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.
In this continuing, four-part series attempting to predict the most exciting upcoming brewery projects in San Diego County, I’m offering my most educated guesses as to what businesses figure to be of higher-quality once open, and looking at my track record in assessing the futures of such businesses over the past three-plus years. Last week, I tackled North County, followed by the Western portions of SD. Today is all about San Diego’s more southerly expanses.
North Park Beer Co., North Park: This operation has been on the list for the entire time I’ve been tracking this sort of thing, but finally…finally…it looks to be very close to actually opening. The former MMA gym this long-anticipated brewery and tasting room calls home is almost completely converted, much to the elation of the denizens of its namesake community. Once open, look for the coveted Hop Fu IPA and, eventually, some barrel-aged treats from the cellar.
Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company, Chula Vista: This punk-rock themed business has been producing beers through a unique rotating-proprietorship agreement with Santee’s Butchers Brewing Company, but recently took over a two-story (three if you count the basement) spot right on Chula Vista’s main drag. It’ll be the municipality’s first downtown brewery and with as much support as they’re providing these punks, the place should turn out quite nice.
Brewery Igniter, North Park: Developer H.G. Fenton built its initial “Brewery Igniter” complex (a pair of ready-to-use brewery/tasting room suites) in Miramar, the success of which has them constructing a trio of similar but larger spots on El Cajon Boulevard. Only one tenant is official so far, Pariah Brewing Company, but this is a fiscally sound model that should appeal to numerous aspiring brewery owners, offering reason for optimism.
Past Promising Projects: North
2013: Ballast Point Tasting Room & Kitchen (Little Italy; Grade—A; at the time, the most beers of any of the former craft-brewery’s venues), Mike Hess Brewing Company – North Park (North Park; Grade—B; a uniquely appealing tasting room with views of the brewery below), Birifficio Calabria (North Park; Grade: N/A; Caffe Calabria’s nano never came to fruition)
2014: South Park Brewing Company (South Park; Grade—A; straightforward, award-winning beer out of the gate); Half Door Brewing Company (East Village; Grade—B; started slow, but a great addition to the Petco Park area)
2015: ChuckAlek Independent Brewers – North Park (North Park; Grade: N/A; opens tomorrow!)