Pizza Port Brewing

The next brewery in our ongoing series profiling the brands we work with doesn’t really need an introduction. It could be argued that the impact of Pizza Port Brewing as a trendsetter in San Diego County’s beer scene is central to the evolution of craft beer across America.

Founded in 1987 by sibling duo Gina and Vince Marsaglia as a pizza joint in Solana Beach, CA, their original location didn’t start selling their own brews until 1992. Utilizing an extra storage space, Vince began to experiment with home brewing, which received high praise from the neighborhood, prompting them to install a 7 Barrel brew system. And everything changed from there…

Pizza Port’s Original Solana Beach location – courtesy of California Beaches

Historically, modern West Coast IPAs were established by a new wave of Cascade hop-driven creations such as Anchor’s Liberty Ale (1975) and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (1980), though San Diego’s earliest brewers found success with easily accessible beers such as Karl Strauss’ Amber Lager (1989) and Red Trolley Ale (1990). Pizza Port’s legacy as a foundational brewery on the West Coast begins with the creation of Shark Bite Red (55 IBU) and Swami’s IPA (72 IBU), both released in their first year, 1992.

Swami’s IPA, which just arrived in Oregon this week, was influential in the creation of Vinnie Cilurzo’s Blind Pig IPA (later the first production DIPA with Pliny the Elder at Russian River Brewing), at his small brewery of the same name, just up the road in Temecula. Cilurzo, later becoming the co-founder of Russian River with wife Natalie, created a second anniversary version of this IPA, inspiring another home brewer, Greg Koch, who’d open Stone Brewing two years later.

In 1996, the Marsaglia’s also hosted Jack White and Yuseff Cherney of Ballast Point Brewing (and the popular Home Brew Mart), helping them brew their first production beer, an Amber Ale called “The Special.” Churney’s friend Chris White, a biochemist who propagated yeast strains, joined them that day. Chris would later trade his yeast to Pizza Port in return for Pizza. Creating the first pitchable liquid yeast, White officially started White Labs in 1995, becoming one of the most successful yeast labs in the world.

Gina Marsaglia & Tomme Arthur at Lost Abbey’s The Sanctuary Tasting Room – courtesy of Craft Beers in San Diego

In 1997, Pizza Port Brewing hired Tomme Arthur to brew at Solana Beach. Later, in 2006, Vince and Gina worked with Tomme in opening Port Brewing, brewer of the renowned Lost Abbey beers, located in Stone Brewing’s former San Marcos location. Arthur was replaced full time by Jeff Bagby as Director of Brewing Operations, who then left in 2011 to start Bagby Beer. While all this was happening, Pizza Port continued their steady growth, opening up in multiple Southern California locations including Carlsbad (1997), San Clemente (2003), a premium bottle shop in Carlsbad (2008), Ocean Beach (2010), and Bressi Ranch in Carlsbad (2013).

Beyond their foundational nature in the San Diego craft beer scene and their successful growth throughout it, Pizza Port Brewing is the most decorated craft brewery in the history of the Great American Beer Festival, having won 96 medals since 1994. The original Solana Beach location won Small Brewpub of the Year in 2003 and 2004 (with Tomme Arthur winning Brewer of the Year), then Carlsbad winning Large Brewpub of the Year in 2009, 2010 and 2011, not to mention 11+ World Beer Cup medals since 2010.

This week we received three different beers from Pizza Port in canned 16 oz six-packs, including the classic Swami’s IPA, Kook DIPA, as well as their brand new collaboration with Beachwood Brewing, Beach Retreat IPA. We also received 6 different beers in kegs: the aforementioned Beach Retreat IPA, plus Strat Boy (a Strata hopped Pilsner brewed in collaboration with Cannonball Creek Brewing from Golden, CO), Koa Warrior – anImperial Coffee Stout with Coconut & Macadamia Nuts, Haze Foley – an Hazy IPA with Galazy & Simcoe, and Locals Only IPA.

Seek them out now at their freshest and stay tuned from more Pizza Port cans coming in the very near future!

Content and inspiration for this article was sourced from First We Feast, San Diego Reader, Pizza Port Brewing, Port Brewing, and White Labs.

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