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Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., Nov. 17
The second stop on my tour of Vista breweries was Aztec Brewing Company, a business started August of last year by a group of SDSU alums. Their mission was to add a dose of flavors from our neighbors to the south via popular Mexican adjuncts such as agave, chocolate, cinnamon and chipotle peppers. The result is a beer board featuring a vast array of beers with flavor profiles that, while much different than standard styles, are quite easy for San Diegans to grasp given the prominence of Mexican cuisine in our region. Key examples are Noche de los Muertos and Diablo del Roble (which translates to Devil of the Oak). The former, their cinnamon-infused imperial stout, was originally a special beer brewed for their grand opening, but was such a hit, it's on all the time (except when I was there...it sold out). The latter, a recently released 12% ABV barleywine brewed to celebrate Dia de los Muertas, the Mexican Day of the Dead, comes across with an immense vanilla flavor and is a bit sweet. Prolonged aging would help to solve the sugar issue to some degree, but it's not likely this or any of Aztec's beers will hang around long enough to mature.
During my visit, the place was packed and, given the clientele's chattiness with the owners, brewer and staff, there are clearly a great number of regulars. It certainly supports the Aztec team's estimate that they're seeing roughly a 10% increase in patronage and sales on a weekly basis. That rapid growth has them working to expand their production from their current 3.5 barrel brewhouse to a 7 or 10 barrel facility. In the process, they intend to move their tasting room from its current location to the suite next-door to make room for new brewing equipment that will be visible from the new bar.
In other news, the brewery has been integral in the recent founding of the Vista Brewers Guild, an industry group formed to work with the City of Vista to help build business for its growing craft brewing contingent. So far, they've managed to extend previously limited tasting hours to the point where breweries can now open for sample seekers seven days a week if they so desire. Future initiatives include festivals, setting up Vista beer tours and clearing up inconsistencies in regulations in order to make for a level playing field for all brewers within the city limits. The brewery is also working with local beer-mapping business PubQuest to start up a craft beer education course exclusively for women.
Events are also on the horizon, including an Aztec beer and chocolate tasting conducted on Sunday, February 12 from 1 to 3 p.m. in celebration of Valentine's Day. They also have a Paint and Pints Night featuring local painters taking place on Sunday, February 19. Aztec Brewing Company's tasting room is located at 2330 La Mirada Drive, Suite 300, and is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Friday, 12 to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 12 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.