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San Diego Beer Week 2015: Publisher’s Picks

Nov 6


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, Beer Week’s official website 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
-Jerry Sanders

Friday, November 6th
VIP Guildfest
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 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!



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Beer of the Week: Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker IPA

Jun 19
Green Flash Brewing Co.'s Beer to the Rescue offering, Passion Fruit Kicker

Green Flash Brewing Co.’s Beer to the Rescue offering, Passion Fruit Kicker

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

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Just Brewed: Creative Collaborations

May 17

Ken Schmidt / Iron Fist / Stone Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout

Mitch Steele, Brandon Sieminski and Ken Schmidt with Farm Supervisor David Solomon at Stone Farms. Photo courtesy of Bill Benzel

Last week, homebrewer Ken Schmidt teamed up with Iron Fist Brewing Co.’s Brandon Sieminski and Stone Brewing Co.’s Mitch Steele to brew a scaled-up version of Pillow Mint at the Ritz, which took top honors at the Stone March Madness Homebrew Competition & AHA Rally. Using organically-grown mint from Stone Farms and the gardens of Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, alongside organically-grown, stone-ground cacao liquor from SoCal chocolatier Chocovivo, the team is attempting to replicate the bold and complex flavors of the original homebrew, likened to a Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie or an Andes mint. “I was a judge at the rally, and it was amazing how well the flavors worked together,” said Steele.

In a few ways this is a “reunion brew” for the three collaborators: Schmidt won the 2009 rendition of the same homebrew competition, leading to the Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter. Sieminski wasn’t part of that squad, but he did work at the bistro for a spell and was excited to be back — this time on the brew deck: “This beer is right up our alley, and I’ll probably be having dreams about this system for months,” he said. Sieminski was chosen as the third collaborator by Schmidt after careful consideration. “I asked Stone if they wanted someone local, and they pretty much left that decision up to me. I decided to go with Brandon from Iron Fist because I really like the Sieminski family and how they’ve all gotten behind their young brewmaster.”

The beer will be entered in the Pro-Am competition of the Great American Beer Festival this fall. View more photos from the brew day here.

Quantity produced: 340 barrels
Release date: Early July

Monkey Paw Brewing / KnB Wine Cellars (Name TBD) Gose

Derek Freese (left) and Adam Parker monkeying around during yesterday's brew day

This 1000-year old beer style is named for the naturally saline water of the Gose river which flows through the town center of Goslar, Germany. The style became very popular in the nearby city of Leipzig and is similar to Berliner Weiss, but the addition of coriander and salt means it did not strictly conform to the “Reinheitsgebot” German Beer Purity Law of using only hops, barley, and water (yeast was not known to be an ingredient of beer before Louis Pasteur in the 1800s). After the unification of Germany, Gose was granted exception to the Reinheitsgebot rule as a regional specialty outside of Bavaria.

As far as we know, this style had not been commercially produced in San Diego before Tuesday, when brewer Derek Freese (Monkey Paw) and collaborator Adam Parker (KnB Wine Cellars) began their experiment in flavor. Over the next few days Freese will perform a sour mashing technique using Lactobacillus delbrueckii in the kettle, having enlisted the advice of Ballast Point/Home Brew Mart’s Colby Chandler (Sour Wench Blackberry Ale brewer) and Karl Strauss’ Paul Segura (Flan-Diddly-Anders Red Ale brewer). Because Freese and Parker didn’t have the same German water to work with, they’ll be adding the necessary salt to the uncarbonated beer next week, after taste-testing several salts from the KnB kitchen mixed with beer pulled off the fermentors.

Quantity produced: 10 barrels
Release date: Noon on June 30 at KnB Wine Cellars’ 4-Year Anniversary Party 

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No Stone Unturned

May 19

Greg reveals bird's eye view of Stone Liberty Station plans

“Now we’re getting into uncharted territory,” says CEO & Co-Founder of Stone Brewing Co., Greg Koch, in response to an open-ended question about the tremendous growth of the company since its opening in 1996. “I didn’t see this full vision at that time, but it’s fun to develop it as we go along.” And what a vision it is, even for a company that has historically been known for its aggressive approach to marketing and expansion. Over the past 36 hours, Stone has made several big announcements and updated some old ones. West Coaster was invited on a special press event to unveil the new plans.

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens Liberty Station
Stone Liberty Station will be a 20,000 sq. ft., 400-seat brewery/restaurant complete with bocce courts and an outdoor movie area. The new brewery/restaurant will have a 10-barrel brewing system, provide 130 new jobs, and is expected to open in late spring 2012. 40 taps, emphasizing local brands, will complement a ~100 ct. bottle list. It will be “imaginatively landscaped,” according to Koch, with “some stone, some wall features, and we’re going to incorporate some bamboo – a nod to what we’ve done up in Escondido, but certainly not a copy by any stretch of the imagination.”

Greg reveals the Stone South Park blueprints. Greg noted Stone fans won't have to drive up to Escondido anymore, thus decreasing their carbon footprint

Stone Company Store South Park
We reported back in November about Stone South Park, and although it was originally intended to house a pilot brewing system, that will not be the case. “Due to a variety of challenges with the licensing in that spot, we took a different approach. We got a different kind of license that does not allow brewing but does allow us to actually open,” Koch says with a smirk. He added that beers from the Liberty Station brewhouse will be available in South Park. The storefront, located at 2215 30th Street, will open “in approximately thirty days” for growler fills, limited tastings and merchandise.

Stone Farms
After a short walking tour of the Stone Liberty Station grounds, we hopped on a bus up to Stone Farms located off Protea Gardens Road in Escondido. Currently, only about five of the 18 acres are being used, and the biodynamic farm will not be fully operational for some time. Chickens on the farm are being raised to produce eggs on a small scale, and eventually the farm will be used to provide veggies for the Bistros, although utilizing local farmers will remain the main method of procuring fresh, local ingredients. Stone plans to hold special events and dinners on the property and Greg also emphasized the use of the space for educational purposes.  Hops will be grown at the farm mainly for show, not for large-scale production (this isn’t the right climate anyways), although Greg did not rule out their use for small-batch, specialty, or cask beers.

Checking in with the chickens at Stone Farms

Citracado Expansions
We aren’t done yet. Back at Stone World Bistro & Gardens, more announcements:

Top right: existing facilities; Top left yellow box: new production facility; Bottom 3 yellow boxes across the street: hotel, outdoor space, parking, barrel room, offices, catering, etc.

– Three new electric vehicle charging stations coming in June. Company policy states that no employees, including Greg and Steve, could park in front after 10:30am, but Greg found a loophole with his Chevy Volt: “Now finally I’ll be able to park in front again because that’s where the charger is…but this wasn’t a personally-driven decision.”

– 672 bottles of Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter Aged in Bourbon Barrels to be released early June with a TBD lottery system. Read more on this beer from San Diego Beer Blog.

– Ground to break on kitchen expansion in roughly sixty days.

– Directly adjacent to the south: a 55,000 sq. ft.production facility. They’ll be moving all packaging, filtering and separation, bright beer storage, as well as adding a second brew line (not a full brewhouse, but a second lauter tun and kettle). Capacity will increase to 400,000-500,000 barrels a year (it’s currently ~115,000 barrels). Construction expected 2013, estimated initial investment: $6.5 million.

– In new buildings to the east across the street: more barrel-aging and a new sour program. “We are planning on developing this space so that we can have events in and around the barrels in the barrel room – really, honestly, taking a little bit of a nod from the wine industry that has spaces like that.”

– Stone Catering will be managed from these buildings to the east; this new division kicking off now.

– Pour It Black festival at Escondido location announced – August 13th – to feature black IPAs, cascadian parks, porters, stouts.

– Also to the east across the street: a 40-50 room boutique hotel; expected to be open before the summer of 2013. Greg joked, “Actually, it won’t be single, double occupancy, two queens or one king – it will be, ‘Do you want a 3-tap room or a 6-tap room?” Best question of the day goes to Jon of The Full Pint: “Room service growler fills?” Greg responds, “I like the way you think. But on the other hand, if you can’t manage to come across the street to get your own growler, maybe…” Jon: “…Maybe you got something going on…” Greg, after a laugh and a pause: “You’re definitely invited to the next one of these.”

– Total initial investment on all buildings to the east, including new offices: $11 million.

Unreleased Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout and Barrel-Aged El Camino

– Stone has projected profits from their Green Tea IPA Collaboration, and this week will donate $50,000 to Japan Tsunami Relief.

– Barrel-aged (w/ scotch whiskey barrels from Scotland) version of Highway 78 collaboration beer coming out this summer. Update: this beer should be out by the end of the year, not by summer. Thanks to Jeff at SanDiegoBeerBlog for clarification

– Belgo Anise Russian Imperial Stout to be released May 31st.

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