Thursday, August 25, 2016

Pale Aleapalooza

My obsession with pale ales continues.  There are two new, local pale ales being released in the next week.  Port Brewing is releasing Graveyard's Pale Ale in sixteen-ounce canned six-packs today, August 26, 2016.  Graveyard's is a "6.2% hoppy pale ale," which is bright, fruity, and tropical, according to Port Brewing.  I'll be picking up a six-pack of this today.   Modern Times is releasing Trueland Pale Ale in twenty-two ounce bottles the first week of September.  In contrast to Port's tropical Graveyard's, Modern Times' Trueland is staking out "piney dankness" territory with some tangerine zest thrown in because Modern Times can.  Dank, piney, tropical, citrusy, hoppy, malty, I do not care, if a brewery has a pale ale I want to try it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Institution Ale Co.

I first visited Camarillo's Institution Ale Co. last fall when it was located in the back corner of a light industrial building that was on a street with similar, indistinguishable industrial buildings.  Its tasting room was tiny and jammed with people.  The beer offerings were basic, and included a pale ale, an IPA, a stout, and a blond ale, but all the beers I tried were good.  It is better to make a limited number of beers well than brew a large number of beers with haphazard results.  I revisited Institution a few weeks ago and was amazed by the changes.  It has a new location, its own building along a road that frontages Highway 101 in Camarillo.  The stark, one-story, stand-alone building, in addition to housing the brewery and a small merchandise store, has a huge tasting room, which was packed with patrons, and an outdoor seating area, which was also full.  The tasting room is fitted with picnic benches for communal seating.  Institution also has limited food offerings, prepared on-site.  Here is a picture of part of the tasting room:

Institution is named after Camarillo's State Mental Hospital, which closed in 1997 after operating since 1932.  The former hospital site is now Cal State Channel Islands.  Institution's logo appears to play on the mental hospital theme, with what looks like a Rorschach ink blot.  The photo of the logo below is from an Institution growler, and I see something steam punk on the left, and my face before I get my first IPA on the right:

Institution's beer offerings have increased, but remain primarily ales.  It now offers multiple pale ales, IPAs, and stouts. (You can find Institution's current beer list by selecting the link at the top of this post.)  Institution's core IPA, named Institution IPA, is a classic West Coast IPA, which means heavy on the hops and light on the malt.  The beer is not groundbreaking, but it is done right.  The picture below is Institution IPA from the outside seating area.  I selected the Simcoe Pale Ale as a growler fill from Institution's Progressive Pale Ale series, which I found out, despite the name, is not a single hop beer.  Simcoe Pale Ale was a well made, quality beer that I enjoyed.  Like newer pale ales, Simcoe Pale Ale was hop forward and malt diminished, basically an IPA with about a 5% to 6% abv.   

The people at Institution were friendly.  They kept the long beer line moving, even getting beers and tasters for you while you waited in line.  I am glad for Institution's success.  Its new location is a huge improvement and a testament to its growth.  It beers alone are worth a stop.  They are not fancy or pretentious, but taste great.  I plan to refill my growler next time I am up in Ventura County.

Ballast Point Changes

That did not take long.  San Diego CityBeat is reporting on management departures at Ballast Point, the now Constellation Brands-owned brewery.  Constellation bought Ballast Point late last year.  The CityBeat article has this paragraph:

One brewer they are moving forward without is Yuseff Cherney. The former head brewer/head distiller was one of the four in Ballast Point's leadership to jump ship. Other casualties include CEO/President Jim Buechler, CCO Earl Kight and founder Jack White. With the departures goes years of experience in the San Diego brewing industry as well as the chief architects of the company's meteoric rise and earth-shattering sale to Constellation.

That is a big management change.  The article states that it is business as usual at Ballast Point, which sounds more like business as usual for Constellation, not Ballast Point.  White and Cherney are focused on "their new spirits venture." 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Praise the Pale

San Diego Magazine interviewed former Stone Brewing brewmaster Mitch Steele.  What I found interesting in in the article was Steele's opinion on pale ales and his comments on session IPAs.  Steele said this on pale ales:

At this point, if I look at a beer list, the first thing I look for is a pale ale or a pilsner. I love .394. It’s a great beer. Just having a beer that’s got some hop character that isn’t 7% alcohol is kind of a nice thing.
My exact thoughts on pale ales.  Instead of always looking for a high octane double IPA, now I first seek out the pale ale options.  I agree with Steele on his praise for AleSmith's .394 Pale Ale, it is one of the best beers ever brewed in San Diego.   I still drink plenty of IPAs, but I am glad that pale ales are making a comeback.

Steele, while stating his affinity for session IPAs, nails their major flaw:

Honestly, I thought the session IPA craze was going to take off. I mean, if you talk to brewers, the brewers all love it. And that’s usually a pretty good indication if something is going to succeed or not. But the problem is that people are still buying on alcohol. They’re still looking at alcohol content when they buy. The thing I learned about session IPAs is that people look at the alcohol content and equate that with price. So, when you’re brewing a beer that’s equivalent to a double IPA as far as the hopping, but the alcohol level is below 5%, people are going to balk at paying an IPA price for it, which is a shame. I think it's a really neat style and I love it.
To me, session IPAs are thin, one-dimensional beers that are boring after the first few sips.  If you want a low alcohol beer, why settle for a session IPA?  There are many low alcohol beer options that have more character and flavor than a session IPA.  Reach for a wit, or a saison, or a pilsner instead, or, wait a minute, a order a pale ale!