From the Beer Writer: The first year of Beer to the Rescue (the charity campaign established to raise money for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California) numerous local breweries crafted specialty beers to tap in the name of humanitarianism. The majority of them were kind enough to ask me what I’d like them to brew or for input on what they wanted to brew. I took this as an opportunity to try to hit all beer styles and take many of them in interesting directions. They all turned out nice, but their esoteric nature hurt their sales. So, this year, when kindly brewers asked what I’d like, I consistently responded with one word: HOPS! As a result IPAs and other hoppy brews make up the majority of the beers that are riding in to the rescue. One that’s on tap at all three of Urge Gastropub‘s locations in Rancho Bernardo, San Marcos and Oceanside is Mason Ale Works Vera Lynn Double IPA. I can’t take any credit for the hop-bill, because it was made without any of my influence other than the “hops” mandate, but in using Citra, Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin hops, they pretty much read my mind. These are some of my favorite, big-flavor varietals and they did a brilliant job with this imperial, massively flavorful and aromatic charity beer!
From the Brewer: “Vera Lynn is the latest release from Mason Ale Works. It gets its name from the Pink Floyd song ‘Vera’ and serves as a reminder that, over time, all vanishes. The song references Vera Lynn, who turned 100 this year, and has dedicated her life to supporting charitable causes. Her relentless efforts to better this world should be an inspiration to all. Vera Lynn IPA is a collaboration to promote Lupus awareness and support Lupus research so that one day we quote the lyrics in regards to Lupus and ask, ‘What has become of you?’ This bright and juicy imperial IPA has been dry-hopped with two-pounds-per-barrel of Citra, Nelson and Mosaic hops, bringing some serious tropical fruit and pine to your nostrils. At 9.2% alcohol-by-volume, this sneaky little lady will have you sipping till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away. As hazy as these times seem, I know we’ll meet again some sunny day…”—Jason De La Torre, Research & Development Brewer, Mason Ale Works
Miramar’s Carrol Way is home to a pair of businesses that couldn’t be more different from each other. On one side of the street is the colossal manufacturing headquarters of Ballast Point Brewing, a business with such astronomical growth and distribution of award-winning, to-style beers that it garnered $1 billion from Constellation Brands when that company took it over in 2015. Equipped with a large restaurant outfitted with an expansive, outdoor deck, it is the largest brewery and brewing entity in San Diego County.
Directly across the street is Reckless Brewing Company (9040 Carroll Way, Miramar), a quirky little brewery producing beer on a much more modest scale. But it’s not just size and quantity that form a Grand Canyon-sized divide between these otherwise similar businesses. The beer is worlds different, as well. And that’s just how owner Dave Hyndman likes it. An outlier who revels in marching to his own beat, he crafts beers that defy numerous style guidelines and has cultivated a clientele that sees the beauty in that non-conformity. Ditto the unique design of his tasting room, which draws together innumerable random and disparate items to further illustrate the nature of Hyndman and his brewery. But that sampling space closed last week…because Hyndman recently finished construction on a new tasting room in the suite next door.
Reckless Brewing’s new tasting room is still one of a kind. In time it will surely be equipped with the bric-a-brac and visual accessories that made its predecessor such a standout. But for now a colorful Twister grid painted onto the floor goes a long way to communicating Hyndman’s spirit to visitors. And while there are still amateur-constructed pieces of furniture making up most of the bar, the cold-box is outfitted in a nice-looking brick façade. Back at ground zero, Reckless Brewing’s original suite will now be devoted solely to brewing.
This is the third in a series of four posts taking a look at some of the most promising brewing venues currently in the works around San Diego County. The first two examined spots in the eastern and western communities. Today, we switch our attention to North County and the Hops Highway.
Wild Barrel Brewing Co., San Marcos: Two ex-Stone Brewing employees are teaming up to produce a wide variety of beers steps from Stone’s original brewery (now home to Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey). Renowned beer-expect Bill Sysak is leading the charge while Bill Sobieski (formerly of Anaheim’s Hoparazzi) will do the brewing using a brewhouse procured from El Cajon’s since-closed URBN St. Brewing Co.
Click here to read more about this project
Horus Aged Ales, Oceanside: Creating a portfolio made up exclusively of barrel-aged beers is no easy feat, but it’s one Kyle Harrop is eager to attempt. And he’ll do it with a little help from his friends, namely brewers from all over the country, including local interests such as Abnormal Beer Co., Rip Current Brewing and fellow North County work-in-progress White Fence Brewing. This is a boutique brewery if there’s ever been one.
Click here to read more about this project
Ebullition Brew Works, Vista: While information on the beers that this long-time work-in-progress will debut are hard to come by, details uncovered about the environment they’ll be consumed within are promising. A stylish tasting room with plenty of bar space and a special beer-delivery system in which glasses are placed onto pop-up taps and filled from the bottom up will provide a pretty cool differentiator that doesn’t exist in any brewery in the county.
I would be challenged to remember the last time I saw any business receive as much support while out of business as Indian Joe Brewing (2123 Industrial Court, Vista). The family-run operation abruptly shut down when it lost its base of operations to landlord disputes in 2015. Owners Max Moran and Geri Lawson immediately got to work looking for a new spot to install their brewery, but it took a while—two years to be exact. In a county with more than 140 operating brewhouses, there’s little reason for even the most devoted of beer-drinkers to hold a candle for the return of one of the smallest of the suds scene’s sojourners, but hundreds of Indian Joe fans remained just that…fans. Not the casually interested kind, but the most engaged breed of supporters, communicating with the owners over social media and in-person when possible, following them as they sought out a new facility and, after finding it, took on the task of not only reopening, but growing the business by leaps and bounds in the process. The result is the current iteration of Indian Joe, which opened in March and is fulfilling the long-entertained dreams of Moran, Lawson and the many hopeful beer enthusiasts crowding their corner.
During the lengthy road to Indian Joe 2.0, I also stayed close to the business’ founders, visiting the project site and wondering just how much of their ambitious agenda they would actually be able to realize. Installing a 15-barrel brewing system, an extensive stainless steel cellar, tons of oak barrels for aging and a huge tasting room; taking over an abutting building for warehouse space; distributing throughout the county in kegs, bottles and cans. Keep in mind, they were coming from a business-park brewery where Moran brewed several times a day on a meager 20-gallon system simply to keep beer on-tap at the sole source of consumption, Indian Joe’s tasting room. It was nicely appointed and featured many an outlandish brew that, frankly, weren’t for everybody. It wasn’t exactly the type of operation one would figure to be ripe for financial backing and expansion, but Moran and Lawson easily secured enthusiastic financing to take things to the next level. While permitting and construction of their new spot proved much more difficult, a recent visit reveals they’ve accomplished many of their goals and are on-track to breathe life into the rest.
Indian Joe has a whopping 30 beers on-tap. That’s admirable—but only if the beers are of quality. Quantity is nothing without quality. After tasting through more than half of the offerings the day I was there, I can say that Indian Joe’s beers taste better than at any point in the company’s history. What makes that even more impressive is the range of styles and the retaining of the anything-goes approach that birthed oddities like a Margarita Gose aged in tequila barrels; blueberry, plum and ginger sour ale; and honey-oatmeal tripel with Vietnamese and Ethiopian Baraka Buna coffees. What to the beer-purist (and even some adventurous drinkers) sounds like a rundown of the tap-list at an insane asylum…wait for it…tastes rather nice. Sure, you have to be in the mood for something avant-garde, but I often am and enjoyed all three of these beers in addition to an “imperial red sour” with blackberries and black currants, “Indian Sunrise” blood orange and sweet cherry Gose and apricot-peach sour. All three are ideally suited for the hot-weather months just around the corner.
But not all of the beers are weird at Indian Joe. There’s a Belgian-style witbier (which also comes infused with lime or tangerine), a robust porter (another version of which is available spiked with chocolate and hazelnut) and a variety of IPAs, including a double, a flagship infused with white sage and, to show they can fall in line with the best of them, a Northeast-style number for the haze-crazy. The IPAs are better than the ones I remember from the original Indian Joe. The increase in overall quality isn’t just the result of purchasing new, larger, more state-of-the-art equipment. Moran and Lawson brought on a head brewer, Grant Heuer, who last brewed at Temecula’s Refuge Brewery and Relentless Brewing as well as Las Vegas’ Big Dogs Brewing. In addition to bringing experience, he has also brought brewers and brewing ingredients from Riverside County (where he still resides) to the table, resulting in collaboration beers (including that hazy IPA created with Electric Brewing) and the java from Augie’s Coffee utilized in the aforementioned out-there tripel and Indian Joe’s imperial oatmeal coffee stout.
Also upgraded is the environment in which the beers can be experienced. Indian Joe’s 4,000 square foot tasting is one of the largest in the county. Visitors can drink at the long downstairs bar, high-tables or an outdoor patio…and that’s just the ground floor. There’s an L-shaped upstairs area with windows looking out onto State Route 78, a rail bar and numerous plush leather couches. Moran and Lawson clearly made the most of all the time they spent waiting on agencies to respond and construction issues to be resolved. The immense amount of time was worth it and the faith in these entrepreneurs from their loyal fans well placed.
Many know Ryan Brooks for his work as brewmaster at Coronado Brewing Company. During his tenure, that interest has won numerous awards, including Champion Mid-Size Brewing Company at the 2014 World Beer Cup. That’s dream-come-true territory, but Brooks isn’t finished dreaming. He’s about to realize another long-held aspiration—opening his own brewery. The name of that business will be SouthNorte Beer Company, and it’s scheduled to debut this summer.
Brooks will get by with a little help from his friends, most ostensibly his family at Coronado Brewing. That company’s founders, brothers Ron and Rick Chapman, are key investors and that’s where the initial brewing of SouthNorte’s beers will be done (the search is on for a separate facility to house the business). But he’ll also garner inspiration from friends he’s made spending a great deal of time exploring the craft-brewing culture south of the border. As the name implies, SouthNorte will combine elements of Mexico’s burgeoning beer scene with the craft culture here in San Diego. A press release describes the business as “an American brewery that blends the rustic flair of Mexico with the art of San Diego craft brewing.” Brooks sees pulling from two cultures as a way to extract the best from both and end up with the finest end-result.
In the course of my reporting on the San Diego brewing industry, I have met a number of brewers from Baja locales including Tijuana, Ensenada and Mexicali. Nearly all of them have mentioned receiving assistance, tutelage or encouragement from Brooks. He is something of a cult figure down there who has forged many legitimate friendships during innumerable cross-border visits. Few would be better suited to bring this intercultural vision to life and it should be exciting to watch…and taste.