From the Beer Writer: In the world of sour ales, there are two types of beers: balanced brews exhibiting nuances of fruit and acidity, and brazenly tart, tangy juggernauts that force one’s palate to take notice. Since he got into the local fermentation game with Toolbox Brewing Company in 2014, Peter Perrecone has exclusively produced the latter. That preference didn’t change a bit when he got on board with fellow North County operation Belching Beaver Brewery, where he serves as barrel master. His sours are still fruited to the hilt, sporting puckering pH levels. Enter Belching Beaver Smoldering Pirates, a recently released creation packed with myriad tropical fruits. Its passion fruit and mango nose transports one to a pool-side folding chair at some island resort, with matching flavors bringing scores of vivacious zing to the party. Despite its acidic vibrancy, this 6.5% alcohol-by-volume sipper is light in body and finishes relatively crisp. This will be one of the special beers served up at Belching Beavers’ five-year anniversary shindig along with Hoppy, Hoppy Night IPA and Perrecone’s newest oak-aged release, Batch 5 Sour with Blackberries. That celebration will take place on Saturday, October 21 at the company’s headquarters in Oceanside. Tickets are currently available online.
From the Brewer: “Smoldering Pirates is an American sour barrel-aged in French red wine oak barrels. A few of the barrels date back to 2015, some of our oldest barrels, and the other barrels are about six months old. The older barrels added tons of funk and complexity to this sour while the younger barrels added balance to the beer. After we blended the base beer, it screamed for the use of tropical fruit. Passion fruit was the bulk of the fruit that was added…over 400 pounds. Mango, pineapple and guava were also added as supporting flavors. We hope you enjoy this tropical fruit bomb as much as our crew.”—Peter Perrecone, Barrel Master, Belching Beaver Brewery
North County’s Belching Beaver Brewery has spent much of the past two years focused on a multi-pronged expansion that’s seen it open a headquarters and production facility in Oceanside, brewpub in Vista and tasting room in Ocean Beach. Now that those pieces are in place, the company is ready to shift its attention to a new slate of rather large undertakings.
The first of those initiatives is a brand refresh. The company will roll-out its new logo in March, but West Coaster has been granted a sneak-peek at it as well as packaging and advertisements the new design will grace. The new mark represents a paring down of the original beaver. Now his head carries the day surrounded by arched typography. Together, these elements provide a circular visual that should work for the brand from a utilitarian placement standpoint.
As far as packaging goes, 22- and 12-ounce bottles, plus the cardboard holders for the latter, give the beaver back a bit of body. Each beer-style features graphic elements pertaining to the liquid inside. The refresh is the work of Belching Beaver artist Tyler Soule. Owner Tom Vogel brought him on specifically for this job and told him to “have some fun”. It would appear he did just that.
Also having fun will be Peter Perrecone, the brewer in charge of Belching Beaver’s barrel-aged sour-beer program. Vogel says the company is adding fermentation capacity by installing a pair of 60-barrel oak foudres at its original brewery on Park Center Drive in Vista. If all goes as planned, Belching Beaver will release new sour ales on a monthly basis.
But that’s far from all. The company is also taking steps to get into both the spirits and cider business. Vogel has been pushing for the former for years, while the head of his brewpub, Thomas Peters, has wanted to experiment with the latter. The decision was made to explore both last year. Vogel expects the spirits to come on first, with vodka as its introductory product, followed by whiskey.
Liquor and cider production will take place at the original Vista brewery, which will be gutted and reconfigured. Much of this was motivated by Belching Beaver acquiring the space next-door to that venue. In addition to mechanical and storage upgrades, expect a redesigned, upgraded tasting room.
In April, we provided a look-see at Belching Beaver Brewery’s Oceanside production-brewery. In addition to housing a 30-barrel brewhouse, bottling line, plenty of cans and cold-storage, the facility is also home to a variety of barrels. Those oaken receptacles are the domain of Peter Perrecone, who came to Belching Beaver from 100%-wild operation Toolbox Brewing Company last August, and is now in charge of his current employer’s sour-beer program. He produced quality tart ales at his previous gig, so there has been ample anticipation of his next-generation sours, the first of which go on sale Saturday, August 13 at Belching Beaver’s Oceanside tasting-room (1334 Rocky Point Drive, Oceanside).
A sampling of Belching Beaver Batch 1 took me back to Perrecone’s previous work. An American blonde wild ale aged nine months in French oak red wine barrels, then aged an additional two months on 525 pounds of fresh raspberries, it was profoundly sour (read, saliva-inducing tart) with an abundance of fruit flavor. It paired nicely with a summer day and, at 6.71% alcohol-by-volume, it was substantial enough to take the place of an IPA, especially in a 500-milliliter bottle (most sours come in small 375ml bottles or far-too-ambitious 750ml glass). It’s a promising start, and the beer is currently available at Belching Beaver’s Oceanside tasting-room.
Future offerings from the brewery’s barrel-aged sour-beer program include…
Last week, we provided a sneak peek of Belching Beaver Brewery‘s upcoming Vista brewpub. This week’s follow-up post is about the North County brewing company’s new production facility at 1334 Rocky Point in Oceanside. The new brewery, which is much larger than Belching Beaver’s original location, is equipped with a 30-barrel Prospero System designed by Speakeasy Ales and Lagers, that was selected for its consistency and high-tech software package. The system can pump out 120 barrels in 11-to-12 hours, which is a far cry from what its 15-barrel Vista brewhouse could brew up. That vessel is now under the charge of brewer Peter Perrecone, who will utilize it for production of barrel-aged sour beers, a number of which are maturing in oak at the Oceanside facility.
Meanwhile, master brewer Troy Smith is full-time at the new brewery, which he, his father and a single assistant assembled, piped, welded and got up-and-running mostly with their own six hands. Completion of the Oceanside brewery will allow Belching Beaver to up its production to 40,000-barrels-per-year. Should they max-out the facility, they’ll be able to get to 100,000 barrels annually. Now, they are able to distribute beers to Northern California, a territory they’ve eyed for a long time. They will start with the Bay Area, then simultaneously expand into Sacramento and Bakersfield as well as Idaho and Washington. The idea of opening a facility in Arizona and self-distributing is also appealing to ownership.
Currently the Oceanside facility is not open to the public, however, that will be rectified in the near future. A tasting room is planned, initially as a small patio at the front of the building, though they hope to eventually install a second-story catwalk that will allow visitors to tour the brewery from above and view all brewing, cellaring and packaging operations. The latter will be done using an atmosphere-controlled GAI bottling system (replacing Belching Beaver’s Meheen bottling line at its original brewery) that can fill a palate’s worth of glass in 30 minutes. It will allow the company to finally launch six-packs of 12-ounce bottles of company mainstays, Peanut Butter Milk Stout, Hop Highway IPA and Me So Honey, followed later by Beaver’s Milk milk-stout, Dammed and Great Lei IPA. Also coming are more 22-ounce beers, including a chocolate-peanut butter stout called Viva Le Beaver and brews from a rotating milk-stout series as well as a rotating coffee-beer series.
When Belching Beaver’s impressive growth is pointed out—the company plans to grow to 80 employees by the close of April—co-founder Tom Vogel downplays it, citing the much faster growth of entities such as Modern Times Beer, Saint Archer Brewery and, more recently, Coronado Brewing Company. According to Vogel, Belching Beaver is still a little company just trying to make its way while striving to make better beer. And as for those who might see production-growth and new venues as signs of a potential sale, he says that will never happen, stating, “First off, no one will want to buy a company called Belching Beaver. Secondly, I’d be the first one they’d replace and I happen to love my job.”
I first heard of them from local sour-beer brewer Peter Perrecone. At the time, he was heading 100% wild ale operation Toolbox Brewing Company in Vista, and had just caught wind that another outfit was looking to go that route in San Diego. The name of the future interest—California Wild Ales. I reached out to the company for more info, but it was too early for an interview. And while the business doesn’t figure to be open any sooner than August, things are starting to speed up and take shape.
California Wild Ales’ goal is to work exclusively with wild yeast and bacteria. Brettanomyces will be present in every beer the company produces and the entire line of brews will be sour and/or funky. The business, billed as San Diego’s first “all-wild-ale blendery”, will be located in a 2,000-square-foot, temperature-controlled warehouse in Sorrento Valley. Within that structure there will be a temperature-controlled bottle-conditioning room.
To bring their lofty plans to fruition, California Wild Ales’ crew will enlist the services of Sorrento Valley neighbors at New English Brewing Company. Brewmaster Simon Lacey and company will produce wort (unfermented beer) for California Wild Ales, which the blender will then funnel into used wine barrels. From there, the beer will age before the contents of multiple barrels are blended together to produce a finished product that is to California Wild Ales’ taste.
The company’s home-base will be rather rustic—a production facility lined with barrels, but aesthetics aren’t the focus. There won’t be a tasting room to start. California Wild Ales aims to be open one day per month strictly for the purpose of distributing its ales. But this may not always be the case. The business’ founders would eventually like to install a sampling space and perhaps grow into a brewpub operation. It all depends on growth, as does establishment of multiple barrel-aging warehouses.