Friday, October 24, 2014

Double Shot of Modern Times

Modern Times Beer is in the midst of its second year, and is maturing into an iconoclastic, risk-taking brewer.  Its rye IPA, Aurora, is excellent and shows Modern Times' brewing skill.  Aurora is bitter and complex, with the spicy, front-of-the-tongue zip you expect from a well-made rye IPA.  It is smoother than many rye IPAs, which makes it enjoyable to drink, but it has enough kick so you don't forget about it.  Not all brewers handle rye properly, but Modern Times mastered this prickly grain in Aurora.  Aurora is available in draft and in 22 oz bottles.

Modern Times' new saison, Universal Friend, is on draft at its brewery.  It was brewed with must from Pinot Grigio grapes.  Universal Friend has a bit of funk, giving it a slight farmhouse ale quality.  It is a sweet saison, and the Pinot Grigio must brings in a level of sophistication, which smooths out the beer.  Modern Times' core saison, Lomaland, is a classic saison, and while Universal Friend is brewed with the same yeast, it is a more adventurous beer that remains approachable and drinkable

One of the things I like most about Modern Times is that I don't like all its beers.  I have not cared for most of its IPAs and some of its other beers, but I will keep trying Modern Times' IPAs in anticipation of finding a winner like Aurora.  Modern Times is not afraid to try new hop varietals or unusual ingredients like grape must, to make its beers unique.  I'd much rather visit a brewery that can create beers I find personally polarizing than a brewery producing safe, mediocre beers that inspire nothing but ambivalence. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New Tasting Room For Ocean Beach

I did not even know about Culture Brewing's plans to open a satellite tasting room in Ocean Beach until I read about it on San Diego Eater yesterday.  Now, I'm mad that it's not yet open, and I have never even tried a beer from Culture.  You can't please some people.  Culture's Ocean Beach outlet plans to open in early November 2014 at 4845 Newport Avenue, close to Sunset Cliffs Blvd, and next door to the Cohn's new OB Warehouse.  The Eater article says the tasting room will  have twenty taps, which seems high for a single brewery, but Culture is expanding its brewing capacity.   The Eater article also states that the tasting room will feature food trucks.  Good luck with that, as I'm not sure where a food truck would park.  There was no mention of growler fills or whether Culture accepts blank growlers for refills, but growler fills are one of the main points of a tasting room, right?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

ChuckAlek Wins Prestigious Sam Adams' Mentoring Internship

ChuckAlek Independent Brewers was selected as 2015's sole winner of Sam Adam's "Brewing and Business Experienceship."  According to the press release (linked to above) announcing the award, the year-long program is:
Similar to an extended internship, the Experienceship provides hands-on educational and enrichment experiences tailored to the winning brewery's needs. As part of the program, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers will receive a trip to the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery for coaching and mentoring from a variety of Samuel Adams experts and brewers, including those involved in ingredients sourcing, sales and distribution, package design and more. Additionally, winners have the opportunity to brew a collaboration beer with Samuel Adams, and receive funding to attend industry events such as The Great American Beer Festival.

(ChuckAlek) Founder and head brewer Grant Fraley, and co-founder and CEO Marta Jankowska were selected from craft brewer applicants that are part of Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream, a micro-lending and coaching program for small business owners working in food, beverage, craft brewing and hospitality. The brewery was chosen by a panel of professionals from Samuel Adams and the program's non-profit microlending partner Accion, based on their passion for brewing quality craft beer, current success, and strong growth potential.  
This sounds like a fantastic opportunity for ChuckAlek.  ChuckAlex's elusive beers are worth finding.  It is brewing the beers that it wants to and is not following trends.  This creativity was reflected in the beers that I have tried.  Congratulations.

Monday, October 6, 2014

San Diego's GABF Winners

San Diego brewers won fourteen medals at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.  I was impressed that Pizza Port Ocean Beach won two medals (for a session beer and a Belgian-style tripel) and brand new Bagby Beer Co. claimed a bronze for its dry Irish stout.  I have not tried all the winners, but Karl Strauss's Mosaic and Societe's Pupil are outstanding.  In all, I counted eleven different San Diego breweries that took home medals.  That is an impressive performance.  (I considered Port Brewing and Pizza Port Ocean Beach as two separate breweries.) 

The West Coaster has a complete list of the San Diego winners, which I present below:
Category: 14 Session Beer – 94 Entries
Gold: Oatmeal Stout, Benchmark Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Silver: Guillaume, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, Ocean Beach, CA
Bronze: Mosaic Session Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – La Jolla, La Jolla, CA
Category: 21 American-Belgo-Style Ale – 69 Entries
Bronze: Le Freak, Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Category: 51 International-Style Pale Ale – 88 Entries
Bronze: The Pupil, Societe Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Category: 52 American-Style Pale Ale – 145 Entries
Gold: Grunion, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits – Scripps Ranch, San Diego, CA
Category: 55 Imperial India Pale Ale – 135 Entries
Silver: Hop 15, Port Brewing Co., San Marcos, CA
Category: 57 Imperial Red Ale – 62 Entries
Bronze: Shark Attack, Port Brewing Co., San Marcos, CA
Category: 62 Irish-Style Red Ale – 60 Entries
Silver: Piper Down, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits – Scripps Ranch, San Diego, CA
Category: 71 Belgian-Style Witbier – 65 Entries
Gold: White Ale, Saint Archer Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Category: 76 Belgian-Style Tripel – 58 Entries
Bronze: La Flama Dorada, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, Ocean Beach, CA
Category: 78 Other Belgian-Style Ale – 26 Entries
Gold: Witty Moron, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, San Diego, CA
Category: 81 Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout – 26 Entries
Bronze: Asphalt Jungle, Bagby Beer Co., Oceanside, CA
Category: 89 Barley Wine-Style Ale – 51 Entries
Gold: AleSmith Old Numbskull, AleSmith Brewing Co., San Diego, CA

Friday, October 3, 2014

Bottlecraft To Move, Add Taps and Cheese

Bottlecraft, San Diego's first craft beer-only retail outlet, has outgrown its original Little Italy location and is moving up the street.  The Eater San Diego food blog has the details, but a few key points are that twenty-five taps are planned, with two devoted to cider and wine, refrigerator capacity is being increased, and Venissimo cheese may operate inside.  Venissimo operates in Bottlecraft's North Park location, but I have not been there since the cheese shop opened.   The added benefit of a trip to Bottlecraft in Little Italy is that both the current location and new location are within a block of Ballast Point's tasting room and restaurant.  I wonder whether the new location has improved parking... Oh, never mind. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Alesmith's Iconoclastic Evil Dead Red

For fall beers you have your Oktoberfest, your pumpkin, and your wet hop IPA.  Then you have Alesmith's unique fall beer, Evil Dead Red.  It has the big malt of an Oktoberfest beer, but comparisons to the other fall beers stop there.  It has a healthy hop bitterness, but not enough bitterness to be confused with an IPA, and surely not a wet hop IPA.  Best of all it has no pumpkin flavors.  Evil Dead Red stands alone, like Michael Myers in the middle of a dark, country road.

Evil Dead Red's most prominent feature, to me, was its upfront dryness, which made the initial, constricting swallow seem like the beer was stuck in the back my throat.  I can't think of a dryer, non-Belgian beer than this red ale.  The mahogany-colored beer had a sweetness from the malts, and its piney bitterness was sharp and shared attention with the grain, which together overwhelmed the chalk and unclenched my throat.  The malts commanded the finish with a variety of flavors, lead by a smokey base, and complementary tastes of mineral and tobacco.  The abv is 6.66% - what else could it be for Halloween? - and its presence was noticed, adding some heat to a wild flavor mix.   I liked Evil Dead Read, it is one of the more interesting fall beers, and I liked that AleSmith decided to make a good beer, and not worry about conforming to a particular seasonal style. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hops Make You Smarter

Scientists have finally proved what IPA lovers already knew - hops make you smarter. Here is an article from Slate, which notes that researchers at Oregon State University have found that "xanthohumol, a flavonoid found in hops, improved memory and thinking in a lucky group of mice." Unfortunately, it takes 5,636 beers a day to get enough xanthohumol to show marked improvement in smarts.   So, drinking even one-tenth of one percent of the necessary beers on a daily basis is pretty stupid, even if the first day may it seem like a fun challenge.  IPA drinkers also know that in addition to giving you added intelligence, hops make you suave, witty, and sophisticated, with just a touch of danger.  We just need to find some researchers to prove it.