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SD Homebrew Fest 2017: Winners

SD Homebrew Fest 2017
Recap & Winners

The 2nd San Diego Homebrew Fest was another success for many reasons. Most notably, we raised funds for a great local cause that is vital to the future success of our neighborhood – extra curricular activities for a local elementary school. Friends of Jefferson Elementary, the event organizers, raise funds help teachers cover the costs of valuable supplies and learning experiences that are not funded otherwise (other than the teacher’s pocket, of course).

The event also gave 40+ homebrewers, cider makers, and craft breweries the opportunity to connect with community and spread their passion. This is perhaps our favorite example of how the hobby of homebrewing can bring people and communities closer together.

Homebrewers attended with their friends and family to share their wares, and talk about their beloved hobby with attendees. All guests were allowed to vote for their favorite homebrew/cider.

For a complete list of the participating brewers, read below, but first, allow us to announce the winners of the 2017 San Diego Homebrew Fest:

Official Judging Session Results:

This session was judged/coordinated by members of the Beer Judge Certification Program, as well as esteemed members of the brewing community. Entries were grouped into similar categories when necessary. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place awards were granted to the top three of the entire competition. These entries were selected from the top 2-3 beers from each group. We also awarded ribbons to the beer with the most points in each group.

Darrel Brown, Doug Brown, Sean Thompson.

1st Place:

Darrel Brown – Exquisite Blonde – American Blonde Ale – 18A

2nd Place:
Sean Thompson – Aperplop – Apricot Cider – Cider w/ Other Fruit – C2B

3rd Place:
Doug Brown – Suppermolly (Don’t Haze Me Bro) – American IPA – 21A





Group Leaders:

People's Choice Winner: Ben Elson
People’s Choice Winner: Ben Elson

The following brewers came out on top of their groups, and advanced to the overall Best of Show (BOS).

Pale Ale/IPA:
Doug Brown – Suppermolly (Don’t Haze Me Bro) – American IPA – 21A

Darrel Brown – Exquisite Blonde – American Blonde Ale – 18A

Spice/Fruit/Specialty Beers:
Ben Elson – Rope Swing: Dry Hopped Farmhouse Ale (NZ hops) – 28A – Brett Beer

Belgian/Sour Beers:
Ben Elson – Rope Swing: Dry Hopped Farmhouse Ale (NZ hops) – 28A – Brett Beer

People’s Choice Awards:

This award is granted to the crowd favorite. Each attendee placed a ballot for their top pick. The winner this year, by a sizeable margin, was Ben Elson for his Rope Swing: Dry Hopped Farmhouse Ale (NZ hops) – in the Brett Beer category 28A.

Other Participants/Thanks Yous:

We have several people/groups to be grateful for:

Waypoint Public, The Homebrewer, Barons MarketCommunity Real Estate Co, Observatory North Park, A7D Creative Group Inc, Green Beans PreSchool North Park Beer Co, Pariah Brewing Co, Coronado Brewing Co, Thorn St Brewery, Fall Brewing Co, Mike Hess Brewing, Home Brewing CoBeer Can Soap, SD Beer Talk Podcast, Woo Bars, Original Grain Watches

Many thanks to all of our participating homebrewers:

Hayden Charter, Roy Leyrer, Josiah Vivona, Ralph Carrasquillo, Doug Brown, Jeremiah Trammel, Edgar Regis, Joseph Herrmann, Mark Bolczak, Gloria Pratt, Nicholas Schoch, Mark Vacha, Ben Elson, Michael Lettieri, Edgar Regis, Joe Pastry, Ben Elson, Sarah Schoch, Doug VomSteeg, Daniel Huffman, Chris Sullivan, Darrel Brown, Daniel Huffman, Tricia Gallant, Nicholas Schoch, Sean Thompson, Jesse Valle, Charles Pulley, Andrea Cerda, Anthony Espinoza, Jeremiah Trammel, Michael Zimbric


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Now Hiring: Assistant Homebrewers

We are now hiring in order to add to our amazing crew of friendly & knowledgeable Assistant Homebrewers. This position is for retail division, and will NOT involve brewing, but will include hours in the tasting room.

You’re primary objective will be to provide the most outstanding customer experience humanly possible. This will include:

Greeting customers, helping new & experienced homebrewers with a non-know-it-all-attitude, treating every single person that walks through our doors with the utmost respect (including customers & team members), treating yourself with dignity & respect, striving to learn as much as possible about the coolest hobby of all time, receiving & stocking inventory, keeping our dojo clean & tidy, answering phone calls, packaging & labeling supplies, LOTS of dusting & sweeping, attending team meetings, having fun, being punctual, making our neighborhood a better place, and more.

We offer competitive pay & benefits w/ the opportunity to grow within the company.

The position will consist of 20-30 hours per week to start. We are flexible, but you need to be willing to work weekends.

If all of those things interest you, please email a CV and Cover Letter to by August 31, 2016.

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Home Brewing Co Update 1

I don’t like talking about things that I haven’t actually accomplished yet. I always felt, or perhaps I was told, that recognition only comes after a job is complete. Hence, my reluctance anytime I sit down to issue a “brewery update.”

That said, a well-meaning customer gave us a good old fashioned scolding the other day. And the customer is always right.

As far as build out goes, we have floor drains and a cold box. For the latter we are using a 24.5k BTU window AC with a Cold-Bot. The cold box is 8×15′, so this AC has no problem maintaining a perfect 38F. It will hold even better once we get several batches of cold beer in there as well!

On the tasting room side, we are working with Shawn Benson from SideYard, and Tyler Cristobal, our in-house designer. We have met several times refining the plans every step along the way. I would say the design is 80% there. We are still tossing ideas around how the taps themselves will be installed. We’re aiming for 18 taps. I am so stoked to be working with these guys, and I know they will help make our tasting room comfy, interesting, and simple.

We have at least (1) 7bbl Uni Fermenter from Premiere Stainless waiting for us, and we hope to order 2+ more in the coming month. En route we have a 300 Gallon dairy tank (it looks like a can of soup cut in half), and a 450 Gallon boil kettle (also an old piece of dairy equipment). Our 200k BTU Tankless Hot Water Heater has already arrived for the HLT.

Here’s our 450 Gal Kettle.

We also have (4) 3 bbl Brite tanks set to arrive late June. This half capacity will force us to split the batch at the serving vessel. So we’ll be looking for a hop back soon.

We still need to order: sanitary pump, power pack (glycol for tanks), plate chiller, really expensive tubing/fittings, and a few odds and ends.

Timeline? Who knows? We won’t put a beer on tap just because we’re excited that we brewed so much. So we’re not interested in making a time commitment, although deadlines are good. That said, I hope to brew our first water batch by late June, and our first wort batch shortly after. Whether or not that goes on tap or down the drain will be determined, and if we have to dump 3 batches, then so be it. That’s our attitude for now.

We have all of our homebrew supplies, packaging station, “office” and more where our brewery will be soon. I hope to fit (5) 7 bbl fermenters in there by the end of the year. It’s going to be a challenge for us logistically with our tight space, and with so many things going on, but we have one of the best group of people in the whole freaking world to help us figure it out. And better yet, we have some of the coolest, most talented, and intelligent customers in the whole world, so I am sure you will all have some helpful tips down the road. For now, this is the plan and we’re sticking to it.



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TJ Craft Beer pt 1

We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many homebrewers, as well as craft brewers, in the past year and a half. Many of them endure the waits at the border to come across for brew supplies, and they are working hard to build a thriving beer scene just south of the border.

Last month I had the honor of walking across the border with Joey from Bine Vine, Ryan from Coronado, and Larry from Firestone Walker (formerly of Home Brew Mart, and also a bit currently of Pizza Port, of I’m not mistaken). Together we comprised the first team of judges to oversee The Tijuana Homebrew Club’s inaugural homebrew competition.

The categories were American and IPAs. The beers themselves resembled the same mix of experience and quality that one would expect from a competition in the states: mostly solid, a few in need of process improvements, and a handful of fantastic examples.

Our hosts were the crew at Beer Box. They treated us to a wonderful meal at the TJ Food Garden. We also had the pleasure of visiting Sospeso Coffee and Baja Craft Beer.

The walk across The border took about 20 minutes.

Certainly looking forward to many more visits to our neighbors in the future. Some photos from this trip are below.


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Crystal vs Caramel Malt

There are probably a million articles on this out there, but how about one more?

It is true that typically Crystal malts were made in Europe, and Caramel Malts in the US. This seems to be the only difference. According to a Briess article on the topic, that is the main difference. Most people are using the term interchangeably. The malt producers at least stick to the distinctions, but no one else seems to care. Not sure if we do either. Indeed, one of our main distributers has us order “Briess Crystal 10L,” but when the bag arrives it says “Caramel 10L.”  We have crystal/cara/caramel malts from 6 different maltsters from around the world, so we enjoy tasting all of the options and making the decision based on our goals.

Most Crystal/Caramel malts are made by stewing grains at temperatures that achieve saccharification, and then roasting them at temperatures above 300F to produce a hard crack type caramel, or “crystallization” of the endosperm.

There are some caramel malts that are produced using a kiln, but the maximum temperatures possible with a kiln are about half of what a roaster can do, so this requires more time, and is generally less consistent than roasting.

The only for sure way to tell, is to visit the websites for each major malster, and read up on what processes/techniques they use. Briess is probably the most helpful here. We’ll attach links to the malt companies that we use most, and furnishing a more detailed report would be a good project for the future.

Briess, Crisp, Bairds, Weyermann, Castle, Thomas Fawcett, Gambrinus, Great Western Malts, Franco-Belges.


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Let’s play, “How much have we rearranged in 2 weeks?”

So We’ve been rearranging a lot lately. Mostly because we like it when you guys/gals comment on how different it looks, and we’re afraid that you wouldn’t talk to us if you didn’t have to ask where the Special Roast has moved to.

Look! It's a dork!
Look! It’s a dork!

So in our latest addition of “How much have we arranged in 2 weeks?” We’d like to present to you our digital walk-through of the shop. It’s pretty cool, George looks like a dork, and we’ve already moved a few things around, so next time you come in we are guaranteed that you will be forced to talk to us!! George will still look like a dork though. That won’t change, sorry.

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Making wine is so damn easy

We were promised a wine extract kit from one of our main distributors. They were bragging about the quality you can get with very little practice. We asked for a Malbec and received it the following week.

This was so easy, we managed to produce 5 gallons of wine in between our 45 minute and 10 minute hop additions, and this was with us reading the instructions 3 times over. Future wines will be even quicker. Easiest double brew day ever.

The jury is still out on the taste, but here’s the low down on the day of. Accompanied by one of George’s new favorite things: a collage (he still needs practice).

Wine Collage Action!
Wine Collage Action!


1. Clean sanitize fermenter and a funnel.

2. Dissolve bentonite (a clarifier) in quart of warm water and add to fermenter.

3. Add wine extract. The less concentrated the extract, the more expensive the kit.

4. Rinse the emptied extract bag w warm water and add to fermenter.

5. Top off w water to 5 gal mark, stir vigorously, add yeast.


14 days later we added some more clarifiers and racked to secondary. Fred Brophy of a href=””Mash Heads/a recommends racking several times. We’ll probably do one more in a week, and bottle by day 45.

We’ll test it on Molly once it’s ready. And will post our thoughts. We’re thinking temp control on the next fermentation.




span class=”post_sig”From The Homebrewer’s phone. Please excuse any typos… We were focusing on the wort./span

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Wyeast Now in Stock

We have expanded our offerings from Wyeast Labs. We have always carried their American Ale, Pacman (Rogue), and Denny’s Favorite, but we are now carrying the following strains in addition:

German Ale, British Ale, Whitbread, Ringwood, Northwest, Kolsch, Belgian Abbey Ale II, Forbidden Fruit, French Saison, Belgian Saison, Roeselare Blend, and Trappist High Gravity.

You’ll find them in the yeast fridge sharing two blue containers. Click here for more info about each individual strain.

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Wall for Tasting Room Knocked Down

Good news as far as progress towards expanding our store to include an education focused brewery and tasting room. Next time you are in you will notice the large hole in the wall. This will be where the tasting area will go. Behind it will be a walk-in cooler, and behind it the brewery, classroom, and storage. The goal is brew 2-3bbl batches for us to experiment with hop, yeast, grain, and water variables.

Bye Bye Wall

This will be a great way to experience the many options that we as homebrewers have available for us. It will also be a great way to compare specific techniques etc… We hope our size will be small enough to allow flexibility, yet large enough to keep up with demand. 

As far as the overall process goes, we cannot say for sure now. The 30 day period for submitting a protest has passed (sorry if you missed it), but we have not heard back whether or not we have any complaints to deal with yet. Our last conversation with the ABC went something to the tune of, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” So for now we wait.

Needless to say we are all extremely excited and anxious as we await further details. Come in to check it out, for we will be happy to share our goals/vision for the space. We’ll keep you posted here as well.

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NHC 2013 – Philadelphia, PA

Last week was the 35th Annual National Homebrewer’s Conference. This year hosted by the great beer town of Philadelphia. We (or I, George) was lucky enough to attend, and am very happy to report back on the overall experience. The location was perfect, the seminars were fun and informative, and beer tourism was phenomenal, and in fact, really made the trip for me.

Philly boasts some of the coolest beer bars & beer-centric restaurants you could wish for. We arrived on Tuesday, two nights before the conference began, and our first order of business was to visit Monk’s Cafe, a cozy Belgian-beer-lover’s paradise. In fact, Michael Jackson commented that it was America’s best Belgian beer bar, and many would argue that this is still true. There certainly isn’t anything quite like it in San Diego, although if you combined the tap list at Small Bar, with the bottle list at Hamilton’s Tavern, you would get kinda sorta close. You’d be missing moules frites, however (sad face). There is also a good offering of German beer bars in the city. Bru Carft, and Brauhaus Schmidtz being the two we had the pleasure of checking out. Again, we simply don’t have these sort of options in San Diego. Occasionally you can count on a solid Kolsch at Tiger!Tiger!, or Blind Lady Ale House, but there aren’t any places with the consistent selection of these Philly beer spots.

Food wise, we enjoyed the above mentioned spots, but other standouts included The Farmer’s Cabinet. Rag time piano, lots of wood, and an ecclectic beer list featuring many fantastic Northern European breweries (Haandbryggeriet of Norway, for instance). A large group of fantastic homebrewers with large hearts enjoyed an outstanding meal there.

The conference itself offered a solid variety of topics to satisfy the interests of any homebrewer. Topics included, sensory analysis (presented by San Diego’s own Kara Taylor of White Labs), Cider (again, San Diego great, Chris Banker of QUAFF), hops, hops, oh and one that talked a little about hops, mash chemistry, building a walk-in cooler, a “going pro” panel, mead and chocolate pairing, and more. You can view the details/presentations from previous years here. As of this posting 2013’s notes are not available yet, but they will be shortly.

Many of the seminars include samples of beer, but there are many other opportunities to fill your glass throughout the weekend. The Pro Brewer’s Night is a great opportunity to sample pro beers from nearby and from around the country. Club Night is the zaniest of all, and is essentially a rager done in all the nerdy glory that only homebrewers can accomplish. Clubs from near and far offer samples of their brews for all to try.

The weekend is wrapped up with a banquet, which includes the awards ceremony for the National Homebrewer’s Competition. Rogue provides the beers, and Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton creates the menu.

All-in-all I highly recommend making the trip out to NHC every year if you can. Next years will be hosted by Grand Rapids, MI. So we will see you there.

My account of the weekend is a summed up version of an all out action packed visit, so please include any of your favorite moments below.

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Our License to Brew Beer

Today we received our packet from the ABC. Included is a checklist of forms to complete, and a nifty sign to post in our window. Essentially we are now in the protest phase of our application. The sign in our window will remain for 30 days, and we are required to send out notifications to nearby residences. The community has 30 days to make any protests. At that point it is up to us to negotiate/explain/placate any and all concerns. It’s an important process designed to empower the community.

So are we so nervous? Well, there is small, and vocal, portion of our community that opposes absolutely every application, forcing applicants to spend money on rent, lawyers, and delayed start dates. We can’t afford much of this.

The SD Police Department is also vocal in this process. As they should be. They are the ones that we all rely on to keep our streets & sidewalks safe, and they are grossly underfunded and overworked. They are likely to impose as many restrictions as they can. We will be reaching out to them in the coming days so that we can begin the dialogue.

For now, we will post below a copy of the letter to our neighbors that we have posted next to our sign. It will answer some basic questions about our goals/vision.

Dear Neighbors,
We are excited to announce our plans to begin brewing on the small scale. Our plans for our brewery are a little different than most, so we hope you will take the time to read the Q&A below in order to learn more. Most of all, we are honored to have this opportunity to play a long lasting, sustainable, and positive role in the growth of our beautiful neighborhood.
We invite you to come in and chat with us about our plans. You can also email us at

Q: What is The Homebrewer?
A: We are a resource center for homebrewers. We provide the equipment, ingredients, and knowledge for those interested in making their own beer at home. Our emphasis is on educating the community about how to make quality, great tasting beer, and how to appreciate the rich history and many styles of beer with respect and responsibility.

Q: Do you intend to become a bar?
A: Absolutely not. Our favorite bars are nearby, and within walking distance of our shop, you should go check them out. We will not serve the quantities or have the operating hours of a bar.

Q: So then why do you need this license?
A: This license will allow us to brew examples of certain styles, showcase specific ingredients, and demonstrate different brewing techniques. This will better enable us to inform/educate all of our customers and the community at large. We hold regular classes about how to brew beer at home, and this will allow us to serve you all better in this regard.

Q: What will the atmosphere be like?
A: Our beer showcase room will feel more like a small winery than a bar/”tasting room.” Our staff will be trained to discuss the different aspects/qualities or beer making, and our goal is to educate and inform the average consumer and the homebrewer of every skill level.

Q: What kind of beer will you produce?
A: We would like to create beers that you can enjoy with your favorite family dinner. This means low to moderate alcohol levels, and flavors that are ideal for food pairing.

Q: What is your ideal customer/transaction?
A: We hope you will come in, try a few examples of different beer styles/brewing techniques. Ask our knowledgeable staff about how those beers were created, what foods they will pair with, and which beers like it you should look out for at nearby establishments. If one of our beers is ideal for your next meal, we hope that you will take a refillable bottle of it home to share with your friends and family.

Q: Are you willing to listen to any concerns?
A: Certainly. Our neighborhood and it’s future is an ongoing community effort that requires the input and consideration of every one of us. We all of have valid points about what our neighborhood should look like in the future, and it is all of our responsibilities to take the time to share our views and listen to the views of others. We want our business to play a positive, long-lasting role in our neighborhood, and we want every individual to feel empowered about the direction we are all taking. We only ask that you keep an open mind to our dreams, vision, ideals, and opinions about how to create sustainable, walk-able, friendly, and economically viable neighborhoods.


The Homebrewer – (George, Molly, Chris, Doug, Francisco, Robby)

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Dry-Hop Experiment

Jeff from Mash Heads, a homebrew club in San Diego proposed an experiment in which we dry hopped bottles of beer with different varieties.

We had a keg of Mission Brewing light lager to work with, an ideal base for our experiment. We filled 15 22 oz bottles using a ratio of 1/2 oz per gallon, many higher gravity IPAs use 1 oz per gallon.

Jamie and Tricia from Mash Heads were kind enough to host the tasting at their house. There were about 12 Mash Heads present.

For info about the hops we used, and some tasting notes check out Jamies blog at The Cask & Barrel.