AleSmith owner Peter Zien adds hops to a collaboration beer with Second Chance head brewer Marty Mendiola (right) and assistant brewer Craig Gregovics.
This Labor Day weekend, Second Chance Beer Co. will celebrate a busy first two years in business with a three-day party at its Carmel Mountain brewery. Second Chance already distributes six varieties of beer in cans, and its founders are working to open a North Park tasting room in October. According to head brewer and cofounder Marty Mendiola, the biggest struggle has been keeping up with demand.
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"We are so maximum capacity," he says. Despite routinely putting in 12-hour days, he won't rush his beer and can only watch as the number of cans and kegs in the brewery's cold box dwindle to zero while he waits for a new batch to finish.
Mendiola recognizes it's a good problem to have but says that last week's arrival of two new, 90-barrel fermenters will help Second Chance keep up. But it's prevented him from pursuing beer collaborations. Until now.
Second Chance will release four collaboration beers during its holiday weekend party. And because the veteran brewer has deep ties to San Diego's brewing history, these collaborations feature a who's who of San Diego brewing talent — esteemed friends and industry colleagues who, like Mendiola, helped establish the city's craft-beer reputation.
Participating in Second Chance's anniversary beers are Stone Brewing's Laura Ulrich, Paul Segura from Karl Strauss, Bagby Beer founder and Pizza Port alum Jeff Bagby, and AleSmith owner Peter Zien.
In keeping with his brand's spirit of renewal, Mendiola asked his friends to revive old recipes for the collaborations. "The idea was to pick their brains on beers they haven't brewed in a long time," he explains, "and give those recipes a second chance." They gave him a recipe, and he helped adapt it to a one-barrel pilot system — only making enough beer to serve two kegs apiece at the anniversary celebration.
While there wasn't any plan to focus on Belgian styles, that's been the case. Ulrich brought a recipe she'd first produced on Stone's small batch system: a Belgian witbier seasoned with lemongrass and coriander.
Segura revived the Belgian Stranger, a Abbey-yeast-fermented West Coast IPA that Karl Strauss last produced seven years ago. This rendition was finished with Cascade hops, then dry-hopped with Amarillo.
"Jeff Bagby's was a Belgian dubbel, which had, like, 13 malts in it," says Mendiola. Since he didn't have all the necessary ingredients for Bagby's recipes, he explains, "I had to go around to the home-brew shops" to find them.
When Zien heard everyone was doing Belgian styles, he went digging for an Abbey ale he made with Belgian candi syrup. "I pulled it out of my homebrew digest from the ’90s," he says, describing the style as a low ABV, carbonated red ale: "The contradiction of a dry finish, yet still sweet."
Zien and Mendiola have been friends since the mid- '90s, and Zien literally delayed his arrival to AleSmith's own anniversary party to brew with his old pal at Second Chance. "It's fun collaborating with Marty," Zien says, adding that brewing in tandem works best when the brewers know and trust each other. "Collaborations, when they go wrong, I call them ‘compromise beers.’ And when they go right they're fantastic.”
Second Chance will also release canned two-packs of a barrel-aged Scotch ale for its anniversary.