Monday, November 10, 2014

Green Flash Buys Alpine Beer Co.

Green Flash Brewing has agreed to purchase Alpine Beer CoBrandon Hernandez has the details here.  The Union Tribune's Peter Rowe's article is here.  Green Flash agreed last year to allow Alpine to produce some of its beers at Green Flash's Mira Mesa Blvd facility, so the transaction is not unexpected.  I suspect Alpine's Nelson IPA will see increased production, which is good, because it has become so rare that it's now a cult beer and sells out as fast as the once-a-year release of Pliny the Younger.  My main concern on the merger is whether Alpine's Pat McIlhenny will continue to send out his brilliant, periodic emails. 

Welcome to the Neighborhood - Culture Brewing Opens OB Tasting

Culture Brewing opened its Ocean Beach satellite tasting room on Saturday, November 8, 2014.  I did not make opening day, but made it a point to stop in last night to try a beer.  Culture's spartan tasting room feels like a clean, spacious garage.  The Newport Avenue entrance is open across the entire storefront.   The interior, which is open to the roof, contains a big bar, a few wood barrels that function as tables, and not much more.   Culture fills blank growlers, and I had mine filled with a Mosaic-hopped IPA.   I had never tried a beer from Culture, so an IPA initiation was essential.  It is my simple opinion that if a brewer can make a decent IPA, especially when stacked against other San Diego IPAs, than its other beers will likely be solid, too.  Culture's Mosaic IPA was fantastic (more formal review in another post).  I am looking forward to proving my theory and putting my unlabeled growler to heavy-duty use.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Coronado Karma

Last Friday, on Halloween, I went into Coronado Brewing's Linda Vista brewery and tasting room looking for a bottle of Coronado's Punk'in Drublic pumpkin ale.  There were no bottles of it in the tasting room's fridges, and I asked a woman working at the brewery if there were any more bottles available.  She checked with several people and then told me that the beer was sold out at that location, and that a barrel-aged beer version of Punk'in Drublic would be available during San Diego Beer Week.  Disappointed, I decided to get a taster of Punk'in Drublic to see what I was missing while I thought of where else I could buy a bottle.  (It's good; a dark, chewy ale.)

While I was waiting for my taster, the same employee came up to holding three bombers of Punk'in Drublic, and said the owner had kept three bottles for himself, but wanted me buy them.  I bought two, not wanting to seem greedy.   I was impressed by Coronado's  effort - from employee to owner - to help me, just a random customer.   Respect.

I will write up my review of Punk'in Drublic in a separate post.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

By Halloween I had already seen a number of Holiday or winter seasonal beers on store shelves.  Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale, Stone's Double Bastard, The Bruery's Seven Swans A Swimming, and Deschutes' Jubelale, with its annual Oregon art label, were out before the trick-or-treaters.  When it comes to special release beers, I'm ok with early Christmas commercialization.  Bring 'em on, the more the merrier!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Glaring "Best Of" Omission

I wrote yesterday about a new list of the twelve best breweries in San Diego, and the limits of any "best of" list.  Then last night in the Financial Times' Weekend edition I see it has an article on the five best* craft beer outlets in San Francisco.  I have no problem with the five breweries in the story:  21st Amendment, Anchor Brewing, Almanac Beer Co., Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, and Magnolia Pub & Brewery.  But any "best of" list of San Francisco craft brewers that excludes Cellarmaker Brewing invalidates the entire list.  The two authors clearly did not fully research San Francisco's craft brewers.

* The print edition states that the list is the "five best," while the on-line headline states that the list is "five of the best," giving the authors some flexibility.

Monday, November 3, 2014

San Diego Beer Week

The ten-day, two weekend San Diego Beer Week starts Friday, November 7, 2014, and runs through November 16, 2014.  There are too many events to list on this website.  The essential San Diego Beer Week website lists all the events here.  Looking at the list of events, there are some on November 6th, so it looks like eleven days of beer-filled fun.  The beer events range from big to small, so pick your event and try some interesting beers!

San Diego's Best Breweries?

The San Diego Reader has produced a list of San Diego's top twelve breweries*.  In the article, the breweries are listed in alphabetic order:

AleSmith Brewing
Alpine Beer Company
Amplified Ale Works
Ballast Point Brewery and Spirits
Benchmark Brewing
Green Flash Brewing Company
Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery
New English Brewing
Pizza Port
Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey
Rip Current
Societe Brewing

"Best of" lists are fun, but frivolous.  Sure, I read the articles touting the 100 greatest movies of all-time, or the ten best books of the year, or the top fifty beers to drink before you die, but there is bias and personal preference in any 'best of" list, which make them more opinion than fact.  Some of my favorite movies are not going to show up on any "greatest" list, just like some of my favorite beers won't be on a "best of" list.  I'm sure the publication of the supposed twelve best breweries in San Diego corresponds with San Diego Beer Week (SDBW).  I would not argue against any of the breweries on the list, but there are plenty of good breweries in San Diego not on the list, so don't limit yourself to just a handful of breweries. SDBW is a great opportunity to sample the best from many different breweries.

*  Brandon Hernandez who wrote the article for San Diego Reader also works for Stone Brewing, so Stone was excluded from the list.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

CAPT. Sacramento

Black IPAs are the commodity of craft beers in their bland, roasted lack of distinction.   Ruhstaller's  CAPT. Sacramento Black IPA shows that a black IPA can be an interesting beer, separating itself from the generic pack.   CAPT was roasted and not overly bitter, similar to other black IPAs, but it had a spicy characteristic I have not noticed in other black IPAs, and this spiciness gave the beer its personality.  It was rich like a porter (7.6% abv), not thin, a flaw suffered by some black IPAs.  CAPT. is dark mahogany, not black, again more porter-like.  The beer's hop bitterness occurred in mid-taste, and gave way to a soothing sweetness.  Spices and roasted flavors lingered long into the finish.

I have found Ruhstaller beers as far south as Central California, but Ruhstaller's website lists where its beers are available in San Diego:

Best Damn Beer Shop (San Diego)
Bine and Vine (North Park)
Holiday Wine Cellar (Escondido)
K N B Wine Cellars
Major Market (Escondido)
Major Market (Fallbrook)
Specialty Produce
Texas Liquors (Carlsbad)
Valley Farm Markets (Spring Valley)
Whole Foods (San Diego) – Hillcrest
Windmill Farms Market (San Diego)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Double Shot of Modern Times

Modern Times Beer is in the midst of its second year, and is maturing into an iconoclastic, risk-taking brewer.  Its rye IPA, Aurora, is excellent and shows Modern Times' brewing skill.  Aurora is bitter and complex, with the spicy, front-of-the-tongue zip you expect from a well-made rye IPA.  It is smoother than many rye IPAs, which makes it enjoyable to drink, but it has enough kick so you don't forget about it.  Not all brewers handle rye properly, but Modern Times mastered this prickly grain in Aurora.  Aurora is available in draft and in 22 oz bottles.

Modern Times' new saison, Universal Friend, is on draft at its brewery.  It was brewed with must from Pinot Grigio grapes.  Universal Friend has a bit of funk, giving it a slight farmhouse ale quality.  It is a sweet saison, and the Pinot Grigio must brings in a level of sophistication, which smooths out the beer.  Modern Times' core saison, Lomaland, is a classic saison, and while Universal Friend is brewed with the same yeast, it is a more adventurous beer that remains approachable and drinkable

One of the things I like most about Modern Times is that I don't like all its beers.  I have not cared for most of its IPAs and some of its other beers, but I will keep trying Modern Times' IPAs in anticipation of finding a winner like Aurora.  Modern Times is not afraid to try new hop varietals or unusual ingredients like grape must, to make its beers unique.  I'd much rather visit a brewery that can create beers I find personally polarizing than a brewery producing safe, mediocre beers that inspire nothing but ambivalence. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New Tasting Room For Ocean Beach

I did not even know about Culture Brewing's plans to open a satellite tasting room in Ocean Beach until I read about it on San Diego Eater yesterday.  Now, I'm mad that it's not yet open, and I have never even tried a beer from Culture.  You can't please some people.  Culture's Ocean Beach outlet plans to open in early November 2014 at 4845 Newport Avenue, close to Sunset Cliffs Blvd, and next door to the Cohn's new OB Warehouse.  The Eater article says the tasting room will  have twenty taps, which seems high for a single brewery, but Culture is expanding its brewing capacity.   The Eater article also states that the tasting room will feature food trucks.  Good luck with that, as I'm not sure where a food truck would park.  There was no mention of growler fills or whether Culture accepts blank growlers for refills, but growler fills are one of the main points of a tasting room, right?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

ChuckAlek Wins Prestigious Sam Adams' Mentoring Internship

ChuckAlek Independent Brewers was selected as 2015's sole winner of Sam Adam's "Brewing and Business Experienceship."  According to the press release (linked to above) announcing the award, the year-long program is:
Similar to an extended internship, the Experienceship provides hands-on educational and enrichment experiences tailored to the winning brewery's needs. As part of the program, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers will receive a trip to the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery for coaching and mentoring from a variety of Samuel Adams experts and brewers, including those involved in ingredients sourcing, sales and distribution, package design and more. Additionally, winners have the opportunity to brew a collaboration beer with Samuel Adams, and receive funding to attend industry events such as The Great American Beer Festival.

(ChuckAlek) Founder and head brewer Grant Fraley, and co-founder and CEO Marta Jankowska were selected from craft brewer applicants that are part of Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream, a micro-lending and coaching program for small business owners working in food, beverage, craft brewing and hospitality. The brewery was chosen by a panel of professionals from Samuel Adams and the program's non-profit microlending partner Accion, based on their passion for brewing quality craft beer, current success, and strong growth potential.  
This sounds like a fantastic opportunity for ChuckAlek.  ChuckAlex's elusive beers are worth finding.  It is brewing the beers that it wants to and is not following trends.  This creativity was reflected in the beers that I have tried.  Congratulations.

Monday, October 6, 2014

San Diego's GABF Winners

San Diego brewers won fourteen medals at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.  I was impressed that Pizza Port Ocean Beach won two medals (for a session beer and a Belgian-style tripel) and brand new Bagby Beer Co. claimed a bronze for its dry Irish stout.  I have not tried all the winners, but Karl Strauss's Mosaic and Societe's Pupil are outstanding.  In all, I counted eleven different San Diego breweries that took home medals.  That is an impressive performance.  (I considered Port Brewing and Pizza Port Ocean Beach as two separate breweries.) 

The West Coaster has a complete list of the San Diego winners, which I present below:
Category: 14 Session Beer – 94 Entries
Gold: Oatmeal Stout, Benchmark Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Silver: Guillaume, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, Ocean Beach, CA
Bronze: Mosaic Session Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – La Jolla, La Jolla, CA
Category: 21 American-Belgo-Style Ale – 69 Entries
Bronze: Le Freak, Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Category: 51 International-Style Pale Ale – 88 Entries
Bronze: The Pupil, Societe Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Category: 52 American-Style Pale Ale – 145 Entries
Gold: Grunion, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits – Scripps Ranch, San Diego, CA
Category: 55 Imperial India Pale Ale – 135 Entries
Silver: Hop 15, Port Brewing Co., San Marcos, CA
Category: 57 Imperial Red Ale – 62 Entries
Bronze: Shark Attack, Port Brewing Co., San Marcos, CA
Category: 62 Irish-Style Red Ale – 60 Entries
Silver: Piper Down, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits – Scripps Ranch, San Diego, CA
Category: 71 Belgian-Style Witbier – 65 Entries
Gold: White Ale, Saint Archer Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Category: 76 Belgian-Style Tripel – 58 Entries
Bronze: La Flama Dorada, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, Ocean Beach, CA
Category: 78 Other Belgian-Style Ale – 26 Entries
Gold: Witty Moron, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, San Diego, CA
Category: 81 Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout – 26 Entries
Bronze: Asphalt Jungle, Bagby Beer Co., Oceanside, CA
Category: 89 Barley Wine-Style Ale – 51 Entries
Gold: AleSmith Old Numbskull, AleSmith Brewing Co., San Diego, CA