7705 Convoy Court, San Diego
Objectivity is everything, but I’ll admit, it’s hard not to pull for a nice husband-and-wife team that used their own four hands to build out their brewery and tasting room, and do everything from brewing to serving their beer. Such is the case with Liz and Curtis Chism, the owners and brewers at Council Brewing Company (7705 Convoy Court, Kearny Mesa). They’re likeable, hard-working people — the type anyone would want to succeed. So, as I embarked on a journey through a flight of their first five beers, I found myself actively hoping their beers wouldn’t suck. Now, I don’t usually root for the opposite, but still, this was out of the ordinary.
Turns out, they didn’t need my good vibes. Council’s list of first-running beers showed great promise. Usually that means there’s room for improvement, and that is true of some of the brews, but there were at least two I thought were great as-is. Case in point, the delightfully creamy, chocolaty Pirate’s Breakfast, an imperial oatmeal stout I sampled prior to the brewery’s soft launch two weeks ago. Also impressive was Gavel Drop, an India pale ale given spicy hop appeal and zestiness akin to spring onions courtesy of Nelson Sauvin. High on flavor yet crisp and drinkable, it’s one of the better initial IPA offerings I’ve come across in the past year-plus.
My favorite of the sampler quintet, surprisingly so, was Lively Banter, a hoppy wheat ale that, due to some brewhouse inefficiencies, turned out differently than the Chisms had planned. The product of the first brew session at their new brewery, the beer was supposed to be dry and subtly sweet from the addition of honey and orange peel, but defects in the brewing system forced the couple to spontaneously navigate obstacles to get the brew from the kettle to the fermenter. By the time it reached the latter, the wort had sat on hops far longer than intended, making for a finished product with just a hint of citrus and a nice, low-grade hop bite. It’s actually perfect for the hot weather San Diego will be subject to over the summer, and something they’ll hopefully be able to replicate.
On the other end of the spectrum, an American-style pale ale is a little too thin. Amarillo, Centennial and Chinook hops provide nice bitterness, but more malt is necessary; a point the Chisms conceded. And while Farmer’s Gold makes for a plenty quaffable saison, it’s a bit round and could use more white pepper punctuation or some funk. But overall, this was one of the better opening-week line-ups I’ve made my way through in awhile, which is pretty impressive considering the large number of breweries that have opened throughout the county in the past few years.