Winners of the San Diego International Beer Festival’s professional brewing competition were released today. A component of the San Diego County Fair’s annual festivities, the competition included entries from across the globe judged by professional beer judges and Southern California brewing professionals in late-April. A total of 68 medals were awarded to San Diego-based breweries. Of that number, 23 were gold, 21 were silver and 24 were bronze.
San Diego breweries won all three medals in eight categories: American-style Red/Amber Ale, Bitter, Bold Stout, Brett and Other Sour Beer, German-style Ale, German-style Weiss, Imperial Stout and Pilsener. Miramar-based AleSmith Brewing Company once again took home Champion Brewery honors behind three medals—a gold and silver in the same category (one of which was awarded to a Scotch ale) and a gold in the Barley Wine category.
The most local medals went to Pizza Port. That brewpub’s Carlsbad brewpub also won a gold and two silvers. Its Ocean Beach arm won two (one gold, one bronze) and Bressi Ranch production brewery earned a silver. The most medals awarded to a single brewery went to San Marcos’ Rip Current Brewing Company and less-than-a-year-old North Park interest Eppig Brewing. Both of those companies earned a gold, silver and two bronzes. San Marcos’ The Lost Abbey and South Park Brewing Company earned three medals apiece, as well. Also impressive was Rip Current winning two of three medals in the German-style Bock category.
The following is a complete list of the winners from this years SDIBF…
The three-day public beer-fest portion of the SDIBF will take place at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Friday, June 16 through Sunday, June 18. Tickets and information can be found online.
Back when I worked Stone Brewing’s Escondido headquarters, many were the nights when me and my marketing colleagues would walk over to the much smaller brewery down the street and knock off with a pint or two. That operation, Offbeat Brewing Company, was the family-run project of an ex-Stone cellar man following his own muse, crafting mostly sessionable beers, many of which had English roots. So it’s sad to hear that today will be Offbeat’s swan song.
Yesterday, owner and brewmaster Tom Garcia announced he has made the difficult decision to close the doors to his brewery, but not before one last St. Patrick’s Day hurrah. So if you’re looking for a farewell-taste of Bear Arms Brown Ale or Girafficopter Pale Ale, this is it. Garcia says with his lease up, it made sense to close the book on Offbeat. That said, the 15-year industry veteran says he’s not against the idea of trying his hand at the brewing business again.
Offbeat opened in 2012 with a bar built from wood from old pallets and discarded furniture, plus a makeshift brewery Garcia described as “the Millennium Falcon of brewhouses.” From the get-go, the space was punched-up from an artistic aspect. The upper portion of the west wall featured a colorful mural with outlandish characters, while the bottom half and many of the other walls regularly featured art from an array of local artists. That art was for sale with 100% of proceeds going to the artist, so that outlet will surely be missed by the creative sect. And painted portraits of outlandish characters like Deer Grandpa and the aforementioned Bear Arms looked good behind the bar.
In the end, what made Offbeat’s location so great for Team Stone, likely hurt the business in the long run. Surviving in an obscure business park on a side-road a half-mile from a major destination like Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido must have been challenging. Choosing between the two equates to a no-brainer of sorts for beer-tourists who’ve come any nominal distance to visit Escondido. But plenty of locals enjoyed Offbeat during its time, mostly for its polar-opposite, laidback vibe and beers.
Offbeat joins other San Diego County breweries that have closed their doors since last summer, including On-The-Tracks Brewery, Lightning Brewery, Valley Center Brewery and Pacific Brewing.
Today, the Brewers Association released its annual set of lists of Top 50 Breweries from the last calendar year. The rankings are based on beer sales volume, and broken into two lists—Top 50 U.S. Craft Brewing Companies and Top 50 Overall U.S. Brewing Companies. The latter includes the likes of Anheuser Busch and MillerCoors as well as former craft-brewing interests that no longer qualify as craft breweries under the BA’s definition, such as Lagunitas Brewing Co. and locally based concern Ballast Point Brewing.
The Top 50 U.S. Craft Brewing Companies list includes three San Diego County businesses—the same ones that have graced the list for the past several years. Escondido’s Stone Brewing is the highest ranked at #9 (they are listed at #17 on the Overall U.S. Brewing Companies list), with Green Flash Brewing Co. rising four spots from the year prior to #37 (#46 on the Overall list) and Karl Stauss Brewing Co. ascending five spots to take its place at #41.
D.G. Yeungling & Son, Inc. retained the top spot on the Craft Brewing Companies list, followed (in order) by Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewing Co., Gambrinus, Duvel Moortgat USA, Bell’s Brewery, Deschutes Brewery, Stone and Oskar Blues. The top 10 for the Overall list was as follows: Anheuser-Busch, Inc.; MillerCoors; Pabst Brewing Co.; D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc.; North American Breweries; Boston Beer Co.; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; New Belgium Brewing Co.; Lagunitas and Craft Brew Alliance. Ballast Point registered at #13.
Last week, I made mention of the fact that the more recent entrants into San Diego’s brewery-scene are taking steps to really put their best feet forward when introducing themselves to the imbibing public. Count the recently soft-opened Burgeon Beer Company (6350 Yarrow Drive, Carlsbad) among that faction. Headed by a trio of longtime beer-buds—one of which is brewmaster Anthony Tallman, formerly of Stone Brewing, Rough Draft Brewing Company and, most recently, Vista’s Back Street Brewery—it took more than three years to cobble together from conception-to-reality, and it’s clear, even in its first month of operation, that none of that time was wasted.
Located on an industrial side-street just south of McClellan-Palomar Airport, Burgeon would easily blend into its industrial-park environs…were it not for large, easy-to-spot, professional signage towering above the entry. It sounds simple, but it really makes a difference. Time otherwise wasted driving around, making U-turns and cursing one’s map-app is instead spent enjoying beer. Not sampling beer, but enjoying it, because Tallman and company are making some quality product.
Three of the toughest-to-dial-in styles of Burgeon’s seven introductory beers are its best. Thuja IPA, a 6.5% single India pale ale packed with Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo and Centennial hops, has just the right consistency to convey all those hops’ flavors and aromas while remaining easy-to-drink. The cleverly named Mixed Greens Double IPA—the first in a series of rotating imperial IPAs that will see different combinations of hops added at six different stages during the brewing and fermentation process—is aptly “green”, low on the sweetness that can sometimes overtake double IPAs, and leaves a delightful, lingering accent of tangerine in its wake. Conversely, Lot 19 Pale Ale (named after the spot where a motherlode of cedar was sourced for construction of the furniture in Burgeon’s tasting room) brings a nice caramely malt-base in without imparting any sweetness, thus balancing this 5.5% ABV beer’s citrus-like hop-borne essence.
The next-best beer at Burgeon is probably, of all things, its cream ale. Tallman’s take on an American adjunct-lager (you may know it as lawnmower beer or that watery beverage four-fifths of the country thinks of exclusively as “beer”) is smooth, easy-drinking and a little higher in alcohol than Coors and Budweiser’s OG versions. And what’s that other thing in there? Oh yes…flavor. It won’t punch you in the face, but it’s a heck of a transition beer for folks who are tired of waiting until the mountains turn blue enough to hide the flavor deficiencies in their current beer of choice.
Of course, everything’s not perfect. A rye amber ale and nut brown show promise, but could use a little more heft on the palate, while Moo Moo Farm Milk Stout (right up there with Mixed Greens in the killer-moniker department) is a bit overdone with a certain smokiness that comes across as off-putting.
As with its exterior, Burgeon wins bonus points for its interior design. The tasting room is rather spacious, but nice, thoughtful, unique touches keep it from feeling the least bit empty. There is plenty of seating augmented by vertical cedar shelving stacked with bright green plant-life, a tree sprouting from the ground at the end of the bar, and a fountain feature converted from Burgeon’s founders’ original home-brew sculpture. On top of that, the cold-box is also paneled to mimic the look of a shipping container with Burgeon’s wordmark emblazoned on one side and tree-stump signs on the other telling the tale of the tap-list.
Burgeon has more polish than a number of breweries that have been operational for years, and that’s saying something. Everybody is upping their game to compete in this rather crowded market, making it all the more impressive that the individuals behind this interest saw fit to up theirs long before opening their doors, an act that will be made official during grand-opening festivities from noon to 3 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday, January 21.