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
Last week, I made mention of the fact that the more recent entrants into San Diego’s brewery-scene are taking steps to really put their best feet forward when introducing themselves to the imbibing public. Count the recently soft-opened Burgeon Beer Company (6350 Yarrow Drive, Carlsbad) among that faction. Headed by a trio of longtime beer-buds—one of which is brewmaster Anthony Tallman, formerly of Stone Brewing, Rough Draft Brewing Company and, most recently, Vista’s Back Street Brewery—it took more than three years to cobble together from conception-to-reality, and it’s clear, even in its first month of operation, that none of that time was wasted.
Located on an industrial side-street just south of McClellan-Palomar Airport, Burgeon would easily blend into its industrial-park environs…were it not for large, easy-to-spot, professional signage towering above the entry. It sounds simple, but it really makes a difference. Time otherwise wasted driving around, making U-turns and cursing one’s map-app is instead spent enjoying beer. Not sampling beer, but enjoying it, because Tallman and company are making some quality product.
Three of the toughest-to-dial-in styles of Burgeon’s seven introductory beers are its best. Thuja IPA, a 6.5% single India pale ale packed with Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo and Centennial hops, has just the right consistency to convey all those hops’ flavors and aromas while remaining easy-to-drink. The cleverly named Mixed Greens Double IPA—the first in a series of rotating imperial IPAs that will see different combinations of hops added at six different stages during the brewing and fermentation process—is aptly “green”, low on the sweetness that can sometimes overtake double IPAs, and leaves a delightful, lingering accent of tangerine in its wake. Conversely, Lot 19 Pale Ale (named after the spot where a motherlode of cedar was sourced for construction of the furniture in Burgeon’s tasting room) brings a nice caramely malt-base in without imparting any sweetness, thus balancing this 5.5% ABV beer’s citrus-like hop-borne essence.
The next-best beer at Burgeon is probably, of all things, its cream ale. Tallman’s take on an American adjunct-lager (you may know it as lawnmower beer or that watery beverage four-fifths of the country thinks of exclusively as “beer”) is smooth, easy-drinking and a little higher in alcohol than Coors and Budweiser’s OG versions. And what’s that other thing in there? Oh yes…flavor. It won’t punch you in the face, but it’s a heck of a transition beer for folks who are tired of waiting until the mountains turn blue enough to hide the flavor deficiencies in their current beer of choice.
Of course, everything’s not perfect. A rye amber ale and nut brown show promise, but could use a little more heft on the palate, while Moo Moo Farm Milk Stout (right up there with Mixed Greens in the killer-moniker department) is a bit overdone with a certain smokiness that comes across as off-putting.
As with its exterior, Burgeon wins bonus points for its interior design. The tasting room is rather spacious, but nice, thoughtful, unique touches keep it from feeling the least bit empty. There is plenty of seating augmented by vertical cedar shelving stacked with bright green plant-life, a tree sprouting from the ground at the end of the bar, and a fountain feature converted from Burgeon’s founders’ original home-brew sculpture. On top of that, the cold-box is also paneled to mimic the look of a shipping container with Burgeon’s wordmark emblazoned on one side and tree-stump signs on the other telling the tale of the tap-list.
Burgeon has more polish than a number of breweries that have been operational for years, and that’s saying something. Everybody is upping their game to compete in this rather crowded market, making it all the more impressive that the individuals behind this interest saw fit to up theirs long before opening their doors, an act that will be made official during grand-opening festivities from noon to 3 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday, January 21.
This place looks familiar, I thought as we turned into a business park I’d been to numerous times. The Carlsbad campus is home to two small breweries, Arcana Brewing Company and On-The-Tracks Brewery. This, despite being off the city’s commercial center. It’s almost inconceivable that these operations have managed to find success here (particularly with the questionable beers being produced at one of them), but lo and behold, they’re still there, and so is another interest that went in a few doors down from OTT last year, Guadalupe Brewery (5674 El Camino Real, Carlsbad). That was when I first wrote about owner Raul Deju, a brewer with experience south-of-the-border, who decided to kill his killer commute and give suds-making a go on his side of the border. Since then I’ve tasted a number of his beers, but that’s not why I was visiting the brewery on this day. Good thing—since trying house-beers isn’t allowed at Guadalupe.
Did that last sentence inspire a raise of your eyebrow? A brewery where customers aren’t able to taste the beers—that’s a new one on me. This factoid is made additionally confounding by the fact Deju and his wife Lisa have constructed a full tasting room behind the homebrew shop in which their nano-brewery is installed, Carlsbad Brew Supply. In it, a bar with comfy stools and a large mounted flat-screen await the sampling sect. All they need now is clearance from the City of Carlsbad to share the labors of their love with visitors. For now, all they are allowed to do is sell growlers of beer to-go, which requires a bit of a leap of faith without the ability to taste-test. So, by the time I got to Guadalupe, I’d already tasted through some beers with the Dejus off-site, and found them rather nice.
If you are a fan of Mother Earth Brew Co.’s ubiquitous Cali-Creamin’, a vanilla-infused cream ale, it’s a safe bet you’ll enjoy Guadalupe’s El Vanillo. It has slightly more body to it, but is comparable to Cali, which has proven so popular it accounts for roughly half of the MEBC’s total output. I could see this taking on a similar flagship role for Guadalupe. Many of Deju’s beers are augmented by familiar edibles. The addition of watermelon to a saison takes it from a traditional farmhouse flavor to something more akin to a Belgian-style tripel. He also brews a blood orange pale ale and a hazelnut porter. The latter is pretty straightforward and in keeping with its English roots, while the pale was probably the least impressive of the beers I tried—something tasted a little off there. The most striking beer of the bunch was an IPA by the name of Tepache. Brewed with Mosaic hops, it came on strong with bright notes of pineapple and mango followed by a bittersweet finish. It didn’t necessarily come across as an India pale ale—especially not in the San Diego definition of that style—but it had plenty of hoppy merit.
On the specialty-beer front, Deju also has a line of barrel-aged and sour beers. I tasted one by the name of Xokok, which he infuses with various fruits. At last year’s San Diego Brewers Guild Festival during San Diego Beer Week, I tasted a version flavored with blueberries and liked it so much I went back for seconds. This time around, the beer’s featured ingredient was tamarind. I am not a fan of that sour fruit, but in the beer, it works. That said, Xokok Tamarindo had nothing on its blueberry predecessor. But either are worth a try…as soon as you’re able to try them (which should be relatively soon). For now…beer beer everywhere and not a drop to drink.