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San Diego Beer Week 2014 – Publisher’s Picks

Nov 5

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Kegs have been hoarded, tap lines cleaned, and lineups finalized. It’s go time in the San Diego beer world. Lots of hard work has gone into this 6th incarnation of the 10 day confederation of beer events that is San Diego Beer Week. With 20+ events on the first day alone, tough decisions must be made as to which events will be attended.

As much as my soul wishes to taste all of the beers at all of the places during SDBW, my liver is the one that has to deal with all the alcohol. Plus, drunk driving sucks. I’m limiting myself to three events a day max, with an emphasis on trying tasty, new things. Here’s what I came up with:

From 2012's Rare Beer Breakfast at Stone. Pictured L-R: Colby Chandler (Ballast Point), Shawn DeWitt (Coronado), Dr. Bill (Stone), Ryan Glenn (Ballast Point), and Greg Koch (Stone)

From 2012’s Rare Beer Breakfast at Stone. Pictured L-R: Colby Chandler (Ballast Point), Shawn DeWitt (Coronado), Dr. Bill (Stone), Ryan Glenn (Ballast Point), and Greg Koch (Stone)

11/7 Friday

Stone Rare Beer Breakfast @ Stone Brewing Co. Escondido
Whale hunters will be pleased with the offerings from Crooked Stave, Russian River, Firestone Walker and much more. $65 gets you fifteen 3oz tasters, an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, a cool taster glass and more.

Urge Beer Run: Day 2
The guys from Urge road tripped from San Diego to Seattle, packing the RV with treats from breweries along the West Coast. With beers you just don’t see coming on tap from Oregon & Washington, this is a good stop for beer tickers looking to try something new.

Guild Fest: VIP Brewer Takeover
One of the three official Brewers Guild events for SDBW, the VIP Brewer Takeover on Saturday evening is not to be missed. There’s a good chance you’ll get to say hello to your favorite brewer and the tap list is pretty solid. I’m going to taste Queen of Tarts by Karl Strauss, Green Flash’s Hammie’s 8th Anniversary Wheat Wine & the 12th Anniversary Sour Pale Ale, Twisted Manzanita’s Serenity, Rip Current’s IIIIPA, and New English’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Brown.  I’m also looking forward to checking out all the newer breweries as they’re anxious to show off on their 1st Beer Week. Tickets are $75 for unlimited tasting of food and beer.

December / January 2012-13’s cover of the 2012 Guild Fest

11/8 Saturday

San Diego Brewers Guild Festival
The largest of the three official San Diego Brewers Guild events of SDBW, this will be a snapshot for the current state of San Diego Beer with unlimited tastings from over 50 SD-county breweries. My personal favorites on the list include Electrocution by Amplified Ales and Stone Liberty Station’s Witty Moron. I’ll be looking to try beer from newcomers 32 North, Bagby, Dos Desperados, Fallbrook, Prodigy, Toolbox and Urbn St.

NorCal Beer Night @ Hamilton’s Tavern
Hammies is orchestrating a massive taplist with lots of Northern California beers you just don’t see much of down South. Marin Brewing, CellarMaker, Social Kitchen, Magnolia, Moonlight, Moylan’s, Iron Springs and many more will be on tap.

Chef Calvin Hanis of Carnitas Snack Shack with his pet pig, Carnitas

11/9 Sunday

Green Flash Smokeout @ Carnitas Snack Shack
The realm of tasty that is Carnitas Snack Shack is hosting the 6th Annual Green Flash Smokeout. Green Flash will have Chuck Silva & Dave Adams curating on hand to talk about Green Flash happenings and any of the beers on tap. The food will be killer. This one will put you in the right place for our next event pick:

The World’s Biggest Bottle Share on 30th Street
I love DrinkAbout and I love bottleshares. This is a hybrid of those two things taking place in the greater North Park area. A bus will connect Polite Provisions, Ritual Kitchen & Beer Garden, Waypoint Public, Bluefoot, Brabant, Station Tavern, Alchemy, and Hamilton’s. $20 gets you a t-shirt, bus access from 12P-6P and a commemorative taster glass. Bring a few bottles to share with friends new and old while enjoying discounts at each of the stops. Cool new concept from the South Park Business Association.

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Fishing with the Brewers @ Fathom Bistro
The pub on the pier is getting together some friends and going fishin’. For $70, you get a fishing pole with hooks, weights and bait that are yours to keep. You also get breakfast, lunch and a t-shirt, too. Cast lines and hang out with Adam Avery of Avery Brewing, Chuck Silva of Green Flash, Jamie Floyd from Ninkasi, Bear Republic’s Richard Norgrove, AleSmith’s Bill Batten and Yuseff Cherney of Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits. Beers from each of the respective brewery will be on tap, and the view is awesome.

Brews, Views and Chews @ Tom Ham’s Lighthouse
Across the bay, the iconic Tom Ham’s Lighthouse is hosting a mini-festival including another fantastic view of San Diego. $40 gets you tasters from Ballast Point, Lost Abbey, New English, Ironfire and Acoustic Ales with food from Hanis Calivn (Carnitas Snack Shack), Lance Repp (Tom Ham’s), Chad White (Comun Kitchen) and Don Morales (Bali Hai). There will be live music and a silent action also.

Modern Times Tasting @ SD TapRoom
TapRoom is arguably the most San Diego proud bar with a well curated local-centric taplist to boot. Modern Times is one of my favorite breweries at the moment, and their newer beers like Universal Friend and Aurora have been bold and delicious – complimenting their sessionable core lineup nicely. Starts at 8PM.

May 2013’s cover of West Coaster featuring Benchmark Brewing

11/11 Tuesday

Full Table by Benchmark Brewing Co.
We’re big fans of Matt Akin and Benchmark Brewing. Their subtle but skillfully brewing style is no better explained than by a sip of their core offering Table Beer. For this event, there will be a dozen different variants of Table Beer. This is a great way to taste how things like switching the yeast or barrel aging affect a beer. Flights of 6 are $12 and individual tasters are $2. Benchmark is very close to Groundswell Brewing and San Diego Brewing Company, both worthy of a visit afterwards.

Ice Cream Float Night @ Tap That Tap Room
Tap That will have a full selection of beers ready to be augmented with a scoop of ice cream. You can’t go wrong with beer floats with Karl Strauss’ Peanut Butter Porter and Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter Stout. Tap That also has bottles and kegs to go, so if your fridge or kegerator needs a SDBW-reload you can do that, too.

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Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes at Pizza Port Carlsbad, mid 2011

11/12 Wednesday

Crushed & Karl’d Brunch
Pacific Beach’s Karl Strauss is bringing beer for brunch at the new Crushed on Garnett Avenue. Making great use of the old Ciro’s draft system right out of the gate, this new spot is a promising addition to the rapidly expanding Pacific Beach Better Beer Circuit. Brewmaster Paul Segura will be in attendance. Crushed is an easy walk to Tap Room, Barrel Republic, Iron Pig and Amplified, also.

Pizza Port Showdown @ Sublime Ale House
Sublime is putting beers from all SD-county Pizza Ports on tap and pitting them against one another. Taste beers from Nacho Cervantes (Ocean Beach), Devon Randall (Solana Beach), Sean Farrell (Bressi Ranch) and Mike Abuchon (Carlsbad) and vote for your favorites. The winner gets a trophy and beers the beers organized into four categories: Hoppy, Belgian, Dark and Brewers Choice. Beers on tap include: Bacon & Eggs, May the Port Be With You, Barrel Aged Export Stout and Fresh Hop Grapefruit Tap.

August 2011’s cover featuring Mexico’s Insurgente Brewing

11/13 Thursday

Nickel Beer Night @ West Coast BBQ
Nickel Beer Co. owner and West Coast BBQ co-owner Tom Nickel makes some quality beer out of Julian. This is a great way to taste a few of his beers and eat some BBQ from West Coast’s huge smoker. Smoked Beer Cheese plates and Hot Links available for munching.

No Border: Craft Beer & Tacos with Insurgente Brewing @ Tacos Perla
From Tijuana to North Park, Cerveceria Insurgente will be on tap at Tacos Perla. The two brothers Ivan and Damien Morales have been very busy since we featured them in our August 2011 issue of West Coaster (check out our archives: http://westcoastersd.com/editorial). Baja beer has been growing at an incredible pace, and this is one of the breweries we’re most excited about south of the border.

Love Your Mother Earth Brewer @ Ritual Kitchen & Tavern
Farm to table pub Ritual will host Vista’s Mother Earth Brew Co.’s Kamron Khannakhjavani for a beer pairing dinner. Mother Earth’s beer has been tasting really good lately, and Ritual Tavern is the perfect setting for a low key beer dinner.

11/14 Friday

Ballast Point Tap Takeover 2011 at The High Dive

Ballast Point Tap Takeover 2011 at The High Dive

Ballast Point Tap Takeover @ The High Dive
The friendly neighborhood pub High Dive has for years been Ballast Point Home Brew Mart’s break room. Owner Ingrid also recently married BP’s brewmaster Yuseff Cherney. Both of these things mean that you can expect the best from Ballast Point’s beers and spirits to be available: check out a list: http://www.highdivesd.com/events/sdbw-ballast/

Council Brewing Progressive Tart Saison Night @ Council Brewing Co.
One of San Diego’s newest and most promising breweries will be rotating on kegs of their low-ABV, high flavor Tart Saison. Variants include Mango, Pomegranate and Nelson-hopped.

Meeting of the Guilds @ Toronado
Featuring beers from the San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco Guilds, this is a great chance to taste beer from our Northern friends. Ladyface, Strand, El Segundo, Eagle Rock and more will be representing Los Angeles. San Francisco will be represented by Magnolia, Thirsty Bear, Almanac along with several others. Plenty of San Diego beer, too, but for this one I’ll be trying to tick off new beers on Untappd.

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Team BNS

11/15 Saturday

The Bruery Secret Stash @ The Joint
There’s lots of good beer in Ocean Beach these days. Plan to spend some time in the neighborhood and start with The Joint, a funky Spanish / Japanese restaurant that will be serving up rare beers from The Bruery on Saturday. Afterwards, check out the new Culture Brewing Co. tasting room and don’t forget to see what neighbors Raglan, OB Noodlehouse II, and Pizza Port are serving. After your OB beer day, take a unsober selfie on the pier and send it in to us.

East County Hop On, Hop Off Brew Bus
This is a great way to easily check out what East County’s brewing scene is all about. Organized by Urbn Street Brewing Co., a bus will run from 5-10PM and visit BNS Brewing & Distilling, Twisted Manzanita Ales, Main Tap Tavern in addition to Urbn St. The bus is free.

Barrel Republic 1st Year Anniversary
The one-of-a-kind, pour-it-yourself beer bar is going insane all SDBW, but on the final Saturday of Beer Week Barrel Republic is celebrating their 1st Anniversary. The concept is cool and there will be more good beer available then you can shake a Willi Becher at. With loads of proper glassware, you can taste beer at your own pace and in whatever quantity you prefer. Beers on tap will include Telegraph Brewing Co. Rhinoceros 2012, Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Velvet Merkin aged in Tequila Barrels, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery Pugachev’s Cobra 2013 and more.

11/16 Sunday

Beer lovers taking in the sights at the 2010 Beer Garden at the Lodge at Torrey Pines

Beer lovers taking in the sights at the 2010 Beer Garden at the Lodge at Torrey Pines

The Beer Garden @ The Lodge at Torrey Pines
In years past, the official closing event of San Diego Beer Week has been a one-stop shop for the finest in SD beer and food in an absolutley stunning setting. With 24 breweries and 12 restaurants being showcased on the edge of Torrey Pines Golf Course, this is a worthy finishing act for the previous 10 days. https://www.sdbw.org/event-info/10-the-beer-garden

 

November is also our 4th Anniversary at West Coaster. We launched during Beer Week 2010, and this post has photos and covers from the past four years. Don’t forget to check out our November 2014 issue online or in print. Thank you very much for reading!

The 1st issue of West Coaster awaiting delivery - November 2010

The 1st issue of West Coaster awaiting delivery – November 2010

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Neighborhood Rising: Arsalun Tafazoli Reflects on SD Craft Culture

May 28
Arsalun Tafazoli, courtesy H2 Public Relations

Arsalun Tafazoli, courtesy H2 Public Relations

San Diego’s craft beer scene has come full circle before Arsalun Tafazoli’s eyes.

When Tafazoli opened Neighborhood Ale House in 2006, he didn’t want it to be another bar in Downtown where shiny-shirts came to get hammered. Instead, the 25-year-old San Diego native wanted a place where beer would be appreciated for having substance.

“When we were starting out, young brewers would come in and tell stories about how they mortgaged their houses—put everything on the line to get their product out there,” says Tafazoli. “There was so much passion behind it. It was incredible to me that it didn’t have the same credibility as wine.”

Tafazoli made moves. His staff of mostly women were pros on the ins and outs of beer styles and food pairings. He regularly hosted meet-the-brewer nights―with out of towners like the venerable Dogfish Head and Allagash. Lee Chase (Blind Lady Ale House, Automatic Brewing Co., Tiger! Tiger!) was hired as Neighborhood’s first beverage manager.

“If Lee’s behind the bar pouring you a beer—to this day—he’ll get you behind it. It’s amazing to watch,” says Tafazoli of Chase, a mad beer scientist of sorts who worked as head brewer at Stone for nearly 10 years until 2006. “That got really hip; people would come in to taste more stuff. We’d get letters saying ‘I didn’t know what good beer was before.’ We really built a community one person at a time.”

Around the time of the housing market crash, there was a boom of creativity among brewers, says Tafazoli. And newly-broke winos took note. This is when Neighborhood took off, and gave rise to a new order of local establishments.

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Neighborhood in East Village, courtesy H2 Public Relations

“San Diego is littered with gastro pubs now,” Tafazoli says. “Nowadays, the word “craft,” the term “farm to table”—it’s all been commodified. It’s a trend that people exploit. You see these banners hanging in front of places everywhere say “craft beer.” It’s more than getting a tap system installed; that’s just one component in the context of this bigger picture. You have to make sure the whole story makes sense or else it doesn’t work.”

Having grown from 33 breweries in 2007 to 88 at time of print, some of the craft beer scene’s original players are wary of its sustainability.

“It used to be that there was this young guy starting a brewery, and you’d want to support it. And now every day it’s someone else. It’s great for the proliferation of the culture, but I think some people are getting into the business for the wrong reasons.”

Tafazoli’s approach to success has launched what is today one of San Diego’s most ambitious and talked about hospitality brands, Consortium Holdings (CH). In 2008 he joined forces with Nate Stanton (El Dorado), when both of their businesses were gaining momentum in the up and coming East Village. Since, the two have undeniably elevated drinking and dining culture in San Diego with eight successful concepts and counting.

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Polite Provisions, courtesy H2 Public Relations

It doesn’t hurt to have a dream team behind their backs, with two-star Michelin Chef, Jason McLeod, helming kitchen operations for all the projects, and highly reputed bartenders like Erick Castro (Polite Provisions) and Anthony Schmidt (formerly of Noble Experiment, now headed to new project Rare Form). Then there’s local designer Paul Basile, whose past projects include Bankers Hill Restaurant + Bar and Acme Southern Kitchen.

Just last year, CH won national praise for two of its projects. The speakeasy Noble Experiment (designed by Mauricio Couturier) made Esquire Magazine’s top 100 bars list and Polite Provisions won Imbibe Magazine’s Cocktail Bar of the Year. The James Beard Foundation also loved Erick Castro’s Mayan Concubine cocktail at Polite, naming it one of their favorites of 2013, from a spot that opened the same year, no less.

“We want our spaces to promote our core values. It’s why we don’t do vodka or shit beer, and think about every aspect of a space—because it’s a reflection of who we are and what we want to perpetuate to our community,” says Tafazoli. “It was the Greg Kochs [Stone CEO] and the Lee Chases who reaffirmed what I thought. At first, people were coming in to Neighborhood and not getting it, and sticking to our identity and not watering it down—back when everything was on the line—that’s what made us.”

CH’s first all-out culinary endeavor, Ironside Oyster, has been packed since opening in early May. In the works are North Park’s Underbelly, an East Village juice bar, and Rare Form, a Jewish Deli that will share space with a Stone tasting room in the historic Simon Levi building next to Petco Park.

Tafazoli says of the perceived “seasonal” neighborhood, “The stadium has shaped the cultural geography of East Village, and not in a good way. Too many businesses cater to the stadium crowd. It’s not about walk-by traffic for us, it’s about the great community of people who live there,” he says. “We’ll create a synergy there with the two different businesses. The idea is that our core values are very much alike. Stone knows who they are, they stuck to it, and it’s been effective. They paved the way for a lot of people. You have to respect it.”

No one could have predicted the force that craft beer would play in the trajectory of Tafazoli’s businesses, let alone its tremendous impact on the local economy. Tafazoli points out that the proof lies in a craft beer newspaper like West Coaster—something most people wouldn’t have looked twice at a decade ago.

Still, Tafazoli remains cautiously optimistic about San Diego’s brewing future.

“A lot of brewing companies have popped up without understanding the soul and economics of the business. Unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of these guys will be able to sustain,” he says. “In the end, I want everyone in the community to be successful, but unfortunately capitalism is harsh. I think there is a lot of local talent sitting on the sidelines, waiting to see how things play out. I see them stepping up as other people phase out. Then, we’re going to experience a stronger renaissance.”

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Underbelly Little Italy, courtesy H2 Public Relations

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