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10 Years of Good Beer Brings Good Cheer

As many of you know, I was hired by Pizza Port in May of 1997. Later that year, Tom Nickel and I were sitting around milling some grain at the Homebrewmart in Solana Beach. We were discussing the growth of the San Diego Brewing Scene and how things were changing. We thought it would be a great occasion if we could get some of the new winter seasonal beers together for a night of friends and local beers.

And so it was that on a rainy thursday night,(it never rains in San Diego) we opened the doors to the very first San Diego Strong Ale Festival. 200 people showed up and the legend of Pizza Port Festivals was born. Our beer festival was designed to showcase the best of what San Diego had to offer that winter. It remains a great example of what happens when you start small.

Looking back, we had no idea that this great city would embrace our festivals in the way they have. That night, 12 San Diego Strong Ales were tapped. In our mind the only thing required to be a part of our event was that the beer(s) were all over 8.0% ABV AND they had to be made in San Diego. Looking back, it’s funny to me to consider a beer festival one that offers a whopping 12 beers.

Still, we did it. We opened the doors and quietly steered people to a new world of beer. A world that rings as true today as it did back then. There are some amazing brewers and beer being made in San Diego and we should get together every so often to celebrate this.

Our festival throwing skills soon matured as we enlisted Jeff Bagby to help us and over the years, it has been the three amigos working with Vince and Gina to ensure that a good time is had by all. Tomorrow, we will open the doors to our 24th beer festival in 10 short years

5 years ago, we celebrated what we thought was a monumental occassion of 5 Strong Ale Festivals. We brewed and bottled a special commemorative beer called Old Viscosity. It was a beer we conceived and executed with our 5th Anniversary in mind. Jeff’s dad designed the artwork for the label and it was the very first specialty release of beer that Pizza Port bottled for sale. It also marked the first label that I got to write the verbage for. It’s been five years since then but that label still rings true today:

From Bottle number 188-
We know you are going to like this beer. It was made by 3 Native San Diegans who believe that San Diego is a great beer town and have spent the last 5 years telling everyone who would listen to them. So we’re telling you right now, this is a great beer.

We are serious brewers who share our passion for brewing with everyone we meet. At some point, you’ve probably even met us- the one known for his verbosity, the one for his creativity and the other for his insanity. Our intense love of beer and travel has probably even brought us to your locale. Maybe some of you hoisted a pint with us in San Francisco, Denver or Phoenix. Some of you may have caught our act in Washington DC last summer in a rare East Coast visit. We’re not rock stars, although everywhere we’ve been you’ve treated us like royalty. It seems that our beer travels are always about the people and the beer. They are mutually inclusive.

The idea for this beer came to us in bits and pieces earlier this year. Maybe you were there in Chicago when we named this beer. A bunch of you were with us in Phoenix later that month when the idea for a celebratory beer germinated. A select few of you were there in the van on the way home from Boonville when the recipe was finally written. But ALL of you were there when we brewed this beer. Old Viscosity celebrates the experiences we have all shared while at the same time crossing the boundaries of what beer can be. Like our travels that have known few boundaries, this beer was made to no particular style.

Five years ago, we started down the road of good beer and good cheer. AND, what have we learned along the way? No matter where we choose to travel or how we choose to get there, beer is always the vehicle. It has been the unifying agent whereby our travels are the fuel, the people we experience the spark and our unwaivering contagious enthusiasm the exhaust we leave behind.

For us, the essence of beer is the experience it provides. It is a life long altering proposition supported at every fork in the road by the people we meet. We are fortunate to share these experiences and moments with you our friends. Thank you all for participating in our lives through the past 5 years of San Diego Beer and Festivals. Old Viscosity belongs to all of us and is released on this monumental Anniversary of Strong Ale and Great Beer in San Diego with you in mind.

The Three Amigos
To this day, it remains one of my favorite beer labels of all time. Fast forward to 2006. We purchase the Old Stone Brewing Company facility and decide that our first specialty beer we will release will be Old Viscosity. The reason was two fold. It had been five years since the beer was last available AND more importantly, we wanted to be able to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Strong Ale with a special batch of Old(er) Viscosity which is a 100% Bourbon Barrel aged version of the original Old Viscosity. And so the beer spent the whole summer aging in new bourbon barrels. The resulting beer is stunning and two weeks ago was named Best of Show at the innagural Barrel Aged Beer Festival in Hayward, CA.

The beer will be available at the brewery in San Marcos starting December 6th until supplies run out. The good news is that this beer will be available as a limited release each year. I was tasked with creating a label for the bottle that encompassed everything that has happened to us in the last 10 years. It’s amazing how little has changed for us in five years.

Older Viscosity(the new label)
Seriously, where did all those days go? Is it possible we’ve come this far? The answer is yes and in the past ten years, our lives have moved forward at an amazing speed. But amid this liquid chaos, there has always been one constant- the beers made here in America’s Finest City have few peers. Today, with this in mind, we celebrate, we reminisce and maintain the best is yet to come.

It’s no secret the San Diego Brewing scene has evolved into a community of artisans bent on challenging the status quo. It is said those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it. Yet we wonder, what about those with no history, no past or maps to get in the way? These people become the true explorers whose sole inspiration is found everyday in the wind at their backs.

Our festivals and a mantra of “Good Beer Brings Good Cheer,” started easily enough. But it never would have taken root without two amazing people by our side. It’s a fact that some will come and some will go from your life. Yet, for the last 24 beer festivals we have offered, it has been the same group of 5 making sure that each and every event bears the signature Pizza Port stamp. To Gina and Vince, you’ll never know how much we appreciate ALL that you have given us. Together, we have shown the world that passion isn’t something you can buy at the five and dime.

Ten years ago, there were no local brewing all stars. There certainly were no autographs and at best there was little magic. Yet, we became a band of explorers reaping the riches of our un-chartered voyages. Every bottle we opened moved us to magical lands. Still, every destination has a beginning and an end. But for us, they remain the same. The Amazing beers of San Diego start and finish conversations. No matter where we are, each holds the ability to transport us to places we never thought imaginable. For the past ten years, our beers have opened doors, created invitations and at once acted as a vehicle of conversation. So remember this next time you’re enjoying a beer from one of San Diego’s world class breweries that life moves, beer evolves and through it all, friendships endure.

Gina, Vince, Jeff, Tom and Tomme

We look forward to many more great days and nights celebrating with each and everyone of you. It has been our privilege and honor to come this far with each of you at our side. Here’s to many more great years of Good Beer Brings Good Cheer.

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