Thursday, April 30, 2009


I had a Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point's most recent bottling with dinner tonight. I bought the bottle at Ballast Point's Linda Vista brewery two weeks ago. This was a great beer. It seemed much richer than the last batch. The Simcoe hops imparted a piney taste. This Sculpin reminded my of an Alpine Brewing beer. I wish I had bought more of the Sculpin, as I think most have been purchased.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

I had Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA last week on draft at Toronado. I was not impressed. I did not it find that hoppy and would not have known it was an IPA, but for the name. It was maltier and boozier than I was expecting. I may have liked it more if I was not anticipating a hoppy double IPA (the Pizza Port El Camino I had first probably did not help either - now that's an IPA). I am not sure what I expected from 90 Minute because I ordered it on a whim, but my palate was ready for a "West Coast" style IPA. This beer proved why Dogfish Head is brewing in Delaware and not on the West Coast.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Beer 3.0

The latest BeerAdvocate magazine's opening editorial, Beer 3.0, discusses how the internet has advanced the craft beer scene over the past ten years or so. It rightly credits sites like BeerAdvocate and Rate Beer for providing a forum for beer enthusiasts. It also credits beer bloggers and now twitter for taking the beer discussions forward in new directions. I agree with the main points of the editorial. I would add one important point: Craft brewers have fueled the online growth by making great beers, and without these brewers and their beers the internet boon would not have occurred.

The editorial sites the number of brewpubs that closed in the late 1990s and early 2000s as proof that the craft beer movement was in trouble a decade ago. I think of that time as more of a transition period. Beer drinkers were tired of the ubiquitous offerings from most craft brewers and brewpubs - golden ale, amber ale, pale ale, stout and fruit beer - and wanted better beers. The golden ale was targeted at the hard core macro drinker who was dragged to a brewpub and women, the fruit beer was targeted at women, the amber and pale ale was targeted at men, and the stout was targeted at the adventurous. There were variations to this theme, but you could go to a brewpub anywhere in the country and get similar beer choices. How boring. These clones needed to close. Does anyone really miss an insipid blueberry wheat beer or some anemic golden ale? There are still some of these legacy brewers and brewpubs around, but they continue this old formula at their long-term peril.

Stone, Russian River, Allagash, Dogfish Head and a host of other craft brewers changed all this. They made exciting beers that did not fit into the microbrew box that was built in the early 1980s and was rotting by the late 1990s. These brewers changed craft beer and fueled the online boom. Belgian-style beers were nearly non-existent at brewpubs in the 1990s and for most of the 2000s, and are now almost commonplace. The same can be said of double IPAs and the move to "imperial" nearly any beer style. There are debates on the merits of "extreme" beer, but "extreme" beers moved the industry forward and gave it a needed boost. I look forward to limited and seasonal releases whether considered "extreme" or not.

Craft brewers have also been a part of a changing restaurant industry. While there may be fewer brewpubs today, there are more beer choices. I look for restaurants with a good tap list when I go out to eat. I am seeing many restaurants with several craft taps along side the usual macro taps. Heck, there is a Vietnamese noodle house near my house with twelve taps - eight craft - and an extensive bottle list. This would have been unheard of a few years ago. I am also seeing a correlation between the quality of a restaurant's beer list and the quality of its food. I guess it makes sense that if a restaurateur cares about his or her beer offerings, he or she will care about the food. I have also seen an improvement in the food offerings at some brewpubs, in particular Stone's World Bistro and Gardens that has completely changed the the brewpub dining experience for the better.

Yes, BeerAdvocate, Rate Beer, bloggers and now Twitter have raised beer awareness. Craft brewers have met the challenge and made some interesting, outstanding beers. Here's to hoping the symbotic relationship continues for a long time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mission IPA

I tried Mission Brewing's IPA last week at Downtown Johnny Brown's. I have been wanting to try a Mission Brewing beer, as Mission is a relatively new San Diego brewer. It primarily brews German style beers - Alt, Helles, Hefeweizen, Vienna Lager - but its IPA was on tap. It is also Mission's first bottled beer and is now available in bombers. (Mission's website is undergoing a makeover.) I was disappointed with the IPA. It looked good and smelled great, with a nice floral hop aroma but I thought the taste was off. While the hops were present at the start, the finish had strange, almost metallic flavor (one of the BeerAdvocate reviewers that also had a pint at Downtown Johnny Brown's noticed the same metallic flavor, so maybe it was a one-off problem). It was hard to finish this beer as the strange metallic taste became more pronounced as I worked my way through the pint.

I want to try other Mission Brewing beers before I pass judgment. Considering the IPA's metallic tint at Johnny Brown's, I need to try a bomber to see whether the metallic flavor was a fluke or is a permanent feature of the beer. I think it strange that a brewer that appears to specialize in German beers makes an IPA as its first bottled offering. Why not bottle a good lager? It would stand out here in San Diego. If a brewer in San Diego is going to introduce a new IPA, it'd better bring its "A" game, and the Mission IPA I had was a solid "C."

The person I was with at Downtown Johnny Brown's had Trumer Pils. It has such a cool glass, and the beer was pretty OK, too. I also had The Lost Abbey's Carnevale, a spring saison. I think I can safely say this is my least favorite offering from The Lost Abbey.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Maharaja

The Mahraja is my favorite beer name. It conjures something grand and imperial, and slightly exotic. And most important, it's just fun to say. THE MAHARAJA. I saw it hit beer store shelves a few weeks ago and I started to get nervous. As a beer blogger I knew I needed to taste it, but I just did not want too. Every time I went to the store I'd debate whether to buy it, and always think of an excuse to buy something else. I have bought a few Maharajas in past years, but saved them for the "right" occasion, and when I finally opened them they were well past their prime - and I am being kind. (Few beer drinking experiences are more disappointing than trying to drink an old IPA.)

My beer education has improved over the years. My former assumption that a higher alcohol beer will "age," has been replaced by the reality that high hopped beers, regardless of ABV, need to be consumed as soon as possible. Age your Stone Vertical Epics, drink your IPAs and DIPAs. I took this advice with Avery's The Maharaja. I drank this year's The Maharaja right away when I finally broke down and bought it last Saturday evening.

The Maharaja I had (as seen in the picture above - nice pour!) was Batch 9 from February 2009, which indicated that it was still fresh. This is a much better beer fresh. I had already written this post in my head before I tried The Maharaja and was ready to bash it and every non-California brewer that dares to brew DIPAs. But I can't bash The Maharaja. It was good, real good - an Imperial IPA at every step, and would make any California DIPA brewer proud. This year's version weighs in at a whopping 10.5%-plus ABV. Like all great DIPAs it was a hop bomb, but the hop bitterness was offset by plenty of malts, and it exuded the sweetness that characterizes a well made DIPA. The alcohol was present on every sip, and the beer left a film in my mouth - it was almost sticky. While this is a top-notch DIPA, I don't think I could drink it regularly. It is just too big. It dominated my food - pizza with ham and artichokes - and due to its hops and alcohol, it was a sipping beer - an evening stopper.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Impromptu Beer Tasting

A friend stopped by on Friday evening and we had a few beers he had picked up at Escondido's Holiday Wine Cellar, and made a brief trip to Ballast Point. The first beer we tried was a Japanese beer, Hitachino's Nest Beer, Classic Japanese Ale. BeerAdvocate lists this as an English India Pale Ale, and there were enough hops that I will not quibble on the classification. This beer tasted unique, but good. It was spicy on the front, with a solid hop finish. I could not determine the spice, but the bottle said it had been aged in cedar barrels. Maybe it was cedar (duh). It had a pleasant, hoppy smell. It was an interesting, drinkable beer. I had never heard of Hitachino before, nor did I know that this type of beer was brewed in Japan. I just assumed that Kirin and Sapparo were the primary choices - Japan's version of fizzy yellow beer.

Next, we took a quick trip to Ballast Point to get bombers of Tongue Buckler and Scuplin (not to be consumed until a later date). I mention this sidebar excursion only to talk about Ballast Point's Pescadaro Pilsner. I don't normally reach for pilsners as my ale prejudices are hard to break. But Pescadaro tasted great, and it was good to get my pilsner perception tweaked. Apparently when Ballast Point brewed this version of Pescadaro it made a slight mistake and the alcohol level is about a percent higher than normal (6.4% v. 5.4%). Maybe this is why it was so good. Serendipity.

The final beer we tried was Bear Republic's Red Rocktet Ale. It is hard to believe I have never tried this beer. My friend raves about this beer, and bought it specifically so I could try it. I am glad he brought it, as I really liked this beer. It is rich and malty, but had a strong dose of hops. I tend to be cautions on red ales because I have had some bad ones. I wish all red ales were as good as Red Rocket Ale.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Catchup Post

I wish I had the time to post in more depth about the following beers, but I don't. I am stressed out that I have not posted in nearly a week. I was disappointed in Lagunitas Hop Stoopid. I did not find it that hoppy, despite the "102 IBU4U" claim. Not a bad beer, but a lighter mouthful than would be expected. While an enjoyable, drinkable beer, I thought there was "no there, there."

La Chouffe's Golden Belgian Ale is a great beer. Such a drinkable beer, despite its spices. This beer reinforces my appreciation of the Belgian Golden Ale style.

I had a meeting in Carlsbad yesterday morning, which gave me an excuse to stop by Pizza Port to have two growlers filled. One was a hefeweizen, Warm Water Wheat, and the second was Trigger Hoppy, a Belgian IPA. The people sharing Warm Water with me had tastes of banana and chocolate. To me, an ambivalent hefe drinker, Warm Water was really good, and hit the spot after a stressful day (even though I could taste neither banana or chocolate). Trigger Hoppy was excellent. It had a large hop presence and I did not catch too much of the Belgian influence. The picture on the right is Trigger Hoppy.

The last beer we shared this evening was a bomber of Ballast Point's Tongue Buckler (unfortunately no picture). It confirmed my opinion that it is the best red ale - imperial or not - that I have ever tried. I think the ABV was 10%, but it was not off putting. It seemed well balanced and approachable. I need to get a few more bombers before Ballast Point runs out.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

San Diego Beer Week

I just read in an email from The Linkery that an official San Diego Beer Week has been set for August 16th through the 23rd. More here. Here is the quote from The Linkery's email:
Speaking of great beer events, San Diego Beer Week is in motion, it
will be celebrated Aug 16th through 23rd. Get excited about it...we
are. We've already got a couple great events lined up for it, and
we'll be just one of many, many venues celebrating.
This is exciting news. Stone Brewing's 13th Anniversary celebration is set for August 22nd, already making it one bookend for SD Beer Week.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Alpine's Exponential Hoppiness

Alpine Brewing makes sublime beers, but subtle they are not, and the least subtle is Exponential Hoppiness, Alpine's triple IPA. Wow. Drinking this beer is like being hit by a two-by-four. My friend dropped off a growler last Friday and it took me a few days to wade through it. From its boozy, hop aroma to its rich, alcohol-infused taste, Exponential Hoppiness struts its aggressive claim as the the most dangerous beer in America. I heard that this batch of Expo was more than 11% alcohol, and I don't doubt it.

Expo is smooth and rich. Its explosive hop flavor is offset by plenty of malts, and despite its bitterness, Expo imparts a balanced sweetness. Expo is drinkable, too drinkable for its high level of alcohol. It taunts you to drink it, challenging you to a second glass. If you're not careful Expo will kick your ass fast. Alpine does not bottle this beer, so look for it at better beer bars. Be careful, pay attention and show this beer the respect it demands.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wall Street Journal Lambic Article

Here is a link to a good article on Belgian lambics, in particular Cantillon. There is a cool video, too. The article and video are high on the beer geek quotient. I have been meaning to try Cantillon, but have not, yet. After reading the article and watching the video, I am not sure what I am waiting for.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dorado Growler

As noted in the previous post, I bought a growler of Dorado yesterday. This is one of the better double IPAs I've tasted. I had the growler over two nights, and the picture is from tonight. There was more foam last night. The color is a rich copper, and it has a full-bodied flavor. It is (obviously) big on hops, but it's well balanced with plenty of malt. The balance extends to the alcohol, which is present, but not as prominent as other DIPAs. This version of Dorado seemed heavier, with less of the crisp hop bite than I remember. Ballast Point has not brewed this beer in some time (nearly a year?) due to the high price of hops. It brewed a large batch this time, so in addition to its growler fills, it is offering 22 oz bombers at select stores. If you like hops, you'll love this beer.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Treasure Trove

I felt like the bridgekeeper from Monty Python and the Holy Grail today at Ballast Point, trying to decide between Ballast Point's Dorado and Tongue Buckler for a growler fill. So sure of myself before I got to the tasting bar, then faced with making a difficult, unanticipated decision, "I'd like Dorado, no, Tongue Buckler, wait, I don't know." I imagined myself being launched out of Ballast Point due to my waffling. I finally decided on Dorado, but bought a bottle of Tongue Buckler, too, as a consolation. To top today off, my friend left a growler of Alpine's Exponential Hoppiness on my door step this afternoon. OK, enough bragging because it is unseemly. Seriously, this weekend is going to require a barbecue and moderation. (And if my initial impression from my small taster of Tongue Buckler was correct, it is the best red ale - imperial or not - that I've ever tasted.)