I would be challenged to remember the last time I saw any business receive as much support while out of business as Indian Joe Brewing (2123 Industrial Court, Vista). The family-run operation abruptly shut down when it lost its base of operations to landlord disputes in 2015. Owners Max Moran and Geri Lawson immediately got to work looking for a new spot to install their brewery, but it took a while—two years to be exact. In a county with more than 140 operating brewhouses, there’s little reason for even the most devoted of beer-drinkers to hold a candle for the return of one of the smallest of the suds scene’s sojourners, but hundreds of Indian Joe fans remained just that…fans. Not the casually interested kind, but the most engaged breed of supporters, communicating with the owners over social media and in-person when possible, following them as they sought out a new facility and, after finding it, took on the task of not only reopening, but growing the business by leaps and bounds in the process. The result is the current iteration of Indian Joe, which opened in March and is fulfilling the long-entertained dreams of Moran, Lawson and the many hopeful beer enthusiasts crowding their corner.
During the lengthy road to Indian Joe 2.0, I also stayed close to the business’ founders, visiting the project site and wondering just how much of their ambitious agenda they would actually be able to realize. Installing a 15-barrel brewing system, an extensive stainless steel cellar, tons of oak barrels for aging and a huge tasting room; taking over an abutting building for warehouse space; distributing throughout the county in kegs, bottles and cans. Keep in mind, they were coming from a business-park brewery where Moran brewed several times a day on a meager 20-gallon system simply to keep beer on-tap at the sole source of consumption, Indian Joe’s tasting room. It was nicely appointed and featured many an outlandish brew that, frankly, weren’t for everybody. It wasn’t exactly the type of operation one would figure to be ripe for financial backing and expansion, but Moran and Lawson easily secured enthusiastic financing to take things to the next level. While permitting and construction of their new spot proved much more difficult, a recent visit reveals they’ve accomplished many of their goals and are on-track to breathe life into the rest.
Indian Joe has a whopping 30 beers on-tap. That’s admirable—but only if the beers are of quality. Quantity is nothing without quality. After tasting through more than half of the offerings the day I was there, I can say that Indian Joe’s beers taste better than at any point in the company’s history. What makes that even more impressive is the range of styles and the retaining of the anything-goes approach that birthed oddities like a Margarita Gose aged in tequila barrels; blueberry, plum and ginger sour ale; and honey-oatmeal tripel with Vietnamese and Ethiopian Baraka Buna coffees. What to the beer-purist (and even some adventurous drinkers) sounds like a rundown of the tap-list at an insane asylum…wait for it…tastes rather nice. Sure, you have to be in the mood for something avant-garde, but I often am and enjoyed all three of these beers in addition to an “imperial red sour” with blackberries and black currants, “Indian Sunrise” blood orange and sweet cherry Gose and apricot-peach sour. All three are ideally suited for the hot-weather months just around the corner.
But not all of the beers are weird at Indian Joe. There’s a Belgian-style witbier (which also comes infused with lime or tangerine), a robust porter (another version of which is available spiked with chocolate and hazelnut) and a variety of IPAs, including a double, a flagship infused with white sage and, to show they can fall in line with the best of them, a Northeast-style number for the haze-crazy. The IPAs are better than the ones I remember from the original Indian Joe. The increase in overall quality isn’t just the result of purchasing new, larger, more state-of-the-art equipment. Moran and Lawson brought on a head brewer, Grant Heuer, who last brewed at Temecula’s Refuge Brewery and Relentless Brewing as well as Las Vegas’ Big Dogs Brewing. In addition to bringing experience, he has also brought brewers and brewing ingredients from Riverside County (where he still resides) to the table, resulting in collaboration beers (including that hazy IPA created with Electric Brewing) and the java from Augie’s Coffee utilized in the aforementioned out-there tripel and Indian Joe’s imperial oatmeal coffee stout.
Also upgraded is the environment in which the beers can be experienced. Indian Joe’s 4,000 square foot tasting is one of the largest in the county. Visitors can drink at the long downstairs bar, high-tables or an outdoor patio…and that’s just the ground floor. There’s an L-shaped upstairs area with windows looking out onto State Route 78, a rail bar and numerous plush leather couches. Moran and Lawson clearly made the most of all the time they spent waiting on agencies to respond and construction issues to be resolved. The immense amount of time was worth it and the faith in these entrepreneurs from their loyal fans well placed.
Craft beer’s “South Bay Uprising” has slowly been picking up steam over the past few years, but now things are getting real. The uprising is finally hitting the main drag in Chula Vista, the municipality where it’s most important that it make an impact—Third Avenue. That thoroughfare is already home to Third Avenue Alehouse and will soon be joined by the area’s first fully functioning brewery and tasting room, Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company. Much fanfare has surrounded the latter while another interest bearing the city’s name has quietly gone about the business of going into business right across the street: Chula Vista Brewery.
Located at 294 Third Avenue, Chula Vista Brewery is the product of Timothy and Dali Parker, a couple who live in the area. As the company’s name suggests, the Parkers aim to be ultra-local, which will include teaming with other Chula Vista businesses. They feel there is a misconception that Chula Vista lacks craft-beer drinkers, which has led to the community’s underserviced status from a brewing perspective. So, they’re taking it upon themselves to give their community the ales they feel it deserves.
Russell Clements, a veteran brewer who worked at Rock Bottom‘s La Jolla brewpub under (current Second Chance Beer Company brewmaster) Marty Mendiola before moving on to Ballast Point Brewing, will be the one manning the brewhouse. He will be assisted by Timothy, whose brewing background has all been gained on the home-front. Together, the duo will craft enough beers to stock CVB’s dozen taps. They are currently developing a blonde, red ale, American pale ale, IPA and stout on their five-barrel Premier Stainless system. A double IPA, porter, imperial stout and hoppy lager will come later.
While the business may open as soon as this weekend (the Parkers advise that they will post information about any soft-opening on their website), the official grand opening will take place on Friday, May 5. CVB will have Third Avenue to themselves for a little while. Their cross-street colleagues at Thr3e Punk Ales are currently scheduled to open to the public by the end of June.
From the Beer Writer: Every time I find myself strolling the beer aisle of a local grocery store, I marvel at the amount of fruit-flavored beers in the mainstream market, many of which are manufactured using extracts. It’s obvious the demand is there, but it can be tough to find all-natural options, partly because brewing with real fruit is more costly, more complicated, and more labor-intensive. Because of that, the process is far better suited to small breweries like Nickel Beer Company, an operation carved into an old jailhouse in Julian. Every week you can find owner and brewmaster Tom Nickel hunched over buckets of local grapefruit, zesting and juicing one after another to get enough flavorful raw ingredient for Nickel Grapefruit Bighorn IPA. He’s not even a fan of fruit beers, but he knows his customers are, even folks like me who generally dislike grapefruit. The manner in which the bitter citrus comingles with the fruity bitterness of the beer’s hop bill really works, particularly when consuming this beer on Nickel’s outdoor patio on a sunny day in Julian.
From the Brewers: “I would consider myself more of a traditional brewer and not prone to adding extra flavors to beer, my one exception being an obsession with all things spicy, so I do love my pepper beers. But when I saw locally-grown grapefruit from Borrego Springs at our produce stand in Julian, I thought it seemed like a good fit to try with one of our IPAs. The intensity of the fresh grapefruit in the beer struck me immediately, and while I certainly thought it was good, I had no idea how folks—especially our local regulars—would react to it. For the time that we have had it on, it has been our most popular beer. I have now used three different IPAs as a base to blend with the Borrego grapefruit, but the Bighorn IPA is a perfect match. The beer was brewed for the Anza-Borrego Foundation‘s 50th Anniversary in April. It was made with 100% German hops, including Hallertau Blanc for finishing and dry hopping to give the beer a substantial citrus profile. It is very light in color and clocks in at a very drinkable 6.4% (alcohol-by-volume). The grapefruit is commanding in the aroma and finish but the overall impression of the IPA remains. I think my favorite comment about the beer so far comes from my mother-in-law, who said it would be an excellent breakfast beer. I wholeheartedly agree.”—Tom Nickel, Founder & Brewmaster, Nickel Beer Company
When Rawley Macias spoke with me about what he planned to produce at his work-in-progress brewery, he said he’d be going for a style-defying portfolio of beers. After visiting his now soft-opened Rouleur Brewing (5840 El Camino Real, Suite #101, Carlsbad) last week, it would appear he’s backed off of that a bit in favor of proving the versatility of Belgian yeast. Personally, I consider this a concept upgrade. While Belgian beer-styles have risen in popularity over the past decade, few are the operations that specialize in them in San Diego County. And no other company is trying to do as much with Belgian yeast strains as Macias.
Rouleur’s opening septet of beers all utilize Bastogne strain with the exception of a golden strong ale, and all will be available at the business’ official grand opening, an indoor-outdoor affair that will take place starting at noon on Saturday, April 8 (the same day as next-door neighbors, Wiseguy Brewing) and include live music and food trucks. That beer features big flavors candied lemon peel and peach commonly found in imperial IPAs, plus added fruit notes from the Belgian-yeast esters. Aside from being slightly sweet—which is pretty common in double IPAs—it really works.
Rouleur’s single IPA, The Clydesdale, isn’t as successful a foray into the merging of the Old and New Worlds. The beer is brewed with Centennial, Cascade and Amarillo hops, yet the beer is seriously lacking in aroma. Still, the beer is grassy and earthy, showing potential that may be realized soon. Macias’ Carlsbad contemporaries from Burgeon Beer Company have offered up some friendly advice about dry-hopping techniques. Rouleur’s owner happily accepted it. While he’s homebrewed prolifically for a dozen years, the seven beers available at Rouleur represent the first seven times he’s brewed on a professional system, a fact that makes the quality of his other beers that much more impressive.
The Domestique, a 5.6% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) blonde is nice and light, allowing the floral and citrus character of the yeast to shine through. It was my favorite beer of the bunch. A Belgian pale ale called The Puncheur is balanced, as is Macias’ golden-child, a golden strong ale dubbed The Soloist (because it utilizes one grain and one hop) that comes in at 8.8% ABV but doesn’t taste overly alcoholic and has an almost champagne-like effervescence and dryness. All three of these beers feature varying degrees of an orange-like flavor from the yeast, which works with all three. On the darker side, a red ale came across dry with a touch of spice, but a tad flat on the palate, while a 6.7% dark ale had a big roasty nose followed by prune, plum and anise character on the taste buds.
Aside from offering a respectable lineup of beers out of the gate, Rouleur has a lot of good things going on from an interior design prospective. Macias’ other passion, biking, is on full display care of a collage of vibrant modern and vintage photos (some dating back to the 1930s)—including some on the west wall that can be purchased if they catch your fancy—plus shots of Rouleur’s beers in yet-to-be-manufactured bottles leading to the brewery. an impressive bike-wheel sculpture of sorts Macias engineered on his own, and a rare 100% steel Masi Gran Criterium bicycle with Rouleur’s logo hand-painted on by legendary frame-painter Jim Allen. Rouleur’s space came as a blank white canvas in the third of developer H.G. Fenton’s Brewery Igniter complexes and Macias has gone to a great deal of work to deliver a complete concept from the get-go. That should help him pull ahead of the pack.
Additional reporting by Katie Conner