From the Beer Writer: West Coaster is all about San Diego beer. As such, I’ve been reluctant to delve too deeply into local businesses producing other fermented beverages, such as cider, mead and sake. (Feel free to check out our affiliate publication San Diego Beverage Times for info on those adult potables.) But sometimes a beverage is of such quality that it merits crossover coverage. This is certainly the case with Devilish Grin, a stellar new-wave mead from Miralani District newcomers Lost Cuase Meadery that recently earned a silver medal at the Mazer Cup International Mead Competition. To put this in perspective for ale enthusiasts, in the mead world, the Mazer Cup competition is the equivalent of the brewing industry’s Olympics, the World Beer Cup. In short, this is a big deal, especially for a business that’s only a few months old. For many, tackling a new beverage is an iffy proposition. With so many variations out there, where does one begin? It helps to know there is one that’s proven to be a cut above, a major-award-winner like Devilish Grin. Coming in at 12% alcohol-by-volume, it’s perfect for sniffing, sipping and contemplating. Big aromas of cherry candy and spring flower fields segue nicely to a luxuriously coating texture with tea-like earthiness, floral honey and Luxardo cherry notes plus a touch of pepper and exotic spice reminiscent of cocktail bitters. There’s a lot going on in this crimson concoction, enough to deviate from beer (but only for a week).
From the Mead Maker: “Devilish Grin, our mead made with buckwheat blossom honey, tart cherries and black pepper, earned the silver medal in the specialty/open category at the 2018 Mazer Cup International, the largest and most respected mead competition in the world. We’re just over five months old, and very humbled and excited to have even competed among the world’s best meaderies, let alone be the first meadery in Southern California to take home a Mazer Cup medal. We had won several Mazer Cup awards as home mead makers over the last couple years, so to be able to transition that to a commercial medal has just been awesome.”—Suzanna Beltz, Co-Founder & Queen Bee, Lost Cause Meadery
A quick breakdown: San Diego’s Stone Brewing owns STONE as a trademark for beer, while MillerCoors owns KEYSTONE. In February, Stone filed suit, claiming that MillerCoors’ recent re-brand of Keystone’s can and packaging breaks ‘KEY’ and ‘STONE’ apart, while emphasizing STONE, thus infringing on their mark.
In an 82-page response filed April 10, MillerCoors claims to have used STONE and STONES as nicknames since 1995, about a year before Stone Brewing opened. In that filing, there’s a “Hail Mary” request: MillerCoors should be granted the exclusive right to the mark STONE and STONES in connection with beer sold in the United States.
Stone Brewing isn’t backing down, based on this press release (also shown as an image above).
Here’s the rub: MillerCoors claims that following a 2010 cease and desist letter from Stone, no suit was filed for eight years. A “barred by laches” defense is offered, meaning Stone had known about the alleged infringement but decided not to act further. The same could be said in response to MillerCoors’ ask for exclusive rights to the marks STONE and STONES; as far as we know, MillerCoors did not file suit against Stone Brewing in Stone’s twenty-plus year history.
Boasting over 60 local craft beers, Petco Park is one of the nation’s top baseball stadiums to a grab a brew and enjoy the surroundings, and hopefully the play on the field as well. With that said, there have been some noticeable changes from last season’s offerings.
Alpine, Green Flash, and Mission breweries have been wiped from the map and replaced with the ever-expanding Constellation Brands. Case in point: the best place to find a beer last season was the Craft Pier, where a thirsty fan would find nine different brands of local beer on draught, including Alpine Windows Up and Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter Stout. Perched above right-center field and under the sun, it’s the perfect place to meet friends and share a pint or two while catching the game and maybe a home run ball. Only one company is on tap now: Ballast Point.
Ballast Point, as most know, was bought for a record $1 billion in late 2015 by Constellation Brands. Even in beer, San Diego fans aren’t surprised anymore when their bright stars sign big contracts and join another team. Constellation’s other brands – Pacifico, Corona, Modelo – have also gained a larger footprint in the stadium, while two Ballast Point Sculpin IPA bars have also popped up.
Below is a breakdown of what’s available this season at Petco Park:
Rookie to watch
The one newcomer for 2018 is North Park-favorite Thorn Brewing who rolled out a new production facility in mid-2017. Barrio Lager, Rock the Pale, Relay IPA, and Foreplay Blonde 12 oz. cans are in the well-stocked fridges inside Seaside Market. Another neighborhood favorite, Resident Brewing, promises to have a successful sophomore season at Petco. With the best/only juicy IPA in the park, Chasing Citra will give the haze-crazed their much needed fix along with Perky Blonde and the mosaic-laden Urbanite IPA.
Most Valuable Pint
For another year, Pizza Port offers the best value in the park. One of the trusty veterans of San Diego beer, Kook 8.5% double IPA, 16 oz. cans cost $11.50. There are only a few double IPAs in the whole stadium – Karl Strauss Big Barrel, Stone Ruination, Coronado Idiot – but no other come in the 16 oz. format. All three main formats edged up this year by about 75 cents – 16 oz. cans, 20 oz. draft for $13.75, and 22 oz. bottles for $17.50. Prices are standardized throughout the park, so don’t bother scouting amazing steals.
The nexus of the universe between beer and baseball resides at .394 bar and restaurant on the 1st base terrace. At the shrine to Tony Gwynn, no offering is more sacred than AleSmith .394 Pale Ale, named for his 1994 career-high batting average. (Baseball trivia: 1941 is the last time a player posted a higher season mark, San Diego-native Ted Williams.) AleSmith lightens its offerings this year, replacing malt-forward Anvil ESB and heavy-slugger Speedway Stout with the Sublime collaboration Mexican Lager and Orange X.
Mike Hess and Coronado took the offseason to examine their game and change their approach – drastically. Mike Hess has called up their San Diego-style Solis IPA, Steel Beach Lager, and Into the Sunset Blood Orange IPA. In turn they left behind Claritas Kolsch and one of the only tart options in the park, My Other Vice Berliner. Coronado Brewing follows last summer’s acquisition of Monkey Paw with more growth into East Village, adding a new cart on Craft Row behind 1st base. Along with reliable originals Orange Ave Wit and Mermaid Red, new beers CoastWise Session IPA and Seacoast Pilsner help carry their evolving brand.
Pizza Port’s main location, tucked next to the right field corner, is the best spot to get a fill of rotating choices. Opening day starters were Bacon and Eggs Imperial Coffee Porter, Fanny Pack Belgian-style Witbier, and Kickflip Kolsch. Throughout the season look for new kegs from the various Pizza Port pub locations.
With five locations, and 28 different beers, the Craft Beers of San Diego stalls should be a hit. However, almost all of their options are 22 oz. bottles. Herein lies the problem. At $17.50 each, the price per ounce is a bad bet (on draught, $13.75 gets you only 2 ounces less) for what is probably not as fresh. Compounding that, the serving logistics of finding, opening, then pouring each individual bottle into cups means a slow-developing play that may cause one to miss actual plays on the field.
For more game day options, here are the upcoming dates for Padres BeerFest:
Last June, Lightning Brewery owner and brewmaster Jim Crute sold his brewing equipment to Orange County’s Cismontane Brewing but maintained the leased space for his Poway tasting room and beer garden. The sale satisfied Lightning’s debt and was necessitated by declining revenues for business, which was founded in 2006 and built around a model that skewed heavily toward selling beer at retail accounts. That approach was common in the mid-2000s before consumers’ tastes shifted toward local and ultra-local consumption, and brewery touring became a popular pastime in San Diego. Having absorbed lessons of the last decade-plus in the beer business, Crute is back with a new model and celebrating the rebirth of Lightning as a nanobrewery on Thursday, April 19.
The event may be a reopening of sorts (Crute prefers to refer to it as a “reinvention celebration”), but Lightning’s tasting room never really closed. Crute kept the doors open, selling through inventory of archived bottled beers. He held special events and maintained connections with devout fans, reaffirming his belief that keeping things close to home is the ideal business model for breweries in the current craft-beer climate. Moving forward, Lightning will produce roughly 100 barrels of beer per year, a far cry from the 1,500-barrel capabilities of Crute’s old brewhouse. Some of those beers will be familiar—Elemental Pilsner, Thunderweizen Ale, Electrostatic Ale, Black Lightning Porter—but Crute plans to play on the strength of the small-batch approach and create fun, innovative offerings to keep customers coming back. A pomegranate saison is in the works along with new IPAs, a peach-infused version of Thunderweizen and other fruited wheat beers.
“Our new business model gives craft-beer lovers a chance to taste and take home fresh, experimental beers that are only available in limited quantities and only at the Poway tasting room and biergarten,” says Crute. “Gone are the days of Lightning [beers] at the local grocery store. Now folks can stop in to the tasting room for a beer and fill up growlers to take home their favorites. This ensures our beers are at their freshest.”
The reopening event will feature happy-hour pricing, plus glassware and other merchandise featuring Lightning’s new logo. The tasting rooms hours of operation are 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 1 to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Lightning Brewery is located at 13200 Kirkham Way, Suite 106.
Mark Amador got into craft beer care of post-surf session beers at Pizza Port’s original brewpub and started selling ales and lagers at the ripe young age of 22. In the mid-90s, he watched the rollout of the iconic Red Trolley Ale as a salesman for Karl Strauss Brewing, and went on to work in the same capacity for Left Coast Brewing, Belching Beaver Brewery and, most recently, Indian Joe Brewing. He’s seen and done a lot over his near-quarter decade in the industry, but he’s never run his own show. Until now. Amador has secured the 2,100-square-foot Carlsbad Brewery Igniter space formerly occupied by Wiseguy Brewing and is readying its 10-barrel system to produce beers for his new concept, Papa Marce’s Cervezeria (5840 El Camino Real, #199, Carlsbad). We stole some rare free time with him to get the details on this passion project.
What was the process of selecting a location, brand and direction?
I wanted to represent and be a part of the community I’ve been involved in all my life. Opening a brewery in my backyard seemed obvious and I welcomed the space in Carlsbad with open arms. After some trademark issues (with the brand I’d originally devised), I went back to basics and began to look inward for inspiration. My great grandfather on my mother’s side was a Southern California agricultural icon. He was the first to come to the US to give his family a better life and he was one of the founding fathers of Eden Gardens in Solana Beach. Everyone called him Papa Marce. The brand also mirrors my career in the beer industry. The bear in my logo is brutally and honestly gruff. He’s been through a lot of ups and downs, and it definitely shows on his markings and scars. He represents my Mexican heritage and, much like myself, shows that the beer industry is not all feelings and perpetual bliss. I have lived this industry with years of my life. The hustle and perseverance shows.
What types of beers will Papa Marce’s produce and how much do you expect to brew in your first year?
All styles of IPAs, ales, lagers, barrel-aged sours, porters and stouts, as well as nitro stouts and porters, Old World (beers) and any innovative styles we would like to explore. Initially we will start with kegs, but will definitely package small runs of sours, plus canned four-packs and six-packs in the near future. We expect to produce roughly 1,500 barrels (in our first 12 months) with a maximum capacity of about 2,500 barrels. With the large barrel program for sours and other styles, as well as a secondary barrel-aging facility less than a mile away, we can max out rather quickly and are ready to pivot when needed.
Who will be in charge of brewing at Papa Marce’s?
I am thrilled to have my head brewer Grant Heuer. He is particularly passionate about making innovative sour and Brett(anomyces-fermented) beers, new experimental hop combinations and getting creative with barrels. Prior to becoming a head brewer, he became Nevada’s seventh certified Cicerone and won 19 homebrewing awards. Grant’s career began as an intern at Pints Brewery & Sports Bar in Laughlin, which led to an assistant brewer position at Big Dog’s Brewing’s in Las Vegas. Later he served as lead cellarman at Refuge Brewery and head brewer at Relentless Brewing, both in Temecula. Grant and I met working at Indian Joe’s, where he and I built a relationship and, as their head brewer, he won a gold, silver and three bronze medals at competitions in San Diego and L.A. for beers ranging from a rye IPA to a 100% Brett smoked sour. He’s a talented brewer who can mesh styles and has an urge to produce breakthrough beers and techniques.
What do you hope to bring to the already diverse San Diego beer scene?
When I started, the craft-beer business was a collective, not a collective individual. I like the idea of closing some gaps, putting some things together that may not go together. Grant and I can’t wait to do multiple collaborations with people we’ve had continued relationships with over the years, and the new ones that are on the horizon. I want a chance for the beer community to connect and bond through some music, art and culture. It’s all about creating an experience. I’m trying to cultivate all the things I love under one roof and continue the ever-changing revolution and fun family atmosphere that has helped keep San Diego on the rise. Honestly, I’m doing everything I’ve wanted to do over the past 24 years that people have told me not to. Finally having the ability to control my own destiny is giving me a new outlook on life and this beer collective that I love so much.