The status of Intergalactic Brewing Company remains uncertain at present, but one fact about its future is clear: its tasting room will soon pour beers of a new brand, Oeuvre Artisan Ales. Intergalactic owner Alex Van Horne has entered into a licensing agreement with local tech professional, musician and amateur producer of beers, ciders and meads, Ted Apollo, which will allow the latter to realize his vision for a line of beers fermented with Brettanomyces at the Miramar brewery.
Apollo has been mulling the notion of brewing professionally for years, but felt it was important not to rush into anything. He has spent that contemplative period getting to know members of the brewing community, chief among them Van Horne, and owner of The Homebrewer and Home Brewing Company, George Thornton, both of whom have been generous with their time and advisement. Apollo signed on to contract-brew at Van Horne’s brewery before he announced he was putting his business up for sale.
Eventually, Apollo would like to become a full-time brewer, but has no interest in becoming the next big thing from a production standpoint. Through conversations with Thornton (who also teaches the Beer Styles I and Basics of Brewing courses as part of San Diego State University’s Business of Craft Beer program), he believes breweries producing 1,000-barrels-per-year or less are in an ideal position for stability and success. His annual production goals contract brewing at Intergalactic sit at 100-to-200 barrels, but that barrelage will increase if he opens his own spot.
Should Apollo and his wife-and-partner Franchesca take that next step, they are not interested in sufficiently serviced communities such as North Park. They would rather explore options on Chula Vista’s suddenly sudsy Third Avenue or only-recently brewery-adorned Rancho Bernardo or Carmel Mountain Ranch.
“I just want to keep things manageable and do what I do well; focus on certain beers and build some accounts early instead of making 16-plus beers to sustain my tasting room,” says Apollo. He feels it’s important not to overreach, and prefers to specialize in one area that he can build customers around and cater to on an intimate level. “I want to get a loyal fan base and then never do anything to disenfranchise them.”
If Intergalactic sells, all steps will be taken to ensure Apollo is still able to brew his beers at the Miramar facility, but in the immediate future, Oeuvre’s first 100% Brett beer, Batch One, is set to debut in the next few weeks. It will be on-sale in four-packs and on-tap at Intergalactic’s tasting room with limited distribution at off-site accounts.
There are movers and shakers in the local beer-brewing and beer-drinking subculture. Then there is Derek Gallanosa, a BMOC among both factions who, while coming up in the industry with Karl Strauss Brewing before leaving to open and head brewing operations at Rancho Bernardo’s Abnormal Beer Company, maintained his recreational fanatic status via beer trading, tourism and bottle shares. On top of that, he has spent the past three years as an instructor in San Diego State University’s Business of Craft Beer certificate program. Few are the craft-inclined in San Diego who don’t know of him, making his announcement earlier this week that he’ll be moving away to pursue a new brewery project all the more surprising. We sat down to ask him about it and found out the opportunity he’s pursuing is as exciting as it is bittersweet.
What is most exciting about taking on a new endeavor?
Starting fresh with a new lineup of beers and new customers. It’s going to be a learning process just like any new chapter of your life but I feel I have the experiences to succeed in most situations.
What are you able to share about your next chapter?
The name of the brewery will be released in the near future but it will be somewhere in Northern California. I will be a partner in the business, and we will have a big focus on direct-to-customer sales with a lot of can and bottle releases. Just like Abnormal, I will continue to innovate, learn and grow as a brewer. There is no “brewmaster” here, just someone who wants to spend a lifetime knowing more than he did the day before.
Will you continue to collaborate as you did at Abnormal?
The collaborations will continue and will be a part of our marketing strategy. There is so much knowledge to share and so much to gain through collaborating with other breweries. I am excited to continue the friendships I have gained during my time at Abnormal and hope to expand my network with even more like-minded craftsmen.
What is your transition plan?
I am confident Abnormal will continue on without any change in quality. We have a talented team in place and I will spend the next month unloading everything I have learned in the past two-and-a-half years running the brewery. We are a dynamic company and will always try to push the limits our creativity, so my job is to set them up for success as they continue to be a big player in the craft-beer scene.
Do you think the brewing style will remain the same at Abnormal?
Abnormal has always been about keeping a few core beers [perpetually] on tap while having a bunch of specialty one-offs fill up the rest of the in house tap list. I see that still being the case moving forward, same core beers and a few other specialties that cater to the demand of our customers.
Who will be taking over brewing at Abnormal?
The new head brewer for Abnormal will be Nyle Molina as of October 1. The knowledge and experience he has gained from previously working at Green Flash Brewing and Funky Buddha Brewery was the reason we brought him into the Abnormal family. In the few weeks he has been here, he has shown great work ethic and a passion to produce quality products. With that being said, we are now looking for a new brewer to fill his role so send those résumés to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the hardest part about leaving Abnormal?
All the people that I work with that have been so supportive of the beer coming out of the brewery, the fact that I have an awesome restaurant I can order lunch from every day, the beer dinners, the camaraderie of the San Diego brewing scene, the drinking community that I love to geek out with, and all that beer I’m leaving in oak barrels for the next guy will be things I will miss. But the most important thing I will miss by moving away are the friends and family that I love who have supported me along my personal and professional journeys.
Any parting words for the San Diego beer community?
Thank you to all the fans of our beer from San Diego and beyond. A lot of people ask me what it’s like to live a dream. I’ve been responding with, “I don’t know,” because right now I feel like I have been living beyond a dream. It’s too much to comprehend. The people who choose to spend their hard-earned money on our beer or take the time, money and effort to listen to me lecture in my Marketing Craft Beer class at SDSU are the ones whose hands I would love to shake in the next month. So once again, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!
It’s getting harder to find San Diego communities without breweries. Given San Diego State students’ notoriety for keggers and beer consumption, it’s ironic the College Area is one of them, but that will change if entrepreneur Robert Morey has his way. He is currently securing financial backers to move forward on Brewer’s Landing, a brewpub project that would give the College Area its first-ever locally produced suds.
Last year, an associate of his asked for input on a property he was looking to gain possession of—a former nightclub off El Cajon Boulevard—stating he wanted to install something for the community; a space for local meetings, events and showing off artwork from local artists. Morey has witnessed the rise of the craft-beer culture and number of operating breweries in San Diego County, and suggested a multi-faceted brewery and restaurant as the ideal concept for accomplishing all his colleague wanted and more, especially given the fact there isn’t a brewery to be found within a five-mile radius of the project site.
That space is 8,500 square feet with 2,125 square feet planned for brewing operations. According to Morey, the landlord for the industrial park the project would be located in has embraced beer-production and is open to housing several brewery operations down the road. For Brewer’s Landing, Morey envisions it as a business that mirrors downtown’s The Local Eatery and Watering Hole and its sister-business Resident Brewing, where there are two operations working together but separately under one roof. On the beer front, Morey wants to provide their eventual brewer to control vision and direction, though he understands the necessity for a quality IPA. Food-wise, comfort will be the name of the game, but exactly what form that takes has yet to be fully determined. Other amenities he hopes to include are a large stage for live entertainment, a selection of cigars, TVs to air sporting events, a pool table and darts. But the slate is still relatively blank for what may emerge as the College Area’s inaugural brewery.
There’s more to the San Diego County Fair than tilt-a-whirls, geode collections, hot-tub shows and deep-fried everything. It also plays host to one of the largest annual craft-beer festivals, here or anywhere on the West Coast, the San Diego International Beer Festival (SDIBF). This year’s event will feature hundreds of beers from multiple states and countries, all of which can be sampled in an all-you-can-drink (responsibly) format during five sessions taking place over three days from June 17 to 19. In addition to fun for the general public, there is also a brewing-competition component, the winners of which were recently announced. For the second straight year, AleSmith Brewing Company earned Champion Brewery bragging rights, with 23 gold medals (and 41 medals total) awarded to local breweries. It’s quite an event with a rich history and promising future. For more on both, we sat down with event organizer Tom Nickel (who also owns Nickel Beer Company, O’Brien’s Pub and West Coast Barbecue and Brews).
What was the impetus for the SDIBF?
The original idea came from Chad Stevens, who was a member of (local homebrew club) QUAFF. He’d been running the homebrew competition at the fair for a number of years and felt there should be a professional competition there as well. He brought me in because he felt he needed someone on the professional side to legitimize the idea it was a professional competition. The vision was for a competition for professional brewers by professional brewers. We had like 200 entries the first year and thought it was highly successful. We held it in the paddock area and it was a one-day afternoon festival. It was fun, and it’s grown from there.
Tell me about the tremendous growth of the field and competition over the years.
Twice before we’ve had exponential growth where we’ve reached another plateau. We slowly grew by a hundred or so each year, then four-or-five years ago, when the real boom of brewery openings occurred, we had a jump from 600 to 900 and we hovered at just under 1,000 for the last three years. This year, we jumped from 979 to 1,356 total entries, over 1,300 of which were beers—a 44% increase overall.
Who are some of the individuals who’ve been integral to the SDIBF’s success?
Chad was with us the first three years, then moved on. That’s when I brought (Bagby Beer Company founder) Jeff Bagby in to help me. He was there a number of years, and the last two years that slot’s been filled by (O’Brien’s Pub general manager) Tyson Blake. Throughout the whole time—from Chad to now—Chris Shadrick has run the homebrew competition and served as judging coordinator. He helps coordinate all the judges for the competition, as well. Tyson and I do the festival and entries, marketing and promotion of the competition and festival.
How are judges solicited for the competition?
We have two avenues. One is registering in the competition with the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program). The SDIBF is posted on their website so all BJCP judges can see and access the event. What really sets SDIBF apart from most events is most BJCP-certified homebrewers don’t have the opportunity to judge professional beers. That’s a real carrot as far as enticing the judges. Secondly, we solicit through the local professional brewing community; from people who enter through the San Diego Brewers Guild and also, for the first time ever this year, through the craft-beer programs at UCSD and SDSU.
What can attendees to this year’s SDIBF look forward to?
There’ll be an expanded VIP area with food pairings and more space on the festival floor as we continually grow our footprint. We’re expecting beers from 15 countries, and the selection of beer in terms of number of different places it’s sent from will be unparalleled compared to any festival west of Denver’s Great American Beer Festival. Ditto the number of different beers and the diversity of international beers that we’ll have. We’ll also have a special beer, Steampunk Ale, a California common brewed specifically for the SDIBF by Abnormal Beer Company, and rare beer tappings throughout the festival.
Where is the SDIBF going?
The competition component is only going to continue to grow and we’re expanding our paid staff to accommodate that. The Del Mar Fairgrounds are doing everything they can to keep SDIBF growing at whatever pace it naturally grows at. If it doubled in the next 10 years, I don’t feel like there will end up being a cap. With the festival itself, there are a lot of interesting ideas. It’s always been my belief that the SDIBF will become enough of an event that, eventually, it won’t be part of the fair, but will instead take place as its own event over a weekend. I feel like for some connoisseurs, they don’t want to deal with the fair crowds, tickets, etc., but I do see us easily doing an independent festival. But having a presence at the fair is always important, so maybe we’ll do two events. I feel like part of the benefit for brewers is not only getting to expose their products to die-hard beer-fans, but also make new converts in an all-you-can-taste setting.
There aren’t many beer drinkers in San Diego who haven’t heard of Hamiltons Tavern. Its vocal publican Scot Blair — an instructor in SDSU’s Business of Craft Beer program — has helped push the local craft brewing scene forward in ways few others have; you can read his recent manifesto here. This month, Blair & co celebrate nine years in South Park with a flurry of thoughtful events. Already, they were the first to tap the Juli Goldenberg/Monkey Paw/Stone 24 Carrot Golden Ale on October 2, before hosting an Oktoberfest pub crawl along with Small Bar and Monkey Paw that featured more than 55 German and German-inspired beers on October 4.
Yesterday, beertenders tapped a one-off barrel-aged stout, Ourboros, created in tandem with Green Flash’s Pat Korn and former brewmaster Chuck Silva; the brewery has created a special beer for each of Hamiltons’ nine anniversaries. Another night with Green Flash on October 21 will feature fundraiser beer Treasure Chest and a limited-edition keeper glass. This event coincides with DrinkAbout, a free shuttle to multiple neighborhood bars sponsored by Brewery Tours of San Diego.
Today at 5 p.m., The Lost Abbey takes over more than 20 taps for the tavern’s monthly “Second Saturday” event; several of the beers are considered quite rare, demonstrating Blair’s respect within the industry. The Spanish missionary-themed food menu is impressive, and free, so show up early.
On Friday, October 16, beer from another local legend — Tom Nickel at Nickel Beer Co. — graces the cask. An English-style best bitter brewed as a “pseudo-experiment” with Blair in Julian, there were no hops in the boil, but plenty of fresh local hops added afterwards, leading to a mildly bitter, malty finish.
Two other “Firkin Friday” events are planned. On October 23, Hamilton’s welcomes New English Brewing and a cask of their Adams Ave Imperial Porter, a collaboration celebrating bottleshop Bine & Vine’s 4th Anniversary. Seven more New English beers are expected, including the GABF gold medal-winning Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout (both Nitro & CO2 versions). A week later on October 30, a cask of AleSmith seasonal beer Evil Dead Red duels with Monkey Paw/Bill Batten (AleSmith) Ashes from the Grave Smoked Brown.
November’s no slouch, either, with San Diego Beer Week coming November 6-15. Check out details on all the events here.
Disclosure: Hamiltons is an advertising supporter of West Coaster, but this post was unsolicited.