The heady specialty beer candidates vying to be named Birra Catania
11545 Sorrento Valley Road #305, San Diego
The next door space New English Brewing Company will expand into during the first quarter of 2015
With the rapid growth of so many San Diego brewing companies, it’s easy to lose sight of those following the less-flashy, slow-and-steady model. One such operation, New English Brewing Company (11545 Sorrento Valley Road, #305, Sorrento Valley), has subscribed to it for the past eight years, trading quantity for quality. Owner and brewmaster Simon Lacey’s beers display the benefits of this station-to-station approach. Every beer on his tasting room board is on-point. That’s not the case with many of the fast-growing fence-swingers, so it’s nice to see such fastidious long-term dedication rewarded. And New English appears to be coming into its own, to the point where Lacey is in the home stretch for a significant expansion.
Last year, Lacey took over the business suite abutting the south wall of his current brewery and tasting room. This move adds 3,800 square feet and a great deal of opportunity for the business. Once complete, the space will house three brand-new 42-barrel fermenters and a large cold storage unit that will allow New English to hold greater and more varied beer inventory. It will also provide storage and space for the keg cleaning equipment and a second bottling line that will allow Lacey to add 12-ounce bottles to his line-up. Moving certain operational components to the new space will allow for expansion of the tasting room in the original facility and expansion of the company’s burgeoning barrel-aging program. If everything stays on schedule, the expansion will be completed by the end of February.
New English Brewing Company's Sorrento Valley brewery and tasting room
In the meantime, Lacey and company are closing out another special project, the brewing of a signature beer for Catania (7863 Girard Avenue, La Jolla), the new restaurant concept going in as the anchor business in the giant, long-vacant building formerly occupied by Jack’s La Jolla. The new eatery is the work of WNL Hospitality, the entity behind Whisknladle and the Prepkitchen chain. WNL had New English work up a special brew, Pure and Simple IPA, for Whisknladle’s fifth anniversary. They were so impressed with it that they asked Lacey to develop prototypes for a light-drinking yet flavorful beer that would pair well with Catania’s coastal Italian fare.
Last week, Lacey served the WNL crew a trio of ales based loosely around traditional Pilsner recipes. The first was straightforward and dry-hopped with Cascade and Saaz hops, while another sweeter trial beer incorporated rye and Munich malts. In the end, New English and WNL unanimously selected a prototype brewed with rye malt and flaked barley (for more substantial mouthfeel) brewed with Cascade, Czech Saaz, and Citra hops, with basil and lemongrass added in the whirlpool. The result is Birra Catania, an easy-drinking beer that registers around 6% alcohol-by-volume and features a unique, sweetly herbaceous nose as well as basil flavor that starts out floral before melding with the bitterness provided by the hop bill. There is no beer like it in San Diego County, making for enough reason to visit Catania (which is scheduled to debut by March) all on its own.