This article appears on pages 10 and 11 of our March “Ladies of Local Beer” issue, viewable here.
Laurie Delk. Photo by Tim Stahl, StahlPhotoGraphics.com
Laurie Delk is the beverage director for the Lumberyard Tavern and Grill in Encinitas, and founder of the popular blog 100 beers 30 days. Here, Delk chronicles her quest to taste the world’s best beers while raising money for charities through beer dinners and other events. She compared porters and stouts for her first project in November 2009, and is set to tackle barrel and oak-influenced beers from April 20th to May 19th of this year; luckily, Stone’s Oakquinox festival is on April 22nd, so there should be plenty of material to review. Delk also plans on hosting a benefit beer dinner in May at Toronado. Her answer to palate fatigue? Acai bowls and smoothies. Delk also has an extensive background in wine, and has served as the go-to girl for a winery in Italy run by the great-grandson of a former Italian president, and she was also the general manager at a popular wine and beer shop in New Orleans twice-over. In addition to hosting beer classes the last Tuesday of every month at the Lumberyard, Delk is excited that the bar is considering an additional 10 taps, which would increase her ability to pair beer with food for loyal patrons and newcomers alike. A curious person by nature, Delk enjoys when someone asks her a question about alcohol that she doesn’t know the answer to, and loves taking the time to gauge peoples’ taste buds. Learn more about Delk, and see her popular “Beer Minute” reviews online at 100beers30days.com.
Virginia Morrison. Photo by Kristina Yamamoto, KristinaMoto.com
Virginia Morrison, in addition to being the fiancee of San Diego Brewers Guild President Marty Mendiola, is the leading lady for the Taste of San Diego Craft Brews event that’s been held at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park for the past three years. Morrison estimates that the annual event raised more than $35,000 for the SDHC K-12 education outreach program in its first two years, and that more than $27,000 in donated goods (auction items, beer and food) made up 2012’s event on February 18th, which took more than four months of planning. Morrison says that plans are in the works for an exhibit featuring San Diego craft beer history and memorabilia to become part of the San Diego History Center’s collection in time for Balboa Park’s Centennial Celebration in 2015. Photo by Kristina Yamamoto, KristinaMoto.com
Barbara Harnish is the bar manager at both Local Habit restaurant in Hillcrest and downtown’s Mission Brewery, and she was part of the team that opened (and then re-opened) Main Tap Tavern in El Cajon. “Beer has shaped my entire adult life,” said Harnish, who decided to leave the automotive industry to pursue beer after drinking a Wasatch Polygamy Porter in Salt Lake City’s airport. “I liked seeing a locally-brewed beer on tap at the airport, and I wanted to get involved in the San Diego scene.” Now Harnish is very much in the mix, coordinating the beer dinners at Local Habit for example, with a Slow Food event featuring local farmers and local beer coming up on March 13th. Down at Mission, Harnish is excited that the brewery will soon be packaging their first pilsner, tentatively scheduled for release by St. Patrick’s Day. More developments include the newly-functional grain silo and cold storage, Mission glassware and growlers in the works, the upcoming retrofitting of their bottling line, and nine more 90 barrel fermentors coming in the next few months to keep up with production demands. Group tours of the Mission Brewery facility, which used to house the Wonder Bread factory, are available Fridays and Saturdays hourly from 12-8pm with advance notice.
Rachelle Smith with Clint Wilkerson
Rachelle Smith co-founded Steadfast Hop Farm with her boyfriend Clint Wilkerson in March 2011. The farm lies on a quarter acre lot in Valley Center, and has an 18-foot trellis system with around 500 plants spanning eight varieties: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Glacier, Nugget, Magnum and Willamette, all of which are tested for alpha-acid percentage by the Organic Chemistry Department at CSU San Marcos. Steadfast’s hops are available for homebrewers at Mother Earth Brew Co. and Smokin Beaver in 2 oz. vacuum-sealed packages they call “hop grenades.” Never one to shy away from experimentation, Smith is currently refining a dry-hopped Belgian-wit recipe for a friend’s wedding in May, and she was one of the brewers that processed sixty pounds of Pasilla Negra peppers over four hours for Deschutes Black Butte XXIII.
Elena Rivellino says it’s the people that keep her going. As a co-owner and Jill-of-all-trades behind Sea Rocket Bistro, she’s referring to the numerous local vendors that provide food for the North Park sustainable seafood restaurant and the customers who support the fight for better ingredients with each meal. Aside from feeding patrons high quality fare, the 30th Street restaurant is known for hosting stellar craft beer events. So far, the ‘Rocket has hosted events like LoveLikeBeer’s Assembly during San Diego Beer Week, and the Stone Ages Blackout Dinner. If you missed those two events, Sea Rocket’s food will be dished out at the Mission Valley Craft Beer and Food Festival on April 1st. On April 5th, a three-course Urban Agriculture beer pairing dinner will benefit the urban farming program at San Diego City College while featuring seasonal, spring-time brews. Two of Sea Rocket’s delectable jams, including the bacon jam and the tomato jalapeño varieties, will be available at the new SOL Markets in Liberty Station starting March 1st.
Claudia Faulk is one member of the small team that makes up Vista’s Aztec Brewing Company and Seven Nations Brewing Company. A homebrewer and web developer, Faulk is responsible for Aztec’s popular Chipotle IPA recipe, accounting, and the coding of the ABC website, a joint effort with her graphic designer husband John Webster (also involved with ABC / 7N). An artist, she believes that brewing should be both creative and imaginative, and has enjoyed reinventing the Aztec brand. Recently, an art show in the brewery called “Paints and Pints” highlighted an eclectic selection of artists, including a live painting by local artist David Lozeau; Faulk hopes to host art shows quarterly to start, but ideally on a monthly basis. Currently, Faulk is completing her Masters in Educational Technology and working on developing a website for the newly-founded Vista Brewers Guild; Webster will design the guild’s logo. Look for changes to the tasting room when the bar moves to the next-door suite they purchased in October where a new tap system will debut.
Joelle Khannakhjavani and Errin Love
Errin Love, a career teacher, mother to Kamron Khannakhjavani and wife to Dan Love, watched a home brewing hobby snowball into a professional obsession. Kamron was the first to get bitten by the brewing bug, and soon he infected his step-father, Dan. The duo started off innocently enough with a few pieces of equipment, but brewing paraphernalia began to take over the family home soon thereafter. Dan and Kamron convinced Errin that opening a brewery would be a viable business. After an unsuccessful attempt to license the family home with Alcoholic Beverage Control, Mother Earth Brew Co. was born as a homebrew shop and tasting room for contract-brewed beers in 2010, and in 2011 they purchased their own brewhouse. Although initially skeptical of the idea, Errin is now fully committed to the operation and serves as business accountant, cashier, bartender and loving mother. Joelle Khannakhjavani recalls the first date she ever had with Kamron. “He told me that he’d be quitting his job in two weeks to start working on a brewery.” Impressed with his drive to chase a dream, the couple have been together ever since and were married in September of 2011. Khannakhjavani is slated to work full time to help keep Mother Earth’s growing line of apparel and merchandise stocked, along with working the register and serving suds. Coming up for the crew is the arrival of a new 22 oz bottling line, and the possibility of a satellite tasting room and homebrew supply store in downtown Vista.
Diane Hennelly (right) and Kate McDevitt
Diane Hennelly represents the group of beer lovers that push the industry forward: the creative homebrewer. One of her more recent creations, a “Mounds Bar Porter” with toasted coconut and cocoa nibs, was brewed with the help of friend Kate McDevitt (pictured left); she can take credit for getting Hennelly hooked on the hobby at a Slow Food “Green Drinks” event they both attended where she won a free homebrewing class at Home Brews & Gardens in North Park. Since then, she’s brewed more than 15 different beers, including a habanero IPA, a “Kitchen Sink” IPA with a variety of hops, a “Midlife Pliny” IPA, a chocolate amaretto stout, an oakey, smokey bourbon stout using barrels from a local furniture maker, and beer made with prickly pears from the canyons near UCSD. She’s even crafted a strawberry, ginger and lavender mead sourced from her home garden.
Staci Wilkins of Ritual Tavern has watched North Park bloom perched on the corner of Polk and 30th, a place she says was “no man’s land” just a few years back. Now, the neighborhood has changed, and so has the pub, growing from four taps to the current 11. Wilkins still remembers the first four beers she and husband Mike Flores had on tap in 2007: AleSmith Lil’ Devil and Speedway Stout, Ballast Point Pale Ale, and Stone Smoked Porter. A native San Diegan, Wilkins has strong ties with the local beer industry – her older brother played in a band with Sam Chammas, Live Wire publican, and it was at the legendary El Cajon Boulevard bar that she and Flores, kitchen manager at The Linkery for their opening, had their first date. Coming up, Wilkins plans to expand the music program in the back beer garden where hops are sprouting, with Miss Erika Davies the next scheduled artist on March 11th. A few days later on everyone’s favorite Irish holiday, Wilkins plans to continue the tavern’s tradition of cooking up corned beef and hash, cabbage, potatoes and soda bread.
Melissa Dombo is the Creative Project Manager for Karl Strauss Brewing Company. She has been with the team for 10 years and works in all things creative. Dombo has many roles, from building the website to hand-sketching the beer labels and designing the brewery restaurant interiors. She’s currently designing and managing the company’s new tourable facility project and working in conjunction with Public Architecture and Planning to oversee a $1 million renovation to the main brewery that will be open to the public for tours, onsite beer tastings, group events/meetings, and merchandise/beer purchases. Some of her favorite, new features include the semi-private “Growler Room” made entirely of amber glass to let partial light in, a custom bar made by Public Architecture with a 20-tap system, outdoor beer garden, private “Barrel-Aging Room” with views of the bottling line at work, and a bocce ball court. Dombo describes the space as “edgy but comfortable,” utilizing a lot of brick, open-beam ceilings, and stainless steel to create a metro, loft vibe. “We’re also incorporating a lot of concrete and wood, and Public Architecture is handcrafting several pieces of furniture from reclaimed and found materials. We want this space to be warm, inviting, and somewhere you’ll want to stay and have a few pints at,” says Dombo. The facility is scheduled for completion in September 2012.