Typically, I try to wait a while before visiting a new brewery so the brewing team has time to work out any early kinks, but recently I was so inspired by pre-open samples of beers at Wild Barrel Brewing (692 Rancheros Drive, San Marcos) that I deviated from my SOP. Also, I didn’t want to be the last beer fan in the county to make it to this early success from Stone Brewing expats Bill Sysak and Bill Sobieski (editor’s note: Hernández himself is a Stone expat). The former is known as “Dr.” Bill in beer-connoisseur circles, as he was a medic in the military, and he absolutely knows good beer, but many wondered if he’d be able to brew good beer, too. My answer: probably not…but that’s what the other Bill (the one with fermentation experience at Stone as well as Anaheim’s Hoperazzi) brings to the table.
Although he’s not milling, graining in and dry-hopping, Sysak does have a major impact on brewing decisions at Wild Barrel. In his roles as beverage supervisor and beer ambassador for Stone, he always kept his finger on the pulse of beer fans, so he is familiar with current trends and has used that knowledge to develop a sound portfolio that features numerous India pale ales (IPAs) and fruited kettle sours, a coffee milk stout, and a single style for entry-level visitors, White Rabbit Belgian-style witbier. The latter is brewed with coriander and two forms of citrus, traditional curacao orange peel, and fresh Valencia orange zest. It is light in body, lively on the palate and good enough to serve as the only non-hoppy, non-sour, decaf option.
Of late, many new breweries have had to contend with shortages of popular hops such as Citra, Mosaic, and Nelson Sauvin, but this operation is well stocked, making for a family of IPAs that feel current and almost familiar. The flagship, Indie IPA, has a medium body and savory notes of garlic and onion, while the murky Shape Shifter’s combo of Nelson, Mosaic and Idaho 7 makes for a harmonious mix of tropical fruit flavors. By far the most layered (and downright badass) of the bunch is Prince of Dankness, an 8.4% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) double IPA dry-hopped with 28 pounds of Nelson and six pounds of Motueka. The result is a beer with big pine-cone and toasted popcorn kernel overtones, plus a downright sappy finish.
As lovely and varied as the IPAs were, my favorite beer of the visit may have been Hipster Latte, a 5.5% ABV milk stout made with a blend of coffee made exclusively for Wild Barrel by Rancho Bernardo-based roaster Mostra. It is bold in its roastiness—you’re abundantly aware there is coffee in there—but it is extremely balanced and especially dry for a stout with lactose. It’s particularly impressive that Sobieski put out a beer this perfect his first time producing it and makes me look forward to trying that proprietary blend at the coffee counter that will be constructed next to the tasting room’s main entrance.
Of Wild Barrel’s early beers, I found the San Diego Vice fruited Berliner weisse series — the name illustrates how to pronounce the German word “weisse” — tasted over-fruited for my palate, with the black currant iteration coming across as a tad too sweet. Still, this is a subjective knock, and a beer having too much quality local fruit, some of which is from Sobieski’s back yard, is a first-world problem entirely. Of the three Vices, a Montmorency cherry version was my favorite. The nose is rosé all day, and it tastes of cherry and strawberry preserves.
As the business’ name implies, barrel-aged sours, stouts and strong ales will be part of Wild Barrel’s makeup, but not until its oaken stock has time to mature. Even without wood- and booze-tinged product, there is plenty of high-quality beer to draw imbibers to this North County newcomer.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas—well, as wintry and holiday-like as we get in sunny San Diego, but that warm weather is perfect for enjoying beer, so it’s OK if Saint Nick keeps ignoring our dreams of a white yuletide. There’ll be plenty of fun events happening, holiday-themed and otherwise. We’ve hand-selected a few, but be sure to check out our events page for even more.
December 1 & 2 | Strong Ale Fest: Few experiences are as nostalgic for local beer-scene veterans as huddling together in the crowded back-lot of the Pizza Port bottle shop and repetitiously making one’s way to an outside bar many taps strong. The term “strong” is apt, because everything on tap at this annual fest is high in ABV yet innovative and diverse. Merry Christmas, Uber! | Pizza Port, 571 Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad, Times Vary
December 2 | Three-Year Anniversary: Celebrate the three-year anniversary of La Mesans getting beers brewed in their hometown. If it’s anything like the past two years, live music and a plethora of beers will make a very fun party pad out Bolt Brewery’s sprawling, tiered outdoor tasting area. If you’ve never been to this East County spot, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. | Bolt Brewery, 8179 Center Street, La Mesa, 1 p.m.
December 10 | Belated One-Year Anniversary: December 10 is National Lager Day, and an apt day for one of the best lager producers in the county, Eppig Brewing, to celebrate its first year in business. This interest is looking to reward the beer connoisseurs who’ve made it one of the most revered new operations in town with a fun and easy event stocked with beers worth coming out for. | Eppig Brewing, 3052 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite C, North Park, 1 p.m.
December 17 | Santa at the SouthNorte Pole: It can be challenging to find beer-related holiday happenings that are family friendly, but thanks to Santa’s decision to visit Small Bar—with gifts for believers of all ages in his sleigh, no less—along with the team from newly established SouthNorte Brewing and their beers, a rare all-ages beer-brunch experience can be yours! | Small Bar, 4628 Park Boulevard, University Heights, 10 a.m.
December 31 | Craft Beer New Year: Whether you in North County or San Diego proper, Stone Brewing has a NYE bash of epic proportions for you. Join them at either of their restaurants and enjoy a smorgasbord of farm-to-table food along with various musical offerings, games, a photo booth, midnight toast and, of course, lots and lots of craft beer and commemorative glassware. | Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, 1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido; Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, 2816 Historic Decatur Road, #116, Point Loma; 8:30 p.m.
From the Beer Writer: Stone Brewing hosts many top-tier events, but one of my favorite is the company’s American Homebrewers Association-sanctioned AHA Rally and its associated homebrewing competition. Every year, some of the county’s most talented, ambitious recreational brewers submit their beers for judging by a panel of Stone employees, including key members of the brewing team. Each year’s winning beer gets produced on Stone’s system and distributed nationally (which now means to all 50 states). While Stone is known for innovating, the company has a defined style of bold and largely hoppy beers, so it is always fun to watch the brewers tackle beers that, for the most part, don’t fit the typical gargoyle-shaped mold (read: insert-type-of-IPA-here). This year’s winning entry, Paul Bischeri & Patrick Martinez / Abnormal / Stone Neapolitan Dynamite, once again goes against the grain in a delicious attempt to bring the primary flavors of Neapolitan ice cream—chocolate, vanilla and strawberry—to the forefront in an imperial stout. Freshly poured, the beer comes across slightly creamy on the palate with big cocoa and a touch of vanilla, but as the beer warms up, the latter makes itself more known along with strawberry fruitiness. It’s for sure a beer that would not be part of the Stone portfolio were it not for this contest, and the quaffable embodiment of why this event is such a brilliant component of Stone’s heritage. Read more »
Each month, we present several best-bet local beer-related events for the following 28 to 31 days, but as we all know, November isn’t any normal month in America’s Finest City. It’s the month that houses San Diego Beer Week (SDBW), a ten-day span encompassing literally hundreds of events. So, we’re doing things a little different this month, providing a little insight on some of the biggest and most unique happenings taking place from November 3-12. Enjoy, but don’t forget to check out other goings-on via our events page and the official SDBW website.
Friday, November 3
Saturday, November 4
Sunday, November 5
Monday, November 6
Tuesday, November 7
Wednesday, November 8
Thursday, November 9
Friday, November 10
Saturday, November 11
Sunday, November 12
It was mid-2014 when I first reached out to the crew at Ebullition Brew Works after receiving a tip that the business was going in a space near a deli in San Marcos. They weren’t quite ready to talk. I remained persistent, but they stayed close-lipped over the past three years…and it’s probably good that they did. Plans for Ebullition shifted here and there, including a relocation to another municipality altogether. Today, Ebullition, which has been in soft-open mode since July, operates out of a business suite in Vista. An initial three-barrel system that would churn out just enough beer so ownership could open on the weekends has been replaced by a 10-barrel direct-fire model feeding into 10-barrel tanks. Yet, as much as the company has changed from a production standpoint, its thematic, approach and team remain the same.
The idea for Ebullition sprouted from co-founder Jesse Richardson’s discovery of craft beer and the joy of homebrewing. His wife took a job in the accounting department at Escondido’s Stone Brewing, allowing him exposure to world-class beer events as well as brands and styles of beer he had theretofore never heard of, much less experienced. He started down the rabbit hole and was soon brewing his own beer at home, to the point where he says he was “addicted.” This was just before the more intense stretch of the local boom that saw the number of brewhouses in the county rise sharply from roughly 40 to the 150-plus of today. A lot has changed since Richardson and a group of his colleagues decided to ditch the corporate world to give their brewing-industry dreams a go. Richardson and company admit they went a lot bigger than they originally expected, but so much changed from conceptualization to execution that they feel adjusting their business plan was necessary. Going big out of the gate was necessitated by the plethora of breweries in North County built to do just that, such as Mother Earth Brew Co. and Booze Brothers Brewing Company. Like those operations, the Ebullition team selected Vista in large part because of how welcoming and supportive local government is to breweries, and the fact they understand the positive impact breweries have on their City’s economy.
Beer-making is the domain of brewmaster Mike Reidy, a former teacher, certified beer judge and award-winning homebrewer of more than two decades. His goal is to focus on brewing clean, true-to-style ales and lagers, and eventually push boundaries with less familiar styles and modern-day creations such as Northeast-inspired India pale ales (IPAs). His first, simply dubbed Hazy IPA, is currently available and the best of a sextet of Ebullition beers I sampled during a recent visit. Aromas of gooseberries and grapefruit give way to a burst of citrus rind and a finish that’s wheaty, bitter and a touch peppery. Another favorite of mine was The General, a stout brewed with coffee that starts out Starbucks and ends out like a mouthful of Ghirardelli milk chocolate. Also impressive is a saison called Gidget with bright lemon and orange character. It’s rounder than it is dry, but brewed within style guidelines and plenty enjoyable. On the fun anomaly front, Deli Rye Pilsner takes one of today’s hottest styles in a different direction with the addition of moderately spicy rye. Nuances of banana make it taste a bit like a hefeweizen, making for a completely unique tasting experience.
IBU (international bittering unit) measures are presented down to the hundredth. Originally, that count was listed as EBU (ebullition bittering units), but it was too difficult for customers to wrap their heads around, so they changed it. But they’re sticking with Ebullition as an overriding theme. The team stumbled upon the term in an old encyclopedia. It refers to both the boiling of wort (unfermented beer) and hops as well as sudden, intense passion…like that of someone who would become so enamored with brewing they would change their entire life to chase that interest. Richardson and his partners hope patrons will celebrate ebullition-inspiring pursuits, realizing not everybody draws the intense feelings they do from beer. Numerous hobbies and interests are illustrated via murals on the walls of Ebullition’s tasting room, which is also equipped with scads of games and activities spanning far beyond those of the average sampling venue.
And though they love beer, Ebullition’s owners aren’t limiting their ebullition to ales and lagers. They purposely chose to refer to their business as “Brew Works” to leave the door open for delving into mead, cold-brew coffee, kombucha and other brewed beverages. But for now, Ebullition is focusing its energy on a long-time coming grand-opening celebration. That fete will take place over two weekends and kick off this Saturday, October 14 with a day packed full of promotional activities such as a brewer Q&A, brewery tour, live music and more, followed Saturday, October 21 by “Dia de Ebullition”, featuring a Mexican-inspired beer release, art show, face-painting and a live performance by The Sleepwalkers.