Striking “Gold”

If you have not heard of Oaktown Pecan Brown, the hand-crafted beer created by Brewmaster Rick Boucke at Oakhurst’s South Gate Brewing Co., you may soon - the beer just won the “Specialty Beer” Gold Medal at the Ninth Annual San Diego International Beer Festival.

South Gate Brewing Co. owner, Casey Hawkins, Boucke, and restaurant General Manager Andrew Platfoot picked-up the prestigious award June 20 during the event’s award ceremony at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in Southern California.

Hawkins said the award is not only for South Gate Brewing Co., but for the entire community.

“Winning Gold at the San Diego International Beer competition is a dream come true,” Hawkins said. “The best of the best from around the world enter this competition and bringing a Gold Medal home to Oakhurst is a great honor for our team. We are fortunate to have a brewmaster that consistently delivers award worthy beer. Oakhurst is an amazing community. The fact that our gold medal winner is a beer named after the town that has supported us from day one really makes this special.”

Boucke said he was inspired to make Oaktown Pecan Brown by his fiancée, pastry chef Ann Reece.

“She wanted a beer to taste like pecans and brown sugar,” Boucke said. “Casey Hawkins and I loved the idea because it was such an original concept to use pecans in a beer.”

Boucke called the experience at the festival incredible.

“Oaktown Brown was a crowd favorite and it was also recognized by renowned brewmasters as one of the best beers of the year,” Boucke said. “Casey and Lindsay Hawkins have built an amazingly successful gem in just a couple of years. I see South Gate growing into one of the biggest and most well known breweries in the country. It’s such an honor to bring home a gold medal to beautiful Oakhurst and give the community something to take pride in. It’s moments like these that keep me passionate about making beer.”

South Gate Restaurant Manager Andy Platfoot said the magnitude of the award is huge for South Gate and Oakhurst.

“We were all very excited about the award,” Platfoot said. “We are extremely proud to represent Oakhurst at one of the largest international beer festivals around,” said the 1991 Yosemite High graduate.

The festival is one of the top two beer festivals and competitions in the world, with more than 12,000 beer lovers attending one of five tasting sessions during the three-day festival, sipping their way through more than 400 varieties of ale, cider, porter, and stout beers, produced by more than 200 breweries from more than 15 countries. Entries were from small breweries like South Gate Brewing to some of the largest breweries in the world, including Anheuser-Busch.

The festival brings together the brewers and beers to recognize the best in the industry and highlight new and upcoming breweries.

“This event showcases the diverse beers that make craft brewing one of the fastest-growing segments of the beer, wine and spirits industry,” said Tyson Blake, festival coordinator. “The festival was founded in 2007 and has been growing and evolving ever since, welcoming thousands of beer lovers annually.”

The Best of Show award went to Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan of Belgium for their Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel beer.

The AleSmith Brewing Company of San Diego was named Champion Brewery at the festival, for winning four Gold medals.

The festival is held during San Diego County Fair, the fourth largest county fair in the nation.

The judging for the competition is held using the high standards and definitions of the Brewers Association, and by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines. The judging is a closed, blind event. Select industry professionals and BJCP certified judges, without knowing the brand or brewery name, evaluated beers in 48 style categories.

South Gate Brewing Co. opened in April 2013, at the corner of Highway 49, and Enterprise Drive, in a building that once housed a car dealership.

South Gate Brewing Co. is the dream come true for Casey and Lindsey Hawkins - a dream they shared for many years - opening a micro brewery and sharing their love of hand crafted beer and exceptional food.

Both Casey and and Lindsay have backgrounds in food and beverage as well as business and marketing. Casey owned a marketing firm in San Diego while practicing his beer-brewing skills at home, and Lindsay worked in marketing and publishing in San Diego before moving to Oakhurst, with their daughter Kaia, now four years old.

Boucke, who perfected his beer-brewing skills while working eight years, three as brewmaster, at Sequoia Brewing Company in Fresno, before joining Casey and Lindsay, oversees the production of upwards of 450 gallons of beer a week at South Gate.

Boucke is thrilled to be creating versions of the world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage. Internationally, beer sales are four times those of wine, which is the second most popular alcoholic beverage. The brewing process, 150 gallons three time a week, takes about six hours and uses a state-of-the-art filtration system and conditioned water.

“For the children, we also make a great tasting root beer,” Lindsay said.

The lunch and dinner menu at South Gate offers artisan brick oven pizzas, grass-feed beef burgers, and traditional pub favorites including fish & chips, and shepherd’s pie.

“Our original goal was to bring great beer and good food to the community,” Casey said. “We think we’ve done that.”