Photos by David Mulvihill. Wild Barrel Brewing Co-founder Bill Sysak and his wife Rem. 

Wild Barrel

Saturday, January 13, marked the official grand opening of Wild Barrel Brewing Company in San Marcos. Soft-opened since September 30, Wild Barrel Brewing Co-Founder/CEO, “Dr.” Bill Sysak and team have provided finishing touches and a large selection of finished beer to comfortably welcome a thirsty public. Entering the brewery through a foyer shared with the adjacent batting cages (SoCal Batting Center), focus is immediately drawn to what appears as a giant barrel, just part of the well-appointed and open tasting room that sets the theme for beers to come.

Wild Barrel is dedicated to producing both traditional craft beer as well as barrel-aged sour, wild and spirited ales. On Grand Opening day 15 taste-filled beers were available. Six variations of San Diego Vice, Wild Barrel’s Berliner Weisse-style bier, were being dispensed: 5 fruited versions (mixed berry, strawberry, black currant, pink guava and Montmorency cherry) and one sans fruit. The no-fruit account presented tasty and tart, a traditional rendition of Berliner Weiss. Naming the beer with a “V” definitely avoids mispronouncing this North German beer style that has gained much popularity on the West Coast in recent years. IPAs included Shape Shifter IPA dry hopped with Nelson, Mosaic and Idaho 7 hops, and Prince of Dankness DIPA dry hopped with Nelson and Motueka. Murky Minds Drink Alike, a 7.5% ABV fruit-forward New England-style IPA collaboratively brewed with Burgeon Beer Co, was also available on draft and released in 16 ounce cans that day. Five versions of Hipster Stout and White Rabbit Witbier were also on the board. Hipster Latte, a coffee milk stout made with beans from San Diego’s Mostra Coffee, drank with rich creaminess and smooth coffee essence. Other Hipster versions included chocolate covered orange, chocolate macaroon and jelly donut. 

Fans will have to be patient for barrel-aged sours and spirited beers, since these will take time to develop. Look for Wild Barrel’s barrel program to come into full swing once some of its first fillings come to maturity. 

Many will remember Bill Sysak from his days at Stone Brewing. Here’s a bit of his backstory: Long before Bill entered into the brewing industry professionally he was a dedicated advocate of fine beer. As collector and enthusiast he travelled the world in search of great beer and became known to brewers and owners throughout the country and world. His honorary moniker of “Doc” came first from those he served as a medic in the military, sticking with him through and beyond his many years in the medical field. Dr. Bill’s epic annual parties, as well as many of the beer festivals he attended became his opportunity to share and advocate great beer with others. These were communal and educational experiences that allowed others to discover, taste and learn about coveted world class beers.

In 2009, Stone Brewing Company hired Sysak as beverage coordinator at Stone World Bistro & Gardens. Bill embraced his position as Stone’s Beer Ambassador for the next seven years. The numerous beer events, dinners, and festivals he organized assisted in elevating the restaurant into a more-frequented destination. When Stone’s economic restructuring occurred in late 2016 it was finally time for Sysak to start something of his own.

Wild Barrel Brewing Company was born, co-founded with business partner/ President Chris White and Head Brewer/Director of Operations, Bill Sobieski. Sobieski ventured into the professional brewing arena in 2012 after 25 years as a talented and award-winning homebrewer. And, in recent months Preston Weesner (former Master Blender at Portland’s Cascade Brewing) has joined the partnership to oversee and assist in the development of mixed fermentation and wild ales.

Wild Barrel Brewing is open daily and located at 692 Rancheros Drive in San Marcos, very close to many North San Diego County Highway 78-adjacent breweries.  

(l-r) Firkfest founder Greg Nagel with The Good Beer Co’s Brandon Fender at the 2017 Firkfest. 

Firkfest 2018

Founded by OC Beer Blog’s Greg Nagel, Firkfest returns to Anaheim for its fifth year on March 24. Firkfest 2018 will be benefiting the Anaheim Fall Festival & Halloween Parade, a community event that has been held since 1923.

Last year’s Firkfest Caskaway Tiki Beer Fest added a tropical theme to what had previously been a more traditional cask beer festival. The callout to participating brewers for Tropical-style casks turned out to be very successful. In addition to traditional British-style casks, many theme-inspired treats were in store, with creations like Trevor Wall’s Kalua Pork Porter (from RIIP), Chapman Crafted’s Coconut IPA, Anaheim’s Coconut Hef, POG-flavored (passion fruit-orange-guava) beers from Bruery Terreux and Stereo, Mango IPA from Left Coast, and Pineapple IPA from Tustin. The Tiki theme will return again this year so you can expect more on March 24 from noon to 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Anaheim Packing District.  

Yorkshire Square

A recent visit to Yorkshire Square Brewery in Torrance found a good deal of progress made since its 2017 opening. 10 draft taps (including one nitro-tap) have joined the eight half-pull beer engines. Patrons can now enjoy a number of draft choices in addition to real ale. Among the delightfully quaffable cask offerings were Early Doors Ordinary Bitter, The Drift Dark Mild and The Jonathan Porter (an apparent nod to nearby Smog City Brewing Co’s Jonathan Porter). Some creative beer cocktails are also being offered.

Yorkshire Square had its first bottle release during the holidays. T’Ould Lad is an English old-style ale which finished at a hearty 9% alcohol by volume. Brewed with molasses, YS-made invert sugar and British barley and hops, it was a Pro-Am collaboration with local homebrewer James Hillbing. James was winner of the 2017 Pacific Brewers Cup, an AHA/BJCP sanctioned homebrew competition open to all homebrewers, which celebrated its 21st year in 2017. PBC affiliated homebrew clubs include Pacific Gravity, Strand Brewers and Long Beach Home Brewers.