Last week, we examined some of the most promising work-in-progress beer projects in the eastern portions of San Diego County. Today, as part of this bi-annual four-part series, I am offering up information on the most intriguing brewery-owned venues coming to the western communities.
Thorn St. Brewery, Barrio Logan: In building a facility to up production and meet demand, one of North Park’s most popular breweries is taking over two identical former factory spaces on National Avenue, stocking one with tons of stainless and an intimate tasting room, and the other with a distillery, restaurant, retail space and a large patio area. It’s the type of grand project that figures to keep Barrio Logan’s artisanal renaissance chugging right along.
Click here to read more about this project
Protector Brewery, Miramar: Beeramar’s most brewery-saturated area (and that’s saying a lot), the Miralani Drive industrial park just west of Camino Ruiz, is getting its fourth fermentation operation (joining 2kids Brewing, Align Brewing and Setting Sun Sake Brewing) care of former Navy SEALs who are installing San Diego’s first all-organic brewery in an effort to produce quality beer while helping American farm workers and preserving the environment.
Viewpoint Brewing Co., Del Mar: While San Diego has breweries owned by chefs, this brewpub will be the county’s first purely chef-driven interest. Years in the making, it will give purpose and life to a rundown building along the banks of the San Dieguito Lagoon while providing Del Mar its first ever brewery. Culinary innovations and beers built to pair with cuisine is what this place is all about. At last check, owner Charles Koll was planning to soft-open this Friday.
Click here to read more about this project
Sometimes brewery leads come from the most unexpected sources. I was at a white-linen restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe recently, when a young chef emerged from the kitchen to explain a complex and delicious clam and pork belly appetizer to me. After doing so, he said he knew I wrote about beer and thought I should talk to a friend of his who was in the midst of opening a brewery in Del Mar. I asked him if he was referring to Viewpoint Brewing Company. He replied in the affirmative and, a few days later, the three of us were chatting about this work-in-progress brewpub over a few beers. Read more »
Summer is nigh and the temps will soon be high. That’s right…IPA weather! Of course, there’s no reason to wait around to drink hoppy beers, or any beers for that matter. The following are some prime opportunities for doing just that. Check them out, then refer to our master events page for even more good times to be had in the presence of quality craft-beer.
June 4 | Anniversaries: With more than 100 breweries in San Diego County, there’s bound to be some birthday overlap here and there. Split-time or double-up with gluten-free operation Duck Foot Brewing Company as they celebrate their first year in business and Intergalactic Brewing Company, which turns three. They’re both in Miramar, so geography is your friend here! | Duck Foot Brewing Company, 8920 Kenamar Drive, Suite 210, Miramar, 12 p.m.; Intergalactic Brewing Company, 9715 Carroll Centre Road, Suite 107, Miramar, 1 p.m.
June 4 | Brew & Food Festival: So you prefer food to anniversaries. No problem. International culinary superstar Javier Plascencia is gathering a bunch of his taste buds (i.e., really good chefs) to pair their cuisine with more than 200 terrific craft-beers from breweries near and far on San Diego’s downtown bay-front, all in support of San Diego Coastkeeper. | Waterfront Park, Downtown, 1600 Pacific Highway, 2 p.m.
June 10 & 11 | More Anniversaries: What was that thing I was ranting about with birthday-overlap. Two straight weekends equals more identical anniversary dates with dueling celebrations. If you want to hit them all, head to Division 23 Brewing Company‘s one-year annie on Friday, then make it a double on Saturday with Council Brewing Company’s two-year festivities followed by Societe Brewing Company’s four-year battle of the brewers. | Council Brewing Company, 7705 Convoy Court, Kearny Mesa, Times Vary; Societe Brewing Company, 8262 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Kearny Mesa, 12 p.m.
June 17 | Tony Gwynn 5.5K: This annual tradition pays homage to the greatest sports-hero in San Diego history while raising money to support the non-profit organization he and his wife founded to help underprivileged locals and youth facing barriers to employment, the Tony and Alicia Gwynn Foundation. Run or walk through Beeramar, then relax with a San Diego Pale Ale .394 (or four). | AleSmith Brewing Company, 9990 AleSmith Court, Miramar, 8 a.m.
June 17-19 | San Diego International Beer Festival: It’s one of the largest international beer-festivals in the country…and you can enjoy it in tandem with the San Diego County Fair. Hundreds of beers, plus food-pairings, educational-seminars and other value-addeds await over a three days and five all-you-can-enjoy sessions. | Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar, Times Vary
There’s more to the San Diego County Fair than tilt-a-whirls, geode collections, hot-tub shows and deep-fried everything. It also plays host to one of the largest annual craft-beer festivals, here or anywhere on the West Coast, the San Diego International Beer Festival (SDIBF). This year’s event will feature hundreds of beers from multiple states and countries, all of which can be sampled in an all-you-can-drink (responsibly) format during five sessions taking place over three days from June 17 to 19. In addition to fun for the general public, there is also a brewing-competition component, the winners of which were recently announced. For the second straight year, AleSmith Brewing Company earned Champion Brewery bragging rights, with 23 gold medals (and 41 medals total) awarded to local breweries. It’s quite an event with a rich history and promising future. For more on both, we sat down with event organizer Tom Nickel (who also owns Nickel Beer Company, O’Brien’s Pub and West Coast Barbecue and Brews).
What was the impetus for the SDIBF?
The original idea came from Chad Stevens, who was a member of (local homebrew club) QUAFF. He’d been running the homebrew competition at the fair for a number of years and felt there should be a professional competition there as well. He brought me in because he felt he needed someone on the professional side to legitimize the idea it was a professional competition. The vision was for a competition for professional brewers by professional brewers. We had like 200 entries the first year and thought it was highly successful. We held it in the paddock area and it was a one-day afternoon festival. It was fun, and it’s grown from there.
Tell me about the tremendous growth of the field and competition over the years.
Twice before we’ve had exponential growth where we’ve reached another plateau. We slowly grew by a hundred or so each year, then four-or-five years ago, when the real boom of brewery openings occurred, we had a jump from 600 to 900 and we hovered at just under 1,000 for the last three years. This year, we jumped from 979 to 1,356 total entries, over 1,300 of which were beers—a 44% increase overall.
Who are some of the individuals who’ve been integral to the SDIBF’s success?
Chad was with us the first three years, then moved on. That’s when I brought (Bagby Beer Company founder) Jeff Bagby in to help me. He was there a number of years, and the last two years that slot’s been filled by (O’Brien’s Pub general manager) Tyson Blake. Throughout the whole time—from Chad to now—Chris Shadrick has run the homebrew competition and served as judging coordinator. He helps coordinate all the judges for the competition, as well. Tyson and I do the festival and entries, marketing and promotion of the competition and festival.
How are judges solicited for the competition?
We have two avenues. One is registering in the competition with the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program). The SDIBF is posted on their website so all BJCP judges can see and access the event. What really sets SDIBF apart from most events is most BJCP-certified homebrewers don’t have the opportunity to judge professional beers. That’s a real carrot as far as enticing the judges. Secondly, we solicit through the local professional brewing community; from people who enter through the San Diego Brewers Guild and also, for the first time ever this year, through the craft-beer programs at UCSD and SDSU.
What can attendees to this year’s SDIBF look forward to?
There’ll be an expanded VIP area with food pairings and more space on the festival floor as we continually grow our footprint. We’re expecting beers from 15 countries, and the selection of beer in terms of number of different places it’s sent from will be unparalleled compared to any festival west of Denver’s Great American Beer Festival. Ditto the number of different beers and the diversity of international beers that we’ll have. We’ll also have a special beer, Steampunk Ale, a California common brewed specifically for the SDIBF by Abnormal Beer Company, and rare beer tappings throughout the festival.
Where is the SDIBF going?
The competition component is only going to continue to grow and we’re expanding our paid staff to accommodate that. The Del Mar Fairgrounds are doing everything they can to keep SDIBF growing at whatever pace it naturally grows at. If it doubled in the next 10 years, I don’t feel like there will end up being a cap. With the festival itself, there are a lot of interesting ideas. It’s always been my belief that the SDIBF will become enough of an event that, eventually, it won’t be part of the fair, but will instead take place as its own event over a weekend. I feel like for some connoisseurs, they don’t want to deal with the fair crowds, tickets, etc., but I do see us easily doing an independent festival. But having a presence at the fair is always important, so maybe we’ll do two events. I feel like part of the benefit for brewers is not only getting to expose their products to die-hard beer-fans, but also make new converts in an all-you-can-taste setting.
July is a time to celebrate our independence, but the fun times shouldn’t be relegated to the first weekend of the month. Especially not in San Diego County where dozens of top-notch local beer events lay sprawled out over the course of the month. Check out some of these all-‘Murican brewhahas then refer to our full list of local beer events.
July 8 | Hop-Con 3.0, The w00tstout Festival: Celebrating the annual release of a massive wheat, pecan, oak and bourbon fortified imperial stout collaboratively brewed at Stone Brewing Co. with Wil Wheaton and Drew Curtis, this event will feature that duo plus a slew of specialty beers and an on-site arcade bringing together geeks of the beer and traditional ilk. | Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, 2816 Historic Decatur Road, Point Loma, 8 p.m.
July 11 | Heroes Brew Craft Beer Festival: Ever wanted the thrill of sharing a pale with Punisher, dark ale with Darth Vader or witbier with Wonder Woman. Holy barley wine, Batman, at this festival, these sudsy scenarios can jump straight from the pages of your favorite comic books and into the real world when costume-clad imbibers blend childhood heroes with adult beverages. | The Loma Club, 2960 Truxton Road, Point Loma, 3 p.m.
July 11 & 12 | 2nd Anniversary Party: Even if you’re not a fan of a made-up vernacular including terms like cockstaggering (at least make it a hyphenate), there’s bound to be a brew that jibes with your sensibilities at Modern Times Beer’s two-year, two-day fiesta, which will include tappings of new, rare and one-off creations as well as (unlimited servings of) cold-brewed coffee. | Modern Times Beer, 3725 Greenwood Street, Lomaland, Times Vary
July 25 | Mike Hess Fest: There’s nothing like a block party, especially when it’s thrown by a brewery with five years of fermentation fete experience. For one fun-filled day, Mike Hess Brewing Company will take over a full block in North Park, inviting over brewing industry friends not only from San Diego County, but Arizona as well to celebrate a half-decade in the beer biz. | Mike Hess Brewing Company, 3812 Grim Avenue, North Park, 12:30 p.m.
July 25 | San Diego Craft Beer Fest: Win, place, show, trifectas, quinellas…these can be complicated to grasp, but thanks to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s dedication to the local brewery scene, getting a grasp of ales and lagers from throughout San Diego County will be easy during this fest featuring more than 100 beers plus food trucks, DJs and, oh yeah, horses. | Del Mar Racetrack, 2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar, 2 p.m.