Belching Beaver hitting the Hop Highway

I was at a San Diego Brewers Guild meeting at a Vista brewery when the owner, Tom Vogel, approached me and asked, “Are you Brandon Hernández?” Even though this has been the start to many of the best conversations I’ve ever had with business owners, as one of the only critical voices covering the local craft beer industry, those four words send instinctual shivers down my spine. I replied in the affirmative and he proceeded to thank me for essentially bagging on the name of his company—Belching Beaver Brewery (980 Park Center Drive, Suite A, Vista).

I’d heard rumblings that Vogel’s staff and some of their tasting room regulars had been upset about me not being a fan of the company’s name (despite me writing about how much I enjoyed their beers), so it was odd to receive a thank-you. He went on to explain his gratitude, stating that every time I wrote something negative about the name, it brought in more customers. Since they make good beer I thought it all actually worked out pretty nicely. I was truthful about my opinions and a rookie brewery producing tasty beers was being well patronized. It all worked out.

Then, Vogel said, “You’re not from the East Coast, are you?” I confirmed his theory, which led to an informative lesson about beavers. He told me that, on the East Coast, the majority of the population is keenly aware that beavers have two ways of warning their kind about impending danger. One thing they do is beat their tails loudly. Before he could tell me the second method, I took a stab. “Let me guess…they belch.” I was right. Apparently those adorable, industrious water mammals let out belches so loud they can be heard for miles.

After the lesson, Vogel shared news that his company was in the process of opening a second location, a tasting room-only spot, in North Park (4223 30th Street). Last week, it came to my attention that that spot would not be waving the Belching Beaver flag, but instead go by the moniker Hop Highway Brewing Company. At first, I, like many, believed Vogel and company were yielding to pressure from San Diegans who dislike the name Belching Beaver. A number of would-be fans wave off the quality of the beer and boycott the business on principle alone. But as it turns out, the company's name and original Vista facility will remain the same.

It sounds confusing, but there is logic to it. According to Vogel, the name of the North Park facility is not a result of pressure from angry outsiders, but a way to communicate that the beers that will be available at the second location will include numerous collaborations between Belching Beaver and other North County San Diego breweries located along State Route 78. It's a camaraderie thing and, when it comes to craft beer, that's a positive which makes the adoption of this rare brand of dual identity something any local beer drinker can get behind.

Author's Note: The last two paragraphs of this post have been updated in order to offer clarification and more details received following the original post.

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