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SAN DIEGO BEER WEEK: Home Brew Education

San Diego Beer Week isn’t all about hoisting taster after taster of fine craft beer. This 10-day affair is about exploring all aspects of the brewing industry, and that includes the physical act of brewing. If you’ve ever wondered how to homebrew but come up dry finding resources for creating liquid refreshment on the home front, Ballast Point’s line-up of Beer Week events is designed to provide the educational forum you’ve been thirsting for. Throughout Beer Week, the brewing company, which is the reigning World Beer Cup Small Brewing Company of the Year, is offering homebrewing classes at its Linda Vista location, which is also home, aptly enough, to Home Brew Mart, San Diego’s number one source for brewing equipment and supplies.


San Diego Beer Week 2010


San Diego Beer Week 2010.

Photo by Brandon Hernandez



The number of homebrewers in the U.S. has been steadily on the rise for the past decade, and that is especially true in San Diego where good beer has bred a beer culture that strives to not only understand the local market, but the science behind creating quality craft beer. Even I (a guy who failed his high school science class before squeaking past it with a D the second semester through and subsequently vowing to never try my hand at homebrewing due to my brain’s apparent inability to grasp scientific principles) recently caught the homebrewing bug. In fact, I began my third day of San Diego Beer Week by uncapping the debut bottle of First Draft Porter. Never heard of it? That’s because it was my very first homebrew and, even though it was far from perfect, it was drinkable and satisfying, not just because it tasted good enough to drink, but because of the sense of accomplishment it carried with it.

I followed my inaugural homebrew sampling by driving down to Home Brew Mart to attend their all-grain brewing class. Designed for homebrewers looking to make the jump from extract brewing (using pre-packaged powdered and liquid malt bases versus keeping it old school by using whole grains, which is more time consuming but allows homebrewers to fashion the grain component of the beer to their personal tastes), the course was led by Ballast Point brewer Doug Duffield, who has won numerous homebrewing awards and lent his skilled hand to creating a number of professional brews that have medaled nation-and world-wide. What better place could there be to learn the art of brewing then from such an experienced teacher and all for the low price of $20 per person (which even included two complimentary tasting tickets at the bar, which had over a dozen tasty ales and lagers on draft)?

During the class, Duffield walked attendees (ranging in age from fresh-from-last-night’s-pub-crawl to the sudsy senior class) through five hours of actual brewing where he dissected each step and used time spent waiting for water to come to temperature and hops to steep to take and provide detailed answers to each and every question that came his way. Such inquiries were encouraged and did a great deal to provide the entire student body with enough information for them to head home and give the process a whirl. He also took the class on a tour of the commercial brewing operation and told stories of his attempts to brew more out-of-the-box beers like a cream ale brewed using popped popcorn as part of the grain bill. All in all, it was a great place for beer geeks and brewing virgins alike to gather and get their fill of top rate instruction.

Ballast Point will host a comprehensive beginner’s course, which will take place on November 9, 11 and 13 for just $10 per person (with a limit of 25 attendees per class). There’s simply no better way to get your feet wet and get on the road to homebrew heaven.

While the class was enough to sate my thirst for knowledge, there was still my thirst for beer to appease and two tastes of any beer—even Ballast Point’s—simply won’t cut it. So, I headed a few miles west to Phil’s BBQ for the first night of their five-day festival devoted to offering local craft beer in tasty tandem with their signature barbecue. Night One included beers from AleSmith, Coronado Brewing Co. and Mother Earth Beer Co. who brought out some of their mainstays as well as seasonal brews like AleSmith’s YuleSmith 2010 (an imperial red ale with tons of hop bitterness), Coronado’s Autumn Harvest (a biscuity malt-forward beer with a delightfully crisp finish) and Mother Earth’s Righteously Hopped Red IPA (quite similar to YuleSmith, but lighter in body and more easy-drinking).

Those beers, like all that will be served during the festival, are paired with a sampler platter of sorts that includes bratwurst, pulled pork sliders and barbecued pork shoulder and chicken breast, all of which come adorned with Phil’s BBQ’s sweet spicy signature sauce. For fans who’ve braved the restaurant’s marathon lines to get their ‘cue fix, this is a way to forego the wait in exchange for the same quality flavors and six taster pours from local breweries running the gamut from brand spanking new to world renowned. So take San Diego Beer Week as an opportunity to get head of the pack…then get back in line next week.

The festival will take place at Phil’s BBQ’s Event Center from 5:45 to 8 p.m. tomorrow through Nov. 11 and feature different breweries each night. Tickets are $30 each ($5 of which goes to Rady Children’s Hospital) and guests are encouraged to reserve space ahead of time. To check out what’s on tap each evening, check out the events listings at the San Diego Beer Week website or www.philsbbq.net.

My picks for great San Diego Beer Week events on Monday (November 8)


Mad Cap Draft Monday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Ballast Point’s Linda Vista location is putting on an array of their rarest beers including barrel-aged versions of their Piper Down Scottish Ale and Navigator Doppelbock and Black Marlin Porter for just $1 per taste. Adding to the deliciousness will be the MiHo Gastrotruck, which will be on-site preparing dishes that pair with specific beers at the tasting bar.

5401 Linda Vista Road, Suite 406, Linda Vista, 619-295-2337

The Avery Barrel Experience, 3 p.m.

Hamilton’s Tavern and its sister establishment, Small Bar, will use free shuttles to facilitate a dynamic two-venue event featuring extremely rare barrel-aged beers from Avery, one of the country’s most experimental breweries.

Hamilton’s: 1521 30th Street, South Park, 619-238-5460

Small Bar: 4628 Park Boulevard, University Heights, 619-795-7998

Brewapalooza, 5 p.m.

Downtown’s House of Blues is hosting an event featuring numerous brewers and a slew of local musicians who’ll provide a sonically soothing backdrop for sipping San Diego suds.

1055 Fifth Avenue, Downtown, 619-525-1933

Chuckapalooza, 5-7 p.m.

Two paloozas at the very same time—the universe may implode! This one brings Green Flash brewmaster Chuck Silva to Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens, where there’ll be a total of 30 of his brews on-tap for thirsty fans.

1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido, 760-471-4999

Beer & Cheese Pairing Class, 6:30-8 p.m.

Karl Strauss Brewing Co. and Venissimo Cheese will team up to educate palates en masse on the pairability of hand-crafted beers with artisanal cheeses from around the world at V’s downtown location.

871 G Street, East Village, 619-358-9081