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Ballast Point holding Family Reunion brews

Aug 10

Nickel Beer owner and former Home Brew Mart employee Tom Nickel (third from right) during a Family Reunion collaboration brew day at Ballast Point’s Miramar brewery.

Before Ballast Point Brewing was a company capable of commanding decuple figures, before it grew into San Diego County’s largest brewery and one of the biggest beer-producers in the country, before there even was a brewery called Ballast Point, there was Home Brew Mart (HBM). That Linda Vista hobby shop—one of the first to grace America’s Finest City—opened quietly in 1992 and, over the following quarter-century, has ignited a fire for recreational fermentation within a great many ale-and-lager neophytes. That includes individuals who now own breweries and brew professionally. Some of that contingent even worked for HBM in its early days. In celebration of the big two-five, Ballast Point is creating Family Reunion collaboration beers with those ex-employees as well as former BP brewers, an impressive assemblage of well-known, award-winning talent.

Ballast Point vice president Colby Chandler dumps hops over Amplified Ale Works head brewer Cy Henley’s head as part of a collaboration brew tradition.

Several of the beers have already been released, while others are scheduled to be brewed in time for them to all be on-tap at HBM’s 25th anniversary event on September 24. The following is a breakdown of the collaborators, their creations and their past.

  • Saludos Saison: The third brewing of a strong saison with lemon peel, orange-blossom honey and thyme inspired by Brasserie Dupont’s Avec Les Bon Vouex brewed with Tom Nickel. He was HBM’s sixth employee and now owns and operates Nickel Beer Company as well as O’Brien’s Pub and West Coast Barbecue & Brews.
  • Loud & Proud: An English-style barley wine with cherrywood-smoked malt brewed with Cy Henley, the head brewer at Amplified Ale Works. He was a clerk at HBM before moving on to Alpine Beer Company and Green Flash Brewing.
  • Name TBD: Ex-HBM clerk Larry Monasakanian is now with Fall Brewing and will help brew a 5% alcohol-by-volume saison based off the recipe for BP’s charity offering, Brother Levonian. This version will be brewed with grains of paradise, local sage and equally local wet hops from Star B Ranch, then fermented with a blend of Brettanomyces and saison yeast,
  • Scripps Tease: An extra special bitter (ESB) made with toasted oats and Ethiopia Ayeahu RFA coffee beans from James Coffee Company (close to BP’s Little Italy brewpub) brewed with Nate Stephens and Clayton LeBlanc, the brew crew for Eppig Brewing. Both worked for BP, the former led Little Italy operations while the latter brewed at its Scripps Ranch facility.
  • Swemiceros: A hoppy Kolsch dry-hopped with fruity, citrusy, herbal hops brewed with Nick Ceniceros, head brewer at 32 North Brewing. Nick worked at Scripps Ranch before moving to Fall Brewing and eventually his current digs.
  • Bay to Bay: A black California common that’s “obnoxiously dry-hopped” with Mosaic brewed with Alex Tweet, who won a BP homebrew contest with his recipe for Indra Kunindra, a curry export stout the company still manufactures. Tweet went on to brew for Modern Times Beer before moving to Berkeley to open the popular Fieldwork Brewing.
  • Name TBD: John Maino and Greg Webb, former Scripps Ranch brewers and co-owners of Temecula’s Ironfire Brewing, will help brew a wet-hop India pale ale (IPA) fermented with Brett.

Eppig Brewing’s Clayton LeBlanc talks about his time working at Ballast Point with the company’s current employees.

In an effort to increase its current employee base’s knowledge on the history of BP and its eldest venue, vice president Colby Chandler asked each collaborator to speak to present-day brewers about their time with the company, how it was then and how it prepared them to venture out on their own. Many said that making beer at such a fast-growing brewing company provided them wide-ranging experience as well as reference points for overcoming myriad obstacles. According to Chandler, many brewery owners, in particular, felt their time with BP made it much easier once they were working for themselves.

In addition to the HBM anniversary event, BP is also holding a series of beer-pairing dinners incorporating the aforementioned collaboration brews at HBM. The next will take place on August 24 and include five courses served with Swemiceros, Bay to Bay, Scripps Tease and various other BP beers. Chandler, Tweet, Stephens, LeBlanc and Ceniceros will all be in attendance.

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Fallbrook’s “Homegrown” collaboration beer

Aug 19
The Fallbrook Homegrown Saison brewing team, plus one (from left-to-right): John Maino, Clint Stromberg, Chuck McLaughlin, Lucas Nelson and Ryan Brooks

The Fallbrook Homegrown Saison brewing team, plus one (from left-to-right): John Maino, Clint Stromberg, Chuck McLaughlin, Lucas Nelson and Ryan Brooks

One morning, standing in a green room awaiting a television segment with the owners of Fallbrook Brewing Company and Bolt Brewery, I watched both gentlemen take a shine to each other. It made sense. After all, they represent the only two breweries to be established in the extreme North County town of Fallbrook. While Chuck McLaughlin’s FBC has been holding down the civic fort for the past two years, the initial version of Bolt opened in Fallbrook back in 1987, with current owner Clint Stromberg acting as assistant brewer to then-founder Paul Holborn. That was the first brewery to open in San Diego post-Prohibition (yep, even before Karl Strauss Brewing Company came along in 1989), and though it closed less than a year into its original life, it held a spot in the hearts and history of San Diego beer and its fans. In late-2014, Bolt and Stromberg resurfaced in La Mesa, but it still has plenty of love for the old neighborhood. Enough that, in that green room, Stromberg and McLaughlin came up with the idea to collaborate on a locals-only Fallbrook beer.

Ironfire Brewing's John Maino harvesting citrus in Fallbrook

Ironfire Brewing’s John Maino harvesting citrus in Fallbrook

Many months have passed and Stromberg fell out of the equation, but McLaughlin ran with the idea and other friends with Fallbrook roots. That group included his FBC lead brewer Lucas Nelson, Coronado Brewing Company brewmaster Ryan Brooks and Ironfire Brewing Company president John Maino, who came together to brew a dry, “San Diego-style” saison. Coming in 7% alcohol-by-volume, the beer gets its SD-ness care of an assemblage of hops introduced via a BYOH method that saw each brewer bring their own pellets to the party. Polaris, Equinox and Citra coalesce along with a variety of Fallbrook-grown ingredients, including avocado blossom honey as well as citrus—grapefruit, oranges, lemons and prickly pears—the quartet took a field trip to a local grove to pick themselves. McLaughlin’s enjoyment of the collaborative process went far beyond the beer-making. Each of the members of the aforementioned team were instrumental to him as he worked to open—and keep open—his small-town main-street brewery.

Dubbed Fallbrook Homegrown, the beer will make its official debut at FBC’s second anniversary celebration, a three-day affair taking place from August 21 to 23. Admission is free and live music and food from mobile vendors will be available each day. Musical acts will include Lee Koch, Tackey Little Hat Shop, Dulaney and Miller, plus Nelson’s band, Moonpool. Sunday’s festivities will start earlier than the other days (11 a.m.) and go by a “Sunday beer brunch” theme that includes coffee from The Swell Cafe, “beermosas” made with FBC beer and fresh squeezed juices, and a blend of kombucha and beer called “beerbucha.” Information about the anniversary events can be found on FBC’s website.

Editor’s note: The first paragraph has been revised to include mention of Paul Holborn, Bolt’s original founder. 

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