Friday, December 31, 2010

King Gambrinus

I've heard of Saint Arnold, the patron saint of hop pickers and Belgian brewers, but until yesterday I had  never heard of King Gambrinus, but have now seen two references to him in the past two days.  Here is what Wikipedia has to say:
Gambrinus is a legendary king of Flanders, and an unofficial patron saint of beer or beer brewing. Gambrinus is variously depicted as a European king, as an English knight of the Middle Ages, or (less commonly) as a plump old man. Gambrinus' birthday is purported to be April 11.
The origin of the character is most widely believed to be John the Fearless (1371–1419), who some also believe to be the inventor of hopped malt beer. However, other sources report that one of the cup-bearersCharlemagne (742–814) was also called Gambrinus. In 1543, the German poet Burkart Waldis wrote of Gambrinus, explaining that Gambrinus learned the art of brewing from Isis, the ancient Egyptian goddess of motherhood and fertility.
There is a holding company named Gambrinus that has brands Shriner, Bridgeport, Pete's Wicked Ale and Trumer Pils.  I had never heard of the holding company before.  I learned two new beer trivia facts over the past two days.

In looking at that picture of King Gambrinus, I think I've seen some of his decedents at O'Brien's.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Double Shot of Beer Faux Pas

I visited JJ Brewsky's in Camarillo for the first time Monday night.  This is a cavernous restaurant / bar located off the 101.  You can get craft beer along with a wide selection of macros.  I didn't count the taps, but there must have been about twenty to twenty-four, with more than half craft beers.  JJ Brewsky's runs a $3 pint specials on Monday that starts at 3:00 and goes to close.  I ordered Telegraph Brewing's California Ale, which I had had in the bottle, but never on draft.  This is a style-bending beer, but to me, clearly in the Belgian style.  The bartender reached for the typical shaker pint glass, but I asked her if she could use one of the Belgian looking glasses hanging behind the bar.  She reached for a Stella glass and and I asked her about another glass next to it.  She pulled it down and it was a Telegraph pint glass!  I'm sure it was designed for California Ale.  The bartender should have known this and served the beer in it without my prompting.  Faux pas number one.

The second beer I had was Firestone's Union Jack.  The first few sips tasted funny.  I could not guess the strange, off-putting taste, competing with Union Jack's hops.  Then I figured it out - it was detergent.  The glass had not been cleaned properly.  Dang.  I wasn't in the mood to argue or complain so I finished the beer, although it bugged me.  Faux pas number two.  I annoyed our waitress when I told her to have the glass rinsed before pouring my last beer (Racer 5), because the previous pint tasted of cleanser.  For an another annoyance, a good number of the beers on JJ Brewsky's beer menu were unavailable. 

JJ Brewsky's has a good beer selection for the Ventura/Oxnard/Camarillo area.   I can see faux pas number one, as maybe California Ale is not a regular beer and the Telegraph rep may not have trained the bartenders to use the Telegraph glass, but if I'd ordered a Stella, I bet it would have been served in a Stella glass.  Number two is harder to explain away.  Nothing ruins a beer like a mouthful of soap, and any good beer bar knows this.  In San Diego, the Blind Lady Ale House and Pizza Port Ocean Beach have systems to give glasses a quick rinse before pouring a beer.  I used to think this was a bit pretentious, but after working through a detergent laced pint, I don't anymore.  JJ Brewsky's has a good thing going, but it better not take its position as the best beer bar in Ventura/Oxnard/Camarillo for granted because this part of California could use more than one good place to get a beer.

Jubelale

I have been picking up Deschutes' Jubeale for several years now, as much to checkout the annual label artwork as to taste the beer.  This year I had a draft Jubelale rather than picking up a six-pack, and will have to view the art work on-line.  Jubelale poured a deep mahogany with biscuit-colored foam.  The initial taste was sweet with a smokey maltiness that dissipated into a bitter finish.  It was drier than I remember and its body was robust for its modest 6.7% abv.  Jubelale is a smooth, drinkable beer.  It is complex enough for the beer geek but approachable for the beer drinker new to spicey holiday ales.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ommegang's Adoration Ale

Brewery Ommegang's Adoration Ale is a new winter-style, Belgian strong ale.  I'm assuming it's Ommegang's holiday ale, and with that in mind is how I drank it.  And a holiday beer it is -  full of spices and malt - a sipper not a chugger.  Adoration's label says it is brewed with coriander, cardamom, mace, grains of paradise and sweet orange peel.  I can't say I detected any one of these spices individually, and am not sure I'd know if I did, but together they worked.  Adoration is a spicy, malty beer, with minimal hop presence.  It was a mellower beer than I was expecting with all the spices, and is an approachable Belgian strong ale.  Adoration's 10% abv was initially hidden in its spices and malt, but became more apparent as the beer warmed.  This is a solid holiday beer, and one I will look for in years to come.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Correspondent Field Report

I can't usually take an afternoon and hit multiple breweries.  Fortunately, my field correspondent did the work for me and filed this report on his recent trip to Green Flash and new breweries Mother Earth and Iron Fist:
We started at Mother Earth, I liked the place! It reminded me of Manzanita, but one notch up! Family-run, very friendly, & a good place to sample some home-grown beer! What I mean by one notch up is, it's a bit more organized, & a little further along. Thier beers were good, although I didn't try all of them. My favorite, & also Chris's was the ESB. Very drinkable, & totally true to style. They hit a home-run with this one! And it wasn't even my favorite style of beer. That says something!
Next, we stopped by Iron Fist, we got a little inside-story of this place by a patron of Mother Earth. He was a home-brewer, & said they're good, but pricy. He was spot-on! They offer Belgian-style beers, which are decent, but considering how close they are to a local legend "Lost Abbey". I think? They'll have a tough go of it! 
Our last stop was one of your favorite beers! Green Flash! What can I say? Their beer speaks for itself. You can tell they've been there for awhile, the place looked like they've made a lot of beer! I don't mean this in a bad way, it just looked well used, & you could see they've out-grown the current facilaty. By that, I thought they were cramped, they had their bottling line right up against their brewing station.
I've only had one Mother Earth beer, its IPA, and I thought it was quite good.  I had it in a situation where I couldn't properly review it, but it made an impression and I have been looking for it since.  Iron Fist is a new brewer in North San Diego County.  Its Belgian line-up leads to the obvious comparison to The Lost Abbey.  I have not tried its beers yet, but am seeing bottles around and hope to try its beers soon.  I don't necessarily agree that Iron Fist will have a tough go of it.  My take is that The Lost Abbey has a small share of the San Diego market, despite its fine beers, and that as the beer consumer gets a taste of Belgian-style beers they will become ever more popular, increasing demand.  If Iron Fist's beers are good, there will be room for them.  I think I remember reading that Green Flash is expanding to a new facility in Mira Mesa, which affirms the comment above about cramped space.  I could not find a link to the news on the new facility.. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Landslide

BeerAdvocate has its list of the top 100 beers on Planet Earth and the 100 Bottom of the Barrel beers, based on its readers' reviews.  I checked off how many top and bottom beers I've tried over the years, and it was a landslide.  My list of sucky beers blew away the good stuff - 48 to 30.  I can give you a list of excuses, but what's the point, I drank a lot of lousy beers in my younger days.  One consolation is that I bet that I am not alone.  My general lack of enthusiasm for imperial stouts will probably allow the crappy beers to keep their advantage for the immediate future.  On a positive note, I think I have only added one or two of the low-ranked beers over the past ten years.  One was Quimles from Argentina that Trader Joe's sold for awhile. A relative bought it and I thought it not half bad.   I have a Fantome Saison in my fridge that will narrow the gap slightly.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rememberance of Beers Past

The best times to drink beer are stereotyped to the point of cliche - scorching hot days, after a hard day's labor, and any type of male bonding situation, made all the better if a sporting event is involved.  Sure, beer is good on a hot day, but it's no better than water or lemonade, and who doesn't like a beer after hard work, or watching a ballgame.   Hot days, working hard around the house, or flipping on ESPN don't make me want to grab a beer.  Beer drinking should not be so narrowly defined, as beer drinking transcends macro marketing.

Nothing evokes beer drinking more to me than a cool winter evening.  I took some trash out one night last week, and the cold, dry, late fall Southern California air, tinged with the hint of smoke from a neighbor's fireplace, triggered some recessed beer memories.  I wasn't stirred by any one particular memory, but an amalgamation of distant fall and winter nights spent drinking beers outside at parties, football games or just because.  The feel and smell of the crisp air, for a brief moment, carried me back in time and made me want to open a beer. 

I remember drinking cold beer on even colder nights and waking up the next morning with a sore throat, thinking I had caught a cold, only to realize my throat hurt because of the beer not a virus.  I shivered in Sacramento and told myself that winter nights in Southern California are colder than most people realize, while not having the sense to drink my beer inside.   The beer of choice back then was usually Bud, or Coors or Coors Light, and I can picture a bucket or ice chest full of beer, where the ice never melted, and not thinking twice about reaching in to grab a beer despite numb fingers.  I never gave a second thought to drinking beer on cold nights. 

Winter is my favorite time of the year to drink beer.  I love holiday beers, whether they are hoppy or malty, spicy or fruity.  To this day, I have no hesitation about drinking beer on cold days.  You can keep your hot totties and spiked egg nog.  Just give me a damned beer, the colder the better.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cool Cask Beer Video

Here is a video from The Linkery's blog on cask beer:


The Linkery - Ethan & Steph from Brian Hedden on Vimeo.


The Linkery does a great job with its cask beers.  I had an amazing Ballast Point Sculpin on cask during last year's San Diego Beer Week that made me a believer in cask beer.  It was a creamy, nuanced marvel, not the muted version of so many cask beers.  The care in storing and handling casks makes a huge difference in a cask beer's flavor.  It is worth search out places that know what they are doing, and avoiding cask beers at those that don't.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

While The Wife's Away IPA

Pizza Port in Ocean Beach is offering a new IPA, While The Wife's Away (WTWA), to go along with its regular Jetty IPA.  My first impression was that WTWA is an excellent IPA.  It tastes like Ocean Beach Pizza Port's Get Wet fresh hop IPA, which was out for about a month this past fall.  WTFA will be in regular rotation and will share space with Jetty.  I had a quick taste last night and noticed a citrus-forward beer with a sharp, bitter finish, which I think is my favorite IPA flavor profile.  I need to go get a growler to see if this beer is really as good as my initial opinion.

Stone in South Park and Europe

I saw on San Diego Beer Blog that Stone Brewing's planned store / tasting room and small brewery has experienced licensing problems and neighborhood protests.  Here is the tweet from Stone:
Hey San Diego, the #SouthPark @StoneStore may take a while. Quite a while. Months. That's an "if" not a "when." Sorry. Licensing challenges.
That stinks.  The regulatory resistance is mind numbing.  The small, but vocal local push back is understandable, but I'm always troubled how a few loud voices can hijack a debate.  Hopefully they won't derail this project.  It's not like Stone's tasting room and store would be the only place that sells beer in South Park.

While looking through Stone's tweets (why does that sound dirty?) I saw a link to this article in Brewer's Guardian.  Apparently, Stone has narrowed its European brewery location choices to Bruges and Berlin:
His team have spent the last year trawling more than 75 sites in nine different countries, from Spain in the south to Denmark in the north, and have finally set their sights on two potential locations in Europe’s beer heartlands – one in Berlin, one in Bruges.

Koch said: “It’s been quite a journey. We were looking for a brewery but we were unable to find any that met our parameters. As we couldn’t find one, it’s been our goal to create something where we can open our doors to the public and have a visitor component. 

“So we started looking at historic warehouse sites and we found these two that qualified. Fantastically interesting buildings, very visible and also had the square feet that would enable us to do our brewing.”
Good for Stone.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Stone can prevail in getting its store open in South Park.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lukcy Basartd


"It's gonna be a glorious day
I feel my luck could change" 

I have been reading about Lukcy Basartd for about a month.  Lukcy Basartd is Stone Brewing's thirteenth anniversary tribute to Arrogant Bastard, and is blend of Arrogant Bastard, Oaked Arrogant Bastard and Double Bastard.  I had been casually looking for a bottle, not really paying attention to its release date.  Then last night I saw that Dave at The Drunken Polack had a review of Lukcy Basartd.  How did The Drunken Polack, located across the country, not only get a bottle, but drink it and review it, before I'd even seen a bottle in local stores?  That seemed pretty lame on my part and finding a bottle became today's quest. 

It was not much of a quest.  The new BevMo that just opened near my home had several cases of Lukcy Basartd.  It was funny though that Lukcy Basartd wasn't prominently displayed with other Stone beers or in the fridge case, and it took me a minute find the stacked cases.  I have to agree with the Drunken Polack's enthusiastic review of Lukcy Basartd.  It is an outstanding beer.

Lukcy Basartd is not as smokey as Arrogant Bastard or as boozy as Double Bastard.  It is a smooth red ale with big hop kick in the long finish.  I am not sure I picked up the oak from Oaked Bastard, but am guessing it helped soften the beer.  The big tan foam settled down but left lace all the way down the class.  It is a clear beer despite its deep mahogany color.  Lukcy Bastard has an 8.5% alcohol, big but not overwhelming.  It's a drinkable beer, and I wanted more after  finishing the bottle. 

Lukcy is the best Stone limited release since Vertical Epic 08.08.08, and is a fine tribute to Arrogant Bastard.  It is a limited release, so I recommend getting several bottles, while you can still find them.  I am going to buy a good number of bottles.

Lyrics from Radiohead's "Lucky," off the OK Computer album.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving Punt

I finally figured out my years' long frustration with trying to match a good beer with Thanksgiving dinner - I drank wine.  I had several holiday beers in the fridge but didn't crack one with dinner.  Of course, I couldn't shun beer all day, while preparing the feast I worked my way through The Lost Abbey's Red Barn Ale.  This saison was a perfect late afternoon drink.  It had just the right balance of yeast and spice, with a strong hop finish.  Its moderate alcohol (around 6%) allowed me to keep focused on important dinner tasks.

As I worked my through the bottle I kept thinking that I need to drink more The Lost Abbey beers.  I've had only one other Red Barn Ale, and that was when it was first released.  Devotion, Avant Garde, and Lost and Found are all outstanding, reasonably priced and readily available beers.   I think too much fuss is made over The Lost Abbey's big, special releases, while its stellar year-round beers are overlooked.

We had a pinot noir, actually a very good pinot noir, with dinner.  It was a 1995 Migration Anderson Valley, produced by Goldeneye.  It was a smooth, subdued wine that went well with the traditional Thanksgiving mish-mash of food.  Its rich profile improved over the evening.  The winemaker states:
This medium-bodied wine has bright fruit complemented by ripe and broad tannins that provide great balance and a lengthy finish.  The aroma features blueberry, plum, strawberry pie and toasted oak.  The flavors are focused and follow through with ripe strawberry, plum, and cherry, complemented by clove.
Strawberry pie?  I guess we know where beer writers get all their idiotic, flowery BS.  I did not get any of those flavors individually, but the wine was quality, and I know I made the right choice.

After dinner I was going to open a bottle of Dupont's Avec Les Bons Voeux to finish the evening, but didn't.  It would have been a waste to force down this grand beer after so much food.  I have it safely stored in my fridge.  I can't think of a better leftover.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Saints and Sinners No More

The Lost Abbey announced today that it has discontinued its Saints and Sinners beer club.  Here is Tomme Arthur's post on the decision.  I joined the Saints club several years ago because The Lost Abbey was new and it was hard to find its beers.  The people I dealt with at The Lost Abbey were as nice as could be, but I always thought the club was an afterthought.  Beers were shipped on a hap hazard schedule and changes were made to the scheduled beers.  I did not renew my membership because The Lost Abbey beers became readily available.  I suspect The Lost Abbey's decision will be burning up blogs and BeerAdvocate discussion groups for a few days.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stone Brewing in South Park

Here are links one and two from San Diego Beer Blog providing updates on Stone Brewing's new South Park location.  Stone, apparently, plans on operating a small brewery at its 2215 30th Street address.  This could prove interesting, especially if specialty, tap-only beers are crafted at the new spot.  I am guessing that Stone South Park will be similar to other brewing tasting rooms, like Ballast Point's two tasting rooms, or the Stone store at Stone's Escondido brewery.  You will be able to get growler fills, bottled beer to go, merchandise and some tastings.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Italian Beer

Here is a link from the Atlantic.com's food blog on Italy's growing craft beer industry.  I'll have to keep an eye out for some of these beers.  This gaffe caught my attention:
One of the best known of this new breed of brew masters is Teo Musso, who's been crafting his Baladin beers in the small town of Piozzo since 1996. His beers are pretty much distributed not only all over Italy, but all over the world. And you're about to get to know him a whole lot better, since he is one of the masterminds behind the soon-to-be-opened beer garden on top of Eataly in New York.
Eataly is the huge Italian food emporium backed by Mario Batali. Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione is also helping brew some beers for the rooftop beer garden.  Eataly is a must-stop on my next trip to New York City.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Belated Beer Week Post

San Diego Beer Week was two weeks ago.  I did not hit too many events.  I went to three venues, but only one could be considered an event, and that was The Bruery's tasting at Ocean Beach's Olive Tree Market Place.  The Bruery brought down eight bottled beers and a keg of Humulus Gold, for nine total tasters.  The tasting started with Trade Winds Tripel and ended at Black Tuesday.  I did not taste all nine beers, but as best I can remember the following are my recollections.  Trade Winds and Saison de Lente are great.  Saison Rue is an acquired taste and I haven't yet acquired it.  Rugbrod is unique, not my favorite, but better than I was expecting.  It was a malty beer that, like Saison Rue, would take some time to build familiarity.

I skipped the Autumn Maple and the Three French Hens (I had just had this beer the previous weekend), and went straight to Coton, The Burery's second anniversary beer.  This is a big, sweet, dark beer.  It's difficult to get a beer's full measure with just a taste, but Coton's big syrupy, alcohol-laden profile was tough for me to appreciate.  Under different circumstances - four hours to kill on a quiet night - my opinion would probably be different, but in a crowded tasting room under time constraints, Coton's  complexities were lost on me

I can safely say I will never be part of the frenzy that is the Black Tuesday release party.  When I arrived at the tasting, I overheard someone say that Black Tuesday was amazing and he couldn't even taste the alcohol.  Black Tuesdays' alcohol is all I tasted - it's a whopping 19.5% abv.  I appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into creating a beer like Black Tuesday, and I get the appeal of this type of beer to the BeerAdvocate crowd. I just don't enjoy that much booze in my beer.  The aficionados can talk about subtleties and nuances, but really, with a 19.5% abv beer they are drinking to get drunk, fast.

The star of the show, hands down, running away, slam dunk and any other cliche you can add, was Humulus Gold.  It is a Belgian IPA that I thought amazing.  It kind of reminded my of Alpine's Nelson IPA, although it's not made with the same hops as Nelson, nor there is any similarity in ingredients.  Nonetheless, the comparison to Nelson is a huge compliment.  Humulus Gold is hoppy and approachable, the type of beer you could drink all night, every night.   I wish The Bruery would bottle this beer.

I met and had a good conversation with The Bruery's representative at the event, assistant brewer Doug Constantiner.  He told me that The Bruery has been tweaking its wonderful Mischief throughout the year, making it better each time.  I loved the Mischief I had in January and wonder how they were able to make that great beer better. 

The two other Beer Week venues I went to are not even worth posting about.  Overall, I think San Diego Beer Week was a huge success, and even better than last year's.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fresh Hopped Beers

I had two excellent fresh hop IPAs last month, Port Brewing's bottled High Tide Fresh Hop IPA and on draft, Pizza Port Ocean Beach's Get Wet fresh hopped IPA.  The two beers seemed similar, but I didn't drink them side-by-side comparison.  Both were highly hopped, flavorful, yet approachable IPAs. The fresh hops allowed for an intense, juicy citrus flavor along with pine (yes, I didn't find these tastes mutually exclusive).  The alcohol in High Tide was 6.5% and Wet Hop's was 7.3%.  This was great, because usually a beer with such intense hopping is going to be 7.5% abv or higher.  I welcomed the lower alcohol without any loss in the beer's body or balance.

The one previous time I had High Tide was in the spring, long after the fresh hop flavor mellowed.  I know I am stating the obvious, but you must drink this beer (or any fresh hop beer) as close to its release date as possible.  We had Get Wet along with Rouge's weak fresh hop beer, whose name I don't remember and didn't write down, and Sierra Nevada's Estate beer.  Like most Rouge beers, its fresh hop beer was forgettable, and we realized that Estate was not really a fresh hop beer, it was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with homegrown ingredients.  Estate was good, but we did not get to appreciate it after the hopped-up Get Wet.

I've never paid too much attention to fresh hop IPAs.  This was a mistake. The excellence of High Tide and Get Wet make me want more fresh hop IPAs. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

San Diego Beer Week

The second San Diego Beer Week (SDBW) starts today, November 5th and goes through November 14th.  There are way too many events to post here, but here is a link to the SDBW's official event calendar

Noodle House Challenge

I stopped by the OB Noodle House last night to pickup take-out.  I was shocked to see that OB Noodle House's dozen or so Belgian-centric taps had been expanded to nearly forty-five taps.  I was told the expansion happened within the past month.  The taps include a wide variety of Belgian beers, quality craft beers, including the Belgian-style craft brewers Unibroue and Allagash, and a few beers you'd expect at any Asian restaurant.  Prices ranged from $4 to $7 per glass, and all beers are half price from 3:00 to 6:00.  OB Noodle house had the best tap list of any Asian restaurant I've ever seen before the expansion, now, I'd be shocked if it didn't have the best tap list of any Asian restaurant in the United States.  Let me know if you know of an Asian restaurant with more quality taps. The only drawbacks to the OB Noodle House are that parking doesn't exist (typical Ocean Beach street parking), it's always packed, the noise level is deafening and it's tap list is not online.

Stone's Vertical Epic 10.10.10

This year's Stone Vertical Epic, 10.10.10 and the ninth in the Vertical Epic series, is one bumptious beer.  Drinking this beer is like a fight scene from the old Batman TV series.  WHAM!  BAM!  SOCKO!  First, the Ardennes Belgian yeast smacks you.  Then, you're clobbered with the tastes of wine.   Alcohol bitch-slaps you from the first drink to the last.  Balance be damned, this beer clobbers your taste buds in waves.  10.10.10 is an aggressive, belligerent beer that won't be ignored. 

I don't know whether this beer will mellow by 12.12.12, but I don't think I care.  Aggressive is good.  10.10.10's prominent wine flavor is from three white wine grapes, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc and Gerwurtzraminer.  All three grapes produce sweet wines not known for their aging qualities.  Here is the Stone blog post on 10.10.10. I think I have read that 10.10.10 is in the style of a Belgian Tripel, but it doesn't resemble any tripel that I have had.

I think I liked this beer.  I bought several bottles and have only had one, so it definitely needs more exploration.  This beer is surely worth trying.  I know it's not my favorite Vertical Epic, that honor still goes to 08.08.08, but I do know I'll be drinking more of it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Go To The Linkery

If you live in San Diego, go to The Linkery.  You owe it to yourself and your stomach.  I am on The Linkery's email list and last week email recipients were asked to take a survey, which I took.  The survey's tone, and follow-up conversations on The Linkery's blog, indicate that business has slowed and The Linkery's owners are exploring their options, which of course is not an encouraging euphemism. 

This blog has noted its disdain for phony gastropubs.  The Linkery is a gastropub that gets it right, maybe nearly perfect.  (Maureen Clancy wrote a weak article on gastropubs in Wednesday's San Diego Union Tribune, and unfortunately omitted a number of gastropubs, including The Linkery.)  The Linkery serves awesome food you can feel good about eating in a casual environment.   It is not an inexpensive restaurant, but you can eat sensibly for a reasonable price.  In addition to the quality food - The Linkery was a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement - the beer and wine are outstanding and well thought out.   You won't get a better meal anywhere in San Diego.  It would be a shame to see The Linkery close.

I visit The Linkery several times a year, but if I lived closer I'd be there once or twice a month.  I plan to make it a point to return soon, and to also visit its sister restaurant, El Take It Easy.   For beer drinkers The Linkery is just over two, easy-walking blocks from Toronado, so make a trip to North Park, you won't regret it.

(I wrote up my first trip to The Linkery here.  Since that first visit I figured out The Linkery's inclusive tip policy, which made my bill higher than it should have been.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New The Bruery Releases

Where are the posts?  I have been swamped with work, blah, blah blah.  I have to play some beer drinking catching-up.  There are two Stone Vertical Epic 10.10.10s in my fridge, one I bought a week that I've unbelievably let sit, and last week I had a fantastic Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop IPA on which I need to post.   Then today I received an email from The Bruery announcing its newest beers.  Here are the descriptions of The Bruery's latest installment of its Twelve Days (Beers) of Christmas and its homage to Orange County:
3 French Hens
The third in our collection of Winter seasonal ales, 3 French Hens is getting ready to hit shelves in early November and we couldn’t be more excited. For those who had the opportunity to try Partridge in a Pear Tree or Two Turtle Doves you know that we don’t go light on our 12 Days Of Christmas beer series. While this year’s batch doesn’t include the toasted pecans and cocoa of last year, it’s equally complex and possibly even more delicious, if that is really possible.

A Belgian dark strong ale, 3 French Hens was partially aged in – you guessed it – French oak barrels. Chocolate and pumpernickel come through instantly as well as a fragrant spice character from our house yeast strain. While only 25% is aged in French oak, a lovely Cabernet-like character comes through as the beer warms. Perfect for a cold winter night and ideal for cellaring until 12 Drummers Drumming is released. 10% ABV

Loakal Red

Our tribute to the growing Orange County beer scene. We brewed up this oak-aged hoppy red ale that will be released only in our home, Orange County. A hoppy red ale at heart, we, like many other SoCal brewers, chose the citrus & floral notes of the Centennial hop to balance the light caramel sweetness of the malt.  But, of course, we couldn’t leave well enough alone.  So a portion of an older batch, left to mature in new American oak barrels, is blended with the fresh dry-hopped batch.  The resulting blend has notes of toffee, orange peel, crushed herbs, vanilla & freshly sawn oak, for a beer that is intricate yet unassuming.
6.9% ABV
These two beers sound really good.  I like hoppy red ales as compared to malty Irish or Scottish red ales, so Loakal Red should be a treat.  (Is it irony or subversion, random or coincidence that The Bruery's tribute to Orange County is a "red" ale, when Orange County was the cradle of the virulent anti-communist John Birch Society in the mid-twentieth century?  I'd like to think it is subversive.)

The Bruery's copy for Loakal Red is ridiculous.  This "unassuming" beer "chose the citrus & floral notes of Centennial hops" to balance the "light caramel sweetness of the malt," and a portion was aged in oak barrels and a portion was dry-hopped, resulting in a beer that tastes of "toffee, orange peel, crushed herbs & freshly sawn oak."  Freshly sawn oak?  Is "sawn" even a word, and who knows what sawn oak smells like, let alone tastes like?  There is no way this beer will be "unassuming," even if half the mumbo-jumbo above is true.  Of course, I am just poking fun at The Bruery, because most breweries are now writing similar nonsense about their beers.  The blame for over-the-top beer descriptions lays at the feet of Stone's Greg Koch who's narratives get more hyperbolic with each new Stone beer.   Here is a portion of Koch's label description for Arrogant Bastard, the label that spawned hundreds of unworthy imitators.  

The first time I read the post on Loakal Red, I pretty much stopped after reading after seeing that The Bruery is making a red ale.   That was all I needed to know.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

La Jolla Brew House - Who Knew?

I read last week on a Peter Rowe blog post that former The Bruery head brewer Travis Smith is now brewing at the La Jolla Brew House.  Smith also worked at Russian River Brewing.  I have never been to La Jolla Brew House or tried any of its beers.  This will change soon.  If Smith was at all instrumental in the beers listed on Rowe's post - Russian River's, Pliny the Elder, Blind Pig, and Supplicaiton, and The Bruery's Orchard White and Saison de Lente - La Jolla Brew House is going to be a new beer geek destination.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What a Pairing

I have been, am and will remain skeptical about beer and food pairings.  With all respect to Garret Oliver, I just have not found that many food and beer combinations that make both sides of the equation better.  But last night I discovered a great food/beer pairing.  I had Mexican mole (don't know how to put an accent over the "e") along side Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.  Mole is not rare, but not that common either.  It is a mixture of chocolate, nuts, chilies and spices cooked over hours or days.  A proper mole is complex mixture of heat, spices, nuts and sweetness.  The hoppy, dark roasted richness of Sublimely Self-Righteous was the perfect match for the mole sauce.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stone's Vertical Epic 10.10.10

This year's Vertical Epic had completely slipped my mind until I saw this post on the Stone blog.   It is less than two weeks until the release of 10/10/10.  Here is a description:
That said, Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale is mighty tasty right out of the gate. Fermented with the legendary Ardennes strain of Belgian yeast, 10.10.10 is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale brewed with pale malt and triticale (a cross of wheat and rye), hopped with German Perle hops, and steeped with chamomile during the whirlpool stage. In secondary fermentation, we added a juice blend of Muscat, Gewurztraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc grape varieties.  

The juice and beer blend fermented with surprising vigor to produce a dry, complex, full-bodied beer brimming with floral, fruity aromas. The beer cannot be described as “grapey” or “herbal,” as neither the juice nor the chamomile overwhelm the Belgian yeast character; in fact, identifying the ingredients would be a challenge for even the most astute nose. The constituent parts instead impart layer upon layer of nuance and flavor, with the result being a highly drinkable and royally delicious Belgian-style beer.
Sounds interesting.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Alesmith Expands Tasting Room Hours

Finally!  I have missed Alesmith's tasting room more than once with its brief opening hours.  I just received an email stating that Alesmith's tasting room will now have some decent hours.  Here is the text from the email:
We're excited to announce longer hours of operation at our retail Tasting Bar! You can now visit us for beer samples, growler fills and bottle & keg sales on Thursday from 2:00pm-6:00pm, Friday from 2:00pm-6:00pm and Saturday from 12:00pm-6:00pm.  Please call us ahead of time if you are planning on bringing a group of ten (10) or more.  

A tour of the brewery is conducted on the last Saturday of each month, starting at 12:30pm by AleSmith owner Peter Zien.  You will see and learn how AleSmith beers are brewed and have an opportunity to sample AleSmith beers at the conclusion of the approximately 1 hour tour.  Please call (858.549.9888) or email (info@alesmith.com) to find out about our tour-only specials and to reserve your spot!
The email also announced that Alesmith's fall seasonal, Evil Dead Red, will be released next Thursday, September 23rd.  I am trying to remember whether I've had this beer before (I don't think so), because I get it confused with Alesmith's other red ale special release, My Bloody Valentine.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I Fart In Your General Direction

The Lost Abbey is suing Moylan's over tap handles. Peter Rowe's blog has a picture of the similar looking handles.  The tap handles in question look like medieval weapons.  Tomme Arthur and Brendan Moylan should ditch the lawyers, don their mail, grab their respective tap handle, and have a battle to decide who gets final claim to the Celtic cross.

Or maybe Arthur and Moylan could have a couple of beers together and then taunt each other:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Russian River Consecration

I used to think that brewers aging their beer in wine barrels was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, and that the brewers were suffering from wine envy.  Of course I reached those conclusions without actually trying a wine barrel-aged beer.  I have now had several barrel-aged beers and they were good.   In the case of Russian River's Consecration, it was sublime.  It is one of the best beers I have had this year.

Consecration, which is aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, is wine-like in its aroma, but it's clearly not wine, and the first taste lets you know that the brewers were not trying to make it taste like wine.  It is in its own orbit at the outer limits of the beer universe.   The beer was in a corked, 375 ml bottle.  The beer poured with small, thin white foam that quickly disappeared, leaving a clear, deep orange colored beer.  It is a remarkably smooth beer, despite its complexity and forward sour presence.  The finish is hops and alcohol, with the alcohol becoming more prominent as the beer warms, but you'd still be hard pressed to guess the beer had a 10% abv. 


Consecration is delicious.  This is a grown-up, barrel-aged sour and if you have never had a sour, you may need time to let it grow on you.  It is worth the effort.  It is now my sour benchmark, and I'll judge all subsequent sours and barrel-aged beers against it.  For what it's worth, Consecration is ranked thirty-third on BeerAdocate's Top Beers on the Plant list.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Stone Brewing Tasting Room in South Park

San Diego Beer Blog and City Beat are reporting that Stone Brewing is opening a tasting room on 30th Street in South Park.  San Diego Beer Blog reprints a Stone email announcing the new store, which is expected to open before the end of 2010.  The announcement states that growler fills will be available along with other Stone merchandise (and I hope Sawyer's Triple).  This is good news, and I hope Stone keeps growler prices similar to those at its brewery, because a half gallon growler fill is only $9, and bigger beers like Ruination are only $14.  I will try to post updates on the Stone store as I find them.

Update: San Diego Union's beer columnist Peter Rowe blogs about the Stone shop, too.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beer Hype

I just received an email from The Bruery about its super-hyped Black Tuesday, which I post below:
The response was not unprecedented. In fact, the precedent was set last year when hundreds of our beloved fans stood anxiously around our building for hours on end, trying to get themselves a ticket into our Black Tuesday celebration. We hoped, and still believe, that online sales would be a far more convenient way for us to sell the tickets and for you to get them without having to waste an entire day in our parking lot without a promise of beer. Unfortunately, the company who runs our ecommerce server didn't seem to think the response would be so great. We did all we could and warned them numerous times in the past two weeks, even reminding them yesterday that this morning was going to be crazy, but you know how that story ends.

Clearly, things didn't end up going to plan. The server crashed before we could even update the page with the sales info due to constant refreshes in the minutes just before 9am. We're sorry. If there was something we could have done immediately to remedy this we would have, but along with the server, our internet also kicked the bucket. We couldn't even send an email to update everyone. In fact, this email isn't even being written from The Bruery offices.

On that note, here is your update.

BLACK TUESDAY TICKETS WILL BE ONSALE TOMORROW AT 9AM. We are setting up a new, dedicated server and we are told that it will work. All of the below info still remains true. If for some reason this changes, we will email you tonight or prior to 9am tomorrow.

We are extremely sorry for this hiccup in our planning and we hope it didn't ruin your mornings or your opinion of our beer.

Cheers,
The Bruery
The Bruery's website has details for those that want to buy Black Tuesday.  I will pass.  I just don't get worked up for the high alcohol imperial stouts.  That being said, I would like to try Black Tuesday at some point, I am just too lazy to jump through all the hoops that the demand for this beer requires.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Oh Ryes

I recently had two excellent rye beers, Ladyface's Red Rye and Karl Strauss' Rye IPA.  I find rye malt approachable, imparting a sweetness that avoids the heaviness of some malts.  The Red Rye, like all good red ales, had plenty of hops, which provided an excellent complement to the malt.  The alcohol was around 7%, but you hardly tasted it. This is the third beer I have tried from Ladyface, and all have been superb.  (The picture is lame, I had the beer a third finished before I took the picture.)

Karl Strauss' Rye IPA is the best Karl Strauss beer I have ever tried, hands down.  I had it at Strauss' brewpub in La Jolla.  Strauss' website lists the beer as a tap-only June release, but it was still available in late August.  Karl Strauss should bottle this beer and make it its signature IPA and have it available year-round.  This is a hoppy ale that falls on the pine side of the IPA citrus / pine taste spectrum.  The rich, rye malt flavor balances the big hop bitterness.  The alcohol is 7.5% and is noticeable in the finish.  Rye IPA was served in a tulip glass, which was unfortunate because a pint would have been great.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tap Hunter

I just found the Tap Hunter beer toy.  It lists a bunch of craft beer bars and restaurants in San Diego.  Click on a particular restaurant or bar and see updated tap lists.  I am adding a permanent link to the blog.  In addition to San Diego, Tap Hunter has beer information for Vancouver, Denver / Boulder, Philadelphia, Portland and Seattle. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

That's A Lot Of Tsingtao

I thought this graphic was interesting:


It makes sense that China is the largest beer market given its huge population.  The Czech Republic's beer drinking is in a class by itself, and stood out to me.  Czech's drink 161 liters per person, trouncing the next closest country, Germany, who could only muster 109 liters per person.  That's a lot of Pilsner Urquell.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Stone's Greg Koch on NPR's Marketplace

Stone Brewing's co-founder Greg Koch was interviewed by Kai Ryssdal on NPR's Marketplace.  Here
is the link to the article, and there is also an audio feed.  Koch discusses Stone's European plans in the interview.  Here is a discussion on Stone's European brewery exploration:

Ryssdal: So where are we in the Stone expansion process?
Koch: We have a colleague who is out over there now, just hit the ground this past Monday. We're looking for an existing brewery site to retrofit their brewery to brew the style of beers we brew, would like to be a region where people would want to visit, good quality of life. But frankly, somewhat of it's in the "I'll know when I see it" category.
Ryssdal: Why do you have to make it there? Why can't you just take those bottles that we saw inside on the line, put 'em in a carton, put 'em on a boat and send 'em over to wherever you want in Europe?
Koch: We could, but we don't want to for a variety of basic, fundamental reasons. One is the time that it takes to ship our beer over there, and our beer is best when it's fresh -- and we steward that religiously. Now, when it comes to doing that and sending it refrigerated to Europe, that's extraordinarily expensive. And so, when it gets all the way over there, that's going to be quite an expensive equation for the consumer. But I think the primary reason is the carbon footprint. I think it would be irresponsible for us to send high volumes of beer from one country another and completely ignore the carbon footprint.
Stone is going to brew Stone beers in Europe, not new beers designed for the European market.  Good for Stone!   It is interesting in the interview that interviewer Ryssdal says the Europeans drink "fizzy yellow" beer, but here is what three Europeans, interviewd in an English pub, have to say about an American brewer coming to Europe:

Ryssdal: Greg Koch, CEO and co-founder of the Stone Brewing Company, talking about his plans to expand into Europe. It occurred to us that we could talk all day about what Europeans may or may not want. But why not just put the question to actual Europeans?
Barry Southern: I think American beer is a lot lighter. It has a fizz. If you would have a hot dog or a hamburger, you would then associate that with American beer.
Matt Wright: You wouldn't go for an American beer. You'd go for Stella, wouldn't you? Or a Kronenbourg, a European beer.
Chris Hubbard: I think if they could just offer something unique, as long as the quality is good, I think people would take it up.
Ahh, the difference of perceptions.  Stella or a Kronenbourg over any beer Stone brews?  Please, if the comment wasn't ignorant it'd be an insult.  I assume (based on no evidence) that Stone will focus on a Great Britain location for its new brewery.  If Stone picks the UK, its beer drinkers are in for a treat, and Stone, along with Scotland's Brew Dog, will jolt the English beer palate. 

I make it to Stone Brewing several times a year, as it's about forty minutes from my house.  I happened to be near the brewery today and stopped by to fill a growler and pick up some swag.  I heard the Greg Koch interview on the way home from the brewery - what a strange coincidence and time to queue the music from Twlight Zone.  

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial Ale

Stone's 14th Anniversary Emperial Ale was released about six weeks ago.  I have had several and am starting to get a better handle on it.  I have been waiting for the "wow" moment before I posting my thoughts, thinking I was missing something about the beer, but it's not going to happen.  This is not to say this isn't a good beer, it is, I just had a hard time figuring it out, which sounds strange when I type it but not when I taste 14th. 

Emperial is a cloudy, yellow beer with big white foam.  It looks like a wheat beer.  The beer is Stone's interpretation of a classic English IPA, which Stone brewed using English ingredients including treated water.  The first taste I noticed was the beer's minerals, which were quite prominent on the front.  The minerals gave a tangy zip to the tip of the tongue.  This taste confused me as I usually look for a pine or citrus flavor in an IPA.  Emperial's pine profile became noticeable once I got past my initial taste confusion.  Its 8.90% abv was well masked, but the beer left a film in the mouth.  Emperial finished with a classic Stone bitter hop wave.

While I was not overwhelmed by this beer like some previous Stone Anniversary Ales, I did enjoy it and will get some more before it disappears.   Check out the glass in the picture.  It is a 22 oz Portland beer glass from Crate & Barrel that I received for my birthday.  This monster glass is perfect for drinking bombers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pizza Port Updates Website

Pizza Port has redone its website.  It looks very nice.  Make sure to checkout the Tap List Cams at each location to see the house beers and guest beers being offered. 

Big Fat Stone Rumor

I just saw this link on a BeerAdvocate message board.  The article referenced and linked in the BeerAdvocate post states that Stone is preparing a bid to "rescue Walsall's historic Highgate Brewing out of administration."  I am sure this news and related speculation will be burning up the beer "internets" soon enough.  Now back to work.

Update:  In the BA post/thread linked above, Stone's Greg Koch addresses the article, noting that the Highgate sight is just one of many sites Stone is reviewing and all reviews are in their preliminary stages.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Alpine Brewpub Opens

I'm on Alpine Brewing's email list and for the past year or so read about Alpine's struggles with getting its pub open.  Then last week, in one of Alpine's periodic emails, there was this throw away passage at the end of the email:
The Alpine Beer Company’s pub hours are 11AM to 10PM Tuesday through Thursday, 11AM to 12PM Friday and Saturday, 10AM to 9PM Sunday, CLOSED Mondays. Our tap list includes Willy, Willy Vanilly, Mandarin Nectar, McIlhenney’s Irish Red, Captain Stout, Tuatara, Hoppy Birthday, Duet, Nelson, Pure Hoppiness, Ned and 2 versions of Great. We first released Great in 2005 and then again in 2009, we have both draft versions on right now (yes we saved a keg all that time). We’ll be releasing vintage beers as time goes on, Briscoe, Chez Monmee and Chez Monieux, and 12 oz. bottles of Great. The menu is bbq themed and is really good, I would not say so if it weren’t true.
What?  The barbecue pub is open? No grand opening announcement?   No details on how the appropriate licenses and approvals were finally obtained?  This is the soft opening of the year.  Here is some more info on the pub from Peter Rowe and the San Diego Beer Blog, along with a thread on BeerAdvocate discussing the pub.

Pain In The GASStropub

I finally figured out the definition of "gastropub."  It means good tasting, small portioned food at exorbitant prices.  Throw in some craft beer and small vinter wines at high prices and the gastropub is complete.  (More crudely put - when you see gastropub by a restaurant's name, prepared to get screwed.)   Sessions Public in Ocean Beach is a new gastropub and if you visit, get ready for an expensive meal.  I popped in last week to examine the tap list and saw sixteen taps, all craft and Belgians, including Stone, Ballast Point, Allagash, Lost Abbey and Port Brewing, Ommegang and D'Achouffe.  I noticed that the menu was limited, with appetizers, small plates, sandwiches, salads and large plates, but was too blinded by the beer selection to notice the prices.  Not too smart.

We went last week and were shocked at how expensive this gastropub was.  We started by making the mistake of ordering the $15, five selection, cheese plate.  Sessions Public's cheese plate confirmed that cheese plates are now the biggest rip-off in the restaurant industry.  I wish I had snapped a picture because each mouse bite-sized slice of cheese was too small to even pair with a beer, and if you put it on the hard slices of bread that comes with the cheese, the cheese's flavor and complexity got completely lost - just like my $15.

I then doubled down on errors by ordering the $19 fish tacos (and I wasn't even buzzed).  I want to blame Sessions' audacity for having $19 fish tacos on the menu, but if I am dumb enough to order $19 fish tacos I have to take full credit for my stupidity.  The two ahi tacos tasted fine, but they were tiny, and served with a spoonful of cold beans.  Other Sessions' dishes seemed more reasonable, especially the pasta, which was huge (but still, $16 for pasta).  The wings as appetizers were delicious.  My advice is to stay with the small plates, which include sandwiches and the hamburger.  

On to the beer.  I don't think Sessions' glasses are real pints. The owners of Sessions spent good money on the cool looking, stubby glasses shown in the picture, but I'd bet that they're not sixteen ounces.  What kind of pub does not serve a real pint!  Fake pints are for restaurants not pubs.  Pubs should serve real pints.  The topper was that the non-happy hour, tax included price for a Ballast Point Sculpin was $7!  Ouch! I did not ask about the happy hour prices, but even if beers are $1 off, Session' prices are still too high - especially when the beer are not real pints.

Unfortunately, the tab for dinner tainted my view of Sessions.  The price for three beers, two appetizers and three entres was over $100, before tip.  This is outrageous for a pub, and more expensive than a similar meal at our Ocean Beach "special meal destination" restaurant, The Third Corner.  For comparison, I went to Ladyface Companie Alehouse in Agoura Hills over the weekend, which I would also consider a "gastropub," and we ordered more food and more beer (including a growler) and the total bill was nearly $40 cheaper.  While the food at Sessions was very good, I just can't get over how expensive it was.  I was hoping for a place we could frequent as a family and spend around $50. Unfortunately, I don't see a return visit to Sessions in the near future.

There are plenty of places to get food and craft beer in Ocean Beach.  Pizza Port and Newport Pizza & Alehouse have plenty of craft beers.  The OB Noodle House and The Blue Parrot (short pint alert) also offer a large selection of craft beers.  While these four restaurants may not have the ambiance of Sessions, you won't go broke either.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Saison Rue

After being an unabashed homer for The Bruery since it opened more than two years ago, I thought it time to finally try its flagship beer, Saison Rue.  This is a wild, untamed beer.  It's as aggressive as Ballast Point's Brother Levonian is staid.  The first, obvious, feature of Saison Rue is its carbonation.  It took several minutes to fill my Chimay chalice because the foam was so intense.  I found the initial tastes harsh, as the dense bubbles, yeast, hops and a peculiar, sharp, midpoint sweetness all vied for attention. The sweetness was ephemeral, disappearing shortly after jolting the taste buds.

Like other The Bruery beers, Saison Rue changed throughout the bottle.  The sweetness mellowed, making it more approachable, allowing the yeast and hops to complement each other.  The thick foam and effervescence stayed throughout the bottle.  It was a cloudy beer and its color was a deep orange while the foam was white.  

Saison Rue's label said the beer was brewed with Brettanomyces yeast, but I did not notice the Brett's sour flavor.  I did find Saison Rue dry, so dry that I had to chase it with some water.   This beer, like so many The Bruery offerings, is a "thinker,"  and I am going to have to have another one to get a complete impression, I found it too complex to grasp in just one shared bottle.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Southern Misconception

Living in San Diego, I tend to forget, or my biases let me assume, that there is no good beer outside of California or the Pacific Northwest.  In my enlightened moments I'll acknowledge that there are quality brewers and good places to get a beer in other parts of the country, such as in the Midwest or the Northeast.  But the South is always excluded from my brief periods of beer magnanimity.   I like it when my beer myopia is turned upside down, especially in a resounding fashion. 

The beer selection at Taco Mac in Atlanta amazed me.  The weirdly named chain, with twenty-six restaurants in Georgia and Tennessee, proves that craft beer is flourishing in the South.   The menu is typical bar and grill food - salads, sandwiches, burgers and burritos - but I think its specialty is Buffalo Wings.  Don't waste time on the food menu, go straight to the tap list.

I counted seventy-plus taps at the Taco Mac I visited.  The tap list is not like a Yard House that also boasts about seventy taps, but that has only a half dozen beers that would interest a serious beer drinker.  Taco Mac had good craft beers from around the country, and included Stone, Southern Tier, Bells, Founders, Dogfish Head, and even The Bruery was on the list.  It carried local beers from Athens' Terrapin Beer and Atlanta's Sweetwater Brewing, along with European beers.  

I tried Magic Hat's Number 9 because the Southern Tier tap had just finished and I had liked it earlier in the year.  Plus, I was still curious about Number 9's strange, floral hints.  It still had the floral hints, and I am no closer to figuring them out now than I was in April, but it seemed much more malty than I remembered, and was almost too malty for me. 

You can find good beer in the South.  Taco Mac's are a great place to start and they are readily available around Atlanta.  Examine the tap list and enjoy a few beers with some wings.  On a side note, another Southern Misconception buster is the Brick Store Pub in Decatur, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.  This pub is currently ranked as the number two beer bar in the world by BeerAdvocate magazine - not Atlanta, or the South, or even the United States but the world.  So take that elitist West Coast beer snob.

Go And Knock On Their Door

Last week the Beer Rover received a text message from its traveling correspondent about a new pub called The Regal Beagle.  The text said the new restaurant had a bunch of taps and menu consisting of sausages.  What the heck?  Was this some sort of mean joke?  A restaurant that only offered good craft beers and sausages, who was reading my mind?  I had to see for myself and made it down to The Regal Beagle late last week.

We went for a late lunch and loved The Regal Beagle.  It sells food (sausages and appetizers), and it felt more like a pub than a restaurant.  Most of the seating is at the long, L-shaped bar, but there are a handful of tables and all were available when we visited.  Natural light filled the pub, as a bank of windows face India Street and run the length of the restaurant.  There are twenty-four taps, and a modest selection of canned beer.  The taps consisted of craft beer, mostly from San Diego and California, and several Belgian beers.  The beer list appeared well thought out and any beer geek will find something to enjoy.  I am guessing the taps rotate frequently.

The sausages are from T&H Prime Meat and Sausage.  There were eleven sausages to choose from.  I picked the German Garlic - how could I not when the description said it was for Nazi vampires.  It was cooked properly and served on a bun with onions and peppers along with a side of homemade potato chips (which were awesome).   There are six mustard choices, including a spicy and stone ground mustard.  The only place I have had T&H's sausages before was at the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens, and am glad to get them closer to home.  In addition to sausages, The Regal Beagle offers other appetizers including pretzels, Buffalo wings, and a mixed green salad.

The beer prices are reasonable.  Many beers are $5, and higher abvs and Belgians are $6 to $8.  Beers are $1 off during happy hour, which goes to 7 daily (I am not 100% on this time).  I had the Green Flash Extra Pale Ale.  Like all Green Flash beers, it was a style over achiever, hoppier than most pale ales let alone extra pale ales, despite a late lunch appropriate abv of less than 5%.

Maybe it's because I write a beer blog, but any new restaurant needs to have a good beer and wine selection to make me a repeat customer.  It doesn't need twenty-four taps, like The Regal Beagle, but a few interesting, rotating choices are mandatory.  I have stated this before, and am sure I will state it again, but the restaurateur that cares about beer and wine cares about food.  I have not found this a universal truism, but the restaurants where the beer and wine are good, usually have decent food, and it's true in reverse where the beer and wine are afterthoughts.  The Regal Beagle is worth a stop, or many stops.  It hit the ground running with its fantastic beer selection and wonderful sausages, and I wish them success.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Whirlpool on the Rubicon

I started across the Rubicon, and immediately fell into a whirlpool by the name of Brother Levonian Saison.  This year's Brother Levonian was brewed by Ballast Point.  I thought it a drinkable beer, but it's not my favorite saison.  I found it too malty and it did not have enough Belgian yeast presence for my taste.  It reminded me more of a wit than a saison, and that is not a compliment.  (I am going to have to remedy not having any IPAs in my fridge.)  It was a good looking beer, not too cloudy, more like the tail end of morning fog than opaque, and the color was a rich copper.  Brother Levonian had plenty of carbonation, but the mouthful was weak, despite the malt dominance.  I felt that this beer missed its mark.  If you drink this beer (and you should for the charity purposes alone) you'll probably think it okay.  It will leave you wanting something more and not excited to search out other saisons.

If you don't know the story behind Brother Levonian, here is information on Dave Levonian, the San Diego home brewer for which the beer is brewed in memory.

Crossing The Rubicon?

The title of this post may be an exaggeration, but not by much.  For the first time I can remember, my beer fridge has more saisons than IPAs.  I don't even think I have an IPA in my fridge after I knocked off an old, and near its drain pour stage, Green Flash West Coast IPA earlier in the week.  Currently, I have Saison Dupont and Foret, the excellent collaboration beer Saison DuBuff (I still need to formally review this beer), Saison Rue, which I am embarrassed to say I have never tried, and finally a growler of Ballast Point's Brother Levonian Saison.

I still love IPAs and will continue to seek them out, but there is little left for me to learn or discover about IPAs.  They're either piney or citrusy, super hoppy or not as super hoppy.  While there are some additional nuances, the pine / citrus distinction can explain most of an IPA's flavor profile.  The IPA that make can me step back in amazement, like Sculpin or Nelson, is rare. 

The variety in a saison (and many other Belgian-styles) makes each draft or bottle an adventure.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More San Francisco

Here are a few more beers from San Francisco earlier this month.  The first is a Hunter's Point Porter (also known as Payback Porter) from San Francisco's Speakeasy Ales & Lagers.  I had this at the famous Cliff House, with rocks and the Pacific Ocean in the backdrop.  This was a dark, sweet porter.  It had hints of chocolate, and the roasted malts were prominent.  This beer, which I had with dinner, tasted like dessert.  I liked the beer, and it went well with the windy, foggy late afternoon.  The beer selection at Cliff House was prosaic, with Hunter's Point sharing space with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Anchor's Steam, Boston Brewing's Summer Ale, Stella Artois and other macros.  (I wish I had had time to stop and grab a beer at Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant that is just down the road from Cliff House.)
The only brewery I went to was the brewpub Thirsty Bear.  We didn't eat there, just had beers and a few tapas.  I liked Thirsty Bear's glassware.  All bars and restaurants should offer twenty ounce beers.  In the age of shrinking glasses and increased beer prices, the Thirsty Bear's large glasses are inviting.  I tried Thirsty Bear's Howard Street IPA.  My notes say I did not think it too hoppy, but it had enough hops to make it a solid IPA.  It was clearly on the piney side of the IPA citrus/pine taste profile.  It was an easy drinker, and the twenty ounces disappeared too fast.  The second beer in the picture is Thirsty Bear's Valencia Wheat, a flavor bomb of a wit.

Finally, a Chimay Rouge outside at Cafe de la Presse, just across from the Grant Avenue entrance to Chinatown (at Bush Street)  My enjoyment of Chimay Rouge was truncated, as the party I was waiting for arrived sooner than expected and was ready to push on to a museum.  I don't have much to say about Rouge, other than Cafe de la Presse is a great spot to have a beer, and I was craving a chunk of hard, bold cheese to go with it, like an English Farmhouse Cheddar.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

San Diego Beer Week

I received the press release below while traveling last week.  It is announcing the second San Diego Beer Week:
San Diego, CA (July 2010) - Building off the success of the first San Diego Beer Week, the San Diego Brewers Guild is preparing for San Diego Beer Week 2010 (SDBW), November 5-14, 2010.  San Diego Beer Week is a ten-day celebration inspiring people to drink local, craft beer and promoting San Diego’s thriving brewing culture with more than 500 events happening across the county. San Diego Beer Week will kick off with the Brewers Guild Festival and conclude with the Chef Celebration of San Diego Beer, a gourmet beer and food-pairing event. 

San Diego is home to more than 35 brew houses and has gained an international reputation for brewing inspired beers. The city recently brought home more medals at the 2010 World Beer Cup than the traditional beer countries of England, Germany, and Belgium combined.  With the popularity of craft beer on the rise, San Diego is poised to be the capital of beer tourism in the United States.

SDBW’s inaugural year included more than 300 events spread across San Diego County with an estimated attendance of 20,000 people.  Events ranged from specialty beer dinners to beer and cheese pairings to meet and greets with local brewers.  “Our goal is to create a variety of events to engage all levels of craft beer drinkers,” says Adam Carbonell, president, San Diego Brewers Guild.  “If you’re new to craft beer you can check out a local pint night or take a brewery tour, and if you’re more seasoned you might enjoy a sour ales night or beer and chocolate tasting.”

“San Diego Beer Week is a great opportunity for our city to position itself as the number one beer tourism destination,” says Carbonell. San Diego Beer Week has partnered with several San Diego hotels to work out special room rates and Beer Week travel packages.  “San Diego is a great place to visit and in November we’ve still got beautiful weather.  Add Beer Week on top of that and there’s no reason not to visit!”

San Diego Beer Week is taking place Friday November 5th through Sunday November 14th, 2010 throughout the county, with new events posted frequently on the official website.  For general information about San Diego Beer Week including complete event listings, sponsors, public transportation, and accommodations, visit www.SDBW.org.
I hit a few events last year.  My impression was that the entire event was a success.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Saison Dupont Back at Costco

The Costco on Morena Blvd in San Diego once again has Saison Dupont in stock.  Foret, Dupont's organic saison, is available, too.  Saison Dupont is $6.89 per 750 ml bottle and Foret is $7.99 per 750 ml bottle.   Costco sold out of Saison Dupont quickly when it went on sale last spring, and the Morena Blvd store's wine guy told me at the time that the Morena Blvd location was one of only two Costcos (he did not tell me the other one) that received a shipment of Saison Dupont. 

I have a backlog of posts, work and travel without internet access have slowed me down a bit.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Toronado

I visited the original Toronado last week, and it matched my expectations.  It is well-worn and a beer drinker's beer bar.  It was easy to see the design features that the San Diego Toronado incorporated, from the Dutch door and street facing windows providing natural light, to the large sign clearly stating the beer on draft, to the dark wood decor, to the stickers and large red Oldsmobile Toronado sign.  I didn't experience any of the infamous Toronado attitude.

There were about forty or so beers on tap with a few more beers on cask.  The list included beers from Belgium, Germany and England.  California was well represented on the craft list, but I noticed beer from Washington (Pike), Oregon (Deschutes), Colorado (Avery) and New York (Ommegang), too.   I did not check the bottle list, but some people at a nearby table were having a vertical Firestone Anniversary and Parabola tasting, so I suspect the list, like the San Diego Toronado, is comprehensive.

I wanted to try a local beer not readily available in San Diego, so I went with the cask version of Moonlight's Bombay by Boat IPA.  A properly served cask beer might not the best choice after the exertion of my long walk.  (I often choose the wrong beer when faced with a long list of options, it's so annoying.  There has to be a word, other than "dumbass," for making a poor choice when faced with nearly fifty beers. )  Bombay by Boat by was fine, but not great.  My notes say, "hoppy, nothing special, but by no means bad."  Not a ringing endorsement.  A week on, I'd say this beer is better than my notes.  It is a good IPA, not in my personal upper echelon of IPAs but not in the cellar either, and worth trying if you see it available.

I had a small glass of Ommegang's new Zuur, a Flanders Brown Ale, or as BeerAdvocate calls a Flanders Oud Bruin.  This had to have been on of the ugliest beers I ever seen, a mud brown color with hints of red.  It was cloudy, which seemed to accent Zuur's putrid, reddish brown clay look.  It had a whisp of foam that quickly dissipated, which left me staring at the murky beer with apprehension.   I took a taste and all thoughts of Zuur's appearance vanished.  What a different tasting, excellent beer.  It is a sour beer with little to no hop presence.  Zuur's sourness was not overwhelming, and like all good sours it becomes more compelling as you work your way down the glass.  It reminded my of Russian River's Consecration, but was not as sour or wine-like.  I am not sure whether this is a limited-release or not, but I need to buy a bottle.

The Toronado is a place all serious beer drinkers should visit.  It is worth a visit even if you are a casual beer drinker, especially if you have an adventurous streak because you will find beers you won't see at most bars and restaurants, even those that fancy themselves beer destinations.  Next time I visit Toronado, I'd like to go with more people, rather than another solo excursion.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Father's Day Beers

I received three IPA bombers for Father's Day, Torrey Pines IPA,  brewed by Left Coast Brewing for Oggi's restaurants, New Belgium's Ranger IPA and Stone's Cali-Belgique.  I guess I am pretty predictable in my beer style preference.  I enjoyed all three, finishing the third last night.  The first beer I tried was the Torrey Pines IPA.  I was not expecting much from this beer as I have not been impressed when I have had it at several Oggi's locations.  I liked the bottled version better than what I have had on tap.  It was a solid IPA, good hops, and I think it was on the piney side of the IPA taste spectrum.

The second beer was the Ranger IPA. I'll admit my expectations for this beer were low.  New Belgium makes Elysian's Immortal IPA, which I did not like.  I had a Ranger earlier this year and thought it forgettable enough to not even post a comment, but that may have had more to do my distaste from getting stuck with a big tab at a meal where we were invited rather than the particulars of Ranger.  I popped the cap on my Father's Day Ranger with an open mind, and liked what I found.  Ranger is a modest beer when compared to other big IPAs, a West Coast IPA it's not.  It is hops are subdued but its citrus flavor shines.  "Juicy" was the description that kept coming to me as I drank Ranger.  Ranger not being a "big" IPA worked for me.  It was balanced and refreshing, and is a perfect weeknight beer.  I think Ranger may be a spring "seasonal" beer.  This is a good beer unless you pick it up looking for a hop fix.

The final beer was the Cali-Belgique.  There was no shortage of hops here.  I discussed Cali-Belgique last year.   Its hop bitterness is pronounced, but Cali-Belgique's  Belgian yeast strain turns the IPA pine/citrus debate upside down.   The Belgian yeast and strong hop combination work in Cali-Belgique, producing a unique flavor.  This is a beer for the hop lover or advanced IPA drinker.  Someone new to IPAs should start with the Ranger, not the Cali-Belgique.