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Posts Tagged Monkey Paw

AB-InBev aims to open downtown brewpub

Jan 27

10barrel_logo10 Barrel Brewing has sent an application to the City of San Diego to expand an existing structure in the East Village into a brewpub. And I say, that’s a great idea…in 2014 before that Bend, Oregon-based business sold out to AB-InBev. As it stands now—with 10 Barrel a crucial link in the chain of acquired craft brands stretching from Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington to Golden Road Brewing in Los Angeles and east to Arizona’s Four Peaks Craft Brewery, Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery and anchor 2011 acquisition, Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company—it’s simply the latest bit of negative news I have to report to a legion of artisanal beer fans growing increasingly tired of Big Beer’s recent rash of tactics to diminish the market-share owned by real, independent craft breweries.

Many will simply say, “Who cares?” Those of that sentiment understand that 10 Barrel, a brewery that made good and interesting beers (and likely still does, though I won’t be drinking any of them), is not what it once was. The interest has devolved from a member of the craft brewing community into a pawn to be positioned against it, and AB-InBev is attempting to advance that pawn right into the heart of the urban action in what is arguably the country’s craft-beer capital. Into a 10,450-square-foot structure at 1501 E Street, to be exact. That’s a block north of Makers Quarter. Looking for an even more familiar landmark with which to orient? Try this one. It’s a block west of Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery, one of the most fiercely independent and vocally anti-Big Beer establishments in San Diego County. That should make for good drama, but after sellouts by local companies Saint Archer Brewery and Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits in 2015, Big Beer-inspired drama is the last thing San Diego imbibers need…or want right now.

Downtown San Diego—an area where as much if not more money comes in via tourists as locals—certainly makes for an attractive project site. Should 10 Barrel’s brewpub go in, most who visit it will simply assume it’s a local business. In all honesty, the majority of its patrons won’t concern themselves with something so trivial and inconsequential. With plenty of financial wherewithal behind it, the place will surely look fantastic and be highly marketed. And beyond the East Village, the beers brewed at 10 Barrel’s brewpub will almost surely find their way into distribution to the network of bars and restaurants where AB-InBev products are served, further chipping away at that oh-so-precious market-share Big Beer so doggedly covets.

At the end of 2015, I expressed the sincere hope that I’d spend more time writing about craft beer and less time discussing the business of beer, yet less than a month into the New Year, here we are. But such is the nature of business and, like it or not, craft beer is officially big business.

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2015 Recap: Beer’s Present

Dec 16
Veteran Ray Astamendi's Fall Brewing Co. tops my list of best new San Diego County breweries

Veteran Ray Astamendi’s Fall Brewing Co. tops my list of best new San Diego County breweries

Each year, I take time to look back at the new brewing companies that opened within the past 12 months (or so) and pick out the most exceptional additions to San Diego County’s craft beer scene. This year saw more breweries and brewpubs open than any before, making it the most difficult field to rate to-date. But after much thought, and even a bit of inner debate, the following are the finest rookies to draft their fermented wares in 2015. Fun side note: This is the first year that all of the top picks have come from within the actual City of San Diego.

Fall Brewing Co., North Park: There’s something to be said for having a veteran at the helm. Founder and brewmaster Ray Astamendi’s extensive life experience, brewhouse expertise, lessons learned at numerous craft breweries and ability to finally do things his way combined to produce a runaway success in the cinder-block shell of a former automotive repair spot on 30th Street. Lagers, Belgian-style ales, coffee beers, IPAs—nothing’s off limits and most of it is rather exceptional.

Second Chance Beer Co., Carmel Mountain: It takes guts to branch out on one’s own after a decade-and-a-half’s worth of security-laced tenure with one of the country’s largest brewpub chains, but that’s just what Marty Mendiola (another veteran…sensing a pattern yet?) did in opening his very own brewery in the suddenly beery North County inland area comprising Carmel Mountain and Rancho Bernardo. Straight out of the gate he’s shown mastery of uber-roasty and hoppy brews alike, and the best is likely still yet to come.

South Park Brewing Co., South Park: Running a single brewpub (including numerous service aspects) is hard enough, but handling two is a gargantuan undertaking. Yet, Cosimo Sorrentino continued to rock Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery while installing the brewery and developing kickass recipes at this sister spot next-door to Hamilton’s Tavern. In doing so, he earned his second Great American Beer Festival medal for one of SPBC’s inaugural beers, Scripps Pier Oyster Stout. Now that’s some impressive multi-tasking!

Bay City Brewing Co., Point Loma: Sorrentino’s former home- and pro-brewing partner Chris West may have left Monkey Paw in 2014, but 2015 saw him extending the “San Diego pale ale” campaign to earn our county ownership of the dry, restrainedly bitter yet hop flavor-heavy style of IPA that is quintessentially SD. He did this from his own brewery in the industrial heart of Loma Portal while crafting other exceptional, highly drinkable numbers ranging from a Vienna lager to entry-level sours.

Abnormal Beer Co., Rancho Bernardo: Brewing industry vet Derek Gallanosa got every beer geek’s dream-come-true in the form a shiny new brewhouse all his own in the swank confines of The Cork and Craft restaurant (which also houses a winery). Early struggles gave way to fine-tuned successes, including brightly hoppy IPAs and a variety of beers infused with delicious product from nearby sister business, Mostra Coffee.

Duck Foot Brewing Co., Miramar: Leading up to its open, this business meant to make gluten-reduced beers its bailiwick, but the popularization of White Labs’ gluten-nullifying Clarity-Ferm made that a far less relevant differentiator. Fortunately, the beer at this quirkily decorated but rather straightforward brewery doesn’t need niche dietary characteristics to stand out. It’s just good. That said, it’s pretty great that challenged imbibers can enjoy the beer, too!

A total of 20 newly established breweries were in contention this year and, to be honest, many were right on the brink of knocking off the half-dozen above. The following are the other businesses that vied for best new brewer op of 2015. Some businesses opened later in the year and will be in contention next year as they were too young to have been fairly considered this time around.

Contenders: Barn Brewery (North Park), Bay Bridge Brewing Co. (Chula Vista), Citizen Brewers (Mission Valley), Division 23 Brewing Co. (Miramar), Half Door Brewing Co. (East Village), Helix Brewing Co. (La Mesa), Home Brewing Co. (North Park), Kilowatt Brewing Co. (Kearny Mesa), Kuracali Saké & Beer Brewery (San Marcos), Magnetic Brewing (Kearny Mesa), Novo Brazil Brewing Co. (Chula Vista), Pacific Islander Beer Co. (Santee), Prodigy Brewing Co. (Grantville), Reckless Brewing Co. (Miramar),

Maybe Next Year: Bear Roots Brewing Co. (Vista), Guadalupe Brewery (Carlsbad), Kensington Brewing Co. (Mission Valley), Thr3e Punk Ales (Santee)

Previous Top-Ranked Breweries

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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2015 Recap: Beers Past

Dec 15

This marks the first in a three-part line of year-end posts. Today’s will focus on the most alluring ghosts of new beers past from 2015. Each year, I have the pleasure (the honor, actually) of sampling literally hundreds of beers from San Diego-based breweries. The following are the 50 that were most memorable for their great flavors, aromas, textures and, in some cases, their adventurousness (but only when creatively daring pursuits paid successful dividends for imbibers). Surely your list varies as no two beer fiends’ palates are alike. But this isn’t about being right…it’s about being comprehensive, so pile on your favorite new beers of 2015 in the Comments section so others can benefit from your guidance. Happy drinking and God bless us, everyone!

Societe The Coachman Session IPA

Societe The Coachman Session IPA

Hoppy Beers

  • Abnormal Debut IPA
  • Bagby Grief Counselor (strong pale ale)
  • Bagby Dinkus (imperial IPA)
  • Bay City Session IPA
  • Bay City Coffee Pale Ale
  • Benchmark Hildegard Triple IPA
  • Coronado Stingray IPA
  • Duck Foot Double White IPA
  • Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker (partially wine barrel-aged, dry-hopped white IPA w/Brettanomyces & passion fruit)
  • The Hop Concept Hop Freshener Series Citrus & Piney IPA
  • Monkey Paw Gibbon Back (double IPA)
  • New English Two Legit Double IPA
  • Nickel My Way Fresh Hop IPA
  • Rip Current Deep Crimson Imperial Red Rye
  • Societe The Coachman (session IPA)
  • Stone 19th Anniversary Thunderstruck IPA
  • Stone Delicious IPA
  • Stone Enjoy By Black IPA
  • URBN St. Jumbo Double IPA
Abnormal Full Pint Breakfast Porter

Abnormal Full Pint Breakfast Porter

Dark & Roasty Beers

  • Abnormal Full Pint Breakfast Porter (oatmeal porter w/coffee & maple syrup)
  • AleSmith Hawaiian Speedway Stout (imperial coffee stout w/vanilla & coconut)
  • Ballast Point Oompa Lupus (imperial milk stout w/chocolate, chilies & orange)
  • Fall 2AM Bike Ride (stout w/coffee & vanilla)
  • Half Door Coleman’s Stout (dry Irish-style stout)
  • Second Chance Tabula Rasa (black porter)
  • South Park Scripps Pier Oyster Stout


Belgian-style Beers

  • AleSmith Noël (Belgian-style Christmas ale)
  • Fallbrook Homegrown Saison (saison w/grapefruit, orange, lemon, prickly pear & avocado honey)
  • The Lost Abbey My Black Parade (barrel-aged, Belgian-style dark strong ale w/cacao nibs, cinnamon, dried chilies & vanilla)
  • Nickel Double Dubbel Animal-Style (rum barrel-aged Belgian-style quadrupel)
  • Pizza Port Saisian Persuasion (Belgian-style saison w/yuzu, lemongrass, ginger & green peppercorns)
  • Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station Rainbow Triplin’ (Belgian-style tripel w/strawberries, oranges, lemons, limes & grapes)
Council Imperial Béatitude w/Nectarines & Peaches

Council Imperial Béatitude w/Nectarines & Peaches

Sour Beers

  • Alpine Kiwi Herman (kiwi sour ale)
  • Council Imperial Béatitude (tart saison w/peaches & nectarines)
  • Green Flash Cellar 3 Natura Morta w/Cranberries (barrel-aged sour ale w/cranberries)
  • The Lost Abbey Churchill’s Finest Sour 2015 (barrel-aged sour ale)
  • The Lost Abbey Veritas 015 (barrel-aged sour ale w/apricots, nectarines & peaches)
  • Monkey Paw Yeast Farmer Tart Pomegranate Saison
  • Societe The Thief (barrel-aged sour ale)
  • Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station Gose Gose Gadget (gose w/coriander & smoked sea salt)
  • Toolbox Purple Drink (boysenberry sour ale)
  • Toolbox X Lupus (blueberry sour Brett beer)

Other Styles

Half Door Extra Extra Special Bitter

Half Door Extra Extra Special Bitter

  • Bolt Donator Doppelbock
  • Coronado Seacoast Pilsner
  • Fall Plenty For All (pilsner/California common hybrid)
  • Fallbrook Lupus Has Left The Building (peanut butter hefeweizen)
  • Guadalupe El Vanillo (vanilla cream ale)
  • Half Door Extra Extra Special Bitter (imperial ESB)
  • Rip Current Delaminator (smoked doppelbock)
  • Rough Draft Pinot Noir Barrel-Aged Wheat Wine

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15 in ’15: Best of San Diego Beer 2015

Dec 9


One of our main missions at West Coaster is to showcase the talented humans and businesses that create the San Diego brewing community. For this feature, we asked our readers for help. The 15 in ‘15 covers 15 different categories, and answers were taken via an online poll that ran in November. 2015 was an exhilarating year in the county’s brewing industry, and this feature highlights just some of the movers and shakers that helped make it happen.


Blazing World cans on the line (photo courtesy of Modern Times)

Best San Diego Brewery: Modern Times
Modern Times Beer has matured with equal parts skill and insanity in its two years of existence. More than doubling production from 6,500 barrels in 2014 to 16,000 barrels in 2015, the cans, bottles and tap handles of the “Lomaland Fermentorium” are becoming a common sight throughout the competitive shelves and draft lineups of San Diego County. Next year, the brewery estimates production will reach 33,000 barrels. Double-digit plus growth years in a row isn’t a fluke – the beer rocks.

West Coaster readers agreed. The core beers of Lomaland, Fortunate Island and Blazing World have gone over well, but the magic is found with the releases that started appearing this past year. 2015 was the first year MTB launched a new bottled beer each month. City of the Dead, Fruitlands Gose, Mega Black House were some highlights, and the brewery took notes on which bottles sold well. With that knowledge, expect to see a few new year-round offerings come 2016.

It’s not just beer, either. Within the brewery is also a coffee roasting operation, and plans are in the works for opening a brewpub in Los Angeles. Also, their first Festival of Dankness was focused on interesting/uncommon beers/breweries. In the words of brewer/organizer Derek Freese, this was a festival created for people that hate beer festivals. The first annual event saw over 1,000 attendees, 37 breweries pouring beers, and $10,000 donated to the charity BikeSD.

Modern Times is on fire. This dynamic brewery defines the essence of San Diego beer for the year 2015.


Cork & Craft / Abnormal Surf & Turf, February 2015 (photo courtesy of Abnormal Beer Co.)

Best San Diego Brewpub: Abnormal Beer Co.
Abnormal is a part of a medley of operations that co-habitate what was once just another industrial suite in Rancho Bernardo. After a significant, transformative buildout, Abnormal Beer & Wine Co. opened early 2015. The restaurant component, Cork & Craft, has foodies salivating.

The in-house brewery is headed up by Derek Gallanosa and featured a 10 barrel brewhouse with 80 barrels capacity. With 30 draft accounts and counting, Debut IPA and 5PM Session Ale have been well received. Derek also curates the 41 tap draft program, which features guest taps and house beers.

Brewpubs are seldom known for their culinary flair. This is not the case with the Cork & Craft kitchen. Dishes with hand cut pappardelle noodles made in-house & slow cooked in a pork bolognese sauce, grilled octopus in Spanish-style ajoblanco sauce, or lemon ricotta agnolotti served with Buddha’s Hand are some of the items found on the menu. For the less adventurous, the bar menu offers jazzed up versions of brewpub staples like chicken wings, burgers and pretzels.

Although their first year in business, Abnormal has orchestrated 10 mind-blowing beer pairing dinners titled the Abnormal Dinner Series. The first dinner featured a vertical tasting with 11 different years of Cantillon’s Fou Foune. In May, AleSmith Brewing was hosted and 8 different courses were paired with 8 different AleSmith beers.

West Coaster readers were undoubtedly amazed at this factory of flavor that dropped in seemingly from space. Next year, the Abnormal Dinner Series will continue once a month, and a million dollar expansion for the brewery will boost production five fold.


Cosimo Sorrentino late 2013 (photo by author)

Best Brewer in San Diego: Cosimo Sorrentino
Cosimo Sorrentino is the head brewer of both Monkey Paw Brewing Company and South Park Brewing Co. Running a single brewery is tough. Cosimo managed to keep the beers flowing at ‘Paw while simultaneously helping open South Park in 2015 and bringing that new brewery online. Now, he splits his time between the two brewpubs, located in East Village and next to Hamilton’s Tavern, respectively.

Running two breweries is a behemoth undertaking, but Cosimo is stoked. “The opportunity in front of me can’t be ignored.” Cosimo replies when West Coaster asked him about how he manages his time. “I do what the beer needs me to do. If it means a 100 hour work week, so be it. There are people who would do anything for a shot like this. Luckily, I live between the breweries and don’t have any other commitments in life.” That dedication is reflected in the beer. The 2013 Great American Beer Festival judges awarded Monkey Paw’s Bonobos a Gold medal in the American strong ale category, and in 2015 Scripps Pier Stout won a Silver medal. Beers such as Lup’d Up Single, a tart saison w/ Rhubarb and I5 brewed with coconut and salt stood out from Monkey Paw in 2015. Scripps Pier Stout + Lime In Da Coconut were fan favorites from South Park. Cosimo was also tapped to work with Stone’s 24 Carrot Golden Ale collaboration beer along with homebrewer Juli Goldenberg.

More cool beers are on the way. Monkey Paw will release Funky Sea Monkey Black Gose, a collaboration with Marin Brewing Co. brewed with squid ink. Caddy Corner Wit from South Park Brewing Co. will be a wit beer with neighborhood persimmons and oranges. Expect to see lots of beer pairing events from Monkey Paw and South Park in 2016, as well.

Chris Banker (left) and Ken Schmidt (right) at Stone's 2014 AHA Rally (photo by Tim Stahl)

Chris Banker (left) and Ken Schmidt (right) at Stone’s 2014 AHA Rally (photo by Tim Stahl)

Best Homebrewer in San Diego: Chris Banker
Oceanside resident Chris Banker has long been an active member in both Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity (QUAFF) and Society of Barley Engineers homebrew clubs. In 2014, he entered a beer that won the prestigious Stone Brewing Company American Homebrewers Association competition. Banker chose the Morales brothers of Tijuana’s Cervecería Insurgente to collaborate, and the beer was brewed at and released by Stone late 2014. The beer’s name? Xocoveza. Well, technically the full, proper name is Chris Banker / Stone / Insurgente Xocoveza Mocha Stout.

The beer was a runaway hit. The 8% chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, chile pepper and Mostra Coffee-infused milk stout invokes the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate. The beer was so popular that Stone re-released Xocoveza in 6 packs and kegs mid-November 2015. Stone Brewing Co. also chose Xocoveza to be one of the three first beers brewed and released by Stone’s new Berlin brewery.

Aside from beer, Banker crafts cider, mead and wine and is also a skilled cheesemaker. An engineer by trade, Banker has a small, sophisticated half barrel homebrew setup fashioned from a hollowed out keg that doubles as his cheesemaking setup. A breakdown of this cool setup can be found online @

The patio of Green Flash's Mira Mesa tasting room (photo courtesy of Green Flash)

The patio of Green Flash’s Mira Mesa tasting room (photo courtesy of Green Flash)

Best Tasting Room: Green Flash & Cellar 3
Readers voted in equal numbers for both Green Flash tasting rooms. The 300 person capacity tasting room located in the Mira Mesa facility underwent a significant remodel in 2014. The remodel brought a bit more color and personality to the aesthetics, and added a standalone merchandise store, a separate growler fill bar, and stainless 30-tap draught system. Outside, there’s a substantial patio with picnic table seating, string lights, heating, and the Green Flash Gastro Truck serving food.

Mid-2015, Green Flash opened the doors of Cellar 3. Housing the brewery’s barrel aging program, there’s an elegant and spacious tasting room designed to showcase the brewery’s more limited & creative beers. Flanders Drive, Oculus Sauvage and Silva Stout are all barrel aged on location and then put on tap and into bottles. Still in its infancy, expect to hear and drink a lot more from Cellar 3 in the upcoming year.

Between the two tasting rooms, Green Flash moves 30 ½ barrel kegs a week and nearly 40 cases of beer. The large and open layout of each space allows for frequent events. Over 23 Hoppy Yoga sessions took place last year at the Mira Mesa location alone. In 2015, the brewery will begin a free shuttle service that stops at the Sorrento Valley Coaster Station, Cellar 3 and Green Flash.


Toronado San Diego (photo by Ryan Lamb)

Best Beer Bar: Toronado
Winner of last year’s Best Tap Rotation category, opinions shifted slightly this year. According to our readers, Toronado is now the Best Beer Bar in San Diego. Rotating about 40 kegs each week, the 56 tap handles of Toronado are frequently pouring the finest beer found on planet earth. The magic of Toronado comes from its versatility.

Monday through Friday in the early afternoon, Toronado serves as an embassy for visiting beer dignitaries and a rest stop for local industry. If an out of town brewer is visiting San Diego with time to only visit one bar, it’s usually Toronado. It’s not uncommon to find several brewery sales reps cooling their heels in-between meetings or furiously staring at a laptop/pacing out front on the phone. This quiet, gentle Toronado can be both a productive and deeply therapeutic space.

In the weekday evening hours, North Park gets hungry and thirsty. Neighbors begin to stroll in. The empty seats are filled and the din of chatter dances off the walls. This Toronado is for unwinding with friends after work over chicken wings and a few pints. Friday through Sunday, the energy level increases in step with the volume of the jukebox. Although it might be standing room only on loud, packed weekend night – it’s difficult to not have a good time. Weekend Toronado is for having fun and bumping into friends.

With only one modest TV screen that’s usually on mute and notoriously poor reception of cell phone signals, Toronado encourages conversation. Combine that with an outstanding tap list and this 2015 choice for Best Beer Bar becomes clear.

Urge during a Stone Brewing Co. Vertical Epic tap takeover, 2012 (photo by Ryan Lamb)

Urge during a Stone Brewing Co. Vertical Epic tap takeover, 2012 (photo by Ryan Lamb)

Best Beer Restaurant: Urge American Gastropub
Urge American Gastropub is a thoroughbred beer restaurant. Located in Rancho Bernardo, Urge opened in 2010 and has demonstrated a solid commitment to serving the best beer and food possible – often combining both (see: Sculpin-marinated Chicken Wings). On a regular day, Urge properly maintains 51 taplines that compliment a tasty menu served in generous portions.

And on non-regular days? Urge gets crazy. Special events frequently follow a creative theme, serve crazy beers and neat custom glassware. The restaurant celebrated their 5th Anniversary in late August, and breweries Mother Earth, Noble Ale Works, Dogfish Head, Sierra Nevada and AleSmith all created beers especially for the event. AleSmith’s 12% ABV Velvet Speedway Stout was the whale of 2015. Aged for a year in 23-year-old Evan Williams Bourbon Barrels, infused with a rye-whiskey/Madagascar Vanilla bean blend and bourbon barrel-aged cold brew coffee from Mostra, the beer was released for sales late July and sold out instantaneously. Urge throws regular events with similar panache year-round.

Sister operations include the wine-centric Barrel Room and restaurant/bottleshop/flavor emporium Brother’s Provisions – both are also in Rancho Bernardo. Coming up in 2016, the Urge empire will expand into brewing. Urge Gastropub Oceanside is presently under construction, and the 9000+ square foot space will include brewery Mason Ale Works, 41 taps and an extensive bottled beer and whiskey selection.


Nate Soroko @ Modern Times (photo by Tim Stahl)

Best Beertender: Nate Soroko
Two years in a row, West Coaster readers named Nate Soroko as the Best Beertender in San Diego County. Having worked at Liar’s Club, Lost Abbey, Pizza Port Carlsbad and Alpine before settling into his current gigs at Modern Times and Toronado, Nate’s had a front row seat watching the culture of San Diego beer develop and mature. Perhaps no other human has poured more San Diego beer than Nate, and his work ethic, respect and passion for beer and the people behind it are contagious.

“I love watching people who love this industry succeed within it.” Nate elaborated, “Watching Fall [Brewing] blow up, AleSmith open their brand new facility, Bobby [Matthews] at Alpine getting a big promotion, Cork & Craft expanding, South Bay getting love and watching 30th Street continue to be the best beer street in America. It’s been a pleasure watching friends and colleagues follow their dreams or soar in their current positions.”

Read more about Nate in last year’s 14 in ’14 feature.

Photo courtesy of The Homebrewer

Photo courtesy of The Homebrewer

Best Homebrew Shop: The Homebrewer
West Coaster first wrote about The Homebrewer in February of 2011, when owner George Thornton announced he would be opening the shop on 2911 El Cajon Boulevard in North Park. Since opening the doors in 2012, the business has grown to much more than a simple supply store. The goal of The Homebrewer is to be a one-stop shop to get people brewing in a friendly, encouraging and educational environment. Our readers decided that there’s no better place to become a brewer.

We asked George why he thought readers chose his store against several other excellent homebrew stores in San Diego. His answer came quickly, “We have the best people in the whole world working for us. Selection, prices, cleanliness, organization… all of that stuff is a piece of cake. Our team makes us awesome.”

2015 saw the opening of Home Brewing Company, which is the small-batch commercial brewery and tasting room located within the store. Things to expect from the Homebrewer in 2016: a fourth anniversary celebration and a tasting room expansion. George is also keen to open a second and third location. “We’re always brainstorming and can’t wait to bring our vision to other parts of the county. We’re already scouring locations.”

North-ParkBest Beer Neighborhood: North Park
Once again, North Park was our reader’s top choice for Best Beer Neighborhood in San Diego County by an overwhelming majority of votes. It’s easy to understand why. The 92104 area added several new beer businesses in the year 2015. Both Barn Brewing and Home Brewing Co. opened across the street from one another, improving a historically sketchy area of El Cajon Boulevard. There’s now six total breweries in North Park, and they had a great year, too. Fall Brewing celebrated a killer first year in business in November, Thorn Street Brewing opened pub Home & Away in Old Town, Poor House has dramatically improved their beer’s quality and Hess Brewing expanded with a new tasting room in Ocean Beach.

Off 30th Street, Rip Current Brewing opened their satellite tasting room in 2015 (and then proceeded to be named Best Very Small Brewing Company of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival). Crazee Burger relocated their business to the corner of 30th & Lincoln, adding more draft handles to 30th Street.

The rich keep getting richer. Now ingrained into the DNA of the neighborhood, beer is seeping into other facets. Coffee roaster Dark Horse collaborated with New English on a brew for Bine & Vine (see Best Bottleshop), and Folsom Coffee will soon turn on beer taps adjacent to coldbrew coffee taps. Gourmet taco shops such as City Tacos, Tacos Perla serve Tijuana’s Insurgente. Streetcar Merchants serves sweets along with a small but thoughtful selection of local beers.

Although North Park’s the definitive choice for Best Beer Neighborhood of 2015, we’re looking forward to additional competition from the above up-and-coming neighborhoods in next year’s poll.

Hamilton's Tavern (photo by Kristina Yamamoto)

Hamilton’s Tavern (photo by Kristina Yamamoto)

Best Tap Selection & Rotation: Hamilton’s
Hamilton’s was our reader’s choice for the 2014 Best Beer Bar, swapping categories with Toronado and indicating a shift in our reader’s preferences. It’s a solid choice; even the most discerning beer-tickers can find an excellent, new beer any night of the week at Hammie’s.

Unlike other bars, Hamilton’s actively maintains a taplist online, so one doesn’t have to physically present to witness what’s on the list. At time of press, 15 of the 28 taps are San Diego-based breweries such as Bagby, Hess and Abnormal. 22 of 28 are California breweries, with one tap usually dedicated to Russian River’s Pliny the Elder (an enduringly popular double IPA). Although the emphasis on local beer is evident, the only hard and fast rule is serving quality suds from independent brewers. Big Sky Brewing from Missoula, Montana, Left Hand Brewing from Longmont Colorado were also on tap at time of press. Owner Scot Blair & the hard-working Hamilton’s staff maintain a rigorous cleaning and maintenance schedule for his taps, and the bar’s well-earned reputation means breweries usually send the freshest, tastiest kegs when asked. An extensive bottle selection features both local and international breweries.

Hamilton’s organizes and throws legendary events. Each month, Second Saturday hosts a brewery for a tap takeover and free food is cooked up from the kitchen. In December, AleSmith Brewing was hosted and brought Velvet Speedway Stout (see our Best Beer Restaurant of 2015, Urge for more info on this whale), Hawaiian Speedway Stout and Double Hammerhead Speedway Stout along with staple beers Lil Devil and .394 Pale Ale. The complimentary food was holiday-themed with deconstructed shepherd’s pie casserole, beer-braised pulled turkey and duck. During football season, each Monday there’s a keep-the-pint night and each Friday there’s featured brewery & cask.

When it comes to serving beer, Hamilton’s is at an elite level few other bars match.

The 2015 San Diego Brewers Guild Festival (photo courtesy of the San Diego Brewers Guild)

The 2015 San Diego Brewers Guild Festival (photo courtesy of the San Diego Brewers Guild)

Best Beer Festival: San Diego Brewers Guild Fest
Two years in a row, our readers have named San Diego Beer Week’s Guild Festival as the best beer fest in the land. An official production of the Brewers Guild, the two day event once again took place on the Port Pavilion cruise ship terminal located on Broadway Pier.

Known colloquially as Guildfest, the festival serves as a state of the union for San Diego Beer. With 115 breweries and counting, this is an excellent way to try some of the newest beer talent in town as well as sample from more established breweries.

A little known fact: 2015 was the 13th Anniversary of Guild Fest. From modest beginnings at the World Beat Center with a handful of breweries, this festival has grown significantly. 2015 was the most polished incarnation yet. Over 1,100 people attended the Friday night VIP session, which featured not only unlimited beer tasting but also food. The following day, 3,200 humans packed the pier. Attendees from as far away as England, Norway, Spain and Switzerland.

Read more about Guildfest in last year’s 14 in ’14 feature.

Photo courtesy of Bine & Vine

Photo courtesy of Bine & Vine

Best Bottleshop: Bine & Vine
What does it take to have the best bottleshop in San Diego county? “We store all of our beer correctly. No direct light hitting the bottles and everything’s chilled,” explains Bine and Vine’s owner Geoi Bachoua. “We have a very manageable amount of beer (650 bottles) in-stock, so nothing ever gets old or out of code.” He continues, “Our staff is also extremely knowledgeable about beer styles and are 100% honest when asked questions.” Bine & Vine won our Best Bottleshop category handily.

Prior to opening Bine & Vine in 2011, Geoi and his family owned and worked at South Bay Drugs off Palm Avenue in Imperial Beach. Off the beaten beer path, the liquor store’s impressive craft selection made it a destination nevertheless. At what point does a liquor store become a bottle shop? When South Bay Drugs shuttered and Bine and Vine opened on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights is the best case-study we’ve seen.

In 2015, Bine & Vine celebrated their 4th Anniversary by teaming up with New English to brew Adams Avenue Imperial Porter. Brewed with beans from Uptown’s coffee roaster de jour Dark Horse Coffee, the beer was a worthy tribute. “We’re extremely proud on how the beer came out. It’s an ‘Imperial English-style Coffee Porter’ with a focus on balance”

Bine & Vine looks forward to a prosperous 5th year in business. When asked about the new year, Geoi replied: “Big plans are in-store for 2016, indeed. I can’t say much at this moment but it’ll fulfill a big need in Normal Heights.”

On our cover this month: Second Chance Brewing Co. (photo by Ryan Lamb)

On our cover this month: Second Chance Beer Co. (photo by Ryan Lamb)

Best New Beer Spot: Second Chance Brewing Co.
West Coaster was excited to break the news late 2014 that Marty Mendiola was going to open his own brewery. An exceedingly talented brewer, during his career Marty has earned six World Beer Cup awards and ten Great American Beer Festival medals for his beers. Together with colleague/former Rock Bottom GM Curtis Hawes and wife Virginia Morrison, the trio founded Second Chance Beer Company in 2015.

Second Chance opened to the public in September. “That first day we opened, at 3:40pm, butterflies in our stomachs, wondering if anyone would show,” recalls Virginia. “Sitting at my desk, I looked up and saw a parade of our corporate neighbors walking towards us from all directions. We built it, and they were coming!” A former San Diego Brewers Guild president, Marty’s worked hard to enhance the brand of San Diego beer with a quiet humility that’s earned him a tremendous amount of respect over the years.

Although a brand new brewery, the beer is excellent. Seize the Day IPA is modest by San Diego standards at 6.5% and 65 IBUs, but it’s a hoppy, sessionable West Coast style IPA that has been well received. Tabula Rasa is a roasty, dry porter that clocks in at 6.2%, and the Blonde is a clean, balanced 5% ale.

Second Chance opened late in 2015, and is just getting warmed up. All signs point to the brewery becoming the next “it” producer of beer in San Diego. West Coaster readers obviously concur, naming this spot is the Best New Beer Spot in the entire county. Keep an eye on this one in 2016!

Best San Diego Beer: #allthebeers
This category was too close to call. Votes came in damn near equal numbers for AleSmith’s .394 Pale Ale + Velvet Speedway, Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin + Grunion, Alpine’s Nelson, Karl Strauss’ Mosaic, Stone’s Xocoveza and Fall’s 2AM Bike Ride. While it sucks to not be able to name a definitive winner, it’s a pretty telling result. 2015 was a year for the record books for the San Diego brewing community, and neither our readers nor West Coaster staff could pick just one beer above all others.

Bix cheers
This feature is dedicated to the memory Horace “Bix” Bixby. A talented home brewer, beer judge and active QUAFF member since 1995, Bix was also an accomplished cheesemaker. He will be deeply missed.


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Everyday I’m Trufflin’

Dec 8

Somehow, I’d never heard of Andrea. It’s possible that you haven’t either. But after a San Diego Beer Week campaign that saw her collaborate with such big name venues as Gordon Biersch, Mike Hess Brewing, KnB Wine Cellars, Monkey Paw and South Park Brewing, loads of craft beer enthusiasts are now familiar not only with her name, but with her confectionery handiwork as the namesake sweets maven behind local business, Andrea’s Truffles. It’s fitting she should collaborate with craft brewers. It’s their entrepreneurial spirit that partially inspired her to start her own business.

“I graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 1999, but left the biz in 2006 to have a normal life,” Andrea Davis recalls with a chuckle. “But when I revamped my truffle recipe, it was something everyone seemed to want. It seemed like everyone was starting their own business. It was such a great time and awesome vibe, so I just went for it.”

Her first and staunchest supporters early on were Hanis Cavin and Sara Stroud, the co-owner couple behind the Carnitas’ Snack Shack chain. Eateries that champion craft beer as passionately as they do pork in all its delicious forms, the provided Andrea a nice introduction and indoctrination into the flavorful ales being brewed throughout San Diego. The symbiosis that could be attained between those beers and her sweets fast became obvious.

andrea's truffles“When I first started trufflin’, I spend a lot of time at Carnitas’ Snack Shack in North Park. Different brewers were always in and out of there. Hanis would always give them a truffle and a new relationship would begin,” says Andrea. “When they got their beer-and-wine license, Hanis handed me two bottles of Green Flash Double Stout to make truffles with. After that, it was all over…in a good way. There is such a sense of community with my beer-centric pals, so much support and love.”

From Valentine’s Day beer-and-truffle pairings at Mike Hess Brewing in North Park to a Truffles On Tap pairing series for The Patio Restaurant Group to custom truffles built around the flavor profiles of specific beers, she is like a sugar-fueled whirlwind swirling all over San Diego County. Andrea is wild about all of her craft beer collaborators, but says her latest source of pride and joy is a carrot cake truffle commissioned by beer bar baron Scot Blair to pair with a beer his brewpub, Monkey Paw, had a hand in producing with Escondido’s Stone Brewing Co. and award-winning local homebrewer Juli Goldenberg called 24 Carrot Golden Ale.

A Belgian strong ale brewed with lactose, carrot juice, raisins and spices, it was billed as carrot cake in a glass. The truffle’s white chocolate coating creates a creamy, buttery component to mirror the cream cheese frosting elements of the beer while actual carrot cake, cinnamon, ginger and raisins take care of the rest. It’s a tasty example of Andrea’s creativity and ability to step up to even the most challenging and outlandish of beers.

A trio of holiday-ready recipes (including the one for those carrot cake truffles) are the gift of this generous dessertier this yuletide season. Further evidence of her giving nature will be provided on December 11 at the newly debuted AleSmith Brewing Co. tasting room in Miramar when her specially crafted gingerbread truffles are paired with AleSmith Noël, a traditional Belgian-style Christmas ale brewed to support the Beer to the Rescue anti-lupus fundraising campaign. Consider them sweets from the sweet.

Basic Chocolate Truffles
Yield: 16 truffles

16 oz. heavy cream, room temperature
8 oz. semisweet chocolate
2 oz. unsalted butter, cubed
16 oz. dark chocolate (preferably 70% cacao)

Mix the cream and semisweet chocolate in the top vessel of a double boiler over low heat. When the chocolate is almost melted, turn off the heat and whisk until completely incorporated. Whisk the butter into the mixture, several cubes at a time. When the ingredients are completely incorporated, pour the chocolate into a foil pan lined with plastic. Place the pan in the refrigerator and let cool for at least 12 hours.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator and cut the chocolate into squares or use a ball-scooper to dole into equal-sized segments. Melt the dark chocolate in the top vessel of a double boiler over low heat. When the chocolate reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit, maintain that temperature, being sure not to overheat it. One at a time, dip the truffles in the chocolate to coat then place on a Sil-Pat lined sheet pan to cool and set. Serve.

Andrea’s Tricks to Trufflin’

  • Whatever liquid you add to your melted chocolate, cream and butter mixture (i.e., stout, liquor), make sure you are taking the same amount of heavy cream. You do not want a runny mixture.
  • While cooking a stout down to thicken before incorporating into the chocolate mixture, add a little brown sugar. And don’t be afraid to cook the stout down to an almost tar-like consistency. A 64-ounce growler of beer should reduce into no more than 3 or 4 ounces of liquid. When adding it to your chocolate mixture, add a little at a time. This way it won’t clump up.
  • If you don’t have a thermometer, a good way of tell if the chocolate is the proper temperature is if it is warm like a the serving temperature for a baby’s bottle.

Carrot Cake (AKA “Blair-rot Cake”) Truffles
Yield: 50 truffles
Paired with Juli Goldenberg / Monkey Paw / Stone 24 Carrot Golden Ale

20 oz. white chocolate (preferably Callebout)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt
1 Tbsp plus pinch ground cinnamon
prepared carrot cake (preferably produced using Betty Crocker’s carrot cake recipe), cut into chunks
1 lb. white chocolate, for coating
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup walnuts (optional)
sea salt flakes (optional)

In a large stainless steel bowl, combine 20 oz. of white chocolate with the cream cheese, heavy cream, ginger, vanilla, salt and 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon. Transfer the mixture to the top vessel of a double boiler over low heat and stir occasionally until the ingredients are completely incorporated. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Spread the mixture into an even layer, then gently push chunks of the cake into the chocolate. Cover snugly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap then invert the chocolate-coated cake onto a Sil-Pat-lined baking sheet with a one-inch lip. In the top vessel of a double boiler, heat half the remaining white chocolate and cinnamon. When the mixture is melted, turn off the heat and stir in the rest of the chocolate. When the mixture is smooth and lukewarm, drizzle the white chocolate over the carrot cake or cut the cake into equal-sized square portions and dip in the melted white chocolate, one at a time, returning each truffle to the pan to cool once coated. Garnish with raisins, walnuts and sea salt, and serve.

Vanilla Hazelnuts
Yield: 14 ounces

8 oz. granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch salt (preferably from La Jolla Salt Co.)
14 oz. blanched hazelnuts, whole or pieces

Mix the sugar, vanilla and salt together in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the mixture is halfway melted, stir in the nuts and continue stirring until the mixture takes on a golden-brown color and there is a shiny gloss over the nuts. Remove from heat and spread the mixture over a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Let cool. Serve or transfer the nuts to an airtight container for storage.

Recipes courtesy Andrea Davis, Owner, Andrea’s Truffles

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