Take it from the Tap

By Brandon Hernandez

New beers to cheers and brews to peruse

Harvest Saison: More than a year into its successful bid to provide El Cajon a hub for hometown suds, URBN St. Brewing Co. is thriving and earning high marks for its saison. A farmhouse ale brewed with Belgian yeast, it comes across with vibrant fruitiness and a finish that’s bone-dry and peppery. In equal celebration of autumn and the Beer to the Rescue campaign benefiting Southern Californians stricken with lupus, head brewer Callaway Ryan is infusing his already lovely saison with a mélange of indigenous, seasonal spices and botanicals to create a limited-edition beer worth falling for. URBN St. Brewing Co., 110 S. Magnolia Ave., El Cajon,

Nectarine-Peach Beatitude: When Liz and Curtis Chism opened Council Brewing Co., their goal was to have a simple, highly drinkable sour beer available at all times. That beer, a tart saison called Beatitude, has become so popular that, although it’s brewed many times and infused with a farmer’s market’s stock of fresh fruits, it’s very hard to keep on tap. It’s in such demand, the couple recently leased a warehouse solely to produce and bottle it. The latest version is packed with 31 pounds of ripe stone fruit procured from Central California’s Masumoto Family Farm - and it’s just peachy. Council Brewing Co., 7705 Convoy Ct., Kearny Mesa,

What’s new in brew or coming soon

Alpine Beer Company Pub: Alpine’s namesake brewery has always had great beer. What’s been missing from the equation for far too long is enough space for the hordes of fans trekking to the remote mountain town in search of said ales. That all changed when the family-run operation (which was recently acquired by Mira Mesa-based Green Flash Brewing Co.) took over a large restaurant space, outfitting it with plenty of taps (serving mostly Alpine and Green Flash beers plus a number of guest brews) and a menu offering stick-to-your-ribs fare brought to new heights courtesy of craft culinary touches. 1347 Tavern Rd., Alpine,

Bay City Brewing Co.: Former Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery assistant brewer Chris West has ventured out on his own, setting up camp as the master of his own domain in Lomaland. Tucked away to serve Point Loma locals and visitors to Valley View Casino Center (pre-Gulls fuel-up, anyone?), Bay City Brewing Co. is a “coastal urban” brewery that shares San Diego’s old-time nickname and offers multiple tiers of beers broken down between hoppy, malty and sour brews. Crafted on a 20-barrel system from Escondido brewhouse-building stalwart Premier Stainless Systems, Bay City will serve a whopping 11 core beers year-round. 3770 Hancock St., Point Loma,

September beer events

Carlsbad Brewfest: Flower fields are fine, but at the second go-round of this annual fermentation fest, it’s hop flowers that will be celebrated, along with fine beers from more than 30 breweries. National interests will be ontap alongside local brewing stars. Sometimes it’s good to be ‘Bad. Sept. 12, 12 p.m., Holiday Park, 3400 Pio Pico Dr., Carlsbad,

San Diego Festival of Beer: San Diego’s very first beer fest has been around so long that it’s now old enough to drink. Celebrate 21 years of beery trailblazing along with hundreds of revelers and a smattering of brewers, local and visitor alike, at what remains one of the city’s most fun imbibing traditions. Sept. 18, 6 p.m, Broadway Pier, 1000 N. Harbor Dr., Downtown,

Brewmaster Q&A

George Thornton
Owner and brewer, The Homebrewer and Home Brewing Co.

George Thornton and his wife, Molly, own and operate one of San Diego’s most highly regarded homebrew supply shops, North Park’s The Homebrewer. Earlier this year, they added an on-site nanobrewery and tasting room to show customers how to get the most out of the retail component’s ingredients and brewing apparatuses. Though young, the Thornton’s aptly, yet somewhat ironically, named Home Brewing Company is generating a good amount of buzz throughout the local bee(r)hive.

Brandon Hernández: When did you decide to add a brewing arm to The Homebrewer?
GEORGE THORNTON: It had always been a dream, but without formal training, I felt it was not my role to open another brewery. I began to realize that my experience as a homebrewer and store owner gave me enough confidence and knowledge to make the leap. The main factor from the beginning was to have an emphasis on educating consumers about beer and how it’s made. It felt like it could be our way of making a positive contribution outside of just increasing the barrel-count for San Diego.

Tell us about your brewing background.
I began brewing out of necessity when I was 19. I had been to Europe a few summers prior and was exposed to having a quality beer with dinner... and then a lot more at the pub afterwards. It was a bummer being back home, getting straight As in college, working 40-plus hours and not being deemed “responsible” enough to select my own beer. My sister made me an offer in 2001 to buy me a homebrew kit and pay for my ingredients. I just had to keep the beer on tap at her place. Deal!

What’s your brewing style at Home Brewing Co.?
I’m a student of beer, so I enjoy brewing classic styles. I know that some people see that as being lame or a copout, but I don’t see it that way at all. I see it as a challenge, especially since we could arguably be making more money if we had every color of IPA on tap. So far, we’ve brewed a few English milds, a few American pale ales, a 3.3-percent alcohol-by-volume Belgian single, Schwarzbier, rauchbier, smoked saison, French saison, rye brown and more. All of the recipes for our beers are available online, along with brew notes. If I have a shitty brew day, I talk about it in the notes and explain my thoughts.

How has San Diego’s homebrewing community strengthened its pro brewing reputation?
I don’t think there is any doubt that the San Diego pro scene is fueled by homebrewers. Homebrewers are turning pro about every month in this town. Homebrewers and pro brewers are constantly engaging one another, asking questions and sharing ideas. It’s a great time to be a beer drinker in San Diego.

Brandon Hernández is a native San Diegan with a fervent passion for craft beer and the talented individuals who produce it. He is the author of Complete Guide to San Diego Breweries, Senior Communications Specialist for Stone Brewing Co. and contributes beer-centric content to national and San Diego-based publications. The first publication for which he ever wrote about beer was PacificSD. Follow him on Twitter: @sdbeernews and @offdutyfoodie.