” Bill in beer-connoisseur circles, as he was a medic in the military, and he absolutely knows good beer, but many wondered if he’d be able to brew good beer, too. My answer: probably not…but that’s what the other Bill (the one with fermentation experience at Stone as well as Anaheim’s Hoperazzi) brings to the table.
Although he’s not milling, graining in and dry-hopping, Sysak does have a major impact on brewing decisions at Wild Barrel. In his roles as beverage supervisor and beer ambassador for Stone, he always kept his finger on the pulse of beer fans, so he is familiar with current trends and has used that knowledge to develop a sound portfolio that features numerous India pale ales (IPAs) and fruited kettle sours, a coffee milk stout, and a single style for entry-level visitors, White Rabbit Belgian-style witbier. The latter is brewed with coriander and two forms of citrus, traditional curacao orange peel, and fresh Valencia orange zest. It is light in body, lively on the palate and good enough to serve as the only non-hoppy, non-sour, decaf option.
Of late, many new breweries have had to contend with shortages of popular hops such as Citra, Mosaic, and Nelson Sauvin, but this operation is well stocked, making for a family of IPAs that feel current and almost familiar. The flagship, Indie IPA, has a medium body and savory notes of garlic and onion, while the murky Shape Shifter’s combo of Nelson, Mosaic and Idaho 7 makes for a harmonious mix of tropical fruit flavors. By far the most layered (and downright badass) of the bunch is Prince of Dankness, an 8.4% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) double IPA dry-hopped with 28 pounds of Nelson and six pounds of Motueka. The result is a beer with big pine-cone and toasted popcorn kernel overtones, plus a downright sappy finish.
As lovely and varied as the IPAs were, my favorite beer of the visit may have been Hipster Latte, a 5.5% ABV milk stout made with a blend of coffee made exclusively for Wild Barrel by Rancho Bernardo-based roaster Mostra. It is bold in its roastiness—you’re abundantly aware there is coffee in there—but it is extremely balanced and especially dry for a stout with lactose. It’s particularly impressive that Sobieski put out a beer this perfect his first time producing it and makes me look forward to trying that proprietary blend at the coffee counter that will be constructed next to the tasting room’s main entrance.
Of Wild Barrel’s early beers, I found the San Diego Vice fruited Berliner weisse series — the name illustrates how to pronounce the German word “weisse” — tasted over-fruited for my palate, with the black currant iteration coming across as a tad too sweet. Still, this is a subjective knock, and a beer having too much quality local fruit, some of which is from Sobieski’s back yard, is a first-world problem entirely. Of the three Vices, a Montmorency cherry version was my favorite. The nose is rosé all day, and it tastes of cherry and strawberry preserves.
As the business’ name implies, barrel-aged sours, stouts and strong ales will be part of Wild Barrel’s makeup, but not until its oaken stock has time to mature. Even without wood- and booze-tinged product, there is plenty of high-quality beer to draw imbibers to this North County newcomer.
From the Beer Writer: The importance has remained at the forefront of discussions among those within and enamored with the local craft-brewing industry. Trade organizations such as the Brewers Association and the San Diego Brewers Guild have both gone to lengths to ensure that, but at the end of the day, it’s the actions of the small, independent breweries struggling to compete against their deep-pocketed Big Beer adversaries that will carry the day. Nobody can fight the fight for them, and thankfully, many have stepped up. Count North Park’s Pariah Brewing Company among them. Earlier this year, the newcomer to the county’s brewery landscape released an India pale ale (IPA) dubbed Pariah Indie Or Bust IPA. It seems a simple tactic, incorporating the term “indie” into a beer’s name, but it is effective. It has become a popular offering for the company, which is mostly known for making outlandish ales infused with exotic ingredients. However, this is a straightforward IPA that gets its depth from a modern-day hop bill blending Citra, Galaxy and Idaho 7 varietals. The result is a beer with peach, melon and toasted pine cone on the nose, followed by grilled pineapple, guava and an orange-like juiciness leading into an extra-dry finish. It’s an ideal ale for the current marketplace; one which helps keep an item of importance top of mind while delivering a delicious, high-quality product from a truly independent brewery.
From the Brewers: “Indie Or Bust IPA came about while hanging out with the breweries that brewed the 11 Barrel IPA. (South Park Brewing owner) Scot Blair was at Resident Brewing and, while talking with him about the idea behind the beer, he asked if we’d be interested in brewing our own version. The stipulations were that it had to be 7% alcohol-by-volume and include the relative newcomer hop, Idaho 7. I’d contracted a small amount of Idaho 7 but hadn’t had an excuse to use it yet, so I jumped at the chance and brewed it literally the following day. Since the 11 Barrel IPAs had already been released, we wanted a different name and, with political slogans being used at the time fresh in our minds—as well our personal convictions—Indie Or Bust IPA seemed appropriate. The beer also features Citra and Galaxy hops. The malt bill is pretty much 100% Pilsner with a sprinkle of very lightly colored malt. Our house Wicked ale yeast undertook the fermentation. We are exceptionally proud to be a part of the indie-beer scene and we are glad drinkers today feel the same way. When it comes time for a beer, it’s either going to be an independent beer or we’re ordering a whiskey!”—Brian Mitchell, Head Brewer, Pariah Brewing Company
There are plenty of reasons you may have already heard about Beach Grease Beer Co. Aside from having a website and social-media presence, the company has sales feet on the street and, as a result, has had beer on tap at roughly 50 San Diego County accounts over the past three weeks. That initial offering is Surf Reaper Golden IPA. But this interest has been mostly a mystery to those in the local brewing scene and easily the business I’ve been asked about the most over the past several months. Finally, there are answers and details about this upcoming entrant into North County’s fermentation field. Read more »