There can only be one undistributed beer of the week. The competition is fierce in San Diego's beer community, but someone has to take the title. This week's best undistributed beer is...
SOUTH PARK BREWING CO.: SCRIPPS PIER
Pair with: oysters, scallops or chocolate cake
This brew is full of malty undertones with a salty kick of the sea. It's medium bodied and offers a roasty taste with notes of caramel, dark fruits and coffee.
THE STORY: This awesome beer comes to us from Cosimo Sorrentino, brewer at South Park Brewing Co. The idea for an oyster stout wasn't a hard one for the team at South Park, whose inspiration from the sea is apparent in the brewery's fresh, fish-based menu and general San Diego-based ocean theme.
Scot Blair, owner of South Park Brewing, Monkey Paw Brewing and Hamilton's Tavern, had an idea of the the core beers he wanted to see in the lineup when South Park Brewing opened, and he wanted them to coincide with the fish-friendly vision. Thus, a sea-based stout was one of the first beers on Sorrentino's agenda.
Sorrentino set out to create the perfect recipe for the then new brewery, and began experimenting with different types of products. Historically speaking, oyster stouts are made with oyster shells added to the stout-base for a more briny taste.
"Adding shells does add that texture and that salinity, but mainly the oyster shells are added for a lacking mineral addition and we don't need anymore calcium in our water in San Diego" Sorrentino said.
The interesting part about this "oyster" stout is that it actually has no oysters in it. Now, at first it may seem like a non-oyster stout by definition, but Sorrentino explains that the oysters weren't adding much to his version of the classic brew.
"I made the call that we weren't going to use oyster meat because it was a waste of product. We had intended on using a couple shells for tradition but then so many people asked if there were shells in it because they had a shellfish allergy or were vegan," he said. "So, if the shells weren't going to contribute to the beer and were keeping people from enjoying the beer, why add the shells?"
So, Sorrentino decided to try adding filtered sea water from Scripps Pier. The water shop offers an elaborate filtration system for people who have fish tanks and other specialty water needs.
"I grew up in this neighborhood; This location (South Park Brewing) used to be a barber shop where I got my haircut and my mom use to get our fish-tank water from Scripps Pier down the way and so it just made sense to me," he said.
Each batch of this sea-infused beer is now made with that sea water, and has about two gallons of it added into the boil. The simple stout recipe is composed of base malts and black malts, with the addition of varying amounts of flaked barley and oats.
The beer ended up becoming a unique and outstanding crowd favorite that has won various awards, including a Silver Medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2015 in the Oatmeal Stout category.
"This was a beer we wanted to have on for ourselves that we never expected to get any momentum and now, it's our top-selling beer to-go, definitely in the top for pint beers and our most awarded beer so far."
This beer is currently available on tap at South Park Brewing Company. Get it while it's cold!
South Park Brewing Company, 1517 30th St., South Park. southparkbrewing.com