Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Gift Ideas for Beer Geeks

If you're not into beer but know a beer geek and want to buy a present to indulge his or her hobby, here are a few gift ideas, and ones to avoid, for this holiday season. 

1.  Don't Give Beer.  Unless you have been given a specific beer request, you should avoid direct beer gifts.   The beer geek is at heart a snob and if you don't know the beer your giving, the chances of choosing a beer the geek will like is slim.  Stella Artois and Newcastle Brown Ale are not special, and Cost Plus' Beers-of-the World twelve packs are lame.

2.  Beer Store Gift Certificates.  If you are set on giving beer, a gift certificate to a good beer store or grocery store with wide beer selection is a better gift idea than randomly trying to choose strange beers.  You should budget around $25, which will let the geek buy two to four beers.

3.  Brewery Gift Certificates.  If you're lucky enough to live near a brewery you should think about a gift certificate.  A gift certificate from a local brewery will allow the geek to fill growlers, or buy bottled beer or pickup up glassware, logoed clothes or other beer swag.

4. Glassware.  Quality beer glassware is hard to find, but makes a great gift.  Crate & Barrel finally has as decent selection of beer glassware.  I'd recommend the Hops, the Bruges (picture), or imperial Pint Tumbler.  Many breweries now sell special glassware, and again, if you live near a brewery, you should investigate this option.  Avoid the ubiquitous Shaker pint glasss, the tall pilsner glasses or any glasses with handles.  Any respectable beer geek has plenty of Shaker pint glasses and won't need any more.  Stores like Target and Macy's only offer the tall pilsner glass, but while these glasses look elegant they're a pain to use, plus beer geeks don't tend to drink many pilsners, which these glasses were designed for, and if they do it's usually directly out of a can or bottle.

5.  Beer Books.  The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes and Unabashed Arrogance is a good literary gift.  Amazon has it and I've seen it at Costco (although this is probably regional). It's a glossy well written book that the beer geek will enjoy.  Most professional beer writing is tedious at best, so be careful with selecting beer books.

6.  Bottle Opener.  It sounds simple, but a good bottle opener is a must for any beer geek, and an overlooked tool for the drinking trade.  Choose an opener that has heft and leverage, as it will be required to open wine bottle-size beer bottles.  Local breweries and a quality beer or liquor store are a sources for openers, but other cooking stores should carry suitable ones, too.

Keep your beer gift search simple.  Beer does not lend itself to over thinking.  The beer geek is typically an appreciative person, despite the snooty attitude towards beer, and will enjoy any extra effort to indulge their habit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Year-End Thinking

It's unlikely I will reach my goal of 100 posts for this year.  I could write a number of small useless posts to get to 100, but I am not going to succumb to posts that read like a New Brew Thursday tweet just to meet a meaningless target. 

I am putting together my list of best and worst beers of the year.  I know the best beers I have had this year, but I am having a hard time putting together the worst beers.  I'd had some beers that have disappointed and underwhelmed, but until last weekend none that I'd call the worst beer of the year.  Iron Fist's undrinkable Gauntlet double IPA was shudder inducing bad.  It did not taste like an IPA, was way too malty and boozy and had a nasty aftertaste.   If I didn't know it, I would not have guessed it a double IPA.  A friend ordered the Gauntlet at a pub, and I tasted it, so I did not actually have one myself, so maybe I should not include it on my list.  But whether I include it or not, with one taste it was by far the worst beer I had this year.   We asked the bartender if we could swap Gauntlet for a Coronado Brewing Idiot double IPA, which I knew was a good beer, and she gladly obliged, agreeing with us that Gauntlet was a tough beer to drink.   I can't remember ever sending a beer back for crappy taste.

Holiday Beer Recommendations

I was asked by a friend today for holiday beer recommendations for a party he was hositng.  I immediately said Dupont's Avec Les Bons Voeux, which is possibly the finest beer on the planet, holiday beer or not.    I try to enjoy a couple of this smooth, souped up saison a year.  I sent a later email telling him that he should also buy some Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, a classic American holiday beer.  If my friend and his guests don't like either of these two beers they deserve to get sick on their eggnog.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Slater's 50/50 and Danny Downer

We went to the new Slater's 50/50 in in San Diego's Liberty Station on Friday night.   Before we went I had seen on Slater's website that it offered a good selection of craft beers.  I had also read The Hop Daddy beer blog, which mentioned that Slater's had 111 taps.  Slater's website only lists a handful of its beer options, shortchanging, for some reason, its actual number of taps.  I don't know if Slater's really has 111 taps (the manager told me there were 111) or whether near its closer to 80 taps (like Slater's website states), all I know for certain is there are plenty of beer drinking options.

Some restaurants have a large number of taps, but upon closer inspection, you are left with about three beers you'd want to drink (read: Yard House).  But Slater's 50/50's 111 taps were stocked with mostly good stuff, including Stone Brewing, Ballast Point, Bear Republic, Alesmith, Port/Lost Abbey, Iron Smith, and Green Flash beers to name a few.  Plus, there was a fair number of quality Belgian beers.  Sure there were a handful of macros - Bud, Bud Lite, Ultra, Stella, Blue Moon etc. - but with 111 taps seeing these beers is expected, and who really cares because the important point is that the tap choices at Slater's are heavily weighted towards good beer.

I told a friend about Slater's, which has only been open about a week, and he immediately started putting it down.  He didn't like the namesake 50/50 burger, which is half hamburger meat and half bacon, the regular burger patty that he had fell apart, and other people he knew didn't like it either.   How can someone form such a negative opinion on a week-old restaurant?   I thought the food was good.  Slater's is a brewpub-type burger joint, and it fits this style well.  I don't eat hamburgers that often, but I have no problems with quality of Slater's burgers.  (I had the Thanksgiving Turkey Burger and liked it.)  The service was friendly and attentive, too.  With about 90 to 100 viable draft beer options to enjoy, what the heck do you want, The French Laundry?  My friend and his negative cohorts can avoid Slater's, this leaves more beer for the rest of us.

(The picture above is a Lost Abbey Red Barn in a fancy Lost Abbey glass.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Round Up - Damnation Batch 23 and Confluence

Here are a couple of quick reviews on two excellent beers.  Russian River Brewing's Damnation Batch 23 is the latest periodical release of the ramped up version of Russian River's year-round Damnation.  Damnation is a Belgian Strong Ale and Batch 23 is Damnation on steroids.   Strong is the key word, as it has an 11% abv compared to Damnation's 7% abv.  Batch 23 is scary smooth, the most drinkable "big" beer I have had in recent memory.  It is yeasty and fruity at the front, with a balancing hop bitter finish.  It is a rich, full-bodied beer.  As you can see in the attached picture, Batch 23 is highly carbonated, and the intense bubbles give the beer a welcome creaminess.  It is worth finding this infrequently released beer.

I am continuing my quest for good sours. As noted in the previous blog post, I went to Pizza Port Ocean Beach's sour and rare bottle night as part of San Diego Beer Week last Friday.  I stayed long enough to pick up my food and drink an Allagash Confluence.  Confluence made the fifteen minute wait in line seem short.  As I took my first taste of this wild American ale, the roar in Pizza Port faded and I heard a chorus of angels sing, "Hallelujah."  Confluence is an excellent sour.  It helped cement my preferred flavor profile for sour beers - strong sour initially and through the middle followed by increased bitterness, and minimal sweetness all around.  Confluence's yeast gave it a funky sour flavor, and it had a nice hoppy bite in the finish.  There was a faint note of sweetness that served to balance, not distract, and it is in no way a sweet beer.  Too much sweetness diminishes a sour beer.  Confluence had a strong body that supported its complexity.  I would have had liked more time to savor this distinct beer.  Like with Batch 23, you'll be doing yourself a favor trying Confluence.

Monday, November 14, 2011

11.11.11 on 11.11.11

I managed to have a Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11 on its actual namesake date 11.11.11.  It wasn't my deliberate intention, but when I found the sour beer night at Pizza Port Ocean Beach too crowded, I figured it'd be worth grabbing a bottle of the latest Stone release for home consumption.  I'll get right to the point - 11.11.11 was better than I was expecting.  I know that's not a ringing endorsement, but I was suspicious when I heard it was being brewed with chilies and cinnamon.

It poured a clear, deep mahogany, with quick dissolving sand-colored foam.   The chilies provided some spicy heat, but I did not detect too much flavor from them outside of their heat.  The main taste I picked up was cinnamon.  It was present throughout, even with the bittering hops in the finish.  The other taste was booze, which was noticeable from beginning to end.  (I am not sure of the beer's abv, but would guess between 8% and 9%.)  There are plenty of flavors going on in this beer, and I am going to need another bottle (or several) to get its full measure.  I did not do 11.11.11 justice by drinking at least half of it with a pizza dinner, but most of my beer drinking is with dinner.

I compare all Vertical Epics to my favorite, 08.08.08.   11.11.11, while complex and interesting, is not as good as '08's Vertical Epic.  On the positive side, it's much better than last year's experimental wine wannabe, and I want another, which is also positive.  11.11.11 is an approachable extreme beer, but you'll find yourself sipping it despite its easy drinkability.  The cinnamon and chile heat could qualify this beer as a one-off Stone holiday beer.  Stone has one more Vertical Epic left, and I am already starting to miss the concept.  It's time to start the speculation on next year's Vertical Epic grand finale.   I am rooting for a monster Belgian quad, thick as molasses, with a big dried fruit profile, and hops, loads and loads of hops.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


On Friday I wanted to go to The Blind Lady to meet The Bruery's Patrick Rue and try some The Bruery beers, as part of San Diego's Beer Week.  I drove by The Blind Lady twice trying to find a place to park while noticing the crowd inside.  After the second pass, while driving west on Adams Avenue, I decided to skip The Blind Lady and see if I could find parking and a restaurant somewhere on 30th Street.  My parking impatience resulted in trying an amazing beer and having a superb lunch. 

The Beer Rovette and I decided to eat at The Linkery, where we found convenient parking and a modest late lunchtime crowd.   Green Flash's Le Freak was on cask.  I had seen this beer in bottles for years but had never tried it.   It was delicious.  Being on cask and near room temperature made Le Freak's flavors pop.  Le Freak is a Belgian IPA, and it was a perfect blend of fruity, yeasty, hoppy goodness.  I never would have guessed its alcohol level was near 9%.  It was incredibly drinkable, and as I worked my way down the glass I kept taking smaller and smaller sips to avoid finishing the beer.  I need to go get and drink a bottle of Le Freak to see if it comes close to the cask version, but I am afraid that it won't live up to my expectations.

The other beer in the picture above is Mission Brewery's Hefeweizen, which is a zesty, spicy hefeweizen.   Lunch at The Linkery was excellent, it was my good fortune that I could not find a place to park at The Blind Lady.  The Beer Rovette and I shared soup, salad and a burger.  At my age and girth, I try not to eat french fries, but I had to make an exception for The Linkery's fries, which we ordered as an appetizer.  They are cooked in meat fat, which makes them decadent and cholesterol bursting.  Every time I go to The Linkery I wish I lived in North Park so I could eat there more often.  It's one of the best restaurants in San Diego, plus it always has a beer or two on cask.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Second SD Beer Week Post

Well, half way through SD Beer week, this beer blogger has hit exactly zero events out over 400 million.  Pretty pathetic.  Friday, 11.11.11 is shaping up as the day of days for me.  I like the looks of The Bruery's Patrick Rue hosting a lunchtime tasting at Blind Lady Alehouse, which will feature some special The Bruery beers, including Oude Tart, Snickelfritz and 4 Calling Birds.  On Friday night starting at 5:00, Pizza Port Ocean Beach is hosting a night of sours and rare beers.  I am not sure what beers will be on tap, but am hoping for a few Russian River "tion" (shun) beers and The Lost Abbey's Red Poppy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

SD Beer Week

The third San Diego Beer Week starts today (11/4) and runs through next Sunday (11/13).  I haven't paid too much attention to this year's events, as I'll avoid the big festivities and look to hit some smaller venues.  There are more than 460 events listed on the San Diego Beer Week website, ranging from the large, signature Guild Festival, to select beer specials at local retailers.  I have not gone fully through the list, but like the opportunity to meet The Bruery's founder and craft beer rock star Patrick Rue on Friday, November 11 at the The Blind Lady.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Interesting Pending Releases

I saw today that The Bruery is releasing its annual holiday beer, the fourth in its theme of the carol Twelve Days of Christmas, 4 Calling Birds.  Like the previous three releases, 4 Calling Birds is a Belgian Dark Strong Ale.  I really liked the first two versions, but was lukewarm on last year's Three French Hens (I don't think I even reviewed it).  4 Calling Birds is a mighty 11% abv, so I'll have to block out the better part of an evening to drink this beer.

Stone Brewing is releasing this year's Vertical Epic, 11.11.11, on Monday.  It's the penultimate beer in the Vertical Epic series.  This beer is different every year, and 11.11.11 is keeping up the tradition. The Stone Blog states that 11.11.11 was brewed in:
"a Belgian-style amber ale brewed with cinnamon and Anaheim chillis from New Mexico’s legendary Hatch Valley (famous for growing complexly flavorful chillis prized by foodies.)"
 My chili skepticism is somewhat allayed by the beer's 65 IBUs.  Look for both Vertical Epic 11.11.11 and 4 Calling Birds in the next week.

Arrogant Bastard Reprint

I wrote this post on Stone Brewing's Arrogant Bastard over three years ago, and it recently popped up on the list of this blog's most viewed posts.  In summary, I credit Arrogant Bastard for starting the extreme beer trend.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Societe Brewing Co.

I added a link to Societe Brewing Co.'s website.  Societe is a start-up San Diego brewer that is building its brewery in the Kearny Mesa section of San Diego (i.e it's near O'Brien's Pub).  Here is the first post from Societe's blog:
Societe Brewing Company was founded in 2011 by Travis Smith, formerly of Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa, CA) and The Bruery (Placentia,CA), and Doug Constantiner formerly of The Bruery. Societe Brewing Company is a production brewery with a tasting room, slated to open Spring 2012.
The two founders / brewers have impressive resumes, and are the reason why I am following Societe's progress.  It's interesting that The Bruery, which itself is still a young brewery, is already seeing its talent venture out.  You can follow Societe on its blog or on Twitter.  In a Twitter post late last week Societe stated that brewing sour beers is going to be a main focus.   I am all for more sour beers.  Below is Societe's new logo:

I am looking forward to springtime.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Obscura Obsucra

Before I start this post, here is an interview with Telegraph's Brian Thompson on the Beer Samizadt blog.  Since I read this post I've had made it a point to try Obscura Petit (which I had seen on tap at Pizza Port Ocean Beach) and Obscura Arborea (which I had purchased a few months ago).  Petit is a tart, sour beer that weighed in around 4.5% abv.  What a delicious beer.  It's a sour without sweetness. A subtle bitterness appears in the finish and complements the sour.  Petit is my favorite type of sour, moderate alcohol, lively, funky sourness, and limited sweetness.

Obscura Arborea is a different animal from Petit.  Arborea is a 9% Oude Bruin, or Flanders Brown Ale.  It is malty and aged in oak, and I picked up the oak, especially at the front of each taste.  The sour flavors were behind the malt and oak.  Like Petit, Arborea is not sweet, and I found it a dry beer.  Without reading the label, you'd never know this beer was 9% abv.  The beer was thinner than I would have expected, and it's sourness was muted.  I think this beer would have benefited from a bit more sweetness, which, I know, is strange for me to state after just writing how I prefer sours that aren't sweet, but this would have given it a richer profile. 

I've never been bitten by the barrel aged bug, and Arborea is oaky from its time spent in barrels.  Its oak overshadowed the yeast and related sourness.  I liked this beer and would buy it again, I think I was just expecting more from it.  I've had several Oude Bruins, but am no expert.  I need to find a style benchmark so I can properly gauge sour beers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Manzanita Brewing - Here's to Good Beer Karma

Here is another better late than never post.  Last summer, I went to a private party at Manzanita Brewing for a friend's birthday.  The people at Manzanita were as nice as could be.  The beer flowed and the waitresses made sure that anyone who wanted a beer always had a beer.    After the party I was told that Manzanita had not charged for the space, relying on beer sales, and the waitresses worked only for tips.  What a great way for Manzanita to build goodwill.

I haven't had too many Manzanita beers.  Its IPA is drinkable, but it won't get confused with any of the better IPAs around San Diego.  Its 9% brown ale was sweet, malty and approachable.  I recently had a bottle of its Lazy Saison.  This was a decent beer, not a great saison, but one I'd gladly drink again.  Its double IPA is is supposed to be very good.   Manzanita is doing something right.  I am seeing its bottles at more stores and its expanding to a new location in the near future.  With the goodwill it's building at its tasting room, Manzanita's growth is not a surprise.  Its attitude made me a fan.

Update and Fresh Hop Fall Beers

This month has gotten away from me.  I feel guilty writing about beer when work keeps piling up, but I hope to get back to regular posts in the next week or so.  It's been so long since my last post that the Drunken Polack retired, then unretired from beer blogging.  I didn't even get a chance to drink and review my Drunken Polack tribute beer, a beer I still have from my one beer trade with Dave several years ago, New Holland's Dragon's Milk.  It's chilled now, so I will drink it soon.

Earlier this month I had Pizza Port Ocean Beach's Get Wet fresh hop IPA.  It was outstanding, but I'm not sure if it's still available.   I can't think of a more citrus flavored IPA.  I know it sounds cliche to state that you can taste the hops, but it's kinda true.  The hops impart a noticeable bitter, danky juiciness to Get Wet that is all citrus.  It seemed fresher, and had dramatically more flavor, than Port's bottled fresh hop beer, High Tide, which was bottled in September.  

Fresh hop beers are my new "fall" beer.  It's unfortunate that most fresh hop beers are only available for a few weeks out of the year.  I'm not a fan of traditional fall beers, as most Oktoberfest beers are too malty (and thin) for my taste, and pumpkin beers are, well... pumpkin beers.   A little pumpkin beer goes a long way, and I'm good for about one every few years (and the Stone-Elysian-The Bruery collaboration pumpkin beer is in the fridge).  If you can find a place selling fresh hop beers on tap, I'd recommend enjoying a pint or two.

Monday, October 3, 2011

GABF San Diego Medal Data Mining

The San Diego Beer Blog has a good rundown of all the local beers and breweries that won awards at this year's Great American Beer Festival.  It's good to see Pizza Port Ocean Beach win Small Brewpub of the year.  It's near my house and is as close to my "local" as a place can be considering I usually just buy growlers and pizza to go.  Congratulations.

What struck me about the San Diego award winning beers was the lack of IPAs.  IPAs are San Diego's signature beer, but only one, Alesmith's IPA, received a medal.  Instead of IPAs and similar light colored beers, San Diego brewers were raking in medals with dark beers, with sixteen of the twenty awards going to brown ales, stouts, porters and Belgian Strong Ales.  I counted five brown ales on the medal list.  Brown ales?  Who drinks brown ales?  Who brews brown ales?  (Just kidding, Alesmith makes the quietly delicious Nautical Nut Brown Ale.)  Joking aside, I found the medal list interesting, and it gives me some new beers to find and get me out of my IPA comfort zone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Get Wet - Locals Only

Pizza Port Ocean Beach's Get Wet fresh/wet hop IPA is now on tap.  I had this beer last year and it was a flavor bomb.  The OB Farmer's market this afternoon seems like the perfect excuse for me to drop in and taste this year's version.  I know I am spending too much time touting Pizza Port Ocean Beach's fresh hop IPA and its While The Wife's Away IPA, but this is because they're good IPAs and PPOB's regular IPA, Jetty, is a marginal beer.   You have to drink the good stuff while it's available.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Jay at the must-read Beer Samizdat was gracious enough to interview me and say nice things.  You can read the interview and my ramblings on beer here

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fresh Beer and Vertical Epic

From reading tweets a few weeks ago, I think Pizza Port locations are going to have their fresh hop beers available either this weekend or early next week.  That is good news, if like me, you appreciate the juicy bitterness of a fresh hop beer. 

I also realized that it's less than two months until Stone Brewing releases this year's Vertical Epic - 11.11.11.  The deserved hype surrounding Stone's 15th Anniversary Ale made me forget this release, (or maybe it was the crappy 10.10.10).  I haven't checked to see what Belgian style is targeted for 11.11.11, but would appreciate a quad, or another golden strong ale (08.08.08), or an oud bruin or a....

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Blackout Beer - Duvel in the Dark

Last week's San Diego Blackout came and went without much impact or hoopla in my house.  We found candles and flashlights before it got dark, and located an Italian restaurant that was selling pizzas.  (I am going to make sure to buy some non-scented candles.)  It was nice not having the TV blaring for an evening, even for the start of the NFL season.  When I went out to get the pizza, I was amazed at how quiet it was.  People were out walking or sitting on their lawns or porches, with no noise other than conversation.  My daughter and I enjoyed a one-time star show, seeing stars and constellations we've only seen on night sky maps.  

I got home with the pizza just at dusk and went to the beer fridge, which had stayed closed and cold, despite over three hours in a summer garage.  I pulled out my bottle of Duvel Golden Ale that I had been saving for some unspecified occasion.  No power, pizza and candlelight seemed the perfect excuse to pop the cork.  I can't tell you how this beer looked, because everything in candlelight is some shade of yellow or orange, with plenty of shadows.  I do know it had plenty of foam that was slow to dissipate.  Duvel was effervescent, and the bubbles stayed concentrated throughout the whole bottle.  It had a strong yeast presence and a richness characteristic of a good golden ale, with a mild hop finish.  It was an excellent beer with strong flavor and an approachability missing from many big Belgians.  The beer geek will appreciate this beer and the novice will just grin and ask for more.

The beer went perfect with the evening.  It was mellow, but had an underlying complexity.  Its first taste was as good as its last.  I'd never had a bottle of Duvel before, even though it's widely distributed (Trader Joe's usually has bottles of Duvel at a reasonable price).  I plan on buying more of this beer and keeping a bottle in my beer fridge, you never know when it'll be needed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Stone Brewing's ephemeral Tenth Anniversary double IPA has always been the gold standard for Stone Brewing's anniversary beers, the beer against which all other anniversary beers were measured.   It was an extreme beer, the uber-West Coast IPA.  There are probably message boards still discussing this beer and whether bottles of it are drinkable (they're not).  Stone's Escondidian Imperial Black IPA has eclipsed the Tenth Anniversary as the best anniversary beer Stone Brewing has created.

First, a note on the Escondidian name.  Escondidian is a play on Cascadian, a term started by Northwestern bloggers in an attempt to rename Black IPAs "Cascadian Dark Ales," and hijack the style and claim a bogus regional beer A.O.C., taking unwarranted credit for the Northwest.  (Examples of this inane, one-sided folly are here and here.)  Stone's Escondidian resoundingly reclaims Black IPAs for brewers and beer drinkers everywhere. 

Escondidian is a thick beer that poured black, smooth and slow.  The foam was dense and dark and rose from the black beer like some kind of unleashed cappuccino mousse, despite the deliberate pour. 

When I first tasted Escondidian I thought it a cross between a big porter and an IPA.  The two dominate tastes are the deep, roasted malts and sharp hops.  The forward hop bitterness quickly dispelled the porter angle.  I really picked up the New Zealand Sauvin hops, which appeared in the middle of the taste.  If you've had Alpine's Nelson IPA, you will recognize this distinct hop immediately.  The roasted malts imparted a sweet, dark chocolate flavor, and battled the hop bitterness to a draw throughout the middle and far into the beer's finish.   There is an overall sweetness in this beer that complements the hops. The chocolatey sweetness is necessary, and never becomes a distraction or filmy.  There are big flavors competing for your attention in this beer, but they are brought together in a wonderful balance.

This is a big beer, weighing in at 10.8% abv, but the alcohol is in the background and is not intrusive or dominant.  The scary part about this beer is that it's delicious and the alcohol doesn't serve as a drinking governor.   I enjoyed one bottle over the better part of an hour and only when I was done and my brain was half-addled did I realize the strength of Escondidian.   Usually, when I finish a beer as muscular as Escondidian, I am through for the evening, but when the bottle was drained I wanted more.  I'm glad I was at home and not at a pub.

Stone Brewing has reached a new high with its magnificent Escondidian. It has created not only a fantastic beer, but maybe the most drinkable "extreme" beer I have ever tasted.  Escondidian is a lofty benchmark for subsequent Stone anniversary ales.  In the future, when people discuss Stone's anniversary ales, they will speak in reverent tones of the Escondidian, while the 10th Anniversary Ale will fade into a pleasant memory.  Stone may not have invented the Black IPA, but it's now the style's standard bearer, not only with Escondidian, but with Sublimely Self Righteous, too.  Stone has not only ended the debate over the fatuously named Cascadian Dark Ale, it has crushed it in medieval fashion (don't mess with the gargoyles).   Cascadian Dark Ale is dead - long live Black IPA.

(I lifted the picture from Stone Brewing's website because the picture I took with my iPhone didn't do Escondidian justice.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stock Up on Duet and Prepare for a Karl Strauss Quad

Here is some information on a couple of emails I received over the past two days from Alpine Brewing and Karl Strauss.  Alpine is releasing its barrel-aged imperial porter, Token, on Friday, September 2, restrictions apply.  Alpine also served notice that the current batch of Duet will be released in a few weeks, and it will be the last for some time, possibly until the end of the year, as Alpine has ran out of this year's Simcoe hops.  Stock up and hoard accordingly.

Karl Strauss is brewing a quadrupel, Two Tortugas, for the second installment in its play on the Twelve Days of Christmas, (not to be confused with The Bruery's same-themed annual Holiday release), in mid-November, 2011.  Karl Strauss is also releasing its Big Barrel Double IPA on September 1.

Tasting Room Tips

I've been trying to catch up on work, which is why the posts have been light.  I have several posts in process, including a review of Stone's 15th Anniversary beer and praise for Manzanita Brewing's tasting room and staff.  Here is a link to Brandon Hernandez's guide to local craft beer tasting rooms and some commonsense courtesies.  I love the new word "herbaceousness."  The post provides a good list of local beer tasting rooms, but Stone's two locations (Escondido and South Park) and Alpine Brewing were not on the list.  Most tasting room hours vary, so it's best to verify open times before visiting.  I have made this mistake more than once, arriving at closed brewery only having to turn around and leave with empty growler in tow.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beer Samizdat - The Return of a Beer Blogger

I recommend a new "old" beer blog, Beer Samizdat, for your beer reading enjoyment   It is the latest beer blog from Jay H., the former author of Hedonist Beer Jive and current writer of Hedonist Jive.  I began reading Hedonist Beer Jive at least five years ago, and thought it was not only one of the best beer blogs around, it was also some of best writing on beer, in any format, period.   I'd include Aaron Goldfarb's Vice Blog and The Beer Nut from Ireland in this category, too.  You can keep the Beaumonts, Hieronymus, and Brysons, give my Jay, Aaron and the Beer Nut.  Not only are they good, honest and entertaining writers, they are beholden to no one but their readers, and the beer.

Jay has a Manifesto for Beer Samizdat where he not only explains the Samizdat name, but proclaims his blog's purpose.  Point six in his Manifesto struck me in particular:
6.  I will not make up smells nor flavors in the course of reviewing a beer. If you ever see me pretending that a beer smells or tastes of “freshly-baked sourdough banana/walnut bread”, or spouting any lie equally appalling, you have permission to stop reading the blog at once.
I don't always agree with Jay's reviews (he's not a fan of Pliny the Elder, considered heresy in Beer Geekdom), although I agree far more often than not.   I am looking forward to Jay updating his top 75 beers, so I can see what beers I should be trying.  I also recommend reading Jay's Hedonist Jive blog where he discusses music, books, film among various topics.  He has an opinion, so be prepared, but he encourages respectful debate.  As the craft beer world expands from a small circle of beer geeks to mainstream acceptance, it will need chroniclers like Beer Samizdat, and hopefully this blog, pointing out the ridiculous and keeping it in line. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Jack D'Or Fumble

I had my first Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project beer, Jack D'Or, near the end of a lazy Fourth of July.  I took electronic notes detailing my impressions about the beer's fine qualities.  A few days later when I went back to write the review I realized that I typed over my original notes, and could not figure out how to retrieve them.  I tried to rewrite them from memory, but it's just not the same.  I did not want buy and another Jack D'Or and try to recreate my impressions, because I've come to believe that "atmosphere" plays a significant role in beer appreciation.   I'll get to enjoy another Jack D'Or after I post this truncated review.

So, a month on here are my general impressions on this beer.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it's the front-runner for my "beer of the year."  Pretty Things calls Jack D'Or a "Saison Americain."  I'll be honest, I don't know or really care what is meant by "Americain."  Maybe it means that Jack D'Or is hoppier than a typical saison.  This is true, it is hoppy saison, which is my favorite type of saison.  Jack D'Or earns is saision credibility with a strong dose of yeasty spiciness.  The hops and yeast played well together in this beer.  It has a complexity that does not diminish its drinkability.   Jack D'Or made a strong first impression, and has me wanting another, along with more beers from Pretty Things. 

Stone Sign At Liberty Station

I was at Liberty Station over the weekend and took this picture that announces the new Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens:   

I like message from Stone Brewing at the bottom of the sign:
When this sign is gone, that means the restaurant is OPEN.
There will likely be NO sign for the restaurant once it is open
It looks like the target opening is Late Spring 2012.   I'll try and take periodic pictures to update progress and see whether a Late Spring 2012 opening is realistic.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Where's the Kitchen Sink?

Sometimes, I have to call "BS."  Here is an over-the-top description from the latest BeerAdvocate magazine:
"Brown bread, mango, plum pudding, banana taffy and some lemongrass make for a complex nose." 
All this in just the scent of a beer?  Wow, the reviewer must have quite a schnoz, or more likely, a flowery imagination.  The beer with the four-course smell is Cathedral Square Brewery's Belgian-Style Abbey Ale, which despite its dessert tray aroma only rates a B- on BeerAdvocate.

Monday, July 25, 2011

New Beer Blog for San Diegans

I added a new blog named The Sip-SD Magazine on the blog roll.  It is a beer blog on the San Diego Magazine website and is written by Brandon Hernandez, also known as the Off Duty Foodie.  I have never met Mr. Hernandez but have read his articles on beer in various publications, including the WestCoaster.  I first read an article by him last year in Beer Connoisseur, a high brow national beer magazine, where Mr. Hernandez detailed San Diego craft brewers in knowledgeable and enthusiastic fashion.  I generally have disdain for "professional" beer writers, finding them pretentious name-droppers that seem more concerned about the their place in the craft beer world than the beer itself.  (Plus, many are just poor writers -  I cringe every time I read "veritable plethora" in a beer article.  I suspect many beer writers are journalists that failed to get plum reporting jobs and were assigned the food page, and therefore did not come to beer writing through a love of beer but through career necessity.)   Professional beer writers are the reason I read beer blogs.

Mr. Hernandez is one of the few professional beer writers I like to read.  I get the impression that he is a beer lover first and a journalist second, and it shows in his writing.  I don't know if he is concerned with ingratiating himself with local beer celebrities, but I know I am looking forward to reading his blog and Twitter feeds.

While I am throwing out rare compliments, I would also recommend another local beer blog, San Diego Beer Blog, and its author Jeff Hammett.  He mixes beer reviews, with local beer news and events, and he gets some good scoops.  Mr Hammett also writes for the WestCoaster, which has become a solid publication in less than a year.  You can pick-up the WestCoaster at most bars and restaurants that sell good beer.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Alpine Expo Email

I received an email from Alpine Brewing this evening.  Alpine announced that Exponential Hoppiness, its triple IPA, will be released on Tuesday.  Here is the language from the email:
First, for the news most of you appear to be clamoring for, a release announcement. If the bottling goes well on Monday, then on Tuesday, July 26th, when we open, we’ll have another fresh batch of Exponential Hoppiness. But wait, there are conditions. We will be applying the 2 – 4 – 6 rule for this release:

·         No more than 2 new growlers of Expo (we’re short on growlers and all the suppliers are out right now),

·          No more than 4 growler fills of Expo per person per day,

·          No more than 6 bottles of Expo per person per day.

We won’t argue about the restrictions. If you want to break the rules you will be denied service and be told to leave.

There is some rational to the restrictions. Our beer is meant for our local customers first. We don’t care to see people sending growlers, meant for local use, being shipped off to far away destinations where the growler becomes useless, the environment needs consideration. The economy behind growlers makes them sensible only when they are refilled, not sent to the recycler or landfill. And, our beer is best fresh, hording bottles only lessens the quality of the old beer stored in your garage, warm, yuk.
Later in the email, Alpine braced beer drinkers for a price hike, as it raises capital to expand its facilities.  Alpine's beer prices are already low compared to other craft brewers, so a little short-term pain for a long-term benefit seems to make sense to me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Belgian Independence Day

Maybe it's me, but before this year I don't remember hearing about or ever celebrating Belgian Independence Day.  Now, I am seeing emails and web postings announcing celebrations in honor of this new found excuse to drink a good beer.  I was curious about this upstart holiday and went to my go to source for all important information -  Wikipedia.  Apparently, Belgian Independence Day is a real historical event.  Belgium declared its independence from the Dutch on July 21, 1831, and crowned as its new king, a prince from a German duchy (after a French duke turned down the job).  I guess we're supposed to overlook Belgium getting valiantly steamrolled by Germany in World War I and II.

Let's call Belgian Independence Day what it is, it's craft beer's answer to Cinco de Mayo and St Patrick's Day.  These two beer drinking days are dominated by macro Mexican beer and green beer - styles that make a beer snob shudder.  Belgian Independence Day, now that's a date a serious beer drinker can get his or her arms around.  Cantillons instead of Coronas, and gueuzes rather than green beer, what's not to like.  Here's to Belgium and good King Leopold!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


This morning I saw on a Greg Koch tweet (which I no longer see) a link to Travel & Leisure magazine's latest article on the best beer cities in the United States.  San Diego is ranked an unbelievable eighteenth.  It ranked below those famous beer cities Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans and Nashville.  Old stereotypes die hard, as Portland and Seattle were ranked one and three, respectively.  If T&L was going to focus on the South, why not Atlanta, which deserves inclusion for the Brick Store Pub alone.  T&L must not like bold IPAs - it's not worthy.

Beer Rover Turns 4

I have a mean-spirited post kicking around my head about the large number of anniversary celebrations that litter the craft beer world.  I thought it best to add my own bit of garbage before I type that post.  The Beer Rover turns four today.  The first post, typo and all, was July 14, 2007.  What started as an idea to document places to find good beer in airports and cities across the country, was derailed by the credit crisis shortly after I started beer blogging.  The Beer Rover quickly morphed into a more San Diego-centric blog, but with all the breweries in San Diego that's not a bad thing.  A quick note on the name.  I wanted a name that captured my original intent of seeking out good beer on business trips and other travels and writing about my findings, but Beer Seeker sounded lame and Michael Jackson had already immortalized Beer Hunter.  I settled on Beer Rover because "rover" works in the travel / seeker vein, but mostly because I like the traditional Irish song Irish Rover performed by The Pogues and The Dubliners.  Yes, the creative spark fueled by a couple of craft beers is powerful.  Cheers!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Collaboration Green Tea Beer

Stone Brewing, Baird Brewing and Ishii Brewing collaborated on a Japanese Green Tea IPA to benefit Japan's earthquake victims.  I agree on the cause and will support it with a bottle purchase, but I'll admit that I am skeptical about this beer.  I hope my reservations are allayed.  I have never been a fan of Japanese beers - fizzy yellow beers at their finest - but the one Hitachino beer I had was pretty good.  The one time I had tea as a food ingredient, an Extraordinary Desserts pastry (or some sweet) made with Earl Grey tea, was not enjoyable.  I do like IPAs, though, so Japanese Green Tea has that in its favor, and this is one big beer, weighing in at 9.2% abv, which is good.  I think the hops required for an IPA and the high abv will work in this beer's favor.  I'll let you know my opinion, I am hoping for the best.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Linkery Adds Taps

The outstanding North Park restaurant, The Linkery, has increased its tap selection.  Here is The Linkery's blog post describing the new taps.  It now has ten taps and one cask.  I did not see a link to a beer list, but The Linkery always has interesting beers, or you can check TapHunter.   I'd recommend going to The Linkery tomorrow for its Reuben Tuesday.

San Diego Reader "Beer Heaven" Article

This week's San Diego Reader has a great cover story on the rise and importance of San Diego beer.  It is worth reading.  I don't think the article was written by a beer geek, so it doesn't come across as someone "preaching to the choir."  I share Stone's Greg Koch's anger at "beer-purveying establishments" that don't offer local beer:

The one thing that makes him really mad is local San Diego beer-purveying establishments who won’t welcome San Diego beers into their line-up.
Like Qualcomm. “Here we are, San Diego, one of the most famous brewing cultures in the entire world, and no local beer at Qualcomm Stadium? Instead, it’s corporate facsimiles. Tell me whether you think that’s the result of local demand or corporate machinations behind the scenes? It infuriates me. It should infuriate a beer enthusiast. It should infuriate a San Diegan.”
Qualcomm Stadium is not alone (see last month's rant on beer at San Diego County Fair).  Near the end of the article the author describes a secret beer club that meets "every Wednesday around sunset over a keg of some craft-brew. They enjoying (sic) a couple of hours sitting around outside this garage, talking beers, mostly, because there’s something new every week to talk about. To join the club, you bring a peace offering: a keg."  How do you get an invite to this speakeasy?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Alesmith Summer Yulesmith

I had almost given up on Alesmith's Summer Yulesmith.  It is one of the original double IPAs that captivated my attention and palate in the mid-2000s.  It was big, sweet and bitter, everything you'd want in a DIPA.  But over the past few years, even though I'd mark my calendar for Yulesmith's mid-June release date, I'd lost my affinity for it and other big DIPAs, finding them too cloying, syrupy, and boozy.  I almost didn't buy this year's Summer Yulesmith, but thought I'd try it just to write a snarky post on the demise of the DIPA.  Well, the joke's on me, as this year's Summer Yulesmith is excellent.

Summer Yulesmith is a sharp-hopped, piney IPA, with a clarity that has been lacking in past years.  The thick, syrup taste is gone, replaced by a refreshing bitterness.  The alcohol is present from the start, so Yulesmith won't sneak up on you.  It's a big beer, and tastes like one.  Because this year's Yulesmith lacks the stickiness of the past, it is much easier to drink.  I really enjoyed this beer.  But I was so sure I was going to not like this beer, I didn't even take a picture.  I am guessing Alesmith tweaked this year's Yulesmith.  Drinking it in early July means it's still fresh, which may have had something to to with how good I found it.

Alesmith makes two versions of Yulesmith, Summer, which is a DIPA, and Winter, an imperial red ale.  I had ceded the winter version as the better of the two, but this year's Summer Yulesmith may make me rethink that.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Pretty Things in Ocean Beach

Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project beers are now in stock at Olive Tree Market in Ocean Beach.  I have read and heard good things about Pretty Things, which is based in Massachusetts, but have never tried one of its beers.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stone's Fifteenth Anniversary Ale

I saw some information on Stone's Fifteenth Anniversary beer this morning on San Diego Beer Blog.  The beer is a black double IPA, which sounds like Stone's Eleventh Anniversary Beer that became Sublimely Self-Righteous.  The name of the new beer is Stone Escondidian Imperial Black IPA, and I think the release date is sometime in August.  I will post more as I know it.  Maybe Stone will do a video giving details on the beer.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Costco Beer Finds

I went to the Morena Blvd Costco in San Diego at lunch today for some office supplies.  I always check the beer aisle to see if Costco's random, small shipments of Saison Dupont are in stock.  No Dupont today, but there were a couple of other interesting deals from Duvel and Ballast Point.  There were a few remaining cases of 750ml bottles of Duvel Golden Ale at the bargain price of $7.99 per bottle.  Also in stock was what looked like a Costco-only Ballast Point 8-pack.  The eight 22 oz bottles included two each of Sculpin IPA, Big Eye IPA, Calico Amber and Black Marlin Porter.  There were plenty of boxes available, and at $29.99, its less than $4 per bomber bottle, which is worth it for the Sculpin alone.

Ovila Dubbel

Father's Day weekend always coincides with the US Open golf tournament.  I had a bottle of the Sierra Nevada Belgian-style collaboration beer, Ovila Dubbel, on Saturday night, and in the spirit of the weekend I am going to compare it to a golf shot.  Ovila Dubbel was like hitting a drive, but instead of hitting the ball square, you hit it fat, and while the ball goes straight and stays in play, it ends up about two-thirds or three-quarters of where you wanted it to land.  It's clearly a playable shot, a decent shot, you may even get a few "nice shots" from your playing partners, but not nearly as good an effort as you wanted or were expecting.  This sums up my impression of Ovila Dubbel, a fine beer, but one that came up short.

Ovila is a series of collaboration beers between Sierra Nevada and the Cistercian monks of Abbey of New Clairvaux, which is in Northern California, not Belgium.  The Dubbel was the first beer in the series and there is now a Saison on the market.  I am not sure what, if any, styles are planned after the Saison.  The Dubbel poured a dark brown with a solid layer of white foam that lingered.  My initial impression was that Ovila Dubbel was too malty.  It was a sweet beer, sweeter than I was expecting.  It had a pleasant Belgian yeast presence, some light spiciness, and a mild hop bitterness in the finish.  Ovila Dubbel was a dry beer, which worked in its favor.  The mouthful was somewhat thin, especially for such a sweet, malty beer.  The alcohol was a manageable 7.5%.  This beer was solid but not spectacular.  I was expecting more, and even as it warmed, its character did not improve.  Maybe it was too malty or too sweet, I don't know.  It was drinkable and enjoyable, don't get me wrong, just not a great beer.  Of course I'll need a second "shot" and I'll take my hack with Ovila Saison.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fair Fail

I went to the Del San Diego County Fair today.  I was struck by the lack of local beer exposure.  For a county that prides itself on its local beer scene, San Diego's local brewers were almost non-existent at the Fair.  The San Diego Brewers Guild should sponsor a beer garden focusing on local brewers that is open throughout the entire Fair.   This booth could be manned by the many local brewers, with a different brewery having a spotlight on different days.  Fair attendees would appreciate such a booth.

I saw a couple of Coors-sponsored booths around the Fair, and the main beer garden had only two local beers, a Green Flash "special" beer (who knows what that was) and Coronado Brewing's Golden Ale.   There were a couple of out of town craft beers, one from Deschutes and Lagunitas' IPA, but the overall craft beer selection was pathetic.

I took a picture of the beer and drink list from the main beer garden.  I like that beer called "craft."  The sign sums up the importance given to craft and local beer at the Fair.  I know there are a few beer festivals during the Fair, so organizers have some ideas about beer, but local craft brewers deserve a higher visibility at the Fair.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stone South Park Is Open

I went to the "soft" opening of Stone Brewing's new Stone Store in South Park this evening.  I arrived around 7:45 and the place was packed, with a line outside for people waiting to enter.  I was able to bypass this line as I only wanted a growler fill.  Once inside I was greeted by another line and it took me nearly 45-minutes to get to the counter.   The crowd was orderly and Stone had good control.  No one seemed upset about the lines.  Obviously, the lines will not be a common occurrence.  The crowd trended young and male, but there was a good mix of people, so the old guys (like me) and the several groups of women didn't stick out.  Stone didn't have anything special on tap, and stuck with the basics for the soft opening:   Pale Ale, Ruination, IPA, Arrogant Bastard, Smoked Porter, and Levitation.  (San Diego Beer Blog has a rundown of the proposed list for next week's Grand Opening.)

The store seemed small, and is probably not much bigger than the store at the Stone World Bistros and Gardens in Escondido.  But the amount of people may have made it feel smaller than it is.   It did not seem that all the merchandise was in place.  There was no beer fridge for six-packs and bottled beer to go, and the walls seemed pretty barren. This makes sense because tonight was a "soft" opening not a Grand Opening.  (For next week's Grand Opening, Stone would be well served by adding a second or third register.)

I did not taste any beer to avoid the longer wait.  Stone was only serving what looked like 4 oz tasters.  I wonder whether, after the initial opening rush, it will serve pints?  No one seemed too upset about not having a pint, and tasters seemed like the right decision tonight.  I debated whether to get a growler of Arrogant Bastard as a tribute to Stone or Ruination.  I chose Ruination, and the picture below shows the growler being filled.

Stone seems to have picked an awesome neighborhood.  There were a number people buzzing about the streets, and there are plenty of nearby restaurants, shops and salons.  There is an adjacent wine bar named The Rose Wine Pub, and I bet it's going to love the spillover business that the Stone Store will generate.  Parking is a pain, but it's a bother everywhere in South Park and North Park, so it's an issue not unique to the Stone Store.  It looks like Stone has another winner on its hands and I plan on heading back after the Grand Opening.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Bruery's Workman's Friend Imperial Porter

I remembered after reading The Drunken Polack's tale of an epic tasting of big The Bruery beers that I had a big Bruery beer review I needed to post.  Last winter, I had a bottle of The Burey's Workman's Friend Imperial Porter and took plenty of notes, but just did not get to posting it until now.  I had never had an imperial porter before Workman's Friend.  I am not sure of the nuances between and imperial porter and an imperial stout (or a Baltic porter), but am guessing that the imperial porter is a bit lighter on the palate. 

Workman, which is part of The Bruery's Provision Series, poured dark and thick.  I had to break some beer pouring rules to get some meager foam - glass flat on  the counter and a fast upright pour.  I immediately smelled the roasted malts, and I also picked up anise.  The taste is all sweetness and roasted malts, with a minimal hop profile.   The sweetness, present throughout, never became cloying.  Don't be daunted by the 'imperial" moniker as Workman's ABV is about 8%, which is sizable, but not in the class of imperial stouts.   Its mouthful was somewhat light for a beer that poured so thick.  Workman's Friend is a drinkable and surprisingly approachable beer. As I drank the beer it made me wonder about the origins of the porter style, as it used to be the beer of English workers, hence (I am guessing) the Workman's Friend label.  While Workman's Friend wasn't a "huge" beer and was drinkable, I know I could not drink it regularly after a hard day's labor. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ballast Point's Expansion

I saw this article from San Diego Magazine referenced on BeerAdvocate.  The article discusses Ballast Point's expansion plans at its Scripps Ranch brewery.  The expansion will allow Ballast Point to double its beer production and grow its spirits business.  Here is the key passage in the brief article:
At their main brewery in Scripps Ranch—a smaller brewery, located in Linda Vista, focuses on specialty beers—Ballast Point has started construction on a project that will expand their footprint to 25,000 square feet. This will enable the brewery to more than double beer production, the size of the tasting room, and the distilling capacity of Ballast Point Spirits, a passion project for head brewer Yuseff Cherney.   
Owner Jack White forecasts Ballast Point will soon outgrow their current digs, even with the expansion. He envisions dedicating the Scripps Ranch space solely to producing spirits and shifting their beer operation to an even larger space, perhaps with its own restaurant.
The last sentence brings up the obvious question.  If Ballast Point moves its brewing operations to a larger facility, what happens to its Linda Vista location?  This is darned important to me due to its close proximity to my house, and especially since I recently counted that for some reason I have four Ballast Point growlers.   As an aside, if you have not tried Ballast Point's Big Eye IPA lately, do yourself a favor and get a pint, bomber or a six-pack.  Big Eye is overshadowed by Ballast Point's other IPA, Sculpin, but to me, it is the most underrated IPA in San Diego.  It is maltier than most local IPAs, which gives it a pleasant richness, and its hop profile is outstanding. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stone's South Park Store Set To Open

I have been traveling and doing work related activities the past week and just saw that Stone is going to open its South Park store in just over a week.  San Diego's craft beer scene is moving so fast that even a few days away causes you to miss some news or event.  San Diego Beer Blog posted late last week that Stone's store in South Park is scheduled to have a "soft" opening on June 15th.  Stone's store's address in South Park is 2215 30th Street.  San Diego Beer Blog reports the proposed hours are:

Wed-Thu: 4-9pm
Fri-Sat 11am-9pm
Sun 12-6pm
Mon- Tue: Closed

(I borrowed the picture above from the Stone Blog.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Green Flash's New Facility Opens

The Traveling Correspondent texted me first thing yesterday morning to meet him at Green Flash's new brewing facility in San Diego's Miramar area.  I could not go but asked him to shoot some pictures and file a report.  Today I got a text back telling me that he had no pictures and did get any beer.  He said there was a swarm of people and Green Flash's one cashier was overwhelmed.  He left empty handed and decided it best to visit the new brewing after the initial rush subsides.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bottlecraft - Now Open

I noted a new craft beer store, Bottlecraft, earlier in the month.  I predicted the Little Italy beer store and tasting room's opening would not make its May target when I looked inside the space.  In mid-May the space still looked rough and far from being in condition to sell beer.  I was proved wrong, and Bottlecraft is now open, although its website says there is still work being done and hours may be sporadic for a few weeks.  Its grand opening is June 18, 2011.  I have not been there yet, but plan to stop by soon. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ocean Beach Pizza Port - 1st Birthday Party

This weekend is the first birthday party for the Ocean Beach Pizza Port.  The party kicks off Saturday morning at 11:00, and goes all day.  There will be a special anniversary ale along with other Port beers, including the funny sounding double IPA Cho-Saiko, which I mistakenly avoided for too long because, with the name, I thought it was some kind of Kirin-style rice beer. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Bruery's Crossroad Decision

Stone Brewing dropped an expansion bomb yesterday, and today The Bruery addressed its exponential growth.  I received the email below (reprinted in its entirety) this afternoon:
To all the loyal fans and retailers of our beer,

As we approach our 3rd anniversary, it's incredible to look back at the journey of these last few years. Our growth has been of a magnitude that we never could have imagined when brewing our first 15-barrel batch. As you might already know, we've been operating at capacity for over the last year and a half; a near doubling of capacity in January of this year has been a mere drop in the bucket. We've reached a fork in the road. One path is to open a much larger brewery that would satisfy demand over the long term, and accumulate millions in debt and bring on outside investors to get to that point. The other path is renewal of our original vision: a small, family-owned business making some of the most interesting, highest-quality specialty beers available in the market in our own unique way. After much debate, research and soul-searching, we've chosen the latter path – but on a grander scale.

We have just leased a temperature controlled warehouse space that we will be filling with thousands of oak barrels, allowing us to create some of our favorite beers such as Oude Tart, Melange #3, and a variety of other delicious and innovative beers. We're extremely excited for this cellar expansion both because it will allow our creativity to shine and because it will help us get our favorite beers into more glasses in more cities. Since day one at The Bruery, we've been making barrel aged ales with an eventual goal to fill shelves with these complex and full-bodied beers. Until now, we have only been able to do this on a limited basis, primarily reaching only those in our Reserve Society. This new investment will allow us to brew more, distribute more and get more specialty beer into the marketplace.

With this change, we have had to make room in our brewing schedule to brew the beers that we'll be barrel aging. Unfortunately, Orchard White is the victim. While we have great love for Orchard White, we feel there are many great witbiers available and believe our limited resources are best spent elsewhere. Further, Rugbrød will now only be available in the fall and winter, with Hottenroth taking it's place in the spring and summer beginning in 2012.

As a company focused on quality over quantity, and founded on the basic fact that making beer is fun, we're excited to continue brewing up our dream. We won't be putting down our mash paddles in place of mechanized processes, we won't be switching our khaki shorts for navy-blue suits and most importantly, we won't be sacrificing our original vision for any reason whatsoever. Simply said, we are growing at our own pace.

Thank you all for the support these past three years. It's your love of style-bending beers that have helped us, and breweries like us, to grow and will keep us growing in the years to come. If you can make it, we'd love to see you at our 3rd Anniversary Beer Festival on May 29th to help us celebrate our future!

Your Friends at The Bruery
I applaud The Bruery for its decision to stick to its roots and culture by focusing on quality rather than quantity.  It has a reputation for its barrel-aged beers, and hopefully the leased storage space for aging beers means a wider distribution for its creative beers.  The Bruery will eventually make the leap to larger production.   There is no sense in rushing, as The Bruery can grow without comprising its values, after all The Bruery is just celebrating its third anniversary. 

White Orchard 's retirement is not surprising.  It's a fine beer, but, realistically, it won't be missed.  With all The Bruery's available beers, White Orchard is not one that leaped into my shopping cart.  (And think of the marketing opportunities for special, retro releases of White and Black Orchard.)  Rugbrod's relegation to a seasonal beer is appropriate, as a half-year's production of this malty beer should last all year.  If the downgrades of White Orchard and Rugbrod make room for bottled Humulus Gold, then then all beer drinkers are winners.  It's good that The Bruery knows what it wants to be, and most importantly, what it doesn't want to become.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Email Updates

Stone Brewing's bombshell expansion plans dominated beer news today.  But I also received two emails announcing upcoming beer releases that I found interesting.  Karl Strauss is releasing Boardwalk Black Rye on August 1, which will be available on draft and in 22 oz bottles.  This is going to be a hoppy ale, with an IBU of 80 and an 8% abv.   Strauss released a draft-only rye IPA last year that was the best Strauss beer I have ever tasted, so I will be looking for this black rye in August.

For big beer aficionados, Alesmith is releasing its ballyhooed barrel-aged Speedway stout and Decadence on June 15:
The long-awaited moment will soon be upon us: the newest batch of AleSmith barrel-aged beer is set for release this month on Wednesday, June 15th.

This edition of BA Speedway, barreled in '09, is as good as ever. Excellent sweet boozey notes with accents of oak, vanilla, and pleasant oxidative aspects alongside the customary coffee and bitter chocolate roasted malt characteristics.

This has proved to be a very interesting edition of BA Decadence. The 2008 batch, an English-style barleywine aged in bourbon barrels, took on a pleasant sourness. Such quirks of nature can provide intriguing drinking  experiences, like the many excellent wild ales being produced today. We think you'll enjoy this delightfully unconventional offering.
There will be a purchase limit of (4) four bottles of '09 Speedway Stout per person, and (1) one bottle of '08 Decadence per person, pending turnout. We want to make sure that everyone has a great time and gets a chance to get some of this highly-anticipated beer, so we reserve the right to change the limit as the sale progresses. We will begin handing out numbers at 8:30 am and the bottle sale will begin at 12:00pm, allowing you time to leave and return if need be.
Big stouts are not my favorite beer style, but I know there is an dedicated following.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stone Expansion

Stone Brewing announced huge expansion plans today.  San Diego Beer Blog, Peter Rowe and others are reporting from Stone's press event that Stone is, among other things:
  • Opening up a new World Bistro and Gardens in Point Loma's Liberty Station
  • Expanding its current brewing facility from 150,000 barrels to 500,000 barrels
  • Confirmed that the South Park Store is going to open
The 400-seat Liberty Station restaurant is welcome news for me, as its just a Stone throw from my house.

And where was my invitation to this event?  I am crushed.  Maybe I'll get one to a later event.  I'll have to go sulk with an Arrogant Bastard.

Kidding aside, I will have more in a follow-up post.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Ommegang beers were my first introduction to Belgian-style beers.  I used to buy them before I knew the difference between a dubbel and tripel, or an abbey ale and a saison.   For years, when shopping for beers I only saw the same five Ommegang beers - Witt, Abbey Ale (Ommegang), saison (Hennepin), amber ale (Rare Vos) and the quadrupel (Three Philosophers).  Invariably, I've tried all but the quadrepel, and enjoyed them despite my ignorance.  Today, I appreciate Ommegang even more, as I have come to know Belgian beers and realize the quality of Ommegang's core beers.   Over the past couple of years, Ommegang has released a number of additional beers.  I have tried a few of them, and liked some more than others.  I loved the brilliant sour Zuur, but was not thrilled with the murky holiday ale Adoration. 

Ommegang has now entered the collaboration game with its new Gnomegang.  It teamed up with   Belgium's Chouffe to create a Belgian strong pale ale.  It is a solid, but not spectacular beer.  Gnomegang pours cloudy, with burnt orange-color and has negligible foam.  It is sweet and yeasty with lots of carbonation.  To my taste, it is almost too sweet, and the sweetness is unrelenting (but never cloying), even as the beer warms.  I didn't detect any hop bitterness, so maybe more hops would have cut into the sugars.

Gnomegang's alcohol is 9.5%, but is barely noticeable.  Gnomegang is a dry beer, so have a glass of water handy, especially for the last half of the bottle.  There was not a depth of flavor for such a high abv, but there is enough flavor to keep Gnomegang interesting.  I liked this beer despite its sweetness and one dimensional taste profile.  I'll admit that I was expecting a little more from Gnomegang given the brewing talent at Ommegang and Chouffe, but I'll take Gnomegang's drinkability over layers of tediousness just for the sake of complexity.

I did not take a picture Gnomegang, but Brew Maniacs was gracious enough to allow me to use their picture of Gnomegang.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sculpin Cask At The Linkery

I just got the information below in an email from The Linkery:
* Tonite at 5pm at the Linkery, Ethan is tapping a cask of Sculpin
which is dry-hopped with Citra hops:
The cask version of Sculpin is the best cask beer I have ever tried.  I am not sure about the dry-hopping with Citra hops, but if you are anywhere near North Park this evening (May 13), you owe it to yourself to stop by The Linkery and get a pint of casked Sculpin.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I was driving north on India Street in San Diego's Little Italy this afternoon, and at the far northern boundary of Little Italy I saw a sign for Bottlecraft - Beer Shop and Tasting Room.  It was in a brick building that houses design firms.  I pulled over to take a look.  The new beer store and tasting room is not open yet, and the improvements are being completed.  The sign in the window says that the store is going to open in May 2011.  Based on the work that needs to be done on the inside, I don't think it will open in May.  The website states that Bottlecraft is a "retail shop with expansive, finely-curated selection of specialty bottled beers."  The tasting room will specialize in flights and special edition local beers.  I hope Bottlecraft is going to pour pints in addition to tasters. 

Bottlecraft's address is 2161 India Street and the shop will be open from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm seven days a week.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Alpine Email

I am on Alpine Brewing's email list and enjoy the periodic stream of conscience updates.  Below is the entire text of Alpine's latest email that I received earlier today:
Since there were no fatalities reported after our last announcement it appears safe to divulge some more tasty morsels of news. The release of a couple of beers and the return of another popular beer appears on the horizon. What goes with a Gose beer? My aunt, Crazy Hazel, will be back in town soon.

Okay, I had a bubba job to help with in Baja Mexico last week and missed telling you about “O’Brien’s IPA” coming out last Friday. My apologies but now that you know, come on down and fill your growlers with this most delicious, Gold Medal winning, light IPA. Pints and pitchers are for sale at the pub, too.

Today, Friday May 6th, is the official re-release date of “Ugly” our Black IPA. The mild roasty, cocoa flavor, silky, creamy texture and big hop smackdown combine to stage a flavor choirs on your palate. At 7.5% abv and the newest recognized beer style out, we think we know a thing or two about making really good “hoppy” beers, and this is no exception. Enjoy.

Bottles of "Emerson" go on sale at the brewery today. 22 ounce amber beer bottles of this New Zealand hopped Imperial Pilsner for $4.79 plus the usual. This is a beer you collectors and hoarders can lay down in your cellar without fear. But why?

Going the extra mile, for you, our loyal, loving customers, we’re adding an extra brew session this Sunday with the goal of making “Red Card” a special Red Ale made specifically for major soccer events. Gold Cup Soccer starts June 5th, look for the release then. We’ll have it for growlers, pints and pitchers for as long as it lasts. And, soccer-centric pubs will have some for their televised dates.

The creativity doesn’t stop around here. We’ll be squeezing in a new beer as soon as we have some tank space. It’s a beer style called “Gose.” It has its origins in Germany and is a wheat beer originally wild fermented. We’ll control the microbes that ferment our batch, but the uniqueness of the beer is the use of coriander and salt. Yes, the beer has a decided salty flavor which when done right is very tasty.

And, how about another Pale Ale. We have some hops we want to combine in a lighter, 5-6% abv range, pale ale that we know will make a great flavor/aroma blend. Again, as tank space permits. For those that have been around for a while may remember “Crazy Hazel” amber ale flavored with the generous use of filberts. That will be our next specialty after the afore mentioned beers.

In an effort to minimize issues that arise, here are some things that may help with what we can and can’t do around here. Because of our diminutive size (we’re tiny) there is no office space here. I can’t sit at the computer at the brewery so I write newsletter and answer emails at home. When you ask what kegs are available, or what’s up for growler fills, I don’t know, I’m not there. I’d have to be there in order to answer accurately because our available beers change hourly. Calling the brewery is the only way to get those answers.619-445-2337 x1

We open the Pub at Noon on Sundays, the website needs updating.
I posted the above because the black IPA, Ugly, and and red ale, Red Card, sound real interesting.  It sounds like both beers are draft only.   Every time I get Alpine's email I am reminded, and disappointed that I live a long forty-five minutes from the brewery.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Expansion and Another Anniversary Party

Here are a couple of quick notes on some San Diego beer news.  Peter Rowe has an article up on the new Green Flash facility in Mira Mesa.  The new 45,000 barrel brewery is expandable to 100,000 barrels and it opens on June 1, 2011.  The grand opening party is not until July 23, 2011.  Green Flash expects to more than double its production this year, so I expect to see West Coast IPA in more places in the near future.

Karl Strauss' 8th Annual Beach to Brewery Beer and Music Fest is Saturday May 14 from 2:00 to 7:00 at the Karl Strauss brewery in Pacific Beach (i.e. Rose Canyon).  The party is celebrating Strauss' twenty-second anniversary.