From the Beer Writer: Today marks the start of the ninth annual San Diego Beer Week. Taking place from November 3-12 throughout the county, it’s a little idea that’s grown to gargantuan status. I remember the first meeting I had with a San Diego Brewers Guild member where they introduced the idea to me. It seemed like a fantastic idea, but I wondered how much noise our smattering of, then, around 25 or 30 breweries would be able to make. Turns out, a whole lot. So much, that by the second and third editions of SDBW, ours was among the best regional beer weeks in the country. And it all stemmed from the heavy lifting of those industry veterans, the example they set in year one and continue to set with each run of this ten-day celebration of locally produced ales and lagers. The 100-plus new breweries that have debuted since have happily and zealously picked up the torch and endeavored to help put on promotions that push the envelope and go beyond everyday events and festivals; individually and in unison. For the latter efforts, the Guild remains the prime mechanism for planning and execution. That organization is celebrating its 20th year of operation this Beer Week. In recognition of that milestone, Guild member breweries that have been operating for 20 years or more (AleSmith Brewing, Coronado Brewing, Karl Strauss Brewing, Oggi’s, Pizza Port, San Marcos Brewery and Stone Brewing) got together to conceive the recipe for a special IPA that will make its official debut at the official opening event of SDBW, tonight’s Guild Fest VIP Brewer Takeover at downtown’s Broadway Pier. Brewed with Vic Secret, Idaho 7 and Motueka hops donated by BSG CraftBrewing plus whole-cone Cascade hops from Star B Ranch and Hop Farm, as well as San Diego Super Ale yeast from Miramar institution White Labs, the beer comes in at 7% alcohol-by-volume. To give all Guild members a hand in the beer, breweries were encouraged to submit potential names for it. Those monikers were later voted on by the membership, resulting in the apt handle Capital of Craft IPA. Kegs of this limited-edition brew will be distributed to events and accounts throughout San Diego County, and a portion of profits from the beer (which was brewed at Coronado Brewing’s Bay Park facility on a day that saw dozens of local brewers venture there to participate) will go to the Guild to aid its ongoing efforts to raise awareness about its members and the importance of supporting local, independent craft brewing companies.
From the Veteran Brewery Owners: “What an awesome opportunity for all of us here in the San Diego brewing community to get together and make this incredible beer! Some of us have been around for 20-plus years and some for just a few. It was great to see all the brewers and Guild members who came out, old and new, to brew this beer. It really shows how far our industry has come and that we have a really bright future ahead of us. By the way, did I mention that the beer turned out epic?”—Rick Chapman, Co-owner, Coronado Brewing Company
“When the San Diego Brewers Guild was founded, I was lucky to be a part of a very small, informal group of people who casually met up once a month. Everyone present had a common goal to unite and share ideas to promote our passion for craft beer. Although that hasn’t changed, the explosive brewery growth in San Diego has allowed so much experience over the years for us to grow the Guild into such an amazing, organized resource. Many thanks to many people. Cheers!”—Gina Marsaglia, Co-owner, Pizza Port
The craft-brewing industry is in a state of flux, forcing companies within it to reexamine their business models and, in the case of larger operations, alter them in order to thrive or, in some cases survive. Larger operations such as Stone Brewing, Green Flash Brewing and Karl Strauss Brewing have all had to adjust course as consumer preferences shift to smaller, local, independent breweries, and active consumer demographics begin to skew toward younger factions, many of which have only ever drunk craft beer. It’s to be expected of interests that are among the country’s 50 largest brewing companies. Though it is considerably smaller and, at its heart still a family-run business, Coronado Brewing Company has been quite vigilant over the past several years, keeping an eye on the rapidly changing market and making moves to weather an uncertain storm. The latest of those moves includes today’s announcement that CBC will purchase East Village-based brand Monkey Paw Brewing. Owner Scot Blair‘s other businesses, South Park Brewing and Hamiltons Tavern, are not part of the deal.
Blair has had lofty aspirations for his beer-making business since opening it in 2011, but was not satisfied with progress toward increased production and distribution. He examined a number of options for meeting those goals, including acquisition, but says he wouldn’t have sold to just anybody. A stalwart figure within the craft-beer world for more than a decade, Blair knows the industry and the individuals within it, and says it was his long-standing respect for and friendship with CBC owners Ron and Rick Chapman that distinguished this as the right move for him and his business. Another key factor is control. Blair has a vision for Monkey Paw and its beers, and will remain intimately involved with the brand, focusing solely on beer—conceptualization and growth of the entire portfolio.
This deal is reminiscent of Green Flash’s 2014 acquisition of Alpine Beer Company. That move allowed for increased production of Alpine beers at Green Flash’s much-larger brewing facilities. Likewise, Monkey Paw, which produced less than 700 barrels last year, will now have the majority of its beers produced at CBC’s Bay Park headquarters, while still making beer on the 15-barrel system at its East Village pub. CBC began brewing its beers at that site—affectionately referred to as “Knoxville” for the street it occupies—in 2013, a year after taking over the 14,000-square-foot property. Since then, it has taken over several other buildings bordering the brewery, creating a rather impressive cul-de-sac campus. CBC is also in the process of installing a kitchen at Knoxville to increase the draw of its tasting room. This is particularly important with the impending arrival of a satellite tasting room from Benchmark Brewing Company and a new brewery, Deft Brewing Company, slated for arrival in Bay Park this year.
CBC is also changing up its game in the southerly municipality of Imperial Beach. The company opened a bar and restaurant there in 2014, and recently signed on to construct a 7,500-square-foot brewpub at the upcoming Bikeway Village on Florence Street. This will increase brewing capacity in a more high-profile location not far from CBC’s original brewpub on its namesake island. Meanwhile, CBC has ceased distribution to certain states, strategically tightening things up to better compete in the marketplace and maximize profits and expenditures.
And two months ago, the company announced the Chapmans’ investment in SouthNorte Brewing Company, a new venture headed by CBC head brewer Ryan Brooks. That operation, basically a CBC offshoot or sub-brand, will meld the brewing cultures of Baja California and Southern California, but there’s more to that fermentation fusion than mere ingenuity. An MO like that figures to appeal to demographics CBC does not currently reach in as great a quantity as they would like. Ditto Monkey Paw’s liquid wares, which skew to a younger demographic more interested in locavorianism, that likely wishes to support an edgier brand versus a company that recently celebrated its 21st anniversary. While this acquisition (which is set to be completed by September) may seem odd to those not paying attention, a look at CBC’s recent body of work where business-model adjustment is concerned shows the logic behind it and how it fits into a large and intricate puzzle.
Many know Ryan Brooks for his work as brewmaster at Coronado Brewing Company. During his tenure, that interest has won numerous awards, including Champion Mid-Size Brewing Company at the 2014 World Beer Cup. That’s dream-come-true territory, but Brooks isn’t finished dreaming. He’s about to realize another long-held aspiration—opening his own brewery. The name of that business will be SouthNorte Beer Company, and it’s scheduled to debut this summer.
Brooks will get by with a little help from his friends, most ostensibly his family at Coronado Brewing. That company’s founders, brothers Ron and Rick Chapman, are key investors and that’s where the initial brewing of SouthNorte’s beers will be done (the search is on for a separate facility to house the business). But he’ll also garner inspiration from friends he’s made spending a great deal of time exploring the craft-brewing culture south of the border. As the name implies, SouthNorte will combine elements of Mexico’s burgeoning beer scene with the craft culture here in San Diego. A press release describes the business as “an American brewery that blends the rustic flair of Mexico with the art of San Diego craft brewing.” Brooks sees pulling from two cultures as a way to extract the best from both and end up with the finest end-result.
In the course of my reporting on the San Diego brewing industry, I have met a number of brewers from Baja locales including Tijuana, Ensenada and Mexicali. Nearly all of them have mentioned receiving assistance, tutelage or encouragement from Brooks. He is something of a cult figure down there who has forged many legitimate friendships during innumerable cross-border visits. Few would be better suited to bring this intercultural vision to life and it should be exciting to watch…and taste.
Rick Chapman is the President of Coronado Brewing Co.
What new equipment have you received?
Just yesterday we tilted up two 120 barrel fermentation tanks from Premier Stainless. Two more 120s are on order, and they should arrive late October.
What does that bring your production capacity to?
With the two tanks added yesterday we’re on pace for 30,000 barrels per year, which should keep us ahead of distribution for a short while.
How many states do you currently distribute to?
Right now we distribute to 13 states. We’ll be in 16 by the end of this year.
New beers in the pipeline?
We’re bottling and kegging Hibiscus IPA in September, Stupid Stout in October, not to mention the release of our Bourbon Barrel Aged Stupid Stout later this winter. We will also have some very cool, unique and never-before-seen beers featured during SDBW. You will have to come to the events to find out!
Any specific Beer Week events you are looking forward to?
All of them! We are so grateful for any of our customers to give us the opportunity to feature our beer during such an important time of exposure in the San Diego craft beer scene.
Here are the SDBW events we’ve planned:
Friday November 1st – Regal Beagle
Sunday November 3rd – The Waterfront
Monday November 4th – Queenstown Public House
Tuesday November 5th – Pizza Port Bressi Ranch
Wednesday November 6th – Raglan Public House
Thursday November 7th – JRDN at Tower 23
Friday November 8th – Regal Seagull
Saturday November 9th –Small Bar
Sunday November 10th – Tap Room
Ingrid’s 1 in 8 formally finished up its tour of San Diego with a firkin at Blind Lady Ale House. This version of 1 in 8 was flavored with oak chips soaked in Ballast Point’s Three Sheets Rum. Coronado Brewing Co.’s Rick Chapman, Shawn DeWitt (also VP of the San Diego Brewers Guild), Sean Farrell, Clinton Smith, as well as Ballast Point’s Colby Chandler and Blind Lady’s Mr. and Mrs. Lee Chase were on hand as Ingrid Qua of The High Dive presented a check worth $2800 to Mary Beth of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. This total came from the sale of the kegs; each individual bar is donating between 20-100% of the proceeds.
We’ve had tremendous fun chasing this beer around town. Check out all the photos from this event over on our Facebook.