Friday, April 30, 2010

Classic Beer Road Trip

Beer bloggers from the Captain's Chair, Vice Blog and The Drunken Polack made a road trip to Indiana for Dark Lord Day, with plenty of beer stops before and after.  Dark Lord Day is the annual beer geek pilgrimage/frenzy to acquire the eponymous Dark Lord Imperial Stout.   Here's Captain's summary of the trip, and make sure to checkout the hilarious picture of some poor schmuck dropping his case of Dark Lord while showing the beer world his torn underwear - a double ignominy.   Here's The Drunken Polack's summary of the experience.  After reading both summaries, New Glarus Brewery is a must-visit destination.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pizza Port - Ocean Beach Update

I saw this on a BeerAdvocate thread today discussing the Ocean Beach Pizza Port:
From Jeff Bagby, head brewer and head of operations for all the Pizza Port pubs, who presented at last night's Quaff meeting:

Neighbor protest held up the liquor license. They've gotten past the protest and expect the license to be approved soon. They're pretty much ready to go, tanks are full of beer, and they are hiring bartenders, etc. Not sure of opening date. Had hoped for 4/20, then planned for May 3, but "that ain't happening." Maybe May 10. They'll have some private parties and a soft opening, won't have "grand opening" for a while.

They'll have 40 handles. BOP beers at opening will include Jetty (the house IPA), Shark Bite, California Honey, a cream (Cardiff, I suppose), a house pale ale, Chronic and an imperial porter. They'll also have a bottle selection. The brewing system is brand new and OB will be the first of the Pizza Port pubs to treat their brewing water. The other three use unfiltered city water, but probably will be adding the treatment system eventually, he said.
So it looks like a May 10th opening, pending license approval.  I hope the license process goes smooth.  I have heard of other locations where the license approval process took much longer than anticipated.  We walked past last weekend and it looked completed inside, with tables and flat screen TVs installed.  It looked modern with plenty of light.  I could not see what's going on upstairs for outside dining.  There are also a few tables outside along Bacon Street that sit underneath tiki umbrellas.  The parking lot has been refinished and there are ten spots.  Forty taps.....

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Drink Beer and Carry On

This has been a sad week in the world of beer blogs.  The prolific Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive is folding HBJ and his other blogs along with topics including "music, film, politics, baseball, naval-gazing and extreme narcissism. And beer." into one blog, Hedonist Jive.   I'll follow the new blog to see to what extent beer plays in it.  Summer of Beer is also shutting down.  Steve, the enthusiastic chronicler of a beer influenced lifestyle, recently graduated from USC's medical/pharmacy school, and the blog that started as a college diversion has met the reality of the work world.  (I think that deep down, Steve, an ardent USC fan, could not bear to blog during the upcoming college football season, as I suspect the Lane Kiffin era at USC will have an inauspicious start.)

The Beer Rover is here to stay.  I have been hearing and reading that there is not much more to say about beer and many topics have been rehashed and are tired.  I agree to a point.  As craft beer becomes more commonplace it is becoming less interesting.  It used to be a quest to find an interesting beer, whether in a store or restaurant - now its routine.   I still have plenty of beer and food ideas to write about.  Some topics/posts I am working on include:
  • A comparison of Stone Brewing's World Bistro and Gardens to The Linkery, and why the "eat local" and "farm to table" concept works at one but not the other.
  • Pizza Port's Ocean Beach location looks set to open any day and I am planning to be one of the first to get a pint, and take a picture to prove it.
  • A mini-rant on the term "gastropub," now that a new "Portland-style gastropub" is opening near my house.  (Good food served with good booze, what an original concept.)
  • Keep complaining about and documenting restaurants that short change beer drinkers with faux pints and other weird glassware that give less than a pint of beer at pint prices.
  • Talk about the Olive Tree Market's new beer and wine tasting room.  (The post will be as short as the tasters served.)
  • Keep reviewing beers, including an overdue review of Green Flash's awesome West Coast IPA.
I am also outlining a long-form guide to beer in San Diego, which I will gear towards tourists or people interested in craft beer but are not sure where to start.  I still need to do more "research" on this project.   I consider myself a beervangelist and feel it my duty to steer people towards good beer, especially if they show an interest.   I need to clean up this site's links and add some food blogs and links to places in San Diego that serve good food and beer, as my beer drinking is usually centered around eating.

I hope Jay keeps up with his beer posts.  He's always tying different beers, and I respect his reviews.  I don't think we've heard the last of Steve.  It is hard to quit blogging, even when work takes priority.  There will always be something to say about beer, especially when a new beer either "wows" you and you have to share the news, or is so bad it's worthy of a vicious rant.

(I took the picture above from Pete's Brown's beer blog.   The shirts are being sold here.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Top Craft Brewers

How many of the top ten craft brewers can you name?  The Wall Street Journal had a question and answer with Boston Beer Co.'s Jim Koch, and in a sidebar listed the top ten craft brewers, based on 2009 sales volume.  Here is the list from the article:

Top 10 Craft Brewing Companies

Based on 2009 beer sales volume, with more popular labels noted.
1. Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams Boston Lager) Boston, Mass.
2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale) Chico, Calif.
3. New Belgium Brewing Co. (Fat Tire Amber Ale) Fort Collins, Colo.
4. Spoetzl Brewery (Shiner Bock) Shiner, Texas
5. Pyramid Breweries Inc. (Haywire Hefeweizen) Seattle, Wash.
6. Deschutes Brewery (Mirror Pond Pale Ale) Bend, Ore.
7. Matt Brewing Co. (Saranac Adirondack Lager) Utica, N.Y.
8. Magic Hat Brewing Co. (#9) Burlington, Vt.
9. Boulevard Brewing Co. (Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat Beer) Kansas City, Mo.
10. Harpoon Brewery (UFO Hefeweizen) Boston, Mass.
Source: Brewers Association; brewery Web sites

I'll admit, if given a test to choose the top ten craft brewers, I would have only scored forty percent - Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and maybe Pyramid.   I probably would have guessed Deschutes, but would have also included Stone, Brooklyn Brewing and Widmer.  I didn't know Shiner Bock was so big and have never heard of Matt Brewing.  Is Matt Brewing really bigger than Brooklyn Brewing?  I know these lists are not worth much, but I found it sort of interesting, more for my lack of knowledge than anything else.

Jolly Pumpkin On NPR

I saw this NPR profile of Jolly Pumpkin on the A Good Beer Blog.  The story is four minutes well spent.  I've never had a Jolly Pumpkin beer and now need to find one.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

NYC - Part II

After a long day of work, museums and tours, it was late and we knew we had to eat something.  We wanted something quick, casual and affordable.  I set out from the hotel to find an eatery and stumbled upon Dean's Restaurant & Pizzeria, on Second Avenue.  It looked like a local restaurant and it was full of people even at a late hour on a weeknight.  Everyone thought pizza was a good idea and we settled on Dean's.  I think we were the only tourists in the restaurant.  We discovered that Dean's has great pizza, in fact I'm not sure I can remember a better one.

We ordered Dean's thick-crust, rectangle-shaped pizza topped with pepperoni and kalamata olives.  It was served piping hot and was packed with mozzarella, pepperoni and olives.  I was not that hungry and don't generally care for olives on my pizza, but this pizza was so good, I think could have eaten the whole darn thing by myself.  It was the kind of pizza where you burn your mouth with every bite because it's so delicious you can't wait for it to cool.  Dean's beer selection was weak, and the only beer of note was Brooklyn Brewing's Brown Ale.  I had two mugs with the pizza.  (Beer served in mugs bug me, unless they're accompanied by a pitcher, because they generally only hold about 12 oz and are the price of a full pint.)  The Brooklyn Brown Ale was dark, almost like a porter, and malty.  But its body was light, which made it easy to drink.  It was the right beer to go with the pizza (but really, anything short of sour milk would have been good with Dean's pizza). 

The next day we were back in full tourist mode and headed to Katz's Deli for a late lunch.  Katz's is a New York institution that dates to 1886, and it felt like its last remodel was in the '40s or '50s - which is part of its charm.   The walls are full of pictures of celebrities along with neon signs, including signs of defunct regional brewers like Knickerbocker (which closed its brewery in 1965, and was brewed by Pabst until 1997). Katz's is always crowded, even at off hours.  We got our ticket and looked for an opening at the counter to order our sandwiches.   We ordered a pastrami on rye and a corned beef Ruben on rye.  I know I recently raved about the Ruben sandwich I had at The Linkery in San Diego, but with all due respect to The Linkery, I'd give Katz's Ruben the edge.  It's a huge sandwich overflowing with corned beef, sauerkraut, dressing and cheese.  It's not diet food, but you don't eat it every day (although it'd be fun to try).

Katz's must have had fifteen beers on tap, ranging from Bud and friends, to German beers, to craft beers.  It has its own beer, Katz's Ale, which is brewed by Brooklyn Brewing, and is dark and looked like it could have been a private-labeled version of Brooklyn's Brown Ale.  I ordered a Magic Hat No. 9, which is brewed in Burlington Vermont.    This a unique beer.  Magic Hat's website says it's not quite a pale ale and BeerAdvocate lists it as a fruit beer.  I thought it looked and tasted closest to a pale ale.  It poured a clear orange, but it had a strong floral flavor that was prominent throughout the glass.  It reminded me of unsweetened herbal tea, but not in a bad way.  It was a good beer, but distracting in that I kept trying without success to pinpoint its flavors. 

We had another late dinner (after Jersey Boys), this time a Heartland Brewing along Sixth Avenue. Heartland locations are nearly as prevalent in New York City as Starbuck's or Duane Reade drug stores.  Heartland's IPA was drinkable but nothing special and its wheat beer was nasty.

In my walks and travels around the city, I noticed a fair number of English and Irish pubs.  I did not make it to any - I have to have a reason to go back - but I did take a picture of this multi-story pub, boldly named The Perfect Pint.

I think I did well in achieving my beer drinking objectives.  All but one beer was from the East Coast, and I got to try beers from respected New York brewers Captain Lawrence and Brooklyn Brewing.  I live in San Diego, which has earned its high opinion of its role in the craft beer world.  It is good to get some perspective and know that good beer is not only the domain of San Diego, and more importantly that craft beer is showing up in all kinds of places, not just beer geek bars.

Monday, April 19, 2010

NYC - Part I

I was going to write several posts during my trip to New York City earlier in the month, but dummy-me forget my cardreader so I was unable to to upload my pictures while in New York.  Rather than try and re-create each stop on my trip, I am going to do one or two summary posts.    I went to
New York with one beer objective, which was to only try only New York or East Coast beers.  I was with my family, so I was not taking detailed notes and all beers were with meals, and I did not make it any of New York City's famous beer bars.  I found craft beers prevalent in New York, even at the tourist traps and my general recollections are below.

The Grand Central Oyster Bar, in Grand Central Station, is way-touristy (especially foreign tourists),  but it had a good beer list, and a solid local selection.  We tried Brooklyn Brewing's Brooklyn Lager and Sixpoint's Righteous Ale, both brewed in Brooklyn.  The lager was crisp and malty, and it was darker and had more favor than I was expecting.  The rye ale was dark, a bit cloudy and had a nice bitter finish.  I liked the rye so much, I had two. 

The following night we went to the cheese mecca, Artisnal Bisto, along Park Avenue in the low-30s.  (It is very close to the beer bars Rattle 'N' Hum and The Ginger Man.)  Artisnal was less touristy than the Oyster Bar and is where I finally got to taste a beer brewed by Captain Lawrence.  I ordered the Pale Ale, which came in a long glass ( I am guessing this the Fresh Chester Pale Ale as it's the only Captain Lawrence pale ale listed on BeerAdvocate).  It was an excellent pale ale, the best beer of the trip.  It had a perfect balance between the hops and malt.  I like when brewers can brew basic beers well.   Fancy special releases that generate a cult following are fine, but brewing an outstanding, basic beer can be difficult for some brewers.   I could drink the Captain Lawrence Fresh Chester Pale Ale every day, and will be thinking about this delicious pale ale for some time.

While my goal was only to drink East Coast beers, I had to make an exception when I saw Blanche de Bruxelles, a Belgian wit, on tap at the Museum of Modern Art (although the $8 price tag was a shock).   It's easy being an art lover when an art museum serves quality draft beer.  This was the lightest wit I ever had, so light that there was just not much to this beer, and the pour was atrocious, but it was restorative after canvassing the MoMA's many floors of art exhibits.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Saison Dupont Steal

Saison Dupont is at Costco for $6.89 per 750ml bottle.

World Beer Cup

San Diego breweries did very well at last week's World Beer Cup, which was held in Chicago.  Ballast Point won small brewery of the year, and other winners included The Lost Abbey, Karl Strauss, Alpine, Green Flash and Rock Bottom.  (Rock Bottom? - who knew?)  Orange County's The Bruery, which I feel like is almost a San Diego brewer, also won two awards.

Here is a link to The Linkery's summary of the event, and Peter Rowe's articles in yesterday's San Diego Union Tribune here (list of winners) and here summarizing San Diego's impressive showing.  The key takeaway, buried at at the bottom of second Rowe article, is:
Ballast Point’s win came at an opportune time. The Scripps Ranch brewery is installing more tanks, enabling it to boost production 50 percent by summer.
 I take this to mean Sculpin and Dorado will be available more often.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Booking My Flight

I have been travelling and have a backlog of posts to write.  I just saw this (although I think I may have heard about it already).  Mario Batali and Dogfish Head and a few other craft brewers including Russian River are teaming up to open a restaurant/brewery in New York City sometime this summer, called Eataly.  This sounds pretty awesome.  It will be located just off Madison Square Park, which is a cool part of New York, and is where the famous Flatiron Building is located.  It is also a few short blocks to Union Square, another neat open area famous for its farmers' market.