When San Diego’s “OG” brewers get together, hoppy things often tend to happen. On Easter Sunday, Gravity Heights will release their latest beer, an IPA named Ten Twenty-Eight, a collaboration brew between Skip Virgilio, Gravity Heights’ brewmaster (and formerly a co-founder of AleSmith), and Pat McIlhenney, founder of Alpine Beer Co (which was acquired by Green Flash in 2014).
The beer was named by Pat McIlhenney in order to reflect the chronology of the breweries these two originally established: AleSmith was the 10th craft brewery to open in San Diego County (1995), and Alpine Beer Company the 28th (2002) — hence Ten Twenty-Eight IPA. The beer will be on tap at Gravity Heights when they open at 11:00 a.m., and Skip and Pat will be at the location at various times during that day.
In mid-March I was able to attend the Ten Twenty-Eight collaboration beer brew day at Gravity Heights, and I had a brief chat with both Skip and Pat who, by the way, have a combined 65 years of brewing experience between them.
Skip and Pat first met at a QUAFF homebrew club meeting some time around 1993 or 1994. When Skip and Ted Newcomb (another QUAFF member) opened AleSmith in 1995, Pat, at the time a fireman, started volunteering at AleSmith during his downtime. “I pretty much forced myself on Skip shortly after they opened,” says Pat. “I wasn’t asking for a job, I just wanted to come help out, and I knew that cleaning was a major part of the work that had to be done, so there wasn’t really any direction that Skip had to give me. I just looked for where the dirt was and cleaned it up. That’s how I was able to insinuate myself on him.”
According to Skip, Pat was a really hard worker. “He helped us tremendously. We were kind of in that period where we needed more help but we couldn’t afford more help, and Pat came in and was a huge lifeline for us.” Their friendship grew to the point that when Pat wanted to start the Alpine Beer Company but didn’t yet have sufficient capital to hang up his own shingle, Skip allowed him to brew the early batches of Alpine Beer at AleSmith, and the rest, as they say, is San Diego craft beer history. Pat would eventually open up the eponymous brewery in Alpine and introduce numerous beers to a thirsty and thankful local audience including a plethora of hoppy and super hoppy IPAs like Duet (first brewed at AleSmith), Nelson, Bad Boy, Hoppy Birthday, Pure Hoppiness, Exponential Hoppiness, and many others which earned Pat the moniker of “The Hopfather” in certain San Diego brewing circles.
Given their respective busy schedules, Skip and Pat lost touch for a number of years but then rekindled their friendship when Skip stopped by Alpine Beer Co for a visit one day. Skip notes that when he opened Gravity Heights late last year, “I knew from the start here that we were going to do collaborations, and Pat was the first person on my list that I wanted to make sure we did one of the early collaborations with, and I’m pleased that he was willing to brew with us.”
Pat, who has participated in a number of collaboration brews with other San Diego breweries since his active role in the Alpine Beer Co ceased, mentions that, “the collaborations that I have been doing with other breweries have been very well received, and so I feel that I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and that is giving back to the community and helping small breweries in my own little way… I feel so rewarded with the brewing career that I have had in this community. Now that I don’t have any responsibilities as far as income and running a business, I feel that it is my job to give back to the community. I think this [Gravity Heights] collaboration was to show the longtime friendship we [have] had and the fact that Skip allowed Alpine to start at AleSmith. That’s the part of this I want people to know about, that there’s a lot of history, that we go way back to some of the earliest breweries in the city.”
The collaboration IPA in question is part old school and part new. According to Pat, “It is an ‘OG-style’ IPA — not OG hops necessarily, but the style is clear, or clear-ish, and mid-range alcohol, seven percent-ish ABV, using cool new hops and cryo [hops] and hop oil. So a ‘West Coast-style’ IPA using all the modern techniques and hop varieties and [it will] still be a clear beer, not like the hazies that have become so classically popular. The hop varieties have increased tremendously over the last 15 years and I am really happy with the direction that it’s going. Some of the best hops that I think are out there have come out in the last eight years.”
If past is prologue, then we are in for a hoppy treat!
Here’s more brewing info for those interested:
- Kettle hops: Centennial Extract, Centennial pellets, Simcoe pellets, and Mosaic pellets.
- Whirlpool hops: Nelson Sauvin and Southern Cross pellets.
- Hopback: Whole Cone Mosaic.
- Dry-hopping hops: Centennial cryo, Nelson Sauvin pellets, Southern Cross pellets, and Simcoe cryo.
- Malt bill: 2 Row, Golden Promise, Carafoam, and Flaked Rye (20%).