More San Diegans became familiar with Orange County’s Cismontane Brewing earlier this year when it purchased the majority of Poway interest Lightning Brewery’s equipment. Those mechanisms will be installed in Cismontane’s eventual Santa Ana brewery, which is currently under construction (the company’s original production facility is now the property of Laguna Beach Beer Co.), but there’s even more on the horizon for this eight-year-old company, including the establishment of a new brand…in Escondido.
Co-founders Evan Weinberg and Ross Stewart, who both grew up in North San Diego County and recently moved back, have secured a space at 239 East Valley Parkway, where are working to install a beer-and-coffee hybrid concept that will go by the name of Knø Beverage House.
Weinberg says the duo was drawn to Escondido by its charm and “old-school vibe,” the municipality’s business-friendly attitude and the venue’s amenities. Among the latter is a 1,200-square-foot back patio. Weinberg envisions Knø as a creative hub where artists, radicals, visionaries and aficionados can hang out, get a beverage—including specialty drinks from a full-service espresso bar—and a snack.
The term Knø, which is sure to confound those unfamiliar with Norse terms (or the Danish guitarist going by that stage name), is pronounced “new,” and refers to the concept. Although Cismontane beers will be produced at the Escondido facility, this will be a place for Weinberg and Stewart, as well as their friends and brewing-industry contemporaries, to go outside the box. They expect to produce a number of collaboration beers and more out-there recipes. It’s an homage to their current “drifter-slash-gypsy” brewer status while they wait for the Santa Ana facility to be completed.
If construction stays on its current track, Knø Beverage House will open in or around February. When asked if this is the first of several such venues for Cismontane Brewing, Weinberg says they will wait to see how well Knø does. If they are happy with its performance and the experience, he is sure they will do it again.
Typically, I try to wait a while before visiting a new brewery so the brewing team has time to work out any early kinks, but recently I was so inspired by pre-open samples of beers at Wild Barrel Brewing (692 Rancheros Drive, San Marcos) that I deviated from my SOP. Also, I didn’t want to be the last beer fan in the county to make it to this early success from Stone Brewing expats Bill Sysak and Bill Sobieski (editor’s note: Hernández himself is a Stone expat). The former is known as “Dr.” Bill in beer-connoisseur circles, as he was a medic in the military, and he absolutely knows good beer, but many wondered if he’d be able to brew good beer, too. My answer: probably not…but that’s what the other Bill (the one with fermentation experience at Stone as well as Anaheim’s Hoperazzi) brings to the table.
Although he’s not milling, graining in and dry-hopping, Sysak does have a major impact on brewing decisions at Wild Barrel. In his roles as beverage supervisor and beer ambassador for Stone, he always kept his finger on the pulse of beer fans, so he is familiar with current trends and has used that knowledge to develop a sound portfolio that features numerous India pale ales (IPAs) and fruited kettle sours, a coffee milk stout, and a single style for entry-level visitors, White Rabbit Belgian-style witbier. The latter is brewed with coriander and two forms of citrus, traditional curacao orange peel, and fresh Valencia orange zest. It is light in body, lively on the palate and good enough to serve as the only non-hoppy, non-sour, decaf option.
Of late, many new breweries have had to contend with shortages of popular hops such as Citra, Mosaic, and Nelson Sauvin, but this operation is well stocked, making for a family of IPAs that feel current and almost familiar. The flagship, Indie IPA, has a medium body and savory notes of garlic and onion, while the murky Shape Shifter’s combo of Nelson, Mosaic and Idaho 7 makes for a harmonious mix of tropical fruit flavors. By far the most layered (and downright badass) of the bunch is Prince of Dankness, an 8.4% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) double IPA dry-hopped with 28 pounds of Nelson and six pounds of Motueka. The result is a beer with big pine-cone and toasted popcorn kernel overtones, plus a downright sappy finish.
As lovely and varied as the IPAs were, my favorite beer of the visit may have been Hipster Latte, a 5.5% ABV milk stout made with a blend of coffee made exclusively for Wild Barrel by Rancho Bernardo-based roaster Mostra. It is bold in its roastiness—you’re abundantly aware there is coffee in there—but it is extremely balanced and especially dry for a stout with lactose. It’s particularly impressive that Sobieski put out a beer this perfect his first time producing it and makes me look forward to trying that proprietary blend at the coffee counter that will be constructed next to the tasting room’s main entrance.
Of Wild Barrel’s early beers, I found the San Diego Vice fruited Berliner weisse series — the name illustrates how to pronounce the German word “weisse” — tasted over-fruited for my palate, with the black currant iteration coming across as a tad too sweet. Still, this is a subjective knock, and a beer having too much quality local fruit, some of which is from Sobieski’s back yard, is a first-world problem entirely. Of the three Vices, a Montmorency cherry version was my favorite. The nose is rosé all day, and it tastes of cherry and strawberry preserves.
As the business’ name implies, barrel-aged sours, stouts and strong ales will be part of Wild Barrel’s makeup, but not until its oaken stock has time to mature. Even without wood- and booze-tinged product, there is plenty of high-quality beer to draw imbibers to this North County newcomer.
There are plenty of reasons you may have already heard about Beach Grease Beer Co. Aside from having a website and social-media presence, the company has sales feet on the street and, as a result, has had beer on tap at roughly 50 San Diego County accounts over the past three weeks. That initial offering is Surf Reaper Golden IPA. But this interest has been mostly a mystery to those in the local brewing scene and easily the business I’ve been asked about the most over the past several months. Finally, there are answers and details about this upcoming entrant into North County’s fermentation field. Read more »
This is the third in a four-part series examining work-in-progress brewery projects throughout San Diego County. This component shines a light on the most promising businesses in the North County expanses. Click the following links to take a look back at assessments of WIP brewery projects in the south and east, then check back next week as we close out with a look at future East County venues.
Julian Brewing Company | 2315 Main Street, Julian: Pizza Port co-founder Vince Marsaglia is reopening and reimagining this business, turning it into a mountain farmhouse brewery, offerings from which will include lambics and saisons using fruits, vegetables and herbs from an on-site two-acre garden. The five-barrel system will also be used for pilot brews of experimental beers from sister business The Lost Abbey, while the country casual restaurant portion of this brewpub will serve up smokehouse fare augmented by pizza, sandwiches and various pickled items.
Karl Strauss Brewing Company | San Marcos: In the past few years, San Diego’s longest continually operating post-Prohibition brewing company has expanded, doing so mostly in LA and the OC. But new facilities are in the works locally, as well, including an R&D brewery on a recently secured two-acre lot in the city of San Marcos. It remains to be seen whether it will include a hospitality component, but more beer and more beer-styles from this award-winning operation are always a plus.
Beach Grease Beer Company | 3125 Scott Street, Vista: This newcomer was founded by a successful veteran of the street-wear/action sports clothing industry who loves craft beer and feels no existing brands have authentically engaged the folks in his social circles. A contract-brewed IPA called Surf Reaper is already on tap at roughly 50 local accounts, but future beers will be produced at an upcoming brewing facility with a 10-barrel system and a tasting room decked out in a modern art gallery aesthetic.