I’ve interviewed entrepreneur Matt DelVecchio twice in as many years. The first time was on the balcony of his North County condo, where we discussed his celiac diagnosis while drinking beers. Those familiar with celiac disease know that beer is a dietary taboo for those with suffering from that condition, which made it all the more intriguing to me that DelVecchio was able to enjoy the array of homebrew prototypes for the gluten-reduced brewing interest he was working to get off the ground. What was even more intriguing to me was that introduction of the enzyme responsible for stunting gluten production in those beers had seemingly no effect on their flavor.
Fast forward to my second interview with DelVecchio, and a lot has changed. Local yeast producer White Labs’ popular gluten-reducing enzyme, Clarity Ferm, has become a hot product. Numerous breweries such as Alpine Beer Co., Amplified Ale Works and even Stone Brewing Co. (which nationally released its gluten-reduced Stone Delicious IPA in January) use it to varying degrees in an effort to offer craft beer to the gluten-intolerant. On a more personal level, DelVecchio’s business, Duck Foot Brewing Company, is more than a twinkle in his eye. It’s now a fully operational, brick-and-mortar reality located just north of Miramar Road near the iconic pyramid building.
DelVecchio, who goes by the title “head quack,” took time to speak with me the night before last Saturday’s soft opening (a grand opening is planned for June 6). Joining him was his brew crew, “chief fermentation officer” Brett Goldstock and head brewer (they’re still working up a whacky title) Derek Wasak. The former is a certified beer judge and a well-known homebrewer deeply involved with local club QUAFF (Quality Ale Fermentation Fraternity) who was working on his own brewery project when a friend introduced him to DelVecchio. Shortly after they joined forces, Mother Earth Brew Co. brewer Zach Goldstein recommended Wasak, who he had previously worked with at Stone.
It would appear the group has gelled quickly and quite well. They are working together to determine Duck Foot’s direction, which is decidedly scattered. All three enjoy brewing styles of beer that are all over the map, and intend to keep the one-offs flowing. In addition to their new, 15-barrel Premier Stainless system, they regularly employ a half-barrel pilot brewhouse that should keep the tasting room’s 20 taps filled with a rotating stock of unexpected surprises they hope will keep customers excited about returning on a regular basis.
The day I visited, nine beers spanning the entire ale spectrum were on tap. On the lighter side was a pair of wheat beers, a hefeweizen that’s heavy on banana esters and a wit with ‘nanas and bubble gum on the nose, and a refreshing, citrusy profile accentuated by a nicely dry finish. A blonde ale defies its label, coming across with more depth than its more typical fair-hued cousins, thanks to a grain bill incorporating pale and caramelized malts that come across biscuit and toasty, sort of like a low-hopped pale ale. An IPA is balanced and bitter, while a wheat-infused double IPA brings big lemon and grapefruit flavors care of a pound-per-barrel of Citra, Cascade and Centennial hops. Rounding things out were a boozy Belgian-style tripel reminiscent of the one produced at Mira Mesa’s Green Flash Brewing Company, coconut brown ale, dry stout and a porter delivering bold flavors of chocolate and hazelnut.
Cask, barrel-aged and sour beers are built into the business plan, as is an outdoor seating area in an area outside the tasting room. Currently, the indoor sampling space offers a great deal of room with rail bar seating throughout. It is the latest in a recent influx of tasting rooms providing a well put together, intriguing aesthetic a la Modern Times Beer and BNS Brewing and Distilling Company. At Duck Foot, woods and subway tiles, shades of orange and quirkily cool comic art make for an eclectic look that’s somehow cohesive and fun to examine over a few beers.
DelVecchio and company aim to produce at least 800 barrels of beer in their first 12 months, and are excited to see which of their creations patrons gravitate toward. That will help to determine which they decide to go with during initial bottle runs later in the year. For now, they’re just happy to be open and sharing beer that’s been years in the making with the public, including gluten-intolerant individuals. For many of them, this will be their first taste of craft beer…or any beer for that matter.
Duck Foot Brewing Company is located at 8920 Kenamar Street, Suite 210. The tasting roomis open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 10 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.