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Silly Season In San Diego : Many Changes On Tap
By Rich Link


Coronado Brewing Co.
170 Orange Ave.
Coronado, CA 92118

Green Flash Brewing Co.
1430 Vantage Ct., #104-A
Vista, CA 92803

Left Coast Brewing Co.
1245 Puerto del Sol
San Clemente, CA 92673

Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Co.
10155 Rancho Carmel Dr.
San Diego, CA 92128


When you walk into a baseball stadium, you are greeted by vendors yelling the famous line “You can’t tell the players without a program.” Well, it’s gotten to be like that around San Diego’s brewing community. Brewers have been moving around, breweries have changed names, and others have closed. In this issue we’ll try to get you up to date on what’s going on around here.

Starting off with personnel changes, Joe Cuozzo, who has worked at more San Diego breweries than any other person, has moved on to a new job: brewer at Coronado Brewing Company. I wrote about Joe’s success at CJ’s Grill (formerly Sports City) in the October 2004 issue of the Celebrator. Joe then went on to win a silver medal in the Coffee-Flavored Beer category at the Great American Beer Festival. He is bringing his lengthy résumé to Coronado with the intention of “taking the beers to the next level.” While Coronado’s beers have always been good, they were never really assertive.

I visited Joe at the brewpub recently and can attest that he has taken the first steps to make Coronado’s beers noteworthy. In addition to six or seven brewpub standards, Joe has added a double IPA and a barley wine. By the time you read this, all of the beers will have been revamped. This includes the bottled beers brewed at the atrociously ill-equipped Mission Brewery, where the bulk of Coronado’s bottled and kegged beers are brewed. I’ll report back in a few months to let you know how the changes are progressing.

Another big move has Chuck Silva brewing at Green Flash Brewing Company in Vista. Chuck formerly brewed at Karl Strauss, On Tap, Hops! and Hang Ten. Chuck takes over for John Stewart, who had been Green Flash’s brewer since the brewery opened in 2002. The brewery makes the Green Flash line of beers as well as the Reaper Ales. The two brands are one and the same brewery — just different marketing strategies and recipes.

Chuck’s initiation at Green Flash consisted of brewing about 30 batches of beer in the first two months. The brewery has expanded by adding additional cold storage and fermenting capacity. In addition, the Green Flash beers have gone through some changes. The beers now have more body, more hoppiness and a more assertive character. Look for the Green Flash and Reaper brands to make some big steps this year.

San Diego brewers have been moving around, breweries have changed names and others have closed.

Left Coast Brewing Company, the microbrewery that supplies much of the beer for the Oggi’s pizza locations, has a new head brewer. John Wilson, who has brewed at Oggi’s locations in Mission Viejo and San Diego’s Mission Valley, has replaced Tom Nickel. Wilson’s beers have won numerous awards in the past, and I would expect more will come in the future. Nickel, proprietor of O’Brien’s Pub, one of the top pubs in Southern California, has not ruled out a return to brewing, but not right away. Anyone who has been to O’Brien’s knows that Tom puts in a pretty hard day. If I were in his shoes, I think I’d sit back and have a few beers before jumping back into the brewing game. He’s worked very hard over the past few years.

Speaking of Oggi’s, Jeff Bagby, the brewer at the Vista location, has now taken on the brewing duties at the Carmel Mountain Ranch location. Jeff is currently pulling double duty at both locations. He brings his world-class ability and passion for brewing to a location that has had some ups and downs over the past couple of years.

CJ’s Grill, which replaced Sports City last year with great hopes from a big cash infusion, new equipment and new management, has bit the dust. I have no official word on the closing, but it appears that there was not enough cash to cover the needs of the business. Just when it looked like the biggest disappointment on San Diego’s brew scene was turning around, it has crashed and burned.

On Tap! Bistro & Brewery has closed. New owners will be taking over, and by the time you read this, a brewpub with a new name should be opened. Let’s hope the new ownership can deal with what must be staggeringly high rent without pricing themselves out of the market.

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 also be reached via e-mail.


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