Friday, October 30, 2015

Encore, Encore

Last month I wrote a post describing my anticipation of Stone Brewing's re-brew of its Vertical Epic 08.08.08.  The re-release is a smash, my memory proved reliable, and any concern was unnecessary.   VE 08.08.08 is an aggressive, hop forward Belgian strong ale.  When brewed in 2008 it was probably ahead of its time, and even today with the mainstreaming of sours, wild ales, and all types of Belgian styles, 08.08.08 is still a standout beer.  

Vertical Epic 08.08.08 had a distinct pepper smell.  Its taste was sweet, with a healthy hop bitterness in the finish, more bitter than a typical Belgian golden ale.  The Belgian yeast, mixing with the sweetness, brought spices and complexity to the beer.  It was boozier than I remember - the abv a healthy 8.9% - and the alcohol was noticeable from start to finish, and was my only complaint about this beer.    Vertical Epic 08.08.08 is a great American interpretation of a classic Belgian style.  I plan to save a few of these bottles. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Modern Times Via London

Here is an excellent article on Modern Times from Brew Geekery, a London-based beer blog.  It is bizarre and amazing that a San Diego brewery, located five minutes from my house, is profiled by a London blogger after he drank one of its beers in a Manchester pub.   How Modern Times ended up with its beers in England is an archetypal craft beer tale.  BrewDog, the Scottish craft brewer with a global brand and chain of UK pubs, first ordered Modern Times' coffee, which sparked a conversation between the two breweries, which lead to Modern Times' cans in the BrewDog pubs.

Jacob McKean, Modern Times' founder and owner, has some interesting things to say in the article, including this about the recent wave of craft beer acquisitions by macro brewing conglomerates:
Are you concerned by the increasing number of craft beer breweries being acquired by the likes of AB InBev? And being based in California, what are your thoughts on the Department of Justice and the California Attorney General’s enquiries into allegations that AB InBev is buying up distributors with the intention of edging out smaller breweries?

I am not concerned. This is the same strategy they’ve pursued elsewhere (and is fairly common in other industries) and it doesn’t spell the end of the world. Frankly, I think they’re flailing, and I wouldn’t expect them to remain committed to any one strategy for long. I am very heartened by the investigations, but this has been an open and shut case for the last 50 years, so I’m also a little exasperated. Hopefully they will someday investigate the anti-competitive trade practices (i.e. bribes and dirty tricks to get on-tap) these companies employ routinely as well.
I agree with McKean.  The macros can't buy, dilute, diminish, and eliminate all the craft breweries.  Macros will continue to try to capture and convert the craft beer drinker, and in the process make some better beers.  But they won't stop quality craft brewers and consumer demand for good local beer.

 Jacob McKean has big plans for Modern Times, saying in the article:
I dream big. I see Modern Times becoming a global purveyor of incredible beverages that is synonymous with beautiful, otherworldly spaces and art. I think we can do that and actually become an even better version of ourselves, rather than a diluted version."   
San Diego has well over 100 breweries.  Modern Times is fast becoming a force in not only San Diego's brewing scene but the entire craft beer industry.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Beer Beer Geeks Love To Hate

Pumpkin beers - I know of no other beer style beer geeks love to hate more than pumpkin beers.  "I drink one a year," or "one every few years" are a few of the milder condescending remarks about fall's derided beer style.  (Beer Samizdat defends pumpkin beers here.)  Despite the disdain, I have seen more pumpkin beers this year than ever, including Ballast Point's Pumpkin Down Scottish ale and Stone Brewing's sort-of-harvesty-sounding collaboration beer, 24 Carrot Golden Ale. Someone must like these beers.

I am not a hater of pumpkin beers, although I may be responsible for the quotes above.  I have found some thin and artificial, and others too malty for my personal taste, and unfortunately these are the beers that form most beer geeks' opinions.  I bought Coronado's Punk'in Drublic last week, and it's quite a pumpkin beer.  Punk'in Drublic is like so many other pumpkin-based foods, where its flavor comes more from its spices than its pumpkin, which is OK, because it's the spices that trigger the "pumpkin" taste.  Punk'in Drublic is boozey and spicey, and its 8.0% abv is present throughout.  It is robust, sweet, and malty, and its flavors intensify as it warms.  If you want a bland, safe pumpkin beer, look for a macro label beer, or beer from a macro-owned former craft brewery.  If you want a serious fall beer, get Punk'in Drublic.  It's a pumpkin ale beer geeks will have a hard time ridiculing.