Pure Project Brew School and 7th Anniversary Party

by BeachRock Bill

With the holidays out of the way and the tap room where I work closed for renovations, I had some free weekends in January. Looking for things to do, I signed up for two Saturday events sponsored by San Diego’s Pure Project Brewing. The first was an off-flavor class that is part of Pure’s quarterly Beer Education Series. The following Saturday I volunteered to work at the brewery’s 7th Anniversary party.

Two back-to-back Saturdays dedicated to beer. Perfect.

Beer Education

The off-flavor class really appealed to me. Being a homebrewer for 15 years, I’m painfully aware of the compounds that mess with the taste of beer. Getting a methodical side-by-side evaluation and explanation of these flaws sounded a lot more fun than discovering them after they’ve crept into one of my batches.

I arrived at the Pure Vista brewery at 9:30am for the two-hour course. The curriculum began with a brief description of how the olfactory system works. We were then shown effective ways to sniff and sample to better detect differences from the tasting’s reference beer (Pure’s easy-drinking Rain Blond Ale). With “tainted” tasters one by one put in front of us each with a different off-flavor-causing compound mixed in, the class participants went about detecting and describing the signature off-flavors of each chemical compound.

Dude, who farted?

In order, we were given samples with notes of

  • cooked corn (DMS)
  • butter (Diacetyl)
  • vinegar (Acetic Acid)
  • green apple (Acetoaldehyde)
  • rotten eggs (Hydrogen Sulfide)
  • skunk (UV light), and
  • wet cardboard (Oxidation).

Sounds yummy right?

Advanced Cicerone- Pure’s own Chris Leguizamon

Guiding us through the tasting with explanatory slides would be Advanced Cicerone Chris Leguizamon from Pure Project. The Level 3 Advanced Cicerone is not easy to get (I’m only Level 1) and Chris informed us there are only 150 or so in the world. We were in good hands.

As the 30 or so attendees began to compare their reference pint (or two or three) with their spiked samples, it quickly became clear that perceptions can be vastly different from person to person. Some didn’t detect any differences at all with many samples, while others were hit over the head with them. I fell somewhere in the middle, it wasn’t obvious to me, but I was able to find discernible notes of the flaws in all, though it wasn’t always easy. Chris explained that certain people are “blind” to certain flavors–himself included. Others are so sensitive that they sense them from across the room. Wild.

All in all, it was an enjoyable morning learning about beer which culminated in getting to order a free unadulterated pour of anything on tap. Being not quite noon, I went “brunchy,” and ordered up a pint of Romeo And Julius, an orange and vanilla cream ale with egg white added. It was citrusy sweet, creamy smooth, and a super delicious way to start the day.

I can’t wait for the next Education Series class this spring on New Zealand hop varieties.

Celebrating 7 Years!

The following Saturday, Pure Project celebrated its seventh anniversary. Over 1600 ticket holders were on hand at what has become San Diego’s coolest annual celebration of beer. With dozens of Pure Project beers on tap, many created exclusively for the event, beer lovers were in heaven enjoying perfectly crafted suds. The Pure staff and amazing crew of volunteers transformed the nondescript Miramar Brewery’s parking area into a tropical rain-forest themed oasis of beer tents, food trucks, and seating areas.

Speaking of amazing volunteers……

Volunteers signed in upon arrival and grabbed that all-important souvenir beer glass

Sign-in and orientation. On the morning of the event, I joined the other 50 or so lucky paid volunteers arriving at 10 am to sign in, meet the group leaders, and listen to a quick orientation.

Leading up to the day I was hoping I might nab a coveted beer pouring assignment, although I was prepared for anything–after all, I was a first-time volunteer in a sea of multi-year veterans. On arrival, the assignment spreadsheet had me and 5 others listed under “tokens”.

Before I could process what exactly this meant, my group leader for the day, Kylie, came up and explained that I would be manning Token Table #2–one of only three token tables at the entire event.

Kylie assured me that it was one of the most challenging tasks of the day. I would be selling beer tokens by the thousands, doing the math, running the credit cards, and making change, all while chatting up the guests and consuming all the free beer I wanted. I was pretty stoked.

“1 for $2.50, 2 for $5, 4 for $10…..We got this!”.

Looking out onto the festival space, 90% of the heavy lifting setting up had been done by Pure’s staff before we arrived. After getting briefed on our duties, there wasn’t much to do but grab a beer and wait for the masses to arrive.

Calm before the storm. Most of the event space was set up before volunteers arrived.

It would be a non-stop day, and since I was working with money, I wanted to stay sharp and not screw anything up. Pacing my beer consumption was a must. For my opening “sipper” I wanted something refreshing with low alcohol, and found just the ticket with Neotropical Mist, a 5% ABV Citrus Blond Ale spiked with Valencia oranges and Costa Rica passion fruit. Filling my souvenir glass and returning with it to Token Table #2, I had the perfect fruity starter for the morning.

Joining me at my table for the day was a chill dude named Jake–also a first-time volunteer. As we waited for the gates to open for the “VIPs,” (those limited few who paid extra for early access tickets) at 11:30, Jake and I sipped our beers and broke the ice by discussing favorite styles and breweries visited.

We knew the early session begun when 200 excited VIPs rushed through the entrance gates all at once. The majority of the group went straight to the two lines that would be pouring the rarest beers of the day. The rest, knowing there would be some time before things ran out, bolted straight to the token tables to stock up for multiple pours. Whichever strategy, you could tell these VIPs were seasoned vets. This wasn’t their first rodeo.

The two beers people were buzzing about most were Imperial Stouts tapped just for the Anniversary’s VIP session: the pecan pie inspired 14% barrel blended Resplendent Quetzal, and the super high octane Double Phoenix version of the barrel-aged LUX, coming in at a whopping 20% ABV. There would be no pacing for the VIPs!

The rush is on

With only 200 people in the huge event space for the early session, the initial rush at our token table died down quickly, and we had time to sip a little beer. Ninety minutes later, however, the gates opened for the general admission ticket holders, and the rush to buy tokens was on. For the price of admission, all attendees got a souvenir glass for their pours and enough tokens for 2 to 3 tasters. Eventually, just about every single ticket holder would run out and look for a place to buy more tokens. Luckily Jake and Bill were right there in the center of the crowd with Token Table #2 to the rescue. We were an efficient machine with a rapidly moving line. I couldn’t help but glance at the other two token tables to see if they were keeping up (they were).

Selling tokens, fully hydrated and fueled by an unknown and delicious Imperial Stout

From the time the gates opened to Last Call, Jake and I sold thousands of tokens. Thankfully the awesome crew of managers at Pure was circulating around topping off our glasses with special treats. At one point I was poured some barrel-aged deliciousness from a limited edition bottle. I missed the name of it, but it was sweet, boozy, and spectacular. My pacing strategy was in serious jeopardy.

We had been at our table for 3 hours straight when Group Leader Kylie came over and relieved us for a 30 minute break. Hmm, let’s see, 30 minutes to hit the head then………..drink beer!

When 4:30 rolled around, last call was announced, and we had a last mad dash mini rush of token buying. A short time later it was time to close up shop, and after quickly breaking down our station, Jake and I went off in search of other ways we could help out.

I decided to clean all the tables of discarded food containers and discovered that Pure really was sticking true to its “green” mantra. All water cups, straws, and food containers were compostable. At the waste station, I was greeted by a knowledgeable volunteer steering everything to the appropriate bin. Hundreds of pounds of the day’s refuse would be kept from a landfill and be composted!

The Pure organizers and volunteers

Let’s pack it up and party!

I have to hand it to the crew at Pure, they know how to keep things light and fun. In other words, they know how to party. After the stragglers were herded out the gates, the Pure crew and volunteers got to work breaking down the area and turning it back into a parking lot. Luckily, with everyone pitching in, the work went fast, and before we knew it, it was time for a celebratory beer to savor our accomplishment in helping pull off a great party. I opted for a Hazy (of course) brewed to celebrate the event–a Nectaron, Citra, Mosaic hopped murky creation called Monteverde. Sips filled with passion fruit, juicy mango, and subtle dankness were the perfect way to celebrate an extremely enjoyable and memorable day.

To Melissa, Kira, Kylie, Johanna, Chris, and all the other folks at Pure who put on such a well-organized and FUN event, thanks for letting me play a small role. I look forward to being a part of next year’s 8th Annual Celebration. In the meantime, see you in the Pure tap rooms.


BeachRock Bill

Instagram @beachrockbill
Email beachrockbill@gmail.com
Mastadon @socalcraftbeer@hostux.social

One thought on “Pure Project Brew School and 7th Anniversary Party

  1. One of your best posts! Loved the descriptions of what can go wrong when brewing. (I think I’ve had a beer that tasted like fart. Luckily, I don’t remember which). Sorry to have missed Pure’s celebration. What a gas (in a good way)!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s