From the Beer Writer: Beer festivals happen nearly every weekend in San Diego County. Yes, it is truly a magnificent time to be alive. With such a multitude of beer-drinking extravaganzas, many can come across rather similar and maybe even a bit blah. Granted these are first-world problems, but fests that register a cut above incorporate unique value-addeds, interesting tap lists and, in the best cases, really great humanitarian causes. For me, the annual event that checks all these boxes and is easily one of the best brew-hahas in a county overflowing with them is the Brewbies Festival. Put on by the Keep A Breast Foundation, this festival takes place at Oceanside’s Bagby Beer Co. and includes a robust, thoughtfully curated ensemble of largely Southern California breweries. Each of those businesses is asked to produce a special, pink-colored beer in honor of the non-profit’s mission to fight breast cancer and assist those effected by it. Attendees can spend a day sampling delightful pink one-offs they’re unlikely to encounter anywhere else. One of the beers that’ll be at Brewbies, Bagby Faint of Tart, is already available at the brewpub that birthed it. This blonde-turned-magenta ale is fortified with multiple red fruits, resulting in a complex, well-rounded fruit flavor. Slightly sweet and dry like rosé wine in the finish, it’s a delightful thirst-quencher that’s bound to find plenty of esteemed company at the festival it was brewed for, tickets for which can be purchased online.
From the Brewery: “We don’t make a lot of beer that has ingredients that stray too far from the core four. We jumped really out of our normal set last year with our first ever fruit beer. It was pretty well-liked and we have received some requests for its return. Instead of shooting for the same thing, we went for something a little different this time around. We took a really simple, mild blonde ale and added cranberries, pomegranates, raspberries and cherries into it. The result is a beer that has a great fruit aroma, a light blonde-ale character and a ‘faint’ tartness that comes through the fruit flavors. This beer is a bright, reddish-pink and will be our ‘pink beer’ offering at the Brewbies Festival. What is Brewbies? Well, years ago while working with me at Pizza Port, Melanie Pierce wanted to start a festival that would benefit Keep-A-Breast. She asked me what she needed to do and went to work creating this event, which is now in its ninth year and a very successful fundraiser for the non-profit. Each year, Melanie hand picks the breweries that are invited to pour and has always asked those breweries to bring at least one pink beer to help represent the breast cancer awareness at the core of the festival. It is pretty cool that breweries make special beers just for this event, even more so when they make full batches of pink beer without using any dyes or food coloring. This year we were able to get Faint of Tart ready in time, and a nice bonus is that we made a full batch so the beer is available now and will remain so for a while. There are several beers like this that will be poured at the festival. Some of these beers you may only see at this event so be sure to come check out Brewbies!”—Jeff Bagby, Owner & Brewmaster, Bagby Beer Company
From the Beer Writer: There are magic moments where you take a first sip of a beer and are instantly aware of its flawlessness care of a perfect blend of flavors, aroma, body and balance. I experienced such a moment about a month ago when my wife afforded me a try of the Baltic porter she’d ordered: Bagby Herd of Turtles. The beer is mild and silken with notes of baker’s chocolate augmented by a slight minerality from the slow-fermenting lager yeast that give this brew it’s fun moniker. To be fair, I often feel like I’m drinking technically and culturally perfect beers at Oceanside craft Mecca Bagby Beer Company, but what made this instance extra-special was Herd of Turtles being awarded a silver medal in the Baltic-style Porter category at the Great American Beer Festival a mere two weeks after I was introduced to it. That precious metal in no way makes the porter any better than it already was, but it sure is gratifying to have proof of a decent palate confirmed by the country’s preeminent professional-brewing competition.
From the Brewer: “A true lager beer, the primary fermentation for this beer takes around four weeks. It is then lagered over a period of eight-to-ten weeks. This long process allows the lager yeast to do a lot of work rounding out all of its deep flavors. The lager component allows the beer to be very clean and bright despite its age and complex array of flavors. The dark-malt depth in this beer is huge. It has flavors and aromas of dark fruit, sugar and cocoa. It also has a very slight roast note, and despite its high alcohol percentage, is relatively light-bodied with a crisp finish. We actually had the name for the beer before the beer, itself, thinking what a great image an actual herd of turtles would make. Obviously, it’s named this because of its super slow fermentation and cellaring. Because of that long lead time, this is a beer we make just once a year, and had only made once before the current batch. To us, that made it especially cool that it medaled.”—Jeff Bagby, Owner & Brewmaster, Bagby Beer Company
Winners from the 2017 edition of the Great American Beer Festival were announced earlier this morning. Held annually by brewing-industry trade organization, the Brewers Association, in Denver, Colorado, this year’s GABF saw nearly 8,000 beers entered by more than 2,000 breweries in 98 style categories. 293 were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals after being evaluated by 276 judges. GABF is the country’s largest and most prestigious professional brewing competition. San Diego County breweries have historically fared incredibly well. This year saw another strong showing with the region’s brewers racking up double-digit awards.
Eleven local brewing companies brought home 14 medals this time around, including five golds in the Robust Porter (Second Chance Beer Co.) Honey Beer (Karl Strauss Brewing Company‘s Carlsbad brewpub), Imperial India Pale Ale (Ballast Point Brewing) Other Specialty Belgian Ale (Stone Brewing World Brewing & Gardens – Liberty Station) and Session Beer (Pizza Port‘s Ocean Beach brewpub) categories. That went along with six silver medals and three bronzes.
Notable is the fact only one individual brewing facility in the county won more than one medal, Carmel Mountain Ranch’s Second Chance with a gold and a silver. Newly launched SouthNorte Brewing Company garnered a bronze medal in the Specialty Beer category for a beer called AgaveMente that hasn’t even been released to the public yet. And Monkey Paw Brewing, which Coronado acquired earlier this year, earned a silver medal in the English-style Summer Ale category. Also, Vista-based Mother Earth Brew Co. medaled in the Fresh or Wet Hop Ale category for Fresh As It Gets, a beer brewed at its Nampa, Idaho production facility.
Adding to the unofficial medal count was Belching Beaver Brewery, which for the second time in its history won top honors at the Alpha King Competition. Held in conjunction with GABF each year, this friendly competition crowns the brewing company that submits the hoppiest offering amid a stacked field of IPAs. Belching Beaver previously won Alpha King in 2014. On top of that, Chula Vista Brewery owners Timothy and Dalia Parker received the Samuel Adams Brewing and Business Experienceship, following in the footsteps of Ramona-based ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, who earned the same opportunity in 2014.
The following is a complete list of the winners from brewing facilities located within San Diego County…
The City of Encinitas has a history of staunch resistance toward beer manufacturers looking to set up shop within its boundaries. It’s where prestigious brewer Jeff Bagby (who has roots in Encinitas) and his wife initially sought to set up his acclaimed brewpub, Bagby Beer Company before a property that was much more attractive than the idea of embarking on Encinitas’ difficult permitting process led them to select Oceanside instead. The move has paid off as Bagby Beer’s opening fell in line with an overall food-and-beverage renaissance in Oceanside that has included establishment of several other brewing interests in the years since. Meanwhile, Encinitas is one of only four municipalities (out of 18 in San Diego County) without a single brewery in a county awash with local beer. (There was brewpub called The Red Kettle that operated along then First Street in the early-nineties, but it was very short-lived.) That will change to an extent, however, as the city is on track to welcome multiple brewery-owned tasting rooms.
Culture Brewing Company has a 1,048-square-foot tasting room in the works. That spot is scheduled to open at 629 South Coast Highway on August 12. The smallish nature of that venue seems to have been key in getting approval from the City’s Planning Commission, which granted the Solana Beach-based business permit approval in January.
When approached by Point Loma-based Modern Times Beer about a vastly larger satellite project—a space capable of holding approximately 150 people at a time—the commission stiffened once more. So much so that Modern Times put out an email blast to its consumers asking them to come to a City meeting held last week to voice their support for the project and help sway the Planning Commission’s vote. A substantial number of fans attended, vocally going toe-to-toe with Encinitas residents opposing the project. In the end, it would seem that maneuver resulted in Modern Times gaining the razor-thin voting edge that will lead to the permit approval they so desperately coveted. Located at 470 South Coast Highway across from the iconic La Paloma Theatre, that venue is estimated to open next year.
Further north in Leucadia (which is within and under the jurisdiction of the City of Encinitas), Miramar-based Saint Archer Brewery aims to install a tasting room in a space between beer bar The Regal Seagull and Surfy Surfy surf shop. If approved, it will be the first satellite venue from the macro-beer interest, which was purchased by MillerCoors in 2015 after just over two years in business. The newest of the proposed brewery-owned ventures in Encinitas, it has yet to inspire as much concern from the City or its residents as Culture and Modern Times. Instead, the main opponents are from craft beer fans who eschew Big Beer and the recent string of craft acquisitions.
It would seem City officials take cues from their constituents when attempting to defend their community from beer manufacturers. There is a vocal percentage of Encinitas citizens who are concerned that their city, particularly the commercial stretch of Coast Highway in the downtown core, is over-saturated with alcohol-centric hospitality venues. That is a matter of opinion, but even if one shares that point of view, City government permitted those booze businesses in the first place, including a wine-making facility, Solterra Winery and Kitchen, not far from Saint Archer’s proposed location in Leucadia. If Encinitas’ portion of the 101 resembles Pacific Beach’s Garnett Avenue as the City and its people fear, it would seem that municipal government has no one but themselves to blame.