Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stone As The New Starbucks and VE 12.12.12

I have two blog posts on Stone I have kept open for the past week.  The first, written by Brandon Hernandez, is from Stone's blog and describes Vertical Epic 12.12.12, the final beer in the Vertical Epic series.  I am looking forward to enjoying this beer.  I like Christmas-style Belgians and am expecting big things from 12.12.12.
"Crafted in the style of a traditional Belgian Noël beer, it’s dark, big and hearty;"
The second post is from San Diego Magazine's food blog, and discusses Stone Brewing's plans to open another Stone Company Store.  The location for the new store is near the Amtrak station in downtown San Diego.  I like the spot, especially as a periodic visitor to the train station.  It is also close to Little Italy, a growing, vibrant neighborhood.  Stone will have four outposts in central San Diego in 2013, the downtown Stone Company Store, the open Company Store in South Park, Stone's huge World Bistro & Gardens in Liberty Station, and a presence at the San Diego Airport.  I am looking forward to the day when Stone Company Stores are as ubiquitous as Starbucks.

Monday, November 5, 2012

San Diego Beer Week

San Diego Beer Week is in full swing.  This extravaganza gains strength every year.  Here are a few quick resources:

West Coaster - summaries and links to summaries

SDBW - the official website of San Diego Beer Week, with an event calendar here.

Brandon Hernandez's breakdown of various events (via West Coaster) are here (San Diego Magazine), here (Reader, scroll down for a day-by-day summary) and here (Pacific San Diego magazine pages 60 - 63).

I'm not sure what events I will hit, but I usually make one or two.  Tonight's release party at Green Flash Brewing where it presents its 10th Anniversary Flanders Drive, a sour red ale, looks like an interesting event.  I was told yesterday that Flanders Drive is very limited and the party tonight is the only time this beer will be available.

Friday, November 2, 2012

AB InBev In BusinessWeek

Here is a long article on AB InBev in BusinessWeek.  I didn't read the whole thing, but the first few paragraphs are hilarious.  It tells the outrage of a Beck's drinker that realized the US version of Beck's is no longer brewed in Germany.  Instead of bitching, why didn't the guy look for a craft beer pilsner?  He would have been kicking himself for not searching out craft beer alternatives sooner.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Alpine Email

I have not retired or stopped drinking beer.  I've just been occupied with work and other things that have pushed recreational beer blogging down the importance list.  Expect post frequency to increase in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, here is the majority of an email I received from Alpine Beer Company this morning:

It seems like an eternity since I sent a few words of encouragement to the world at large. Inspiration sometimes is fleeting, and I lost a step or two recently. But, back with a vengeance we will attempt to tease you with tasty descriptions of our recent releases and some more yummy brews on their way. Nelson was gone but now it’s back, so guess what I’m drinking right now? The universe, in its infinite darkness that makes us wonder if we’re alone, aligned properly a few weeks back so our “out-of-this-world” beer is on tap again. Look for more Duet and Nelson next year, like a lot more! Anyone for a “Flanders Red?”

We have released, for your ghoulish pleasure, our spiced holiday ale “Ichabod 2012.” Available in 22 oz. bottles, no growler fills, and on draught in the pub. For those that don’t know, Ichabod is supposed to be an annually produced beer that always uses “pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg” but has a different base beer. Annually has been an issue. But, this year’s version has a base of a nice chocolaty Porter. It comes in at 6% abv and is creamy, dark and smooth with the spices and pumpkin kicking in as a nice compliment. We have always had a hard time getting the pumpkin to contribute its flavor. So this year we used 240 pounds of pumpkin puree from Oregon. We used it in the mash tun, the boil kettle and the fermenter too! That amount of pumpkin is about 5 times more than our previous versions. Dam it, I want pumpkin flavor. I even called Dick Cantwell from Elysian Brewing, the pumpkin beer king, to get sourcing and advice. Elysian only ordered about 12,000 pounds of pumpkin puree, wow.

“New Millennium” extra pale ale is fresh and delicious and available for growler fills and on draught in the pub right now! This dry-hopped gem is made with Millennium and Galaxy hops for an out-of-this-world drinking experience.

Okay, so we ran out of “Nelson,” our golden rye IPA made with New Zealand hops. But, it is back on, fresh and as good as ever. I said it tasted like candy after my first gulp returning from its hiatus.

This is potentially some of the biggest news to ever come out of Alpine Beer Company. With the signing of a couple of hop contracts we have positioned ourselves to produce an additional 2,000 barrels of Duet and an additional 2,000 barrels of Nelson starting in late 2013. A “barrel” is two kegs. We plan on new packaging with a 16 oz. bigmouth twist off can along with 22 oz. bottles and kegs. There is little more I can currently say about how we are going to pull this off but know there is a lot of work to be done to assure the quality and standards are met while stepping up production. And, with Water being the largest ingredient in beer, it becomes the primary flavor contributor and is a highly important part of beer itself. Let’s just say we found a killer water source and a place to make more beer, yahoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

We brewed “Ned” the other day and if all goes well we’ll see it shortly after the new year. “Ned” is our Flanders Red and is aged in used red wine barrels long enough to get the special bugs to impart their tartness and sourness, yum.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Beer Blog Reading

Twitter is a great way to recommend blog posts, but sometimes the scrolling timeline moves too fast, so I am going to link to two blog posts posts I feel are worth reading.  I was floored by Russian River's Row 2 / Hill 56.  Beer Kaedrin Blog's take on Row 2 is worth reading, even though I was more impressed with the beer.  You should bookmark this prolific blog.

I have been reading the Beer Samizdat blog since it started, and it's another beer blog you should bookmark. (Beer Samizdat author Jay's Hedonist Jive blog is excellent reading, too.)  In a blistering review, Beer Samizdat gave The Bruery's Tart of Darkness a rare 3 on a scale of 10.  Jay doesn't mince words describing Tart of Darkness:
"(I)t's a beer for masochists only. It smells sour and overripe, and it tastes accordingly. Like sock. Like creamed toe."
Ouch.  I had a small taster of Tart of Darkness in July and was impressed enough to fork over nearly $20 for a bottle.  I'm no masochist or foot fetishist, but am looking forward to finding out whether the sample I enjoyed translates on a larger scale. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wet Hop Schedule - San Diego

I look forward to wet hops beers, mainly because wet hop beers tend to be juicy IPAs.  We're probably a few weeks or more away from the first wet hop beers, but it's not too early to start planning.  West Coaster has set up a web page to track the release of all the wet hops beers in San Diego.  I'll be checking this web page frequently over the next month.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Sublime And The Outrageous

I recently had Russian River's Hill 2 Row 56 pale ale.  It is Russian River's tribute to its Washington State hop farmers, and is only brewed with Simcoe hops from select farmers in the Yakima Valley.  In an era when brewers constantly one-up each other with ever bigger IPAs, double IPAs and triple IPAs, the lowly pale ale gets lost as an anachronistic reminder of the early craft beer movement.   I'm as guilty as anyone  - probably more guilty - of falling for the "bigger is better" fad beer of the moment.  I routinely dismiss pale ales based a groundless assumption that they'll be thin and boring, and I  instead look for what I think is a bolder or more interesting beer.

But sometimes I wise-up and buy a beer like Hill 2 Row 56, and am reminded of the brilliance of a well made pale ale.   Row 2 is sublime.  It's brewed with only Simcoe hops, which gives the beer a sharp citrus flavor.  The hop bitterness is matched by the malts to bring a wonderful balance and drinkability to the beer.   I was amazed at its complexity, and by its compelling, robust flavor that kept Row 2 interesting from start to finish.  Row 2 is not only a tribute to Russian River's hop farming suppliers, it's a tribute to the craft of brewing.

The Lips of Faith series Super IPA collaboration beer from Alpine Beer Company and New Belgium is just that, a monster double IPA.  Your taste buds are immediately smashed with a fusillade of hop bitterness, which doesn't relent.  The hop flavor is pure, dripping pine.  The malts are ramped up necessarily to compete with and balance the hops.  The beer has a mouth coating, sweetness that flirts with, but never becomes cloying.  Super's ABV is listed at 9%, which is big, but it tastes and drinks bigger.  I'd put it along the lines of an Avery Maharaja or other double IPAs with ABVs greater than 10%.   Hop heads won't be disappointed with Super IPA, it hits all the double IPA hot spots, and is a textbook example of the aggressive end of the style.  Ultimately, I found Super IPA boring, despite its bold flavor.  It was hoppy and bitter, yes, actually super hoppy and super bitter, it just wasn't anything we haven't had before, as any depth was drowned in hop resin.  



Friday, August 17, 2012

Beer Round Up

I have not spent as much time as I would have liked writing about beer lately.  I have had a few interesting beers, though, and some longer posts are in the works.  I want to note three beers in a short post.  I went to dinner at the always reliable, always delicious The Linkery earlier this month.  When I arrived, Brewery Ommegang's Biere de Hougoumont had just been tapped and a Linkery employee had not even finished writing the beer's name on the restaurant's chalk board beer lists.  I'd never heard of this beer, so I had to order it, sight unseen and description unknown.  Hougoumont came in a small glass and is on the left in the picture.  The ruby-colored beer was probably not the best choice to start a meal with on a warm evening.  It was a heavy beer that was sweet and malty.  I don't know Hougoumont's ABV, but it was boozy.  (I checked BeerAdvocate and Hougoumont's ABV is listed at 7.3A%.  It drank bigger.)   Don't get me wrong, Hougoumont was a good beer, but with its malt prominence and high ABV, it's a beer better suited for a cooler day.  (Hougoumont is a Biere de Garde.)

After Hougoumont, I had a casked half-pint of Arrogant Bastard.  I had never had Arrogant Bastard on cask before.  What a treat.  It was a completely different beer from the regular Arrogant Bastard.  Casked Arrogant Bastard was fruity and sweet, almost floral.  Its usual strong roasted malt and sharp hop flavors were subdued, making it a smooth, enjoyable beer.  The Linkery gets its cask beer right.  I have had several cask beers there and all have been excellent.

The Stone Brewing / Dogfish Head / Victory Brewing collaboration beer, Saison du BUFF, made its return this summer.  I had a pint one eventing at the sleeper craft beer spot, SOL Market and Bistro.  Saison du BUFF is my favorite Stone collaboration beer, at least of the ones I have tried.  I noted in a previous post that I could not detect the spices in a Fantome saison.  There are no obscure taste blends in du BUFF, it's all sage, from start to finish.  It has other herbs, too, but sage dominates.  Saison du BUFF is an approachable, easy drinking beer.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stone Goes Lemony For its 16th Anniversary Beer

I remembered this morning that it's almost time for the release of Stone Brewing's Anniversary Beer.  I last thought about this annual beer in late spring, wondering then what beer Stone would brew to commemorate its 16th birthday, but forgot about it with all the double IPAs that came out it June (Stone Ruination 10th Anniversary, Ballast Point's Dorado and AleSmith's Summer Yulesmith).  I checked on the Stone's website this morning, and hidden in its list of beers I found the 16th Anniversary's description below:

This year our brewing team was inspired by some exotic-ish additions of the lemony persuasion. Yes, it's a Double IPA (can you really say you're surprised?), but as we strive to do with all our Stone Anniversary Ales of the let's-take-this-IPA-in-a-new-direction variety, we've brewed up a Stone-worthy divergence from tradition. The amount of rye malt we used isn't quite enough to warrant the appellation "Rye IPA," but it still adds hints of spiciness that contrast deliciously with the tropical fruit flavors and aromas of the Amarillo and Calypso hops. Add a few European specialty malts, some lemon verbena, and three more hop varieties to the mix, and you have a highly complex brew melding both bitter and fruity hop notes with rich toasted malt character punctuated by nuances of spicy rye and subtle lemon.

The light taste of lemon verbena mixed with chewy rye malt makes an intriguing combination.  I am glad I hadn't thought of looking for this beer sooner, because I want one this evening.   Now I only have to wait until around the beer's August 13th release date.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Mystery Spice In A Ghost Saison

The Kaedrin Beer Blog had an excellent write-up earlier this summer on the expansive characteristics of saisons.  I agree that it's hard, if not impossible, to corral saisons into a style box.   Once you think you've figured out the style, a beer comes along to bend that perception, and when you drink a beer from Belgium's la Brasserie Fantome all notions of saison style are turned upside down.  When you choose a beer from Fantome, you leave the drinking safety of beers like Saison Dupont, and explore the far reaches of the saison realm.  

Fantome's Saison Hiver is a spicy, complex beer that's not for initiates.  It is a dry beer with minimal hop bitterness, and the flavor action is in the yeast and spices.  Hiver had a distinctive taste I could not determine.  I wanted to label it anise, but it wasn't.  I don't normally do this before I write my beer comments, but I checked Hiver's reviews on BeerAdvocate, thinking a reviewer would identity the spice and trigger an acknowledgement on my part.  No luck.  The reviewers were focused on lemon along with the generic term spice.  I didn't notice too much lemon, if any, but there was definitely a "spice" -  a phantom spice.

Drinking a Hiver takes a brief taste acclimation, because the spice hits you immediately, but after a few sips you appreciate that it's an excellent beer.  Like the other Fantome beer I've tried, Printemp, the further down the bottle you go, the better Hiver becomes, leading to dismay when the bottle's finished.  Hiver's's alcohol weighed in around 8% abv, which I'm sure added to its complexity, but the alcohol was not present, allowing you to enjoy the spice and yeast.  I'll sum up my comments about Hiver with one word:   sophisticated.  Don't spring this beer on someone new to saisons, save it for yourself.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Craft Beer-trepreneurs

I'm sure I'm not the only craft beer drinker that has an ambition or fantasy to one day open a brewery or pub.  I recently read two articles on new breweries, one that made the thought of opening a brewery seem daunting and financially frightening, and one that made it seem downright enjoyable, almost a game alchemy. 

A few Sundays ago, the LA Times profiled Torrance brewery Strand Brewing Co.  I'll admit that after reading the article I didn't want to run out and start a brewery.  Far from it, but after reading the article, I had an admiration for its founders' work ethic and persistence.  The passage below is almost nightmarish:

Joel Elliott and Rich Marcello built Strand Brewing Co. in a tiny space at a Torrance industrial park by working 100-hour weeks for three years, without vacation or pay or employees.


They borrowed money from relatives and friends. Then they hit them up again, and again, and again. They tapped out their own credit cards.

There is a happy ending so far:

Sales nearly tripled the second year to $309,000 and are on pace to hit $750,000 in 2012. The partners hired their first employee in April, an assistant brewer, and have signed with a distributor, Wine Warehouse — freeing Marcello from making every sale and delivering every keg from his van.
According to the article, Strand has more than 200 accounts, and last weekend I saw Strand's pale ale on tap at Ocean Beach Pizza Port, so that's a good sign for the young brewery.

Then I read this blog post by Brandon Hernandez on Rip Current Brewing, and its founders, Paul Sangster and Guy Shobe, sound like they are having way too much fun.  I assume they're having fun - they have to be - if they're taking the time to play chemist and change water properties to adjust to beer styles:

Shobe notes that San Diego water isn’t optimal for making stouts because it is high in calcium and sulfides, which are great when brewing IPAs and hoppy red ales, but do not sync up well with malt-forward brews. Hard water doesn’t work well with the astringency of malts. So, in order to optimize the water for a stout, the duo will up the chloride so it’s present in higher quantities and forms a better chloride-to-sulfide ratio.
Rip Current's tasting room looks well appointed, and it expects a fall opening. 

I realize I'll probably never start a brewery, heck I've never even tried to brew a batch of beer, but it's a fun thought.  I wish both Strand and Rip Current well.  I know there will always be room for a brewery that can craft a decent beer.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Black Jack Hop Smack

I had a small glass of Firestone Walker's Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA at a 4th of July barbeque, but it got lost in the sampling of other beers before and after it.  I liked it enough, though, that I wanted to try it by itself without competing distractions.  As its name states Wookey Jack is a black IPA, which to me means its a hoppy beer with roasted malts. Wookey Jack fit this description.   It didn't look completely black (despite what the accompanying picture looks like), but more a deep mahogany with a cream foam. 

The beer's rye was present throughout, and gave Wookey Jack flavor depth, a full mouthful, and provided a complement to the hops.  Wookey Jack also had a slight mouth coating texture, a sensation I don't usually appreciate, and I'm not sure whether it came from the rye or the alcohol.  It wasn't prominent enough to change my opinion of the beer.  The abv was 8.3%, but it wasn't noticeable, getting lost in the roasted flavors.   Wookey Jack had a smooth aftertaste and a nice, long lasting bitterness.

I don't know of a beer style that generates the passion - love or hate - more than black IPAs, although the controversy seems to have passed.   Beers like Wookey Jack should help the style, because it's a no nonsense, unpretentious beer that tastes good.  It should appeal to those that don't like black IPAs as there is depth and character to it, which makes for a drinkable, interesting pint.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Rare Whiff

I looked back over my recent reviews and I'm dismayed that it's been one rave review after another.  Not every beer I drink is a good beer, and I don't just write about the good beers.  I just haven't been as good as documenting the bad and mediocre beers as I have the good beers, even though negative reviews are easier and more fun to write. 

Linchpin White IPA, a collaboration between Green Flash Brewing and Founders Brewing wasn't a bad beer, but I'd call it a boring and mediocre beer.  It's unique in that it's not only a wheat IPA, but it's also a Belgian IPA.  You don't find too many wheat IPAs, I can't think of another, and after Linchpin I see why.  I didn't find it that hoppy, nor did it have much Belgian yeast flavor.  The best I can say is that it was a hoppy wit.  As with most wits I drink, a little bit goes a long way, and I grew tired of Linchpin long before I finished the bottle. 

A couple of issues worked against Linchpin.  I drank the bottle during the Lakers' elimination game against the Thunder, which soured my mood.  I also have such high regard for Green Flash, I'd come to believe it couldn't brew a bad beer, or in Linchpin's case help brew a mediocre beer.  If Linchpin was brewed by another, lesser brewer, I probably would have had a better opinion of it, which is a ridiculous bar I've set for Green Flash.  Maybe I should just blame Founders, whose beers I have never tried.  If I see Linchpin on draft somewhere I'll give it another shot.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Modern Saison With Classic Features

I'd seen Upright Brewing's beers at the Olive Market for sometime, but had yet to pick one up.  Lately, I've been in a deep IPA rut and needed a hop break.  I was overdue in trying one of Upright's Belgian-inspired beers, and a saison seemed the antidote to my bitter beer run.  On Saturday night I bought a 750 ml bottle of Seven, which Upright calls a "modern saison," and knew immediately upon tasting it that I'd waited too long to try a beer from this brewer.

Seven was fantastic.  In Seven, Upright nailed all the points I like in a saison - spicy, yeasty and rustic.  The spice and yeast jumped out at me, but were not overwhelmingly.  They were mixed with a touch of fruity sweetness, followed by a dryness that marks a quality saison.  The yeast and dryness stayed through the finish and left a smooth, long-lasting aftertaste.  I can handle thin beers in certain styles, like brown ales and other malt-oriented beers, but I like my saisons chewy.   Seven was around 8% abv, which gave it texture and heft, and which enhanced the beer's robust flavor.  I could have made a meal of it.  Seven is not going to win any beauty contests, and poured an ugly, cloudy, burnt orange, but who cares, its flavor doesn't come from its color.

I don't know too much about Upright (do I remember a BeerAdvocate magazine article about Upright?), but am going to try some of its other beers.  Almost all the Upright beers on this page sound pretty darn good.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Alpine Email

I just received Alpine Beer Company's latest email.  Here is information on new Alpine beer:
We haven’t been sitting on our hands around here. No sir, we have been brewing beer. Just keeping up with our regular lineup has been daunting and difficult. Thank you, fresh beer is best. But, that has been making it difficult to come out with a classic like Tuatara or O’Brien’s IPA. But we did find a way to squeeze in a new beer. “FiringsQuad” is a Belgian Quadruple and is going to come in at 11 % abv. Its dark, it has plenty of dark Belgian candy sugar in it. The flavors and aromas of rich, dark fruity-esters backed with sweet malt complexity and the spiciness of the Belgian yeast will surely appeal to those who crave big, dark Belgian beers. We anticipate “FiringsQuad” to be out in about three weeks. We have it on good authority that the recipe is very much like the finest of Belgian Quadruple made at the monasteries of Europe.

Churchill’s in San Marcos is doing a special this Friday featuring a few of our beers and some New Belgium beers along with a killer list of special dishes. The event kicks off at p.m.

Shawn and I flew to Colorado a couple weeks ago to brew a collaboration beer with the fine folks at New Belgium Brewing Company. We brewed a Double IPA almost equal in volume to our annual production. Seven brews of 200 barrels each were brewed starting at around 9 am and the last brew wrapped up around 6 am the next morning. It’s called “Super India Pale Ale” in the vein of super heroism. It will be 9% abv and we used an incredible 2 tons of four different hop varieties just in the dryhopping. The current plan is to release it for the opening of the Great American Beer Festival through New Belgium’s national distribution system. We wanted to use “Lex Lupulin” for the name but, as it turns out, O’Dell’s Brewing also of Fort Collins has a beer called “St. Lupulin” and they had a problem with the use of the name.
It's too bad about the name Lex Lupulin getting nixed, it's much cooler than Super India Pale Ale, but I get the Superman theme.  I wonder whether FiringsQuad will be bottled.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dorado and Summer Yulesmith

I reconnected with Alesmith's Summer Yulesmith and Ballast Point's Dorado Double IPA over the past few weeks.  Dorado has not been bottled in more than three years, and the last batches I remembered were cloying and alcoholic.  The latest version is neither, despite the 10% abv.  Yes, there is a heat streak that runs through the bottle, but it never becomes obtrusive.  The hop bitterness is the main characteristic, but there is enough malt to match and mellow the bite.   I had forgotten how good this beer is, and this version is excellent.  Smooth is not usually an adjective associated with double IPAs, but I was struck by Dorado's smoothness.  Dorado is a world-class double IPA, and it would be a shame if Ballast Point makes us wait another three years for the next batch. 

I am a beer drinker, not a brewer, so I can still be intrigued by the brewing process and the alchemy that goes into it.  I always wonder how some brewers can craft their beers bigger or small than the beers' abvs.   It's always weird when you get a boozy 6% abv beer, and scary when a beer has an abv above 10% and the alcohol is disguised.

Summer Yulesmith has an 8.5% abv, lower than Dorado's 10% abv, but Yulesmith drinks as though it's a bigger beer than Dorado.  Strange.  This year's Yulesmith is not nearly as smooth as Dorado, and it has a distinct earthiness.  I didn't hold Yulesmith's rough edges against it, because while smoothness is an added bonus, I don't drink double IPAs because they're smooth or subtle.   I expect earthy flavors in a saison or biere de garde, but earthiness in an IPA can be tricky.  It can either give the beer complex character, like it does in this year's Summer Yulesmith, or ruin the beer with the taste of overcooked vegetables.   You don't come across too many earthy IPAs, probably because of the difficulty in bringing out the rustic flavors while avoiding a beer that tastes like a 1970s' side dish.    I liked this year's edition of Summer Yulesmith, even though it took a few couple of tastes for my tongue to become acclimated to it.

I had another earthy IPA over the weekend, Pizza Port San Clemente's Middle Man IPA.  It was a decent IPA, but it was a little thin and could have used a little more malt balance.  Like Yulesmith, Middle Man's earthiness worked in its favor, and gave it a distinct flavor character.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stone's Ruination's 10th Anniversary IPA


Stone Brewing's Ruination double IPA is a near-perfect blend of bitter, citrus-flavored hops and just the right amount of sweet malts, which combine for a complex, outstanding beer.  Ruination was a pioneer double IPA, and is still one of the best double IPAs brewed.  It takes confidence, or dare I say arrogance, to brew a beer to commemorate such a great beer.  It would have been easier for Stone Brewing just to throw a celebratory party or two, or have a mini-festival to commemorate ten years of Ruination.  But no, Stone chose the risky option and decided to brew a tribute ale that had to at least match the excellence of Ruination, because anything less would have been an embarrassment.  Stone took a leap with its Ruination 10th Anniversary IPA, and succeeded in a big, big way.

Stone Brewing's 10th Anniversary Ruination IPA is brilliant; one of the best beers I have had in a long time.  Its floral aroma hit me as soon as I popped the top on the 22 oz bomber.   It poured a clear, deep copper color with a big white foam.  10th is one of the hoppiest beers I can remember tasting - a hop head's Nirvana.  I tried to decide whether the hop flavor leaned more towards pine or citrus, but couldn't make a clear distinction, and after a few sips I didn't care.   10th is just one massively hopped beer.  But extreme hoppiness alone doesn't make this beer standout.  It is balanced by a sweet, strong malt profile, which matches and complements the hop bitterness, gives the beer a delicious upfront flavor, and leads to a long, satisfying finish.  10th is not cloying at all, which is not only incredible for a double IPA this big, but is a credit to the brewer's skill.  10th's abv is a whopping 10.8%, but you wouldn't know it except for a small burn in the finish.

Drinking this beer immediately put me in a good mood.  I didn't develop taste bud fatigue or become overwhelmed by the beer's strength, which has been known to happen with double IPAs north of 10% abv.  It was enjoyable all the way through, and the bottle ended way too soon.

Brewers, no matter their experience, should grab and drink a few bottles of Ruination and Ruination 10th Anniversary IPA, to study and learn from them (or if they already make a good double IPA, at least have a fun night).  The double IPA has become a required beer for most breweries, and unfortunately, far too many double IPAs are marginal or worse, undrinkable.   To make a great, or even just a decent double IPA, takes more than just a heavy dose of hops and high alcohol, it needs attention to the malt, because if the hops aren't balanced with a proper dose of malts, the result will be too bitter, too sickly sweet, too alcoholic, or unpleasant combinations of booze and hops or booze and sweetness.   

It appears unlikely Stone will brew this Ruination 10th Anniversary IPA again, based on tweets I've read from Stone, so get this ephemeral ale soon.  Drink it, don't save it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Future Double IPA Roundup

June is shaping up to be a big double IPA month.  Next week Stone Brewing is releasing its 10th Anniversary version of Ruination IPA, which if it's only half as good as regular Ruination will be quite a beer.  Alesmith recently released its Summer YuleSmith, a big double IPA.  I tweeted earlier in the week that I used to mark YuleSmith's annual release date on my calender.  I am embarrassed to write that its release slipped my mind this year until I saw an AleSmith email saying YuleSmith had been bottled.  To me, AleSmith seems to change or tweak the recipe for YuleSmith.  For several years it had become too sweet and syrupy for me, but last year AleSmith toned down sugars and it was once again a great double IPA.   I wonder what's in the bottle this year.  Ballast Point sent out a tweet yesterday morning saying that today it bottled its monster Dorado Double IPA for the first time since June 2009.  It's hard to believe it's been three years since this big beer has been on shelves.  I don't know what's going to explode first, my head with all these beers to find and try, or my liver.

Update:  Here is a video from Stone Brewing on its Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Recent Double IPA Round-Up

I encourage you to read this Hedonist Jive post on Green Flash's Palate Wrecker double IPA.  I had my Evernote notes ready to write a review, but after reading Jay's post I realized he captured the essence of this beer, and my thoughts would be redundant.  I would add that, like many of Green Flash's best beers, Palate Wrecker has an initial jolt that will shock the initiated and uninitiated alike, but after a few tastes you become acclimated to the aggressive flavors, and by time you work your way to the bottom of the bottle you don't want it to end.  I don't know how Green Flash masters this feat.

Pizza Port Ocean Beach has a new double IPA, Man-Baby.  It's a permenant addition to the Pizza Port Ocean Beach line-up.  As a double IPA it's hoppy, almost by definition.  I tried to decide whether its flavor was pine or citrus, but the description that kept coming to me was juicy, more so than pine or citrus.  It tasted like it had been freshly squeezed rather than brewed.  Man-Baby weighs in at a hefty 9.5% abv, which typically means the beer's going to be "hot" and sticky sweet.  But Man-Baby avoids this double IPA quicksand.  It is remarkably crisp, and is not overly sweet and doesn't coat your mouth with syrup.  The booze is a minor player in the flavor, which is trouble in such a big, approachable beer.  It has a long, smooth finish that doesn't move in strange taste tangents, a feature that ruins too many double IPAs.  You'll enjoy this beer long after you finish your glass.  Man-Baby is a delicious beer and one of the best new double IPAs I have had in a long time.

I had a bomber of Stone Brewing's Ruination double IPA this weekend in advance of Stone's release next week of a souped-up 10th Anniversary version of Ruination.  This is one of the great all-time double IPAs.  I think it's the best beer Stone brews.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Alpine Email - Have You Been A Bad Boy?

I received one of the far too infrequent emails from Alpine Beer Company this morning.  Here is the important beer information from the email:
From out of a black hole, miraculously escaping and arriving in exquisite condition, we are pleased to announce the re-release of “Barrel Aged Odin’s Raven” in 22 oz. bottles. This batch is 100% barrel aged, not blended, and has a more pronounced bourbon influence. Bottle limits of 4 in the brewery and no samples available there. As soon as we run out of “Token” in the pub we will put some “Barrel Aged Odin’s Raven” on for samples and tulips. We will run out of “Token” today, sometime.
The beer that has garnered the most phone calls lately has been “Bad Boy,” our other double IPA. When doors open today, Friday June 1st, you may purchase “Bad Boy” in growlers in the brewery, 6 max, and pints in the pub. Now there’s a reason to brave the elements and trek to outpost Alpine. Bring your mountain bike for before you drink this 9% bully.

Okay, so the “Bad Boy” was ready yesterday, but we didn’t want to subject you to yesterday’s harsh brewery conditions. We brewed “Good,” and incredible Barleywine, that requires 2 mash-ins and boils for 4 hours. The heat and humidity was too hot for mere mortals. The bulk of “Good” will be converted to “Great” once it transfers into bourbon barrels and sits for a year.

Another of our fine lineup of beers newly available is “New Millennium” an out of this world pale ale at 5% abv. We dry hop this light pale ale with Millennium and Galaxy hops for an out of this world flavor and aroma experience. Growlers readily available in the brewery and pints and pitchers in the pub.
Your weekend plans are now set.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Special Stone Ruination IPA - 10th Anniversary Ale

Stone Brewing is releasing a special version of its Ruination double IPA on June 11, 2012.  Ruination, a year-round release, is one of my favorite double IPAs.  I view it similar to Pliny the Elder, in that it's a crisp, hop-forward beer, not a heavy, syrupy, alcohol bomb, which seems like the default for too many craft brewers and their double IPAs.  Ruination's best attribute is its drinkablity.   Stone, from the link above, says, "we'll be debuting the amped-up Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA, which is jam-packed with an even healthier than usual dose of hop glory, utilizing a blend of Citra and Centennial in the dry hop!"   I am looking forward to this IPA.

Good Beer Article

Slate has an article on the communal beer rankings of sites like BeerAdvocateThe article states that the wide variety of reviews from regular beer drinkers are probably more accurate and drive brewers to make better beers than wine reviews.  I liked this quote:
Ordinary beer lovers actually believe that their opinions matter, and they’re pretty much right.
Heck yeah!  And pretentious ordinary beer lovers can write a beer blog, too.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Societe Brewing Opening

My blogging has been light due to a high volume of real work, but I do need to pass on some important information.  I have noted before that I am looking forward to the opening of Societe Brewing.  Societe announced on Twitter yesterday that its soft opening is today.  Brandon Hernandez has a post up on his San Diego Reader blog that Societe's opening is tomorrow.  Either way, the wait is over.  Societe's first two beers are a Belgian Extra ale and a big IPA.  I am trying to juggle my schedule so I can get to Societe sometime in the next few days.  Below is information on Societe's location and hours from Brandon Hernandez's blog:
Societe Brewing Company is located at 8262 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and their hours of operation will be Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m., Thursdays from 2 to 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For those who prepare to sit, the company's full scale grand opening is set for June 30.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Rayon Vert - Better With Brett

On the Food Network, chef Emeril used to throw pork fat into many of his dishes to enhance their flavor.  If I were a brewer, I'd use the yeast strain Brettanomyces to "kick up" my beers, like the TV chef used pork fat.  BAM!  Brett adds unique flavors and complexity to any beer, while not sacrificing drinkability.

Green Flash, in its new year-round Belgian pale ale, Rayon Vert, uses a generous dose of Brett that makes it stand apart from other pale ales.  This highly carbonated beer is not just a pale ale, but a suped-up Belgian pale ale.   The Brett yeast gives Rayon Vert a grown-up, complex taste.  It's sour because of the Brett yeast, and this tartness jumps at your taste buds immediately.  The Brett also makes Rayon Vert a dry beer.  It finishes with a nice hop bitterness, which works well with the Brett yeast. 

I liked this beer for its unique taste.  Rayon Vert may not be for everyone, because it's so tart and yeast-forward.  Pale ales can be boring, safe beers - not too hoppy, not too malty - a beer designed to appeal many casual beer drinkers.  Rayon Vert is anything but boring, and is another, aggressive Green Flash beer. 

I feel foolish that I didn't make the connection sooner that Rayon Vert is French for "Green Flash."  Duh.  It's the obvious things in life that sometimes seem to allude me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I Want A Rathskeller

The Voice of San Diego ran a cool, two-part series last week on the tasting room and murals at the long-gone Aztec Brewing Co. brewery, which was located in what's now the Barrio Logan section of San Diego.  Here are the links to Part I and Part II.  The focus of the articles is the murals that were in the brewery's brick tasting room, known as a rathskeller, which is basically a basement tavern.  The vintage pictures of the rathskeller are classic, especially this one with the company softball team, dressed in suits, standing at the bar.


I wonder whether Aztec's beers were any good.  Even drinking a crappy beer would have been fun in a place like Aztec's rathskeller.

Friday, April 13, 2012

New Green Flash Beers

Here is an article on a new Green Flash collaboration beer, Linchpin White IPA, brewed with Founder's Brewing Company.  This beer comes on the heels of another Green Flash collaboration beer, a black saison, crafted with Belgium's St. Feuillien.  Last weekend I tried Green Flash's new, wide release Belgian pale ale, Rayon Vert.  It's another compelling full-flavored beer from Green Flash, and I will discuss it properly soon.  I am looking forward to trying the two, limited release collaborations, and have high expectations for them, as Green Flash has been making outstanding beers.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Amazing Beer

I had an amazing beer last weekend.  It was The Bruery's Humulus Lager, and I had it on draft at The Ritual Tavern in San Diego's North Park neighborhood.  It was served in a small goblet and I shared it with the Beer Rovette after dinner.  I am not going to blaspheme this beer by trying to describe its many flavors.  There was a solid dose of hop bitterness, but beyond the hops, the flavors were unique, and after a few sips I quit trying to decipher its flavor profile and just enjoyed the beer.  Humulus Lager's flavors worked together on grand scale, balance par excellence.   I don't know its abv, but it's probably high due to the small glass size, but it sure wasn't noticeable, which ties in to the beer's near perfect construction.  It's become a rare occurrence when I get gobsmacked by a beer, but Humulus Lager was brilliance in a glass.  If you see it, order it and let its flavors astound you.

(The Ritual labeled the beer Humulus Imperial Lager, but the links above are for Humulus Lager.  I'm not sure if it's the same beer or not.)

Update:  There is only one beer.  It is Humulus Lager and it's an imperial pale lager, IPL.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lemons to Lemonade

The apparent clusterf*&k that was the brewery side of the La Jolla Brew House will pay dividends to San Diego beer drinkers soon in the form of two new breweries, Societe Brewing Co. and Benchmark Brewing Company.  Travis Smith, formerly of Russian River Brewing and The Bruery, had a short stint at La Jolla Brewhouse, and when he left in early 2011 he was replaced by Alesmith's Matt Akin.  Matt only managed to last at La Jolla Brewhouse several months.

After leaving La Jolla Brewhouse, Travis teamed up with another The Burery alum, Doug Constantiner to start Societe Brewing, which is scheduled to open its Kearny Mesa brewery in May 2012.  Its address is 8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., and here is a picture, from the article linked here, of Societe's huge tasting room.


I learned about Matt Akin this week in this profile.  After leaving La Jolla Brewhouse, Matt, along with his dad, started Benchmark Brewing.  From the profile, Benchmark will feature "huge-flavored session beers. We will have a few styles that are not currently made by too many local breweries. But this is San Diego, so we will make a few big beers, but they will be special releases. Some special brewing techniques and barrel aging will be highlighted through those special releases as well. We will also differ from most local brewers in our packaging. We will be using 16-ounce cans."

Wow!  Tall Boys.  That's a flashback.  I have fond memories of downing a couple of macro Tall Boys en route to Padres' games back in the late '80s with my friends.  It was a two Tall Boy trip from where we lived near SDSU to the stadium gate, where any unfinished beer was pounded or tossed.  We'd park east of the Stadium and walk in to avoid having to pay for parking, and then sit in the bleachers.  We were never big hecklers, but Kevin McReynolds  - when he was a Met not a Padre - caught our ire because he seemed lazy in the outfield, and we harassed Lenny Dykstra because he took his hat off after nearly every pitch to straighten his hair.  Sorry for the baseball diversion, but it's almost Opening Day. 

I didn't read in the profile when Benchmark plans to open.  It will be located in Mission Valley, east of Qualcomm Stadium and Interstate 15, in an area that doesn't sound like it's too far from San Diego Brewing Company, and a short distance, or a one Tall Boy walk, from where I parked for Padre games. 

It's unfortunate La Jolla Brewhouse didn't work out for Travis or Matt, but the San Diego brewing scene will be better for it based on what their new breweries are planning to create.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Two Brown Ales

I don't like the S-word (session).  If you like a certain beer, drink it.  If it has high abv, drink it slower, and it becomes an S-beer.  That being said, if I were to look for a beer that fits the definition of an S-beer, I'd look no further than Pizza Port Ocean Beach's Skid Mark Brown Ale and Alesmith's Nautical Nut Brown AleBoth are low abv brown ales that sacrifice nothing in flavor.  I was recently impressed by both beers.  Skid Mark Brown Ale won a Gold Medal (English Style Mild Ale) at last year's Great American Beer Festival.  It has upfront, mild roasted malt flavors, with a faint hop bitterness.  The malt is not overpowering, which adds to its drinkability, and you could drink several pints without getting bloated or palate fatigue.  Skid Mark is a little thin, but just right for its low alcohol. (The picture to the left is Skid Mark Brown Ale.)

Alesmith's Nautical Nut Brown Ale drinks along the same lines as Skid Mark.  It's an approachable brown ale that's not a malt bomb, despite its deep mahogany color.  Its hop profile is low, which makes the richness of the roasted malt stand out.  Nautical Nut Brown is meatier and fuller than Skid Mark, but still, at around 5% avb, it's not an overwhelming beer.  You won't get silly or stuffed drinking several pints of Nautical Nut Brown Ale.

People who drink Newcastle Brown Ale need to try these two beers.  It'd be a flavor revelation.  And best of all, they could have several revelations and not feel guilty.  You'll find Skid Mark at Pizza Port Ocean Beach, while Nautical Nut Brown is available on draft throughout San Diego.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Life Is Good

I have seen the "Life Is Good" logo clothing for several years.  I finally understand it now after reading Brandon Hernandez's columns this week.  He has been touring and then writing reviews of the newest San Diego breweries - and getting paid for it.  Getting paid to drink beer - life's not only good, it's freaking fantastic.  Here are the first three dispatches Hernandez's latest "Beer Tour:"

Sumblefoot Brewing Company:  Upside potential

White Labs:  Experimentation's the name of the game

Wet 'N Reckless:  Trainwreck

The Wet 'N Reckless review had this great, laugh-out-loud smackdown quote about passing Greenflash Brewing to find Wet 'N Reckless:  "It’d be like passing up The French Laundry and driving a longer distance to get to Jacque dans le Boîte (Jack in the Box)."

Update:

Societe Brewing Co.:  IPAs and Belgians

Monday, March 26, 2012

Yeeehawww - A Texas Brown Ale

I had the latest Stone Brewing collaboration beer, TBA (Texas Brown Ale), last night.  It's a collaboration with Stone, Bear Republic and Fat Head's Brewing.  (The link above has the beer's history, which other than where a beer contest was judged, has nothing to do with Texas.)  I thoroughly enjoyed TBA.  It's a full-flavored, approachable beer.  It's a quaffer not a sipper, and one Stone collaboration beer that would have been better in a 22 oz bomber rather than a 12 oz bottle.

The beer poured a medium brown with amber tones, and it had big, creamy foam.  As a brown ale, it's malty beer.  But it's also smokey, like good Texas barbeque, and it has a large dollop of molasses, which you can really taste.   It's not sweet, thank goodness, despite the molasses.  To me, the beer's hop bitterness stood out.  It is significantly more bitter than a typical brown ale, but the beer's smoked bitterness brought all the flavors together and gave it a distinct characteristic.   I'd recommend getting a few bottles of this beer before it goes away, I know I am.

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Breweries Opening Fast & Furious

I feel like I'm playing an arcade video game - and losing.  Every time I read about a new brewery, I remember that I haven't tried beers from all the breweries that opened last year.   I've reached the point where I realize that the onslaught of new breweries is moving too fast and I am not able to keep them all straight.  According to West Coaster magazine, in San Diego there are forty-eight existing breweries and eighteen in the planning stage.  Over the past week alone The San Diego Union, has run three separate articles on new brewers (here, here and here, note there is duplication in the articles).  I am waiting for the "Game Over" sign to flash.   

Some of the new brewery names sound similar - Amplified and Automatic; Rip Current, Rough Draft and Wet 'N Reckless - making distinction difficult without a beer tasting.  Throw in the expansion of existing breweries, like Coronado Brewing Company, New English and Green Flash, and all the new craft beer bars and restaurants, and tracking the local craft beer scene gets more complex.

There a few resources I use to follow all the local beer activity, and these include West Coaster magazine, writer Brandon Hernandez and San Diego Beer Blog.   West Coaster magazine, which covers San Diego's craft beer industry, has a good blog, and last week put out a current, definitive list of all the local brewers.  Brandon Hernandez is a local food reporter who writes for several local publications, including West Coaster, and he seems to focus on craft beer.  (He doesn't pull punches on new brewers he thinks stink.)  I follow Brandon on Twitter and he links to all his articles.  San Diego Beer Blog has slowed down lately, but is still worth checking out. (The author of San Diego Beer Blog also writes for West Coaster.)

Societe Brewing, which is scheduled to open its new Kearney Mesa brewery in May, is one new brewery I am watching closely.  Its founders are former brewers at Russian River and The Bruery.  I believe sour beers will be Societe's focus, which alone sets it apart from so many of the other new breweries.  It already has a cult following, even if it's a cult of one.

I wrote a post last January about too many brewers in San Diego.  I said then that there was still room for growth.  I still believe this, as too many restaurants still don't carry a wide selection of local beers.  The new brewers are facing greater competition, which should, hopefully, lead to better beers.  The new brewers need to make good beer, and if they do, there will be a market for their beer.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Alpine's Blog

I've known about Alpine Beer Co.'s blog for some time.  I have not paid much attention to it because much of what's been on the blog was also in Alpine's periodic emails.  Today's email had a link to the blog rather than significant content.  I'll put a link to the Alpine Beer Co. blog here on the site.  Today's blog post was mostly about St. Patrick's Day, but this nugget about Alpine's collaboration beer with New Belgium was towards the end of the post:
..."we (Alpine Brew Co.) will be going to Fort Collins to brew a massive double IPA, spiked with Brett. The concept is still in the planning stage but our slant is toward creating “The Anti-hero of Double IPAs” called “Lex Lupulin,” destroying pallets with hoppy goodness wherever he goes. Or something like that, at least I got the name out there so no one can take it. Their planned release is for the Great American Beer Festival in early September with national distribution. The batch size will almost equal our annual production. Love those guys."
Reading about double IPAs "spiked with brett" that are being brewed with the intention of "destroying pallets" make me glad it's Friday.  (Just think of the splinters!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting Closer - Stone At Liberty Station

I saw this encouraging public notice late last week at Liberty Station:


This sign was located in one of the buildings at the far east end of Liberty Station, near the new SOL Market, golf course and Corvette Diner.  I am still not sure of the restaurant / brewery / gardens' exact location.  The big Stone signs in Liberty Station now read that the restaurant will open in late 2012, rather than late spring.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Telegraph's Obscura Fortis

I read on Twitter that a rare, wild ale, Telegraph Brewing's Obscura Fortis, was available at Public Sessions, a restaurant not far from my house.  When I hear "wild ale," it's like a dog whistle, I come running.  Obscura Fortis is a big, sour (and sweet), wild ale.  It poured a deep mahogony, and was not as dark as the picture shows.  I noted that Fortis had an initial bitterness and a sweetness on the finish.  The sourness was less noticeable than other recent sours I have had, including Telegraph's amazing Gypsy.  I thought Fortis mellow for a wild ale.  I wrote that it was "hard to call it delicious but it was sure good." 

Fortis' ABV was over 9%, and you could taste the booze throughout.  I heard the term "hot" to describe prominent alcohol in beer last weekend on radio station FM94.9's Friday night "Rock & Roll Happy Hour with Stone Brewing."  The more alcohol you taste, the "hotter" the beer.  Obscura Fortis is one hot beer, with a booze profile bigger than beers with higher ABVs.  The alcohol overshadowed the wild yeast and other flavors, subduing its sour flavor while enhancing its sweetness.  I read on BeerAdvocate that Fortis was a one-time brew, so I'm glad I tried it.  I've now had three of Telegraph's Obscura beers - Fortis, Arborea and Petit - and the low alcohol Petit has been my favorite.

A quick note on Public Sessions.  Every time I go there I feel out of place, and it takes me about six months to forget and fall back into its hipster trap.  I guess I am too old and not trendy enough for Public Sessions.  I need to lose twenty years, grow a five-day beard and not mind paying $8 for an undersized beer I know nothing about, other than it's what all the cool cats are drinking.  I'll stick with Pizza Port Ocean Beach where the cool cats don't care that I'm an old fart, and a real pint is still only $5.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slate Article on Beer

I listen to several Slate podcasts but rarely visit its website.   This changed about two weeks ago when I downloaded Slate's iPhone app (along with a few others) in a futile attempt to be the lucky person to download the 25th million app on iTunes.  I check my Slate app about once a day and usually find an interesting story, and this morning I read a good article on beer serving temperatures.  For an experienced beer drinker who tries a variety of beers, it doesn't take reading an article to know that as a beer warms its flavors expand, or that frosted glasses, like lemon or orange wedges, are beer faux pas.  I found it interesting that macro brewers like their beer served just above freezing, which ensures their tasteless beers stay bland. Think of that the next time you see that Coor's Light commercial touting Coor's two-stage, super cold activation for cans and bottles of Coor's Light. 

The serious beer geek will like this passage:
But changing attitudes—and habits—isn’t going to be easy. Most draft systems are built to operate at 38 degrees. Fiddling with the temperature can affect carbonation and raise the risk of contaminated lines. Bars dedicated to the cause of good beer drinking (like Washington D.C.’s ChurchKey, which I’ve written about previously) can operate different draft lines at different temperatures, but it requires substantial investment in equipment, training, and maintenance.
I'll admit I like a cold beer, but I also appreciate it as it warms up.  I like higher alcohol beers, in particular Belgian beers, at warmer temperatures.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stone Collaborations

I have not been diligent in buying, drinking or documenting Stone Brewing's many collaboration beers.  The concept's great and the experimentation's exciting, but I just haven't aggressively sought them out.   Some collaborations that I have bought I have yet to drink, including the Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter and last fall's pumkin beer, La Citrueille Celeste de Citracado.  I need to get to these two beers one of these days.  I skipped last year's Japanese Green Tea IPA (and I feel bad because it was brewed for charity) and the Cherry Chocolate Stout.

I am going to make an effort, I promise, to get Stone's two latest collaborations, the More Brown Than Black IPA and the TBA (Texas Brown Ale).  The IPA sounds interesting, because, well, it's an IPA.  The TBA caught my attention because who knew there was such a thing as a Texas Brown Ale.  I've had Shiner Bock, which is brown, but not an ale.  It's a boring beer, but the beer I'd think of if I ever thought about Texas beer, which I never do.    I hope TBA, which is being brewed by three non-Texas brewers - Stone, Bear Republic and Fat Head - is as interesting as Shiner Bock is bland.  Here is a video on TBA:


Bear Republic / Fat Head's / Stone TBA from stonebrew on Vimeo.



In the video, Mitch Steele, Stone's head brewer, says the beer is like a pioneering craft beer from the 1980s, but doesn't name the beer.  What beer is he talking about?

Of the Stone collaborations I have tried, my favorite was Saison du BUFF, a sage infused beer that Stone brewed with Dogfish Head and Victory.  This beer is being brewed again this spring and Stone is growing the sage at its farm.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alesmith Tasting Room Hours

Alesmith Brewing Company has finished the remodel of its tasting room. Alesmith just posted a comment to an old post announcing new, expanded hours at the tasting room:

We (Alesmith) added more hours, the AleSmith tasting room hours are now as follows:
Wednesday: 2-7pm
Thursday: 2-7pm
Friday: 2-8pm
Saturday: 12-7pm
Sunday: 12-6pm

Cheers!

Alesmith's tasting room is now open five days a week.  This is excellent news.

More Alpine

There was more information in the last Alpine Brew Company email than its decision to cease Exponential Hoppiness growler fills.  Alpine is releasing this sour beer:
On Wednesday, February 29th, bottles of “Chez Monieux” will go on sale. Limits on bottles will be enforced to a maximum of 4 bottles per person per day. If we suspect you are a retailer buying for resale, you will be denied sale, period. Since I don’t get out much, going to Belgium and concentrating of “Belgian Kreik” as a style to perfect was a big deal. I put my entire brewing prowess to work on making this edition one for the ages. We used very tart Balaton Cherries to infuse this sour, tart elixir into a beer we’re very proud of. Chez Monieux” is 7% abv and comes in a 750 ml Belgian style bottle for $23.95 plus tax and crv.
It's out of my price range, but maybe I'll see Chez Monieux on draft closer to home than Alpine, assuming it's available on draft at all.

Paying For Sins Of Others

I just received Alpine Brew Company's latest email.  No more growlers of Exponential Hoppiness due to a growler showing up on ebay.  Here is the quote from Alpine:
You have seen your very last growler of “Exponential Hoppiness” ever to be dispensed. http://www.ebay.com/csc/i.html?_from=R40&_sacat=0&_nkw=exponential+hoppiness&LH_Complete=1&rt=nc

Since I previously stated if I ever saw a growler of “Exponential Hoppiness” for sale on ebay there would never be another growler sold again. Don’t blame me, but you can see who to blame on the above link. As for bottles of “Expo” on ebay, I’m seriously considering never bottling it again. This is not just a personal issue, it’s illegal. The fact that people drove down from LA to make a quick buck and denying the locals the chance to buy some is also just plain wrong.
Bombers of Expo, which sell out in a mater of hours, are in jeopardy, too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New (Limited Edition) IPA at Pizza Port Ocean Beach

If you're sick of running around San Diego trying to get a half pint of that once-a-year triple IPA, only to find that the bar you were racing to tapped the keg while you were at work and it blew five minutes before you arrived, Pizza Port Ocean Beach is releasing a new, limited edition IPA this Thursday evening, February 16, 2012.  The IPA is The Burning of Rome IPA, and it was brewed to promote a band with the same name (obviously, without the IPA appendix).

I don't know anything about the band, but I am going to try to visit Pizza Port Ocean Beach over the weekend to grab a pint, as I can't see this beer selling out in one night.  Port Brewing and its four Pizza Port locations brew multiple IPAs, many that are outstanding, and even its comparatively pedestrian IPAs (like PPOB's Jetty) are better than most brewers' best IPAs.  PPOB's special IPAs and DIPAs - While the Wife's Away, While the Wife's Still Away, and Cho-Saiko - have been outstanding, and I'm hoping The Burning of Rome is a flavor bomb like some of these.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Over-Hype Reality Check

The early February hype around Pliny the Younger is in full mania mode.  When I linked to the Russian River website for my previous post, I noticed the twenty beers on tap at the Russian River Brewpub in Santa Rosa.  I saved the tap list, and have copied and posted it below:


Beer ABV Description
O.V.L Stout 4.40% Nitro Dry Irish Stout
Aud Blonde 4.50% Blonde Ale
Gaffer's 4.50% English Pale Ale
Rusian River Porter 5.75% Robust Porter
Segal Select 5.75% Pale Ale - Segal Hop Farm
Row 2, Hill 56 5.80% 100% Simcoe Hop Pale Ale
Blind Pig IPA 6.75% IPA
Rusian River IPA 6.75% IPA
Pliny the Elder 8.00% Double IPA
Pliny the Younger 10.50% Triple IPA
Redemption 4.80% Blonde Ale
Perdition 6.10% Biere de Sonoma
Rejection 6.30% Belgian-Inspired Black Ale
Sanctification 6.75% Blonde Ale w/ Brett
Supplication 7.00% Sour Aged in Pinot Barrels
Defenstration 7.25% Hoppy Blonde Ale
Damnation 7.00% Golden Ale
Temptation 7.50% Sour Aged in Chardonnay Barrels
Consecration 10.00% Sour Aged in Cab Barrels
Damnation 23 10.75% Triple Aged w/ Oak Chips



It's an amazing line-up of beers.  I hope the people that went to Russian River to get a glass of the elusive PtY were able to see beyond the triple IPA myopia and try some of these beers.  PtY is all well and good, but it would be the 16th or 17th beer I'd try given the choices above.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pliny The Younger Dinner at El Take It Easy

I just saw the below paragraph in an email from Jay Porter of The Linkery and El Take It Easy:
Coming up: A chef's dinner at El Take It Easy incorporating the famous Pliny the Younger beer and other rare/allocated beverages in late February; a pop-up on March 4 with Tijuana super-chef Javier Plascencia; and the Linkery's 7th Anniversary party at the end of February. More info on those coming up.
The craze behind Russian River's triple IPA Pliny the Younger is hard to believe, but this dinner sounds interesting.  I followed Toronado's Pliny the Younger release today on Twitter and San Diego Beer Blog.  Toronado was the first bar in San Diego go sell this year's release of the high octane beer.  The frenzy started at 10.00 a.m., and two kegs were finished in less than three hours.   A lot of useless people were stumbling around North Park this afternoon.

By late February the hype to get a pint of Pliny the Younger should have waned, making the El Take It Easy event all the better.  I'll admit that when reading the email I was more intrigued by the olive oil from Ensenada than Pliny the Younger.

Update:  The Pliny the Younger Chef's dinner at El Take It Easy is Monday, February 27th, and will feature rare/allocated drinks in addition to PtY.

Update UpdateHere is the menu for the El Take It Easy dinner

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Speedway Stout

I felt like the Dos Equis guy last Friday night, except less interesting.  I don't always want an imperial stout, but when I do, I want a good one.  Alesmith's Speedway Stout is a good one.  It is a sweet, black beer, brewed with Ryan Bros. Coffee, and the the rich taste of coffee is in every drink.  This is not one of those nonsense "breakfast" beers, but a grown-up night capper.  If you were numbskull enough to drink this beer for breakfast, after a pint, you'd curl up and go back for the rest of the day.

The beer poured black and thick, with a frothy mocha foam (like how I'd picture cappuccino whip cream if it existed).  The aroma of roasted coffee burst from the bottle as soon as I opened it.   The first few sips were a jolt, but I quickly acclimated to the beer's boozy coffee and roasted malt flavor.    The remainder of the bottle became a smooth, two hour sipper.   I am always amazed at the sweetness of an imperial stout.  Speedway, even with its bitter roast coffee, was dessert-like.   I may have even picked up a hint of dark chocolate.  Speedway's sweetness balances the bitterness from the roasted malts and coffee.  Speedway is a big beer, and the alcohol was present throughout and was never shy, and it became more noticeable as the beer warmed.  This beer is a wonderful cold weather beer.

(There are many Speedway Stouts available.  The one above is, I think, the standard Speedway Stout.  It had a silver foil over the bottle cap.)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sensory Overload

I don't like leaving dinner agitated, especially one that involves beer.  This happened last night after dinner at Slater's 50/50 in Liberty Station.  I know I am getting crotchety, but I can't handle loud music in restaurants anymore.  Throw in the poor acoustics at Slater's and it's a cacophony of commotion.   Don't get me wrong, Slater's food is good, its draft beer list extensive, and its staff is friendly and attentive (it could add a few more beers to its 1/2 price happy hour options).  But the music was so loud we could barely have a conversation, and the music wasn't even good, just popular rock with a couple of country tracks for variety.  The loud music means that everyone in the restaurant is shouting.  I need a beer.

Slater's needs to decide if it's going to go the bar route or the restaurant route.  After last night, I know that the two don't mix well.   The bar side wins, and we were at Slater's early (around 5:00).  There were plenty of other families and non-bar patrons, too, as the restaurant was nearly full by 6:00, so there is plenty of dining interest.  Slater's has a large room separate from the main restaurant and bar area.  It should make this room into a dining room for people that don't want to be bludgeoned by the roar in the front room.  I should note that Slater's has plenty of outside seating, but even with the heaters it's still a few months before I'll be eating outside at night.

On a positive note, Sierra Nevada's Ruthless Rye IPA was quite good.  It was hoppy and the strong rye malt pulled the beer together and gave it depth.  I helped the Beer Rovette, who thought of the title to this post, with her Sam Adams' Alpine Spring, which was light, maybe too light, and grassy with a bit of lager funk.  Slater's had two beers from now-defunct Airdale Brewing on tap, Angry Panda and Dark and Stormy.   Grab a pint while you can.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gypsy Ale Revealed

A beer named Gypsy Ale doesn't give much of a clue as to what's in the bottle.  This mystery element is why Telegraph Brewing's Gypsy Ale (Batch 57) sat in my beer cabinet for months.   I was unsure what I had in Gypsy and didn't want to open it when I wanted something simple, and have it turn out complex; or have it turnout one dimensional when I was in the mood for some depth.  In the spirit of "beer is for drinking, not thinking" I popped the cork on Gypsy Ale over the weekend.  Mystery no more, Gypsy Ale was an amazing beer.

Gypsy was brewed with Brettanomyces yeast, which brought out sour, wild flavors.   I didn't know it was a sour, what a treat.  It poured a clear amber with a modest foam, which belied the flavor and complexity in the glass.   The label says it was brewed with local (near Santa Barbara) plums and these showed in the beer's subtle, sweet flavor and in its aroma.  Gypsy had a near perfect balance between sour and sweet, and the yeasty funkiness permeated the entire bottle.  Its abv was 8%, which is at the high-end of my sour abv range, as higher abvs can be cloying, almost medicinal.  Gypsy's first drink was as good as its last, a superb sour ale.

When I opened Gypsy Ale I didn't remember that the Beer Samizdat had ranked it as the No. 2 beer of 2011.  I'm glad I didn't know this and came to the conclusion myself that Gypsy's one first-rate beer.  Telegraph's website says Gypsy is available in late summer and early fall.  I need to get my hands on another bottle this summer, and am not going to wait to drink it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Craft Beer Keeps Moving Mainstream

Here is a Financial Times article on craft beer bars in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.  I just added a few more spots to the Beer Bucket List, especially Spuyten Duyvil (which needs to update its beers on tap list).  I like how this article was on the same page as Jancis Robinson's wine column.  One more step towards craft beers' world domination.

Writers no longer have to mention Stone Brewing's iconic Arrogant Bastard's label, where Stone tells us:
“This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it”
Arrogant Bastard was released in late 1997, so the challenge is not new.  Yes, we do like it, along with many other beers.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Bruery Sour Video

Below is an informative video from The Bruery on sour beers.  This video has been out for about a week but I just got around to watching it.  The video has a high beer geek factor (good thing), but watch out for that '70s background soundtrack it's as funky as a Bruery sour ale:


The Bruery - On Sour Ales from The Bruery on Vimeo.



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Angst Over West Coast IPAs

This post from the Beervana blog and its comments over whether West Coast IPA is a unique style verge on a parody of Northwest blogger regional insecurity.  The contemplation, earnestness and ultimate rejection of this non-style is laughable.  West Coast IPA is a euphemism for a big, hopped-up IPA, nothing more.  Maybe I missed the memo, but I have never heard of West Coast IPA being touted as its own style.  The blog and comments show the Northwest's dismissal of terms that don't originate within their insular community, which is hypocritical coming from a group that latched on to a blogger-created fake style name, Cascadian Dark Ale.  These guys need to relax and have a West Coast IPA or three, and they can safely start at home in the familiar confines of the Northwest with Pelican Pub and Brewery's India Pelican Ale, an excellent West Coast IPA. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Beers of 2011 - Part II - The Bad?

This post's title is misleading, I didn't have a horrible beer in 2011.  (The one exception was a Mexican lager called Victoria, which I had at the end of the year, but it deserves its own post.)  The title should read The Underwhelming rather than the Bad.  I had high expectations for certain beers that were not matched when I drank the beer.  Like my favorite beers of 2011, my list of the underwhelming beers is not in any particular order.

For the second year in a row Stone's Vertical Epic failed to impress.   I am not a fan of chili beers and 11.11.11 did not convert me.  I wrote that it was "better than expected," which is not a ringing endorsement.  I liked it enough to write that I wanted another, but have yet to pick it up.  I feel that Stone is trying too hard to create strange beers in its Vertical Epic series.

Sierra Nevada's faux Belgian monastery Ovila Dubble was an uninspired dud.  It was not a bad beer, just an average, forgettable beer.  I haven't bothered to try the other two Ovila offerings due to the lackluster Dubble.  If you partner with a non-Belgian monastery, it makes sense that the beers are not going to taste like real Belgian beers.  In Ovila Dubble's favor, it did have a slick logo.

Monk's Cafe's Flemish Sour was a disappointment.  I found it too sweet.  I had read positive reviews on this beer, and was expecting more.  Monk's Cafe taught me what I didn't like in a sour, so I guess that's positive.  I didn't review this beer, but believe me, the review wouldn't have been positive. 

I had a few beers where I didn't drink the whole beer, but where tastes alone were enough to frighten my taste buds.  I know it's not fair to list and criticize a beer with such a small exposure, so I owe it to the two brewers to give these two beers the courtesy of a full pint or bottle.   In December, I wrote that Iron Fist's The Gauntlet was "shudder-inducing." Manzanita Brewing's Chaotic Double IPA had a fine upfront hop bitterness, but it had a long, nasty aftertaste - the taster that wouldn't end.

As I put the above list together, as well the Good from the previous post, I realized I just didn't have enough beer variety last year.  There are plenty of beers to try, and the craft beer choices keep growing.   I need to get out more in 2012.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Beers of 2011 - The Good

OK, it's over two weeks into 2012 and I finally finished this post I started nearly a month ago.  I did not have that adventurous of a beer drinking year in 2011.  I tended to stick with the familiar, so my options for favorite beer were not that deep.

I am not not going to crown one favorite beer in 2011, instead I'll list the three beers I enjoyed the most.  I can't honestly write that I liked one more of these more than the other, as each was different and unique.  I included a style in my list of favorite beers, because I really came to appreciate and enjoy sour beers.  In no particular order, here are my favorite beers of 2011:

Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA.  I wrote about it here.  This beer was huge, black, roasted, hoppy and best of all drinkable.  An amazing, approachable beer at an 11% abv.  Stone Brewing's best Anniversary Beer since its tenth anniversary, and one of its best special releases ever.

Pretty Things Jack D'Or.   A hoppy American saison.  I had it on the Fourth of July and it was the perfect beer for a quiet, relaxing day.  It was refreshing, yet spicy enough to keep my attention.  A wonderful beer that I discussed here.

Green Flash Le Freak.  Whoa.  I had seen this beer for years but had never bought one.  What a waste.  I had my first Le Freak on cask at The Linkery during San Diego Beer Week.  This may be hyperbolic, but Le Freak was nearly transcendent.  Transcendent to where I'm not sure, but I know I want to go there.  Le Freak was one delicious, complex ale, and now I have some lost Le Freak beer drinking to recoup.

Sours - I paid more attention to sours in 2011, and came to enjoy them.  My favorite sours have a moderate abv (6% to 8%),  a tart, upfront sourness with a faint sweetness for balance.  A few of the sours I liked were Allagash's Confluence, The Lost Abbey's Red Poppy and from Belgium, Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge.  I can assure you I will be drinking more sours in 2012.

I will have a few more posts on the beer year that was, where I discuss the Bad and my favorite brewery in 2011.