If Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker & company hadn’t already cornered the market, Fast ‘n Furious could have easily been a franchise built on the San Diego craft beer scene. Here’s a list of some noteworthy stuff from 2016.
One of my personal favorites first out of the gate is Pure Project in Miramar. I’ve done a lot of videos for these folks and they’re absolutely salt of the Earth. Probably more important than that to most, they pour a damn fine glass of beer. Head Brewer Winslow Sawyer takes an artistic approach to the craft using both locally and internationally sourced ingredients depending on what’s in season. No extracts or fining agents need apply here. Every beer lives up to the brand and is “reversed engineered” with a focus on the ingredients first and the style second.
Burning Beard in El Cajon is killing it (AND they’re hiring)… Just ask practically anyone who’s been there. In a town rife with west coast style IPA’s they first caught my attention at the Rhythm & Brews Fest in Vista earlier this year. Amidst a sea of beers that day, their Rye The Lightning session IPA was a standout. No easy feat for any brewery surrounded by such hoppy goodness, let alone one that had basically just opened it’s doors. Of course, these two home-brewers (Mike Maass and Jeff Wiederkehr) went pro in a serious way from the jump. They had the craft beer architect design their brewery, the craft beer attorney do their paperwork and a consultant review their recipes before pulling the trigger.
Celebrated and heavily medaled home-brewer Kelsey McNair opened North Park Beer Co., home of the much lauded Hop Fu IPA. Nestled in the heart of San Diego’s craft beer Mecca on University Avenue, their taproom was designed by Basile Studio and styled after the early 1900s Arts and Crafts period with warm, quarter-sawn white oak furnishings, copper elements, and custom fabricated street lamps. Mastiff Kitchen is on hand serving up the delectables so you’ll never go hungry. Kid-friendly and comfortable with some of the best beer and craft soda you’ll find anywhere.
Another personal favorite is Mikkeller San Diego. Famed international gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø tapped his friendship with Alesmith‘s Peter Zien and took over the old Alesmith facility on Cabot Dr. to open the first brewhouse that bears his name. World renowned with over 900 recipes to his credit, Bjergsø started out as a home brewer about ten years ago, contract brewing with breweries all over but finally decided to grow some real roots, and lucky for us, right here in San Diego. Mikkeller’s Beer Geek series of stouts share a common heritage with Alesmith’s Speedway series which he talks about in a video found here on the site. In addition to a strong variety of core offerings, they’ve announced that in 2017 they’ll be launching something new every Saturday.
Eppig Brewing (another new North Park arrival) is rooted in a rich heritage of craft and the current owner’s great grandfather opened the first Eppig Brewery in Brooklyn, New York in 1866. Now, 150 years later, they’re back and paying extra special attention to establishing a craft lager program as tribute to the recipes of their ancestors. Oh yeah, they’re doing some IPA’s and kettle sours as well but if you’re looking for that gateway beer to bring skeptics over to craft, Eppig’s got some easy drinkin’ lagers fit to entice the shyest of palates.
While it’s always more exciting to talk about new breweries, we lost a few as well, starting with the demise of URBN St. Brewing. Still a functioning purveyor of some mighty fine coal-fired pizzas, they closed their brewing operation citing a lack of profitability. I personally never tried any of their beers when they were around but remain a fan of their pizzas.
Not so long after undergoing some brewery upgrades, Twisted Manzanita abruptly ceased operations and sold their Santee facility to Groundswell Brewing lock, stock and barrel. Supposedly they were going to continue with their distillery but apparently that wasn’t the case. Details as to the exact circumstances of their exodus are few but it’s been rumored that proper management was lacking.
They say never to go into business with friends but the craft beer industry seems to be the exception as the San Diego landscape is littered with joint ventures spawned from long standing friendships that seem to prosper and flourish with great success. Apparently this was not the case with Pacific Brewing, a nano brewery founded by former Stone brewers Andrew Heino and Chris Chalmers. The two have parted company with Heino staying behind to assume full responsibility for their Miramar location to reopen (assumedly) sometime in 2017.
Valley Center Brewing was the most recent casualty but so far off the beaten path it’s been written that no one even noticed. In addition to possible locational challenges, scuttlebutt around town questioned the quality of their beer and some of their custodial practices. Any brewer worth his salt will tell you that what they really are is actually just glorified janitors. The actual brewing is, to a large extent, the easy part. The cleaning and sanitizing that must be done afterwards is the real work that’s required to make sure you don’t screw up the next batch…
I could go on forever here but for the sake of wrapping things up I’ll just touch on a couple things that will directly affect me personally. That would be the announcements from Culture Brewing and Modern Times of their plans to open satellite tasting rooms here in Encinitas… I’l be revisiting these topics and more in the future but for right now, 2017 is shaping up to be a pretty good year for craft beer. It rhymes so it must be true! 😀