From the Beer Writer: I’m going to be frank. I am sickened by the rise of senseless violence plaguing our country. Gays, blacks, Muslims, cops and the homeless have all been recent targets for the world’s most pathetic type of people—those who lack regard for human-life. Whether bigots drunk with power, zealots driven by warped piousness or scrambled-brain lunatics, perpetrators of the recent murders filling our news-feeds are making it hard to see all the good that exists in our world. That’s why this week’s featured beer, Hillcrest / Karl Strauss All You Need Is Love is so important. Conceived by members of LGBTQ-run entity Hillcrest Brewing Company and brewed with Karl Strauss Brewing Company brewmaster Paul Segura, this hoppy session red ale shows support for victims of the Pulse Nightclub shootings that took place in Orlando, Florida last month, raising money for survivors and the families of the lost. When news of this collaboration came out, a large number of other San Diego County breweries joined in this project, brewing up beers under the same name to start a full-fledged movement to raise more money and counteract the hatred behind that massacre (a full list of participating operations is included below). The beers are available at each brewery’s tasting room, but will be showcased en masse Thursday, July 21 at Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery in the East Village during a special keep-the-pint-night featuring a commemorative glass decorated with the All You Need Is Love logo. It is efforts like these that help us to remember the immense love, understanding and goodness that is not only present in our society, but rules it. Yes, racism, hate and stupid people will always exist, but it’s important to remember that the majority of us accept everyone, regardless of their gender, race, social-status, political affiliation or sexual orientation. That’s something that can’t be silenced no matter how many gun-toting hatemongers channel their frustration into homicidal endeavors. As evidenced by All You Need Is Love, such hideous acts only serve to galvanize the populace in support of our brothers and sisters of all walks of life, and remind us of how precious life—every life—is. And how precious love—all love—is. That’s something I will toast with every sip of this very special, rainbow-colored family of beers.
From the Brewers: “The beer is a hoppy session red ale, one that we were fortunate enough to brew with a few different breweries. We immediately reached out to Paul at Karl Strauss. He’s an incredible brewer and an even better guy. His input, ideas on how to proceed and reputation brought this project to a whole new level. Adding our friends at Gordon Biersch was another huge honor, as brewmaster Doug Hasker is a legend in his own right. As someone who is relatively new to the San Diego beer scene, it was a great experience to be able to sit down for a pint with those two guys at the same table and hear them talk about beer. The more we reached out to people, the more we realized that this entire community was stoked on the idea. Initially, we wanted to be physically involved with each beer, but it grew to a point where we just didn’t have enough hours in a week to be able to directly brew these beers with everyone. One day, I helped mash out at three different breweries. It’s been a humbling experience and during a time where my faith in humanity has been severely shaken, it’s truly been a large breath of fresh air.”—Clinton Shaver, Assistant Brewer, Hillcrest Brewing Company
Participating Breweries: 2Kids Brewing Company, AleSmith Brewing Company, Amplified Ale Works, Bagby Beer Company, Belching Beaver Brewery, Border X Brewing Company, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, Duck Foot Brewing Company, Gordon Biersch, Hillcrest Brewing Company, Intergalactic Brewing Company, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Mission Brewery, Second Chance Beer Company, South Park Brewing Company, Wavelength Brewing Company
I am as guilty as anybody who truly loves to write. Being fans of language and constantly in search of the most interesting way to communicate something (regardless of how verbose…sorry faithful reader), I’ve been known to go on and on about the aesthetics of a venue, subjecting those who consume my prose to paragraph upon paragraph of adjectives, quips and word-play that, in my case, usually comes in the form of puns and alliteration. All of this eventually leads to the all-important question: But how does it taste? It’s true, I can talk about how a brewery or restaurant looks and feels until I’m blue in the tips of my keyboard-striking fingers, but what you’re mostly here for is to find out how good (or otherwise) the beer and food being served at these places is. The last time I was at recently opened The Brew Project (3683 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest), all I talked about was the suped-up house structure the business occupies. This time around, we’ll focus on the bar-and-restaurant’s food, drink and promise to provide “a San Diego brewery tour under one roof.”
Let’s tackle that last one first. In all my time writing about San Diego beer, something that means far more to me than it probably should (it’s a legitimate obsession), I doubt I’ve come across anyone who is not in the beer industry but cares as much about every brewery in our county as much as Beau Schmitt. Two years ago, Schmitt founded The SD Beer Project, a bar offering 31 taps, all outfitted with beers from different San Diego breweries. And we’re not talking the ubiquitous Sculpin, Arrogant Bastard, Speedway Stout and West Coast IPA. Far from it. Schmitt reveled in showcasing one-offs, rare styles and hybrids from the tiniest of nanobreweries and furthest flung of the no-namers. He was such a champion for these operations that he would often email me to tell me when a brewery I’d panned in my reviews seemed to have improve so I could come check them out at his place or pay that business another visit. Now that’s devotion unlike any I’ve seen from anyone trying to make money in the bar business.
That business has since closed, but Schmitt has moved on to create the beer program for the Gaslamp Quarter’s Quad Ale House and, now, this full-on eatery version of his previous concept, where he is once again spotlighting as many local breweries as possible. But is drinking there really like taking a tour of the county’s ale- and lager-makers? That’s a tall order. The answer is yes. I showed up on a random night and there were beers from all four corners of the county—Kali Kush sagebrush pale ale from Oceanside’s Breakwater Brewing, Archives 1933 Milk Stout (nitro) from ChuckAlek Independent Brewers in Ramona, a pair of lagers from Coronado Brewing Company and a coffee-studded version of East Coast brewpub URBN St. Brewing’s Mazagran Triple Brown. Plenty of other breweries, most small- and medium-sized interests, provided infill covering San Marcos, Vista, Poway, Scripps Ranch, Miramar, Kearny Mesa, Grantville, North Park and more. What was missing were beers from Stone Brewing Co., Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits and Saint Archer Brewery that one can order nearly anywhere. The Brew Project sums up what a brewery tour in San Diego is really all about these days—finding something new to love, not going back to the same old thing (though there’s nothing wrong with that).
And it would seem that Schmitt’s brewery-touring adventures end much like mine do…with food that is decadent, filling and leans toward the realms of slow-cooked meat and SoCal-style Mexican influence. Read: carne asada fries. I’m more of a nachos-with-everything guy, but crispy potatoes are more than fine. The Brew Project’s iteration of this classic, sinful San Diego dish is gussied up visually, but my favorite part about it was the quickly browning guacamole. That seems an odd compliment, but I knew that creamy and delicious condiment was real and free of preservatives, something you can’t always count on, especially when you opt to get your guac’ outside of a taco shop. TBP’s carne asada is cut small but potent in its saltiness and a salsa made from grilled tomatoes adds nice zest. Mac’ and cheese, a staple of any hip resto these days, is not only nice, but thanks to a four-dollar addition of chorizo and roasted pasilla chilies, different from the versions being served all over town. My only knock was that it could use some salt. And if you’re looking for the imperial stout version of a sandwich, look no further than the Havana, which is packed with tender, shredded, slow-roasted pork, Applewood-smoked bacon and Swiss. This take on a Cuban sandwich trades in the classic pickled cucumbers for pickled zucchini. I was skeptic, but they are tangy and more substantial than cukes. I think I might even prefer them.
So, plenty of local beer—better yet, local beers that are more obscure—an abundance of food that is of good quality and plentitude, and a cozy, domesticated spot to enjoy them both. This project is a success in this writer’s book.
In a county where the bar and restaurant culture has grown to support local craft brewing companies, one entrepreneur goes to greater lengths than any other specifically in the name of San Diego beer. That individual is Beau Schmitt, best known as the founder of SD Brew Project—a 31-tap Mission Hills bar exclusively serving San Diego beers from almost every one of the region’s breweries—and the consultant responsible for the beer selection at downtown’s recently unveiled Quad Alehouse. The former business has been closed for months, but it will be reborn, new and improved, tomorrow with the opening of The Brew Project.
Installed in the abode-like, indoor-outdoor Hillcrest restaurant space that formerly housed R Gang Eatery, The Brew Project is a full-service restaurant and bar that, like its predecessor, aims to shine a glaring spotlight on San Diego beer. Schmitt describes it as “a San Diego brewery tour under one roof,” courtesy of a 30-tap, glycol-chilled, cold-blocked draft system. And it won’t simply be a trip to the popular breweries in town. Schmitt is one of the few beer buyers who gives just about any brewery a shot, culling every business’ portfolio for the best they have to offer in an effort to provide each operation a chance to convey what they’re all about.
In addition to beer, six taps will dispense red, white, rose and sparkling wines plus guava mango kombucha and Caribbean coffee served on nitro. (Two of the remaining two-dozen beer taps are also of the nitrogen variety.) Local distilleries such as Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits, Kill Devil Spirit Co., Malahat Spirits, Old Harbor Distilling and more will also be highlighted via a craft cocktail program. And a sense of locality will be presented in a menu that will appeal to San Diegans thanks to breakfast burritos, tortas, entrée salads and a variety of gluten-free options, all of which can be enjoyed inside or on an extensive, two-level patio that, like the restaurant’s interior, features a TV-viewing option courtesy of a 70-inch, corner-mounted flat-screen.
But there’s more to the representation of local beer than what’s in the glass. Growlers have been fashioned into decorations, mosaiced brewery stickers serve as a wallpaper of sorts in the bar area, and servers’ attire consists of their choice of local brewery t-shirt (except when the NFL is on, at which point they can choose to don powder-blue burial shrouds instead…damn, that was an awful exhibition against the Raiders earlier today). Additionally, a bottle shop has been installed so customers can take rare and everyday beer home in bottles.
The Brew Project will be open daily, from 11 a.m to midnight, Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., Friday through Sunday. Three specialty brews Schmitt plans to offer for the opening day crowd include Coronado Brewing Company’s new Stingray Imperial India Pale Ale, a specialty version of Second Chance Beer Co.’s Tabula Rasa porter brewed with cocoa nibs and coconut, and ChuckAlek Independent Brewers’ sour blonde ale made with watermelon. Having that last one in HIlcrest will save gas or Uber fare to the outskirt community of Ramona, instantly proving the value of the “under one roof” model.
Two years ago, Beau Schmitt burst on the scene with an obvious and equal love of San Diego and the beers produced within it. Not surprisingly for a county awash in sudsy civic pride, this proved a winning formula. From his original station behind the 31-tap bar at Mission Hills’ The Brew Project (formerly located inside the 57 Degrees wine retail and storage facility), he has gone on to consult on Quad AleHouse (868 Fifth Avenue, Downtown), a third-story bar and restaurant offering a tap list as sterling as its overhead views of the Quarter. It’s a win for Gaslamp-going beer fans in search of craft…and it’s far from his last endeavor.
West Coaster: What was the goal in bringing Quad AleHouse to Downtown?
Beau Schmitt: Honestly, we wanted to provide a safe haven for craft beer drinkers in the Gaslamp; something unique and in line with San Diego’s brewing culture. Most neighborhoods in San Diego have a dedicated craft beer staple—Hamilton’s Tavern in South Park, SD TapRoom in Pacific Beach, O’Brien’s Pub in Kearny Mesa, Neighborhood in East Village—but the Gaslamp was lacking. We took the qualities we liked most about our county’s best breweries and beer, and consolidated them Downtown in a low-tech, low-maintenance, community-emphasized, fast-casual, 100% craft beer bar. Yes, there’s one giant projector for the big games and private events, but there aren’t TVs around the bar because we want to foster interaction among our patrons.
WC: As the man in charge of the ales and lagers, what was your approach to the beer program?
BS: To offer 100% small-batch craft beers from independently owned breweries. The geographic delegation will be about 75-80% San Diego beers and 20-25% everywhere craft beers. Naturally, I favor IPAs because, well, it’s San Diego and we have some of the best IPAs in the world. So, about 30% of the draft list will always be IPAs or a derivation of an IPA. The draft list is 100% rotational with a maximum purchase of two kegs per beer. That means when you come in one week, the draft list will be completely different from two weeks prior. There is also an emphasis on balancing styles, so there will be something for every palate. San Diego breweries are continuously turning out new, crazy styles and flavor profiles. It’s my obsession to find them and put them on tap for the public.
WC: Quad just opened and you’re already going after a new project in Hillcrest. Tell us about it.
BS: We just took possession of the old R Gang Eatery space (3683 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest) on May 12 and will be changing it into The Brew Project [House]. “The House” will be under the Brew Project brand concept, which is wholly dedicated to San Diego beer. The space itself is an awesome 1902 craftsman-style house that will have 28 taps of a rotating, all-San Diego draft selection. We’ll also have a fast-casual food concept, well balanced cocktail menu, plus beer and wine to go.
WC: Who are you working with to make The House a reality?
BS: I have some incredible partners. Mike Sill, the ex-general manager of Quality Social, will be my managing partner and general manager. James Langley, who is involved with The Local brands (The Local Eatery and Drinking Hole, The Local PB, Wonderland Ocean Pub) is also a managing partner. And Kevin and Kyle Conover, the brain brothers and owners of SD TapRoom, are also managing partners who will help with back-of-the-house operations.
WC: What is the timeframe for The House?
BS: Because we are just doing the basic cosmetic remodeling, we expect to be open early- to mid-July…but you know how projects and timelines go.
WC: Do you have any other ideas for future projects?
BS: Of course we do. An example of one expansion is building “infrastructures” under the Brew Project brand, so maybe the next place is The Brew Project Bungalow? Now we just need to find a quaint place by the beach.
For more information on Quad AleHouse as well as recipes from executive chef Brandon Brooks, check out the June issue of West Coaster.