Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Two Turtle Doves

I had a bottle of The Bruery's Two Turtle Doves as a post-Christmas restorative. Two Turtle Doves, a Belgian-style quadruple ale, was full of flavor and complexity. This beer was like a Russian Nesting Doll (or Matryoshka doll), it kept opening new flavors and changing character over the nearly four hours I spent drinking the bottle. By the end, it did not even taste like the same beer I had started.

Two Turtle Doves poured a dark, deep brown, almost black, with a moderate, sand-colored foam that quickly dissipated. The abv was a whopping 12.5%, and it had a full mouthful to match its massive abv. The alcohol, while present throughout, was restrained and lingered in the background, which was amazing given such a high abv. The first few drinks were sweet and tasted of chocolate, and it immediately struck me as a dessert beer. As it warmed, the chocolate subsided and the taste of dark berries emerged, and Two Turtle Doves showed its quad qualities. After several hours, and as I approached the bottom of the bottle, the roasted pecans made their grand entrance. Their presence at the finish was so pronounced that I found it hard to believe I did not detect them earlier. The malt was present throughout and the beer was bitter early, although I am not sure whether the bitterness was from hops or the chocolate, the bitterness waned as ale warmed.

This was the first time I was able to discern all the ingredients in a The Bruery beer. It took me several hours to finally taste them all. Taking this long to drink this mammoth beer helped nullify the 12.5% abv. This beer was better when left out to warm towards room temperature, and it tasted better by itself than with food. This is the second of The Bruery's planned twelve-beer series based on the Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas. I wanted to like last year's first offering, Partridge in a Pear Tree, more than I did. The same cannot be said of Two Turtle Doves, as this was an excellent beer.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Starting To Taste A Lot Like Christmas

It's not Christmas without Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jubelale - A Two Year Tradition

I had my first Deschutes Jubelale last year and made a note that along with Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale, it would be an annual must-drink Christmas beer. Jubelale is malty with mild spices and a decent hop bitterness. It pours a deep amber and its foam is the color of coffee with too much cream. Jubelale is approachable and not overpowering, you won't be searching for arcane flavors you won't be able to detect. It is a Christmas beer for the non-beer geek. This is by no means taking anything away from Jubelale, in fact it's a compliment. Some Christmas beers get too tedious with excessive spices other added ingredients making them a drink-alone (i.e. no food) contemplative beer. This is OK, but sometimes you want a winter beer where you don't have to think through every sip.

A neat thing about Jubelale is its bottle artwork. It changes every year and is always created by an Oregon artist. As you can see in the picture I lifted from Deschutes' website, this year's art evokes the holiday season with the Oregon sun breaking through a snow covered forest. Jubeale is an excellent way to enjoy the season as it is good with food or by itself.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

OB Pizza Port Update

Here is an updated picture of the under construction Pizza Port in San Diego's Ocean Beach. As you can see, it is still in the early stages of being built. It looks like it could be two stories, at least partially, and I am guessing any second floor will primarily be a deck. I don't think this location will be ready anytime before March or April. I am still hoping that this brewpub will have a family-friendly atmosphere, or at least one that does not turn off families like some other Ocean Beach restaurants with good beer. Heck, I'm a dad and if it's too barry and loaded with OB heat bags, I'll be relegated to slamming a beer waiting for take-out, which is no way to enjoy a good beer.

The sit down, family-acceptable pizza restaurants in Ocean Beach / Point Loma include Oggi's that has decent pizza but the beer stinks, The Venetian that has awesome pizza and an awful beer selection and The Old Venice that has awesome pizza and an awful beer selection. Pizza Nova is a non-starter on pizza and beer despite high marks for family friendliness, and while the beer selection at Newport Alehouse & Pizza is outstanding and the pizza decent, it is no place to bring the kids. Sometimes life calls for a good pizza and good beer, and I am hoping that the Ocean Beach Pizza Port will answer this call.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Good Beer Read

I bought Tim Webb's Good Beer Guide Belgium while shopping on Amazon. I ordered and then intercepted my own Christmas present. This book is more comprehensive than I was expecting. It goes into depth about Belgian history, beer styles, glassware, food, culture and more before it even starts its main focus, which is a travel guide. Belgian has several languages, and its culture (and beer) is influenced, in part, by its neighbors, France, Netherlands and Germany. The best beer area, from what I have gathered so far, is the northern area between France and Netherlands, including the cities Burges, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels.

The book covers breweries, brewpubs and cafes. It also discusses major cities and towns. It is as complete a beer travel guide as your going to find. It is also full of wonderful pictures, so even if you not traveling to Belgium (which I won't be doing anytime soon) you can visit vicariously.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Nelson In The Bottle

I felt like Bart Simpson. I started calling the closest of the small group of stores that sell Alpine Brewing's beer when I received Alpine's email late last summer announcing that it was going to start bottling and distributing its Nelson and Duet IPAs. "Do you have Nelson in the bottle?" I would ask. The calls were met with the inevitable and hesitant, "What?," as the person answering the phone was probably waiting for me to tell them, if they said "yes," to let Nelson out of his bottle. After I got past the awkward exchanges I found out that none of the stores I was calling had received any Nelson. I eventually stopped calling.

Wednesday I was grocery shopping at Windmill Farms and saw an empty slot labeled "Nelson" in the beer fridge. I asked a guy working if there was any in the back. He went to check, and to my surprise, out he came with a box full of Nelson. I picked up two and had one tonight.

Nelson is a great IPA (initially described here). Dave over at The Drunken Polack just ranked it as his number three IPA/DIPA. Its rye and Sauvin hops give it a distinct flavor that sets it apart from other IPAs. Nelson's taste is piney brilliance. It has the sharp hop bite of all great IPAs, but it's not overwhelming and it's a very drinkable beer. Your tongue does not get fatigued drinking it, but you know you're drinking an IPA. If Nelson has one weakness, it's that its mouthful could be more robust, but this is like complaining about a small mole on a super model. Most important, Nelson has lost nothing in its transition to to the bottle.

"We're All Frauds"

This is a great post from The Vice Blog. It describes the difficulty in capturing the essence of a great beer and the limitations of the boring, repetitive adjectives used by bloggers and beer reviewers to describe most beers. (Crappy beers are easy to bash.) As The Vice Blog says, a big part of a great beer memory is the experience drinking the beer, which can make a good beer great. It is odd how this can experience can stay buried in your subconscious. To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, it may be hard to describe a great beer, but I know one when I drink it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Catchup Post

I've been slacking on the posts for the past two weeks. Here is a quick catch up post, more pictures than text. On Thanksgiving we shared a few beers from the Pacific Northwest. I finally was able to try two beers from Ninkasi Brewing Company, out of Eugene, Oregon. It's a brewer I have heard good things about and its beers did not disappoint. We tried its Believer Double Red Ale and its Tricerahops Double IPA. Both beers seemed balanced and were not over the top, like some imperial ales. Elysian's The Immortal IPA proved once again that it is mortal.

I find Thanksgiving impossible to pair with wine or beer. There are just too many flavors and too many starches. A good Cabernet goes a long way, and I guess a big Zinfandel would probably work, too, since it is such an American wine, although I've never tried it with Thanksgiving. Over the years my beer choices have not matched the dinner. IPAs and the Belgians I've tried seemed to either get lost or brought in too many contrasting flavors. I need a beer that's an enhancer, not a fighter. This year I tried Brasserie Dupont's Bons Voeux, and it held its own, but still not as good as a big red wine. I am undeterred and will keep trying to find a beer that will enhance a Thanksgiving feast. Next year, maybe a Belgian quad....

Corvette Diner, the nosiest restaurant in San Diego (do all the patrons really need to hear music from the 50s and 60s at a level were even basic conversation is impossible?), is now serving Stone IPA. Now you can get a decent beer to ease your headache when eating at this disaster of a San Diego icon.

The two champagne flutes - er beer flutes - were at La Gran Tapa in downtown San Diego. The picture is a Firehouse Hefeweizen and a Stone Pale Ale. At least the small beers were only $2 and $3, respectively, but $2 may have been too much for the Firehouse Hefe.

The last picture is Sam Adams Winter Lager. This is a nice, spicy beer, and was much better than I was expecting. It is drinkable, yet complex enough to get your attention.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Avec les Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont

The name is translated to "With the best wishes of the brewery Dupont." Brasserie Dupont started brewing this beer as a holiday gift for its best clients. I would therefore consider it a Christmas beer, although I am not sure Brasserie Dupont considers it as such. I bought Bons Voeux as a Christmas beer, and shared a bottle this evening as a prelude to tomorrow's Thanksgiving food and beer extravaganza. Knowing what the name means, I am glad I picked it up, and think it is an appropriate beer to have for Thanksgiving.

Brasserie Dupont brews the benchmark saison, the eponymous Saison Dupont. Bons Voeux is a saison as well, and because Brasserie Dupont brews the world's foremost saison and created Bons Voeux for its best customers, you'd think that Bons Voeux would be a special beer. It is. Bons Voeux is more aggressive than the elegant Saison Dupont. It is an unfiltered beer that pours a cloudy, dark orange with loads of carbonation. The foam is thick and has a long retention, lasting all the way down the glass. Bons Voeux has distinct flavors of spices, yeast and fruit. It is a dry beer. The fruity characteristics give way to a long, bitter finish. There is great balance in the beer and it has a solid mouthful. While its 9.5% alcohol is not hidden, it does not dominate the flavor either, which is good. Whether you view this as a Christmas beer or not, Bons Voeux is well worth finding.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Alpine Duet - Pine or Citrus?

Alpine expanded its bottled beers this fall and now offers Duet and Nelson in the bottle. I picked up two bottles of Duet over the past week at Olive Tree Market (which was recently added to the select list of stores that sell Alpine beers). On draft, Alpine's Duet IPA is an amazing beer, but I was not too impressed with the first bottle I tried late last week. Its taste did not match my recollection of the draft version. I came away more impressed after having the second bottle last night and realize this is a superb IPA.

I thought Duet a piney IPA, but it's strange how perceptions vary, as the Beer Rovette tasted heavy citrus. As these are two prominent flavor profiles of an IPA, one of us is right. I checked BeerAdvocate's reviews, and citrus seems the flavor everyone associates with Duet. I obviously need another bottle to hone my palate. The sharp, piney (citrus?) taste took me off guard on the first bottle. But during the second bottle I came to really like the bitter, woodsy taste. I was impressed with Duet's meatiness, I felt like I could almost chew it. The full mouthful was appropriate for Duet's level hops and malt. I've had several weak mouthed beers lately and it was good to get a beer that stood up for itself. Duet is a unique beer that won't leave you struggling to discern small differences between it and other IPAs.

Monday, November 23, 2009

St Bernardus Christmas Ale

The St Bernardus Christmas Ale is a great holiday beer. It is big, malty and spicy. It has a full mouthful that matches the beer's dark appearance. It is perfect for cool winter nights. I knocked off a bottle figuring out a Thanksgiving menu and shopping list. There is good carbonation to the beer and the thick foam is a cream color. The beer is dark, with an appearance that leans towards a reddish brown. The color is the least appealing feature of the beer, as the opaque brown hue gives it a muddy look. The spices give Christmas Ale a rich flavor. The alcohol, at 10% abv, is disguised in all the spices, but provides the beer's warmth. Most important, Christmas Ale is drinkable. It is a Christmas beer I will be revisiting.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More Birthday Haul

I mentioned the beers I received last summer for my birthday here. I had the second of four last week. It was The Bruery's Orchard White. This is a super carbonated wheat beer. Most wheat beers are subtle, but not Orchard White. The Bruery does not do subtle. This is a spicy, yeasty beer - a wit on steroids. The beer has plenty of flavors, with The Bruery stating that it is brewed with coriander, citrus peel and lavender. I could not detect the individual flavors other than to appreciate a wide range of tastes. I did notice that this is a dry beer. Its alcohol is less than 7%, so it's not a boozy beer. This is a great beer for people that think wheat beers are soft and mellow. It might change your perception of wheat beers. There are plenty of flavors to keep you occupied while drinking it, but "soft" and "mellow" are not two adjectives that can be used to describe The Bruery's Orchard White.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ballast Point at Newport Pizza & Alehouse - 2 1/8 Beer Week Events

The final Beer Week event I went to was the Ballast Point night at the Newport Pizza & Alehouse in Ocean Beach. For me this was about an eighth of an event because I went there under the guise of picking up a pizza, and I just tasted a beer and got out when my pizza was ready. It was packed, more bar scene than pizza joint. The only Ballast Point people I saw were its Bagpipe Band, and they were chowing on pizza and drinking beer. I tasted a Sculpin while I waited for my pizza and went home. (I read somewhere that Newport's pizza was up for best pizza in San Diego. No way. Not a bad pizza, but no where near the best in San Diego.)

So for Beer Week I went to one event that I'd call a real "beer" event where I met Anchor's Fritz Maytag, and two lesser events. It looked like there were many excellent events and I hope Beer Week was successful enough that it's repeated next year. I'm glad I participated, even in my small way.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Liking the Linkery

When reading the daily list of Beer Week events, I saw that on Friday The Linkery had a Beer Week special where you got two tacos and a half-pint of cask beer for $10. Not the deal of the century, but not bad. The Beer Rovette was up for lunch and off The Linkery we went. It was our first time back to The Linkery since I wrote this post. Since my last trip to The Linkery I have figured out its 18% automatic gratuity and did not tack on additional 20%-plus to my bill this time. (Funny how when you feel you paid too much for a meal can impact an impression, even when the food was excellent.) Everything was superb.

We ordered the cask version of Stone's Runiation (on right) and Ballast Point's Sculpin. I am not the biggest fan of cask beer, as past cask beers I have tried were too muted when compared to the non-cask versions. I know this is not a purist's attitude but it's how I feel, or how I felt. There was noting muted in the Ruination, as it was bitter up front and stayed through the finish. It lacked the sweetness and balance of the non-cask version and the overall impression was that the beer was off. Sculpin was amazing. It was creamy and the hops and malt were in perfect tandem. This was the best cask beer I have ever tasted. Like Runiation, there was nothing muted in Sculpin's taste. This version of Sculpin is why people rave about cask beer and gave me a new appreciation of cask beer.

I mentioned in my initial post that if I could create a restaurant it would be like The Linkery. This view was reinforced after lunch. No item is overlooked, even table salt, where two types of sea salt - white and gray - are offered. We had andouille sausage and portobello mushroom tacos to go with the two half-pints. The tacos were excellent, and I think I liked the mushroom taco more than the sausage taco, and I love sausage. The side dish was a bean salad on a bed of greens, it was great, too. We tried to figure out what was in it and were amazed at how fine the ingredients, including peppers and onions, had been chopped. To me it was just another attention to detail by chefs that care about the food. It's annoying when cooks rough cut vegetables, it shows a laziness that generally translates to taste.

It's questionable whether the lunch was really a Beer Week event - no brewers or brewery representatives - but I will count it as one. The excuse of Beer Week got me me to visit, which was the whole point of Beer Week. I suspect it will be less than a year before I go back to The Linkery.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Beer Week Aside

After I told Fritz Maytag my story about Anchor Steam being my first craft beer, I struck up a conversation with guy who turned out to be Rick Chapman, the President of Coronado Brewing. Coronado Brewing is a brewpub on Coronado and bottles several of its beers. I told him that I liked his beers, which is true, and that my family had been to his restaurant in September and enjoyed ourselves. He was unpretentious and seemed like a regular guy. For some reason I did not blog about our Sunday lunch at Coronado Brewing, but it was a good time. The portions are huge and the food was good and reasonably priced. The picture is from our lunch and is Coronado's Idiot IPA, an excellent double IPA.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Anchor and SDBW

The first "micro brewed" beer I ever had was Anchor's Steam beer. It must have been in the early 80s when I was still in high school. My sister bought it for me when we were shopping at Corti Brothers' market in Sacramento. I hated it, but it made me realize that there was more to beer than Budweiser or Coors. Back then, outside of Anchor, it seemed like the only exotic beers were European beers, and in particular German beers. The world of craft beers has seen dramatic growth since the early 80s and America now leads the world in beer creativity, and Belgium has eclipsed Germany as the foreign beer of choice.

The funny thing is that even as my beer palate has expanded over the years, I still don't like Anchor's Steam beer. I guess persistence pays off, because I did not get discouraged and kept trying new beers despite an inauspicious start with Steam. ( I like other Anchor beers, just not Steam.)

I saw that Anchor's Fritz Maytag, the godfather of craft beer, was going to be at the Toronado on Thursday night as part of San Diego Beer Week. I made an excuse to be in North Park Thursday night and popped in to meet Mr. Maytag. I could only stay a short time at Toronado and most of it was spent watching Maytag get interviewed. I did get a chance to introduce myself to Maytag and told him that his Steam beer was the first craft beer I ever tasted. He was gracious but did not seem too impressed with my lame story. It's a story he's probably heard thousands of times. Judging by the age of the crowd that gathered, I was not the only person with an "Anchor as my first micro beer" story to tell, because most of the guys (and they were all guys) gathered around to meet Mr. Maytag looked older than me. I may have piqued his interest more if I told him that I didn't like Steam then and still don't now.

I did get to try Anchor's new Humming Ale, a light bodied pale ale. This is a draft-only beer brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops, the same New Zealand hops that Alpine uses to perfection in its Nelson IPA. Humming Ale is not going to replace Nelson IPA in my beer pantheon, but it is a good beer. It is a clean, crisp pale ale. It has a light body and a mild bitterness in the finish. The hops are not prominent but give a balance to the beer. I don't know what the ABV is but it's not that high. Humming Ale is not as distinctive as Nelson, but it is worth drinking all the same. Humming Ale is only on draft and I don't think that much was brewed, so try it while you can.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"I Picked the Wrong Week to Stop Sniffing Glue"

Nearly thirty years on and I still quote Airplane!'s psychotic air traffic controller played brilliantly by Lloyd Bridges when life gets hectic. This week, San Diego's first "beer week," finds me struggling to meet deadlines, going to meetings and fighting bronchitis rather than hitting the many daily beer events. I should be out drinking beer and recording my findings, but as the week progresses I'm feeling more like Lloyd Bridges' character. It would not be right to go beer tasting until the work is done. Bronchitis can wait, as like chicken soup, an IPA is good for the soul (and I believe it also kills germs). The meetings and deadlines are finished tomorrow, and I should have some time in the early evening to hit an event or two. Fritz Maytag is going to be at the Toronado tomorrow evening, and Newport Alehouse is promoting Firestone Walker and others tomorrow night. This is a good week to be drinking beer.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Snicklefritz was the clever name of a character in the children's show The Big Comfy Couch. When I saw a beer with the same name on the beer list at Downtown Johnny Brown's I had to try it. A reward for hours spent watching children's television.

Snicklefritz is made by The Bruery (which had a description up on its website last week) and is based on a recipe from a homebrewer. The beer is a Belgian strong golden ale. It poured a deep copper without foam. I immediately noticed the smell of alcohol and spices. The alcohol was more prominent in the smell than in the taste. This is a big beer, weighing in at a mighty 9.5% ABV. The taste was rich and full, with alcohol, yeast and spices vying for dominance. I love a good Belgian strong golden ale and Snicklefritz is one of the bolder representations of the style I've tried.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pizza Port - Ocean Beach

I have posted before that Pizza Port, one of San Diego's premier craft brewers, is opening an Ocean Beach location. This will be Pizza Port's fourth location and first in central San Diego. I heard this news earlier in the year, and thought the new brewpub was slated to open in the late summer or early fall. As the attached picture illustrates (taken last week), this restaurant is not going to open any time soon. I don't know the reasons for the delays, but would guess they're related to licensing. (I also read on BeerAdvocate (I think) that some neighbors were putting up a stink. Come on, it's Ocean Beach for chrissakes, not Del Boca Vista retirement community.)

I am looking forward to having a Pizza Port so close to my house. Pizza Port not only carries its fine beers, but also has an extensive guest tap list. I just hope the restaurant makes a small effort at being family friendly, which can be tough in Ocean Beach, especially in a location that is only a block from the beach. I drove by again today, and the structure is still at the frame level, and the floor was being jack hammered. The restaurant will be located on the northwest corner of Bacon and Santa Monica in Ocean Beach. It is on the site of an old Boll Weevil hamburger restaurant. I originally thought Pizza Port would modify the existing structure, which is why it had an estimated late summer opening date. The site is undergoing a major renovation and I don't expect Pizza Port Ocean Beach to open until the spring, at the earliest.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Let's Have Two

Last night I wrote a brief post proclaiming my affinity for Alesmith's Winter Yulesmith, an imperial red ale. Tonight, after trick-or-treating, I had a second, just to make sure my cold-addled self did not get a wrong impression from last night's Yulesmith. The second was as good as the first.

I like Christmas beers, and try to taste a variety during the Holiday Season. I have had Christmas beers well into the following year, but I tend to enjoy them most when they are first released, as it's not as fun to drink a Christmas beer in April or May as it is in November or December. Typically, the first Christmas release I see in stores is Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale, but I have not yet seen it this year. I bought The Bruery's Two Turtle Doves earlier in the week and was all set to crack it open on Halloween as this year's inaugural holiday beer. Then I saw an email from The Olive Market stating that it had just received a shipment of Alesmith's Yulesmith. No mention on whether it was a late shipment of the Summer Yulesmith, a double IPA, or if it was this year's Winter Yulesmith. I stopped by the store and saw the distinctive green and red label and new it was this year's Winter Yulesmith. I picked up a bottle and had it with dinner last night (prompting the post) and thought it so good I went an bought a second bottle to have on Halloween. Two Turtle Doves will have to wait.

Winter Yulesmith pours a clear, deep copper with solid tan foam. The color is lighter than shown in the picture and has a rich, reddish hue. Yulesmith is sweet and rich on its initial tastes and the finish is all hop bitterness. The balance is fantastic, as the beer's flavor glides between the sweet and the bitter. Balance is where most imperial red ales fall short for me. If an imperial red ale has too much malt the sweetness makes the beers hard to drink, and if the hops are too dominating the bitterness would approach a double IPA. Yulesmith avoids this trap, which is why it is so good. This beer can be savored after dinner or swigged with pizza - I tried both methods.

Winter Yulesmith is the better of Alesmith's two Yulesmiths. The Summer Yulesmith, a double IPA, is in the sticky, syrupy double IPA camp, like Avery's Maharaja. This style can be unpleasant to drink. Winter Yulesmith is rich, but not syrupy; has a bold flavor, but does not ruin your taste buds. This was an excellent beer to kick-off the Christmas beer season and I hope it is a harbinger of many delicious winter beers.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Profound Thought

Alesmith's Winter Yulesmith is the best imperial red ale I have tasted. I'll write more on this later, along with posting a picture, but I just wanted to get this thought out before the end of the night.

Monday, October 26, 2009

San Diego Beer Week - Update

Here is a link to all the activities during San Diego Beer Week. There are plenty of events planned every night, some of which look interesting.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Bruery's Beer Club

I'm on The Bruery's email list and here is most of an email I received yesterday announcing The Bruery's new beer club:
The Bruery Reserve Society is a revered group of beer enthusiasts who wish to gain access to the most esoteric beers The Bruery has to offer. In this inaugural year, we'll be offering 400 memberships to the Reserve Society. Reserve Society members will have first pick at special releases. There will be releases that will only be available to Reserve Society members. As an inaugural member, you'll also have the first right of refusal to join in 2011.

Reserve Society registration will begin in person on Tuesday, October 27th at 6 PM. In person registration will continue during tasting room hours (Friday & Saturday, 4 PM - 10 PM, Sunday, 12 PM - 6 PM). Registration through our website ( will begin Friday, October 30th. The registration period will close on December 31st, 2009, or when all memberships have been sold.

Cost: $195


- At the time of signing up, the first 250 to join the Reserve Society will receive Barrel Aged Partridge in a Pear Tree (only 290 bottles produced), White Oak, and Saison Rue. The last 150 to join will receive Barrel Aged Autumn Maple, White Oak, and Saison Rue.
- Reserve Society Zip Hoodie (available in early January)
- Entrance for two to the Reserve Society Initiation Celebration (scheduled for early January)
- Access to Reserve Society-only events (barrel tastings, release parties; additional charges may apply)
- Access to purchase special bottle release allocations (in person or through our website; allocations only for Reserve Society members. Bottle limits will vary from release to release.)
- Shipping of allocated beers (shipping cost not included, will ship only within CA)
- 15% off all tasting room and Bruery Provisions purchases (Cannot be combined with other offers or discounts)
- Access to special growler fills
- First right of refusal for 2011 membership

- A nifty Bruery Reserve Society ID card

Anticipated 2010 Special Bottle Releases:

- Oude Tart - Flemish Red
- Melange #1 - Flemish Red / Imperial Stout Blend
- Melange #3 - Barrel Aged Strong Ale Blend
- White Zin - Sour ale with Zinfandel Grapes
- White Oak - Blended Barrel Aged Wheatwine / Golden Strong Ale
- 100% barrel-aged Coton - Barrel Aged Old Ale
- Black Tuesday Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
- 100% barrel-aged 2 Turtle Doves - Barrel Aged Holiday Beer
- Perhaps a few other releases up our sleeves

A few details:

Membership begins on January 1, 2010 and ends December 31, 2010. Due to unfair and archaic alcohol laws, we cannot ship out-of-state. Those who are out-of-state may be members, but they must elect a trustee to pick up or receive your shipments within California.
This sounds interesting, but I don't think I will join. All the beers on this list don't appear like they'll be in regular distribution, which is positive for people that join the club. This wasn't the case when I joined the Lost Abbey's Patron Saint beer club two years ago. Only one of the six or seven beer selections was not widely distributed, and all but that one were in local beer stores before I received my membership allocation. I won't be able to make any of the events at The Burery or take advantage of discounted growler fills, bottle sales or merchandise at The Bruery. The hoodie sounds neat, though.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wet Blanket

The Bruery's imperial stout, Black Tuesday, has garnered significant attention on BeerAdvocate message boards and beer blogs (I am too lazy to link to the references tonight). I'm just not that excited about Black Tuesday and there is no bigger Bruery fan than me. I just don't fall into all the hoopla and hype surrounding imperial stouts. The buzz around annual releases for beers like Dark Lord and The Abyss is incredible. The Bruery is releasing Black Tuesday next Tuesday, on the eightieth anniversary of the stock market crash of 1929. It is a brewery-only release at The Bruery's Placentia location.

Imperial stouts are fine, but I think they are overrated. I had a three-year old bottle of Stone's Russian Imperial Stout earlier in the year and thought it fantastic. And by coincidence, I was in Portland last year at a business meeting across from Deschutes' Pearl District brewery when The Abyss was released and managed to sneak in a small glass and thought it a fine beer. Imperial stouts are so big and full of alcohol they have to be sipped over long periods, there is just no other way to drink them. I don't have many days where I can invest most of an evening drinking one beer, and if I did, I'd choose other high alcohol styles first, like a triple IPA (Alpine's Exponential Hoppiness) or a Belgian quad.

My take on why imperial stouts get such high ratings (The Abyss, Dark Lord and Black Tuesday are rated A+ on BeerAdvocate) is their high alcohol levels. Beer geeks want an excuse to drink high alcohol beers, and Black Tuesday's expected ABV of 19% - 20%, alone warrants its A+ ranking. While others are fighting for a bottle of Black Tuesday, I am going to seek out a bottle of Saison Rue, which I have not yet tried and that the Olive Tree Market just started to stock, and keep my eyes open for Two Turtle Doves, a Belgian quad that's this year's holiday release from The Bruery.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Allagash Tripel Reserve - Batch 138

I picked up a bottle of Allagash's Tripel Reserve, Batch 138, at a Cost Plus World Market. It seems to me that Cost Plus has improved its beer selection in recent months, or maybe it just rearranged its shelves. This was a solid tripel. It had huge white foam, and plenty of Belgian spices and yeast. The tripel is one of my favorite beer styles and Allagash's Tripel did not disappoint. The alcohol (9% abv) was present in the initial taste but not overpower the beer and seemed muted in the aftertaste. This beer would be good with food or by itself. I wish I had more interesting comments about this beer, but it's been a hectic few weeks and it was a welcome diversion.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sierra Nevada's Anniversary Ale

I have been writing this freaking post for the better part of two weeks in between work assignments. It originally was a bash of the Anniversary Ale along with a snarky analogy (that I was proud of and may use on a future post) on Cascade hops, which is the exclusive hop of the 2009 Anniversary Ale. But a few things happened before I hit the "Post" button. I did some quick research on some the beers brewed with Cascade hops, and although none are exclusively brewed with Cascade hops, many of my favorite IPAs include Cascade hops in their brewing, including the magnificent Racer 5. Then I did something even smarter - I tasted Anniversary again. Sierra Nevada called Anniversary an IPA and I did not think much of it as an IPA, but when I viewed it outside the IPA prism I realized that it's a damn good beer. The original bash was misguided. (Why are the bash posts so much easier to write than the positive posts?)

Sierra Nevada has introduced two new outstanding beers this year with the release of the release of its year-round Torpedo IPA and Kellerweis Hefeweizen. I tend to overlook Sierra Nevada, which is a mistake. It was staid for many years, but it is now making outstanding beers. Don't let the ubiquitous Sierra Nevada Pale Ale lull into believing Sierra Nevada is boring. I want to try Sierra Nevada's new Estate Ale that is brewed with hops and other ingredients grown by Sierra Nevada.

Anniversary Ale fails as an IPA when compared to Torpedo and Celebration. It is, however, a great pale ale. It is drinkable, has a great aroma, and pours a deep copper with nice white foam. It does not have much of a hop bite, which is fine and appropriate for a pale ale, because other flavors make up for the lack of hops. I am no expert on defining flavor profiles, but I would say it is more woodsy than citrusy and the malt is spot on. It had excellent balance with a pleasing aftertaste. If you're looking for an IPA that will destroy your taste buds do not reach for an Anniversary Ale (despite the description on the six-pack holder that says its an IPA), as it will disappoint the hop craver. If you want an excellent ale that is easy to drink with lots of flavors, Anniversary is the beer for you.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Bruery's Autumn Maple

The Bruery's autumn seasonal is its Autumn Maple. I did not try Autumn Maple last year, as I'm not that into pumpkin ales. I have found them full of the pumpkin flavor, but with light bodies that seem disjointed from the heartiness of the pumpkin. The Bruery has obliterated this deficiency with its Autumn Maple. This is a big, full-bodied beer that highlights the yams and has body to match. Here is a description from The Bruery's website:
(T)his year's batch has just been released. Brewed with 17 lbs. of yams per barrel (in other words, a lot of yams!), this autumn seasonal is a different take on the “pumpkin” beer style. Brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, molasses, and maple syrup, and fermented with our traditional Belgian yeast strain, this bold and spicy beer is perfect on a cold autumn evening. (ABV: 10%, IBU: 25, SRM: 15, Format: 750 mL bottles and draft).
This is a sweet, high alcohol (10% abv) beer, and the sweetness seemed to grow as I drank the bottle. The alcohol was not too noticeable. It took me the better part of three hours to finish the bottle. I'll admit, I tasted the yams, spices and the Belgian yeast, but could not pick up the maple syrup, although I know it and the molasses were the root of the beer's sweetness. I suspect I'll be re-visiting Autumn Maple around Thanksgiving.

Birthday Haul

This is somewhat of a belated post, as last month the Beer Rovette gave me four beers for my birthday, Chimay's Tripel, The Lost Abbey's Serpent's Stout, The Bruery's Orchard White and Alesmith's X, an extra pale ale. We shared the first of these the other night, Alesmith's X. This is a drinkable, floral pale ale. It has a nice hop flavor, but it's not dominated by hops like so many San Diego beers, in fact I thought the beer was less hoppy than Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale and Stone's Pale Ale, my benchmarks for the American pale ale style. X is an everyday beer that goes well with food. Living in San Diego, near Alesmith, it is not hard for me to find X, and as I drank it I realized that I don't choose this beer enough when I pop over to the store to get an enjoyable, non-mind numbing beer to go with a mid-week dinner. X is not a "wow" beer, but it won't let you down, either.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why I Prefer Beer

Last week we went for a special occasion dinner to the fancy Roseville restaurant in San Diego. We ordered a bottle of champagne - er, sparkling wine - with dinner. It was a Cristalino Cava Brut from Spain. The bottle was around $42 and we thought it was pretty good. This morning I searched on line for the cava and was shocked to find it was only $8 bottle. I called the restaurant to verify what I purchased, hoping it was a vintage version rather than the easily purchased non-vintage sparkling wine. No such luck, the restaurant was selling the same non-vintage brut I was seeing offered at $8 a bottle.

I paid more than a five times markup. Ouch. A five times markup is outrageous and I am angry at myself, not for paying $42 for a bottle of wine, but for not knowing much about what I was buying. I usually like to know the regular retail price of a bottle of wine or beer before ordering a bottle in a restaurant, but I have never researched Spanish cavas and took a flier on the Cristalino Brut. Beer is simple. A pint should be around $5, and faux pints (which Roseville serves, too) should be less. Too much deviation from this pricing model leads to an order of water or ice tea. With restaurant wine prices varying from about $20 a bottle to hundreds of dollars per bottle it's hard to know the best values. I learned the hard way that the two times retail markup does not always apply. I am sticking to beer.

Rather Be Lucky Than Smart

My dad always used to say that he would have rather'd been lucky than smart. I guess there is some truth to this, unless you're too stupid to know when you just got lucky. On Thursday I lucked out and am smart enough to know it. We visited Toroando in North Park and it had Russian River's Publication on tap. Here is a link to the Brookston Beer Bulletin describing Publication and its brewing process. In short:
Yesterday, the members of the Publican National Committee, consisting of Brouwer’s, The Falling Rock, The Horse Brass, Monk’s Cafe, and the Toronado, assembled at Russian River Brewing’s production facility to brew a collaborative beer to be sold exclusively at member pubs. The new beer will be called Publication, and will be an 8% a.b.v. Saison
This beer was great, and Toronado is one of the few beer bars that get to offer it exclusively. (The link above to Brookston Beer Bulletin lists the pubs that were involved with Publication's brewing.) Publication is clearly a saison / farmhouse ale and it was brewed with Brettanomyces yeast, which gave it a nice, sour funk. The beer was refreshing and drinkable, yet complex, a true pleasure. Its 8% abv was not noticeable, a true mark of its craftsmanship. This beer is definitely worth trying. Here's to being lucky.

Update: There are 127 Publication reviews on BeerAdvocate so it's not that exclusive, but I do feel lucky to have had tried it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Epic Vist to the Blind Lady

My part of town is not getting its shipment of Stone's Vertical Epic 09.09.09 until tomorrow. We decided to pay a visit to the Blind Lady Ale House late this afternoon to get a sneak preview of this anticipated beer. We arrived at the Blind Lady just after it opened and I ordered a VE09.09.09. It poured a deep ebony, with a mocha foam. It was surely a porter and the roasted malt and chocolate were prominent. The Belgian yeast was noticeable, but secondary and hidden behind the chocolate and malt. I did not detect any citrus or vanilla, either, but the beer had a sweetness to it. The alcohol was noticeable in the aroma, but not so much in the taste. It is a very good, drinkable beer, and I imagine that it will be solid into 2012.

The tap list tonight at the Blind Lady was outstanding. I could have spent all evening drinking amazing beers. I did not take a picture of the beer list or write down all the beers, but the selection included, Alpine's Nelson and Duet, The Lost Abbey's Devotion, Russian River's Pliny the Elder, the aforementioned Stone VE09.09.09, Ballast Point's Longfin Lager, La Chouffe's Golden Belgian Ale, Chimay's Tripel, and The Blind Lady's own Belgian single, Automatic No. 1.

After the VE09.09.09, we tried a Nelson and Automatic No.1. Nelson, as usual, was outstanding with its hoppy, woodsy flavor. It is a great IPA. The Blind Lady serves Alpine's beers in 25cl glasses, not because of the alcohol levels, but because they are so popular that 50cl glasses would drain the kegs too fast.

I found Automatic No. 1 most intriguing. It was served in The Blind Lady's new (since the last time I visited) 50cl glass. It poured a cloudy yellow with a solid foam. It had a sharp distinct taste that quickly mellowed. It was complex while being approachable and drinkable. I could not place the flavors in Automatic, despite their prominence. The Beer Rovette thought grapefruit, but I was not sure. I asked the bartender and was told Automatic was made with ginger and coriander and aged in oak. He said that the oak flavor was gone and the ginger and coriander now dominated. I think they had melded into their own unique flavor. The bartender said that there are only three more kegs of Automatic and the exact recipe will likely not be repeated. If you are able, it is worth getting to Blind Lady to try this beer.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Tomorrow is September 9th, 2009, also known as 09.09.09 and the release date for the eighth in Stone's Vertical Epic series - VE09.09.09. I have tried all but the first Vertical Epic beer, VE02.02.02. I hope to get a bottle or two of VE09.09.09 tomorrow, but this quest is dependent on Stone's distribution schedule.

Stone typically brews its Vertical Epic series in a Belgian style, and I'll admit that I drank most of the previous years' beers without knowing much about Belgian beers. I have corrected this over the past few years and loved last year's version of a hoppy Belgian tripel. Here is brief description of this year's beer:
The Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale is a bit of departure from the last two Stone Vertical Epic Ale editions, which were golden in color. The newest one can best be described as a Belgian style Imperial Porter. The beer is deep brown, with intense roasted character provided by chocolate malt.
The longer description and tasting notes can be found here on Stone's blog. I know the VE series can seem gimmicky, but the beers have been so good that the notion of gimmick was erased in my mind years ago. I have bottles stashed around my house dating to VE04.04.04, although it has been hard not to drink my last VE08.08.08.

The Bruery, the outstanding Orange County brewery, is also doing a series. It is based on the Twelve Days of Christmas Christmas carol, and this year I am looking forward to Two Turtle Doves (the second in the series - duh), which I think is a Belgian quadrupel. The first, Partridge in a Peartree was also a quadrupel.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

You Can't Go Home Again

A year ago I stumbled upon the Firestone Walker beer stand at the Ventura County Fair and had my second favorite beer experience of 2008. I went to the Ventura County Fair again last month and sought out the Firestone Walker beer stand. It was in the same place, right along the fair's main thoroughfare, and once again I ordered a Pale 31. Yeah, the beer was good, but I think the surprise of the previous year made that a better beer. This year's beer just did not have the same impact as the reality did not live up to the anticipation. A little serendipity goes a long way in a beer quest.

Alpine Brewing's New Bottled Beer

I received an email from Alpine Brewing yesterday updating fans on its new bottled beers. The email was full information and here is a large portion:
If IPA is your game, our selection will float your boat. They include: O’Brien’s IPA, Nelson, Duet, Pure Hoppiness and Exponential Hoppiness. The O’Brien’s is almost out but we have plenty of Duet and Nelson. We worked out the purchase and shipping for a small pallet of New Zealand hops so we will be making Nelson all year. Bad Boy will raise his ugly head in about three more weeks.

We bought some unique hops and have used them already. We have some New Zealand Motueka and Pacific Jade hop pellets. And, we made a 4.20% uber hoppy pale ale which should come off like an IPA but is sessionable, meaning you can drink more without that pesky inebriation thing getting in the way. The hop profiles of each of these two hops are very complimentary to each other. No name as yet.

We needed some floor drains in the new fermentor room. We improvised an exterior floor drain adjacent to the fermentors and poured a slab to hold the drain and while we were at it, we poured enough space to located several stacks of barrels. The final enclosure should provide a cool place to age some barrels of funky stuff, like “Ned” and “Ichabod.” (for now)

“Ned” is in the can. We made a Belgian Flanders which is scheduled for the wine barrels as soon as the concrete cures. We named it “Ned” but it has nothing to do with any cartoon character ;) As soon as the proper flavor profiles develop we’ll release it in bottles and draft, probably in a few months.

Label art is scheduled to be sent to the printers this week for several new bottled editions to our lineup. Duet, Nelson and Exponential Hoppiness will be bottled in 22 oz. bombers soon. Duet and Nelson could be in bottles by the end of the month, more news to follow.
The nuggets I took away from the email are that Alpine will be making Nelson all year and will soon have Nelson, Duet and Exponential Hoppiness in 22 oz bottles, Alpine is brewing more beers with New Zealand hops, and a Belgian Flanders beer named "Ned" will be available soon. This is fantastic news and it is good to see Alpine expanding.

One item I did not read in the email was any information on increased distribution. I believe that Alpine self-distributes its beers. This keeps prices its low but limits availability, as it only has eight bottle accounts, and three of these are in the small town of Alpine. I live about forty-five minutes from Alpine Brewing and the closest store that sells Alpine beer is twenty minutes from my house. On the bright side, I have a weekly reason to go near the closest store that sells Alpine beer, so I see bottles of Nelson and Duet in my future.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cowgirl Creamery

A must stop on any of my trips to San Francisco is the Ferry Building, and in particular the Cowgirl Creamery cheese shop. I love this store. I like to walk into the middle of the store and just breath deep for a few moments, taking in all the smells. The cheeses with their varied, pungent aromas give a brief sensory overload.

The shop sells much more than just the signature Cowgirl Creamery cheeses. The cheeses include many famous names, including Pont l'Eveque and Colston Bassett Stilton, cheeses from Neal's Yard Dairy, one of the world's great cheese retailers and affineurs, and many American artisnal cheeses.

I bought Cowgirl's Mt Tam (a rich triple cream cheese), Coolea, an Irish Gouda and an English cloth-bound cheddar (I had the same cheese earlier at Magnolia's) for us to eat later when we got home. The salesperson did not have any beer recommendations to pair with the cheese. I suspected that a good Belgian Golden Ale would have been a good accompaniment, but settled for Sierra Nevada's Torpedo Extra IPA because that's what I had in the fridge. While probably not a perfect match, it held its own against the flavorful cheeses.

If you like the Saint Andre triple cream cheese, you'll love the Mt Tam. It is richer and smoother than St Andre. The Coolea was the first Irish Gouda I have tried, but it compares well to aged Dutch Goudas, and had a nice nutty flavor that to me is a hallmark of quality gouda. If your cheddar experience is limited to Tillamok, an English or Vermont farmhouse cheddar will open your eyes. The cloth-bound cheese had a thick rind, a beige color and a sharp, complex flavor. This is the one cheese that would have been better with a Belgian Golden Ale. I hope to do more beer and cheese pairing research in the near future.
(I took the above photo from the Cowgirl Creamery website.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Buena Vista

We stopped in at a San Francisco institution - er, tourist trap - The Buena Vista, for a night cap last week. The Buena Vista's claim to fame is inventing Irish Coffee. It is in an old building with a massive, long bar and views of San Francisco Bay. Despite its history as a drinking establishment, The Buena Vista had nothing to speak of in terms of beer - a house lager, some A-B stuff and Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale. I find it funny and a bit sad that a famous bar has adopted to the new "short pint' trend, as my SNPA was served in a 14 oz pint. (The picture I took on my iPhone is too grainy and blurry to post.) On a positive note, I tasted the Beer Rovette's Irish Coffee, and it was excellent. The Buena Vista reinforced my opinion that when you go to a place famous for one thing you shouldn't expect surprises outside the renowned item.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Elysian Brewing's The Immortal IPA

I picked up a bottle of Elysian Brewing's The Immortal IPA during my truncated trip to City Beer Store in San Francisco last week. (My browsing was cut short because no one under 21 is allowed in City Beer Store and I couldn't leave my kids out on the street while I absorbed the inventory, but I did leave them out long enough for my glass of Sanctification. Sometimes you just can't compromise.) I wanted a beer not available in San Diego, a beer I had not tried and a beer that was good. I had read on the Beer Retard that he was fond of Elysian's beers, they are not, to my knowledge, available in San Diego and I had never tried an Elysian beer. My choice was sealed when I saw The Immortal IPA - how could a beer with that name not be bold and aggressive. I picked up a bottle for later consumption.

Later, back in the hotel when I opened the beer for a nightcap (and to make the dreadful America's Got Talent more palatable), I read on the label that The Immortal IPA was brewed for Elysian Brewing by New Belgian (uggh). Nothing against New Belgian, but I was not really looking for a beer contract brewed by it. Immortal poured a rich copper with a big white foam. I was looking for a floral, Northwest-style IPA, but did not get one. It was a balanced IPA, but the hops were mild. It was drinkable for sure, but overall unremarkable. I really like Bridgeport's IPA, and it's what I think of when I see a Northwest IPA and was hoping for in The Immortal. With that in mind, some day, maybe I will get to try another The Immortal with a different perspective and have a better opinion of it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

City Beer Store

I visited the City Beer Store in San Francisco earlier this week. It is small but full of beers. Plus, it had about five taps. It is located in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood. It is on the ground floor of what looked like a new, modern condo building. As you enter the store, you step down into a small seating area with the small bar. The room has shelves of beer and refrigerators full of beer on three walls.

I had to smile when I saw the tap list had two San Diego beers, Lost Abbey's Devotion and Ballast Point's Dorado. I was proud to have two such fine beers representing San Diego. Also on the list was Russian River's Sanctification. I had a tulip glass of Sanctification, and it was a marvelous, sour ale - the beer highlight of my trip.

I searched for a beer that I could not get in San Diego to enjoy later in the evening. The wide acceptance and distribution of craft beers made this search more difficult than I expected. I wanted something hoppy (of course) and something Belgian and selected Elysian Fields The Immortal IPA and a small bottle of Saison Dupont.

City Beer store is a worthwhile stop for beer lovers. All beer stores should have a set of taps. I only wish I had more time to browse the extensive selection.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Magnolia Pub & Brewery

We went to San Francisco for a quick two-day get away this week. After we arrived and got our bags, I was shocked when the Beer Rovette suggested a late lunch at Magnolia Pub & Brewery. Well, I said that Magnolia sounded like a good idea (but inside I was screaming hell freaking yes!). Magnolia was packed in the middle of the afternoon. It had four bitters on tap and six of its seven beers were less than 5% abv. It had a few cask beers that were the same as its draft beers, and a few guest beers. Here is a picture of its list of beers. (Its tap of Russian River's Damnation was dry.)

I had the Blue Bell Bitter and the Beer Rovette had the New Speedway Bitter. These were solid, if unremarkable, beers. The Blue Bell had mild bitterness, with a nice fruity flavor. Too me, it improved as I worked my way down the glass. I could of easily had another. This would be an excellent session beer, with its attractive flavor and its low alcohol. Both beers were served in "no bullshit" 20 oz pint glasses. In the age of short pints, it is good to see an establishment serving the classic British imperial pint.

Magnolia's one big beer was its Belgian-style Tweezer Tripel. (Magnolia wisely served this beer in a 14 oz glass.) I had this toward the end of the meal. It was a yeasty, spicy tripel. There was no mistaking its 9.9% alcohol. It was an almost overpowering beer and it would have been hard to have more than one. Tweezer was good, but I would prefer a less spicy tripel.

This was my second visit to Magnolia. After the first, I felt that the beers were more than decent, but that the food was better. I came away with the same opinion after this meal. The beers are well-crafted, style-true and drinkable. The food is outstanding, which is why the Beer Rovette wanted to have lunch at Magnolia, not to give me material for a blog post. Magnolia's food is farm fresh and a big step up from the typical brew pub. The cheese plate is a must. San Francisco's Haight Ashbury neighborhood is still full of hippie wannabes and vagrants (which are sometimes the same), but is still worth a visit, and a window table at Magnolia is the perfect place to people watch.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

South Bay Drugs in the San Diego Union

The San Diego Union had a nice profile of Joey Bachoua and South Bay Drugs in Imperial Beach about two weeks ago. Any serious San Diego beer knows Joey and South Bay Drugs. Located in a run down strip shopping center just north of the Mexican border, South Bay Drugs is the proverbial diamond in the rough. South Bay Drugs has a great beer selection and is one of the few retailers that sell Alpine Brewing beers. The huge beer selection (check the website linked above) is all Joey, and he has built a sizable web-based beer retailing business.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tongue Buckler

I hate it when I keep a non-aging beer too long. I bought two Ballast Point Tongue Bucklers last spring. I shared the first with a friend after drinking a few other beers during one of the Lakers' playoff series. Not a circumstance to accurately comment on the beer, other than to say that I remember it as a balanced, malty, hop monster. The second sat and sat in my beer fridge. Procrastination is not good with a 100 IBU beer.

I opened the second tonight and immediately got the aroma of stale hops, not the smell I was anticipating. While the first was rich and balanced, with a strong hop kick, tonight's beer was malty, yes, but the stale hop taste overwhelmed the beer. Its richness was lost to hop degradation. The beer was not completely bad, but it was on its way. There was enough of the original goodness left to remind me that this is a beer that is much better fresh, and not to delay the next time it's released.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens (SBWBG) is the best place in the world to drink a beer. I know that's a bold statement, but I find it hard to believe that any location could top Stone. We visited on Monday for my birthday and it was a great dining experience. The restaurant's design is modern and open, with high ceilings and stone as a prominent feature. It has large ceiling to floor windows / sliding doors that look out on the patio and gardens. The patio has a koi pond and fire pits, mixed in with tables and other areas to sit and enjoy the gardens, along with an outside bar. The gardens, now fully grown, have trails and stones of all sizes, and seating areas that allow you to enjoy a beer. It's the most esthetically pleasing restaurant I have ever visited. It beats Picholine in New York, Farallon in San Francisco or the restaurant who's name long escapes me that was in an ancient building in Dijon, France (but I'll never forget the double-rack cheese cart).

Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens was created with great food and beer as its inspiration. The food has a focus on in-season ingredients from local and organic producers. The farm-to-table philosophy usually results in a pretty darn good meal. From a beer perspective, it has thirty-five taps, less than half are Stone beers leaving an impressive line-up of other craft brewers and brewers from around the world. SBWBG proves that a great tap list and an upscale environment are compatible. Its bottled beer list is impressive, too. I did not count how many bottles are available but any beer aficionado or geek could find multiple gems. The draft and bottle prices are reasonable, with the typical pint $5.

We started with the Stinky Cheese plate that had four distinct cheeses, including a goat, gouda and Stilton. I had an 8 oz Dupont Saison Vielle Provision and the Beer Rovette had Craftsman's Biere de Blanco, a Belgian-style wit. I had seen the Dupont Saison for years but had never tried it. What a treat. It was the near perfect beer for sitting on a patio on a hot summer afternoon. Its flavors of fruit and Belgian yeast paired well with the cheese. For dinner I had the Shepard's Pie, maybe not the best choice on a hot day, but when I see Shepard's Pie I must order it. It was made with tempeh, which is a soybean, and it was delicious. You'd never know it was made without meat. The Beer Rovette had the buffalo burger, which was done to perfection.

I had Lagunitas' A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale with dinner. This is a fruity, hoppy beer that was excellent. I did not even know it was a wheat beer until I linked to BeerAdvocate, it tasted like no wheat beer I've ever had. I was guessing it was a pale ale or a mild IPA. No matter, it was good, as its fruity taste was ideal for a hot day and it had enough hops to keep it interesting.

I understand SBWBG is not for everyone. It's menu is not like any other brewpub and its prices may surprise people. Even walking into the restaurant can be intimidating, because it is immediately clear it's on a different level than other brewpubs. For me to even compare it to other brewpubs is unfair to SBWBG because it's not, its more like a resort - a beer resort. If you're expecting an Oggi's, a BJ's or any other generic brewpub you'll be disappointed with SBWBG. If the food is not to your liking, get a beer and head for the gardens. The beer prices are reasonable and the selection incredible, and there is no finer place to enjoy a beer.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Bruery's Black Orchard

I just did a quick search of this blog looking for a previous post on The Bruery's Black Orchard and could not find one. I know I had a Black Orchard last summer, and thought I had discussed this beer before, but apparently not. I should have, it's a good beer. I had another Black Orchard tonight. I bought it a month or so ago when it went on sale at the Olive Tree Market. (For some reason, this beer is not a big seller at Olive Tree.)

The Black Orchard is a black wit. The best part this beer, to me, was that it did not taste too witty. The Belgian yeast imparted a dry taste throughout the beer. It was spicy like a traditional Belgian beer, but the roasting process that gave the beer its dark color also gave it a caramelized sweetness. This beer was more carbonated than many beers and it had large amounts of foam, but it quickly dissipated. Black Orchard is very smooth and drinkable, and except for its mild roasted flavor, you'd be hard pressed to tell this was a "dark" beer. This is a year-round offering from The Bruery and it is approachable enough (5.7% abv) to drink on a week day night. It is one of the best wits I have tasted.