Ballast Point's San Salvador Beer
The designation "specialty brewer" leaves a lot to the imagination. The same can not be said for the beers crafted by the guy at Ballast Point Brewing Company who holds that title. Known throughout craft brewing circles for award-winning beers, Colby Chandler (above, center) regularly uses his imagination to stretch beer styles beyond their traditional limits.
In 2010, he realized a lofty ambition he'd entertained for years when he brewed his first batch of San Salvador, a saison (European-style farmhouse ale) using ingredients that would have been present when Cabrillo landed at San Diego Bay in 1542.
This July, he tweaked the recipe, but kept the basis of the beer's tradition alive. Rather than rely on order forms, Chandler rounded up employees from The Linkery in North Park as well as their neighbors at North Park Native Plants, and took them out to rural East County to forage for ingredients such as elderberries, manzanita berries and white sage. The latter two were plucked from Wingshadows Hacienda, but it took a village of artisans to get this beer brewed. Wildflower honey was sourced from Hilliker Farms in Lakeside while Ramona's Star B Buffalo Ranch contributed Nugget hops from their pet project patch. California-grown barley, flaked corn, Crystal malts and pine nuts roasted within an inch of their lives (the deepest caramel color I've ever seen without being burnt) rounded out a most unique list of fuel for hungry yeast.
San Salvador ingredients: manzanita berries, elderberries, and sage
The result is a unique beer with herbaceous nuances and bold toasted nut notes. It's one of the more food-friendly beers on the local scene. Opportunities to test the validity of this statement will be provided via special events featuring San Salvador over the next two weeks at The Linkery (9/7), Sea Rocket Bistro (9/8), Hamilton's Tavern (9/10), The Ritual Tavern (9/15) and O'Brien's Pub (9/18). It is also available while (very limited) supplies last at Ballast Point's tasting bar in side Home Brew Mart.
Photos courtesy of Colby Chandler
About the Author: A native San Diegan, Brandon Hernández has been wading in a sea of local craft beer for 14 years. In addition to his work for San Diego Magazine, Hernández serves as the San Diego correspondent for Celebrator Beer News (the US' longest tenured craft beer publication), is a regular contributor to Wine Enthusiast and The Beer Connoisseur and has been a consultant for Food Network. Keep up on his articles about ales, lagers, food, restaurants, chefs and the culinary arts on Twitter at @offdutyfoodie.