Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fall Beer Update

I've now sampled all three fall beer styles I wrote about here: pumpkin, Oktoberfest and fresh hop.  Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale is a brown ale spiced with allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg.  It has pumpkin, too, but the autumn vegetable is overpowered by the allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon.  I enjoyed Punkin Ale, and at over 7% ABV it had enough heft to match its many ingredients.  Pumpkin ales, to me, fall down when they are too thin, and end up tasting more like a flavor-infused macro beer than a craft ale.  Punkin Ale has character and depth of flavor, but sneaks into Holiday beer territory, which is not a bad thing.

I had a pint of Karl Strauss' Oktoberfest beer last weekend. It's an easy drinking beer.  It's malt-forward, but not in the throat-clogging way of many malty beers.  I was struck by Oktoberfest's yeasty aroma and its comforting taste of soft bread.  This smooth drink is my kind of German beer, neither overly complex nor strange - just good.
I didn't think I'd get to fresh hopped ale last, but I did and Pizza Port Ocean Beach's Coup D'Etat was worth the wait.  An initial, shockingly bitter jolt is countered by a malty sweetness, which gives the IPA an overall intense, citrus juiciness.  This is a delicious beer, and, incredibly, more balanced than I expected.  To me, Coup D'Etat is a textbook fresh hop ale - extreme, almost painful bitterness, rounded out with a sweet, citrus juiciness.  It's a glass of pure hop liquid joy.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Beerical Mile

There is a stretch of Interstate-5 in central San Diego - from the Sea World Drive exit to downtown - with an astonishing number of breweries and beer stores.   I'm calling it the Beerical Mile.  OK it's more than a mile (it's really closer to five miles) but along this short path of highway are nine breweries and three beers stores.

The breweries in geographic order from north to south are:

Coronado Brewing - Huge, well appointed, wood adorned tasting room and brewery located off the Sea World Drive exit, just east of I-5 in San Diego's Bay Park neighborhood.
Ballast Point - Linda Vista - Ballast Point's original brewery and tasting room that shares space with HomeBrew Mart.  Always a good crowd, so keep driving if a tour bus is in the small parking lot.
Modern Times -  Tucked behind a couple of nudie bars in the industrial part of the Sports Arena area sits Modern Times' brewery and tasting room.  Good beers, a hipster vibe and a friendly knowledgeable staff.
Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens - Liberty Station - The new epicenter for San Diego's beer tourism industry.  Amazing experience and destination drinking at its finest.
Acoustic Ales - Brewery and tasting room in the landmark Mission Brewery building just off I-5 and Washington Street.
Ballast Point - Little Italy - Ballast Point's newest location offers a restaurant and on-premise brewed specialty beers, located on India Street at the far north end of Little Italy.
Karl Strauss - The granddaddy of brewpubs, and for many years a lone bastion for good beer in San Diego.
Monkey Paw - This East Village brewery and restaurant/bar nearly abuts I-5 just south of the S-curve.  It is home to multiple Great American Beer Festival medal winning beers.
Mission Brewery - Cavernous facility a baseball's throw from Petco Park.  Cans.  Thirty-two ounce cans.  Mission Brewery is putting its beers in 32-oz cans called "cannons," and one of the beers is Shipwrecked Double IPA.  Lord have mercy on my soul.

(If you add the Beer Co downtown (about which I know nothing) it brings the total to ten breweries.)  I have been to six of the nine breweries, but plan to visit the new Ballast Point Little Italy, Acoustic Ales and Monkey Paw soon.  Each of the breweries offers a unique experience and ambiance.

There are three beer stores in the same vicinity.

Bottlecraft - Little Italy - The first craft beer-only bottle shop in San Diego located at the north end of Little Italy along India Street.  It's probably less than 100 yards from Ballast Point Little Italy. Tasters are offered nightly and there are two beers on draft.  Bottlecraft has opened a second store in North Park.
Best Damn Beer Shop - The boldly named bottle shop is a store within store, and located downtown in the Krisp market.
San Diego Brew Project - Also a store within a store, San Diego Brew Project is, as its name states, a beer bar and bottle shop featuring only San Diego County beers.  It is located inside the 57 Degrees Wine Shop and Bar just across Washington street from Acoustic Ales.

There are other famous beer corridors in San Diego:  along Highway 78 in North San Diego County, 30th Street / North Park, and around Miramar Road and Mira Mesa Blvd.  The Beerical Mile has bloomed over the past several years - with the exception of Ballast Point Linda Vista and Karl Strauss that have been around for years - and now ranks as one of the best beer zones in San Diego.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ballast Point In Little Italy

Here is an Eater post on the opening of Ballast Point's new brewery / tasting room/ and restaurant. The new brewery/restaurant is located on India Street, at the Northern reaches of Little Italy.   Ballast Point's Tasting Room and Kitchen has 50 taps, and Ballast Point plans to brew specialty beers on-site, including sours.  An added bonus is that Bottlecraft's Little Italy location is nearly next door. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Brain Lapse

I had an embarrassing brain lapse the other night.  I was at a business dinner at Stone World Bistro and Gardens in Liberty Station and was talking big trying to impress the dinner party with my beer knowledge.   I opened the bottled beer list with authority, spouting that I was looking for beers from an exclusive Belgian brewery.   But I couldn't think of the brewery's name.  I became more frantic as I thumbed through the booklet, repeating - with less and less assurance - that the brewery was famous and that its beers were highly sought after.  I knew the brewery's name would come to me if I just saw it in print as I scanned the list from A to Z, Z to A, A to Z, and then just helter-skelter across the list.  I drew a complete blank on the name, and quietly put the beer list down in embarrassment.

After dinner, I rushed to my car and typed "Rose De Gambrinus" in to my iPhone's search engine, and up popped "Cantillon".  Cantillon.  Cantillon.  Cantillon.  For an hour and a half I couldn't under any circumstances remember Cantillon.  It's like forgetting Joe Montana quarterbacked the Forty-Niners or that Al Pacino starred in the Godfathers.  I knew the one Cantillon beer I'd tried, but not the brewer's name.  What a black mark on my beer credibility. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Incredible Beer Chart

Here is a link to an amazing beer chart via Slate.  According to Slate:
The chart organizes all drinks by brew category and connects each category to its proper drinking vessels (solo cup, snifter, beer boot) at the bottom of the chart.
The chart lists beers representative of each style, and totals 500 beers.  For someone as IPA-centric as myself, this chart shows my how much I'm missing:

A direct link is here where you can purchase the 60" by 40" chart.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Best Fall Beer

Pumpkin beers have been on store shelves since the middle of summer, and I think I've seen more pumpkin beers this year than ever before.  I view pumpkin beers as a novelty, and am good for one about every three to five years.  My novelty theory is anecdotally reinforced by the lack of pumpkin beers on draft at better beer bars.  I searched TapHunter to find a pumpkin beer on draft and came up empty.  No self-respecting beer snob is going to order a pumpkin beer in front of other beer snobs, unless it's The Bruery's Autumn Maple, but then that's brewed with yams not pumpkins.

Oktoberfest beers - once the only, but now the other fall beer style - don't thrill me, and unfortunately seem to have lost their marketing edge to pumpkin beers.  It's akin to a classic rock band being eclipsed by a winner of American Idol or The Voice.  A proper Oktoberfest beer is too malt-forward for me, and half a glass is about my limit.  That being said, I do want to try Karl Strauss' Oktoberfest beer this year. 

The best fall beers are fresh hop ales, in particular pale ales, IPAs and double IPAs.  Fresh hop beers are also known as wet hop ales, and are brewed with fresh hops, not the standard dried hop pellets.  Fresh hop IPAs are the wet hop sweet spot.  Pale ales get the juicy taste but don't have the backbone to match the muscle of the hop bitterness, and the alcoholic strength of double IPAs detract from the hop freshness.  IPAs provide the perfect mix of complementary malt and alcohol that showcase the just-harvested hop freshness.   The best wet hop ales are highly juicy, like they were fresh-squeezed rather than brewed.  They are intensely hopped, emitting a concentrated, terroir bitterness.

These fragrant, juicy ales should arrive at breweries and better beer bars over the next few weeks.  Pizza Port Ocean Beach had its fresh hop Monkey Tail Pale Ale on tap last weekend, and its Get Wet IPA and a double IPA are expected sometime this week.  Get these beers while you can.  A fresh hop IPA is like cut flowers in a vase - beautiful for a short period, and once wilted there is no revival.

There are some bottled fresh-hopped beers.  Port Brewing bottles its High Tide Fresh Hop IPA and Sierra Nevada has its Northern and Southern Hemisphere beers.  These are fine beers, but the best way to enjoy a wet hop beer is to get it on draft at a brewery as close to its release as possible.