From the Beer Writer: Of the most recent entrants to the San Diego brewing industry, few have been so impressive from the get-go as Eppig Brewing. The first interest to open in North Park’s Craft by Brewery Igniter complex, it has a lot to offer. There are currently well over a dozen beers on-tap, but even when they had less than half of that available early on, that handful included some real winners. Tops among those first drafts was Eppig Natural Bridge Festbier. Much like Christmas ales or Lent beers, most brewers only produce this lager-style during a certain period, in this case Germany’s Oktoberfest season. But not at Eppig, where they smartly realize their Festbier’s quality is such that it should be a year-round offering. Bready yet light with bristly mineral notes, it’s a study in balance and elegance that comes in at 6% alcohol-by-volume. Behind this and the other members of Eppig’s Natural Bridge family of lagers (Baltic porter, hoppy Pilsner, schwarzbier, zwickelbier and, soon, a lightly oak-smoked Vienna lager), this young brewery belongs among the small number of breweries brewing top-notch lagers in ale-heavy San Diego. Read more »
With three companies building out breweries within its confines, CRAFT by Brewery Igniter (3052 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park) has provided me a great deal of material for my beer-writings. It will eventually be the only place in all of San Diego County where one can visit three breweries in one fell swoop. But before that can happen, those businesses need to open. The first to do so will be Eppig Brewing Company, the soft-opening for which will take place this Wednesday, November 2. Following Wednesday’s debut, Eppig will be open during limited hours seven-days-a-week.
Last week, I had the opportunity to check out Eppig’s recently completed tasting-room and check out its first five beers. Often, pre-open beer tastings turn up multiple beers that could use some work—often by the admission of the brewers themselves—but Eppig’s brewer duo of Nathan Stephens and Clayton LeBlanc (hailing from Ballast Point Brewing’s Little Italy and Scripps Ranch breweries, respectively) are rather happy with their initial offerings. And so was I.
Despite the fact they are brewing in an environment that requires a bit of process-ingenuity and implementation of “Jenga-like” shifting of hoses and other equipment, they have put together a solid line-up of traditional lagers (referred to as “Natural Bridge” beers) and New World creations that I look forward to returning to. The following are my initial impressions of each…
The next beer to hit the menu will be a single IPA called “Factory of Dreams” in reference to a nearby business on El Cajon Boulevard. Similarly, the aforementioned “Glitz & Glam” shares its name with the Friday night show performed at Eppig’s next-door neighbor biz, Lips. The entire Eppig team says their neighbors have been extremely friendly and supportive, and they’re as pleased as can be about being a part of the community developer H.G. Fenton selected for CRAFT.
One thing that makes Eppig different from its fellow CRAFT tenants, Pariah Brewing Company and San Diego Brewing Company, is the addition of a small pilot-system that will be used for experimenting with new recipes before ramping them up to full-batch production. Working on developmental brews in this manner is old-hat for Stephens, who completed roughly 350 brews on Ballast Point’s (much larger) pilot-system over a three-year span. Doing so lent him great experience with a vast array of ingredients from suppliers the world over, knowledge he and LeBlanc put to use at their new stomping grounds.
In February, I shared news of H.G. Fenton’s upcoming triad of leasable turn-key brewery-tasting room combos coming to the city of San Diego’s beeriest community, North Park. Now, that facility has a name—CRAFT by Brewery Igniter—and a new tenant. Joining previously reported operation Pariah Brewing Company will be J&L Eppig Brewing, a heritage interest dating back a century-and-a-half.
Originally founded in Brooklyn, New York by Bavarian immigrant Leonhard Eppig in 1866, the operation grew to a lager-beer empire of sorts comprising multiple breweries (Leonhard Eppig Germania and his brother’s biz, Joseph Eppig Brewery). The brewery survived the Prohibition Era. As rumor has it, that had something to do with noted gangster Dutch Schultz. After the repeal of Prohibition, business recommenced, but the brewery was sold in 1935 to the Ehret family. It’s believed gang influence was responsible for that development, as well.
The second-coming of the brand is being initiated by great granddaughter Stephanie Eppig, who is looking to produce German-style lagers inspired by the original brewery’s 19th century recipes while also exploring modern-day brewing trends and techniques. To help with the latter, she and her husband-slash-business partner, Todd Warshaw, have signed on two brewers hailing from Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits—Clayton LeBlanc and Nathan Stephens
LeBlanc is a co-founder of Eppig 2.0. He bartended at Karl Strauss Brewing Company for five years before embarking on a four-year career with Ballast Point that saw him starting out on the bottling-line at its Scripps Ranch facility before advancing to the point where he became a brewer who also assisted with grain-management and the training of new brewers. Stephens will serve as principal brewer for the new business, overseeing brewery operations, after three years serving as Ballast Point’s lead research-and-development brewer primarily working out of the company’s Little Italy brewpub.
Like others within the CRAFT campus, LeBlanc and Stephens will utilize a 10-barrel Premier Stainless brewhouse. That apparatus will be used to produce a varied line of beers ranging from IPAs to kettle-sours, barrel-aged high-gravity beers to the aforementioned lagers. Overall, Eppig says her brewery’s beers will be balanced and approachable. The company’s annual production goal for its first full year in business sits at approximately 1,000 barrels, but provided demand increases as they hope, yearly production is projected to rise to 2,500 barrels by 2019.
H.G. Fenton is currently in negotiations with its third and final CRAFT tenant. By year’s end, the campus should provide a rare craft-beer first for San Diego—a single building where people can visit three completely different breweries without ever leaving the premises. In addition to convenience, it also solves potential transportation problems for the brewery-hopping sect while allowing them to save on car-services (or make it easier on their gracious DDs).