GABF 2017

Photos by David Mulvihill. Second Chance Beer Co (front l-r): Assistant Brewer Ben Webb, Co-founder Virginia Morrison, Head Brewer Craig Gregovics, Co-founder Brewmaster Marty Mendiola, Co-founder Curtis Hawes. Eric Swanson is just behind Craig and Marty, lending a hand to the Mobile West canning staff.

From San Diego to San Luis Obispo, Southern California breweries returned home with a total of 37 medals from this year’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver. A complete list of winners can be found at We’ll highlight some of the gold medal winners here. 

Beginning north, San Luis Obispo’s Central Coast Brewing Co. scored gold for a beer that has been recognized at the past three GABF competitions. Its Monterey Street Pale Ale also received a gold medal in 2015, followed by silver in 2016. This bright pale with satisfying hop profile is definitely worth seeking out when you are in the area. In addition to tap houses in the region, it can be found at the source, the brewery tasting room on Monterey Street. Central Coast is in the process of building a new second facility across town at 6 Higuera Street, which will expand brewery production and have food.

Working our way south, SoCal gold was also received by Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach. Hoppa Emeritus, a black IPA, won in the American Black Ale category.  Beachwood’s nearby Blendery was awarded a bronze medal for its entry in the Chili Beer category. 

Stereo Brewing Co’s Amanda Pearce-Smets and Rick Smets.

Orange County’s only gold went to Placentia’s Stereo Brewing Company, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in October. Owner and Brewer Rick Smets has a dedication to brewing that began professionally at San Clemente’s Left Coast Brewing Company when it opened to produce beers for Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing and its Left Coast signature line. On a side-note, Oggi’s garnered a 2017 GABF silver medal for its McGarvey’s Scottish Ale. Rick’s brewing education began under the tutelage of Tom Nickel (currently of O’Brien’s Pub, and Nickel Beer Co.). He assumed the role of head brewer when Nickel exited Left Coast. Smets later moved to Firestone Walker in Paso Robles before returning to Orange County to plan the opening of his own brewery. This first medal confirms his commitment to quality and taste.

Refuge Brewery (Temecula) earned a gold for its Blood Orange Wit (Belgian-style fruit beer). Over 200lbs of fresh local blood oranges go into every batch.

San Diego took home the remaining five Southern California gold medals. 

Karl Straus Carlsbad topped the honey beer category with its Orange Blossom Common. Brewed in the California Common Ale tradition (utilizing lager yeast and fermenting at ale temperatures), the beer incorporates toasted malts, citrusy hops and honey. Last year Karl’s San Diego production brewery was awarded Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year. Pizza Port Ocean Beach came through with the best session beer, Guillaume, a Belgian-style blonde. 

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens (Liberty Station) did the same in the Other Belgian-Style Ale category for its Witty Moron. This beer deviates dramatically, at least in color, from a traditional Belgian wit beer. Instead of a light appearance, Witty Moron utilizes dark malts that result in its dark color, while still maintaining citrus and spice qualities reminiscent of a traditional witbier.

The Imperial India Pale Ale category was bested by Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Manta Ray. The brewery, purchased by Constellation Brands in 2015 for $1 billion, has maintained a cult following for many years for its Sculpin IPA.

Carmel Mountain’s Second Chance Beer Company received its second gold in as many years for Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter. Second Chance also scored silver for Legally Red, its red IPA (American-Style Amber/Red Ale category). It was the only single-location brewery in San Diego to win two medals this year. Co-owner/Brewmaster Marty Mendiola is no stranger to the GABF and World Beer Cup honors stages. Although Second Chance has only been open for two years, the three medals from these past two years bring Marty’s GABF medal total to 13. Prior to opening Second Chance, Mendiola spent many years seasoning his craft at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery in La Jolla where he earned 10 GABF and six World Beer Cup awards. He is ably assisted these days by Head Brewer Craig Gregovics and Assistant Brewer Ben Webb. 

About their entries Mendiola shared, “We had some good hopes this year. We were going in thinking everything was tasting really good. But, we didn’t want to get too hyped up.”

The team was milling in to brew a new batch of Tabula Rasa when I went by to congratulate them on their achievement.

Much is currently in the works at Second Chance. New 90-barrel fermenters have recently come on line, the new grain silo is up and running and easing the milling process and a canning line has also been purchased and is expected to be set up in the coming months. And, a Second Chance Beer Company second tasting room is in the works for San Diego’s North Park Community which will be located on 30th Street, across from Toronado in what has become known as the 30th Street Beer Corridor. 

Cheddar & IPA

Chefs Steve Gil and Andrea Machuca-Kirkland, Center Street Cheese Shop/The Culinary Underground.

Center Street Cheese Shop on Center Street Promenade in Anaheim recently joined Chefs Andrea Machuca-Kirkland of The Culinary Underground & Steve Gil of Center Street Cheese Shop for a night featuring farmhouse cheddars and special IPAs from Artifex Brewing Company, Tustin Brewing Company and Unsung Brewing Company.

In the first course, apples-three-ways (apple whiskey butter, dried Granny Smiths, and pickled apples) were served with Old Quebec Cheddar and paired with Anthia IPA from Unsung Brewing Company. Unsung’s core IPA was contrasted by the apple butter and dried apple, while the pickled apples enhanced and heightened the hop experience. 

Center Street Cheese Shop’s Cheddar & Craft IPA tasting.

A spicy Big John Cajun Rubbed Cheddar with pickled veggies, hop salted Marcona almonds and IPA beer mustard came with a collaborative XPA brewed by Artifex & TBC for TBCs 21st Anniversary. The quenching crisp and hoppy beer stood up well to the spices that accompanied the dish.

Next came a cave-aged Chandoka Cheddar, apple-pear mostarda and spiced nuts with TBCs newest rendition of Jackson’s Double IPA. Refreshing and flavor-packed, a reciprocal complementing of flavors ensued.

Sofa King Good, an 8% ABV IPA brewed by Artifex and exuding the dry-hopped Mosaic and Mandarina Bavaria aromas and flavors, accompanied a dessert of Braeburn apple galette with goat caramel, shaved Old Quebec Cheddar, Vermont Creamery whipped creme fraiche, apple chips, Thai micro mint and granola crumble. Delicious on their own, the combination of ingredients served to elevate each component.

Let’s close with these flavor-filled words from Chef Andrea, “Wine is fine, but beer + cheddar is better—especially with local beer from @artifexbrewingcompany, @tustinbrewery, and @unsungbrewing!”