Monday, March 30, 2009

Torpedo & Sawyer's Triple

I tried the new Sierra Nevada IPA, Torpedo Extra IPA, over the weekend. This beer was much better than I was expecting. Torpedo has quickly placed itself in the top tier of IPAs, (and is the subject of a thread at BeerAdvocate where its merits are being debated). It is not a hop bomb, but has enough hops to satisfy all but the most ardent hop head. It has great balance, which is probably Torpedo's best feature. This is an easy drinking beer, despite is 7%-plus alcohol level.

Sierra Nevada never had a year-round IPA before Torpedo. I was content with Celebration as Sierra Nevada's IPA offering. It's generally available from late September through January, which is plenty of time to get a fix. The release of Torpedo made me realize what I was missing. I am not ready to put Torpedo in my personal pantheon of top IPAs, but like a good mustard, I plan to try and keep a Torpedo or two in my fridge.

I also tried Stone's Sawyer's Triple. I thought this beer was great. I like the Belgian tripel style, and Sawyer's did not disappoint. It had a prominent Belgian yeast component and a dry finish. It was an easy drinking beer that was gone too soon. Its drinkability belies a 7.6% alcohol level. I wish this beer was more widely available, as I purchased it at the Stone Brewery last weekend. Tripels are a great style and I am going to try more, half hoping to get one that stinks just to have a benchmark.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beer Store Beer Blog

Mike, the "Beer Guy" at my favorite (and closest) beer store, The Olive Tree Marketplace, in Ocean Beach has started a beer blog listing new arrivals. This is cool, but I kind of liked getting the 'inside" information on what new beers were arriving before they hit the shelves. The Olive Tree's beer selection is one of the best I've seen in San Diego, which is due in large part to Mike. Plus, if you befriend Mike, he will order specific beers (loving that St. Bernardus Wit). Beer geeks know what the good beers cost and know when they're being gouged, and Olive Tree's prices are reasonable. Olive Tree continues to be the best beer store in central San Diego.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Linkery Joins the Nascent Foam Revolution

The Linkery restaurant in San Diego's beer mecca North Park neighborhood has joined The Blind Lady in adding a healthy dose of foam to its pours. Here is a link to The Linkery's announcement on its blog. Here is a quote:
In the intention of now and forever pouring perfect beers, we’re standardizing our pours so that we have room in the glass for bubbles and air. And, in contravention of our plan to get filthy rich Madoff-stizz, we’re lowering our beer prices correspondingly.
I am cautious on this new trend. I am all for establishments like The Linkery and The Blind Lady that add foam on purpose, but am worried about restaurants that are just sloppy or lazy, or even worse cheap, and where too much foam is a sign of a bad pour not beer appreciation.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stone Cali-Belgique

I knew I was going to be driving on the I-15 today and packed my Stone growler in case time permitted a pit stop. Needless to say, I made time to stop or this would be a worthless post. I picked up a growler of Stone's Cali-Belgique IPA and a bottle of Sawyer's Triple. I had Cali-Belgique last summer at the Stone World Bistro and Gardens. It is an IPA with plenty of Stone-style hop bitterness, but it also has a prominent Belgian yeast flavor. It is a dry beer and I had a glass of water while I drank it. The version I had last summer was cloudy, and today's version was clear. I like this beer cloudy or clear, it is a unique IPA. The clear version is on the upper right and the picture I took last summer is on the left.

I got to Stone just as one of the brewery tours was ending and the gift shop was packed. Stone runs a good operation. There was plenty of staff and despite the crowd, I was in and out of the gift shop in about five minutes. Stone's staff was unfazed by the rush of thirsty people.

I was conflicted in my growler fill choice, as Stone also had its first collaboration beer with Alesmith and Mikkeller available. This beer is a Belgian tripel. I did not choose it (and have buyer's remorse) because I bought the bottle of the Sawyer's Triple and did not want to double up on triples. Now I have an excuse to go back to the Bistro, but suspect this beer is rarely available.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Email from The Bruery

I am on The Bruery's email list and these two items stood out from the latest email:

We still have allocations available for the 100% Barrel Aged Papier for sale our tasting room this weekend. Papier is an Old Ale brewed to commemorate our first anniversary. It has notes of caramel, vanilla, dark fruit, and toasted oak. This beer is approximately 15% ABV and when released, the 100% Barrel Aged version will be aged for over a year.

We'll release approximately 15 cases of the Bourbon barrel aged version, 15 cases of the brandy barrel aged version, and 15 cases of the rye whiskey version. Our general release will have a proportion of barrel aged beer, but it won't be 100%. We're limiting each customer to 3 bottles total at the price of $27.50 per 750 mL bottle. This is likely your only chance to ensure you'll get a bottle of this special version of Papier (without resorting to eBay, but we don't recommend). The release will come out sometime in May, right around our anniversary party. More on that below...


It's hard to believe we've been in business for a year. Partially this is because we've collectively gained a lot of grey hair this year and it feels like we've accomplished a lot for one year. On the other end, it seems like just a few months ago we brewed that first batch of beer with our Batch No. 1 winners Mark and Loren. Anyway, We'll be celebrating our one year in business on Saturday, May 16th. We're still hammering out the details and will fill you in once we know what we're doing.
The three Papier releases sound interesting. At 15% alcohol, Papier is likely an evening stopper - you must sip slow and pay attention. I won't make to The Bruery this weekend to get a reservation. Papier is the third beer I have seen in the past few weeks over $20 per bottle. The other two are Russian River's Consecration and The Lost Abbey's Angel's Share (which I think is the bourbon barrel aged version). I think the most I have spent on a beer is $12, but I have reserved a bottle of Consecration. I am not sure I have embraced the new pricing model for specialty beers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Oggi's, Oggi's Oggi's....

I go to Oggi's about once a month, as one is close to my house. I don't go for the beer, but for the kids-eat-free Wednesday night special. The food is edible, but the service is usually bad. Tonight's service was marginal, but it was the best we have had at our location. (We go with friends to the Oggi's in Santee and the service there is much better.) I have not tried all Oggi's beer, but it's a sorry state when my favorite beer is an Amber Ale. I usually avoid Amber Ales because they are a catch-all mish-mash that are bland at best. The Torrey Pines IPA is a drain pour. I ask for the guest beers hoping for something interesting, but even those are boring. For beer drinkers, Oggi's is a frustrating experience.

UPDATE: Just got back from the Oggis' in Santee. It had Russian River IPA, Avery IPA and The Lost Abbey's Red Barn on tap. Nice.

Good WSJ Article

Here is a good article on starting a craft brewery in hard times. (Not sure if subscription is required.) I suspect it would be tough to start a brewery even in good times, but good beer is somewhat recession resistant. If the start-ups make good beer they should do well, like The Bruery. If the entrepreneurs use the '80s model of brewing four or five boring beers than they'll likely fail. As a beer drinker that seeks out good beer, I say go bold and shun those golden and amber ales and obligatory oatmeal stouts.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Bruery's Saison De Lente

I had this at dinner tonight. I will have another and write a longer post, but wanted to get this posted. The Bruery has produced another great beer in its Saison De Lente. It's an easy drinking saison. Here is what The Bruery has to say:
Saison De Lente, our Spring saison, is now for sale at your favorite beer stores and restaurants. This is a hoppy and light Saison that's fermented with brettanomyces and our house yeast from the beginning of fermentation, versus Saison Rue being bottle fermented with brettanomyces. It is 6.5% ABV and is a great compliment to warmer weather.
This is a seasonal beer and I need to get a few more while it is still available. (I still want to get one of those glasses in the picture below.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Random Beer Notes

I have been swamped at work, which I can't complain about, and wanted to post longer on each of these beers, but just don't have the time. First I had Beer Valley's Leafer Madness. Great name, not so great beer (at least the one I had last week). I think it was old. Leafer Madness is an imperial pale ale, and when I bought it I thought it was a double IPA. It was a hoppy beer, and reminded me of a beer from Rouge. It tasted stale to me. The BeerAdvocate reviews (link above) are more positive than mine.

I bought a bottle of St. Bernardus Tripel. This is a great beer. It has an 8% alcohol, but it is impossible to tell, as it has no alcohol flavor at all, which is disturbing because this beer is so drinkable. This beer is smooth and enjoyable, imparting an elegant Belgian flavor. This is now my standard for a tripel due to its straightforward approach and crisp, clean flavor. I have had other tripels that are delicious, as well, and I may like them more (The Bruery's Trade Winds Tripel) but the St. Bernardus is the benchmark tripel.

I stopped by the Toranado the other night and had another Alpine Nelson and was hoping to get Port's Killer Dana double IPA. Killer Dana had already sold out, but the bartender recommended an IPA from Moylans. Apparently it was a one-off, in a five-gallon keg that had been double hopped on accident. This was a super hoppy beer, but it opened up as it was consumed. I did not take notes but was glad I had this beer. Nelson, which I had first, is an outstanding beer.

Friday, March 13, 2009

K&B Wine Cellar

I have read the positive reviews on this liquor store (that is under new ownership since November) and was in the SDSU area the other day and paid a visit. It is an impressive store. It has been redesigned with high ceilings and plenty of inventory. It has the feel of a cellar. It is in a shopping center just north of I-8, off of College Blvd in Del Cerro (6380 Del Cerro Blvd). It is located next to the Windmill Farms grocery store in the old Del Cerro Liquor location. (The Del Cerro Liquor sign still sits above K&B Wine Cellar.)

The "beer guy" is Adam. I met him, he is beervangelist and knows his product. K&B has an impressive selection. It has thirteen beer refrigerators. It has a wide selection of local crafts, Belgians (I bought a St Bernardus Tripel), crafts from around the country and macros. In addition to the refrigerators, it has a twenty-four foot long shelf with four rows of bottled beer. There were some hard to find beers here - Stone's Vertical Epic 06.06.06 and 07.07.07, Deschutes 20th Anniversary Wit, and St. Bernardus's Christmas beer, to name the ones I remembered. The prices were OK, I did not see any smoking deals.

At the front of the store, there is a coffee counter and deli that serves breakfast and lunch. When I was there construction was under way for outside patio seating. Adam said that he plans fifteen taps and is waiting for approval. He plans to have the best tap list east of 30th Street.

It is encouraging that people are opening and expanding businesses in this economy. K&B Wine Cellar and Ocean Beach's Olive Tree Marketplace have filled a void in the middle of San Diego County for people looking for good beer. K&B has an excellent inventory that I suspect will improve as it grows. K&B is worth a visit if you're looking for quality beers, and the prospect of fifteen taps will make it a must stop for beer lovers.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Awe-Inspiring Alpine

I have wanted to try Alpine's Nelson IPA for several years. Finally, on Friday I was able to make it to Alpine on an actual Nelson release date and I bought a growler. (I would have bought more, but I am suffering from empty growler fatigue.) I am glad I made the trip. This has to be one of the best, most unique IPAs I have ever had. I was expecting a special taste due to Nelson's rye and New Zealand hops, but I was not expecting such a "Wow" factor. Simply stated, this beer is amazing.

When I opened the growler, I was struck by Nelson's hop aroma, which had touches of clove, citrus and pine resin. I poured it in an imperial pint glass. It had tight, white foam and its color was pale straw, almost like a "fizzy" yellow macro. It was the lightest looking IPA I've seen. Nelson's soft appearance belies a robust flavor. Its taste was very creamy, almost like it was poured from a cask. The hops were balanced, and the New Zealand sauvin hops brought a great bitter flavor. It is an easy drinking beer, and is as close to a session beer as any IPA that I know. Alpine has crafted a near perfect beer in Nelson.

Here is my rating:

Appearance: 3 (out of three)
Aroma: 4 (out of four)
Hop / Malt Balance: 3.5 (out of four)
Aftertaste: 3 (out of three)
Mouthful: 2.5 (out of three)
Overall Impression: 3 (out of three)

Total: 19 out of a possible 20, or Excellent

Some of the notes I took include, "unbelievable," "very drinkable," "strong hop aroma," "unlike any IPA I've ever had, but delicious," and "compelling beer - masterpiece." I guess I really liked this beer. It is too bad Alpine does not bottle Nelson. Nelson's price was reasonable, too. Without the growler, it was only $10 and change, which I thought was quite a bargain.

Blind Lady Update

Summer of Beer beat me to a post on the Blind Lady's new glassware and further clarification on pours. The Blind Lady now has pints, actually a 21.5 oz glass that pours a nearly 17 oz beer. In term of the pours, the Blind Lady shares the frustration of beer drinkers over short pours. I received this email from Lee Chase that he also posted on a BeerAdvocate thread (Lee's post is near the bottom of the thread). Here is part of the email:
As for short-pints, here's my take:
I hate ordering "a pint" and getting something else. "Cheater pints"--the 14oz that looks like a 16oz.-- are just plain stealing from customers). At Blind Lady, we tell you how much beer you get before you buy a beer, right on the chalkboard. If you don't think it's a good deal, that's for you to decide... And yes, we serve that beer in a glass that has room for foam. We are NOT going to fill the glass to the rim. I don't serve myself beer like that, and you probably don't either..
Here is more clarification on the Blind Lady's pour lines from a neat graphic from its website:

Friday, March 6, 2009

In Bruges

I watched In Bruges the other night. I started watching hoping to catch a reference or two to Belgian beer and got hooked. Bruges is a medieval Belgian city with gothic churches, old architecture, and small plazas, all built around a canal system. The movie pays homage to the city's charm and it would be a must stop on a Belgian beer tour. There were a few scenes with Belgian beer, and in each the beers were in a beer-specific glasses, most of which were chalices. The movie takes place just before Christmas, and one scene has two actors sitting in a plaza at night drinking their chalices of beer, apparently oblivious to the cold of a Northern European winter. This movie makes you want to visit Bruges and have a chalice of a Belgian tripel.

Mexican Food and Craft Beer

One of my favorite food and beer combinations is flavorful Mexican food, in particular carne asada, and a hoppy beer. Unfortunately, I usually have to enjoy this at home because most Mexican restaurants typically limit their beer to Mexican lagers and American macro pilsners. These are OK for a bean burrito, but fall short when the dish turns spicy. I have now found a restaurant that combines craft beer and Mexican food. The Blue Parrot Bar and Grill in Ocean Beach now has fifteen taps, ten of which are craft beers. It has a few macros and Mexican beers, but most are devoted to craft beers. Last night its tap list included Stone's Pale Ale and Arrogant Bastard, Green Flash's West Coast IPA, Bear Republic's Racer 5 and Alesmith's ESB and Nut Brown Ale. I have never seen a Mexican restaurant with a tap list this good.

The last time I was in The Blue Parrot was last summer and it had a few taps, with Racer 5 and Pabst Blue Ribbon being the only beers I remember. I was surprised when I walked in and saw it now had fifteen taps. Finally, a Mexican restaurant has the hoppy beers to match its spicy dishes. I judge a Mexican restaurant on the quality of its carne asada, and The Blue Parrot's was very good. I had the burrito and it was huge. The service was good, too, as our waitress comped a dish (without prompting) over a a slight confusion with its timing. The pricing was fair, too. There was as special last night and tacos were $2.00 (I think) and pints were only $3.00.

Ocean Beach has a little craft beer scene working. The Blue Parrot complements The Vine (right across Niagara Avenue from one another) and Newport Avenue Pizza and Alehouse, all within about a block and a half of each other. And I don't even know about all the bars along Newport Avenue.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dorado Release

Ballast Point is releasing its double IPA Dorado on Saturday, March 7. Apparently, Ballast Point brewed a larger batch this time and will be selling 22oz bombers. This is good news as this is a fine beer.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Alpine's Nelson IPA

I just received Alpine Brewing's Beer New and Views email, and this jumped out:
If you promise not to tell anyone else about this, I’ll let you in on a little secret. This coming Friday, March 6th, at the crack of noon, we will be putting “Nelson IPA” on for growler fills. For the uninitiated, “Nelson IPA” is a golden rye IPA made with Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand. At 7% abv, it is quite drinkable and aromatically fragrant, yum. The last batch lasted 4 days.
Sorry, but I had to tell, and I am adjusting my schedule so I can get some Nelson.