Thursday, March 29, 2012

Two Brown Ales

I don't like the S-word (session).  If you like a certain beer, drink it.  If it has high abv, drink it slower, and it becomes an S-beer.  That being said, if I were to look for a beer that fits the definition of an S-beer, I'd look no further than Pizza Port Ocean Beach's Skid Mark Brown Ale and Alesmith's Nautical Nut Brown AleBoth are low abv brown ales that sacrifice nothing in flavor.  I was recently impressed by both beers.  Skid Mark Brown Ale won a Gold Medal (English Style Mild Ale) at last year's Great American Beer Festival.  It has upfront, mild roasted malt flavors, with a faint hop bitterness.  The malt is not overpowering, which adds to its drinkability, and you could drink several pints without getting bloated or palate fatigue.  Skid Mark is a little thin, but just right for its low alcohol. (The picture to the left is Skid Mark Brown Ale.)

Alesmith's Nautical Nut Brown Ale drinks along the same lines as Skid Mark.  It's an approachable brown ale that's not a malt bomb, despite its deep mahogany color.  Its hop profile is low, which makes the richness of the roasted malt stand out.  Nautical Nut Brown is meatier and fuller than Skid Mark, but still, at around 5% avb, it's not an overwhelming beer.  You won't get silly or stuffed drinking several pints of Nautical Nut Brown Ale.

People who drink Newcastle Brown Ale need to try these two beers.  It'd be a flavor revelation.  And best of all, they could have several revelations and not feel guilty.  You'll find Skid Mark at Pizza Port Ocean Beach, while Nautical Nut Brown is available on draft throughout San Diego.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Life Is Good

I have seen the "Life Is Good" logo clothing for several years.  I finally understand it now after reading Brandon Hernandez's columns this week.  He has been touring and then writing reviews of the newest San Diego breweries - and getting paid for it.  Getting paid to drink beer - life's not only good, it's freaking fantastic.  Here are the first three dispatches Hernandez's latest "Beer Tour:"

Sumblefoot Brewing Company:  Upside potential

White Labs:  Experimentation's the name of the game

Wet 'N Reckless:  Trainwreck

The Wet 'N Reckless review had this great, laugh-out-loud smackdown quote about passing Greenflash Brewing to find Wet 'N Reckless:  "It’d be like passing up The French Laundry and driving a longer distance to get to Jacque dans le BoĆ®te (Jack in the Box)."


Societe Brewing Co.:  IPAs and Belgians

Monday, March 26, 2012

Yeeehawww - A Texas Brown Ale

I had the latest Stone Brewing collaboration beer, TBA (Texas Brown Ale), last night.  It's a collaboration with Stone, Bear Republic and Fat Head's Brewing.  (The link above has the beer's history, which other than where a beer contest was judged, has nothing to do with Texas.)  I thoroughly enjoyed TBA.  It's a full-flavored, approachable beer.  It's a quaffer not a sipper, and one Stone collaboration beer that would have been better in a 22 oz bomber rather than a 12 oz bottle.

The beer poured a medium brown with amber tones, and it had big, creamy foam.  As a brown ale, it's malty beer.  But it's also smokey, like good Texas barbeque, and it has a large dollop of molasses, which you can really taste.   It's not sweet, thank goodness, despite the molasses.  To me, the beer's hop bitterness stood out.  It is significantly more bitter than a typical brown ale, but the beer's smoked bitterness brought all the flavors together and gave it a distinct characteristic.   I'd recommend getting a few bottles of this beer before it goes away, I know I am.

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Breweries Opening Fast & Furious

I feel like I'm playing an arcade video game - and losing.  Every time I read about a new brewery, I remember that I haven't tried beers from all the breweries that opened last year.   I've reached the point where I realize that the onslaught of new breweries is moving too fast and I am not able to keep them all straight.  According to West Coaster magazine, in San Diego there are forty-eight existing breweries and eighteen in the planning stage.  Over the past week alone The San Diego Union, has run three separate articles on new brewers (here, here and here, note there is duplication in the articles).  I am waiting for the "Game Over" sign to flash.   

Some of the new brewery names sound similar - Amplified and Automatic; Rip Current, Rough Draft and Wet 'N Reckless - making distinction difficult without a beer tasting.  Throw in the expansion of existing breweries, like Coronado Brewing Company, New English and Green Flash, and all the new craft beer bars and restaurants, and tracking the local craft beer scene gets more complex.

There a few resources I use to follow all the local beer activity, and these include West Coaster magazine, writer Brandon Hernandez and San Diego Beer Blog.   West Coaster magazine, which covers San Diego's craft beer industry, has a good blog, and last week put out a current, definitive list of all the local brewers.  Brandon Hernandez is a local food reporter who writes for several local publications, including West Coaster, and he seems to focus on craft beer.  (He doesn't pull punches on new brewers he thinks stink.)  I follow Brandon on Twitter and he links to all his articles.  San Diego Beer Blog has slowed down lately, but is still worth checking out. (The author of San Diego Beer Blog also writes for West Coaster.)

Societe Brewing, which is scheduled to open its new Kearney Mesa brewery in May, is one new brewery I am watching closely.  Its founders are former brewers at Russian River and The Bruery.  I believe sour beers will be Societe's focus, which alone sets it apart from so many of the other new breweries.  It already has a cult following, even if it's a cult of one.

I wrote a post last January about too many brewers in San Diego.  I said then that there was still room for growth.  I still believe this, as too many restaurants still don't carry a wide selection of local beers.  The new brewers are facing greater competition, which should, hopefully, lead to better beers.  The new brewers need to make good beer, and if they do, there will be a market for their beer.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Alpine's Blog

I've known about Alpine Beer Co.'s blog for some time.  I have not paid much attention to it because much of what's been on the blog was also in Alpine's periodic emails.  Today's email had a link to the blog rather than significant content.  I'll put a link to the Alpine Beer Co. blog here on the site.  Today's blog post was mostly about St. Patrick's Day, but this nugget about Alpine's collaboration beer with New Belgium was towards the end of the post:
..."we (Alpine Brew Co.) will be going to Fort Collins to brew a massive double IPA, spiked with Brett. The concept is still in the planning stage but our slant is toward creating “The Anti-hero of Double IPAs” called “Lex Lupulin,” destroying pallets with hoppy goodness wherever he goes. Or something like that, at least I got the name out there so no one can take it. Their planned release is for the Great American Beer Festival in early September with national distribution. The batch size will almost equal our annual production. Love those guys."
Reading about double IPAs "spiked with brett" that are being brewed with the intention of "destroying pallets" make me glad it's Friday.  (Just think of the splinters!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting Closer - Stone At Liberty Station

I saw this encouraging public notice late last week at Liberty Station:

This sign was located in one of the buildings at the far east end of Liberty Station, near the new SOL Market, golf course and Corvette Diner.  I am still not sure of the restaurant / brewery / gardens' exact location.  The big Stone signs in Liberty Station now read that the restaurant will open in late 2012, rather than late spring.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Telegraph's Obscura Fortis

I read on Twitter that a rare, wild ale, Telegraph Brewing's Obscura Fortis, was available at Public Sessions, a restaurant not far from my house.  When I hear "wild ale," it's like a dog whistle, I come running.  Obscura Fortis is a big, sour (and sweet), wild ale.  It poured a deep mahogony, and was not as dark as the picture shows.  I noted that Fortis had an initial bitterness and a sweetness on the finish.  The sourness was less noticeable than other recent sours I have had, including Telegraph's amazing Gypsy.  I thought Fortis mellow for a wild ale.  I wrote that it was "hard to call it delicious but it was sure good." 

Fortis' ABV was over 9%, and you could taste the booze throughout.  I heard the term "hot" to describe prominent alcohol in beer last weekend on radio station FM94.9's Friday night "Rock & Roll Happy Hour with Stone Brewing."  The more alcohol you taste, the "hotter" the beer.  Obscura Fortis is one hot beer, with a booze profile bigger than beers with higher ABVs.  The alcohol overshadowed the wild yeast and other flavors, subduing its sour flavor while enhancing its sweetness.  I read on BeerAdvocate that Fortis was a one-time brew, so I'm glad I tried it.  I've now had three of Telegraph's Obscura beers - Fortis, Arborea and Petit - and the low alcohol Petit has been my favorite.

A quick note on Public Sessions.  Every time I go there I feel out of place, and it takes me about six months to forget and fall back into its hipster trap.  I guess I am too old and not trendy enough for Public Sessions.  I need to lose twenty years, grow a five-day beard and not mind paying $8 for an undersized beer I know nothing about, other than it's what all the cool cats are drinking.  I'll stick with Pizza Port Ocean Beach where the cool cats don't care that I'm an old fart, and a real pint is still only $5.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slate Article on Beer

I listen to several Slate podcasts but rarely visit its website.   This changed about two weeks ago when I downloaded Slate's iPhone app (along with a few others) in a futile attempt to be the lucky person to download the 25th million app on iTunes.  I check my Slate app about once a day and usually find an interesting story, and this morning I read a good article on beer serving temperatures.  For an experienced beer drinker who tries a variety of beers, it doesn't take reading an article to know that as a beer warms its flavors expand, or that frosted glasses, like lemon or orange wedges, are beer faux pas.  I found it interesting that macro brewers like their beer served just above freezing, which ensures their tasteless beers stay bland. Think of that the next time you see that Coor's Light commercial touting Coor's two-stage, super cold activation for cans and bottles of Coor's Light. 

The serious beer geek will like this passage:
But changing attitudes—and habits—isn’t going to be easy. Most draft systems are built to operate at 38 degrees. Fiddling with the temperature can affect carbonation and raise the risk of contaminated lines. Bars dedicated to the cause of good beer drinking (like Washington D.C.’s ChurchKey, which I’ve written about previously) can operate different draft lines at different temperatures, but it requires substantial investment in equipment, training, and maintenance.
I'll admit I like a cold beer, but I also appreciate it as it warms up.  I like higher alcohol beers, in particular Belgian beers, at warmer temperatures.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stone Collaborations

I have not been diligent in buying, drinking or documenting Stone Brewing's many collaboration beers.  The concept's great and the experimentation's exciting, but I just haven't aggressively sought them out.   Some collaborations that I have bought I have yet to drink, including the Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter and last fall's pumkin beer, La Citrueille Celeste de Citracado.  I need to get to these two beers one of these days.  I skipped last year's Japanese Green Tea IPA (and I feel bad because it was brewed for charity) and the Cherry Chocolate Stout.

I am going to make an effort, I promise, to get Stone's two latest collaborations, the More Brown Than Black IPA and the TBA (Texas Brown Ale).  The IPA sounds interesting, because, well, it's an IPA.  The TBA caught my attention because who knew there was such a thing as a Texas Brown Ale.  I've had Shiner Bock, which is brown, but not an ale.  It's a boring beer, but the beer I'd think of if I ever thought about Texas beer, which I never do.    I hope TBA, which is being brewed by three non-Texas brewers - Stone, Bear Republic and Fat Head - is as interesting as Shiner Bock is bland.  Here is a video on TBA:

Bear Republic / Fat Head's / Stone TBA from stonebrew on Vimeo.

In the video, Mitch Steele, Stone's head brewer, says the beer is like a pioneering craft beer from the 1980s, but doesn't name the beer.  What beer is he talking about?

Of the Stone collaborations I have tried, my favorite was Saison du BUFF, a sage infused beer that Stone brewed with Dogfish Head and Victory.  This beer is being brewed again this spring and Stone is growing the sage at its farm.