Last year, New English Brewing owner Simon Lacey invited me into a nondescript, stripped-down business suite next to his brewery. He had just acquired it and had plans to convert it into a private-event space. His description of what he meant to do with the 2,700-square-foot space sounded grand, but was hard to envision. After nearly a year and tons of hard work on Lacey’s part, that suite is completely built out, has a name—The Barrel Room at New English—and is set to debut to the public as part of Sorrento Valley brewery’s 10-year anniversary festivities on Saturday, July 8.
The Barrel Room is accessible both from the parking lot as well as New English’s tasting room. Equipped with a 200-inch projection screen, audio-visual equipment, its own restrooms and 20 taps serving the brewery’s mix of Old and New World ales, the suite can be reserved for parties, weddings corporate events, banquets, art shows and a variety of other events, but it will also be utilized as an extension of the tasting room on particularly busy days.
The Barrel Room’s motif is “hip urban brewery”, and combines industrial elements such as concrete, raw wood and steel with modern, artisan details. The clean lines of the bar and tap tower as well as neutral-colored, geometric wallpaper, are armed up care of mood lighting, and bourbon barrels in two forms—filled with beer for oak-aging and emptied then converted into tables. The 32-foot bar is topped with natural stone, seats up to 15 people, and will soon be equipped with a pair of beer engines.
Tickets to the grand-opening’s VIP session will go on-sale online via New English’s Facebook page later this month. That session will take place from noon to 3 p.m., followed by a free general-admission session from 3 to 7 p.m. Both will feature a special 10-year anniversary hazy IPA. This will kick off a month of celebratory events at the brewery as well as New English’s accounts throughout San Diego County. To rent out The Barrel Room, interested parties can email the brewery directly.
From the Beer Writer: The majority of beers given the bourbon barrel-aging treatment are stouts of the imperial ilk. Robust and high in alcohol, they are ideally suited for prolonged aging in whiskey-soaked wooden vessels. Their notes of roast go well with the toast of the oak while their sweetness matches the caramel and vanilla notes imparted by the liquor. But those big beers can sometimes mask the whiskey notes a bit and those 10-12% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) stouts are the type of high-octane, viscous brews that require beer-geek assistance when attempting to get through a 750-millilitre bottle. This is not the case with this week’s featured beer, New English Brewing Company‘s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Brewers Special Brown Ale. The base beer is Britain-born brewmaster Simon Lacey‘s 6.5% ABV English-style brown, an archetypal ale that took a bronze in the World Beer Cup earlier this month. After being spending several months in wet Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, it comes out with a huge, vanilla-rich nose and a flavor that’s akin to whiskey on the rocks. Except, instead of watery former ice-cubes, the dilution effect is provided by the nutty, caramely flavors of the brown ale. And thanks to the beer’s lighter body, this comes across as a rare, highly quaffable barrel-aged beer.
From the Brewer: “Based on the multi-award winning Brewers Special Brown Ale, the bourbon barrel-aged version of this smooth, rich and malty English-style beer has been resting in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels for six-to-nine months. In order to create a perfectly balanced final-product, we blend ale from first- and second-use barrels. The freshly dumped first-use barrels contain discernible amounts of liquid when they arrive at the brewery, the wood has also soaked up a significant quantity of the whiskey at barrel-strength over the years at the distillery, and all this flavor and aroma is transferred to the beer. Beer from the second-use barrels yields a complex mix of wood, tannins and vanilla flavor from the American white oak, which, when blended with the beer from the first-use barrels, melds into a seamlessly delicious and enthralling elixir that is warming without heat and as aromatic as it is flavorful. The current version is the sixth batch produced and is the second to be bottled. A limited release is available at the best local bottle shops, and can also be purchased at the brewery.”—Simon Lacey, Brewmaster, New English Brewing Company
I first heard of them from local sour-beer brewer Peter Perrecone. At the time, he was heading 100% wild ale operation Toolbox Brewing Company in Vista, and had just caught wind that another outfit was looking to go that route in San Diego. The name of the future interest—California Wild Ales. I reached out to the company for more info, but it was too early for an interview. And while the business doesn’t figure to be open any sooner than August, things are starting to speed up and take shape.
California Wild Ales’ goal is to work exclusively with wild yeast and bacteria. Brettanomyces will be present in every beer the company produces and the entire line of brews will be sour and/or funky. The business, billed as San Diego’s first “all-wild-ale blendery”, will be located in a 2,000-square-foot, temperature-controlled warehouse in Sorrento Valley. Within that structure there will be a temperature-controlled bottle-conditioning room.
To bring their lofty plans to fruition, California Wild Ales’ crew will enlist the services of Sorrento Valley neighbors at New English Brewing Company. Brewmaster Simon Lacey and company will produce wort (unfermented beer) for California Wild Ales, which the blender will then funnel into used wine barrels. From there, the beer will age before the contents of multiple barrels are blended together to produce a finished product that is to California Wild Ales’ taste.
The company’s home-base will be rather rustic—a production facility lined with barrels, but aesthetics aren’t the focus. There won’t be a tasting room to start. California Wild Ales aims to be open one day per month strictly for the purpose of distributing its ales. But this may not always be the case. The business’ founders would eventually like to install a sampling space and perhaps grow into a brewpub operation. It all depends on growth, as does establishment of multiple barrel-aging warehouses.
You should drink more beer from New English Brewing Co.
Perhaps you already are. After all, the secret’s slipping out. The brewery has been open since 2007, and Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout just won a Gold Medal in the 2015 Great American Beer Festival – the country’s highest beer competition. The 9.3% Imperial Stout combines Indonesian and South American Coffee beans and 2 pounds per barrel of Belgian dark chocolate. A favorite of the Los Angeles County Fair’s beer competition for years, in 2015 the beer won Best of Show along with Gold medals in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Zumbar is only one great beer in the New English lineup — which has evolved dramatically over the years. A couple of newer offerings include the popular Pure & Simple IPA and the Two Legit DIPA. Explorer E.S.B. is one of the “classic” beers that New English has crafted since day one, and is perhaps the best example of the style found in San Diego County. That fine brew is now joined by more adventurous offerings such as Birra Catania, a Belgian ale made with basil and lemongrass.
The brewery has been expanding its barrel-aging program. A new customer favorite is the Bourbon Barrel Aged Brown Ale, an elaboration on the Brewer’s Special Brown Ale. A special collaboration beer, Adams Avenue Imperial Porter, has been brewed for Bine & Vine’s 4th Anniversary and will be released this month. The 8.5%, 70 IBU Porter was made with Guatemalan Coffee from Dark Horse Coffee Roasters (both businesses are located on Adams Avenue). Full of licorice and caramel flavors, the beer is balanced with a smooth bitterness and just a hint of coffee.
The addition of new beers reflects the growth and future direction of New English Brewing. To keep up with demand, owner Simon Lacey and his team have been steadily expanding the brewery and tasting room. “With the addition of two new 40 BBL fermentors in January, we’re looking forward to producing more of our newer favorites, like Pure & Simple IPA (hopped w/ Mosaic & Citra) and Two Legit DIPA” says Lacey, proprietor and brewmaster.
“We are banging on all cylinders coming off our GABF Gold for Zumbar and are feeling pretty good about the next 12 months,” he adds. In the next 30 days, the tasting room is getting a facelift. The addition of a lounge area will bring extra sofas and tables. In early 2016, the brewery is adding 3600 extra square feet for a total of over 10,000 square feet. Expect to hear more from New English in the coming months.
The brewery and tasting room is located West of the 5 at 11545 Sorrento Valley Road Ste 305.
SPECIAL OFFER FOR WEST COASTER READERS: We opened $200 tab up at the brewery. Mention this post and the secret code word “Porter” and get your first beer on us (while the tab lasts).
New English Brewing Co. is a longtime advertiser with West Coaster.
From the Beer Writer: Since meeting New English Brewing Co. owner Simon Lacey, I’ve admired his devotion to crafting high quality versions of the beers of his homeland. In a day and age where most locally produced versions of U.K. beer styles are given West Coast or imperial treatment, for the most part, New English’s beers are brewed to style. Early on, Lacey stuck exclusively to a line-up that included a brown ale, extra special bitter (ESB) and decidedly British India pale ale (IPA). He’s since expanded his repertoire to include West Coast IPAs, and they’ve turned out fantastic. When we talked about the type of beer he’d produce for my lupus fundraising campaign, Beer to the Rescue, he grinned and said he thought we should play off the word lupus’ resemblance to Humulus lupulus, the compound in hops that brings so much bitterness to beers. For him, that meant brewing New English’s first-ever double IPA. I’m glad he decided to go outside the IBU and ABV box, and honored he did so in conjunction with this passion project.
From the Brewer: “After brewing two American IPAs—a West Coast-style rye IPA called Humbly Legit, and an IPA heavily dry-hopped with Citra and Mosaic called Pure and Simple—we decided that a double IPA might fit into our balanced beer philosophy after all. One Saturday I was drinking a Drake’s Brewing Co. flight at Blind Lady Ale House, when I came to the Hopocalypse IIPA. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as the other beers in the flight, but it turned out to be a revelation! Beautifully bitter but bright and balanced, I decided right there that we would also make a double IPA. We started working on the recipe immediately and, soon after, we produced Two Legit IIPA. It’s not a double version of Humbly Legit. It’s a completely new recipe with no rye malt, but we liked the name. It’s based on U.S. two-row base malt with some German Munich plus wheat malt for body and head retention. Hopped with copious quantities of CTZ, Nugget and Summit in the kettle, and Summit and Centennial dry hops, the alcohol content is 9.2% and the IBUs register a solid 90-plus.”—Simon Lacey, Owner & Brewmaster, New English Brewing Co.