The Babes had to split up this weekend due to work obligations – so Marisa headed to Lake Havasu (and visited Mudshark Brewery) and I (CJ) headed to Vista for the grand opening of Iron Fist Brewing. Scot, the Beer Bud, was happy to fill in and go with me. I worked at the Vista Irrigation District, which is across the street from this new brewery on Sycamore, for 8 years back in the late 90′s and early 00′s. In 2001, when VID was building the new office, there was very little in the Industrial Park area – but now, the whole area is populated and bustling with businesses, restaurants, and now – a new brewery. There still is an industrial park feel here – the brewery is built with stand-up concrete and large industrial doors that overlook the street. It is a large warehouse, but the bar area in front is small and right now, the only food offered inside is pretzels. (Plus, there is only one bathroom!) Still, it is the beer that is the reason for its existence, so that is what we were there to experience. I only had my iPhone with me, but I captured some of the images and talked with two interesting people about their tasting experience. Taylor Shaw (@theartofbeer) is a friend of the owners and does the marketing for them and made sure we knew about the opening via Twitter. Eve Sieminski (@EveSieminski) is one of the owners and her son, Brandon, is the Brewmaster. On opening night, everyone behind the bar was either a relative or friend helping out – and they did a great job of answering questions and keeping the beer flowing at the same time.
I also met Greg, from Premier Stainless Systems, who was standing in the back admiring his shiny silver contribution to the brewery’s success. This firm installs these kinds of industrial tanks for various businesses and craft breweries around the world, but are located just down the freeway in Escondido, so this was a really fun and convenient installation for them. The tanks are fabricated in China to customer specifications and then shipped through Long Beach and delivered to Escondido for testing and customization. I never thought about it, but Greg explained that they have to build the tanks to fit into the facilities depending on what space is available. So, if they have to get the tanks through a double door into a basement, they will be smaller. These tanks were on the larger side since there was plenty of room to bring them in and set them up. There is one brewing tank and four storage/fermenting tanks currently at the location. I was surprised to see the small bottling area – four hoses and one small tray. Better Beer Blog did a story on Firehouse and included photos of the mobile bottling operations they use on their premises – and seeing both processes convinced me that bottling is very labor intensive.
For my part, I really liked the Golden Age Belgian Style Golden Strong Ale. The website says this about the Golden Age: “The mesmerizing march of perfect champagne-like bubbles to the foam front draws you in. Hints of lemon, grape, and apple keep you coming back.” I am beginning to see a pattern of the beers that I do like: the hint of fruit or spices seems to be part of each one.
The website says this about the Spice of Life: “Forsaking traditional ideas of subtlety and cowardly “Pinch of This, Pinch of That” brewing techniques, we embrace the flavors and launch them into a full frontal assault of delicious bitter orange peel and grains of paradise. Beautifully smooth coriander compliments and orange peel perfectly.” Another guy I met at the bar swore that he tasted cloves in this beer – so that must have been the coriander. I loved this beer and bought a bottle for Marisa to drink and review later.
I only sample I did not like was the Renegade Blonde because it tasted hollow and had a bad aftertaste – but I hear from Marisa that it should taste light because it is a Kolsch beer. Not sure if the aftertaste comes with this style, but still wouldn’t buy it again.
We ended the night with dinner from Tabe BBQ, which is always delicious. Some of the people at the opening had never heard of Korean BBQ, so they were a little reticent to give it a try. Too bad for them. It’s one of the best food trucks in town. According to Marisa, Eagle Rock Brewery in LA does business the same way: they host different food trucks each week, and Eagle Rock simply pairs its beer with the visiting truck owner’s fare. Quite a growing trend among breweries that don’t have the cash to build their own restaurant while they are getting off the ground.
As we were leaving, another guy who had been sampling for a while wanted to tell us his opinion about the other breweries in North County (his geography was a little loose) that he called “The Holy Four.” These included Green Flash, Lost Abbey, Alesmith, and Alpine. He did not say whether or not he was adding Iron Fist to his list, and I was not waiting around to find out. It was time for this babe to head home – a 40 mile drive in the rain – and we know how Southern California drivers are in the rain!