Days spent hitting up four or five local breweries used to be something I’d devote two or three days a year to. These days, with new breweries opening up like crazy and roughly a dozen slated to debut this year, more frequent scouting missions are required to stay on top of the expanding scene. Last Friday, I rounded up some craft beer industry insiders to check out five brewing companies, all of which recently opened or are slated to open within the next several months.
My first stop was at Stumblefoot Brewing Company in San Marcos. That municipality is no stranger to good beer. It was home to Stone Brewing Co.’s original brewery, which was later taken over by Pizza Port and transformed into the production facility for their Port Brewing and Lost Abbey brands. Not far from that spot is craft suds haven, Churchill’s Pub & Grille, and the future site of Rip Current Brewing Company.
The product of brothers Bill Randolph and Pat Horton, homebrewing partners of 11 years, Stumblefoot’s business park suite operation is located far from the aforementioned businesses, just west of San Elijo Hills and north of University Commons. We arrived in the early afternoon and were surprised at how many visitors stumbled in as we worked our way through a taster flight of the seven beers on-tap. Despite being in a pretty remote spot, they’ve clearly endeared themselves to the area's businesses and residents in the short month they’ve been open.
Stumblefoot’s brews are varied and include styles seldom seen in San Diego including a dunkelweizen and schwarzbier. The latter was the better of the rarities, exhibiting a big roastiness in the nose and on the palate, and the type of drinkability desired in this dark, low ABV style.
Also varied along the line is the level of quality from a textbook perspective. A robust porter billed as Mojo American Stout was thick, roasty and delicious, while an amber ale had out-of-style buttery notes, and an IPA tasted like dry grass and thistle and lacked hop bitterness. The lack of hop punch is the result of Randolph and Horton using non-standard hops due to the lack of availability of more standard hop varieties. Many small breweries struggle with this, but in the end, what matters is proper flavors and, regardless of why, Stumblefoot’s Grassyass IPA doesn’t deliver them.
The best beer of the bunch was the Otay Chipotle Stout. Chile beers are all the rage right now. Many blow minds and palates with their capsaicin potency, but this beer was nothing like that. A clean heat that’s more akin to peppercorns yet carries with it a slight vegetal backdrop is present in the front palate and the finish but in no way takes away from or clashes with the chocolate maltiness of the beer, which dominates the mid-palate. It’s not surprising to learn this beer won numerous awards in its life as a homebrew contender.
Much of the brothers’ homebrew equipment is still being used to produce Stumblefoot’s line. It’s clear there have been some growing pains in ramping up production and processes to pro levels, but Randolph embraces that and human nature, freely admitting that mistakes sometimes occur which need to be fixed mid-brew. An example of that was when they brewed their first batch of beer, drew too much water, then turned it into a double batch and blended backward to hit their targeted ratio. That sort of thing, coupled with the serendipitous chain of events leading he and his brother to where they are as professional brewers, both figuratively and geographically, is what the name Stumblefoot refers to.
They’ll need some time and refinement to get in line with the likes of their Port-side neighbors, but for now, they’re just where they need to be—finding their way while developing their chops and bringing craft beer to a subsect of San Marcos that didn’t have it in their backyards until this passion-fueled business set up shop.
Stumblefoot Brewing Company is located at 1784 La Costa Meadows Drive, Suite 103.