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Part I

Brewhouses are opening at an astounding rate around San Diego County, but no one region has experienced as much growth over the past year-and-a-half as the city of Vista. Once home to just two breweries, Green Flash Brewing Company (which moved to Mira Mesa last year) and Lamppost Pizza's alter-ego brewpub, Back Street Brewery, there are now six brewing operations calling the North County municipality home. Last weekend, I visited five of them, taking time to catch up with the brewers behind them. The following is news on Vista's newest brewery, Latitude 33 Brewing Company.

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When Green Flash departed Vista, they left behind a 20-barrel brewhouse that is now the domain of Kevin Buckley, a brewer with a résumé including stops at Iowa's Millstream Brewery, Alberta's Grizzly Paw Brewery, the aforementioned Back Street, where he was their brewmaster, and, perhaps most encouraging of all, San Diego's own Alpine Beer Company. Having brewed at the latter pair of local operations has afforded him an understanding, not only of what San Diego beer drinkers appreciate, but the overall landscape and how he can provide offerings that are either underrepresented or absent from it.

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Buckley invited me to be the first to belly up to their lengthy, black walnut tasting bar (which is ADA equipped, a thoughtful bonus) to check out his flagship beers. The first was Straw Horse Wheat Ale, a 5.2% ABV American wheat beer with striking clarity (particularly impressive considering its unfiltered), pleasantly light herbal undertones and great drinkability. That last trait is one all of the beers shared. With all of them registering at or under 7 percent ABV, it's a catalog you can sip your way through without the negative repercussions that can accompany a strong beer tasting.

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Next up was The Pasha's Rye Brown Ale, a well balanced American brown ale that benefits from the addition of rye, which dries the beer out and adds a spicy note to the finish. Camel Corps IPA came next. Its tasteful bitterness and impressively pronounced tropical fruit notes flavor are primarily derived from rarely used Motueka hops from New Zealand (Buckley informed me that he intends to brew a double IPA version of this beer called Double Hump as a special seasonal release). Last but definitely not least was Vanilla's Porter. Brewed using nine pounds of Madagascar and Mexican vanilla, it combines plenty of the beans' trademark flavor without the sweetness that is so common to this increasingly popular style of beer.

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Latitude 33 is jumping through the final regulatory hurdles required to make their public debut. As soon as final approvals come in (which they are hoping will occur within the next two weeks), their 1,200 square foot tasting room will be ready for visitors, merch wall and all. I have to say, their logo (which was designed by Sean Dominguez, who is also responsible for the artwork of San Marcos' The Lost Abbey) looks darn good. That said, it's nice to know there's more to this new business than aesthetics - namely, some tasty beer.

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Latitude 33 Brewing Company is located at 1430 Vantage Court, Suite 104. When they open, their tasting bar hours will be from 2 to 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday, and 12 to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

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