The engineer's secret beers

Deft Brewing rolls out the barrel with atypical offerings

A new brewery just west of Morena Boulevard
  • A new brewery just west of Morena Boulevard

Just across the 5 freeway from the southeast corner of Mission Bay, Morena district beer company Deft Brewing opened in October. It offers traditional, pan-European beer styles made and served inside a corrugated metal hut previously used to build small watercraft.

Deft Brewing

5328 Banks Street, Suite A, Linda Vista

Cofounder and head brewer Mo Nuspl has lived in the vicinity for over a decade. He envisions Deft as a neighborhood brewery serving a community he views as experiencing a renaissance due to a recent influx of young families.

Nuspl is undergoing a bit of a renaissance himself. A mechanical engineer by trade, he's spent the past quarter century moving up through that field into management, acquiring an MBA along the way. While a lot of that experience has helped him establish the new business with a DIY mentality, he says it's making beer that has really allowed another side of his personality to emerge.

"I've got the left-brain, analytical, engineering thing going," Nuspl explains, "but I have this artsy right-brain side that's been waiting to bust out."

The longtime homebrewer got more serious about his hobby four years ago, joining the QUAFF homebrewers club, relishing the opportunity to learn and receive feedback from an award-winning population of local brewers.

Now that Deft has opened, Nuspl is finding his customers to be the source of his inspiration as he tends bar for the first time. "I'm absolutely loving it!" he says. "You get a lot of really good feedback. It's not all, ‘Way to go' — some of it is constructive criticism, too."

Some of his feedback has involved a beer he doesn't serve: Deft has yet to produce San Diego's craft-beer staple, the West Coast–style IPA. Instead, Nuspl offers the much maltier and far less bitter English version.

"We're taking a little bit of a risk," he acknowledges. "It's inevitable we'll have some West Coast IPAs, but we really want to stick to this approach of having more traditional European styles, in some cases introducing people to styles they’ve never seen before."

Traditional European beer styles fill the Deft Brewing menu

Traditional European beer styles fill the Deft Brewing menu

Deft's tasting-room menu lists the national origin of each beer style served, along with thorough tasting notes and suggested food pairings. While styles including a German kolsch, Irish red ale, and Belgian witbier will be familiar to most casual beer drinkers, some may prove less familiar even to beer enthusiasts: for example, the 7.5 percent ABV sticke (or secret) version of a German altbier.

"The story is, some brewers would brew a special batch where they'd throw in some extra malt," Nuspl explains. Because the higher-alcohol beer violated strict German beer regulations, the brewers would stash it out of sight. "That was their secret version for family and friends."

Nuspl says Deft can afford to test-market such beer styles because they're starting small, brewing on a mere two-barrel brewhouse. While he and partner Kevin Malik have mapped out room to eventually grow into a ten-barrel brewery, for now their aspirations are relatively modest: to make beer that tastes great to its neighborhood clientele.

"We may not be the next Ballast," Nuspl says, but, “We'd be happy to be one of Bay Park's go-to destinations."

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