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San Diego Beer News

Q&A: Brian Crecely

Oct 10

Head Brewer, Kilowatt Brewing Company

For the past three years, Kearny Mesa-based Kilowatt Brewing Company has been the little brewery that could. Bolstered by flamboyantly outlandish beers and striking interior lighting design, the nano-brewery has earned a cult following, patronage from which allowed owners Steve Kozyk and Rachel Fischer to open a flashy satellite tasting room in Ocean Beach that has been quite the hit. Yet, the company has never had a brewer with previous professional fermentation experience. Until now. A recent search for a new head brewer that can take Kilowatt to the next level ended with the hiring of Brian Crecely, who came over from Miramar’s AleSmith Brewing Company last month to fill a crucial role at a critical time for the soon-to-expand business.

What road led you to your current position with Kilowatt?
I was a homebrewer and member of QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity) before beginning my professional career at AleSmith in 2011. I started on the packaging line, much like a lot of people do when they first get into the industry. The company saw a tremendous amount of growth during my time there and I was able to grow a lot with them. I managed to work my way up to become a cellarman and, eventually, a brewer. After gaining experience as a brewer, they gave me the opportunity to complete the American Brewers Guild: Brewing Science and Engineering Program, which really helped me add to my brewing knowledge. During this time and until I left AleSmith, I assisted the company with developing (then managing) its barrel-aged sour beer program and took on the role of specialty brewer working with one-off and pilot batches.

What inspired you to leave AleSmith?
Being AleSmith’s specialty brewer gave me the chance to be creative and experiment with lots of different ingredients and ideas. When I heard Kilowatt was hiring a head brewer, I saw a great opportunity for me to continue exploring new beers and styles, and the chance to learn more about brewery management. I also really liked the small, close-knit vibe at Kilowatt, and it was very appealing to have the chance to work closely with the owners on their vision of the brewery and have an impact on making that a reality.

Will Kilowatt’s brewing direction change at all now that you’re on-board?
The focus at Kilowatt has always been to offer a wide range of styles and flavors. I am hoping to continue doing that, but also fine-tune our lineup of beers and try to constantly find ways to innovate and improve each batch that we brew. One of the best parts of being a small brewery is that we have the chance to experiment with new ideas. I am very much looking forward to brewing some mixed-fermentation and barrel-aged sour beers while expanding Kilowatt’s barrel-aging program and IPA (India pale ale) varieties, and adding more classic and session styles to our lineup.

What are you most excited about?
I am excited about our upcoming brewhouse expansion and the new possibilities that are going to come along with it. During the first quarter of next year, we will upgrade from our three-barrel brewhouse to a seven-barrel brewhouse. We will also install a new glycol system, three 15-barrel fermenters and a seven-barrel fermenter, while keeping a few of our existing three-barrel fermenters for experimental and specialty batches. The new system is really going to allow us to bring in more consistency to our beers, and more accurately monitor and control each batch. I saw AleSmith go through some major changes over the years and I feel like I really learned a lot from it, however, back then I was mostly on the sideliens. This time around I’ll be able to be much more hands-on and have the ability to shape the company’s success and how the brewery will operate.

What are the greatest opportunities you see for Kilowatt?
Currently, we sell the vast majority of our beer in our two tasting rooms, and have a limited number of off-site accounts that carry our beer due to our small production. With the expansion, we will be able to reach a lot more people than before. It’s going to be a lot of fun to be a part of that and try to contribute to building the Kilowatt brand.

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San Diegans Fundraise for Northern California

Oct 10

Given many local brewers’ ties to Northern California, the ongoing fires have galvanized fundraising efforts.

Second Chance Beer’s Marty Mendiola and Virginia Morrison were planning to spend their fifth wedding anniversary this past weekend in the area. “Marty and I used to visit Northern California at least three times a year when he was still with Rock Bottom, as he managed the brewery at the RB Campbell location, and I have family up that way,” said Morrison. “Thus, it holds a very special place in our hearts.”

This Saturday they’re hosting a fundraiser in tandem with a celebration of their GABF medals. Pints of winners Legally Red and Tabula Rasa are $4 from 1 to 3 p.m. 20% of beer sales during that time, plus 10% from the rest of the day, will be donated to relief efforts.

Some fundraisers took place over the weekend:
O’Brien’s Pub’s Wet Hop Fest benefited the United Way of Wine Country.
– 10% of Small Bar’s sales were donated to King Ridge Foundation.
Toronado donated $1,000 to the Santa Rosa chapter of the Red Cross, in addition to $1 from every pour of Russian River beer. Russian River’s Vince and Natalie Cilurzo have strong connections to San Diego’s professional brewing and homebrewing communities.

More fundraisers are in the works:
– Starting Friday October 13th until the end of November, Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle on the Shelter Island Pier will donate $1 from every Russian River beer, including Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig IPA, to victims’ charities.
– Tomorrow, Blind Lady Ale House will donate $5 per glass from each $10 (.5L) pour of Russian River beer to King Ridge Foundation.
Eppig Brewing will release one of their beers under the Sonoma Pride label this week in the tasting room. 100% of proceeds will go to King Ridge Foundation.
Craft Beerd will donate 50% of the sales from their Russian River-inspired pin (up to the first 50 pins) to the United Way of Wine Country.
Mikkeller San Diego is planning a fundraiser (TBD).
– Russian River (Santa Rosa) and Bear Republic (Healdsburg) are planning special releases of Sonoma Pride. Check out the website for three ways to contribute.
Stone Distributing Co. will donate a portion of sales throughout the month of October to Direct Relief. Retroactive to October 1, for every case of Bear Republic and Russian River beer sold, the company will donate $0.25; Stone will further donate $0.25 for every case of Stone Brewing beer sold in Southern California; and Stone Brewing will donate $0.15 for every case of Stone beer sold via its wholesale distribution partners throughout the rest of California. Also, the following list of brands distributed by Stone Distributing Co. have committed to splitting a donation of $0.25 per case for the entire month: Avery Brewing Co., Boochcraft, Eel River Brewing, Kern River Brewing Company, MadeWest Brewing Company, Mason Ale Works, Maui Brewing Co., Mikkeller Brewing, Modern Times Beer, Oskar Blues Brewery, Smog City Brewing Company, The Bruery, The Lost Abbey, Victory Brewing Company, and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks.
Update: Societe Brewing will donate a portion of proceeds from Halloween, October 31.
Update: 100% of proceeds from this coming Saturday’s BagbyFest in Oceanside will go to King Ridge Foundation.

Know of more fundraising efforts? Please leave a comment below.

Deft Brewing officially opens today

Oct 10

(l-r) Deft co-founder Kevin Malik, co-founder and head brewer Morris Nuspl, and assistant brewer Michael Finn toast to today’s official debut

A pleasant surprise on Friday the thirteenth is always welcomed. In the case of the team at Deft Brewing Company that’s especially true. After waiting two weeks for approval of a utility fix at its project site, that blessing was issued by San Diego Gas and Electric this morning. And with that, they are able to open the doors to their brand-new tasting room and serve up their stock of varied European-inspired liquid offerings.

Deft Brewing is located at 5328 Banks Street in the Bay Park/Morena area of San Diego Proper. The brewing modus operandi is to celebrate Old World styles, including some that are harder to come by in San Diego County. A touch of New World is sprinkled in here and there in the form of American hops and such. The opening beer-list is as follows:

  • DeftHopt Golden, English India Pale Ale (6.5% alcohol-by-volume)
  • DeftHopt Red, Red IPA (6.5%)
  • Bruxelles Trip, Belgian-style Tripel (9%)
  • Rhein Sonnenshein, Kolsch-style Ale (5%)
  • Deft & Witty, Belgian-style Witbier (5%)
  • Day of the Deft, Stout (5.5%)
  • Shanagarry Summer, Irish-style Red Ale (4%)
  • Dussel-deft Secret, Sticke Altbier (7.5%)

Deft’s brewery and tasting room are housed in the hull of a former boat-building facility with a high, pointed ceiling that will allow ownership to replace the current two-barrel setup with an eventual 10-barrel brewhouse and fermenters to match. Right now, the team is working to dial in its beers and make sure it is speaking to the desires of customers—particularly those in the Bay Park neighborhood—before ramping up production. The tasting room juxtaposes red bar stools against a mostly neutral color pallet featuring a main bar and rail bars made from live-edge wood procured from next-door neighbors, Made Lumber Supply, and reclaimed wood slats from Deft co-owner Morris Nuspl‘s backyard fence. Mostly windowed walls let in plenty of natural light and give a view of an outdoor space that is very close to being converted into a patio with al fresco seating.

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Beer of the Week: Port Nelson the Greeter IPA

Oct 10

Nelson the Greeter from San Marcos’ Port Brewing Company

From the Beer Writer: First the world wanted more hops in their India pale ales, then they wanted more alcohol in their IPAs. The brewing world happily obliged. Then the world wanted less bitterness followed by a yearning for less alcohol in their IPAs. The brewing world let out a semi-frustrated sigh, then found the pleasure in obliging. Through all of this, drinkers and brewers alike came to an unspoken understanding that seven percent alcohol-by-volume was the sweet spot for single IPAs. But at some point in the past year, imbibers, manufacturers or some combination of the two (I would venture cost-analyzing logistics professionals taking notice of current IPA fans’ crowing about “crushable” beers) decided the best ABV for an IPA is 6%. And so it has come to pass. There are a number of new IPAs hitting the market and many of them are at or hovering around this new alcohol-content standard. Of them all, the best I’ve encountered thus far comes from the hop veterans at San Marcos’ Port Brewing Company, who recently released Port Nelson the Greeter. This sixer comes in a sixer and features one of the most popular hops of present day, Nelson Sauvin. Those pelletized greens give off myriad aromas and flavors, from tropical, citrus and stone fruit to vinous taste sensations reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc grapes. All of that comes on the front end of this beer, but for me, the real beauty of Nelson the Greeter is its crisp finish and the way a clean bitterness resets one’s palate after each gulp. Translation: It is, indeed, crushable, bro.

From the Brewer: “Paying homage to a rather (in)famous surf spot/clothing optional beach in San Diego, Nelson the Greeter is the newest hoppy offering from Port Brewing. Using the brash flavors of Nelson hops to lead the charge, the Greeter has a strong hop supporting cast using Denali, Lemon Drop and Mosaic varietals to round out this pale ale. Notes of gooseberry and passionfruit dominate the nose with a clean tangerine and freshly cut stone fruit notes leading to a smooth, bitter, citrus finish. The pale ale will be quite the experience…kind of like a naked Nelson greeting you at the trail head.”—Tomme Arthur, Director of Brewery Operations, Port Brewing Company


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Upcoming Events: Friday to Friday

Oct 10

There’s lots happening over the next week in beer, with plenty of opportunities to try Great American Beer Festival (GABF) winners.

Friday, October 13
Keep the spirit of Oktoberfest alive at Normal Heights’ Blind Lady Ale House, with specials on food and stein refills through the weekend.

Saturday, October 14
They say it takes a lot of beer to make whiskey, so why not check out the SD Distillers Guild’s first large-scale festival, Spirits by the Bay, this Saturday. Brewery The Lost Abbey will be pouring too, alongside more than fifteen Southern California distilleries, plus local cider operation Newtopia. More information is available at our affiliate

If you really want just beer, Hamiltons Tavern is hosting this year’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF) Brewery Group and Brewmaster of the Year winner Melvin Brewing for the South Park bar’s monthly Second Saturday event. And because food is complimentary, expect a packed house.

Sunday, October 15
Improve your succulent skills at Culture Brewing’s Solana Beach tasting room during a fall-themed workshop. Two beers are included in your ticket; maybe recent GABF winner Blonde will be on tap.

Monday, October 16
Traveling yoga group The Beer Yogis visits GABF winner AleSmith again, so come start off the week with some Savasana.

Tuesday, October 17
North Park Beer Company invites Burning Beard Brewery, Nomad Donuts, for a collaborative beer dinner. In-house kitchen Mastiff Kitchen will help produce the five-course menu.

Wednesday, October 18
Regents Pizzeria welcomes GABF winning brewery Beachwood (Seal Beach/Long Beach) to take over some of their taps, plus pour a one-off cask.

Thursday, October 19
Another cask night featuring a GABF winner, but here it’s Second Chance Beer Co. at O’Brien’s Pub. Clever Hoppy Name IPA is on cask, with gold medal winner Tabula Rasa Porter definitely on the menu.

Friday, October 20
The weekly Hops on the Harbor Dinner Cruise features Green Flash Brewing Co. through the month of October, offering unique views of the city skyline.

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