Brewmasters cater to Valley Center tastes
September 10, 2013With all the wineries opening around town recently, there is plenty for wine lovers to celebrate, but what's here for the beer aficionados? Craft beer has exploded in popularity across the nation in the last 20 years, and San Diego County is no exception. Fortunately, Valley Center will soon have its own source of locally-crafted beer.
Valley Center Brewery, the creation of Bob Marek, his son Alex, and business partner John Mangan, brewed their first commercial batch on Saturday, Sept. 7. Although they have been brewing at home for almost three years, they only just received their license to sell their beer on Aug. 21. If everything goes according to plan, they will have their first licensed beers ready for sale by the second week of October.
photo by VC Brewery/ courtesy
Unlike the simple recipes that make up many beers, the Mareks are always experimenting with different malts to suit local tastes.
"The way Valley Center is in terms of its population, its people, how we react as a community, we're a little bit more than just water and grain," said Alex Marek. Right now they are brewing two ales and two lagers, but they have practiced brewing smoked beers, fruity beers, and everything in between.
Valley Center Brewery first began after the Mareks took a course on home brewing at Stone Brewery. Bob Marek's background is in aerospace engineering, but he immediately recognized brewing as something he wanted to do.
"If I'm going to retire and get out of the aerospace industry and do something else, the two things I know are racing cars and beer," said Marek. He decided to go with beer because it's less expensive and more fun, he said.
The Mareks first started brewing in their kitchen in 2010. They gradually increased the size of their batches from 5 gallons, to 10 gallons, to 15 gallons and so on, until they were brewing entire barrels at a time.
At first they brewed on Mrs. Marek's stove, but one especially volatile Belgian beer got them exiled to the garage. They learned their lesson and it's unlikely that they'll be doing any more Belgian beers in the near future, said Marek.
"Our focus has always been, on the home brew side, learning how to scale things up," said Marek. Now, 108 batches later, Valley Center Brewery has grown considerably. They have converted their garage into a fully functioning brew house with a fermentation room, a cold room, and enough equipment to brew a new batch every week.
Their first commercial batch, the Cool Valley Lager, will be the largest to date at 204 gallons. Although the whole operation is on the Marek's residential property right now, VC Brewery is looking for a tasting room to move the brewery to as soon as they find the right space.
"That's what we'd really like to do," said Marek. With any luck, they will have a more permanent location somewhere in Valley Center in the next six months. Until then, they will be bottling and kegging their beers to distribute in local eateries, bars, and grocery stores.
"We're naming all our beers after areas of Valley Center, either a road or an area or something like that around the town," said Alex Marek. So far there is the Cool Valley Lager, the Lake Wohlford Lager, the Cumbres Pale Ale, and the Cougar Pass I.P.A.
Although there is no tasting room yet, the Mareks have hosted an open house every few months for friends and neighbors. They think they have honed in on their most popular brews.
Valley Center Brewery is also looking for submissions for their label artwork contest. Although they already have their logo designed, they would like local artists to design the unique images for each kind of beer.
"Take the name of the beer and just do something," Alex Marek advises interested artists. From the names of the beers to the labels to the flavors, Valley Center Brewery strives to be an entirely homegrown operation.
For more information on the brewery, the label contest, or the different beers, visit www.valleycenterbrewery.com.