Santee-based Twisted Manzanita Ales & Spirits is closing down its tasting room in Pacific Beach. Located at 4652 Mission Boulevard, the 1,400-square-foot satellite, non-brewing facility was opened in 2014 as a coastal yang to the yin that is the company’s easterly inland headquarters. This is the third brewery-owned venue closure in the past 30 days, following URBN Restaurant Group shutting down the brewing component of its El Cajon brewpub and Stone Brewing Co. deciding to pull the plug on Stone Farms. But there’s more to this closure than the others, says employees and former staff at Twisted Manzanita.
According to several internal sources, Twisted Manzanita’s ownership informed employees of the Pacific Beach tasting room that they were closing it temporarily in order to remodel the venue. While they were away, the draft system was disassembled. (The photos here show the state of things when an employee arrived unannounced last Sunday evening.)
According to Twisted Manzanita employees and witnesses at a neighboring business, last Monday night ownership ordered staff from Santee to come to PB to clear out the tasting room. Items were loaded into a truck and trailer and hauled away. An internal email later confirmed the business was not being remodeled but, in fact, being closed.
Twisted Manzanita is in the process of working with a group of separate investors to try to open an Oggi’s-style ale house in North Park, but there is no guarantee that, if that comes to fruition, the company’s PB employees will be offered jobs at that location.
The information in this article was offered and corroborated by multiple Twisted Manzanita employees who wished to share this information anonymously. A number of them stated that, as of press-time, the PB tasting room employees still had no idea their workplace was being closed down, making this a particularly bitter bit of news to deliver. (Editor’s Note: Outside of the employees interviewed for this article, Twisted Manzanita Ales could not be reached for comment.)
When Stone Brewing decided to take over the lease for the Escondido farm formerly operated as La Milpa Organica in March of 2011, its officers were open about the fact they had zero idea of how to run such a property. All they knew was that they wanted to preserve a local resource for wholesome, organic produce. While surprising, the acquisition fit perfectly with the company’s vocal devotion to the Slow Food movement and its Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens eatery’s commitment to sustainable food production. So, they took on the 19-acre agricultural project—only five acres of which are tillable—dubbed it Stone Farms and did everything in their power to make it a success.
Stone Farms’ fruits, vegetables, herbs and other edibles accounted for 26% of the product utilized at Stone’s various San Diego County restaurants (Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido and San Diego International Airport, plus the East Village’s Stone Brewing Tap Room). The fields’ yields could be customized based on seasonality and the needs of those venues. Still, turning a profit proved impossible for the operation. Thus, after half-a-decade in the red, Stone has made the painful but necessary decision to close the farm permanently come March.
Having been one of the Stone employees who worked hard to market the venue, I can personally attest to the effort that went into turning Stone Farms into a viable profit center. Many were the dedicated individuals who went outside the box to offer amenities and programs that would appeal to locals and make a destination out of Stone’s small but rather cool patch of fruitful soil. Over the years, live music performances, movie nights, farm tours, a CSA program, various workshops and other public events as well as private events, large and small, helped keep the place going.
To be fair, it worked surprisingly well—about as well as anything could when located on the furthest northern outskirts of San Diego County with no other big draws around it to piggy-back off of. Despite being only several hundred yards from Interstate 15, it was completely hidden from view and getting to the farm meant taking a marked, but decrepit road barely wide enough to accommodate traffic headed in opposing directions. But once there, it really was impressive. Not only did it have its very own tasting room stocked with interesting Stone beers (the newest brews plus vintage ales and rarities), but over the years Stone installed a music stage with plentiful seating, pizza-oven, waterfall, enhanced lighting, horseshoe pits, a patio amongst over-arching passion fruit vines, a bocce ball area and increased parking. Visitors were allowed to stroll about at-will to discover what was being grown and check out various livestock from quails, chickens to peacocks, goats and more.
When compiling independent scores from local beer enthusiasts and brewing industry professionals for the 2014 and 2015 editions of my Complete Guide to San Diego Breweries, I was never surprised to see Stone Farms rank as high as it did. In last year’s edition, Stone Farms came in as the fourth-best out of more than 130 brewery-owned venues in the county to have a beer on the back of being ranked as number-one for best service and number-two for best setting (behind Karl Strauss Brewing Company’s Sorrento Mesa Brewery Gardens restaurant). It was a unique and glorious place that I will personally miss—and there’s nothing like it to take its place. But business is business, and unfortunately, not enough business got done during Stone Farms’ five-year run.
That said, roughly 100,000 fans visited Stone Farms since it opened to the public in June of 2013. That’s impressive, but it simply wasn’t enough. Throw in the fact the farm closed during the winter and it simply wasn’t sustainable for a company like Stone to continue running it. Truth be told, many small farms are struggling these days. Says Stone director of hospitality Steve Robbins, rising labor and water prices made for an uphill battle, especially as larger farms that are able to charge less money based on sales volume crowd the market. Producing as little as it did on an annual basis off just five acres of farmland made it impossible to be as competitive as was necessary.
Stone is currently working with the land owner to find a suitable tenant to take over the lease and maintain the property. Back at its restaurants, Stone will continue to source produce from smaller, local, organic farmers—perhaps even the purveyor that rises from the ashes of the heartfelt and hard-fought but ultimately unviable passion-project that was Stone Farms.
From the Beer Writer: I saw the name come through the online trademark database—Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker. No way, I thought. How could San Diego’s third-largest craft brewery be planning to package a beer that complex? For those who’ve never heard of Passion Fruit Kicker, that name was developed when former Green Flash brewmaster Chuck Silva and director of beer education Dave Adams worked with yours truly to develop a recipe to brew for the Beer to the Rescue anti-lupus campaign. The most complex of the 30-plus beers the fundraising effort birthed, PFK was a wheat India pale ale (IPA) with Brettanomyces and passion fruit procured from Stone Farms that was dry-hopped with experimental hops and blended with a wine barrel-aged IPA. While it was delicious and even thought-provoking in its unique character, going national with something like that hardly seemed feasible. Then I read the approved label and discovered the name was applied to a low-alcohol wheat ale brewed with passion fruit concentrate and passion fruit tea. While almost totally different, it’s also quite nice. Based on the base recipe for Alpine Beer Co.’s wheat ale, Willy (Green Flash Brewing Company acquired Green Flash in 2014), it has a subtle creaminess that gives way to restrained fruit tartness in the finish. A mineral quality similar to Sauvignon Blanc wine is also present. This 5.5% alcohol-by-volume session ale has a lot going for it…and is a heck of a lot easier to explain than its namesake.
From the Brewer: “Passion Fruit Kicker has a pretty unique origin story. It came about when two different ideas from two different sources merged. The brewers had been experimenting with teas in casks and single-keg one-off beers. Our favorite tea to use was a passion fruit tea (from local company, Tea Gallerie). It has an amazing aroma and flavor like a ripe passion fruit. At the time we were playing around with that tea in different beers, the idea for a tart, fruity wheat beer emerged. So naturally we tried making that beer with the passion fruit tea. It was a perfect match! We combined passion fruit concentrate with the tea to make a uniquely pungent, aromatic, tart and refreshing wheat beer. It actually smells and tastes like you’re drinking it out of a hollowed-out passion fruit gourd! The background of a very clean, crisp, lightly bittered wheat beer lets the passion fruit shine for a truly great fruit beer experience.”—Kevin Barnes, Lead Brewer, Green Flash Brewing Company
Each year, San Diego Beer Week arrives and rains down a myriad of events. Like a Vegas buffet, planning and strategy are key. Otherwise, you’ll end up asleep somewhere and missing out on the fun.
This list is subjective. I focused on events that have uncommon beers and especially beers from out of San Diego. I also really want to check out some of the newest beers/breweries/spots in town. In other words, I’m fixing to learn what’s up on the cutting edge of San Diego beer and tasting the best that America’s Finest Beer City/County can produce. I’m also trying to not die in the process, so this list is biased towards central-San Diego as that’s where my bed is. My sources: our WC online beer event calendar at westcoastersd.com, Beer Week’s official website SDBW.org and our generous advertisers (make sure to check out the ads in this issue, for there are plenty of amazing happenings in there).
San Diego’s finest are also avid local beer fans and well aware of San Diego Beer Week. Don’t be a drunk driving dickhead, use your phone to talk to space and summon a Lyft or Uber. Uber lets you split fares now so you can break up the fare with the squad.
I only regret that I have but one liver to lose for my county
Friday, November 6th
Verily, this event’s grown a bit since it’s cozy inception in 2013. That said, I’m expecting a state-of-the-union for how SD beer is tasting while enjoying a sunset on the water. Details are slim as to who is pouring what exactly, but there will be unlimited food, beer and access to local brewing community folks.
If you’re attending both days, I recommend hunting the whales during the VIP. See below for my tip on the 2nd day.
Amplified Ale Works 3-Year Anniversary
There’s a growing number of adults in Pacific Beach who choose local beer over vodka slushies and our resident brewery is Amplified. Cy Henley makes amazing beers out of his seaside brewhouse, the biergarten patio overlooks the ocean and the food is amazing. When people ask me why I moved from North/South Park to PB, I take them here (then Crushed, TapRoom and Iron Pig afterwards if it’s one of those nights).
Saturday, November 7th
San Diego Brewers Guild Festival
I will most likely be slightly woozy from the previous evening, but nothing will keep me from this festival. This is because this festival is awesome. While there won’t be unlimited food, there will be even more beer and friends present, and I can get a better view of the boats floating around the bay during the day.
The general Saturday Guildfest session is a great time to check out just-opened breweries, as this is their first ever Guild Fest and they’re going to want to impress. As of late October, brand new breweries that opened this year are: Abnormal, Bay Bridge, Bay City, Division 23, Duck Foot, Guadalupe, Half Door, Helix, Home, Kilowatt, Magnetic, Novo Brazil, Pacific Islander, Prodigy, Second Chance and South Park. Be gentle with your Untappd ratings; remember all breweries were once baby breweries 🙂
Sunday, November 8th
Baja Beers @ Bottlecraft Little Italy
I was going to type some remark bemoaning the old Bottlecraft, but then I remembered the old location sucked compared to the new one. This will be the first Beer Week for Bottlecraft Little Italy 2.0, and Baja breweries are ON FIRE right now. While I couldn’t get a hold of the tap list for this event, based on the above facts I know Bottlecraft will put on a good event. Ballast Point Little Italy is a catty-corner away, and they have beer, too.
Epicurean Beer Geek Tours @ White Labs, Brothers Provisions, Stone Farms and Societe
A new face launching for SDBW, Epicurean San Diego is an outfit that promises beer, food and education while ferrying you to White Labs, Brothers Provisions, Stone Farms and Societe. I don’t get to visit White Labs, Brothers and Societe enough, and I’ve never actually had a beer at Stone Farms. The cost is $115, and if there’s food and beer involved that’s a pretty good price especially since it includes transportation and a meal. Great event for out-of-towners and if Sunday doesn’t work the same tour runs daily November 5th-8th & 12th-15th from 10:30AM-3:45PM
Monday, November 9th
Brews, Views & Chews @ Tom Ham’s Lighthouse
It’s not just about beer, folks. Beer Week brings a lot of stellar foodie events, and this is one of them. Tom Ham’s Lighthouse is an iconic San Diego landmark that underwent a significant remodel and has stepped up their beer program in 2015. This event features six breweries such as Ballast Point, New English and Belching Beaver paired with six plates from the chefs of Soda & Swine, Carnitas Snack Shack and The Little Lion Cafe. Live music and a killer view of my lovely hometown’s downtown seal the deal for me.
Abnormal Beer Co. / Cork & Craft Beer Pairing Dinner featuring Modern Times & Almanac
Another equally killer option is up north at Abnormal Beer Company / Cork & Craft. A proper sit-down beer dinner, this multi-course meal will have beers paired from Modern Times, Almanac and Abnormal paired with the skilled Cork & Craft Kitchen. While I don’t know the particulars of this event, I was lucky enough to attend an outstanding AleSmith beer dinner early in 2015. It’s a safe bet that with months worth of practice this will be worth every penny.
Tuesday, November 10th
The Full Table @ Benchmark Beer
Like any San Diegan, I dig my badass hoppy Single/Double/Triple/Quadruple IPAs. That said, as my palate evolves (and my liver ages), I find myself appreciating gentler, more subtle beers. Benchmark Brewing Company’s Table Beer is a fine example of what I’m talking about, and this night will feature 12 different variations of the slightly roasty belgian style ale. This event is a great way to tune your tastebuds. Grab a pint of regular Table for a control beer, and then taste the versions that have been barrel-aged and brettanomyces-brewed. Check out how slight changes in ingredients can create such dramatic differences. Within walking distance is the rest of the developing Grantville neighborhood beer cluster which includes Groundswell and San Diego Brewing Co.
Wednesday, November 11th
Sour Tap Takeover @ Rip Current North Park
Unlike most non-brewing satellite tasting rooms, 2015 Great American Beer Festival Very Small Brewery of the Year Rip Current’s North Park location serves guest taps in addition to the beer brewed in the San Marcos production facility. Rip Current has deep connections with local homebrewing club QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity). Thus, the staff is pretty enthusiastic about quality brews – even if they don’t brew it themselves. Guest taps will be pouring a tart selection from Almanac, Toolbox, Council, DogFish Head & more starting at 3PM.
Thursday, November 12th
7th Fling w/ Green Flash @ Hamilton’s
Like the Hajj, all San Diego beer faithful should attend this event once in their lifetime. The morning starts at Morley Field with a brunch. While you munch, Hamilton’s proprietor Scot Blair and his staff are busy matching up players to create even teams of four. After a brief talk regarding rules, the shotgun disk golf tournament starts. Disk golf is the de-facto sport of San Diego Beer, and expect several brewers to be in attendance. While all skill levels are welcome and the fun level is high, there is stiff competition. Comradery and silliness are expected by all attending. Winners get to tap the cask at the afterparty which takes place at Hamilton’s. The afterparty is closed to non-Flingers, boasts lunch and a hosted bar until 3PM (when Hamilton’s normally opens).
Craft Beer + Bites @ SILO
Maker’s Quarter is a slick venue located right off where the 94 freeway ends. $35-$40 ticket gets you unlimited tastings of beer from 15 breweries, with food, craft cocktails and wine available for purchase. Proceeds benefit the San Diego Brewers Guild, and this event is also a graduation celebration for the recent batch of students from the San Diego State Business of Craft Beer Program. Across the street is Monkey Paw and both Half Door and Mission are within walking distance (along with the rest of downtown).
Friday, November 13th
Beer Without Borders @ Machete Beer House
As I mentioned, the Mexican craft brewers are doing some great stuff. It’s much easier to get to National City than Tijuana, and Machete is one of the bright stars of the growing South Bay beer scene. All 30 taps will be taken over by breweries such as Insurgente, Agua Mala, Border Psycho and Wendlandt. For those lucky enough to have a designated driver, don’t forget to check out La Bella Pizza, Manhattan Bar and Third Street Ale House while you’re in the area to understand #SouthBayUprising.
Battle of the Guilds @ Toronado
This event ruled last year. Try beer from the greater Los Angeles and San Francisco first. Breweries that will be included from LA: Three Weavers, Beachwood, Ladyface, Monkish, Phantom Carriage + more. From the Bay Area: Magnolia, Cellarmaker, Thirsty Bear + more. Last year had lots of brewers in attendance from San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco; this is a good event to mingle! Stop in early if you’re looking for the rarer beers, or pop in while roaming 30th. Don’t forget to cast your vote for San Diego!
Saturday, November 14th
Three Amigos @ O’Brien’s Pub
Former Pizza Port brewers Tom Nickel, Jeff Bagby and Tomme Arthur have each staked their own claims at Nickel Brewing Co., Bagby Beer Co., and Lost Abbey, respectively. An event with these three dudes present is a treat. If you wanted a chance to hang out with the best of the business while tasting some insane beer, this is it. Early afternoon is probably the best time to hit this event up. O’Brien’s is within the Kearny Mesa brewery cluster, which means Societe, Council, Kilowatt and Helm’s are all within striking distance. For food, across the street are two cool new beer pubs Common Theory and Dumpling Inn.
Sunday, November 15th
The Beer Garden at the Lodge at Torrey Pines
Located on the grounds of the 5-star Lodge at Torrey Pines, the endpiece event of San Diego Beer Week is not to be missed. Gaze upon the majesty of the Torrey Pines golf course and the Pacific Ocean while stuffing your unmajestic, Beer-Week weary maw with unlimited, expertly matched food & beer pairings. This last official San Diego Brewers Guild event of the year explains to all senses why San Diego is awesome.
As this article was written late October for our November 2015 issue, numerous events have surfaced. West Coaster Editor Ryan Lamb has worked very hard to compile the best list of events in existence, so check that out along with SDBW.org and choose your own adventure!
San Diego Beer Week 2010 was when our first edition of West Coaster was published. It’s our fifth anniversary month this November. From all of us at WC: Thank you for reading!
From the Beer Writer: When volunteering to brew a beer for my Beer to the Rescue campaign, Green Flash Brewing Company Brewmaster Chuck Silva and Director of Beer Education Dave Adams couldn’t have been more gracious. Not only did they squeeze a pilot brew into their rapidly expanding brewery’s schedule, but when brainstorming, they said nothing was off limits. Brettanomyces, barrels and experimental hops were all on the table. So, we worked up a recipe that would incorporate all of that…and more. The more in this case was fresh passion fruit procured from Stone Farms in Escondido, which were blended in post-fermentation to add a bit of tartness. But there’s much more to this truly unique, multi-layered, 7.7% alcohol-by-volume beer, which debuts today at Green Flash’s Mira Mesa brewery tasting room as part of a Beer to the Rescue event benefiting the Lupus Foundation of Southern California.
From the Beer Educator: We were trying to brew a low IBU (international bittering unit) white IPA, if you will, with the intention of adding passion fruit purée, post-fermentation. We wanted to utilize an experimental hop that would complement the passion fruit that we’d use later. We added mostly late additions of this experimental hop varietal in order to provide a nice tropical fruit aroma while keeping the IBUs in the 40-ish range. Then we headed to Stone Farms to source some passion fruit. The passion fruit we found there was mind-blowing in all aspects. After cutting open the fresh fruit and tasting the beautiful, bright orange seed-peppered juice we all had ear-to-ear smiles and knew this would be perfect for the beer. We juiced the fruit and headed to the brewery to make up some different blends. We also added some Protégé Savauge, our White IPA aged in Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces. The result was a beer that had an amazing orange yellow color with a touch of tartness and an incredible amount of complexity. We’re very excited to offer this beer in the tasting room for a limited time, kicking off the initial tapping for our Beer to the Rescue fundraiser. —Dave Adams, Director of Beer Education, Green Flash Brewing Company
From the Brewer: When the three of us met to develop the beer concept, we discussed going in the direction of a saison or white IPA for the base. Other suggestions included using our house Brettanomyces, barrel-aging all or part of the beer, utilizing an experimental hop and, finally, giving the beer a “passion fruit kicker,” which became the name for our beer. As it came together, we chose a grist of 15% wheat and 85% two-row for a simple wort up front, but on our brew day we selected Hopsteiner experimental hop 05256 for its unique fruity qualities and to build some flavor throughout the boil. We fermented with White Labs California Ale Yeast and, later, dry-hopped the moderately bitter brew with a modest amount of 05256. I like this hop and it was my first time using it. It’s delightful with some restraint in hop rate. This beer has mild Brett funk with some Chardonnay oak barrel notes, slight tartness, just a bit of hop bitterness, and an exotic but funky tropical fruit flavor kicker to wash it all down. —Chuck Silva, Brewmaster, Green Flash Brewing Company