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Black Plague Brewing
Black Plague Brewing teamed up with Burgeon Beer to craft Circle of Life Pale Ale to celebrate its fourth anniversary. Photo courtesy of Black Plague Brewing
Cheers! North County Columns Food & Wine

Cheers! North County: In the moment with Black Plague Brewing

We are back In the Moment this week with Jarred Doss, co-founder and CEO of Black Plague Brewing Company in Oceanside. The North County brewery just celebrated its fourth anniversary and has been establishing its local bona fides from the beginning. Reaching out to Black Plague felt a little cathartic, and after this interview, I might be ready to go out into the world for a beer.

CHEERS!: Hey Jarred, thanks for catching me up on what’s going on at Black Plague. It’s been more than a year of this pandemic, shifting hospitality expectations and some truly world-changing events. What is the physical, emotional and overall status of your company and team right now? And how did you manage it over the past year?

Jarred: At first, we all had a bit of disbelief that we were actually experiencing a global pandemic given all the various opinions being shared in mainstream media at that time. Once it became clear that restrictions and statewide mandates were being rolled out and that it was seriously going to change the way that we did things, the reality sunk in and caused some anxiety across the entire team.

We just had an all-hands meeting at the start of 2020 discussing ambitious plans for growth and opportunities for expansion. Those plans changed drastically. Not knowing what the future holds—in a time when we had just set such lofty goals—really affected the team in a way that we could never have foreseen.

We found it tragically ironic how relevant our brand name became in 2020. Although, it has worked out to our advantage that our dark sense of humor helped many of our fans and followers to cope with the stress of quarantine.

We pivoted our taproom team to run a to-go sales booth out of the front door and immediately began to sell packaged beer directly online for delivery or pickup. Production shifted almost entirely to packaged beer (6-packs).

Black Plague Brewing
A variety of craft beer from Oceanside’s Black Plague Brewing. Photo courtesy of Black Plague Brewing

The team’s spirits lifted during summer when we had a short duration of indoor operation at limited capacity. However, having to pivot back to outside-only dining kept everyone on their toes. Essentially, everyone rallied and we finished the year strong and maintained morale by having regular meetings to address everyone’s concerns, questions, etc.

Luckily, we never had any covid outbreaks at our brewery and taproom due to our intense sanitation and social distancing practices. We are finally getting back to executing our original plans of expanding into a 2nd tasting room down in San Diego and finishing construction of our 2nd cellar to add more fermenting vessels for more territory growth.

CHEERS!: For someone who isn’t familiar with Black Plague’s ethos, will you explain the theme or vibe, and how that translates into the beer?

Jarred: The brand theme is based on the Dark Ages—which means the taproom has a gothic cathedral vibe with a 20-foot guillotine, his-n-hers coffins, large communal tables and a 40-foot bar to allow for people to get up close and personal with the taproom team. At Black Plague Brewing, we are working to create a better life by pouring our heart and soul into everything we create.

Black Plague Brewing was born from the idea that beer makes friends, brings people together, and breaks down barriers that keep us segregated.

History has proven that a small group of people can band together around a single purpose and create incredible change throughout the world. We believe that regardless of your creed, color, race, background, or walk of life, you can join us to spread good times with great beer.

The Dark Ages were a time of upheaval marked by the death of culture, science, and the arts. Much of the world’s written history and greatest advancements were lost after the fall of the Roman Empire. Without the knowledge and technology to fight death and disease, society began to crumble under the chaos of a global pandemic. It would be centuries before a hero would emerge to help rebuild what was lost.

The Plague Doctor arose as a means to combat the struggle for survival and give hope to communities that life could be better.

Black Plague Brewing
An image of the Plague Doctor is painted on the wall of Black Plague’s brewery and tasting room in Oceanside. Photo courtesy of Black Plague Brewing

At Black Plague Brewing, we believe that the Plague Doctor represents a sign of new hope and community. Plague Doctors are often depicted in iconic costumes and seen as a symbol of death and disease. However, they were misunderstood; they were harbingers of new beginnings as they were the first line of defense against an unknown enemy (disease, bacteria, viruses).

Coincidentally, the art of brewing beer is very similar in that a lot of award-winning recipes are found through experimentation and trying new things. There are so many parallels between serving the public as a Plague Doctor and brewing delicious beer as a Brewmaster.

Plague doctors didn’t care what others thought about them. They were innovators and non-conformists, they weren’t restricted by traditional laws of the time. They were often given special privileges to perform autopsies when it was forbidden for general doctors. They were fearless. They took risks…They developed a mystique that became their identity. You can see more about our ethos [on our website].

CHEERS!: As much as anyone can plan after last year, what does the near future (2021) for Black Plague look like?

Jarred: We are eager and excited to open the second taproom in the San Diego area. We had plans to do that back in 2020 and now the opportunity has presented itself again. In addition to another location, we have just finished construction of our 2nd cellar at our HQ location.

Black Plague Brewing
Good times at Black Plague Brewing’s tasting room in Oceanside. Photo courtesy of Black Plague Brewing

This will ultimately allow us to have an annual production capacity of 20,000 barrels when it’s fully up and running. We are aggressively pursuing distribution opportunities in several key markets in the southwest region, and some midwest states.

We participated in a “guest brewer” program that allowed us to send our beer out to several states and it quickly sold out with a cry for more beer. So we are actively working to fulfill the demand at this point. We are also expanding our merchandise and apparel, so look out for more interesting drops over the next few months.

CHEERS!: Let’s talk beer. Is there anything coming out that your team is particularly excited about or proud of?

Jarred: We are very excited about our 4th-anniversary beer brewed in collaboration with Burgeon Beer Company. It is an amazingly fresh Pale Ale full of Strata, Mosaic Cryo, and Simcoe hops. You’ll be spellbound by aromas of passionfruit, citrus oils, blueberry, apricot, strawberry, and hints of peach.

Through a combined effort of dark arts and alchemy, this medium-bodied beer is enchantingly bright and crisp, leaving you with a refreshing sense of new life.

Trop[icus Black Plague Brewing
Black Plague Brewing’s “Tropicus,” a tropical pale ale featuring a blend of blood orange and grapefruit. Photo courtesy of Black Plague Brewing
In addition to that, we are proud of our collaboration with the legendary Tony Hawk to create Tony Hawps IPA, an incredibly smooth West Coast IPA full of juicy hop flavors and low bitterness. We also have several new beers crafted by our head brewer, Aeryk Heeg, for your tastebuds to get lost in a maze of fresh flavors: Labyrinth IIPA, Hell in the Cellar West Coast IPA, and Not Dead Yet Hazy IPA.

More variations of our fruited sour ale series will be coming soon. Also, spoiler alert, we will be releasing all of these new beers in 16-ounce cans. We usually package in 12-ounce but have decided to squeeze more liquid into the cans so you get the full pint experience even when you are not at the brewery.

CHEERS!: What is the best way for North County residents to get their hands on your beer?

Jarred: If you are in North County, you’ll definitely want to stop in the taproom in Oceanside (2550 Jason Court). Our beer is freshest from our taps and the taproom team is one of the best you’ll ever meet. I am colossally proud of their passion for creating a welcoming environment and making everyone feel comfortable.

If you aren’t able to come by, then you can find our beers using the ‘BEER FINDER’ on our website. We are carried at Albertsons, Vons, Sprouts, WinCo, BevMo, Total Wine, Barons, Grocery Outlet, and many more. The ‘BEER FINDER’ is your friend.

For draft [beer], you can snag some at a wide variety of spots like Yard House, Eureka!, Local Tap House, Crackheads, Board and Brew, Park 101, and many more.

We also ship beer if you live in California—you can order on our website. We are eagerly working on shipping to more states outside of CA, so follow on social media for updates on that.

CHEERS!: Anything else you want readers to know about Black Plague right now?

Jarred: We are extremely grateful and humbled by the support of our fans, followers, and customers, distribution and retail partners, that have helped to grow and spread BLACK PLAGUE. We encourage everyone to visit our ‘Values’ pages [online] to get a peak behind the plague bask and learn about who we are.

Also, our ‘Team’ page lets you learn about each member a bit more personally. We will continue to pour our heart and soul into each drop of beer and every experience in the taproom. Shoutout to everyone on the BP team for demonstrating how much they care through the attention to every little detail of their work. It makes all the difference. Come see for yourself.

Black Plague has one of the most informative and regularly updated newsletters of any brewery I follow. Not just here in San Diego, but anywhere. You can sign up at www.blackplaguebrewing.com or follow their social feeds: @BlackPlagueBrewing on Facebook and Instagram for all those beer, event and location updates.

If you like craft beer, you probably also love a good cup of coffee. Pour a mug, and check out most recent episodes of the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast featuring interviews and coffee education with great local coffee professionals.

Stream it now on The Coast News online or search for it on your favorite podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Thanks for listening, and for following Cheers! North County on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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