Alpine Beer Company began with Patrick and Valerie McIlhenney. While visiting friends in Northern California, the McIlhenney’s fell in love with the idea of opening a brewpub. Not right away but someday.
Pat discovered you could legally make your own beer. He was all over that and started homebrewing for fun. Homebrewing quickly turned into recipe development. Pat submitted his homebrews to competitions around San Diego County. He followed the feedback from judges and repeated the submission process until a high placing medal was awarded. Pat was hooked.
A local homebrew supply store hired Pat to work part-time. He eventually ended up teaching advanced homebrewing classes in the back of the store. The University of California at Davis offered extension classes in Brewing, Microbiology and Sanitation which Pat attended instead of taking a vacation from his firefighting day job.
Next, Pat insinuated himself on Skip and Ted, his friends who just opened AleSmith Brewing. Pat volunteered at the fledgling brewery, cleaning and helping out wherever needed. After a few years of working at AleSmith, Pat asked Skip if he could contract AleSmith to make some Alpine Beer Company beer. Before year’s end, “McIlhenney’s Irish Red” was released as the first-ever Alpine beer. Soon after that, Pure Hoppiness made its debut. Over the next two years, Pat and Val worked toward their next goal – opening their very own brewery.
The first beer Pat brewed in Alpine was an American Wheat Ale called Willy, named after Val’s brother who helped them build the brewery. The next beers Pat introduced were Mandarin Nectar, Alpine Ale, and Captain Stout. Shawn, the son of Pat and Val, began his brewing career in earnest. Shawn flexed his creative muscle and brewed Bad Boy for the first time. Alpine made their first venture into barrel aged sours with Ichabod and earned a Gold medal at the World Beer Cup. Shawn officially took on the role of “Head Brewer” and is focused on making magic in the brewhouse.
The brewery finally got some much-needed room to expand. The garage behind the brewery was converted into more fermentation and bottling space. Pat bought four double-batch fermenters from, of all places, Green Flash. Capacity was tripled to 1,500 barrels a year. Brewing at capacity was immediate. Pat and Val opened a tiny, 36 seat diner-style pub in the same building as the brewery, but at the opposite end and call it, “The Pub”. The pub focuses on a barbecue menu and Alpine’s delicious beer. On most days, you can find Pat and Val hanging out at the restaurant’s bar, chatting with their neighbors over a beer.
Green Flash Brewing who now owns Alpine sent us a nice selection of brews for review:
Duet: Pine forward hop flavor with undertones of citrus. Fairly rich, almost a DIPA in character. Medium body. Good carbonation. A little stone fruit can be picked out as well. The malt is heavy enough to balance out the beer but doesn’t overpower the subtle flavors that can be found. Earthy as well. Tasty beer.
Hoppy Birthday: Thick white head. Velvet mouthfeel. Bitter, and has herbal qualities. Notes of tangerine and a lot of pine throughout the tasting. A bit of tropical fruit notes can also be found. Medium carbonation and a lighter body than what you would expect from the flavor. Absolutely delicious! A 9/10.
Truck Trail: Mellow brew with caramel malt flavor. Indistinct hop flavors. Soft mouthfeel. Decent pale ale, but the hop flavor disappears quickly, leaving the malt.
Willy: Light bodied. Tastes a little like a corn-based beer. Thin flavor, but with some light floral aroma.
Windows Up: Bitterness that slowly recedes. Thick malt that creeps in. Medium body. Grassy aroma, with a resin quality. Slight citrus throughout the beer. An easy-going brew, but at 7% abv that can be dangerously delicious.
For more information go to: Alpine Beer Co.