Many are those who tour Ballast Point Brewing’s enormous Miramar headquarters with its 300-barrel and 150-barrel brewhouses and rows of sky-high fermenters feel the county’s largest brewing company must have all the room it needs, especially with additional brewing facilities in Scripps Ranch, Little Italy, Long Beach and Roanoke, Virginia. The Miramar facility comes in with greater production capability than any other in San Diego, but rapid expansion has rendered it out of space, leading parent company Constellation Brands to secure an 80,000-square-foot building directly north of the Miramar home base.
Ballast Point currently has control of 60,000 square feet of that structure for what it calls its Trade Street Facility. It has been divided into three equal-sized sections serving completely different purposes. One third is simply storage, while the middle third houses an abundant and growing stock of beer-filled oak barrels procured from various wineries and distilleries. The current barrel count comes in at approximately 1,400, with an additional 900 barrels in another facility less than a mile west on Crestmar Point. There are three full-time employees manning this section, and it will soon have tanks added to handle production of beers destined for those oak receptacles, which include about every type of liquor and wine imaginable with more on the way.
Ballast Point intends to up its number of barrel-aged beer releases which are currently held quarterly and locally. Those specialties will be distributed nationally, including four-pack releases of popular beers such as aged versions of its vanilla- and coffee-infused imperial porter, Victory at Sea. Other beers the team is looking forward to debuting include Sea Monster imperial stout and Piper Down Scottish ale in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, Navigator Doppelbock in brandy barrels, Barmy apricot and honey golden strong ale in neutral oak, plus various Belgian-style farmhouse, tripel and quadruple ales. In addition to its own needs, Ballast Point regularly fulfills requests from other breweries for barrels from its stock, including nearby Green Flash Brewing Company and 32 North Brewing Company.
The remaining third of the Trade Street facility is for “dirty beer”, referring to sours and bacteria-laden wild ales that, if not sectioned off, would stand a significant chance of infecting the clean beer as well as their production and storage mechanisms. This area has its own 40-barrel brewhouse feeding into more than 30 fermenters. It can produce up to 20,000 barrels of beer annually, some of which will make its way into six new 40-barrel, glycol-equipped, temperature-controlled fouders. The dirty area also has its own devoted bottling line, which recently packaged a national release’s worth of six-packs of Sour Wench blackberry ale.
Key to the new dirty beer operations is a state-of-the-art laboratory capable of providing as many quality assurance touch-points as the large lab at Ballast Point’s HQ. Prior to brewing Sour Wench for the most recent release, technicians conducted numerous tests, including analysis of myriad brands of blackberry puree and Lactobacillus strains, in search of the most ideal types for the beer. What they found was that the puree and strain the company was already using worked best, meaning the current batch of Sour Wench is very similar to the first batch ever homebrewed in 1998 (back when it went by the name Marion Berry’s Better-Than-A-Crack-Whore). While primary wild ale operations will now take place on Trade Street, Ballast Point hopes the aforementioned Long Beach facility will become the research-and-development feeder for the new facility.
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.
Beer and pizza—it seems like a sure-fire recipe for success. These two things go together like…well, beer and pizza. One would be hard-pressed to find a better edible-quaffable duo…unless, perhaps, it was the game-plan for opening a kitchen-equipped tasting-room on the main-drag in Little Italy, where pizza is being pumped out of ovens that have called the area home, in some cases, for decades. If you’re walking down India Street in search of quality pie, the likelihood you’ll select the satellite sampling space of a La Mesa-based brewery is pretty slim. And that’s why Bolt Brewery (1971 India Street, Little Italy) has decided to change things up on the food-front.
Owner Molly Rust and company have scrapped their pizza program and reconfigured the kitchen at its Little Italy tasting-room, equipping it to switch to a new menu based on burgers, small-plates and salads. Listed under the “Hand Helds” sandwich section of the Bolt bill, they’re straightforward and, at $11 or less, rather affordable.
In addition to its mammalian shift, Bolt’s Little Italy venue will also begin serving a weekend brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays. That menu includes blueberry-spice coffee cake, bacon-cheddar biscuits, Texas French toast, breakfast poutine, a veggie Benedict, and an assortment of “Bolt scrambles”—“Blasted” (sausage with pepper relish), “Wasted” (beef and spinach with Hollandaise sauce) and “Smashed” (bacon and feta). Bbrunch service is set to begin on December 3. and the small-plates and burger menu will go into effect the second week of December.
With three companies building out breweries within its confines, CRAFT by Brewery Igniter (3052 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park) has provided me a great deal of material for my beer-writings. It will eventually be the only place in all of San Diego County where one can visit three breweries in one fell swoop. But before that can happen, those businesses need to open. The first to do so will be Eppig Brewing Company, the soft-opening for which will take place this Wednesday, November 2. Following Wednesday’s debut, Eppig will be open during limited hours seven-days-a-week.
Last week, I had the opportunity to check out Eppig’s recently completed tasting-room and check out its first five beers. Often, pre-open beer tastings turn up multiple beers that could use some work—often by the admission of the brewers themselves—but Eppig’s brewer duo of Nathan Stephens and Clayton LeBlanc (hailing from Ballast Point Brewing’s Little Italy and Scripps Ranch breweries, respectively) are rather happy with their initial offerings. And so was I.
Despite the fact they are brewing in an environment that requires a bit of process-ingenuity and implementation of “Jenga-like” shifting of hoses and other equipment, they have put together a solid line-up of traditional lagers (referred to as “Natural Bridge” beers) and New World creations that I look forward to returning to. The following are my initial impressions of each…
The next beer to hit the menu will be a single IPA called “Factory of Dreams” in reference to a nearby business on El Cajon Boulevard. Similarly, the aforementioned “Glitz & Glam” shares its name with the Friday night show performed at Eppig’s next-door neighbor biz, Lips. The entire Eppig team says their neighbors have been extremely friendly and supportive, and they’re as pleased as can be about being a part of the community developer H.G. Fenton selected for CRAFT.
One thing that makes Eppig different from its fellow CRAFT tenants, Pariah Brewing Company and San Diego Brewing Company, is the addition of a small pilot-system that will be used for experimenting with new recipes before ramping them up to full-batch production. Working on developmental brews in this manner is old-hat for Stephens, who completed roughly 350 brews on Ballast Point’s (much larger) pilot-system over a three-year span. Doing so lent him great experience with a vast array of ingredients from suppliers the world over, knowledge he and LeBlanc put to use at their new stomping grounds.