From the Beer Writer: Though this week’s featured beer was produced just north of San Diego in San Clemente, it has plenty of ties to our community. It was produced by Left Coast Brewing, the brewery arm of the Oggi’s—a brewpub and restaurant chain that was founded in San Diego County—and is available at all of its local locations. Additionally, it incorporates java from STACHE Coffee Company, a roaster headquartered in Oceanside. But most importantly, to myself and other San Diegans living with lupus, it was crafted to raise money for the Beer to the Rescue campaign established to help victims of this autoimmune disease. While most of Beer to the Rescue’s beers debuted in May, this one came on a little later, but its humanitarian mission is every bit as real as the pleasant notes of roasted beans and cocoa coming off this otherwise traditional American-style cream ale. Those scents segue to an agreeable flavor-profile that is purposefully light, allowing subdued coffee and zingy, lemony acidity to come through. At 4.7% alcohol-by-volume, it’s a session beer, but the impact it’s already had on this charity campaign is imperial.
From the Brewer: “With this beer, we set out to produce a light-bodied ale with a coffee aroma, something your everyday coffee drinkers could appreciate. We teamed up with STACHE Coffee Company to make sure the coffee we used was top-shelf and fresh. We chose Stache’s Guatemala Antigua Kapeu coffee for its unique taste. In total, we used about 60 pounds of coffee in this beer. We ground up the coffee the morning of the brew day, and pumped it into the tank where it sat for one week. The result is a golden-colored beer with a coffee, milk chocolate and hazelnut aroma.”—Tommy Hadjis, Brewing Manager, Left Coast Brewing Company
I’ve interviewed many brewers in my day, and when asked about their portfolios, nearly every one of them rifles off the same statement: “We brew beers that we want to brew.” This answer’s ubiquity in no way detracts from its authenticity, but it means a lot more for the most recent fermentationist to say it to me, Brian Mitchell of Pariah Brewing Company (3052 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park). Doing things his way doesn’t mean daring to brew a lager in ale-town San Diego, brewing gluten-free beers or shooting for extreme alcohol-by-volume. His family of beers—which will make their official debut at a trio of grand-opening sessions (which are nearly sold out) next weekend, before Pariah’s tasting room opens to the public on Sunday, February 12—are unlike anything being brewed anywhere in San Diego, or pretty much anywhere else.
Of the six beers that will be on-tap when Pariah opens, the tamest is Off-White Wit, a Belgian-style witbier inspired by Taiwanese boba tea. Honey, green tea, lemongrass, ginger and orange find their way into this exotic brew, but Mitchell leaves out one of this style’s most traditional ingredients, coriander. The result is a wheat beer with herbal notes versus overbearing citrus character. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Uni Stout…and it’s just what it sounds like, a take on an oyster stout brewed with lacto-sugar, sea salt and fresh sea urchin gonads from Catalina Offshore Products. The sea fare (added in the whirlpool) combats some of the sweetness, drying things out and leaving flavors of chocolate and pumpernickel behind. It makes Dorcha, a nicely balanced stout brewed with molasses, cacao nibs and a proprietary blend of coffee from Bird Rock Coffee Roasters seem everyday by comparison.
There is one traditional beer on the board, a West Coast IPA fortified with Amarillo and Mosaic hops that’s been cleverly dubbed Dank Drank. Dry with a lasting lemon pithiness, it’s 6.66% ABV and comes in at 66 on the IBU (international bittering unit) scale. But even it is offset by a more avant-garde IPA that’s brewed with mangoes, peach-flesh and hemp oil. Mitchell hates fruit IPAs produced by “certain local companies” and aimed to use real fruit (versus extract) to marry with and amplify the qualities of the hops used for this beer. The result is an IPA with malt character reminiscent of a Pacific Northwest IPA and heavy tropical flavors.
The most ambitious of the lot is Erotic City. The name is inspired by the dearly departed “Purple One”, while the recipe for this strong ale resulted from a challenge issued by Mitchell’s wife, who wanted a beer brewed with Muscat grapes, honey and grains of paradise. The resulting beer is big on grape flavor, but low on the mustiness that typically accompanies wine-grape beers. There is some sweetness, as one would expect, but I’ts earthy and honey-like as opposed to cloying. This is a beer for adventurous drinkers, but that seems to be the point at Pariah.
And these aren’t specialties or one-offs. The beers described above comprise Pariah’s core-beer line-up. That’s gutsiness that bleeds over into Dogfish Head territory. (Erotic City actually closely resembles Dogfish’s “ancient ale” Midas Touch.) That Delaware-based veteran brewing company has been manufacturing “off-centered ales for off-centered people” for 21 years, growing into the 16th largest craft brewery in the country in the process. Mitchell’s aspirations aren’t that large, however, he does want to grow his business. As such, he has hired employees to handle sales and distribution, something not that many new breweries devote start-up funds to. His business practices seem sounder than many, lending method to what, to beer purists might seem light outright madness.
With new breweries opening at a rapid clip and nearly 140 operating brewhouses, many wonder if our county needs any more brewing companies. This opinion is fueled mostly by people who feel the majority of each business’ offerings are nearly identical, especially where hoppy beers are concerned. Pariah’s wares soundly answer any questions about why this interest exists—because without Pariah, beers like this wouldn’t exist…anywhere. It’s refreshing to come across a new brewery with so many unique offerings, and even those who don’t take to Mitchell’s creations will likely agree with that sentiment.
Pariah’s out-there line-up offers an advantage to a pair of other breweries—Eppig Brewing and San Diego Brewing Company. Those businesses are located on either side of Pariah in the second of H.G. Fenton’s Brewery Igniter complexes. All three companies entered these ready-to-brew, tasting room-supplied spots with equal brewing and cellar capacity. It was up to each to differentiate themselves and that’s just what’s happened. San Diego serves its vanguard staples plus worldly one-offs, while Eppig is gaining a good name behind high-quality lagers and a mixed-bag of hoppy beers and kettle-sours. Then there’s Pariah, which also features the most jarringly disparate environs. Purple (more Prince influence) is the main color in the dimly lit space, which San Diego Brewing co-owner Lee Doxtader has taken to (respectfully) calling “the dungeon”. But how many captive environments are so nerdy about glassware that every beverage served there comes in its own specific type of glassware (including the aromatic-enhancing Spiegelau IPA glass)?
Pariah’s tasting room will be open Monday through Wednesday from 12 to 9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from noon to midnight and Sundays from 12 to 7 p.m. The tasting room is equipped with 13 taps that will soon be filled. Bottled wild ales are also in the works, as is a three-way collaboration between the North Park Brewery Igniter’s tenants.
In the beverage-industry, they say it takes until March for beer-consumption to rebound to normal levels after the holidays. Good thing San Diego’s beer-slingers didn’t get that memo, because February is jam-packed with a broad array of fun events celebrating local ales and lagers. Check out these standout events, and see a full list on our events page.
February 4 | Sour Saturday & Fourth Anniversary: Squeeze into one of the smallest but coolest beer-bars in San Diego for the ale-equivalent of an acid-drop. Cast your line and reel in a variety of sour beers tapped in celebration of this pier-mounted saloon, eatery and bait-and-tackle shop. | Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle, 1776 Shelter Island Drive, Shelter Island, 10 a.m.
February 4 | National 2×4 Day: Wyoming-based Melvin Brewing is tapping its award-winning 2×4 imperial IPA (it’s taken top-honors at the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival and multiple Alpha King Challenges) across the country, and Hamilton’s Tavern is where you can taste it and other Melvin hop-bombs. | Hamilton’s Tavern, 1521 30th Street, South Park, 12 p.m.
February 11 | Brewbies Festival: Brewers from throughout Southern California will not only show up in-force to help raise funds for the Keep A Breast Foundation, many of them will bring creatively crafted, pink-hued beers brewed especially for this fest, one of the best in our county each year. | Bagby Beer Company; 601 South Coast Highway; Oceanside; VIP: 12 p.m., General Admission: 1 p.m.
February 11 | Carnival of Caffeination: Like beer? Like coffee? Like beer and coffee infused into a buzzworthy beverage? Then head to this fest celebrating all you hold sacred via top-quality beers from breweries plucked from around the country, and watch as stimulants and depressants go head-to-head! | North Promenade; 2848 Dewey Road; Point Loma; VIP: 11 a.m., General Admission: 12 p.m.
February 18 | Winter Brew Fest: Because winter in San Diego is pretty much like every other season in San Diego from a weather standpoint, this night-time fest won’t center around brawny stouts and strong ales. Come expecting an array of all styles, including SD’s sun-ready IPAs. | San Diego Hall of Champions; 2131 Pan American Plaza; Balboa Park; VIP: 6 p.m., General Admission: 7 p.m.
February 25-26 | 10th Anniversary Beer Fest: For a decade, SD TapRoom has gone big in the bday department, throwing suds-soaked parties over multiple days. The big 1-0 will be no different thanks to 100 specialty beers, including Pliny the Younger and venue-exclusive Boxcar Speedway. | SD TapRoom, 1269 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach, Times Vary
The season of good-will and merriment is upon us…also, holiday beers and celebrating. Submitted for your enjoyment are several local events taking place this December. Salt-and-pepper (cinnamon-and-nutmeg?) them into your holiday plans, and refer to the West Coaster events page for a comprehensive list of goings-on throughout San Diego County.
December 3 | West Coaster Party: Your favorite local craft-beer publication doesn’t throw a ton of events, but when we do, we try to make it count. In that spirit, we’re teaming with 32 North Brewing Company to offer a four-pronged fete focusing on beer, meat, coffee and chocolate, San Diego-made iterations of which will be on-hand for mixing, matching, meshing and massacring. | 32 North Brewing Company, 8655 Production Avenue, Miramar, 12 p.m.
December 4 | SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off: It’s a merging of neighborhoods, a feast for the senses and a telling test of one’s ability to withstand extreme heat all wrapped up into one enchanted afternoon, when North Parkers and South Parkers come together to throw down with multiple takes on America’s spicy, stewed national dish and temper all that inherent incendiary heat with quality craft ales and lagers. | 32nd & Thorn Street, North & South Park, 11 a.m.
December 10 | Sore Eye Sudsmas: The co-host of San Diego BeerTalk Radio is holding a holiday party where attendees are encouraged to bring in food donations to a food drive being held by host-site, Societe Brewing Company. Prizes will be awarded to those who bring the most edibles and if a total of 2,000 pounds comes in, Societe will tap the only keg of cranberry sour, The Urchin, in existence. | Societe Brewing Company, 8262 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Kearny Mesa, 5 p.m.
December 15-17 | Ugly Sweater Events: ‘Tis the weekend for events celebrating ironic yuletide-wear. Start early on Thursday with an ugly sweater Christmas party at OB’s Raglan Public House, then roll up on the Ales ‘n’ Rails beer-tasting at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum before taking in a Saturday suds-and-sweaters soiree at Tap That in Oceanside. | Multiple Locations, Times Vary
Editor’s Note: In addition to his role as Editor at Large for West Coaster, the author is also employed by Societe Brewing Company.