Dungeons & Dragons-themed Vista brewery wins gold at Olympics of beer competition

BattleMage Brewing Company is not your usual craft brewery.

On the walls are swords and records of D&D campaigns — Dungeons & Dragons for the non-nerds.

The fantasy tabletop-role-playing game concept is not why Ryan Sather and Chris Barry, two lifelong best friends, decided to establish their brewery. Barry said the idea was an innate part of who they are.

“It was going to be a place where nerds could come group together — talk about nerdy things,” he said. “And it’s worked out so far.”

Their “nerdiness” is not why BattleMage has gotten attention lately. The four-person company is one of three local breweries to bring home the gold last week at the World Beer Cup in Memphis, Tennessee. The competition is considered the Olympics of beer.

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Ryan Sather, co-owner of BattleMage Brewing Company, posing next to his award-winning beer, Summon Ifrit, at the brewery tasting room in Vista, May 16, 2023.

Sather followed along on the World Beer Cup’s webstream while driving to the brewery. He got there just in time for the awarding announcement.

“I turned to a customer, and I said, ‘this must be what heroin feels like’ … because it was just so raw in the emotion,” Sather said. “This is a competition we’ve been excited about winning since we were home brewers a dozen-plus years ago.”

The beer that won gold was Summon Ifrit, a hoppy amber beer that’s well-balanced between malty and hoppy. Barry said it was not a popular beer with customers, but it resonates with brewers.

“I think this beer stands out particularly for this style because it has a little bit more hop character than most reds or ambers that I’ve tried,” he said. “It also finishes quite a bit drier, so it doesn’t really have a lingering sweetness to it.”

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BattleMage co-owner Chris Barry talks about his award-winning beer at the brewery’s tasting room in Vista, May 16, 2023.

The beer is Sather’s recipe, and he first entered it into the competition 10 years ago but “lost that initial competition badly.” Over the years, Sather refined the recipe to what it is now.

Before winning gold at the World Beer Cup, Summon Ifrit won first place at the San Diego International Beer Competition at the San Diego County Fair last September.

“I think the main thing that changed was upping the dry, hoping to give it a little bit more hop aroma,” Barry said.

Now with a world-class award-winning beer on their hands, the pair is looking to expand to a second location and — of course — enter more beer competitions.


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