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Posts Tagged craft beer

Escondido’s Offbeat Brewing shutting down

Mar 17

Back when I worked Stone Brewing’s Escondido headquarters, many were the nights when me and my marketing colleagues would walk over to the much smaller brewery down the street and knock off with a pint or two. That operation, Offbeat Brewing Company, was the family-run project of an ex-Stone cellar man following his own muse, crafting mostly sessionable beers, many of which had English roots. So it’s sad to hear that today will be Offbeat’s swan song.

Yesterday, owner and brewmaster Tom Garcia announced he has made the difficult decision to close the doors to his brewery, but not before one last St. Patrick’s Day hurrah. So if you’re looking for a farewell-taste of Bear Arms Brown Ale or Girafficopter Pale Ale, this is it. Garcia says with his lease up, it made sense to close the book on Offbeat. That said, the 15-year industry veteran says he’s not against the idea of trying his hand at the brewing business again.

Offbeat opened in 2012 with a bar built from wood from old pallets and discarded furniture, plus a makeshift brewery Garcia described as “the Millennium Falcon of brewhouses.” From the get-go, the space was punched-up from an artistic aspect. The upper portion of the west wall featured a colorful mural with outlandish characters, while the bottom half and many of the other walls regularly featured art from an array of local artists. That art was for sale with 100% of proceeds going to the artist, so that outlet will surely be missed by the creative sect. And painted portraits of outlandish characters like Deer Grandpa and the aforementioned Bear Arms looked good behind the bar.

In the end, what made Offbeat’s location so great for Team Stone, likely hurt the business in the long run. Surviving in an obscure business park on a side-road a half-mile from a major destination like Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido must have been challenging. Choosing between the two equates to a no-brainer of sorts for beer-tourists who’ve come any nominal distance to visit Escondido. But plenty of locals enjoyed Offbeat during its time, mostly for its polar-opposite, laidback vibe and beers.

Offbeat joins other San Diego County breweries that have closed their doors since last summer, including On-The-Tracks Brewery, Lightning Brewery, Valley Center Brewery and Pacific Brewing.

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May Events Sampler Flight

May 1

sf_042016This May is packed with beery events covering everything from local brews and grooves to sours and Belgian beers to the age-old question, “Mother may I…drink beer!” Check out some of these highlighted happenings, then consult our full list of local beer events here.

May 9 | O’Brien’s Loves Craft Beer Mamas: No offense, ma, but Mother’s Day has been known to drive me to drink. Turn the tables and drive mom to drink by driving her to O’Brien’s Pub to toast motherhood with roughly a dozen female parental powerhouses from San Diego’s brewing industry, all of which will tap and toast some of their favorite beers. | O’Brien’s Pub, 4646 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa, 5 p.m.

May 14 | Rhythm & Brews Festival: This one might sound familiar. The San Diego Brewers Guild‘s beer-and-music festival was originally scheduled for last month, but (the threat of) rain washed it clean into may. Let’s hope April showers yield May flowers in the form of a bouquet of awesome local beers paired with a variety of high-powered musical acts. | Vista Village District, Vista, VIP: 12 p.m., General Admission: 1 p.m.

May 14 | Amps & Ales: The #SouthBayUprising is real and a great chance to experience it will be during this festival from Chula Vista’s Third Avenue Village Association, which has assembled dozens of San Diego breweries, including the South Bay’s own Border X Brewing, Bay Bridge Brewing, Novo Brazil Brewing and Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing for one enchanted afternoon. | 353 Third Avenue, Chula Vista, 12 p.m.

May 15 | Stone Belgian Fest: Being San Diego County’s largest brewing company and running the city’s largest restaurant makes for a lot of pull, and on this day, Stone Brewing will pull Trappist beers, strong ales, wits, sours and more all the way from Belgium to Liberty Station for a festival of epic, international proportions. | Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, 2816 Historic Decatur Road, #116, Point Loma, 12 p.m.

May 26 | Toolbox Beer Dinner: Surprisingly many are the chefs who claim sour beers aren’t good for pairing with food. This is nonsense, but it can be challenging to compose a multi-course feast using only sours. Churchill’s Pub exec chef A.G. Warfield has the gastro goods to go with Toolbox Brewing Company’s variety of Brett-borne and fruited-sour delights. | Churchill’s Pub & Grlle, 887 West San Marcos Boulevard, San Marcos, 7 p.m.

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Beer of the Week: Mike Hess Grapefruit Solis

Apr 29
Mike Hess Brewing's Grapefruit Solis IPA (photo courtesy Mike Hess Brewing)

Mike Hess Brewing’s Grapefruit Solis IPA (photo courtesy Mike Hess Brewing)

From the Beer Writer: Fruited beers are en vogue…again. In past iterations of this trend, which comes and goes, gaining more and more traction each time around, fruits have mostly appeared in lighter-bodied, lower-alcohol beers-styles such as blonde ales, wits and assorted lagers. Darker beers such as porters and stouts also get their fair share of fruiting, mostly with berries. This time around, it’s all about the IPA. (But seriously, when isn’t it all about the IPA?) IPAs packed with hops exhibiting citrus and tropical fruit flavors are being further amplified in those respects by actual citrus and tropical fruits. This week’s featured beer, Mike Hess Grapefruit Solis IPA, started off with grapefruit picked in a backyard. Such was the popularity of this beer at Mike Hess Brewing Company‘s trio of tasting bars, a domestic plot will no longer suffice. So, the grapefruits are sourced then processed at the North Park production brewery, which on days when the brew crew are zesting away, smells more like an orchard than a manufacturing site. All that aroma and flavor come through in the finished product, a fresh batch of which recently made it back out onto the market.

From the Brewer: “Seven years ago, Mike Hess was trying to convince his mother to try an IPA over her preferred stout. In an effort to persuade her, he suggested thinking of an IPA as carbonated grapefruit juice, and lo and behold, she is now an IPA enthusiast. Fast-forward to the summer of 2015 when Mike was solicited by a local business to create a specialty craft beer and it dawned on him he could create a grapefruit IPA using his flagship Solis recipe and adding fresh grapefruit from the backyard of his home in La Mesa. After picking hundreds of grapefruits from his tree with his children, Mike and his family hand-zested and squeezed the grapefruit to add to Solis #46. After perfecting the recipe, Grapefruit Solis was added to Mike Hess Brewing’s menu as a flagship beer using a combination of Nugget, Cascade and Citra hops with two-row, melanoidin and Vienna malts. Grapefruit Solis takes the best out of a traditional San Diego IPA and combines it with a well-rounded flavor profile brought out by the citrus in the grapefruit. This recipe is the perfect example of fruit-infused beer. We pack our hop-back with grapefruit zest just before fermentation and then, prior to packaging, we add in a dose of real grapefruit juice, doubling down for flavor-town. Light in color and dry in taste, this beer has a subtle malt component and a clean yeast profile. It’s like getting sacked in the face with a bag of grapefruit.”—Jason Stockberger, Head Brewer, Mike Hess Brewing Company

From the Bottle: Grapefruit Solis kicks it up a notch by taking our awesome San Diego style IPA and pumping it full of citrusy grapefruit goodness. No artificial flavors either—we’re talking real fruit. The hops are carefully selected to play off the zestiness, and the malt is subtle in the background. The result is dry, crisp and deliciously refreshing.

Edit: This post has been shortened to focus on The Beer of the Week.

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Beer Touring: Burning Beard Brewing Company

Apr 26

bbeard_04Standing across the street from Burning Beard Brewing Company (785 Vernon Way, El Cajon), I could hear two things crystal-clear—the low drone of punk-rock music and a bartender enthusiastically explaining one of the beers. I was familiar with and happy to encounter both. After crossing Vernon Way, I headed straight for the bar and said hi to my former AleSmith colleague, Shannon Rogers. Even in a county as beer-crazed as San Diego, there may no one person who extracts as much joy from sharing information and details on artisanal ales and lagers as her, and it was good to see the practice of friendly indoctrination she employed at her former place of work is in play at this new arrival to East County.

As tempting as it was to belly up to the bar, in an effort to remain impartial, I ordered one of each beer on the board then retreated to a corner to dissect the beers without being swayed. Doing so also allowed me a nice view of the tasting room and afforded me the ability to people-watch. And let me tell you, there were a lot of people to watch. The place was packed to capacity, including the small amount of drinking space just outside the entrance. Not bad for a Thursday less than two weeks into the brewery’s young-life.

bbeard_01The space itself is a bit minimalist, but that’s not to say it isn’t attractive. With a jukebox in one corner, a stylish bar area and a pair of cool custom-built tables outfitted with circa-1890 gears from a Julian gold-mine pump, it’s nicely appointed. Ample seating and a wealth of table-top space are other big pluses, and the simple black-and-white logo components decorating the interior and exterior punch things up, melding with the guitar-heavy music to communicate the rock-and-roll nature of the business.

In listing the best beers up for grabs at Burning Beard, I’ll start out with a rarity of sorts, a proper local Pilsner. There are others, but this is a fairly underrepresented style—odd for a consistently sunny region such as ours. Normcore Lager is clean and light on the palate. While it could have a sharper bite on the finish, the fact that it doesn’t will probably work well for ownership. Although I don’t have numbers to back it up, I have a suspicion that more macro-lagers are consumed in the sometimes-scorching East County than elsewhere in San Diego, so this slightly tamer take on a Pilsner will have the potential to convert fans of Bud and Coors Light to the wares of their new local brewery.

bbeard_02The best beer of the day was Hopmata, a 7% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) India pale ale (IPA) with robust aromas of pineapple and passion fruit. The balance is fantastic and it’s just bitter enough to keep this crushable beer from heading into wreckable territory. It made me wish I’d had the chance to taste Burning Beard’s other IPA, Dankness Visible, but it had sold out (it’s now back on tap). Holy the Voyd was the best of the dark beers, erupting like a coffee volcano on the nose before matching up with big java flavors from locally sourced Dark Horse Coffee Roasters. Rye the Lightning is a great modern, SoCal session pale ale (4.6% ABV) that’s straw-colored, unbelievably light in body but packed with hop potency and rye spiciness. Banksy ESB has a nutty bouquet and a touch of West Coast hoppiness on the finish that is welcome from this sometimes dull English beer style.

bbeard_03The only beers I wasn’t particularly impressed with were Ingsoc, a Russian imperial stout that was designed to taste of dark chocolate but came across a bit astringent in the finish; sort of like a black IPA. It’s still a good beer, but I’d reach for Holy the Voyd over this nine times out of ten. And though another in my party whole-heartedly disagreed, the best-named beer of the bunch, Get Thee to a Nunnery, was my least-favorite brew. Billed as a Belgian-style table beer (or singel, per the Belgian Trappist hierarchy), I’d never have pinned it for one and felt it was too grainy with not enough of the floral, ester qualities I look for in this style. I have to say, it was nice to visit a brand-new brewery where the only knock I had was questionably a matter of taste.

The owners of Burning Beard, which includes homebrew club QUAFF’s 2015 San Diego Homebrewer of the Year Jeff Wiederkehr, hail from El Cajon. Among their top goals is to build community in a community that’s underserved where craft-beer is concerned. According to them, people in El Cajon are ready to have a place for local fermentables, and deserve to have such a place. To those folks, I say “congratulations,” because not only is this one cool and promising spot…Shannon’s tending bar. Bonus!

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Best Beer Futures: East (& West)

Apr 25

thunderhawk_csIn closing out my bi-annual preview of upcoming brewer-owned businesses showing the most potential, I’m focusing on the East County. Problem is, the list hasn’t changed since the last time I previewed the expansive east in September 2015. Back then, La Mesa’s long-delayed (and suddenly controversial) Depot Springs Beer Company, the future Santee headquarters of Karl Strauss Brewing Company and Lakeside’s first brewery-to-be Knox Corners Brewing Company appeared to have the best legs…and they still do. So, instead of rehashing those, I’m sharing three honorable-mentions from the west, since that is the region with the most exciting projects going on right now.

Barrel Rescue Brewing Company, Kearny Mesa: It’ll be really tiny with extremely sporadic releases of super-small-batch offerings, but with barrels “rescued” from becoming garden planters and plans for some very interesting beers, this figures to be a really cool operation. And big-time bonus points go to the owners for carrying the rescue theme through to local canines due to their mutual love of supporting adoption organizations focused on the preservation of at-risk dogs.

Thunderhawk Alements, Miramar: Sure, the sign outside the building slates its delivery date as…2015. Despite thinking that was a bit too wishful, this figures to be a quality addition to the local brewing scene that will play nicely with cross-street neighbors 2kids Brewing Company and Pacific Brewing Company. Having tried Thunderhawk’s coffee pale ale awhile back, I can attest to its standout character and hope the rest of their beers are in line with that tasty sneak-preview.

Fighter Town Brewing Company, Sorrento Valley: People don’t really talk a lot about La Jolla Brewing Company, the founders of which are behind this contract-brewing project. But there is a buzz around this work-in-progress facility, which could bring beers of notable brewing operations from other parts of the country—or other countries entirely. If the right folks sign a contract, this could turn into something really intriguing.

Past Promising Projects: East

2013: Nickel Beer Company (Julian; Grade—A; a variety of quality beers provides way more than pie and snow in SD’s getaway town)

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