Thursday, June 20, 2019

Resilience Donation Update

San Diego's 10News published a list in late May of all the San Diego breweries that participated in Sierra Nevada's Resilience IPA charity drive to raise money for the Camp Fire.  Last week, 10News updated the list.  10News counted 43 local breweries that participated, with donations exceeding $200,000.  The big news from the story was not the breweries that participated, but those had not make a donation to Sierra Nevada.  The non-contributors exceeded twenty breweries when the list was first published, but in scrolling through the updated list, I only count ten breweries that did not respond to 10News' request for information on their donation.  In looking at this list I read that Pizza Port did not respond to 10News but it is affiliated with Port Brewing/Lost Abby, which did make a donation, so I am hoping there is some mis-communication.  Most of the other non-responders are small operations.

There were some nice surprises on the list.  Culture Brewing, which is a small brewery, donated a whopping $11,121.25, and OB Brewing donated $7,533.  Societe Brewing also exceeded its size, donating $16,000.  Stone Brewing donated $31,184.26, the largest donation from a San Diego brewery, and more than Constellation-owned Ballast Point's $30,000.  From what I heard and read about this charity drive, it was not easy for the breweries, so it is great that so many breweries were able to donate so much.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

New English Article

Here is a worth-reading article in San Diego City Beat on New English Brewing Company.  The article hits on some important points, including this declaration:  "There’s a need for anyone interested in craft beer to keep paying attention to San Diego’s pioneer companies."  I agree!  New English is not flashy, nor is it ubiquitous, nor does it release a new hazy IPA every week.  It may fail the shiny-new-thing test, but its beers are excellent.  Its Pure & Simple IPA is one of the best IPAs in San Diego. Period.

New English's tasting room is simple to the point of being anachronistic.  It is located in a nothing office/industrial park in a part of Sorrento Valley you don't visit without a reason.  Even New English's Instagram, which mostly focuses on beer*,  appears less traveled than other San Diego breweries, gathering "likes" in the twenties and thirties compared to hundreds and thousands.  New English is San Diego craft beer's best kept secret.  It's time more people drank its beers.

* I am amazed at how many breweries do not post frequent pictures of their beers on Instagram.  Some breweries use the social media site to focus more on things other than just beer, like events at their breweries, employees goofing around, and a surprising number of animal pictures.  This is fine, but breweries need to be careful not to muddle their message with too many non-beer pictures.  (Poor Benchmark Brewing, for some reason it posted a high number of pictures of its empty tasting room that did not include beer.)

Monday, June 17, 2019

Gordon Biersch

The Gordon Biersch restaurant and brewery in San Diego's Mission Valley is closing after twenty years.  Puesto will take over the restaurant space and it will brew beer, too.  Puesto plans to open this fall.  Gordon Biersch won't close until July 16th, so there is still time to get some of head brewer Doug Hasker's beers.  I did not know about Hasker until I started listening to the Indie Beer Podcast, but he is a local legend, renowned for his lager making skills and willingness to share his knowledge with other local brewers. 

I have not been to Gordon Biersch for ten or fifteen years.  Memory is a funny, tricky thing, though.  I remember the last dinner I had at Gordon Biersch was soon after 9/11 and every TV was turned to one of George W. Bush's speeches to the nation.  I can't remember if was the unifying Oval Office speech days after 9/11, or the "Axis of Evil" State of the Union address several months later.  I further can't remember if it was Gordon Biersch's garlic fries at that dinner, or an Outback Steak House Blooming Onion around the same time that gave the Beer Rovette and I such bad stomachaches we were sure our toddler was going to be orphaned. 

I want to get to Mission Valley and try some of Doug Hasker's beers before Gordon Biersch closes next month. I won't be having garlic fries, though.  I have learned some things in eighteen years: wars in the Middle East are not good, and I need to avoid fried foods.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Benchmark Closes

Benchmark Brewing announced that as of 3:00 yesterday afternoon, it had closed for good.  I wish Benchmark's owners the best of luck.  Here is the tweet announcing the closure:

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


Here is a Good Beer Hunting article on the Paradise fire, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Butte County, thousands of breweries, Resilience IPA, and so much more.  This article appeared a few weeks ago, but it is so well done I had to post about it.  If I give quotes, I'll quote the entire story, so take some time and read it.  The response from so many breweries who shifted schedules and donated time and materials to brew Resilience IPA, and so many people who bought pints of Resilience IPA is heartwarming.  Craft breweries, even ones the size of Sierra Nevada, have become community.  I can't think of another type of business that touches such a a cross-section of a neighborhood, or town, or city, or county.  The $15 million raised when Ken Grossman asked for help is staggering. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Quick Hits

Over the past few weeks I have had three standout beers.  I did not prepare full tasting notes and picture taking reviews while I drank these beers, but wanted to get my thoughts out anyway.  Here are the three, in no particular order:

Stone Brewing's Arrogant Consortia and the heavy metal band Metallica teamed up to create Enter The Night pilsner.  I found this 5.7% abv beer a stunner.  It's hoppy, but it is still a pilsner.  It has strong flavors that never slip into palate fatigue.  The beer is crisp and drinkable, and edgier than other pilsners.  People may not think of Stone / Arrogant Consortia when they think of pilsner, but they should.  The Arrogant Consortia beers I have tried have all been excellent (even the Crime was a good beer despite my candy-ass inability to finish it), and more people should be talking about, writing about, and drinking Arrogant Consortia beers.

Eppig Brewing's Zwickelbier is an excellent interpretation of a German style.  Zwickelbier is an unfiltered lager.  It does not have Enter The Night's piquant assertiveness but it's no less a stellar beer.  Take all the thin session IPAs, dump them down the drain, and give me this 4.6% abv gem.  It is smooth, yeasty, with an unsuspecting solid heft.  If Eppig makes a marginal beer, I have not tried it.  Zwickelbier stands out from a brewery that makes across the board outstanding beers.

Hood River, Oregon's pFriem Beer's IPA could be the best IPA I have had this year.  It's not muted hazy, or crazy bitter, or brut dry; it is just a basic, delicious IPA.  The skill of a brewery is how well it produces standard styles.  A brewery may have a great grapefruit IPA or a nice hazy IPA, but how is its core IPA, or its core stout, or any core beer?  Pizza Port makes multiple IPAs capturing all the latest trends, but its year-round Swami IPA remains one of the best IPAs available.  pFriem's IPA has no frills or gimmicks; it just tastes fantastic.  It is clear, plenty bitter with just the right amount of malt.  Craftsmanship.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Sam Adams and Dogfish Head Merge

My twitter timeline is flooded with tweets and retweets on the $300 million Sam Adams Dogfish Head merger.  Beer twitter is confused.  It is so quick to condemn any merger - usually because it is big beer buying an independent craft brewery - and its habit of classifying every beer issue in stark black and white terms, with clear right and wrong opinions, and heroes and villains does not work with this merger.  A $300 million merger is obscene, so it must be bad on its price alone.  But it is craft buying craft, so that is good.  And, craft breweries can't fight big beer giants if they don't get bigger, and a merger of craft brewers is one way to get big and stay independent.  But, isn't a combined Sam Adams Dogfish Head too big to be craft, which makes it part of big beer?   Oh, God! The agony, the nuance, the contradictions!  AND FOR CHRISSAKE, WHERE DOES SAM ADAMS' CIDER OPERATION FIT IN THIS MERGER?!  Why didn't the Sams make it easy for beer twitter and just sell to AB InBev so we could all know the bad guys?

This transaction is good for craft beer.  Two independent breweries are combining and the behemoths AB InBev, Molson Coors, and Constellation are not involved.  Even if Sam Adams Dogfish Head now exceed the definition of a craft brewery, to me they are still considered craft.  The combined company is big craft for sure, but craft all the same.  Deals like Sam Adams Dogfish Head are needed to counter the continued, on purpose blurring of fake craft by the giant beer companies.  A walk down the beer aisle in most any supermarket shows how successful giant beer companies have been at cracking independent breweries market share.  Good for Sam Adams and Dogfish Head.

The Brewhound article, linked to above, notes that as part of the merger Dogfish Head is repaying/retiring the 15% ownership stake of private equity firm LNK Partners.  I am not sure how or if LNK played into Dogfish Head's decision to merge, but LNK invested in Dogfish Head five years ago and a five-year hold likely fits with LNK's investment time horizon and its requirement to return money to its investors.  Other craft brewers that took private equity money rather than sell outright are going to have to deal with similar time constraints imposed by the private equity managers and their funds' need to liquidate.  Private equity investors are not passive long-term investors.  If nothing else, getting private equity out of the two companies is positive.

I have a many years old bottle of 120 Minute IPA in the back of my beer fridge.  I am thinking of cracking it open in honor of this merger.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre Dame

I have been to Paris three times and visited Notre Dame Cathedral each time.  The immense cathedral is the heart of Paris, sitting on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the Seine*.  My claim on this beautiful church is no more special than the millions of others awed by its massive presence.  When walking into Notre Dame you are dumb struck by the sheer scale of the church, and by its serenity, even when full of tourists.  The noise of Paris evaporates inside the stone cavern.  Built more than 800 years ago in the midst of the middle ages, Notre Dame was not just a symbol of the magnificence of God, but must must have intimidated all who saw it, from peasants to fervent believers.  It still intimidates and inspires today.

My favorite parts of Notre Dame are the huge, beautiful stained-glass Roses, one each over the church's three main entrances, and the protective gargoyles keeping evil from the church.  Once I got over the size of Notre Dame, I would just stare at the Roses and all the light rippling through the different colored glass.  I did not try to read the Biblical story on each Rose, preferring to enjoy their awe instead.  I took pictures, but no picture can capture the true beauty of the Roses on sunny day, and the picture below of the South Rose proves my point.

I did not know that Notre Dame's gargoyle statues represented good until I first visited the Cathedral. Gargoyles are hideous looking, but are symbols of protection and are located outside Notre Dame, on its walls, its roofs, and in its corners, to ward off evil.  Gargoyles as a symbol of goodness is one reason I like Stone Brewing's use of gargoyles.  I now find gargoyle statues comforting, like Stone beer.

I don't know the full fate of Notre Dame's Roses after yesterday's fire, but the North and South Roses are near the spire that collapsed, and where the fire raged.  I read this morning that the Roses survived the fires, but suffered some damage.  I want to think the gargoyles' presence provided the Roses some safety. 

I know this is an off target post, but any visitor to Paris can appreciate the majesty of Notre Dame, whether Catholic or not.  It's a cold soul that walks away from Notre Dame without a lasting impression.  I think this is why the story of yesterday's horrible fire at Notre Dame has produced such a world wide reaction of sadness.

*The following is from 1953's Notre Dame of Paris, by Allan Temko, and give a sense of Norte-Dame's importance to France:

"Notre Dame, more than the Louvre, incalculably more than Versailles, is France.  Every distance from Paris to the borders of the nation is measured from the parvis of the Cathedral and not, significantly, from the Opera or the Arc de Triomphe, or even from the second most important monument in the city, the Tour Eiffel, the earliest tower of steel.  Every road in France centers inwardly on the Cathedral.  One may start walking to Notre Dame on the green roads of Normandy or in sun-driven Provence." 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Dirty Birds Gets Little Missed

The ABC has denied Dirty Birds Bar and Grill's new Ocean Beach location its liquor license.  The Ocean Beach planning board voted 9-2 to approve a recommendation for the license after Dirty Birds agreed to stop selling liquor after 10:00 pm, but the ABC nixed the license anyway.  Dirty Birds has already completed a partial build-out of its space in a new building at the corner of Santa Monica Avenue and Cable Street.  The ABC pulled a similar move on Little Miss Brewing's Ocean Beach tasting room in late 2017.  It looks like Dirty Birds has stopped construction and Ocean Beach is not listed on Dirty Bird's website.

What is going on?  Like the new fish restaurant, Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill, which apparently received its license to sell beer and wine, Dirty Birds would have attracted a more family-oriented crowd, at least more family-oriented than most of the bars along Newport Avenue, especially as Newport gets close to the beach.  Dirty Birds would have been good for Ocean Beach.  Mr. Moto's Pizza, which is right next to Dirty Birds in the same new building, also has an alcohol license pending, and it too, will attract a family crowd, not angry drunks.  Good luck Mr. Moto, but don't order any fresh mozzarella.

This decision makes me mad, and many of the comments on the OB Rag discussing the decision show the closed-minded thinking that pervades Ocean Beach.  Stopping Dirty Birds, and probably Mr. Moto's, is not going to stop the problems at the west end of Newport Avenue, not only that, it'll be two less spots for families to venture.  Instead, the big, elevated decks along the new, vacant building are going to make nice spots for the homeless to sleep.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

BeerAdvocate Magazine Shutters

BeerAdvocate has mailed its last magazine. Its final issue, Issue 134, will be released as a PDF in April.  I am a founding subscriber and always liked the magazine.  It did a good job promoting the craft beer industry and never shied away from tough issues.  BeerAdvocate is not going away and plans to focus its resources on its website, its festivals, and a new app.  In looking at BeerAdvocate's website, I don't see much current news, just articles from the past issues, so I guess Good Beer Hunting is now my place for general industry news, while West Coaster and a few local reporters (Brandon Hernandez, Beth Demmon and Peter Rowe) remain my source for local beer news.

I am not sold on the beer app concept.  I have the TapHunter and the San Diego Brewers Guild apps, which I never open, and I deleted Untapped years ago.  I am open to suggestions or pointers on how I can use these apps to make beer drinking better, easier, or more fun.  I hope the Alstrom brothers have an idea for a relevant beer app

Thanks BeerAdvocate magazine for twelve years of quality beer news.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Ketch and Release

I have some back reviews I need to write.  Late last year, I had a Vienna Lager from Ketch Brewing, the Brigantine restaurant group's new brewery.  The beer was Alta Mar Vienna Lager (my notes list it as a Mexican lager). The beer looked good, clear, amber and without much foam.  You could smell its yeast.  The heavy malt and yeast gave the beer a whole grain bread character.  I caught some initial pepper, too, which was the beer's highlight.  Alta Mar had a mineral quality that became more noticeable as the beer warmed.  The beer had a solid mouthful and it drank above its 5% abv. 

I found Alta Mar a fine enough beer that went well with the Mexican food at Miguel's, but it's not a beer I would go out of my way to drink again.  We sampled Ketch's Klosch and IPA, too, and Alta Mar was superior to both.  Ketch Brewing has the benefit of being sold through the Brigantine's group of restaurants.  Without this captive audience Ketch would struggle in San Diego's competitive beer market, but even with this assured distribution, Ketch needs to focus on brewing better beers. 

We like the Brigantine's restaurants, so I will have more Ketch beers to see whether there is any improvement.  Ketch has a Kearny Mesa tasting room (see link above).  The Ketch Grill and Taps is a place I want to visit, but if the beers are not improved it's good to know Eppig Brewing's waterfront tasting room is only a short walk away. 

I had a hard time finding much in the way of a website for Ketch Brewing.  Its Facebook page is the best place for information, but, like Ketch's beers, it's not great.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Little Miss Moving Ahead

SanDiegoVille has a positive article on Little Miss Brewing's expansion to San Diego's East Village and La Mesa.   I wrote about Little Miss in late 2017 after the ABC rejected its application for a tasting room in Ocean Beach after Little Miss had finished its build-out.  I am glad to read that Little Miss is moving ahead after its set-back in Ocean Beach.