Before Ballast Point Brewing was a company capable of commanding decuple figures, before it grew into San Diego County’s largest brewery and one of the biggest beer-producers in the country, before there even was a brewery called Ballast Point, there was Home Brew Mart (HBM). That Linda Vista hobby shop—one of the first to grace America’s Finest City—opened quietly in 1992 and, over the following quarter-century, has ignited a fire for recreational fermentation within a great many ale-and-lager neophytes. That includes individuals who now own breweries and brew professionally. Some of that contingent even worked for HBM in its early days. In celebration of the big two-five, Ballast Point is creating Family Reunion collaboration beers with those ex-employees as well as former BP brewers, an impressive assemblage of well-known, award-winning talent.
Several of the beers have already been released, while others are scheduled to be brewed in time for them to all be on-tap at HBM’s 25th anniversary event on September 24. The following is a breakdown of the collaborators, their creations and their past.
In an effort to increase its current employee base’s knowledge on the history of BP and its eldest venue, vice president Colby Chandler asked each collaborator to speak to present-day brewers about their time with the company, how it was then and how it prepared them to venture out on their own. Many said that making beer at such a fast-growing brewing company provided them wide-ranging experience as well as reference points for overcoming myriad obstacles. According to Chandler, many brewery owners, in particular, felt their time with BP made it much easier once they were working for themselves.
In addition to the HBM anniversary event, BP is also holding a series of beer-pairing dinners incorporating the aforementioned collaboration brews at HBM. The next will take place on August 24 and include five courses served with Swemiceros, Bay to Bay, Scripps Tease and various other BP beers. Chandler, Tweet, Stephens, LeBlanc and Ceniceros will all be in attendance.
Summer’s in full swing and so is San Diego’s beer-drinking public. Rather than beat the heat, get right out in it and combat it with local ales and lagers at any of the featured events below. Still thirsty? No problem. Check out even more beery happenings on our events page.
July 11 | Beer Dinner No. 2: North Park Beer’s first beer dinner was impressive, enough that one attendee, O’Brien’s Pub’s Tyson Blake, signed up him and his boss, Nickel Beer Co. brewmaster Tom Nickel, to participate in this month’s feast, which will feature house, guest and collab beers plus fare from on-site Mastiff Sausage that goes beyond its everyday meaty fare. | North Park Beer Company, 3038 University Avenue, North Park, 7 p.m.
July 19 | Hop-Con 5.0: Stone Brewing will celebrate a half-decade of boozy, (partially) barrel-aged beer that salutes and speaks to nerds of all walks of life when it taps five consecutive vintages of Drew Curtis / Wil Wheaton / Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout and an immense list of specialty brews, serves up gourmet food and plugs in its vintage #HopCade. | Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, 2816 Historic Decatur Road, Point Loma, 7 p.m.
July 21-23 | Craft Beer Block Party: The tenants of the North Park Brewery Igniter campus—Eppig Brewing, Pariah Brewing and San Diego Brewing—are teaming up for the first time to present a fun weekend that will feature a Friday-night progressing beer-pairing dinner featuring three courses from Biersal Food Truck, and a two-day “local maker’s market”. | CRAFT by Brewery Igniter, 3052 El Cajon Boulevard; North Park, Times Vary by Day
July 29 | Arts & Amps: Ales and art in multiple forms will be celebrated at Karl Strauss Brewing’s PB tasting room and beer garden. There’ll be live mural art by Cohort Collective, a gallery show from Creative Souls on the West, live music by The Schizophonics and Creature Canyon, and food from Tasting Room Del Mar. An event like this could be pricey, but admission is free! | Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 5985 Santa Fe Street, Pacific Beach, 4:30 p.m.
July 29 | HESSFEST 7: Mike Hess Brewing has been getting by with a little help from their friends for a whopping seven years. Breweries from here to Arizona come out to bolster this festival, which benefits Next Step Service Dogs and the YMCA, and will feature nine collaboration beers with the likes of Council Brewing, Eppig Brewing, and Second Chance Beer Company. | Mike Hess Brewing, 3812 Grim Avenue, North Park, 12 p.m.
From the Beer Writer: Every time I find myself strolling the beer aisle of a local grocery store, I marvel at the amount of fruit-flavored beers in the mainstream market, many of which are manufactured using extracts. It’s obvious the demand is there, but it can be tough to find all-natural options, partly because brewing with real fruit is more costly, more complicated, and more labor-intensive. Because of that, the process is far better suited to small breweries like Nickel Beer Company, an operation carved into an old jailhouse in Julian. Every week you can find owner and brewmaster Tom Nickel hunched over buckets of local grapefruit, zesting and juicing one after another to get enough flavorful raw ingredient for Nickel Grapefruit Bighorn IPA. He’s not even a fan of fruit beers, but he knows his customers are, even folks like me who generally dislike grapefruit. The manner in which the bitter citrus comingles with the fruity bitterness of the beer’s hop bill really works, particularly when consuming this beer on Nickel’s outdoor patio on a sunny day in Julian.
From the Brewers: “I would consider myself more of a traditional brewer and not prone to adding extra flavors to beer, my one exception being an obsession with all things spicy, so I do love my pepper beers. But when I saw locally-grown grapefruit from Borrego Springs at our produce stand in Julian, I thought it seemed like a good fit to try with one of our IPAs. The intensity of the fresh grapefruit in the beer struck me immediately, and while I certainly thought it was good, I had no idea how folks—especially our local regulars—would react to it. For the time that we have had it on, it has been our most popular beer. I have now used three different IPAs as a base to blend with the Borrego grapefruit, but the Bighorn IPA is a perfect match. The beer was brewed for the Anza-Borrego Foundation‘s 50th Anniversary in April. It was made with 100% German hops, including Hallertau Blanc for finishing and dry hopping to give the beer a substantial citrus profile. It is very light in color and clocks in at a very drinkable 6.4% (alcohol-by-volume). The grapefruit is commanding in the aroma and finish but the overall impression of the IPA remains. I think my favorite comment about the beer so far comes from my mother-in-law, who said it would be an excellent breakfast beer. I wholeheartedly agree.”—Tom Nickel, Founder & Brewmaster, Nickel Beer Company
From the Beer Writer: When beloved individuals pass on, people pay their respects in a variety of ways ranging from heartfelt eulogies, lasting dedications and artistic gestures. In the brewing industry, the tribute-beer is a popular way to say good-bye and thank-you to our friends and colleagues. Enter Larry’s Place IPA. Originally brewed last year at Julian’s Nickel Beer Company as a companion quaff for La Mesa restaurant West Coast Barbecue & Brews‘ four-year anniversary, this 7% alcohol-by-volume India pale ale is dry-hopped with Cascade and Zythos, resulting in a pronounced piney, resinous bitterness. Veteran San Diego brewer Tom Nickel owns both business as well as O’Brien’s Pub in Kearny Mesa. It’s there that he befriended Koger, a Luthern pastor with such an affinity for beer that he approached Nickel about opening a similar beer-centric venue together. This, despite him having no hospitality industry experience. Though an unlikely scenario, the two partnered and West Coast opened its doors in 2012. Though the business aspect of the venue was foreign to him, Koger was a natural when it came to engaging patrons, staff and employees of the breweries whose beers he showcased via West Coast’s impressive tap-list. He loved and appreciated them all, and the feeling was mutual. That was abundantly apparent last month when Koger passed away unexpectedly due to complications from an undiagnosed heart condition. Shortly after news of his passing surfaced, droves of people he’d touched gathered at West Coast and O’Brien’s to share their grief and toast his memory. Rebrewing Larry’s Place is one way Nickel is paying homage to his fallen friend and, in doing so, allowing others to say their good-byes with a final tip of the glass to someone who, speaking from experience, really was one of the sweetest people you could hope to meet. The beer is currently on-tap at West Coast, O’Brien’s and Nickel Beer. As part West Coast’s month-long fifth anniversary celebration, February 9-12, the beer will again be tapped along with a variety of rare, dark, strong and barrel-aged beers. They were Koger’s favorite types of beer and he’d saved these particular kegs for a special occasion. An event celebrating a fine man and a lasting piece of what he was all about is about as special they come.
From the Brewer: “Ask folks who the nicest person in the local beer scene was and anyone who knew him would say Larry Koger. Larry was a man of god, a Lutheran pastor who found a passion for craft beer. I met Larry as a customer at O’Brien’s. He quickly became a regular and formed many friendships there. After years of enjoying our pub as a patron, Larry wanted to try his hand at owning his own place. When he approached me and my wife about partnering up on a new pub, we knew that Larry would be the most honest and trustworthy person that we could go into business with. He exuded a child like enthusiasm for new beers and sharing them with customers. He loved West Coast, its patrons and its employees. Larry left us too soon at the age of 56 but he leaves behind a legacy of good beer and, more importantly, a legacy of kindness and optimism that is all too rare.”—Tom Nickel, Owner & Brewmaster, Nickel Beer Company
From the Beer Writer: If it weren’t for good friends and a great excuse to spend time with them, getting old would really suck. While I’m far from ancient, this weekend I will reach the milestone age of 40. I’m not bitter or upset. In fact, 40 is my lucky number and has graced every sports jersey I’ve ever donned, so I’ve finally caught up to a significant portion of my wardrobe. But getting back to the friends part, I am blessed to have a great many and, hence, an annual reason to enjoy beers with them, including Nickel Lion’s Blood Triple IPA. The recipe for this 11% alcohol-by-volume behemoth (which was massively hopped in the kettle, then run through a hot-tub of whole-leaf hops before hitting the fermentation tank and being dry-hopped with both pelletized and wet hops, the latter of which were sourced from Ramona’s Star B Ranch) was developed by brewmaster and publican Tom Nickel. We bonded over nearly overlapping August-birthday status years ago. His big day is August 13 and mine is the 14th, so this beer was brewed for co-celebratory purposes. Nickel wanted to name it Tiger’s Blood because, a la Charlie Sheen circa 2011, we would be #winning while drinking this hop-monster, but I suggested referencing lions given our shared Leo status. I consider his acquiescing in the moniker department a pretty nice birthday present. Ditto this beer, which will debut at Nickel Beer Co. in Julian and at O’Brien’s Pub in Kearny Mesa this afternoon. See you there?
From the Brewer: “I have to admit that this was not my idea, but it was one that I instantly warmed to. I don’t drink a lot of triple IPAs. I always enjoy trying them, but the high ABVs and often malty finishes dissuade me from thinking that this is a style I want to drink more than a single or even a double IPA. So when I set out to brew a triple IPA with Brandon Hernández for our mutual birthdays, I knew I wanted to keep the beer very light in color, as dry as possible for 11%, and more than anything, just plain hoppy. The malt bill is a combination of Golden Promise, German Pilsner malt and Great Western 2-Row with flaked corn and dextrose added to help keep the color and body light. In my more than 20 years in the San Diego brewing scene, it was the first time I had ever used corn in a mash. The hops were a collaboration between the birthday boys: Simcoe and Citra for power and depth, with Mosaic and German Blanc for finesse and finish. The beer was heavily dry-hopped and made extensive use of post-boil hops stewed in the mash tun with the beer during run-off. It even has the added bonus of fresh-picked Cascade hops from Star B in Santa Ysabel in the dry-hop. The result is a beer that is Pilsner-esque in color with an aroma full of stone fruit, melon and sweet citrus. The initial flavor is complex with hints of peach, pine and melon. The beer then finishes dry with a firm bitterness and deceptively high alcohol content. I couldn’t be happier with the beer and suggesting to brew this was a great birthday gift from Brandon. And if you are wondering about the name, duh…WINNING!”—Tom Nickel, Owner/Brewmaster, Nickel Beer Company