|Owner George Thornton (right) is behind the bar of his Home Brewing Co., an on premises tasting room for his The Home Brewer shop in San Diego.|
GUEST BLOG—By Brandon Hernandez, Contributing Writer, West Coaster craft beer magazine, San Diego, CA.
VISITING THE HOMEBREWER SHOP IN SAN DIEGO
Delightfully small and understated, it’d be easy to walk right by The Homebrewer without taking notice. Unless, of course, you’re a homebrewer. In three years, George and Molly Thornton’s brew-it-yourself biz has amassed a stellar reputation as one of the most beloved retail outlets of its kind in one of the most homebrewer-centric counties in the world. There’s even more to love about the North Park spot, which now sports a tasting room for its on-site beer-making operation, Home Brewing Co. (2911 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park).
Like most undertakings of the hobbyists The Homebrewer serves, HBC is a work in progress. But even with thrown together furniture, a bar waiting for a custom-designed top and a bar-back missing its future mirror focal point, the whole thing works. The space mirrors the DIY spirit of recreational brewers, making it feel cozily appropriate versus unfinished. Guests can belly up to the tasting bar, hunker down on an Ikea couch or table with a wood palette top, or rest their elbows on numerous belly bars as they work their way through a regularly changing line-up of beers produced on a seven-barrel brewhouse directly behind the bar.
The day I visited, 13 beers were on tap. Several were split into dual offerings, as is one of Thornton’s purposeful differentiators. Because part of the mission of HBC is to showcase the ingredients available at The Homebrewer, he enjoys brewing a batch of beer, then splitting it and treating one different than the other by dry-hopping it differently, adding adjuncts, fermenting it with a different yeast strain, serving it on nitro, etc. It’s similar to how White Labs ferments base beers with a variety of diverse yeast strains to illustrate the vast flavor and aroma differences each imparts, but HBC’s approach is wider reaching.
George says there is no style of beer he doesn’t appreciate, and his HBC brews prove it. While he’s currently gravitating toward iterations of American pale ales, they share beer list space with a brown ale, Belgian amber, hefeweizen, Schwarzbier, India pale ale and more. While highly varied, these beers share similarities in that they are highly drinkable and mostly very dry in the finish. Hop flavors and aromas tend to dominate without being obscured by bracing bitterness. This is particularly true of SMASH (single malt and single hop) offerings, something that’s becoming quite en vogue among craft enthusiasts. All in all, the beers are impressive and enjoyable, whether one’s aim is to taste across the board or meander over a pint or two of a single offering.
HBC is for sure one to watch among the county’s newer brewery debuts, especially considering Thornton has several barrels of blonde ale souring away in a closed-off space behind his two-in-one business. He hasn’t quite figured out the specifics of how to offer it up to prospective buyers, but wants to explore bottling. That may require the help of industry friends, but Thornton has many. His reputation among local brewers is as good as that of his store among the amateur sect.
He recently collaborated on a beer with brewers from Intergalactic Brewing Co. and Kilowatt Brewing Co., seeks recipe formulation advice from Ray Astamendi at Fall Brewing Co., and has enjoyed Q&A and collaboration brew sessions with Lee Chase of Automatic Brewing Co. That beer, Tiger! Piss! (a name playing off Chase’s Tiger! Tiger! Tavern), is a 6.4% SMASH IPA brewed with Chinook hops and Golden Promise malt emitting massive citrus scents that carry through to the taste buds. Look for that to reappear in the future along with a Berliner weisse, myriad lagers and beers brewed using a hefeweizen yeast strain.
Source: First published on West Coaster website (www.westcoastersd.com) on August 11, 2015.