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Posts Tagged craftbeer

Beer of the Week: Toolbox Saison Chene Rustique d’Abricot

Aug 19
Toolbox Brewing's Saison Chene Rustique d’Abricot

Toolbox Brewing’s Saison Chene Rustique d’Abricot

From the Beer Writer: It’s hard to believe they’ve been in business nearly two years, but Toolbox Brewing Company (which will celebrate its second anniversary at its Vista tasting room on September 3) has been cranking away at its wild-and-woody pursuits for some time now. During that time there have been obstacles to overcome, due mostly to a far-too-high-profile split between ownership and their original brewer. But Toolbox has done more than repair any busted cogs. Current brewer Ehren Schmidt (who’s been there a full-year now) has hammered-and-nailed the brewhouse to fit his brewing methodologies, and visitors to the tasting room—where the most impressive of the brewery’s stock is presented—are benefiting big-time. Toolbox’s line of wild and otherwise soured beers is varied and impressive, but when asked which they are most proud of, the owners and brewers unanimously point to Saison Chene Rustique d’Abricot. Smelling of apricot flesh and tasting both floral and herbal in its Belgian-yeast influence with subdued stone fruit character, this 7.8% alcohol-by-volume farmhouse ale is a thing of beauty. It’s easy to see why the crew is so quick to hang their collective hats on this one. And bonus: unlike most prized bottled beers up for sale online (which happened a short while ago), there is still some of this beer in-stock at Toolbox’s tasting room. And starting later today, bottles of two new beers—a barrel-aged sour farmhouse ale called Nyssa, plus a version of that beer flavored with white peaches—will be available on Toolbox’s website.

From the Brewer: “The Rustique Series of saisonswhich so far consists of Chene Rustique and this beerare Toolbox’s tribute to times past. Chene denotes that this beer came from our American oak fouder. This variant has apricots added to accentuate the already complex characteristics of hay, citrus and oak with deep stone fruit flavor and aroma. Close your eyes and imagine you’re a saisonier working in the fields of rural Wallonia in Belgium, sipping a quaffable beverage such as this. This is our homage to those hard-working farm-hands, and a place and time when beers like these were necessities, not luxuries.”—Ehren Schmidt, Head Brewer, Toolbox Brewing Company

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Meet Wiseguy Brewing Company

Aug 18

Wiseguy NameBrett Gent lived in Linda Vista and passed vaunted recreational supply-store, Home Brew Mart, almost daily. On one such day, he finally turned his steering wheel, pulled into the driveway, entered the store and purchased his first home-brew kit. Ten years after that watershed occasion, he is in the process of opening his own brewery, and its name was inspired by the movie that was playing during his first day using the aforementioned kit—Goodfellas. As he mashed in, boiled and lautered, one word kept getting thrown around via that cinematic classic…wise-guy. As a result, Carlsbad residents can look forward to receiving Wiseguy Brewing Company come the front-end of 2017.

Over the past decade, Gent won numerous awards for his home-brewed ales and lagers, leading him and his father, Tom, to take things to the next level. Wiseguy will be located near the McClellan-Palomar Airport off El Camino Real, and have a tasting room equipped with around 10 taps. Gent likes breweries where visitors have a communally driven experience that allow for the striking up of conversations and friendships, so he plans to lean in that direction with his sampling site. Aesthetically, the team will aim for a beach theme, using imagery from Gent’s brother—a professional photographer—to help convey that.

Wiseguy will have a 10-barrel brewhouse and a cellar consisting of five 20-barrel fermenters. Gent says he is a fan of all styles, but is a card-carrying hop-head. So, there will be a number of India pale ales and other hoppy beers augmented by a pilsner and German classics such as an altbier, doppelbock, schwarzbier, dunkelweizen and more. But don’t expect a Brett beer. Despite the fact it would be his namesake creation, Gent is a purist where beer is concerned, to the point where he also won’t be adding fruits, flora or other adjuncts to his beers.

Above all, Gent wants to create high-quality beer. With this being San Diego County, a hotbed of brewing ingenuity and success, he says he knows there will always be a bigger or better brewery than his, but also states he’s not in this for the money. He says getting into the brewing business is all about his legitimate love for beer, and that his main goal is for people to leave Wiseguy feeling every beer they had was really good.

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Beer Touring: Stone Brewing Richmond (plus info on Green Flash’s Virginia Beach debut)

Aug 17

rva_windowUntil this month, the farthest I’d driven to check out locally owned brewery properties was Nickel Beer Company in Julian or Pizza Port’s San Clemente brewpub. But I easily eclipsed the distance to those out-there spots when, while on vacation in Washington, DC, I rented a car and drove south to Richmond, Virginia, to see the 14-acre East Coast incarnation of Stone Brewing.

It sounds funny, but I knew I was there when I saw the huge brown building with no sign. Stone CEO Greg Koch has a rule against such markers, wanting the company’s venues to be enough of a destination that they aren’t simply happened upon. That has worked in the past on Escondido’s Citracado Parkway. When the company’s current headquarters was built, there was little else on that road. rva_patio Such is the case in the Fulton section of Richmond, where the intent is for Stone to play a major role in revitalizing an area of the city that has been mostly ignored or forgotten.

Guests can approach Stone Brewing – RVA from unattached parking lots on the east or north side of the sprawling 200,000-square-foot brewery. Both routes take visitors across bridges of varying lengths and designs. From the north, a covered bridge takes one under an operating set of railroad tracks. On the east, an angled and enclosed two-part bridge traverses a tall-grassed lawn leading to the beginnings of a garden, including vegetation and a retaining pond. Both bring imbibers to a patio area featuring umbrella-equipped picnic benches, most of which were packed with people the Saturday afternoon I stopped by.

rva_tastingroomDouble doors lead into a spacious tasting room. To the right are more tables and more gargoyle merchandise than you can shake a mash-paddle at. To the left is the main-event, a bar stocked with beers from Stone and its sister-operation, Arrogant Brewing. Although the brewery was constructed to handle heavy-duty brewing of core beers such as Stone IPA (a new recipe for which is currently in circulation, replacing the original flagship) and Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0, a number of rare and seasonal beers are regularly shipped there from the Escondido brewery to keep things interesting and give fans a reason to return.

rva_brewery_01Brewery tours are offered, in which guests are escorted up a staircase and ushered through a set of gargoyle horn-adorned wooden doors leading to the deck of the facility’s 250-barrel Krones brewhouse. Coming in at the size of competitor Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits’ newest brewing apparatus, it is built for the same purpose—to pump out beer in multiple batches and keep a nation of beer consumers supplied with ales. Currently, Stone Brewing – RVA has eight 1,000-barrel fermenter tanks and as many 250-barrel fermenters, plus four 1,000-barrel bright tanks up and operational. But there’s room for an eventual 40 tanks.

rva_cellarPeter Wiens (formerly of Anheuser Busch-InBev and, more locally, Temecula’s Wiens Brewing Company) is in charge of brewing operations in Richmond. He and roughly eight other employees from the Escondido facility came over to take up various roles in RVA. And a number of other brewing and packaging employees came over from the nearby Budweiser facility in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Beyond the brewery lies a wealth of packaging muscle. Modern technology is everywhere, providing more automation than the Escondido facility. That machinery includes a state-of-the-art Krones bottling line capable of filling 600 bottles-per-minute. In the not-too-distant future, a canning line will be added to the mix. Also on the production floor is a sizeable quality assurance lab that Stone allows lab-less local breweries to use. But that isn’t where RVA brewing camaraderie ends. Already, Stone has brewed collaboration beers with and at numerous Richmond operations.

rva_bottlingThe projected production goal for Stone Brewing – RVA’s first 12 months of operation is forecast at 100,000 barrels of beer. This will allow the company to distribute that product to all states east of the Mississippi by the end of this summer. Having spent a great deal of time at Stone’s Escondido brewery, I found the layout and innovation behind its Richmond counterpart to be both impressive and encouraging. So, too, was the fact that the seven-days-a-week operation has garnered a good amount of business, while establishing a solid stock of regulars.

rva_packagingSeeing Stone through a new set of eyes—the eyes of the Richmond employees as well as the city’s denizens—felt different…and really good. It reminded me of what it was like to discover Stone back in the late ‘90s, where people found themselves in awe that something so cool was right in their backyard. Best of all—and I mean no disrespect to fans of Arrogant Bastard Ale (it was my first craft-beer, after all)—none of the “Arrogance” has settled into the Richmond facility as of yet. There is no leftover air of you’re not worthy pompousness that needs to be wiped clean. The roughly 60 RVA employees are mostly brand-new and extremely excited to be part of this venture, as well they should be. That leads to a great level-of-service and overall friendliness that I very much enjoyed.


rva_bridge_sideI found myself rather proud to see Virginians enjoying an authentically hoppy and justifiably proud taste of San Diego County, more than 2,600 miles removed from my hometown. Even without the two-story Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens restaurant that will debut down the hill near the James River sometime next year, Stone Brewing – RVA provides plenty of reasons to visit and a great deal of promise for the future.

Green Flash Virginia Beach Update

Just as this article was going to press, Mira Mesa-based Green Flash Brewing Company announced that its East Coast facility in nearby Virginia Beach, Virginia, would open to the public on November 13. In celebration, the company will offer a full week of events, including the third annual East Coast iteration of its Treasure Chest Fest benefiting the Susan G. Komen breast-cancer charity organization the day prior to the official debut, November 12. The estimated annual production capacity for the Virginia Beach facility will be 100,000 barrels. Construction of the brewery can be viewed via an online live-cam.


Green Flash Brewing Company’s under-construction facility in Virginia Beach, Va.


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Littles going big bear route with Bear Roots Brewing

Aug 16

bearroots_AWhen we first met Terry and Page Little, they were installing a nano-brewery into their business, Vista’s Home Brew Supply. They weren’t the first to do so (ever heard of a wee operation called Home Brew Mart which spawned the fairly sizeable billion-dollar Ballast Point Brewery & Spirits?), but of the recent crop of suppliers-turned-manufacturers—including The Home Brewer’s Home Brewing Company and Carlsbad Brew Supply’s Guadalupe Brewery—their Bear Roots Brewing Company has gained the most and fastest traction with customers. As previously reported, it’s inspired the Littles to think bigger, enough that they have made the concrete decision to expand their brewery. Now, all they have to do is decide how they want to go about doing that.

The Littles are mulling two options. The first would see them assembling a three-barrel system in their current building on Santa Fe Avenue near Vista’s Old Town area. It would also entail implementation of a program called “brewing success and changing the culture”, which would involve corporate and small-business teams coming to Bear Roots for private brewing sessions. A team-building exercise of sorts, with participants being taught about brewing; everything from logistics to ingredients to processes and even marketing of the finished product. The Littles foresee release-parties for beers produced via this program, wherein program participants reassemble with friends and family to taste the fruits of their brew-day. While there is a brew-it-yourself operation called Citizen Brewers in Grantville, this would be the only local production operation offering such an experience.

Option-number-two would involve the Littles moving the brewery off-site to a larger production-geared facility that would house a 10- or 15-barrel brewhouse. This would include construction of a small tasting room and the ability to distribute Bear Roots beers into the market. The homebrew store would continue to operate as it currently does were this plan to be enacted. Should they go this route and the operation prove successful, the Littles would aim to open a larger tasting room and brewery “training center” in adjacent business suites that would include a “very interactive” homebrew store.

Aside from production, the Littles site a strong desire to share their passion for craft-beer with as many people as possible, hence the team-building and educational endeavors built into both of their plans. Terry has professional background in business and team management from the day-job he will be walking away from to go all-in with Bear Roots. The Littles estimate having their expansion plans completed by October. Timing on debut of the next phase of their business will depend on which direction they go at this meaningful fork in the road.

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Beer of the Week: Nickel Lion’s Blood Triple IPA

Aug 12
Lion's Blood Triple India Pale Ale from Nickel Beer Co.

Lion’s Blood Triple India Pale Ale from Nickel Beer Co.

From the Beer Writer: If it weren’t for good friends and a great excuse to spend time with them, getting old would really suck. While I’m far from ancient, this weekend I will reach the milestone age of 40. I’m not bitter or upset. In fact, 40 is my lucky number and has graced every sports jersey I’ve ever donned, so I’ve finally caught up to a significant portion of my wardrobe. But getting back to the friends part, I am blessed to have a great many and, hence, an annual reason to enjoy beers with them, including Nickel Lion’s Blood Triple IPA. The recipe for this 11% alcohol-by-volume behemoth (which was massively hopped in the kettle, then run through a hot-tub of whole-leaf hops before hitting the fermentation tank and being dry-hopped with both pelletized and wet hops, the latter of which were sourced from Ramona’s Star B Ranch) was developed by brewmaster and publican Tom Nickel. We bonded over nearly overlapping August-birthday status years ago. His big day is August 13 and mine is the 14th, so this beer was brewed for co-celebratory purposes. Nickel wanted to name it Tiger’s Blood because, a la Charlie Sheen circa 2011, we would be #winning while drinking this hop-monster, but I suggested referencing lions given our shared Leo status. I consider his acquiescing in the moniker department a pretty nice birthday present. Ditto this beer, which will debut at Nickel Beer Co. in Julian and at O’Brien’s Pub in Kearny Mesa this afternoon. See you there?

From the Brewer: “I have to admit that this was not my idea, but it was one that I instantly warmed to. I don’t drink a lot of triple IPAs. I always enjoy trying them, but the high ABVs and often malty finishes dissuade me from thinking that this is a style I want to drink more than a single or even a double IPA. So when I set out to brew a triple IPA with Brandon Hernández for our mutual birthdays, I knew I wanted to keep the beer very light in color, as dry as possible for 11%, and more than anything, just plain hoppy. The malt bill is a combination of Golden Promise, German Pilsner malt and Great Western 2-Row with flaked corn and dextrose added to help keep the color and body light. In my more than 20 years in the San Diego brewing scene, it was the first time I had ever used corn in a mash. The hops were a collaboration between the birthday boys: Simcoe and Citra for power and depth, with Mosaic and German Blanc for finesse and finish. The beer was heavily dry-hopped and made extensive use of post-boil hops stewed in the mash tun with the beer during run-off. It even has the added bonus of fresh-picked Cascade hops from Star B in Santa Ysabel in the dry-hop. The result is a beer that is Pilsner-esque in color with an aroma full of stone fruit, melon and sweet citrus. The initial flavor is complex with hints of peach, pine and melon. The beer then finishes dry with a firm bitterness and deceptively high alcohol content. I couldn’t be happier with the beer and suggesting to brew this was a great birthday gift from Brandon. And if you are wondering about the name, duh…WINNING!—Tom Nickel, Owner/Brewmaster, Nickel Beer Company

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