Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Stone Brewing To Release a Hazy IPA

I saw on Stone Brewing's Instagram account yesterday that it plans to release a hazy IPA, or New England IPA, if you prefer.  The beer is Fear.Movie.Lions Double IPA, and is set for summer can distribution.  I am glad Stone is releasing a hazy IPA.  It has released some unfiltered IPAs, but I am not aware of a specific hazy IPA before Fear.Movie.Lions Double IPA.  The hazy IPA style is new and trendy, and some breweries have avoided this style.  I like hazy IPAs, in general, but have found them either stellar or just mediocre.  The hazy IPAs from Modern Times have intense flavors, but too many hazy IPAs from other breweries I have tried were bland and muted.  I have not tried a truly bad hazy IPA, but too many are dull, lacking distinction and bitterness, and in some cases even much of the characteristic fruit juice flavors.  In short, I have found that when a hazy IPA is good, it is really good, and when it's not good, it is just tasteless and boring.  Because of this style's hit or mediocrity, I am looking forward to Stone's interpretation, expecting aggressive hops to run with the typical juicy flavor.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Rouleur Coaster and a Podcast Plug

I may or may not have a more comprehensive future post on beer podcasts, but locally I like San Diego Beer Talk Radio.  It's a weekly podcast that "drops" Monday mornings and each episode is about two hours in length.  Most episodes have an interview with a local brewer as well as a beer news recap.  I have been listening for about seven months, and a few brewer interviews stick out, including the Green Flash/Alpine episode and one with Dr. Bill Sysak's Wild Barrel BrewingAnother worthy episode last fall highlighted Rawley Macias's Carlsbad-based Rouleur Brewing Company, which is now celebrating its one-year anniversary. The episode detailed Rouleur's travails and triumphs as it struggled with the Brewey Igniter space in Carlsbad.  What came through to me in the interview, besides Macias's honesty and frustration with Brewery Igniter, was his optimism and commitment to making good beer.

There are many new breweries in San Diego, and while I want to try their beers, I usually don't go out of my way to search for their beers.  After hearing the podcast, Rouleur is one new brewery whose beers I want to try.  I rarely make it to Carlsbad, so a trip to Rouleur's tasting room is unlikely.  I have searched tap rooms in and around the Ocean Beach and Point Loma area, as well as other mid-San Diego locations, but have not seen any Rouleur beers on tap.  I want to try its Puncheur pale ale, Dopeur hazy IPA, and its Belgian Golden Strong Ale, so I either need to find a reason to get to Carlsbad or I need to find some Rouleur draft accounts in central San Diego

Rouleur has a good profile in the latest San Diego Magazine.  And after I started this post, I learned that Rouleur earned a World Beer Cup bronze medal for its Domestique Belgian Blond Ale, so I have another beer to try and another excuse to get to Carlsbad. 

(One bizarre San Diego Beer Talk episode profiled another new hard to pronounce North County brewery, Ebullition Brew Works.  Its owners sounded more suited to opening a pot dispensary than a brewery, but at least I learned in stoner-level detail that Ebullition has really far out, hand turned wood tap handles.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Local Beer News Round-Up

Here are links to three recent beer articles I found that are worth your time:

The West Coaster reports on the winners of the 2018 San Diego International Beer Festival, where San Diego breweries won 61 medals.  I don't know much about this festival, but 61 is a lot of awards.

This morning, the West Coaster is out with an article that starts as a timeline detailing Green Flash's history, and ends with some ugly comments and back-and-forth from Pat McIlhenney, founder of Alpine, Mike Hinkley, founder of Green Flash, and Rich Lobo of Muirlands Capital, which owns WC IPA, LLC, which now owns Green Flash and Alpine.  The Green Flash / Alpine story is far from over and the animosity is strong.  (The article states that Pat McIlhenney was on two podcasts, but he was also on a third podcast that was not mentioned in the article, San Diego Beer Talk Radio's Episode 159.)

Finally, and ending on a positive note, San Diego City Beat provides a glowing review of Eppig Brewing's new Point Loma Biergarten.  Eppig's waterfront location is a great spot to taste and enjoy beer, and I have only been on weeknights in winter, not a sunny afternoon.  You can't really see it from a major road, so know the address.  Parking is not simple, but it's not too difficult either, so don't let a little walk put you off, the reward is far too great. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A Good Problem

I noted in my last post that Atlanta's New Realm Brewing is buying Green Flash's closed Virginia brewery.  Yesterday, Good Beer Hunting had more details on the rationale behind New Realm's move.  New Realm is struggling to keep up with demand for its beer.  Only four months after its opening, the brewery is already at capacity.  According to the article:

"(T)he business (New Realm) has struggled to keep up with demand for its distributed products and has a good chance of hitting Georgia’s own-premise to-go sales cap of 3,000 barrels in its first year. New Realm is, on average, selling around 50 barrels a week out of its taproom between packaged and draft offerings, and has at times stopped selling growlers and crowlers of beer to ensure its taplines stay full. And all this before the spring and summer, which are traditionally the busiest sales times for beer in the U.S."

The former Green Flash brewery comes with a 100,000 barrel capacity - which must be in near turn-key condition - and should solve New Realm's immediate supply problem.  New Realm plans to ship most of the beer back to Georgia, but it does plan to open a tasting room at the facility and distribute locally from the Virginia location, unknown points when the transaction was announced two weeks ago.  In addition, New Realm is expanding its Atlanta brewery and had previously purchased land in Charlotte, North Carolina for a planned expansion, but due to the unseen opportunity in Virginia the plans for North Carolina have been delayed.

The New Realm's story is good news for craft beer, especially when stories of closures and over saturation dominate beer media.  New Realm appears to have the capital and management to take advantage of opportunities, which is rare and fortunate for a new brewery.  I want to try New Realm's beers when I visit Atlanta but am not looking forward to wrestling with the 5,000 people that visit the brewery on any give Saturday (is this even possible for a brewery/restaurant?), and I know I won't wait in line an hour wait for a pint of beer.  

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Interesting Coincidence

New Realm Brewing of Atlanta, which was co-founded by former Stone Brewing head brewer Mitch Steele, has agreed to purchase the brewing equipment at Green Flash's now closed Virginia Beach brewery.  According to the article linked to above, it is not known whether New Realm will operate the equipment at the closed Green Flash facility or move it to another location.  New Realm is apparently already at capacity on its 20-barrel system and saw the opportunity to add the 50-barrel system.  I am sure the San Diego connection of Steele and Green Flash is nothing more than a coincidence, but I still found it interesting.

Lightning Strikes Twice and a Mouth Full of Dishsoap

Lightning Brewery has started brewing again.  The West Coaster reports on the brewery's smaller scale re-boot.  Lightning has re-tooled its business model to focus on its tasting room, rather than retail distribution.  Lightning was ahead of its time, offering a pilsner as its core beer right when IPA's popularity was crushing all other styles.  I never drank much beer from Lightning, but I liked its beers when I had them, and while I find myself in Poway even less frequently, I am glad for Lightning that it is open again.

In unrelated news, I recently had a crowler of pale ale from an Ocean Beach tasting room that had a persistent taste of dishsoap.  And no, it was not a glass washer issue.  I do not want to name the brewery because I like the space.  I know that is a silly reason, but a good tasting room atmosphere is not easy to achieve and I don't want to slam the place for one off beer.  But I have found this brewery's beers inconsistent, and unfortunately its beers are only fair at their best, so even small errors in the brewing process make drinking a crowler a challenge. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

French Beer Lit - "I Just Drink A Little Beer"

I continue my plan to note when I read worthwhile passages about beer in novels.  The following passage is from French Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano's Honeymoon, and is a conversation between an older woman and a younger man (spoiler alert - there is no romance between the two):

"Are you going to have something to drink?" she asked.

"No."

"Don't you drink alcohol? May I have some?"

She gave me an anxious look, as if I was going to refuse my permission.

"You may," I said.

She raised her head to the maitre d'hotel.

"Well then... A beer..."

It was as if she had suddenly decided to do something shameful or forbidden.

"It stops me drinking whisky, or other kinds of alcohol... I just drink a little beer..."

She forced herself to smile.  She seem to feel ill at ease with me.

"I don't know what you think," she said, "but I've always thought it wasn't a woman's drink..."

This time her gaze expressed more than anxiety; distress, rather.  And I was so surprised that I couldn't manage to find a comforting word.  I finally said:

"I believe you are wrong... I know a lot of women who drink beer..."

"Really?  You know a lot?"
An awkward situation not made easier with beer.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Dankness Mojo

I was in Downtown Los Angeles earlier this year and stopped into Modern Times' The Dankness Dojo restaurant and brewery.  What a cool place.  The light designs, concrete floors, tables with old church pews for seats, and vintage magazine covers on the walls gave the smaller than I expected space a funky retro ambience, yet it felt warm.  Every time I visit Modern Times' Point Loma Lomaland Fermentorium I feel a bit unhip, and too old, and out of place.  This feeling was even more acute at The Dankness Dojo.  It is nothing any patron or Modern Times employee says or does, in fact the Modern Times' employees are always pleasant, more so than the job requires, it is just my insecurities.  Fortunately, I have never been one to let a little self-conscientiousness get in the way of a good beer or a good place to get beer.  And The Dankness Mojo is a good place to get beer.

I could not stay at The Dankness Dojo a long time, and I had to drive, so any real beer drinking was out of the question, but I did taste one of the brewed-on-premise hazy IPAs.  I did not write down the beer's name, and I am now mad at myself.  Modern Times knows how to brew hazy IPAs.  So many have no more than a bland fruitiness, but the ones I have had from Modern Times are awash in distinct flavors, and so too was this cloudy offering (at right). 

If you are in Downtown Los Angeles, I recommend The Dankness Mojo.  There are plenty of parking lots nearby, and parking did not seem that expensive.  Next time,  I plan on trying some of the "boundary-pushing plant-based cuisine," in addition to trying more beer.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Positive Attitude Squashed

I tried to stay positive, I did.   No sooner did I finish my last post on my enthusiasm for Mikkeller opening its Little Italy tasting room than I read the latest news on Oceanside Ale Works.  Green Flash does not have a monopoly on bad business decisions.  West Coaster provides an update on the Oceanside Ale Works' clown show, the newest version of which lasted about three weeks.  It is never a smart business move to buy into someone else's legal problems, even if the price seems right.  I would not be surprised if Oceanside Ale Works' co-founder Mark Purciel's legal issues get more complicated in the near future.

Mikkeller In Little Italy

I need to look past the sad plight of Green Flash and Alpine Beer and focus on a positive beer development.  Mikkeller Brewing is opening a tasting room in Little Italy.  This news from San Diego Eater is from last month, but I find it exciting.  The beers I have had from Mikkeller's Miramar brewery have been great, and its new Little Italy location, traffic and parking not withstanding, is going to make it easier for me to get its frequent releases. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Green Flash Foreclosed and Sold

Wow, that happened fast.  Two weekends ago week Green Flash announced it was scaling back its operations and closing its Virginia Beach brewery, then last Friday it announced it was closing its Cellar 3 barrel aged brewing facility and tasting room, and now this morning it announced that the company has been foreclosed.  According to The Full Pint, Green Flash's lender, Comerica Bank, foreclosed and sold Green Flash and Alpine Beer assets to a Michigan risk management company, WC IPA, LLC.  (I find it strange that the acronym spells out West Coast IPA.)  The West Coaster is out with its article, too.

This is a developing story, but there are a few points that I want to note.  First, Green Flash's financial problems were bigger and further along than its recent announcements indicated.  Banks do not just decide to foreclose and sell assets over the span of a few days.  Today's news was the conclusion to a months' long process.  Second, there is still value in the Green Flash brand, and especially the Alpine brand.  Extinguishing Alpine Beer and its beers would be a shame, verging on a beer crime.

Finally, I expect multiple stories on how Green Flash, craft beer's Icarus, went wrong expanding too fast and flying too close to the sun.  I think Green Flash's demise is simpler.  Over the past week I have popped into multiple restaurants and found no Green Flash beer on tap, with one exception, The Joint in Ocean Beach has Alpine Duet on tap.  I can't remember seeing Green Flash beers on any taps locally in a long time, and seeing Alpine beers is rare.  If Green Flash bungled its local market, the one that supported it for years, how could it expect to distribute nationally?  The lack of Green Flash beers in restaurants and bars lead to its local irrelevance, which played out nationally. 

Update:  This story dominated my twitter feed today.  I want to make clear that Green Flash and Alpine are both still operating.  The bank foreclosure and sale did not mean the breweries' business stopped.  The West Coaster article linked to above has information on the people behind purchase of Green Flash.  I changed the title of this post, too, to avoid any confusion.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Green Flash's Travails

I read over the weekend on my Twitter feed that Green Flash Brewing was closing its new (2016) brewing facility in Virginia Beach, effective immediately.  The news was a shock.  The West Coaster and today's San Diego Union Tribune have articles on the closure and other moves Green Flash is making to preserve its brewing business, including a new investment partner.  The Full Pint offers some good advice, which includes rethinking Alpine Beer Co., which Green Flash acquired in 2014, getting in the special release can game, and opening more satellite tasting rooms.

There is a common theme running through all three articles. Green Flash lost its knack for making good beer.  Somehow the brewers of Hop Head Red and Le Freak revamped its beer lineup and reformulated its recipes to a point where it has no signature beer and therefore no brand identity.  I noted this in January after Green Flash's first corporate shakeup.   Green Flash's loss of beer vision coincides with the 2015 departure of Chuck Silva.  Green Flash's IPAs used to have a hop aggressiveness that matched or surpassed breweries that marketed their hoppy IPAs.  Now Green Flash has something called Soul Style IPA. 

I agree with The Full Pint's suggestion to focus on Alpine's amazing line-up of IPAs, and to brew some special release canned beers. People want hazy IPAs, so make and can them.  I like the satellite tasting room idea, too, especially if it has a crowler machine and is close to my neighborhood. 

I have written more than once on this blog that if a brewery makes good beer people will want it.  It is a simple concept, but making good beer once again, more than anything else, needs to consume Green Flash at this point.  It's a brewery, its product is beer, and somehow making good beer got lost in the focus to grow.  I want Green Flash to succeed, and I'd really like a Hop Head Red.