Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Summer Trifecta

Last week I posted on a few beers I tried this summer that I didn't care for, or that I thought came up short.  This post highlights three summer standouts, and like the earlier post will be more impression-based than an in depth review of each beer.  I put the three beers in no particular order, as I thought all were outstanding.

The Bruery's Preservation Series Trippel Tonnellerie.  I have only seen this beer in one location, at a Whole Foods north of Los Angeles, and snapped-up the last bottle.  I grab when I see "Bruery" and "Trippel" on a label.  I could not even find information on The Bruery's website about this beer.  That is too bad, because I thought this his beer was excellent.  It was velvet smooth with a prominent Belgian yeast profile, noticeable fruity esters (tropical fruits and melon), and a pervasive dash of sweetness.  The Bruery creates some complex, hard to drink beers, but I'd slug through five of its difficult concoctions to find one gem like Trippel Tonnellerie. 

Stone Brewing's Bastard In The Rye.  Wow!  It is only word I can think of
to describe this ramped-up, rye ale that was aged for five months in Templeton Rye Whiskey barrels.  I don't know what Templeton Rye Whiskey barrels are but they sound impressive.   The beer's bottle size is a manageable 500 ml and it comes with a cork and cage.  I tasted charred oak from the barrels, spice from the rye and  - with a 10% abv - booze, in this complex Arrogant Bastard derivative.  Bastard in the Rye is a delicious, forced-sip burner.  I never thought much about barrel aged beers before but I'm rethinking this misguided omission.  Be ready for a shock when you taste this beer; a pleasant, slip-into-your-happy-place shock, but a jolt all the same.

Coronado Brewing's Sock Knocker IPA.  It's the best IPA I tried this summer, edging out Stone's Collective Distortion collaboration double IPA by a hop cone (although Societe's just-released Jackeroo may have them both beat).  Sock Knocker is technically a double IPA, but at 8.5% abv it drinks more like an IPA to me than a big Dorado-style double IPA.  This beer was plenty hoppy, but had a roundness with its malts and sweetness that worked throughout the whole bottle.  Sock Knocker is a special release, so it's worth trying to find, if you still can.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Hop Trade

I have had three posts in a row without a picture.  How boring.  To make up for visually dull posts, here are two pictures for you from London.  The first is the Hop Exchange building (along with a row of Barclay Bikes).

The second is the WH & H LeMay Hop Factors building.

Both buildings are south of the River Thames near the Borough Market, with Hop Factors just across the street from a Borough Market entrance.  This area of London (Bankside / Southwark*) used to have many brewers, but the hop business is long gone, and The Hop Exchange is now an office building.  I am guessing that, after a quick Google search, WH & H LeMay Hop Factors were hop brokers.  The building is registered, and houses an employment agency, presumably unrelated to beer. 

*The area of Bermondsey, home to many of London's craft brewers, is part of the Borough of Southwark, but I'll post more on this later.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Go Camping

Sierra Nevada brewed an intriguing double IPA for its summer Beer Camp extravaganza, appropriately called West Coast Double IPA.  This sneaky good double IPA is in the vein of West Coast IPA standard bearers Stone Ruination and Russian River's Pliny the Elder.  This means West Coast Double IPA is more than just another tired example of extreme hops, and that it has nuance and character.  It has a floral sweetness to go with its hop bitterness, and its malt adds a rich depth.  Its abv is a respectable 8.5%, but in a twist, it drinks smaller, which lets its flavors expand and coaxes out that intangible nuance thing.  West Coast comes in squat, twenty-four-ounce bottles.  Sierra Nevada proves once again that its IPAs take a backseat to no brewer.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Jacked for Jackeroo

Societe Brewing has a new IPA brewed with Southern Hemisphere hops, including New Zealand's Nelson and Australia's Summer.  Jackeroo is a terrific IPA (6.85 abv).  It is crisp and full of citrus bitterness, with a nice resin on the mouthful.  It is another winner from Societe.  Societe's Pupil IPA also uses Nelson hops, but Jackeroo is no clone and stands out by itself.  I do not know how much Jackeroo was brewed, how long it will last, whether Societe plans to make Jackeroo a regular (seasonal) beer, or if it is a one time occurrence.  Those are questions for another day.  Do yourself a favor today and get to Societe to try this gem while it is still available.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tasting Rooms

Breweries' satellite tasting rooms are a popping up around San Diego.  The WestCoaster posted a good rundown of the various open and pending tasting rooms earlier this month.  There is an interesting comment, too, about whether the tasting rooms compete with bars.  Sure they do, but at my stage of life I prefer think I'm going to a tasting room rather than a bar.  Plus, I never leave a tasting room without buying a bottle to go or having a growler filled, which I can't do at a bar.

I'm looking forward to the Rip Current tasting room in North Park, and I know I'm thinking too far ahead, but a satellite Bagby Beer tasting room closer to Downtown San Diego seems like a good idea.

The WestCoaster article mentions a proposed law (Assembly Bill 2010) to limit the number of brewery tasting rooms to six.  The law seems misguided.  I wonder what interest group is lobbying for it?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Bad, The Confusing, And The Underwhelming

The summer did not consist of all good beers.  At some point I had to have a few clunkers or misfires.  Here are the three beers I struggled over:

I hate Monk's Cafe Sour.  I tried it several years ago and did not care for it, but I know people like this beer, so earlier this summer I tried it again to see if my initial impression was wrong.  No, I was right the first time.  Monk's Cafe Sour is too sweet for my taste, and worse, I did not find it that sour.  It was unpleasant and hard to drink from start to finish, a finish that came before the bottom of the bottle.  If you are new to sour beers avoid Monk's Cafe Sour and get one made by Russian River, or The Lost Abbey, or nearly any brewery other than the one that made Monk's Cafe Sour. 

I didn't get Stone's Quadrotriticale.  I was bored by its blandness.  It wasn't a bad beer, and maybe I don't understand what Stone is attempting with its Stochasticity Project, but a 9.3% Belgian-style quadrupel should have had more complexity.  It is an easy drinking beer, which is always positive, but I found it dull.  I probably need to try Quadrotriticale again in a proper frame of mind.

I was disappointed with Modern Times' Phalanx IPA.  This beer was released for Modern Times' One-Year Anniversary Party in early July, and I tried it on tap at the brewery a few days after the celebration.  I found it overly malty and not that hoppy, a bad combination for an IPA.  I tasted candy or medicinal flavors, like children's cough syrup.  Modern Times used an Australian hop variety with which I was unfamiliar (Australian Summer hops).  I'm alright with trying new hop varietals, but different for the sake of being different can backfire.  Different needs to taste good, not just different.  Remember the first time tasting a Nelson hop beer?  Different and delicious.  I think I read that for the bottle-version of Phalanx, Modern Times toned down the malt and upped the hops.   If read that right, this beer needs a re-try.

I don't like panning a beer from a new brewery like Modern Times, especially since it's in my community, but it needs to hear the bad with the good.  (It's new saison, Universal Friend, is excellent.)  I'll try Phalanx IPA again and post whether my first impression needs updating.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

San Diego Goes Euro

Last month Stone Brewing announced it had picked Berlin as the location for its long-awaited European expansion.  Stone started an Indieggo campaign to raise $1 million for the project, and as of this morning has raised over $2.1 million.  Have you reserved your special release yet?  Here is an article from The Economist on Stone's move and opportunity.  I remember when Germany's Reinheitsgbot purity law was used as a marketing tool to tout the quality of German beers, and now it's seen as a detriment to beer innovation.  If the collaboration beers planned for Stone's new Berlin brewery are any indication, adherence to the stodgy, nearly 500-year old Reinheitsgbot is a thing of the past. 

Green Flash announced last month a European brewing relationship.  Green Flash's West Coast IPA is now being brewed by Belgium's Brasserie St-Feuillien for distribution throughout Europe.  The West Coaster reports the differences between domestic and European version of West Coast IPA: 
The malts for the Belgian incarnation were sourced in Europe, while the hops and yeast (White Labs 001) were sent from San Diego to Le Rouelx. The other difference between the Californian and European versions, besides the grain, is that the Euro-bottled brew (33cl) is bottle-conditioned. This is due to the supply chain for St-Feuillien’s (and most of Belgium’s) bottled beer being non-refrigerated.
I know these stories are a little old, but they are still important.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Stone's IPA Summer

I am in catch up mode on the blog.  I have plenty of notes on many beers that I need to clean up and post.  I have decided to write posts with short reviews of multiple beers, which will likely read more like brief impressions than deep insight.  Stone's summer IPAs is the first group of beers.

By my count Stone Brewing Co. released five IPAs this summer:  Enjoy By, RuinTen, 18th Anniversary and two collaboration IPAs, Collective Distortion and Unapologetic.

Enjoy By, which I classify as one release even though Stone released two or three different Enjoy Bys this summer, remains a brilliant double IPA.  It is the hoppiest, most drinkable "big" IPA available.

RuinTen was originally released in 2012 for the tenth anniversary of the Stone's Ruination double IPA.   It made its third annual summer appearance in June.  RuinTen is big and bitter for sure, but Stone needs to shelve this now-tedious beer for a few years.   It is overpowering, and not in good way.  If you want a big, aggressive IPA skip RuinTen and grab an Enjoy By.

Collective Distortion is a sweet, bitter, and delicious double IPA.  Brewed with elderberries, this beer that a rocker helped craft, well, rocks.  One of my favorite IPAs of the summer.

Unapologetic IPA is good double IPA, too.  It does not set any new IPA benchmark or cover new IPA ground, but it is worth trying all the same.

Stone's 18th Anniversary IPA is a hopped-up brown ale.  I guess after eighteen IPA variations Stone needed to get creative and turned brown.  I don't know of any other brown ale IPAs, and after tasting 18th Anniversary I don't expect a rush brewers to race and create their own brown IPA.  I'm not even sure if a brown ale IPA is a style, not that it matters.   The beer was a little bit boozy and a little bit boring - like a brown ale.  It's not a bad beer - no, not a bad beer - just not an exciting beer.  And was it me or did it taste thin?

I can't believe I did not take a picture of any of these beers. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Colonel Sykes Lived

If you were lucky enough to have tried Colonel Sykes East India Porter than you will be interested to know that Colonel Sykes was a real person.  In a brilliant piece of beer scholarship, beer writer and historian Ron Pattinson provides the details on the British colonial officer.  Colonel Sykes authored a study that showed that British divisions in India that drank porter instead of rum had lower mortality rates.  Furthermore, he found that high mortality divisions that switched from rum to porter could expect to see a drop in mortality rates. 

I'm not sure what Nate Silver or the data wonks at the New York Times' Up Shot would think of Colonel Sykes's methods and conclusions, but if I had had to drink rum rather than porter under a hot Indian sun, I would have either been a mutineer or or joined a temperance league. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Instant Credibility

If you have even a casual knowledge of San Diego craft beer, you should be excited for the imminent opening of long-time Pizza Port brewer Jeff Bagby's new venture, Bagby Beer Company.  This new brewery will be a must-stop for any serious beer geek.  Even though Bagby Beer is not yet open, it already seems off to a propitious start.  It was only one of twenty-three US locations selected for Cantillon's Zwanze Day release.   From the Eater San Diego website:
Revered Belgian brewery Cantillon's annual Zwanze Day, a global one-day-only release of a special beer, is scheduled for Saturday, September 20 and the brewery just announced which lucky breweries around the world will be hosting the event. Bagby Brewing Company, which is opening shortly in Oceanside, has the honor of being the only local spot chosen; details on how to score your spot at the event to follow. [EaterWire]
I'm pretty sure Zwanze Day won't be the day I choose to visit Bagby Beer.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Colonel Sykes East India Porter

Its name evokes some long lost British imperial soldier - like the ones caricatured in films Gunga Din and The Man Who Would Be King, or the grandfather in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  This makes sense because Colonel Sykes East India Porter, brewed by Stone Brewing, ChuckAlek, and beer historian and writer Ron Pattinson, is based on an old recipe from when England dominated the world.  I previously wrote about this beer and the book its recipe it came from, here.  In short, the beer is based on an 1867 export porter recipe. 

I tasted this beer at Stone's Liberty Station World Bistro and Gardens earlier this summer.  I thoroughly enjoyed this beer.  I tasted coffee and chocolate that were complemented by a pleasant bitterness.  What struck me about Colonel Sykes was how refreshing it was.   Refreshing is not generally a word used to describe porters or stouts, but the beer was bright and thirst quenching.  It weighed in at manageable 4.5% abv.  Its flavor depth and complexity exceeded its level of alcohol.

I've now had several beers from ChuckAlex, and it's brewing beers that are not only interesting, but as good as any brewer in San Diego, which means anywhere.  Call me a fan.