Two of San Diego’s most well-known homegrown restaurant chains are working to add craft-brewing capabilities. The Brigantine family of seafood restaurants and the burger all-stars at Hodad’s are both building production breweries to supply their locations throughout the county.
The Brigantine has long offered a house beer called Brig Brew. That mild golden ale has been produced by Karl Strauss Brewing, which crafts private-label offerings for other hospitality clients. Brigantine president Mike Morton, Jr. and his team want a lager for the group’s Mexican-themed Miguel’s Cocina eateries, but with Strauss’ growth (it is currently the 41st largest craft brewery in the country), the veteran beer company would be unable to accommodate that request. So, The Brigantine is installing Ketch Brewing in a vacant warehouse space at its corporate headquarters at 7889 Ostrow Street in Kearny Mesa.
The 10-barrel, direct-fire brewhouse and cellar (four 20-barrel fermenters and a pair of 20-barrel brite tanks) will share that 2,000-square-foot space, while cold storage and grain-processing will occupy other parts of the building. Morton and company are looking forward to making better use of that underutilized space, and plan to bring brewing of Brig Brew, the aforementioned Mexican-style lager and an India pale ale in-house. Those are the only set styles at present. Everything beyond that will follow the vision and imagination of Ketch’s eventual head brewer. The Brigantine is currently accepting résumés from interested applicants.
The name Ketch Brewing matches that of Ketch Grill and Taps, a new casual-seafood concept slated to go live at the La Mesa space formerly known as the Red Sails Inn. It will also be one of four concepts installed as part of a $13 million renovation of the high-profile former home of Anthony’s Fish Grotto on the San Diego Bayfront. The Brigantine currently operates 14 locations and intends to have two house taps at each. While Ketch Brewing will start out draft-only, the company may entertain canning in the future. The Brigantine will utilize a third-party distributor, and Morton says there is potential for selling Ketch beers outside of his chain’s venues.
Meanwhile, Hodad’s is installing the first-ever beer-making spot in the Serra Mesa community just north of Mission Valley. The operation, Hodad’s Brewing Company will be located at 9726 Aero Drive, Suite B, near Interstate 15. That building formerly housed a printing company. Hodad’s manager Marlow Myrmo will be in charge of brewing.
Morton projects Ketch to be operational as soon as April with beers arriving at Brigantine restaurants in May. Hodad’s Brewing’s debut is less defined, but estimated to take place before the end of the year.
The last 10 days have been busy for Curtis and Liz Chism, the owners of Kearny Mesa’s Council Brewing Company. After reading an article right here in West Coaster about Santee’s Finest Made Ales being up for bid as a turnkey brewery, they contacted the house in charge of the auction and were told there was already a good deal of interest; enough that if they were interested they would have to venture to East County to tour the space that afternoon. Having explored numerous expansion options over the years, but struggling to find one that was ideal, they headed out and were pleased with what they found.
“It was beautiful. An almost brand-new Glacier seven-barrel three-vessel brewhouse with automation, five 30-barrel tanks, a pair of 15-barrel tanks and a seven-barrel fermenter, plus everything we would need to make more Council beer. I think my favorite part was the rakes in the mash tun,” says Liz with the type of giddiness only a professional brewer can experience over automated brewing equipment.
The duo returned the next day to take one more look and place an offer. An hour later, that offer was accepted and now Council Brewing owns the aforementioned equipment and has taken over owner Rey Knight’s lease on an eight-year-old Santee brewery that, prior to Finest Made Ales (established as Butcher’s Brewing in 2011), housed Twisted Manzanita Ales (originally opened as Manzanita Brewing in 2010). They are currently working on ABC and TTB licensing so they can open the new spot. The Chisms estimate it will take 60-90 days to be cleared and operational.
This is a return to Santee for the Chisms, who sold their home in Santee and moved to San Diego proper when funding Council in 2013. The business produced roughly 1,000 barrels of beer on its three-barrel system in 2017. The new brewery should allow Council to increase its production by 2,700 barrels annually. Additionally, acquiring Finest Made Ales’ space allows the Chisms to accomplish another goal they’d fostered—opening a second tasting room. Unlike most acquisitions of this nature, the outgoing brewery was left in good condition, so all that will be necessary prior to reopening are cosmetic changes, most notably rebranding. The Chisms will address that during their licensing period while working on scaling up their recipes.
The majority of the beer produced at the Santee facility will be India pale ales, though the tasting room will feature a broad variety of the company’s offerings, including sour beers (all of which will be produced in Kearny Mesa) and house-made kombucha. The Chisms are also purchasing a canning line to allow them to expand their packaged product line. Like Council’s other satellite location, a sour-beer production facility called “The Magic Factory,” the Santee space figures to get a fun nickname. Nothing is set in stone, but so far “The Lupulin Lounge” is the front-runner. Council’s Santee brewery is located at 9962 Prospect Avenue, Suite E.
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.
From the Beer Writer: First came Mosaic Session Ale. I had my first pint at the debut of Karl Strauss Brewing‘s revamped Brewery Gardens in Sorrento Mesa and instantly loved it. Enough that I pulled co-founder Chris Cramer aside to gush about the session IPA. Next came Double Mosaic, which I had via a growler delivered by Nickel Beer Co. owner Tom Nickel, who assisted Karl’s brewmaster Paul Segura in “doubling” the strength of that beer to a standard single-IPA alcohol level. Being such a fan of its progenitor, it wasn’t surprising I enjoyed Double Mosaic just as much, but I was caught completely off guard—and convinced in the consistency of my palate—when, at this year’s Changing of the Barrels at Karl Strauss’ headquarters, I ordered a beer called Isomerizer IPA, and once again experienced love at first sip. Bright with citrus and tropical-fruit aromas and flavors, exhibiting perfect weight and texture, dry and quenching in the finish, I was again driven to reach out to the Karl crew to share how much I liked it. It turns out, Isomerizer is a fine-tuned version of Double Mosaic and, fun fact, it will be available in canned six-packs and on-draft at Karl Strauss’ brewpubs and restaurants starting Monday. Whether you enjoy this veteran company’s Mosaic or simply the hop varietal its named after, you’re sure to love this beer. Maybe even as much as I do.
From the Brewer: “Isomerizer IPA was inspired by our Mosaic Session IPA and the tropical flavors of the Mosaic hop. It’s such a beautiful hop, the best one I’ve seen come along in a while. so we wanted to make an IPA that really showcased its full spectrum of flavors. We kept the malt profile subtle, which allowed the Mosaic to shine through the beer with its flavors of grapefruit, passion fruit, mango, blueberry and all of that tropical goodness. After some R&D work, we were so happy with the final batch that we decided to scale it up and add it to our core lineup as a year-round brew.”—Paul Segura, Brewmaster, Karl Strauss Brewing Company
Earlier today, American brewing-industry trade group, the Brewers Association, released its annual lists of top U.S. breweries for 2017. Not to be mistaken with rankings based on quality, this list is based on total production figures for the past calendar year. It is a list several San Diego County breweries have been a part of for the better part of the past decade, and remain a part of for the year gone by.
In order to provide a more informative picture, the Brewers Association produces two lists. One, titled the Craft Brewing List, includes brewing companies that meet the organization’s definition of “craft brewer.” The most important criteria in respect to these lists is that brewers produce six million barrels of beer or less annually, and are outright independent or less than 25% owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member which is not itself a craft brewer. Meanwhile, an Overall List includes large macro-beer companies and conglomerates.
Stone Brewing remains the highest-ranking local brewing interest on the Craft Brewing List, coming in at number eight. Though sales have slowed for the Escondido-based company, the beer brewed at its large Richmond, Virginia, production brewery aided its ascent. The next-highest locals on the list are Karl Strauss Brewing Company at number 41 and Green Flash Brewing Company at number 43. Karl Strauss remains in the same spot it occupied in 2016, while Green Flash has slipped six places. The latter also operates a Virginia brewery in Virginia Beach, and is in the process of taking over a recently-acquired brewpub in Lincoln, Nebraska, but recently contracted its sales territories, has suffered through two significant rounds of layoffs, and is openly seeking capital investment.
Though Ballast Point Brewing remains the largest beer-making operation in San Diego County, it does not show up on either list. Instead, it is lumped into parent company Constellation Brands, which ranks number three on the Overall List. Stone was the only local independent craft brewery to make it onto the Overall List, coming in at number 18. Both lists can be viewed in their entirety here.