Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Legal Brew - Oceanside Ale Works

The West Coaster had an article last week on Oceanside Ale Works closure and the plan to re-open it, possibly under a different name.  I hope it's as easy as Oceanside Ale Works' co-owner Mark Pruciel makes it sound:  essentially, close for a few months, and then use the equipment Pruciel owns to open a new brewery.  I am a little wary at the nonchalance because in my business experience whenever there is money, co-partners, and lawsuits involved, nothing is easy or timely.  I have more than once seen partners undermine healthy, or at least viable businesses on purpose just to hurt or spite the other partners.  The part of the story that is head shaking in its silliness is that Pruciel's co-partner backed away from the business in 2013, due to Pruciel's decision to put his face on Oceanside's Dude double IPA label, in design that mimicked an Obama campaign-style poster (image below from the West Coaster).  You never know the things that push people over the edge.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Waterfront Mystery

I hear on podcasts and read online that Eppig Brewing is making great beers.  Its planned Point Loma tasting room would make it convenient for me to taste some of these beers.  But I do not know what is happening with Eppig Brewing's tasting room on the docks in Point Loma.  Several articles describe the new waterfront space, including this one from the West Coaster from late October.  I have seen and walked around the building.  The windows are covered so you can not see the extent of any interior finishes.  The North Park-based brewer expected to open the satellite location in November or early December.  It has not opened yet and I have not read any updates on Eppig's Facebook or Twitter feed that gives a new opening timeline.  Let's hope that the ABC and the San Diego police are not playing games with Eppig like they did the Little Miss at its thwarted Ocean Beach location. 

UPDATE:  Yesterday evening I saw that the Eppig Point Loma location had a big fence around it and a build-out is underway.  I did not see any signage.  This looks like a positive development.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Beer In Literature

I love finding beer references in good books.  I always mean to note them here when I read them, but usually don't get to it.  Well, it's a new year and a new effort to try and highlight quality beer appearances in books I read.  I can tell when an author appreciates beer, and these are the passages I plan to post.  Here is one from J.L. Carr's sublime 1980 A Month in the Country

I  didn't work to set meal-times and came down the ladder when I was hungry. And, in the middle of those hot August days, I usually cut two rough rounds of loaf and a wedge of Wensleydale and took it outside to eat.  On Saturdays and Sundays, I had a bottle of pale ale; week-days water.
This passage is short, simple and captures the weekend reward of a beer after hard work, and as a bonus, has a nice nod to cheese.  Carr could have said "beer" or "ale", but the specific "pale ale" made this passage standout to me.  The novel is set in the early 1920s, so pale ale has been a beer of choice for nearly a hundred years.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Not Bar Wannabes

I wrote in October about the San Diego police rejecting licenses for tasting room in its Western Division and the ABC choosing to not decide against the police.  New Year's Eve is an example of why this is a bonehead move by the police and ABC.  New Year's Eve is one of the biggest drinking days of the year, a bonanza for bars.  But all the craft beer tasting rooms that I know of closed early, skipping the late night party.  Closing early on a surefire drinking day is not a move of bar wannabes.  I agree with police efforts to curb drunkenness and the crimes related to it, but punishing brewery tasting rooms is misguided.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Demise of the Bomber

The craft beer industry constantly evolves, which is necessary for its growth and survival.  The decline of craft beers being produced in 22 oz bombers is one trend that makes me sad.  I get that their heavy shipping weight and awkward size gives distributors headaches, and that cans are lighter and more effective, but bombers opened many beers to me.  I like cans, but I always pause before I buy a four- or six-pack of a beer I have not previously tried, afraid of being stuck with beers I don't want to drink.  With a bomber, it is just a one beer commitment, and if the beer stinks you only have to struggle through one and are not left wondering what to do with the remaining three or five crap beers.  Plus, the financial commitment is usually smaller with a bomber.  It is ironic that while more beer than ever is being brewed, I seem to try fewer and fewer beers.  I know the abundance of tasting rooms that have opened near my house over the past few years has lead me to try less beer, but having fewer choices in bombers has also curtailed beer experimentation. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Prepare For San Diego Beer Week

The two weekend long San Diego Beer Week starts this Friday, November 3rd, and runs until November 12th.  It is an event filled ten days so plan accordingly.  Here are four resources to help set your daily beer drinking itinerary:

The official San Diego Beer Week website's list of events.

The San Diego Brewer's Guild's website list of events.  It looks similar to the San Diego Beer Week list of events, in part because the Brew's Guild sponsors beer week.

The West Coaster's master list of events.

The West Coaster's list of highlights from Beer week.

There are so many events it's hard to know what is worthwhile and what is just a Beer Week excuse.  The spotlight events at the Bottlecraft locations look interesting, as do some of the spotlight nights at O'Briens including Melvin Brewing (11/6), Kern River (11/7) and Fieldwork Brewing (11/8), as well as events at Stone Brewing locations, Societe Brewing, and the sour and rare beer night (11/10) at Pizza Port Ocean Beach

Beer Bars v. Tasting Rooms - Part II

Here is a Good Beer Hunting interview with the owner of Fort Collins, Colorado's The Mayor of Old Town beer bar.  I am posting this article because it addresses the competitive relationship between beer bars and brewery taprooms, which is becoming contentious.  The Mayor of Old Town is carrying fewer local beers due to the increased number of local brewery taprooms that the bar's owner believes are hurting his business.  This is unfortunate, but not unique to Colorado.  I noted last month the complaints about this beer bar v. taproom dynamic here in San Diego.  Expect this story to grow in the future, as many breweries are seeing taprooms as an important point of distribution and profit.  The beer bars and breweries need creative thinking so they can both coexist.  Cannibalizing each other makes both weaker.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Give This Man A Raise

This Good Beer Hunting podcast is worth a listen.  The podcast is a recording of a panel discussion from London's Beavertown Brewing's recent Extravaganza beer festival.  The panel was on New England IPAs and the panelists were, in general, negative on new hazy style.  A man in the audience, only identified as Andrew from Modern Times, breaks up a pedantic discussion and gives a robust defense of hazy IPAs and adherence to consumer preference (this happens about the fourteen minute mark). Andrew also defends the shelf life of Modern Times' hazy IPAs, which he says should be good for three or four months after canning, not several weeks as stated by panelists.  I can confirm that Andrew's statement is correct as it relates to the three- to four-month life of Modern Times' New England-style IPAs.

Andrew is an employee to keep and validates Modern Times' decision to become employee-owned.  It is awesome that a guy goes to a London beer festival and not only defends a style that Modern Times crushes, but at the same time articulates Modern Times' ethos to making beers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Aged Pumpkin Beer

I bought some of this year's Dogfish Head Punkin Ale over the weekend.  Then I found a bottle of last year's in my beer fridge and decided I had to taste them side-by-side.  I was ready to pour out the year-old Punkin Ale, but the beer was excellent.  It showed no signs of age, and had more depth and complexity than this year's version.  Its pumpkin and spice flavors were more pronounced, while remaining an easy drinking beer.  This year's Punkin Ale was lighter, but still good.  Both beers went great with barbecued sausage and spicy mustard, along with some homemade applesauce. Later, I found an even older version of Punkin Ale from at least two or three years ago.  As I have one bottle left from last year, I am planing a three-year vertical tasting (with pictures this time).  I will put the aged pumpkin beer to the test.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Beer Reads

I have had multiple beer articles open in my browser for about a week or more.  Below are quick summaries and links to the articles:

San Diego brewers had a respectable showing at the Great American Beer Festival, via the West Coaster.

Here is a wide-ranging interview with Jeff Bagby from a European website, the name of which and country of origin I can't determine.  He captures the problem with many hazy beers, "I just don’t see the long term appeal of something like that, pouring soup out of a can and drinking it – which is kind of what I equate some of these to."  Bagby reminisces about the early days in San Diego's craft beer history and has other insights on the craft beer industry.

San Diego City Beat has an article from Beth Demmon on problems facing some brewers.  In particular, the article highlights issues with the Brewery Igniter business model, which provides new breweries space but has high costs and apparent lack of flexibility.  Wiseguy Brewing was the first Igniter brewery to cease operations last month. 

Via Good Beer Hunting, Ballast Point has opened a separate brewery adjacent to its huge Miramar headquarters.  The new 60,000 square foot, creatively named Trade Street Facility, will focus on sours and barrel-aged beers.  I can hardly wait for a sour, barrel-aged Guava Sculpin IPA.

While Wiseguy Brewing closed last week, Wild Barrel Brewing is opening.  The craft beer cycle of life.  A new brewery opening in San Diego is not big news these days, but this brewery, headed by former Stone beer ambassador Bill Sysak, sounds exciting.  The West Coaster has the inside scoop on Sysak's plans.  Reading this article had me thinking of excuses to get to San Marcos.

Brandon Hernandez tackles hazy IPAs in this article for The Full Pint.  San Diego's hop heritage is on attack from the hazy IPA.  San Diego breweries are balancing the traditional, clear, bitter IPA that made San Diego famous, with demand for the murky, interloping style that is a softer and fruitier IPA.  I love tradition and no region makes better IPAs than San Diego, but I am not against a good hazy IPA either, Jeff Bagby's points notwithstanding, and he makes more points in the interview above than just the quote I pulled.  My haze experience is mainly limited to the cloudy IPAs Modern Times Beer produces, which I have found delicious, so my perception is probably skewed.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Jackhammer Dragon

The name Jackhammer Dragon IPA makes no sense to me, but I am sure it has some insider backstory.  While I do not get the name, I do know that this IPA from Pizza Port Ocean Beach is a good beer.  Its straw color is lighter than many IPAs, and while it poured with some opacity, it will not be confused with a New England-style IPA.  It had an initial sharp intensity that did not mellow.  I noticed a classic IPA pine flavor, but Jackhammer's bitterness overwhelmed any pine subtleties.  Maybe it's the yeast, but I detected a "Pizza Port" taste to it, which is not bad, but the beer reminded me of other Pizza Port IPAs, like Jetty or Norse Woman.  If you are tired of the haze craze, or IPAs with hops that taste more of onions or overripe melon, and want a beer that smacks you with the bitter, you need to seek out Jackhammer. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Time To Get Angry

I missed this Brandon Hernandez article on Little Miss Brewing's Ocean Beach blindside on the West Coaster website last month, but read the full article over the weekend in the West Coaster magazine.  Little Miss Brewing was back stabbed during its application process as it built its tasting room on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach.  According to the article, during Little Miss's original thirty-day public comment period, initial public complaints related to the proposed tasting rooms were raised and then addressed by Little Miss Brewing.  Unknown to Little Miss Brewing, a second "private meeting had been held without their (Little Miss's owners) notification or knowledge in late-April - outside of the public-protest period - between ABC supervisors, representatives of the San Diego Police Department, a State Assembly member, and additional OB residents not in favor of the tasting room."  After this secret meeting the San Diego Police Department said it would not support the Little Miss Brewing tasting room and the ABC would not vote against the police.  The ABC waited months to inform Little Miss Brewing of the permit rejection.

What is the point of the ABC if the police decide what permits to issue?   The police claim an increase in alcohol related crimes in its Western Patrol Division led to its decision to reject Little Miss's application, but this Patrol Division, in addition to Ocean Beach, encompasses diverse neighborhoods including Linda Vista, Western Mission Valley, Midway District, University Heights, and the neighborhoods of Point Loma.  The area impacting Little Miss Brewing, Ocean Beach, has seen alcohol related crime drop by 40% since Culture Brewing opened the first tasting room in Ocean Beach in November 2014.  The leading alcohol-related crime in Ocean Beach is open containers on the beach, not drunks stumbling out of brewery tasting rooms.   

I want to know the other OB residents that attended the private meeting.  Were the OB residents owners of bars on Newport Avenue, and are private meetings regular procedure for beer licenses?   If the police are interested in stopping all alcohol related crimes, why not just pull all alcohol licenses, or delay the permitting process so long that businesses close.  Don't try to tell me that Ocean Beach has too many tasting rooms, let the market sort that out.  Don't submarine breweries through private meetings and backroom deals. 

It appeared to me that Little Miss had spent big money building out its tasting room, and it looked nearly ready to open when the For Lease sign went up around Labor Day.  The State or City owe Little Miss a full explanation and repayment for its costs, especially since this decision was made at least four months ago.  Little Miss should not have to pay for cowardly actions.

I said in my previous post that tasting rooms have improved Newport Avenue.  Since Culture opened in November 2014, I have never seen anyone sloppy drunk in any of the tasting rooms I have visited.  For comparison, I have been in Newport Pizza after 10:00 pm, and it routinely has some properly smashed patrons.  The scene at the western end of Newport Avenue, which no tasting rooms, only the OB Brewery, is much wilder than the eastern end of Newport Avenue where the tasting rooms are located.  There is more to this story, and something foul is behind it.   All breweries in San Diego need to view this decision as an immediate threat to their businesses.