Ryan Sather is co-founder of BattleMage Brewing. The Vista brewery only has four employees, so that means Sather is — with co-founder Chris Barry — the co-head brewer, the regular beer-tender and the more than occasional janitor.
He’s also the dad of 2-1/2-year-old Claire.
This tiny operation, which just celebrated its sixth anniversary, didn’t have enough staff to send anyone to the World Beer Cup, held earlier this month in Nashville. On the night the winners were announced, May 10, the results were livestreamed in the tasting room.
”I was running over to the tasting room and had my daughter in the car,” Sather said. “I’m getting her out of the car when I heard the screaming from the tasting room.”
Father and daughter headed into the room, where they learned that BattleMage had won a gold medal for its amber ale, Summon Ifrit.
Claire must have been impressed, right?
Not really, Sather admitted: “She was more like ‘Why are you waking me up?’”
Claire’s dad and his colleagues had a different reaction — “We’re super excited!”
For this little brewery to triumph against the giants of brewing, it’s like something out of a fairy tale or, better yet, a fantasy role-playing game. In other words, it’s straight out of the BattleMage playbook.
Inspired by games like World of Warcraft and EverQuest, the BattleMage co-founders decorated their brewery’s tasting room with battle axes, dragons and, even an “Games of Thrones”-style sword throne.
“We’re pretty big nerds,” Sather said.
They’re also pretty experienced brewers. Summon Ifrit — Ifrit, naturally, is a character in the long-running Final Fantasy video game series — is based on a beer Sather entered into a competition 10 years ago.
“Practice makes perfect, I guess,” Sather said.
Purists may question how truly global the World Beer Cup is, as this competition is run by an American outfit — the Brewers Association, out of Boulder, Colo. — and is generally held in a U.S. city.
All true. And yet …
This year, the 2,376 breweries that entered the competition came from 51 nations. Moreover, the 272 judges represented 26 countries.
San Diego County’s showing, then, looks even more impressive when viewed through an international lens. Local brewers took 12 medals — outpacing Germany (five); Japan (five); the Netherlands (two); Belgium (two); and the United Kingdom (two).
Beer: Mango Tajin Gose
From: Owl Farm, Vista
ABV: 5.7 percent alcohol by volume (ABV)
Drink or dump: Drink. Tajin, a jalapeno, lime and salt seasoning, enters early and then fades away. Mango flavors rule this light-bodied, spritzy, gently salted beer. Owl Farm? That’s the experimental side of Vista’s Booze Brothers brewery.
Beer: West Coast IPA
From: Green Flash Brewing, somewhere that’s not San Diego
ABV: 7 percent ABV
Drink or dump: Dump. Green Flash’s new owners — a Colorado-based cannabis concern — wrap West Coast IPA in sea, sand and palm tree imagery. While nothing on the can betrays this, one sip tells you this former San Diegan has left town. West Coast IPA smacks of stale cardboard and past-their-prime hops.
Beer: Spring Thrills
From: Pizza Port Brewing, Carlsbad
ABV: 7 percent ABV
Drink or dump: Drink. What a difference freshness makes! This seasonal IPA from a truly local brewery pops with flavor. Sweet mango and guava flavors play off a piney oiliness and a rye-like bite.
Saturday: Mount up for Rouleur’s annual Memorial Weekend Ride, leaving the brewery — 5840 El Camino Real, Suite 100, Carlsbad — at 8 a.m. Cyclists will return in time for the brewery’s 11 a.m. opening. To register, visit rouleurbrewing.com.
Monday: The Wander Women Project sponsors a small-group tour of three San Diego breweries, noon to 4 p.m. Tickets can be ordered at wanderwomenproject.com.
Rowe is a freelance writer.
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