From the Beer Writer: You know that feeling when you arrive at a bar or a friend’s house and, before you can even say a word, you’re handed a beverage that you hastily take a sip of and instantly find yourself completely blown away by? Of course you do. It’s one of those magic moments beer-lovers live for: the exciting discovery of something brand new and exquisite. That happened to me last weekend at Dos Desperados Brewery. I arrived at that San Marcos establishment to help staff one of my Beer to the Rescue fundraising events and was greeted by a full pour of a lovely golden beer with a fluffy white head, Dos Desperados Nelson Lager. Happy to be there and off State Route 78, I dove right in…and fell in love. It was the perfect beer for the sunny day I was in the midst of—light in body yet big on hop and lager-yeast character in the nose and on the palate. The limestone and floral notes from the yeast dovetailed beautifully with vinous flavors from the Nelson Sauvin making up the beer’s entire hop-bill. It was simple yet special, so much that I could have spent hours drinking pint after pint, something that wouldn’t have been too tough given the beer’s 4.9% alcohol-by-volume stat. The recipe for this all-day pleaser (which, as good as it was, is only in its R&D phase) was developed with fellow San Marcos operation, Prodigy Brewing Company, with assistance from a noted lager expert at Mission Valley’s Gordon Biersch brewpub. I’m glad to report it will be on-tap and helping Beer to the Rescue tomorrow, and soon become a staple in Dos Desperados’ year-round portfolio.
From the Brewer: “Our Nelson Lager is a Prodigy Brewing, Gordon Biersch and Dos Desperados Brewery collaboration for Beer to the Rescue that benefits the Lupus Foundation of Southern California. A special thanks goes out to Dean Rouleau and Doug Hasker for this Czech-style lager with rich, crisp maltiness and freshly crushed gooseberry flavor—think Sauvignon Blanc grapes from New Zealand, which come care of the Nelson Sauvin hops we used.”—Steve Munson, Owner & Brewmaster, Dos Desperados Brewery
Those with less examining eyes might think little has changed with San Diego Brewing Company over its 23-year history…but those people would be wrong. On the more obvious side, the Mission Valley brewpub completed an overhaul of a redesign in 2013, the same year it brought aboard head brewer Jeff Drum to replace longtime headman Dean Rouleau (who departed to open his current venture, Prodigy Brewing Company). These were important on-the-surface changes, but on a subdermal level, Drum has added numerous new beers to the company’s offerings, including barrel-aged sours. The company also produced the winning entry in the hotly contested India pale ale category at this year’s San Diego International Beer Festival competition for its San Diego IPA (a name it has smartly trademarked). It’s no wonder SDBC’s Lee Doxtader feels they’re making the best beer they ever had.
The above items have SDBC poised for even more, and that’s why ownership has decided to take the county’s second longest tenured brewing operation to the next level. Doxtader and company have signed on as the third and final tenant of upcoming CRAFT by Brewery Igniter, a trio of brewery-tasting room facilities in North Park near the intersection of El Cajon Boulevard and 30th Street. Billed as the only place in San Diego where beer-fans will be able to visit three breweries under one roof, the project (which is scheduled to open to the public in a matter of a month or two) will also be home to J&L Eppig Brewing and Pariah Brewing Co. All three interests will brew using identical 10-barrel Premier Stainless brewing systems and feature their own aesthetically customized tasting room.
Doxtader says to expect the same relaxing, easygoing atmosphere he and his team have worked to build at the original brewpub, and looks forward to reaching new people. It’s one of the biggest reasons he’s wanted to increase production for quite some time—something signing on with Brewery Igniter (a program from local developer H.G. Fenton) will allow SDBC to do. In his words, he wants to “get outside the pubisphere” and check out the demand for SDBC’s beers beyond their birthplace. Doxtader expects SDBC’s North Park offshoot to debut in the next two or three months. Meanwhile, it will be business as usual at the Mission Valley brewpub.
The name Prodigy Brewing Company has been floating through San Diego beer rumor streams since 2012. And over the past year, some of the fledgling brewery’s beers have been flowing through taps at some of San Diego’s finer craft-beer bars. Still, a great deal of fuzziness and misinformation exists where this business is concerned. So, we went straight to the source, co-founder Howell Gillogly—a homebrewer of 23 years who convinced the long-time head brewer for San Diego Brewing Company—to change course and embark on a new next chapter—to clear things up about where Prodigy is located and when its beers will be easier to find and more regularly available.
You had a brewing facility in Grantville. What happened to that spot?
In August of 2015, we started looking for a new home for the brewery, since the Grantville building was sold out from under us. We had to completely suspend brewing, tear down the brewery operations and have all hands on deck (three of us) out and about looking for a new brewery home. The move went as well as can be expected when dealing with massive 30-barrel fermenters. Prodigy left the old building on December 31.
Where are you now?
We found a new home up in San Marcos, not too far from Rip Current Brewing Company. Once we’re done with all the build-out and setting up our hardware, we can begin brewing once again. As of today, we’ve installed the electric systems, glycol lines and top-treated the floors. We are so close to moving the tanks in!
Your beers have been spotted throughout San Diego. Where all have they been served?
Last May, June and July we canvassed the entire 30th Street corridor with a new 7.5% IPA called CitraLicious. [Head brewer] Dean Rouleau wanted me to do a huge marketing push, but I took a different route and simply let the beer sell itself. I told Dean that his world-class beer was enough and it did just that! It completely blew up the scene with 15.5-gallon kegs blowing out in as as little as 24 hours, so I’ll take that as a win. Ian Black, the owner of Toronado, was so stoked with CitraLicious that he asked for three kegs per week. I was happy to oblige! A big kudus came when Lee Chase, the owner of Blind Lady Ale House and Tiger! Tiger! Tavern, tried a pint and said, “Simply awesome. I want more of this for my locations.” We poured CitraLicious at [these and other top spots]…CitraLicious began showing up on Untapped. It was really cool to see so many people logging in and rating this beer, so much in fact that our little brewery gained a total ranking higher than some of the more established breweries. Again, this is all the work of Dean, which led me to create a new tag line “born to do this”.
And now you’re looking for additional venues?
Our current project, outside of the build-out, is looking for external tasting rooms. We’ve decided that having two-to-four tasting rooms across San Diego County will be the best solution for getting the beer to the public and offer us the best margins. The artist’s rendering (at right) is a brand-new development on South Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach. This space hasn’t been built-out yet, but the developer is very keen on having a brewery tasting room. We’ve seen the renderings and floorplans, and it would be a beautiful 2,500-to-3,000 square-foot room. We are also looking for locations in North Park, possibly at a recently vacated coffee-shop. Dean and I would really like to be in North Park, so that’s the current focus. We also had some conversations with the City of Chula Vista, but what we were shown wasn’t the best locations for us. It was west of Interstate 5. We want to be in a main business district.
When can people expect to see Prodigy beers available in greater quantities?
I hope to have beer out in the market by the start of May via self-distribution to our very loyal accounts. Tasting room build-outs are going to take some time, and I’ll keep everyone up-to-date via Prodigy’s Facebook page.