From the Beer Writer: Whereas most craft fans’ favorite beer style is IPA (not that there’s anything wrong with that…they’re incredible), my favorite beers are Belgian-style farmhouse ales. But wait, like the IPA fan who can tell you they specifically like unfiltered, 7% alcohol-by-volume, tropical-flavored India pale ales dry-hopped with Citra, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin, I too can get way too specific about the types of farmhouse ales (AKA: saisons) I prefer. I like when they are spiked with Brettanomyces and aged in barrels, particularly those which have formerly housed white wine. I prefer Sauvignon Blanc barrels, but I’m not a picky man (despite what everything leading up to this has led you to believe). So, when speaking with local brewer Robert Masterson about future plans he had for his then yet-to-open Resident Brewing, and he told me the first thing he was going to do was get his saison into white-wine barrels so he could start aging it, I tucked that nugget away and started biding my time. It was as if he had intercepted some letter to Santa and, despite my naughty status, decided to bring my beer wish to life. A few weeks ago, that beer, Resident Saison Prestige, made its debut in 750-milliliter bottles, and I went straight to work getting my hands on some. And I’m glad I did, because it is exceptional. Oenophiles will be drawn in by a lustrous bouquet rife with aromas of lemon peel, honeysuckle, pears and grape must, while lovers of farmhouse and sour ales will go gaga for a multifarious yet balanced taste sensation offering up passion fruit, lemongrass, white pepper and oak-borne vanillins with a touch of funk delivered against a textural backdrop that’s medium and slightly creamy, leaving lingering traces of vanilla and kiwi. It’s prestigious enough to live up to its name and available exclusively at Resident’s base of operations, downtown’s The Local Eatery and Watering Hole.
From the Brewery: “Saison Prestige is a barrel-fermented, mixed-fermentation saison aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels. This farmhouse-style ale gets its character from two types of saison yeast, multiple Brettanomyces strains and Lactobacillus. The beer rested in wine barrels for over a year, before being bottled in June 2017. The beer was inspired by a few amazing American farmhouse breweries that have been putting out amazing beers for the past half-decade. We secured some amazing Chardonnay barrels from Chateau Montelena. After the saison picked up their character, we selected the three barrels that had the best-tasting beer inside. We didn’t want to utilize fruit with these killer barrels. Instead, we wanted them to stand out on their own and show San Diego what a wine-barrel and funky, tart saison can taste like without fruit additions.”—Robert Masterson, Head Brewer, Resident Brewing Company
From the Beer Writer: Two years ago, I was told by numerous members of the brewing-industry that pale ales were a dying beer breed. Pale ales are still around, but they are scarcer than they have been in the past and the debate about their long-term viability continues. Most that you find these days are not like pale ales pre-dating 2014—meaning more traditional orange- or copper-colored pale ales with sturdier malt framework balancing out their hop bills. It would seem the pale ale is here to stay, but destined to take a backseat to the ubiquitous and far more popular India pale ale and take on the flavor, aroma and appearance of IPAs. Resident Pio Pico Pale Ale exemplifies the contemporary pale ale. Hopped like an IPA and given depth courtesy of myriad less-imposing malts, it is extremely dry and bursting with hop-appeal. Juicy notes of orange, apricot and pineapple hit first, followed by a touch of pine-like bitterness accompanied by an almost nutty toastiness. At 5.5% alcohol-by-volume, it’s well-suited for a day of sports spectatorship at its place of origin, The Local Eatery and Watering Hole (the parent-company of on-site Resident Brewing Company).
From the Brewer: “Pio Pico Pale Ale is a highly hopped West Coast pale ale featuring a new hop variety called Idaho 7 and a smaller amount of Citra hops. At Resident, we constantly want to test out new hops, and Idaho 7 was towards the top of the list. For this pale ale, the grist contains Canadian two-row, English pale malt, wheat malt and a small amount of Crystal 15. We wanted some wheat malt for extra body and two types of base-malt for some malt complexity. This beer was not filtered or fined, for a medium-bodied American pale ale with big hop punch. Idaho 7 hops brings an orange pithiness, ripe pineapple and some grassiness. Adding a smaller amount of Citra hops brings in a touch more tropical character to the flavor and aroma. We dry-hop Pio Pico with the same amount of hops as our IPAs so the hop aroma climbs out of the glass..”—Robert Masterson, Brewmaster, Resident Brewing Company
I’ll be the first to admit that last week was rough as far as brewery reviews go. Three visits yielded three negative reviews. So it feels rather wonderful to kick this week of West Coaster beer coverage off with a positive review. I recently stopped in at The Local Eatery and Watering Hole (1065 Fourth Avenue, Downtown) to check out the first drafts from its recently debuted onsite fermentation operation, Resident Brewing Company. Brewing operations are led by award-winning homebrewer Robert Masterson. This is his first professional gig, but beer-drinkers nationwide had the chance to taste the fruits of his imagination after he won Stone Brewing’s 2013 homebrewing competition and had he and brewing partner Ryan Reschan’s coconut India pale ale (IPA) released in kegs and bottles under the gargoyle clan’s moniker. But here’s the thing—that was far from an authentic sample of Masterson’s brewing style or prowess.
I worked for Stone when this beer was brewed and released. On brew-day, while interviewing Masterson and Reschan, I tasted the homebrew that took top-honors at the competition and it was outstanding. So much coconut and big, tropical hop flavors. I felt as though I’d been transported to some island paradise. It was that good. Sadly, the beer that was released to the masses was nothing like what I tasted. It can be very difficult to replicate ales and lagers produced on the home-front on a large, industrial brewhouse, so I don’t fault my former colleagues, but the coconut was nearly non-existent and the hop flavors were totally different. The resulting Robert Masterson & Ryan Reschan/Rip Current/Stone R&R Coconut IPA was a great double IPA, but not a coconut IPA.
If you want to taste what I was fortunate enough to sample, now you can. Resident’s Vacation Coconut IPA is now on tap at The Local along with five of Masterson’s other inaugural beers. Vacation brings a lovely bouquet of coconut and cocoa butter. That’s followed up by a beer with just enough bulk to deliver a slightly-sweet punch of toasted coconut oomph along with grassy spice from the hop-bill. It’s a must-try IPA in a county awash with this beer style. An American IPA called Urbanite is also on tap. Coming in at 6.8% alcohol-by-volume (ABV), it is heavy on Mosaic and Amarillo hops. As a result, pine resin notes are at the forefront and remained like tacky sap on the roof of my mouth. Rosemary woodiness and a touch of oniony spice is in there, too.
The hoppiest beer from a bitterness perspective, however, is Hall Pass, a 5.5% ABV pale ale that’s so sharp in its bite that it actually overshadows all other flavor. It’s as if the beer is completely unencumbered by any malted barley, so if you prefer traditional, caramel-touched, English-style pales, this beer is not for you. Masterson admits Hall Pass is too high on the IBU (international bittering units) scale and intends to bring it down next time around. He’s also going to do some work on Loud Mouth, a hoppy amber ale that is definitely hoppy, but not amber (he wanted color versus caramel, but ended up with neither) and far too thin-bodied. It was the only brew I would label a dud of the sextet.
Two of my favorite of Masterson’s offerings were the least hoppy. Perky Blonde has a lot going for it—a subtle sweetness, sparks of banana and lemon, and a subdued bitterness akin to a Pilsner in its finish. It’s not the cookie-cutter, crowd-pleasing light beer most brewpubs offer, which is refreshing. Likewise, Back Alley American porter is not the cookie-cutter, crowd-pleasing dark beer most brewpubs offer. Its nose is all chocolate milk and roasted hazelnuts while the flavor is a balanced blend of cola and medium-roast coffee. It’s a rare crush-able porter, which is perfect for a venue like the Local where many visitors spend hours watching sports.
Next up on Masterson’s brew schedule are an oatmeal stout, Hall Pass 2.0 (he plans on dialing back the IBUs by 10 or so) and a saison brewed with Dupont and French yeast strains. The second brew of the latter will find its way into barrels where it is intended to transform into a tart farmhouse ale. But these beers will only be tapped if they are defect-free. Masterson already dumped the product of one stout when it came out starchy and proved irreparable. That’s to be commended, as are these initial draft offerings from Resident Brewing.
There’s more than meets the eye with The Local Eatery and Drinking Hole’s (1065 Fourth Avenue, Downtown) recent remodel. Shut down for months for a complete overhaul that greatly expanded its footprint while updating its décor and craft beer options, the bar and restaurant reopened in late May. Though not yet complete, there’s another significant element of the revamp that will bring something to downtown San Diego that’s never existed—a Type 23-licensed brewery and tasting room operating within a Type 47 eatery. These State of California-assigned numbers mean little to the layman, but a great deal to the businessmen behind The Local and its work-in-progress Resident Brewing Company.
Before moving on the restaurant expansion, The Local partner James Langley, had been kicking around the idea of getting into the brewing business, having what he considered an ace in the hole, brother-in-law Robert Masterson. A local homebrewer best known for winning Stone Brewing Co.’s 2013 Homebrewing Competition and having he and co-champion Ryan Reschan’s recipe for a coconut-infused India pale ale brewed at the Escondido brewery and distributed across the country, Masterson actually got his start when Langley gifted him with a homebrew kit back in 2009.
Having witnessed his brother-in-law’s progress and prowess, he felt he was ready for the big leagues and wanted to team together. At first, the duo explored brewery locations around San Diego County, focusing on spots in suds-heavy areas like Miramar. In the end, Langley believed the best option was to fold the concept into The Local. Given its name because of its on-site capacity, Resident Brewing is being constructed in an adjoining space The Local crew took over as part of its expansion. Coming in at around 1,700 square feet, its centerpiece is a 10-barrel Premier Stainless brewhouse, funneling house beers into a cellar consisting of three 10-barrel fermenters plus a 20-barrel tank.
The answer to the most obvious question is: yes…the coconut IPA will be brewed at Resident (Stone’s only requirement is that it go by another name). As for the other beers Masterson plans to brew, the answer is many, but he will stay true to his homebrewing tendencies. Up until now, roughly 50% of the beers he has brewed have been hop-forward, so expect various IPAs and ales featuring new and experimental hops. Masterson is also a big fan of Belgian-style farmhouse ales. He plans to explore this style, including oak-aging saisons in wine barrels. As for the opening day lineup, it will likely feature an American blonde ale, hoppy pale and porter. An occasional lager may make its way onto the beer board, too. As a rule, the majority of the beers will be under 7% alcohol-by-volume (ABV), though there will be higher-ABV exceptions.
All of Resident’s beers will be served from an 18-tap bar in the back of The Local. It will operate with its own license, POS system and assigned servers. Such division is required by State law, but thanks to pre-planning and the installation of special systems, it should be very easy for the business to delineate sales and staffing in accordance with California legal requirements. Because of the dual licenses, patrons will be able to order Resident beers in any quantity they desire, from small taster glasses, to pints to growler fills. As a bonus, food will be available from a kitchen that’s visible from a round window to the right of the back bar.
The brewery is similarly on display, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows on the left side of the back bar as well as a windowed exterior looking out onto C Street. But there are interesting components of Masterson’s operation that are less visible, namely a basement’s worth of opportunity. In addition to The Local’s expanded street-level area, ownership benefits from the square-footage of a basement matching the venue’s footprint plus space under the sidewalk on Fourth Avenue. This will allow for plenty of storage, including a mill, keg-washing equipment and a large cold box. In time, an elevator lift will be built to bring ingredients from the sidewalk into the basement in a method similar to those employed in Manhattan. Mechanisms are currently being built to lift brewing ingredients from basement storage to the brewhouse as well.
Masterson expects to begin brewing by July and anticipates serving beer no later than August. Initially, kegs will be split among The Local as well as sister properties The Local PB, Wonderland Ocean Beach and The Rabbit Hole. All three are operated by Brendan Huffman and Mina Desiderio, Langley’s business partners in the Local/Resident project. No packaging of beer is anticipated until at least six months out, but Resident expects to produce between 500 and 1,000 barrels of beer in its first year, and 1,000-1,500 barrels over the following 12 months.