We’re halfway through 2015 and already, a dozen new brewing companies (OK, 11 new brewing companies plus one reintroduced concept, Reckless Brewing Company—the Internet can be such a nit-picky place) have come online throughout San Diego County.
Unlike in previous years, these operations veer toward the smaller side and aren’t the kind of projects that have been waited on with bated breath by craft enthusiasts a la Bagby Beer Co. and Fall Brewing Company. With the exception of three of the dozen members of the class of 2015, they barely had time to build anticipation.
For the most part, all of them either flew under the radar during the planning stages or came online so fast that shortly after they became public knowledge, they opened their doors. Only East Village brewpub Half Door Brewing Co., slow-to-construct Pacific Islander Beer Co. gluten-reduced operation Duck Foot Brewing Company, and foudre-enhanced Prodigy Brewing Company occupied the beer sect’s consciousness for more than 12 months before becoming a reality.
But did the extra time result in a better end result? Not necessarily. In surveying the field, there are as many hares as there are tortoises. This is how the best of this brewer’s dozen shakes out…
South Park Brewing Co.: There’s a certain expectation when a bar as respected as Hamilton’s Tavern takes over its next door space to insert a brewpub. Thus far, brewers Cosimo Sorrentino (also of sister spot Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery) and Adam Carbonell are churning out well-made session beers built to pair with an inventive array of seafood-centric dishes.
Duck Foot Brewing Co.: Reducing gluten in his brewery’s offerings was big for Matt Delvecchio, not because of dietary fads, but because he is legitimately gluten-intolerant and doesn’t want others who are to have to forego craft beer. Fortunately, stripping away the gluten has zero effect on the flavor, texture or aroma of this Miramar company’s beers, which tackle nearly every style around..
Abnormal Beer Co.: Built within Rancho Bernardo’s The Cork and Craft restaurant, brewer Derek Gallanosa‘s balanced beers toe the line with conventional styles and modern-day drinkers’ taste preferences. Early brews were low on body, but subsequent batches have shown improvement in this area. Bonus: The Cork and Craft throw outrageously good monthly beer-pairing dinners.
Half Door Brewing Co.: A homey, heartfelt refuge a block from Petco Park, this family-run operation leans on knowledge Brewmaster Dan Drayne picked up at the Siebel Institute and Coronado Brewing Co. before taking the reins of his own two-story brewery. Beers celebrating the Draynes’ Irish heritage are solid and backed ably by ales paying homage to San Diego’s hop addiction.
The other brewing operations to open in the past six months are:
- Barn Brewery, North Park
- Division 23 Brewing Co., Miramar
- Home Brewing Co., North Park
- Kilowatt Brewing Co., Kearny Mesa
- Novo Brazil Brewing Co., Chula Vista
- Pacific Islander Beer Co., Santee
- Prodigy Brewing Co. , Grantville
- Reckless Brewing Co. , Miramar
NOTE: This list does not include new spots owned and operated by established breweries such as AleSmith Brewing Co.’s new facility and its Observation Room, Green Flash Brewing Co.‘s Cellar 3 barrel-aging warehouse and tasting room, The Lost Abbey’s Cardiff Confessional or Alpine Beer Co.’s recently opened Tavern Road pub.
Not surprisingly, the companies experiencing more brewery success employ brewers with industry experience (though to varying degrees, and Duck Foot has also brought on an award-winning homebrewer). The majority of the other eight represent amateur brewers entering the professional ranks. Though interesting, this year’s crop lacks a runaway, must-visit new brewery. To be fair, some of these businesses would likely merit that reputation were there not more than 100 other breweries to visit in San Diego County, but these are the conditions awaiting any operation looking to enter the local beer industry.