Sometimes, a simple pint becomes a life-changer. Liz Chism can trace the impetus to create Council Brewing Co. back to drinking a beer at San Diego’s renowned Hamilton’s Tavern about six years ago.
“I went in there and ordered an IPA and completely fell in love with it,” she says. The fateful pint led to her wondering how such beer was made and within a year, she purchased a homebrew kit for her husband Curtis, setting the Chisms on the road that eventually led to a brewery that’s experienced near-runaway success since opening in May 2014 in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego.
The unexpected and overwhelming popularity of Beatitude, a tart saison spiked with Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus, has been the biggest factor in Council’s upward trajectory. Fans clamored for the eminently drinkable 3.8%-ABV beer (with nine bottled variants, including mango- and pineapple-infused versions, and about 30 versions on draft) so much in the first few months that new releases would sell out in less than two hours despite Council deliberately not advertising the sales.
Liz believes much of Beatitude’s appeal lays in its approachability for drinkers unaccustomed to sour beers. “One of our philosophies with brewing is we wanted something that’s drinkable and very balanced, something that’s not going to overwhelm your palate,” she says, adding two more bottled variants, Citra dry-hopped and Galaxy dry-hopped, are in the works.
The beer’s success right out of the gate is even more surprising considering Liz, who brews and packages each batch, admits she’d never brewed one sour beer at the homebrew level before opening Council, which is located a few blocks west of Societe Brewing Co. But under the mentorship of Jeff Crane, a former homebrewer experienced with making wild ales who is now the brewery’s barrel program director, the sales of Council’s sour ales thrived to the point where earlier this year it added a separate facility—dubbed the Magic Factory—two doors down from the brewery. The expansion now allows Council to always offer multiple Beatitude variants on tap at its tasting room as well as distribute the beer to 150 accounts throughout Southern California.
The Chisms, who are Council’s sole owners, lacked any experience in the beer industry (Liz was a sign language interpreter and Curtis was a construction project manager) prior to their initial foray into homebrewing, which Liz says created some difficulties when they originally sought financial help during the planning stages.
“No investors wanted to look at us. They thought two young people starting a brewery who had never worked in the industry before didn’t know what they were doing. So we sold our house, and that’s how we got started. So far it’s been a really good investment,” Liz says with a laugh.
The brewer’s life has led to a few changes for the Chisms when dining out.
“We end up going out [mainly] for breakfast,” Liz says. “We realize that date nights are no longer date nights because we often run into someone we know wherever you go. So we turned them into date breakfasts.”
Beatitude Passion Fruit
This saison’s lactic bite and sunny passion fruit provide a nice interplay between sweet and tart. With just enough body to carry the flavors, the refreshing saison invites sip after tangy sip.