Winners of the San Diego International Beer Festival’s professional brewing competition were released today. A component of the San Diego County Fair’s annual festivities, the competition included entries from across the globe judged by professional beer judges and Southern California brewing professionals in late-April. A total of 68 medals were awarded to San Diego-based breweries. Of that number, 23 were gold, 21 were silver and 24 were bronze.
San Diego breweries won all three medals in eight categories: American-style Red/Amber Ale, Bitter, Bold Stout, Brett and Other Sour Beer, German-style Ale, German-style Weiss, Imperial Stout and Pilsener. Miramar-based AleSmith Brewing Company once again took home Champion Brewery honors behind three medals—a gold and silver in the same category (one of which was awarded to a Scotch ale) and a gold in the Barley Wine category.
The most local medals went to Pizza Port. That brewpub’s Carlsbad brewpub also won a gold and two silvers. Its Ocean Beach arm won two (one gold, one bronze) and Bressi Ranch production brewery earned a silver. The most medals awarded to a single brewery went to San Marcos’ Rip Current Brewing Company and less-than-a-year-old North Park interest Eppig Brewing. Both of those companies earned a gold, silver and two bronzes. San Marcos’ The Lost Abbey and South Park Brewing Company earned three medals apiece, as well. Also impressive was Rip Current winning two of three medals in the German-style Bock category.
The following is a complete list of the winners from this years SDIBF…
The three-day public beer-fest portion of the SDIBF will take place at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Friday, June 16 through Sunday, June 18. Tickets and information can be found online.
Over the past seven years, Iron Fist Brewing Company has grown into one of the most steady-running breweries in Vista, second only to Mother Earth Brew Co. in size and visibility. The brewery-rich municipality’s second-oldest brewing interest (to Backstreet Brewery), it now includes a satellite tasting-room in San Diego’s Logan Heights community, but according to founding co-owner Eve Siemenski, there’s more on the horizon for the family-run, combination Belgian-inspired and West Coast hopped op.
Recently, the Siemenskis invited on new investors, Wayne and Cindy Seltzer. The Seltzers bring diverse backgrounds in the food-and-beverage distribution and manufacturing industries. The couple sold its 30-year-old nutritional solutions interest business, Seltzer Companies, to Glanbia PLC in 2006 for $105 million. The Seltzers are involved in other business interests in the county, most notably the San Diego Padres ownership group.
Siemenski says welcoming the Seltzers aboard will position Iron Fist for future growth financially, and also enhance its business operations, sales, marketing and manufacturing capabilities. “We feel we are better positioned to implement our long-range strategies for growth in the highly competitive craft beverage industry,” she says.
In the near-term, Iron Fist’s upcoming projects include the release of six-packs of three of its beers in bottles—Renegade Blonde Ale, Nelson the ImPALEr and Counter Strike IPA. Further down the road, the company hopes to construct additional tasting rooms. Siemenski cites reaching greatly differing demographics at its Vista and Logan Heights locations as a great advantage to operating multiple venues. There is also the possibility of opening a brewpub and moving into a larger production headquarters.
What started as a tiny single-suite nano-brewery producing insanely tiny batches of beers using stock-pots over Butane burners has evolved into a Hop Highway success story. Vista-based Mother Earth Brew Co. has gone on to take-over most of the business campus it calls home, while adding a spacious tasting-room in the heart of the city’s old-town area. And over the weekend, they opened the doors to the tasting-room at its second, large-scale production facility in Nampa, Idaho. Mother Earth vice president Kevin Hopkins stopped by en route to the Great American Beer Festival, where the company’s ESB (extra special bitter) medaled. It’s exciting times for the little brewery that could (and did), and the perfect time to get an update straight from source.
What has been the impact of the Nampa facility going online?
Nampa went into full-rate production in August and currently services five-and-a-half states—Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and the northern portion of California. Its initial impact has been the ability to launch full-state distribution in Washington and Oregon with many more states to come. Last weekend’s tasting-room opening had representation of staff from both of our breweries and a great line-up of beers for people to experience.
What is Mother Earth’s organizational structure like with multiple breweries in multiple states?
Head brewer Chris Baker permanently relocated to Idaho and oversees operations there. Lead brewer Jeff Hueneman took over Vista operations and works collaboratively with Chris on items that concern both facilities. Production-scheduling and overall operations are managed corporately from here in Vista by our CFO/COO and our logistics team. We also have “beer traffic coordinators” located at both breweries to provide continuity.
What are details of expansion efforts at the original Vista brewery?
Vista started out as a 2,200-square-foot brewery and has expanded to approximately 28,000 square feet of production-space producing over 30,000 barrels of beer each year. Part of our master-plan included infrastructure investment to take Vista out to 40,000 barrels with the addition of fermentation and brite tanks to reach that capacity. Infrastructure is in place and tanks are being added as needed. Our next “stand-up” will be new nitro vessels to accommodate and expand our extremely successful NITRO programs.
What new beers are on the horizon for Mother Earth?
Mother Earth has always had a pilot-program to bring new and expanded offerings to market. Boo Koo Mosaic IPA, Born Blonde and our World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival and San Diego International Beer Festival award-winning ESB are all examples of that. 2016 was our pilot-year for our quarterly rotating can program featuring classics such as Kismet Nelson IPA and Hop Diggity Double IPA. The rotating program now falls under the “Resinator Hop Series.” Look for these beers on shelves, draft and included in “Love Packs”, 12- and 24-can variety packs featuring fan favorites and seasonal or rotating beers. One of those beers will be our Sin Tax Imperial Peanut Butter Stout. We’re also adding a full-time barrel-aged draft offering—our super-popular Quit Stalin Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout.
As a former San Diego Brewers Guild president, what are your thoughts on the direction of that trade organization?
It was an honor to represent our local breweries. Now, as president emeritus, I have the pleasure of watching Jillian Davidson move us forward and working with an engaged board of directors that has nothing but the best interests of our industry and local beer brethren at heart. The board has been working very hard on future planning and 2017 is certain to hold some new initiatives, updates and an expansion of how we can best service our membership and the industry at-large. Working directly with the California Craft Brewers Association on important legislative and regulatory issues is chief amongst these, as well as continuing the focus on quality marketing, communications and events that bring education and awareness to the public and provide legitimacy to our members who work hard each and every day with passion and perseverance.
There’s something that happens when a beer-centric business owner and their suds devotee staffers not only order beer, but forge relationships with the individuals who brew them. And not just in a handshake-and-a-chat way. I’m talking cramming a bunch of key personnel into an RV and driving around the country to visit breweries and secure some of their finest wares for special tappings back home. That is the level of nth-degree beer-geekism that makes it possible for attendees of Urge Gastropub’s (16761 Bernardo Center Drive, Rancho Bernardo) annual anniversary weekends to choose from such a varied list of next-level specialty beers, some of the best of which are concoctions brewed especially for the North County establishment by members of the local brewing community.
This year’s festivities will take place tomorrow through Sunday, July 31, and feature over a half-dozen venue-specific beers from AleSmith Brewing Company, Mother Earth Brew Co., Pure Project Brewing, Rip Current Brewing Company, Saint Archer Brewery (in collaboration with Urge-owned Mason Ale Works in Oceanside) and Toolbox Brewing Company. They are as follows:
A pre-anniversary tasting of some of the above beers proved a no-brainer, AleSmith/Urge Velvet Speedway and its new variants still taste exquisite. Velvet Speedway was originally brewed for Urge last year. Building off AleSmith’s venerable Speedway Stout, it was brewed with coffee and aged in 23-year-old Evan Williams bourbon barrels, then dosed with a rye whiskey-infused Madagascar vanilla bean tincture and given extra java punch care of bourbon barrel-aged Jamaican Blue Mountain cold-brew from local roasters, Mostra Coffee. This year’s Velvet Echo (the same recipe aged in the same barrels used for the original Velvet Speedway) and Pappy Speedway (aged 15 months in a 20-year Pappy Van Winkle barrel from Kentucky’s Buffalo Trace Distillery, then dosed with Kona coffee) offer new riffs on this complicated but not convoluted concept. But reveler cannot live on 12% sippers alone. To that end, there are a number of more sessionable and normal-strength beers on this list, which was built by Urge manager Bri Kling.
Going back to personal relationships, hers helped her score a number of harder-to-procure treats such as a milk chocolate porter from Stone Brewing aged in a combination of reposado tequila, red wine and bourbon barrels; and Knotty Sparkles, a double IPA from Three Weavers Brewing Company made extra glam with the addition of edible gold sparkles. It’s a lily-gilding technique Kling first saw Three Weavers head brewer Alexandra Nowell employ at a Brewbies festival. After forming a friendship with Nowell over several beers, Kling pleaded for the sparkle-treatment and, as a result, this is the “first and last time” one of Three Weavers’ beer will feature this form of bling outside of the breast-cancer festival arena.
Then there’s Pinkies Up, which Kling had a big hand in. A drinking buddy of Toolbox owner Spencer Peters and friend of the company’s head brewer Ehren Schmidt, she approached them about brewing a beer for Urge’s anniversary. Through many a conversation over many a beer, they decided to brew a pair of rustic saisons and oak age them with wild yeast starins dosed in at different percentages over four- and six-month periods, respectively. Kling helped dispatch 350 pounds of plums for this recipe, which also extracted flavor from lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves. The result is a bracingly sour, yet highly drinkable beer that smells like a verdant Life-Saver and tastes like some electrified version of pink lemonade.
There will be 51 total beers on-tap over the weekend, with a few being subbed out on different days. When asked about some of the more interesting selections on the list, Kling points to a version of Intergalactic Brewing Company’s coffee cream ale, The Cake is a Lie, brewed with a twist to bring forth a peanut-brittle character; Knotty Sparkles; and a key lime-flavored Kolsch called Killbox from Washougal, Washington-based Doomsday Brewing Company. You know, your everyday types of beers…at least for one enchanted weekend.