By Brandon Hernández
What's new in brew or coming soon
Wavelength Brewing Company
The main drag in Vista 's Old Town area already had a lively local brewery in Mother Earth Brew Co., but the owners of this newly opened, showmanship-focused nanobrewery figure twice as much is twice as nice. Located a few storefronts from Mother Earth, stage-lighting and audio expert Hans Haas' tasting room is spacious and built to offer a wide range of non-style-specific brews in tandem with live music performances and concert footage. Rock on! 236 Main St., Vista, wavelengthbrewco.com
Border X Brewing Company
Few brewing companies are as well-suited for their 'hoods as this operation. Run by a family proud of celebrating its Hispanic heritage in tandem with the ingredients often used by our neighbors to the south, this brew biz recently celebrated the grand opening of a tasting room (a satellite to its Otay Mesa brewery) replete with colorful local art to match avant garde house beers such as Abuelitas Chocolate Stout, Tamarindo Blonde and Horchata Golden Stout. 2181 Logan Ave., Barrio Logan, borderxbrewing.com
Brewmaster Q & A
Carli Smith, Head Brewer
Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant, La Jolla
After a decade-and-a-half of creating awardwinning beer in the same brewhouse, brewmaster Marty Mendiola departed Rock Bottom's La Jolla brewpub to open his own brewery. In doing so, he handed the reins to protégé Carli Smith, an ambitious 25-year-old who, despite her youth, has racked up an impressive brewing pedigree.
Brandon Hernández: What made you want to get into the brewing industry?
Carli Smith: I enrolled in USD's business program. I was good at math, so I studied finance. I interned at several places, but didn't find anything I loved. While studying abroad in Austria, I fell in love with the beers there and in Germany. There were so many different styles to discover.
How did you break into the brewing game?
I was a hostess at Gordon Biersch in Mission Valley, and their brewmaster, Doug Hasker, asked for volunteers to help him out. I raised my hand and he gave me a chance. Pretty soon, I was helping him out, representing Gordon Biersch at festivals and meeting many people in the local beer scene. San Diego has an amazing beer community. It's so cohesive, and I wanted to be a part of it.
Doug Hasker is known as the best lager guy in San Diego County, and Marty Mendiola has won many awards for his ales. Those are some pretty good teachers to come up under.
Thanks to Doug, I have training on the lager side and the ale side. And Marty is great. He's sure to explain why things are done a certain way and never micromanaged me. Before he left, I'd been doing all the physical brewing for six months. And when I wanted to try brewing a berry white-tea-infused honey ale, he let me try it and helped me to refine it after we tasted it.
Now that you're the one calling the shots, what types of beer do you plan to brew?
The berry white-tea honey ale is a good example of what I like to do. It's not high in alcohol and has bright flavors. I recently added loose-leaf chai tea to Marty's recipe for Moonlight Porter. That gave it a nice spiciness without making it too sweet, and adding naked oats gave it nice body. And I just brewed my first IPA using Simcoe and lots of Chinook. I'm excited to see how that turns out. Most of all, I love working at a brewpub, because I get to interact with regulars and find out what they want. I plan to brew for the people.
What are your favorite San Diego breweries?
I first worked as a bartender at Karl Strauss in 1995. They've been a good influence on my life, and my wife and I got married at their Brewery Gardens. Ballast Point's lineup of beers is quite impressive. I love the quality beer at AleSmith and Societe, and I enjoy Stone's brews and unwavering attitude and courage in pushing boundaries.
Let's Go To the Hops
February beer events
You know a beer event in a county awash with suds soirees is something special when the geekiest of beer nerds will line-up outside an establishment in the darkest hours of the early morning just to get first crack at the wealth of rare libations waiting on the other side of the door. Such is the case with Churchill's Renaissance, which features not only more than 50 hard-to-come-by IPAs, sours, stouts and strong ales, but also a full menu of specially composed, one-day-only dishes built to pair with - and sop up - all those fine fermentables. March 7, 11 a.m., Churchill's Pub & Grille, 887 W. San Marcos Blvd., San Marcos, churchillspub.us
EC Craft Beer Invitational
Though it's happened rather quietly, as things tend to on the inland side of Interstate 8, East County has built itself a nice little brewing scene with URBN St. Brewing, Twisted Manzanita Ales, Bolt Brewery, BNS Brewing & Distilling and more opening up in the past few years. Now, those forces are banding together and inviting some of their favorite brewing compatriots to come out for the biggest beer festival the region's ever seen. March 15, 12 p.m., Corner of Magnolia Avenue and Main St., El Cajon, eccraftbeer.com
Do Me a Flavor
New beers to cheers and brews to peruse
Pizza Port Saisian Persuasion
What happens when a world-class brewpub incorporates a handful of traditional Far East ingredients in a traditional, Belgian-style farmhouse ale? This citrusy, spicy masterpiece, that's what. This Asian saison (Belgianstyle ale) is the lemonpepper libation of the beer world, marrying yuzu (extremely tart Japanese lemons), lemongrass, ginger and green peppercorns with vibrantly fruity, bitingly spicy Belgo yeast esters. Get it while it lasts at the Port's original pie place. Pizza Port, 135 N. Highway 101, Solana Beach, pizzaport.com
Aztec / Barley Forge Lupulin Against Lupus
Brewers from North County San Diego and South Orange County teamed together to brew another multi-cultural brew involving Belgian character. Fittingly, it involves what both regions are best known for - hops (SD) and citrus (OC). Brewed with wheat, this slightly cloudy, intensely hoppy IPA gets extra earthen, fruity character from coriander and orange peel. The latter is a nod to the color orange, the official hue of lupus awareness, for which this charity beer was brewed. Aztec Brewery, 2330 La Mirada Dr., Ste. 300, Vista, aztecbrewery.com; Barley Forge Brewing Co., 2957 Randolph Ave., Costa Mesa, barleyforge.com
Brandon Hernández is a native San Diegan with a fervent passion for craft beer and the talented individuals who produce it. He is a Senior Communications Specialist for Stone Brewing Co., an editor for Zagat, has served as a consultant to Food Network and contribautes to national and San Diego-based magazines including The Beer Connoisseur, Imbibe, Wine Enthusiast, San Diego Reader and more. The first publication for which he ever wrote about beer was PacificSD. Follow him on Twitter: @sdbeernews and @offdutyfoodie.