Ballast Point taps its homebrewing component for a new line of suds
Home Brew Mart (5401 Linda Vista Road, Linda Vista) is one of the most significant locales where San Diego’s craft brewing renaissance is concerned. Opened in 1992 by homebrewing entrepreneur Jack White, it is the supply outlet where many of our county’s fermentation pioneers purchased their first brewing kits and the ingredients for the prototype beers that have become legendary calling cards for our region.
For many beerophiles travelling to San Diego, this small retail space (which is about to grow and undergo a remodel that will both expand the tasting bar while delineating it from the store component thanks to acquisition of the neighboring suite) their first post-Lindbergh stop and ranks right up there with the likes of major operations such as Pizza Port, The Lost Abbey, Alesmith, and Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.
A brewhouse installed at the rear of Home Brew Mart in 1996 is where the beers of White’s now more prominent company, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, originated. That operation, which was named the best small brewing company on the planet at the 2010 World Beer Cup, has gone on to open a second facility in Scripps Ranch that includes an award-winning distilling operation, and is currently searching for sites in which to install facilities that will house a 150-barrel brewhouse, as well as a five-barrel pilot brewery that will be overseen by specialty brewer and former Home Brew Mart manager, Colby Chandler.
Recognizing Home Brew Mart’s place in local history as well as its contributions to San Diego’s status as the craft beer capital of the United States (it’s the first place the infamous Sculpin IPA, Tongue Buckler, Indra Kunindra, and Victory At Sea Vanilla Coffee Imperial Porter, as well as industry-leading chili and spirit barrel-aged beers were brewed), upscale grocery chain Whole Foods Market recently approached White and company, encouraging them to brew a special series of beers under the Home Brew Mart brand to be sold at their stores.
Dubbed The Homework Series, the beers will be developed by brewers operating the aforementioned pilot system. The first batch of those brews is an India Red Ale—a hoppy 7% ABV beer given additional character and nice balance by substantial caramel malts—which Chandler pulled from his personal homebrew archives. He first brewed the beer as a homebrew at his house and then at Karl Strauss Brewing Company’s La Jolla brewpub so that he could serve it at his wedding held at Karl's Sorrento Mesa location. Back then, it was known affectionately known as "Ball and Chain Ale."
Chandler says the malt bill was inspired by Oktoberfest brews and built to stand up to a “slamming” hop profile. CTZ hops added during the boil meld with late kettle additions of Centennial hops to provide an IPA-like bitterness. For those who would like to know the specifics on that and the rest of the beer’s make-up, they’re in luck. The entire recipe will be included on the bottle label, a very cool value-added that I can’t recall seeing on any other beer packaging.
Batch #1 of The Homework Series was brewed on February 7 and is expected to hit shelves next month. Though Whole Foods was a key instigator, helping to get the series off the ground and launched in a timely manner, the beer will not exclusively be available at its locations, and will definitely be available at Home Brew Mart as well as Ballast Point's primary brewing facility's tasting room (10051 Old Grove Road, Scripps Ranch).
Back at Home Brew Mart, they're currently without a brewhouse. The system was extracted last week for delivery to the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park, where it will be the centerpiece of their upcoming exhibit, Bottled and Kegged: San Diego's Craft Brew Culture. That interactive examination of the history of craft brewing in San Diego will run from April 5 to January 20 of next year.
Ballast Point is hardly in a place where it can go without one of its brewery operations for that long. Fortunately, the move coincides with the installation of a new hybrid, three-vessel, 15-barrel system built by Escondido company, Premier Stainless Systems. That brewhouse includes a 15-barrel kettle, 20-barrel mash-tun, and 30-barrel hot liquor tank. Made for multiple and high gravity brews, it will be installed next week and represents the latest happy, hoppy chapter for a true San Diego brewing institution.