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. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mission Brewing

Here are a few pictures of the new Mission Brewing location downtown, just east of the parking lot across from Petco Park.  Mission Brewing is in the brick Wonder Bread building that dates from the late 1800s, and is at the corner of 14th Avenue and L Street.  The brewery was closed when I was there, so I could not take any worthwhile pictures inside.  I looked through the glass front doors and inside is wide open with large brew tanks and long bars.  Apparently, the brewery is only open now before, during and after Padre games.  It looks like a great place to visit, and the way the Padres have started the season, a Shipwrecked DIPA is a necessity.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chimay Cinq Cents - Tripel

I received this bottle of Chimay Cinq Cents few years ago for Father's Day or my birthday from the Beer Rovette, I don't exactly remember.  I put it in the beer fridge and there it sat, and sat, and sat.  I watched a New Brew Thursday podcast (April 7) and the three hosts shared a couple of bottles of  Chimay Blue, and discussed Chimays' long shelf-life.  I was worried that I had let my Chimay Tripel languish too long in storage, but after watching the episode I decided to open my bottle.   I can safely say that this beer was not impacted one bit by its extended stay in the fridge.

The Chimay Cinq Cents poured a cloudy copper with a white foam that was tight and not too high.  It had a plenty of carbonation.   The yeast was dominate, but there was a mellow, satisfying hop presence in the finish.  The alcohol was there, but never intrusive.   This is a smooth, satisfying tripel, and sublime is not too strong an adjective.   It is more subtle than aggressive, more nuanced than obtrusive, understatement in a bottle.   The ABV is 8%, and is not boozy at all.  Chimay Cinq Cents is a rich, balanced, approachable beer.  If you are exploring Belgian tripels or strong golden ales, this beer should be on your list, and it will likely become one of your benchmarks. 

Chimay's are widely distributed, which is probably why I tend to overlook them for other beers.  I have now tried all three Chimays and all three are excellent.  Next time your in a big grocery store with limited beer offerings, skip the craft beer standards and look to the top shelf for the Chimays.  You can't go wrong.

And memo to New Brew Thursday guys:  when you do food tastings, everyone should have his own plate.