Hyper-local bragging rights

Guild Fest attendees judge inaugural San Diego Estate Beer Project pro-am comp

This year marked the arrival of the San Diego Estate Beer Project. An initiative launched by a volunteer committee that included representatives from Slow Food Urban San Diego, the San Diego Brewers Guild and QUAFF (the Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity homebrew club), its mission was to connect local brewers—both professional and amateur—with local agricultural producers. To do so, the committee challenged San Diego homebrewers to submit homebrewed beers incorporating items either indigenous to the county or produced by local and nearby companies. This ranged from beer’s core ingredients—hops, grains, water, yeast—to flavorful adjuncts such as fruits, herbs and spices.

In September, the committee announced the quartet of finalists from the initial homebrew competition phase of the program. Though somewhat similar in that all four were lighter, lower-alcohol styles, with two being Belgian-inspired and two of German origin, the local ingredients they were infused with made for wide-ranging flavor profiles.

Following this phase of the project, the homebrewers who developed the recipes were teamed with fermentationists from four local brewing companies—Pure Project Brewing, Thorn Brewing, Viewpoint Brewing and White Labs Brewing—so they could produce their beers on a commercial system in order to present them to the public. The forum for those pro-am creations was Guild Fest, the official kickoff event of San Diego Beer Week, which took place on Saturday, November 5 at San Diego Surf Cup Sports Park in Del Mar.

Over the course of the four-hour festival, more than 300 eventgoers visited the tap-equipped Happy Hops Van, where they blind-tasted at least one of the beers and were provided the option of submitting feedback for the purpose of selecting an overall winner. Roughly two-thirds of them did so using DraughtLab’s SampleOx, a mobile app designed to collect detailed sensory information for the purpose of research, development and quality control. For the blind-tasting, consumers were asked how they liked each beer. From there, they were tasked with noting which flavors they perceived in each beer (from a predetermined list of 14 flavors).

After tallying the data, homebrewers Bill Lambert and Theresa Wilks came out on top with the “San Diego Weisse” they brewed with Thorn. A Berliner-style weisse flavored with homegrown cherries and navel oranges and fermented in-part using a self-isolated wild yeast strain from Valley Center, it earned the highest “liking score” of the four beers at 6.49. The next-highest score went to a Belgian-style witbier brewed with California-grown-and-malted barley from Admiral Maltings (Pure Project and Viewpoint also used that company’s products for their pro-am beers) and infused with local juniper berries, lemon zest and black pepper. That beer was called CA-75 Wit and conceived by homebrewers Patrick and Andrea Colchin, who collaborated with White Labs.

The hedonic feedback was close for all four beers, while the flavors identified were pretty on-point. All told, it was a really successful event that gave guests a learning experience about blind-judging and the potential of using locally grown ingredients.”

Pat Walls, Competition Coordinator

The San Diego Estate Beer Project was also a hit with members of the county’s brewing community. Numerous professional brewers have expressed interest in participating in future events.

While it has not yet been determined what form such events will take on or if there will be a second competition like this year’s homebrewer affair, the committee plans to convene to discuss possibilities and work on initiatives related to the ultimate goal of creating a unique San Diego beer-style using locally grown and processed ingredients. This includes establishing a farmer-to-brewery directory that will help brewers to plan recipes based on growing seasons, while allowing producers to share when different produce will be available. Additionally, Slow Food Urban San Diego is piloting San Diego-grown heirloom grains to be used in both brewing and baking.

For those looking to taste the four San Diego Estate Beer Project finalist beers, they are on-tap at White Labs’ tasting room.

White Labs is located at 9495 Candida Street in Miramar

Back to top button