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Posts Tagged Tom Nickel

Beer of the Week: Isomerizer IPA

Mar 16

Isomerizer IPA from Karl Strauss Brewing

From the Beer Writer: First came Mosaic Session Ale. I had my first pint at the debut of Karl Strauss Brewing‘s revamped Brewery Gardens in Sorrento Mesa and instantly loved it. Enough that I pulled co-founder Chris Cramer aside to gush about the session IPA. Next came Double Mosaic, which I had via a growler delivered by Nickel Beer Co. owner Tom Nickel, who assisted Karl’s brewmaster Paul Segura in “doubling” the strength of that beer to a standard single-IPA alcohol level. Being such a fan of its progenitor, it wasn’t surprising I enjoyed Double Mosaic just as much, but I was caught completely off guard—and convinced in the consistency of my palate—when, at this year’s Changing of the Barrels at Karl Strauss’ headquarters, I ordered a beer called Isomerizer IPA, and once again experienced love at first sip. Bright with citrus and tropical-fruit aromas and flavors, exhibiting perfect weight and texture, dry and quenching in the finish, I was again driven to reach out to the Karl crew to share how much I liked it. It turns out, Isomerizer is a fine-tuned version of Double Mosaic and, fun fact, it will be available in canned six-packs and on-draft at Karl Strauss’ brewpubs and restaurants starting Monday. Whether you enjoy this veteran company’s Mosaic or simply the hop varietal its named after, you’re sure to love this beer. Maybe even as much as I do.

From the Brewer: “Isomerizer IPA was inspired by our Mosaic Session IPA and the tropical flavors of the Mosaic hop. It’s such a beautiful hop, the best one I’ve seen come along in a while. so we wanted to make an IPA that really showcased its full spectrum of flavors. We kept the malt profile subtle, which allowed the Mosaic to shine through the beer with its flavors of grapefruit, passion fruit, mango, blueberry and all of that tropical goodness. After some R&D work, we were so happy with the final batch that we decided to scale it up and add it to our core lineup as a year-round brew.”Paul Segura, Brewmaster, Karl Strauss Brewing Company

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Beer of the Week: O Brother, Where Tart Thou?

Mar 2

O Brother, Where Tart Thou?, a barrel-aged golden sour ale with apricots brewed by Bitter Brothers Brewing for O’Brien’s Pub’s anniversary.

From the Beer Writer: Beer dinners take place all the time in San Diego. Not to sound completely jaded, but after going to dozens of them, it’s easy to take some for granted, even when the food and beer taste great. Typically, the fermentation-based feasts that stand out are the ones held by businesses that go the extra mile. Case in point, O’Brien’s Pub. Not only does owner Tom Nickel and his crew form real relationships with local brewers and cull some of the most interesting ales and lagers from their stock, he also brews collaboration beers that take his venerable establishment’s multi-course affairs to the next level. Last weekend, O’Brien’s teamed up with Bay Ho’s Bitter Brothers Brewing, debuting O Brother, Where Tart Thou?, a collaboratively-created wine-barrel-aged golden sour ale. Three versions of the beer were presented to diners, each of which documented a different stage in its evolution to the final product, which goes on sales in bottles at Bitter Brothers’ tasting room today.

From the Brewers: “O Brother, Where Tart Thou started out as a golden sour ale dry-hopped with Mosaic hops. It was then moved and spent time in white-wine barrels.  At the eight-month mark we added apricot and let it mature for another two-and-a-half months. The beer is slightly orange in color with a sturdy white head and nice acidity. It was really cool to try all three iterations of this beer—dry-hopped and both the fruited and non-fruited barrel-aged versions—at the O’Brien’s dinner. It was nice to enjoy and compare them side-by-side, and we’re happy we’ll have all three of them at our tasting room, plus bottles for sale, starting today.”Tyler Tucker, Head Brewer, Bitter Brothers Brewing Company

“When the idea came up to do a collaboration with Bitter Brothers, it immediately struck me that we should do a kettle sour with them based on how good their seasonal Family Tart series was right from the start. We talked about making a beer a bit stronger and, since it was for O’Brien’s, a bit hoppier, of course. The original version of the beer was a 6% golden kettle sour dry-hopped with Mosaic hops. It was a fantastic beer, but it was just stage one. The beer was aged in Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc barrels for several months. After tasting it, we decided to add apricot purée. The result is a fruited sour beer that I am so proud to have been a part of. The overall impression is myriad fruit and sour flavors with subtle barrel notes. My favorite thing about it right now is that next year’s batch has already been brewed. Cheers to the entire Bitter Brothres crew for creating a wonderful libation…and O’Brien’s’ own Tyson Blake for the amazing name.”Tom Nickel, Owner, O’Brien’s Pub & Nickel Beer Co.

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2017 Recap: Beers of the Week

Dec 22

Each week, I feature a locally produced beer that is special from one of numerous standpoints. Sometimes it’s an anniversary beer, other times I go with collaborations. The draw of something unique often piques my interest, then there are times when a beer just tastes outstanding. But the basic plan of action is to highlight quality ales and lagers from around the county without featuring the same brewery twice during a single calendar year. This year, I decided to list all of the weekly standouts and rank them. In order to best do this, I broke them into categories (apples-to-apples versus triple-IPA-to-cream-ale). As one would expect from a beat this drenched in hop oil, IPAs of all ilks were featured most often, but there were plenty of lagers, Belgian-style ales, stouts and other concoctions. All were good, but some were outstanding enough that they should be recognized here.

Alpine HFS India Pale Ale


A collaboratively brewed Nelson Lager from Dos Desperados Brewery and Prodigy Brewing Company


  • Nelson Lager, Dos Desperados Brewery & Prodigy Brewing, San Marcos: This wasn’t just one of the best lagers I had all year, it was one of the best beers overall; crisp, clean and bursting with Nelson Sauvin character.
  • Natural Bridge Festbier, Eppig Brewing, North Park: This is a beer so well-crafted, true-to-style and absolutely perfect for everyday consumption that I find myself thinking about it just about every day.
  • Herd of Turtles Baltic Porter, Bagby Beer Co., Oceanside: With so few Baltic-style porters in the county, they could have passed any dark lager off as one, but of course, this standout operation aced it.
  • Bird Park Bohemian Pilsner, North Park Beer Co., North Park
  • Helles Yeah! Helles, Division 23 Brewing, Miramar
  • Ragnabock Doppelbock, Longship Brewing, Mira Mesa
  • Sea Señor Mexican Lager, SouthNorte Brewing, Coronado

Origin of Shame from The Lost Abbey

Belgian-style Ales

Bear Cookie Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout seved on nitro at Vista’s Bear Roots Brewing


Hop Slap’d #5 American Pale Ale from New English Brewing

Other Styles

* Author’s Note: This year, Nickel Beer Co. had two Beer of the Week features due to the untimely passing of local publican Larry Koger, for whom owner and business partner Tom Nickel brewed a commemorative beer. It was a good reason to break policy.

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Julian Brewing Company v2.0

Nov 28

On Memorial Day weekend of 2016, downtown Julian’s The Bailey Wood-Fired BBQ closed its doors. That move shut down its on-site fermentation component, Julian Brewing Company. The business was taken over and converted into a brewpub in 2012 by San Diego brewing veterans Vince Marsaglia and Tom Nickel. The latter is the owner of O’Brien’s Pub and West Coast BBQ & Brew, and sold off his stake later that year, going on to open his own brewery, Nickel Beer Co., just down the street. Marsaglia, co-founder of Pizza Port, Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey, soldiered on but struggled to make a success of the operation. After exploring the option of selling The Bailey, he made the decision to close it and revamp it almost in its entirely. Soon, it will reopen with a new identity that will make it unique from a beermaking perspective, not only within Julian, but throughout San Diego entire county. Read more »

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Ballast Point holding Family Reunion brews

Aug 10

Nickel Beer owner and former Home Brew Mart employee Tom Nickel (third from right) during a Family Reunion collaboration brew day at Ballast Point’s Miramar brewery.

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.

Ballast Point vice president Colby Chandler dumps hops over Amplified Ale Works head brewer Cy Henley’s head as part of a collaboration brew tradition.

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.

  • Saludos Saison: The third brewing of a strong saison with lemon peel, orange-blossom honey and thyme inspired by Brasserie Dupont’s Avec Les Bon Vouex brewed with Tom Nickel. He was HBM’s sixth employee and now owns and operates Nickel Beer Company as well as O’Brien’s Pub and West Coast Barbecue & Brews.
  • Loud & Proud: An English-style barley wine with cherrywood-smoked malt brewed with Cy Henley, the head brewer at Amplified Ale Works. He was a clerk at HBM before moving on to Alpine Beer Company and Green Flash Brewing.
  • Name TBD: Ex-HBM clerk Larry Monasakanian is now with Fall Brewing and will help brew a 5% alcohol-by-volume saison based off the recipe for BP’s charity offering, Brother Levonian. This version will be brewed with grains of paradise, local sage and equally local wet hops from Star B Ranch, then fermented with a blend of Brettanomyces and saison yeast,
  • Scripps Tease: An extra special bitter (ESB) made with toasted oats and Ethiopia Ayeahu RFA coffee beans from James Coffee Company (close to BP’s Little Italy brewpub) brewed with Nate Stephens and Clayton LeBlanc, the brew crew for Eppig Brewing. Both worked for BP, the former led Little Italy operations while the latter brewed at its Scripps Ranch facility.
  • Swemiceros: A hoppy Kolsch dry-hopped with fruity, citrusy, herbal hops brewed with Nick Ceniceros, head brewer at 32 North Brewing. Nick worked at Scripps Ranch before moving to Fall Brewing and eventually his current digs.
  • Bay to Bay: A black California common that’s “obnoxiously dry-hopped” with Mosaic brewed with Alex Tweet, who won a BP homebrew contest with his recipe for Indra Kunindra, a curry export stout the company still manufactures. Tweet went on to brew for Modern Times Beer before moving to Berkeley to open the popular Fieldwork Brewing.
  • Name TBD: John Maino and Greg Webb, former Scripps Ranch brewers and co-owners of Temecula’s Ironfire Brewing, will help brew a wet-hop India pale ale (IPA) fermented with Brett.

Eppig Brewing’s Clayton LeBlanc talks about his time working at Ballast Point with the company’s current employees.

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.

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