Friday, April 24, 2015

Puncheon

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.

Bumbler

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.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Different Shade Of Pale

Stone Brewing is upending its longstanding list of core beers by retiring four beers.  It is no shock that Stone is stopping production of Levitation, an amber ale, and Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA, originally brewed as Stone's eleventh anniversary beer. The reason cited for the retirement of these two beers was lack of sales, which reflect my buying habits.  I have never tried Levitation, and it has been years since I have bought a Sublimely Self Righteous Black IPA.  Stone is replacing Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA with a regular, periodic release, Stone Enjoy By Black IPA, which I can't wait to try, and that I imagine will far out sell Self-Righteous.

The bigger shakeups are the retirement of Stone Pale Ale and Ruination IPA. I am not going to discuss Ruination in this post, other than to note its unfortunate demise, as this beer deserves its own obituary.  Stone is not technically discontinuing Stone Pale Ale, but changing its recipe, which Stone is (tentatively) calling Pale Ale 2.0.  The original Pale Ale is darker and maltier than most pale ales, and much hoppier than a traditional English pale ale.  Stone made a video tribute to Pale Ale:



The video does not directly address the new pale ale and what Stone expects from it.  My guess is that Pale Ale 2.0 will be intensely hopped, less malty, and lighter than Pale Ale.  I am thinking it will resemble the new citrus-focused, hop forward pale ales from Ballast Point and AleSmith, Grunion and San Diego Pale Ale .394, respectively.  These new pale ales, like the original Stone Pale Ale, won't be confused with a traditional pale ale, and are hopped as much as an IPA, without the higher abv.  The new pale ales are more robust than the hoppy but thin session IPAs, which have grown into a new style over the past two years.

Stone, with these bold moves, proves again that it is not afraid to take risks.  It is a business, and these three beers were lagging in terms of sales.  I think it's good that Stone is putting new life into its Pale Ale, and if I am right that 2.0 will be more like Grunion or .394, Stone will sell a bunch of it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Heartland Duo

I traveled across America's Heartland last week and sampled a couple of excellent beers.  Bell's Brewing's Two Hearted Ale, an IPA, was a gem I found on tap at a hotel restaurant.  Two Hearts is subtle and flavorful, with more complexity than most IPAs, but it still has enough bitterness to satisfy someone craving hops.  This beer is now available in California, but old dates on the bottles I have seen have prevented me from buying it.  Now that I have tried it and know how good it is, I'll keep my looking for recently brewed batches of Two Hearted Ale. 

I had dinner at the Cleveland outpost of Fat Head's Brewery and Saloon and enjoyed its Head Hunter IPA.  This is a classic, big-hopped West Coast IPA, and a superb beer.  Nothing in Fat Head's is subtle, and Head Hunter is hopped bigger than many DIPAs, while still remaining balanced.   Fat Head's food choices are a Californian's stereotypic expectations of a Midwestern restaurant - huge, unhealthy portions of awesomeness.  I tried the Head Banger, a sort of sandwich with 8 oz of banger sausage, topped with a fried egg, bacon, mozzarella, and sharp cheddar.  No, I'm not telling my cardiologist, I'll just drink more beer over the next few weeks to thin my arteries.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Brown is the New IPA

I made a New Year's commitment - not a resolution, just a commitment - to try more styles than IPA.   Too often I default to IPAs, and therefore miss out on good beers.  Two months into the year and I give my diversity effort a "C" letter grade, it is hard to shake my IPA affliction.   So far this year, though, I have gained a new appreciation for brown ales.  It is a style that gets an unfair reputation, due in large part to style giant Newcastle Brown Ale.  Newcy Brown is bland and simple, but it is more harmless than horrible, and I would choose it over most other macro beers.   It is nothing compared to two local brown ales.

Two San Diego breweries, Culture Brewing and New English, make fantastic brown ales.   Culture's Ocean Beach tasting room opened last November and has given me the opportunity to try several of its beers.  I, of course, started with Mosaic IPA and then tried Keystone IPA (which is Mosaic IPA with added grapefruit).  I soon found I liked Culture's Pale Ale better then its IPAs, but then I tasted its American Brown Ale, and it is now my favorite Culture beer.  Culture's American Brown Ale is the antithesis of bland.  Its deep, smoke tinged malt flavors are countered and perked up by a strong hop kick in the finish.  This bold, spicy beer is only 6% abv and does not exhaust your palate, which to me is a by-product of too many malt-centric beers.  (Culture's website lists American Brown Ale and Brown Ale, and I am writing about the American Brown Ale.)

New English's Brewers Special Brown Ale is similar to Culture's American Brown Ale.  It has a strong dose of hops to complement and ease the impact of the initial heavy, bready malts.  It has a warmth and richness that seem right for what passes as winter in San Diego.  Brewers Special Brown Ale is a drinkable beer, and at 6.6% abv, not a boozer. 

I like Culture's and New English's approach to brown ales.  They don't add chocolate or coffee to give their ales enhanced "brown" character, they instead rely on roasted malts, biting hops, and brewing skill.  Culture's American Brown Ale is usually available on draft at Culture's Ocean Beach tasting room, and New English bottles Brewers Special Brown Ale, but it can be hard to find, unfortunately.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Go Small

It is Pliny the Younger time of year again.  The annual release of Russian River's rare, triple IPA creates a frenzy, as it is considered one of the best beers in the world.  To add to its hype and exclusivity, just one or two kegs of Pliny the Younger are distributed to select bars, and the tapping of those kegs are carefully timed and promoted, or turned into charity events.  This year, in coincidental competition, Societe Brewing released a new double IPA called the Miser.

I have been through Younger madness.  It is something every craft beer lover should experience - once.  While I won't put up with crowds for Younger, it does not mean I'll stop seeking out big IPAs.  I went to Societe to taste and get a growler of Miser.  It was immediately revealed as sticky, hop-bitter, majestic beer, and proved again that few brewers make IPAs as well as Societe.

As I enjoyed Miser, I read on Societe's beer board that Haberdasher IPA was available. (I wrote about this gem last summer.)  I had an immediate reversal of thought, instead of going big and exploring the double IPA depths of Miser, I craved the humble, earthy malts and subtle hops of Haberdasher.  This English-style IPA is wonderful, and possibly my favorite beer in Societe's arsenal.  I wish Societe sold IVs of this beer.

You can take my place in line for Pliny the Younger, and I can wait for my growler of Miser.  Just give me a pint of the sublime Haberdasher, and I'll sit in the corner, quiet and happy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Beer Explosion

This West Coaster article reports on analysis from National University System Institute for Policy Research that finds craft beer generated $600 million of economic impact in San Diego in 2014.  This is double the amount of just three years ago in 2011.  Job growth has been even greater than economic growth over the same, with craft beer employment creating or sustaining more than 6,200 jobs in 2014, compared to 2,800 in 2011.  Read the entire West Coaster post for more details on craft beer's positive impact on San Diego's economy.  It is stunning.

Alesmith's Huge News

Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, of Mikkeller fame, and Alesmith's Peter Zien are entering into a creative agreement where the two and others will brew beers in Alesmith's current 20,000 square foot location.  Alesmith is moving into a new 105,500 square foot brewing facility in the same area of San Diego it currently operates, which provides the opportunity and space for the Alesmith/Mikkeller venture.  Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, from Denmark, is famous as a gypsy brewer known for brewing his beers on other breweries' equipment or collaborating with breweries on specific beers.  Brandon Hernandez, writing in All About Beer, has more detail the new venture.

Mikkeller expects to have the revamped facility operational by June 2015, and it will include a renovated tasting room.   When asked by Hernandez the types of beers to expect from the new facility, "Bjergsø says he will continue to brew as he currently does, attacking a wide-range of beer styles including experimental beers and one-offs, taking chances and brewing as the mood strikes him."

Mikkeller is more than just Mikkel Borg Bjergsø.  It is now a global craft beer brand with bars in San Francisco, Bangkok and Stockholm.  Mikkeller is also building a brewpub in Denmark called WarPigs.  This is big news for San Diego craft beer and bigger news for San Diego craft beer drinkers.