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Alpha King brings home a whale

Wyoming's golden IPA has San Diego roots

Wyoming's Melvin Brewing debuted in California with a synchronized nine-state release of its award-winning
brews. - Image by Greg Von Doersten
Wyoming's Melvin Brewing debuted in California with a synchronized nine-state release of its award-winning brews.

Former local brewer and reigning Brewpub Brewer of the Year Kirk McHale made a return visit to San Diego last week, and he brought some award-winning beer with him. While beer enthusiasts prepared to queue at select craft beer destinations for the annual appearance of Russian River cult favorite Pliny the Younger, McHale's own whale of an IPA was making its California debut at Hamilton's Tavern.

Melvin Brewing's 2x4 Imperial IPA has won every prestigious craft beer gold medal, plus back-to-back victories at the Alpha King challenge, a contest judged by brewers and beer writers on a singular mission to find "the holy grail of well-balanced and drinkable, yet highly hopped ales." To give an idea of the level of competition, Russian River's Pliny the Elder — considered by many the world's top IPA — won Alpha King once, in 2007.

Juicy, resinous and a deceptively drinkable 10% ABV, 2x4 parades what Melvin's own brash tasting notes describe as the "Mad floral, citrusy, and clean taste of hop talent."

Otherwise, Pizza Port–affiliated brewers have dominated the competition the past 11 years, including a combined five wins for celebrated locals Jeff Bagby and Tomme Arthur. Prior to moving to Wyoming six years ago, McHale headed up Pizza Port brewpubs and began racking up medals for his work there. The Union-Tribune once referred to the him as the city's "best least-known brewer."

"If you've been drinking beer in San Diego, you've tried my beer," McHale says, citing Pizza Port's Wipeout and Chronic IPAs as examples of his recipes still produced locally. As McHale tells it, he began honing his homebrewing skills at age 14, sometimes with future Ballast Point head brewer Yuseff Cherney. "I was into science," McHale reflects, "I didn't drink, but [my brother] showed me how to make beer and I just took it to a whole other level."

McHale became a founding partner of Oceanside's Breakwater Brewing in 2008, then took his talents to Jackson, WY, to start Melvin with Thai Me Up brewpub owner Jeremy Tofte. They built on Tofte's 20-gallon homebrewing equipment, upgrading to a three-barrel system and turning out award winners like 2x4, Melvin IPA, and ChChChCh-Cherry Bomb fruit beer.

In the wake of Melvin's success at Great American Beer Festival and World Cup of Beer, distributors came calling. A $3 million business grant from the state of Wyoming helped it expand to a 27,000-square-foot, 30-barrel production brewery, so now it may finally meet a surging, multi-state demand for beers only previously available on draught at the Thai Me Up brewpub.

"We sold 8000 kegs in a day," McHale says, "I'm overwhelmed right now. I tell my brewers, get your ass in there and make beer."

Place

Hamilton's Tavern

1521 30th Street, San Diego

Hamilton's was the only bar in California to participate in Melvin's February 4 release party, which happened simultaneously in nine states. However, Melvin cans, bottles, and kegs should begin to appear with more regularity beginning this spring.

Meanwhile, further Melvin expansion plans include confirmed brewpub openings in Bellingham, Washington and Austin, Texas. McHale already has a another city in mind where the next brewpub could go. "Hopefully to San Diego," he says, "so I can get my butt back home."

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Wyoming's Melvin Brewing debuted in California with a synchronized nine-state release of its award-winning
brews. - Image by Greg Von Doersten
Wyoming's Melvin Brewing debuted in California with a synchronized nine-state release of its award-winning brews.

Former local brewer and reigning Brewpub Brewer of the Year Kirk McHale made a return visit to San Diego last week, and he brought some award-winning beer with him. While beer enthusiasts prepared to queue at select craft beer destinations for the annual appearance of Russian River cult favorite Pliny the Younger, McHale's own whale of an IPA was making its California debut at Hamilton's Tavern.

Melvin Brewing's 2x4 Imperial IPA has won every prestigious craft beer gold medal, plus back-to-back victories at the Alpha King challenge, a contest judged by brewers and beer writers on a singular mission to find "the holy grail of well-balanced and drinkable, yet highly hopped ales." To give an idea of the level of competition, Russian River's Pliny the Elder — considered by many the world's top IPA — won Alpha King once, in 2007.

Juicy, resinous and a deceptively drinkable 10% ABV, 2x4 parades what Melvin's own brash tasting notes describe as the "Mad floral, citrusy, and clean taste of hop talent."

Otherwise, Pizza Port–affiliated brewers have dominated the competition the past 11 years, including a combined five wins for celebrated locals Jeff Bagby and Tomme Arthur. Prior to moving to Wyoming six years ago, McHale headed up Pizza Port brewpubs and began racking up medals for his work there. The Union-Tribune once referred to the him as the city's "best least-known brewer."

"If you've been drinking beer in San Diego, you've tried my beer," McHale says, citing Pizza Port's Wipeout and Chronic IPAs as examples of his recipes still produced locally. As McHale tells it, he began honing his homebrewing skills at age 14, sometimes with future Ballast Point head brewer Yuseff Cherney. "I was into science," McHale reflects, "I didn't drink, but [my brother] showed me how to make beer and I just took it to a whole other level."

McHale became a founding partner of Oceanside's Breakwater Brewing in 2008, then took his talents to Jackson, WY, to start Melvin with Thai Me Up brewpub owner Jeremy Tofte. They built on Tofte's 20-gallon homebrewing equipment, upgrading to a three-barrel system and turning out award winners like 2x4, Melvin IPA, and ChChChCh-Cherry Bomb fruit beer.

In the wake of Melvin's success at Great American Beer Festival and World Cup of Beer, distributors came calling. A $3 million business grant from the state of Wyoming helped it expand to a 27,000-square-foot, 30-barrel production brewery, so now it may finally meet a surging, multi-state demand for beers only previously available on draught at the Thai Me Up brewpub.

"We sold 8000 kegs in a day," McHale says, "I'm overwhelmed right now. I tell my brewers, get your ass in there and make beer."

Place

Hamilton's Tavern

1521 30th Street, San Diego

Hamilton's was the only bar in California to participate in Melvin's February 4 release party, which happened simultaneously in nine states. However, Melvin cans, bottles, and kegs should begin to appear with more regularity beginning this spring.

Meanwhile, further Melvin expansion plans include confirmed brewpub openings in Bellingham, Washington and Austin, Texas. McHale already has a another city in mind where the next brewpub could go. "Hopefully to San Diego," he says, "so I can get my butt back home."

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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