November has been an active month for East Village's Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery. The small brewpub observed its fifth anniversary with a celebratory luncheon, issued its first ever bottle releases, and hired a new head brewer.
Last month, Cosimo Sorrentino announced he will be leaving the position after three and a half years to pursue a future outside of San Diego. In a Facebook post late Monday, Monkey Paw owner Scot Blair announced he had tapped Stone Liberty Station brewer Nick Norton to be the new Head of Brewery Operations, calling him the right person to "continue the great work and innovative spirit," of the award-winning brewery, and noting, "Nick now has the unique opportunity to find his voice and put his footprint on the Monkey Paw brand."
Meanwhile, Blair's other brewpub, South Park Brewing Co., will also receive a new head brewer — Blair. Sorrentino has been running both locations since South Park opened nearly two years ago, but when he leaves at the end of December, Norton will stick to Monkey Paw while Blair brews at South Park with the help of assistant brewer Ryan Traylor.
Blair's announcement also noted Monkey Paw aims to release "at least two new bottles each quarter" going forward. The 22-ounce bombers released to commemorate its anniversary also represent two of the final beers brewed by Sorrentino: a Thank You! 5th Anniversary double IPA, and a "s'mores" version of the brewpub's annual holiday ale, Santa’s Pet Monkey.
Both beers feature labels designed by Nick Fullmer, a San Francisco Bay area illustrator who has designed label artwork for dozens of beer companies including Societe Brewing, Cellarmaker, and Marin Brewing. Santa's Pet Monkey comically depicts a single flying monkey pulling Santa's sleigh, instead of reindeer. The illustration for the Thank You IPA proves more satirically pointed. In it, a monkey armed with only a sling takes out an armored Goliath brandishing the words "Big Beer" across his chest.
Earlier this year, Monkey Paw found itself at the middle of a craft versus big beer controversy when Anheuser-Busch-owned 10 Barrel brewpub announced plans to open a San Diego location just a block from Monkey Paw. At the time, the San Diego Brewer's Guild objected to 10 Barrel's arrival on behalf of its members, calling it the subsidiary brewery a "wolf in sheep's clothing" that would co-opt the San Diego craft beer brand while using its resources to usurp local market share and undercut beer prices.
So it's worth noting in this David versus Goliath context that Monkey Paw priced these beers at $4.50 and $5.50 apiece — considerably below market value. Local beers comparable to the 9.1 percent Thank You IPA average closer to ten dollars a bottle, retail.
In a Facebook announcement of the bottle sale, Monkey Paw suggested it will not profit from the sale: "We are putting our money where our mouth is and giving the best beer fans in the world some very delicious beer at this incredibly equitable cost to say THANK YOU! for supporting small beer."