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Posts Tagged Mikkeller

Q&A: Mikkel Borg Bjergsø

Jan 10

Owner & Brewmaster, Mikkeller Brewing San Diego

Last year, 10-year Denmark-based gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø hammered down stakes in Miramar, transforming AleSmith Brewing Co.’s original brewery into Mikkeller Brewing San Diego. His brewing team spent most of 2016 getting the feel of the facility. Now that group feels ready to be more aggressive in its fermentation activities. Bjergsø has vowed his brick-and-mortar will debut one new small-batch beer on a weekly basis beginning January 12 at its tasting room with a trio of new offerings: bourbon barrel-aged Beer Geek Brunch imperial oatmeal coffee stout, Fruit Face raspberry-coffee Berliner weisse and Uklar IPA. Future “San Diego Beer Release Series” debuts will take place every Saturday starting January 21. Keeping up with such a rapid rate of innovation and execution is no easy task. Curious about this and what it’s been like for this world-famous brewer to find his feet in San Diego, we sat down with him to pick his brain.

WC: What are some surprises you’ve encountered in San Diego?
Mikkel Borg Bjergsø: It’s been surprising how different the beer scene is in the U.S. compared to Europe. There are so many great players—especially in San Diego—and so many great beers. You really have to make an effort to stand out. I think with the new special-release series we will.

WC: What drove the decision to release a new beer every week?
MBB: Brewing a lot of different beers and beer-styles is in our DNA, and it was only a matter of time before we set out to launch a similar release schedule in San Diego. At this point we have an amazing crew in place, the brewing equipment is all dialed in, and our management setup is so in tune with our vision that we are confident now is the time. Most people will associate us with a hectic output of beers in all styles, shapes and formats, which is exactly what they should expect. That, and the totally unexpected, of course. Having your own brewery opens up a world of possibilities that are not usually doable when working in someone else’s brewery, whether it’s contract brewing or on a collaboration basis.

WC: What is your day-to-day involvement like regarding brewing at Mikkeller SD?

MBB: We’ve had to adjust to both the physical distance and time difference, but I am fortunate in the sense that I have to rely on the very capable hands of our head brewer Bill Batten and his team of skilled assistant brewers. It’s still my recipes and vision, which we will discuss through our daily email chains and our weekly conference-call.

WC: What other interesting or exciting developments are on the horizon for Mikkeller SD?
MBB: There are a lot of super-exciting things under development, but the sour and barrel-aged beer programs are two projects we are putting a lot of effort into. We have such a creative team over there, and it seems that no matter how crazy the idea and/or recipe I throw at them, they enthusiastically turn those into great beer. We are also working on new collaborations with other breweries, and non-brewers as well.

WC: You’ve spent more time than ever in San Diego. What are some of your favorite local breweries?
I hate to name favorite breweries as it pushes the rest to the side. In the San Diego area there are obviously a ton of amazing brewers, from the old guys like Stone Brewing, Green Flash Brewing Co. and Ballast Point Brewing, to the young guns like Abnormal Beer Co., Toolbox Brewing Co., Modern Times Beer Co. and many others. I still have a big heart for our friends at AleSmith, so if I have to name one…

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Beer of the Week: Mikkeller Amoeba Brett IPA

Dec 16

Amoeba Brett IPA from Mikkeller Brewing San Diego

From the Beer Writer: When Mikkeller announced plans to merge with San Diego stalwart AleSmith Brewing Company, I, like many, was very excited. This partnership brought together two very different yet reputable brewing interests—a gypsy with a flair for the wild and dramatic, and a 20-year-old brewery with a portfolio of traditional hits. When Mikkeller Brewing San Diego debuted in April, it was with great anticipation that I tasted through its first-run beers. That list was well over a dozen strong, but the greatest feature of the beer line-up was its length. I had hoped for more adventurous beers in keeping with the decade-old Mikkeller MO, but most of the offerings were either traditional beers—pale ale, porter, Berliner weiss, old ale—or one-off versions of staples like Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Breakfast. Frankly, it was pretty underwhelming. But there was one beer that stood out from the crowd right off the bat; one that I would go on to rave about during many a conversation about local beer…Mikkeller Amoeba Brett IPA. The Brettanomyces that gives it its funky, dry, peppery qualities is profound, but not overly so. The wild yeast teams with the beer’s hop-bill to form a nice symbiosis hinted at by the pine-forest-meets-barnyard scents rising from this India pale ale’s fluffy white head. Up until now, I haven’t had the opportunity to have as much of this beer as I’d have liked, but that all changed two weeks ago when the brewery canned what is now the only Brett-infused beer I’ve seen in aluminum cylinders. It’s best to keep this beer refrigerated to retard the effects of the wild yeast and keep the hoppiness at maximum levels, but with flavors this good, it’s unlikely long-term storage will be much of an issue.

From the Brewer: “Amoeba Brett IPA is available exclusively at our tasting room. It’s designed to showcase the flavor and aroma complexity that can be created by using certain hop varietals along with different Brettanomyces strains. Amoeba is a 100% Brettanomyces-fermented IPA with an alcohol content of 6.5% . Our inaugural canned batch showcases a blend of Galaxy, Centennial, Columbus and Equinox hops. With this combination, we focused on notes of passion fruit, papaya, citrus and pine, which creates an incredible stage to layer with the tropical-fruit notes that the specialty Brettanomyces strain that we have selected can create. This special blend creates an aromatic and flavorful treat that any IPA aficionado will be sure to appreciate. The intention of Amoeba is to create a beer without boundaries that will be ever evolving, so be sure to try our future releases and follow this unique style that will be ever-changing and always offer something unique.”—Bill Batten, Head Brewer, Mikkeller Brewing San Diego

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2016 Recap: San Diego’s Best New Breweries

Dec 13

It’s the final month of the year, and time to reflect on the year nearly gone-by. For me, that means assessing San Diego County’s brewery landscape. That’s what I’ll be doing in a three-part series of posts this week, starting with a look at the plethora of new brewing operations that opened in 2016. More breweries opened this year than any in history. And it’s important to note that more good breweries opened in 2016 than in the past several years. Many tout the double-digit number of rookie fermentation operations added to San Diego’s brewery-count each year, but I’ll be honest and say that the past half-decade has seen too many average-to-subpar businesses join the fold. Sure, some duds opened in 2016, but the same can be said of any food-and-beverage business. The bottom-line is, aspiring entrants into the local suds-scene seem to understand, now more than ever, that they better have good beer if they’re going to compete, and that’s leading to better breweries, from conception to birth and beyond. The following are my picks (in order) for best new breweries of the past 365 days (with the exception of some that were simply too new to be fairly evaluated).

Burning Beard Brewing Company in El Cajon

Burning Beard Brewing Co., El Cajon: Rockin’ beers and rock-and-roll make for amenities worth an East County excursion at this small but well-run spot featuring a variety of beers ranging from Belgians to San Diego-style hop-elixirs to deep, dark stouts and, eventually, fouder-aged ales. Throw in employee exuberance that ranges from the brew-crew to the bar staff, and it’s sort of a holy-grail situation.

North Park Beer Co., North Park: One of the most anticipated new brewery project of the past four years, the brainchild of its namesake community’s proud denizen Kelsey McNair finally came to life. Its former MMA gym home has been transformed into a beautiful, two-story, wood-paneled den of communal enjoyment of beers that are largely sessionable and rely on impressive balance versus belligerent brawn.

Downtown’s Resident Brewing Company

Resident Brewing Co., Downtown: Urban bar and eatery, The Local, is a long-time supporter of the craft-beer movement, but when it added on-site fermentation to its equation, the resulting product was something special. An award-winning homebrewer-turned-pro is pumping out some of the bolder, ideally hopped West Coast-style beers of the rookie-class while bringing flavor with myriad other styles.

Pure Project Brewing, Miramar: If a wide array of easy-drinking beers—crisp to full-bodied, clear to hazy, fruited to (GABF medal-garnering) barrel-aged—weren’t enough reason to become enamored with this, the first brewery to test out the Brewery Igniter ready-to-brew model, the fact it’s a generous One Percent for the Planet business is enough to pull the wishy-washy off the fence.

Bear Roots Brewing in Vista

Bear Roots Brewing, Vista: A small homebrew-supply store opening a three-barrel nano-brewery with a bar that takes up half its shop…sounds risky if not ill-advised, but a husband-wife duo have not only made it work, but amassed such a cult-following behind a varied beer line-up that includes a tasty cookie-inspired dessert beer that they’re looking at growing their baby to papa-bear status in 2017.

Bitter Brothers Brewing Co., Bay Ho: The first brewery to open in 2016 has done well for itself, producing a solid line-up of hoppy beers offset by a number of English-style malt-driven styles and “candy-bar” beers. Further refinement of its wares in the coming year should keep this operation on its upward trajectory, as should fun, well-done quarterly beer dinners in its tasting room.

It’s important to note that, in previous years, a half-dozen picks for best new brewery would have been excessive. This year, I could have added another two or three rather easily. The following are those that missed the cut, but never before has the division between the best and the rest been so slim. Cheers to that!

This Year’s Contenders: Culver Beer Co. (Carlsbad), Guadalupe Brewery (Carlsbad), Kensington Brewing Co. (Mission Valley), Little Miss Brewing Co. (Miramar), Longship Brewery (Mira Mesa), Mason Ale Works (Oceanside), Midnight Jack Brewing Co. (Oceanside), Mikkeller Brewing San Diego (Miramar), Oceanside Brewing Co. (Oceanside),

Maybe Next Year: Burgeon Beer Co. (Carlsbad), Eppig Brewing Co. (North Park), Knotty Brewing (East Village), OB Brewery (Ocean Beach), Thunderhawk Alements (Miramar)

Previous Top-Ranked Breweries

2015: Fall Brewing Co. (North Park), Second Chance Beer Co. (Carmel Mountain), South Park Brewing Co. (South Park), Bay City Brewing Co. (Point Loma), Abnormal Beer Co. (Rancho Bernardo), Duck Foot Brewing Co. (Miramar)

2014: Bagby Beer Co. (Oceanside), Nickel Beer Co. (Julian), Council Brewing Co. (Kearny Mesa), URBN St. Brewing Co. (El Cajon), Toolbox Brewing Co. (Vista)

2013: Rip Current Brewing Co. (San Marcos), Benchmark Brewing Co. (Grantville), Amplified Ale Works (Pacific Beach), Belching Beaver Brewery (Vista), Modern Times Beer (Point Loma)

2012: Societe Brewing Co. (Kearny Mesa), Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery (East Village), Latitude 33 Brewing Co. (Vista)

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Meet Overtime Biz & Brews

Oct 17
Overtime Brew's original homebrewed creations

Overtime Brew’s original homebrewed creations

There are more than 130 operating breweries in San Diego County…and Overtime Brew isn’t one of them. But it aims to work with as many of them as possible. Also going by the name Overtime Biz & Brews, the project is the dynamic brainchild of business professionals who ramped up a one-off holiday brewing project, and turned it into something bigger, a driver for networking based around local beer.

It all started in 2013 when seven employees of marketing and digital-design firm Ninthlink had the idea to homebrew several beers and dress them up with branded 22-ounce bottles to hand out as gifts for clients and serve at their annual holiday-party. This initiative went well, enough that the group contemplated opening their own brewery, but that idea was soon shelved. It wasn’t until the group was in need of a new base of operations that they got anywhere near professional brewing equipment. That unexpected happening occurred when they began subletting office-space from Grantville’s Benchmark Brewing Company.

As a thank-you to Benchmark’s owners for leasing them the space, the group floated the notion of “collaboration beer” they would brew with their new landlords, then market under at a special event called The IM (internet marketing) Brew Party. They proceeded, producing KP IPA this June. As they marketed the event around that beer and interest grew, they decided to dust off the Overtime moniker and use it to further brand the entire operation and frame this brewery-firm collaborative concept. The event went well, but even before it took place, the Ninthlink team started receiving inquiries from other breweries interested in collaborating.

Miramar’s Mikkeller Brewing San Diego worked with Overtime to brew #Overtime IPA (also known as Hasthag IPA), and a tag-team beer is currently in the works with Kearny Mesa’s Council Brewing Company. In all cases, both parties agree upon a style to brew, including target-ABV (alcohol-by-volume), grain and hop profiles. From there, the entire Overtime crew participates in the labor of the brew-day, then sets to work marketing, using the beer as the focal point of events that draw business professionals together primarily for networking purposes, though the plan is to branch out and make the events more communal in nature.

Says Overtime’s Jeremy Stallings, “In this age of social networking, there is nothing social about social networking, so, yeah, we are bringing face-to-face experiences with ‘no trolls’ to put the social back in social networking…with beer. Enjoying beer, learning about business, exchanging values, broadening networks and doing great things in the community—that is what we are all about.”

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Q&A: Cosimo Sorrentino

Aug 9

cos_AHead Brewer, Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery / South Park Brewing Company

In four short years, Cosimo Sorrentino has gone from avid homebrewer to one of the most visible faces in San Diego’s brewing scene. A big reason for that is the increased visibility that comes with heading brewery operations for two brewpubs—Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery and South Park Brewing Company—and collaborating with just about every brewery in town and beyond. He considers it an honor to get to do work with his industry contemporaries to craft specialty beers, so we sat down with him to tap into some of that passion.

How did collaborations become such a big part of what you do?
The answer to this question has evolved a bit over the last three years for me. When I began brewing at Monkey Paw, (owner) Scot Blair arranged a few collaborations and mentoring sessions to help me transition from homebrewing. Now that the industry is growing at such an accelerated rate, I feel that it is important to stay connected to other breweries. Collaborations transcend most brewery restrictions such as creative freedom.

How do you like to approach collaborations?
My favorite question to ask when approaching a collaboration is: What do you want to brew that you haven’t been able to yet? This usually leads to a new style, technique or interpretation that neither of us has tried before. This constant progression is one of the reasons San Diego stays at the forefront of the brewing world. I am now lucky enough to be in a position where I not only get to learn from the veterans, I get to compare notes with other brewers who are as new or newer to the industry. Usually “teaching” something forces me to learn more than when I’m watching someone else. Blair has granted me full creative freedom and the resources to see these projects come to fruition.

With two brewpubs to take care of and a full plate, what drives you to take on all these collaborations?
CS: I enjoy learning how other brewers approach the brewing process and these insights help me understand their beers when I drink them. I recently brewed “Baby Bonobos” with Doug Hasker (the head brewer at Gordon Biersch’s Mission Valley brewpub) and we incorporated a step-mash to increase the body in the session version of our San Diego pale ale. This was a first for me and now I understand how he gets such a full mouthfeel in all of his beers. If the opportunity is there, why would I turn down an opportunity to collaborate? I have never seen a collaboration hurt a brewery or a brewer’s reputation or business, yet every project has taught me not only something about beer but also about the industry and the other artists I share it with. Plus I never get to be creative at my own brewery, so I need an excuse to brew something new every now and then. There are also a lot of collaborations that are not necessarily two brewers working together. Both Monkey Paw and South Park work with local chefs, charities and other business to create beers for a variety of events. These projects are doubly awesome because they supply people from connected industries with a deeper understanding of the brewing process and support charities.

What’s new at Monkey Paw and South Park Brewing?
CS: The menu at South Park now consists exclusively of house-made beers. We have started keeping more accessible beers on the line-up to round it out, so expect a cream/blonde ale, wheat/hefeweizen and amber/red to be on alongside our core lineup and rotating specialties. Also my assistant of two years, Jacob Mendoza, has just committed to a job as cellar man at Mikkeller Brewing San Diego. This will necessitate new blood at the breweries. Expect to see some new inspiration and techniques over the next few months.

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