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.