April 14 2015 05:53 PM

Council Brewing Co. features full-fruit flavors

Liz Chism
Photo by Jeff Corrigan

Liz Chism doesn't suffer fools, or unbalanced beer, gladly. The co-owner and head brewer of Council Brewing Co. in Kearny Mesa started brewing beer on a tiny porch with her husband and business partner, Curtis, about five years ago. After realizing they could work together, they decided to open a brick-and-mortar business. Council is about to celebrate its first year in business. 

Something else to celebrate: The brewery has become the go-to spot for tart saisons, a low-alcohol, refreshing brew, usually infused with fruit, with just a hint of sourness.

"I would say that pretty much any beer that you have from us is going to be balanced," Chism says, in the middle of making a batch.  

With her reddish-blonde hair pulled back, a slash of gold eye shadow and characteristic rubber brewer boots, she is ready to brew.

"You are not going get a stout that is crazy roasty or an IPA that ruins your palate because of the amount of hops in it," she says, "or a tart saison that is so sour, it's taking the enamel off your teeth."

The setup at Council is a three-barrel system and one that is distinctly mobile. Most of the equipment—save for the mash-ton kettle and whirlpool—is on wheels, a perfect layout for a starter brewery with a growing popularity. It's also made up of pumps, a professional detail that Chism appreciates for its efficiency and low-risk.

"I'm pretty strong," she says. "But I also know safety and I really didn't want to take boiling water and try and dump it over me. So we decided to invest in pumps with everything on the ground."

And it has certainty paid off, especially the ease in which Chism is able to experiment. However, Council'a biggest draw is its rotating selections of her incredibly drinkable tart saisons. 

Instead of kettle souring her beers, like many brewers, she mixes lactobacillus—a bacteria commonly found in yogurt—with wild yeast and a saison strain of brewer's yeast in a full fermentation. 

The San Diego drinking public likes it. Council's tart saisons, a group of beers with flavors such as passion fruit and raspberry called Beatitude, were recently bottled and Chism put a call out on social media. In less than three hours, almost 1,000 32-ounce bottles sold. 

In order to meet overall demand, Council is expanding to another garage in its same warehouse complex. 

Before Chism started working 12-hour days at the brewery, she was a sign-language interpreter, working in Mexico and post-secondary schools. 

"[I] fell in love with the language and culture, and the people," she says. 

The innate friendliness and charisma that worked well for her as an interpreter now extends to how she operates the brewery and taproom. Chism likes to think of Council as a place where people get together over a brew and have meaningful conversations, apropos of the brewery's name. 

Carly can be reached at carlyn@sdcitybeat.com. Follow her on Twitter at @cnairnsf