The name Kelsey McNair is well known among San Diego beer enthusiasts. To many, he’s looked upon as the next big hope for North Park. An accomplished homebrewer who’s brought home many awards and tantalized numerous palates with his well-crafted homebrews, he’s been working for years on his passion project, North Park Beer Co. And though he has yet to find a place to lay down stakes, he and his beers are still loudly buzzed about, if only rarely tasted.
Thanks to some generous friends of McNair’s, I have had the opportunity to sample some of his creations and have marveled at their spot-on to-style flavors and sharp flavor profiles. So, it makes me happy to learn that his single most award-winning beer, Hop-Fu! IPA, will be on tap around town over the course of the next week. This fortuitous opportunity comes courtesy of another well-known homebrewer who went pro, Julian Shrago of Los Angeles County’s Beachwood Brewing & BBQ.
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Two years ago, Shrago invited McNair to brew Hop-Fu! as a Pro-Am beer. Unfortunately, the Citra hops that give that West Coast-style double IPA its vibrant orange, tropical fruit, and freshly zested lime characteristics were in short supply. Fast forward to last month and, with equal desire and way more Citra, the pair finally had their brew day and, according to McNair, it went off without a hitch. The beer is currently available at Beachwood, and kegs have been delivered to a quartet of craft beer bars that will tap Hop-Fu! as follows: Toronado San Diego (Mar. 12, 6:30 p.m.), Blind Lady Ale House (Mar. 16, 4 p.m.), Tiger! Tiger! Tavern (Mar. 19, 5 p.m.), and Hamilton’s Tavern (TBD).
Among the 11 awards Hop-Fu has won are first- and second-place finishes in the final round of the 2013, 2012, and 2010 editions of the National Homebrewers Competition; first place at the 2014 America’s Finest City Homebrew Competition; and runner-up at the annual AHA Rally and Homebrewing Competition conducted by Stone Brewing Co. Another of McNair’s claims to fame is winning the 2010 edition of the latter contest and having his San Diego County Session Ale brewed at Stone along with Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits Specialty Brewer Colby Chandler then distributed throughout the country. Given all this, it's no wonder locals are so looking forward to North Park Beer Co.'s eventual arrival.