Ken Leighton 7 a.m., May 5
Indian Joe Brewing
The Brewers Association, a trade association representing U.S. breweries, recently released official numbers indicating there are 2,126 breweries operating within the country. That’s an increase of 350 since 2011. Of that total, 2,075 are craft breweries. It makes San Diego's 50-plus brewery count seem a bit small until one does the math and realizes our county alone accounts for two-and-a-half percent of the national total.
As if those numbers aren’t staggering enough, there are 1,252 breweries in the planning process. There are well over 20 craft breweries in the works within San Diego County. They vary in size, concept, and location. Many are quietly going about their business, working to get through licensing and build-out so they can get to the business of brewing and getting their product into the pint glasses of thirsty San Diegans. This week, I’m focusing on five upcoming local brewing companies, finding out what they’re about and what they aim to bring to beer Nirvana.
The first of those is Vista’s Indian Joe Brewing (2379 La Mirada Drive), a small brewery paying homage to owner Max Moran’s Luiseño Indian heritage and his familial brewing lineage. Max’s ancestors hail from Pala and San Luis Rey. His great great uncle Joseph tended vines at Mission San Luis Rey, but his real passion was brewing. Stories handed down about him by Max’s great aunt, Louise Foussat (for who the road and elementary school in Oceanside were named, pictured below) made a big impact on him, especially after he discovered his own love of brewing.
That came when Max and his father worked together as landscapers in the ‘80s. One of their customers, a German brewer with a knack for infusing beer into food, insisted that the father-and-son duo join him for a tasting each day before they started work. Max enjoyed cookies and cakes made with beer as well as beer-marinated bacon. The beery character of those offerings inspired Max to learn to brew his own suds.
Turns out this contender for best boss ever was generous with more than just his food. He offered up his time and knowledge, taking Max under his wing to teach him the craft. The pair brewed for seven years, at which point Max’s mentor passed away. Max continued to brew and, in the late ‘80s, suggested to a close friend that they open a brewery. His friend, a successful entrepreneur, said he was crazy, because he would never be able to compete with the Budweisers and Coors of the world. Then came the mid-‘90s and the rise of Stone and Ballast Point. Max played the I-told-you-so card. His friend agreed and, in 2003, Max went about applying for a trademark for the name of the business—Native Brewing.
The name was deemed too broad and denied. Thinking back to his uncle, he reapplied for a trademark, this time under the name Indian Joe. It, too, was denied, but this time, Max wasn’t ready to give up. Indian Joe (pictured below) was what those who knew his great great uncle as a beermaker called him and it was important to him to honor that...even when other Native Americans protested the name, stretching Max’s battle over the right to use the name to last nearly two years.
Sadly, over that span, in 2009, Max’s friend passed away after his own battle with esophageal cancer. But before he died, he told Max he should continue to chase his dream of opening a brewery. He did just that and, in 2010, was granted the trademark for Indian Joe Brewing. He has spent the past two years building his tasting room, which is outfitted with an old saloon motif complete with black-and-white photos of Max’s ancestors from the early 1900s.
The tasting room is outfitted with 21 taps which Max hopes to fill with a wide array of beers, several of which are produced using ingredients hailing from local reservations, even some items that Joe used over a century ago. Prime examples of the latter include a Marzen lager made with native cactus, and a beer incorporating chia (yes, like the infamous seen-on-TV “pet”), which Max notes as being known for having numerous medicinal qualities. Another interesting brew, Téng’alish ya’ásh (Luiseño for “Medicine Man”), is a stout made with organic oatmeal, coffee, white sage, agave nectar, and Tahitian noni berries.
The beers will be brewed in 55 gallons batches. Originally, Max had planned on using a 15-barrel system he inherited, but it was too old and he was able to get better quality and consistency from his smaller pilot system. When I spoke with Max, he was in the middle of earthquake-proofing his cooler. It's one of the finishing touches, and if all goes well, the Indian Joe tasting room will open to the public in early September.