A few weeks back, I received a text message from a good friend of mine, Jeff Crane. Jeff’s text message included an invitation to the soft opening of Council Brewing – one of the latest breweries to open its doors to the Craft Beer Mecca that is San Diego. I’ve gotten to know Jeff over the past few years and if there is any one thing that people should know about him, it’s that he is an extremely knowledgable, experienced and downright fantastic homebrewer. Jeff’s homebrewing experience has produced a vast amount of experimental sour and Belgian-style beers over the years, and needless to say, it is something that he does very well. What makes Jeff’s brewing even more admirable is the precise and thorough documentation of his ventures as written on his blog at http://jeffreycrane.blogspot.com/.
Jeff also happens to be part of a local home brewing and beer evaluation organization known as QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity). It is through QUAFF that Jeff came across two other local brewers, Liz and Curtis Chism. Liz and Curtis happen to be the founders of Council Brewing, which I had the pleasure of meeting a few months back at a tasting for Jeff’s Great Brett Experiment – a brewing experiment that gathered 20 isolated yeast strains and split them amongst a single base wit recipe (I highly recommend following the link above to learn about this bold and educational experiment).
It was at this tasting that I noticed the meticulous palates that Liz and Curtis brought to the table. I was fascinated, inspired and intimidated by their use of words to describe the flavors we drank that evening. It wasn’t until the end of the night, when Liz and Curtis popped open some Council Brewing “test” bottles, that I realized they were in the early stages of starting what was to become Council Brewing. What I also did not realize was Liz and Curtis had asked Jeff to collaborate with them in implementing a Sour program for Council Brewing. Those exact events are what were to transpire over the following months.
Back to my text message I was talking about earlier, I was taken by surprise at the invitation to a soft opening that I had no idea was even remotely close to happening. I gladly accepted the invitation and made my way down to the brewery.
Council Brewing is located in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego, just off Convoy Street and down the street from one of my favorite bars, O’Brien’s Pub. Walking into the brewery, I was surprised to see what looked more like a grand opening rather than a soft opening. The long and narrow tasting room filled with rustic colors was packed with patrons laughing, smiling and enjoying some Council Brewing beers! It was exciting enough for me to witness this bountiful patronage so I can’t imagine how Liz, Curtis and Jeff felt that day, but nonetheless, they stood behind that bar filling flights, growlers and pints for the people.
I, of course, could not settle for just a pint so I went for a flight of their five flagship beers which included:
- Lively Banter American Wheat
- America’s Finest Pale Ale
- Gavel Drop India Pale Ale
- Farmer’s Gold Belgian Saison
- Pirate’s Breakfast Imperial Oatmeal Stout
Whenever I drink a beer for the first time, the first sip always leaves a lasting impression on me. I know that with any beer and any brewery, there is always room for improvement and growth, and I always keep that in mind with the first sip because if the need for improvement is there, I want my palate to embrace that initial tasting, to have a lasting impression, so that I can decipher any changes that particular beer may or may not endure. With Council Brewing’s lineup, there were three beers that really stood out from the others – Farmer’s Gold, Gavel Drop and Pirate’s Breakfast. These three beers were nothing short of exceptional.
The Farmer’s Gold was a surprisingly sessionable Saison despite its higher-than-usual ABV – with hints of pepper, plum and a sharp mouthfeel, I was proud to taste this very mature result of Jeff’s brewing. The Gavel Drop was just simply outstanding. A bold yet balanced contribution to the Council Brewing lineup, is a Nelson-hopped IPA with the typical piney and earthy notes you would expect but backed by a beautiful malt backbone that did not try to bury the hop-forwardness of this beer. Then came my favorite, the Pirate’s Breakfast. This dessert-like Oatmeal Stout is one of the best stouts I have seen to come out of San Diego in a long time, and all I can really say about it is that I can’t wait until the barrel-aged variants of this beer come to life because I am certain there will be lines out the door to get it.
To have tasted Liz and Curtis’ beers months before, I was proud to see how much the beer recipes had matured and become so dialed in. Their beers, as well as Jeff’s, are solid contenders and I can’t wait to watch this brewery grow within the SD culture. At the time of the soft opening, I noticed that a few barrels rested at the end of the bar. Talking with Jeff about it, all I can say is that there is some barrel-aged sour goodness on its way!
I was able to snap a few shots of the evening and have included them below for your viewing pleasure. With that said, I recommend you re-live these moments and make Council Brewing your next brewery visit if you live in the city, or even if you’re visiting from out of town! You can learn more about their brewery, tasting room hours and location at their website here.
Congrats to Liz, Curtis and Jeff for bringing another amazing brewery to the San Diego Craft Beer culture!