Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ocean Beach Continues to Explode

I blogged about the Blue Parrot in March. Blue Parrot is a Mexican restaurant in Ocean Beach with a good selection of craft beers. At the time it had fifteen taps. Now it has twenty-three taps, and many of these taps are rotated on a regular basis with new beers. A good craft beer selection just became a great craft beer selection. On Friday night it had Stone Brewing's Cali-Belgique and Sublimely Self-Righteous (along with Arrogant Bastard and Pale Ale), Green Flash's Hop Head Red, and North Coast's hard to find Pranqster and Le Merle, to name just some of the available beers. Pranqster, a Belgian-style golden ale, is an amazing beer and I did not do it justice as I pounded it waiting for my to go order. Last week Blue Parrot had Bear Republic's Apex double IPA on tap. Blue Parrot has various happy hours, the main one being 2:00 to 6:00, so you can try a great beer for $3.50. If I have one complaint I think the the beers are served in thick bottomed, faux pint glasses. I will try to take a picture to show the glass.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sophie's Choice

I was at the OB Noodle House yesterday (previously mentioned here), and after I ordered a Union Jack the owner approached us and asked me if I liked it more than Racer 5. This caught me off guard, and I gave the safe answer that they are two of the best IPAs. I got the impression that he was trying to decide whether to carry Union Jack or Racer 5. Thinking back, what I should have said is that its impossible to say whether one is better than the other, and that it's like deciding what child is your favorite - no matter the differences between them you love them equally. My advice to the OB Noodle House would be to add Racer 5, keep Union Jack and dump the Stella or the Blue Moon.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Stone Thirteenth

My taste buds were fatigued just reading this post on Stone's Thirteenth Anniversary Ale. It is Stone's hoppiest beer ever. Here are some key quotes and a picture from the post:

Take your idea of a hoppy Stone beer and throw it out the window, because Stone 13th Anniversary Ale is the hoppiest beer we’ve ever brewed. Just how much hops is in this year’s batch? You may want to sit down for this…4.5 lbs. PER BARREL! To lend you a bit of perspective, Stone 10th Anniversary IPA, revered by many as the quintessential hopped-up Stone Anniversary Ale, had about 2.5 lbs. per barrel.

The beer went through three iterations before they dialed it in, finally deciding on Chinook hops for bittering and a 50/50 blend of Centennial and Simcoe hops for dry hopping. The careful blend of hops, combined with pale malt, various crystal malts, amber malts, and just a touch of chocolate malt, resulted in a rather tasty 7% abv red ale—but it just wasn’t quite worthy of a Stone Anniversary Ale yet. “It had a nice hop character,” said Mitch, “but it didn’t have that extra something that I thought the beer needed.” After tasting it, Greg even asked Mitch “It’s going to be bigger, right?” To which Mitch replied “Yeah, it’s going to be bigger.” The solution was to bump up the hopping and alcohol a bit, and the result was a very big, very Stone 9.5% abv Ale. As if that wasn’t enough, the brew crew decided to dry-hop it again just prior to filtering and packaging.

When I first read the post I thought the Thirteenth Anniversary Ale was going to be a triple IPA (or quadruple if there is such a classification), but it sounds like an imperial red ale, or double imperial red ale. I don't think Stone has ever brewed a red ale, imperial or otherwise. This beer should be good, real good. I like the addition of the Simcoe hops. I can't wait for the end of June. If Stone's Tenth is any guide, Thirteenth should be consumed as close to its release date as possible because the hops fade fast.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I have a secret to confess. Not a large confession on the scale of possible sins, but more a confession of omission. Before today I had never been to O'Brien's Pub. For a San Diego beer blogger and self-described beer geek this is akin to blasphemy. A heretical act of beer douche baggery, as O'Brien's is San Diego's preeminent beer bar. From afar, I had eyed O'Brien's tap list and enjoyed stories of bacchanalian revelry. Today, I finally had the chance to enter this hallowed beer sanctuary. The Beer Rovette and I went for a late lunch to kick off the long Memorial Day weekend. It was packed with like-minded beer geeks taking long lunches and enjoying an early start to the weekend.

We split a jalapeno burger, beer chili and a side salad. All three were excellent. I had a New English Trooper ESB and a Russian River IPA, while the Beer Rovette had a Firestone Lil' Opal Wit (the link is to a Lil' Opal Saison). We split an unfiltered The Bruery's Saison de Lente to finish lunch. (New English is a new San Diego brewer and its Trooper ESB was good, an English-style ESB, but with enough hops to keep it interesting.)

What struck us about O'Brien's was its casualness. With the large, comfortable chairs, open feel, despite its small space, and laid back ambiance, it felt more like being at a friend's house than at a pub. The staff did not treat us any different than regulars and were pleasant despite the large crowd.

I plan to visit O'Brien's again soon to explore its quality tap list, or extensive and reasonably priced bottle list, and to enjoy a few moments of peace in a busy world.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Alpine's McIlhenney's Irish Red

I figure I knew at some point I'd taste an Alpine Brewing beer that I wasn't crazy about. I had Alpine's McIlhenney's Irish Red this evening and probably won't be searching for another. It was all malt, which was just too much for my hop-trained taste buds. Like all Alpine beers, I could tell it was well made, but McIlhenney's just did not appeal to me. I think the style had more to do with my disappointment than the beer. Irish reds, from what I understand, are malt bombs, so McIlhenney's is true to style. I had prepared myself for a bastardized version, one with Alpine's famous hops, but Alpine stuck with the malt, to its credit. (In the picture the McIlhenny's is in the foreground and a St. Bernardus Wit is in the background.)


Utah is not the first place that pops into your head when thinking of beer destinations. It has arcane and anachronistic beer laws that hinder brewers and beer drinkers. I am not sure of all the intricacies of Utah beer laws, but I am pretty sure that the beers you get in a restaurant cannot exceed 4% alcohol. (I did see an 8% alcohol beer at a conference cocktail party a few years back, but it was in a bottle at a hotel convention.) Utah brewers can make beers with an ABV greater than 4%, these beer just can't be consumed at a bar or restaurant. You have to give the Utah craft brewers credit and admire their skill in creating most of their beers within the 4% alcohol limitation.

We had some friends over on Sunday for Lakers, beer and barbecue. They brought a huge beer (literally and figuratively) that they had bought while in Utah on a recent hiking trip. It was a Moab Brewing Desert Select Ale, black imperial IPA. It poured a dark brown, with thick cream-colored foam. By the time we got to this beer we had tasted four or so other IPA-type beers so my taste buds and memory are not perfectly clear, but I remember it was a serious beer. It was rich and hoppy, and I think the alcohol was over 8%, but it was balanced and drinkable. The beer came in a paper wrapper and bottle that must have been over 30 ozs, which are shown in the picture to the right. I would try this beer again. Props to the guys at Moab Brewing for embracing the West Coast hop revolution and crafting a black imperial IPA.

Something's Happening Here

I went to lunch at the OB Noodle House. You know big changes in the food world are occurring when a noodle house has a superior beer selection than the corner bar next door. Some of the beers on tap at the OB Noodle House included Union Jack, Green Flash's Trippel, and Arrogant Bastard. The bar next door was macro infested with faux micro Blue Moon and the ubiquitous Sierra Nevada Pale Ale passing as the edgy beers. At the OB Noodle House East meets West Coast and the patrons are the winners.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Super Saison de Lente

I had The Bruery's Saison de Lente when it first came out earlier this year. I must have drank it on a bad day or with other beers because I don't really remember it. What a shame. I had another Saison de Lente tonight and this time made sure I paid attention. The beer pours a cloudy orange with moderate foam. The initial taste is spice and distinct Belgian yeast, and it finishes dry with a pleasant hop bitterness. Saison de Lente's label says the beer tastes best around 50 degrees, which makes sense because it got better as it warmed.

Saison de Lente is a great beer. It is full of flavor, but drinkable. The Bruery hit everything right with this beer, and balanced the Belgian yeast and hop finish perfectly. The label says that Saison de Lente has about a two-year shelf life, if stored properly, which means I need to pick up a few while they are still available.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

IPA Thursday

I went to Toronado early this evening for two, quick IPAs. (Toronado has a great beer list and every time I go I tell myself I am going to try something different, but I always seem to resort to an IPA or two.) The first was an IPA from Santa Barbara's (Goleta) Hollister Brewing Company. It was the White Star IPA. It was on nitro and that gave it creaminess. It had tight white foam that stayed all the way down the glass. My notes say that there was a taste of cloves, and a piney, floral bitterness. The bitterness remained strong throughout the finish. This was an excellent IPA. I don't know much about Hollister, but some posters on BeerAdvocate are complimentary. You don't see Hollister Brewing's beers that much, and I would recommend this beer if you get a chance.

I decided to stay with an IPA after priming (numbing) my taste buds with White Star's hop kick. I thought it a waste to try a more subtle Belgian-style beer. I was going to try Port's Doheny Double IPA, but the bartender said it was 10% or more alcohol, which was just too much this afternoon. I opted for a Blind Pig, which is an excellent consolation. I had not had one for some time and I have been missing out. While the White Star was damn good, Blind Pig was sublime. Its piney hop flavor and balanced malts make this IPA hard to beat.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Am A Craft Brewer Video

I saw this video and thought it very well done:

Greg Koch from Stone Brewing was the creative person behind this video. This is a high quality, excellent production and well worth watching, even if you're just a craft beer drinker, not a craft brewer.

Beer and Alternative Radio

San Diego's two alternative radio stations - 91X and 94.9 - have weekly competing craft beer segments. One of the grand dames of alternative radio with roots to the early 1980s, 91X does a segment each Thursday morning were local brewers come in and sample their beers with the DJs. (The website linked above has not been updated for about two months.) Each Thursday around 8:20 a.m. the brewers will talk about and sample their beers with the DJs. One of the DJs, I think it's Matt, is a BeerAdvocate and knows his beer. Recent segments included interviews with Oceanside Ale Works and Airdale Brewing, two new San Diego brewers.

The alternative music upstart, FM94.9, does its craft beer segment a day later, on Fridays around 8:20. This segment is with Stone Brewing's Brewmaster Steve and Distribution King Phil. They'll talk about any good craft beer, whether or not it's a Stone beer. Recent episodes included Ballast Point's Tongue Buckler and Oceanside Ale Works Big Ru. The web people at FM 94.9 are a lot better about putting whole segments on its website for internet listening than the guys south on the dial. (I listened to today's show while writing this post.)

These radio spots coincide with my mad dashes to drop my kids off at school. I give these guys credit for drinking beer so early in the morning. I like a good beer, but 8:20 is too early for me. It is good that craft beer is getting good exposure twice a week on two radio stations.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Are You a Beer Geek?

I found this beer geek description on The Beer Geek’s website:

1. Name dog, child or other pet with a beer-related name.
2. Wardrobe includes a multitude of beer t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, etc.
3. Have a beer fridge or at least a whole shelf dedicated to beer.
4. Have a beer glass or other beer memorabilia collection prominently displayed in your house.
5. Only drink beer. No wine or hard liquor.
6. Avoid pubs, restaurants, and other eating establishments that have a crappy beer selection (no matter how good the food).
7. Abstain from drinking at events or functions rather than drinking crappy beer.
8. Seek out beer festivals.
9. Willing to travel far and wide in search of the perfect pint.
10. Anxiously await the arrival of Sierra Nevada Celebration and Anchor Christmas.
11. Anxiously await the arrival of this month’s issue of the Celebrator or other trade magazine.
12. Gleefully shame your friends, family and acquaintances who drink crappy beer.
13. Get a holy feeling each time you convert a bad beer drinker to the religion of quality craft brews.
14. Sufficiently bugged by pretentious wine people who think beer drinkers are heathens.
15. Sufficiently bugged by pretentious beer people who drone on and on about beer styles and the intricacies of their latest homebrew.

I answered “yes” to thirteen out of fifteen – solidly a beer geek. My only "nos" were four and five. I don't have too much beer memorabilia displayed around the house, and I will drink a good wine, not a crappy wine. No hard liquor, but will gladly taste a well made margarita.

The Beer Geeks have really cool videos documenting their beer travels.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Point Loma Sports Grill & Pub

Just had lunch at the Point Loma Sports Grill & Pub, in Point Loma's Liberty Station (the re-development of the old Naval Training Center (NTC)). The pints are not pints. Unfortunately, no pictures, but some glasses are fat bottomed, indicating a 14 oz. pour. The waitress assured me that the beers were 16 oz., but I don't think so. We compared two glasses and one had a thick bottom and the one without the thick bottom appeared narrower. Good thing the 14 oz. beers were only $4.50.

This place is actually not a bad place to have a beer. It is huge with at least a dozen TVs. The food is decent, but not spectacular and its pricey. The draft list is heavy on the macros and major craft brewers - i.e a Sam Adams' seasonal rotation. It just added Ballast Point's Big Eye IPA, which is is a major upgrade to its beer list. It also has Airedale's Altitude Pale Ale, which is a solid pale ale.

An establishment with the word "pub" in its title should not have short pints. I can see a restaurant, but not a pub. Plus, most places that give you a short pint will let you know it's not 16 oz. Vigilance.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Where's My Maraschino Cherry?

Who put the beer in my foam! I ordered this Alaskan Amber Ale last night at a local pizza restaurant, Pizza Nova. The high foam makes the beer look like a dessert. I needed a couple of spoons and a Maraschino cherry.

Pizza Nova is a San Diego-based restaurant that has three locations. The food stinks, the pizza is marginal, the tap list's weak, hence the Alaskan Amber, it's expensive, and it's always packed.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Lost Abbey's Gift of the Magi

There is a brouhaha on BeerAdvocate about The Lost Abbey and its most recent Angel's Share release. Apparently this (approximately) $30 bottle of beer did not have enough carbonation and the BeerAdvocate crowd is mad. Mad may be too mild a word, as the frustration with Angel's Share has grown to encompass all The Lost Abbey / Pizza Port beers some posters thought were bad or did not like. Some BAs are swearing off all Lost Abbey and Pizza Port beers due to their anger. The worst charge is that The Lost Abbey knowingly distributed a "bad" beer. The Lost Abbey's head brewer, Tomme Arthur, responded to the criticism by saying that Angel's Share is bottle conditioned (may get more carbonated over time) and was brewed to have low carbonation. I, for one, am not swearing off The Lost Abbey or Pizza Port beers, but I am not going to pay $30 for a bottle of Angel's Share, either.

In support of The Lost Abbey, and in an attempt to rid myself of my remaining holiday beers (one left), I opened a Gift of the Magi this evening. I like this beer. It has plenty of spices and a rich depth of flavor. The 10% alcohol is present throughout, and becomes more pronounced as the beer warms and the bottle is drained. It has a rich, copper color that is slightly cloudy, and the foam is thin and quickly dissipates. It had some carbonation, but not much, which was fine with me. I will buy this beer again this coming holiday season. I think it retails around $10 to $12, which is commiserate with its quality. While I liked Gift of the Magi, I prefer drinking holiday beers during the Holiday Season.

I think it's important to remember that brewing craft beer is an art as much as science, and that all releases will not taste the same. The lack of standardization is the "craft" in craft beer. The brewers at The Lost Abbey, Ballast Point, Stone and others are craftsmen and there may be variation in their beers. I know that the main complaint with The Lost Abbey is that a bad beer was distributed on purpose rather than destroyed. This is a serious charge and after reading Tomme's response I will give The Lost Abbey the benefit of the doubt.

Texts From Last Night

The website Texts From Last Night is hilarious. This is not a beer post, but I think many of these texts were beer or alcohol inspired. Be careful drinking beer while reading this website.