Friday, May 15, 2015

Big, Blind Put Down

SABMiller is buying London craft brewery Meantime.  This quote from a Financial Times' article on the transaction quotes SABMiller executive Susan Clark:

She said SABMiller had a record in nurturing local beer companies and added that the craft label was becoming less relevant.
 “The whole craft definition is one that over time we will see disappear. Craft for us is more about style, authenticity, than it is about the kind of label,” she said. “At SABMiller we love local variety and carefully nurture our 200 local and heritage beers.”

I cannot remember reading a more condescending comment on craft beer.   There are now more than 70 brewers operating in London alone, up from just 14 in January 2014, and buying one of them does not make SABMiller hip.  SABMiller can go ahead and believe the craft definition will disappear, but something is obviously happening in beer drinkers' behavior with that kind of growth.  Here in the US, from a statistic in the latest BeerAdvocate magazine (Issue #100), craft beer represented 11% sales of beer in 2014, up from 5% of sales in 2010.  I enjoy the myopic hubris of the big brewers.  They have already lost the consumer battle in many parts of the United States and appear to not even know it.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Incomplete Saison Ranking

Here is another ranking of beers from the website Paste.  This time it is thirty-five American saisons.  The results are linked to above for you to read, but it is an incomplete list of saisons.  Paste included saisions from brewery heavyweights The Lost Abbey, Crooked Stave, Prairie Artisan Ales,and Boulevard Brewing, but noticeably missing were master American saison brewers The Bruery, Hill Farmstead*, Jolly Pumpkin, Logsdon, Upright, Telegraph, and probably more, but those were the breweries I thought of while reading the article. 

Saisons are no longer exotic or niche beers, and the next time Paste tackles this style it needs to expand its review pool.  Paste states that possible reasons for the glaring exclusions were that some breweries would not ship beer, or did not want to participate in its survey (or, maybe, certain breweries did not want to give away free beer).  Any list of American saisons that does not have Logsdon's Seizoen Bretta, or Jolly Pumpkin's Baudelaire iO Saison, or The Bruery's Saison de Lente is a list short on depth and credibility.

I like Paste's blind tasting approach to ranking beers, which is why I have linked to its two lists.  The article does not state the methodology Paste used to judge its blind tasting but I am assuming it is the same as it used last month to rank 116 IPAs. 

Taste is subjective, especially in such an expansive style like saisons.   Prairie Artisan Ales' Prairie Ale was rated the number two saison but when I had it I thought it mediocre, not outstanding, while I found The Lost Abbey's Red Barn fantastic but it did not even crack the top twenty.   The top ranked beer was Side Project Brewing's Saison Du Blu (and Side Project came in at number three, too, with its Saison Du Fermier).  Another group of tasters would likely have had a completely different ranking of the same beers, which is what makes saisons such compelling beers, but this same quality also makes any kind of saison ranking hard to take too serious, especially when the ranking is missing some big name beers.

*The only beer I have tried from Hill Farmstead was a collaboration beer with a Belgian brewery, but Kaedrin Beer Blog has been raving about Hill Farmstead's saisons and other beers for years.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

IPA Blind Tasting

Last month, a website called Paste presented a list of 116 American IPAs, ranked based on a blind tasting of all the beers.  I liked the fairness of the methodology but do not fully agree with all the results, but since I have not tasted most of the listed IPAs, my opinion could be wrong.  Paste only ranked the top fifty beers, and chose to list beers 51 to 116 in random order, but we all know Redhook's Longhammer IPA must have anchored the bottom at 116.  The top beer was White Rajah IPA, from Ohio's The Brew Kettle (yeah, I had never heard of The Brew Kettle either).  Coming in at third was Ballast Point's Grapefruit Sculpin, the highest rated San Diego beer.  I like this distinctive beer but prefer regular Sculpin, which placed 20th.   Other San Diego beers in the top fifty include Stone's new Delicious IPA (6), Alesmith IPA (23), and Port Brewing's Wipeout IPA (48).  Stone IPA and Coronado's Islander IPA were the only other San Diego beers on the list and they did not make the top fifty.    In a blind tasting of IPAs, I hope I would have had the ability to place Stone IPA and Russian River's Blind Pig in the top fifty.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ocean Beach: Habitus in the Solis

Mike Hess Brewing is opening a tasting room in Ocean Beach (I am not sure when it is scheduled to open, but the space is being built).   It will operate from the corner of Voltaire Street and Cable Street, a good location because it is nearly kitty-corner from the beer-centric, original OB Noodle House.  When Mike Hess Brewing's tasting room opens, Ocean Beach will have outposts for three breweries, with a Pizza Port restaurant on Bacon Street, and North County's Culture Brewing pouring beers and filling growlers on Newport Avenue.   Ocean Beach has become one of San Diego's beer destination neighborhoods.  In addition to the three breweries, there are a number of restaurants with outstanding draft lists, including two OB Noodle Houses, Raglan Public House, and The Joint.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

New Hops

Sunset Magazine's May 2015 issue has a short article on new hops being used by brewers.  (Strangely, I cannot find an on-line link to the article, either directly from Sunset's website or the article's author Nino Padova's twitter feed.)  The five mini-profiled hop varieties are Azacca, Calypso, Galaxy, Jarrylo and Montueka.

I know it's annoying to reference an article and not include a link, but the reason I even mentioning the article is because the Azacca hop is being used by Stone Brewing in its new Ruination 2.0, a beer I have not yet tried.  The article describes Azacca as "intense citrus and pineapple flavors make this hop from Washington's Yakima Valley a new favorite with West Coast brewers."

Stone's description of Ruination 2.0 lists Azacca as one of multiple hops, and it will share flavor with Centennial, Magnum, Citra, and Simcoe.  I am expecting a big citrus profile when I finally drink Ruination 2.0.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tony Gwynn Imperial Pale Ale

AleSmith is releasing an imperial version of its new San Diego Pale Ale .394 (no, it is not called .788), as part of Alesmith's Twentieth Anniversary Specialty Release Series.  All proceeds from the sale of this beer benefit the Tony and Alicia Gwynn Foundation (TAG) and raise funds for the new Tony Gwynn Museum.  The double pale ale went on sale yesterday, via Brown Paper Tickets.  Sales are limited to four bottles per person and can be picked up starting May 9, 2015, when AleSmith hosts a release party and Tony Gwynn Birthday Celebration at its tasting room.   More details on the release party can be found here.   

Friday, April 24, 2015


Prairie Ales' Puncheon farmhouse ale was brewed with rye and aged in oak barrels.  It had been sitting in my beer fridge for a while (six months?), and I no longer remember from where or when I bought the bottle.  I tasted Puncheon's rye, mainly in the spicy finish, but even concentrating I didn't detect any oak.  That was OK, because this beer was delicious oak or not.  What I tasted in Puncheon was a dry, saison-like style ale, with hints of sourness, or a farmhouse funk, and little hop bitterness.  It was smooth and yeasty, and easy drinking.  Puncheon poured cloudy with plenty of carbonation, but minimal foam.  I never understand how some highly carbonated farmhouse ales get big foam, like those from The Bruery, and other farmhouse ales with the same levels of carbonation end up with no foam, like Puncheon.  I am sure it is some mystery of beer science.  

One interesting note, Prairie Ales' website, linked to above, lists Puncheon's abv at 7.0%.  The bottle I had listed an abv of 8.5%.  The bottled beer I had did not smell, taste, or drink like an 8.5% abv beer.  It is confusing, but Puncheon's good flavor was unambiguous.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Speaking of Beer Events....

The West Coaster's website has a great listing of San Diego beer events.  This calendar is continuously updated and currently runs up to San Diego Beer Week in November, so plan accordingly.  (Modern Times' Hella Tight Bay Area Beersplosion! needs to be added, though.)  I have added a permenant link to the event list under Beer Blogs & More, titled "Beer Events - West Coaster's San Diego Beer Calendar."

Rare Beers From The North

I am not breaking any craft beer news stating that amazing craft beers are easy to find, taste, and buy.  Despite the abundance of quality beer, some breweries don't bottle their beers, or don't distribute them widely, making these breweries' beers rare outside their small region.  Modern Times Beer is hosting some Northern California breweries in what seems like a mini-fest at Modern Times' Point Loma brewery.  Some of the breweries included on the list are Cellarmaker, Sante Adairius, Magnolia, Fieldwork, Almanac, and others.  The event, dubbed Hella Tight Bay Area Beersplosion!, is Sunday, May 17, 2015.

Capitola's Sante Adairius bottles its beers, but in small batches and I have never seen one here in San Diego, nor have I seen any of its beers on draft in San Diego.  San Francisco's Cellarmaker Brewing has only bottled a few of its beers in limited release, and its beers are not on draft in San Diego.  Fieldwork is a new brewery (grand opening this weekend) located in Berkeley that was started by former San Diegans, including Alex Tweet who was Modern Times' first brewer.  Almanac is the only brewery attending the Beersplosion that I am aware of that distributes its beers here in San Diego, but I don't see its beers at many locations.  Hella Tight Bay Area Beersplosion sounds like a great event and a unique opportunity to try beers impossible to find in San Diego.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bruery Terreux

I just read today about The Bruery's new brand and tasting room Bruery Terreux.  Nothing like writing a beer blog and failing keeping up with all-important beer news.  Bruery Terreux is French for "Earthy Brewery," and under this brand The Bruery will focus on farmhouse and wild yeast-fermented ales.  Tomorrow, Earth Day, April 22, 2015, Bruery Terreux is reintroducing Saison Rue and Sour In The Rye, the first two beers being released under the new brand.  The recipes for these two core The Bruery beers are apparently the same but they were brewed in Bruery Terreux's new facility.  From The Bruery's website on Bruery Terreux:
Our current brands that are brewed with wild yeasts or bacteria such as Saison Rue, Oude Tart, or Hottenroth Berliner Weisse, will be transitioned to Bruery Terreux. The recipes will remain the same, but will be overseen by wild beer specialists and will be bottled under the new branding. Exciting new beers will also be added to Bruery Terreux’s lineup.
This is an exciting development.  My not paying attention means I only have to wait a day until these new, or newly introduced, beers start showing up in stores.


I've had two bottles of Saint Archer's Mosaic IPA.  I disliked it the first time I tried it, dismissing it as an obscenely over-hopped IPA.  I compared it, mainly, to Culture Brewing's IPA brewed with Mosaic hops, which is an approachable, citrus flavored IPA.  I decided to try Mosaic IPA again, thinking my first impression rash, or more of a personal "frame-of-mind" issue rather than a direct Mosaic IPA issue.  When I bought the second bottle, I actually read the label and the reason for my initial aversion struck me like a ball pin hammer strike to my forehead:  Saint Archer's Mosaic IPA is a double IPA not an IPA!  Its flavor intensity made perfect sense.  The entire time I was drinking the first bottle my brain was telling my taste buds that Mosaic was too robust for an IPA, and my taste buds were agreeing.

My view of Mosaic IPA is completely different now that I know it is a double IPA.  An obnoxious IPA suddenly becomes a wild double IPA.   "Dank" has become the overused descriptor of IPAs over the past year, but if any beer can claim dank, it is Mosaic.  This beer's flavor oozes humid swamp, with its heavy citrus verging on overripe vegetables.  Mosaic's pretty, straw-color and its fluffy white foam give no clue to the thick, bitter, near-cloying beer hiding behind the lovely facade.  I used to listen to a beer podcast that used the term "man candy" to describe sweet, high alcohol double IPAs.  Mosaic is man candy.   Its mouth-coating, sweet resin combines with the bitter taste of grapefruit to produce a formidable beer.  It drinks above its 9.0% abv.

Mosaic is a serious double IPA. I don't know whether Saint Archer is going to make Mosaic a regular release, but in a time when big-hopped, lower abv IPAs and pale ales are becoming the new standard, it's nice to get a beer with some old-fashioned swagger, even if I bumbled upon it.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Super Sour In The Rye

I hate it when I drink a great beer and do not post about it.  I had The Bruery's brilliant 2014 version of Sour In The Rye early last month and was stunned by it.  This beer was fantastic.  I didn't take notes on it, I just enjoyed it assuring myself I'd write an immediate review, which, unfortunately, seemed like a good idea at the time.  But life has a way of invading good plans, and a few trips, work, and other beers interceded, resulting in several lost weeks with no post.

Sour In The Rye was the perfect concoction of sour and sweet, mixed in with the faint taste of oak and the spice of rye.  It was not overly sweet, which is essential to me, and the rye added a distinct earthiness and boosted its complexity.   This beer is required drinking if you like sour beers.  I do not expect to drink a better beer than Sour In The Rye this year.