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Posts Tagged nanobrewery

Q&A: Brian Crecely

Oct 17

Head Brewer, Kilowatt Brewing Company

For the past three years, Kearny Mesa-based Kilowatt Brewing Company has been the little brewery that could. Bolstered by flamboyantly outlandish beers and striking interior lighting design, the nano-brewery has earned a cult following, patronage from which allowed owners Steve Kozyk and Rachel Fischer to open a flashy satellite tasting room in Ocean Beach that has been quite the hit. Yet, the company has never had a brewer with previous professional fermentation experience. Until now. A recent search for a new head brewer that can take Kilowatt to the next level ended with the hiring of Brian Crecely, who came over from Miramar’s AleSmith Brewing Company last month to fill a crucial role at a critical time for the soon-to-expand business.

What road led you to your current position with Kilowatt?
I was a homebrewer and member of QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity) before beginning my professional career at AleSmith in 2011. I started on the packaging line, much like a lot of people do when they first get into the industry. The company saw a tremendous amount of growth during my time there and I was able to grow a lot with them. I managed to work my way up to become a cellarman and, eventually, a brewer. After gaining experience as a brewer, they gave me the opportunity to complete the American Brewers Guild: Brewing Science and Engineering Program, which really helped me add to my brewing knowledge. During this time and until I left AleSmith, I assisted the company with developing (then managing) its barrel-aged sour beer program and took on the role of specialty brewer working with one-off and pilot batches.

What inspired you to leave AleSmith?
Being AleSmith’s specialty brewer gave me the chance to be creative and experiment with lots of different ingredients and ideas. When I heard Kilowatt was hiring a head brewer, I saw a great opportunity for me to continue exploring new beers and styles, and the chance to learn more about brewery management. I also really liked the small, close-knit vibe at Kilowatt, and it was very appealing to have the chance to work closely with the owners on their vision of the brewery and have an impact on making that a reality.

Will Kilowatt’s brewing direction change at all now that you’re on-board?
The focus at Kilowatt has always been to offer a wide range of styles and flavors. I am hoping to continue doing that, but also fine-tune our lineup of beers and try to constantly find ways to innovate and improve each batch that we brew. One of the best parts of being a small brewery is that we have the chance to experiment with new ideas. I am very much looking forward to brewing some mixed-fermentation and barrel-aged sour beers while expanding Kilowatt’s barrel-aging program and IPA (India pale ale) varieties, and adding more classic and session styles to our lineup.

What are you most excited about?
I am excited about our upcoming brewhouse expansion and the new possibilities that are going to come along with it. During the first quarter of next year, we will upgrade from our three-barrel brewhouse to a seven-barrel brewhouse. We will also install a new glycol system, three 15-barrel fermenters and a seven-barrel fermenter, while keeping a few of our existing three-barrel fermenters for experimental and specialty batches. The new system is really going to allow us to bring in more consistency to our beers, and more accurately monitor and control each batch. I saw AleSmith go through some major changes over the years and I feel like I really learned a lot from it, however, back then I was mostly on the sideliens. This time around I’ll be able to be much more hands-on and have the ability to shape the company’s success and how the brewery will operate.

What are the greatest opportunities you see for Kilowatt?
Currently, we sell the vast majority of our beer in our two tasting rooms, and have a limited number of off-site accounts that carry our beer due to our small production. With the expansion, we will be able to reach a lot more people than before. It’s going to be a lot of fun to be a part of that and try to contribute to building the Kilowatt brand.

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Collabs a-plenty fuel Intergalactic Brewing anniversary

Apr 13

In its nearly four years of existence, Intergalactic Brewing Company (9715 Carroll Centre Road, Miramar) has stayed under the radar within the local suds solar system while also racking up an impressive fleet of devout followers. Many of those fans come back with great regularity due to the plethora of beers owner and brewmaster Alex Van Horne pumps out. His is a great and varied portfolio further fueled by a Red Shirt series of experimental and one-off brews. As one would expect from such a prolific brewing operation, Van Horne’s has numerous new beers slated for debut at Intergalactic’s four-year anniversary on the weekend of April 21-23.

There are four to be exact, all of which are collaborative projects. Van Horne was inspired by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Beer Camp, which has seen the country’s third-largest craft brewing interest brew nationally released collaboration beers with dozens of notable contemporaries across the country. In keeping with his brewery’s sci-fi motif, Van Horne calls his smaller-scale homage “Space Camp”. Three of the four beers it yielded were created with San Diego brewers while the fourth is a tandem undertaking of Van Horne and Detroit’s River Rouge Brewing Company. Van Horne befriended the owner of the latter, helping them get their Michigan nanobrewery (which is about to celebrate two years in operation) off the ground, and each year they brew special beers for each other’s anniversary.

The following are notes on Intergalactic’s quartet of anniversary collaborations.

  • Breakfast Before Impact of Giant Hurtling Space Rock of Doom Imperial Coffee Porter: Brazilian coffee from Bird Rock Coffee Roasters gives a caffeinated kick to this robust brew designed with the head brewer from La Jolla’s Rock Bottom pub.
  • Monocles & Elbow Patches Required Imperial ESB: A higher-alcohol version of an English-style extra special bitter conceived with Hillcrest Brewing Company gets its boozy boost from Golden Promis and traditional flavor from English specialty malts.
  • Star Date 4.2 The Answer to Life, the Universe & Everything Divided by 10 Double IPA: Not surprisingly, the out-of-towners at River Rouge went the hoppy route with this San Diego collab, which is hopped with Azacca and Falconer’s Flight.
  • We Want to Punch You in the Face for Liking this Hazy IPA [It’s Not An IPA]: Created with fellow Miramar nanobrewery, 2kids Brewing Company, this Mosaic, Citra and Vermont yeast strain-infused Northeast-style offering pokes fun at the current “it-style” among American beer nerds.

In addition to being available on-tap starting Friday, April 21, the beers will packaged in 16-ounce cans and be sold as part of variety four-packs. Those will go on sale on Saturday, April 22 as part of the “Four Beers for Four Years” festivities, which will wrap up on Sunday, April 23.

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Quantum Brewing’s grand RE-opening week

Mar 8

When a brewery sells, it’s usually big news—especially when it’s for a billion dollars—but when a nanobrewery sells, it’s a pretty quiet affair. Most people didn’t even know that Quantum Brewing (5375 Kearny Villa Road, #116, Kearny Mesa) was for-sale last year, but then-homebrewer Martin Beaulieu took notice and acquired the business in August. Since then, he’s kept a low-profile while working on improving a handful of holdover brands from the old Quantum while adding new staples of his own devising. Beer-quality is up from the original operation, as is the state of the tasting room, which now sports two large high-definition TVs, more comfortable seating options and an assortment of games.

It took a while for Beaulieu to get to the point where he was ready for an official coming-out party for Quantum 2.0, but that time is nigh. Starting on March 15—Beaulieu’s birthday—the business will hold an eight-day stretch of events and promotions to celebrate Quantum’s official “re-opening”. The schedule is as follows…

  • Wed., March 15 | Brewer’s Birthday Special: Pale’s Constant Pale Ale will be $3 per pint
  • Thu., March 16 | Giant Game Night: Jenga and Connect Four tournament with prizes
  • Fri., March 17 | St. Patrick’s Day: Special green beer and wearing shamrocks get first pint for $3
  • Sat., March 18 | March Madness: NCAA on TV and wearing college-gear gets first pint for $3
  • Sun., March 19 | Growler-Fill Special: $9.99 for 64-ounce growler fills beginning at noon
  • Mon., March 20 | Cheese & Food Pairing: Le Bistro de Louisa chef will lead 6 p.m. pairing
  • Tue., March 21 | Trivia Night: A tournament with prizes for top performers starts at 7 p.m.
  • Wed., March 22 | Cask Tapping: A first-ever cask of Pale’s Constant will be tapped at 6 p.m.

There are numerous improvements, but not everything has changed at Quantum. Beaulieu kept some of the best features, most notable of all, a chalkboard running along the east wall that’s prime for tagging. He liked that as well as the business’ science-theme, having made the shift to brewery-owner after spending 20 years in the biotech industry. His plan is to keep brewing and eventually expand the business by taking over the storefront just south of his. That would allow him to double Quantum’s capacity by installing a larger brewhouse in the new space, while expand the existing tasting room. If all goes as planned, the expansion would take place next year.

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Beer of the Week: Bear Roots Bear Cookie

Feb 24

Bear Cookie Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout seved on nitro at Vista’s Bear Roots Brewing

From the Beer Writer: Peanut-butter beers enjoyed a brief boom two or three years ago, but even at the height of their popularity, they were polarizing. Adventurous drinkers and fans of the flavor of peanut-butter embraced them with open arms while “beer purists” denounced them as nutty bastardizations of their beloved beverage of choice. While there are few I’ve enjoyed, I’ve never had anything against these brews. Made with various (in the best cases, all-natural) peanut additives, they are usually dark beers that are brewed with deeply-kilned malts, and sometimes cacao or chocolate, to bring on a dessert-like flavor-profile. I approach these beers the same way I approach the last course of a meal, in search of a luscious, sweet sensation. But because it’s beer versus a hibernation-inducing slab of cake, drinkability is important. It can’t be overly sugary and has to balance that peanut-butter essence. Most breweries’ attempts at this come up short, but this is not so at Vista’s Bear Roots Brewing. This one-year-old nano’s Bear Cookie chocolate peanut butter stout is like a well-made truffle filled with nut-infused nougat. These flavors are presented in just the right proportions in a 6.4% alcohol-by-volume beer that has a gently satisfying presence on the palate that’s soft and velvety when dispensed on nitrogen. It is hands-down the best peanut-butter beer being made in San Diego County right now.

From the Brewer: “When I first started home-brewing and dreaming of the idea of opening a brewery, I made a lot of beer around the styles my wife and I enjoyed drinking. Bear Cookie was one that was brewed for my wife and inspired by other great versions on this style. When we first opened our doors, we had not planned on coming to market with this style, as North County had a few already, but given this was my wife’s favorite of my home-brews, it was hard not to eventually put it on tap. Originally, we poked fun at ourselves by calling it ‘We Made One Too”. One thing we love about the craft industry is that you can run a serious business but have a lot of fun doing it along the way! After all, we make beer for a living. Eventually, we realized that coming up with actual names for our beer would be important as we grew, so we turned to our most trusted source for some naming advicec…our then three-year-old. Anytime I would work late nights at the brewery, he would ask if I was going to the Bear Cookie store. Given our name, Bear Roots, our sons’s love for cookies, and the fact that our beer has cookie elements in it, my wife and I thought “Bear Cookie” was very fitting. We use eight different malts, including chocolate, roasted barley, Munich, oats and a few more. The base of the beer is bready, but has a lighter body and crisp finish. On nitro, I think the flavors really blend nicely and it’s one of my go to beers when enjoying a pint at the brewery. Given the fact we are attached to a homebrew store, we have been able to experiment and refine this recipe over the last year, making it one of our most popular beers. I love that we have a completely different take on the style, yet it is enjoyed by many craft-beer fans who dabble in chocolate peanut butter goodness!”Terry Little, Owner & Brewmaster, Bear Roots Brewing Company

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Littles going big bear route with Bear Roots Brewing

Aug 16

bearroots_AWhen we first met Terry and Page Little, they were installing a nano-brewery into their business, Vista’s Home Brew Supply. They weren’t the first to do so (ever heard of a wee operation called Home Brew Mart which spawned the fairly sizeable billion-dollar Ballast Point Brewery & Spirits?), but of the recent crop of suppliers-turned-manufacturers—including The Home Brewer’s Home Brewing Company and Carlsbad Brew Supply’s Guadalupe Brewery—their Bear Roots Brewing Company has gained the most and fastest traction with customers. As previously reported, it’s inspired the Littles to think bigger, enough that they have made the concrete decision to expand their brewery. Now, all they have to do is decide how they want to go about doing that.

The Littles are mulling two options. The first would see them assembling a three-barrel system in their current building on Santa Fe Avenue near Vista’s Old Town area. It would also entail implementation of a program called “brewing success and changing the culture”, which would involve corporate and small-business teams coming to Bear Roots for private brewing sessions. A team-building exercise of sorts, with participants being taught about brewing; everything from logistics to ingredients to processes and even marketing of the finished product. The Littles foresee release-parties for beers produced via this program, wherein program participants reassemble with friends and family to taste the fruits of their brew-day. While there is a brew-it-yourself operation called Citizen Brewers in Grantville, this would be the only local production operation offering such an experience.

Option-number-two would involve the Littles moving the brewery off-site to a larger production-geared facility that would house a 10- or 15-barrel brewhouse. This would include construction of a small tasting room and the ability to distribute Bear Roots beers into the market. The homebrew store would continue to operate as it currently does were this plan to be enacted. Should they go this route and the operation prove successful, the Littles would aim to open a larger tasting room and brewery “training center” in adjacent business suites that would include a “very interactive” homebrew store.

Aside from production, the Littles site a strong desire to share their passion for craft-beer with as many people as possible, hence the team-building and educational endeavors built into both of their plans. Terry has professional background in business and team management from the day-job he will be walking away from to go all-in with Bear Roots. The Littles estimate having their expansion plans completed by October. Timing on debut of the next phase of their business will depend on which direction they go at this meaningful fork in the road.

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