El Cajon’s lone brewery is plenty capable of filling that municipality’s role as lone beer innovator. Burning Beard Brewing (785 Vernon Way, El Cajon) will celebrate its second anniversary on March 31. It’s sure to be a sold-out affair behind a clientele both sizable and loyal. Amidst that revelry, which will take place in the parking lot behind “The Beard’s” facility, fans will be able to spy a piece of the company’s future—a 1,300-square-foot warehouse space that is being converted to house Burning Beard’s wild-ale program.
“The new space will be dedicated solely to the production of wild, Brett(anomyces), and mixed-culture beers,” says co-founder Mike Maass. “The space will feature a copper-lined koelschip for spontaneous fermentation, along with a variety of oak fermentation vessels in various shapes and sizes—red and white wine barrels, foeders and other such cooperage.”
Located directly east of Burning Beard’s brewery, it is completely isolated from that production space to prevent cross-contamination from wild yeast and microorganisms. Build-out is complete for the most part, with electrical, lighting, plumbing, drains and walls taken care of. The company is currently awaiting approval from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to begin producing wild ales.
“We’ll be using the koelschip to produce a Lambic base that we’ll age for a year to blend with the Lambic barrels we’ve had aging for two years now,” says Maass, explaining the longtime Belgian brewing technique of blending three consecutive years’ vintages of Lambic to produce what is called a Gueuze. “We’ll also do a Flanders (-style red ale) base that we’ll age for a year and blend with the Flanders barrels we’ve had going for a year. Additionally, we’ll use the space to experiment with our proprietary in-house yeast strain, Brulanta Metio.”
That yeast strain was propagated over a three-year span by Burning Beard director of brewery operations and head brewer Jeff Wiederkehr in his back yard. “I coolshipped it with a small chunk of wood I found in Belgium, harvested the yeast, coolshipped again…rinse, repeat,” says Wiederkehr. “We tried it, liked it and currently have it in the bank at (local yeast-production company) White Labs.”
Barring any hiccups, Burning Beard is on-track to begin utilizing its new space before summer.
Miramar-based White Labs is well known worldwide for its expertise in yeast used in the manufacture of beer, wine and other libations, but starting tomorrow, it will take its work with edible-based fermentation to the people when it opens its first-ever restaurant, White Labs Kitchen and Tap in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. White Labs debuted at its East Coast digs in January of this year, with the establishment of a full-scale laboratory and yeast-production facility complete with a tasting room similar to that of its San Diego predecessor, elements of which—such as hanging Erlenmeyer flask light fixtures—will be on display at the company’s new 5,200-square-foot eatery.
Like White Labs’ sampling venues, multiple versions of singular beers produced by the company (via the in-house brewery at the San Diego facility) and differentiated by the type of yeast used to ferment them will be available side-by-side. Doing so allows patrons to taste the significant influence yeast has on a finished beer. A portion of White Labs Kitchen and Tap’s 28 taps will dispense those house ales and lagers while a rotating stock of guest beers (including collaboration creations worked up by neighbor breweries including Burial Beer Co., Hi-Wire Brewing and Mad Co. Brewing specifically for the restaurant’s opening) will round out the beverage program along with wine and specialty cocktails.
The restaurant’s total square-footage is divided into 3,000 indoors with an outdoor patio coming in at roughly 2,200. Up to 100 guests at a time may partake from an eclectic menu that focuses heavily on dishes incorporating fermented components. The most obvious of them are wood-fired pizzas produced using slow-risen dough made using White Labs pure liquid yeast cultures. Then there are French fries brined in lactobacillus and bread made with WLP830 German Lager Yeast. Other adventurous accoutrements include a sour-beer vinaigrette on a kale salad, whey toffee, and a burger-topping barbecue sauce incorporating barley miso and White Labs’ Pasteur Porter ale slathered on a roll made with WLP002 English Ale Yeast. It’s anything but your everyday take on everyday food.
White Labs Kitchen and Tap is located adjacent from the company’s Asheville facility at 172 South Charlotte Street. Should you find yourself in that easterly locale and looking for a taste of home, its hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays.
One of the reasons San Diego brewers enjoy the camaraderie and success they do is the 1997 establishment of the San Diego Brewers Guild (SDBG). Back then, there were far fewer brewing companies in San Diego County, but visionaries from some of those veteran operations realized that strength in numbers would be key for development and promotion of the local industry. This year, the SDBG will celebrate its 20th year of collective success. In doing so, it will gather its longest-tenured while drawing off the innovation of all of its 100-plus members.
Later this month, Coronado Brewing Company will host a collaboration brew day during which brewers from SDBG member breweries will be invited to participate in the brewing of a special beer to commemorate the big two-zero. The recipe for that beer, a fittingly San Diego-style India pale ale (IPA), was developed by brewers at Coronado, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Pizza Port, Stone Brewing, San Diego Brewing Company, AleSmith Brewing Company and San Marcos Brewery and Grill.
The beer will come in around 7% alcohol-by-volume and be double-dry-hopped with Idaho 7, Motueka and Vic Secret hops. Additional hops will be donated by Fallbrook’s Star B Ranch and Hop Farm. Yeast was donated by Miramar-based White Labs while remaining ingredients were provided by BSG CraftBrewing. Additionally, El Cajon’s Taylor Guitars is partnering to provide old ebony fret boards from its African mill. That reclaimed wood will be fashioned into tap handles branded with the SDBG logo for this celebratory IPA.
Kegs from the 60-barrel batch will debut during San Diego Beer Week, which will take place from November 3 to 12. Coronado will also take the lead getting the beer out via its distribution partner, Crest Beverage. The beer will be available at retail accounts throughout the county, and make its official debut on November 3 during Guild Fest’s VIP Brewer Takeover at the Port Pavilion on downtown’s Broadway Pier. Proceeds from the beer will be donated to the Guild by Coronado once the beer sells through.
While Coronado is the hub this time around, the SDBG hopes to create collaboration beers on an annual basis and rotate the brewery at which they are produced each time. To get everyone involved during this inaugural brew, SDBG members were asked to submit suggested names for the beer, a short-list of which will be voted on by the membership this month.
From the Beer Writer: Some see beer as an artistic medium, while others view it as a platform for experimentation. Not surprisingly, the scientific minds at Miramar’s White Labs, the foremost manufacturer of yeast for beverage fermentation in the world, fall into the latter category. Last year, their on-site brewing team created something previously (and since) unheard of: a beer fermented using a whopping 96 different yeast strains. What could have come out tasting like a cacophony of competing characteristics tasted very nice fresh, with Belgian yeast varieties coming to the forefront with their bold, fruity, botanical attributes. Yesterday, White Labs released a version of the beer given even more complexity from extended aging in bourbon whiskey barrels. The result is Barrel-Aged Frankenstout, which features a downright lovely aroma reminiscent of dark chocolate truffles and rose petals. The chocolate carries through on the palate and is accompanied by vanilla and chicory, followed by an herbal feel in the finish. In the world of beer-based science projects, it doesn’t get much more exotic than this.
From the Scientist: “The team at White Labs was working on sequencing 96 of our yeast strains for a collaborative research project with Illumina, Synthetic Genomics and a team of scientists based in San Diego and Belgium. The goal was to understand the genetic diversity between strains (i.e., what makes WLP001 California Ale Yeast have such different flavor characteristics compared to WLP008 East Coast Ale Yeast), and some of these findings were later published via the scientific journal Cell in September 2016. Since these strains needed to be propped up in order to do a full sequencing run and fill 96 spots in a multi-well plate, we used the propped-up yeast to do a fun ‘experiment’ and look at what would happen if they were all used to ferment only one beer. Our team tried a few different prototypes before landing on the final recipe for Frankenstout, as they found that the malty backbone played really well with the complex and various flavors created by 96 different strains!”—Karen Fortmann, Senior Research Scientist, White Labs
From the Brewer: “Barrel-Aged Frankenstout rested for more than one year in second-use, bourbon oak barrels. During that time, the brewing team monitored the barrels on a regular basis until we finally landed on the perfect amount of oak and bourbon traits combined with Frankenstout. We found the flavors in Frankenstout really changed over time, and it also picked up a higher alcohol-by-volume (10.1%) from the time spent in barrels. Barrel-Aged Frankenstout carries vanilla, oak qualities and mild notes of bourbon, which pair well with the more subtle phenolics of the matured base beer.”—Joe Kurowski, Brewing Manager, White Labs
From the Beer Writer: I spent my Election Night taking in a fundraiser for the Beer to the Rescue charity campaign at the Miramar tasting room operated by yeast-production company, White Labs. While the evening’s historic upset didn’t sit well with me, that evening provided me a great deal of positives I’ll remember far beyond a four-year stint, namely time with good friends and industry colleagues, awareness and funds raised for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California, and a really, really tasty beer. The White Labs brew-crew infused a version of their house wheat-ale fermented using hefeweizen yeast with blood orange and hibiscus and dubbed it “Bad Hombre” (a debate-debuted term from a future U.S. president that shares the same acronym as my name…it was funny at the time). With $2 from each pint sold, I subsisted on it until the keg blew, enjoying its strawberry-banana bouquet, light but satisfactory body and unsweetened Hawaiian Punch flavor-profile. I couldn’t wait to tell the world about it, until I learned the keg we consumed was the only one in existence. So I turned my attention to the base-beer, White Labs Hansen Hefeweizen (an in-depth description of which is provided below), and found that, while different, it provides a nice drinking experience and its own lovely virtues, namely those big banana aromatics and flavors mixed with a bit of lemon-like citrus flavor and a drying touch of earthy, coriander-like spice from the yeast, which was, of course, produced right on site. It’s a good beer to help on as they adjust to life under a new presidential administration and likely devoid of the San Diego Chargers.
From the Brewer: “White Labs Hansen Hefeweizen fermented with WLP300 Hefeweizen Ale Yeast is part of our flagship Hansen Wheat Ale flight, which we cleverly named after the yeast and fermentation scientist Emil Christian Hansen. The malt-bill is made up of 50% white wheat, 40% Pilsen malt and 10% flaked wheat, clocking in around 17 IBUs (international bittering units). Unlike many beers in San Diego, hops aren’t really stealing the show here, and the Hansen Wheat Ale flight makes up some of the lightest stuff we brew on our 20-barrel brewing system. The batch fermented with WLP300 Hefeweizen Ale Yeast showcases prevalent banana esters in the flavor and aroma, which is backed up by subtle clove and spice characteristics. In recent months, we started using this version as the base-beer for specialty releases. With a low bitterness and body, White Labs Hansen Hefeweizen really allows the qualities from unconventional ingredients to shine through. Just recently, our brewing team infused this recipe with blood orange and hibiscus, which was on tap in the tasting room for a recent Beer to the Rescue event. Since it was such a hit with everyone that attended, you can expect to see it show up again in our tasting room or at occasional beer festivals.”—Joe Kurowski, Brewing Manager, White Labs