Last month, Joe Lisica resigned from his post heading fermentation operations for Miramar-based Little Miss Brewing. He cited an amicable parting of ways with owners Greg and Jade Malkin, who brought him on as the company’s first-ever brewmaster and a partner (though goals that would have triggered part-ownership were not reached prior to Lisica leaving). The Malkins wanted to go one direction with the beers they produced, while Lisica favored an altogether different creative trajectory.
Lisica departed without a plan for his next step. He said he was actually looking forward to enjoying a little down-time after spending the past year-plus planning, hammering together and running a brand-new brewery. A life of rest and refueling must not have agreed with him, because he went back to work yesterday after being hired by Mikkeller Brewing San Diego to serve as its head brewer. Lisica worked at Green Flash Brewing Company in Mira Mesa before moving on to move up with Little Miss. Here, he will be responsible for the manufacture of many more styles than he tackled at his last place of employ, filling a beer-board 19 strong and crafting weekly new releases.
This will be the Miramar-based brewery’s second head brewer. Initially, the company—the brick-and-mortar overseas interest of Copenhagen, Denmark-based entrepreneur Mikkel Borg Bjergso—brought veteran brewer Bill Batten over from sister-company AleSmith Brewing Company to lead brewery operations. Batten resigned in March and has gone on to consult for several San Diego County brewing companies while waiting to take the reins at his eventual home, TapRoom Beer Company, which is currently being birthed in North Park by the owners of Pacific Beach bar SD TapRoom.
Back at Mikkeller San Diego, the company maintains a cult following, but appears to be struggling with the inherent difficulties of having an owner that spends the majority of his time away from the business while guiding brewery decisions from afar. In other Mikkeller San Diego news, the company has removed the anvil that was formerly a component of its logo meant to communicate its partnership with AleSmith. AleSmith owner Peter Zien says that, although he sold stocks in 2016 to give control of Mikkeller San Diego to Bjergso, he remains a partner from an artistic and financial perspective until Mikkeller San Diego’s lease expiration, at which time Zien will transition to a point where he is no longer a financial principal.
Author’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect facts presented following its initial posting.
The approach of All Hallow’s Eve certainly isn’t scaring local breweries away from holding a freakishly large number of events throughout San Diego County in the coming months. There are far too many to illustrate the full breadth in a short-list of four, so start with the hand-picked happenings below, then proceed to the full list on our events page.
October 8 | Oktoberfest Celebration: At this point, you’ve likely indulged in multiple O-festivities, and there’s no reason not to stop now. Hit Green Flash Brewing Company’s German-themed celebration to taste three special beers, including In der Mitte Märzenfestbier and a zwickel version of Sea to Sea Lager. | Green Flash Brewing Company, 6550 Mira Mesa Boulevard, Mira Mesa, 12 p.m.
October 13 | Blahktoberfest: Don’t pack those lederhosen up just yet. Blind Lady Ale House is having the eighth annual running of its Oktoberfest celebration with keeper pints (that you can fill with their Autobefest beer) and a unique house-made offering—bratwurst pizza. | Blind Lady Ale House, 3416 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights, 11 a.m.
October 21 | BagbyFest II: Even one of the most award-winning brewers of all times knows there’s more to the beverage world than just beer. Bagby Beer Company will section its expansive brewpub into zones celebrating wine, spirits, cocktails (and, yes, beer) from numerous regions of the world along with foods to go with them. | Bagby Beer Company, 601 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, 12 p.m.
October 21 | Anniversary Events: It seems October’s a fertile month. Three breweries are celebrating birthdays on the same day: Belching Beaver Brewing (5 years, special beers galore), Iron Fist Brewing Company (7 years, special beer and live music) and Legacy Brewing Company (4 years, Oktoberfest shindig). | Belching Beaver Brewery, 1334 Rocky Point Drive, Oceanside, 3 p.m.; Iron Fist Brewing Company, 1305 Hot Springs Way, Suite 101, Vista, 12 p.m.; Legacy Brewing Company, 363 Airport Road, Oceanside, 1 p.m.
October 21 | Ye Scallywag: Kickass beer and kickass punk rock will share space on the San Diego Bayfront when 100 beers are tapped against the backdrop of live performances from Pennywise and a motley crew of musical acts including The Vandals, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and more). | Waterfront Park, 1 Park Boulevard, Downtown San Diego, 12 p.m.
Judging brewing competitions can be a reassuring exercise on many levels. If one devotes themselves to the process and takes it seriously, they often gain validation of their powers of evaluation through their panelist peers. And when everyone gives it their all, taking time to thoroughly analyze each entrant and debate top contenders’ rankings, it often leads to a truly high-quality beer taking top honors. This was what played out for me last Saturday when judging homebrew entries in Green Flash Brewing Company’s Genius Lab competition.
Held in conjunction with the company’s annual Treasure Chest Fest, a beer-and-food festival raising funds for the local chapter of Susan G. Komen, this battle of recreational brewers drew 31 entries. Contestants were permitted to brew any style of India pale ale they chose be it session, fruited, imperial, Belgian, black or hazy. Even with that much guideline leniency, a popular fact was easily proven true. IPAs are the toughest style of beer to brew at home; especially to standards that merit reproducing a beer in a professional setting. That was the first-place award for this competition.
Originally, our panel, which consisted of organizer Brian Beagle of local podcast San Diego BeerTalk Radio and Green Flash representatives including brewmaster Erik Jensen, had hoped to advance 15 beers from the first round to the second. It was about a third of the way through that it became apparent that this would not be possible. From aroma to flavor, the flaws were many. Some beers reeked of butyric acid (reviled for possessing a scent evocative of vomit), while others were as vegetal as a plate of Brussels sprouts. One even tasted like—I kid you not—Cinnamon Toast Crunch. In the end, we squeezed out 12 second-rounders by allowing in some “maybes”, but it really came down to four beers that had a chance at the top spot.
My comments above may make it seem like beer judges’ senses lead to instant consensus in most cases, but that hasn’t been my experience. Often, second- and third-round judging involves a great deal of discussion and debate. It’s a key part of the process, as it was in this instance. In the end, we selected an IPA called Searching For Clarity that, post-judging, we learned was entered by Nick Corona. If that name sounds familiar it’s because he won Homebrewer of the Year honors at last year’s Homebrew Con, the country’s largest recreational brewing competition, held annually by the American Homebrewers Association. A member of local club QUAFF, Corona is also the reigning homebrewer of the year for his winning entries at the 2017 edition of the San Diego County Fair‘s annual homebrew competition.
Corona’s win was announced the following day at Treasure Chest Fest, along with the second-place winner, a Northeast-style IPA from Solomon Cantwell, and the second-runner-up, Summer of Hops from Caden Houson (who is Corona’s co-brewer). Look for the winning beer to debut at Green Flash’s Mira Mesa tasting room as part of its small-batch Genius Lab program during San Diego Beer Week in early November.
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