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Saturday, February 29, 2020


Maine coffee house installs Solar Wall using NASA technology

Warming Up Wicked Joe’s Coffee
GUEST BLOG / By POWER, a NASA Earth Applied Sciences project based at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia--Maine doesn’t just do lobsters. The state has a growing coffee scene, including an organic micro-roaster based in Topsham. With help from a NASA website, Wicked Joe coffee used space-based data to build the plant that keeps its eco-friendly java flowing here on Earth.

“Wicked Joe is a family-owned company committed to producing exceptional coffees using sustainable business practices from crop to cup,” said Wicked Joe founder Bob Garver. Part of this sustainability effort was finding a way to make its new roasting facility’s production space as energy-efficient as possible. Typically, space heating accounts for a building’s largest energy usage, especially in northern climates – and Wicked Joe had a lot of space to heat.

 “This is a clear span space of over 20,000 square feet [1,858 square meters] with a roughly 25-foot [7.7 meter] ceiling,” Garver said of his production space. “This covers over 80% of our facility.”

Engineers suggested that a solar wall would be an ideal way to heat the space efficiently. This solar wall would be southward-facing, designed to generate heat from the sun’s radiation – similar to a large, standing solar panel.

Wicked Joe’s current wholesale facility is the former Topsham [Maine] Naval Commissary utilizes Loring Smart Roasters run on natural gas.

“This was the first time we had even heard of a solar wall,” Garver confessed. “But we were both open to and motivated to support the development of new technologies.”

To build Wicked Joe’s solar wall, designers used the RETScreen Clean Energy Management Software, an open-access energy analysis tool from Natural Resources Canada. The RETScreen software automatically fetches climate and weather data from NASA’s Prediction of Worldwide Energy Resource (POWER) website.

POWER is a NASA Earth Applied Sciences project based at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, that improves on existing renewable energy information by creating new data sets from satellite systems. It provides internet-based access to Earth-observing data and models that are specifically tailored to assist in the design of solar- and wind-powered renewable-energy systems.

Incorporating NASA satellite data on sunlight, wind, temperature and precipitation patterns into RETScreen’s feasibility analysis module, it was determined that a glazed solar wall would capture 40% more heat and work better with Topsham’s northern latitude and climate.

Shortly after the installation of the wall, Wicked Joe discovered that the facility’s roasters were an unexpected heating asset, which allowed its facility to use the solar wall-less than it originally thought.

Garver estimated that the solar wall is saving Wicked Joe more than $10,000 a year on its heating bill. However, he emphasized that “the benefits of solar, in our view, go far beyond the financial considerations or return on investment. While some regions may have ‘more optimal’ conditions for solar, we believe that any place where the sun shines is a good place for solar.” And that sunshine is helping Mainers wake up to a wicked good cup of coffee.

Wicked Joe’s retail location operated as Bard Coffee is in Portland, Maine

Friday, February 28, 2020


Guest Blog / By Brandon Hernandez, Westcoaster Magazine Senior Writer—Last year was a turbulent one for Barrel Harbor Brewing owner Tim St. Martin. In May, he closed the Vista-based company’s Miramar tasting room. In July, he launched a crowdfunding campaign to keep Barrel Harbor afloat. It was ultimately unsuccessful.

In October, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control revoked his license, forcing him to shutter, but come December, he was able to reopen after selling off select assets to soldier on. But 2020 is looking up for St. Martin as homebrewer and entrepreneur Nick Corona is in negotiations to purchase the business so he can install his Five Suits Brewing concept.

Earlier this year, St. Martin and Corona discussed a contract-brewing relationship. During that process, they learned that they share many similarities. Both started as home brewers, are part of families with public-service (military, police, fire department, etc.) backgrounds and share an affection for four-legged family members. As they grew more familiar with one another, St. Martin saw an opportunity to “pass the proverbial torch,” and their conversations shifted from contracting to a full-scale purchase.

Though Barrel Harbor’s recipes and brand assets will be part of the sale, Corona intends to focus solely on developing the Five Suits Brand. He will do so with his wife, Kandy Corona, overseeing tasting room operations, and his brother, Shane Smith, handling sales, marketing and cellar duties. Business operations will be the charge of mom and dad, Leslie and Joe Corona, while Nick will head brewing, bringing many of his award-winning recipes to life on a professional scale amid a casino motif reminiscent of Las Vegas’ Rat Pack Era.

“Gaming is our theme, but we’re much more than that,” says Corona. “While we develop our brand, we envision there being a lot of crossover between craft beer fans who love good beer and those who are just looking to be entertained and leave their troubles at the door. Most of the beers I’ve brewed have been to-style, but I’ll be listening to our guests more than anything. The more people in a crowd that I can satisfy, the happier I’ll be.”

Opened in 2013, Barrel Harbor is located at 2575 Pioneer Avenue, #104. It is equipped with a ten-barrel brewing system and a sizeable tasting room. Originally, Corona had planned to install Five Suits as part of a multi-concept collective in Escondido that included Notorious Burgers, Good Omen Mead and Stoke Distilling. As reported in October, issues that led to Notorious Burgers and Stoke Distilling pulling out of the project, caused Corona to follow suit.

Though Barrel Harbor’s sale has yet to be finalized, Corona already has his eyes on the future. While creating an entertaining experience at the Vista tasting room will be his priority, Five Suits beers will be distributed to a handful of select accounts in San Diego’s North County region. He also hopes to open a satellite tasting room in a coastal locale.

“I was raised in La Costa, but went to school in Solana Beach,” says Corona. “Growing up as a San Diegan is something I’ll never take for granted. There is no better place to live and starting a family business here is absolutely a dream come true.”

If all goes as planned, Barrel Harbor will continue to operate as it has through the end of April, at which time the Five Suits team will take over with a grand-opening timetable of late-May or early-June.

Thursday, February 27, 2020


Classic beefsteak tomato has its day in the sun.

Tomatomania, a pro-veggie group tasked with touting the splendors of all things tomato recently announced is thrilled to announce that Thorburn’s Terra Cotta (more on him later) is its Tomato of the Year!

It’s hard to curb Tomatomania’s enthusiasm, especially when beginning tomorrow (Feb. 28) it will be holding pop-up tomato celebrations now through April at the following San Diego County venues: Mission Hills Nursery/San Diego; The Water Conservation Garden/El Cajon; and the Botanic Garden/Encinitas.

Tomatomania – the one stop free gardening education and pop up plant sale celebrates a large selection of tomato seedlings and solutions to all your vegetable gardening issues and questions.

For a complete schedule of events, classes and activities, go to

But, let’s return to the Tomato of the Year.
The unique color alone is enough to amaze and delight but this beefsteak has thrilled us for three years in trials in Ojai, Santa  Ynez and Camarillo. It’s delicious, productive and earlier than most larger tomatoes, making it an especially great choice for growers near the coast. It was introduced to the seed trade way back in 1893 and is still considered a rare variety.

Here’s what one seed company says about this jewel:

Incredible flavor, color and history! Introduced in 1893 by James Thorburn of New York, this is one of the most sensational tomatoes we have ever grown. With honey-brown skin, orange-pink flesh, and green seed mass, this is an eye-catching slicer with an out-of-this-world flavor. The tomato produces heavily during mid-season and then drops off quickly once cool weather sets in. As a cooker it will yield a pumpkin-orange sauce with a floral aroma. We are excited to have this tomato that was painted in color in Thorburn’s 1893 catalog; at last we can offer this rare treasure!

Whom can argue?
Thorburn’s Terra Cotta will be a big hit this spring with gardeners all over California especially with Tomatomania beating the drums now through April.

Tomatomania is a huge community of enthusiastic tomato lovers. Leading the team is Scott Daigre of Ojai, owner and head Tomatomaniac. He is author of the best-selling book “Tomatomania: A Fresh Approach to Celebrating Tomatoes in the Garden.” His company Powerplant Garden Design based in Ojai CA focuses on installation of home and professional gardens with a concentration on food based gardens.

And, with Spring a month away it’s time for tomato fanatics to ready their gardens and our new best friends at Tomatomania are ready to help:

Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Chicano Park murals in Barrio Logan below the Coronado/San Diego Bay Bridge
Open House San Diego celebrates architecture, urban design & the built environment. One weekend. Free access. Iconic architecture.

Doors are open for you to explore the hidden gems and architectural treasures of San Diego’s diverse neighborhoods, including Downtown San Diego, Bankers Hill, Balboa Park, Barrio Logan, Point Loma, La Jolla, and new for 2020 – Coronado.

Balboa Park sites will be open Friday, March 6th. All other neighborhoods will be open Saturday and Sunday, March 7th and 8th.

Open House! San Diego is a free event giving the public rare behind-the-scenes access to, and in-depth information about, the architecture and design of our city’s finest buildings and places.

Create your own OH! San Diego weekend itinerary from the range of tours on offer – self-guided, guided and expert-led.
Visit architectural award winners, design studios, schools, hotels, residences, workplaces, research laboratories, theaters, galleries – historic and contemporary.

Enter OH! San Diego’s photo competition for a chance to win prizes. More info coming soon.

Bring the kids and participate in KidsSketch on Saturday in La Jolla and Sunday in Coronado. Register in advance to receive a custom sketchbook.

Check for important changes to the OH! 2020 Schedule

Help keep OH! San Diego free by donating to the San Diego Architectural Foundation today.  Click here.