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Meet Your Maker

Brewmaster Q&A with Winslow Sawyer, brewmaster at Pure Project Brewing, Miramar

Meet Your Maker, March 2016

Winslow Sawyer, brewmaster at Pure Project Brewing; photo by Paul Body

Pure Project Brewing opened just over a month ago in Miramar. Incorporating into such a suds-saturated part of town is akin to touching down in a jungle overflowing with long-bearded brewers and stainless steel foliage. That’s apt, considering Pure was originally sited in the rainforests of Costa Rica. Fortunately, utility issues led them to relocate, allowing youthful yet experienced NorCal transplant Winslow Sawyer to get in on the action. Get to know this newcomer to the local suds scene and some of his liquid contributions to it.

Brandon Hernández: You’re new to San Diego. Where did you come from?
Winslow Sawyer: When I turned 21, I was able to get a job milling grain, scrubbing tanks and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning Boulder Creek Brewery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. After a year, the head brewer left, and I was handed the reins. Because it was a little seven-barrel system, I was able to brew a couple hundred different beers including Sahtis [a Finlandian style of beer] and lots of funky Brettanomyces [wild yeast] beers; and put redwood, silver and flannel in our 25th anniversary beer. Best of all, the Mountains were a Pinot Noir winery region, and I could get all the barrels I wanted and use them to age Flanders-style red ales, fruited lambic-style ales and dry-hopped Brett beers in the style of Denver’s Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project. Most of all, I learned about hard work and patience on their 30-year old JV Northwest brewing system.

What is your approach to brewing at Pure Project?
Here at Pure, we focus on ingredients. This means starting with the purest, highest-quality ingredients and designing beers around them rather than starting with styles and sourcing ingredients for them. We feel every beer has a story and, although a lot of our beers have spices or other untraditional ingredients, my brewing style relies on subtlety and clean flavors. We are definitely not making extreme beers, and they are all designed to pair well with food instead of overpower it.

What Pure Project beers are you especially proud of?
Well, they’re all my children, so I can’t really pick favorites, but I am really happy with Milagro, our dry stout on nitro with organic Madagascar vanilla beans and Costa Rican coffee. It smells like a cup of coffee, but is delicately smooth and creamy. I am also really pleased with all the hoppy beers. I was trying to go for that huge, hoppy nose without any of the lingering bitterness or maltiness a la Cellarmaker Brewing in San Francisco, and they all came out great.

What barrel goodness do you have on tap for the future?
Our first release will probably be our Flanders- style red ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels, which is coming along really nicely and is close to my heart, because I drank a lot of the classic Flanders archetype, Rodenbach Grand Cru, when I lived in Bordeaux, France. We also have an 11-percent version of our imperial porter, Midnight in Moscow, aging in whiskey barrels from our friends at Breckenridge Distillery in Colorado. And, last but not least, a variety of fruited lambic-style beers in Pinot Noir barrels. I’ve been breeding my sour cultures for six-plus years, so they will definitely have a unique taste that you won’t want to miss.

What are some of your favorite local breweries so far?
Granted, I’ve only been down here for six months and been really busy with this project, so I haven’t even scratched the surface, especially North County. I really enjoy Societe, Modern Times, Toolbox, Intergalactic and our conjoined twin, Amplified Ale Works. I also am lucky to live right by Fall Brewing. I have an existential experience every time I see their gorgeous brewhouse. Alpine reminds me a lot of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and you really can’t beat their Nelson rye IPA.

What’s the one thing, first and foremost, you want people to know about Pure Project?
We are a 1% for the Planet company, which means one percent of sales, not profit, goes to supporting local non-profits organizations like Surfrider. No matter what happens to this industry, when you buy a pint of Pure beer, your money will not only go to good beer. It will go to good causes and good people.

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