It’s commonplace in San Diego to walk into a brewery tasting room and find multiple India pale ales augmented by little more than a wheat beer and stout. Hoppy beers are the money-makers, after all. In 2016, IPAs accounted for 76.4% of total sales at grocery and convenience stores (according to scan data compiled by market-research company IRI). It makes sense that brewing companies lead with IPAs and stay mostly within the box where non-hoppy stock is concerned, which makes it all the more admirable when brewers dare to buck convention and instead follow their personal tastes and passions. I recently visited such an interest, Battlemage Brewing (2870 Scott Street, #102, Vista), where the beer menu looked like something from an entirely different realm…thanks only in part to the fact the place is essentially an RPG game room replete in fantasy regalia.
Established by gaming enthusiasts (who also brewed at Ballast Point Brewing before opening their own venture), Battlemage is the perfect setting for your next D&D session, but the real otherworldliness comes from a list of libations unlike any in the county. While there are two IPAs, standard and hazy (of course), and an extra pale ale that’s Northeastern in composition (gotta pay them bills), Battlemage also offers a dark mild, old ale, hoppy amber, coffee milk stout and two versions of a white ale (neither of which is a white ale) and even a beer that lists three question marks as its style descriptor. That’s as exotic as an aasimar druid decked out in a suit of armor. And it makes for an enjoyable day of drinking for someone who appreciates all styles versus merely those which are popular, particularly because many of Battlemage’s offerings are rather well crafted.
The aforementioned Divine Light white ale is a blonde ale and lager hybrid that’s well-attenuated and easy to drink. Those qualities help a version of that beer infused with blackberries and coffee show off its added ingredients, but honestly, the base beer is more enjoyable on its own. Muradin’s Mild is complex in its overall profile, with fruity and bready notes as well as low-grade, coffee-like roastiness. The Beer is Dark and Full of Caffeine (a contender for Best Beer Name) coffee milk stout is smooth with notes of nutty java and cola. And the hoppy amber ale, Summon Ifrit, presents big evergreen notes against a super-dry, biscuity canvas.
For all of my excitement over finding rarer styles, I have to admit that the hazy Chaotic Evil extra pale ale and non-murky Hopdouken IPA were two of my favorites from Battlemage. The former was reminiscent of orangeade with muted bitterness and only slightly bumped-up viscosity, while the IPA was super-clean with a mimosa-like character. My other top-scoring beer of the day couldn’t have been more different. It was Hooded Assassin, an English-style old ale that, though young and coming in at a whopping 10% alcohol-by-volume, was extremely drinkable, coming across with notes of red fruit, vanilla and banana, plus a touch of peppery spice in the finish. Hopefully they’re sitting on a keg or two of this gentle giant for unearthing at a later date.
You don’t have to be into role-playing games to enjoy Battlemage. Admittedly, it helps, but the beer is both good and very affordable (tasters are $1.50 or you can get get a flight of five for just $5), plus there’s a separate room with a Foosball table. Bottom line, you needn’t be a level 20 paladin to appreciate this new North County brewery.
Tags: #SDBeer, Ballast Point Brewing Company, battlemage, battlemage brewing, beer, beer touring, Brandon Hernández, chaotic evil, craft beer, d&d, divine light, foosball, hazy ipa, hopdouken, independent beer, india pale ale, indiebeer, IPA, iri, milk stout, north county, northeast ipa, old ale, role-playing, rpg, san diego, scan data, scott street, the beer is dark and full of caffeine, Vista, west coaster, white ale
You can scarcely throw a 100-sided die in Vista without hitting a brewery, and come the weekend of May 6, two guys used to utilizing that role-playing game tool will debut the latest entrant into that sudsy community—Battlemage Brewing Company (2870 Scott Street, Suite 102, Vista). Best friends and fermentationists Ryan Sather and Chris Barry named their interest after a hybrid class from a game they’ve been playing for the past 20 years: D&D (Dungeons and Dragons, non-RPGers). Sather has spent the three years working at Home Brew Mart. Barry’s Ballast Point Brewing experience is a bit shorter—he’s been there the past year after moving on from managing Mother Earth Brew Co.’s homebrew shop. In opening Battlemage, they are going from advising people on brewing to doing it themselves on a professional scale.
As far as the beers they brew on their five-barrel system, they’re not limiting themselves. Both have medaled in a plethora of categories as homebrewers—IPAs and wide-ranging American, Belgian, English and German styles. The duo expects to offer traditional styles as well as classic styles given twists that make then “truly magical.” A white ale that comes across as a light-hopped blonde ale with the drinkability of a lager will share beer-board space with a aromatically hoppy American amber and a variety of IPAs because, as Sather says, it wouldn’t be San Diego without them. When Battlemage’s doors open, 8 to 10 beers will be on tap. Initial kettle sours will give way to future barrel-aged sour ales, as well. They hope to have a bottle release or two at some point and can once they have the funds to do so, but for now, draft is the name of their game.
The tasting room is designed so customers feel as if they are entering a medieval castle. Weapons and mystical creatures will grace the walls in the smallish space. Sather says he and Barry intend to embrace their nerdy side by putting on a variety of different gaming nights, ranging from fantasy to classic D&D. An event where the comic-book artist who developed Battlemage’s logo teaches patrons how to draw dragons and other graphic delights is under development. Also in the works is a collaboration with the distillery two doors down, Henebery Spirits, where Battlemage will age beers in used barrels, while the distillers will age whiskey in those same barrels once the beer is drained from them.
Tags: #SDBeer, Ballast Point Brewing Company, battlemage, battlemage brewing, beer, Brandon Hernández, chris barry, craftbeer, d&d, dungeons and dragons, henebery spirits, Home Brew Mart, indiebeer, IPA, mother earth brew, north county, role-playing game, rpg, ryan sather, san diego, scott street, Vista, west coaster, whiskey