Vista-based Barrel Harbor Brewing opened in 2013 with a 10-barrel brewing system owner Tim St. Martin hoped would allow the company to produce enough beer to compete on store shelves and at hospitality venues throughout San Diego County. Over the past half-decade, he has been made all too aware that shelf, cooler and tap space, though plentiful, is finite, and that larger breweries have an easier path to entry with all three. But he still believes in his beers, rather than throw in the towel, he is seeking investment in the company via an active fundraising campaign on the Wefunder website.
St. Martin’s stated goal is between $100,000 and $250,000. According to the campaign page, those funds will be used to increase marketing efforts to raise brand awareness, establish robust canning capabilities, and build an extensive sales and distribution team. While Barrel Harbor beers are available in dozens of local bars and restaurants, the company sells most of its product through a pair of tasting rooms—one at its Vista production facility and another that shares branding with a tabletop gaming interest in Miramar. The latter opened in January of 2017 and has always operated at a loss. The former, and the company as a whole, is also operating at a loss, necessitating the pursuit of additional funding and generation of a sales-and-marketing strategy.
When listing the positives of his brewery, St. Martin is particularly bullish on his Belgian-style dark strong ale, Rungnir, which won a gold medal at the 2017 San Diego International Beer Festival. It’s one of four medals the company has won in four years, which St. Martin touts at Wefunder, though they are not of the stature of awards issued at the Great American Beer Festival or World Beer Cup, which are highly recognized and typically cited as proof of exceptional brewing prowess. Despite the success of Rungnir, St. Martin says he doesn’t want to further build the company’s reputation on the back of a single beer, but rather offer a variety of beers; something for everyone. Barrel Harbor’s total revenue for 2017 was just over $709,000. St. Martin has control over enough square-footage that he can still increase production, and hopes to do so year over year.
Last month, The Bell Marker debuted in the former home of defunct Gaslamp Quarter brewpub, The Beer Co. While little was known about the project leading up to its opening, one solitary fact created a great deal of optimism for fans of San Diego beer: Noah Regnery was helming brewing operations.
Regnery is well known locally for the many award-winning beers he crafted while a member of the Pizza Port brewpub chain. The highlight of his success with that organization was winning Small Brewpub of the Year for its San Clemente location at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival (GABF). He left the company in 2011 to become head brewer at Hollister Brewing Company in Goleta, California. Following that, he moved to Healdsburg to help run his family’s restaurant before accepting a director position with Los Angeles-based Artisanal Brewers Collective, the parent company of The Bell Marker.
Today, news broke that another key member of the Pizza Port team is joining The Bell Marker brewing team. Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes has resigned from the company he spent the past 11 years at to assist Regnery. It’s a high-profile move for a high-profile brewer who previously oversaw Pizza Port’s Carlsbad and Ocean Beach brewpubs.
During his tenure with Pizza Port, Cervantes earned gold and bronze medals at GABF as well as a pair of awards at the bi-annual international equivalent of that competition, the World Beer Cup. Acquiring this talented brewer’s services is quite the coup and will undoubtedly draw interested beer enthusiasts to the spacious downtown brewpub.
In the beverage-industry, they say it takes until March for beer-consumption to rebound to normal levels after the holidays. Good thing San Diego’s beer-slingers didn’t get that memo, because February is jam-packed with a broad array of fun events celebrating local ales and lagers. Check out these standout events, and see a full list on our events page.
February 4 | Sour Saturday & Fourth Anniversary: Squeeze into one of the smallest but coolest beer-bars in San Diego for the ale-equivalent of an acid-drop. Cast your line and reel in a variety of sour beers tapped in celebration of this pier-mounted saloon, eatery and bait-and-tackle shop. | Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle, 1776 Shelter Island Drive, Shelter Island, 10 a.m.
February 4 | National 2×4 Day: Wyoming-based Melvin Brewing is tapping its award-winning 2×4 imperial IPA (it’s taken top-honors at the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival and multiple Alpha King Challenges) across the country, and Hamilton’s Tavern is where you can taste it and other Melvin hop-bombs. | Hamilton’s Tavern, 1521 30th Street, South Park, 12 p.m.
February 11 | Brewbies Festival: Brewers from throughout Southern California will not only show up in-force to help raise funds for the Keep A Breast Foundation, many of them will bring creatively crafted, pink-hued beers brewed especially for this fest, one of the best in our county each year. | Bagby Beer Company; 601 South Coast Highway; Oceanside; VIP: 12 p.m., General Admission: 1 p.m.
February 11 | Carnival of Caffeination: Like beer? Like coffee? Like beer and coffee infused into a buzzworthy beverage? Then head to this fest celebrating all you hold sacred via top-quality beers from breweries plucked from around the country, and watch as stimulants and depressants go head-to-head! | North Promenade; 2848 Dewey Road; Point Loma; VIP: 11 a.m., General Admission: 12 p.m.
February 18 | Winter Brew Fest: Because winter in San Diego is pretty much like every other season in San Diego from a weather standpoint, this night-time fest won’t center around brawny stouts and strong ales. Come expecting an array of all styles, including SD’s sun-ready IPAs. | San Diego Hall of Champions; 2131 Pan American Plaza; Balboa Park; VIP: 6 p.m., General Admission: 7 p.m.
February 25-26 | 10th Anniversary Beer Fest: For a decade, SD TapRoom has gone big in the bday department, throwing suds-soaked parties over multiple days. The big 1-0 will be no different thanks to 100 specialty beers, including Pliny the Younger and venue-exclusive Boxcar Speedway. | SD TapRoom, 1269 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach, Times Vary
What started as a tiny single-suite nano-brewery producing insanely tiny batches of beers using stock-pots over Butane burners has evolved into a Hop Highway success story. Vista-based Mother Earth Brew Co. has gone on to take-over most of the business campus it calls home, while adding a spacious tasting-room in the heart of the city’s old-town area. And over the weekend, they opened the doors to the tasting-room at its second, large-scale production facility in Nampa, Idaho. Mother Earth vice president Kevin Hopkins stopped by en route to the Great American Beer Festival, where the company’s ESB (extra special bitter) medaled. It’s exciting times for the little brewery that could (and did), and the perfect time to get an update straight from source.
What has been the impact of the Nampa facility going online?
Nampa went into full-rate production in August and currently services five-and-a-half states—Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and the northern portion of California. Its initial impact has been the ability to launch full-state distribution in Washington and Oregon with many more states to come. Last weekend’s tasting-room opening had representation of staff from both of our breweries and a great line-up of beers for people to experience.
What is Mother Earth’s organizational structure like with multiple breweries in multiple states?
Head brewer Chris Baker permanently relocated to Idaho and oversees operations there. Lead brewer Jeff Hueneman took over Vista operations and works collaboratively with Chris on items that concern both facilities. Production-scheduling and overall operations are managed corporately from here in Vista by our CFO/COO and our logistics team. We also have “beer traffic coordinators” located at both breweries to provide continuity.
What are details of expansion efforts at the original Vista brewery?
Vista started out as a 2,200-square-foot brewery and has expanded to approximately 28,000 square feet of production-space producing over 30,000 barrels of beer each year. Part of our master-plan included infrastructure investment to take Vista out to 40,000 barrels with the addition of fermentation and brite tanks to reach that capacity. Infrastructure is in place and tanks are being added as needed. Our next “stand-up” will be new nitro vessels to accommodate and expand our extremely successful NITRO programs.
What new beers are on the horizon for Mother Earth?
Mother Earth has always had a pilot-program to bring new and expanded offerings to market. Boo Koo Mosaic IPA, Born Blonde and our World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival and San Diego International Beer Festival award-winning ESB are all examples of that. 2016 was our pilot-year for our quarterly rotating can program featuring classics such as Kismet Nelson IPA and Hop Diggity Double IPA. The rotating program now falls under the “Resinator Hop Series.” Look for these beers on shelves, draft and included in “Love Packs”, 12- and 24-can variety packs featuring fan favorites and seasonal or rotating beers. One of those beers will be our Sin Tax Imperial Peanut Butter Stout. We’re also adding a full-time barrel-aged draft offering—our super-popular Quit Stalin Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout.
As a former San Diego Brewers Guild president, what are your thoughts on the direction of that trade organization?
It was an honor to represent our local breweries. Now, as president emeritus, I have the pleasure of watching Jillian Davidson move us forward and working with an engaged board of directors that has nothing but the best interests of our industry and local beer brethren at heart. The board has been working very hard on future planning and 2017 is certain to hold some new initiatives, updates and an expansion of how we can best service our membership and the industry at-large. Working directly with the California Craft Brewers Association on important legislative and regulatory issues is chief amongst these, as well as continuing the focus on quality marketing, communications and events that bring education and awareness to the public and provide legitimacy to our members who work hard each and every day with passion and perseverance.
From the Beer Writer: The majority of beers given the bourbon barrel-aging treatment are stouts of the imperial ilk. Robust and high in alcohol, they are ideally suited for prolonged aging in whiskey-soaked wooden vessels. Their notes of roast go well with the toast of the oak while their sweetness matches the caramel and vanilla notes imparted by the liquor. But those big beers can sometimes mask the whiskey notes a bit and those 10-12% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) stouts are the type of high-octane, viscous brews that require beer-geek assistance when attempting to get through a 750-millilitre bottle. This is not the case with this week’s featured beer, New English Brewing Company‘s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Brewers Special Brown Ale. The base beer is Britain-born brewmaster Simon Lacey‘s 6.5% ABV English-style brown, an archetypal ale that took a bronze in the World Beer Cup earlier this month. After being spending several months in wet Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, it comes out with a huge, vanilla-rich nose and a flavor that’s akin to whiskey on the rocks. Except, instead of watery former ice-cubes, the dilution effect is provided by the nutty, caramely flavors of the brown ale. And thanks to the beer’s lighter body, this comes across as a rare, highly quaffable barrel-aged beer.
From the Brewer: “Based on the multi-award winning Brewers Special Brown Ale, the bourbon barrel-aged version of this smooth, rich and malty English-style beer has been resting in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels for six-to-nine months. In order to create a perfectly balanced final-product, we blend ale from first- and second-use barrels. The freshly dumped first-use barrels contain discernible amounts of liquid when they arrive at the brewery, the wood has also soaked up a significant quantity of the whiskey at barrel-strength over the years at the distillery, and all this flavor and aroma is transferred to the beer. Beer from the second-use barrels yields a complex mix of wood, tannins and vanilla flavor from the American white oak, which, when blended with the beer from the first-use barrels, melds into a seamlessly delicious and enthralling elixir that is warming without heat and as aromatic as it is flavorful. The current version is the sixth batch produced and is the second to be bottled. A limited release is available at the best local bottle shops, and can also be purchased at the brewery.”—Simon Lacey, Brewmaster, New English Brewing Company