Brandon Hernández 5:09 a.m., June 19
These days, with new breweries in the planning stages throughout the county, my beer touring tends to involve hitting works-in-progress. Of all the upcoming brewing companies in San Diego, the one with the most eyes on it is Rip Current Brewing. Based in San Marcos (1325 Grand Avenue, Suite 100) and scheduled to open this fall, it represents the next progressive step for two very talented homebrewers—Paul Sangster and Guy Shobe.
Sangster is well known, not only in San Diego, but throughout the country as the 2011 winner of the Ninkasi Award—the hardware bestowed on the highest scoring entrant in the competition component of the American Homebrewers Association's annual National Homebrewers Conference. As an amateur, he’s probably amassed enough trophies, medals, ribbons, and certificates to decorate an entire wall or two of Rip Current’s new tasting room.
Instead, one wall will be covered with obscure, vintage beer cans from his extensive personal collection. A look at the currently barren tasting space takes a great deal of imagination to envision, but ten taps will be operating on opening day, spewing brews served up at a granite bar with a wood façade running the length of the room. Thanks to an edict that they offer a second exit, tasting space is also available down a hallway leading to a second room that, like the main bar, will have TVs, and feature an additional bathroom (raising the number to three…big bonus)
Once they are able to up production, they’ll expand the taps to a total of 20. That many handles will be necessary once they get going. Variety is a key component of Sangster and Shobe’s game plan. Rip Current will be about taking the fun and adventurous spirit of homebrewing—a medium where fruit- and spice-infused beers, imperialized versions of typically low-alcohol beers, hybrid styles, and the like are more common than commercial brewing, which due to the nature of business, is typically straightforward. The brewers’ tastes and tendencies will also drive the diverse nature of their beers. Sangster’s all about imperial brews while Shobe is a lover of session (low ABV) beers.
In order to make the most technically accurate versions of each of the many styles they will produce, they have put a great deal of money in up-front. Much of that was spent on installing one of the most comprehensive and unique reverse osmosis water systems of any brewery in the county. Sangster discovered the company that manufactured the system, Microbrewed Water out of Santa Barbara, while at the Great American Beer Festival a couple of years ago. It will allow he and Shobe to manipulate the make-up of their water to match the regions certain styles hail from or simply their personal desires.
When explaining, Shobe notes that San Diego water isn’t optimal for making stouts because it is high in calcium and sulfides, which are great when brewing IPAs and hoppy red ales, but do not sync up well with malt-forward brews. Hard water doesn’t work well with the astringency of malts. So, in order to optimize the water for a stout, the duo will up the chloride so it’s present in higher quantities and forms a better chloride-to-sulfide ratio.
Sangster and Shobe are excited to be exploring this “last frontier” of brewing, but note that all the machinery in the world doesn’t mean a thing if the base beer one starts with isn’t any good. To further ensure that and quality in general, they are also spending start-up funds on a quality control lab, something most start-up breweries don’t have due to the great expense of installing one. The fact they bit the bullet on what figures to be a cornerstone of their business is impressive, as is the fact that they have roped off space for barrel-aging near the off-limits office portion of their facility.
Visitors will have plenty of opportunity to see brewing in action if they please. The main 15-barrel brewhouse is visible from the main tasting room area, and a much smaller pilot system that will be used to brew up test batches of more out-there creations will be located within sight of the supplementary tasting space.
Rip Current will be tasting room-centric, meaning they want their facility to be a destination where people come to experience the full range of their beers. Some will only ever be served there, but they will also be kegging some of their beers and sending them around to local accounts, starting with North County neighbors such as Churchill’s Pub and Grille, Sublime Ale House, and Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens.