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Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., Nov. 17
Looking back on this week chronicling each stop of my tour of Vista's breweries, it's hard to believe it all happened in one day (one afternoon, to be exact). It really goes to show just how fortunate any beer enthusiast to live in San Diego, where a singular municipality is home to so many operations. It makes for easy touring and, as evidenced by my posts, a broad range of experiences. There were newfound first-run suds at Latitude 33 Brewing Company, Mexican adjunct-laced ales at Aztec Brewing Company, several IPAs and plans for expansion at Mother Earth Brew Co. and the bitter taste of disappointment at Prohibition Brewing Company. In an attempt to get the bad taste from the latter out of my mouth and out of your mind, I'm wrapping up this series with a stop at a brewery that's done a lot since hitting the SD scene in a big way back in 2010.
I'm talking about Iron Fist Brewing Company. With the departure of Green Flash last year, Iron Fist is the most significant player in the Vista market. Not too shabby considering what a brief time they've been around. Still, this family-owned business is putting out an extremely interesting line of Belgian-inspired ales that only keeps growing and improving.
I remember my first visit during their grand opening weekend, asking to speak to the brewer and being directed to the brewhouse in the rear of the building where a tall, blond man-child was talking with a pair of patrons. Had it not been for his black Iron Fist t-shirt, I'd have never guessed that, of the three, he was the brewer but, lo and behold, the youngster was responsible for everything flowing from the tasting room's taps. I was shocked to hear he'd only been of legal drinking age for a year, not only because his beers were interesting and, for the most part, pretty solid. The young brewer, Brandon Sieminski, also had a maturity and self-assuredness about him. Those qualities have grown even stronger as his company's gained traction in the local market and a fan base throughout North County.
When I arrived last weekend, the place was jam-packed, and not just because a pair of party buses had just rolled in. Regulars were all over the place, enjoying quaffs like Uprising, a hopped up 12% ABV Belgian tripel I had the opportunity to sample two versions of. The first sample was the three month old version on tap at the tasting bar while the second was from a fresh batch straight from the fermenter. Each delivered totally different taste sensations. The fresh version was drier in the finish with a pronounced bubble gum aroma from Calypso hops while its predecessor smacked more of the Delta hops (a hybrid of Cascade and Fuggle) Sieminski unearthed late last year. Both were both tasty and unlike many brews on the market.
More interesting flavor came from a version of Iron Fist's Dubbel Fisted, Sieminski's take on a Belgian dubbel, brewed with 85% cacao dark chocolate. Surprisingly, it didn't taste like chocolate, but the earthy, slightly bitter effects that ingredient had on the beer were unmistakable. It reminded me of a non-tart version of Fantôme Chocolat, a Belgian sour brewed with cocoa beans that tastes nothing like chocolate, but takes on a myriad of supplementary taste bud-piquing qualities as a result of its addition.
Sieminski plans to brew a number of different versions of Dubbel Fisted this year, perhaps one with Morello cherries and dark chocolate, and another with peaches and apricots. He's also building up the brewery's barrel aging program, increasing his inventory from 26 barrels to around 100 over the next six-to-seven months. That oaken stock will include French Cognac, rum, bourbon and Port barrels.
Clearly, there are plenty of reasons to return to Iron Fist, which is located at 1305 Hot Spring Way, #101, and the same can be said for Vista, the community they and so many other local craft brewing companies call home.