Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mikkeller Haze

I went to San Francisco and found good beers brewed in San Diego.  Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco sold four-packs of Bushel of Haze IPA, brewed at Mikkeller's San Diego brewery.  Bushel of Haze is was what I'd call a new style IPA, heavy in hop flavors, not excessively bitter, and cloudy.  It had a tantalizing floral whiff on its finish that added a bit of je ne sais quoi.  It is an Amarillo single-hop New England-style beer.  

Bushel of Haze was not heavy or overpowering, which I now find hard to believe.  I did not realize until writing this post and checking for facts on Mikkeller's website that this beer has an 8.9% abv and is a double IPA.  You won't know it drinking it.  I really need to be better about checking beer abvs.  I heard "haze IPA" and that was all I needed.  I'm not sure I would have bought this four-pack if I knew it was 8.9% abv, but in this case ignorance really was bliss.  

I trekked to Mikkeller Bar with the goal of buying a t-shirt.   Mikkeller did not have one in my size so I purchased Bushel of Haze instead.  Some consolation prize.  The restaurant/bar was crowded and noisy.  I felt out of place, much older than the other people in the bar.  I decided to have a beer in solidarity with beer drinkers over thirty.  Pariah that I was, I staked a claim on a small section of a long shelf and ordered an IPA.  The beer was named Hver Anden Uge and was brewed with Amarillo, Paradise, and El Dorado hops.  I have no idea what the name means or how to pronounce it, but it was pure gold.  (My lame picture of Hver Anden Uge does not flatter the beer, as it blends into the wood shelf.)

I noted that Hver Anden Uge was sweet and tinged with the taste of onions, along with a citrusy, earthy mix, too.  I have noticed many new IPAs with oniony flavors, which brings a better taste to an IPA than you think it would.  It must tamp down the flavor smothering bitterness of hops and allow other flavors to appear.   Hver Anden Uge, which sounds like a drunk saying "have another one," is a hazy beer.  Like Bushel of Haze, Hver Anden Uge is brewed in San Diego.  I need to visit Mikkeller's brewery and tasting room soon.  It is cranking out some good beers, and maybe there is some age diversity, too. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

So Sad

This is rare non-beer post.  I just read the New York Times' obituary of former major league manager Dallas Green, who managed the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series title.  These two paragraphs are heartbreaking:
In his later years, Green struggled to recover after the shooting death of his 9-year-old granddaughter, Christina-Taylor Green, who was one of six people killed in the failed assassination attempt on Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011.

Two years later, on the release of his autobiography, “The Mouth That Roared,” he conceded that he was still dealing with the death. “They say time heals,” he said. “Time, I don’t think, will ever heal that part of my life.”
It reminded my of a passage in William Maxwell's haunting autobiographical novel So Long, See You Tomorrow, where years after his mother's death when he was ten, he realized he had not gotten over it. 
I meant to say to the fatherly man who was not my father, the elderly Viennese, another exile, with thick glasses and a Germanic accent, I meant to say I couldn't bear it, but what came out of my mouth was "I can't bear it."  This statement was followed by a flood of tears such as I hadn't ever known before, not even in my childhood.  I got up from the leather couch and, I somehow knew, with his permission left his office and the building and walked down Sixth Avenue to my office.  New York City is a place where one can weep on the sidewalk in perfect privacy.
Other children could have borne it, have borne it.  My older brother did, somehow.  I couldn't.
Godspeed Dallas Green.

South Bay (San Diego) Beer Revolt

The Voice of San Diego published an article last week on craft beer in the South Bay area of San Diego, which includes Chula Vista, National City, and Imperial Beach.  The point of the article is that major craft breweries have avoided the South Bay due to the assumption that residents only have "taste buds for macro brews, like Bud Light, Corona and Dos Equis."  Anyone who visits a local San Diego brewery knows that the craft beer drinker stereotype of twentysomething bearded white guys is wrong. 

If nothing else, this blog has advocated that quality beer prevails.  This is happening now in the South Bay.  Local residents have taken up the craft beer challenge and are opening restaurants, bars, and breweries.  It sounds like 3rd Avenue in Chula Vista is the epicenter of the #SouthBayUprising.  Note the picture in the article of the guy drinking a beer at La Bella Pizza Garden, the mug is huge.  It alone is reason enough to explore Chula Vista's beer scene.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Heady Topper Article

My last post was on hazy IPAs.  I saw this article from Longreads the day after I wrote the post.  It is an excellent article on Heady Topper, the beer from Vermont's Alchemist Brewery credited with starting the cloudy beer trend.  The article details how Alchemist had its brewery wiped out by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and how the brewery's recovery from disaster and focus on brewing helped Heady Topper rise to cult status.  Ultimately, it is an uplifting story about a beer that sounds fantastic and the people who make it.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

It's All A Bit Hazy

I like hazy IPAs and I have been wanting to try a derivative style IPA I have heard about called New England IPA.  I did not know until today they were the same thing.  I get the sense from my twitter feed that hazy IPAs are a fad that beer purists should avoid to maintain self-respect.  This article from NPR's The Salt breaks down the "haze craze."  This passage from the article explains where these offshoot IPAs get their murk:

The haziness in these beers is caused by a variety of techniques that brewers say are primarily aimed at enhancing aromas and creating a smooth, creamy mouthfeel while also reducing the stinging bitterness associated with more conventional IPAs. Some brewers, for example, are using certain yeast strains that leave fruity esters in the beer, as well as suspended particulate matter. 
You have to love a beer with "suspended particulate matter."   The few New England IPAs I have tried are thick and fruity, like fresh squeezed juice.  I'll shed some beer dignity for more murk.   The one negative part of these cloudy beers is that they are so dense that about half a pint is enough. 

Some fads are easy to see as fads, like Pokeman Go, the Mannequin Challenge, or paddle boards.  It's harder to tell when a fad becomes ingrained and permanent.  The sudden popularity of hazy IPAs is a craze but that does not mean their appeal will fade before the suspended particulate matter settles at the bottom of a pint glass.  These beers are good, which will help their longevity and keep them in regular rotation.  I don't expect to see a whole tap room of murky beers any time soon, but having an unfiltered option or two seems reasonable.  But if I see a cloudy lager in the next month or so I'll know I am wrong and that hazy beers are doomed.

I find the term New England IPA funny.  Without reading much about them, I assumed New England IPAs were maltier, less hoppy IPAs - an anti-West Coast IPA - which is why I wanted to try one.  I had no idea they were bold, living, swirling, opaque beers that are the latest frontier in craft beer.  It is not my mental image of New England.  Here in San Diego, Pure Project Brewing makes hazy beers and Pizza Port had one of its hazy IPAs available recently.

I had a precursor to the haze wave about nine years at Stone's Escondido World Bistro and Gardens.  Stone had an unfiltered version of its then new Cali-Belgique IPA.  It was fruity, yeasty, and excellent.  The picture I took in August 2008 is above.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Everything But The Beer

Kilowatt Beer Company's Ocean Beach tasting room opens this weekend.  A West Coaster article from yesterday discusses Kilowatt's new space and the crowded Ocean Beach beer scene.  We learn about Kilowatt's artistic owners and how the new tasting room, transformed from a motorcycle repair shop, will not only reflect their artistic aesthetic but pay tribute to past Ocean Beach artist Clint Cary, the Spaceman of OB.  We also learn that there are four tasting rooms in the "out-there community," with two on the way, including Kilowatt, in addition to a new restaurant that houses a tasting room for Northern California's Golden State Brewery, and two breweries, Ocean Beach Brewing and Pizza Port.  Kilowatt drops among some serious beer options. 

One thing the article lacked was any description of Kilowatt's beer, and it concerns me   Does it have a specialty style?  Does it make a stellar beer or two?  How will it standout?   The art is cool, but the Culture Brewing and Mike Hess tasting rooms proudly show an ever changing selection of local artists, too.  I am all for more tasting rooms, they have become local meeting spots in a beach town with a number of dive bars, and I want Kilowatt to succeed.  I just want to know what I can expect in terms of beer quality.  Since West Coaster avoided Kilowatt's beers, I'll have to go try them myself.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Rocking Red Ale

I usually choose Culture Brewing's pale ale to fill my growler.  It's a creamy, easy drinking weekday beer.  For the past few weeks Culture has had its Red Ale on tap, and I bucked my chronic pale ale habit and brought home a growler of it.  I was told this version of the Red Ale was slightly different than previous releases, with an increased level of hops.  I am picky with red ales.  I like them hop-forward, where the bitterness is stout enough to counter the heavy malts.  Culture's mahogany Red Ale captured this combination, and it managed to add an unexpected dryness that sits at the top of your mouth.   The hop bitterness, which sliced through the malt, allowed me to enjoy the beer, and each drink did not feel like I was eating a slice of heavy brown bread.   The dryness, to me, made this beer.  It added a chalky crispness, which gave the beer a sense of lightness.  Culture's Red Ale is not a complex beer, although I doubt complexity was the brewer's intention, but it tastes good and is well made.  I recommend stopping in at Culture's tasting room for a pint of this gem if you are in Ocean Beach.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Don't Overlook Stone

The West Coaster ran a series of year-end summary blog posts this week on San Diego's best new breweries, most improved breweries, and best breweries right now.  The three lists were not mutually exclusive, but only Karl Strauss made more than one (most improved and best breweries right now).  There are so many breweries in San Diego, and I have not tried beers from all the breweries on the list, so I cannot knock the judgement of author Brandon Hernandez or West Coaster.

I would make one addition: Stone Brewing.  It should be on the list of best breweries right now.  I hope the biggest Stone news of the year is not that it cut 5% of its staff, or that head brewer Mitch Steele left, or that it hired a new CEO, or that it opened locations in Berlin and Richmond, Virginia, but that it continues to make great beer.  Stone's incredible Enjoy By, which seems to change with every release, is reason alone to put it on the best breweries right now list.  Stone's new Ripper Pale Ale, replacing the short-lived Pale Ale 2.0, was released in early November and I expect it to compete with AleSmith's .394 as one of San Diego's best pale ales.  Stone's decision to re-release some of its Anniversary Ales in 2016 brought back some stellar beers.  My favorite was the 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA.   Stone increased its seasonal releases adding a red ale, a citrus wit, and a stout.  It has so many good beers that they overshadow the rare miss, like the RuinTen affront.

Stone has been around for so long and is such a craft beer presence, especially here in San Diego, I think people tend to overlook it.  That is a mistake.  Stone could sit back and just rework its core beers, add a fruit salad of ingredients and repackage the beers as new, but it does not.  Yes, Stone does release variations of its core beers, but most importantly it continues to create new exciting beers, like its Arrogant Bastard brand's Who You Callin' Wussie pilsner, the above mentioned seasonal beers, and the many draft-only and experimental beers available at Stone's breweries. To me, Stone does not seem satisfied to rely on its past successes and reputation, but continues to push forward so that its future exceeds its past.  That is why Stone is one of the best breweries right now.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Buy Local

In my last post I gave two simple recommendations for holiday beer gifts:  a generic growler and a brewery gift card.  I forgot to mention that you should also buy local.  If you buy a gift card from a brewery it is likely that you will purchase it directly at a brewery.  There are more than 130 breweries in San Diego so it should not be hard to find a brewery near you or your work.  Here is a list and a map from the San Diego Brewers Guild to help you find a local brewery, not one owned by Big Beer.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Beer Gifts

I have posted beer gift ideas twice before, here and here.  The list from two years ago holds up pretty well.  This year, to make it even simpler, I narrowed the list to two essential items for the beer drinker:  A blank, flip-top growler or a gift card from a brewery. 

In California, to fill a growler of beer to go, most breweries accept either their labeled growlers or unlabeled growlers.  I have been to some breweries that will only fill flip-top growlers.  Apparently, the screw tops don't keep beer fresh long enough.  (For some reason I don't seem to have this problem with my screw top growler.)  I recommend a generic 64 oz stainless steel flip-top growler, which can be filled and refilled at multiple breweries.  Skip the urge to buy a 32 oz growler, a jug this small is kind of pointless. 

A gift card from a brewery is beer cash.  Not much more to say about a brewery gift card other than do not be stingy.

Last year I broke my cardinal rule about not gifting beer and sent a family member some fresh IPAs.  On a visit, I noticed the once-fresh IPAs languishing in the fridge eight months later.  This year the family member is getting a lovely holiday pillow.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Brewery For Sale

West Coaster is reporting that Lightning Brewery is for sale.  The Poway-based brewery is ten years old and comes with a 5,500-square-foot facility, which includes a 30-barrel brewhouse, a cellar capacity of 490 barrels, a bottling line, and a tasting room with a patio.  According to West Coaster, Lightning made the mistake of focusing on distributing its beers in bottles rather than emphasizing a tasting room.  I felt Lightning could have had more draft accounts, as I don't see its beers in that many locations.  In what may have been its biggest miscalculation, Lightning shunned IPAs for a long time.  In a town and era that demands IPAs, Lightning offered a pilsner and hefeweizen instead.  Lightning's core Elemental Pilsner and Thunderweizen are excellent beers, but they are bold beers, which may have limited their appeal.  Lightning now offers several IPAs, which I have yet to try.  I am glad Lightning's owner Jim Crute is selling the brewery rather than closing it. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Tenuous Link?

It was big San Diego beer news this week when Cosimo Sorrentino abruptly resigned from his job as head brewer at Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery and South Park Brewing Co.  The West Coaster published an interview with Sorrentino after his announcement.  I thought the interview raised more questions than it answered.  This passage in particular had me wondering about a larger meaning and wanting specific examples:
I feel San Diego has crossed over to a new era in brewing. The community spirit is being fractured; too many breweries fighting over the same styles, following trends for profit, not enough quality staff to provide front-of-house service…and let’s not get into the distributor issues. This was inevitable and will not necessarily be a bad thing for those making or drinking beer. San Diego beer will get better and those that succeed will benefit from the competition!
I want to know what Sorrentino defined as the new era and what triggered it.   And what does he mean by breaking the community spirit?  He ends the quote with the following statement: "San Diego beer will get better and those that succeed will benefit from the competition!"  His optimistic opening contradicts his previous statements, and the sentence ends with an ominous warning about breweries not surviving. Wow, there are deep levels of implications in that quote. 

This brings me to my tenuous link.  I have said before that breweries that make good beer will survive.  I will qualify that to say that good beer will go a long way to help a brewery survive.  Recently, I tried an awful beer from a local brewery I am not going to name.  It was a Belgian Pale Ale with Rose.  It had no Belgian yeast influence and no taste of Rose.  It was just a crappy, tepid paleish ale of some sort  Brewing and selling bad beers like this is going to put pressure on all breweries.  The craft beer craze has matured and people will not stand for subpar beers, there are too many other choices.  It made me think that there is something to Sorrentino's claim about too many breweries battling over the same style and a fractured community spirit.  I would add that some breweries are fighting with defective weapons.