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Posts Tagged Saison

Meet Viewpoint Brewing Company

Feb 13

Sometimes brewery leads come from the most unexpected sources. I was at a white-linen restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe recently, when a young chef emerged from the kitchen to explain a complex and delicious clam and pork belly appetizer to me. After doing so, he said he knew I wrote about beer and thought I should talk to a friend of his who was in the midst of opening a brewery in Del Mar. I asked him if he was referring to Viewpoint Brewing Company. He replied in the affirmative and, a few days later, the three of us were chatting about this work-in-progress brewpub over a few beers.

Viewpoint is a chef-driven brainchild of Charles Koll, who went to culinary school in Colorado and cooked in San Francisco, before returning home to San Diego, where he worked at Mille Fleurs and Prepkitchen. It was at Mille Fleurs that he took up the hobby of homebrewing and befriended co-worker Gunnar Planter, the toque-slash-informant I met over clams and pork-belly. But Planter’s no longer at the restaurant where we met. He resigned shortly after to become executive chef at Viewpoint, where he’ll work with Koll to come up with a menu of seasonally driven dishes that are casual in composition yet exhibit culinary skill.

The project-site for Viewpoint Brewing as it stood when photographed in 2015

Viewpoint has been in the works for more than two years, but is on-track to open this spring. Those who follow San Diego’s beer scene may recognize the operation under its original handle, Vigilante Brewing Company. Located at 2201 San Dieguito Drive along the San Dieguito Lagoon just south of Jimmy Durante Boulevard, it will be Del Mar’s first brewery. The space’s interior space comes in at 4,500 square feet with an additional 2,500 square feet of exterior area that will be outfitted with various seating options, including fire-pit tables.

One-third of the facility will be devoted to beer-manufacturing. Viewpoint is equipped with a 15-barrel brewing system, four 15-barrel fermenters and a pair of 15-barrel bright-beer tanks. Koll will be focused on brewing and intends to strive for drinkability above all else. His core line-up will include both a Kölsch and saison, and he intends to add indigenous edible plants during the brewing process to develop a terroir of sorts. Flights of the beers will be available in tandem with flights of paired bites, creating a unique feature among local brewpubs.

Koll says the building he took over left a lot to be desire. In his words, he’s working to convert an eyesore into something useful and cool. To that end, he is installing bocce ball courts, trellises lined with hop-bines, porch swings and other family-friendly elements. The current estimate for Viewpoint’s debut is April 1. (No foolin’!)

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SR76’s unique brewery model

Feb 7

Brian Scott is living a brewer’s dream. After a lengthy career including stints at Firehouse Brewing Co., Mission Brewery and Karl Strauss Brewing Co., he is calling the shots as the head of SR76. That brewing interest is owned by the economic development arm of the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians and installed within the master-structure of Harrah’s Southern California Resort (777 Harrah’s Rincon Way, Valley Center). It’s the first brewery of its kind in the county and, given its business efficiencies, Scott and his associates see it as a duplicatable model, both locally and abroad.

From a brewing perspective, Scott cites numerous advantages at his inland North County anomaly. Chief among them is having his biggest customer—the resort—right next door. Rather than distribute product across or outside San Diego County, Scott can focus all of his attention on close-knit colleagues, meaning he can maintain first-hand quality control regarding beers and the lines they are dispensed through, and help the resort trouble-shoot and repair any problems that come about. SR76’s beers are available at the resort’s family of bars and restaurants, which go through enough kegs that there is currently no need to explore selling product to outside accounts. Additionally, the resort selecting the beers that fill out the rest of its taps and fridges, allows for control of competing brands.

Even so, Scott is not looking to go head-to-head with big boys like Ballast Point, Stone or Green Flash. He doesn’t even brew an IPA. Instead, he’s aiming for approachability and producing a line of session beers that will be compatible with the tastes of the resort’s diverse—and largely new-to-craft—clientele. The way he sees it, having his beers predominantly featured at a resort with the size and scope of Harrah’s allows him to touch tons of people other craft breweries have little or no access to, so he doesn’t want to lose them with massive bitterness, big-alcohol or outlandish adjuncts. As such, SR76’s current quartet of core beers consists of a German-style wheat beer featuring traditional notes of banana and clove, a light-bodied Kölsch, and pale ale built to scratch the IPA itch care of Mosaic hops and 70 IBUs (international bittering units). His most avant-garde offering might actually be the best shot at converting oenophiles and the beer-averse. Dubbed Supul (translating to “one”, signifying it being the first beer brewed by SR76), it’s a sub-4% alcohol-by-volume saison that, with floral notes of violet, lavender and honeysuckle, comes across like the ale-equivalent of viognier. The body of this beer, as well as that of the wheat and Kölsch, is thin by traditional standards, but that may be advantageous once temperatures reach the extremes that are the norm during Valley Center summers.

SR76’s tasting room at Harrah’s Southern California Resort

SR76’s tasting room is in a separate ground-floor structure across from the hotel’s main entrance. A condition of the business’ manufacturing license dictates that it can’t be connected to Harrah’s, but Scott sees advantages there, as well, stating that it renders his sampling space as an “oasis” of sorts. While the casino and hotel pool-area are typically high-energy, loud and even a bit raucous (particularly during the sunny season), SR76 is lounge-like with its bevy of comfortable seating options and lack of gaming or TVs. Most of the customers who venture there are looking for beer, a break or both. Like most local tasting rooms, beers are sold below at-large prices, which was important to Scott, who wants a visit to the source to be as authentic as any other. The smell of steeping grains on brew-days really helps hammer that home. Another bonus: guests are allowed to bring food in from the resort’s plethora of dining spots.

A prime reason the tribe opted to get into the brewing business was to be able to spotlight San Diego’s brewing culture while keeping beer-seekers on property. Harrah’s has historically been a key supporter of the San Diego Brewers Guild by sponsoring the Rhythm and Brews Music and Craft Beer Festival, and putting on its own Hop Heads and Dreads Craft Beer and Reggae Festival. By constructing a brewery, the resort now has increased ability to put on large-scale events, and they are exploring ways in which to do so.

Thus far, SR76 is performing to tribal expectations, albeit during the slow-season for tourism and beer-consumption. Time and data collected during peak months will tell the true tale, but if the operation is successful, the SR76 team sees this as a model that can be duplicated at resorts throughout Southern California and beyond—citing Northern California, Arizona, Oklahoma and North Carolina as potential regions for on-property brewery infusion.

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Beer of the Week: Council Beátitude Boysenberry

Jan 6

Council Brewing’s Béatitude Boysenberry imperial tart saison aged in bourbon barrels

From the Beer Writer: Few are the fruits that haven’t made it into the sour fruit of Council Brewing Company‘s labor care of its ever-changing line-up of tart saisons. One that was particularly successful gained its assertive flavor character from boysenberries. It was such a fruitful addition to the beer-board that head brewer Liz Chism decided to not just bring it back, but employ oak-barrel maturation when doing so. Enter Council Béatitude Boysenberry, an imperialized (i.e., higher-alcohol) version of the beer that spent several months in bourbon whiskey barrels. Though the beer is over double the strength of its progenitor and is big on acidity, it drinks smooth and easy. Its bouquet reminds me of wine grapes at first sniff, with an interesting PB&J quality arising upon further analysis. On the tongue, the beer conveys fruit-forward flavors that remind me of home-made boysenberry pie filling minus the sugar. There is a touch of sweetness and very slight traces of vanillins from the oak, and they round out the dessert-like qualities, but the wood-character blends in instead of taking over, leaving an earthiness behind that tastes delightfully like the seeds of fresh boysenberries. It’s a winner that’s currently available in limited supply exclusively at Council’s Kearny Mesa tasting room.

From the Brewer: “This beer was inspired through our Employee R&D program when our beertender, Candice Dowell, aged her favorite fruit, boysenberries, along with toasted American oak in the base-beer for Béatitude. We only made five gallons of this R&D keg and it didn’t last long. The flavor combination complemented the tart base-beer perfectly. As soon as I tasted it, I knew I wanted to build off Candi’s idea, and Imperial Béatitude Boysenberry was born. The original beer was only about 4% alcohol-by-volume. We decided this beer needed to be aged in Heaven Hill bourbon whiskey barrels, and 4% is rather low for barrel-aging, so we amped the malt bill up on this beer to 9.7% to stand up to the extended barrel-aging, and pitched our house Brettanomyces and lactobacillus ‘magic slurry’ culture. This, along with the intensely tart boysenberries, resulted in a beer that has much more perceived acidity than the typical beers in our Béatitude series. The deep red color from the fruit and the intense sourness makes this beer come across as much more of a sour red or Flanders-style red ale than a saison.”—Liz Chism, Head Brewer/Owner, Council Brewing Company

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Beer of the Week: PB AleHouse Slomo Saison

Sep 23
Pacific Beach AleHouse SlowMo Saison

Pacific Beach AleHouse SlowMo Saison

From the Beer Writer: In spite of strides being made where craft-beer selection and availability is concerned, Pacific Beach is not one of the first places I think about when I’m thirsty for local ales. The fact I just turned 40 is probably another reason it’s not on the short-list of communities I frequent. But every now and then the allure of sun, sand and good old-fashioned beach-bar fun inspires a visit. During my most recent return to the area, I made a point to do something that was far overdue—visit Pacific Beach AleHouse. A fire caused the venue to close down in 2015. During the down-time, management decided to renovate the venue and, on the brewery-side, their brewer left to pursue another project, making way for local Jonathon Reilly to take the reins. After taking a seat on the shaded second-story sky-deck, I made my way through tasters of the five house-beers. As is wise for a place like PB AleHouse that caters mostly to less craft-enthused imbibers, there was a mild lager, blonde and red ale, but I was most impressed by PB AleHouse Slomo Saison. It had nice bubble-gum and floral notes on the nose followed by good orange-like citrus character on the palate. And at 4.5% alcohol-by-volume, it’s just right for waiting out a sunset over the Pacific Ocean…or making it through four quarters of football if you’re a Bills fan. The night I was there, the place was packed with wing-eating, jersey-clad fans who, even though their team lost that night, still had to be elated to be beach-adjacent rather than preparing for another punishing Buffalo winter.

From the Brewer: “Brewing the saison here at the beach, I was following a common idea of having a light and approachable beer in the sun. Knowing wit, wheats and hefeweizens rounded out this idea as well. I wanted to create something that could run between those characteristics. Using local White Labs Belgium Saison III yeast and a simple base-malt gave me the ability to maintain a light and bright beer, and still get some interesting phenolics. The inclusion of wildflower honey and Hersbrucker hops provided a nice, spicy and floral aroma. This beer is notably named after our local hero Slomo. To make a long story short, he was a well-to-do doctor, who gave up his job and lifestyle to pursue a happier and simpler one. He is most commonly known locally for his unique ‘slow-motion’ stance while rollerskating down the boardwalk, just steps from PB Alehouse.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that my fiancé came up with the name.”—Jonathan Reilly, Brewer, Pacific Beach AleHouse

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Thunderhawk Alements now open in Miramar

Sep 19

thunderhawk_logoFor more than a year-and-a-half, a sign visible to drivers on Miralani Drive proclaimed the 2015 opening of a new brewery. 2015 came and went, then the first eight months of 2016 elapsed—but that brewery’s doors remained closed to the public. Beer geeks wondered, beer journalists inquired—it seemed this operation might be doomed to fade away before ever pouring a beer. And that seemed a shame considering the nice and clearly beloved folks behind the business, which was partially crowd-funded by people who believed in ownership. Then, this weekend, it finally happened: Thunderhawk Alements (8675 Miralani Drive, #100, Miramar) soft-opened over the weekend.

Co-founder Jon Barbarin says a number of TTB delays and many sleepless nights preceded their unannounced debut, but seeing word-of-mouth and insider-alerts fill Thunderhawk’s tasting room Saturday and Sunday, probably helped give him a shot in the arm.

Thunderhawk’s bar is equipped with 14 taps, and opened with seven of them pouring the following:

  • Electric Youth: A coffee pale ale that I sampled a prototype of and very much enjoyed.
  • Liberty’s Teeth: A cascade-hopped British-style extra special bitter (ESB).
  • Torreyana: A “San Diego-style” saison brewed with locally sourced honey, ginger and Torrey Pine needles, fermented on American oak chips.
  • Over There: A dunkelweizen brewed with European-sourced malts.
  • Westworld: A pale ale brewed with Cascade and Chinook hops.
  • Planet Rock: Another pale ale hopped with Amarillo and Simcoe.
  • Sun Zener: Yet another pale ale, this one given citrus and melon character care of Citra and Mosaic hops.

Thunderhawk’s bar-top is forged from a 31-foot live-edge California Redwood, and the overall thematic is described as “western-slash-Americana”. Barbarin and company sourced a collection of 1950s copper relief pieces portraying the Old West and installed light fixtures from antique plates and bowls made of that same metal. A full 1,300-square-feet of public-space is offered on an outdoor patio. Ownership plans to install TVs out there for the purpose of showing local sports events and soccer matches.

For now, Thunderhawk Alements will be open Saturdays, 12 to 10 p.m. and Sundays, 12 to 8 p.m. Additional days of operation will be added as they are able, starting with Friday, but there is no separation from the brewhouse to the tasting-room, so production will sometimes prohibit the business from being open to visitors. The owners also hope to work with other Miralani businesses such as 2kids Brewing Company and Setting Sun Sake Brewing Company to hold events displaying the wealth of craftsmanship in the immediate area.

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