ALL CRAFT EVERYTHING
By. Gonzalo J. Quintero, Ed.D.
This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of West Coaster San Diego.
Conscious consumers are demanding high caliber, locally made artisanal products; this stretches beyond beer. Golden Coast Mead, for example, is gaining momentum with their varieties of mead crafted from California honey and Palomar Mountain spring water. Ballast Point will soon release craft cocktails in cans: Fugu Vodka & Bloody Mary; Three Sheets Rum & Ginger; Three Sheets Rum & Cola; and Old Grove Gin & Tonic. The San Diego Distillers Guild now has seven members: Old Harbor, Ballast Point, Kill Devil, Liberty Call, Malahat, California Spirits Co., and Twisted Manzanita. Coffee roasters and their craft beer collaborations are reaching new heights and hype. Even local ice creamery Niederfrank’s has gotten into the collaboration game, churning cream utilizing South Park Brewing Company beers. San Diego is a bastion of creativity and open-mindedness, and it’s easy to see why.
Another trend making its way around the county is root beer. While only Mission Brewery is crafting and distributing a hard root beer, several local operations are creating a non-alcoholic version for consumers. ChuckAlek, Hillcrest, Groundswell, Thorn St., Arcana, Ballast Point Scripps Ranch, and Stone are among those serving soft beer in their tasting rooms.
We sat down with Bobby Oliver (Mission) and Grant Fraley (ChuckAlek) to discuss.
WC: Give us the skinny on your hard root beer:
Oliver: It’s bold. It’s robust. It has just the right amount of sweetness; it’s well-balanced like it should be, even at 7.5% ABV.
WC: How do you brew it?
Oliver: We make a neutral malt base which is essentially a strong ale, and blend it with our proprietary root beer fixings. Brew it all together, carb it high to get a bunch of bubbles to recreate that same mouth feel as a soft soda root beer, and there you go. Boom goes the dynamite.
WC: What’s the response been?
Oliver: Excellent. People are going crazy for it. When it hits retail shelves it’s gone as quick as it hits. There’s a few reasons for that. There’s nothing like it brewed locally or on the West Coast for that matter. It’s local and super fresh.
WC: Where did the idea come from?
Oliver: Originally we started to brew craft cocktails: Mission Mule, White Peach Margarita, Blueberry Paloma, Frozen Tropical Punch, and Frozen Orange Lemonade. Given our location is close to downtown and Petco it was a natural progression given the requests from our visitors. These craft cocktails did well. This motivated the owner of our brewery who approached Mission Brewer Quentin E. Anderson about expanding these ideas; Mission’s Hard Root Beer was born.
WC: What do you think is the future of these new craft concoctions?
Oliver: People are stoked. We already live in the biggest beer city in the world. People love to support their home town breweries. I myself use Ballast Point Mai Thai Mix and Bloody Mary mix because it’s good, it’s local, and there is nothing like it. We’re just going to keep at it and see what happens.
WC: Why do you serve Soft Root Beer at your brewery?
Fraley: It is exciting to share a house made soda, but it is also a responsible option for both our customers and their children.
WC: How is it craft?
Fraley: We make root beer by hand, in small batches, with natural ingredients, much like our craft beer. The recipe was artfully crafted for Nate’s Garden Grill with quality and depth of flavor in mind.
WC: What is the next step in craft beverages?
Fraley: We’ll certainly see more craft sodas offered alongside craft beer and craft spirits, which will propel cocktails and blends beyond canned Radler (fruited malt beverages). All of this should further the family-friendly vibe of many local craft beer spots.
The photo above is courtesy of
Here’s a home soft root beer recipe I’ve worked on over many batches…