From the Beer Writer: In the world of sour ales, there are two types of beers: balanced brews exhibiting nuances of fruit and acidity, and brazenly tart, tangy juggernauts that force one’s palate to take notice. Since he got into the local fermentation game with Toolbox Brewing Company in 2014, Peter Perrecone has exclusively produced the latter. That preference didn’t change a bit when he got on board with fellow North County operation Belching Beaver Brewery, where he serves as barrel master. His sours are still fruited to the hilt, sporting puckering pH levels. Enter Belching Beaver Smoldering Pirates, a recently released creation packed with myriad tropical fruits. Its passion fruit and mango nose transports one to a pool-side folding chair at some island resort, with matching flavors bringing scores of vivacious zing to the party. Despite its acidic vibrancy, this 6.5% alcohol-by-volume sipper is light in body and finishes relatively crisp. This will be one of the special beers served up at Belching Beavers’ five-year anniversary shindig along with Hoppy, Hoppy Night IPA and Perrecone’s newest oak-aged release, Batch 5 Sour with Blackberries. That celebration will take place on Saturday, October 21 at the company’s headquarters in Oceanside. Tickets are currently available online.
From the Brewer: “Smoldering Pirates is an American sour barrel-aged in French red wine oak barrels. A few of the barrels date back to 2015, some of our oldest barrels, and the other barrels are about six months old. The older barrels added tons of funk and complexity to this sour while the younger barrels added balance to the beer. After we blended the base beer, it screamed for the use of tropical fruit. Passion fruit was the bulk of the fruit that was added…over 400 pounds. Mango, pineapple and guava were also added as supporting flavors. We hope you enjoy this tropical fruit bomb as much as our crew.”—Peter Perrecone, Barrel Master, Belching Beaver Brewery
September is stocked with a plethora of craft-beer events celebrating just about every type of beer out there. From ales infused with farm-fresh hops to tart tantalizers and, of course, Oktoberfest and other Germanic lagers, there’s something for nearly any taste. Take a gander at these featured events then peruse many more on our events page.
September 2-4 | Second Anniversary: It’s three phases of two years at Second Chance Beer Company, starting with releases of multiple high-profile collaboration beers, brewery tours and a thematically appropriate flea market on Saturday, a Sunday beer brunch and an industry day on Monday featuring a corn-hole tournament that’s open to the public. | Second Chance Beer Company, 15378 Avenue of Science, #222, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Times Vary
September 16-18 | San Diego Wet Hop Beer Weekend: Before most San Diegans had ever heard the term “wet hops”, O’Brien’s Pub was devoting a weekend-long festival to once-a-year harvest-time beers given huge aromatic character from freshly picked, whole-cone hops. This is a prime opportunity to taste what the county’s brewers can do with these green gems. | O’Brien’s Pub, 4646 Convoy Street, Kearny mesa, Times Vary
September 16 | Peter Reeves Memorial Sour Fest: Each year, Churchill’s Pub & Grille pays its respects to a lost friend and fan by gathering special, rare and outstanding beers running the gamut of sour styles from kettled creations on up to aged, blended gueuzes. An acidic, funky feast for the senses, it never fails to deliver. Stock up on antacids and make a day of it. | Churchill’s Pub & Grille, 887 West San Marcos Boulevard, San Marcos, 11 a.m.
September 22 | San Diego Brewers Guild Golf Tournament: Whether you can drive the ball like Tiger Woods (before his recent travails) or just like puttering around, a day on the greens is always an enjoyable one when you spend it with local brewers enjoying sunshine, competition and the liquid fruits of their labor, all while supporting the good work they do. | Rancho Bernardo Inn, 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive, Rancho Bernardo; Check In: 10 a.m., Shotgun Start: 12 p.m.
September 23 | Oktoberfest: Numerous local breweries celebrate Germany’s annual and epic folk festival, but for no other is it more natural than Karl Strauss Brewing Company. Recipes of a master brewer from Germany form their bedrock. Those brews plus venerable fall seasonal Oktoberfest and small-batch, specially brewed, German-style beers will flow like wasser. | Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 5985 Santa Fe Street, Pacific Beach, 2 p.m.
North County’s Belching Beaver Brewery has spent much of the past two years focused on a multi-pronged expansion that’s seen it open a headquarters and production facility in Oceanside, brewpub in Vista and tasting room in Ocean Beach. Now that those pieces are in place, the company is ready to shift its attention to a new slate of rather large undertakings.
The first of those initiatives is a brand refresh. The company will roll-out its new logo in March, but West Coaster has been granted a sneak-peek at it as well as packaging and advertisements the new design will grace. The new mark represents a paring down of the original beaver. Now his head carries the day surrounded by arched typography. Together, these elements provide a circular visual that should work for the brand from a utilitarian placement standpoint.
As far as packaging goes, 22- and 12-ounce bottles, plus the cardboard holders for the latter, give the beaver back a bit of body. Each beer-style features graphic elements pertaining to the liquid inside. The refresh is the work of Belching Beaver artist Tyler Soule. Owner Tom Vogel brought him on specifically for this job and told him to “have some fun”. It would appear he did just that.
Also having fun will be Peter Perrecone, the brewer in charge of Belching Beaver’s barrel-aged sour-beer program. Vogel says the company is adding fermentation capacity by installing a pair of 60-barrel oak foudres at its original brewery on Park Center Drive in Vista. If all goes as planned, Belching Beaver will release new sour ales on a monthly basis.
But that’s far from all. The company is also taking steps to get into both the spirits and cider business. Vogel has been pushing for the former for years, while the head of his brewpub, Thomas Peters, has wanted to experiment with the latter. The decision was made to explore both last year. Vogel expects the spirits to come on first, with vodka as its introductory product, followed by whiskey.
Liquor and cider production will take place at the original Vista brewery, which will be gutted and reconfigured. Much of this was motivated by Belching Beaver acquiring the space next-door to that venue. In addition to mechanical and storage upgrades, expect a redesigned, upgraded tasting room.
Many local breweries lend their skill and effort to charities, but it takes an nth-level degree of devotion to make a cause the crux of a brewing company’s entire identity. But that’s how deeply engrained Greg Littrell’s and Katie Earle’s shared love of rescuing dogs is. In fact, it’s how they met ten years ago when Littrell adopted dachshunds from Earle’s rescue. During that transaction, they discovered that they had more in common than canines, namely a love of beer and brewing. Fast-forward and the duo is in the process of opening a boutique operation called Barrel Rescue Brewing Company (8125 Ronson Road, Suite F, Kearny Mesa).
Last week, Littrell and Earle signed the lease on a 2,000-square-foot space in which to install a projected seven-barrel brewhouse which they intend to acquire from an existing local brewery looking to up its capacity, 300 oak barrels and a tasting room. Like the output of most of its beers, the tasting room will be very tiny—likely a mere 500 square feet (though an outdoor patio is planned to provide patrons extra space). If all goes as planned, the interior will feature canvas-wrap wall art of dogs available for adoption from various San Diego rescue groups.
Additionally, Barrel Rescue’s brews will be named after some of their four-legged friends. A Belgian golden ale built for barrel-aging will bear the name of Nellie, a dachshund Katie rescued from a puppy mill, and a blueberry sour will be called Rainbow Blueberry Frost after the first deaf dog she rescued. Additionally, there will be a line of Brettanomyces-fermented beers will be called the Goldilocks Series: Papa Brett, Mama Brett and Baby Brett (though they’ve never had pups named Goldilocks or Brett).
In reading that last paragraph, astute imbibers will notice that every beer mentioned falls in the sour or wild category. As the business’ name implies, this will be Barrel Rescue’s bailiwick. There will be year-round beers, but Littrell and Earle are all about crafting “true” barrel-aged sour beers aged at least a year before blending or fruiting. They aim to produce lambics, gueuzes and fruited sour ales. The latter will incorporate more typical fruits such as cherries, raspberries and apricots, as well as lesser utilized edibles such as apples and Meyer lemons.
Littrell and Earle will both handle brewing, extending on four years spent brewing sour beers as a tandem. They started with two used barrels from San Marcos’ The Lost Abbey, followed by a quartet of oak receptacles from a local winery. From there, they entered some of their ales into local competitions, garnering awards and positive feedback. Earle also won an internal homebrewing contest while working at Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits (she now works at The Lost Abbey Confessional in Cardiff), which led to the commercial brewing of Home Brew Mart Homework Series #5, a hoppy Belgian-style pale ale. That beer recently took silver at last weekend’s San Diego International Beer Festival. Still, one of the most rewarding moments of their time on the tart side was when a friend of theirs took a bottle of their framboise to Belgium’s lambic mecca, Cantillon, and were told the brewer they shared it with refused to believe it was a homebrew creation.
A number of Barrel Rescue beers are already resting in oak. Littrell and Earle used homebrewer Jeff Swem‘s home brew system (which readers may have seen on the cover of the June issue of West Coaster) to brew the base beers. As soon as their brewhouse is installed, the duo plan to get to work immediately brewing up beers and transferring them to barrels to begin the aging process. Still, they report it will be at least a year before the business opens. Even when that happens, beer will be rather scarce. They liken it to a boutique winery producing very minute vintages. Once a year, they will offer up limited-release bottles of their barrel-aged stock and when they’re gone, they’re gone.
In selecting Kearny Mesa, not only did Littrell and Earle pick a community with a burgeoning beer scene and breweries they share the sour bug with, they also inherited built-in comrades who have already been exceptionally helpful to them, lending advice throughout the early stages of Barrel Rescue’s life. Among them are Douglas Constantiner and Travis Smith of Societe Brewing Company, Liz and Curtis Chism of Council Brewing Company, and Tom and Lindsey Nickel of O’Brien’s Pub. But who wouldn’t want to help an operation that will not only rescue dogs in need, but as Earle puts it, “rescue barrels from the horrible fate of becoming planters sold at Dixieline.”