Friday, October 24, 2014

Double Shot of Modern Times

Modern Times Beer is in the midst of its second year, and is maturing into an iconoclastic, risk-taking brewer.  Its rye IPA, Aurora, is excellent and shows Modern Times' brewing skill.  Aurora is bitter and complex, with the spicy, front-of-the-tongue zip you expect from a well-made rye IPA.  It is smoother than many rye IPAs, which makes it enjoyable to drink, but it has enough kick so you don't forget about it.  Not all brewers handle rye properly, but Modern Times mastered this prickly grain in Aurora.  Aurora is available in draft and in 22 oz bottles.

Modern Times' new saison, Universal Friend, is on draft at its brewery.  It was brewed with must from Pinot Grigio grapes.  Universal Friend has a bit of funk, giving it a slight farmhouse ale quality.  It is a sweet saison, and the Pinot Grigio must brings in a level of sophistication, which smooths out the beer.  Modern Times' core saison, Lomaland, is a classic saison, and while Universal Friend is brewed with the same yeast, it is a more adventurous beer that remains approachable and drinkable

One of the things I like most about Modern Times is that I don't like all its beers.  I have not cared for most of its IPAs and some of its other beers, but I will keep trying Modern Times' IPAs in anticipation of finding a winner like Aurora.  Modern Times is not afraid to try new hop varietals or unusual ingredients like grape must, to make its beers unique.  I'd much rather visit a brewery that can create beers I find personally polarizing than a brewery producing safe, mediocre beers that inspire nothing but ambivalence. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New Tasting Room For Ocean Beach

I did not even know about Culture Brewing's plans to open a satellite tasting room in Ocean Beach until I read about it on San Diego Eater yesterday.  Now, I'm mad that it's not yet open, and I have never even tried a beer from Culture.  You can't please some people.  Culture's Ocean Beach outlet plans to open in early November 2014 at 4845 Newport Avenue, close to Sunset Cliffs Blvd, and next door to the Cohn's new OB Warehouse.  The Eater article says the tasting room will  have twenty taps, which seems high for a single brewery, but Culture is expanding its brewing capacity.   The Eater article also states that the tasting room will feature food trucks.  Good luck with that, as I'm not sure where a food truck would park.  There was no mention of growler fills or whether Culture accepts blank growlers for refills, but growler fills are one of the main points of a tasting room, right?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

ChuckAlek Wins Prestigious Sam Adams' Mentoring Internship

ChuckAlek Independent Brewers was selected as 2015's sole winner of Sam Adam's "Brewing and Business Experienceship."  According to the press release (linked to above) announcing the award, the year-long program is:
Similar to an extended internship, the Experienceship provides hands-on educational and enrichment experiences tailored to the winning brewery's needs. As part of the program, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers will receive a trip to the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery for coaching and mentoring from a variety of Samuel Adams experts and brewers, including those involved in ingredients sourcing, sales and distribution, package design and more. Additionally, winners have the opportunity to brew a collaboration beer with Samuel Adams, and receive funding to attend industry events such as The Great American Beer Festival.

(ChuckAlek) Founder and head brewer Grant Fraley, and co-founder and CEO Marta Jankowska were selected from craft brewer applicants that are part of Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream, a micro-lending and coaching program for small business owners working in food, beverage, craft brewing and hospitality. The brewery was chosen by a panel of professionals from Samuel Adams and the program's non-profit microlending partner Accion, based on their passion for brewing quality craft beer, current success, and strong growth potential.  
This sounds like a fantastic opportunity for ChuckAlek.  ChuckAlex's elusive beers are worth finding.  It is brewing the beers that it wants to and is not following trends.  This creativity was reflected in the beers that I have tried.  Congratulations.

Monday, October 6, 2014

San Diego's GABF Winners

San Diego brewers won fourteen medals at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.  I was impressed that Pizza Port Ocean Beach won two medals (for a session beer and a Belgian-style tripel) and brand new Bagby Beer Co. claimed a bronze for its dry Irish stout.  I have not tried all the winners, but Karl Strauss's Mosaic and Societe's Pupil are outstanding.  In all, I counted eleven different San Diego breweries that took home medals.  That is an impressive performance.  (I considered Port Brewing and Pizza Port Ocean Beach as two separate breweries.) 

The West Coaster has a complete list of the San Diego winners, which I present below:
Category: 14 Session Beer – 94 Entries
Gold: Oatmeal Stout, Benchmark Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Silver: Guillaume, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, Ocean Beach, CA
Bronze: Mosaic Session Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – La Jolla, La Jolla, CA
Category: 21 American-Belgo-Style Ale – 69 Entries
Bronze: Le Freak, Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Category: 51 International-Style Pale Ale – 88 Entries
Bronze: The Pupil, Societe Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Category: 52 American-Style Pale Ale – 145 Entries
Gold: Grunion, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits – Scripps Ranch, San Diego, CA
Category: 55 Imperial India Pale Ale – 135 Entries
Silver: Hop 15, Port Brewing Co., San Marcos, CA
Category: 57 Imperial Red Ale – 62 Entries
Bronze: Shark Attack, Port Brewing Co., San Marcos, CA
Category: 62 Irish-Style Red Ale – 60 Entries
Silver: Piper Down, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits – Scripps Ranch, San Diego, CA
Category: 71 Belgian-Style Witbier – 65 Entries
Gold: White Ale, Saint Archer Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Category: 76 Belgian-Style Tripel – 58 Entries
Bronze: La Flama Dorada, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, Ocean Beach, CA
Category: 78 Other Belgian-Style Ale – 26 Entries
Gold: Witty Moron, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, San Diego, CA
Category: 81 Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout – 26 Entries
Bronze: Asphalt Jungle, Bagby Beer Co., Oceanside, CA
Category: 89 Barley Wine-Style Ale – 51 Entries
Gold: AleSmith Old Numbskull, AleSmith Brewing Co., San Diego, CA

Friday, October 3, 2014

Bottlecraft To Move, Add Taps and Cheese

Bottlecraft, San Diego's first craft beer-only retail outlet, has outgrown its original Little Italy location and is moving up the street.  The Eater San Diego food blog has the details, but a few key points are that twenty-five taps are planned, with two devoted to cider and wine, refrigerator capacity is being increased, and Venissimo cheese may operate inside.  Venissimo operates in Bottlecraft's North Park location, but I have not been there since the cheese shop opened.   The added benefit of a trip to Bottlecraft in Little Italy is that both the current location and new location are within a block of Ballast Point's tasting room and restaurant.  I wonder whether the new location has improved parking... Oh, never mind. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Alesmith's Iconoclastic Evil Dead Red

For fall beers you have your Oktoberfest, your pumpkin, and your wet hop IPA.  Then you have Alesmith's unique fall beer, Evil Dead Red.  It has the big malt of an Oktoberfest beer, but comparisons to the other fall beers stop there.  It has a healthy hop bitterness, but not enough bitterness to be confused with an IPA, and surely not a wet hop IPA.  Best of all it has no pumpkin flavors.  Evil Dead Red stands alone, like Michael Myers in the middle of a dark, country road.

Evil Dead Red's most prominent feature, to me, was its upfront dryness, which made the initial, constricting swallow seem like the beer was stuck in the back my throat.  I can't think of a dryer, non-Belgian beer than this red ale.  The mahogany-colored beer had a sweetness from the malts, and its piney bitterness was sharp and shared attention with the grain, which together overwhelmed the chalk and unclenched my throat.  The malts commanded the finish with a variety of flavors, lead by a smokey base, and complementary tastes of mineral and tobacco.  The abv is 6.66% - what else could it be for Halloween? - and its presence was noticed, adding some heat to a wild flavor mix.   I liked Evil Dead Read, it is one of the more interesting fall beers, and I liked that AleSmith decided to make a good beer, and not worry about conforming to a particular seasonal style. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hops Make You Smarter

Scientists have finally proved what IPA lovers already knew - hops make you smarter. Here is an article from Slate, which notes that researchers at Oregon State University have found that "xanthohumol, a flavonoid found in hops, improved memory and thinking in a lucky group of mice." Unfortunately, it takes 5,636 beers a day to get enough xanthohumol to show marked improvement in smarts.   So, drinking even one-tenth of one percent of the necessary beers on a daily basis is pretty stupid, even if the first day may it seem like a fun challenge.  IPA drinkers also know that in addition to giving you added intelligence, hops make you suave, witty, and sophisticated, with just a touch of danger.  We just need to find some researchers to prove it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Alpine Email

I received an Alpine Beer Company email this morning, the first one in awhile.  I enjoy Alpine's emails even though I don't always understand all of them.  It looks like Alpine has some good releases on the way.  Below is the entire text of the email:

So, it’s the end of summer, no more heat – right? Only good news to report so buckle up your seatbelts in your favorite recliner and prepare yourself for the onslaught of overwhelming jocularity and massive frivolity. Ready? Go…

For some reason there are many people that like a beer we make called “Bad Boy.” And they usually like it when we tell them when it’s available. So, right now, on tap in the pub, is a really good beer we make like called “Good,” our barleywine-style ale. Come by and have a plan for your drive if consuming high abv beers. Oh, and we have “Bad Boy” on draft in the pub too. And it’s stunningly good. After all, it’s named after Shawn, the brewer.

A lot will depend on when the labels arrive but we will have our annual holiday ale available very soon, perhaps as soon as next week. “Ichabod” is our pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg seasonal that changes the beer style annually. This year’s version is a 10.5% abv Wheatwine-Style Ale and it is dry-pumpkined, seriously. Reports are that it is lovely and of course will make a featured accompaniment to a fantastic Thanksgiving Dinner. Bottles, very limited growlers  and draft in the pub.

Our really good friend, Geoi, the owner of Bine & Vine Bottle Shop in Normal Heights, San Diego, is celebrating the stores third anniversary. We were asked, and accepted, an offer to make an anniversary beer for the occasion. So, we made a 6.5% IPA called “Bine & Vine 3rd Anniversary Ale.” We featured the usual dry-crispness and light color with medium body. But the focus was on Mosaic hops, so we pumped up the aromatics with healthy doses of Mosaic, Citra and Simcoe hops. Their website will list their availability date. We want to bottle next Friday.

We are very excited to announce some agreements made for some killer collaborations. The new trend to add a bit of spice to the brew scene is a chance to work with others. Our next collaborative beer will be for a Highly requested return “Super IPA!” The fantastic folks at New Belgium will be allowing us into their state of the art facility on October 6th, to remake this 9.5% abv Double IPA. The batch will be exclusively on draft so look for it wherever finer establishments carry New Belgium beer on tap. Other upcoming collaborations will be with “Knee Deep,”  “Mission Brewing” and “BNS.”Dates to be worked out but probably early next year.

We have agreed in principle to the terms of a lease for the old “Bread Basket/Paparazzi” at Alpine Creek Town Center. We intend to finalize the deal and open somewhere around the first of the year. Look for an expanded operation with our great beer as the feature with a little awesome barbeque on the side.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print. Stay out of the way of cars. White line don’t stop cars from crossing over them, they hold no magical powers. Take responsibility for your own safety into your own hands, walk facing traffic as far away from the road as possible. Dawn and dusk pose additional risks due to driver visibility issues. Wear the right clothes for the situation, bright when necessary. Be good bikers and share the road appropriately, too.

Wet Hopped IPAs Now Available

Wet hop IPAs are here!  I tried the first wet hop IPA of the season on Saturday when I had Get Wet at Pizza Port Ocean Beach.  (At least it was the first wet hop IPA I had seen.)  Wet hop IPAs are made with fresh hops and have an intense, juicy bitterness, more so than most IPAs, as they are released just a few weeks after harvest.  More wet hopped IPAs should be arriving on taps in the coming days and weeks.  A few of these beers make it into bottles, Port Brewing's High Tide being one, so you can check bottle shops, too.  The freshness of these beers declines fast, so it's best to drink wet hop IPAs as soon as possible to get the full experience of the fresh hops.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tasting Room Growth

The Voice of San Diego has an excellent, important article on the growth of, and issues surrounding brewery satellite tasting rooms.  According to the article, tasting rooms:
help address one issue that could affect the (craft beer) industry’s continued growth: They allow the businesses to meet customers where they are, rather than relying on people coming to them.
They are also a real source of profit to breweries, according to the article.  I am looking forward to a North Park-located Rip Current, and a Lost Abbey outpost that's only 30 minutes away compared to nearly an hour, or realistically, a location near a freeway I travel frequently (Interstate 5) compared to one off a highway (State Highway 78) I never use.

But not all is positive for tasting rooms, and this feel-good story has a curmudgeon:
But the easier process of opening urban tasting rooms could eventually stoke neighborhood concerns.

At a recent panel on planning concerns facing the craft beer industry, Amanda Lee, a senior planner with the city’s code enforcement group, said the city needs to consider whether satellite tasting rooms, technically called “retail tasting stores,” should have additional restrictions about where they could be located, or whether the city should be able to impose additional conditions on their permit to operate.

The thought is that at some point, the relative ease to open such a facility will run into community opposition.
I get that people do not want a bar with a bunch of loud rowdies near their house or schools.  The tasting rooms I've been to, by and large, are mellow places that do not attract drunks or hordes of hard drinking young men.  Yes, I see groups of young men at tasting rooms.  But I also see groups of young women, a lot of couples and, to put it bluntly, plenty of older people (myself included) at tasting rooms.  It's not your "whoop-it-up" crowd.  Most tasting rooms close early - 9:00 p.m., or 10:00 p.m. at the latest - and the bulk of the business is done earlier in the day.  And more importantly from a planner perspective, I have seen hyper-vigilance from tasting room employees in terms of how they sell and dispense beer, and watch customers. 

City planners (not just the one named in the article) should look to the long-term civic impact of a rash, not-in-my-backyard mentality when it comes to tasting rooms.  San Diego's brewing industry is real and growing.  It is creating jobs and attracting tourists, and tasting rooms help both.  Beer is now one of the prime reasons for a visit to San Diego.  The planners should not construct unnecessarily obstacles to job growth and future tourism based on perceived fears, rather than legitimate proof of detrimental impact caused by tasting rooms.

City planners need to get out and visit a few tasting rooms to fully understand the clientele and how different a brewery tasting room is from a bar.  I imagine more than one brewery would be happy to arrange a tasting tour.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Ritzenhoff Beer Glasses

After I posted yesterday that I wanted two Modern Times' Ritzenhoff-designed beer glasses, I looked at the Ritzenhoff website and was jolted by familiarity.  I remembered buying two fancy beer glasses about ten years ago that I had packed away for a move and never unpacked.  I went searching and found out that I already own two fancy Ritzenhoff glasses.   Each has its own protective case, and each tall pilsner glass came with four custom coasters.  The glasses were part of an artist series.  Neither glass has been touched by a beer, a situation I need to fix. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Want These Glasses

The Beer Rovette says I have too many beer glasses, but I want these tulip glasses from Modern Times Brewing.  (In fairness to me, I don't have tulip glasses I like).  They are Ritzenhoff crystal glasses from Germany, so any beer has to taste good in them!