From the Beer Writer: Saisons are my favorite beer style and I, like many a San Diegan, adore hops. So you can imagine my excitement when encountering a farmhouse-style ale given a punch of botanical goodness care of a “super” infusion of lupulin-laced greenery. Adding to my excitement was the rare chance to taste a beer with Home Brewing Company roots outside its enclave within North Park shop The Homebrewer. This opportunity came care of 32 North Brewing Company, which invited Home’s crew to their Miramar home to create this beer, Sharks with Blazers. Described as “an aggressively hoppy super saison,” it comes in at 7% alcohol-by-volume with plenty of grapefruit and orange notes. Bold yet refreshing, it’s an awesome summer beer that I’ve found myself reaching for with great regularity. The hops make themselves known in the bouquet, and their flavors meld perfectly with yeast-borne esters. It’s impossible to tell where the fruitiness from one ends and the other begins, which is a wonderful testament to outstanding ingredient selection and recipe development.
From the Brewers: “Brewing with friends is what beer is all about. George and everyone at The Homebrewer, past and present, are amazing. It was fun to combine our knowledge of the
craft to come up with this beer was fun. A mix of San Diegan hop-forward [character] and a distinct saison yeast strain make for a unique, hoppy, super saison. I love the fact we canned this beer and would love to brew it again”—Nick Ceniceros, Head Brewer, 32 North Brewing Company
“Sharks with Lasers was a recipe developed by Shawn Manriquez, HBC’s previous head brewer. Designed to be a super-juicy IPA it has been one of the most popular beers we make. To develop the 32 North collaboration version we took a growler of original Sharks with Lasers and a bunch of commercial saisons and white IPAs to do some experimenting. With a bunch of taster glasses we went through the saisons we liked and then mixed them in varying proportions with Sharks to come up with a basic idea of a flavor profile for a saison-IPA for the collab version. With the basic idea in mind we then built an entirely new recipe from scratch and went straight to the full batch size at 32 North. The brew days were pretty straightforward. It wasn’t until dry-hop day that the real fun started. Nick blasted this beer with 11 pounds of Mosaic LupuLN2 powder, a sticky, soft hop extract that does not pour easily from a bag. He spent over an hour on a ladder hand-scooping this stuff into the fermenter using a screwdriver to drive it through the funnel. Talk about commitment! I personally learned a lot working with Nick, Jeff and Collier up there and am really happy with the end result.”—Jacob Bauch, Head Brewer, Home Brewing Company
Having lived in the area for more than a decade, Morris and Robin Nuspl always wanted to bring a brewery to their community, but finding good, industrial-zoned real estate was problematic. So they considered Kearny Mesa, Mission Valley and areas near Lindberg Field before coming upon the eventual home for Deft Brewing (5328 Banks Street, Suite A, Bay Park), a 1950s gable-roofed former fishing-boat factory in a cul-de-sac a block off Morena Boulevard, Linda Vista and Friars Roads. Plenty of windows, a roll-up door and a patio were deal-sealers for them.
Morris will serve as head of brewing and operations. A former electronics-industry executive and engineer, he is an avid homebrewer who believes in small-batch creation. He and assistant Mike Finn will employ a two-barrel pilot system to develop and fine-tune beers before installing an eventual 10-barrel brewhouse to ramp up production. That move is currently slated for next year and will only happen after Deft brings on a professional brewer with experience running larger breweries. At that point, 10- and 20-barrel fermenters will be brought in to replace the current stock of two-, five- and eight-barrel tanks.
The company’s product portfolio will be made up mostly of ales of British, Belgian and German origin, each infused with twists—described as “deftness”. While there will be hop-forward offerings (English-style IPA), Morris intends to make approachability (Kölsch) his primary focus and isn’t scared to bring malt-heavy beers (Irish-style red ale) to a county that generally eschews grain-centric brews. He’s also eager to present Western European styles seldom produced on a commercial level. Year One production is estimated to meet or exceed 500 barrels.
Despite being a rather centralized neighborhood accessible from Interstates 5 and 8, the Nuspls concede Bay Park is still tucked away and unfamiliar territory for many San Diegans. They hope to do their part to change that by adding good beer with existing Bay Park interest Coronado Brewing Company and the incoming tasting room from Grantville’s Benchmark Brewing Company. They believe in the camaraderie of the industry and cite Home Brewing, Duck Foot Brewing, Eppig Brewing, Bitter Brothers Brewing (in nearby Bay Ho) and Hauck Architecture as businesses that have helped them a great deal over the past year-and-a-half. Deft is on track to open around Labor Day.
Veteran brewer Marty Mendiola’s Carmel Mountain-based Second Chance Beer Company will open a satellite tasting room in North Park later this year. Coming in at 1,820 square feet with 24 taps, capacity for roughly 100 people and an outdoor patio, the venue will be located at 4045 30th Street, steps north and across the street from iconic beer bar, Toronado San Diego.
Mendiola and company are excited to be a part of one of San Diego’s most vibrant and beer-centric communities. When asked about the potential challenges of competing in a neighborhood that’s home to ten breweries and brewpubs (Barn Brewery, Eppig Brewing, Fall Brewing, Home Brewing, Mike Hess Brewing, North Park Beer, Pariah Brewing, Poor House Brewing, San Diego Brewing, Thorn St. Brewery), and four tasting room-only facilities (Belching Beaver Brewing, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, Modern Times Beer and Rip Current Brewing), they respond with a list of counter-balancing advantages.
The Second Chance team selected North Park over other brewery-dense areas like Miramar because it’s a more attractive and user-friendly destination. In addition to beer producers and sampling spaces, there are multiple craft beer bars such as the aforementioned Toronado, and many restaurants that support local breweries. North Park’s walkability makes it easy for patrons to visit multiple spots. Perhaps the only thing Mendiola is worried about is fracturing solid relationships Second Chance has with bars and eateries who might view their sampling space as competition.
“We are very thankful to the pioneers who established craft beer-centered bars and restaurants in the area. We have always enjoyed frequenting them,” says Mendiola’s wife and Second Chance chief legal officer Virginia Morrison. “In fact, mine and Marty’s first date was at The Ritual. We will continue to recommend them and work to make our tap-room a complimentary addition to North Park.”
The opportunity to reach a large new group of potential customers skewing to wildly different demographics than those in Carmel Mountain is the prime motivation in joining the North Park fold. Serving their clientele at the source is a key part of Second Chance’s philosophy. They are currently awaiting progress on the North 40 project that will provide the company a third venue in Carlsbad. Delays in that collective farm-to-table initiative allowed Second Chance the opportunity to explore additional expansion options.
The North Park tasting room will likely open to the public in August or September. Like its Carmel Mountain predecessor, it will offer a second chance at glory to previously used, reclaimed materials. The company intends to retain the services of an interior designer to further ensure the new spot sports a look that will appeal to North Park’s mix of residents and visitors.
Delightfully small and understated, it’d be easy to walk right by The Homebrewer without taking notice. Unless, of course, you’re a homebrewer. In three years, George and Molly Thornton’s brew-it-yourself biz has amassed a stellar reputation as one of the most beloved retail outlets of its kind in one of the most homebrewer-centric counties in the world. There’s even more to love about the North Park spot, which now sports a tasting room for its on-site beer-making operation, Home Brewing Co. (2911 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park).
Like most undertakings of the hobbyists The Homebrewer serves, HBC is a work in progress. But even with thrown together furniture, a bar waiting for a custom-designed top and a bar-back missing its future mirror focal point, the whole thing works. The space mirrors the DIY spirit of recreational brewers, making it feel cozily appropriate versus unfinished. Guests can belly up to the tasting bar, hunker down on an Ikea couch or table with a wood palette top, or rest their elbows on numerous belly bars as they work their way through a regularly changing line-up of beers produced on a seven-barrel brewhouse directly behind the bar.
The day I visited, 13 beers were on tap. Several were split into dual offerings, as is one of Thornton’s purposeful differentiators. Because part of the mission of HBC is to showcase the ingredients available at The Homebrewer, he enjoys brewing a batch of beer, then splitting it and treating one different than the other by dry-hopping it differently, adding adjuncts, fermenting it with a different yeast strain, serving it on nitro, etc. It’s similar to how White Labs ferments base beers with a variety of diverse yeast strains to illustrate the vast flavor and aroma differences each imparts, but HBC’s approach is wider reaching.
Thornton says there is no style of beer he doesn’t appreciate, and his HBC brews prove it. While he’s currently gravitating toward iterations of American pale ales, they share beer list space with a brown ale, Belgian amber, hefeweizen, Schwarzbier, India pale ale and more. While highly varied, these beers share similarities in that they are highly drinkable and mostly very dry in the finish. Hop flavors and aromas tend to dominate without being obscured by bracing bitterness. This is particularly true of SMASH (single malt and single hop) offerings, something that’s becoming quite en vogue among craft enthusiasts. All in all, the beers are impressive and enjoyable, whether one’s aim is to taste across the board or meander over a pint or two of a single offering.
HBC is for sure one to watch among the county’s newer brewery debuts, especially considering Thornton has several barrels of blonde ale souring away in a closed-off space behind his two-in-one business. He hasn’t quite figured out the specifics of how to offer it up to prospective buyers, but wants to explore bottling. That may require the help of industry friends, but Thornton has many. His reputation among local brewers is as good as that of his store among the amateur sect.
He recently collaborated on a beer with brewers from Intergalactic Brewing Co. and Kilowatt Brewing Co., seeks recipe formulation advice from Ray Astamendi at Fall Brewing Co., and has enjoyed Q&A and collaboration brew sessions with Lee Chase of Automatic Brewing Co. That beer, Tiger! Piss! (a name playing off Chase’s Tiger! Tiger! Tavern), is a 6.4% SMASH IPA brewed with Chinook hops and Golden Promise malt emitting massive citrus scents that carry through to the taste buds. Look for that to reappear in the future along with a Berliner weisse, myriad lagers and beers brewed using a hefeweizen yeast strain.
We’re halfway through 2015 and already, a dozen new brewing companies (OK, 11 new brewing companies plus one reintroduced concept, Reckless Brewing Company—the Internet can be such a nit-picky place) have come online throughout San Diego County.
Unlike in previous years, these operations veer toward the smaller side and aren’t the kind of projects that have been waited on with bated breath by craft enthusiasts a la Bagby Beer Co. and Fall Brewing Company. With the exception of three of the dozen members of the class of 2015, they barely had time to build anticipation.
For the most part, all of them either flew under the radar during the planning stages or came online so fast that shortly after they became public knowledge, they opened their doors. Only East Village brewpub Half Door Brewing Co., slow-to-construct Pacific Islander Beer Co. gluten-reduced operation Duck Foot Brewing Company, and foudre-enhanced Prodigy Brewing Company occupied the beer sect’s consciousness for more than 12 months before becoming a reality.
But did the extra time result in a better end result? Not necessarily. In surveying the field, there are as many hares as there are tortoises. This is how the best of this brewer’s dozen shakes out…
South Park Brewing Co.: There’s a certain expectation when a bar as respected as Hamilton’s Tavern takes over its next door space to insert a brewpub. Thus far, brewers Cosimo Sorrentino (also of sister spot Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery) and Adam Carbonell are churning out well-made session beers built to pair with an inventive array of seafood-centric dishes.
Duck Foot Brewing Co.: Reducing gluten in his brewery’s offerings was big for Matt Delvecchio, not because of dietary fads, but because he is legitimately gluten-intolerant and doesn’t want others who are to have to forego craft beer. Fortunately, stripping away the gluten has zero effect on the flavor, texture or aroma of this Miramar company’s beers, which tackle nearly every style around..
Abnormal Beer Co.: Built within Rancho Bernardo’s The Cork and Craft restaurant, brewer Derek Gallanosa‘s balanced beers toe the line with conventional styles and modern-day drinkers’ taste preferences. Early brews were low on body, but subsequent batches have shown improvement in this area. Bonus: The Cork and Craft throw outrageously good monthly beer-pairing dinners.
Half Door Brewing Co.: A homey, heartfelt refuge a block from Petco Park, this family-run operation leans on knowledge Brewmaster Dan Drayne picked up at the Siebel Institute and Coronado Brewing Co. before taking the reins of his own two-story brewery. Beers celebrating the Draynes’ Irish heritage are solid and backed ably by ales paying homage to San Diego’s hop addiction.
The other brewing operations to open in the past six months are:
NOTE: This list does not include new spots owned and operated by established breweries such as AleSmith Brewing Co.’s new facility and its Observation Room, Green Flash Brewing Co.‘s Cellar 3 barrel-aging warehouse and tasting room, The Lost Abbey’s Cardiff Confessional or Alpine Beer Co.’s recently opened Tavern Road pub.
Not surprisingly, the companies experiencing more brewery success employ brewers with industry experience (though to varying degrees, and Duck Foot has also brought on an award-winning homebrewer). The majority of the other eight represent amateur brewers entering the professional ranks. Though interesting, this year’s crop lacks a runaway, must-visit new brewery. To be fair, some of these businesses would likely merit that reputation were there not more than 100 other breweries to visit in San Diego County, but these are the conditions awaiting any operation looking to enter the local beer industry.