The San Diego Brewers Guild turns 20 this year and has organized a massive collaboration beer to commemorate the milestone.
Dubbed the Capital of Craft IPA, the beer was brewed with input from many of the guild's founding member breweries, using ingredients donated by local and national purveyors, and will feature fretboard tap handles contributed by El Cajon–based guitar manufacturer Taylor Guitars.
The one-off 60-barrel batch was made at Coronado Brewing Company's Bay Park brewery, with dozens of guild members on hand to contribute. Coronado head brewer Mark Theisen wrote and executed the final recipe but describes the process as "recipe by committee," beginning with a meeting of longtime brewers representing Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Pizza Port, Stone Brewing, San Diego Brewing Co., San Marcos Brewery and Grill, and AleSmith Brewing Company, along with Coronado.
"We got together with all the guys who have been around since the guild started 20 years ago," Theisen says. With no shortage of ideas from the crew of veteran brewers, the discussion moved to a 30-person email thread. "We started with what kind of ingredients we could probably get as a guideline," Theisen says.
With ingredients supplier BSG Craft Brewing donating grains and hops, the brewers decided not to rehash the same flavors they worked with 20 years ago, instead opting to produce a forward-looking IPA. They were able to secure a few of the more interesting newer hop varietals on the market, such as Vic Secret, Idaho 7, and the New Zealand strain known as Motueka. They chose English malt that's been around for decades but only surged in popularity among brewers over the past couple years. "We went with maris otter," says Theisen. "That will add a little more nice bready quality." He expects tropical flavors from the newer hops, but also some of the resiny citrusy bitterness of a classic West Coast IPA.
Some of those West Coast aspects will hail from local contributors. Miramar-based White Labs donated yeast for the beer: a strain aptly named San Diego Super Ale Yeast. And Ramona hop grower Star B Ranch contributed whole cone Cascade fresh hops, which were added as bittering hops.
"I've never used fresh hops before in the mash," says Bobby Oliver, the newest member of Coronado's brewing team, who helped make the beer on brew day. Oliver credits Karl Strauss brewmaster Paul Segura with sharing the technique with him. "He was explaining to me that you extract different oils from the fresh hops in the mash than you do in the kettle," Oliver says.
Segura says that kind of sharing between brewers has been a part of local beer culture since the guild first started gathering in 1997. He recalls they would meet to discuss joint marketing efforts and shared ingredient buys, but the fun part was drinking beer with fellow brewers and swapping notes about yeasts, hops, and techniques. "We kind of realized you learn more from talking to other brewers than you do from textbooks," Segura says. "You learn from everybody's successes and failures."
Capital of Craft IPA will be released during the 9th annual San Diego Beer Week, slated to take place November 3rd through 12th. Proceeds will be donated to the San Diego Brewers Guild.