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.
Thanks to the plethora of upcoming beer events, our Event Calendar is now populated! Here’s our picks of awesome events in the next 7 days.
1/18 Wednesday, 530P – ~830P – Beer Nerdz Blind Tasting for SDSU Alumni Association
If you haven’t checked out Beer Nerdz, you should. For $30 you’ll get beer, food, and a chance to test your palate. Tonight’s SDSU edition is geared to alumni and will feature Aztec’s basketball on LCDs. Check out the event here (+tickets), and read more about Beer Nerdz here. Open to the public!
1/19 Thursday, 2P – AleSmith Tasting Room Re-Opens
AleSmith has been plugging away renovating their tasting room. This Thursday, the tasting room will reopen to the public. Rejoice! They’ve been updating their Facebook with construction pictures; check out their progress here.
1/20 Friday, ~5P – Monkey Paw Brewing Dueling Casks for Firkin Friday @ Hamilton’s
On the frontier of East Village in the latest outpost of the Blair Bar Empire, brewer Derek Freese is creating awesome beers as we speak. On Friday, some of his first casks will be available: 16th & F Double Dry Hopped pale ale, and Oatmeal pale ale with Chocolate.
1/21 Saturday, 11A- 12A – Every Dogfish Has its Day @ KnB Wine Cellars
There will be some serious Dogfish Head beer on tap at KnB Wine Cellars. 60, 90, and 120 minute IPAs on tap and many more. First 60 to order 60 Minute IPA get a take home Dogfish glass. More info located on their website (scroll down a bit to see).
1/21 Saturday, 1P-5P – Zymurgy Beginning Brewing Workshop w/ Yuseff Cherney @ UCSD
Ballast Point Brewer / Distiller extraordinaire Yuseff has been teaching the art of brewing at UCSD for years. Learn from one of the best. This class will be an effective “Brewing 101”. For more info, click here.
1/25 Wednesday, 5P – 12A – Blackout! @ Urge Gastropub
My only problem with Urge is that I don’t live right next door. These guys put on quality events with tasty food (ex. Sculpin hot wings). This event, featuring black IPAs, imperial stouts, and more, will be no exception. “Beer as black as your soul.” Word.
1/25 Wednesday, 6P – Beginner Brew Classes @ Home Brew Mart
The store that launched a thousand beers. Ballast Point’s Home Brew Mart will host an approachable $10 class introductory brewing class that’s limited to 25 people. Call 619-295-2337 to make a reservation.
Keep checking our calendar for all your beer event needs, and if you go somewhere via our site – please tell them West Coaster sent you!