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Posts Tagged San Marcos

Beer of the Week: Mason / Offshoot Zero Moustafa IPA

Jan 5

Zero Moustafa, a “zero IBU” IPA made by San Marcos’ Mason Ale Works in collaboration with Offshoot Beer Co.

From the Beer Writer: Once upon a time, the term “hoppy” simply meant “bitter,” and all craft-beer fans seemed to want was hoppy IPAs. These days, imbibers still crave hoppy IPAs, but the term has come to mean so much more, referring to the more nuanced aromatic and flavor features that hops bring to the table. Craft enthusiasts want to dissect hop bills and get the most vibrant tropical, citrus, herbal, floral and spice characteristics from each varietal. But the bitterness…not so much. This shift in tastes really picked up steam when hazy, Northeast-style IPAs bringing on oodles of the aforementioned hop attributes with nary any bitterness burst onto the scene. Recently a company specializing in haze-craze-appropriate ales, Offshoot Beer Co. (an offshoot of Orange County’s The Bruery) collaborated with North San Diego County’s Mason Ale Works to create an IPA so low in bitterness they call it “zero IBU.” The acronym stands for international bittering units, the measurement by which beers’ bitterness is calculated. In doing so, the brewers added zero hops during the brewing process. Ditto flaked oats, wheat and other haze-inducing ingredients, so the finished product, Mason / Offshoot Zero Moustafa IPA, is a traditional, clear IPA. The experiment makes good on its promise to present myriad hop flavors undeterred by even a hint of bitterness. It really is a mind-blowing experience; enough so that anybody who is into hops should try it, even if as an everyday beer (which it definitely is not) it comes up a bit short. There isn’t enough body for IPA lovers, but this beer will do its best work as a “gateway” beer for those who are scared off by the aggressive nature of IBU-laden IPAs or think of hops solely as bite-you-back botanicals. I can easily envision lupulin-averse blonde and wheat ale drinkers having a-ha moments care of this creation.

From the Brewery: “I’ve got to give a ton of credit to Eagle Rock Brewery co-owner Ting Su, who came to [Mason Ale Works head brewer] Matt Webster with the idea for this beer up at the Craft Beer Summit in Sacramento last year. Matt and I were both very intrigued. It sounded like a challenge: a beer that can be just as juicy as a hazy IPA, but without all the yeast particulate. We did a pale ale first as a collab with Eagle Rock and were intrigued by the results, but we wanted to turn things up a notch. So Zero Moustafa was formulated at the Great American Beer Festival with Andrew Bell and Patrick Rue from Offshoot Beer Co. over some drinks. We talked as much about brewing theory as anything else; there’s a lot about timing and temperature that make this beer what it is. Patrick mentioned that they were running some in-house experiments with terpenes to accentuate certain flavors and aromas. So we messed around with some grapefruit and citrus terpenes in this beer until we got it just right. The finished product is a trip. The nose is huge (especially as it warms) with big orange, grapefruit and lemon as well as a touch of pine. The body is on the lighter side of the spectrum which makes it super crushable at 7% alcohol-by-volume. I think brewers will appreciate the challenge of making a beer like this while craft fans will like the ‘juice.'”—Grant Tondro, Co-owner, Mason Ale Works

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2017 closed out with two North County brewery closures

Jan 2

Shortly before the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, a Vista-based brewery announced it was closing its doors forever. Earlier in the day, SpecHops Brewing Company (an operation reviewed by West Coaster just three weeks ago) announced via social media that December 31 would be its last day in business. That post cited the company had been active since 2010, however, it wasn’t until last spring that it opened its location at 1280 Activity Drive. Though the operation aimed to pay homage to military veterans as well as public-service professionals, the web-based platform it set up for that purpose is inactive. SpecHops opened with an impressive brewhouse that will surely be coveted by current and aspiring brewery owners.

SpecHops’ departure came less than a week after another North County fermentation interest announced its farewell. Charles Perkins posted a Facebook message communicating his decision to close his Kuracali Beer & Sake Brewery. Based in San Marcos, that business opened roughly three years ago and was San Diego County’s first-ever sake producer.

Perkins started building Kuracali in 2012. It took him two years to complete the dual brewing components and he opened his doors in 2014. He says it was an enjoyable and rewarding experience serving people and turning them on to sake, but in the end, his location was off the beaten path. This led to insufficient patronage and lack of required revenue to stay in the black. When his lease expired last month and it was time to resign or vacate, he chose the latter. Perkins says he hopes to reopen at a more strategically situated location sometime in the future, but that it will require investment from an outside party. Interested parties can reach Perkins here.

SpecHops and Kuracali both closing the final week of 2017 punctuate something of a new normal. For a decade, new breweries have opened in San Diego County in increasingly large droves, but few closed. A total of eight local breweries closed last year. While most had been open for years, such as Offbeat Brewing, On The Tracks BreweryLa Jolla Brewing, The Beer Co. (which indicated it will reopen) and Magnetic Brewing, one, Wiseguy Brewing, has something in common with SpecHops. It was open less than a year before shuttering. Additionally, several are for sale, most notably Helm’s Brewing, Intergalactic Brewing and Finest Made Ales.

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2017 Recap: Beers of the Week

Dec 22

Each week, I feature a locally produced beer that is special from one of numerous standpoints. Sometimes it’s an anniversary beer, other times I go with collaborations. The draw of something unique often piques my interest, then there are times when a beer just tastes outstanding. But the basic plan of action is to highlight quality ales and lagers from around the county without featuring the same brewery twice during a single calendar year. This year, I decided to list all of the weekly standouts and rank them. In order to best do this, I broke them into categories (apples-to-apples versus triple-IPA-to-cream-ale). As one would expect from a beat this drenched in hop oil, IPAs of all ilks were featured most often, but there were plenty of lagers, Belgian-style ales, stouts and other concoctions. All were good, but some were outstanding enough that they should be recognized here.

Alpine HFS India Pale Ale

IPAs

A collaboratively brewed Nelson Lager from Dos Desperados Brewery and Prodigy Brewing Company

Lagers

  • Nelson Lager, Dos Desperados Brewery & Prodigy Brewing, San Marcos: This wasn’t just one of the best lagers I had all year, it was one of the best beers overall; crisp, clean and bursting with Nelson Sauvin character.
  • Natural Bridge Festbier, Eppig Brewing, North Park: This is a beer so well-crafted, true-to-style and absolutely perfect for everyday consumption that I find myself thinking about it just about every day.
  • Herd of Turtles Baltic Porter, Bagby Beer Co., Oceanside: With so few Baltic-style porters in the county, they could have passed any dark lager off as one, but of course, this standout operation aced it.
  • Bird Park Bohemian Pilsner, North Park Beer Co., North Park
  • Helles Yeah! Helles, Division 23 Brewing, Miramar
  • Ragnabock Doppelbock, Longship Brewing, Mira Mesa
  • Sea Señor Mexican Lager, SouthNorte Brewing, Coronado

Origin of Shame from The Lost Abbey

Belgian-style Ales

Bear Cookie Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout seved on nitro at Vista’s Bear Roots Brewing

Stouts

Hop Slap’d #5 American Pale Ale from New English Brewing

Other Styles

* Author’s Note: This year, Nickel Beer Co. had two Beer of the Week features due to the untimely passing of local publican Larry Koger, for whom owner and business partner Tom Nickel brewed a commemorative beer. It was a good reason to break policy.

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2017 Recap: Best San Diego County Breweries

Dec 21

What are the best craft breweries in San Diego County? I get asked that all the time. When people pose that question, it’s usually because they’re visiting, so I tailor my response around the types of beers they enjoy, where they’re staying, if they have transportation, etc. But when I take stock for the purposes of an end-of-year article, I impose a different set of criteria. I begin by removing Big Beer-owned interests (it’s simply a different playing field, monetarily, than independent operations), then examine the make-up and, foremost, the overall quality of each brewery’s portfolio of beers. Is this the perfect formula? Probably not, but now you know where I’m coming from. Will my list match yours? Probably not, but that’s OK! Let us know your list in the comments. The wonderful truth is that there are many outstanding breweries in San Diego County, and a list of 15 only scratches the top layer of foam.

Alpine Beer Co.

Gold Tier

Alpine Beer Co. | Alpine: A small brewery in an unincorporated town on the fringe of our county didn’t become a nationally respected cult-favorite by accident. This house built by hops continues to churn out largely hoppy stock worthy of coveting. More impressive, it’s keeping its street cred intact post-acquisition, something only good beer can accomplish.

Bagby Beer Co. | Oceanside: The sheer volume of beer produced and consistently on-tap is impressive, but the fact all of it is so traditionally to-spec and worthy of praise (as proven by an always-growing collection of Great American Beer Festival medals) is rather incredible. No place spends more time making unsexy styles utterly desirable.

Pizza Port | Bressi Ranch, Carlsbad, Ocean Beach & Solana Beach: To have one brewpub pumping out high quality beers across styles like any of Pizza Port’s do would be a big deal. To have four in a single county (plus another in San Clemente) and remain consistent year in and year out for the better part of three decades is the basis for legend status.

Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey / The Hop Concept | San Marcos & Cardiff by the Sea: No local tasting room offers as many expertly executed and variedly challenging beers as this triple-threat simultaneously focusing on West Coast IPAs, Belgian-inspired ales and barrel-aged everything. Even the occasional bottling hiccup barely detracts from feats accomplished here on an everyday basis.

Societe Brewing | Kearny Mesa: Batch-to-batch consistency across varied ales and lagers—hoppy, session, Belgians, stouts—and an expert level of balance and drinkability that even extends to wine-barrel-aged offerings keeps beer fans and brewers alike coming back to this living tribute to the quality and community of the San Diego beer scene. Disclaimer: I work for this company.

North Park Beer Co.

Silver Tier

AleSmith Brewing | Miramar: From English session beers to high-octane Belgian, Scotch and coffee-infused juggernauts, this veteran continues to make flawless time-tested beers, but recent additions have been a mixed bag. A new pilsner is spectacular, a gimmick Mexican lager is blah, an extract orange pale is disappointing and the flagship IPA could use a youthful sibling.

Fall Brewing | North Park: The brewing team has experienced more than its fair share of fluctuation over the years, but through it all, its recipes and process remain sound. Stop in anytime, order a beer and you’re bound to encounter something both flavorful and refreshing, registering somewhere between very good and where-you-been-all-my-life status.

New English Brewing Company | Sorrento Valley: Consistently one of the most underrated local breweries, this one knocks it out of the park on the English ale front. That’s to be expected, but New World IPAs, the occasional Belgian beer and barrel-aged beers taste lovely. They have the best cask beer in town, too. (But, personally, I’d lose the Blueberry Blonde.)

North Park Beer Co. | North Park: Captivating the masses with largely session, internationally-inspired beers can be hard to do in the county’s hipster capital, but it’s been accomplished in spades at this two-story hub for members of the Finer Things Club. Consistency is up in Year Two and it’s been nice to see chances taken with occasional collaborative creations.

Second Chance Beer Co. | Carmel Mountain & North Park: Not a lot is flashy about this company’s beers, and not because of stringent traditionalism. They actually tend to veer slightly away from the norm. It would seem balance is the brewmaster’s chief aim, and he achieves it big-time as proven by devout patronage and big beer-competition wins.

Burning Beard Brewing

Bronze Tier

Benchmark Brewing | Grantville & Bay Park: This place is all about “beer-flavored beer,” and if that’s what you prefer—straightforward ales made for everyday drinking—you’ll seldom be disappointed here. It would be nice to see new beers come along more often, but limited focus has led to arguably the best table beer, brown ale and oatmeal stout in town.

Burning Beard Brewing | El Cajon: A blending of punk-rock bravado and respect for the classics has resulted in a unique brewery offering delicious beers both New and Old World in nature. There are plenty of hop-heavy numbers to choose from, but Belgian-style ales and a crowd-favorite pilsner diversify this company’s offerings and cement its cut-above reputation.

Eppig Brewing | North Park: The lagers produced at this Brewery Igniter standout are of the highest grade. They make up only one third of the beers on the board, sharing space with IPAs, kettle sours and a rogue’s gallery of outliers. All are enjoyable even if some have room for improvement, but this business is just one year old and well ahead of the game.

Karl Strauss Brewing | Pacific Beach, 4S Ranch, Carlsbad, La Jolla & Little Italy: Many regions have elder-statesman fixtures like this. They’re old, boring and averse to change. This business is not. It actively works to remain current and relevant, and has succeeded at that. Its brewpubs produce creations of varied quality, but their overall track record is impressive.

Rip Current Brewing | San Marcos & North Park: This company’s love of seemingly all of the world’s beers (despite trendiness or marketability) makes for one of the most diverse beer boards in San Diego. Batch-to-batch consistency suffers sometimes, but they regularly do right by locales and artisanal heritages seldom celebrated by others in the local beer community.

Author’s Note: Breweries in each tier are presented alphabetically.

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2017 Recap: Best New San Diego County Breweries

Dec 19

This year saw more new-brewery openings than any in San Diego County’s history. Happily, in this reporter’s opinion, more of them were of good quality than in year’s past. Enough that whittling down a list of the top half-dozen was extremely difficult, and ranking that sextet even harder. At least three breweries were on the bubble for the last spot, so if you’re using this as any sort of guide to the good stuff, don’t feel encouraged to limit your brewery touring to these selections. These are just your best bets based on the opinion of one well-researched individual. In that spirit, feel free to leave comments about any exceptional new breweries you’ve discovered over the past 12 months in the comments section. (Author’s Note: Breweries marked with an asterisk opened in 2016, but too late to be considered for the list of best new breweries for that calendar year.)

Eppig Brewing * | North Park: Nathan Stephens and Clayton LeBlanc, the duo producing the beers at this Brewery Igniter standout have a tasting room exhibiting the variety of the Little Italy outpost of their previous employers, Ballast Point Brewing. That’s saying something, especially since brewing days there resemble a game of life-sized Tetris. Still, some of the finest, most consistent lagers, plus an array of nice hoppy and even sour ales provide glimpses of what seems a very bright future for this reincarnation of a nineteenth-century family fermentation business.

Wild Barrel Brewing | San Marcos: Beer fans everywhere couldn’t help but wonder how well infinitely popular ale-and-lager expert “Dr.” Bill Sysak would fare as a brewery owner. Commenting on beer is one thing, but manufacturing it is a different game entirely. With the help of head brewer Bill Sobieski, he’s fared extremely well, hitting the ground running this fall with quality IPAs, an effective entry-level witbier and a brilliant coffee stout. Throw in a stellar tasting room complete with a gargantuan barrel at its center, and you have something special.

Burgeon Beer Co.

Burgeon Beer Co. * | Carlsbad: After gaining experience at Stone Brewing, Rough Draft Brewing and Back Street Brewery, Anthony Tallman united with long-time friends to forge his own business, and it’s been going strong since day one. Built around a smart, modern-day business model combining outside keg sales with regular in-house can releases, this newcomer has built a solid following around an array of multi-faceted IPAs and dark beers. No trend is off limits for them. That said, they’re at their best when they stay true to tradition.

Pariah Brewing | North Park: Some say this Prince-ly purple, dungeon-esque Brewery Igniter spot is no place for beer purists, and while it’s true that Stone and Helm’s Brewing alum Brian Mitchell specializes in beers that go outside the box by incorporating an array of flavorful adjuncts as simple as coffee and orange peel to as oddball as fenugreek and uni (yes, sea urchin), there are to-style gems like Indie Or Bust IPA. But this place is geared to adventurous drinkers and provides an impressive departure from the everyday, even in a town soaked in beer.

Battlemage Brewing | Vista: Role-playing game enthusiasts got a brewery playing to their passions when yet another former Ballast Point duo, Ryan Sather and Chris Barry, teamed to open this testament to the communal power of beers and broadswords. It’s become an ideal backdrop for fans of RPG and tabletop enterprises, but you don’t have to know the difference between a Halfling and a half-orc to appreciate the beers, which flow into rarely charted territory (dark mild, old ale) and come across clean and tasty. Perfect sustenance for a lengthy campaign.

Black Plague Brewing | Oceanside: An operation that looked like it might veer off course at the onset of its journey steered its way into veteran leadership when it contracted former AleSmith Brewing and Mikkeller Brewing San Diego brewer Bill Batten to assist with its fermentation operations. The resulting line-up of beers, including multi-fruited takes on an IPA that’s best on its own, plus myriad other styles, is fun and highly drinkable. The name, plague-doctor motif and black-walled tasting room are strange, but the beer provides a guiding light.

This Year’s Other Contenders: Align Brewing (Miramar), Alta Brewing (Barrio Logan), Chula Vista Brewery (Chula Vista), Circle 9 Brewing (Kearny Mesa), Ebullition Brew Works (Vista), Escondido Brewing (Escondido), Jacked Up Brewing (Escondido), Knotty Brewing * (East Village), OB Brewery * (Ocean Beach), Protector Brewery (Miramar), Rouleur Brewing (Carlsbad), Smoking Cannon Brewery (Ramona), SpecHops Brewing (Vista), SR76 Beerworks (Valley Center), Thunderhawk Alements * (Miramar), Viewpoint Brewing (Del Mar)

Maybe Next Year (Late Additions): California Wild Ales (Sorrento Valley), Deft Brewing (Bay Park), Horus Aged Ales (Oceanside), Northern Pine Brewing (Oceanside), Oeuvre Artisan Ales (Miramar), Savagewood Brewing (Scripps Ranch)

Previous Top-Ranked New Breweries

2016: Burning Beard Brewing (El Cajon), North Park Beer Co. (North Park), Resident Brewing (Downtown), Pure Project Brewing (Miramar), Bear Roots Brewing (Vista), Bitter Brothers Brewing (Bay Ho)

2015: Fall Brewing (North Park), Second Chance Beer Co. (Carmel Mountain), South Park Brewing (South Park), Abnormal Beer Co. (Rancho Bernardo), Duck Foot Brewing (Miramar)

2014: Bagby Beer Co. (Oceanside), Nickel Beer Co. (Julian), Council Brewing (Kearny Mesa), URBN St. Brewing (El Cajon), Toolbox Brewing (Vista)

2013: Rip Current Brewing (San Marcos), Benchmark Brewing (Grantville), Amplified Ale Works (Pacific Beach), Belching Beaver Brewery (Vista), Modern Times Beer (Point Loma)

2012: Societe Brewing (Kearny Mesa), Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery (East Village), Latitude 33 Brewing (Vista)

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