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.
In four short years, Cosimo Sorrentino has gone from avid homebrewer to one of the most visible faces in San Diego’s brewing scene. A big reason for that is the increased visibility that comes with heading brewery operations for two brewpubs—Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery and South Park Brewing Company—and collaborating with just about every brewery in town and beyond. He considers it an honor to get to do work with his industry contemporaries to craft specialty beers, so we sat down with him to tap into some of that passion.
How did collaborations become such a big part of what you do?
The answer to this question has evolved a bit over the last three years for me. When I began brewing at Monkey Paw, (owner) Scot Blair arranged a few collaborations and mentoring sessions to help me transition from homebrewing. Now that the industry is growing at such an accelerated rate, I feel that it is important to stay connected to other breweries. Collaborations transcend most brewery restrictions such as creative freedom.
How do you like to approach collaborations?
My favorite question to ask when approaching a collaboration is: What do you want to brew that you haven’t been able to yet? This usually leads to a new style, technique or interpretation that neither of us has tried before. This constant progression is one of the reasons San Diego stays at the forefront of the brewing world. I am now lucky enough to be in a position where I not only get to learn from the veterans, I get to compare notes with other brewers who are as new or newer to the industry. Usually “teaching” something forces me to learn more than when I’m watching someone else. Blair has granted me full creative freedom and the resources to see these projects come to fruition.
With two brewpubs to take care of and a full plate, what drives you to take on all these collaborations?
CS: I enjoy learning how other brewers approach the brewing process and these insights help me understand their beers when I drink them. I recently brewed “Baby Bonobos” with Doug Hasker (the head brewer at Gordon Biersch’s Mission Valley brewpub) and we incorporated a step-mash to increase the body in the session version of our San Diego pale ale. This was a first for me and now I understand how he gets such a full mouthfeel in all of his beers. If the opportunity is there, why would I turn down an opportunity to collaborate? I have never seen a collaboration hurt a brewery or a brewer’s reputation or business, yet every project has taught me not only something about beer but also about the industry and the other artists I share it with. Plus I never get to be creative at my own brewery, so I need an excuse to brew something new every now and then. There are also a lot of collaborations that are not necessarily two brewers working together. Both Monkey Paw and South Park work with local chefs, charities and other business to create beers for a variety of events. These projects are doubly awesome because they supply people from connected industries with a deeper understanding of the brewing process and support charities.
What’s new at Monkey Paw and South Park Brewing?
CS: The menu at South Park now consists exclusively of house-made beers. We have started keeping more accessible beers on the line-up to round it out, so expect a cream/blonde ale, wheat/hefeweizen and amber/red to be on alongside our core lineup and rotating specialties. Also my assistant of two years, Jacob Mendoza, has just committed to a job as cellar man at Mikkeller Brewing San Diego. This will necessitate new blood at the breweries. Expect to see some new inspiration and techniques over the next few months.
From the Beer Writer: If you want to run into local brewers, you’re bound to do it by hitting up the happy hour at Gordon Biersch in Mission Valley. This is particularly true if you go when brewer (and West Coaster cover-boy) Doug Hasker’s band is playing one of its shows on the back patio. Many are the brewers who equally enjoy getting an earful of The Barnacles and getting to bend the ear of Hasker, the man widely recognized as San Diego County’s foremost lager expert. That reputation is based on many years of solid Germanic beers like his latest specialty brew, Gordon Biersch Maibock. Ruby in color, it comes in at 7% alcohol-by-volume, which is higher than most of the brewpub’s offerings. The beer has some heft to it, but remains easy to drink thanks to an initial caramel sweetness on the front that gives way to tea-like flavors in the middle before giving way to a toasty finish that becomes more and more pronounced as the beer warms. It’s a case-study in exceptional lager-brewing that should not be overlooked.
From the Brewer: “Gordon Biersch Maibock is an example of a true Northern German Einbecker-style bock beer. It was originally brewed by monks who drank it during the lent fasting period to minimize the hunger pangs from being hungry, as approved by the pope. This beer uses a combination of two-row base malt along with small amounts of Munich 2 and Caramunich malts, and is fermented using Munich lager yeast to create a smooth, strong, auburn-hued beer weighing in at 7.2% ABV. In modern days, the Maibock style has become a community celebratory beer to welcome the coming of spring. In that tradition, we at Gordon Biersch celebrated the tapping of the new beer this Tuesday on the beer garden. My band, The Barnacles, cheerfully rocked the house in celebration with great success. It’s always so satisfying to bring together all that makes life grand—great music, great friends and great beer…and a great charity, in this case the Lupus Foundation of Southern California—all the while belonging to such a vibrant brewing community here in San Diego. I am humbled and grateful to be a part of it.”—Doug Hasker, Southwest Regional Brewer, Gordon Biersch