All San Diego County breweries are special to us, but we particularly enjoy those that are family owned and operated. Iron Fist Brewing Co. in Vista, is one such brewery, and the Sieminski family recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.
The story of Iron Fist Brewing began one day while the family was traveling in Europe and they picked up a taste for Belgian beers. “There was a Belgian beer with great flavor that I tasted and I said, ‘Hey, I want to make this,’” Brandon Sieminski, Head Brewer and Director of Production, told us when we visited the brewery.
“When we got back from that trip, my Dad, brother, and I went to Hydrobrew and bought our first homebrewing kit. After brewing for a couple years, we began thinking about starting a family business, and after a lot of research, we did. Tasting those Belgian beers made it click.”
It’s a good thing for craft beer lovers that the Sieminski family liked those beers, because what they like is what they brew. Which is one of the reasons why Iron Fist has been so successful right from the beginning.
In a video shot just months after the brewery opened, a small group of “beer geeks” stood with 21-year-old Brandon Sieminski in front of Ironfist Brewing’s gleaming fermentation tanks. Each member of the group held a snifter of golden beer that Sieminski had brewed.
One of the geeks includes Craft Beer Ambassador for Stone Brewing, “Dr. Bill” Sysak, who had come to interview Sieminski. “Dr. Bill” tells the group that he has tasted Sieminski’s homebrews, and they were all great. When asked what they were drinking, Sieminski replied “Off Hand, a version of Hired Hand (a saison), made with all Belgian malts.”
Fast forward five years and it is our own team of beer geeks visiting with the Sieminski family to get an update on the brewery and its recent expansion.
We think the Sieminski family is brilliant and that Brandon Sieminski is a brewing genius. Together they turned their talent as entrepreneurs and homebrewers into one of the hottest San Diego craft breweries on the scene.
“It was in the midst of the economic crisis that we decided to open a brewery,” Eve Sieminski explained to us when we asked about the business side of the operation. “At first my sons just wanted my husband Greg and I to be investors, but we wanted to be a part of the business as well. So, right from the beginning we were family owned and operated.”
Opening their brewery has been a feat of perseverance. The family team raised private capital, found a suitable site for a new brewery in Vista, negotiated the licenses and permits required to produce beer on a commercial level, secured rights to the Iron Fist name, and started brewing great beer.
As soon as Iron Fist came on the local scene in 2010, Brandon Sieminski quickly gained a reputation for making Belgian-style beers and others that nobody else wanted to brew, such as Kölsch and Pilsner. These styles take time and finesse to make, as they are beers that cannot hide behind hops. Sieminski has been making them true to style from the very beginning.
Iron Fist’s beers are authentic. So much so, that beer travelers from Germany who have visited the brewery and tasted the Kölsch say it tastes like ones made back home. And aficionados who know a good Pilsner when they taste one, rave about the beer.
Over the years the beers Brandon Sieminski has been producing have consistently shown brilliance and ingenuity. As a passionate brewer, there is no shortage of his creativity, and for Iron Fist Brewing the future is bright.
“Quality is key to a successful beer. I like brewing because of the fine balance of art and science involved. Making good beer is about using the right ingredients the right way.”
– Brandon Sieminski, Brewmaster Iron Fist Brewing
Sieminski also said making craft beer is about inclusion, not exclusion. “It’s about bringing people to the land of better tasting beer,” he beamed.
To craft the quality of their beers, Iron Fist starts by brewing on a 15-barrel system. “It has a 15,000 BTU direct fire burner that really gets things boiling nicely,” Sieminski explained. “We filter city water to remove chlorine, but we don’t do any conditioning of it other than that. Our ingredients are imported and we only use the best we can find. If I can’t get the best, I don’t brew until I do.”
Iron Fist has been careful with expansion plans over the past five years, but now that the business is booming, they are expanding casinos. “We are pleased with the new tasting room we opened in Barrio Logan this summer and the way it has fit into the community and local art scene,” Sieminski told us.
“Barrio Logan is a really cool community and an up and coming part of town,” he continued. What has happened to East Village is taking hold there. Our tasting room in Mercado Del Barrio is a venue for the Art Crawl and “Cultura Under the Bridge,” where DJs, vendors, live music, and local artists come. We have events at the tasting room once a month.”
Eve Sieminski related that Iron Fist is also expanding in North County. “We are involved with the Carlsbad North 40 Urban Farm project, and will be one of the microbreweries opening there in 2017,” she explained. “And here at the brewery we will continue to produce our core beers and expand our barrel-aging program.”
When we asked Brandon Sieminski to talk about two of the brewery’s flagship beers, it wasn’t easy for him to pin down. “For me, all our beers are flagship beers, but if I had to pick two, they would be Renegade Blonde and Velvet Glove,” he said.
Renegade Blonde (5.2% ABV/22 IBUs) is a German-style Kölsch made with imported German malts and hops. It has a crisp, soft malt flavor with a subdued bitter finish. It’s very drinkable and quite refreshing.
Velvet Glove (9% ABV/45 IBUs) is one of Brandon’s favorites and an original homebrew. Made with nine different grains, most of them roasted, the flavor is rich, chocolaty espresso, with some dark fruit. It has a lot of oatmeal in it too, so it has a creamy mouthfeel and is silky smooth on the palate.
Iron Fist Brewing is a beautiful venue for enjoying brewery-fresh beer. So beautiful, in fact, they often host weddings. It’s also a popular place for other celebrations, events, and parties. It’s evident this family friendly brewery pervades and includes its customers and community. We encourage you to stop by the North County brewery in Vista and say hello. And when in San Diego, be sure to visit Iron Fist’s Barrio Logan tasting room.