Thursday, March 13, 2014

Brew & A with Coronado's Rick Chapman

Coronado Brewing Company has been a long standing brewery in San Diego.  They just launched into the Washington DC/Northern Virginia market and The Better Beer Authority couldn't be happier.  After reaching out to  CBC's PR staff, Rick Chapman, co-founder of Coronado Brewing Company happily answered our questions.

Rick (L) and Ron Chapman courtesy of CBC
Bettter Beer Authority (BBA): Welcome to the Washington DC area, including Northern Virginia.  What led you to decide to start distributing here?  What are your expectations?  Will there be any launch parties?  

Rick Chapman, co founder Coronado Brewing Company (CBC): Virginia and Washington DC are a great fit for us, not only with the growing number of craft beer drinkers but also in filling in our states along the eastern seaboard. Adding Massachusetts a few weeks ago really put us on a map. We’ve known for a long time that the beer stores in cities like Arlington and Alexandria are top notch and have been asking for our beers for awhile now. 

Launch parties. Not sure yet! Stay tuned...

Courtesy of Coronado Brewing Company
BBA: From reading your website, it appears CBC took a slow and steady growth approach.  Within the last couple of years, you went from a 5,000 barrel house, to a new one that can brew up to 60,000 barrels a year; were there any reservations in taking up such a large expansion?

CBC: Although we’re based in Coronado, we have an additional production facility in the Tecolote Canyon area of San Diego. This tasting room and production facility can brew up to 30,000 barrels. We needed to make sure we had a certain amount of strength in our home market of Coronado and San Diego before expanding nationally. VA will be our 16th state. Our restaurant is now filled to capacity almost nightly, our production facility is up and running. 

By the end of the 2013 we were rated as one of the top improved brewers in San Diego county by the Reader, who said “it seems they have adjusted to their new digs behind delicious beers like Coronado’s 17th Anniversary IPA and the new bourbon barrel-aged Stupid Stout.”

BBA: You recently did a collaboration with Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa, Fl, Jurata Baltic Porter.  Have you done many collaborations before?  What are the benefits of doing these?

CBC: We’ve done a collaboration with Maui Brewing called Hibiscus IPA and Jurata is our second collab with Cigar City. The first was brewed in Tampa as The Last Spike last fall. Then the guys at CCB came to San Diego for a few days and we brewed the Jurata Baltic Porter together. It was especially cool to work with CCB because they’re knowledgeable in styles we may not see a lot like the Baltic Porter which is rarely seen in warmer climates, but the response has been off the hook.

Collaborations are fantastic for 2 reasons: one because it puts your brand’s name out there in markets where your collab partner may be stronger, and two because the brewers learn so much from each other. Brewing is a collaborative process anyway and it’s really fun to come from different coasts and experiences with ingredients to push other to experiment.

BBA: So, there are a few breweries in San Diego (86 by my last count), is it becoming more difficult to find shelf space and tap handles than it was a few years ago?

CBC: Coronado has been a staple here for so long, and our customers love and know us so we have a good presence here. We recently had a limited edition barrel aged stout where we had 240 bottles produced and they were gone within one day. That said, we do see a growing number of brewers entering the market and we love the growth we’re experiencing in our friendly market. You see our tap handles along side many great brewers in SD and you can’t argue with that kind of success.

you won't find the tasting room empty very often.
 Courtesy of Coronado Brewing Company
BBA: I visited the new Knoxville Street production location and tasting room in February 2013.  One of my favorite aspects of visiting brewery tasting rooms is trying one-off batches, or test batches.  Is this the craft beer equivalent of a focus group?  

CBC: That’s a good way to look at it, however we don’t let our customers taste anything that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted by our brewers so by the time they taste it at the production facility, it’s ready for market. 

We cater to a great crowd of regular visitors, mostly after work, who are treated to a different food cart every night. We throw open our loading dock door, and the customers can buy local fare from BBQ to fish tacos to grilled foods. This vibe lends itself well to a casual restaurant. We offer a great variety of foods this way while we focus on the beer, and the food trucks benefit from exposure and customers.  

Our production facility has all our year round beers on tap including Coronado Golden Pilsner, Orange Avenue Wit, Islander IPA, Mermaid's Red, and Blue Bridge Coffee Stout. Idiot IPA is part of our Crown Series. In April we’ll bring back our popular Frog’s Breath IPA (part of the crown series too). Then in May, we’ll have Sock Knocker. All these will be available nationally on draught and in 22 ounce bottles.

BBA: What is the craziest beer CBC has put on tap at any of their tasting rooms?

CBC: Our most unique beer is one we entered in the ProAm contest at GABF last year (where we won a silver medal for our Black Sails IPA). It’s called the Señor Saison, and it’s a saison made with jalapeño. Our brewers had to remove all of the seeds from jalapeños, a common commodity down here in Southern California, so that the beer had all the jalapeño aroma, but none of the heat, and it was awesome. Then for an event we held to kickoff San Diego Beer Week, we served it with “Senor Saison” Aguachile. Citrus and jalapeno cured tiger shrimp, sliced cucumber, smashed avocado, and cilantro on blue corn crisps.

BBA: Your logo depicts a mermaid with a mug of frothy beer.  What beer is in her mug?

CBC: Mermaid’s Red Ale of course!

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