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.
From the Beer Writer: Mira Mesa’s Longship Brewery is all about offering a unique experience. Not only is its tasting room decorated in an over-the-top Viking thematic, the tap-list regularly features exotic beer-styles. Case in point, this week’s featured beer, Longship Ragnabock, a doppelbock that relies on semisweet malt character and lager yeast for the bulk of its taste profile. Even though it’s 8.1% alcohol-by-volume, it drinks like a five- or six-percenter and could easily be confused for a session red ale. It’s a smooth and enjoyable offering for those not looking for a hop-forward drinking experience—or simply a change of pace. When Longship opened, owner Dan Jachimowicz was only able to find five other doppelbocks being produced in San Diego’s saturated suds industry. He’s since crafted other lesser-brewed styles in small-batch format. A handful of them—a Belgian-style tripel, rosehip-infused saison, chocolate-orange stout, and brown ale with chocolate, cranberries, almond and oats—will be available at Longship’s one-year anniversary this Saturday, July 1, where those specialties can be glugged from a stylish Norse drinking horn.
From the Brewer: “I guess the biggest question with this beer is: ‘Why make a dopplebock?’ In a town where people crave hoppy IPAs, why go through the long trouble of making the anti-IPA? Why go through the ten-week process of fermenting and lagering a low-hop, malt-forward, strong, dark lager? Simple. Dopplebocks are delicious. The roasted-malt and dark-fruit flavors shine in this flavorful and unique beer, and Ragnabock stands as a refreshing reminder to non-hopheads that there are other styles of beer in the world. We wanted to make something unique and under-represented. Although I am still surprised by how many experienced craft-beer fans ask us what a dopplebock is, we will continue to offer the Ragnabock and many other unusual styles.”—Dan Jachimowicz, Owner & Brewmaster, Longship Brewery
From the Beer Writer: I have been fortunate enough to participate in a number of collaboration brews with San Diego breweries. My participation has ranged from lending elbow-grease on brew-days to conceptualizing beer styles. It doesn’t get much better for a beer-nerd like me and each has been an honor to take part in, not to mention a learning experience. But it was an extra-special privilege coming up with a fun idea with Green Flash Brewing Company barrelmaster Pat Korn earlier this year. That brewery’s flagship beer, West Coast IPA, has been a long-time icon that helped define and communicate the hop-centric nature of San Diego beer. Many are the beer enthusiast who have memorized its dank, tropical, citrus-like flavors and aromas, myself included. Which made me all the more eager to find out what this beer would taste like fermented exclusively with Brettanomyces. Green Flash Brett Coast IPA answered that question when it debuted earlier this week at an event for Beer to the Rescue, the anti-lupus campaign it was brewed to raise funds for. For an in-depth description of this lovely beer’s characteristics, I will turn things over to the man who coaxed it into reality.
From the Brewer: “When Brandon approached me about being involved in Beer to the Rescue, I immediately said ‘yes.’ You see, my mother Barbara has Lupus, and I have never lived a day of my life without it being a part of my life. My mom is a tough lady, someone you don’t mess with, but I have spent many days watching her deal with the horrible effects of the disease. So for me, being involved in this great fundraising endeavor was a no-brainer. For this beer, we decided to harken back to our roots and re-brew a classic IPA that has a long history with Green Flash. But instead of using boring old Cal Ale yeast, we fermented the beer with our house strain of Brettanomyces. Two-row and C30/37 Crystal are the malt base and the beer is hopped with Simcoe, CTZ and Cascade, then dry-hopped with Simcoe, Citra, Centennial and Cascade. And just to enhance that good old Vista flavor, the beer was then racked onto two-pounds-per-barrel of whole-leaf Simcoe. It clocks in at 7.1% alcohol-by-volume and is a classic West Coast IPA, but the use of our house Brett adds flavors not usually associated with those beers. Dark gold in color with a full, crisp head, the beer has aromas of pine and grapefruit from the dry-hopping with verbena and horse blanket from the Brett. The flavors are an alluring mixture of pine, lemon, verbena and grapefruit; with a strong Brett character of phenol austerity and a seashell mineral-ity that adds a slight brininess to the beer.”—Pat Korn, Barrelmaster, Green Flash Brewing Company
Today, the Brewers Association released its annual set of lists of Top 50 Breweries from the last calendar year. The rankings are based on beer sales volume, and broken into two lists—Top 50 U.S. Craft Brewing Companies and Top 50 Overall U.S. Brewing Companies. The latter includes the likes of Anheuser Busch and MillerCoors as well as former craft-brewing interests that no longer qualify as craft breweries under the BA’s definition, such as Lagunitas Brewing Co. and locally based concern Ballast Point Brewing.
The Top 50 U.S. Craft Brewing Companies list includes three San Diego County businesses—the same ones that have graced the list for the past several years. Escondido’s Stone Brewing is the highest ranked at #9 (they are listed at #17 on the Overall U.S. Brewing Companies list), with Green Flash Brewing Co. rising four spots from the year prior to #37 (#46 on the Overall list) and Karl Stauss Brewing Co. ascending five spots to take its place at #41.
D.G. Yeungling & Son, Inc. retained the top spot on the Craft Brewing Companies list, followed (in order) by Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewing Co., Gambrinus, Duvel Moortgat USA, Bell’s Brewery, Deschutes Brewery, Stone and Oskar Blues. The top 10 for the Overall list was as follows: Anheuser-Busch, Inc.; MillerCoors; Pabst Brewing Co.; D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc.; North American Breweries; Boston Beer Co.; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; New Belgium Brewing Co.; Lagunitas and Craft Brew Alliance. Ballast Point registered at #13.
Since the moment Green Flash Brewing Company acquired Alpine Beer Company back in 2014, there has been concern among protective fans of the latter about that brand’s future. Over the past two-plus years, numerous rumors have popped up, but never in such abundance and covering so many topics as in the weeks following Green Flash’s recent round of layoffs. The company dismissed approximately 25 employees over the span of a few days. Since then, numerous sources have signaled the beginning of the end in talks with industry colleagues. Enough so, that we recently went to Green Flash owner Mike Hinkley and other company representatives for direct responses to each of them.
Rumor: It’s been reported that Hinkley has stepped down from the CEO position.
Response (from Green Flash): Hinkley is still the CEO and his title has not changed. Chris Ross was recently promoted from chief operating officer to president, and is reporting to Hinkley. This promotion recognizes the great knowledge and vast experience that Ross brings to the Green Flash organization. Over the past year-and-a-half, Ross has built a solid operations department. In his expanded role as president, every department at Green Flash will benefit from his insight and business acumen.
Rumor: Hinkley has moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Response (from Green Flash): Hinkley is dividing his time between both coasts to be close to the Virginia Beach brewery, the San Diego brewery and Florida. He plans to spend less time in the brewery and more time on the road with his beloved sales team, the Road Warriors.
Rumor: Alpine’s founding family—Pat, Val and Shawn McIlhenney—will soon have no affiliation with the company.
Response (from Hinkley): The Hinkleys and the McIlhenney’s continue to own Alpine Beer and Green Flash. McIlhenneys forever is the retention plan. If Shawn has children someday, we will send them all to brew-school and hope for the best. Pat is an awesome brewer. Shawn is an awesome brewer. Hoping it’s in the genes. None of us will live forever, but Alpine Beer will.
Rumor: Brewing operations will cease permanently at Alpine Beer’s brewery in Alpine.
Response (from Hinkley): We plan to brew Alpine Beer in Alpine forever. We are currently working with the landlord on site-development and hope to build a new brewery in Alpine as soon as possible.
Rumor: Green Flash is working on constructing a facility in Texas.
Response (from Hinkley): Green Flash will eventually build a brewery in the middle of the country. The motivation? We are in the business of making and selling beer. It makes great business-sense to bring fresh beer to market and connect with customers close to the point-of-sale. We love Texas, but there are no specific plans to build there, or anywhere else, yet. We are just getting comfortable in our Virginia digs.