Two days ago I recapped last year’s brewery closures, citing eight that had shut their doors, including two that did so the final week of 2017. Just four days into 2018, it’s already time to cover the New Year’s first impending closure. This time it’s Oceanside Ale Works (1800 Ord Way, Oceanside), which announced yesterday via social media that it will be shutting down, but not before a final service on Saturday, January 6. OAW holds the dubious distinction of being the longest tenured local brewery to go out of business in the modern brewery era.
Inquiries to ownership were not immediately answered.
Established in 2006, OAW rose to popularity as an after-hours industrial-suite hangout, gaining enough of a mostly-local following to substantiate a move to a second location roughly a half-decade later. At that point, ownership upped its available square-footage and brewing capacity while adding a barrel-aging program that went on to earn critical acclaim. After the move, OAW’s traditionally low prices remained below the industry average, but heavy patronage made the math work.
When OAW opened, Breakwater Brewing was its only competition in the City of Oceanside. Now, fermentation operations of all sizes dot the landscape from the renowned Bagby Beer Co. to large-scale operations like Belching Beaver Brewery and Mason Ale Works to Camp Pendleton-adjacent Legacy Brewing to more recent additions such as Black Plague Brewing, Midnight Jack Brewing and Northern Pine Brewing to rival for municipality-namesake status Oceanside Brewing. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the 20-plus breweries in the neighboring Vista and Carlsbad communities.
On a personal note, OAW was one of the very first breweries I visited when I really began getting into locally-produced craft beer; venturing to production facilities to find out who made my beer and experience the full breadth of their creations versus simply drinking whatever I encountered on tap at retail establishments. From the moment I walked into OAW, owner Mark Purciel and his staff made me feel right at home and excited about beer. Keep in mind that I was not yet a journalist, simply an eager enthusiast, so the treatment I received was the type afforded every customer.
Having shared conversations with many OAW patrons, including professional brewers such as Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station brewing manager Kris Ketcham, who participated in his first professional brew with Purciel at the company’s original location on Oceanic Drive, Purciel was a positive driving force that reeled them in and kept them coming back. A former school teacher with a fun brand of mentorship at the core of his being, he was the face of the business, and he will surely be missed in the San Diego brewing scene.
The approach of All Hallow’s Eve certainly isn’t scaring local breweries away from holding a freakishly large number of events throughout San Diego County in the coming months. There are far too many to illustrate the full breadth in a short-list of four, so start with the hand-picked happenings below, then proceed to the full list on our events page.
October 8 | Oktoberfest Celebration: At this point, you’ve likely indulged in multiple O-festivities, and there’s no reason not to stop now. Hit Green Flash Brewing Company’s German-themed celebration to taste three special beers, including In der Mitte Märzenfestbier and a zwickel version of Sea to Sea Lager. | Green Flash Brewing Company, 6550 Mira Mesa Boulevard, Mira Mesa, 12 p.m.
October 13 | Blahktoberfest: Don’t pack those lederhosen up just yet. Blind Lady Ale House is having the eighth annual running of its Oktoberfest celebration with keeper pints (that you can fill with their Autobefest beer) and a unique house-made offering—bratwurst pizza. | Blind Lady Ale House, 3416 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights, 11 a.m.
October 21 | BagbyFest II: Even one of the most award-winning brewers of all times knows there’s more to the beverage world than just beer. Bagby Beer Company will section its expansive brewpub into zones celebrating wine, spirits, cocktails (and, yes, beer) from numerous regions of the world along with foods to go with them. | Bagby Beer Company, 601 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, 12 p.m.
October 21 | Anniversary Events: It seems October’s a fertile month. Three breweries are celebrating birthdays on the same day: Belching Beaver Brewing (5 years, special beers galore), Iron Fist Brewing Company (7 years, special beer and live music) and Legacy Brewing Company (4 years, Oktoberfest shindig). | Belching Beaver Brewery, 1334 Rocky Point Drive, Oceanside, 3 p.m.; Iron Fist Brewing Company, 1305 Hot Springs Way, Suite 101, Vista, 12 p.m.; Legacy Brewing Company, 363 Airport Road, Oceanside, 1 p.m.
October 21 | Ye Scallywag: Kickass beer and kickass punk rock will share space on the San Diego Bayfront when 100 beers are tapped against the backdrop of live performances from Pennywise and a motley crew of musical acts including The Vandals, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and more). | Waterfront Park, 1 Park Boulevard, Downtown San Diego, 12 p.m.
There’s no fooling around—April is brimming over with beer-related events worth attending. So much so that highlighting a mere five was very difficult. Consider this the tip of the iceberg. Peruse this flight of recommended happenings, then check out (and continue to check back on) our full events page.
April 8 | Brand Refresh Party: The team behind Legacy Brewing Company decided to give themselves a makeover, making tweaks to their eagle-ensconced logo, but they weren’t done there. They’ve redone the interior design and exterior mural-work at their Oceanside brewery, and are ready to show it off with beers that are—you guessed it—brand new! | Legacy Brewing, 363 Airport Road, Oceanside, 1 p.m.
April 15 | Mission Valley Craft Beer & Food Festival: The seventh annual manifestation of this local beer-and-food throw-down figures to make good on the over-the-top reputation its earned behind beer-loving chefs who’ve been in on it from the beginning, plus a cornucopia of culinary and craft-beer creations from throughout San Diego County. | Qualcomm Stadium Practice Field, 9449 Friars Road, Mission Valley, VIP: 12 p.m., General Admission: 1:30 p.m.
April 18 | Campaign Pre-Launch Party: 45 events comprising 2017’s Beer to the Rescue campaign benefiting the Lupus Foundation of Southern California will take place in May, but this April shindig on the patio of Gordon Biersch will offer a preview of the fun to come, and feature head brewer Doug Hasker’s just-released Maibock, and his band, The Barnacles. | Gordon Biersch, 5010 Mission Center Road, Mission Valley, 5 p.m.
April 20 | Fermented Pairings: Some things are just so good you have to do them again. Case in point, an educational event exploring the vibrantly flavorful overlapping of beer and the lavish, yeasty and cake-textured confections of North Park’s Nomad Donuts. Learn about both through thoughtful consumption at the 16th installment of White Labs’ fun and experiential saga. | White Labs, 9495 Candida Street, Miramar, 6 p.m.
April 25 | Beer Dinner No. 1: The ale-and-lager game at North Park Beer Co. is made even better by on-site meat-men, Mastiff Sausage Co. Step up to NPBC’s second-floor mezzanine and watch as these entities come together like never before in an inaugural, five-course beer-dinner that will include smoked duck breast, lamb kofka, Bavarian bundt cake and, of course, beer! | North Park Beer Co., 3038 University Avenue, North Park, 7 p.m.
From the Beer Writer: While I can and will eat anything, and have very few food aversions, we all have things we enjoy and those we don’t care for all that much. Personally, I’m not big on olives, cheap caviar (I sound like such a highbrow jerk saying that), watercress or guava. I’m pretty sure I know the reason for my aversion to the latter, and it stems from my first job, where there was a locker room that constantly stunk with the funk of this tropical fruit, which my co-workers would keep on-hand with great regularity. It produced a constant and potent stench that prompted me to hold my breath when passing through that space en route to the shipping warehouse. So, I don’t eagerly seek this ingredient out, but I’ve found it to be a rather pleasant addition to beers. The Lost Abbey’s rare Duck Duck Guava and Legacy Brewing Company’s award-winning Guava Beer are good examples, but the best yet is Bitter Brothers Family Tart with Guava. I was already a fan of Bitter Brothers Brewing Company’s house Berliner weisse, but adding a dose of pink guava to this bacteria-driven, kettle-sour gives it character that goes beyond the fruit itself. If anything, it makes the beer taste like an explosion of multiple tropical fruits, which is probably why I don’t necessarily associate it with guava (that and the fact it doesn’t smell like a used sweat-sock fished from a urinal) and, thus, abhor it. Upon tasting it, I was happy to find this easy-drinking and assertively tart 4.5% alcohol-by-volume beer will eventually be packaged and available to the masses.
From the Brewer: “The Family Tart with Guava is our base Berliner weisse done with pink guava purée. It’s soured with our house mix culture that has multiple strains of Lactobacillus, Pediococcus and Brettanomyces, and is finished with a Saccharomyces yeast strain. This process gives the base-beer overtones of tropical fruit—especially pineapple—and lighter notes of stone fruits like apricot and peach. Up to this point we have done a new fruited flavor every month. Going forward, we are going to limit that exclusively to tasting room with wider release of seasonal flavors. This ties in with our plans to start canning in the fourth quarter of this year and having the Family Tart be one of those beers we can. The next fruited Berliner weisse will come out in the fall and be a blood orange-based purée with light additions of pomegranate and passion fruit. Winter will be prickly pear, spring will be peach and in the summer we will return to guava. If we do something we really like in the tasting room one of those flavors might change, but for now that’s what we are going with.”—John Hunter, Head Brewer, Bitter Brothers Brewing Company
For a number of years, two breweries—Oceanside Ale Works and Breakwater Brewing Company—called the City of Oceanside home. Then, seemingly overnight, the North County coastal community found itself in the midst of a food-and-drink revolution. Adventurous restaurants began opening at a rapid clip, and with them have come numerous brewing operations (Bagby Beer Company, Legacy Brewing Company, Belching Beaver Brewery, Midnight Jack Brewing Company, Urge Gastropub’s Mason Ale Works and the open-and-soon-shut Beer Brewing Company), as well as the county’s only meadery, Golden Coast Mead. Last month, O-side welcomed another into its suddenly sudsy scene, Oceanside Brewing Company (312 Via Del Norte, Oceanside).
Though the latest addition, this project goes back further than any of the others. Master brewer Greg Distefano (who has been brewing for 25 years, served as master brewer for Stuffed Pizza—now Oggi’s—and founded local homebrew club San Diego Brew Techs) purchased the name Oceanside Brewing Company 15 years ago with the dream of starting a world-class brewery. Now, he and co-founder/head brewer Tomas Bryant have brought it to life in a 2,100-square-foot space with a three-and-a-half-barrel brewhouse and 1,900-square-foot outdoor patio. Both share a love of Oceanside’s diverse population and hometown feel, and hope to contribute something of quality to the community. One thing’s for sure, they’ve certainly brought quantity with 18 taps, all pumping out different and widely varied beer styles.
Core beers include an American pale ale, India pale ale (IPA), amber ale, cream ale, hefeweizen and English-style porter. Those share space beside a pineapple-infused IPA, double IPA, black IPA (or Cascadian dark ale, as they prefer to refer to it), barley-wine, tropical hefe, imperial stout, Belgian-style strong ale and witbier. Honey-wines and braggots are also something they will produce with great regularity. Distefano and Bryant utilize more than 20 yeast strains from nearby Real Brewer’s Yeast to ferment these and their other beers.
What might look like a beer-board populated by randomly landing spitballs actually has quite a bit of reason behind it. Distefano and Bryant are self-proclaimed historical brewers, and say each beer has a historical reason for being on-tap, calling their style “classic-meets-innovation”. They are enthused that this is the only time in the history of the world that literally every beer ingredient known to mankind is at brewers’ disposal, cautiously adding that this may not always be the case. While it is, they intend to take advantage of the current state of the fermentation arts.