If you’re a consistent San Diego Beer News reader, by now you know the name Benchmark Brewing Company (6190 Fairmount Avenue, Suite G, Grantville). It’s a new brewery run by former AleSmith brewer Matt Akin. Just as he did at his former post, Akin’s applying his skill, energy, and time to crafting brews that, rather than outlandish and insanely West Coast, represent beer styles at their most traditional. That’s not to say that he’s not bringing it on the hop front. San Diego 71, an imperial India pale ale he poured during the company’s grand opening weekend, was piney as all get out and drinkable as hell, but Akin’s core beers are more indicative of what one can expect.
Jim Akin tends to business at Benchmark's tasting bar
Benchmark’s year-round IPA brings forth citrus, resin, and bitter notes borne of Cascade, Palisade, and Simcoe hops. The beer is balanced so that it leaves taste buds intact enough to enjoy several pints of the low ABV beer. On the other end of the spectrum, Akin’s brown ale is a quaffable testament to the power of malted barley. The brewmaster combines Gambrinus pale with “every color crystal malt you can imagine,” and a variety of chocolate malts (but not victory malt, a popular ingredient in most brown ales). The result is a beer with plenty of nuttiness, even an interesting pepperiness on the back-end and a crisp, dry finish. Similarly, Akin’s favorite beer leans on hops’ grainy counterparts to deliver potent roasty flavors via a velvety, brunette oatmeal stout.
In short, the beers are solid. So, too, is the design of the business’ tasting room. Seating is separated into two sections, a school of high tables near the bar and picnic tables for the more communal in a side section brightened by floor-to-ceiling windows and a hop green wall. A reclaimed wood backdrop serves as a canvass for colorful local art loaned to Akin by his neighbor, Ryan Montgomery. The brewmaster is working on holding a beery art show for him in the future. Akin is also close with the artist who designed his tap handles. That individual, Eric Swesey, a local woodworker who grew up down the street from him.
Adding to the space's aesthetic appeal is a newly mounted early-‘40s topographic map of San Diego County spanning from Point Loma to Jamul and adorning an entire wall just off the bar area. Upcoming attractions will include cask beer, the first several of which will include variations on the oatmeal stout as well as a honey nut brown ale designed to convey flavors reminiscent of Honey Nut Cheerios. While not a finished product, there’s already a lot to enjoy at Benchmark and plenty of cause for eager anticipation on what’s yet to come.