Venturing beyond beer

East Village Brewing growing its offerings to include ciders, wine and more

Though smaller in terms of size, downtown’s 2,400-square-foot East Village Brewing is fueled by big ambition. Co-owners and brewer duo Brandon Green and Aaron Justus go the extra mile, crafting beers exclusively using all-natural American ingredients procured west of the Mississippi, serve those ales and lagers from brite tanks and post all of their recipes online for the world to see. It’s more than they need to do, but it’s important to them and a big reason they left high-level jobs at Miramar’s Ballast Point Brewing to open their own business.

Following their arrows and shared drumbeat, Green and Justus are broadening their line of liquid assets to include ciders, the first of which debuted earlier this month. Next, they’ll move on to production of sparkling white wine followed down the road with reds. Though opened strictly as a beermaking interest, East Village Brewing was envisioned as a combination urban brewery and winery from the get-go. The lengthier-than-expected winery-licensing process is the only thing that’s kept the concept from being fully realized.

“As much as we love beer, we also enjoy wine and cider. Additionally, there are many people who either don’t like beer or can’t drink beer due to gluten issues,” says Justus. “Some people make hard seltzers to meet this demand, however, we think wine and cider better fit our commitment to wholesome ingredients and minimizing the use of additives, processing aids and artificial ingredients.”

East Village Brewing’s initial cider is a dry, tart and easy-drinking blend of five apple varieties that have fittingly been sourced from Washington State. Moving forward, Green and Justus plan on producing ciders that showcase individual apple varieties, plus several incorporating complementary fruits. Justus says that, just as they do with barley and hops, they will aim to work as closely as possible with farmers to source the finest ingredients for their ciders and wines. So far, their relationships with Washington hop farmers have proven invaluable, as those individuals have helped connect them with reputable apple growers.

Though the duo worked with winemakers during their tenures at Ballast Point, to date their cider production and winemaking has mostly been done on an amateur level. Still, they are excited to ascend to the next level and feel ready to take on the challenge, even if it means finding more space in their intimate downtown home for future equipment and barrel storage.

“In the short term, our wine barrels will be stored in the tasting room where temperature-control is ideal. Once demand rises, we will investigate locations for offsite cellaring,” says Justus. As for used barrels, he and Green have ideas for putting them to good use. “An imperial stout aged in wine barrels is heavenly. We could also reverse the idea and age a wine in a barrel that previously housed an imperial stout. There are so many options for creativity.”

Speaking of creative ventures, East Village Brewing recently teamed with nearby bakery, Izola, to produce a beer incorporating 30 loaves of their sourdough bread. That interesting adjunct was tossed directly in the mash tun along with generous amounts of rye and honey malt. The duo says it was a challenging brew day, but that it was worth it to get to the resultant beer. Named Izola Kvass, it’s inspired by a cloudy Northeastern Europe beverage of the same name and features potent bread-crust aromas, plus dried-cherry and fig nuances brought about by the addition of Izola’s sourdough bread yeast starter during secondary fermentation.

Like most of what Green and Justus do at East Village Brewing, it’s more than is required, but that’s what makes it both interesting and special.

East Village Brewing is located at 201 Park Boulevard, Suite 101, in downtown San Diego’s East Village neighborhood

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