Before Ballast Point Brewing was a company capable of commanding decuple figures, before it grew into San Diego County’s largest brewery and one of the biggest beer-producers in the country, before there even was a brewery called Ballast Point, there was Home Brew Mart (HBM). That Linda Vista hobby shop—one of the first to grace America’s Finest City—opened quietly in 1992 and, over the following quarter-century, has ignited a fire for recreational fermentation within a great many ale-and-lager neophytes. That includes individuals who now own breweries and brew professionally. Some of that contingent even worked for HBM in its early days. In celebration of the big two-five, Ballast Point is creating Family Reunion collaboration beers with those ex-employees as well as former BP brewers, an impressive assemblage of well-known, award-winning talent.
Several of the beers have already been released, while others are scheduled to be brewed in time for them to all be on-tap at HBM’s 25th anniversary event on September 24. The following is a breakdown of the collaborators, their creations and their past.
In an effort to increase its current employee base’s knowledge on the history of BP and its eldest venue, vice president Colby Chandler asked each collaborator to speak to present-day brewers about their time with the company, how it was then and how it prepared them to venture out on their own. Many said that making beer at such a fast-growing brewing company provided them wide-ranging experience as well as reference points for overcoming myriad obstacles. According to Chandler, many brewery owners, in particular, felt their time with BP made it much easier once they were working for themselves.
In addition to the HBM anniversary event, BP is also holding a series of beer-pairing dinners incorporating the aforementioned collaboration brews at HBM. The next will take place on August 24 and include five courses served with Swemiceros, Bay to Bay, Scripps Tease and various other BP beers. Chandler, Tweet, Stephens, LeBlanc and Ceniceros will all be in attendance.
Many are the brewers and brewery personnel whose passion for music rivals their fervor for fermentation, but when analyzing the degree to which the musical bug has sunk its teeth into an entire business, no local operation is as afflicted as Amplified Ale Works. From the day it opened within its Pacific Beach kebaberie home, head brewer Cy Henley (you might not know it, but you’ve definitely shared space with him at a local live-music venue numerous times in your life) and company have driven home their love of aurally conveyed entertainment via beer names, apparel, graphics and more. So it’s no wonder that, when the estate of famed Motörhead front-man, Lemmy, sought a business to brew a beer commemorating the metal legend, they hit up Amplified.
Brewery owner and co-founder Alex Pierson was approached by a licensing firm last year. At first, he wasn’t 100% sold on the legitimacy of the company’s request, but when he ventured to an L.A. hotspot to meet with an entertainment exec, and that man was greeted with a knowing wave by star and recent Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, that gesture bolstered his faith level significantly. The two came to terms quickly, leading to Born to Lose IPA, a Citra-heavy India pale ale in the mid-6% ABV (alcohol-by-volume) range that takes cues from the recipe for Amplified’s Pig Nose Pale Ale. A prototype of the beer was on-tap at a Christmas Eve (its honoree’s birthday) release-party at famous West Hollywood live-music venue and Lemmy haunt, the Rainbow Bar & Grill, which now includes features a life-sized statue of Lemmy. A refined version of the beer is scheduled to come out in cans in February or March of this year, and a bourbon barrel-aged version of Amplified’s Belgian-style quadrupel is aging in bourbon barrels, waiting for its own Christmas Eve coming-out party later this year and a date with a bottling machine. That creation will be called Ace of Spades.
On the reunion tour front, Henley, Pierson and director of brewery operations Jeff Campbell spent a day collaborating at their Miramar brewhouse with Amplified co-founder JC Hill. Hill who now calls the coastal city of Monterey home and spends his time on the larger project he’s since moved on to, Alvarado Street Brewery. The fruits of the foursome’s enjoyable labors, Trois Cabrones (a name inspired by a classic album by The Melvins), will go on-tap at Amplified’s Miramar tasting room tomorrow, Thursday, January 12. The beer is a “hazy IPA” that had Summer and Nelson Sauvin hops added in the kettle, followed by Nelson and Mosaic in the whirlpool. It incorporates a combination of wheat, rice hulls and oats in its malt bill and was designed to smell and taste of big hops…and look like custard. The quartet admits this collaboration should have happened a long time ago. In an effort to make up for lost time, the Amplified crew will travel to north the last week of this month to brew the beer again at Alvarado Street, where it will be canned as well.
From the Beer Writer: I showed up at Amplified Ale Works’ new brewery-tasting room in Miramar the day after it opened. A hop, skip and a jump from my day-job, I was eager to see what sort of beers I’d have easier access to now that getting a hold of them wouldn’t require a trip out to the company’s original Pacific Beach location. As I perused the board, I was informed of a new offering that had been brewed specifically for the opening of the “Beeramar” space—Amplified Whammy Bar Wheat. I promptly added it to my taster-flight and made it the first of the quartet of samples I swigged. I didn’t expect to be blown away by a wheat beer as the beauty of such styles tends to be in their subtlety and balance. Whammy Bar had plenty of the latter plus nice assertiveness on the palate and a crisp finish. It tasted like, well, beer…and in this age of massive infusion and living outside the box, it was a welcomed change of pace. I thought it was really nice, but wondered if others would appreciate it. The following week, it won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup in the American-style Wheat Beer category. So, I guess that answered my question!
From the Brewers: “As an American wheat ale, Whammy Bar has a light, crisp flavor almost reminiscent of a lager, but the 40% wheat in the malt bill helps build in a nice body that provides a pleasant mouth-feel while still keeping the beer extremely drinkable. It’s the perfect beer for our brewpub patio. Having a larger, dedicated brewing facility outside of the brewpub has made our lives a lot easier. And the use of our newly installed reverse-osmosis system has really helped brewing styles like Whammy Bar Wheat, which call for a clean water-profile.”—Cy Henley, Head Brewer, Amplified Ale Works
Thank God for the Internet. Thank God for WordPress. Well…thank God for the Internet, anyway. Were it not for the real-time publishing capabilities of the web, I wouldn’t have been able to turn on a dime and provide you a sneak-peek of Amplified Ale Works’ new Miramar brewery-tasting room facility (9030 Kenamar Drive, Suite 309, Miramar). All necessary governmental agency red-tape was finally sliced through yesterday, allowing the business to open at 3 p.m. TODAY.
Fans of Amplified’s live-music thematic will appreciate that the almighty Marshall amp is as respected as ever. Future tap-handles will come in the form of Marshall stacks with Amplified’s iconic “A” logo on top, and a giant Marshall amp façade frames the flat-screen beer-board, which features a dozen different offerings, including standards like Electrocution IPA, Electro-Lite session IPA, Bearded Guard Belian-style biere de garde and Sellout light lager. Also on tap is a new American wheat ale called Whammy Bar Wheat, which will debut right along with the new spot, and Centerpointe, a 4% alcohol-by-volume Belgian pale ale brewed collaboratively with next-door neighbors, Pure Project Brewing. And head brewer Cy Henley is now brewing with newly-hired director of brewery operations and Rip Current Brewing Company alum, Jeff Campbell.
Amplified and Pure Project’s facilities are mirror-images of each other, separated only by their interior design. Such is the concept behind H.G. Fenton’s Brewery Igniter model, which leases ready-to-brew spaces equipped with brewhouses, cellars, cold-storage and customizable tasting rooms. Amplified further brings in its musical devotion with guitar-shaped taster-flight holders, vintage concert posters, black-and-white photos of rock-and-roll acts, and a projector that will play live music performances as well as the occasional Padres game (or Chargers for as long as we have them).
The primary reason Amplified ownership invested in the Brewery Igniter space was to up the amount of beer it has to sell at its Pacific Beach brewpub and increase the amount of beer it can distribute to outside accounts. Fortunately, the Amplified put plenty of thought into this space as an outlet for reaching people and providing comfort as well as a taste of a taste of its beers. There is plenty of seating along the bar and each wall, plus a long, high-table in the center of the room. It’s more seating than I’d have thought the space would afford. See for yourself starting this afternoon!
Amplified Ale Work’s Miramar tasting room will be open Monday-Thursday from 3 to 9 p.m., Friday-Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m. An official grand-opening event is planned for May 13.
Each year, San Diego Beer Week arrives and rains down a myriad of events. Like a Vegas buffet, planning and strategy are key. Otherwise, you’ll end up asleep somewhere and missing out on the fun.
This list is subjective. I focused on events that have uncommon beers and especially beers from out of San Diego. I also really want to check out some of the newest beers/breweries/spots in town. In other words, I’m fixing to learn what’s up on the cutting edge of San Diego beer and tasting the best that America’s Finest Beer City/County can produce. I’m also trying to not die in the process, so this list is biased towards central-San Diego as that’s where my bed is. My sources: our WC online beer event calendar at westcoastersd.com, Beer Week’s official website SDBW.org and our generous advertisers (make sure to check out the ads in this issue, for there are plenty of amazing happenings in there).
San Diego’s finest are also avid local beer fans and well aware of San Diego Beer Week. Don’t be a drunk driving dickhead, use your phone to talk to space and summon a Lyft or Uber. Uber lets you split fares now so you can break up the fare with the squad.
I only regret that I have but one liver to lose for my county
Friday, November 6th
Verily, this event’s grown a bit since it’s cozy inception in 2013. That said, I’m expecting a state-of-the-union for how SD beer is tasting while enjoying a sunset on the water. Details are slim as to who is pouring what exactly, but there will be unlimited food, beer and access to local brewing community folks.
If you’re attending both days, I recommend hunting the whales during the VIP. See below for my tip on the 2nd day.
Amplified Ale Works 3-Year Anniversary
There’s a growing number of adults in Pacific Beach who choose local beer over vodka slushies and our resident brewery is Amplified. Cy Henley makes amazing beers out of his seaside brewhouse, the biergarten patio overlooks the ocean and the food is amazing. When people ask me why I moved from North/South Park to PB, I take them here (then Crushed, TapRoom and Iron Pig afterwards if it’s one of those nights).
Saturday, November 7th
San Diego Brewers Guild Festival
I will most likely be slightly woozy from the previous evening, but nothing will keep me from this festival. This is because this festival is awesome. While there won’t be unlimited food, there will be even more beer and friends present, and I can get a better view of the boats floating around the bay during the day.
The general Saturday Guildfest session is a great time to check out just-opened breweries, as this is their first ever Guild Fest and they’re going to want to impress. As of late October, brand new breweries that opened this year are: Abnormal, Bay Bridge, Bay City, Division 23, Duck Foot, Guadalupe, Half Door, Helix, Home, Kilowatt, Magnetic, Novo Brazil, Pacific Islander, Prodigy, Second Chance and South Park. Be gentle with your Untappd ratings; remember all breweries were once baby breweries 🙂
Sunday, November 8th
Baja Beers @ Bottlecraft Little Italy
I was going to type some remark bemoaning the old Bottlecraft, but then I remembered the old location sucked compared to the new one. This will be the first Beer Week for Bottlecraft Little Italy 2.0, and Baja breweries are ON FIRE right now. While I couldn’t get a hold of the tap list for this event, based on the above facts I know Bottlecraft will put on a good event. Ballast Point Little Italy is a catty-corner away, and they have beer, too.
Epicurean Beer Geek Tours @ White Labs, Brothers Provisions, Stone Farms and Societe
A new face launching for SDBW, Epicurean San Diego is an outfit that promises beer, food and education while ferrying you to White Labs, Brothers Provisions, Stone Farms and Societe. I don’t get to visit White Labs, Brothers and Societe enough, and I’ve never actually had a beer at Stone Farms. The cost is $115, and if there’s food and beer involved that’s a pretty good price especially since it includes transportation and a meal. Great event for out-of-towners and if Sunday doesn’t work the same tour runs daily November 5th-8th & 12th-15th from 10:30AM-3:45PM
Monday, November 9th
Brews, Views & Chews @ Tom Ham’s Lighthouse
It’s not just about beer, folks. Beer Week brings a lot of stellar foodie events, and this is one of them. Tom Ham’s Lighthouse is an iconic San Diego landmark that underwent a significant remodel and has stepped up their beer program in 2015. This event features six breweries such as Ballast Point, New English and Belching Beaver paired with six plates from the chefs of Soda & Swine, Carnitas Snack Shack and The Little Lion Cafe. Live music and a killer view of my lovely hometown’s downtown seal the deal for me.
Abnormal Beer Co. / Cork & Craft Beer Pairing Dinner featuring Modern Times & Almanac
Another equally killer option is up north at Abnormal Beer Company / Cork & Craft. A proper sit-down beer dinner, this multi-course meal will have beers paired from Modern Times, Almanac and Abnormal paired with the skilled Cork & Craft Kitchen. While I don’t know the particulars of this event, I was lucky enough to attend an outstanding AleSmith beer dinner early in 2015. It’s a safe bet that with months worth of practice this will be worth every penny.
Tuesday, November 10th
The Full Table @ Benchmark Beer
Like any San Diegan, I dig my badass hoppy Single/Double/Triple/Quadruple IPAs. That said, as my palate evolves (and my liver ages), I find myself appreciating gentler, more subtle beers. Benchmark Brewing Company’s Table Beer is a fine example of what I’m talking about, and this night will feature 12 different variations of the slightly roasty belgian style ale. This event is a great way to tune your tastebuds. Grab a pint of regular Table for a control beer, and then taste the versions that have been barrel-aged and brettanomyces-brewed. Check out how slight changes in ingredients can create such dramatic differences. Within walking distance is the rest of the developing Grantville neighborhood beer cluster which includes Groundswell and San Diego Brewing Co.
Wednesday, November 11th
Sour Tap Takeover @ Rip Current North Park
Unlike most non-brewing satellite tasting rooms, 2015 Great American Beer Festival Very Small Brewery of the Year Rip Current’s North Park location serves guest taps in addition to the beer brewed in the San Marcos production facility. Rip Current has deep connections with local homebrewing club QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity). Thus, the staff is pretty enthusiastic about quality brews – even if they don’t brew it themselves. Guest taps will be pouring a tart selection from Almanac, Toolbox, Council, DogFish Head & more starting at 3PM.
Thursday, November 12th
7th Fling w/ Green Flash @ Hamilton’s
Like the Hajj, all San Diego beer faithful should attend this event once in their lifetime. The morning starts at Morley Field with a brunch. While you munch, Hamilton’s proprietor Scot Blair and his staff are busy matching up players to create even teams of four. After a brief talk regarding rules, the shotgun disk golf tournament starts. Disk golf is the de-facto sport of San Diego Beer, and expect several brewers to be in attendance. While all skill levels are welcome and the fun level is high, there is stiff competition. Comradery and silliness are expected by all attending. Winners get to tap the cask at the afterparty which takes place at Hamilton’s. The afterparty is closed to non-Flingers, boasts lunch and a hosted bar until 3PM (when Hamilton’s normally opens).
Craft Beer + Bites @ SILO
Maker’s Quarter is a slick venue located right off where the 94 freeway ends. $35-$40 ticket gets you unlimited tastings of beer from 15 breweries, with food, craft cocktails and wine available for purchase. Proceeds benefit the San Diego Brewers Guild, and this event is also a graduation celebration for the recent batch of students from the San Diego State Business of Craft Beer Program. Across the street is Monkey Paw and both Half Door and Mission are within walking distance (along with the rest of downtown).
Friday, November 13th
Beer Without Borders @ Machete Beer House
As I mentioned, the Mexican craft brewers are doing some great stuff. It’s much easier to get to National City than Tijuana, and Machete is one of the bright stars of the growing South Bay beer scene. All 30 taps will be taken over by breweries such as Insurgente, Agua Mala, Border Psycho and Wendlandt. For those lucky enough to have a designated driver, don’t forget to check out La Bella Pizza, Manhattan Bar and Third Street Ale House while you’re in the area to understand #SouthBayUprising.
Battle of the Guilds @ Toronado
This event ruled last year. Try beer from the greater Los Angeles and San Francisco first. Breweries that will be included from LA: Three Weavers, Beachwood, Ladyface, Monkish, Phantom Carriage + more. From the Bay Area: Magnolia, Cellarmaker, Thirsty Bear + more. Last year had lots of brewers in attendance from San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco; this is a good event to mingle! Stop in early if you’re looking for the rarer beers, or pop in while roaming 30th. Don’t forget to cast your vote for San Diego!
Saturday, November 14th
Three Amigos @ O’Brien’s Pub
Former Pizza Port brewers Tom Nickel, Jeff Bagby and Tomme Arthur have each staked their own claims at Nickel Brewing Co., Bagby Beer Co., and Lost Abbey, respectively. An event with these three dudes present is a treat. If you wanted a chance to hang out with the best of the business while tasting some insane beer, this is it. Early afternoon is probably the best time to hit this event up. O’Brien’s is within the Kearny Mesa brewery cluster, which means Societe, Council, Kilowatt and Helm’s are all within striking distance. For food, across the street are two cool new beer pubs Common Theory and Dumpling Inn.
Sunday, November 15th
The Beer Garden at the Lodge at Torrey Pines
Located on the grounds of the 5-star Lodge at Torrey Pines, the endpiece event of San Diego Beer Week is not to be missed. Gaze upon the majesty of the Torrey Pines golf course and the Pacific Ocean while stuffing your unmajestic, Beer-Week weary maw with unlimited, expertly matched food & beer pairings. This last official San Diego Brewers Guild event of the year explains to all senses why San Diego is awesome.
As this article was written late October for our November 2015 issue, numerous events have surfaced. West Coaster Editor Ryan Lamb has worked very hard to compile the best list of events in existence, so check that out along with SDBW.org and choose your own adventure!
San Diego Beer Week 2010 was when our first edition of West Coaster was published. It’s our fifth anniversary month this November. From all of us at WC: Thank you for reading!