Josh Landan is a man who has been round the beer block a few times.
You may remember him as the chap who founded Saint Archer in 2013, in the heady gold rush days of San Diego craft brewing. The enterprise was so successful that it was sold to Coors Molsen only two years later, and, in fact, was the first craft brewery in the region to successfully sell out to a giant conglomerate.
I say successfully, but breweries often get a bit of stick for this sort of thing. I don’t know about you though, but I think I would take the cash if I were ever to find myself in the same situation, especially if I could then capitalise on the sale and return to brewing.
Which is exactly what Josh has done in the form of Harland Brewing.
The sale to Coors contained a two year no competition clause and Josh returned to the brewing fray almost as soon as this time was served, and began planning his next thing. With a group of buddies from Saint Archer and a long list of investors, Harland Brewing took shape. Now, only a few years later there are four tasting rooms in San Diego and a slick core range of four brews available by the can.
I like the low-fi, minimalist look and the unassuming website - let’s see if this beer - a Japanese Lager - holds up.
Pours a pale gold with green highlights. The nose is just so mineral, with hits of sulphur intermingled with corn and rice notes and an almost vegetal character that is somehow akin to smelling hop bitterness. The palate is light and gentle with delicate rice sweetness and minimal hops, until they appear at the death with a gentle bittering effect. There’s something reminiscent of sparkling wine with the bubbles, which are fine and elegant and really elevate the experience to the next level. If quaffing an Asahi could be compared to smashing a prosecco - then this beer is more akin to fine champagne.
There’s been a fair amount of commotion in the San Diego beer scene of late, perhaps epitomised by the selling on of Saint Archer to Kings & Convicts in 2022, only seven years after its purchase by Coors. However, in terms of the number of breweries, the scene is actually pretty stable, and it’s certainly encouraging to see a newish brewery taking shape and turning a profit.
Craft beer’s crazy expansion phase of the 2010s may have run its course to a certain extent - but the second wave is perhaps now taking shape. It’s going to be fun to watch how it plays out.