Wizards, warriors, and the magic of beer

Homebrewing educators add to Vista's brewery ranks

Ax-shaped tasting flight trays are part of the plans for the April soft-opening of Battlemage Brewing Company.
  • Ax-shaped tasting flight trays are part of the plans for the April soft-opening of Battlemage Brewing Company.

The brewery in Vista continues to rise. Battlemage Brewing Company enjoyed its first brew day on March 8th, making it the 16th beer company in the city of 100,000. There will be more opening this year, but that's already enough to put Vista firmly in fourth place on a top-ten list of microbreweries per capita recently published by Forbes magazine — behind Asheville, North Carolina, and just ahead of Bend, Oregon. Somebody should tell Forbes, though. Vista doesn't even appear on its list.

Ryan Sather and Chris Barry are the brewers behind Battlemage. "Owners, operators, beertenders, and brewers," Sather points out. Their two-man operation will soft-open in April to debut beers made on a five-barrel Premier Stainless system.

Battlemage logo designed by comic-book artist David Miller

Battlemage logo designed by comic-book artist David Miller

Though the childhood friends each got into homebrewing around 2010, this isn't their first time working together. The past three years, both have been brewing and teaching at homebrew supply shops–turned–breweries — Barry at Mother Earth's old shop before joining Sather at Ballast Point's Home Brew Mart in 2015. Consequently, they come to Battlemage having experience with a wide breadth of beer ingredients and styles.

"We get to play with every ingredient under the sun," says Sather, "and get to really see how they all play together."

Barry concurs, noting that the contact with hobbyists forced him to try things he might not have on his own, if only to come up with answers to their questions. "There are a lot of good homebrewers in San Diego," he explains, "so people would come in there with pretty advanced questions." As a result, he says, "I don't think I brewed the same beer twice for a good two years."

Though he's certified as a BJCP beer judge, Barry says Battlemage won't be strict about adhering to the sort of style guidelines established by brewing competitions.

"I think that's the cool part about craft brewing," agrees Sather. “You can move outside of those guidelines."

That's evident by the first beer they made, which Barry describes as a white ale with cream ale characteristics, made with rice in the grain bill. While the duo plan to have IPAs available for their opening, they also embrace the complexity of maltier styles, including English ales and American ambers.

Their backgrounds in education will likely play a role in the beer menu as well, as they play with variations on different recipes meant to highlight the use of different ingredients.

As for the name Battlemage, Sather explains that in fantasy games and literature, a battlemage a warrior who also possesses magic ability. "We're total nerds at heart," he says, "and to us there's always been something magical about beer."

This idea will be reflected in a medieval-themed tasting room, battle-ax tasting-flight trays, and a logo designed by comic-book artist David Miller, which depicts a battlemage conjuring water, with hops encircling his ax handle, barley entwined in his beard, and vial of yeast on his belt.

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