A month or so ago, The Fairmont Grand Del Mar, the symbol of superb wines in magnificent European style architecture, and in a restaurant that was one of the few in the country to win the Grand Award from Wine Spectator six times for its wine collection, presented a Ballast Point Beer dinner.
An act of heresy, was my first thought. Surely the new ownership knew of the history of wine in this palace, some 15,000 bottles in sumptuous underground cellars to enhance the 5-diamond, 5-star Addison with Master Chef William Bradley.
But this night, “prost” (German for “cheers”) was heard in the halls of the Grand’s Clubhouse Grill as they welcomed the Ballast Point Beer team pairing 4 beers with a four course dinner from chef Joshua Dorfner, plus a basic Pale Ale during the reception. The four were:
Dorado Double IPA, Piper Down Scottish Ale, Victory at Sea Porter and Grunion Pale Ale. Craft beer evolves around Pale Ale, the malt used in brewing is of a pale color with lots of hops to increase alcohol content which can get up to 10 percent (on the Piper Double IPA.) San Diego has been on a tear with the number of breweries increasing exponentially.
The city of Vista boasts 14, more craft breweries per capita than any other city in the U.S., and the city has set up a development fund to ultimately increase the number of microbreweries to 58. They are considering naming that part of state Route 78 that runs through the city to “Hops Highway.”
Pale Ale is the basic brew that has done the job for such San Diego brands as: Stone (No. 10 in Craft Beer Sales in the U.S.), Ballast Point (No. 29) and Karl Strauss (No. 41). We’re not talking small change here. In 2011, brewers and brew pubs generated almost $300 million in sales in San Diego County.
Like winemakers, brewmasters yearn for that individual taste and flavor, and the people at Ballast Point feel they have it in the Sculpin India Pale Ale. Because of its hoppy sting, it was named Sculpin after San Diego’s local rockfish, with poisonous spines but delicious meat.
Hops are added at five different stages. High in alcohol for a beer, this one is clocked at 7.7 percent. Sculpin has hooked the 2010 and 2014 Beer Gold Cup. Today, there are four locations for Ballast Point as they get ready for the Octoberfest season, the biggest beer drinking event of the year. You can drink and eat in most locations: Miramar, Scripps Ranch and in San Diego’s Little Italy and Linda Vista districts.
Restaurants that just paid lip service to their beer list are now catching on and you now can select from many craft beers, mostly on tap. The latest, Chandler’s in Carlsbad, is typical of the promotions with their “Tap Thursdays.” Four local brews go for just $8 every Thursday.
Before I fell in love with wine and founded TASTE OF WINE in 2005, I co-founded and managed the Encinitas Oktoberfest, now in its 20th year, for the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce and “Mr. Encinitas” Edgar Engert. I ran the first 10 years and it was a fun run of Authentic German Bavarian culture that I was happy to be a part of.
This year it’s Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mountain Vista Drive and El Camino Real. Some 200 vendors, food, beer, wine and soft drinks, live Oompah Pah music and games will keep you coming back for more. Ballast Point beer will be there for your tasting pleasure, as well as others. Details online at encinitasoktoberfest.com.
The second annual Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival is planned for Oct. 2 through Oct. 4 with some of the nation’s biggest chefs exhibiting their individual talents while spotlighting Orange County’s best restaurants, wine experts and wineries from 1 to 5 p.m. Over 30 restaurants will keep you sampling their best along with cooking demonstrations. Sit in on elite wine panels, with over 200 world-renowned wines tasted, even rare “cult” wines. Live jazz music is promised. This event is brought to you by Southern Wine & Spirits. All events and pricing can be found at newportwineandfood.com. Call (888) 511-FEST.
La Gran Terraza at the USD Hahn University Center has its Wine and Dine events going. Wine paired dinners with Chateau Ste. Michelle Sept. 22, Antinori Oct. 6, Gaja Winery Oct. 13. Cost is $50. Call (619) 849-8205 for RSVP and times.
Vigilucci’s in Leucadia presents Pairings Prevail Sept. 15 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Cost is $20 for this sensory experience of wine and food. Call (760) 802-8402. RSVP with limited seating.
South Coast Winery Resort and Spa in Temecula invites you to the Blessing of the Wines, Grape Stomp and Harvest Festival, Sept. 20, from 4 to 7 p.m. Dine and dance, live music, exciting prizes for stomp competition. $55 general admission; wine club price is $50. For tickets visit: store.wineresort.com.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View and link up with his columns at tasteofwinetv.com, and reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook.