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The Carlsbad Beer Boom

Burgeon joins a lineup of existing and upcoming breweries in North County's latest craft beer mecca


Burgeon Beer Company is Carlsbad's newest brewery. | Photo: Bruce Glassman

Here’s one more prediction for 2017: By the end of the year, Carlsbad will have at least 10 breweries, if not a dozen or more.

Thanks to Pizza Port (first on Carlsbad Village Drive and then in Bressi Ranch), Carlsbad has had good craft beer for a while now, but—compared to many of its neighbors—it hasn’t had all that much of it. Compared to the brewing meccas of Vista and San Marcos—and most recently Oceanside—Carlsbad has trailed the other 78 corridor towns in the number of breweries within its city limits. On-The-Tracks opened in 2011, followed by Arcana (formerly Fezziwig’s) in 2012. Then there was relatively little activity for a while.

Culver Beer Co. in Carlsbad. | Photo: Bruce Glassman

Starting a bit more than a year ago, however, the brewing landscape in Carlsbad started to change noticeably. Guadalupe Brewing opened a few doors down from On-The-Tracks and then, in 2016, Culver Beer Co. began brewing just off Palomar Airport Road (close to Pizza Port in Bressi Ranch). By the end of last year, Carlsbad had its newest brewery—Burgeon Beer Company—which opened its doors in December, also in the Palomar Airport/El Camino Real neighborhood, only minutes from Pizza Port. Burgeon’s opening brought the brewery count for Carlsbad up to seven, which is more than double the number from only five years ago. Now, figure in the three new breweries that are already in the works for 2017 (which brings the total to 10), plus any others who make themselves known to us in the coming months, and you’ve got yourself a bona fide brewing boom.

Two of the planned breweries—Wiseguy and Rouleur—will be projects backed by Brewery Igniter, which has already helped to launch five new breweries in the past year or so (in Miramar and North Park). The two new breweries will be side-by-side in a location on El Camino Real, also not far from the other established Carlsbad brewers. The third planned brewery, BlueWater, is supposed to open its doors in 2017, somewhere in Carlsbad Village.

It’s always nice to see an “undeveloped” area start to gain some “critical mass,” meaning that it has a number of breweries close enough to one another to become a real destination for beer lovers. Vista and San Marcos have done this in spades. Miramar has done it as well. Oceanside and North Park have done it. Now it’s Carlsbad’s turn.

Burgeon's tasting room. | Photo: Bruce Glassman

I recently stopped into Burgeon Beer Company to check out the area’s newest brewery and tasting room. I realized when I arrived that a visit to Burgeon coupled with a stop at Culver and Pizza Port Bressi Ranch would make for a perfect afternoon of Carlsbad beer touring. These three breweries are about five minutes from one another, and I would suggest ending the tour at Pizza Port, where a full menu of great beer-friendly food is available, along with an always-killer tap list.

The Burgeon tasting room is large and simply designed with numerous “green” elements that underscore its overall theme of growth and “planting roots” in the community. A huge live wall of greenery adds a dramatic touch, and the natural materials that occupy most of the space provide a comfortable, homey vibe. Co-Founder Matthew Zirpolo says that all three of the brewery’s founders (Zirpolo, Derek van Leeuwen, and Anthony Tallman) were born and raised in the Carlsbad area and they wanted their concept to emphasize the fact that their beer is “rooted in the local community.”

In terms of quality, Burgeon makes a fine addition to the San Diego beer scene. Hop lovers will be very happy here, as there are numerous IPAs to choose from as well as two very tasty and hoppy pale ales (the brewmaster, Anthony Tallman, is a Stone alum who has also brewed for Rough Draft and Backstreet). In addition to the piney and lemony Lot 19 Pale Ale, the Thuja American IPA was a particular standout, with a big blast of lemon and grapefruit on the nose and a very satisfying body—balanced and medium-bitter without being astringent.

Though there’s nothing Belgian on their opening lineup, the tap list is rounded out by a cream ale, a nut brown ale, a rye amber ale, and a milk stout. Of special note is the fact that all of Burgeon’s beer are fermented with a gluten-reducing enzyme that—according to Zirpolo—makes the beers palatable for gluten-intolerant folks (though they make no claims about specific gluten levels in their beers).

So, my advice for the coming year is to keep an eye on Carlsbad. If it follows the lead of its successful neighbors, this town will soon be home to many of our newest and brightest brewing stars.

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