TASTE News Service October 24, 2014 - Located at the western end of San Diego’s “Hops Highway,” Oceanside’s craft beer industry is booming. In the last year, nearly a dozen new venues, from microbreweries and tasting rooms to gastro pubs with a craft beer focus, have opened in the city providing visitors and locals with numerous options for sampling the best brew of the region.
So fast and furious has been the growth in craft beer venues, that Visit Oceanside recently added a dedicated section to its website (www.visitoceanside.org/oside-beer-tours) where visitors can view an interactive map of the venues and also be inspired by recommended “pub crawl” itineraries. These itineraries include the Coast Highway Crawl, which features hot spots that offer both sensational beers and delicious local eats; Brews on Shoes where visitors can explore the diverse beer scene in downtown Oceanside’s walking district; South O Swing that takes visitors to the charming neighborhood of South Oceanside, which sports a fun and eclectic vibe and is frequented predominately by locals; and Back Alley Brews featuring popular brew spots off the beaten path, but worth checking out.
“People have always traveled for great food and drink and, when it comes to craft beer, Oceanside is serving it up in spades,” says Leslee Gaul, CEO of Visit Oceanside. “Our map is like an insider’s guide to the area and makes it easy for visitors to decide which places they want to check out during their stay.”
Among the most ambitious of the newly opened beer venues, and destined to become a flagship destination for Oceanside, is Bagby Beer Company. Two years in the making, the 1,500 square foot facility is prominently located on Coast Highway and features two stories, outdoor gardens, a restaurant, private dining room and on-site brewing with special tasting areas where guests can watch legendary brew master Jeff Bagby in action. Formerly a brew master for the Pizza Port chain, Bagby is one of the most highly decorated brew masters in the country and recently took home a bronze medal at the prestigious 2014 Great American Beer Festival in Colorado for his Dry Stout Asphault Jungle, only the fourth batch of beer to be made at his new facility.
“Craft beer is the perfect fit for Oceanside’s laid-back surf culture and creative spirit,” says Gaul. “The quickly expanding Oceanside beer scene is being spearheaded by local entrepreneurs looking to create fun, one-of-a-kind experiences and a destination where locals and visitors want to hangout.”
Oceanside’s other homegrown beer labels with tasting rooms include the popular Oceanside Ale Works—Oceanside's first microbrewery, Legacy Brewing Company—which pays homage to the founding fathers of the United States, and Breakwater Brewing Company—a downtown gathering place since 2008. Although not technically a beer, Golden Coast Mead is another specialty drink made in Oceanside and also recently opened a tasting room to showcase its popular version of mead, a drink that dates back to ancient times.
Complementing Oceanside’s local beer labels are an eclectic mix of new restaurants, tasting rooms and tasting gardens that feature a wide selection of regional craft beer. Like Bagby, many of these venues have made their homes along Coast Highway near Oceanside’s downtown beach community. Some, like Surfside Tap Room, Stone Company Store Oceanside and Beer Brewing Company, are primarily places for beer tasting. Others, such as Local Tap House, Master’s Kitchen & Cocktails and Mission Avenue Bar & Grill combine a rotating selection of regional beer with delicious local pub cuisine based on fresh, seasonal ingredients.
“Craft brew is taking off throughout San Diego and Oceanside is defining its niche in the industry,” says Gaul. “Each of our local venues has a unique personality, but all are reflective of our city’s popular beach culture and welcoming spirit.”
For more than 125 years, Oceanside has been known as an ideal place to stay and experience Southern California's casual spirit. Located along the beautiful Southern California coastline between metropolitan San Diego and Los Angeles, Oceanside boasts a number of important historical and cultural attractions such as Mission San Luis Rey (The King of Missions), California's longest wooden pier, vintage 101 Café, 1920's era Robert's Cottages, Top Gun House, California Surf Museum and the Oceanside Museum of Art. The city has served as a film location for dozens of Hollywood productions and was once the preferred getaway of many of Hollywood's elite. Bordering Camp Pendleton, Oceanside has long enjoyed a strong relationship with the U.S. military and a deep commitment to the men and women serving the nation. Today, with 3.5 miles of sandy beach, a quaint New England-style harbor and a stellar year-round climate, Oceanside is a highly sought after location for enjoying active pursuits including surfing, stand up paddling, kayaking, boating, fishing, bike-riding, skydiving and more.
Editor's note: If you're thinking of visiting Oceanside, or any of San Diego County, check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as sections linking to the sites of area wineries and craft beer specialists.
by Dan Clarke
Steve Moulds didn't arrive in the Napa Valley until 1998, but the move was long-planned. He and his wife-to-be Betsy met at San Jose State after returning form duty in the Peace Corps—he in Honduras, she in Brazil. After college Betsy became a school teacher, Steve a Spanish-speaking social worker helping people in the farm labor camps around Gilroy. After several years in the south Bay Area, the couple “moved back up the Peninsula” where Steve went into commercial real estate. He stayed 25 years, eventually becoming a partner in the firm.
“It was always our dream to get up to the Napa Valley,” Steve explains. Actually, Steve and Betsy spent a good deal of time in the Napa Valley before moving there, as they often visited Bob and Sue Brakesman, friends from college, who had started Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery on Howell Mountain in 1971. Steve refers to the eventual move from the Bay Area to Napa and what was to become Moulds Family Vineyard as “re-potting.”
When Steve and Betsy purchased their 57 acres northwest of the city of Napa in the Oak Knoll District there was no vineyard. Though the property was being used as horse pasture, the surrounding area had a good reputation for grapes. Cooler than sub-appellations further north in the Napa Valley, the neighborhood was mostly planted to Chardonnay, but some Pinot Noir, that other Burgundian varietal, was there also. “Early on we decided to plant Cabernet,” Moulds says. He believed the slightly cooler climate would allow a bit more “hang time” (somewhat slower ripening and longer time on the vine before picking) for greater flavor development. “We've been very pleased,” he adds.
Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for most of the 10 planted acres at Moulds Family Vineyard, but Steve has also put in some Cabernet Franc “to give another tool to one of our winemakers.” Lisa Drinkward of Behrens Family Winery on Spring Mountain confirms that Behrens is the Cab Franc client. “We love his grapes,” she says. The Cabernet Franc is really a tiny portion. We get just over a ton.” Todd Newman, whose small production Dakota Shy wines are all on allocation, is another big fan. He comments that Moulds has “a meticulous attention to detail. His very fine and very, very detailed approach allows us to come back year after year and better understand the growing scene. Steve has that passion in the vineyard like we have in the winery. It's our favorite vineyard to work with. We actually do a single-vineyard bottling from the Moulds vineyard.” Other wineries using Moulds Family Vineyard grapes include Mirror, Piper and Johnson.
Pursuit of quality doesn't come cheaply for growers in the Napa Valley. Steve Moulds walks a visitor through his hillside Cabernet Sauvignon vines, pausing to show the seemingly perfectly-placed canes. All rise between horizontally from cordons on each side of the vine. There is a plastic “Kiwi clip” around every one, which loosely tethers it to the wire so that windy days will not cause the canes to tangle. Steve does some quick calculations in his head and estimates the seemingly astronomical number of clips that go on each year. Rafael Montanez of A & J Vineyard Supply in St. Helena quotes a unit cost of three cents for each of these—not expensive, he says, until you're ordering thousands of them. Still, it's not the cost of the clips, but the cost of labor to attach them that makes this aspect of high-end farming so dear, Moulds explains
In May Steve Moulds began his two-year term as President of the 690-member Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG). Sustainable farming issues are a big part of the work of the NVG, but Moulds acknowledges other concerns loom. “People are concerned about the growth of tourism and the impact on the Napa Valley that our success has brought about,” he says. “Napa is a world class destination now and that brings challenges and responsibilities.
“One of the things that makes this valley so amazing is that it's been protected from overdevelopment by some forward-thinking leaders,” Moulds stresses. “In 1968 these leaders formed the agricultural preserve, one of the first in the nation, and this ag preserve has farming as the 'highest and best use' of the land. We try to guard against any incursions that are not agriculturally oriented.”
Asked about the future, Steve Moulds replies, “I'm obviously enthusiastic or I wouldn't be planting a vineyard again. It helps keep me young.” (Moulds will celebrate his 70th birthday in December, but the avid cyclist looks fitter than most men a decade or two younger.) In 1996 he took a solo bike ride from Canada to Mexico. Ten years later he cycled from Virginia to Napa and just two years ago he reversed the cross-country direction in traveling from San Diego to St. Augustine. These days Steve gets his exercise with his fellow Clydesdales. Members of this club must be over 60-years old and over 200 pounds. “We take a 30-mile ride every Friday,” he says, “and then repair to a very nice restaurant for a very long lunch to replace all the calories we've just burned off.”
Steve and Betsy planted their vineyard in 2000. “In 2003 my wife and I went back to school at Napa Valley College and in 2005 we both graduated with degrees in viticulture,” Steve says. “That was the foundation we gave ourselves by attending the (Napa Valley College) classes, but the continuing education via classes from Napa Valley Grapegrowers is so intense, so up-to-date, for me it's like going to graduate school. The NVG looks for ways to help people farm more efficiently and more sustainably. Personally, on this ranch I try to apply something new every year in an attempt to improve our quality.”
2013 Sauvignon Blanc
Suggested Retail: $16
“Mason is something of a rarity in the Cabernet-centric Napa Valley—a Sauvignon Blanc specialist. Though the label on the 2013 vintage indicates a Napa Valley provenance, it could just as well have said 'Yountville,' as the grapes came from a single, certified organic vineyard in that growing region a few miles north of the city of Napa. Though Sauvignon Blanc is sometimes blended with Semillon—notably in Bordeaux, but occasionally in California—the Mason 2013 vintage is 100% Sauvignon Blanc.
“We found floral and melon aromas, with a bit of grapefruit in the background. In the mouth there's more of that melon and citrus aspect and some of the grassiness characteristic of the modern New Zealand style with this variety. However, there is a richness that few of the Kiwi versions can attain. This is likely due to the batonnage, a process in which Mason puts a portion of the wine into stainless steel barrels on top of the lees (spent yeast cells from the fermentation). The lees are then stirred three times a week and eventually this Sauvignon Blanc is reunited with the rest of the blend. The result is a richer, more complex finished product. In this wine we found a subtle creaminess that complemented the citrus quality. There's a lovely balance and a long finish.”
Food Affinity: “The Mason Sauvignon Blanc is definitely food-friendly. Our first thought was simply grilled white fish—perhaps halibut or sea bass. Of course, many chicken dishes would also be appropriate. A whole roast chicken with some lemon zest and sliced ginger slipped between skin and the bird's flesh would be excellent.”
San Francisco, CA
Serving style: 12-oz bottles and cans
Availability: Year round in many US Markets
Appearance: “Kind of like a Boddington's color. Not really amber, I'd say it's medium-gold.”
Aroma: “Not much.”
Taste: “It has a lively flavor. A little hoppy, but not too much.”
Food Affinity: “Enjoyed with calamari as served during happy hour at Clark's Corner in Sacramento.”
Reviewer Ray Thompson is a retired attorney