Recent conversations with fellow craft beer fans recently got me to thinking about which of the 30-plus work-in-progress San Diego County breweries I’m most excited to see open. Last week, I tackled the top five. Today, I have six more that give me reason to expect the best or, at very least, something a little interesting and different.
Hess Brewing: It’s been nice having the little nanobrewery that could hidden away in a nondescript Miramar business park not too far from my personal residence. But, by making beer scores of people are willing to trek to that park for, owner and brewer Mike Hess needs to expand. In doing so, he has selected and completely reconfigured a former bible bookstore in North Park that is now home to a much larger brewing system that will allow him to manufacture enough of beers like his Grazias Vienna Cream Ale and Ex Umbris Stout to satisfy large and increasing demand and move his company to the next level. A canning line will also help sate the masses. It’s a long time coming and something metro San Diego beer lovers are anticipating big time.
North Park Beer Co.: Speaking of eager inner city residents, here’s another brewery they’ve been clamoring for despite the fact a spot has yet to be selected for the rookie operation. Owner and brewer Kelsey McNair’s getting close to securing one, though. In the meantime, he’s refining his homebrew recipes, readying them for the day he goes pro. McNair is well known as a standout among San Diego’s robust homebrew community. Most peoples’ first taste of his style came when he won Stone Brewing Co.’s annual AHA Rally homebrew competition in 2010. His winning entry, a hoppy, low ABV beer dubbed San Diego Session Ale was brewed in collaboration with Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele and Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits specialty brewer Colby Chandler. That and the several test brews of his I’ve sampled over the past year give me good reason to believe he’s ready for the next level.
Prodigy Brewing Company: The week before last, I wrote about brewer Dean Rouleau leaving his long-standing role as brewmaster at San Diego Brewing Company to work on this new venture. Turns out it is his and his alone. Rouleau is handling every aspect of the business, and that’s quite an undertaking, but wait, I haven’t come to the challenging part yet. He’s purchased several large oak foeders (large wooden tuns) from St. Helena’s The Napa Valley Reserve winery, which he’ll use to produce wild saisons, sour beers and other farmhouse ales. Ambitious stuff, but Rouleau’s been around the block more times than many San Diego brewers.
Saint Archer Brewery: Frequent readers of my articles may remember my elation over this Miramar-based newbie operation luring former Maui Brewing Co. lead brewpub brewer Kim Lutz to the mainland. She’s a skilled craftsperson, but she’s not even the top ranked brewer at Saint Archer. Another proven brewer, Ray Astamendi from Left Coast Brewing Company, is serving as brewmaster and helping the action sports veterans behind this brand accomplish their mission of supplanting the thin, low-flavor macrobeer served at surf, skate, and snowboard events with their refreshing yet high flavor kölsch, pale ale, and IPA. Those will be their core beers, but Astamendi and Lutz will be given the freedom to bust out more inventive brews as well.
Modern Times Beer: There's been a lot of buzz about this Point Loma-based company, most of it generated by reaction to social media savvy owner Jacob McKean's blog posts, email newsletter communiques, and online videos, all of which are engineered to drum up interest. But it wasn't until last month, when McKean announced the hiring of brewers Matt Walsh (Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Lost Coast Brewery), Derek Freese (Monkey Paw Pub & Brewing) and Alex Tweet (Ballast Point), that there was something tangible to get legitimately excited about. This is a talented trio that just may have what it takes to get this business moving at the fast pace required per its ambitious business plan.
Bifficio Calabria: Almost every professional brewer started out as a homebrewer. Each got into the business at different points in their career, so I never discount a homebrewer going pro based solely on how much experience they have. That said, they don’t typically inspire high levels of enthusiasm. One that does is this offshoot business of North Park’s Caffe Calabria which should be pumping out beer, including, of course, coffee-infused brews, by the end of the year. Manning a basement brewhouse and literal cellar will be Joey Cox, who in his decade-plus working at Caffe Calabria, has held nearly every position there. With any luck, his jack-of-all-trade nature will allow him to master the art of brewing.
So, there you have it. The 11 upcoming brewery installations that hold the most promise for yours truly. Over 20 more are in the process of opening as well and, though they’re not on this list, they’re still firmly affixed on my radar. Don’t let my list keep you from being interested in any of them. One man’s opinion (even a craft beer writer with lots of inside information) is just that. Use your palate and preferences guide you in your quest for quality San Diego beer.
Read "In the Hopper, Part 1"