Saturday, May 18, 2013

Tongue Buckler's LIttle Brother

I missed the news on Ballast Point's new Homework Series of beers.  According to the Full Pint, which is quoting from the San Diego Reader, The Home Work Series is a "spin-off" brand developed to honor Home Brew Mart.  The new brand has its own label, which not only distinguishes it from other Ballast Point beers, but that also provides detailed ingredient information for the home brewer.   Ballast Point Brewing's Homework Series Batch #1 Hoppy Red Ale is the first of the series.  (The picture I took of Batch #1 would not load correctly, so I borrowed picture of the label below from

Batch #1 Hoppy Red Ale is just that, a hoppy red ale.  This limited release beer is excellent.   The beer poured a dark mahogany, with big, sand colored foam that laced all the way down the glass.  Batch #1 is rich and full bodied, and it drinks bigger than its 7.0% adv due to its richness.  The hop bitterness is balanced by a sweet, caramel malt character.  The strong roasted malts provide the beer's heft, and according to the label, six different malts were used in the brew process, including Briess Caramel Vienna and Briess Caramel Munich.  The beer's two hops, CTZ and Centennial, held their own against the malts, bringing a commanding bitterness.

Batch #1 is chalky dry, which adds to its complexity.  Batch #1 reminded me of Ballast Point's Tongue Buckler, a massive 10% abv imperial red ale, which has a huge hop profile (hence the name Tongue Buckler).  While Batch #1 may cede some abv to Tongue Buckler, it compromises nothing in flavor.  There are not enough red ales, and even fewer hoppy red ales.  I don't know the future plans for The Home Work Series, but I hope Batch #1 Hoppy Red Ale is not a one-time release, and I'm already looking forward to Batch #2.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hop Apostasy

Here is a good article from Slate on the craft beer industry's and consumers' love of - or as the piece states, addiction to - hoppy beers.  The author calls on brewers to ease off the hops and focus on other interesting ingredients, like wild yeast strains.  My favorite line was this one:
"There are many craft breweries that seek to create balanced, drinkable beers that aren’t very bitter at all, like Patrick Rue’s the Bruery in Placentia, Calif.,"

I wonder what The Bruery beers the author researched?  I doubt it was 5 Gold Rings, or some of The Bruery's other complex creations.  It must have been Mischief

I'm all for more sour beers, wild ales, porters, stouts, Belgian pale ales, dubbels, tripels, quadrupels, but don't stop my hops, I must have hops.  I NEED HOPS!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens Opens in Liberty Station

We were invited to a soft opening Friday night at the new Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Liberty Station.  It was incredible.  Stone has outdone itself with this new restaurant, and it is immediately one of San Diego's top destinations.   From the service to the facilities, Stone does not overlook any detail.  The space is huge and inviting, and somehow Stone figured out the noise, because the restaurant was full, music was on and you can still have a normal conversation.   Thank you Stone for inviting us to the soft opening, and thanks for the discounted price and complimentary beer.

It is my opinion that the central San Diego location of Stone's new World Bistro and Gardens is a giant step forward for local craft beer.  Stone's Escondido headquarters and home to the original World Bistro and Gardens is amazing, but it's an event destination.  The Liberty Station location  - five minutes from downtown, five minutes from the airport, five minutes from SeaWorld, five minutes from Mission Valley and five minutes from the beaches - opens the wonderful world of San Diego craft beer to people who would never venture to Escondido.

I plan to write more on the importance of this new restaurant and brewery, craft beer and what I feel they mean to San Diego and its civic identity, but in the mean time, here are a few pictures:

The bar area.

The main dining area.

Outdoor space and bocce court.

Brewing system.  Stone is brewing here, but the new beers are not yet available.

Ruination IPA.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Expanded Tasting Rooms

San Diego's City Council voted 7-0 to allow breweries to expand their tasting rooms.  The following is from Peter Rowe's column this afternoon on the decision:
In the past, breweries within the city were limited to tasting rooms or diners of 3,000 square feet or fewer. That was a problem for fast-growing breweries like Ballast Point and Green Flash, whose tasting rooms are overrun by fans on most weekends.

Under the new ordinance, San Diego breweries can expand up to 25 percent of their total gross floor area. In zones near airports, occupancy limits and uses will also have to approved by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. Similarly, new or expanded dining or tasting rooms west of Interstate 5 will need to California Coastal Commission review.
This is good news.  A local NPR piece on this same story reported that two unnamed breweries were considering leaving San Diego unless tasting room restrictions were changed.  I guess they can stay in San Diego.

Now, if something can be done about those annoying tour buses!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Everyone Needs A Harlot

I was near Societe Brewing yesterday and just happened to have a clean growler in the car.  (Hey, I was a Boy Scout for a month and a half and still take that 'be prepared" motto seriously when it comes to beer.)   I fought my usual IPA temptation, selecting instead the Harlot, one of Societe's Belgian beers.  The Harlot is a 6.0% abv Belgian extra, which I am guessing is not too different from a Belgian pale ale, except maybe lighter. 

This sneaky good beer is one of the first beers Societe released when it opened last year.  It poured a golden yellow with a white, solid but fast dissipating foam.  The beer wasn't cloudy, but not quite clear either.  Its carbonation was moderate, not the intense effervescence like some bigger Belgian golden Ales.  The initial taste was crisp, with a forward, biscuity Belgian yeast.  It's a dry beer with a fruity characteristic that faded into Harlot's long, hoppy, bitter finish. This is a well balanced beer with an appropriate body.  The Belgian extra style won't elicit wide excitement, but I found this beer delicious.  I have raved about Societe's IPAs, but the Harlot deserves attention, too.

NY Times on Brettanomyces

Here is an excellent late December 2012 article from the New York Times on wild beers, sour beers and the unpredictable magic unleashed by Brettanomyces yeast.  Make sure to read the beer wonk verging on beer douche correction at the end of the article.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Not a Grimm Ale

I was expecting some edge from a special "cuvee" ale created by a brewery named after a troll.  I wanted some funk; strange unidentifiable spices; and grimaces until my taste buds acclimated to intense complexity.  I wanted a nasty, Grimm Brothers' troll of a beer.

Instead, Cuvee des Troll from Belgium's Brasserie Dubisson Freres sprl, is the equivalent of a good troll.  It wasn't an angry, belligerent monster that terrorizes entire villages and eats children lost in the forest, but a benevolent creature that walks wayward children home, admonishes their parents for negligent supervision, and then makes sure homework's complete, teeth are brushed and bedtime curfews kept.  Even the picture on Cuvee des Troll's bottle looked more like a happy Paul Galdone elf than a JRR Tolkien description of a dangerous troll

Cuvee des Trolls is a smooth - oh, so smooth - Belgian golden ale.  It poured a cloudy, pale yellow with massive white foam due to the tight carbonation.  The elegant, light bodied beer had a whisper of yeast on the initial taste and a fast-disappearing finish.  Its hop profile, if any, was invisible, allowing a sweetness to engulf the beer's flavor profile.  Its 7% abv was no factor.  Cuvee des Trolls was good, but so safe and benign it was boring.  You won't find a more approachable, drinkable Belgian beer than Cuvee des Trolls, but don't expect any excitement.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I am attempting to update the links on this site.  I have added links to a number of new breweries, but I don't think the list is exhaustive.  I deleted some of the beer blog links due, primarily, to inactive posting.  I will add more beer blogs to the list as I come across ones I feel offer quality information and opinion.  I try to stay away from numb nut beer writers and journalists that seem to write to to small audience of insiders and to gain favor with brewers, preferring instead knowledgeable amateurs that write well and have a passion for a good beer.