By Brandon Hernández
Do Me a Flavor
New beers to cheers and brews to peruse
Half Door Bearleener Berliner Weisse
Whether it's the call of the suddenly well-equipped Padres or simply a love of San Diego beer that brings one to this Petco Park-adjacent brewpub, anyone will be able to get behind this tart, slightly creamy, low-alcohol beer. Designed to be refreshing and full of lemony zing, it's easy-drinking and goes down well from Half Door's second-story outdoor deck, offering a view of the ballpark and Park at the Park. Half Door Brewing Company, 903 Island Ave., East Village, halfdoorbrewing.com
Ballast Point Oompa Lupus
Orange is the official color of lupus awareness, so when Ballast Point's Colby Chandler volunteered to craft an imperial stout for the Beer to the Rescue lupus charity campaign, he let a play on words referencing Willy Wonka's citrushued legionnaires guide him. This high-alcohol brew is given extra deliciousness care of chocolate and orange (Wonka would be proud) as well as spicy cascabel chilies. That last one's a no-brainer - Chandler is perhaps the world's foremost expert on infusing peppers into beer. Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, 2215 India St., Little Italy, ballastpoint.com
Meet Your Maker
North Park is awash with craft beer, so it takes something significant to get locals excited about a new business that's still a year from opening. Despite being 12 months out, Kelsey McNair's work-in-progress North Park Beer Co. has hopheads pressed against the doors of his newly acquired facility, a former mixed martial arts gym on the corner of University Avenue and Ohio Street, chanting "open, open, open" (and "beer me"). For now, details on McNair's master plan will have to do.
Brandon Hernández: You've been trying to open in North Park for a long time. How did you decide on your new space?
KELSEY MCNAIR: Finding a space was a huge challenge. I started window-shopping way back in 2011. I seriously negotiated on several spaces throughout 2013 and 2014, two of which are now brewery tasting rooms. When my current space hit the market, I knew it was the right fit. It has great bones, high ceilings and an unparalleled North Park location.
Tell us about the new space and them bones.
The building is approximately 8,650 square-feet, which includes a 1,700-square-foot mezzanine and a 1,500-square-foot basement. The building was constructed in 1946 and has an Art Moderne-styled exterior that I'll be keeping intact. And it's right in the heart of North Park, only one block from 30th Street.
A basement in San Diego. That's pretty rare. What will you use it for?
I'm particularly excited about having a large basement with an over-10-foot ceiling. I mean, how many other breweries can say they have a barrel cellar in San Diego? I am really looking forward to developing a sour beer program and filling that cellar with barrels over the coming years.
Other than sours, what types of beers can imbibers expect?
I love brewing beers that are clean, dry, well-fermented and drinkable. With my background in IPA brewing [McNair has won the gold medal for the best homebrewed India pale ale in the country the past three years; an unprecedented feat], I obviously intend to brew a variety of IPAs and continue experimenting with hop combinations. Outside the hoppy spectrum, we'll have some standards in our lineup, but the plan is to offer a variety of styles and change the lineup frequently. Ideally, we'll have 12-to- 16 house beers on tap at all times and aim to please a diverse array of palates.
And how will this eponymous business convey the essence of its namesake neighborhood?
The ground floor will be an awesome beer parlor surrounded by the brewery equipment and a grand bar. There will be additional seating on the mezzanine and possibly a small kitchen, though it won't be anything like a full-on restaurant. The overall interior will give a nod to the many historic craftsman-style bungalows located throughout North Park. I'm putting together a rock-star architectural and design team to pull this off, and plan on hanging up historical photos of North Park people, places and things. The goal is for North Park Beer Co. to be a warm and welcoming place for friends and neighbors to gather over delicious beer of impeccable quality, and to be as much about North Park as it is the beer.
Coming to a Head
What's new in brew or coming soon
AleSmith Brewing Company
For 20 years, AleSmith has been the little brewery that could, pumping out arguably the planet's highest-quality, most consistent beers from a jigsaw puzzle configuration of detached business suites coming in at under 20,000 square-feet. By June, they'll be up and running at their brand new, 105,500-square-foot brewery, featuring a huge indoor/outdoor tasting room complete with fire features, a club room and a museum devoted to Tony Gwynn, who collaborated with AleSmith on a signature beer shortly before passing away last year. The move will allow this world-renowned brewery to up its production tenfold. Cheers to that! 9990 Empire St., Miramar, alesmith.com
AleSmith / Mikkeller Collaboration
Even with fancy new digs, AleSmith owner and brewmaster Peter Zien isn't ready to sever ties to his original brewery. So, he's sticking around to help his long-time friend (and now business partner) Mikkel Borg Bjergsø brew up new beers and a new business. Working as a "gypsy brewer" at facilities all over the world, Bjergsø has made a name for himself and the creative beers put out under his Mikkeller brand. This will be his first-ever brewery, and partnering with Zien should help ensure instant quality when the yet-to-be-named interest starts up in July. 9366 Cabot Dr., Miramar
Let's Go to the Hops
April beer events
Spend a day in the garden of Stone. They're bringing the lumber courtesy of this annual festival focusing on the symbiosis of fine beer and booze-soaked oak. Geek out on all styles of high-octane brews matured in second-use barrels procured from wineries and distilleries around the world. Wine (red, white and rose), brandy, bourbon, rye, tequila and more lend their extra layers of flavor to everything from inky stouts to acidic sour ales. April 26, 11 a.m., Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, 1999 Citracado Pkwy., Escondido, stoneworldbistro.com
Rhythm & Brews
Exit the Hop Highway and make a beeline for the beer lines at this celebration of local brews and local grooves. The first of the San Diego Brewers Guild's two major annual events (the other being its namesake fest during San Diego Beer Week in November), Rhythm & Brews will feature more than 50 breweries' ales and lagers, which are to be consumed in tandem with music from the Bill Magee Blues Band, Bubba McCoy, Ted Z and the Wranglers and more. Still thirsty post-fest? Hit up nearby Mother Earth Brew Co. or Wavelength Brewing Company. April 25, 11 a.m., Historic Downtown Vista Village, Vista, sdrhythmandbrews.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 contributes content to national and San Diego-based magazines including The Beer Connoisseur, Imbibe, Wine Enthusiast, The San Diego Reader and more. The first publication for which he ever wrote about beer was PacificSD. Follow him on Twitter: @sdbeernews and @offdutyfoodie.