Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Juiced

Stone Brewing announced yesterday its Tangerine Enjoy By IPA is back, and was released on June 18th.  I loved the first version of this beer and wrote about it here.  I have become a huge fan of citrus IPAs.  Stone's Tangerine Enjoy By and Ballast Point's Grapefruit Sculpin IPA get plenty of deserved love, but they are not the only juiced beers in town.  Mike Hess Brewing does the whole citrus fruit thing right.  Its Grapefruit Solis IPA (pictured) and Tangerine Hopfruitus IPA are stellar, and pack as much if not more citrus intensity than the Ballast Point and Stone beers.  Mike Hess varies its regular Solis IPA's recipe with every batch, and I think it's on Batch #56 or #57.  I have not been that impressed with the versions of regular Solis I have tried.  Grapefruit Solis is another story, and for it Mike Hess created a special, non-varying recipe made with hops that accentuate the grapefruit.  If you like Grapefruit Sculpin, you will love this beer, which is available in 22 oz bottles.

Mike Hess's Hoptuitus IPA is a spring seasonal, and its regular version is a delicious IPA.  The Tangerine Hopfruitus, like Grapefruit Solis, takes the original beer to a higher level.  Tangerine Hopfruitus is so citrus concentrated that I believe I get a mouthful of fruit pulp with each drink.  Tangerine is a sweeter fruit than grapefruit, and the sugars play off the hop bitterness.  Craft beer is not immune to trends, and citrus IPAs are strong trend, but one I want to become permanent.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Moving On

Stone Brewing's Brewmaster, Mitch Steele, is leaving Stone at the end of June.  The West Coaster has details here.  Steele's departure after ten years is amicable.  Stone is not filling his position, which to me signifies the size and quality of Stone's current brewing talent, opting instead for an "innovation team."  I don't think we, as outsiders, know the significance Steele has had on Stone over his tenure, which has coincided with Stone's rocket-trajectory growth.  Stone has released multiple beers every year, reworked old recipes, and has opened and continues to open new satellite brewing facilities, with each new brewery having its own brewer.  I believe Enjoy By IPA is Steele's creation, and if the last two versions are any indication, corporate duties have not diminished his brewing skills.  According to the West Coaster and other publications, Steele was sought after by "industrial professionals," which implies some form of new brewing venture.   Good luck to Mr. Steele!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Gored

I pulled a Telegraph Brewing Rhinoceros out of my beer fridge last night.  It is a big (10% abv) barley wine.  I have had my Rhinoceros for a few years, at least, and I don't remember where or when I bought it.  It tasted fine, but I found it a bit of a slog.  It was tight and astringent dry, permitting nothing more than periodic sips.  (The glass of water after the beer was a relief.)  The booze was upfront and unrelenting, like a Stephen Curry three-point barrage.  There was some melon and stone fruit on the nose, but the strong malt presence wiped out much of the fruit flavor.  I thought I tasted a pleasant woody flavor, though.  I'm no barley wine expert, as I can think of only a few I've tried, so I don't know if Rhinoceros was true to style.  I'm guessing it probably was, knowing Telegraph's quality.  This copper giant was a pretty, big-foamed beer that I found serious, probably too serious for my mood.   The beer lived up to its name because you don't mess around with a Rhinoceros.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Star Chemist

Here is a link to a KPBS video and article on San Diego's White Labs, the biochemistry firm that specializes in creating high quality yeast strains for the craft beer industry.  The link is a bit old, the original story ran in late March, but it is still worth the time to read the article and watch the video.  (NSFW warning:  the video contains excessive beer porn.)   White Labs dates to the mid-1990s, and its growth has matched that of the craft industry.  It supplies yeast to not only San Diego's and Southern California's brewers, but brewers across the country and internationally.  It has locations in four states, Europe, and Asia.  White Labs even brews its own beers to test first hand its varied yeast strains.  It has tasting rooms at its San Diego headquarters and its Boulder lab, where you can discern the sharp influence of yeast on a style of beer, holding all other ingredients constant.  A visit to a White Labs' tasting room could result in a beer geek mind implosion.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Douchey McDoucheface

Mike Hess Brewing's Claritas kolsch-style beer won a deserved Gold Medal at the World Beer Cup on May 7th.  A few days later I went into Mike Hess Brewing's Ocean Beach tasting room to buy a six-pack of Claritas and was told someone had bought the entire stock of Claritas after it had won the medal.  What a douchebag move.  Claritas is an excellent beer, but it is far from rare.  It is not Pliny the Younger, a limited, once-a-year release; it is brewed year-round and widely available.  Cleaning out the tasting room fridge of a brewer's core beer is not just rude but unsavvy and unsophisticated, too.  Winning a Gold Medal does not signify scarcity, it rewards a quality beer. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

True True Craft

I know I should be writing about Stone Brewing's new True Craft plan that commits $100 million to provide craft brewers the needed capital to avoid the grasp of macro brewers.  This sounds great, but I can't yet focus on it.  I am too amazed by Stone's latest version of Enjoy By.  The addition of tangerine to this hop heavyweight is nothing short of stunning.   My May is shot, as the window to buy Enjoy By 5.30.2016 is now less than a month.  The sweet tangerine mixed with the citrus-flavored hops is a perfect combination.  Initially, I was wary of fruit additives to beers, but I like the beers brewed with grapefruit and blood orange and lemon and now tangerine.  Stone continues to brew stellar beers while saving the craft beer industry. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Life Goes On

I read on Twitter last week that this year's release of The Bruery's Tradewinds Tripel is its last.  It was a 140-character punch to the gut.  When I started this blog nearly nine years ago I don't think I had ever tried a proper Belgian beer.  The beer blogs I read back then raved about Belgian beers and I knew I needed to, at minimum, have a basic understanding of Belgian styles to have any credibility writing about beer.  The Bruery, a start-up brewery in 2008 that brewed Belgian-style beers, helped my education.  One of my favorite styles was Belgian Tripel, and I loved Tradewinds.  Its prominent yeast, multi-layered complexity, and smooth taste helped define tripels for me.  How could I have drank beer for so many years without knowing about the subtle genius of even basic Belgian beers?

The Bruery applies its unique interpretation to any style it brews, and with Tradewinds it added Thai basil (a flavor, I admit, I never quite detected). Tripel is not far from golden strong ale, the delicious, benign-looking, straw colored beer that hides a vicious kick to the uninitiated.  And golden strong ale is an extension of the wide open saison style.   In short, The Bruery and its Tradewinds, along its other beers, allowed me to venture into beer styles I did not know existed.  I can trace my affinity for wild ales and sours to Tradewinds.  I plan to find a few bottles of Tradewinds and savor them not just for nostalgia, but for the great beer that is Tradewinds.

Downtown Johnny Brown's Is Closing

I just read on the West Coaster's website that Downtown Johnny Brown's is closing tomorrow, April 29th.  Downtown Johnny Brown's, which opened in 1987, was a craft beer pioneer.  It was one of the first restaurants/bars in town to have an extensive, craft-focused tap list.  More important than the number of taps was the thought that went into the beer selection.  It was not like a Yard House or other mega-tap restaurant where with fifty taps there are only about five beers worth drinking.  Downtown Johnny Brown's tap list required reading before ordering so you would not miss something good.  I liked the throwback feel, too, if 1987 is a throwback.  Downtown Johnny Brown's reminded me of a simpler time in my life, and I am going to miss it.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Good Second Choice

I have not paid much attention to The Lost Abbey's Veritas series of beers.  Last week I saw a tweet with a great beer porn picture of this year's blackberry version, Veritas 17, which announced that the beer was about to go on sale.  I went to The Lost Abbey's website and saw that Veritas was going for more than $40 a bottle.  Now I know why I had not paid attention to the previous sixteen Veritas releases.

Visiting The Lost Abbey's website reminded me that I have neglected Port Brewing beers.  Port Brewing is a San Diego craft beer pioneer, with its Port Brewing, Lost Abbey, and now Hop Concept brands.  And it still makes great, relevant beers.  With the opening of Culture Brewing's and Mike Hess Brewing's tasting rooms near my house, and the multiple releases from Modern Times, my beer focus has concentrated over the past year.  While I am not going to spend $40 for a bottle of beer, I did go buy a bottle of Port's Hop Concept Galaxy and Comet IPA.  Hop Concept is a brand of only IPAs, and it was created to celebrate hop varieties.  (Port's website lists The Hop Concept, but only has information on The Hop Freshener series of beers, and I am not sure if there is a difference between the two names.)

Galaxy and Comet IPA is fantastic, a big West Coast IPA.  Brewers are experimenting with so many varieties of hops I don't even try to keep them straight, let alone any nuances.  Some of the beers with new hops are so distinct it detracts from the enjoyment of the beer drinking.  Not so with Galaxy and Comet, even though it was brewed to highlight the two hops.  It is not overpowering, just a well made beer.  The Galaxy is an Australian hop and the Comet is an American hop, and together the two taste mainly of citrus.  Galaxy and Comet's hops are prominent, not dominant.   Its 8% abv is muted, while it should push Galaxy and Comet to double IPA territory.  While I didn't care for the tropical flavored Hop Freshener beer released last summer, I plan to get more Galaxy and Comet.

Whale Potential

I recently purchased a bottle of White Lab's Frankenstout, a beer released on St Patrick's Day.  To me, this beer has whale potential.  If it does not become a whale, it is surely a rarity.  White Labs is the yeast provider to craft brewers around the world, and it now brews beers that are available in its tasting room.  Its micro-batch beers showcase the taste differences of various yeast strains, with all other ingredients the same.  Frankenstout is the first bottled beer that I know of from the San Diego-based chemist.

Frankenstout was brewed with 96-strains of yeast.  Typically, a beer takes one strain of yeast, with two or three at most.   A beer with this many yeast strains is absurd.  I picture the 96-strains of yeast fighting in some kind of biological battle royale, with stronger strains eating weaker strains until one bad-ass yeast earns the championship belt.

My bottle of Frankenstout is now resting in a dark closet. Whether Frankenstout becomes a whale or not, I plan to drink it sooner rather than later.  Beers are brewed for drinking, not trading.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Blurry Future

I picked up some take out food at BBQ House OB in Ocean Beach a few weeks ago, and is my habit, I checked the tap list.  A number of craft sounding beers from now macro-owned craft breweries shared space with local beers from independently-owned craft breweries.  Multiple beers from Elysian, Golden Road, and Brecken-freaking-ridge polluted the tap list.  Thank God for the presence of Stone, Modern Times, and Karl Strauss to serve as the local vanguard.  The tap list at BBQ House OB is, I'm afraid, an example of what local brewers are facing today, and what will only get worse.  I expect more restaurants to adopt hybrid tap lists, mixing true local breweries with craft masquerades - Budweiser disguised as Breckenridge and Coors fronting as Golden Road.  Many consumers won't know or even care that the craft sounding industrial beers they are ordering aren't local beers, which is just what the macros want.   But I know, and won't ever order a beer from Elysian, or Breckenridge, or 10 Barrel, or any other fake craft brewery.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Dead On The Vine - Twisted Manzanita Closes

Twisted Manzanita Ales and Spirits is shutting down its brewing operations, but will continue its spirits business.  I saw last week that Twisted Manzanita had closed its Pacific Beach tasting room, and last night the West Coaster reported that the entire Santee-based brewing operation is closing.  This is sad news.  I don't have any insight into the closing, although the safe scapegoat is increased competition (although the West Coaster article lists a number of growth initiatives that never happened).  The original Manzanita Brewing beers that I'd tried were not good.  I'd heard its beers had improved recently, but first impressions are lasting, and I have not tried a Twisted Manzanita beer in years.  I've also read that it's pumpkin ale is a decent beer, but a lone pumpkin ale, no matter how solid, is no way to build a lasting brewery.

I don't believe Twisted Manzanita's decision to stop brewing beer is a sign that craft beer has peaked.  It does show that competition is tough and unrelenting.  There are many options for people that want craft beer.  While Twisted Manzanita's departure is a setback for local brewing, to me, it is more an example of people avoiding a brewery believed to have marginal beers - even if it has a prime location on Mission Blvd - than it is a broader statement on craft beer.