Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Societe Brewing News

Societe Brewing announced in a blog post this morning that co-founder and Brew Master Travis Smith is leaving the brewery.  The entire blog post is linked here.  This is a shock.  I will post information as I get it either here or on Twitter.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Beer Maelstrom

The closure of Reckless Brewing was fast.  So fast, I didn't even get a chance to follow it.  On March, 5, 2018, Reckless sent one of its emails that caused big controversy.  (West Coaster said the message was on Facebook but I received it via email.)  In the message, Reckless stated that it was renaming its black lager, Black Lagers Matter, and according to West Coaster, the post further "leaned on a series of African-American stereotypes, racist themes and even riffed off Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech."  I did not read Reckless' whole email, stopping after a few lines thinking it was not good.

The response was fast.  Reckless issued an apology, but that was not enough.  I received another email from Reckless this afternoon, announcing that it was closing its brewery over the next few weeks.  If you are just catching up with this story, I recommend this this West Coaster article and Beth Demmon's commentary in San Diego City Beat

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Mike Hess Expansion

Here is a West Coaster article on Mike Hess Brewing's new Imperial Beach tasting room, which soft opened last week and will expand with a deck and fire pits.  It is good to see Mike Hess Brewing getting good press.  Its Ocean Beach tasting room is a gem, filled with locals.  Mike Hess Brewing's beers do not get enough credit.  Its Claritas Klosch is outstanding, and its IPAs are excellent.  Its grapefruit IPA tastes like grapefruit, unlike some grapefruit IPAs I have had from other breweries, including a recent big name re-release.  It is also the time of year for the delicious Hooligan Irish Stout.  I don't know when I will get the chance to visit Imperial Beach, so I will have to raise a glass in appreciation next time I stop by Mike Hess's Ocean Beach tasting room.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Crowler Spillage Problem Solved

I have switched almost exclusively to crowler can fills when getting fresh beers from breweries. My lonely collection of 64 oz growlers now just take up space.  One problem I have found with the big crowler cans is that they spill everywhere when poured, no matter how slow and careful I am when filling my glass.  I heard on the Indie Beer Show Podcast that leaving the tab at a 45 degree angle helps solve messy pours.  No, this does nothing and sometimes makes dispensing worse.  I finally figured out how to fix the crowler spillage problem - make a second hole in the top of the can. 

I am not sure why I did not think of this sooner.  It is so obvious, and so simple.  You used to punch two holes in a can of Hawaiian Punch, and even a can as small as condensed milk needs two holes.  A crowler is no different.  I thought that since a crowler is just a big beer can it should pour like one.  I kept thinking it was operator error, or that somehow the crowler had been incorrectly filled and sealed, and that if I just found the right angle or speed I could fix the problem.  You'd think that after dozens of crowlers I'd have realized sooner that there was a bigger force than pour angle causing beer puddles every time I filled a glass of beer.  A crowler is no different from a can of Hawaiian Punch or condensed milk:  punch a second hole and pour your beer without a mess. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Doing My Part

We are five days into Flagship February and I had one of those "Aha" moments.  I almost always have a flagship beer in my beer fridge:  Pizza Port's Swami's IPA.  This beer is so common around my house that I can't even find a picture of it.  This is a great IPA, picture or not.  To me, Swami's ranks as one of the top IPAs in San Diego, which means one of the top IPAs anywhere.  I plan to keep it stocked in my fridge as long as Pizza Port brews it.  I do need to take a picture of it, though.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Flagship February

The craft beer marketing idea of Flagship February is dominating my beer twitter today.  The idea is to drink flagship craft beers, like Stone Brewing's IPA, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, or Anchor Brewing's Steam beer in the month of February.  The campaign also seems like a way to direct attention away from the latest shiny object beer trend and redirect focus and sales to core beers.  What a good idea, and it's perfect for social media. 

Stone Brewing's IPA or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale are easy flagship choices.  What about flagship beers from new or semi-new breweries?  How old does a beer have to be to qualify as a flagship beer?  I am guessing Societe Brewing's Pupil IPA or Apprentice IPA are flagship beers, as well as Modern Times' Black House and Blazing World, but what about flagship beers for newer breweries like Culture, or Kilowatt, or Burgeon, or any other brewery that has opened in the past few years?  Do they even have any flagship beers yet?   I guess you drink with whatever beers are always on these new breweries' tap lists or canning/bottling schedule.  Maybe I just need to not over think this hashtag-driven promotion and crack open a doggone Stone Brewing IPA, or an AleSmith .394. 

Wait, has .394 been around long enough to be considered a flagship beer?   I'm so confused.  Hmm,.. wait a minute, I see a hazy IPA on that tap list, I think I'll just drink it while I figure out the correct definition of flagship.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Karl At Thirty - Thank You

The San Diego Reader published an article last week on the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of Karl Strauss Brewing's original Columbia Street brewery.  I did not attend the opening, but I sure went soon after it opened.  I remember it being quite the scene with a lot of people going after work and on weekends.  Those trips and Karl Strauss's beer started my love of craft beer.

We'd hit Karl Strauss for a few Amber Lagers and then head north a few blocks for some English/Irish beers at the then named Princess of Wales Pub.  I found the Karl Strauss beers superior to the harsh, metallic Harps at the less raucous pub.  But both far exceeded the endless pitchers of macro beer we drank at places out near SDSU.

Karl Strauss's Columbia brewery was not just a weekend stop for pints, it became a favorite for non-beer work lunches, even though I worked in Mission Valley, and a destination when family and friends visited San Diego.  I remember the beer battered fish and chips almost as much as the beer.  Trips to the brewery slowed over the years as other breweries opened, but the memories remain.

It is not a stretch to say Karl Strauss's Amber Lager was my formative craft beer.  It and Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale changed my beer drinking*.  Amber Lager had so much flavor without the hop bitterness of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, that I soon stopped drinking the bland Coors and Coors Light as much as I could. (My fondness for bitter hopped beers would come later.)  My search for other craft beers began, as Heineken, Harp, and other European beers that I thought offered superior flavor just did not compare to the ales being made by American craft brewers.

I am sure there are other San Diego craft beer drinkers that have similar experiences and fond memories of Karl Strauss's early days.  We are the craft beer drinker pioneers and we are indebted to Karl Strauss Brewing.  Beer drinkers today have an abundance of choices.  This was not the case thirty years ago when Karl Strauss opened a microbrew pub on a quiet street in a quiet part of a quiet downtown. Thanks Karl, and Cheers!

I had tried, and tried to like, Anchor Brewing's Steam Beer but I never acquired a taste for Steam.  To this day Steam is not my favorite beer.  I wonder if my craft beer conversion would have been faster if I had tried Anchor's Liberty Ale or its Porter before I tried Steam. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Downtown LA Breweries

Here is an LA Taco article about breweries in Downtown Los Angeles.  The article is about a small beer festival that featured seven breweries that are located in Downtown Los Angeles.  I am so San Diego-focused that I had not even heard of four of these breweries.  The article ends with this quote:

More than pouring great beer, these independent downtown L.A. breweries are telling the story of our city’s craft beer culture right now, while showing us that the future of L.A. brewing is here. 

It’s female, brown, ethnically diverse, locally loyal, fiercely independent, and better than anything, moving more and more beer drinkers away from conglomerates like Anheuser-Busche InBev, MillerCoors, and Constellation Brands.

Heck yes!  In addition to the breweries in the article, Downtown Los Angeles also is home to outposts for San Diego's Modern Times with its Dankness DOJO - and it is awesome - and a Karl Strauss restaurant. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Fingers Crossed

The West Coaster is reporting on Benchmark Brewing's Facebook post that the brewery is temporarily shut down due to its license being suspended by the ABC.  Let's hope that the shut down is temporary and Benchmark can get back open soon.  It has been a tough few months for this brewery.

UPDATE:  Benchmark has re-opened.  

Stone Brewing Solves Brut IPA Mystery

I have been underwhelmed by Brut IPAs.  The ones I have tasted have had an initial shot of hops that melt away to nothing - a puff of smoke in a glass.  I don't know how Stone Brewing managed to fix this Brut disappearance mystery, but it did in a big way with its Enjoy By 01.01.19 Brut IPA.  Maybe it was the 9.4% abv, but I am not complaining.  Whether it was the last Enjoy By of 2018, or the first of 2019, it was the best Brut IPA I have had - by far. 

Enjoy By 01.01.19 poured reddish orange with white foam.  The rich amber color, which was much darker than other wane Brut IPAs I have seen and tried, gave a prescient visual clue to the flavor that was to come, and the ripe aroma of pine was immediate upon popping the cap.  Enjoy By 01.01.19 Brut IPA was a soothing, resinous, bitter pine beer.  I did not note any significant malt sweetness - so this was no cloying DIPA - but the mouthful was big and full, so the malt was there.  The finish, yes, Enjoy By 01.01.19 had a finish; a long, hoppy finish, not the maddening wisp of pine or citrus like other Brut IPAs.  It had some of the dryness associated with the Brut IPA style, but I stayed focused on the beer's ability to stay present, which so many Brut IPAs lack.  If Stone swapped some of the style's dryness for flavor and finish, and frankly, some character, I am glad.

Before I had Stone Brewing's Enjoy By 01.01.19 Brut IPA I was ready to write-off Brut IPAs.  Stone redeemed this style with a stellar interpretation.  I am not convinced the Brut IPAs style will stick around, especially if brewers need to load the abv to over 9% just to get a flavor that does not immediately disappear.  If you are interested in Brut IPAs because you want a dry beer more than a bitter beer, you should seek out a saison.  You will not only get dryness, some saisons can be so dry as to make you choke, but have many other flavors as well, like exotic spices, fruits, and flowers. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Resilience IPA

Sierra Nevada's Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, brewed to help raise money the Camp Fire Relief Fund, is a great beer story.  If you don't know about it you can read this or this from Sierra Nevada, or this from USA Today.  Almost 1,500 breweries have signed up to brew their version of the Resilience IPA based on Sierra Nevada's recipe and contribute 100% of sales proceeds to the Camp Fire Relief Fund.  The campaign is on track to raise $15 million.  If you figure a $6 pint, that is 2,500,000 pints of Resilience IPA that are going to get sold.

You can find Resilience IPA all over the country using this map. It looks like there are dozens of participating breweries in San Diego County alone.  This is a heck of a commitment from all the craft breweries involved, which are donating time, materials, and resources, and then giving all proceeds to the the Camp Fire Relief Fund.  Each Resilience IPA is slightly different depending on available ingredients and brewing techniques.  Resilience IPA, no matter who brews it, is maltier than a typical IPA, and most should still be available.  I have tried ones from Pizza Port, Culture, and Mike Hess, all are good, and all slightly different,  I want to try more before the kegs are emptied. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Joyus Holiday Beer

Ah, the ghosts of Christmases Past.  I have not had a Belgian Christmas beer in a long time, and searching through old blog posts I found that I have not had St. Bernardus Christmas Ale since 2009.  I did not know when I finished the old post with "it's a Christmas beer I will be revisiting," that it would take nine years for me to come back to St. Bernardus Christmas Ale.  It should be an annual tradition to retry this masterpiece of a beer.

The beer poured a clear, dark mahogany, a color which leaned more towards red than brown.  It had a ring of cream colored foam that stayed to the edge of the class, and sparse, dripping lacing.  Christmas Ale's aroma was sweet and spicy with notes of dark berries and cherries.  When drinking Christmas Ale, I caught tastes of candied dark dried fruit, cherries, caramel, and molasses, which are many of the flavors that as an adult you associate with the holidays.  The sweetness was almost syrupy, but did not become cloying.  There were brief suggestions of cough syrup, but I found this as a positive feature that provided cover to mask the booze, and at a 10% abv Christmas Ale's alcohol stayed reserved and behaved.  For a high alcohol beer, it seemed light on the palate.  The carbonation was soft and helped smooth out the beer, which had a long, dessert-like finish.

Christmas Ale, in short, was a delight.  I had it in a small glass, which was just the right amount.  Slogging through a full-sized bottle, even if done over several hours, would have dulled the beer's brilliance.  In a year that saw so many bland hazy IPAs, Christmas Ale snapped me back to the realty of what real flavor and thought can to do in the hands of a master brewer.  Happy New Year!