Friday, December 29, 2017

Demise of the Bomber

The craft beer industry constantly evolves, which is necessary for its growth and survival.  The decline of craft beers being produced in 22 oz bombers is one trend that makes me sad.  I get that their heavy shipping weight and awkward size gives distributors headaches, and that cans are lighter and more effective, but bombers opened many beers to me.  I like cans, but I always pause before I buy a four- or six-pack of a beer I have not previously tried, afraid of being stuck with beers I don't want to drink.  With a bomber, it is just a one beer commitment, and if the beer stinks you only have to struggle through one and are not left wondering what to do with the remaining three or five crap beers.  Plus, the financial commitment is usually smaller with a bomber.  It is ironic that while more beer than ever is being brewed, I seem to try fewer and fewer beers.  I know the abundance of tasting rooms that have opened near my house over the past few years has lead me to try less beer, but having fewer choices in bombers has also curtailed beer experimentation. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Prepare For San Diego Beer Week

The two weekend long San Diego Beer Week starts this Friday, November 3rd, and runs until November 12th.  It is an event filled ten days so plan accordingly.  Here are four resources to help set your daily beer drinking itinerary:

The official San Diego Beer Week website's list of events.

The San Diego Brewer's Guild's website list of events.  It looks similar to the San Diego Beer Week list of events, in part because the Brew's Guild sponsors beer week.

The West Coaster's master list of events.

The West Coaster's list of highlights from Beer week.

There are so many events it's hard to know what is worthwhile and what is just a Beer Week excuse.  The spotlight events at the Bottlecraft locations look interesting, as do some of the spotlight nights at O'Briens including Melvin Brewing (11/6), Kern River (11/7) and Fieldwork Brewing (11/8), as well as events at Stone Brewing locations, Societe Brewing, and the sour and rare beer night (11/10) at Pizza Port Ocean Beach

Beer Bars v. Tasting Rooms - Part II

Here is a Good Beer Hunting interview with the owner of Fort Collins, Colorado's The Mayor of Old Town beer bar.  I am posting this article because it addresses the competitive relationship between beer bars and brewery taprooms, which is becoming contentious.  The Mayor of Old Town is carrying fewer local beers due to the increased number of local brewery taprooms that the bar's owner believes are hurting his business.  This is unfortunate, but not unique to Colorado.  I noted last month the complaints about this beer bar v. taproom dynamic here in San Diego.  Expect this story to grow in the future, as many breweries are seeing taprooms as an important point of distribution and profit.  The beer bars and breweries need creative thinking so they can both coexist.  Cannibalizing each other makes both weaker.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Give This Man A Raise

This Good Beer Hunting podcast is worth a listen.  The podcast is a recording of a panel discussion from London's Beavertown Brewing's recent Extravaganza beer festival.  The panel was on New England IPAs and the panelists were, in general, negative on new hazy style.  A man in the audience, only identified as Andrew from Modern Times, breaks up a pedantic discussion and gives a robust defense of hazy IPAs and adherence to consumer preference (this happens about the fourteen minute mark). Andrew also defends the shelf life of Modern Times' hazy IPAs, which he says should be good for three or four months after canning, not several weeks as stated by panelists.  I can confirm that Andrew's statement is correct as it relates to the three- to four-month life of Modern Times' New England-style IPAs.

Andrew is an employee to keep and validates Modern Times' decision to become employee-owned.  It is awesome that a guy goes to a London beer festival and not only defends a style that Modern Times crushes, but at the same time articulates Modern Times' ethos to making beers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Aged Pumpkin Beer

I bought some of this year's Dogfish Head Punkin Ale over the weekend.  Then I found a bottle of last year's in my beer fridge and decided I had to taste them side-by-side.  I was ready to pour out the year-old Punkin Ale, but the beer was excellent.  It showed no signs of age, and had more depth and complexity than this year's version.  Its pumpkin and spice flavors were more pronounced, while remaining an easy drinking beer.  This year's Punkin Ale was lighter, but still good.  Both beers went great with barbecued sausage and spicy mustard, along with some homemade applesauce. Later, I found an even older version of Punkin Ale from at least two or three years ago.  As I have one bottle left from last year, I am planing a three-year vertical tasting (with pictures this time).  I will put the aged pumpkin beer to the test.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Beer Reads

I have had multiple beer articles open in my browser for about a week or more.  Below are quick summaries and links to the articles:

San Diego brewers had a respectable showing at the Great American Beer Festival, via the West Coaster.

Here is a wide-ranging interview with Jeff Bagby from a European website, the name of which and country of origin I can't determine.  He captures the problem with many hazy beers, "I just don’t see the long term appeal of something like that, pouring soup out of a can and drinking it – which is kind of what I equate some of these to."  Bagby reminisces about the early days in San Diego's craft beer history and has other insights on the craft beer industry.

San Diego City Beat has an article from Beth Demmon on problems facing some brewers.  In particular, the article highlights issues with the Brewery Igniter business model, which provides new breweries space but has high costs and apparent lack of flexibility.  Wiseguy Brewing was the first Igniter brewery to cease operations last month. 

Via Good Beer Hunting, Ballast Point has opened a separate brewery adjacent to its huge Miramar headquarters.  The new 60,000 square foot, creatively named Trade Street Facility, will focus on sours and barrel-aged beers.  I can hardly wait for a sour, barrel-aged Guava Sculpin IPA.

While Wiseguy Brewing closed last week, Wild Barrel Brewing is opening.  The craft beer cycle of life.  A new brewery opening in San Diego is not big news these days, but this brewery, headed by former Stone beer ambassador Bill Sysak, sounds exciting.  The West Coaster has the inside scoop on Sysak's plans.  Reading this article had me thinking of excuses to get to San Marcos.

Brandon Hernandez tackles hazy IPAs in this article for The Full Pint.  San Diego's hop heritage is on attack from the hazy IPA.  San Diego breweries are balancing the traditional, clear, bitter IPA that made San Diego famous, with demand for the murky, interloping style that is a softer and fruitier IPA.  I love tradition and no region makes better IPAs than San Diego, but I am not against a good hazy IPA either, Jeff Bagby's points notwithstanding, and he makes more points in the interview above than just the quote I pulled.  My haze experience is mainly limited to the cloudy IPAs Modern Times Beer produces, which I have found delicious, so my perception is probably skewed.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Jackhammer Dragon

The name Jackhammer Dragon IPA makes no sense to me, but I am sure it has some insider backstory.  While I do not get the name, I do know that this IPA from Pizza Port Ocean Beach is a good beer.  Its straw color is lighter than many IPAs, and while it poured with some opacity, it will not be confused with a New England-style IPA.  It had an initial sharp intensity that did not mellow.  I noticed a classic IPA pine flavor, but Jackhammer's bitterness overwhelmed any pine subtleties.  Maybe it's the yeast, but I detected a "Pizza Port" taste to it, which is not bad, but the beer reminded me of other Pizza Port IPAs, like Jetty or Norse Woman.  If you are tired of the haze craze, or IPAs with hops that taste more of onions or overripe melon, and want a beer that smacks you with the bitter, you need to seek out Jackhammer. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Time To Get Angry

I missed this Brandon Hernandez article on Little Miss Brewing's Ocean Beach blindside on the West Coaster website last month, but read the full article over the weekend in the West Coaster magazine.  Little Miss Brewing was back stabbed during its application process as it built its tasting room on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach.  According to the article, during Little Miss's original thirty-day public comment period, initial public complaints related to the proposed tasting rooms were raised and then addressed by Little Miss Brewing.  Unknown to Little Miss Brewing, a second "private meeting had been held without their (Little Miss's owners) notification or knowledge in late-April - outside of the public-protest period - between ABC supervisors, representatives of the San Diego Police Department, a State Assembly member, and additional OB residents not in favor of the tasting room."  After this secret meeting the San Diego Police Department said it would not support the Little Miss Brewing tasting room and the ABC would not vote against the police.  The ABC waited months to inform Little Miss Brewing of the permit rejection.

What is the point of the ABC if the police decide what permits to issue?   The police claim an increase in alcohol related crimes in its Western Patrol Division led to its decision to reject Little Miss's application, but this Patrol Division, in addition to Ocean Beach, encompasses diverse neighborhoods including Linda Vista, Western Mission Valley, Midway District, University Heights, and the neighborhoods of Point Loma.  The area impacting Little Miss Brewing, Ocean Beach, has seen alcohol related crime drop by 40% since Culture Brewing opened the first tasting room in Ocean Beach in November 2014.  The leading alcohol-related crime in Ocean Beach is open containers on the beach, not drunks stumbling out of brewery tasting rooms.   

I want to know the other OB residents that attended the private meeting.  Were the OB residents owners of bars on Newport Avenue, and are private meetings regular procedure for beer licenses?   If the police are interested in stopping all alcohol related crimes, why not just pull all alcohol licenses, or delay the permitting process so long that businesses close.  Don't try to tell me that Ocean Beach has too many tasting rooms, let the market sort that out.  Don't submarine breweries through private meetings and backroom deals. 

It appeared to me that Little Miss had spent big money building out its tasting room, and it looked nearly ready to open when the For Lease sign went up around Labor Day.  The State or City owe Little Miss a full explanation and repayment for its costs, especially since this decision was made at least four months ago.  Little Miss should not have to pay for cowardly actions.

I said in my previous post that tasting rooms have improved Newport Avenue.  Since Culture opened in November 2014, I have never seen anyone sloppy drunk in any of the tasting rooms I have visited.  For comparison, I have been in Newport Pizza after 10:00 pm, and it routinely has some properly smashed patrons.  The scene at the western end of Newport Avenue, which no tasting rooms, only the OB Brewery, is much wilder than the eastern end of Newport Avenue where the tasting rooms are located.  There is more to this story, and something foul is behind it.   All breweries in San Diego need to view this decision as an immediate threat to their businesses.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bars V. Tasting Rooms

Here is an article from San Diego Magazine asking whether tasting rooms are hurting beer bars.  The subject of the article, Karen Barnett of Small Bar, thinks so.  Tasting rooms with extended hours and service of full pints are proving competition to beer bars.  The article makes some good points, but I do think there are some neighborhood specific issues.  For the North Park, Normal Heights, University Heights area I'd like to hear opinions from the Toronado, Waypoint, Blind Lady, and Tiger Tiger, in addition to Small Bar.  One thing a tasting room can't replicate is pouring beers from multiple breweries, which is what you can get from a good beer bar.

In Ocean Beach, the best craft beer selections are part of restaurants, and to me the tasting rooms complement more than compete.  The Joint, Ragland, and the two Noodle Houses have superb craft beer tap lists and seem as busy as before the tasting rooms opened.  As for the other bars on Newport Avenue there are many people, myself included, that would never venture in one, but have no problem stopping into a tasting room.  The tasting rooms have expanded Ocean Beach's beer drinking customer base and have improved the atmosphere on Newport Avenue. 

I view the Ocean Beach Pizza Port as its own entity, separate from the other goings on in Ocean Beach.  This money-printing machine serves pizza and salads, and a wide selection of Pizza Port beers and a smaller selection of other craft beers.  It is always busy and would remain so even if a dozen tasting rooms and a dozen bars opened in Ocean Beach.

This issue is not going away, and in a strange case of irony, I suspect bar owners are petitioning planners and town councils in an attempt to limit tasting rooms.  That is not a positive situation.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sweet Spot For Sale

The West Coaster is reporting this morning that Helm's Brewing is for sale.  Helm's Ocean Beach tasting room, which is located at the corner of Newport Avenue and Cable Street, is included in the assets for sale.  The West Coaster article notes that Ocean Beach is saturated with brewery tasting rooms, but the Helm's spot may be the best tasting room location in Ocean Beach.  It is a visible corner location that sits at the start of the Wednesday farmer's market.  It is next to Ortega's, the best Mexican restaurant in Ocean Beach, and is across Cable Street from The Joint, the best overall restaurant on Newport Avenue.  The space is smaller than the other Ocean Beach tasting rooms, which is no deterrent. 

According to the West Coaster, Helm's "beer quality has fluctuated, leading to something of a hit-or-miss reputation," which I believe explains why the Helm's OB tasting room is usually less crowded than the other Newport/Cable tasting rooms.  Yes, San Diego has plenty of breweries, and yes, not all breweries are going to last, but if a brewery consistently makes good beer success should follow.  Helm's is not shutting, but is for sale, and new owners can improve beer quality.  The Ocean Beach tasting room is a showcase location and should serve as a strong asset for any buyer of Helm's.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Modern Times Expands

Here is a post from Modern Times Beer about its expansion into Portland.  In typical Modern Times fashion, it is not entering into a new distribution agreement or hosting a multi-location tap take over, but a opening complete new brewing operation and tasting room.  Modern Times is going to brew in the two most creative beer towns in the United States, San Diego and Portland.  This is great news.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Positive (But Odd) Article On SD Beer

Here is a positive article on the state of San Diego craft beer from the West Coaster and Brandon Hernandez.  Hernandez feels that the current craft beer environment in San Diego is better than ever, due to improved competition, collaboration, and the influx of experts helping smaller brewers.  I find nothing to disagree with in the article or its arguments.  I liked the upbeat tone and the focus on new breweries producing great beer.   If I could add anything, it is that large established breweries keep cranking out great beer, too.  Stone, AleSmith, and Modern Times produce so much innovative, quality beer, I can't keep track of it all, and they show now signs of easing into the future. 

The odd part, to me, was that the whole time I read the article I kept waiting for the "but."  It never came.  The article's length, considerably longer than the typical West Coaster story, added to my sense of foreboding.  The introduction about time spent covering San Diego beer and continued reference to the past made it read like a possible "good bye" article.  There were no "buts" or "good byes," just an optimistic view of San Diego's craft beer.  I would agree that it's a good time if you like beer.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Collaborations And A Clown

I want to link to this few weeks old West Coaster article on a series of Family Reunion collaborations between Ballast Point and former employees of Ballast Point and Home Brew Mart, many that work at other breweries.  I stopped at the Ballast Point tasting room in Linda Vista the Sunday before this article was posted and I tried one of the beers mentioned.  I ordered a series of tasters, one of which was Bay-to-Bay California Common, actually a black common brewed with Alex Tweet, head brewer at Oakland's Fieldwork Brewing and formerly of Modern Times.  I am glad I ordered this beer because I did not know until I read the West Coaster piece that it was a collaboration.  It had a strong hop character, wrapped in the toasted malt that resulted in an approachable, easy drinking, moderate abv beer.

The highlight of the trip to the Ballast Point tasting room was watching one of the patrons. A half-looped middle aged guy kept inserting himself into my conversation with the Beer Rovette as we waited to order.  He shared his negative opinion on cloudy beers and then proceeded to get a full pint of double IPA Dorado, a bold but unwise choice considering the advanced state of his buzz.  He finished the pint in a matter of minutes and left with his party who were all on bikes.  He mounted his bike, sparked up a marijuana pipe for a few tokes, and then tried to pedal off without unlocking his bike.  Good times.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Green Flash Expands

I read the headlines and tweets late last week that Green Flash Brewing is expanding in Lincoln, Nebraska, a move to increase its Midwestern distribution.  I had skimmed a couple of articles before I learned that Green Flash found a unique method of expansion.  It is taking over an existing 10,000 square foot turnkey facility, which includes 2,000 square feet of full-service restaurant space.  The location is the former home of Ploughshare Brewing Company.  I thought it strange that this Good Beer Hunting article on Green Flash's decision omitted the Ploughshare angle, because to me it seems important

This seems like a savvy move by Green Flash.  Unlike its move to Virginia Beach, where it took over three years to build and open its brewery, Green Flash expects to operate its Lincoln facility by the end of the year.  In related news, I had a Green Flash West Coast IPA while out at dinner one night last week, and it is still one heck of a beer.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Perks of Private Equity?

The Bruery announced that is is opening its first East Coast outpost across the street from Washington D.C.'s Union Market.  The Bruery will share the 5,000 square foot space with a "notable" partner that has not been named.  The Bruery plans to open the store in approximately three months and plans to hire five employees.  This expansion sounds modest, as it's just a retail store not brewing operations, and The Bruery is sharing the space with another partner.  It is a conservative first move by The Bruery's new private equity majority owners.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Magnolia Brewing Acquired By New Belgium Group

A New Belgium led group has purchased San Francisco's Magnolia Brewing's assets.  New Belgium is the fourth largest craft brewer in the country and is employee-owned, and Magnolia will become a majority-owned subsidiary.  New Belgium partnered with Dick Cantwell, a co-founder of Elysian Brewing, which was sold to ABI in 2015, and which Cantwell left shortly after the ABI acquisition.  How this transaction was structured or financed was not mentioned in this Good Beer Hunting article, but Magnolia's Dave McLean is staying on.  Magnolia was operating out of bankruptcy before its acquisition.

I have been to Magnolia's brewery and pub in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. It is a great place with good food and beer.  I am glad that Magnolia was able to find a buyer that will allow it to continue operations and expand.  The pub's tap list is heavy on English-style low abv beers like bitters and milds, and they are good.  The Haight-Ashbury pub has four beers on cask.  I notice that a couple of IPAs have made it to the current list.  Magnolia also has a large barbecue pub in the Dog Patch area of San Francisco that I have not visited.

It is good news that a craft beer company is buying another craft brewer rather than a conglomerate.  Magnolia's Haight-Ashbury pub is a wonderful place to eat and drink good beer, and I imagine its barbecue restaurant is just as good.  Here is to the comment in the Good Beer Hunting article that the acquisition will "breath new life" into Magnolia.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Growlers As Open Containers

The San Diego Reader has an article on growlers as open containers.  A growler is considered an open container, even if it is full, unless the growler is sealed or stored in a car's trunk.  Not all breweries seal growlers, and the ones that do use various temporary devices that serve more as deterrents to opening the growler in the car than as sealants to keep the beer fresh.  The following two paragraphs put some perspective on the issue:

According to the San Diego district attorney's office, only 101 defendants have been charged with open-container violations in the city of San Diego since the beginning of 2014. Of those, 70 percent were concurrent with a DUI charge, meaning 30 percent were sober drivers in possession of open containers; the DA does not keep records on whether any of those charges involved growlers.

California Highway Patrol public information officer Ray Payton wasn't aware of any statewide policy with regard to growlers. "Sometimes the law has to catch up," he said. Payton further suggested that, "If the officer can prove you are heading back from a brewery and coming home," and "as long as [the growler is] completely full and still sealed the way they seal it [at the brewery], you should be okay…as long as you haven't been drinking."

So, don't start sneaking chugs from your growler on the way home from the brewery.  I recently received a soft sided Coleman cooler that is great for keeping growlers upright and cold for my arduous treks home from breweries. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Anchor Is Sold

Anchor Brewing has been sold to the large private Japanese brewing company Sapporo Holdings.  The $85 million transaction is expected to close by the end of August.  Sapporo is buying a well known brand, which anecdotally, seems to have a strong distribution in place.  Anchor was no longer owned by Fritz Maytag, he sold to private equity firm Griffin Group in 2010.  The threat of large mega brewing conglomerates has never been greater and shows no signs of subsiding, so I expect more transactions like this.

Good Beer Hunting has a good article by Matthew Curtis, who also runs the Total Ales blog, on the transaction.  This passage jumped out at me:

The valuation of this transaction will come as a shock to some because it’s considerably lower than that of other recent brewery acquisitions—$85 million is just 2.5 times that of the company’s 2016 annual sales total according to Sapporo’s press release. It’s a figure that feels somewhat insignificant when compared to the billion-dollar valuations that both Lagunitas and Ballast Point commanded in their own acquisitions by Heineken and Constellation Brands respectively—especially when you consider the heritage and legacy that Sapporo will be adding to its portfolio.  

It is hard to imagine a private equity firm selling its stake for less than market value.  Read another way, it looks like Heineken and Constellation may have overpaid to buy competitors, or factored in some outrageous growth projections in their valuation models.  

I saw this San Francisco Chronicle article (hat tip Ramblings of a Beer Runner) that puts the sale in context, too.  An interesting point from the article is that Anchor is only operating at 55% of capacity, which gives it considerable expansion capability at its current facility.  One of the first things I thought about when I read about the sale was the status of Anchor's planned brewery/restaurant/beer museum on San Francisco's Pier 48.  Apparently, this beer amusement park is going nowhere soon, as reported by the Chronicle.

If you are of a certain age, which I am, it is likely Anchor's Steam Beer was your first craft beer.  It was mine.  I never liked Steam that much, and it made young me leery of craft beer until I tried others that I liked better, like Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale.  I like Steam now more than I did, but that first impression has stuck.  It is too bad I did not try Anchor's Porter first, because that is one great, true to style beer.  While not true to style, but surely on trend, I have liked other recent Anchor offerings, too, like its blackberry IPA and its meyer lemon lager.  

Craft brewers that do not want to sellout to giants like ABI or Molson Coors, but still want growth capital are looking to private equity for financing.  The Bruery sold a majority of itself to private equity firm Castanea Partners in May.  Private equity firms typically allow original owners to continue to run the business, but the owners are no longer the sole owners and decision makers. Private equity firms raise their capital through investment funds, which generally have five- to ten-year hold periods.  At some point, the private equity firms have to liquidate these funds by selling their investments to provide returns to their fund investors.   At that point the original owners attracted by private equity have little say in who buys the company.  I suspect part of Griffin's decision to sell Anchor was a need to provide a return of capital to its fund investors after seven years.  Selling to a private equity firm to avoid being bought by a mega brewer, only to eventually be sold to a mega brewer is unfortunate, but out of the original founders' hands. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Mikkeller's Windy Hill

I visited Mikkeller Brewing's San Diego tasting room on Sunday for the first time and purchased a growler of its Windy Hill IPA, a hazy, New England-style IPA.  "Oh my, this is quite a beer," was my initial reaction.  It had a pronounced citrus taste, like many cloudy IPAs, but it had an intriguing back-of-the-throat earthiness that arrived late and added another dimension to the beer.  Windy Hills is hoppy, but it is not bitter.  IPAs' bitterness can be jarring if you are not accustomed to it, but Windy Hills' hops had a softness to them that accented the citrus fruit, and did not exhibit a commanding bitterness.  It had a full body, despite a diminished malt profile, which resulted in an unobtrusive 7% abv.  I have read enough beer blogs and beer journalism to know that not everyone likes New England IPAs, and some think they are a fad sure to pass.  A beer like Windy Hill is so good it makes me believe that hazy beers are going to stay around for awhile, and I am okay with that.

I am impressed with the beers Mikkeller is brewing.  Its regular Waves IPA is not only delicious, but I feel its flavor is unique among San Diego's IPAs.  I have had some of its special release IPAs, which were stellar, and I tried another of Mikkeller's special releases on Sunday, another cloudy IPA, Care Taker IPA, and it too, was outstanding.  I bought a four-pack of pilsner, too, so I am not only focused on IPAs.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Stem to Stern

I picked a bottle of Coronado Brewing's Stem to Stern Batch 1 over the weekend in partial honor of Coronado Brewing's twenty-first anniversary.  Batch 1's label said it was a hoppy red ale, a style I love, but one that is underbrewed, and one that I think is becoming rare.  Done right, a hoppy red ale is more a malty IPA than a heavy amber ale, and has enough bitterness to accompany a high level of sweetness.  This puts hoppy red ales in an opposite position to current consumer tastes that shuns malt and craves hops.  This is too bad for beer drinkers.  Stem to Stern combined just the right mix of rich, candied malt, with a bright bitter finish, and clearly lands on the red IPA side of the style ledger.  It had a quiet 7.7% abv and a chalky dryness that served to bridge the malt and hops.  It was a drinkable, lovely beer.  Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of Stem to Stern Batch 1.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Eppig Brewing Coming to Point Loma

Eppig Brewing is opening a satellite tasting room in Point Loma.  Eppig's headquarters remains in North Park.  The new location is 2817 Dickens Street, and via mapping software it look like it is near Point Loma Seafoods.  I looked several places and could not find a planned opening date.  I have not had an Eppig beer yet, but reviewing its beer offerings on its website it looks like Eppig brews a number of German-style beers.  Its Export Stout, which is not German, is the beer I want to try first.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Head In The Mash Tun

Good Beer Hunting has a stunning article on a Lagunitas-owned limited liability company's purchase of a 19.9% interest in Shorts Brewing Company.  Shorts is based in Bellaire, Michigan.  The purchasing company is called Lagunitas U.S. Holdings, LLC, or LUSH, and is 100% owned by Lagunitas.  Lagunitas formed LUSH with the intention of buying and/or partnering regional breweries.

What is stunning is not Lagunitas forming LUSH, or Lagunitas acquiring an interest in Shorts, or Shorts selling a fifth of itself, but the naive comments from Shorts' owners.  It is as though they do not even know or want to admit to themselves who really acquired the interest in their company.  Lagunitas is 100% owned by Heineken, so the 19.9% interest in Shorts acquired by LUSH is owned by Heineken*.  If that is what Shorts owners wanted, fine.  The sale decision by small breweries is ultimately a personal decision, and while cranky beer bloggers and upset craft beer drinking purists may bitch, it is not us making payroll twice a month.  Don't sell to a big brewer and pretend you did not.

The task of grasping this type of subsidiary genealogy is a somewhat-intentionally complicated one, as evidenced by the Short’s team’s own understanding of it all. Reached by GBH, Joe Short, who founded the eponymous beer maker back in 2004, conceded even he isn’t exactly sure of “how it works with Heineken buying Lagunitas.” Kerry Cochran, a Short’s sales person who covers Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, added she, too, wasn’t entirely positive of how LUSH related to Heineken, describing the green-glassed goliath as a “third cousin” or “third uncle.”

Some at Shorts do understand what is happening:

So here’s Scott Newman-Bale, a partner at Short’s, with the most helpful and clear distillation of the deal: “Although our arrangement is with Lagunitas U.S. Holdings, we’re not trying to hide the fact that Heineken is ultimately the one that owns the shares. But we’ve never actually talked to Heineken at all.”

If you never talk to the company buying your company, you do not have the right to complain about future changes and corporate mandates.  According to the article, LUSH has an option to purchase the remaining 80.1% of Shorts.  This article has popped up multiple times on my twitter timeline in the past twenty-four hours.  I encourage you to read it.

* I read through Heineken's website after reading this article.  I did not find any reference to Lagunitas as a Heineken brand or wholly-owned company.  Strange.  All I saw was one picture of a bottle of Lagunitas IPA with bottles of Heineken's other international brands.  I guess Heineken's attempt to obscure its ownership of Lagunitas is intentional.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

25 Best Breweries In America

Here is an article from Gear Patrol proclaiming the twenty-five best breweries in America.  These lists are usually clickbait nonsense, but Gear Patrol's story before its list is worth reading.  It gives a good description of the big forces against craft beer and how the large breweries are purposefully blurring the lines of what craft beer is to hurt independent craft brewers.  In the article I learned that one definition of a craft brewer is it must brew less than 6 million barrels of beer a year.  For context, all the independent brewers in San Diego brewed just over 1 million barrels in 2016, and this included Stone Brewing, Green Flash, and Karl Strauss, so 6 million barrels is a massive amount of beer. 

The article had this eloquent disclaimer expecting the haters:

Before you dive in, know this: No list is perfect nor permanent. Missing from ours are the thousands of small, determined breweries that have become vital parts of their communities, either through philanthropy, volunteerism or job creation — but usually a combination of the three. Our goal is not to discount their efforts, nor their beer, but to celebrate the movement they’re a part of by recognizing its leaders and innovators — those breweries we feel continue to push excellence, despite size or reputation, and define the limits of what it means to be a craft brewer in America today.

While we expect our fair number of critics, our mission here is not to play favorites, but to help you as the consumer navigate your way through the wide, beautiful world of American craft beer, which has never been more political, exciting or delicious as it is right now.
I have not tried beers from many of the breweries on this list so I am not going to criticize the selection.  But while not hating, I can't imagine a list without Stone Brewing.  I know its beers are many places, but so are Sierra Nevada's beers, and seeing a Stone Enjoy By on a Von's shelf is not like finding a Sante Adairius Rustic Ale, but Stone makes some great beers and is constantly innovating.  Stone's rare misses are better than most breweries best beers.  Societe Brewing and Modern Times Beer  deserve honorable consideration on any list of best breweries. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Into The Sunset IPA

Mike Hess Brewing has added grapefruit, blood orange, and tangerine to its Solis and Hoptuitus IPAs, and I have found the results excellent.  The craft beer purists may complain about citrus beers, but I like them.  Mike Hess' Ocean Beach tasting room tapped a new IPA, Into The Sunset, last Friday brewed with blood orange.   I don't know much more about this beer than that it is new, fresh, and delicious.  If you like citrus IPAs, you will want to try this beer.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Gone With The Trade Winds Tripel

The Bruery retired its Trade Winds tripel last year.  I looked without success for a bon voyage bottle
after I heard the news.  It took me more than a year to find a bottle.  Trade Winds was one of The Bruery's first seasonal beers, and was brewed with rice and Thai Basil.  I have not had this beer for years, but I remember not tasting much of the Thai Basil.  This time, the herb aroma leapt from the bottle and tulip glass, but as I remembered, it added little to the flavor.  Trade Winds poured a dark orange, a color intensified by the beer's opaqueness and its striking white foam.  The finish had a touch of bitterness, but you are not drinking Trade Winds for its hops.  Sugar and yeast are Trade Winds' two main flavor points.  Sweasty. 

I found Trade Winds cloying to a level of distraction.  I have not had a beer this sweet in a long time, and I found it unpleasant.  I felt it needed some dryness, or additional bitterness, or something to serve as a counterweight to the syrup, but palate relief never arrived.  The beer's nonexistent 8.6% abv provided no refuge.  You could smell the yeast together with the basil, but the yeast's esters seemed to enhance Trade Wind's high saccharine level. 

This may sound strange, but I recommend picking up a bottle of Trade Winds if you can find one.  Buy it for nostalgia's sake if nothing else, because The Bruery is no longer brewing it and it is a small piece of craft beer history.  I'm sure it ages well, but I suspect time will only make it sweeter as the yeast continues to work.  Serve it in small doses as an after dinner digestive. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

AleSmith's Summer Double IPA

I have not had AleSmith's Double IPA in a few years, since before it changed its name from Summer Yulesmith.  Drinking it recently, I see it as an example of just how IPAs and double IPAs have shifted from heavy, sweet, and alcoholic beers, to lighter, citrus-centric beers without the boozy heat.  Double IPA takes me back to the mid-2000s when robust double IPAs filled my beer fridge and brewers embraced the virtues of malt to offset their gratuitous hops, and when the taste of pine in an IPA was common not a rarity.

AleSmith's Double IPA is a big imperial IPA.  I consider it one of my benchmark double IPAs, thick and swampy, a prototype of today's dank beers. But Double IPA is too bitter, too malt heavy, too sweet, and too lacking in citrus to confuse it with new style dank beers.  Double IPA reeks pine.  It is almost like drinking pine sap.  To match Double IPA's coniferous forest of hops, AleSmith loads up on malt, which brings in heft and a sweetness that plays off the beer's bitterness.  All this is wrapped in a warm, pervasive layer of alcohol.  The abv is "only" 8.5%, but tastes higher.  The short summation for Double IPA:  It is one heck of a beer.

I am glad Alesmith has not reformulated Double IPA, even though it has proved itself a master the new hop-centric style of beers with its .395 Pale Ale.  I am no crank that never wants change, I love new style IPAs and I'd welcome a new style double IPA from AleSmith.  But it is nice to go back to an old favorite, too.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Libertine Wild IPA

I had never heard of San Luis Obispo's Libertine Brewing Co. until about a month ago when I saw a few of its 750 ml bottles at a Whole Foods north of Los Angeles.  One was a Wild IPA that had been fermented and aged in French oak.  When I read "rare wild ale" brewed in French oak, I put the bottle in my shopping cart, I liked the sound of a wild IPA. 

I found Libertine's Wild IPA fruity and sour.  The "wild" was definitely a Brettanomyces-influenced yeast strain, which brought a sharp dryness to the beer.  The beer was cloudy and tight, due to the intense carbonation that made it almost creamy.  Libertine's Wild IPA was bitter enough, which is demanded from any beer calling itself an IPA, but its bitternesss was exceeded by the funky sourness of the yeast.   I did not catch too much French oak.  I don't remember the abv, and the pictures I took of the bottles didn't capture an abv, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was around 7%.  Like many so many beers called "wild" ales, the main taste point was the yeast, which enhanced the dryness, and accentuated the fruity and sour tastes.

Libertine Brewing, according to its website, specializes in barrel age beers and has three locations.  It dates from 2012.  Why haven't I heard of this brewery?  The Wild IPA was good. OK, it was more than good, it was excellent.  And heck, Central California's Central Coast is not like the Australian Outback or something.  I'd think I would have heard of a brewery specializing in barrel aged IPAs, but I have not seen any of its beers in San Diego.   Well, now that I know Libertine I plan to get more of its beers.

Libertine's bottle labels are wild in their own right.  The front labels are straight out of the 18th century, but the back labels are a debauch. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Coronado Brewing's Big Moves

The West Coaster and the Union Tribune have articles this morning on Coronado Brewing's purchase of Monkey Paw Brewing.  The price Coronado is paying was not disclosed in either article.  The purchase, which the West Coaster article is comparing to Green Flash Brewing's 2014 purchase of Alpine Beer Co, allows Monkey Paw to expand its production by brewing its beers at Coronado's huge Knoxville Street brewery.  Monkey Paw is part of Scott Blair's empire of pubs and breweries, and Blair is staying involved with Monkey Paw.  Both articles state that part of Coronado's strategy is to capitalize on Monkey Paw's appeal to younger beer drinkers.

This was not addressed in the article, but I can't help but wonder how much AB InBev's new 10 Barrel pub, which is close to Monday Paw's brewery, played into Blair's decision.  Coronado gives Monkey Paw some needed heft as it competes with the 10 Barrel pub. 

The deal with Monkey Paw is not Coronado's only business activity, as detailed in both articles.  It is building a brewpub in Imperial Beach, adding a restaurant to its Knoxville brewery, and tightening its out-of-state distribution.  In a interesting move, Coronado has invested in SouthNorte Brewing Company, a new venture headed by former Coronado head brewer Ryan Brooks.  SouthNorte, according to the West Coaster article, is basically a Coronado offshoot or sub-brand, which is attempting to "meld the brewing cultures of Baja California and Southern California."  Coronado is playing a smart, long game in a changing market.

SD Beer Travel Guide

The Los Angeles Times had a Sunday travel article on ten breweries in San Diego.  It was a good article that discussed a range of breweries, including some that do not show up on too many beer geeks' lists.  The story focused on San Diego and the South Bay, not North County San Diego, which the author covered last fall, and apparently starts north of Highway 52.  Ballast Point's Little Italy location, Coronado Brewing's original Coronado location, and Karl Stauss' classic downtown restaurant / brewery were the three major breweries in the piece.  I now want to visit Novo Brazil Brewing in Chula Vista, Half Door Brewing Co. located near Petco Park, and Border X in Barrio Logan, if only for its tear inducing carne asada tacos.  North Park Brew Co. is the lone entry from North Park, a beer nirvana that requires its own article.

The article reviews Pacific Beach Ale House, La Jolla Brewing Company, and Hillcrest Brewing Company, establishments that are as much restaurants as breweries, and that don't distribute their beers outside their restaurants.  It is easy to find fault with any travel guide limited to just ten San Diego breweries and squawk about selections or omissions.  Overall, I thought this was a balanced list, especially for tourists or casual weekend visitors who are more likely to visit Little Italy, Downtown, Pacific Beach, and La Jolla, than the industrial sections along Mira Mesa Blvd or near the Sports Arena that are home to many San Diego breweries.  The beer tourist already knows about the breweries in these areas and is not reading a general travel article for inspiration.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Good Beer Interviewing

Here is an insightful interview with Stone Brewing's Greg Koch from Good Beer Hunting.  In the interview, Koch addresses, among other issues, Stone's layoffs, its internal replacements for Mitch Steele, and how a well made German lager is the classical music of beer, compared to Stone's rock & roll.  I have not taken the time to fully understand the Good Beer Hunting website, a situation I plan to correct in the near future.  In other words, I plan to annoy you by posting excerpts from articles I like or tweeting links to interesting stories.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Ten-Year Anniversary!

Today is the tenth anniversary of the Beer Rover beer blog.  I almost missed this date.  I think it is the oldest, continuous San Diego-centric beer blog.  If it is not, someone please correct me.  Much has happened over this period, primarily, craft beer has gone mainstream.  This is positive and what most beer blogs, including this one, were started to promote, but at times it is overwhelming, as I cannot attempt to keep up with all the new breweries, not only in San Diego, but throughout California and beyond.  The ubiquity of craft beer has taken some of the fun out of finding gems or searching beer stores for rare releases.  I have recently found that rare beers are still out there - just try finding a Belgian Tripel - which brings some adventure back to beer drinking.

This blog has helped in my beer education and focused my beer drinking. I know it is too IPA focused, and it will stay that way.  IPAs are what I mostly like to drink.  Each beer I buy is with this blog in mind, even if its the tenth straight IPA, or even if never write about a particular beer.  I still check a restaurant's beers on tap before I look at its menu.  Without this blog I would not have tried many styles, particularly various Belgians, big stouts, and barleywines, would not have bought so many beer books, nor read so many beer blogs searching for new beers and opinions.  It has made traveling more interesting, even though I never travel strictly for a beer-cation.  I recently found a craft beer store in New York's Grand Central Station that not only sells bottles and cans of craft beer but also sells growlers to go.  Heck yes.

I do not intend to stop this blog any time soon.  I know my posts come in waves, and I am trying to correct that, but sometimes life and work take precedent and beer writing is relegated to late nights or early mornings, so sporadic posts may continue.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Single Hop

Single hop IPAs and pale ales have been around for awhile now, allowing brewers to add variety to existing recipes.  Societe Brewing regularly changes the hop in its single hop Bachelor pale ale.  Citra and Mosaic hops were the new, popular hops over the past year or two, but now other hops with names like Cashmere, Moteuka, and Azacca are appearing in beers.  I never know if a beer named for a single hop is really only brewed with that specific varietal, or if other hops are added at some point during the brewing process.  I talked to one brewery about its Mosaic IPA and was told that despite its name it was not a single hop IPA, so unless specifically labeled as single hop, like Societe's Bachelor, I think other hops are included.  In general, I like the concept of single hop beers.

Stone Brewing's Liberty Station had three Experimental single hop beers in its store this past weekend.  I asked the difference between the three beers and when I was told that the Magnum hopped beer was dank and bitter I stopped listening and ordered a crowler.  The woman at the beer-to-go counter further explained that Magnum is typically used as a bittering hop.  Coincidentally, after buying the beer, I read this blog post from Ramblings of a Beer Runner on single hop / single malt beers.  Double coincidentally, the blog post specifically described a single hop Magnum IPA, calling it "the equivalent of listening to symphony entirely composed of tubas."  Symphony of tubas.  I pictured fifteen middle schoolers all blowing into outsized tubas hitting different notes in different keys while I tried to enjoy a pint.  I approached my Magnum crowler with some trepidation.

Stone's Experimental Magnum was not dank, nor was it a symphony of tubas.  It was a decent, not great IPA, which was OK by me.  It was piney and bitter, and brewers obviously use Magnum in their IPAs for a reason.   It was not overly bitter by any measure.  IPAs have evolved in recent years, with traditional "West Coast" bitter-forward beers replaced by more exotic flavors, like the dank, overripe citrus of most cloudy IPAs, or the earthy/onion flavors I associate with most Mosaic hop beers.  Experimental Magnum lands in the West Coast style, which seemed almost retro.  Despite its bitterness and 7.0% plus ABV, Magnum was lighter than I expected, and had a clean, crisp flavor to match its sharp hop bite.  I like how Stone's small breweries are given the authority and flexibility to brew special beers.  It makes me a frequent customer.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Modern Times Sells Out - To Its Employees

Modern Times Beer, in big press release this morning, announced that it is now employee owned.  Its Employee Stock Option Plan owns 30% of its stock, with a goal of 100% ownership.  Modern Times has been buying back its shares from its outside investors.  This is good news, as a great brewery is laying plans to remain independent and solidify its future.  MarketWatch has a good article on the employee purchase and an interview with Jacob McKean, Modern Times' CEO and majority owner.  

Modern Times is celebrating its fourth anniversary this weekend.  In 2016, it was the fourth largest craft brewery in San Diego based on barrels produced, behind only Stone Brewing, Green Flash, and Karl Strauss, according to this Peter Rowe Union Tribune article from February.  This puts Modern Times ahead of Coronado Brewing, AleSmith, and Pizza Port.  Yeah, I did not know that either. 

The mega breweries, led by Anheuser-Busch, are buying craft brands and obscuring the difference between an independent enterprise and a division of a beverage conglomerate.  Modern Times is staking its future on remaining distinct and independent, and I plan to spend my beer money at independent brewers like Modern Times.  In fact, I may have to stop by Modern Times this evening.

Make sure to read the comments in the Modern Times' press release linked to above.  The strong words of encouragement will put you in a good mood.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cloudy Before It Was Cool

Late last spring I found myself in Alpine with growler in hand and stopped at the Alpine Beer Company tasting room.  What a nice spot.  It was small, but airy with its exposed beams, rolltop open windows, and skylights.  Two guys were working the taps and there was a fridge filled with bottled beer.   It was crowded and the taps were a heavy mix of Alpine Beers along with a handful of Green Flash beers.  I saw Nelson IPA on tap and ordered a growler fill.   This beer was never widely distributed, and it seems to me it has become more rare.  It may not be the San Diego beer icon like Ballast Point's billion dollar Sculpin, but to me, it is every bit as legendary. 

Memory is tricky, and trying a beer you have not had in a few years usually results in a beer that does not match the image in your mind.  Not so with Nelson.  Too me, it was even better than I remember.  Alpine Nelson was my first exposure to Nelson Sauvin hops, and it left an impression, and is why I am such a fan of Societe's Pupil IPA.  The Nelson hops give Alpine Nelson a sharp, clean taste, with the bitterness toned down and its citrus and grassy tastes accentuated.  I had never noticed this before, but Nelson is a cloudy beer.  Why would I have paid attention to this ten years ago?  Alpine's Nelson was a hazy beer pioneer.  So much for New England's claim to a style.  I am glad that a classic beer has held its own in a beer environment where taste preferences change fast.

Why No Golden Ales?

I went to a grocery store with a well-stocked beer section yesterday afternoon after posting about Belgian golden ales and tripels.  I found that these ales are about as rare in a beer store as they have been in my beer drinking rotation.  There was a St Bernardus tripel, but that was about all.  I thought one of the half dozen Allagash selections might have been a tripel or golden ale, but no, they were saisons, sours, and barrel-aged beers.  The yeast dominant golden ales and triples are slipping into obscurity.  In their place are multiple types of sours and dark, high abv barrel-aged stouts and barelywines.   I have several barrel-aged beers and a handful of sours, but I never think of drinking them. The occasion never seems right, and at this point, I am not sure what occasion warrants cracking a barrel-aged stout.  I have nothing against sours or barrel-aged beers, I just wish their ascendance did not come at the expense of golden ales and tripels.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Good Beer / Bad Beer

I noted in my previous post that I have been drinking various IPAs.  Two are worth noting, starting with the standout Mikkeller's Wave IPA.  This San Diego-brewed IPA separates itself from a saturated market.  Its hops impart distinct citrus and floral flavors.  It is light but not thin.  I have another bottle in the cooler and plan a proper review.  On the other side, drinking Culture's Rye IPA is a slog.  Rye in a beer should provide a spicy kick, and Nelson hops should provide a unique dose of pungent floral flavors.  This beer has no spice, rendering the weighty rye pointless, and even bullet proof Nelson hops, which too me were nonexistent, can't save this beer from being anything but a pint of tough to swallow murk.

Forgotten Styles

My beer drinking has become a loop of hoppy pale ales, citrus-infused IPAs, and hazy IPAs.  On trend, but not interesting to post about.  It hit me yesterday, the Fourth of July, a day I usually reserve for a special beer, that I have not had a Belgian tripel or golden ale in a long time, maybe years.  I used to love these styles, but I just don't buy them any more.  I am not exactly sure why, although I think the opening of so many tasting rooms near my house and the ease of a quick growler of crowler fill is the main reason.  Most of the nearby breweries don't have tripels or golden ales on draft, and I am not sure I'd trust them with this style even if given the choice.  Another factor is price.  A good bottle of tripel or golden ale used to cost $7 to $10, but this price has doubled, making them event beer styles rather than anytime styles.  Finally, the tripels and golden ales I have seen on draft all flirt with or exceed 10% abv, which about 3% more than I want in a beer.  I like a good New England IPA as much as anyone, but it is time rediscover tripels and golden ales, the heck with my negative factors.  They taste too good to avoid.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Good Listen

Last Friday's Voice of San Diego podcast included an excellent interview with San Diego Brewer's Guild President Jill Davidson.  The interview discussed the variety of brewers in San Diego and how the Brewer's Guild is more vital than ever, as large international brewers continue to buy craft breweries and blur the distinction between what is a real, locally owned brewery, and what is a subsidiary of a giant brewer.  This week's news that Anheuser-Busch InBev is buying yet another craft brewery, this time Wicked Weed, reinforces Davidson's message and the San Diego Brewer's Guild's mission to "promote awareness and increase the visibility of fresh, locally brewed beer through education and participation in community events."   The interview with Jill Davidson starts about twenty-six minutes into the podcast, but the entire podcast is worth a listen and a subscription.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Need a Mule

The Bruery's Offshoot Beer Co. is having its first can release this week.  I wrote about Offshoot here.  The two beers being released are an IPA and a double IPA.  The only problem is that you need to pick up these limited release beers at the brewery, and you only have a week-long window in which to claim your purchase.  Unless you live in Orange County, or are up in the Los Angeles area on a regular basis, it will be tough get these beers, especially since the Placentia brewery is not on a major freeway. 

Sparks Pale Ale

I had a bottle of Mikkeller Brewing's delicious Sparks (Gnister) Pale Ale last night.  This 5.6% abv pale ale is a light on the palate beer that was one of the more earthy tasting beers I can remember.  Its up front, piquant, almost vegetable character smoothed into the finish. This clear, gold, almost orange beer has a rough, shallow foam.  Sparks is not setting any new pale ale standards, and with its dark color feels a bit retro, which is to its credit.  This blog will always appreciate the brewery that can do the basics well, like Mikkeller does with Sparks.  In an age of hazy beers, which I like and which Mikkeller also does well, having a solid, great tasting pale ale is almost a rarity. 

I saw this San Diego Magazine list of the past year's top beers from four San Diego County publicans.  There are many new breweries on this list.  Of the forty beers on the list, Mikkeller only shows up once (and Stone not once).  I know these guys try way more beers than I do, but the beers I have tried from Mikkeller have all been standouts.  I get that a list full of hard-to-find beers is what to expect from a pub owner, but having an accessible beer is alright, too.  Sparks is that beer.

Benchmark In Bay Park

I was recently in the Bay Park area of San Diego, near Napier Street and Ashton Street and thought it would make a good location for a tasting room.  Even though its close to Coronado Brewing, and not far from Bitter Brothers and Ballast Point, or even Modern Times and Bay City, this little pocket of Bay Park, with its restaurants and a coffee house has its own charm.  San Diego Eater is reporting that Benchmark Brewing plans to open a satellite tasting room at 4112 Napier Street by the end of summer, so I guess I am not the only one who thought the area was a good beer location. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Offshoot Beer Co.

I read a tweet on Saturday morning, April 1, 2017, that The Bruery had formed a new company, Offshoot Beer Co.,  to release IPAs, a style The Bruery had vowed to never release.  I immediately thought this was fantastic, The Bruery finally brewing complex IPAs, but then my saner self realized this was an epic April 1st prank - maybe the best ever.  I tempered my joy.

But on April 2, I still was reading tweets about Offshoot Beer Co.  It had a Facebook page that looked legitimate, a web page on The Bruery's website, a logo, and some cool can designs shown below.  You know, I guess The Bruery figured out a way to stay true to its claim never to brew an IPA, while brewing IPAs. 

Offshoot will "specialize in hoppy beers, primarily IPAs and Double IPAs, in 16 oz cans that will be available directly from our brewery in limited supply and on a monthly basis."  These beers will be hard to find, but that is part of the fun.  The Bruery is no stranger to hoppy beers, and with its Humulus Imperial Lager The Bruery showed it was IPA-curious.  With so many new hops available, and the rise of cloudy IPAs, I can only imagine what kind of creative IPAs Offshoot is going to brew.  Here is information on its first two IPAs:

Fashionably Late™ a juicy, hazy IPA
Hops: Citra, El Dorado, and Mandarina Bavaria
Malts: Two-Row and Pale Wheat malts, rolled oats
Yeast: S-04
ABV: 6.5%

Better Late Than Never™ a juicy, hazy Double IPA
Hops: Mosaic, Vic Secret, Citra
Malts: Golden Promise, Wheat Malt
Yeast: BSI-Barbarian
ABV: 8.5%

These beers are scheduled for a late April release.  I have to admit, part of me still thinks this is some kind of elaborate joke.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Padre Fail

Gee, it is crap on Stone Brewing week (pun intended).  Today's San Diego Union Tribune's buiness section's front page has a headline blaring:  "At Petco, A Loss for Stone, Wins for AleSmith, Resident and Anheuser-Busch."  The headline does not seem to fully match the article.  Padre management decided to replace Stone Brewing's beer garden with some other pub concept.  You can still get Stone beers throughout Petco.   AleSmith's fantastic .394 Pale Ale, a beer brewed with Tony Gwynn, is the key beer in a new place called .394.  Good for AleSmith.  Local brewery Resident, gets a shot at the pub replacing the Stone beer garden, "for now" as the article warns. (If Resident can't keep up the Padres will replace it with that refreshing, kinda crafty Shock Top beer that comes with an orange slice.)  Come on Resident, deliver.

The big story of the article is Aneheuser-Busch dominating Petco's beer sales.  A-B's former craft breweries Elysian and 10 Barrel gets their own stands, and its Grupo Modelo unit is selling Michelada Especiales, in carts around Petco.  How much money did A-B pay the Padres to increase its exposure?  This is comes at the expense of local brewers.  In solidarity with Stone, I will drink Stone beers at home as I watch the triple-A Padres lose to major league teams.  The news about A-B's takeover of Petco's beer and yesterday's embarrassing opening day loss shows the misguided priorities of the Padre's bush league management.

No Sh#t

No, Stone Brewing did not brew a beer with reclaimed sewage.  It brewed a beer called Full Circle IPA to highlight purified reclaimed water with Pure Water San Diego's filtration system.  All breweries use filtered tap water, and a portion of tap water is recycled water.  I recommend listening to the March 31, 2017, Voice of San Diego podcast, where the first five or so minutes are devoted to the Stone Brewing misunderstanding and where San Diego gets its water. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mikkeller Haze

I went to San Francisco and found good beers brewed in San Diego.  Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco sold four-packs of Bushel of Haze IPA, brewed at Mikkeller's San Diego brewery.  Bushel of Haze is was what I'd call a new style IPA, heavy in hop flavors, not excessively bitter, and cloudy.  It had a tantalizing floral whiff on its finish that added a bit of je ne sais quoi.  It is an Amarillo single-hop New England-style beer.  

Bushel of Haze was not heavy or overpowering, which I now find hard to believe.  I did not realize until writing this post and checking for facts on Mikkeller's website that this beer has an 8.9% abv and is a double IPA.  You won't know it drinking it.  I really need to be better about checking beer abvs.  I heard "haze IPA" and that was all I needed.  I'm not sure I would have bought this four-pack if I knew it was 8.9% abv, but in this case ignorance really was bliss.  

I trekked to Mikkeller Bar with the goal of buying a t-shirt.   Mikkeller did not have one in my size so I purchased Bushel of Haze instead.  Some consolation prize.  The restaurant/bar was crowded and noisy.  I felt out of place, much older than the other people in the bar.  I decided to have a beer in solidarity with beer drinkers over thirty.  Pariah that I was, I staked a claim on a small section of a long shelf and ordered an IPA.  The beer was named Hver Anden Uge and was brewed with Amarillo, Paradise, and El Dorado hops.  I have no idea what the name means or how to pronounce it, but it was pure gold.  (My lame picture of Hver Anden Uge does not flatter the beer, as it blends into the wood shelf.)

I noted that Hver Anden Uge was sweet and tinged with the taste of onions, along with a citrusy, earthy mix, too.  I have noticed many new IPAs with oniony flavors, which brings a better taste to an IPA than you think it would.  It must tamp down the flavor smothering bitterness of hops and allow other flavors to appear.   Hver Anden Uge, which sounds like a drunk saying "have another one," is a hazy beer.  Like Bushel of Haze, Hver Anden Uge is brewed in San Diego.  I need to visit Mikkeller's brewery and tasting room soon.  It is cranking out some good beers, and maybe there is some age diversity, too. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

So Sad

This is rare non-beer post.  I just read the New York Times' obituary of former major league manager Dallas Green, who managed the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series title.  These two paragraphs are heartbreaking:
In his later years, Green struggled to recover after the shooting death of his 9-year-old granddaughter, Christina-Taylor Green, who was one of six people killed in the failed assassination attempt on Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011.

Two years later, on the release of his autobiography, “The Mouth That Roared,” he conceded that he was still dealing with the death. “They say time heals,” he said. “Time, I don’t think, will ever heal that part of my life.”
It reminded my of a passage in William Maxwell's haunting autobiographical novel So Long, See You Tomorrow, where years after his mother's death when he was ten, he realized he had not gotten over it. 
I meant to say to the fatherly man who was not my father, the elderly Viennese, another exile, with thick glasses and a Germanic accent, I meant to say I couldn't bear it, but what came out of my mouth was "I can't bear it."  This statement was followed by a flood of tears such as I hadn't ever known before, not even in my childhood.  I got up from the leather couch and, I somehow knew, with his permission left his office and the building and walked down Sixth Avenue to my office.  New York City is a place where one can weep on the sidewalk in perfect privacy.
Other children could have borne it, have borne it.  My older brother did, somehow.  I couldn't.
Godspeed Dallas Green.

South Bay (San Diego) Beer Revolt

The Voice of San Diego published an article last week on craft beer in the South Bay area of San Diego, which includes Chula Vista, National City, and Imperial Beach.  The point of the article is that major craft breweries have avoided the South Bay due to the assumption that residents only have "taste buds for macro brews, like Bud Light, Corona and Dos Equis."  Anyone who visits a local San Diego brewery knows that the craft beer drinker stereotype of twentysomething bearded white guys is wrong. 

If nothing else, this blog has advocated that quality beer prevails.  This is happening now in the South Bay.  Local residents have taken up the craft beer challenge and are opening restaurants, bars, and breweries.  It sounds like 3rd Avenue in Chula Vista is the epicenter of the #SouthBayUprising.  Note the picture in the article of the guy drinking a beer at La Bella Pizza Garden, the mug is huge.  It alone is reason enough to explore Chula Vista's beer scene.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Heady Topper Article

My last post was on hazy IPAs.  I saw this article from Longreads the day after I wrote the post.  It is an excellent article on Heady Topper, the beer from Vermont's Alchemist Brewery credited with starting the cloudy beer trend.  The article details how Alchemist had its brewery wiped out by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and how the brewery's recovery from disaster and focus on brewing helped Heady Topper rise to cult status.  Ultimately, it is an uplifting story about a beer that sounds fantastic and the people who make it.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

It's All A Bit Hazy

I like hazy IPAs and I have been wanting to try a derivative style IPA I have heard about called New England IPA.  I did not know until today they were the same thing.  I get the sense from my twitter feed that hazy IPAs are a fad that beer purists should avoid to maintain self-respect.  This article from NPR's The Salt breaks down the "haze craze."  This passage from the article explains where these offshoot IPAs get their murk:

The haziness in these beers is caused by a variety of techniques that brewers say are primarily aimed at enhancing aromas and creating a smooth, creamy mouthfeel while also reducing the stinging bitterness associated with more conventional IPAs. Some brewers, for example, are using certain yeast strains that leave fruity esters in the beer, as well as suspended particulate matter. 
You have to love a beer with "suspended particulate matter."   The few New England IPAs I have tried are thick and fruity, like fresh squeezed juice.  I'll shed some beer dignity for more murk.   The one negative part of these cloudy beers is that they are so dense that about half a pint is enough. 

Some fads are easy to see as fads, like Pokeman Go, the Mannequin Challenge, or paddle boards.  It's harder to tell when a fad becomes ingrained and permanent.  The sudden popularity of hazy IPAs is a craze but that does not mean their appeal will fade before the suspended particulate matter settles at the bottom of a pint glass.  These beers are good, which will help their longevity and keep them in regular rotation.  I don't expect to see a whole tap room of murky beers any time soon, but having an unfiltered option or two seems reasonable.  But if I see a cloudy lager in the next month or so I'll know I am wrong and that hazy beers are doomed.

I find the term New England IPA funny.  Without reading much about them, I assumed New England IPAs were maltier, less hoppy IPAs - an anti-West Coast IPA - which is why I wanted to try one.  I had no idea they were bold, living, swirling, opaque beers that are the latest frontier in craft beer.  It is not my mental image of New England.  Here in San Diego, Pure Project Brewing makes hazy beers and Pizza Port had one of its hazy IPAs available recently.

I had a precursor to the haze wave about nine years at Stone's Escondido World Bistro and Gardens.  Stone had an unfiltered version of its then new Cali-Belgique IPA.  It was fruity, yeasty, and excellent.  The picture I took in August 2008 is above.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Everything But The Beer

Kilowatt Beer Company's Ocean Beach tasting room opens this weekend.  A West Coaster article from yesterday discusses Kilowatt's new space and the crowded Ocean Beach beer scene.  We learn about Kilowatt's artistic owners and how the new tasting room, transformed from a motorcycle repair shop, will not only reflect their artistic aesthetic but pay tribute to past Ocean Beach artist Clint Cary, the Spaceman of OB.  We also learn that there are four tasting rooms in the "out-there community," with two on the way, including Kilowatt, in addition to a new restaurant that houses a tasting room for Northern California's Golden State Brewery, and two breweries, Ocean Beach Brewing and Pizza Port.  Kilowatt drops among some serious beer options. 

One thing the article lacked was any description of Kilowatt's beer, and it concerns me   Does it have a specialty style?  Does it make a stellar beer or two?  How will it standout?   The art is cool, but the Culture Brewing and Mike Hess tasting rooms proudly show an ever changing selection of local artists, too.  I am all for more tasting rooms, they have become local meeting spots in a beach town with a number of dive bars, and I want Kilowatt to succeed.  I just want to know what I can expect in terms of beer quality.  Since West Coaster avoided Kilowatt's beers, I'll have to go try them myself.