Meet Travis Smith, the man who rose through the ranks at Russian River, led the charge at The Bruery, and is now breathing life back into La Jolla Brew House. He’s come to rescue this well-known San Diego spot from craft beer obscurity, and West Coaster was on hand to celebrate the change in the air that was as palpable as a nose full of hops. It just keeps getting better and better for craft beer lovers in San Diego.
Greeted immediately by the man himself in the hallway, we got down to taster flight-business. We were accompanied by his wife/marketing team, Lorah, who proclaimed, “I promote him because I love him. I promote his beer because it’s amazing.” She wasn’t just saying that, either – as a blind taster in a homebrewing club years back, she unknowingly helped choose her husband’s brew as the one that would go to the competition.
Travis’ past makes us more than hopeful for the future: at Russian River in Santa Rosa, he was highly involved in brewing many batches of Pliny the Elder. Not only was he instrumental in creating this amazing Double IPA, but for “Blind Pig IPA, Damnation, Temptation, and Supplication (just to name a few).” He bolstered his resume even more as Lead Brewer at The Bruery in Placentia. The list of his amazing beers goes on and on.
Here are some quick facts we learned about the Man of the House:
— He and wife Lorah met at Saddleback College, and later earned their respective degrees at Sonoma State.
— The couple currently has over forty hot pepper plants at their home (Travis makes chili-infused oils and hot sauces in his spare time).
— Their Australian-shepherd mix’s name is Barley. The dog was originally named Simcoe, after the hop strain, but after a few days, Barley seemed a better fit.
— His favorite style to brew: Lagers, because he doesn’t have much experience with them.
— His favorite style to drink at the moment: Sours.
— What he misses about his job in Northern California: The equipment.
— What he loves about his new job in San Diego: The freedom.
Travis is eager to make a name for himself, not as that-guy-who-worked-at-Russian-River, but as a passionate new member of the San Diego Craft Beer Community. He’s doing a great job so far – all of the house brews, with canine-related terms for names, were exceptional (and available for growler fills, with distribution plans to be determined).
The Crossbreed Blonde Ale was light and crisp. It definitely had more hops than any normal kolsch-style brew. A hybrid fitting of the name.
The Fleabite Bitter was next. The description was right on: this English Pale Ale was not like most, employing American hop varieties, which provided “milder earthy aromas and flavors.” I could drink this beer all day.
The Pariah, “intended to satisfy those with a craving for hops,” was the clear standout. There were definitely some similarities to Pliny the Elder, with a terrific malt character that perfectly complemented the outrageous amount of hops (including the “C” varieties: Cascade, Centennial, Columbia and Chinook, as well as Amarillo). When asked if I would like a pint of any of the tasters, I had no second thoughts. This is an incredible beer.
Sightsound Stout finished off the round of tasters, with a great roasty flavor and moderate hints of chocolate and coffee. It wasn’t a “big” beer like many stouts thanks to its light body, which was a great part of its appeal.
Determined to keep innovating, Travis has a Double IPA in the fermenter that should be ready for San Diego Beer Week. Help La Jolla Brew House name it! In five weeks time, you’ll be able to enjoy a dark Mexican lager called “Dirty Sanchez.” In the summer, “Donkey Show,” a light Mexican lager, will be ready.
All kidding aside, La Jolla Brew House has undergone a complete renaissance. General Manager Ryan Dhu, eager to change hearts and minds, expressed, “Everything is going in the right direction – we now have one of the best young brewers in America. We also have a new chef who is turning this place around with his energy. We feel very blessed.” I in turn felt blessed for the media-only sneak-peek of their Celebration of Change event that is happening tonight, October 22nd, from 7p.m.-11p.m. Don’t miss it! What you’ll get: “Beer first, with great food, and service all-around.”