From the Beer Writer: The Mexican lager is in the midst of a renaissance. As craft-beer drinkers meld an enthusiast’s hunger for artisanal brews with a frat bro’s desire to pound suds in great quantity, this adjunct-fortified style has risen to prominence. These days, it seems like just about every San Diego brewery is making a Mexican lager…and that’s exactly why Eppig Brewing isn’t. It’s not a high-and-mighty stance against adjunct lagers. They just figure if everyone’s going one direction in this arena, why not go another. Enter Special Lager, a dry Japanese-style lager that, rather than utilizing corn like Mexican lagers, introduces rice into the grain bill. The result is a crisp, clean beer that goes down easy as one would expect. But what’s not status quo is the advanced flavor-level of this beer with its tantalizing lemon and mineral notes, and the alcohol-by-volume, which comes in at a respectable 5.8% as opposed to the sub-five session strength of most adjunct lagers. That low ABV and minimal production costs are primary reasons adjunct lagers are suddenly popular again. They are highly profitable…just like the Big Beer products they’re based off of. Though most are truly craft and taste better than their AB InBev and MillerCoors progenitors, this trend smacks too much of macro-beer sensibility for yours truly. But not in the case of Special Lager. I applaud Eppig’s decision to go a more craftsman-minded route to turn out an adjunct lager that dares to have significant flavor and an ABV that inspires slower intake and intelligent contemplation versus tailgate-party over-indulgence and not much else.
From the Brewer: “Eppig Special Lager has been my after-shift beer every day since we put it back on tap last week. This beer fills the void for the devout craft-beer lover who quietly shames themselves for occasionally wanting a cold, crisp (probably) macro lager on a hot day. I, too, can be guilty of this from time to time. Special Lager is a Japanese-style dry lager brewed with rice as a featured ingredient. Rice is traditionally an adjunct used in the brewing process to lighten body, which it does, but we also use it as a flavor component in this beer. The combination of pilsner malt and rice with a dose of citrusy, late-addition hops creates an aroma faintly reminiscent of sweet, starchy sushi rice and lemon blossoms. Special Lager finishes exceptional dry and clean, the perfect beer to drink outside in a beer garden. On the water, perhaps. (Brewer’s Note: We just opened our Waterfront Biergarten in Point Loma!)”—Nathan Stephens, Principal Brewer, Eppig Brewing Company
We stand on the threshold of another month chock-full of exceptional reasons to crack a cold one in the presence of others. Yes, it’s a great time to be alive, but to do things up right requires some planning. We’ve started you off with some standout San Diego beer events for March, but don’t limit yourself. Click here to check out our full local calendar.
March | Beer to the Rescue Fundraisers: As part of a year-long campaign benefiting locals living with lupus, Gordon Biersch will hold a release party for a Mexican lager brewed with Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing, complete with a taco bar, live band and piñatas on June 1. On March 13, Pure Project Brewing is holding Beer to the Rescue Day at its Miramar tasting room. On March 28, Pariah Brewing will release This Is New IPA, and on March 29, North Park Beer Co. will tap a specialty cask, with portions of proceeds from both beers going to the Lupus Foundation of Southern California. | Various Locations, All Events Start at 5 p.m.
March 2 | Crowler Awareness Day: Gone are the days when the only conveyance vessel for draft beer was a glass jug requiring constant sterilization. Compact, disposable and often quite attractive, crowlers have changed the industry and, for the first edition of this made-up annual holiday, brewery tasting rooms offering these modern marvels will offer them at discounted rates. | Participating Breweries: Amplified Ale Works (Pacific Beach, Miramar), Bay City Brewing (Point Loma), Coronado Brewing (Bay Park), Council Brewing (Kearny Mesa), Eppig Brewing (North Park, Point Loma), Intergalactic Brewing (Miramar), Mikkeller Brewing San Diego (Miramar), North Park Beer Co. (North Park), Resident Brewing (Downtown), Thunderhawk Alements (Miramar)
March 4 | Renaissance: Epic tap lists and next-level ale-and-lager free-for-alls are nothing new for Churchill’s Pub, but this venerable North County beer bastion sets aside one day each year to really go all out. Tons of rare beers, including some brewed just for the occasion, will be on tap, and bottles of whale pod leader Churchill’s Finest Hour imperial stout will be for sale. | Churchill’s Pub & Grille, 887 W. San Marcos Boulevard, San Marcos, 11 a.m
March 10 | SD Homebrew Festival & Competition: The richness of San Diego’s commercial beer and brewing scene is a result of the county’s vibrant, thriving and always-evolving homebrew culture, something celebrated via more than 35 homebrewed beers at this festival devoted to the recreational—yet very serious—pursuit of the beer-making sciences. | The Observatory, 2891 University Avenue, North Park, 12 p.m
March 31 | Second Anniversary: El Cajon’s Burning Beard Brewing opened its back lot and a can of celebratory whoop-ass for its first anniversary last year, and this year they’re aiming to outdo themselves. Expect multiple beer stations stocked with a wide variety of liquid stein fodder, a raffle, take-home stein and three bands (including The Creepy Creeps) rocking out live. | Burning Beard Brewing, 785 Vernon Way, El Cajon, 1 p.m
From the Beer Writer: In a time that could have been labeled the “dark ages,” beers bolstered by bright, green hops and obsidian malts were everywhere. They were the it beers of the early twenty-teens and so popular there was a battle over the style name they went by. Most referred to them as Black IPAs (India pale ales), but brewers in the Pacific Northwest attempted to lay claim to them, dubbing them “Cascadian dark ales.” Figuring flashy hop-impact was San Diego brewers’ calling card, a local brewery went completely against the Cascadian evergreen grain, calling their black IPA a “San Diego dark ale.” Just as the debate reached a fever pitch among those in the brewing community, the drinking public decided they didn’t care about the name of the style…or the style itself. Sales dropped off and within a year or two, nearly every black IPA on the market was eliminated from portfolios across the country. They were the hazy IPAs of their day, and then they were gone. But some determined brewers who see the beauty in the contradictory big-hops-meets-heavy-roast nature of these beers dare to continue crafting them. Count Home Brewing Company‘s George Thornton and Jacob Bauch key members of that group. They brew their black IPA, El Matador on an annual basis. This year, it’s available in cans as part of Home Brewing’s year-long program of rolling out four-packs of canned collaboration beers brewed with local fermentationists, including Gordon Biersch‘s Doug Hasker, Daniel Cady of Mikkeller Brewing San Diego and Mike Skubic of Old Harbor Distilling. Though Thornton contests this black IPA is really a “hoppy porter” (the debate continues), it drinks like the former, exhibiting great balance between lemony hops and roasty specialty malts. Those polar-opposite ingredients dovetail nicely in the finish with a coffee-like richness and piney tackiness finding common, lasting ground. It’s a splendid version of a style that probably should never have disappeared from the scene, and a brilliant way to remember a good man who many wish hadn’t sadly and unexpectedly followed suit.
From the Brewer: :”El Matador is a tribute to Jeff McCue. Jeff was one of those people that had more groups of friends and admirers than you could possibly imagine. We knew him as an avid homebrewer that shared our passion for education and growth. He was a graduate from SDSU’s Business of Craft Beer Program, a Certified Cicerone and was working on his BJCP beer-judge certification. He was also a professional photographer, verified parrot-head, loving husband, absolute goofball, giant sweetheart and wine lover. His passing from a brain aneurysm was a complete surprise for all of us. He was an otherwise healthy and happy person. He was a guy who liked to get the last word, and I think he succeeded when he managed to get more than 100 people from every facet of his dynamic life together in one place to send him a final ‘F*ck you McCue!’ Truth is, that wasn’t the final ‘FU McCue.’ I use the phrase often, usually in moments where I feel like I’m overwhelmed and wish that I had his witty charm to get through a stressful moment. Then I realize that by thinking of him, it’s still there…and he once again has the final word. ‘FU McCue.’ El Matador was a recipe he brewed for one of his friends’ thirtieth birthday and it was one of his wife’s favorite beers. We brew this beer every year to celebrate his birthday. #cheerstoyoumccue”—George Thornton, Owner, Home Brewing Company
With so much happening within the local beer industry, covering all of it at length can be difficult, at least from the perspective of keeping ahead of it for readers while tracking down leads and digging for details that go beyond the title and subhead. In the interest of sharing some items before they’re old news, I’m rolling out some short-form reporting to keep you all in the know.
According to sources within the company, Kearny Mesa-based Helm’s Brewing has been purchased by a private investment group. Its Kearny Mesa Road brewery is not open to the public, but its Ocean Beach tasting room is fully operational and serving the company’s beers. The manufacture of those liquid assets is now the charge of former Green Flash Brewing brewer, Kevin Barnes, who was hired several months ago. Ownership is currently looking to expand production capacity and square-footage, either at its Kearny Mesa headquarters or elsewhere, if necessary.
Last September, the father-son duo behind Wiseguy Brewing exited their lease with H.G. Fenton for the Carlsbad Brewery Igniter suite the business occupied for a brief six months. That facility is now under contract to brewing-industry veteran Mark Amador, who most recently worked in sales for Vista’s Indian Joe Brewing before following his passion to open the upcoming Papa Marce’s Cerveceria. Billed as a “house of artisan sours, ales and lagers,” it was to originally be named Lone Osos Brewing, but trademark issues inspired a switch to the current moniker, which pays homage to a patriarch from the maternal side of Amador’s lineage. Back at Brewery Igniter’s North Park complex, the split-level suite formerly occupied by San Diego Brewing Company has suitors, one of which is a kombucha operation.
In Little Italy, construction has temporarily halted on Mikkeller Brewing San Diego’s future satellite tasting room. After securing a space on India Street, the company went full-steam-ahead without getting permission from landlords or proper permits from the City of San Diego. The former issued an Owner’s Notice of Non-Responsibility, stating it had obtained knowledge that certain construction, alterations, repairs or other works of improvement were being made on the property by Mikkeller, and that Cabot Square L.P. would not be responsible for any claims arising from those activities. The majority of the flooring in the space has been dug up, leaving earth, rebar and piping exposed.
We’ll continue to follow the stories above and provide additional information as it becomes available.
Construction, permitting and the majority of trial-run services are in the books, and North Park-based Eppig Brewing is ready to open its new Point Loma tasting room to the public. That will officially take place noon this Friday, February 9. While most breweries’ satellites are smaller than their home bases, the Eppig Brewing Waterfront Biergarten is significantly larger than its North Park Brewery Igniter progenitor, solving what has been the company’s biggest problem in its just-over-a-year of existence—providing enough space for the many that wish to consume its beers.
With 1,200 square feet of interior space, much of which is taken up by a cold box and service space, the Biergarten’s public space is comparable to North Park, but this venue is not about indoor drinking. Ownership selected it (outbidding other breweries in the process) for its immense outdoor space and position right along the water. Eppig’s Biergarten is the first-ever harborside brewery-owned venue in the county. Though currently in the midst of phase-construction that will eventually expand the patio to a whopping 2,000 square feet and introduce sculptured pillars supporting shade sails mounted to the building’s exterior, even in its current truncated state, there is plenty of room for patrons to imbibe al fresco, on rail bars overlooking the water or German-style Biergarten tables offering cross-bay views of the downtown San Diego skyline.
Back inside, approximately 16 beers will be available, including one brewed specifically to celebrate the Biergarten’s launch—Buoyancy Control, a 7.4% alcohol-by-volume IPA with peach and pear notes brought about by Citra and El Dorado hops. Food will also be available on-site by the end of February once ownership has finalized details of that service aspect. Punching up the interior design is inclusion of the recipe for Eppig’s San Diego summer ale, Civility, which is penned in its entirety on the inside walls for any homebrewers who care to try their hand at it.
Eppig Brewing Waterfront Biergarten is located at 2817 Dickens Street and will be open daily from noon to 8 p.m. Parking is available in a large lot south of the venue next to The Brigantine restaurant. That lot gives way to a waterfront walkway leading directly to the tasting room. An official grand-opening event is planned for early March, right around the time patio construction is scheduled for completion.