Monday, September 29, 2014

Alpine Email

I received an Alpine Beer Company email this morning, the first one in awhile.  I enjoy Alpine's emails even though I don't always understand all of them.  It looks like Alpine has some good releases on the way.  Below is the entire text of the email:

So, it’s the end of summer, no more heat – right? Only good news to report so buckle up your seatbelts in your favorite recliner and prepare yourself for the onslaught of overwhelming jocularity and massive frivolity. Ready? Go…

For some reason there are many people that like a beer we make called “Bad Boy.” And they usually like it when we tell them when it’s available. So, right now, on tap in the pub, is a really good beer we make like called “Good,” our barleywine-style ale. Come by and have a plan for your drive if consuming high abv beers. Oh, and we have “Bad Boy” on draft in the pub too. And it’s stunningly good. After all, it’s named after Shawn, the brewer.

A lot will depend on when the labels arrive but we will have our annual holiday ale available very soon, perhaps as soon as next week. “Ichabod” is our pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg seasonal that changes the beer style annually. This year’s version is a 10.5% abv Wheatwine-Style Ale and it is dry-pumpkined, seriously. Reports are that it is lovely and of course will make a featured accompaniment to a fantastic Thanksgiving Dinner. Bottles, very limited growlers  and draft in the pub.

Our really good friend, Geoi, the owner of Bine & Vine Bottle Shop in Normal Heights, San Diego, is celebrating the stores third anniversary. We were asked, and accepted, an offer to make an anniversary beer for the occasion. So, we made a 6.5% IPA called “Bine & Vine 3rd Anniversary Ale.” We featured the usual dry-crispness and light color with medium body. But the focus was on Mosaic hops, so we pumped up the aromatics with healthy doses of Mosaic, Citra and Simcoe hops. Their website will list their availability date. We want to bottle next Friday.

We are very excited to announce some agreements made for some killer collaborations. The new trend to add a bit of spice to the brew scene is a chance to work with others. Our next collaborative beer will be for a Highly requested return “Super IPA!” The fantastic folks at New Belgium will be allowing us into their state of the art facility on October 6th, to remake this 9.5% abv Double IPA. The batch will be exclusively on draft so look for it wherever finer establishments carry New Belgium beer on tap. Other upcoming collaborations will be with “Knee Deep,”  “Mission Brewing” and “BNS.”Dates to be worked out but probably early next year.

We have agreed in principle to the terms of a lease for the old “Bread Basket/Paparazzi” at Alpine Creek Town Center. We intend to finalize the deal and open somewhere around the first of the year. Look for an expanded operation with our great beer as the feature with a little awesome barbeque on the side.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print. Stay out of the way of cars. White line don’t stop cars from crossing over them, they hold no magical powers. Take responsibility for your own safety into your own hands, walk facing traffic as far away from the road as possible. Dawn and dusk pose additional risks due to driver visibility issues. Wear the right clothes for the situation, bright when necessary. Be good bikers and share the road appropriately, too.

Wet Hopped IPAs Now Available

Wet hop IPAs are here!  I tried the first wet hop IPA of the season on Saturday when I had Get Wet at Pizza Port Ocean Beach.  (At least it was the first wet hop IPA I had seen.)  Wet hop IPAs are made with fresh hops and have an intense, juicy bitterness, more so than most IPAs, as they are released just a few weeks after harvest.  More wet hopped IPAs should be arriving on taps in the coming days and weeks.  A few of these beers make it into bottles, Port Brewing's High Tide being one, so you can check bottle shops, too.  The freshness of these beers declines fast, so it's best to drink wet hop IPAs as soon as possible to get the full experience of the fresh hops.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tasting Room Growth

The Voice of San Diego has an excellent, important article on the growth of, and issues surrounding brewery satellite tasting rooms.  According to the article, tasting rooms:
help address one issue that could affect the (craft beer) industry’s continued growth: They allow the businesses to meet customers where they are, rather than relying on people coming to them.
They are also a real source of profit to breweries, according to the article.  I am looking forward to a North Park-located Rip Current, and a Lost Abbey outpost that's only 30 minutes away compared to nearly an hour, or realistically, a location near a freeway I travel frequently (Interstate 5) compared to one off a highway (State Highway 78) I never use.

But not all is positive for tasting rooms, and this feel-good story has a curmudgeon:
But the easier process of opening urban tasting rooms could eventually stoke neighborhood concerns.

At a recent panel on planning concerns facing the craft beer industry, Amanda Lee, a senior planner with the city’s code enforcement group, said the city needs to consider whether satellite tasting rooms, technically called “retail tasting stores,” should have additional restrictions about where they could be located, or whether the city should be able to impose additional conditions on their permit to operate.

The thought is that at some point, the relative ease to open such a facility will run into community opposition.
I get that people do not want a bar with a bunch of loud rowdies near their house or schools.  The tasting rooms I've been to, by and large, are mellow places that do not attract drunks or hordes of hard drinking young men.  Yes, I see groups of young men at tasting rooms.  But I also see groups of young women, a lot of couples and, to put it bluntly, plenty of older people (myself included) at tasting rooms.  It's not your "whoop-it-up" crowd.  Most tasting rooms close early - 9:00 p.m., or 10:00 p.m. at the latest - and the bulk of the business is done earlier in the day.  And more importantly from a planner perspective, I have seen hyper-vigilance from tasting room employees in terms of how they sell and dispense beer, and watch customers. 

City planners (not just the one named in the article) should look to the long-term civic impact of a rash, not-in-my-backyard mentality when it comes to tasting rooms.  San Diego's brewing industry is real and growing.  It is creating jobs and attracting tourists, and tasting rooms help both.  Beer is now one of the prime reasons for a visit to San Diego.  The planners should not construct unnecessarily obstacles to job growth and future tourism based on perceived fears, rather than legitimate proof of detrimental impact caused by tasting rooms.

City planners need to get out and visit a few tasting rooms to fully understand the clientele and how different a brewery tasting room is from a bar.  I imagine more than one brewery would be happy to arrange a tasting tour.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Ritzenhoff Beer Glasses

After I posted yesterday that I wanted two Modern Times' Ritzenhoff-designed beer glasses, I looked at the Ritzenhoff website and was jolted by familiarity.  I remembered buying two fancy beer glasses about ten years ago that I had packed away for a move and never unpacked.  I went searching and found out that I already own two fancy Ritzenhoff glasses.   Each has its own protective case, and each tall pilsner glass came with four custom coasters.  The glasses were part of an artist series.  Neither glass has been touched by a beer, a situation I need to fix. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Want These Glasses

The Beer Rovette says I have too many beer glasses, but I want these tulip glasses from Modern Times Brewing.  (In fairness to me, I don't have tulip glasses I like).  They are Ritzenhoff crystal glasses from Germany, so any beer has to taste good in them!

Pabst Red Ribbon

Here is a Bloomberg article on the pending sale of 170-year old Pabst Brewing Company to a Russian company, Oasis Beverage.  I have seen Pabst Blue Ribbon available on draft on in big cans at a number of locations over the past few years, but have never had the urge to go faux hipster and actually order one.  The $750 million price tag for a trendy brand seems steep.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ballast Point Explosion

Dang!  Here is a San Diego Eater article on Ballast Point's expansion.  It is opening ("weeks away") a new production brewery in the Mira Mesa area of San Diego that will include space for a 78-tap tasting room and a 500-seat restaurant.  In addition, Ballast Point is expanding its original Linda Vista tasting room, taking the space next door to the brewery that always seemed empty.  This location includes the Home Brew Mart, and was the original Ballast Point brewery. 

Oh, and by the way, Ballast Point's new Homework Series No. 3 is amazing.  It's an English Style IPA that I will write about more in a formal review, but get this beer while it is available.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Shun Fall Gimmicks, Drink An Oktoberfest

"I can't wait for the first pumpkin beer," is something you'll never read on this blog.  I started seeing excited tweets about pumpkin beers in early August, and thought it's going to be a long fall.  I don't know when pumpkin beers upended tradition and eclipsed Oktoberfest beers as the fall beer of choice, but it is a shame these trite, gimmick beers are now synonymous with autumn.  In my experience most pumpkin beers are thin and forgettable - craft beers' version of the Lime-A-Rita*. 

There is hope for beer drinkers looking for a traditional fall alternative.  ChuckAlek Independent Brewers have a solid Oktoberfest beer, called appropriately Oktoberfest.  It's the anti-pumpkin beer, which is the highest compliment I can give it.  It is a classic Oktoberfest beer, which is a German Marzen-style lager.   Chuck Alek's Oktoberfest's clear, copper color foretells the impending malt.   The beer had a rich and complex flavor, more so than other Marzen's I have tried.  The strong malt gave Oktoberfest a hint of mineral favor, and a sweetness I was not expecting, but liked.  A mid-taste, gentle hop bitterness gave way to a smokey finish, which became stronger through the last half of the glass.  Overall, a smooth, full-bodied beer.

My favorite fall beer is an even newer upstart than pumpkin beers, it is the wet hop IPA.  As it is only mid-September, it is a bit early in the year for this apostate style.

*  Not all pumpkin beers are banal.  Dogfish Head's pumpkin beer is quite good, and if you need a fix of liquid gourd, find this beer.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

London Food Article

Warning, this post and the article it links to contain no beer.  Here is an article by Mark Bittman of The New York Times on restaurants in London.  My first trip to London was in the early 1990s and my experience then confirms Bittman's implication that twenty-five years ago food was bad in London.  My memories were potato jackets - some kind of stuffed baked potatoes - and take-away tomato and mozzarella sandwiches, neither culinary standouts.  I shattered the old myth that to get good food in London you had to eat ethnic, as I had horrible Indian and bad Italian meals.  London is now a food destination.  I was in London for over a week this summer and never had a bad meal, and I ate British food, ethnic food, and all points in between.  I'll be posting more on my trip, but wanted to point out Bittman's article.

Monday, September 8, 2014

London Calling

Pizza Port Ocean Beach has a lovely beer on tap called Seeds of Wrath. It is billed as an English summer ale, and is brewed with Medusa hops and sunflower seeds. It is light, refreshing, and a real thirst quencher, the perfect antidote for these obnoxious, humid days.  It is juicy and tastes of lemon and grass.  This crisp beer's abv is a mid-4%, keeping in the tradition of a good English ale.

The best part about Seeds of Wrath, too me, was its resemblance to West London craft brewery Portobello Brewing's VPA, which I had earlier this summer during a trip to London.  Seeds of Wrath's crisp, lemon-fresh taste immediately transported me to the Barely Mow on Duke Street.  A couple of Portobello beers, VPA and an even lighter lager, were the Barley Mow's concession to craft beer.  A pint of the VPA was a fine way to start or end a London summer evening.

Most craft beer is not big on subtlety, but that's a trademark of a good English ale, and Seeds of Wrath, despite its name, is a nod to quality British under statement.   

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Cellarmaker Brewing Co.'s small tasting room, hot and crammed with people in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, begs you to drink a beer, if for nothing else then to help take the edge off the brewery's frenetic pace.  Three bartenders, sweating from an unrelenting line of customers, work hard to keep up the pace, even when a group brings in at least a half-dozen growlers for re-fills, most of which are not Cellarmaker growlers, requiring the extra step of placing masking tape over other brewery logos before filling the growlers.

The brewery and tasting room, on Howard Street in San Franciso's SOMA district, is standing room-only.  People don't leave once they get a seat, but linger to try more beers from the year-old brewery, each beer more compelling than the last.  Standing customers are relegated to the walls or somewhere not to seem conspicuous, while waiting to claim any open seat.  The tasting room is in front of the small brewing operation, which must be operating at capacity.  If someone told me Cellarmaker sold out of beer every weekend, I would believe it, given the hordes of beer geeks in the tasting room and the limited brewing facility, made smaller by a stack of barrels along one wall. 

I tried Tiny Dankster and Dank Williams.  Tiny Dankster is listed as a pale ale.  Riiiight.  Pale ale my a@%.  Tiny Dankster is the hoppiest pale ale I have ever tried, and there is nothing tiny about it.  It is brewed with Nelson, Mosaic and Citra hops.  Tiny Dankster weighs in at only 5.7% abv and 37 IBUs, making these two measures useless for predicting flavor or punch, as it drinks bigger and more bitter than the metrics' readings.  Oh yeah, it's dank, too.

Dank Williams is a double IPA brewed with "many hops."  Like Tiny Dankster, Dank Williams drinks above its weight class, and its 7.8% abv belies its big, full-bodied double IPA character.  It is hoppy and bitter, with a strong malt sweetness that fortifies its "many hops." I wasn't focused enough to discern whether Dank Williams fell into the pine IPA or citrus IPA category, but was paying enough attention to realize that it was a dang good, serious IPA, though not as dank as Tiny Dankster.

I also had a taste of the Bartender's Breakfast saison.  This was a funky, delicious farmhouse style saison, brewed with Brett Brux, Brett Drei, and Lactobacillus.  This beer was a collaboration with Monk's Kettle.

Cellarmaker is making excellent beers, based on the three I tried.  The long lines of patrons is a tribute to its quality beers.  I suspect Cellarmaker will expand to a second or larger facility soon, as the demand for its beers grows.