Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Wet Season

It's the wet season, the shortest season of the year.  By wet, I mean wet hop.   This season lasts, in earnest, from about mid-September to the end of October.  Pumpkin beers are fine, although they are now rare, marzens are OK, and I like Festbiers, but to me the champion beer style of fall is wet hop IPA.  Two Saturdays ago Pizza Port released a canned wet hop IPA collaboration with Burgeon Beer Company, Nug-O-War.  The clear Pizza Port version of the Citra-hopped Nub-O-War is amazing.  It's is loaded with fresh hop taste and aroma, and it has a finish that lasts at least thirty minutes and cries at you for another taste of beer.  This beer is also on tap at Pizza Port Ocean Beach.  (Apparently, the Burgeon version is a hazy IPA, but I have not seen or tried it.)

Pizza Port Ocean Beach used to call its wet hop IPA Get Wet, but a year or two ago renamed it to Wet Lamborghini.  This magnificent fresh hop IPA is now on tap in Ocean Beach. To me, both names are kind of lame, but whether you call it Get Wet or Wet Lamborghini the beer is delicious, and it annually restores my faith in Mosaic hops.  I never know how long fresh hop IPAs will stay on tap, so visit Pizza Port often until Wet Lamborghini and other wet hop beers run out.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Magnolia Brewing Article

Here is an article that ran last month in the San Francisco Chronicle about the turnaround of Magnolia Brewing.  Magnolia filed for bankruptcy in 2015 and was sold to New Belgium Brewing in 2017.  Former Elysian Brewing founder Dick Cantwell is also a partner in the new Magnolia, but Magnolia founder David McLean is no longer involved with the brewery. Magnolia dates from the mid-1990s and I consider it a craft beer pioneer.  Its seven-barrel brewing system is in the basement below the Haight-Ashbury pub.

The article is primarily about Magnolia's revitalization and second location in the Dogpatch area.  The article provides a good summary of what is happening at Magnolia as a company and how it is revamping its beer line up and brewing process, which includes a 30-barrel system at the Dogpatch facility.  I have enjoyed several meals at Magnolia Pub in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, which is why I have an interest in what Magnolia is doing.  I am glad Magnolia was able to survive and am looking forward to going back to the Haight-Ashbury location and also visiting the Dogpatch location (the picture near the bottom of the article that shows a number of 20 oz pints on Dogpatch's beer list is incentive enough).

Monday, September 24, 2018

San Diego Brewers Score Big at GABF

Here from the West Coaster is a list of all the awards won by San Diego brewers at this year's Great American Beer Festival (GABF).  I need to get to Ocean Beach Brewery, which won a gold medal for its American-style pale ale and was named the year's Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year.  Congratulations to all the winners.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Metric Pils

I was in New York City last month and brought back several cans of beer.  I specifically wanted beers from New York City-area breweries.  One of the cans was a Metric Pils from Industrial Arts Brewing Company, a brewery I have not heard or read about.  The Metric Pils was excellent, a near perfect pilsner, or at least what I consider a perfect pilsner.  The yeast gave the bright yellow beer a classic crispness.  The 4.7% abv beer had a piquant grassy flavor, which made it refreshing and left me wanting more.  I am enjoying the current mini-revival of pilsners.   


Friday, September 7, 2018

DDB Mic Drop

Don't Drink Beer's deadeye skewers the current craft beer culture with this funny and true post on the ten beers today's fad chasing hazy beer and pasty stout drinkers won't drink.  And to confirm DDB's point, I was recently picking up dinner at a restaurant with a diverse tap list when I overheard a twenty something guy order whatever hazy IPA was available.  The restaurant had no hazy IPAs on tap and the guy chose to order nothing.  It did have a bunch of other solid beers on tap, including four or five lager and pilsner options!  Go hazy or go home.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Beer Literature - The Hidden Pull of Tasting Rooms

The following passage in Patrick Modiano's "In The Cafe Of Lost Youth" captures for me the essence of breweries and their tasting rooms:

I've always believed that certain places are like magnets and draw you towards them should you happen to walk within their radius.  And this occurs imperceptibly, without you even suspecting.  All it takes is a sloping street, a sunny sidewalk, or maybe a shady one.  Or perhaps a downpour.  And this leads you straight there, to the exact spot you're meant to wash up. 
I still feel drawn to brewery tasting rooms, even as I get older and customers in tasting rooms get younger.  Ocean Beach and Point Loma have numerous tasting rooms, and I am not going to critique each, but the one, for me, that closest matches the imperceptible lure, like certain Parisian Left Bank cafes had for Modiano, is Culture Brewing's tasting room on Newport Avenue.  I don't find Culture's beers the best, its staff, while pleasant enough, is not nicer or ruder than the staff in other tasting rooms, the standard whiff of ageism is there like in other tasting rooms, and the ever presence of dogs annoys me.  Still, Culture's tasting room is the spot where I am "meant to wash up."   Maybe it is because there is always local art on the walls.  Maybe it is because of the dark interior and the racks of beer aging in barrels that somehow seem to exude a calm on the room.  Maybe it is because the crowd is always mixed, whether it is groups of friends or someone having a beer alone.  Maybe it is because no one bothers anyone.  Maybe it is because it rarely feels hectic even when there is a large crowd.  Maybe it is because at Culture it is not uncommon to see someone reading a book or writing in a journal or notebook, and not lost in a phone screen.  I like that I can't exactly define why I find Culture's tasting room so inviting, and that is part of the inexplicable mystery of craft beer. 

Separately, In The Cafe Of Lost Youth opens discussing the cafes on and around Carrefour de l'Odeon in Paris, so, for me, the book had immediate resonance.  There used to be a rustic beer-centric cafe / bar on this small plaza, and I stopped there for a beer in the early '90s.  I didn't know much about beer then and I am sure I must have been intimidated by the selection. I imagine now that the beer list was full of Belgian beers, then strange and unknown to me.  I ordered a Newcastle Brown Ale, a safe beer I had heard of, which, looking back, is about as big a beer own goal as I have ever committed.  Modiano wrote about lost youth, but my Newkie Brown choice proved wasted youth.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Sad Story

Here is a West Coaster article on the closing of Monkey Paw Brewing in San Diego's East Village neighborhood.  I am not going to restate the article.  One point I was wondering about, which the article did not mention, was what, if any, impact did the 10 Barrel Brewing location have on the decision to close Monkey Paw.  The Monkey Paw closure seems like a story with multiple sides, but ultimately it is just a sad story. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Need Convincing

Are brut IPAs the next big style coming to craft beer?  Will they match current darlings, hazy IPAs, which have moved from fad to stalwart?   I am not convinced, based on my limited sample.  I tried a brut IPA at North Park Beer Co on Friday, and it hit the characteristics outlined in this Beth Demmon San Diego City Beat article from June.  All Of The Bubbles was dry, light, aromatic, and effervescent, and its hop bitterness and malt had been muted, presumably to make it easier to drink. Its hop aromatics were pleasant but did not translate into much on the palate.  In stripping All Of The Bubbles of any potential offensiveness, all character and flavor were squashed.  After the first taste that established the beer's dryness - and it has the dryness perfected - I could have been drinking seltzer water.

Brut IPA in foreground with Helles taster in background.

I am not sure of the appeal of this beer style or its target market.  It is going to bore beer drinkers that like hoppy IPAs, and it has less flavor for those attracted to bitter shunning hazy IPAs.  If its geared toward wine loving, professed IPA-haters who get dragged along to breweries, I think it is a tough sale. To me, a sour, a saison, or a wild ale is going to have more wine similarities and way more flavor than a brut IPA.  North Park had a Helles on tap that was outstanding and won't ever be confused with an IPA.  It was light and crisp with hints of yeasty dough, and it had no marked bitterness, a real anti-IPA.

My biggest gripe with brut IPAs is that their model, brut champagnes or sparkling wines, are packed with flavor.  A good brut is dry, almost astringent if done right, but a good brut also has a sweetness behind the bubbles that elevates the grapes and provides a long finish.  This extra layer of depth where the dryness mixes with the sugars and grapes is missing from the brut IPA.  If brut IPAs are just dry for the sake of being dry, and don't promote any secondary characteristics or complexity, they'll be a short-lived fad.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Quick Tasters

Like a flight of tasters at a brewery - which I hope are not as annoying as when the person in front of you orders a flight of tasters when all you want is a pint - the following are some news bits I found interesting the past few weeks:

ChuckAlek Closes:  After announcing in May that its owners were moving to Colorado, but that the brewery would continue, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers decided to close shop by the end of July, with its North Park Biergarten staying open until September.   I enjoyed the beers I tried from this small Ramona brewery, but have not seen any in Ocean Beach for a few years.   ChuckAlek experimented with old styles and did not adhere to the IPA trend.  In retrospect, this may not have been the best decision.

Smoking Too Much Weed:  Helm's Brewery's Ocean Beach tasting room occupies the most visible corner of any of the Ocean Beach satellite tasting rooms - and it is always the least crowded.  How could that happen?  Well, as this blog as stated many times, brew good beer and people will come; and the occupancy of Helm's tasting room is a testament to its beer.  According to The West Coaster, Helms was acquired by a Las Vegas investment firm earlier this year and the plan is to transition Helm's brewing operation into that of larger cannabis-infused Two Roots Brewing.  OK.  What could go wrong taking a sub-par brewery and turning it into some kind of pot-based brewery?   I know I'm too old, but this idea has zero appeal for me. The concept seems more gross than it does weird.  Craft beer is not at the point where it needs to resort to dope beers to attract customers.  Brew good beer.

Impressive Turnarounds:  I liked this West Coaster article on five "impressive turnarounds."  With the news of ChuckAlek's demise, followed by the news of Intergalactic Brewing impending closure, it was good to read positive stories of brewers improving.  The beers I have tried from Thorn Street and Novo Brazil are proof enough to me that these breweries are navigating a competitive environment.  More anecdotal proof is that my hazy beer loving brother texted me raving about one of Novo Brazil's hazy IPAs he had found in Northern California.   I need more stories like this.

The Baudelaire's Still Got It:  I had this floral wonder from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales a few years ago and loved it. I bought a bottle sometime last year, or maybe in 2016, I don't remember, and put it in the back of my closet and forgot about it until a few weeks ago.  I put it in the beer fridge and had it last weekend.  Baudelaire iO Saison is as sublime a beer as I will ever drink.  It's a true joy.

Mikkeller Little Italy:  Mikkeller is opening its Little Italy tasting room on August 4th. It is located at 2021 India Street.  Like anywhere in Little Italy, parking will be a battle.  I plan to try and visit for 'to go' beer when it's not so crowded in Little Italy, although I am not sure that this is even possible anymore.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Catch The Nami Wave

Before I start writing about Nami, I have to mention its can artwork.  Nami's design is inspired by The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hoksusai, which was one of a series of thirty-six woodcraft prints of Mt. Fuji.   The ingenious designers at Pizza Port and Pure Project were able to capture the entire print on each can, and if placed right can be seen across the span of three cans.  The picture below is from the Pizza Port website:


Craft breweries' move to cans rather than bottles has brought some great design, and the Nami cans are some of the most stunning I have seen.  Of course, you should not judge a beer by the quality of its can art.  Thankfully the beer in the Nami can matches its wrapper.

Nami is a 6.8% abv IPA that is a collaboration between Pizza Port and Pure Project.  I do not usually pay too much attention to a beer's aroma, mostly because my sense of smell is not that reliable, but I did catch peach and melon when I poured Nami.  It is a bright yellow beer that seemed almost to glow.  I was expecting a cloudy beer, like all the ones I have seen on Pure Project's Instagram page, but Nami was clear (in the picture below there is condensation on the glass that makes it look less clear than it really is), and the beer is capped by a tall, meringue-like white foam.  I thought Nami looked more like a pilsner than an IPA.  


On the first drink, the soft smells of peach and melon give way to a tsunami of bitterness from the Citra and Wiamea hops.  The long-lasting back-of-the-mouth bitterness was consistent throughout, even after Nami opened up and began to smooth, but it never became annoying or tiring.  Nami is a treat; drinkable and delicious.  A properly bitter IPA may seem like a throwback or anachronistic, but to me it is reassuring, an affirmation of the flavors that are the foundation of craft beer.  I don't know the extent of Nami's distribution, but it is worth seeking out.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Stone Brewing To Release a Hazy IPA

I saw on Stone Brewing's Instagram account yesterday that it plans to release a hazy IPA, or New England IPA, if you prefer.  The beer is Fear.Movie.Lions Double IPA, and is set for summer can distribution.  I am glad Stone is releasing a hazy IPA.  It has released some unfiltered IPAs, but I am not aware of a specific hazy IPA before Fear.Movie.Lions Double IPA.  The hazy IPA style is new and trendy, and some breweries have avoided this style.  I like hazy IPAs, in general, but have found them either stellar or just mediocre.  The hazy IPAs from Modern Times have intense flavors, but too many hazy IPAs from other breweries I have tried were bland and muted.  I have not tried a truly bad hazy IPA, but too many are dull, lacking distinction and bitterness, and in some cases even much of the characteristic fruit juice flavors.  In short, I have found that when a hazy IPA is good, it is really good, and when it's not good, it is just tasteless and boring.  Because of this style's hit or mediocrity, I am looking forward to Stone's interpretation, expecting aggressive hops to run with the typical juicy flavor.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Rouleur Coaster and a Podcast Plug

I may or may not have a more comprehensive future post on beer podcasts, but locally I like San Diego Beer Talk Radio.  It's a weekly podcast that "drops" Monday mornings and each episode is about two hours in length.  Most episodes have an interview with a local brewer as well as a beer news recap.  I have been listening for about seven months, and a few brewer interviews stick out, including the Green Flash/Alpine episode and one with Dr. Bill Sysak's Wild Barrel BrewingAnother worthy episode last fall highlighted Rawley Macias's Carlsbad-based Rouleur Brewing Company, which is now celebrating its one-year anniversary. The episode detailed Rouleur's travails and triumphs as it struggled with the Brewey Igniter space in Carlsbad.  What came through to me in the interview, besides Macias's honesty and frustration with Brewery Igniter, was his optimism and commitment to making good beer.

There are many new breweries in San Diego, and while I want to try their beers, I usually don't go out of my way to search for their beers.  After hearing the podcast, Rouleur is one new brewery whose beers I want to try.  I rarely make it to Carlsbad, so a trip to Rouleur's tasting room is unlikely.  I have searched tap rooms in and around the Ocean Beach and Point Loma area, as well as other mid-San Diego locations, but have not seen any Rouleur beers on tap.  I want to try its Puncheur pale ale, Dopeur hazy IPA, and its Belgian Golden Strong Ale, so I either need to find a reason to get to Carlsbad or I need to find some Rouleur draft accounts in central San Diego

Rouleur has a good profile in the latest San Diego Magazine.  And after I started this post, I learned that Rouleur earned a World Beer Cup bronze medal for its Domestique Belgian Blond Ale, so I have another beer to try and another excuse to get to Carlsbad. 

(One bizarre San Diego Beer Talk episode profiled another new hard to pronounce North County brewery, Ebullition Brew Works.  Its owners sounded more suited to opening a pot dispensary than a brewery, but at least I learned in stoner-level detail that Ebullition has really far out, hand turned wood tap handles.)