Friday, February 5, 2021

Breweryless La Jolla

I drove around downtown La Jolla last night and saw that Karl Strauss has closed its space, and that CAVU Brewing is closed, too. There is a big For Rent banner flying in front of CAVU and legal notices posted on the door. It is kind of a bummer that La Jolla has lost its two breweries. I know La Jolla's "Village" is not, and has never been, a San Diego craft beer destination - breakfast is where La Jolla shines. Still, it is depressing and sad that there are no breweries in downtown La Jolla at all anymore. The one bit of good news is that Public House La Jolla is still open and looks like it is doing solid business. Public House has a great selection of draft and bottled beer, including a fine selection of Belgian beers.

It always amazes me how dead quiet downtown La Jolla is at night, especially given that so many people live in or within easy walking distance of La Jolla Village. La Jolla's sparse nightlife was true before COVID-19. (The Beer Rovette and I made an early evening stop into Karl Strauss in the fall of 2019 and there were like seven patrons there, including us, and given the time of day and staff on hand it was not just an off night.) The same few of places always seem busy - like Taco Shop and Puesto - while others languish, waiting for guests that never arrive. I don't expect another brewery or tasing room to open in La Jolla anytime soon.

(In addition to the Karl Strauss and CAVU locations, there is a large number of empty business space in La Jolla. I don't know the full reason why, but I suspect a combination of COVID-19 and rent increases. I fail to see who benefits if landlords keep raising rents to a point that tenants are forced to leave, but then landlords can't re-lease the space because the rent is too high. Businesses are disrupted and landlords get no rental income. Long-term vacancies are a community blight and feed a decline. The City should impose some kind of vacancy tax to incentivize landlords to get space leased.)

Monday, January 25, 2021

Beer in Literature - Brewing

Here is another of my periodic posts of passages from books I read that mention beer in interesting ways. The passage below is from 1926's Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner and describes a girl's memory of visiting her father's brewery:

"She always had a taste for botany, she had also inherited a fancy for brewing. One of her earliest pleasures had been to go with Everard (her father) to the brewery and look into the great vats while he, holding her firmly with his left hand, with his right plunged a long stick through the clotted froth which, working and murmuring, gradually gave way until far below through the tumbling, dissolving rent the beer was disclosed."

It is a rare cold, rainy, and windy day in San Diego, which makes the thought of a beer with "clotted froth" giving way and "tumbling, dissolving" to reveal a pint of stout or porter sound pretty good.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Jolly & Joyful

The Hop Concept put out a Holiday IPA called Jolly & Joyful late last year. I heard positive comments about it on the Beer Night In San Diego podcast in mid-December, and then a few days later I saw and bought a four-pack of it in Trader Joe's. I have not seen it anywhere since. After drinking this beer I know why it disappeared fast. It is not a Holiday beer packed with exotic spices or candied fruit, but a West Coast IPA. It is a beer of Christmas past because of its classic IPA hops of Amarillo, Centennial, and Cascade. I found Jolly & Joyful a malty IPA, which is good for a winter beer. It is West Coast bitter, but not to excess, and I appreciated its back of the throat earthiness. Jolly & Joyful does have some mild spiciness, but it comes from the hops not any additives. It has a quiet 7.2% abv. I would have liked another four-pack or two of this beer, but I guess it is something to look forward to next Holiday season.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Positive Notes

Last week saw some scary scenes in this country. To offset this, I found some solace in good news from local beer. Stone Brewing is releasing its Neverending Haze IPA in 16 oz four packs. Now, let's see Stone IPA sold in the same packaging. In addition, Stone announced that its Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA is back. This is a double IPA with its 8.7% abv. This is being released in 12 oz bottle six-packs and 22 oz bomber bottles (hurrah!). Sublimely is/was one of the best black IPAs. I have noticed recent chatter on Twitter about black IPAs and I am OK with a mini-renaissance for this style.

Societe Brewing has re-released its Agreeable Folk IPA, which was first released last April. I had speculated that Societe would have brewed a fourth special release IPA. I got the release right but the beer wrong. Societe did release a quarterly specialty beer, but it re-brewed Agreeable Folk and not a new beer. No complaints about that. For those keeping time, this is Societe's fourth quarterly special release IPA in the time of COVID. (I know Societe has brewed and canned other non-core special beers during COVID, like its Bachelor single hop IPAs, but I am referencing the Agreeable Folk, Good for the Public, and World of Wonder line of IPAs.)

Finally, I see that work is underway at California Wild Ale's new Ocean Beach tasting room in the former Two Roots/Helm's Brewing space, and at the new Harland Brewing tasting room in the former Benchmark space in Bay Park. 

Friday, January 8, 2021


I re-read my previous post this morning, and in reading it I noticed I wrote about The Bruery in the past tense. The Bruery is still operating and cranking out beers. It even has a separate line, Offshoot Beer Co, which makes a number of canned IPAs that are distributed in a wider range than The Bruery's 750 ml bottles and its 16 oz cans. My Bruery drinking may be in the past tense, but The Bruery is present tense. In looking through the beers on its website, The Bruery's canned Ruekeller Helles sure looks good. According to The Bruery's website, I can find a four-pack of this at BevMo in La Jolla. 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Epic Bruery Post

What did you do during lockdown? Here is an amazing post from Kaedrin Beer Blog that consists of reviews and commentary on forty-three(!) beers from The Bruery. Most of the beers are big Bruery beers with abvs of 10% of more. My stomach ached just reading the post. It must have taken weeks, if not months, to slog through so many monster beers. Respect.

I searched through this blog's old posts looking for The Bruery's beers. I had forgotten how many posts I wrote about The Bruery's and its beers. I was a fan of this upstart brewery that brewed Belgian beers and no IPAs. As The Bruery moved to more and more exotic beers and barrel aged beers and beers above 10%, my interest waned. The Bruery's sale to private equity firm in 2017 did not thrill me either. One thing I liked about The Bruery was that its beers, to me, either hit big or missed big; I can't think of one beer that seemed ho-hum. Reading through the old posts brought back good beer memories: Mischief, Saison de Lente, Loakal Red, Humulus Lager, Trade Winds Tripel, and Saison Tonnellerie to name some of The Bruery beers I liked and wrote about. Good times. 

I still have one of The Bruery's holiday beers from its twelve-year, Twelve Days of Christmas series. I am not ashamed to admit I struggled to get through this series. The beer is Ten Lords a Leaping (I told you I struggled through these beers), and I should do some lockdown beer fridge cleaning and get to drinking this beer.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Beer in Literature - Restorative Porter

I post occasional references to beer I find in books I read. The older I get, the more I like Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I don't read it every year, but watch various versions on TV and listen to Neil Gaiman's abridged audio version. This year, I caught this passage from when Scrooge is with the Ghost of Christmas Past:

When this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, "Well done!" and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose. But, scorning rest upon his reappearance, he instantly began again, though there were no dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home, exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a bran-new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish.

Who among us has not felt the restorative power of a face plunge into a pot of porter! 

Fiddler and his pot of porter overlooking the Fizziwigs' Christmas Party
Photo from

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Recap - Part 2

Other beer highlights from 2020 included everything I tried from Eppig. Its Fiestbeer, klosch, special lager, and IPAs all shined. My favorite through, from early in the year when you could visit its tasting room without rules, was Eppig's 7.0% Export Stout. No frills, no additives, no nonsense, just a straight up incredible stout (and I have no picture!). 

Other memorable beers included Rouleur Brewing's Endo IPA, Hop Concept's India Pale Ale, and Pure Brewing's Pilsner. I enjoyed Stone Brewing's 24th Anniversary Ale, too. I am sure there are more I forgot, but for such a trying year, breweries were able to put out some great beers.


2020 was a weird, awful year and I am glad it is over. There were some bright spots, and I want to highlight a few breweries that adapted to 2020's realities. These are in no particular order, not exhaustive, and are based on my limited look and exposure to San Diego craft beer. My apologies for any oversight or omission, of which I am sure there are many.

AleSmith Brewing Company. AleSmith reintroduced its IPA in 16 oz cans and this beer is great. AleSmith updated the beer's hop mix, adding in some Citra. This is a classic West Coast IPA. AleSmith also released AleSmith For Hope hazy IPA, the proceeds of which go to frontline workers and their families. AleSmith has been outstanding since its formation. It is no surprise it managed to stand out during a pandemic but found a way to gave back, too. 

Societie Brewing. I, like many, worried about Societie's future when co-founder and brewer Travis Smith departed in early 2019. Misspent worry; Societie thrived. Its canned beers and beers for draft are distributed throughout San Diego and beyond. Best of all its beers remain excellent. The standard, year-round beers like Pupil and Harlot excel, but Societie has outdone itself with its canned special releases like Agreeable Folk and World of Wonders, and single hop releases like its Motueka IPA. 

Pizza Port. In addition to a dealing with a disjointed brewing schedule due to COVID-19, Pizza Port had to operate a number of popular restaurants on an off, then on, then sort of on schedule, over the past nine months. Pizza Port's restaurants persevered, and its brewing not only kept up with demand, but Pizza Port managed to release multiple special releases and collaborations, most of which were fantastic IPAs. I have discussed these IPAs before, but beers like Campgrounds or Secret Swami's made stay-at-home/drink-at-home easier.

Mike Hess Brewing. My COVID-19 lifeline. As soon as COVID-19 hit, Mike Hess started a promotion of any beer in a 32 oz mini growler for $5. While other breweries abandoned Ocean Beach, Mike Hess stayed open, stayed safe, adhered to rules, and looked after its patrons and community. Oh, and its Single Fin hazy IPA is a great, everyday beer. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Never Grows Old

I know I have posted about Stone Brewing's Enjoy By before. But I think Stone tweaks Enjoy By's recipe for each release so periodic notices are appropriate. Each version I have tried has been outstanding. Enjoy By 01.01.21 is no different. I know I have stated this this before, too, but I am not aware of any brewery that consistently makes big IPAs (more than 8% abv) as well as Stone. I am not sure how it manages to hide the booze and balance the hops and malt, but it does. I have a second 01.01.21 in the beer fridge to enjoy sometime over the next week. I am glad Stone still sells this in 22 oz bombers, it is really the ideal size for this beer.  

Friday, December 11, 2020

Sign of Hope?

Sometimes a story ends with a return to its beginning. Con Pane Rustic Breads and Cafe, which closed without warning in January, is reopening today. The sudden closure of the Point Loma landmark stunned its patrons, and in retrospect, served as a flashing red light for a horrible 2020. Let's hope its reopening late in the year is the symbolic end to 2020 and a harbinger for a better 2021.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Marking Time

I am starting to mark time under COVID-19 by counting Societe Brewing's special IPA releases. We are now three special releases into COVID-19. Back in April or May Societe released Agreeable Folk (which had a second run around Memorial Day). Then in July or August Societe released Good of the Public, and in October or early November it released World of Wonder. (The release dates are approximate because I gauge the time by when I see the beers show up in stores not when brewed.)

All three beers are West Coast IPAs, a style I have found reassuring since the onset of COVID. Besides their consistent great taste, the three beers' abvs come in around 6.5%, approximately 1% lower than Societe's flagship The Pupil IPA's 7.5% abv. I don't know this for sure, but I imagine there will be a fourth special release sometime early in 2021, and I further imagine we'll still be under some kind of COVID restrictions when it is released. I further further imagine restrictions in place when 2021 versions of Agreeable Folk and Good of the Public return, putting the COVID calendar marker at six special releases. I am not letting my brain absorb the thought of COVID past six special releases (summer 2021).

It is hard to predict what the craft beer industry will look like post-COVID. The business has suffered upheaval over the last eight months and I don't expect a return to business as usual. The impromptu outdoor spaces are not going away, that's for sure, and canned beer will continue and other distribution mechanisms will stay in place. I suspect the new normal will take months to arrive, as restrictions get lifted over time - there won't be some magic date when all of a sudden COVID ends - and breweries will act with caution (I hope) to get back to full operations. Breweries that have avoided adaptation to COVID realities, and are trying to hold on until life is "back to normal," will struggle post-COVID.

In the meantime, I will continue to stay at home, wear my mask, seek four packs of World of Wonder, and mark time with what ever special IPA Societe decides to share with us.