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Posts Tagged Matt Akin

Benchmark Brewing opening Bay Park tasting room

Apr 17

The site of Benchmark Brewing’s upcoming Bay Park tasting room

Last year, while conversing with the owners of Benchmark Brewing Company, they mentioned their interest in building a satellite tasting facility. Being tucked within Central San Diego’s Grantville community, doing so would allow the business to reach a broader audience. At the time, they were interested in coastal North County, Oceanside to be exact. It seemed challenging geographically, but there was no denying the increased exposure that would come with that expanding. This weekend, while inquiring about the progress of that project, I learned it had been abandoned…because Benchmark owners Matt and Rachael Akin just signed the lease on a space in Bay Park.

Located at 4112 Napier Street, the future sampling space will provide indoor and outdoor options for patrons. There will be roughly 1,000 square feet of interior space, outfitted with roll-up windows giving way to the street. An additional 1,500 square feet of space will be provided via an outdoor backyard patio of sorts. That area will be equipped with a fire-pit and half of it will be covered. The aesthetic will closely mirror Benchmark’s Grantville tasting room and, like that venue, the Bay Park facility will be family- and dog-friendly. The building currently sports a mural that will be painted over with a “vintage-looking, hand-painted sign”.

The Akins have yet to determine an exact opening time-frame, but figure to have the tasting room operational and accepting visitors this summer. At that point, beer will be available for on-site consumption, as well as to-go in growlers and four-packs of cans.

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2016 Recap: San Diego’s Best Breweries Right Now

Dec 15

What are the best breweries in San Diego? Having reported on the San Diego brewing industry for nearly 10 years and having written a guide to San Diego breweries, I get asked this question all the time. My answers vary quite a bit. Prior to 2012, that list didn’t change all that much. Heavy hitters like Ballast Point Brewing Co., Green Flash Brewing Co. and Stone Brewing were ever-present. Those interests got big making great beer that couldn’t be matched by smaller operations. These are not the times we are living in. Not only are small breweries able to keep up, because of their size, they are able to be nimble and do a lot more than large breweries. They can venture outside the box whenever they feel like it, chase any trend they like or even create their own, while the big boys find themselves locked into brewing the same core beers and a handful of seasonals to meet sales and distribution obligations. A new beer for them is a high-risk proposition that requires months (or even years) of test-batches and refinement.

Due to all of the above, my list of the best breweries in San Diego County is much different than ever before. Only one of the four San Diego interests in the Brewers Association’s list of the 50 largest craft breweries is on there, and its one that wouldn’t have been there several years ago. But there are five on the list that are less than three years old, nine that have a single brewhouse producing their wares, and seven that distribute their beers exclusively (or almost solely) in San Diego County. The following is my current (alphabetical) list of the top 12 brewing companies in San Diego County. (And please remember, there are more than 130 operating brewhouses in the county—not making this list doesn’t make a brewery below-average by any stretch.)

AleSmith Brewing Co., Miramar: This maker of BJCP-geared Old World beers has been around so long it’s now of legal drinking age. It has grown from a single suite to a sprawling manufacturing plant with an expansive, multi-faceted tasting-room component. Through that transition, the beer has remained solid. If anything, it would be nice to see some new beers. Disclosure: I used to work at AleSmith.

Alpine Beer Co., Alpine: Break out the asterisk. This back-country operation, which was purchased by Green Flash in 2014, makes this list for the beers it produces at its original brewery in its namesake town. There’s just something magical about that brewhouse and the pros who man it; they are the folks who built Alpine’s stellar rep and are maintaining it on a local level.

Bagby Beer Co., Oceanside: It’s no surprise that Pizza Port product and GABF master Jeff Bagby was able to transfer his brewpub prowess to his own project, but not only does he keep tons of quality beer on-tap, those taps are installed in an inviting two-story, indoor-outdoor coastal spot built by he and his wife’s true passion for craft-beer and the people who enjoy it.

Benchmark Brewing Co., Grantville: Beer-flavored beer sums up this entire operation. AleSmith alum Matt Akin keeps it simple; something that’s surprisingly challenging. Don’t believe it, see if you can find someplace that can sustain as good a reputation as Benchmark does armed primarily with a pale ale, IPA, brown ale and oatmeal stout while leading with a table beer.

Fall Brewing Co., North Park: Journeyman brewer Ray Astamendi isn’t looking to make the best beer you’ve had in your entire life. He’s more interested in giving imbibers a bunch of great beers to enjoy on any given night, and he does just that care of an impressive portfolio that includes ales and lagers alike, ranging from the hoppiest end of the spectrum to the maltiest.

Karl Strauss Brewing Co., Multiple Locations: San Diego’s longest-running post-Prohibition era brewing operation has taken recent steps to modernize its beers, introducing dry, hoppy ales, drawing attention to a constantly evolving line of beers that also show great technique. Recently constructed brewpubs in LA and the OC should keep Karl’s crew on their upward trajectory.

The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing Co. / The Hop Concept, San Marcos: Whether it’s Port’s SoCal-centric family of largely hoppy beers, The Hop Concept’s (THC, get it?) exploratory line of lupulin-laced imperial IPAs or The Lost Abbey’s unique array of Belgian-inspired, floral, bready, woody, tart and/or boozy ales, quality and innovation await at Pizza Port’s triple-threat packaged-beer cousin op.

New English Brewing Co., Sorrento Valley: One would be challenged to find a brewery in San Diego with as great a degree of quality and consistency as this interest. The only thing keeping it in unjust obscurity is its devotion to less-popular English styles, but the introduction of expertly crafted IPAs has opened some eyes and helped grow a following and, in turn, brewing capacity.

Pizza Port, Multiple Locations: Perhaps no other local brewing biz more succinctly embodies San Diego’s style, brewing and otherwise. Expertise across all styles with flashes of ingenuity and inventiveness, tons of awards but none of the pomp and ego that comes with shiny medals, a laid-back surf-vibe inviting tanks and flip-flops—Pizza Port is America’s Finest on many levels.

Rip Current Brewing Co., San Marcos: The founders of this business deserve big-time credit for sticking to their guns. They could make more money focusing on their excellent hoppy beers, but are so devoted to keeping the homebrew spirit alive, they toil away on dozens of other lesser-selling styles, many of which win awards but still get ignored. It’s a shame.

Second Chance Beer Co., Carmel Mountain: During his decade-plus brewing at La Jolla’s Rock Bottom, Marty Mendiola was well-respected in the industry, but fairly unknown among San Diego beer-drinkers. Since opening his own spot in 2015, he’s finally gained the recognition from the public that he always deserved behind long-time and newly built recipes alike.

Societe Brewing Co., Kearny Mesa: I work here, so I am biased, but this list would be incomplete were Societe not on it. Fans flock here for a rotating family of IPAs as well as Belgian-style ales, dark beers and oak-aged sours that, after many years of maturation, are starting to trickle out of the barrel-room at a steady clip. Versatility and consistency are the keys to this operation’s success.

Author’s Note: This is the third post in a three-part series of pieces which previously examined San Diego’s Best New Breweries and San Diego’s Most Improved Breweries over the past year.

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Beer of the Week: Benchmark Lactic Table Beer

Nov 4
Lactic Table Beer from Benchmark Brewing Company

Lactic Table Beer from Benchmark Brewing Company

From the Beer Writer: As far as names go, I’m not a fan of referring to beers as “lactic”. To those unfamiliar with the popularity of beers made tart by the presence of lactic acid per Old World beers hailing from Belgium and Germany, it just sounds odd. And even if you are a fan of Berliener weisse, gose and the like, the word doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. But flavor and composition far outweigh adjectival shortcomings in the case of Benchmark Lactic Table Beer, an acidic, tangy take on Benchmark Brewing Company’s Belgian-style singel that really hits the spot when it’s on-tap at the Grantville business’ tasting room. I have been a fan of Benchmark’s original 4% alcohol-by-volume Table Beer since first sip. In fact, I was recently asked for a recommendation on a low-alcohol, locally produced beer well suited for enjoyment over the course of several hours, and that was it. The fruity, almost passion fruit-like tartness of the lactic version makes it less of an all-day treat, but is one of the better quick-sour beers in the county, to be sure. It also makes for a nice liquid-intermezzo of sorts to drink between stronger flavored beers, as its crisp sourness resets one’s palate quite nicely.

From the Brewer: “Lactic Table Beer is inspired by the amazing sours of Belgium. We take our standard Table Beer and dose it with a blend of acids that mimics the acid-content of classic Belgian gueuzes. This gives it a tartness that works well with the bready notes found in the base beer. The first time we put this together was for our inaugural Full Table event during San Diego Beer Week in 2014. It has since become a frequent offering at the tasting room. It is available in very small batches here at the brewery, and is made up for a handful of special events each year. Although not a part of our flights this year we will be offering tasters, pours and, for the first time ever, growler fills at this year’s Full Table on Tuesday November 8th. Details about the event can be found by clicking here.”—Matt Akin, Brewmaster, Benchmark Brewing Company

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Benchmark Brewing debuts Parks Collection

Jul 27

hopchunksWhen it comes to tag-lines, I think most of them are just silly. This comes from a career marketing professional who has developed dozens of tag-lines, including some you see out in the craft-beer world. But there’s one from a local brewery that I’ve been enamored with since I first saw it grace a piece of glassware that I reach for more often than any other liquid conveyance strictly because of the tagline. Beer Flavored Beer. The phrase and the traditional beer that inspired it are products of Benchmark Brewing Company (6190 Fairmount Avenue, Suite G, Grantville).

While others use fruit, extracts, peanut butter and flora with reckless abandon, brewmaster Matt Akin sticks to his guns and creates his flavors using hops, malt and yeast. So don’t expect fluid takes on your favorite dessert or cocktail from Benchmark’s new line of “specialty” beers. They, too, are beer-flavored styles that are simply made well and within the framework provided by their individual histories.

Dubbed the Parks Collection, each is packaged in four-packs of forest green 16-ounce cans. The first of the series, Hop Chunks Imperial IPA, made its aluminum debut last weekend at a pool party at North Park’s The Lafayette Hotel. That beer is currently available at Benchmark’s tasting room. Next up is Beaten Path Extra Pale Ale, which will come out the first week of August, followed by River Rye American Red Ale. The other three beers in the collection are Stargazer Scotch Ale, Voyager Belgian-style Dark Ale (formerly called Dubbel) and Primitive Camp pre-Prohibition-style Pilsner. However, the latter won’t be brewed until the company increases its fermentation space.

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Beer of the Week: Benchmark Table Beer

Aug 7
Benchmark Brewing Co.'s Table Beer

Benchmark Brewing Co.’s Table Beer

From the Beer Writer: There are sexy beer styles, and then there are ales and lagers that come across like Plain Jane dressed in sweatpants and a ratty baseball cap. Sure, at her core, she’s beautiful, but you have to work harder to see it and lean on your appreciation of her more basic attributes rather than rely on the glitz of high ABV, barrel character, big hops, adjuncts or buggy funk. Such is the case with the Belgian singel. The lightest-bodied and lowest-alcohol of the beers produced by Trappist monks and breweries who pay homage to their monastic ales, singels—or table beers, as they are also referred to—aren’t usually sold, but instead brewed to be consumed by monks. Over the past few years, this style has been experimented with in the U.S. They don’t get much play by craft beer enthusiasts who focus in on IPAs, sour ales, imperial stouts and other more complex, robust offerings, but when done right, a singel is a thing of beauty. In my humble opinion, the best one in San Diego County is being produced by Benchmark Brewing Co. (6190 Fairmount Avenue, Grantville), a session-centric operation that believes in its Table Beer enough to make it a core brew and one of the first beers to make its way through the company’s new canning line. There may be no better locally brewed, aluminum-housed beer better suited for the hot summer months. It’s simple, but pretty damn sexy.

From the Brewer: “I’ve been searching out the best of table beers for over a decade. These small Belgian beers have always interested to me and my wife Rachael. We find the tradition of the style interesting in that it’s one of the last holdovers from a time when beer was part of the meal. Trappist monks still make them, but don’t really label them for sale. The beer is generally a small version of the flagship beer from a brewery, designed to utilize ingredients that are available regularly. The key here is that they are not ‘second runnings,’ but thoughtfully crafted recipes using what’s on hand; sort of an Iron Chef beer, if you will. Table Beer was a late addition to our core line. It was initially brewed as part of a special-release duo alongside our Dubbel for Thanksgiving, the idea being that you’d have Table Beer to go along with the Turkey and then Dubbel for the pie. I took the first pour from the tap and said, ‘man, now I’m going to have to make this year-round.’ Our Table Beer’s fermentation offers citrus, pear and pepper notes, and has a bit of an acid bite in the finish. It is the perfect accompaniment to so many meals and really sings when served with oysters or fresh Mexican food.”—Matt Akin, Owner & Brewmaster, Benchmark Brewing Co.

 

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