From the Beer Writer: Once upon a time, the term “hoppy” simply meant “bitter,” and all craft-beer fans seemed to want was hoppy IPAs. These days, imbibers still crave hoppy IPAs, but the term has come to mean so much more, referring to the more nuanced aromatic and flavor features that hops bring to the table. Craft enthusiasts want to dissect hop bills and get the most vibrant tropical, citrus, herbal, floral and spice characteristics from each varietal. But the bitterness…not so much. This shift in tastes really picked up steam when hazy, Northeast-style IPAs bringing on oodles of the aforementioned hop attributes with nary any bitterness burst onto the scene. Recently a company specializing in haze-craze-appropriate ales, Offshoot Beer Co. (an offshoot of Orange County’s The Bruery) collaborated with North San Diego County’s Mason Ale Works to create an IPA so low in bitterness they call it “zero IBU.” The acronym stands for international bittering units, the measurement by which beers’ bitterness is calculated. In doing so, the brewers added zero hops during the brewing process. Ditto flaked oats, wheat and other haze-inducing ingredients, so the finished product, Mason / Offshoot Zero Moustafa IPA, is a traditional, clear IPA. The experiment makes good on its promise to present myriad hop flavors undeterred by even a hint of bitterness. It really is a mind-blowing experience; enough so that anybody who is into hops should try it, even if as an everyday beer (which it definitely is not) it comes up a bit short. There isn’t enough body for IPA lovers, but this beer will do its best work as a “gateway” beer for those who are scared off by the aggressive nature of IBU-laden IPAs or think of hops solely as bite-you-back botanicals. I can easily envision lupulin-averse blonde and wheat ale drinkers having a-ha moments care of this creation.
From the Brewery: “I’ve got to give a ton of credit to Eagle Rock Brewery co-owner Ting Su, who came to [Mason Ale Works head brewer] Matt Webster with the idea for this beer up at the Craft Beer Summit in Sacramento last year. Matt and I were both very intrigued. It sounded like a challenge: a beer that can be just as juicy as a hazy IPA, but without all the yeast particulate. We did a pale ale first as a collab with Eagle Rock and were intrigued by the results, but we wanted to turn things up a notch. So Zero Moustafa was formulated at the Great American Beer Festival with Andrew Bell and Patrick Rue from Offshoot Beer Co. over some drinks. We talked as much about brewing theory as anything else; there’s a lot about timing and temperature that make this beer what it is. Patrick mentioned that they were running some in-house experiments with terpenes to accentuate certain flavors and aromas. So we messed around with some grapefruit and citrus terpenes in this beer until we got it just right. The finished product is a trip. The nose is huge (especially as it warms) with big orange, grapefruit and lemon as well as a touch of pine. The body is on the lighter side of the spectrum which makes it super crushable at 7% alcohol-by-volume. I think brewers will appreciate the challenge of making a beer like this while craft fans will like the ‘juice.'”—Grant Tondro, Co-owner, Mason Ale Works
This year saw more new-brewery openings than any in San Diego County’s history. Happily, in this reporter’s opinion, more of them were of good quality than in year’s past. Enough that whittling down a list of the top half-dozen was extremely difficult, and ranking that sextet even harder. At least three breweries were on the bubble for the last spot, so if you’re using this as any sort of guide to the good stuff, don’t feel encouraged to limit your brewery touring to these selections. These are just your best bets based on the opinion of one well-researched individual. In that spirit, feel free to leave comments about any exceptional new breweries you’ve discovered over the past 12 months in the comments section. (Author’s Note: Breweries marked with an asterisk opened in 2016, but too late to be considered for the list of best new breweries for that calendar year.)
Eppig Brewing * | North Park: Nathan Stephens and Clayton LeBlanc, the duo producing the beers at this Brewery Igniter standout have a tasting room exhibiting the variety of the Little Italy outpost of their previous employers, Ballast Point Brewing. That’s saying something, especially since brewing days there resemble a game of life-sized Tetris. Still, some of the finest, most consistent lagers, plus an array of nice hoppy and even sour ales provide glimpses of what seems a very bright future for this reincarnation of a nineteenth-century family fermentation business.
Wild Barrel Brewing | San Marcos: Beer fans everywhere couldn’t help but wonder how well infinitely popular ale-and-lager expert “Dr.” Bill Sysak would fare as a brewery owner. Commenting on beer is one thing, but manufacturing it is a different game entirely. With the help of head brewer Bill Sobieski, he’s fared extremely well, hitting the ground running this fall with quality IPAs, an effective entry-level witbier and a brilliant coffee stout. Throw in a stellar tasting room complete with a gargantuan barrel at its center, and you have something special.
Burgeon Beer Co. * | Carlsbad: After gaining experience at Stone Brewing, Rough Draft Brewing and Back Street Brewery, Anthony Tallman united with long-time friends to forge his own business, and it’s been going strong since day one. Built around a smart, modern-day business model combining outside keg sales with regular in-house can releases, this newcomer has built a solid following around an array of multi-faceted IPAs and dark beers. No trend is off limits for them. That said, they’re at their best when they stay true to tradition.
Pariah Brewing | North Park: Some say this Prince-ly purple, dungeon-esque Brewery Igniter spot is no place for beer purists, and while it’s true that Stone and Helm’s Brewing alum Brian Mitchell specializes in beers that go outside the box by incorporating an array of flavorful adjuncts as simple as coffee and orange peel to as oddball as fenugreek and uni (yes, sea urchin), there are to-style gems like Indie Or Bust IPA. But this place is geared to adventurous drinkers and provides an impressive departure from the everyday, even in a town soaked in beer.
Battlemage Brewing | Vista: Role-playing game enthusiasts got a brewery playing to their passions when yet another former Ballast Point duo, Ryan Sather and Chris Barry, teamed to open this testament to the communal power of beers and broadswords. It’s become an ideal backdrop for fans of RPG and tabletop enterprises, but you don’t have to know the difference between a Halfling and a half-orc to appreciate the beers, which flow into rarely charted territory (dark mild, old ale) and come across clean and tasty. Perfect sustenance for a lengthy campaign.
Black Plague Brewing | Oceanside: An operation that looked like it might veer off course at the onset of its journey steered its way into veteran leadership when it contracted former AleSmith Brewing and Mikkeller Brewing San Diego brewer Bill Batten to assist with its fermentation operations. The resulting line-up of beers, including multi-fruited takes on an IPA that’s best on its own, plus myriad other styles, is fun and highly drinkable. The name, plague-doctor motif and black-walled tasting room are strange, but the beer provides a guiding light.
This Year’s Other Contenders: Align Brewing (Miramar), Alta Brewing (Barrio Logan), Chula Vista Brewery (Chula Vista), Circle 9 Brewing (Kearny Mesa), Ebullition Brew Works (Vista), Escondido Brewing (Escondido), Jacked Up Brewing (Escondido), Knotty Brewing * (East Village), OB Brewery * (Ocean Beach), Protector Brewery (Miramar), Rouleur Brewing (Carlsbad), Smoking Cannon Brewery (Ramona), SpecHops Brewing (Vista), SR76 Beerworks (Valley Center), Thunderhawk Alements * (Miramar), Viewpoint Brewing (Del Mar)
Maybe Next Year (Late Additions): California Wild Ales (Sorrento Valley), Deft Brewing (Bay Park), Horus Aged Ales (Oceanside), Northern Pine Brewing (Oceanside), Oeuvre Artisan Ales (Miramar), Savagewood Brewing (Scripps Ranch)
Previous Top-Ranked New Breweries
2016: Burning Beard Brewing (El Cajon), North Park Beer Co. (North Park), Resident Brewing (Downtown), Pure Project Brewing (Miramar), Bear Roots Brewing (Vista), Bitter Brothers Brewing (Bay Ho)
2015: Fall Brewing (North Park), Second Chance Beer Co. (Carmel Mountain), South Park Brewing (South Park), Abnormal Beer Co. (Rancho Bernardo), Duck Foot Brewing (Miramar)
2014: Bagby Beer Co. (Oceanside), Nickel Beer Co. (Julian), Council Brewing (Kearny Mesa), URBN St. Brewing (El Cajon), Toolbox Brewing (Vista)
2013: Rip Current Brewing (San Marcos), Benchmark Brewing (Grantville), Amplified Ale Works (Pacific Beach), Belching Beaver Brewery (Vista), Modern Times Beer (Point Loma)
2012: Societe Brewing (Kearny Mesa), Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery (East Village), Latitude 33 Brewing (Vista)
From the Beer Writer: These days, brewers are here today, at another brewery tomorrow. Next thing you know, the brewer at your local fermentorium is some new guy who came in and is picking up the pieces while trying to carve out a niche for themselves. But when there is overlap and the reins to a brewhouse are handed over properly, it typically works out for the best. It also creates a scenario where both regimes can collaborate on a creation, as is the case with this week’s featured beer: Freshly Arrived Triple IPA. It is the work of current Abnormal Beer Co. head brewer Nyle Molina and his predecessor Derek Gallanosa. The latter recently departed to help open a new business in the Sacramento area, Moksa Brewing, but before doing so he and his assistant-turned-headman decided to cook up a triple IPA (an India pale ale coming in at or above 10% alcohol-by-volume) for Pliny the Younger season. The result is this graceful juggernaut of a beer, which smells of mangoes and citrus, tastes so much like oranges that one would expect to encounter pulp, and ends with a semisweet but dry and slightly alcoholic note similar to high-proof rum, giving it an almost island-cocktail character. It makes for a delicious way of simultaneously saying good-bye and hello with equal parts fare thee well. Read more »
When it comes to local personalities, few were as ingrained in the multi-tiered fabric of San Diego’s beer scene as Derek Gallanosa. After years spent at Karl Strauss Brewing Company, he went on to be the opening head brewer for Rancho Bernardo’s Abnormal Beer Company, while at the same time serving as an instructor for the marketing component of San Diego State University’s Business of Craft Beer certificate program. On top of all that, he was a constant fixture among beer geeks, coordinating and participating in epic bottle-share events throughout the county. Everyone knew this omnipresent fermentation fixture, which made it all the more surprising in August when he announced his resignation from Abnormal and SDSU along with plans to leave San Diego. Since then, he’s been traveling while awaiting the moment when he would be contractually able to announce plans for his future. Today is that day. Gallanosa has taken up residence in the Sacramento area to helm operations for start-up business, Moksa Brewing Company.
Located at 5860 Pacific Street in the city of Rocklin, directly northeast of Sacramento, the brewery-to-be is named for a Hindu term referring to finding one’s freedom. Gallanosa says this describes his and his partners’ intentions from a brewing perspective. They intend to break away from the norm and create their own path, exploring how to further express familiar flavors found in beer, while also striving to discover new taste sensations to showcase via ales and lagers. They will do that from a 4,960-square-foot former car dealership, roughly 1,100 square feet of which will be used for the brewery. Moksa’s 100% steam-heated 10-barrel Premier Stainless brewhouse will be fully visible through a glass wall; a setup Gallanosa refers to as a “brewquarium” like he worked within at Abnormal. Moksa’s cellar will consist of two 30-barrel, three 20-barrel and two 10-barrel uni-tanks plus a pair of brites.
Moksa has also brought on brewer Cory Meyer from popular Sacramento interest New Glory Craft Brewery. He and Gallanosa will put their heads together to determine what styles they will brew. So far they know they will craft India pale ales similar to the mixture of West-Coast and hazy IPAs Gallanosa made at Abnormal. Rich stouts with adjuncts will also figure in along with barrel-aged imperial stouts, but the sky is the limit outside of those staples. The current estimate for Moksa’s debut is December of January. Total 2018 production figures to come in around 1,000 barrels, but once everything is maximized, the business should be able to churn out 2,500 barrels of beer annually.
Yes, it is a good opportunity with the benefit of partial ownership, but what could inspire a brewer synonymous with San Diego to pull up stakes for unfamiliar territory? Love, it turns out, was his primary motivator. Gallanosa’s fiancé landed a dream job to be a State-employed archaeologist based in the Sacramento area. Upon learning this, he contacted some people he knew up north and was made aware of the Moksa project and its team’s need for a brewer. The rest is history. Even with all of the pieces falling in what would appear to be perfect placement, Gallanosa says he will miss working with the talented team at Abnormal and the restaurant that houses it, The Cork and Craft. But he is bullish about Sacramento’s burgeoning craft-beer scene (having visited the region four times in the past two years, I can attest that it is growing and an exciting place to be for beer enthusiasts) and happy to become a part of it.