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Posts Tagged Green Flash

Beer of the Week: Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker

Jan 29
Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker

Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker

From the Beer Writer: I saw the name come through the online trademark database—Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker. No way, I thought. How could San Diego’s third-largest craft brewery be planning to package a beer that complex? For those who’ve never heard of Passion Fruit Kicker, that name was developed when former Green Flash brewmaster Chuck Silva and director of beer education Dave Adams worked with yours truly to develop a recipe to brew for the Beer to the Rescue anti-lupus campaign. The most complex of the 30-plus beers the fundraising effort birthed, PFK was a wheat India pale ale (IPA) with Brettanomyces and passion fruit procured from Stone Farms that was dry-hopped with experimental hops and blended with a wine barrel-aged IPA. While it was delicious and even thought-provoking in its unique character, going national with something like that hardly seemed feasible. Then I read the approved label and discovered the name was applied to a low-alcohol wheat ale brewed with passion fruit concentrate and passion fruit tea. While almost totally different, it’s also quite nice. Based on the base recipe for Alpine Beer Co.’s wheat ale, Willy (Green Flash Brewing Company acquired Green Flash in 2014), it has a subtle creaminess that gives way to restrained fruit tartness in the finish. A mineral quality similar to Sauvignon Blanc wine is also present. This 5.5% alcohol-by-volume session ale has a lot going for it…and is a heck of a lot easier to explain than its namesake.

From the Brewer: “Passion Fruit Kicker has a pretty unique origin story. It came about when two different ideas from two different sources merged. The brewers had been experimenting with teas in casks and single-keg one-off beers. Our favorite tea to use was a passion fruit tea (from local company, Tea Gallerie). It has an amazing aroma and flavor like a ripe passion fruit. At the time we were playing around with that tea in different beers, the idea for a tart, fruity wheat beer emerged. So naturally we tried making that beer with the passion fruit tea. It was a perfect match! We combined passion fruit concentrate with the tea to make a uniquely pungent, aromatic, tart and refreshing wheat beer. It actually smells and tastes like you’re drinking it out of a hollowed-out passion fruit gourd! The background of a very clean, crisp, lightly bittered wheat beer lets the passion fruit shine for a truly great fruit beer experience.”—Kevin Barnes, Lead Brewer, Green Flash Brewing Company

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Alpine Beer’s original location born anew

Jan 28

alpine_02It once went by the name and persona of McGuffey’s Ice Cream Parlor, the smallish left-most unit in the family of storefronts off Alpine Boulevard which eventually became the town’s craft-beer Mecca. That status came via many hoppy returns provided by Alpine Beer Company (2351 Alpine Boulevard, Alpine), who took over the space nearly a decade ago, converting it to a bar-and-restaurant serving up bodacious beers and barbecue to match. It was far from perfect—it couldn’t seat nearly enough people to meet demand for those lupulin-laced ales and service was spotty—but the beer made up for any shortcomings. Nowadays, the venue and the new logic behind it makes the pilgrimage to Alpine much more worth the time and gas thanks to an overhaul issued by parent interest Green Flash Brewing Company.

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Service with a smile seems more common now that Alpine Beer’s service system is more streamlined

Director of beer education Dave Adams took the lead in the remodel after successfully completing other high-profile Green Flash projects including its Cellar 3 tasting room in Poway and the spacious Alpine Beer Company Pub less than a mile west of ABC’s original digs. Nowadays, that’s where the business’ fans go for ‘cue and other beer-friendly sustenance, while growler-toting voyagers united in their beery single-mindedness venture to Adams’ latest triumph. Gone is the checkerboard-tile flooring, red duct-work lining the ceiling and perhaps the county’s smallest kitchen. The whole place was gutted, torn down to be built up into something befitting Alpine’s deep-country thematic.

Turn up the bar-stools at Alpine Beer's new tasting room and memories abound

Turn up the bar-stools at Alpine Beer’s new tasting room and memories abound

Instead of walking into what looks and feels like an old-time diner, visitors now find themselves in a scarcely populated log cabin. The non-existent furniture isn’t an accident. The lack of indoor seating leaves lots of room for the lines that regularly form at the tasting bar, where samplers and full pours are both available. The bar and stools from the original restaurant have been pushed up against the windowed east wall and there’s a smattering of new stools on an alcove facing the street, but al fresco’s the way to go here thanks to Adams’ work to greatly expand the outdoor seating behind the tasting room. The entire “back yard” has been tiered and offers multiple picnic tables for prolonged suds sessions. Back indoors, the space remains bright thanks to plenty of windows plus skylights and dangling twentieth-century milk lights. Adams had considered going with trendy exposed Edison bulbs, but keeping things a bit more subdued works better in this case.

Overall, it’s a simple yet thoughtful project that makes a once loveable yet sadly deficient venue far more utilitarian and service-oriented. The staff have the means to succeed and that seems to translate to the overall attitude behind the bar. In the past, bartenders had a tendency to be edgy or outright rude, but service with a smile is the name of the game now, and that’s as important a face-lift as the one afforded this must-visit San Diego brew-scene gem.

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Kensington Brewing opening doors January 23

Jan 20

kensington_01Last week, Green Flash Brewing Company founder Mike Hinkley wondered if the current climate of the beer industry left room for newly established small breweries to grow into the next generation of large brewing companies distributing beer nation- and world-wide. It’s a good question, but hardly the end-game imagined by Zack Knipe, co-owner of Kensington Brewing (5839 Mission Gorge Road, Grantville), a company that’s been in operation for more than two years but will officially go live with its tasting room and an expanded production schedule on January 23.

Knipe and business partner Andy Rogers have a great deal in common—a love of brewing, USD alumni status, jobs in the construction and engineering industry. They are also passionate about craft beer’s ability to help build community and friendships, and consider that as much a goal as producing quality beer. They say they’re not interested in growing faster if it means taking away from the ability to have a meaningful connection with their customers, something they say has been key to their early growth. Knipe says he knows most of his customers by name.

A lounge of antiquities precedes Kensington Brewing's tasting room

A lounge of antiquities precedes Kensington Brewing’s tasting room

His ability to keep everyone straight may be hindered if Kensington Brewing’s tasting room takes off. That space is adjacent to the three-barrel, direct-fire system-equipped brewery, and outfitted with old barrels reconfigured into seating vessels. The recent El Niño storms flooded the room, but it has been restored so that newcomers can enjoy it to its fullest during Saturday’s grand opening, which will take place from 12 to 8 p.m. After that, the tasting room will be open Thursdays and Fridays, 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays, 12 to 8 p.m.

Now’s as good a time to address the elephant in the room. Kensington Brewing is located in Grantville, not Kensington. While the duo endeavored to find a nice spot on Adams Avenue to call home, such a space was hard to come by. So, they shared a warehouse in the Mission Gorge area with friends at The WestBean Coffee Roasters for two years before moving to their current location in the same industrial park that houses brew-it-yourself spot, Citizen Brewers. Their entire facility is 1,600 square feet and should allow Kensington Brewing to produce 105 barrels of beer in its first year of operation.

kensington_03When the tasting room opens, the tap list will reflect Knipe’s and Rogers’ affinity for Old World styles exhibiting malt and hop balance. The sextet of initial offerings will include an apricot wheat ale (5.4% alcohol-by-volume), brown ale (5.2%), coffee stout (made using WestBean product, coming in at 7.4%), English-style India pale ale (8.3%), double IPA (9.2%) and imperial stout (7.4%).

In five-to-ten years, Knipe and Rogers hope to have moved into a building within Kensington proper brewing off a 10- or 15-barrel system. For now, they’re doing just fine. And as for the far-off future, Knipe says his idea of long-term vision involves his two sons taking over Kensington and keeping it going.

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The Grand Canyon: Changing Times in Craft Beer

Jan 13

The following is a guest article submitted by Mike Hinkley, Co-owner of Green Flash Brewing Co. on the current state and future of the beer industry.

grandcanyon2How big is the jump from being a small brewer with a tasting room to a successful brewery with its products in distribution? Let’s start with the beer. If the beer is less than spectacular, it will be impossible. And even if the beer is spectacular, it’s still a huge leap—like jumping over the Grand Canyon. The marketplace is far more difficult to compete within now than at any time I’ve seen and it’s only getting tougher. To be fair, it may have been harder in the early days of Sierra Nevada and Anchor Brewing, because those fledgling companies were blazing trails. But back then, there was also little competition and macrobrew giants didn’t know (or care) about craft. And there’s no doubt about the hardships of the late ‘90s microbrew crash, as demand for craft beer dried up and overcapacity drove prices down. Even with all that, today’s brewers of all sizes are entering what just may be the toughest and most competitive era ever for selling beer.

Green Flash co-founder Mike Hinkley

Green Flash co-founder Mike Hinkley

When my wife and I started Green Flash Brewing Co. in 2002, our world was so much different. The most glaring difference between then and now is the fact there are so many more breweries today. But that’s really just the result of the bigger change, which is the way craft beer has taken off. After the crash of the late ‘90s, craft remained relatively flat until things began to pick up around 2008. Since then, the popularity of craft beer has risen to levels we could scarcely have imagined. As a result of this boom, the major grocery chains have opened their doors to craft breweries on an unprecedented level. It has been an amazing time and Green Flash has benefited as much as anybody.

During that same period of growth, tasting rooms have become the major, and in some cases, the only source of actual profitable operations for start-up breweries. Early on for us, the tasting room was a nice source of additional revenue and a good way to connect with customers, but it was nowhere near the profit-center that it is today. Back in the day, without access to grocery chains and without a tasting room cash-machine, a brewery had to go into the broad market and grow its brand to survive. Common thinking was that a brewery could break even at 5,000-to-10,000 barrels per year. That proved to be the case for us and many other craft brewery owners from that era who I’ve swapped stories with.

Now we are in the golden age of craft. Tasting room sales are great, the broad market has expanded and the chains can provide volume sales. There are breweries in nearly every neighborhood. Some of San Diego County’s start-ups are building brands with legs in the marketplace and some are crushing it in their tasting rooms, while the best of the previous generation breweries are selling their beers across the country and around the world. It is an amazing time.

But with all of our success, Wall Street has taken notice and come a-knockin’. Now, half of the 50 largest craft breweries either belong to a macro or have private-equity company ownership. Those breweries now have essentially unlimited resources with which to grow and are all concerned with craft market share, something that was never a concern of any brewer smaller than Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Co.) before. “Wall Street Craft” is going to battle over market share with their newly acquired craft breweries, army of MBAs and unlimited resources, so we all best buckle our seatbelts.

Tasting rooms continue to supply the small brewer with staying power. Beyond the revenue, it is where such operations develop their most important connection with customers. But the broad market has never been more crowded, complex and costly to navigate. Chain buyers have stopped taking everything and anything new and local because some don’t sell through fast enough and they have trouble picking the winners across such large geography. Simply put, Wall Street Craft will dominate in the chains, but leave a little room for independents and locals.

In order push past the walls of a tasting room, a brewery has to make consistently spectacular beer, constantly innovate, build their brand and create an organization to support it—all at the same time. This has always been true, but now a brewer has to do it in an incredibly crowded and complex marketplace against tougher and tougher competitors armed with more and more resources. That brewer has to do it while the cost of business continues to rise simultaneous to flat prices. That brewer has to do it while everybody and their brother-in-law are all trying to do nearly the exact same thing at the exact same time.

There is no doubt that some of the Wall Street Craft brands will thrive and grow into the “Super Craft” brands of tomorrow. Some will simply die in that environment and disappear. The best of “Independent Craft” will survive and thrive—some nationally, some regionally and some locally—but what about the little guy trying to make the jump to the big leagues across that analogous Grand Canyon? Can any start-up entering the industry at this point ever expect to make that seemingly impossible leap, or has the book been slammed shut on that chapter of the American craft beer story?

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2015 Recap: Beer’s Future?

Dec 17

There is never a shortage of news in the San Diego beer industry, especially with so many businesses opening. Keeping up with newcomers is a job all its own, but there was more than the normal thrush of new businesses arriving; 2015 saw more suds drama than any year prior—good and bad. Here’s this writer’s take on some of the stories that captivated the county’s beer-drinking public:

saintarcherSaint Archer sells out: This is a good place to start, since this move signaled the beginning of a new era for San Diego beer; one in which Big Beer (or “macrobeer” if you prefer) occupies real estate within the county. This comes courtesy of the money-grabbers at Saint Archer Brewery, a built-to-sell interest that somehow gained traction with craft beer fans who, largely, have since turned their back on the business since SABMiller acquired a majority stake in September.

Ballast Point to go public: Even before Saint Archer sold, members and fans of the craft beer industry had begun to worry about their favorite breweries getting gobbled up by Big Beer conglomerates waving fat checks. Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits was one brewery rumored to have taken meetings with such corporations, but not to fear, the company quelled any worries by initiating the first steps associated with an initial public offering. Now, that’s a cool way to raise capital for expansion and growth while keeping it real, thought San Diego beer enthusiasts. But, wait.

Ballast Point sells out, too: Just kidding. The IPO was never meant to be. Shortly after those initial filings, Ballast Point agreed to sell to Constellation Brands…for $1 billion! While Saint Archer was a company with only two years of spotty peaks and valleys to its brief history, Ballast Point is deeply ingrained in the tapestry of San Diego beer. Birthed in Linda Vista’s storied Home Brew Mart, a place where many of today’s brewing superstars got their first home-brew kits, BP was the epitome of San Diego craft to many people. Many are the longtime beer fiend who swore by Sculpin, and before that Big Eye and Yellowtail (the original name for today’s Pale Ale, youngsters). Losing Saint Archer meant little. Losing Ballast Point, frankly, still stings.

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Stone Berlin

Going next-level: San Diego County’s breweries are growing up and growing out. Stone Brewing Co.’s pair of projects in Richmond, Virginia and Berlin, Germany are coming along quickly. In fact, the first beers produced at the latter debuted earlier this month. Meanwhile, work continues on Green Flash Brewing Company’s Virginia Beach brewery and Mother Earth Brew Co. is about to construct a brewing facility in Nampa, Idaho. Here at home, AleSmith Brewing Company (my other employer) completed a transition to a facility five-times the size of its original digs and, in the process, opened the largest brewery tasting room in the county. And Coronado Brewing Company christened its third spot, a bar and restaurant in Imperial Beach, while buying up buildings abutting its headquarters in Bay Park.

Lots of new breweries, many helmed by homebrewers: More than 20 breweries opened this year, another record for the county. Unlike in years past where the likes of Jeff Bagby and other industry veterans of varying tenure have served as touchstones for beer fans wondering what to expect of new businesses, this year the majority of the brewers behind rookie operations came from the homebrew ranks or outside San Diego’s roster of hometown players. Many point to work-in-progress breweries’ HR needs exceeding the number of brewers with professional experience, but that’s only part of it. An experienced brewer has many more options than in years past, and usually opt for greater pay and growth opportunities presented by mid-level breweries.

32BChanges of address: Speaking of human resources, brewery HR departments stayed very busy this year as the rate of turnover among the county’s brew crews rose in tandem with the number of new operations. From small operations like 32 North Brewing Company, who lost its opening-day brewer only a few short months into its lifespan (but replaced him and now has better beer to show for it) to the big guys at Green Flash who lost 11-year brewmaster Chuck Silva (the man universally lauded for saving the business from early extinction), nobody was safe from the lure of individuals’ career aspirations. Then there was Toolbox Brewing Company, which bid adieu to its wild ale specialist, Peter Perrecone, but was fortunately able to bring on a similarly bug-focused brewer to install a whole new sour program at the all-wild Vista interest. Perrecone’s next chapter began just as quickly, when he headed to nearby Belching Beaver Brewery and fetched a job heading their barrel-aging efforts the day after being let go.

Great American Beer Festival supremacy: San Diego is never a slouch at the country’s largest annual brewing competition, the Great American Beer Festival, but it had been a while since our guys left a mark as significant as the one imparted this year. San Diego breweries brought home an astounding 19 medals, including six golds (one of which was in the most hotly contested category of the entire competition, India Pale Ale). Additionally, San Marcos-based Rip Current Brewing Company was named Very Small Brewery of the Year. It’s that kind of dominance that earned San Diego’s brewers such an incredible reputation, and the perpetuation of such skilled artisanship that keeps them at the top of an ever-growing heap.

Wait, the title of this, the last in a three-part year-end series, is “Beer’s Future?” So far, this has been a retrospective, but that was to set up the type of news I hope I get to report on in 2016. So, without further adieu…

Open, open, open: There are currently more than 40 brewery-owned businesses in the planning or construction stages throughout the county, and many of them show great promise. A lot of them are second, third and otherwise satellite venues owned by existing brewing companies such as Amplified Ale Works (opening a production brewery at Miramar’s Brewery Igniter campus), Belching Beaver (opening both a larger production brewery in Oceanside and a brewpub in Vista’s Old Town area), ChuckAlek Independent Brewers (a tasting room in North Park), Fall Brewing Company (considering a South Bay facility), Fallbrook Brewing Company (teaming to provide the beverage equation at a new restaurant in its namesake town), Karl Strauss Brewing Company (opening another brewery restaurant, possibly in Santee), La Jolla Brewing Company (constructing a contract brewery called Fighter Town Brewing Company in Sorrento Valley) and 32 North (a tenant taproom inside Liberty Station’s Moniker collective development).

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Design concept for North Park Beer Co

More veteran-owned new breweries: It is always exciting to see homebrewers ascend to the professional ranks, but here’s hoping some more veterans spread their wings in 2016. Just enough to keep things varied and interesting. It’s a shame that the aforementioned Silva is opening his eponymous passion project in San Luis Obispo County instead of here, because outside of Mikkeller‘s Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (who is opening Mikkeller Brewing San Diego in conjunction with AleSmith at the latter’s original brewing complex) there are few established brewers associated with upcoming San Diego projects. That said, many of San Diego’s most well known and respected brewers came into the industry after achieving homebrew success, so our next crop of all-stars could very well come from those making the transition in 2016. Also, it’ll be really cool to see Kelsey McNair finally bring his North Park Beer Co. dream to life.

A more scrutinizing consumer: While there has certainly been a fair amount of outrage, many have yawned off the purchase of craft breweries by Big Beer, saying things along the lines of: It’s just capitalism. That’s true enough, but it’s more than just that. And here’s hoping consumers who love craft beer as much as they say they do can recognize the impact of buying beer from macro-owned entities. A portion of revenues gained through the sale of macro-owned beers, be they Bud Light and Blue Moon or Saint Archer White and Bourbon County Stout, will certainly be used to help muscle craft off shelves and tap lists. It’s understandable that people continue to love a beer that was manufactured by a legitimate craft brewery one day, even though that company changes hands and goes corporate the next, but there are a host of ramifications for continuing to purchase said beers. If such purchasing patterns continue, there is a real chance there will be very few choices beyond those marco-produced beers in the future.

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Green Flash acquired Alpine in November 2014 and produced Hand Shake IPA this year

Craft breweries unite: It can’t all be about the big guys and it can’t all be about the consumer. Craft breweries will also have to adapt in these ever-changing times. While the if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-buy-‘em model is far from new, Big Beer continues to change the face of brewing and selling beer while craft brewing companies, largely, do things the same way they always have. It should be enough to simply make great beer, but will it be? It’s impossible to say, but it’s likely too idealistic a game-plan to carry the day, kind of like hoping for a peaceful world by saying there’d be no war if everybody was just nice to one another. Not everybody is going to be nice. Also, not everybody is going to make great beer. Many are the ill-suited brewers who taint the reputation of craft with substandard ales and lagers. Additionally, the gargantuan companies making the worst beer are constantly scheming new ways to de-level the playing field in their favor. A world in which entities like that make any headway after David (craft beer) has somehow been able to slowly yet surely gain ground on such mighty Goliaths doesn’t look good. So perhaps it’s time craft breweries explore new ways to outsmart Goliath or meet him on more equal terms. No one brewery can do it alone, but maybe craft breweries could band together in a new way; form their own business alliances through meaningful mergers for shared financial resources, profits, distribution, sales efforts, etc. A true craft conglomerate would be anything but the cold Big Beer machines that are so desperately trying to convince the public they would never even dream of tinkering with the craft breweries they’ve purchased. Of course they wouldn’t…until A) they can do it without losing market share, or B) they have enough market share that they can do it and there is nothing the consumer can do about it. Instead of spending time on unscrupulous brain-teasers like that, a powerhouse band of quality craft breweries could focus on making better beer and a better beer climate than what awaits if macros get their way.

So there it is—my 2016 wish-list. It’s pretty simple: more craft, less macro and faux-craft…more beer, less business of beer. Here’s hoping that comes true and that San Diego’s brewers continue to flourish no matter what’s thrown at them. Cheers to local (craft) beer!

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