Friday, August 21, 2015

Beer Round Up

There have been some recent beer topics on which I wanted to comment that were too long for Twitter but too short for a standalone post, so I am combining them below:

San Diego Eater is reporting that underrated and under distributed classic style brewer ChuckAlek Independent Brewers is opening a tasting room in North Park.  The proposed ChuckAlek beer garden is part of a bigger project, confusingly called Art Produce Gallery on University.  This is great news for ChuckAlek fans like me because its brewery and tasting room are in the rural community of Ramona, which is forty-five minute to an hour drive from my house.   Ramona is on the way to nowhere I frequent, so I can't fake an excuse to drop by the brewery as part of a concocted trip.  A North Park tasting room brings ChuckAlek's classic porters, stouts, lagers, and the other lost or forgotten styles in which it specializes, much closer to central San Diego, a part of town I can always find an excuse to visit.

The year's first wet hop beer is here.  Culture Brewing released its wet hop IPA, Wet Hopped Cascade IPA, late last week.  It poured dense and cloudy, and the fresh hops were dominant, which you would expect from a wet hop IPA, but I did not find it to have the sharp, pungent smell and fresh-squeezed citrus juice taste of other fresh hop IPAs, in particular those from Pizza Port Ocean Beach.  I found that while Wet Hopped Cascade IPA tasted great, it reminded me of Culture's regular IPA, and even the abv and IBUs were identical at 6.6% abv and 66 IBU.  Wet Hopped Cascade IPA, while not spectacular, is still worth drinking, and is available for a short time at Culture's Solana Beach and Ocean Beach tasting rooms. 

Not to be out done by wet hop beers, breweries are now releasing their pumpkin beers.  Coronado Brewing has released its big Punk'In Drublic and Ballast Point is releasing Pumpkin Down, a Scottish ale with pumpkin, (it is an apparent offshoot of Ballast Point's Piper Down Scottish ale).  To me, it is still too hot for a heavy pumpkin ale, especially one with a Scottish ale base.  I plan to buy some of these beers to have them for fall.  Last year Punk'In Drublic did not stay long on shelves.

Beer Samidzat wrote on the wonder of Tahoe Mountain Brewing's barrel aged beers, and had this knowing quote that not only made me laugh but made me want to try Tahoe Brewing's beers:  "I mean talk about preaching to the RateBeer/BA/blog dork crowd - it's a "Flanders Red aged in oak with cherries and blueberries.''"  Yes, beer dorks go bonkers for any beer calling itself a Flanders Red aged in oak.  

Bay City Brewing soft opened earlier this week, and I plan to visit it sometime over the next few days.  Despite the unusual name  - I have never heard anyone refer to San Diego as Bay City - the new brewery has excellent visibility from Interstate-8, and is in an industrial area behind another poorly named venue, Valley View Casino Center (formerly called the San Diego Sports Arena).  Bay City is about a thirty second drive or five minute walk from Modern Times' creatively named Lomaland Fermentorium.  Bay City is pouring a beer called Experimental Pale Ale, which has a 5.5% abv and was brewed with Nelson Sauvin dry hops.  What Bay City beer I am trying first beer is no longer a quandary.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Over the past weekend, we were in a beach area restaurant where it was hotter inside than it was outside - and it was plenty hot outside.  The Beer Rovette and I shared a Ninkasi Helles Lager (which I'm guessing was Ninkasi's Lux).  It was served cold in a legitimate glass, and was the correct antidote for the sweltering weather.  The beer had a classic pilsner/lager taste, a flavor that evokes "beer" in my memory.  The thousands of Buds, Coors, and their pilsner derivatives that I drank in my twenties left a deep mark.  The pale, straw-colored beer was refreshing and crisp, with minimal hop bitterness.  Lux was light, a bit dry, and had a yeasty, bready flavor.  After the initial memory jolt, I was bemused by the beer's overall sweetness, which made me wonder if the macro beers of my youth had a similar saccharine strain, not that I ever put much thought into their flavor profiles.   A heat wave is not the time to over think the intricacies of a Helles lager other than to realize that on a hot night a well made Helles lager is a perfect beer.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Twice The Fool

I bought two beers at two upscale restaurants last week and received two crap pours in two fake pint glasses, while paying pint prices for both.  If a restaurant is going to charge premium prices for less than a pint of beer, can it at least serve it in a glass that is not trying to look like a pint?  It angers me when I feel a restaurant is trying to con me.  Neither Kitchen 4140 nor Soda & Swine said they were offering a full pint, but serving a beer in a look-a-like pint glass is an implicit nod to a pint.   And there must be a design flaw (for the beer drinker, not the restaurant!) in the fat-bottomed glasses, because every beer poured in thick-base glass results in a disproportionate level foam, leaving the beer drinker with even less beer - about 12 ounces, I'm guessing - which is where a petty crime becomes a felony.  I figure that is 25% less beer poured but that is still sold for the price of a full pint.  There is no wonder why restaurants love and use the modified pint glasses.

The faux-shaker glass at Kitchen 4140 didn't surprise me.  It is a restaurant first, beer seller second - it only had two beers on draft - so I half expected a small glass.  Idiot me paid $7 for the approximate twelve ounce draft of Mike Hess Harley Pale Ale.  I should have ordered a $5 bottle of Sculpin.  The new Soda & Swine in Liberty Station, to me, is as much a bar as a restaurant, so it has no excuse for offering dodgy glassware.  Its prices per beer vary, but all are what you'd expect to pay for a pint, not a short pint.  While Soda & Swine didn't dip to fake shaker fraud, it still used a bottom heavy glass where the beer poured with a big foam.   I'll leave the beer at Soda & Swine for the beard and funky glasses and expense account set, and I'll get my meatballs as takeout and then stop at Stone for a growler fill.

The food at both restaurants was good, and I'd go back to both restaurants, but I am not going to order any draft beer.  I am on to the con and won't participate.  I need to start being that beer jerk who asks the size of the beer glass before ordering. 

High beer prices are here to stay.  I know that.  I recently went to dinner at Monello's in San Diego's Little Italy where drafts of four Societe Brewing beers were available for $9 to $10, depending on the beer.  I was too stunned by the prices to order a beer, so I don't know whether the restaurant served a proper sixteen ounces or not.  (If I had to guess, I'd say no, but for $10, I want my Apprentice in a quart-sized glass.)  So restaurants, if you plan to charge $7, or $8, or $9, or even $10 for a draft beer, you have to give at least a pint.  Don't insult me with a fat-bottomed glass you are trying to pass off as a pint.  If you want to serve less beer and charge full price, spend some some money and buy some properly deceitful glassware, don't cheap-out with a bastardized shaker.