Each June, San Marcos’ Rip Current Brewing Company uses Rip Current Awareness Week, a seven-day period designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as an opportunity to raise public knowledge about its wares through special events and offers at its tasting rooms. It’s a clever marketing effort; enough so that another San Marcos-headquartered brewing company isn’t waiting for a governmental agency to institute an educational span in its honor. Enter, Mason Awareness Week, taking place August 28 to September 1.
Mason Ale Works, the in-house brewing operation of the 3LB Restaurant Group built within its Urge Gastropub brewpubs in Oceanside and San Marcos, is teaming with high-profile accounts throughout San Diego over a five-day span to increase imbibers’ consciousness of the brand. According to 3LB co-owner Grant Tondro, Mason Ale Works has been able to gain a good following in North County, but isn’t as relevant south of Miramar. So, they’re bringing the brand south via special events and promotions.
The week will kick off with a Monday steak night at University Heights’ Small Bar that, instead of featuring a keep-the-glass aspect, will allow patrons to keep a Mason-branded steak knife. Tuesday a beer-can koozie will be the keeper du jour at High Dive in Bay Park. Wednesday the Mason crew will return to Urge Common House in San Marcos for a “mini-Lebowski fest” marking the release of a “vegan White Russian beer” brewed in collaboration with Modern Times Beer. Thursday will see a keep-the-glass and cask-night combo at Kearny Mesa’s O’Brien’s Pub, followed by special bottle pours and custom t-shirts at Toronado in North Park.
Like many new local brewery owners, Tondro says opening a brewing company in the current, crowded marketplace is challenging. He says the number of slices of the pie are growing faster than the pie at this point, making it all the more important to differentiate one’s brand and beers, and fueling the decision to reach out in order to introduce themselves to San Diego beer drinkers.
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.
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.
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.
More than a decade-and-a-half ago, Andrew Campbell took a trip to the Czech Republic, where he ventured to Plzen and tasted fresh, unfiltered Pilsner Urquell on tap. It was delicious enough to send him searching for the beer or a brew of equal or greater quality when he returned to the States. Alas, the craft-beer movement was still gaining momentum and Pilsners weren’t nearly as en vogue as they are at present. Unimpressed but not one to cast aspersions on all local takes on Bohemian Pilsners, he returned to Plzen the following year, just to make sure the original was as incredible as he remembered. It was, and he decided if he was going to enjoy beer like that back home, he was going to have to make it himself. Campbell has been brewing ever since, but he’s about to go from fermentation hobbyist to vocational beer-man along with fellow long-time homebrewer Darren Baker, when they open Circle Nine Brewing (7292 Opportunity Road, Kearny Mesa).
Campbell and Baker selected their Kearny Mesa business-park location based on their respect for the area’s extensive line-up of good breweries and beer-centric retailers, specifically citing Council Brewing, Societe Brewing, O’Brien’s Pub and Common Theory Public House. They hope their operation can fit into visitors’ beer- and pub-crawl itineraries, and hope to provide “a complete portfolio and something for every craft-beer lover, even those who don’t really like craft beer.”
That’s a pretty tall order, but when Circle Nine opens in late-July or early-August, its beer list figures to be fairly varied. Scheduled to be on tap are a rice lager, pale ale, India pale ale (IPA), double IPA, stout and barrel-aged stout. The names for those beers range from Circle One for the lager and Circle Nine for an upcoming whiskey barrel-aged imperial stout. That nomenclature evokes Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s epic, Divine Comedy, which artfully and meticulously diagrams the author’s vision of the afterlife; the more robust the beer, the further along in the order it falls.
Those beers will be produced on Circle Nine’s three-and-a-half barrel brewhouse. Campbell and Baker will double-batch into three seven-barrel fermenters, a pair of bright tanks of equal capacity, plus two single-barrel fermenters for experimental and specialty beers. More seven-barrel fermentation tanks will be added after the brewery opens, and will help them achieve an estimated 300-400 barrels of annual beer production.
From the Beer Writer: It’s been a big couple of months for Kearny Mesa’s Common Theory Public House. After three years in business, the bar and restaurant picked up popular gastronome A.G. Warfield (formerly of San Marcos craft-beer haven Churchill’s Pub & Grille), who promptly got to work overhauling CT’s entire menu. A bevy of new dishes from that revamped bill of fare (which includes sweet and spicy pork belly with kimchi, a field-and-stream duo of fried chicken and crab cake, and a “Convoy Burger” featuring ground chuck, a duck egg, pork belly and duck gravy between ramen-noodle “buns”) debuted last week as part of the venue’s third-anniversary weekend. There was another new and special consumable available to event-goers, as well: Pure Project CT3 Triple IPA. Produced by Miramar’s Pure Project Brewing especially for Common Theory, it’s a 10.3% alcohol-by-volume, hazy IPA brewed with 600 pounds of strawberries sourced in Escondido. On paper, it’s a bruising brew from a booze perspective, but the fresh fruit and late-addition hops come together to give this beer a dose of refinement and flavors of citrus and strawberries that keeps it almost dangerously drinkable. Only one batch of this beer was produced and it’s going fast…but Common Theory is tapping a fresh keg today. Just sayin’.
From the Brewer: “The team here at Pure Project was really excited to be approached by the Common Theory crew to brew a beer for their third anniversary. Seeing as it was a very special occasion, we decided to brew a truly lavish beer. Strawberry season is one our favorite times here at Pure, so we decided to blend one of our favorite fruits with a big, murky triple IPA in order to really show off hand-picked, organic strawberries that seamlessly meld with the fruitiest designer hops. A huge, multi-dimensional dry-hopping of Mosaic and Hallertau Blanc hops bring all the fruit you could want from a juicy IPA, while still leaving room for the strawberries to shine through in their local, agricultural elegance. Grab some while it’s still around!”—Winslow Sawyer, Head Brewer, Pure Project Brewing
From the Beer Writer: During my time working for Stone Brewing, I made many great friends. The company is packed with brilliant, fun and kind people, and one of the nicest of them all is the man in charge of brewing operations at Stone’s Liberty Station brewpub, Kris Ketcham. A champion of creativity who has indulged the desires of many novices in his brewhouse, he not only dares to try things others would avoid, but possesses the skill to pull off nearly every challenge thrown his way. In 2015, when I kicked off a charity campaign to raise money for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California through the sale of specialty beers from local breweries, I had the chance to brew with Ketcham, and it was a joyfully educational experience. This year, he let me back in the brewhouse to help conjure another charity beer: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station Trending Travis-ty. Aside from being long as all get out, there’s significance to the name of this hazy, “Northeast-style” session IPA. At the brewery I currently work for, Societe Brewing, clarity is king. Our brewing team strives to avoid haze in our IPAs and our brewmaster, Travis Smith, finds what he calls the “muddy IPA” haze-craze to be ridiculous if not a sacrilege. So we took this raging trend and made our own little “Travis-ty”. To be fair, Ketcham and I prefer clear IPAs, too, but we thought it would be a fun challenge to create a not-overly-hazy IPA with big hop appeal and extremely low alcohol; a crushable beer that would benefit from increased body from a variety of adjuncts and provide that “juiciness” beer fans are looking for these days. It’s on tap now and a portion of proceeds help lupus patients in San Diego and Imperial Counties care of the Beer to the Rescue campaign.
From the Brewer: “There have been a lot of trends in brewing over the years. The most recent one I can remember is session IPAs, and now we have ‘the L replacement’ hazy, juicy IPAs. As someone who’s taken pride in learning and employing multiple techniques for achieving beer clarity, I find it such a travesty that we’ve shifted into this. However, as much as I love to knock them, there is a uniqueness to them that even I find enjoyable from time to time. I also need to remind myself to keep an open mind, as we’ve come a long way in the past twenty-plus years. All of us as ‘craft’ brewers have changed the perception of beer over the years and still continue to do with styles like these. Sometimes we enjoy them so much that we try our own interpretations with our own signature twists. Trending Travis-ty mixes the past and current trends brewers have been chasing. Take all the adjuncts that give you the trending haze and put them to use in a style that’s lacking in body—session IPA—and you get a win-win result. For this beer, we used a blend of two-row, oats, wheat and dextrin malt to increase body and haze levels. No hops where harmed in the boiling of the wort. Instead, all of the hops used in this beer were added at the start of fermentation and post-fermentation to really bring on the haze. The combo of Mosaic, Loral and Vic Secret hops was a fun combination that uses Brandon and I’s favorite new hops with a hop that is in damn near every single IPA on the market today. Clocking in at 4.3% alcohol-by-volume and 40 on the IBU (international bittering unit) scale—all from the dry hop—this beer fulfills those whose hipster mantras include ‘I only drink hazy IPAs’ and ‘I only drink session beers.’”—Kris Ketcham, Liberty Station Brewing Manager, Stone Brewing