Beers by the Bay
By Brian Riehm
This month’s brewery visit was to Council Brewing. I talked to Tasting Room manager Kelsey Eck about Council’s history and business. The tasting room and brewery first opened for business in 2014. Liz and Curtis Chism, the owners, had sold their home and started up their new brewing business in 2013, after winning awards for their home brew ales. They wanted to emphasize traditional ale styles, which includes Saisons. They experimented with a sour version of this traditional French farmhouse ale that uses lactobacillus in addition to yeast. The result was the Beatitude series of tart Saisons, their signature series. Beatitudes incorporate a variety of fruit flavors, such as passion fruit, mango, and raspberry. The Chisms started with a 3 barrel system, adding fruit that was donated to them by customers. They have since expanded to three 45 Barrel fermenters. They seem to have found a niche that was missing in the San Diego Beer Market, now bottling the series and selling to 160 accounts, primarily in Southern California. Even with the increase in production Kelsey said they have no plans to open a satellite Tasting Room.
Like many San Diego breweries, Council Brewing is located in an industrial park. They are in Kearny Mesa at 7705 Convoy Court. The interior has an old-school feel with wooden barrels stacked up at the entrance and a long wooden bar in front of the 16 taps. Music from the 60s to the 80s played in the background during my recent visit. The tasting room is advertised as kid friendly, but only service dogs are allowed and was fairly full mid-week. Food trucks are typically limited to Friday and Saturday.
If lightly hopped, low alcohol tarts aren’t your style, Council has a a full lineup of traditional ales, from IPAs to stouts to Tripels. Their Bully Pulpit IPA won Bronze at the San Diego International Beer Festival in 2015 for American IPA and is a solid entry in this traditional local category. Liz Chism’s brewing philosophy is to go for complex but balanced ales. While visiting the brewery on two occasions, this philosophy delivered some great beer. The Belgian Tripel with Brett came out spicy and smooth. It is one of the offerings from the “Magic Factory” where Liz can experiment with new recipes.
As I mentioned before, Bully Pulpit is an excellent IPA. Both my brother Dean and I give it high marks; it has great hopping with citrus/tropical Mosaic hops and enough malt backing to give it great balance. My personal favorite was the Pirate’s Breakfast Stout. Stouts run the gamut from sweet and creamy to bitter chocolate. This stout found the perfect balance between the two to keep your interest. (The brewery is having a “Talk Like a Pirate Event” September 17 and 19.) I felt that I would have been remiss had I not tried some tarts, even though they aren’t my favorite style. The Beatitude Cherry Tart Saison was impressive. The sweetness from the cherries offset the sour tart base just enough to make a very enjoyable beer.
Brian Riehm is a long-time Clairemont resident and follower of the local craft beer scene. You can keep up with all his beer reviews by following @BrianRiehm on Twitter and reading his blog (brianssandiego.blogspot.com