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Posts Tagged Monkey Paw

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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Beer of the Week: Hillcrest / Karl Strauss All You Need Is Love (& Co.)

Jul 15
The version of All You Need Is Love crafted collaboratively by Hillcrest Brewing Company and Karl Strauss Brewing Company

The version of All You Need Is Love crafted collaboratively by Hillcrest Brewing Company and Karl Strauss Brewing Company

From the Beer Writer: I’m going to be frank. I am sickened by the rise of senseless violence plaguing our country. Gays, blacks, Muslims, cops and the homeless have all been recent targets for the world’s most pathetic type of people—those who lack regard for human-life. Whether bigots drunk with power, zealots driven by warped piousness or scrambled-brain lunatics, perpetrators of the recent murders filling our news-feeds are making it hard to see all the good that exists in our world. That’s why this week’s featured beer, Hillcrest / Karl Strauss All You Need Is Love is so important. Conceived by members of LGBTQ-run entity Hillcrest Brewing Company and brewed with Karl Strauss Brewing Company brewmaster Paul Segura, this hoppy session red ale shows support for victims of the Pulse Nightclub shootings that took place in Orlando, Florida last month, raising money for survivors and the families of the lost. When news of this collaboration came out, a large number of other San Diego County breweries joined in this project, brewing up beers under the same name to start a full-fledged movement to raise more money and counteract the hatred behind that massacre (a full list of participating operations is included below). The beers are available at each brewery’s tasting room, but will be showcased en masse Thursday, July 21 at Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery in the East Village during a special keep-the-pint-night featuring a commemorative glass decorated with the All You Need Is Love logo. It is efforts like these that help us to remember the immense love, understanding and goodness that is not only present in our society, but rules it. Yes, racism, hate and stupid people will always exist, but it’s important to remember that the majority of us accept everyone, regardless of their gender, race, social-status, political affiliation or sexual orientation. That’s something that can’t be silenced no matter how many gun-toting hatemongers channel their frustration into homicidal endeavors. As evidenced by All You Need Is Love, such hideous acts only serve to galvanize the populace in support of our brothers and sisters of all walks of life, and remind us of how precious life—every life—is. And how precious love—all love—is. That’s something I will toast with every sip of this very special, rainbow-colored family of beers.

From the Brewers: “The beer is a hoppy session red ale, one that we were fortunate enough to brew with a few different breweries. We immediately reached out to Paul at Karl Strauss. He’s an incredible brewer and an even better guy. His input, ideas on how to proceed and reputation brought this project to a whole new level. Adding our friends at Gordon Biersch was another huge honor, as brewmaster Doug Hasker is a legend in his own right. As someone who is relatively new to the San Diego beer scene, it was a great experience to be able to sit down for a pint with those two guys at the same table and hear them talk about beer. The more we reached out to people, the more we realized that this entire community was stoked on the idea. Initially, we wanted to be physically involved with each beer, but it grew to a point where we just didn’t have enough hours in a week to be able to directly brew these beers with everyone. One day, I helped mash out at three different breweries. It’s been a humbling experience and during a time where my faith in humanity has been severely shaken, it’s truly been a large breath of fresh air.”—Clinton Shaver, Assistant Brewer, Hillcrest Brewing Company

Participating Breweries: 2Kids Brewing Company, AleSmith Brewing Company, Amplified Ale Works, Bagby Beer Company, Belching Beaver Brewery, Border X Brewing Company, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, Duck Foot Brewing Company, Gordon Biersch, Hillcrest Brewing Company, Intergalactic Brewing Company, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Mission Brewery, Second Chance Beer Company, South Park Brewing Company, Wavelength Brewing Company

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SD shows up at LA International Beer Competition

Apr 18
Council Brewing Company's winning entries from the Los Angeles International Beer Competition

Council Brewing Company’s winning entries from the Los Angeles International Beer Competition

After the opening series at Petco Park, wherein this native San Diegan’s beloved Friars failed to score a single run against the Dodgers, it’s hard to even type the letters LA. But fortunately, I have a very positive reason to do so thanks to the Los Angeles International Beer Competition, the results of which were recently posted. Numerous San Diego breweries garnered awards, proving that, while we still can’t get a hit off Clayton Kershaw, SD has plenty going for it where brewing is concerned.

San Diego County-based breweries brought home 43 medals in 96 diverse beer categories. Certain breweries just plain cleaned up. And they’re not the larger, better-known interests you might have expected. For instance, the brewery to win the most medals was Miramar’s small (but expanding) Intergalactic Brewing Company. That space-themed operation amassed 10 medals (two of which were gold), while Mike Hess Brewing Company took five, Sorrento Valley’s New English Brewing Company nabbed four and San Marcos-based Rip Current Brewing Company further solidified its reputation for quality beer across many styles with five medals, including a gold for its Breakline Bock, which won that same award at last year’s Great American Beer Festival.

Among all of the hundreds of beers submitted, Council Brewing Company’s Gaderian, a Brettanomyces-spiked, barrel-aged English-style old ale, took Best of Show honors. The Kearny Mesa nanobrewery also won two of the three spots—silver and bronze—in the American-style Brett Ale category for its newly released Les Saisons and Nicene, respectively, and notched another silver with the cherry version of its Beatitude Tart Saison. A full list of the winners from this year’s competition is included below.

Best of Show

  • Gaderian, Council Brewing Co. (Old Ale or Strong Ale)

Gold Medals

  • Breakline Bock, Rip Current Brewing Co. (Bock)
  • Brewers Special Brown Ale, New English Brewing Co. (English-style Brown Ale)
  • Gaderian, Council Brewing Co. (Old Ale or Strong Ale)
  • Horchata Golden Stout, Border X Brewing Co. (Experimental Beer)
  • Kona Storm, Rip Current Brewing Co. (Coffee Beer)
  • Maiden Voyage, Mission Brewery (German-style Sour Ale)
  • Mosaic Session IPA, Karl Strauss Brewing Co. (Session Beer)
  • Mighty Joe Young, Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery (American-style Stout)
  • Passion Fruit Kicker, Green Flash Brewing Co. (Fruit Wheat Beer)
  • Red Shirt #30 English Pale Ale, Intergalactic Brewing Co. (Ordinary or Special Bitter)
  • Red Trolley Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing Co. (Irish-style Red Ale)
  • Shut Up Wesley Wheat, Intergalactic Brewing Co. (American-style Wheat Beer)
  • Umbrix, Mike Hess Brewing Co. (Imperial Stout)

Silver Medals

  • Astro Amber Ale, Intergalactic Brewing Co. (Scottish-style Ale)
  • Barrel-Aged Zumbar, New English Brewing Co. (Wood- & Barrel-aged Strong Stout)
  • Beatitude Cherry Tart Saison, Council Brewing Co. (Belgian-style Fruit Beer)
  • Black Lagoon Scottish Strong, Rip Current Brewing Co. (Scotch Ale)
  • Body Surfing Blonde, Rip Current Brewing Co. (Belgian- & French-style Ale)
  • Galactober Fest, Intergalactic Brewing Co. (German-style Marzen)
  • Good News Everyone!, Intergalactic Brewing Co. (
  • Grapefruit Solis IPA, Mike Hess Brewing Co., (American-style Fruit Beer)
  • Les Saisons (Spring), Council Brewing Co. (American-style Brett Ale)
  • Main St, Mother Earth Brew Co. (English-style Summer Ale)
  • My Other Vice, Mike Hess Brewing Co. (German-style Sour Ale)
  • Orion’s Stout, Intergalactic Brewing Co. (Oatmeal Stout)
  • Pepper Magna Cucurbita, Mike Hess Brewing Co. (Chili Pepper Beer)
  • Poppycock! ESB, 2Kids Brewing Co. (Extra Special Bitter) – no gold medal awarded
  • Red Shirt #44 Imperial Oatmeal Stout, Intergalactic Brewing Co. (Chocolate Beer)
  • Space Oasis Coconut Porter, Intergalactic Brewing Co. (Field Beer)
  • The Peach Around, Legacy Brewing Co.

Bronze Medals

  • Buckshot Biere de Garde, BNS Brewing & Distilling Co. (Belgian- & French-style Ale)
  • Dia de los Serranos, Green Flash Brewing Co. (Chili Pepper Beer)
  • Dragoon, New English Brewing Co. (Double Red Ale)
  • Frontside Foreign Extra Stout, Rip Current Brewing Co. (Foreign-style Stout)
  • Gatling Gun, BNS Brewing & Distilling Co. (Imperial Stout)
  • Habitus IPA, Mike Hess Brewing Co., (Rye Beer)
  • Helles, Lightning Brewery (Mnich-style Helles)
  • Krystal Weizen, Mission Brewery (German-style Wheat Ale)
  • Nicene, Council Brewing Co. (American-style Brett Ale)
  • Red Shirt #38 Cucumber Grapefruit White IPA, Intergalactic Brewing Co. (Fruit Beer)
  • Scripps Pier Stout, Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery (Oatmeal Stout)
  • Shock Bock, Intergalactic Brewing Co. (Bock)
  • Why Not Wheat, New English Brewing Co. (American-style Wheat Beer)

Honorable Mention

  • Ashes from the Grave, Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery./AleSmith Brewing Co. (Smoke Beer)

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Q&A: Scot Blair—Part 2

Mar 1

blair2Owner; Monkey Paw Pub & Brewing, South Park Brewing Company & Hamilton’s Tavern

Last week, local bar and brewpub powerhouse Scot Blair (Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery, Hamilton’s Tavern, South Park Brewing Company) spoke out about AB-InBev’s impending East Village 10 Barrel Brewpub project. He shot from the hip, sharing vividly honest opinions, but he had more to say about the local brewing industry, the effect independent breweries’ selling to Big Beer have had on it and the future of the rapidly changing San Diego suds scene. The latter are particularly startling considering some of the stark scenarios he sees for his own interests. A swan song for one of San Diego’s most successful craft-beer entrepreneurs? Yes, it’s possible, and he’ll tell you why.

What do you make of Big Beer mocking craft beer publicly, most notably in its Super Bowl spots, while simultaneously buying up craft breweries?
Scot Blair: Big Beer’s market-share is still undeniably strong, but their pockets are deep and they now have to address the issue that better beer is what more of the consumers are expecting, so they are finding ways to “capture” the audience’s attention without putting the development cycles and dollars in. If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em.

Your bars still purchase beers from acquired brands such as Ballast Point and Saint Archer. Why is it you haven’t shunned such companies altogether?
After acquisitions like these, you obviously have many good people who are still employed, earn a living and continue to support the local businesses in our community as they always have. Issues like the one we have in our industry are very complex, which is why I haven’t and wouldn’t just outright boycott these homegrown San Diego brands. Supporting Ballast Point and Saint Archer isn’t a bad thing, but if folks are supporting these guys 10 times over the local small guy, it adds up and hurts the little guy. So what we are talking about is being more discerning with mine and your spending.  If you knew the $100 you spent went to a mega-business that already has a giant distribution footprint and that your $100 continues their ultimate goal of monopolizing the market by pushing the smaller, less-fortunate brands to the outer edges of consumer reach and, by doing that, it, in turn, puts those small businesses in jeopardy, would you still do so? I am hoping by taking an extra 10 seconds to figure out where your money goes, you would choose to change your spending habits to 25/75 or 50/50 to help continue to balance the playing field, because monopolies are never good for anything. In terms of AB-InBev and 10 Barrel, we aren’t talking a scenario like Ballast Point and Saint Archer or their purchases/change-of-ownership. What I’m talking about is non-San-Diego­ entities capitalizing on a wave of local entrepreneurialism when the parent company is the most mal-intended and largest threat to small, independent beer in America. 10 Barrel is just an AB-InBev shill and, to be frank, with over 115 breweries in San Diego, what is the demand or the benefit for this outfit to come into our community? Zero. It only benefits them and their continuing obfuscation—search and destroy. Wouldn’t this be a better fit in a non-saturated market that is in desperate need of potentially better beer and a brewpub? Of course. Put it this way—if I told you some folks are going to plant some new trees from Oregon that are infested with diseases and toxins that are OK in their part of the country, but in San Diego they will attack our natural habitat and create destruction and damage, would that be okay? Well, that’s what’s happening. They are bringing sand to the beach. And not just sand—infected sand that is hazardous to our previously pristine environment.

Do Saint Archer Brewery and Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits shoulder responsibility for helping open the door to Big Beer in San Diego by selling out?
SB: It’s hard to blame them for the climate of today. Let’s remember Ballast Point is San Diego grass-roots and Saint Archer was incepted right here. They decided, from a business standpoint, that selling, making profit and expanding was principally their biggest business goal. They have that right, even if it may boost the armada of the Death Star, but with AB-InBev and 10 Barrel, what we are talking about is the worst form of third-rate carpet-bagging being helped along with even more confusion by special-interest real-estate. Let’s face it, things have been heading in this direction for some time now. I have been warning about this crisis since 2011 and, in my not-so-humble opinion, a lot of naïve people said I was being petty. But now, a few years later, look at our climate. We are more confused, more diluted and pumping worse beers out the door and into the hands of consumers than ever before. We have pseudo-craft everywhere and consumers are content with that. WE ARE LOSING BECAUSE WE COULDN’T BE HAPPY GROWING SMALL! What we now have are consumers who aren’t seeking out smaller and better. They are right where Big Beer wants them, and that is to be content to head down to their local Chili’s and grab their “local craft beverage” and sally forth regardless of the flavor or quality or craftsmanship or where their dollars are going. I never wanted armies of misguided and unknowingly disenchanted pseudo-beer experts. I’ve worked altruistically so people would think for themselves, learn about and want better beer. Now, people settle for the t-shirt, the buzz-phrase or the shiny picture instead of doing the hard work and understanding where their important dollars are going and how much their decision effects the overall landscape of what we as brewers and small-business owners do today and what we will do tomorrow. The world is better with these small, independent businesses growing small one-block-at-a-time, but soon we will have to shut the doors because we can’t compete with the conglomerates who can afford the largest microphones and billboards to confuse the public and, without the support from a knowledgeable consumer-base, small business is dead in our arena.

What do you see for San Diego’s beer scene in future?
SB: To be honest, I see myself probably having to sell my businesses or fold-up shop. It’s becoming harder and harder to compete in this market with all of the deception. We are dealing with a content-with-complacency consumer-base that has slowly been drinking the Kool-Aid and now they don’t even realize they are being mind-controlled. Everything I have done is about a desire to better a community at all costs. Who would have thought that, in such a short time, it would not be enough in his local beer industry to have award-winning establishments that are built around one simple, no-frills philosophy—SERVE GREAT BEER? So this shows just how serious the issue is. Our market saturation is beyond critical-mass and the quality has already begun to suffer. We aren’t cutting into fat at this point, we are carving into lean muscle and a lot of local breweries won’t be able to sustain this, and I’m not sure I could fault the giant monsters doing what they do versus the consumer-base who allowed this to happen on their watch.

Click here for the first half of our Q&A with Scot Blair from last week.

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Q&A: Scot Blair—Part 1

Feb 25

headshot for bioOwner; Monkey Paw Pub & Brewing, South Park Brewing Company & Hamilton’s Tavern

Big Beer conglomerate AB-InBev’s 10 Barrel Brewpub project seemed to come out of nowhere. Slated for entry into downtown San Diego’s East Village, it’s actually the latest in an ongoing string of strategically placed brewpubs AB-InBev is installing in the country’s foremost craft-beer communities under the name of the Bend, Oregon-based former craft-brewery it bought out in 2014. The arrival of this faux-craft, brewery-equipped restaurant has sparked the ire of the San Diego Brewers Guild. Last week, members of the local brewing industry and fans of independent local breweries rallied at a meeting of the Downtown Community Planning Council where, despite concern from San Diego businesses and citizens, the neighborhood use permit was approved. A public protest period is coming up, but the probability of the project being denied at any point isn’t likely. Seeking the voice of someone who, first off, will be the closest legitimate craft-beer competition for the 10 Barrel pub and, secondly, isn’t the least bit afraid to speak his mind, we sat down with Scot Blair, the owner of the East Village’s Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery (as well as nearby South Park Brewing Company and Hamilton’s Tavern). He responded with equal parts honesty and verbosity. The following is part one of a two-part question-and-answer exchange.

Why do you think AB-InBev and Big Beer in general would want to come into a community esteemed for its local beer, especially using an acquired brand from Oregon?
Scot Blair: It’s simple, really. They are expanding their footprint by any means necessary—assimilate and destroy.

With the Guild, CCBA and BA vehemently opposed to the 10 Barrel Project, how can it be viewed as a positive development by anyone?
SB: Obfuscation. Not only from Big Beer, but from our glorified real-estate moguls. Think of the people behind this. First you have Makers Quarter with developers Lankford & Associates and Hensel Phelps. Next you have HP Investors LLC and, mind you, they both partner together for a group they call L2HP. These are the puppet-masters. Now look at “Makers Quarter.” This is a tag-phrase they created when the only “maker” that was even doing anything in the area was Monkey Paw. If you listen well, their shills will tell you that this is going to bring millennial tech and residential to the East Village, and it will be a huge boon companion for growth in the community, and how wonderful all of this is for San Diego’s booming “craft” beer scene. This is absolute bull. These snakes, I’m sure, they could also tell us how SDG&E raising rates as the “only game in town” after year-in and year-out record profits is “great for the community,” too! The only entity this does any good for is them by way of giant cash windfalls directly benefiting their greed and, to be frank, it’s sickening to me and really shows what they are made of by way of caring about the community. They are simply doing everything and anything they can to lease property at all cost while trying to make up insane angles to convince unwitting consumers that this is such a good thing. It’s no different than Big Pharma or Wall Street, in my opinion.
— Editor’s note: When reached for comment, Michael Burton, the commercial broker for the bindery building and its property owner, told us that “the property was publicly marketed, and 10 Barrel was the only brewery to show interest in the location.”

How do you feel the arrival of the 10 Barrel project will impact other local brewing businesses such as your own, Half Door Brewing Company and Mission Brewery?
SB: I can definitely find a silver-lining and make lemonade as I’ve done my whole career, but in reality, brewpubs like Monkey Paw and Half Door will have to work even harder with far less with which to fight that uphill battle on quality. So obviously and most certainly it will have an impact. You have to understand the common consumer has been, and continues to be, so misguided. The real fans and independent thinkers of great beer are still a strong minority. The vast majority of beer-drinkers are simply enamored with marketing, hype and all things with a sheen that glimmer. To think that, in this day and age, making fantastic, award-winning beer is not enough, is sad. Great beer still falls deaf to the ears of too many of our San Diego locals who aren’t getting the right message from these deep-pocketed snake-oil salesmen standing at their pulpits hyping to fleece.

Can beers brewed at the 10 Barrel project be regarded as “local”?
SB: They are local as much as Citgo gas-stations are local. This is a classic wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing scenario. Of course it’s not local! Sure, it will create some local jobs, but the money spent by the people will go right into the hands of AB-InBev. People can play technicalities, but in the end, what folks should be supporting is small, independently owned mom-and-pop establishments. This is the moral ethos that people think about when they try to spend local, not billion-dollar companies, large restaurant groups, big real-estate conglomerates. C’mon…really?! There is no integrity in them and, at its core, it personifies despicable greed.

What can be done now, and by whom?
SB: First off, it starts with you and other people like you and all of us, really. We have a voice in our spending habits. Let’s use it! I have never had a problem calling out bullshit or speaking out against what I feel is injustice. I get that folks may not like the obtuse nature of my opinion and that’s okay, because I’m trying to prevent people from drowning and I’m trying to continue the mission. We need to continue to shove our way to the front and pull the curtain back on these mistruths, call out these scumbag real-estate developers who would have you believe that the only option for them was to sign AB-InBev to this deal. What a crock of shit that is! They care about the community? The industry? Yeah, so much they are bringing in our biggest threat without exhausting efforts elsewhere. Obviously, telling someone they can’t open a business isn’t the answer. It’s un-American, even if the rich get richer and the small businesses go under. The local beer community should be in outrage and should be vocal, imploring folks to simply not go (to the 10 Barrel brewpub). Instead, dump twice as much support into these very small, independent places because if you are about “local” and you are about “indie” and you are about “community,” then it’s your obligation to HELP SMALL BUSINESS SURVIVE! People need to walk the walk when it comes to this specific dilemma. I think we have a lot more hypocrites than we do pioneers and it shouldn’t be that way in this day and age.

This is only the start of some eye-opening and thought-provoking back-and-forth. Check back to our website for the second-half of our Q&A with Scot Blair on Tuesday, March 1.

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