MankerBeer Meets: Pre-GABF: Shawn DeWitt/Coronado Brewing Co.

shawndewitt

Photo: Olradet.se

My relation to California based brewery Coronado Brewing Company have not been a long one. The first time I tried a beer from the brewery, previously only a brewpub on the Coronado island outside San Diego was as close back as to May this year. Since then a lot has happened; they held a short seminar at Danish brewer Mikkeller’s Copenhagen Beer Celebration and their beers are now found at most proper beer bars in Sweden. Despite them being new to me they have been in productions since 1996 when brothers Rick and Ron Chapman decided that it was time to dream less and do more, thus they opened up their brewpub in their hometown of Coronado. Now, 17 years later they recently released their collaboration with Cigar City, the California Common The Last Spike and with the new brewery brewing capacity increased by twelve times the old capacity, making it possible for them to reach outside their home market and even to go international.

If that was not enough their co-owner, co-founder and man-of-many-trades Shawn DeWitt happened to be in Sweden earlier this summer where he held a “meet the brewer” event. Unfortunately the event was held a little too far away for us to attend but as we will travel California and visit the brewery after GABF we already now took the liberty of talking to Shawn about the brewery, the US beer scene and GABF.


MankerBeer (MB):
Coronado Brewing Company has been around for a while, but only recently hit the Swedish market. Could you tell us about yourself and the brewery?
Shawn DeWitt (SDW):  Coronado Brewing Company started doing business on August 30th of 1996 as a brewpub. We only had a 10 barell system with 3 10 barell fermenters and a four head tap tower. I am one of the founding partners and was our first brewer. I also managed the restaurant, ran our first bottling line, did sales, was our director of brewery operations, president of the San Diego Brewers Guild, and currently our regional sales manager.

We are coming up on 17 years of existence, have expanded the brewpub to now have 12 20 barell fermenters along with the 3 10 barell fermenters. We have opened up a production/tasting room facility in San Diego that has a 30 barell system, 6 60 barell fermenters, 2 90 barell fermenters, 5 120 barell fermenters, with another 4 120 barell fermenters coming. We will double our barells sold this year from last.

MB: For a while you were the president of the San Diego Brewers Guild, apart from promoting local craft beer are there any practical benefits the guild assist with which might help newly started breweries?
SDW: The guild provides direction for new breweries who want it. The guild fields many emails from guild members and new potential members in regards to info needed to start a brewery or help with the permit process.

MB: In my opinion San Diego is one of the most craft beery cities in the world, are there any simple answers to why so many of the top US craft breweries has located themselves in and around the city?
SDW: Currently we have 72 breweries in San Diego with another 35 in planning and I believe that is the case because of the early successes of the first breweries that began in San Diego in the mid 90’s. We have many talented brewers in town and many stay because of the weather and the brewery environment we have here in San Diego. We all work together to help promote craft beer as a whole.

MB: I really have to know, what is the story behind the beer and the name Idiot IPA?
SDW: The story behind the idiot ipa is that it is our double ipa and we first brewed that beer about 8 years go to keep up with our fellow brewers here in San Diego. The name came from the first time we all sat down together and had one pint. After one pint, our general manager of the pub at that time, stood up to go to the restroom and said he felt like an idiot after just one pint. Thus the name took off and was called idiot ipa. It comes in at 8.5%.

MB: Between 2010 and with the new brewing facility opening last year you have increased the product from 5.000 to 60.000 barrels, thats a lot of beers. How does a brewery adapt to such an increase in production capability?
SDW: The adaption process is a challenging one on many levels. For starters, you have the increase of need for money to buy more tanks and equipment to support the expansion of your barells. You also have to hire more people and train them up to fit into your brewery. What I think is the most challenging aspect of growing is your ability to secure all of the hops, malts, and kegs you need to expand. Hops and malts are a commodity and each year you really don’t know how good of a yield you will get. Obviously you need hops and malt to make beer and when they become tight, that is when I get quite nervous. As for the kegs, you have so many new breweries opening up and it is simple supply and demand. Right now pub kegs or one way kegs that we send to Sweden are in very tight supply and we actually could not send Sweden any draft beer on this last order due to a lack of kegs.

MB: The demand for craft beer, all over the US but also internationally appears to grow every day. Still many breweries would have to triple or even quadruble their brewing capacity before being able to deliver beers to all national markets that request their brews. How will the craft beer brewery scene look like in the future? Will we have more larger craft breweries or will they have to be protectional and focus more on the core markets?
SDW: Currently we have approximately 2600 breweries in the US and most of them are of the nano size or quite small. For those breweries, you most likely would not see their beer in any markets other that their own. The bigger breweries understand that the foreign markets for craft beer are growing and are planning for that with extra capacity. However, I do know that the rule of thumb for shipping beer is to not short your local markets. Thus the beer will stay here in the US if it is limited.

MB: When going to San Diego, what new breweries and beer bars should one make sure not to miss?
SDW: In my opinion, one of the best new breweries in San Diego is Society Brewing Company. They make great beers and have a cool tasting room. I would also say the new Ballast Point restaurant in Little Italy would be one you have to hit while you are here. If you go to the San Diego Brewers guild website, there is a guide of all breweries in San Diego.

MB: We love food, and we love beer. What food and beer pairings would you suggest for the Coronado Brewing beers?
SDW: Our favorite food pairings we have done in the past couple of years has been with Cheese. We like pairing our idiot ipa with a red snap dragon cheese and we liked our Hoppy Daze (Belgian ipa) paired with a cheese by the name of purple haze. I believe any of our ipas will pair very well with most cheeses. Of course our coffee stout pairs well with most desserts. Our mermaid red goes well with our pastas.

MB:
What are you looking forward to with GABF and how important is the festival for breweries and the American beer scene?
SDW: What I look forward to most in the GABF is seeing many old friends and trying beers I have never had before. It is very important to the US beer scene as it supports our BA (brewers association) who is our watchdog and leader on many beer topics here in the US.

MB: Are there anything all GABF-debutants reallly shouldn’t miss and/or think about at GABF?
SDW: If it is your first time to GABF, then I highly recommend taking time to go east in Colorado and do brewery tours. It is amazing to see how many cool breweries there are, New Belgium, Odell, Oskar Blues, Lefthand, Avery, Great Divide, Boulder Brew, and so many more. You can hit most of these breweries in one day.

MB: What cool Coronado brews will be poured at the festival?
SDW: We will ofcourse be serving all of our core beers and the fun beers we will have our Berry the Hatchet (berry beer), Rye Dogg Ipa ( rye ipa), Rauch Sham bo (smoked lager), Old Blighty (ESB), Borracho Brown (American brown), and our Saison. So lots to choose from.

Some great beers there that will be poured in Denver during GABF. We high five Shawn for taking the time to deal with us and we look forward to visit the brewery and brewpub in San Diego. If any of you readers out there have any recommendations in or around San Diego, except for the obvious world class breweries, please tell us. We love a good dinner and hidden gems.

Magnus "Manker" Björnstjerna

Grundare och skribent på MankerBeer.com. Från ett fokus på allt vad USA har att erbjuda och med en kärlek till gedigen amerikansk mat, bra bourbon och framförallt all landets fantastiska öl har Manker nu börjat förstå storheten i belgisk öl.

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