Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Oh Ryes

I recently had two excellent rye beers, Ladyface's Red Rye and Karl Strauss' Rye IPA.  I find rye malt approachable, imparting a sweetness that avoids the heaviness of some malts.  The Red Rye, like all good red ales, had plenty of hops, which provided an excellent complement to the malt.  The alcohol was around 7%, but you hardly tasted it. This is the third beer I have tried from Ladyface, and all have been superb.  (The picture is lame, I had the beer a third finished before I took the picture.)

Karl Strauss' Rye IPA is the best Karl Strauss beer I have ever tried, hands down.  I had it at Strauss' brewpub in La Jolla.  Strauss' website lists the beer as a tap-only June release, but it was still available in late August.  Karl Strauss should bottle this beer and make it its signature IPA and have it available year-round.  This is a hoppy ale that falls on the pine side of the IPA citrus / pine taste spectrum.  The rich, rye malt flavor balances the big hop bitterness.  The alcohol is 7.5% and is noticeable in the finish.  Rye IPA was served in a tulip glass, which was unfortunate because a pint would have been great.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tap Hunter

I just found the Tap Hunter beer toy.  It lists a bunch of craft beer bars and restaurants in San Diego.  Click on a particular restaurant or bar and see updated tap lists.  I am adding a permanent link to the blog.  In addition to San Diego, Tap Hunter has beer information for Vancouver, Denver / Boulder, Philadelphia, Portland and Seattle. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

That's A Lot Of Tsingtao

I thought this graphic was interesting:

It makes sense that China is the largest beer market given its huge population.  The Czech Republic's beer drinking is in a class by itself, and stood out to me.  Czech's drink 161 liters per person, trouncing the next closest country, Germany, who could only muster 109 liters per person.  That's a lot of Pilsner Urquell.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Stone's Greg Koch on NPR's Marketplace

Stone Brewing's co-founder Greg Koch was interviewed by Kai Ryssdal on NPR's Marketplace.  Here
is the link to the article, and there is also an audio feed.  Koch discusses Stone's European plans in the interview.  Here is a discussion on Stone's European brewery exploration:

Ryssdal: So where are we in the Stone expansion process?
Koch: We have a colleague who is out over there now, just hit the ground this past Monday. We're looking for an existing brewery site to retrofit their brewery to brew the style of beers we brew, would like to be a region where people would want to visit, good quality of life. But frankly, somewhat of it's in the "I'll know when I see it" category.
Ryssdal: Why do you have to make it there? Why can't you just take those bottles that we saw inside on the line, put 'em in a carton, put 'em on a boat and send 'em over to wherever you want in Europe?
Koch: We could, but we don't want to for a variety of basic, fundamental reasons. One is the time that it takes to ship our beer over there, and our beer is best when it's fresh -- and we steward that religiously. Now, when it comes to doing that and sending it refrigerated to Europe, that's extraordinarily expensive. And so, when it gets all the way over there, that's going to be quite an expensive equation for the consumer. But I think the primary reason is the carbon footprint. I think it would be irresponsible for us to send high volumes of beer from one country another and completely ignore the carbon footprint.
Stone is going to brew Stone beers in Europe, not new beers designed for the European market.  Good for Stone!   It is interesting in the interview that interviewer Ryssdal says the Europeans drink "fizzy yellow" beer, but here is what three Europeans, interviewd in an English pub, have to say about an American brewer coming to Europe:

Ryssdal: Greg Koch, CEO and co-founder of the Stone Brewing Company, talking about his plans to expand into Europe. It occurred to us that we could talk all day about what Europeans may or may not want. But why not just put the question to actual Europeans?
Barry Southern: I think American beer is a lot lighter. It has a fizz. If you would have a hot dog or a hamburger, you would then associate that with American beer.
Matt Wright: You wouldn't go for an American beer. You'd go for Stella, wouldn't you? Or a Kronenbourg, a European beer.
Chris Hubbard: I think if they could just offer something unique, as long as the quality is good, I think people would take it up.
Ahh, the difference of perceptions.  Stella or a Kronenbourg over any beer Stone brews?  Please, if the comment wasn't ignorant it'd be an insult.  I assume (based on no evidence) that Stone will focus on a Great Britain location for its new brewery.  If Stone picks the UK, its beer drinkers are in for a treat, and Stone, along with Scotland's Brew Dog, will jolt the English beer palate. 

I make it to Stone Brewing several times a year, as it's about forty minutes from my house.  I happened to be near the brewery today and stopped by to fill a growler and pick up some swag.  I heard the Greg Koch interview on the way home from the brewery - what a strange coincidence and time to queue the music from Twlight Zone.  

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial Ale

Stone's 14th Anniversary Emperial Ale was released about six weeks ago.  I have had several and am starting to get a better handle on it.  I have been waiting for the "wow" moment before I posting my thoughts, thinking I was missing something about the beer, but it's not going to happen.  This is not to say this isn't a good beer, it is, I just had a hard time figuring it out, which sounds strange when I type it but not when I taste 14th. 

Emperial is a cloudy, yellow beer with big white foam.  It looks like a wheat beer.  The beer is Stone's interpretation of a classic English IPA, which Stone brewed using English ingredients including treated water.  The first taste I noticed was the beer's minerals, which were quite prominent on the front.  The minerals gave a tangy zip to the tip of the tongue.  This taste confused me as I usually look for a pine or citrus flavor in an IPA.  Emperial's pine profile became noticeable once I got past my initial taste confusion.  Its 8.90% abv was well masked, but the beer left a film in the mouth.  Emperial finished with a classic Stone bitter hop wave.

While I was not overwhelmed by this beer like some previous Stone Anniversary Ales, I did enjoy it and will get some more before it disappears.   Check out the glass in the picture.  It is a 22 oz Portland beer glass from Crate & Barrel that I received for my birthday.  This monster glass is perfect for drinking bombers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pizza Port Updates Website

Pizza Port has redone its website.  It looks very nice.  Make sure to checkout the Tap List Cams at each location to see the house beers and guest beers being offered. 

Big Fat Stone Rumor

I just saw this link on a BeerAdvocate message board.  The article referenced and linked in the BeerAdvocate post states that Stone is preparing a bid to "rescue Walsall's historic Highgate Brewing out of administration."  I am sure this news and related speculation will be burning up the beer "internets" soon enough.  Now back to work.

Update:  In the BA post/thread linked above, Stone's Greg Koch addresses the article, noting that the Highgate sight is just one of many sites Stone is reviewing and all reviews are in their preliminary stages.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Alpine Brewpub Opens

I'm on Alpine Brewing's email list and for the past year or so read about Alpine's struggles with getting its pub open.  Then last week, in one of Alpine's periodic emails, there was this throw away passage at the end of the email:
The Alpine Beer Company’s pub hours are 11AM to 10PM Tuesday through Thursday, 11AM to 12PM Friday and Saturday, 10AM to 9PM Sunday, CLOSED Mondays. Our tap list includes Willy, Willy Vanilly, Mandarin Nectar, McIlhenney’s Irish Red, Captain Stout, Tuatara, Hoppy Birthday, Duet, Nelson, Pure Hoppiness, Ned and 2 versions of Great. We first released Great in 2005 and then again in 2009, we have both draft versions on right now (yes we saved a keg all that time). We’ll be releasing vintage beers as time goes on, Briscoe, Chez Monmee and Chez Monieux, and 12 oz. bottles of Great. The menu is bbq themed and is really good, I would not say so if it weren’t true.
What?  The barbecue pub is open? No grand opening announcement?   No details on how the appropriate licenses and approvals were finally obtained?  This is the soft opening of the year.  Here is some more info on the pub from Peter Rowe and the San Diego Beer Blog, along with a thread on BeerAdvocate discussing the pub.

Pain In The GASStropub

I finally figured out the definition of "gastropub."  It means good tasting, small portioned food at exorbitant prices.  Throw in some craft beer and small vinter wines at high prices and the gastropub is complete.  (More crudely put - when you see gastropub by a restaurant's name, prepared to get screwed.)   Sessions Public in Ocean Beach is a new gastropub and if you visit, get ready for an expensive meal.  I popped in last week to examine the tap list and saw sixteen taps, all craft and Belgians, including Stone, Ballast Point, Allagash, Lost Abbey and Port Brewing, Ommegang and D'Achouffe.  I noticed that the menu was limited, with appetizers, small plates, sandwiches, salads and large plates, but was too blinded by the beer selection to notice the prices.  Not too smart.

We went last week and were shocked at how expensive this gastropub was.  We started by making the mistake of ordering the $15, five selection, cheese plate.  Sessions Public's cheese plate confirmed that cheese plates are now the biggest rip-off in the restaurant industry.  I wish I had snapped a picture because each mouse bite-sized slice of cheese was too small to even pair with a beer, and if you put it on the hard slices of bread that comes with the cheese, the cheese's flavor and complexity got completely lost - just like my $15.

I then doubled down on errors by ordering the $19 fish tacos (and I wasn't even buzzed).  I want to blame Sessions' audacity for having $19 fish tacos on the menu, but if I am dumb enough to order $19 fish tacos I have to take full credit for my stupidity.  The two ahi tacos tasted fine, but they were tiny, and served with a spoonful of cold beans.  Other Sessions' dishes seemed more reasonable, especially the pasta, which was huge (but still, $16 for pasta).  The wings as appetizers were delicious.  My advice is to stay with the small plates, which include sandwiches and the hamburger.  

On to the beer.  I don't think Sessions' glasses are real pints. The owners of Sessions spent good money on the cool looking, stubby glasses shown in the picture, but I'd bet that they're not sixteen ounces.  What kind of pub does not serve a real pint!  Fake pints are for restaurants not pubs.  Pubs should serve real pints.  The topper was that the non-happy hour, tax included price for a Ballast Point Sculpin was $7!  Ouch! I did not ask about the happy hour prices, but even if beers are $1 off, Session' prices are still too high - especially when the beer are not real pints.

Unfortunately, the tab for dinner tainted my view of Sessions.  The price for three beers, two appetizers and three entres was over $100, before tip.  This is outrageous for a pub, and more expensive than a similar meal at our Ocean Beach "special meal destination" restaurant, The Third Corner.  For comparison, I went to Ladyface Companie Alehouse in Agoura Hills over the weekend, which I would also consider a "gastropub," and we ordered more food and more beer (including a growler) and the total bill was nearly $40 cheaper.  While the food at Sessions was very good, I just can't get over how expensive it was.  I was hoping for a place we could frequent as a family and spend around $50. Unfortunately, I don't see a return visit to Sessions in the near future.

There are plenty of places to get food and craft beer in Ocean Beach.  Pizza Port and Newport Pizza & Alehouse have plenty of craft beers.  The OB Noodle House and The Blue Parrot (short pint alert) also offer a large selection of craft beers.  While these four restaurants may not have the ambiance of Sessions, you won't go broke either.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Saison Rue

After being an unabashed homer for The Bruery since it opened more than two years ago, I thought it time to finally try its flagship beer, Saison Rue.  This is a wild, untamed beer.  It's as aggressive as Ballast Point's Brother Levonian is staid.  The first, obvious, feature of Saison Rue is its carbonation.  It took several minutes to fill my Chimay chalice because the foam was so intense.  I found the initial tastes harsh, as the dense bubbles, yeast, hops and a peculiar, sharp, midpoint sweetness all vied for attention. The sweetness was ephemeral, disappearing shortly after jolting the taste buds.

Like other The Bruery beers, Saison Rue changed throughout the bottle.  The sweetness mellowed, making it more approachable, allowing the yeast and hops to complement each other.  The thick foam and effervescence stayed throughout the bottle.  It was a cloudy beer and its color was a deep orange while the foam was white.  

Saison Rue's label said the beer was brewed with Brettanomyces yeast, but I did not notice the Brett's sour flavor.  I did find Saison Rue dry, so dry that I had to chase it with some water.   This beer, like so many The Bruery offerings, is a "thinker,"  and I am going to have to have another one to get a complete impression, I found it too complex to grasp in just one shared bottle.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Southern Misconception

Living in San Diego, I tend to forget, or my biases let me assume, that there is no good beer outside of California or the Pacific Northwest.  In my enlightened moments I'll acknowledge that there are quality brewers and good places to get a beer in other parts of the country, such as in the Midwest or the Northeast.  But the South is always excluded from my brief periods of beer magnanimity.   I like it when my beer myopia is turned upside down, especially in a resounding fashion. 

The beer selection at Taco Mac in Atlanta amazed me.  The weirdly named chain, with twenty-six restaurants in Georgia and Tennessee, proves that craft beer is flourishing in the South.   The menu is typical bar and grill food - salads, sandwiches, burgers and burritos - but I think its specialty is Buffalo Wings.  Don't waste time on the food menu, go straight to the tap list.

I counted seventy-plus taps at the Taco Mac I visited.  The tap list is not like a Yard House that also boasts about seventy taps, but that has only a half dozen beers that would interest a serious beer drinker.  Taco Mac had good craft beers from around the country, and included Stone, Southern Tier, Bells, Founders, Dogfish Head, and even The Bruery was on the list.  It carried local beers from Athens' Terrapin Beer and Atlanta's Sweetwater Brewing, along with European beers.  

I tried Magic Hat's Number 9 because the Southern Tier tap had just finished and I had liked it earlier in the year.  Plus, I was still curious about Number 9's strange, floral hints.  It still had the floral hints, and I am no closer to figuring them out now than I was in April, but it seemed much more malty than I remembered, and was almost too malty for me. 

You can find good beer in the South.  Taco Mac's are a great place to start and they are readily available around Atlanta.  Examine the tap list and enjoy a few beers with some wings.  On a side note, another Southern Misconception buster is the Brick Store Pub in Decatur, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.  This pub is currently ranked as the number two beer bar in the world by BeerAdvocate magazine - not Atlanta, or the South, or even the United States but the world.  So take that elitist West Coast beer snob.

Go And Knock On Their Door

Last week the Beer Rover received a text message from its traveling correspondent about a new pub called The Regal Beagle.  The text said the new restaurant had a bunch of taps and menu consisting of sausages.  What the heck?  Was this some sort of mean joke?  A restaurant that only offered good craft beers and sausages, who was reading my mind?  I had to see for myself and made it down to The Regal Beagle late last week.

We went for a late lunch and loved The Regal Beagle.  It sells food (sausages and appetizers), and it felt more like a pub than a restaurant.  Most of the seating is at the long, L-shaped bar, but there are a handful of tables and all were available when we visited.  Natural light filled the pub, as a bank of windows face India Street and run the length of the restaurant.  There are twenty-four taps, and a modest selection of canned beer.  The taps consisted of craft beer, mostly from San Diego and California, and several Belgian beers.  The beer list appeared well thought out and any beer geek will find something to enjoy.  I am guessing the taps rotate frequently.

The sausages are from T&H Prime Meat and Sausage.  There were eleven sausages to choose from.  I picked the German Garlic - how could I not when the description said it was for Nazi vampires.  It was cooked properly and served on a bun with onions and peppers along with a side of homemade potato chips (which were awesome).   There are six mustard choices, including a spicy and stone ground mustard.  The only place I have had T&H's sausages before was at the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens, and am glad to get them closer to home.  In addition to sausages, The Regal Beagle offers other appetizers including pretzels, Buffalo wings, and a mixed green salad.

The beer prices are reasonable.  Many beers are $5, and higher abvs and Belgians are $6 to $8.  Beers are $1 off during happy hour, which goes to 7 daily (I am not 100% on this time).  I had the Green Flash Extra Pale Ale.  Like all Green Flash beers, it was a style over achiever, hoppier than most pale ales let alone extra pale ales, despite a late lunch appropriate abv of less than 5%.

Maybe it's because I write a beer blog, but any new restaurant needs to have a good beer and wine selection to make me a repeat customer.  It doesn't need twenty-four taps, like The Regal Beagle, but a few interesting, rotating choices are mandatory.  I have stated this before, and am sure I will state it again, but the restaurateur that cares about beer and wine cares about food.  I have not found this a universal truism, but the restaurants where the beer and wine are good, usually have decent food, and it's true in reverse where the beer and wine are afterthoughts.  The Regal Beagle is worth a stop, or many stops.  It hit the ground running with its fantastic beer selection and wonderful sausages, and I wish them success.