From the Beer Writer: Stone Brewing hosts many top-tier events, but one of my favorite is the company’s American Homebrewers Association-sanctioned AHA Rally and its associated homebrewing competition. Every year, some of the county’s most talented, ambitious recreational brewers submit their beers for judging by a panel of Stone employees, including key members of the brewing team. Each year’s winning beer gets produced on Stone’s system and distributed nationally (which now means to all 50 states). While Stone is known for innovating, the company has a defined style of bold and largely hoppy beers, so it is always fun to watch the brewers tackle beers that, for the most part, don’t fit the typical gargoyle-shaped mold (read: insert-type-of-IPA-here). This year’s winning entry, Paul Bischeri & Patrick Martinez / Abnormal / Stone Neapolitan Dynamite, once again goes against the grain in a delicious attempt to bring the primary flavors of Neapolitan ice cream—chocolate, vanilla and strawberry—to the forefront in an imperial stout. Freshly poured, the beer comes across slightly creamy on the palate with big cocoa and a touch of vanilla, but as the beer warms up, the latter makes itself more known along with strawberry fruitiness. It’s for sure a beer that would not be part of the Stone portfolio were it not for this contest, and the quaffable embodiment of why this event is such a brilliant component of Stone’s heritage.
From the Brewer: “The AHA brews are always a good challenge for us to scale-up. I think it’s great experience for the homebrewers as well to see how a small recipe gets magnified to production. This beer had a lot of ingredients. Our goal is always to be as faithful as possible to the original recipe, but at the same time it needs to be realistic on the big scale. The biggest ingredient challenge here was the strawberry addition. They used a lot of strawberries, and if we would have scaled it up to be exactly the same, we would have depleted the world’s supply. But seriously…it was too much to use on a big scale. We were able to play with a couple of different addition points and got some strawberry purée—which was all real fruit, of course—that was really intense and came through nicely. Strawberry in general is a tough one to get to come out in beer and it really does come through here in equal measure to their original beer. That’s always the coolest part of this gig: when we have the homebrewers try the scaled-up version and they are stoked. So, the day we tried it with Paul and Patrick was awesome because they were really happy with how it came out. I think the beer is great!”—Jeremy Moynier, Senior Innovation Brewing Manager, Stone Brewing
Each month, we present several best-bet local beer-related events for the following 28 to 31 days, but as we all know, November isn’t any normal month in America’s Finest City. It’s the month that houses San Diego Beer Week (SDBW), a ten-day span encompassing literally hundreds of events. So, we’re doing things a little different this month, providing a little insight on some of the biggest and most unique happenings taking place from November 3-12. Enjoy, but don’t forget to check out other goings-on via our events page and the official SDBW website.
Friday, November 3
Saturday, November 4
Sunday, November 5
Monday, November 6
Tuesday, November 7
Wednesday, November 8
Thursday, November 9
Friday, November 10
Saturday, November 11
Sunday, November 12
In May, O’Sullivan Bros. Brewing Company owner Ed O’Sullivan put his two-year-old Scripps Ranch brewery up for sale. Shortly after, Darrel Brown, the owner of Savagewood Brewing Company came to take a look. Earlier in the year he had toured defunct Escondido business Offbeat Brewing Company. He also took a look at Helm’s Brewing Company in Kearny Mesa, but passed on all three due to his desire to settle his interest in Rancho Bernardo. But as the months passed, he came to realize the best place for the community- and family-focused venue he aimed to establish was right in his backyard. He and O’Sullivan reconnected and forged a deal that makes Brown the new owner of O’Sullivan Bros.’ brewery and tasting room. And while others might wipe the slate completely clean, Brown will integrate the O’Sullivan Bros. brand into his own.
Brown’s plan—which is already underway—is to remove all O’Sullivan Bros. branding from the exterior and interior of the facility, which is located on the west side of an industrial park on Hibert Street catty-corner to a large shopping area that includes a grocery store and numerous restaurants. All branding will be changed to reflect Savagewood Brewing and his beers will take up the lion’s share of the faucets in the tasting room, but he will also keep on some of O’Sullivan Bros.’ best-selling beers, including Catholic Guilt smoked porter, Our Father’s Stout and Finn McCool’s Big Thirsty red ale. A Scripps Ranch resident who lives mere blocks away, Brown patronized the brewery he now owns and believed in the product and the people behind the brand. He was saddened that the O’Sullivan family had to exit the industry—not due to poor quality, but personal issues that couldn’t be avoided—and feels strongly that their legacy should live on.
While O’Sullivan Bros. beers largely fell on the darker side, Savagewood ales come in lighter on the SRM spectrum. Brown’s recipes are hoppy, fruity and light on malt to produce a dry finish associated with Southern California offerings. That said, he’s not afraid to dabble in the East Coast arts, and is planning to brew a West Coast-Northeast India pale ale hybrid using yeast used for hazy IPAs against a decidedly “San Diego-style” grain bill. That will join his pineapple pale ale and other beers that, up until now, have been contract brewed at Groundswell Brewing Company’s Santee headquarters. Since the total annual production capability of his new facility is just 550 barrels, he will continue to utilize his contract relationship to increase yearly barrelage to between 1,600 and 1,700 barrels.
But it’s not all about the adult beverages. Savagewood will have cold-brew coffee and house-made craft sodas on tap. It will also hold various youth-oriented events such as movie nights featuring ‘80’s movies and popcorn. Also on-tap will be at least one event raising money for local charities per month. A portion of proceeds from one of his beers, Exquisite Blonde, already go to the cancer non-profit Keep A Breast Foundation. “Scripps Ranch is my home and I want Savagewood to be the neighborhood brewery,” says Brown. “Every decision I make will center around that.”
Brown will open the revamped tasting room on November 2, just in time for San Diego Beer Week, which takes place November 3-12. He plans to hold events throughout that span, including beer-release promotions, a trivia night and a beer-brunch event. And near the end of November, Savagewood will hold its official grand-opening party. In the meantime, he’ll work on expanding the floor-plan of the tasting room and cinch up negotiations with a brewer he intends to bring on. As for the rest of his staff, he is keeping all of O’Sullivan Bros.’ existing employees, making for one of the true feel-good stories of this year in local craft beer.
It was mid-2014 when I first reached out to the crew at Ebullition Brew Works after receiving a tip that the business was going in a space near a deli in San Marcos. They weren’t quite ready to talk. I remained persistent, but they stayed close-lipped over the past three years…and it’s probably good that they did. Plans for Ebullition shifted here and there, including a relocation to another municipality altogether. Today, Ebullition, which has been in soft-open mode since July, operates out of a business suite in Vista. An initial three-barrel system that would churn out just enough beer so ownership could open on the weekends has been replaced by a 10-barrel direct-fire model feeding into 10-barrel tanks. Yet, as much as the company has changed from a production standpoint, its thematic, approach and team remain the same.
The idea for Ebullition sprouted from co-founder Jesse Richardson’s discovery of craft beer and the joy of homebrewing. His wife took a job in the accounting department at Escondido’s Stone Brewing, allowing him exposure to world-class beer events as well as brands and styles of beer he had theretofore never heard of, much less experienced. He started down the rabbit hole and was soon brewing his own beer at home, to the point where he says he was “addicted.” This was just before the more intense stretch of the local boom that saw the number of brewhouses in the county rise sharply from roughly 40 to the 150-plus of today. A lot has changed since Richardson and a group of his colleagues decided to ditch the corporate world to give their brewing-industry dreams a go. Richardson and company admit they went a lot bigger than they originally expected, but so much changed from conceptualization to execution that they feel adjusting their business plan was necessary. Going big out of the gate was necessitated by the plethora of breweries in North County built to do just that, such as Mother Earth Brew Co. and Booze Brothers Brewing Company. Like those operations, the Ebullition team selected Vista in large part because of how welcoming and supportive local government is to breweries, and the fact they understand the positive impact breweries have on their City’s economy.
Beer-making is the domain of brewmaster Mike Reidy, a former teacher, certified beer judge and award-winning homebrewer of more than two decades. His goal is to focus on brewing clean, true-to-style ales and lagers, and eventually push boundaries with less familiar styles and modern-day creations such as Northeast-inspired India pale ales (IPAs). His first, simply dubbed Hazy IPA, is currently available and the best of a sextet of Ebullition beers I sampled during a recent visit. Aromas of gooseberries and grapefruit give way to a burst of citrus rind and a finish that’s wheaty, bitter and a touch peppery. Another favorite of mine was The General, a stout brewed with coffee that starts out Starbucks and ends out like a mouthful of Ghirardelli milk chocolate. Also impressive is a saison called Gidget with bright lemon and orange character. It’s rounder than it is dry, but brewed within style guidelines and plenty enjoyable. On the fun anomaly front, Deli Rye Pilsner takes one of today’s hottest styles in a different direction with the addition of moderately spicy rye. Nuances of banana make it taste a bit like a hefeweizen, making for a completely unique tasting experience.
IBU (international bittering unit) measures are presented down to the hundredth. Originally, that count was listed as EBU (ebullition bittering units), but it was too difficult for customers to wrap their heads around, so they changed it. But they’re sticking with Ebullition as an overriding theme. The team stumbled upon the term in an old encyclopedia. It refers to both the boiling of wort (unfermented beer) and hops as well as sudden, intense passion…like that of someone who would become so enamored with brewing they would change their entire life to chase that interest. Richardson and his partners hope patrons will celebrate ebullition-inspiring pursuits, realizing not everybody draws the intense feelings they do from beer. Numerous hobbies and interests are illustrated via murals on the walls of Ebullition’s tasting room, which is also equipped with scads of games and activities spanning far beyond those of the average sampling venue.
And though they love beer, Ebullition’s owners aren’t limiting their ebullition to ales and lagers. They purposely chose to refer to their business as “Brew Works” to leave the door open for delving into mead, cold-brew coffee, kombucha and other brewed beverages. But for now, Ebullition is focusing its energy on a long-time coming grand-opening celebration. That fete will take place over two weekends and kick off this Saturday, October 14 with a day packed full of promotional activities such as a brewer Q&A, brewery tour, live music and more, followed Saturday, October 21 by “Dia de Ebullition”, featuring a Mexican-inspired beer release, art show, face-painting and a live performance by The Sleepwalkers.
After 20 years of assisting breweries through consultation and serving as a high-profile beer expert via a number of platforms—most notably his work as craft beer ambassador for Stone Brewing—Bill Sysak knows there’s a big magnifying glass on him as he prepares to open his own beer-manufacturing operation. That interest, Wild Barrel Brewing Company (692 Rancheros Drive, San Marcos), will soft-open, tomorrow, Saturday, September 30, and Sysak says he’s ready to put his money where his mouth is. From the looks of the soon-to-debut business, he’s done just that.
Wild Barrel is installed in a 10,000-square-foot building sharing space and a lobby with a batting-cage facility. That structure is across the street from the San Marcos DMV, one of the busiest offices of its type in the county. Wild Barrel’s tasting room takes up roughly half of the total square footage, accommodating up to 228 patrons. Wood-topped-barrel belly bars make up the majority of the seating, with stools at the main bar and rail bars, but the focal point of the room is a giant faux barrel near the center of the room. Visitors can enter that cylinder, which contains its own belly bars and will eventually house a fountain fashioned from three used barrels, plus rotating art-for-purchase from local artisans. It’s not the only visual media at Wild Barrel. San Marcos resident Maddie Thomas recently painted a colorful mural depicting a glass emblazoned with the company’s logo on the east wall, adding a punch of vibrancy to the mostly oaken interiors.
Another unique tasting-room feature is a pole with directional-arrow signs tacked to it pointing in the direction of other local breweries. Stone, Mason Ale Works, Rip Current Brewing and The Lost Abbey—which is located on the opposite side of the DMV—are represented along with one outlier (and one of Sysak’s favorite breweries), Belgium’s Cantillon. Sysak says this is a small show of appreciation to the operations who’ve been helpful to him throughout his career, in particular since he started work on Wild Barrel roughly a year ago. Stone and Rip Current have sold him hops, Mason has lent him several items and The Lost Abbey’s Tomme Arthur has offered both assistance and advice.
During his decades of consulting, Sysak always stressed the importance of being hyper-focused and selecting the right beer styles; ales and lagers capable of generating enough sales to keep a business afloat without competing with each other. In assessing the current marketplace, Sysak is going heavy with India pale ales (IPAs) and fruited kettle sours, plus barrel-aged wild ales and imperial stouts (the base recipe for the latter was developed in consultation with Todd Ashman of Bourbon County Stout and FiftyFifty Eclipse fame). The opening-day beer-list will include two IPAs—the 7% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) Indie IPA, and an 8.4% imperial model double dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Motueka called Prince of Dankness. A pair of 5.6% Berliner weisses dubbed San Diego Vice (playing off the proper pronunciation for weiss) will also be on tap. One is flavored with Montmorency cherries, the other with pink guava from head brewer (and fellow Stone expat) Bill Sobieski’s backyard tree.
Sysak and Sobieski will also capitalize off the popularity of coffee beers with Hipster Latté, a 5.5% ABV milk stout brewed with coconut palm sugar, lactose and a proprietary blend of beans from Rancho Bernardo-based Mostra Coffee. The blend that will be served at tomorrow’s opening will be the first of four, all of which will incorporate different types of coffee. The plan is to eventually serve them side-by-side (and can all four in a single four-pack) so customers can examine the subtle taste differences. And rounding out the board is a 5.5% Belgian-style witbier called White Rabbit (the character that lures people down its proverbial hole) brewed with traditional ingredients plus a “Valencia orange zest kicker” to give it extra citrus appeal. Rather than having several “gateway beers” such as a Pilsner, hefeweizen, Kolsch and blonde, which might compete and cannibalize off of each other, he wanted to brew one that can thrive on its own.
A recent shipment of ready-to-go Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey barrels will make up the aging program’s initial stock. All that oak will be stored on the south side of the facility in plain view of the tasting room, with glycol-equipped lines plumbed over the public space to pump beer over from the brewery to help avoid contamination. Eventually, Sysak hopes to take over a space next-door and convert it to a barrel-aging warehouse. Once matured, barrel-aged beers will be packaged in 500-millileter bottles and released at the tasting room and as part of Wild Barrel’s beer club, which went live on the company’s website earlier this week. Sysak will also call on his many friends within the national brewing community to work on collaboration beers, the majority of which will be hazy IPAs and kettle sours. His initial trio of conspirators hail from as close by as Carlsbad and as far away as Florida: Burgeon Beer Company, Bottle Logic Brewing and J. Wakefield Brewing.
The tasting-room bar is equipped with 15 taps, plus a nitro-tap that will dispense coffee. But Sysak hopes to go further with java, installing a barista area in the tasting room that will operate from 7 to 11 a.m. weekday mornings to capture business from DMV visitors and establish an additional revenue stream. Also en route is a crowler-filling machine, which should arrive within a week. The food program will be all about mobile vendors and pre-packaged items. The latter will consist of cheese and charcuterie boards as well as confections from North County’s So Rich Chocolates.
Sysak, Sobieski and fellow co-founder Chris White (not to be confused with the founder of Miramar business White Labs) were able to complete the construction of their shared vision in less than a year and, though there are some small touches left to attend to, it’s already an impressive addition to the local brewing scene. Wild Barrel will be open seven-days-a-week, and its hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.