6190 Fairmount Ave., San Diego  |  Neighborhood: Mission Valley
(619) 795-2911
  |   BenchmarkBrewing.com

By Jeremy Pritchard

Sometimes the name can speak volumes for what a company does. If I mention the names Google, Apple or Mattel, you know exactly what the quality of each brand is and what to except from each product. So what about Benchmark? You would think that it’s a rather lofty goal to designate one’s self as THE example to which all else should be compared. But what if there is something more subtle to that name? You’ll find subtle is the name of the game at Benchmark, including the name.

Given the brewing company is tucked away in an unassuming corner of Grantville, you would never know some of the best beer in San Diego is made there. Of course, Brewmaster and co-founder Matt Akin would never admit that, saying simply, “I make beer that I want to drink.”

It all started for this native San Diegan when he was 16 and found out via the Internet that he could make beer at home. The chemistry nerd soon found the science behind making beer fascinating, although he didn’t start home brewing until the day he turned 21.

Akin went to the Home Brew Mart and bought kit No. 3 from Demian Binder (now at Best Damn Beer Shop) and started galvanizing his passion. As Matt wrapped up his BA in Sociology at UCSD, he volunteered to help out at AleSmith on bottling days. The day he graduated, Peter Zien gave him his first real job in brewing: keg scrubber. He then proceeded to work his ass off, including getting a brewing education from the American Brewers Guild. Within three years, Akin took over as head brewer at AleSmith.

Always on a quest for furthering his science, Akin later left AleSmith to go to La Jolla Brewing, but due to complications with the alcohol license he never got a chance to brew even one batch of beer. During his down time at La Jolla Brewing, he wrote out business plans and on one fateful afternoon while sitting with his father Jim at Jaynes Gastropub, the two decided to partner and form Benchmark Brewing.

Benchmark’s name is a nod to a family long tradition of camping. Now, Benchmark is a family affair; it’s not an uncommon sight to see Matt or his wife Rachael walking around their tasting room, families with infants grouping around tables where Jim teaches the card game bridge or Matt’s mom Margaret leaning on the bar telling stories from the trail.

In the Benchmark tasting room, everything around you is a subtle tribute to the Akin family and their love of camping. There is even a Coleman lantern hanging at the end of the bar that was a wedding gift to Jim and Margaret from her parents. A U.S. Geological Survey-style benchmark with proper altitude, latitude and longitude of its location is also found there. In addition to beer and conversation, Benchmark offers a rotating art gallery, yoga and is the pick-up point for local organic farm Be Wise Ranch. You’ll also find them heavily tied to the San Diego River Park Foundation.

The fun doesn’t stop there! Coming in the near future you can expect to find your favorite Benchmark beers in cans! With any luck, by the end of June you’ll be able to take their IPA, Brown and Table beers home in beautiful, 16-ounce aluminum vessels. Also on the way: an expansion of the brewery that includes a backyard complete with giant Jenga and more.

Benchmark may not have set out to be the standard for what all beers are measured by, but the brewing company has certainly established itself as a standard for what craft beer should be. Whether it’s arrogance, pride or skill, I’ll let you taste and decide if Benchmark lives up to its name, but I already know much like the family behind the brand you’ll find their beer is excellent without the need of being boastful.

TASTING NOTES

TABLE  4.00% ABV  30 IBU
Style:  Belgian Table
Appearance:  Pale golden
Aroma:  Subtle Belgian aroma
Taste: Hugely quaffable, light grainy taste with a clean finish and a slight hint of Belgian yeast.

BROWN  4.50% ABV  60 IBU
Style:  Brown Ale
Appearance:  Dark amber
Aroma: Light roasty nose
Taste:  Dry brown with a balance of malt and hops and a clean finish.

OATMEAL STOUT  4.50% ABV  50 IBU
Style:  Oatmeal Stout
Appearance:  Dark with a tan/toffee head
Aroma:  Lightly roasty aroma
Taste: A GABF Gold Medal winner for a reason. For a session ale, this stout is balanced with subtle chocolate notes and a clean-hop finish.

BEATEN PATH  5.00% ABV  70 IBU
Style:  Single Hop XPA
Appearance:  Brilliant golden with a slight white foamy head
Aroma:  Bold citrus nose
Taste: This beer was first deemed “Get on the Bus” and brewed for DrinkAbout! It has a light body and a great tropical hop flavor with a clean finish.

RIVER RYE  6.50% ABV
Style:  American Rye
Appearance:  Clear amber with a tan head
Aroma:  Hoppy/spicy nose
Taste:  Rich spicy flavor with a resin-y hop profile that still finishes clean.