Novo Brazil

Photos by David Mulvihill. Novo Brazil Brewer Mike Fuson.

There is a brewery in San Diego County that has grown quietly in its first couple of years in business. It has made great strides in producing world-class quality and tasteful beer. Bordering on San Diego proper, the City of Chula Vista is home to Novo Brazil Brewing.

In tasting through the beers on tap, most will be impressed by the clean and vibrant flavors evident in each beer. Too many breweries exist today where this isn’t the case.

Marcio Vareja, a member of Novo Brazil’s ownership team, took time to show me around the brewery and to share a bit about Novo Brazil. “The goal here is drinkability, not losing flavors, not losing the West Coast itself, but we try to translate West Coast beer and add a tropical flair,” Marcio shared. Novo’s brewer, Mike Fuson, had just added hops to one brew in the boiling process while also mashing out a sequential batch as we approached the brew deck of the beautiful Brazilian-made multi-vessel brewhouse. Just like its owners, almost all of the equipment in the brewery came from Brazil.

Novo Brazil’s Master Brewer Eduardo Pentagna was formerly a partner in a Brazilian craft brewery (Cervejaria Wäls) founded by his uncle Miguel Carneiro and Miguel’s two sons. Proceeds from the sale of that concern assisted Miguel and partners in building and opening the Chula Vista brewery in April, 2015. Eduardo’s current active role with Novo Brazil began in 2016. Since that time, the product has witnessed positive advancement, along with impressive recognition. A bronze medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup was awarded in the British-Style Imperial Stout category for Corvo Negro Russian Imperial Stout. And, along with a number of other awards, the title of World’s Best Strong Dark Beer was awarded at the 2016 World Beer Awards in London for Novo’s bourbon barrel-aged Cookie Muncher, a 12% dark strong ale. This beer again received the title at this past December’s World Beer Awards, along with accolades as the World’s Best Dark Beer and 2017 overall taste winner. Clean spirits are present in the aroma, accompanied by hints of cognac. The alcohol was not overpowering upon tasting. Instead, refined flavors and essences of chocolate and vanilla sweetness were present, finishing with alcohol warmth. Hearty at 12% ABV, this beer is a sipper worth enjoying with a few friends, and would make a fine accompaniment with dessert or a fine cigar. 

Other beers on the board during this visit included Chula Pils, a 5% dry hopped hoppy lager, Rio Pale Ale (5.5%), Belo Blonde (formulated with Citra hops, lemon and basil), and Novo’s take on a Berliner Weisse. Well-appointed IPAs included Otay IPA (Amarillo, Cascade, Simcoe, Centennial, and Citra hops), Mango IPA (Novo’s best seller), Ipanema Double IPA and Bossa Haze Double IPA, which possessed the extra degree of balance lacking in many haze-craze creations. On the barrel-aged side, the aforementioned award-winning brews were also joined by a Chardonnay barrel-aged version of Belo Blonde.

Brew Ho Ho 2017

(l-r) TAPS Fish House & Brewery’s Maxwell Jones and Jonathan Chiusano with Cameron Collins (Brew Ha Ha Productions) at December’s Brew Ho Ho.

This year’s traditionally cool and wintery (weather-wise) OC Brew Ho Ho at Anaheim’s Phoenix Club was very atypical, at least in temperature. Record-breaking warm temps capped in the upper 80s during the early December event.

Some of the winter warmers and holiday creations included Chapman Crafted’s C is for Cookie, an 8% ABV cookie stout collaboratively brewed with Brewery Rex, with flavors of chocolate, toffee and hints of vanilla. The Bruery’s 10 Lords-A Leaping, a dark imperial wit packed with holiday spices and dried fruit, danced on one’s palate with a competition of flavors. Stereo Brewing Co was dispensing its Tijuana Brass, a Mexican Hot Chocolate-flavored stout. It was part of the brewery’s Winter Tour 2017 series. Unsung Brewing Co holiday-ed its Propeller Head amber ale with peppermint and cacao nibs.

The English Beat performed at December’s Brew Ho Ho. 

Musical entertainment has stepped up over the past few years, since Cameron Collins and Brew Ha Ha Productions has teamed with Synergy Global Entertainment on many other concert-beer festivals. The English Beat headlined this year and played for the final hour. The Ho Ho’s attendee mix of young and older craft beer enthusiasts made for an enjoyable synergy as 80s Ska met 2017’s Ho Ho and today’s English Beat fans combined with those of yesterday. 

Telegraph’s Epic Sale

Photo courtesy of Epic Brewing Co. The Telegraph Brewing team (Brian Thompson, Chris Thompson, Peter Baer, Patrick Ceriale and Joshua Shervinski) celebrates becoming part of Epic Brewing. 

Big news out of Santa Barbara includes much more than the devastating fires that have affected so many. In early December, Denver and Salt Lake City-based Epic Brewing Company announced its purchase of Telegraph Brewing Company. Investment plans disclosed in the press release call for expansion of Telegraph’s brewing operations and broadening of the brewery’s market as an additional brand in the Epic family.  

Epic’s commitment appears to focus on Telegraph continuing to brew its beer, but on a larger scale. Increasing production capacity will also involve moving seven of Epic’s foeders from its Denver brewery to Santa Barbara. New packaging options at Telegraph will include several new 12-ounce Telegraph-branded cans. In addition to continuing production of award-winning sours, expansion of Telegraph’s IPA line will incorporate a new series of “modern IPAs.”

Telegraph Brewing was founded in 2006 by Brian Thompson. His commitment to quality brewing and the dedication he and his team have had to the resulting product have allowed Thompson to accomplish a great deal in the 12 years Telegraph has been in business. In addition to the brewery’s numerous fans, confirmation has come via the many awards received, including six medals from the Great American Beer Festival and two from World Beer Cup. 

In speaking with Brian about the sale, he shared that the team is very excited about this move. Over the past two years, given changes in the industry that make it increasingly difficult for small breweries to stay competitive, relevant and viable, Brian had been looking to partner with a growing brewery that was navigating the climate successfully, believed in what Telegraph was doing and was interested in continuing and growing that brand. “Epic ticked all of those boxes and we are very excited by it,” Thompson added. He will continue with the brewery for some time as they work through the integration and transition with the Epic family. Brian’s original (and current) intent is to eventually exit within the next two years and embark on a new chapter in his life.”