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.
In May, O’Sullivan Bros. Brewing Company owner Ed O’Sullivan put his two-year-old Scripps Ranch brewery up for sale. Shortly after, Darrel Brown, the owner of Savagewood Brewing Company came to take a look. Earlier in the year he had toured defunct Escondido business Offbeat Brewing Company. He also took a look at Helm’s Brewing Company in Kearny Mesa, but passed on all three due to his desire to settle his interest in Rancho Bernardo. But as the months passed, he came to realize the best place for the community- and family-focused venue he aimed to establish was right in his backyard. He and O’Sullivan reconnected and forged a deal that makes Brown the new owner of O’Sullivan Bros.’ brewery and tasting room. And while others might wipe the slate completely clean, Brown will integrate the O’Sullivan Bros. brand into his own.
Brown’s plan—which is already underway—is to remove all O’Sullivan Bros. branding from the exterior and interior of the facility, which is located on the west side of an industrial park on Hibert Street catty-corner to a large shopping area that includes a grocery store and numerous restaurants. All branding will be changed to reflect Savagewood Brewing and his beers will take up the lion’s share of the faucets in the tasting room, but he will also keep on some of O’Sullivan Bros.’ best-selling beers, including Catholic Guilt smoked porter, Our Father’s Stout and Finn McCool’s Big Thirsty red ale. A Scripps Ranch resident who lives mere blocks away, Brown patronized the brewery he now owns and believed in the product and the people behind the brand. He was saddened that the O’Sullivan family had to exit the industry—not due to poor quality, but personal issues that couldn’t be avoided—and feels strongly that their legacy should live on.
While O’Sullivan Bros. beers largely fell on the darker side, Savagewood ales come in lighter on the SRM spectrum. Brown’s recipes are hoppy, fruity and light on malt to produce a dry finish associated with Southern California offerings. That said, he’s not afraid to dabble in the East Coast arts, and is planning to brew a West Coast-Northeast India pale ale hybrid using yeast used for hazy IPAs against a decidedly “San Diego-style” grain bill. That will join his pineapple pale ale and other beers that, up until now, have been contract brewed at Groundswell Brewing Company’s Santee headquarters. Since the total annual production capability of his new facility is just 550 barrels, he will continue to utilize his contract relationship to increase yearly barrelage to between 1,600 and 1,700 barrels.
But it’s not all about the adult beverages. Savagewood will have cold-brew coffee and house-made craft sodas on tap. It will also hold various youth-oriented events such as movie nights featuring ‘80’s movies and popcorn. Also on-tap will be at least one event raising money for local charities per month. A portion of proceeds from one of his beers, Exquisite Blonde, already go to the cancer non-profit Keep A Breast Foundation. “Scripps Ranch is my home and I want Savagewood to be the neighborhood brewery,” says Brown. “Every decision I make will center around that.”
Brown will open the revamped tasting room on November 2, just in time for San Diego Beer Week, which takes place November 3-12. He plans to hold events throughout that span, including beer-release promotions, a trivia night and a beer-brunch event. And near the end of November, Savagewood will hold its official grand-opening party. In the meantime, he’ll work on expanding the floor-plan of the tasting room and cinch up negotiations with a brewer he intends to bring on. As for the rest of his staff, he is keeping all of O’Sullivan Bros.’ existing employees, making for one of the true feel-good stories of this year in local craft beer.
After 20 years of assisting breweries through consultation and serving as a high-profile beer expert via a number of platforms—most notably his work as craft beer ambassador for Stone Brewing—Bill Sysak knows there’s a big magnifying glass on him as he prepares to open his own beer-manufacturing operation. That interest, Wild Barrel Brewing Company (692 Rancheros Drive, San Marcos), will soft-open, tomorrow, Saturday, September 30, and Sysak says he’s ready to put his money where his mouth is. From the looks of the soon-to-debut business, he’s done just that.
Wild Barrel is installed in a 10,000-square-foot building sharing space and a lobby with a batting-cage facility. That structure is across the street from the San Marcos DMV, one of the busiest offices of its type in the county. Wild Barrel’s tasting room takes up roughly half of the total square footage, accommodating up to 228 patrons. Wood-topped-barrel belly bars make up the majority of the seating, with stools at the main bar and rail bars, but the focal point of the room is a giant faux barrel near the center of the room. Visitors can enter that cylinder, which contains its own belly bars and will eventually house a fountain fashioned from three used barrels, plus rotating art-for-purchase from local artisans. It’s not the only visual media at Wild Barrel. San Marcos resident Maddie Thomas recently painted a colorful mural depicting a glass emblazoned with the company’s logo on the east wall, adding a punch of vibrancy to the mostly oaken interiors.
Another unique tasting-room feature is a pole with directional-arrow signs tacked to it pointing in the direction of other local breweries. Stone, Mason Ale Works, Rip Current Brewing and The Lost Abbey—which is located on the opposite side of the DMV—are represented along with one outlier (and one of Sysak’s favorite breweries), Belgium’s Cantillon. Sysak says this is a small show of appreciation to the operations who’ve been helpful to him throughout his career, in particular since he started work on Wild Barrel roughly a year ago. Stone and Rip Current have sold him hops, Mason has lent him several items and The Lost Abbey’s Tomme Arthur has offered both assistance and advice.
During his decades of consulting, Sysak always stressed the importance of being hyper-focused and selecting the right beer styles; ales and lagers capable of generating enough sales to keep a business afloat without competing with each other. In assessing the current marketplace, Sysak is going heavy with India pale ales (IPAs) and fruited kettle sours, plus barrel-aged wild ales and imperial stouts (the base recipe for the latter was developed in consultation with Todd Ashman of Bourbon County Stout and FiftyFifty Eclipse fame). The opening-day beer-list will include two IPAs—the 7% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) Indie IPA, and an 8.4% imperial model double dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Motueka called Prince of Dankness. A pair of 5.6% Berliner weisses dubbed San Diego Vice (playing off the proper pronunciation for weiss) will also be on tap. One is flavored with Montmorency cherries, the other with pink guava from head brewer (and fellow Stone expat) Bill Sobieski’s backyard tree.
Sysak and Sobieski will also capitalize off the popularity of coffee beers with Hipster Latté, a 5.5% ABV milk stout brewed with coconut palm sugar, lactose and a proprietary blend of beans from Rancho Bernardo-based Mostra Coffee. The blend that will be served at tomorrow’s opening will be the first of four, all of which will incorporate different types of coffee. The plan is to eventually serve them side-by-side (and can all four in a single four-pack) so customers can examine the subtle taste differences. And rounding out the board is a 5.5% Belgian-style witbier called White Rabbit (the character that lures people down its proverbial hole) brewed with traditional ingredients plus a “Valencia orange zest kicker” to give it extra citrus appeal. Rather than having several “gateway beers” such as a Pilsner, hefeweizen, Kolsch and blonde, which might compete and cannibalize off of each other, he wanted to brew one that can thrive on its own.
A recent shipment of ready-to-go Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey barrels will make up the aging program’s initial stock. All that oak will be stored on the south side of the facility in plain view of the tasting room, with glycol-equipped lines plumbed over the public space to pump beer over from the brewery to help avoid contamination. Eventually, Sysak hopes to take over a space next-door and convert it to a barrel-aging warehouse. Once matured, barrel-aged beers will be packaged in 500-millileter bottles and released at the tasting room and as part of Wild Barrel’s beer club, which went live on the company’s website earlier this week. Sysak will also call on his many friends within the national brewing community to work on collaboration beers, the majority of which will be hazy IPAs and kettle sours. His initial trio of conspirators hail from as close by as Carlsbad and as far away as Florida: Burgeon Beer Company, Bottle Logic Brewing and J. Wakefield Brewing.
The tasting-room bar is equipped with 15 taps, plus a nitro-tap that will dispense coffee. But Sysak hopes to go further with java, installing a barista area in the tasting room that will operate from 7 to 11 a.m. weekday mornings to capture business from DMV visitors and establish an additional revenue stream. Also en route is a crowler-filling machine, which should arrive within a week. The food program will be all about mobile vendors and pre-packaged items. The latter will consist of cheese and charcuterie boards as well as confections from North County’s So Rich Chocolates.
Sysak, Sobieski and fellow co-founder Chris White (not to be confused with the founder of Miramar business White Labs) were able to complete the construction of their shared vision in less than a year and, though there are some small touches left to attend to, it’s already an impressive addition to the local brewing scene. Wild Barrel will be open seven-days-a-week, and its hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The collection of artisanal producers in the pair of business parks near the corner of Miralani Drive and Camino Ruiz in Miramar already interact like partners. Home to four breweries, two wineries and a sake brewery, this is the most craft-saturated ultra-micro locale in all of San Diego County. And soon it will welcome its first actual partnership—a trio of businesses sharing a 3,500-square-foot space with a collective mindset and completely unique, hand-forged consumables. Lost Cause Meadery, Serpentine Cider and The Good Seed Food Company comprise this hand-in-hand threesome, all of which are on pace to open at different points within the month of October at 8665 Miralani Drive, Suite 100.
While they were searching for a site for their meadery, Lost Cause founders Billy and Suzanna Beltz met and hit it off with Serpentine headman Sean Harris at a brewery event. The entrepreneurs stayed in touch and, two months later, Harris asked if the Beltzes would like to join him and chef Chuy De La Torre as a third tenant in the space they intended to share. The marrieds followed in the footsteps of De La Torre, formerly the chef at Rancho Bernardo’s Urge Gastropub, and signed on. To a person, the quartet believe they are in the perfect geographical situation. This pertains to their individual facility, where all of their wares will appeal to artisanal-minded locavores, as well as their immediate surroundings.
The closest similar business to the shared space is Thunderhawk Alements, and the Beltzes say its owners have been extremely helpful. It’s the “Miralani Makers District”’s tangible colleagues-versus-competitors vibe that continues to lure so many small businesses to the area. A distillery is also en route for the area. It is reminiscent of San Diego’s roots from a brewery perspective and, in some ways, evokes memories of simpler times for that industry.
The Beltzes like the prospect of leveraging cider and, to some extent, beer, wine, sake and spirits from neighbors to attract cross-drinkers who might not specifically seek out mead, but will be more than happy to try it during an expansive tasting expedition. They realize mead is not as popular or understood as other beverages and aim to do a great deal of educating rom their tasting room (Serpentine will have its own sampling bar within the space, as well).
Lost Cause’s meads will be produced in 20- and 15-barrel batches located near the entrance to their tasting room. Billy has earned more than 35 medals for his meads in the past three years alone, and the Beltz’s research and techniques have been published in the American Homebrewer’s Association‘s Zymurgy Magazine and American Mead Maker, the official journal of the American Mead Maker Association. An integral part of their production process is a technique which allows them to control a slow, steady, healthy fermentation that retains extremely delicate honey flavors and aromas as alcohol builds.
Lost Cause’s initial line-up will all come in at 11% alcohol-by-volume and include:
The aesthetic of the shared facility will pay homage to Southern California and the Southwest region as a whole care of shared plants and furniture. For more information on each of the businesses’ debuts, follow each on social media.
September is stocked with a plethora of craft-beer events celebrating just about every type of beer out there. From ales infused with farm-fresh hops to tart tantalizers and, of course, Oktoberfest and other Germanic lagers, there’s something for nearly any taste. Take a gander at these featured events then peruse many more on our events page.
September 2-4 | Second Anniversary: It’s three phases of two years at Second Chance Beer Company, starting with releases of multiple high-profile collaboration beers, brewery tours and a thematically appropriate flea market on Saturday, a Sunday beer brunch and an industry day on Monday featuring a corn-hole tournament that’s open to the public. | Second Chance Beer Company, 15378 Avenue of Science, #222, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Times Vary
September 16-18 | San Diego Wet Hop Beer Weekend: Before most San Diegans had ever heard the term “wet hops”, O’Brien’s Pub was devoting a weekend-long festival to once-a-year harvest-time beers given huge aromatic character from freshly picked, whole-cone hops. This is a prime opportunity to taste what the county’s brewers can do with these green gems. | O’Brien’s Pub, 4646 Convoy Street, Kearny mesa, Times Vary
September 16 | Peter Reeves Memorial Sour Fest: Each year, Churchill’s Pub & Grille pays its respects to a lost friend and fan by gathering special, rare and outstanding beers running the gamut of sour styles from kettled creations on up to aged, blended gueuzes. An acidic, funky feast for the senses, it never fails to deliver. Stock up on antacids and make a day of it. | Churchill’s Pub & Grille, 887 West San Marcos Boulevard, San Marcos, 11 a.m.
September 22 | San Diego Brewers Guild Golf Tournament: Whether you can drive the ball like Tiger Woods (before his recent travails) or just like puttering around, a day on the greens is always an enjoyable one when you spend it with local brewers enjoying sunshine, competition and the liquid fruits of their labor, all while supporting the good work they do. | Rancho Bernardo Inn, 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive, Rancho Bernardo; Check In: 10 a.m., Shotgun Start: 12 p.m.
September 23 | Oktoberfest: Numerous local breweries celebrate Germany’s annual and epic folk festival, but for no other is it more natural than Karl Strauss Brewing Company. Recipes of a master brewer from Germany form their bedrock. Those brews plus venerable fall seasonal Oktoberfest and small-batch, specially brewed, German-style beers will flow like wasser. | Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 5985 Santa Fe Street, Pacific Beach, 2 p.m.