Photo by Andrew Dyer
Every brewery between Highway 78 and the border is trying its hand at newly popular wild ales like farmhouse saisons and sours. Vista’s three-year-old Belching Beaver Brewery (980 Park Center Drive) appears to have struck gold in tapping former Toolbox Brewmaster Peter Perrecone to head its sour beer program.
“I worked at Trader Joe’s for ten years and I hated it,” he said. “I took the plunge into the beer world four years ago.” Perrecone was brought on as brewmaster at Toolbox in April 2014, helping owners Spencer Peters and Amanda Elders build the brewery from the ground up. Perrecone was also instrumental in shaping the brewery’s identity as a sour and saison powerhouse.
“That’s where I took them,” he said. “At first they wanted to do regular beers like everyone else, but we were getting a better reaction on the sours. That was me pushing. I always loved making sour beer.” As a contract brewery, working at Toolbox meant brewing at Belching Beaver, so Perrecone spent a lot of time at its facility. It helped make the eventual transition a smooth one.
“I was already brewing here and hanging out with these guys a lot,” he said. “That’s why it worked out.”
Perrecone is going to have a lot of room to explore the possibilities of Brettanomyces yeast and Lactobacillus bacteria, the ingredients that give sours their distinctive flavor. He said breweries are just scratching the surface of a revolution in wild ales.
“I’ve been thinking for about three years that sour is going to be the next IPA,” he said. “And just like the IPAs, we’re going to go through that realm of a lot of bad sours, which I think we’re in right now.”
He said certain kettle sours might be at the root of some people’s aversion to the style.
“I’m not anti-kettle sour,” Perrecone said, “but a lot of people are brewing those beers and trying to charge a premium, like a barrel-aged sour, and they’re pretty mediocre.”
Belching Beaver has invested in a new and larger facility in Oceanside. Once online, all its core beers will shift production there, leaving the brewery in the hands of Perrecone. “We’re going to get more into that specialty game,” he said. “We’ll kind of be that think tank for newer beers, new recipes and a big portion of sours will come from here.”
Perrecone was dismayed at the steep price of sours, and said Belching Beaver was aiming at a slightly lower price point.
“I think we’re going to try to come in a little bit cheaper than what the prices were at Toolbox,” he said. “Some of the breweries, I mean, $30 for a bottle of beer is a lot.”
Despite a cooled relationship with the brewery he helped put on the map, Perrecone has landed in an ideal situation. With Belching Beaver moving core production elsewhere, the mad scientist of sours will be free to innovate and experiment while the brewery expands its footprint beyond their core stouts and IPAs. Look for Perrecone’s first Belching Beaver saisons to begin rolling out by the end of the first quarter of 2016, with more sours and one-offs to follow.