Growing up, I had an analog fixation on skateboarding and record shopping, where every dollar I earned working at the local golf course was spent on new decks, punk rock T-shirts, or vinyl. In today’s digital world, that fixation has transformed into local beer. Instead of geeking out on a record with my ears, I nerd out on flights of beer. Instead of getting bruised up at a Fullerton punk gig, I now bruise my liver up at beer festivals. Even though this hobby scratches the same itch, when the two worlds collide in such a spectacular way, they need to be shared.
During this year’s World Beer Cup awards in Nashville, I heard San Juan Capistrano’s Docent Brewing won silver for “Double Nickels Pale Ale,” and I thought it might be a fluke. “Is the brewer a huge Minutemen fan?” The 1984 classic Double Nickels on the Dime double LP is easily on my top five desert island disks, so I reached out to Docent brewer Bryan Giesen about his beer, one of the world’s best pale ales.
I just had Double Nickels over at The Blind Pig in RSM and I picked up on a lot of toasty notes, what were you shooting for in the beer?
Toasty indeed. The balance of subtle sweet and toast is the warming quality I like to associate with a good pale ale. Some of this character comes from a lightly roasted biscuit malt in Double Nickels. The hops, of course, find their place as more of an angular, assertive counterpoint to the bready base.
Were you in Nashville for the World Beer Cup during the awards?
Yes! It was absolutely a surreal experience to collect a medal alongside heroes of mine since the homebrew days. It was especially sweet to win in the American Pale Ale category [with 182 entries] which like many was the style that turned me on to what beer could be.
Are you a big Minutemen fan?
From our tasting room’s field guide, which is sort of like liner notes for our beers: “Brewed to a calculated 55 IBUs and 5.5% abv or double nickels on the dime. Angular notes of ruby red grapefruit, sweet orange, and pine strum upon a groovy bassline of light honey and vanilla in a compact yet satisfying little ditty. A liquid tribute to a group of cats from San Pedro who jam econo – or fitting a lot into a little. “Punk was whatever we made it to be” a quote from late lead singer/guitarist D Boon inspires every recipe I’ve ever brewed. Listen to the Minutemen, their band could be your life. I gotta work on a fIREHOSE tribute next…
Only a handful of the 35+ breweries in OC are in south county. Describe the scene down there and thirst for locally made craft beer.
I am very proud of the community we have developed in a very short time down here. The bottom line is beer is better as close to the source as you can get it. We have been fortunate enough to host a thirsty and enthusiastic crowd who have become friends and cheerleaders. I think we are experiencing a shift away from big-box chain stores and corporate restaurants…where people realize they can be proud of their locally made goods, beyond beer even.
How have your ‘cheerleaders’ responded to your World Beer Cup win?
It was a special moment in my life when I walked in the brewery on the Sunday afternoon after getting back from Nashville clutching the new plaque tight. Our wonderful staff and patrons broke out in applause. I’ll certainly never forget that moment. The batch we put on right after returning was drained in about half the usual time. Awards are funny, it is not why we make beer but it is nice to win and get what we know about our beer reinforced by the outside world.
Is the beer on draft in the tasting room currently?
Throw Double Nickels on the Dime on your playlist and get down to Docent Brewing at 33049 Calle Aviador Suite C, San Juan Capistrano (by the Coach House) // docentbrewing.com
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest. When not writing about, photographing or filming beer, cocktails, and food, he can be found talking trash while playing video games under the name “OCBeer.”