From the Beer Writer: In a time that could have been labeled the “dark ages,” beers bolstered by bright, green hops and obsidian malts were everywhere. They were the it beers of the early twenty-teens and so popular there was a battle over the style name they went by. Most referred to them as Black IPAs (India pale ales), but brewers in the Pacific Northwest attempted to lay claim to them, dubbing them “Cascadian dark ales.” Figuring flashy hop-impact was San Diego brewers’ calling card, a local brewery went completely against the Cascadian evergreen grain, calling their black IPA a “San Diego dark ale.” Just as the debate reached a fever pitch among those in the brewing community, the drinking public decided they didn’t care about the name of the style…or the style itself. Sales dropped off and within a year or two, nearly every black IPA on the market was eliminated from portfolios across the country. They were the hazy IPAs of their day, and then they were gone. But some determined brewers who see the beauty in the contradictory big-hops-meets-heavy-roast nature of these beers dare to continue crafting them. Count Home Brewing Company‘s George Thornton and Jacob Bauch key members of that group. They brew their black IPA, El Matador on an annual basis. This year, it’s available in cans as part of Home Brewing’s year-long program of rolling out four-packs of canned collaboration beers brewed with local fermentationists, including Gordon Biersch‘s Doug Hasker, Daniel Cady of Mikkeller Brewing San Diego and Mike Skubic of Old Harbor Distilling. Though Thornton contests this black IPA is really a “hoppy porter” (the debate continues), it drinks like the former, exhibiting great balance between lemony hops and roasty specialty malts. Those polar-opposite ingredients dovetail nicely in the finish with a coffee-like richness and piney tackiness finding common, lasting ground. It’s a splendid version of a style that probably should never have disappeared from the scene, and a brilliant way to remember a good man who many wish hadn’t sadly and unexpectedly followed suit.
From the Brewer: :”El Matador is a tribute to Jeff McCue. Jeff was one of those people that had more groups of friends and admirers than you could possibly imagine. We knew him as an avid homebrewer that shared our passion for education and growth. He was a graduate from SDSU’s Business of Craft Beer Program, a Certified Cicerone and was working on his BJCP beer-judge certification. He was also a professional photographer, verified parrot-head, loving husband, absolute goofball, giant sweetheart and wine lover. His passing from a brain aneurysm was a complete surprise for all of us. He was an otherwise healthy and happy person. He was a guy who liked to get the last word, and I think he succeeded when he managed to get more than 100 people from every facet of his dynamic life together in one place to send him a final ‘F*ck you McCue!’ Truth is, that wasn’t the final ‘FU McCue.’ I use the phrase often, usually in moments where I feel like I’m overwhelmed and wish that I had his witty charm to get through a stressful moment. Then I realize that by thinking of him, it’s still there…and he once again has the final word. ‘FU McCue.’ El Matador was a recipe he brewed for one of his friends’ thirtieth birthday and it was one of his wife’s favorite beers. We brew this beer every year to celebrate his birthday. #cheerstoyoumccue”—George Thornton, Owner, Home Brewing Company
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
There’s no fooling around—April is brimming over with beer-related events worth attending. So much so that highlighting a mere five was very difficult. Consider this the tip of the iceberg. Peruse this flight of recommended happenings, then check out (and continue to check back on) our full events page.
April 8 | Brand Refresh Party: The team behind Legacy Brewing Company decided to give themselves a makeover, making tweaks to their eagle-ensconced logo, but they weren’t done there. They’ve redone the interior design and exterior mural-work at their Oceanside brewery, and are ready to show it off with beers that are—you guessed it—brand new! | Legacy Brewing, 363 Airport Road, Oceanside, 1 p.m.
April 15 | Mission Valley Craft Beer & Food Festival: The seventh annual manifestation of this local beer-and-food throw-down figures to make good on the over-the-top reputation its earned behind beer-loving chefs who’ve been in on it from the beginning, plus a cornucopia of culinary and craft-beer creations from throughout San Diego County. | Qualcomm Stadium Practice Field, 9449 Friars Road, Mission Valley, VIP: 12 p.m., General Admission: 1:30 p.m.
April 18 | Campaign Pre-Launch Party: 45 events comprising 2017’s Beer to the Rescue campaign benefiting the Lupus Foundation of Southern California will take place in May, but this April shindig on the patio of Gordon Biersch will offer a preview of the fun to come, and feature head brewer Doug Hasker’s just-released Maibock, and his band, The Barnacles. | Gordon Biersch, 5010 Mission Center Road, Mission Valley, 5 p.m.
April 20 | Fermented Pairings: Some things are just so good you have to do them again. Case in point, an educational event exploring the vibrantly flavorful overlapping of beer and the lavish, yeasty and cake-textured confections of North Park’s Nomad Donuts. Learn about both through thoughtful consumption at the 16th installment of White Labs’ fun and experiential saga. | White Labs, 9495 Candida Street, Miramar, 6 p.m.
April 25 | Beer Dinner No. 1: The ale-and-lager game at North Park Beer Co. is made even better by on-site meat-men, Mastiff Sausage Co. Step up to NPBC’s second-floor mezzanine and watch as these entities come together like never before in an inaugural, five-course beer-dinner that will include smoked duck breast, lamb kofka, Bavarian bundt cake and, of course, beer! | North Park Beer Co., 3038 University Avenue, North Park, 7 p.m.
Earlier this week, news broke about popular local brewer Cosimo Sorrentino resigning from his dual-head brewer post at Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery and South Park Brewing Co. A fixture in the community who made a point to communicate and collaborate with nearly every brewery within the county, it was surprising to here he was stepping down, but even more confounding to discover he would absolutely be leaving San Diego come the New Year. More information was in order, so we went to the source to appease readers’ logical queries and concern.
West Coaster: What led you to depart your position heading Monkey Paw and South Park Brewing?
Cosimo Sorrentino: A combination of factors, the biggest of which is a necessity for personal growth. I was lucky to learn my craft in the community I grew up in and under an owner that has so much passion, but I feel that I have reached a point where to progress I need a little less comfort and a new environment.
WC: Though your next step has yet to be determined, you are certain you will leave San Diego. Why is that?
CS: I feel San Diego has crossed over to a new era in brewing. The community spirit is being fractured; too many breweries fighting over the same styles, following trends for profit, not enough quality staff to provide front-of-house service…and let’s not get into the distributor issues. This was inevitable and will not necessarily be a bad thing for those making or drinking beer. San Diego beer will get better and those that succeed will benefit from the competition! For myself, I hope that finding a location where the scene is a bit younger will allow me to help foster the same type of conscious collaborative growth that has led to San Diego’s emergence as the beer capitol of the world. It might be selfish, but I have really enjoyed the journey so far and want to keep making new beers with and for new people.
WC: After being such a peacemaker and heavy collaborator within the San Diego industry, is it difficult for you to move on?
CS: Not to be cliché, but this is truly the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. It means stepping away from, not only the coolest brewing job I’ve seen, but leaving family, friends and, potentially even my dog. I am bummed that I will not have the chance to collaborate with some guys and gals in town—especially some of the new breweries—and that I will not be part of Monkey Paw’s next step as a business, whatever that may be.
WC: What will you miss the most about the San Diego brewing and beer scenes?
CS: One word: HOPS! No, but seriously, I will miss the universal nature of the love for beer and brewers in this city. It will be weird to walk into three-or-four bars in an evening and not run into a fellow brewer or maybe even an educated beer-drinker. I’ve never felt the camaraderie and respect that I have experienced in San Diego with brewers and consumers alike.
WC: What are some of your finest memories of your time brewing professionally in San Diego?
CS: Wow. Hardest question…I’ll never forget the first week I got the job at Paw. I had every brewer that I had looked up to either drop in or hit me up on the phone to help me get dialed in. It was a whirlwind, and I did not fully appreciate it at the time, but this foundation paid off and I will be forever grateful. Those memories were revisited last year when I got to sit in on a collab at Karl Strauss on Columbia Street. Not only did we have (KS brewmaster) Paul Segura, (Gordon Biersch head brewer) Doug Hasker and (Monkey Paw/South Park Brewing owner) Scot Blair brewing that day, (Ballast Point Brewing VP) Colby Chandler dropped in to open some bottles as a farewell to (former Green Flash Brewing Co. brewmaster and current Silva Brewing owner/brewmaster) Chuck Silva on his last day in San Diego. This was only made better by the fact that I had invited (North Park Beer Co. assistant brewer) Joaquin Basauri to drop in. This was early on in Joaquin and I’s friendship and the look on his face as we drank barleywine and talked shop with these godfathers brought me back to that feeling of awe.
WC: What were your goals for the semi-controversial public-forum you held to discuss the changing landscape of San Diego beer?
CS: While the forum never became a series, I hope that the discussion was opened and people are more likely to speak honestly and in an informed manner about the evolution of our city and the industry. I am glad there is a reduced amount of animosity because that energy can be redirected towards progression instead of hate and fear.
WC: Any parting words for our readers?
CS: Thank you for absolutely everything. I hope I’ve returned 10% of the happiness and joy you have given me.