March 28th was a near perfect day in North County, San Diego, and there was a clear excitement in the air at Bagby Beer Company in Oceanside. Brewers and volunteers were busy running back and forth setting up for the event at Bagby Beer’s “campus,” an expansive location replete with four different draft service areas, a full kitchen, and plenty of spacious viewpoints and settings where it is easy to get lost in a glass of perfectly crafted San Diego beer.
Normal bar service is fantastic at Bagby Beer Company, but this day would be different. This day was BagbyFest, the Grand Opening celebration for what has arguably been the most successful new brewing operation to open in San Diego County within the past few years. Bagby Beer Company is the personification of the people who are behind the company, in this case, namely Jeff Bagby and his wife, Dande. Together, with a supporting cast of kitchen, hospitality, service, and brewing staff, they have built a beer destination unlike anything else. And folks recognize that this has been no small accomplishment.
“This might be the first beer festival that I have ever actually participated in,” said Tom Nickel, brewer and owner of Nickel Beer Company in Julian, California. “I have organized maybe 55 festivals, but it’s cool that this [BagbyFest] is my first festival where I am pouring Nickel beer.” And Tom Nickel was not the only well-known brewer to show up in support of Jeff Bagby, and to acknowledge what it means to have the former head brewer and director of brewing operations for Pizza Port back brewing again in San Diego. Colby Chandler of Ballast Point, Chuck Silva from Green Flash, and Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing Company and The Lost Abbey were all there. Pat and Val McIlhenney were there, pouring Alpine Beer. Adam Avery from Avery Brewing Company came all the way from Boulder, Colorado, and Matt Van Wyk from Oakshire Brewing came all the way from Eugene, Oregon. Bill Batten, brewer at AleSmith, Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes from Pizza Port Ocean Beach, Arne Johnson from Marin Brewing Company, Kyle Smith from Kern River, and Dustin Kral, the head brewer at Firestone Walker, as well.
All these incredible brewers were on hand at the festival, both to represent their respective breweries and to share some special beers with the folks who attended BagbyFest. But, more importantly, these brewers were all at Bagby Beer Company to pay testament to a brewer who paved the way for San Diego beer in so many ways. From his GABF medals and recognition, to the Alpha King awards, to the now infamous “Who the F#CK is Jeff Bagby?” tee-shirts, to the party pants…Jeff Bagby epitomizes what is means to brew clean, awesome beers across a diverse range of styles in an absolute professional manner, all while having a great time doing it. Without Jeff, and without everything that he has accomplished, the brewing community in San Diego would not be the same. Everyone in this industry here should never forget what he, in part, has helped to create. It was incredibly humbling and exciting to be a part of BagbyFest, recognizing what Jeff and Dande have done to elevate beer in San Diego, and working hard every day to not mess that up.
More than 20 of our local craft breweries plan to brew a beer in support of lupus research and awareness in 2015, thanks to an initiative established by journalist Brandon Hernández.
On January 31, the Beer to the Rescue campaign kicks off at Benchmark Brewing with the release of Hildegard, a triple IPA.
“Most people have heard of lupus or know someone suffering from it, but few know anything beyond the name of this autoimmune disease — what it is, its effect on those who have it or the fact that it is severely under-researched. This needs to change,” says Hernández, who was diagnosed with lupus in 2014 after years of suffering. Proceeds from Beer to the Rescue benefit the Lupus Foundation of Southern California (LFSC).
In a press release, Hernández noted that in San Diego, Imperial and Riverside Counties alone, more than 20,000 people are suffering from lupus. That number is even considered a low estimate, because most people with lupus are never diagnosed with this autoimmune disease, which negatively impacts victims via myriad painful symptoms, causes irreparable damage to vital organs and can be fatal.
“The LFSC has been in operation for 20 years, and because no one really talks about lupus — even people who have lupus — it’s hard to get people involved with our organization,” says LFSC Executive Director Hollaine Hopkins. “The Beer to the Rescue campaign will tap into the very large and passionate craft beer fan base that already exists in San Diego and help raise awareness for lupus and our organization.”
In addition to the Benchmark beer mentioned above, other Beer to the Rescue brews include a Belgian-style quadrupel from Nickel Beer Co., a dry-hopped Belgian- style single brewed with rhubarb from Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery, an imperial milk stout infused with chocolate, orange and spicy chilies from Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, a sour ale brewed with blueberries and fermented using wild yeast from Toolbox Brewing Company, a black saison brewed with dried currants and orange peel from Lightning Brewery, and an experimentally dry-hopped wheat and passion fruit-infused Brett IPA from Green Flash Brewing Company.
More San Diego breweries plan to participate, although not all of them will be creating beers for the campaign. Some, due to brewing capacity restraints, will instead donate to the cause, host special events, and/or make LFSC a featured charity at their venues. Those breweries include 32 North, AleSmith, Amplified Ale Works, Aztec, Bagby Beer, Bolt, Coronado, Council, Intergalactic, Iron Fist, Mike Hess, Mother Earth, New English, Pizza Port Solana Beach, Port/The Lost Abbey/The Hop Concept, Rip Current, Societe, Stone (Escondido), Stone (Liberty Station), Toolbox, and URBN St.