Green Flash Brewing Co.
by Rich Link
The newest addition to San Diego County's impressive lineup of breweries is Green Flash Brewing Company. The brewery is named after the green flash phenomenon that can be seen when the sun sets over the ocean. I've never seen it, but I'm told that it really happens. Maybe now, after a few Green Flash beers, I'll catch this somewhat mythical event.
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The brewery is located in Vista, near the city's border with Carlsbad. A trio of partners founded the brewery: Mike Hinkley, CEO; his wife, Lisa Hinkley, vice president of marketing and administration; and Ken Kissinger, vice president and general manager. Before opening the brewery, the Hinkleys had owned a pub in Encinitas and often thought about opening their own microbrewery. Their intent was to offer something a bit different from the robust, dark and bitter beers that many people think of when the word "microbrew" is mentioned. The Hinkleys wanted to make nice, drinkable, enjoyable beers that they hoped would attract a larger market than most microbrews.
The brewery itself is in a 5,000-square-foot building and consists of a 25-barrel Pub Brewing system with the capacity to ferment and store 250 barrels of beer. It is one of only two local breweries with a full-scale bottling line (Stone Brewing Company is the other). The bottling line, which used to belong to the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Ore., can whip out up to 400 bottles per minute, although it usually runs closer to half that speed. Initial capacity at the brewery is 4,000 barrels per year.
With the brewery set up, the next thing needed was a brewer. Lisa contacted me to see if I might be able to offer some suggestions for someone to fill that role. Sometimes, timing really is everything: Shortly thereafter, John Stewart called me and said he was looking for a job, having left his position with Stuft Pizza (now Oggi's). I got the two parties together and, as they say, the rest is history. John is a man of great integrity, and he knows his way around a brewery. He turned out to be exactly what the Hinkleys and Kissinger had in mind.
The brewery opened in the summer of 2002. Within the first two test batches, John had created a beer that was exactly what the founders had in mind. Extra Pale Ale is light straw-colored and has a fresh malt aroma. It is medium-bodied and has a slight lingering bitterness. At 5% abv, it's very well balanced and lighter in body than most microbrews, making it a great beer for the sunny Southern California market.
Two other Green Flash beers have recently hit the market: Ruby Red Ale and Nut Brown Ale. Ruby Red has a slight caramel aroma and taste. The body is slightly heavier than that of the EPA, and this beer has a slight diacetyl finish. At 6% abv, the red more closely resembles what most people would think of as a microbrew. The Nut Brown, to me, is the most daring of the three. It hits you with a shot of chocolate aroma and offers an array of flavors, including roasty bitterness, chocolate and even a little peppery spiciness. This beer is more robust than the prototype English nut brown ale and has an alcohol content of about 5.5% abv. Upcoming offerings will include a classic German-style hefeweizen, which should be available in late April. That should be well received as the weather warms up. Could other diverse styles be far behind?
The beers are very well made, clean and tasty. I even gave them the test of letting them warm up to about 55°F to see if any off-flavors would come out. They all passed, and I'm not surprised. Stewart's attention to detail assures a good product.
Green Flash products can be found at the normal beer stores such as Beverages & More and Henry's stores in both San Diego and Orange Counties. The beers are also big sellers at the Costco warehouse stores in Vista and San Marcos. In addition, you can find them at over 100 local pubs and restaurants, including TGI Friday's, Kansas City BBQ and Pizza Port. You can sample the beers and take home fresh filled growlers from the Green Flash tasting room, which is open on Fridays between noon and 6Ęp.m. There you'll find some special brews that are not available anywhere else. Support your local brewery!
Green Flash Brewing Co.
1430 Vantage Ct., #104
Vista, CA 92083
Rich Link is an associate editor of the Celebrator Beer News. He lives in Santee, Calif., and has been brewing beer at home since 1980. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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