Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Wet Season

It's the wet season, the shortest season of the year.  By wet, I mean wet hop.   This season lasts, in earnest, from about mid-September to the end of October.  Pumpkin beers are fine, although they are now rare, marzens are OK, and I like Festbiers, but to me the champion beer style of fall is wet hop IPA.  Two Saturdays ago Pizza Port released a canned wet hop IPA collaboration with Burgeon Beer Company, Nug-O-War.  The clear Pizza Port version of the Citra-hopped Nub-O-War is amazing.  It's is loaded with fresh hop taste and aroma, and it has a finish that lasts at least thirty minutes and cries at you for another taste of beer.  This beer is also on tap at Pizza Port Ocean Beach.  (Apparently, the Burgeon version is a hazy IPA, but I have not seen or tried it.)

Pizza Port Ocean Beach used to call its wet hop IPA Get Wet, but a year or two ago renamed it to Wet Lamborghini.  This magnificent fresh hop IPA is now on tap in Ocean Beach. To me, both names are kind of lame, but whether you call it Get Wet or Wet Lamborghini the beer is delicious, and it annually restores my faith in Mosaic hops.  I never know how long fresh hop IPAs will stay on tap, so visit Pizza Port often until Wet Lamborghini and other wet hop beers run out.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Magnolia Brewing Article

Here is an article that ran last month in the San Francisco Chronicle about the turnaround of Magnolia Brewing.  Magnolia filed for bankruptcy in 2015 and was sold to New Belgium Brewing in 2017.  Former Elysian Brewing founder Dick Cantwell is also a partner in the new Magnolia, but Magnolia founder David McLean is no longer involved with the brewery. Magnolia dates from the mid-1990s and I consider it a craft beer pioneer.  Its seven-barrel brewing system is in the basement below the Haight-Ashbury pub.

The article is primarily about Magnolia's revitalization and second location in the Dogpatch area.  The article provides a good summary of what is happening at Magnolia as a company and how it is revamping its beer line up and brewing process, which includes a 30-barrel system at the Dogpatch facility.  I have enjoyed several meals at Magnolia Pub in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, which is why I have an interest in what Magnolia is doing.  I am glad Magnolia was able to survive and am looking forward to going back to the Haight-Ashbury location and also visiting the Dogpatch location (the picture near the bottom of the article that shows a number of 20 oz pints on Dogpatch's beer list is incentive enough).

Monday, September 24, 2018

San Diego Brewers Score Big at GABF

Here from the West Coaster is a list of all the awards won by San Diego brewers at this year's Great American Beer Festival (GABF).  I need to get to Ocean Beach Brewery, which won a gold medal for its American-style pale ale and was named the year's Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year.  Congratulations to all the winners.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Metric Pils

I was in New York City last month and brought back several cans of beer.  I specifically wanted beers from New York City-area breweries.  One of the cans was a Metric Pils from Industrial Arts Brewing Company, a brewery I have not heard or read about.  The Metric Pils was excellent, a near perfect pilsner, or at least what I consider a perfect pilsner.  The yeast gave the bright yellow beer a classic crispness.  The 4.7% abv beer had a piquant grassy flavor, which made it refreshing and left me wanting more.  I am enjoying the current mini-revival of pilsners.   

Friday, September 7, 2018

DDB Mic Drop

Don't Drink Beer's deadeye skewers the current craft beer culture with this funny and true post on the ten beers today's fad chasing hazy beer and pasty stout drinkers won't drink.  And to confirm DDB's point, I was recently picking up dinner at a restaurant with a diverse tap list when I overheard a twenty something guy order whatever hazy IPA was available.  The restaurant had no hazy IPAs on tap and the guy chose to order nothing.  It did have a bunch of other solid beers on tap, including four or five lager and pilsner options!  Go hazy or go home.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Beer Literature - The Hidden Pull of Tasting Rooms

The following passage in Patrick Modiano's "In The Cafe Of Lost Youth" captures for me the essence of breweries and their tasting rooms:

I've always believed that certain places are like magnets and draw you towards them should you happen to walk within their radius.  And this occurs imperceptibly, without you even suspecting.  All it takes is a sloping street, a sunny sidewalk, or maybe a shady one.  Or perhaps a downpour.  And this leads you straight there, to the exact spot you're meant to wash up. 
I still feel drawn to brewery tasting rooms, even as I get older and customers in tasting rooms get younger.  Ocean Beach and Point Loma have numerous tasting rooms, and I am not going to critique each, but the one, for me, that closest matches the imperceptible lure, like certain Parisian Left Bank cafes had for Modiano, is Culture Brewing's tasting room on Newport Avenue.  I don't find Culture's beers the best, its staff, while pleasant enough, is not nicer or ruder than the staff in other tasting rooms, the standard whiff of ageism is there like in other tasting rooms, and the ever presence of dogs annoys me.  Still, Culture's tasting room is the spot where I am "meant to wash up."   Maybe it is because there is always local art on the walls.  Maybe it is because of the dark interior and the racks of beer aging in barrels that somehow seem to exude a calm on the room.  Maybe it is because the crowd is always mixed, whether it is groups of friends or someone having a beer alone.  Maybe it is because no one bothers anyone.  Maybe it is because it rarely feels hectic even when there is a large crowd.  Maybe it is because at Culture it is not uncommon to see someone reading a book or writing in a journal or notebook, and not lost in a phone screen.  I like that I can't exactly define why I find Culture's tasting room so inviting, and that is part of the inexplicable mystery of craft beer. 

Separately, In The Cafe Of Lost Youth opens discussing the cafes on and around Carrefour de l'Odeon in Paris, so, for me, the book had immediate resonance.  There used to be a rustic beer-centric cafe / bar on this small plaza, and I stopped there for a beer in the early '90s.  I didn't know much about beer then and I am sure I must have been intimidated by the selection. I imagine now that the beer list was full of Belgian beers, then strange and unknown to me.  I ordered a Newcastle Brown Ale, a safe beer I had heard of, which, looking back, is about as big a beer own goal as I have ever committed.  Modiano wrote about lost youth, but my Newkie Brown choice proved wasted youth.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Sad Story

Here is a West Coaster article on the closing of Monkey Paw Brewing in San Diego's East Village neighborhood.  I am not going to restate the article.  One point I was wondering about, which the article did not mention, was what, if any, impact did the 10 Barrel Brewing location have on the decision to close Monkey Paw.  The Monkey Paw closure seems like a story with multiple sides, but ultimately it is just a sad story. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Need Convincing

Are brut IPAs the next big style coming to craft beer?  Will they match current darlings, hazy IPAs, which have moved from fad to stalwart?   I am not convinced, based on my limited sample.  I tried a brut IPA at North Park Beer Co on Friday, and it hit the characteristics outlined in this Beth Demmon San Diego City Beat article from June.  All Of The Bubbles was dry, light, aromatic, and effervescent, and its hop bitterness and malt had been muted, presumably to make it easier to drink. Its hop aromatics were pleasant but did not translate into much on the palate.  In stripping All Of The Bubbles of any potential offensiveness, all character and flavor were squashed.  After the first taste that established the beer's dryness - and it has the dryness perfected - I could have been drinking seltzer water.

Brut IPA in foreground with Helles taster in background.

I am not sure of the appeal of this beer style or its target market.  It is going to bore beer drinkers that like hoppy IPAs, and it has less flavor for those attracted to bitter shunning hazy IPAs.  If its geared toward wine loving, professed IPA-haters who get dragged along to breweries, I think it is a tough sale. To me, a sour, a saison, or a wild ale is going to have more wine similarities and way more flavor than a brut IPA.  North Park had a Helles on tap that was outstanding and won't ever be confused with an IPA.  It was light and crisp with hints of yeasty dough, and it had no marked bitterness, a real anti-IPA.

My biggest gripe with brut IPAs is that their model, brut champagnes or sparkling wines, are packed with flavor.  A good brut is dry, almost astringent if done right, but a good brut also has a sweetness behind the bubbles that elevates the grapes and provides a long finish.  This extra layer of depth where the dryness mixes with the sugars and grapes is missing from the brut IPA.  If brut IPAs are just dry for the sake of being dry, and don't promote any secondary characteristics or complexity, they'll be a short-lived fad.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Quick Tasters

Like a flight of tasters at a brewery - which I hope are not as annoying as when the person in front of you orders a flight of tasters when all you want is a pint - the following are some news bits I found interesting the past few weeks:

ChuckAlek Closes:  After announcing in May that its owners were moving to Colorado, but that the brewery would continue, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers decided to close shop by the end of July, with its North Park Biergarten staying open until September.   I enjoyed the beers I tried from this small Ramona brewery, but have not seen any in Ocean Beach for a few years.   ChuckAlek experimented with old styles and did not adhere to the IPA trend.  In retrospect, this may not have been the best decision.

Smoking Too Much Weed:  Helm's Brewery's Ocean Beach tasting room occupies the most visible corner of any of the Ocean Beach satellite tasting rooms - and it is always the least crowded.  How could that happen?  Well, as this blog as stated many times, brew good beer and people will come; and the occupancy of Helm's tasting room is a testament to its beer.  According to The West Coaster, Helms was acquired by a Las Vegas investment firm earlier this year and the plan is to transition Helm's brewing operation into that of larger cannabis-infused Two Roots Brewing.  OK.  What could go wrong taking a sub-par brewery and turning it into some kind of pot-based brewery?   I know I'm too old, but this idea has zero appeal for me. The concept seems more gross than it does weird.  Craft beer is not at the point where it needs to resort to dope beers to attract customers.  Brew good beer.

Impressive Turnarounds:  I liked this West Coaster article on five "impressive turnarounds."  With the news of ChuckAlek's demise, followed by the news of Intergalactic Brewing impending closure, it was good to read positive stories of brewers improving.  The beers I have tried from Thorn Street and Novo Brazil are proof enough to me that these breweries are navigating a competitive environment.  More anecdotal proof is that my hazy beer loving brother texted me raving about one of Novo Brazil's hazy IPAs he had found in Northern California.   I need more stories like this.

The Baudelaire's Still Got It:  I had this floral wonder from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales a few years ago and loved it. I bought a bottle sometime last year, or maybe in 2016, I don't remember, and put it in the back of my closet and forgot about it until a few weeks ago.  I put it in the beer fridge and had it last weekend.  Baudelaire iO Saison is as sublime a beer as I will ever drink.  It's a true joy.

Mikkeller Little Italy:  Mikkeller is opening its Little Italy tasting room on August 4th. It is located at 2021 India Street.  Like anywhere in Little Italy, parking will be a battle.  I plan to try and visit for 'to go' beer when it's not so crowded in Little Italy, although I am not sure that this is even possible anymore.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Catch The Nami Wave

Before I start writing about Nami, I have to mention its can artwork.  Nami's design is inspired by The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hoksusai, which was one of a series of thirty-six woodcraft prints of Mt. Fuji.   The ingenious designers at Pizza Port and Pure Project were able to capture the entire print on each can, and if placed right can be seen across the span of three cans.  The picture below is from the Pizza Port website:

Craft breweries' move to cans rather than bottles has brought some great design, and the Nami cans are some of the most stunning I have seen.  Of course, you should not judge a beer by the quality of its can art.  Thankfully the beer in the Nami can matches its wrapper.

Nami is a 6.8% abv IPA that is a collaboration between Pizza Port and Pure Project.  I do not usually pay too much attention to a beer's aroma, mostly because my sense of smell is not that reliable, but I did catch peach and melon when I poured Nami.  It is a bright yellow beer that seemed almost to glow.  I was expecting a cloudy beer, like all the ones I have seen on Pure Project's Instagram page, but Nami was clear (in the picture below there is condensation on the glass that makes it look less clear than it really is), and the beer is capped by a tall, meringue-like white foam.  I thought Nami looked more like a pilsner than an IPA.  

On the first drink, the soft smells of peach and melon give way to a tsunami of bitterness from the Citra and Wiamea hops.  The long-lasting back-of-the-mouth bitterness was consistent throughout, even after Nami opened up and began to smooth, but it never became annoying or tiring.  Nami is a treat; drinkable and delicious.  A properly bitter IPA may seem like a throwback or anachronistic, but to me it is reassuring, an affirmation of the flavors that are the foundation of craft beer.  I don't know the extent of Nami's distribution, but it is worth seeking out.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Stone Brewing To Release a Hazy IPA

I saw on Stone Brewing's Instagram account yesterday that it plans to release a hazy IPA, or New England IPA, if you prefer.  The beer is Fear.Movie.Lions Double IPA, and is set for summer can distribution.  I am glad Stone is releasing a hazy IPA.  It has released some unfiltered IPAs, but I am not aware of a specific hazy IPA before Fear.Movie.Lions Double IPA.  The hazy IPA style is new and trendy, and some breweries have avoided this style.  I like hazy IPAs, in general, but have found them either stellar or just mediocre.  The hazy IPAs from Modern Times have intense flavors, but too many hazy IPAs from other breweries I have tried were bland and muted.  I have not tried a truly bad hazy IPA, but too many are dull, lacking distinction and bitterness, and in some cases even much of the characteristic fruit juice flavors.  In short, I have found that when a hazy IPA is good, it is really good, and when it's not good, it is just tasteless and boring.  Because of this style's hit or mediocrity, I am looking forward to Stone's interpretation, expecting aggressive hops to run with the typical juicy flavor.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Rouleur Coaster and a Podcast Plug

I may or may not have a more comprehensive future post on beer podcasts, but locally I like San Diego Beer Talk Radio.  It's a weekly podcast that "drops" Monday mornings and each episode is about two hours in length.  Most episodes have an interview with a local brewer as well as a beer news recap.  I have been listening for about seven months, and a few brewer interviews stick out, including the Green Flash/Alpine episode and one with Dr. Bill Sysak's Wild Barrel BrewingAnother worthy episode last fall highlighted Rawley Macias's Carlsbad-based Rouleur Brewing Company, which is now celebrating its one-year anniversary. The episode detailed Rouleur's travails and triumphs as it struggled with the Brewey Igniter space in Carlsbad.  What came through to me in the interview, besides Macias's honesty and frustration with Brewery Igniter, was his optimism and commitment to making good beer.

There are many new breweries in San Diego, and while I want to try their beers, I usually don't go out of my way to search for their beers.  After hearing the podcast, Rouleur is one new brewery whose beers I want to try.  I rarely make it to Carlsbad, so a trip to Rouleur's tasting room is unlikely.  I have searched tap rooms in and around the Ocean Beach and Point Loma area, as well as other mid-San Diego locations, but have not seen any Rouleur beers on tap.  I want to try its Puncheur pale ale, Dopeur hazy IPA, and its Belgian Golden Strong Ale, so I either need to find a reason to get to Carlsbad or I need to find some Rouleur draft accounts in central San Diego

Rouleur has a good profile in the latest San Diego Magazine.  And after I started this post, I learned that Rouleur earned a World Beer Cup bronze medal for its Domestique Belgian Blond Ale, so I have another beer to try and another excuse to get to Carlsbad. 

(One bizarre San Diego Beer Talk episode profiled another new hard to pronounce North County brewery, Ebullition Brew Works.  Its owners sounded more suited to opening a pot dispensary than a brewery, but at least I learned in stoner-level detail that Ebullition has really far out, hand turned wood tap handles.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Local Beer News Round-Up

Here are links to three recent beer articles I found that are worth your time:

The West Coaster reports on the winners of the 2018 San Diego International Beer Festival, where San Diego breweries won 61 medals.  I don't know much about this festival, but 61 is a lot of awards.

This morning, the West Coaster is out with an article that starts as a timeline detailing Green Flash's history, and ends with some ugly comments and back-and-forth from Pat McIlhenney, founder of Alpine, Mike Hinkley, founder of Green Flash, and Rich Lobo of Muirlands Capital, which owns WC IPA, LLC, which now owns Green Flash and Alpine.  The Green Flash / Alpine story is far from over and the animosity is strong.  (The article states that Pat McIlhenney was on two podcasts, but he was also on a third podcast that was not mentioned in the article, San Diego Beer Talk Radio's Episode 159.)

Finally, and ending on a positive note, San Diego City Beat provides a glowing review of Eppig Brewing's new Point Loma Biergarten.  Eppig's waterfront location is a great spot to taste and enjoy beer, and I have only been on weeknights in winter, not a sunny afternoon.  You can't really see it from a major road, so know the address.  Parking is not simple, but it's not too difficult either, so don't let a little walk put you off, the reward is far too great. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A Good Problem

I noted in my last post that Atlanta's New Realm Brewing is buying Green Flash's closed Virginia brewery.  Yesterday, Good Beer Hunting had more details on the rationale behind New Realm's move.  New Realm is struggling to keep up with demand for its beer.  Only four months after its opening, the brewery is already at capacity.  According to the article:

"(T)he business (New Realm) has struggled to keep up with demand for its distributed products and has a good chance of hitting Georgia’s own-premise to-go sales cap of 3,000 barrels in its first year. New Realm is, on average, selling around 50 barrels a week out of its taproom between packaged and draft offerings, and has at times stopped selling growlers and crowlers of beer to ensure its taplines stay full. And all this before the spring and summer, which are traditionally the busiest sales times for beer in the U.S."

The former Green Flash brewery comes with a 100,000 barrel capacity - which must be in near turn-key condition - and should solve New Realm's immediate supply problem.  New Realm plans to ship most of the beer back to Georgia, but it does plan to open a tasting room at the facility and distribute locally from the Virginia location, unknown points when the transaction was announced two weeks ago.  In addition, New Realm is expanding its Atlanta brewery and had previously purchased land in Charlotte, North Carolina for a planned expansion, but due to the unseen opportunity in Virginia the plans for North Carolina have been delayed.

The New Realm's story is good news for craft beer, especially when stories of closures and over saturation dominate beer media.  New Realm appears to have the capital and management to take advantage of opportunities, which is rare and fortunate for a new brewery.  I want to try New Realm's beers when I visit Atlanta but am not looking forward to wrestling with the 5,000 people that visit the brewery on any give Saturday (is this even possible for a brewery/restaurant?), and I know I won't wait in line an hour wait for a pint of beer.  

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Interesting Coincidence

New Realm Brewing of Atlanta, which was co-founded by former Stone Brewing head brewer Mitch Steele, has agreed to purchase the brewing equipment at Green Flash's now closed Virginia Beach brewery.  According to the article linked to above, it is not known whether New Realm will operate the equipment at the closed Green Flash facility or move it to another location.  New Realm is apparently already at capacity on its 20-barrel system and saw the opportunity to add the 50-barrel system.  I am sure the San Diego connection of Steele and Green Flash is nothing more than a coincidence, but I still found it interesting.

Lightning Strikes Twice and a Mouth Full of Dishsoap

Lightning Brewery has started brewing again.  The West Coaster reports on the brewery's smaller scale re-boot.  Lightning has re-tooled its business model to focus on its tasting room, rather than retail distribution.  Lightning was ahead of its time, offering a pilsner as its core beer right when IPA's popularity was crushing all other styles.  I never drank much beer from Lightning, but I liked its beers when I had them, and while I find myself in Poway even less frequently, I am glad for Lightning that it is open again.

In unrelated news, I recently had a crowler of pale ale from an Ocean Beach tasting room that had a persistent taste of dishsoap.  And no, it was not a glass washer issue.  I do not want to name the brewery because I like the space.  I know that is a silly reason, but a good tasting room atmosphere is not easy to achieve and I don't want to slam the place for one off beer.  But I have found this brewery's beers inconsistent, and unfortunately its beers are only fair at their best, so even small errors in the brewing process make drinking a crowler a challenge. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

French Beer Lit - "I Just Drink A Little Beer"

I continue my plan to note when I read worthwhile passages about beer in novels.  The following passage is from French Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano's Honeymoon, and is a conversation between an older woman and a younger man (spoiler alert - there is no romance between the two):

"Are you going to have something to drink?" she asked.


"Don't you drink alcohol? May I have some?"

She gave me an anxious look, as if I was going to refuse my permission.

"You may," I said.

She raised her head to the maitre d'hotel.

"Well then... A beer..."

It was as if she had suddenly decided to do something shameful or forbidden.

"It stops me drinking whisky, or other kinds of alcohol... I just drink a little beer..."

She forced herself to smile.  She seem to feel ill at ease with me.

"I don't know what you think," she said, "but I've always thought it wasn't a woman's drink..."

This time her gaze expressed more than anxiety; distress, rather.  And I was so surprised that I couldn't manage to find a comforting word.  I finally said:

"I believe you are wrong... I know a lot of women who drink beer..."

"Really?  You know a lot?"
An awkward situation not made easier with beer.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Dankness Mojo

I was in Downtown Los Angeles earlier this year and stopped into Modern Times' The Dankness Dojo restaurant and brewery.  What a cool place.  The light designs, concrete floors, tables with old church pews for seats, and vintage magazine covers on the walls gave the smaller than I expected space a funky retro ambience, yet it felt warm.  Every time I visit Modern Times' Point Loma Lomaland Fermentorium I feel a bit unhip, and too old, and out of place.  This feeling was even more acute at The Dankness Dojo.  It is nothing any patron or Modern Times employee says or does, in fact the Modern Times' employees are always pleasant, more so than the job requires, it is just my insecurities.  Fortunately, I have never been one to let a little self-conscientiousness get in the way of a good beer or a good place to get beer.  And The Dankness Mojo is a good place to get beer.

I could not stay at The Dankness Dojo a long time, and I had to drive, so any real beer drinking was out of the question, but I did taste one of the brewed-on-premise hazy IPAs.  I did not write down the beer's name, and I am now mad at myself.  Modern Times knows how to brew hazy IPAs.  So many have no more than a bland fruitiness, but the ones I have had from Modern Times are awash in distinct flavors, and so too was this cloudy offering (at right). 

If you are in Downtown Los Angeles, I recommend The Dankness Mojo.  There are plenty of parking lots nearby, and parking did not seem that expensive.  Next time,  I plan on trying some of the "boundary-pushing plant-based cuisine," in addition to trying more beer.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Positive Attitude Squashed

I tried to stay positive, I did.   No sooner did I finish my last post on my enthusiasm for Mikkeller opening its Little Italy tasting room than I read the latest news on Oceanside Ale Works.  Green Flash does not have a monopoly on bad business decisions.  West Coaster provides an update on the Oceanside Ale Works' clown show, the newest version of which lasted about three weeks.  It is never a smart business move to buy into someone else's legal problems, even if the price seems right.  I would not be surprised if Oceanside Ale Works' co-founder Mark Purciel's legal issues get more complicated in the near future.

Mikkeller In Little Italy

I need to look past the sad plight of Green Flash and Alpine Beer and focus on a positive beer development.  Mikkeller Brewing is opening a tasting room in Little Italy.  This news from San Diego Eater is from last month, but I find it exciting.  The beers I have had from Mikkeller's Miramar brewery have been great, and its new Little Italy location, traffic and parking not withstanding, is going to make it easier for me to get its frequent releases. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Green Flash Foreclosed and Sold

Wow, that happened fast.  Two weekends ago week Green Flash announced it was scaling back its operations and closing its Virginia Beach brewery, then last Friday it announced it was closing its Cellar 3 barrel aged brewing facility and tasting room, and now this morning it announced that the company has been foreclosed.  According to The Full Pint, Green Flash's lender, Comerica Bank, foreclosed and sold Green Flash and Alpine Beer assets to a Michigan risk management company, WC IPA, LLC.  (I find it strange that the acronym spells out West Coast IPA.)  The West Coaster is out with its article, too.

This is a developing story, but there are a few points that I want to note.  First, Green Flash's financial problems were bigger and further along than its recent announcements indicated.  Banks do not just decide to foreclose and sell assets over the span of a few days.  Today's news was the conclusion to a months' long process.  Second, there is still value in the Green Flash brand, and especially the Alpine brand.  Extinguishing Alpine Beer and its beers would be a shame, verging on a beer crime.

Finally, I expect multiple stories on how Green Flash, craft beer's Icarus, went wrong expanding too fast and flying too close to the sun.  I think Green Flash's demise is simpler.  Over the past week I have popped into multiple restaurants and found no Green Flash beer on tap, with one exception, The Joint in Ocean Beach has Alpine Duet on tap.  I can't remember seeing Green Flash beers on any taps locally in a long time, and seeing Alpine beers is rare.  If Green Flash bungled its local market, the one that supported it for years, how could it expect to distribute nationally?  The lack of Green Flash beers in restaurants and bars lead to its local irrelevance, which played out nationally. 

Update:  This story dominated my twitter feed today.  I want to make clear that Green Flash and Alpine are both still operating.  The bank foreclosure and sale did not mean the breweries' business stopped.  The West Coaster article linked to above has information on the people behind purchase of Green Flash.  I changed the title of this post, too, to avoid any confusion.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Green Flash's Travails

I read over the weekend on my Twitter feed that Green Flash Brewing was closing its new (2016) brewing facility in Virginia Beach, effective immediately.  The news was a shock.  The West Coaster and today's San Diego Union Tribune have articles on the closure and other moves Green Flash is making to preserve its brewing business, including a new investment partner.  The Full Pint offers some good advice, which includes rethinking Alpine Beer Co., which Green Flash acquired in 2014, getting in the special release can game, and opening more satellite tasting rooms.

There is a common theme running through all three articles. Green Flash lost its knack for making good beer.  Somehow the brewers of Hop Head Red and Le Freak revamped its beer lineup and reformulated its recipes to a point where it has no signature beer and therefore no brand identity.  I noted this in January after Green Flash's first corporate shakeup.   Green Flash's loss of beer vision coincides with the 2015 departure of Chuck Silva.  Green Flash's IPAs used to have a hop aggressiveness that matched or surpassed breweries that marketed their hoppy IPAs.  Now Green Flash has something called Soul Style IPA. 

I agree with The Full Pint's suggestion to focus on Alpine's amazing line-up of IPAs, and to brew some special release canned beers. People want hazy IPAs, so make and can them.  I like the satellite tasting room idea, too, especially if it has a crowler machine and is close to my neighborhood. 

I have written more than once on this blog that if a brewery makes good beer people will want it.  It is a simple concept, but making good beer once again, more than anything else, needs to consume Green Flash at this point.  It's a brewery, its product is beer, and somehow making good beer got lost in the focus to grow.  I want Green Flash to succeed, and I'd really like a Hop Head Red.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Eppig’s Epic Pilsner

Drinking Eppig Brewing's Pilsner last weekend I had a strange thought:  Would the rise of craft beer in the 1980s and 1990s been different if macro breweries had made a pilsner as good as Eppig's Pilsner?  This, obviously, is an unanswerable question, but if there were pilsners as good as Eppig's Pilsner back in the late 1980s when I was searching for something better than Coors and Coors Light, I might have been slow to adopt hoppy IPAs. 

Eppig’s Pilsner is outstanding, and that is not a typo or hyperbole from this IPA-centered blog.  A macro brewed pilsner is thin and one-dimensional on purpose to appeal to as many people as possible;  it tastes like "beer," but that's it.  Pilsner, while the same style as many macro beers, is a far different beer.  It has heft and depth of flavors.  You can taste Pilsner's yeast, and you can taste its hops.  Pilsner starts with a comforting bready taste that segues into a mild bitter finish.  Its ABV is a manageable 5.1%.  Eppig wraps Pilsner in creamy dry smoothness that has you constantly reaching for your glass to take another sip. You are compelled to drink this beer.

Eppig's Pilsner is an exciting beer that destroys pilsner stereotypes as an anemic beer for simple minded guzzlers.  Pilsners have been ignored and ridiculed for decades by much of the craft world.  Breweries like Eppig have realized that pilsner is a style to celebrate not shun, and are taking the style back in a grand manner.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Oceanside Ale Works' Reboot

I commented on Oceanside Ale Works' bankruptcy and its reorganization plans back in January.  In my post I noted my skepticism regarding Mark Pruciel's plan to re-open a brewery.  My doubts were confirmed yesterday in this West Coaster article.  Oceanside Ale Works is re-opening, but Pruciel does not appear to have any involvement, and his future brewery plans consist of him drinking beers in breweries.  Those are my future brewery plans, too, so things could be much worse.

Beer Release Frenzy

I have avoided the frenetic, special canned beer releases. I have purchased a few Modern Times Beer and Mikkeller Brewing special can releases, but have not yet waited in line to buy beer.  That sort of changed Saturday.  I read on Facebook last week that Pizza Port Ocean Beach was releasing its Bacon & Eggs Imperial Coffee Porter in cans along with a special coffee mug full of the beer at 11:00 a.m. Saturday morning.  I wanted the camp-style mug, not the beer, because the thought of a drinking high alcohol beer, or any beer for that matter, before noon has no appeal to me.  I had been to Pizza Port the night before and was told there were only about 35 mugs, so I knew I had to arrive early to get a mug.

I timed my Saturday morning chores to put me in Ocean Beach before noon, but I arrived earlier than expected and stopped at Pizza Port around 11:30 a.m., lucky for me.  Pizza Port was packed.  Its picnic style tables were nearly full, and there were stacks of Bacon & Eggs six packs on every surface.  I saw one old dedicated drinker hunched over his mug of beer, holding it with two hands, focused only on getting that mug of precious beer to his mouth.  Galileo did not have as much concentration studying gravity.  The bearded boozer was not alone, and if you did not know better you'd think you were in a coffee house with all the people sipping dark beer from their mugs.  I snagged the next to last mug a mere thirty minutes into the beer sale.  It looked like there were still plenty of six-packs of Bacon & Eggs available, but Pizza Port had blown through its mug supply in about the time it takes to order and get a pizza.

While the lines were not out the door - at least by the time I arrived - I still I found the enthusiasm around Bacon & Eggs' release encouraging.  It is not a rare beer, at least I don't think it is, or a one-off release.  I have seen it on tap numerous times at Pizza Port.  The craft beer world continues to evolve, and special can releases are one aspect of this evolution.  Good for Pizza Port creating a buzz for an established beer's can release, especially a beer that is not some hazy IPA. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Support Your Local Brewer

My beer twitter feed is all Stone Brewing this afternoon.  Stone is suing MolsonCoors over the branding of Keystone.  According to the West Coaster:

The suit alleges that multi-national “Big Beer” conglomerate MillerCoors is purposely trying to create confusion in the marketplace with a recent rebranding of the products in Keystone’s portfolio. A prime example are 12-ounce cans, which break the word “Keystone” into two words on separate lines that read “Key” and “Stone” (which appear in all capital letters). When rotated a certain way, all that is visible is the word Stone.
 Here is Stone's Greg Koch explaining the lawsuit:

I support Stone as it defends its name.  I plan to buy some Stone beer this week to contribute to Stone's legal defense fund. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Eppig's Waterfront Adventure

Eppig Brewing is opening its Point Loma tasting room tomorrow, February 9th, 2018.  Located on the waterfront, behind Point Loma Seafoods and within skipping distance to Mitch's Seafood, the tasting room offers wraparound views of the San Diego Bay and Point Loma's sport fishing boats.  Here are articles from the West Coaster, Eater, and even the OB Rag on Eppig and its new location.  The Eater article has some great pictures that highlight Eppig's waterfront location, and most importantly show that Eppig has a crowler machine. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Thoughts on Green Flash

Green Flash’s announcement earlier this month that it plans to layoff 15% of its workforce and retrench distribution, pulling out of thirty-three states to focus on areas closer to its breweries, is not a sign of a craft beer implosion.  Green Flash did not announce that it was closing either of its two breweries, or its Cellar 3 barrel-aged beer facility (although production here is being reduced), or its in development brewery /restaurant in Nebraska, or that is scraping future projects.  The layoffs were business administration positions.  Green Flash’s decision, while bad for Green Flash and the fired employees in the near-term, is a sign of craft beer’s strength.  The brewing depth in so many local markets means that not all craft breweries with national aspirations can compete in every market.  Breweries looking to expand beyond their home market not only compete against large macro breweries, but against more and more quality local breweries. 

Quick, name two Green Flash beers.  Ok, West Coast IPA and, and…  It is not that easy, and this lack of ready identification is a big obstacle in Green Flash’s effort to expand nationally.  There is Le Freak, a great beer, but I don’t know if it is a year-round beer anymore, and if it is, you don’t build a national brewery around a 9% Belgian-style beer.  Does Green Flash still brew 30TH Street Pale Ale?  An approachable beer but I can’t remember the last time I saw it.  Soul Style IPA, never tried it.  Doesn’t Green Flash, or didn’t Green Flash, have a tangerine IPA, or is or was that Soul Style?  What about that hoppy red ale Green Flash used to brew, the name of which I can’t remember?  I loved that beer, but is it still around?  A brewery can’t expand nationally if it lacks identity.  (Food & Wine has a good article here on Green Flash.)

The rise of brewery tasting rooms - and the tasting room as a legitimate branding and profit source - means craft beer is becoming hyper local.  Even the smallest breweries can forge a presence with quality beer and a solid tasting room.  When neighborhoods have one, or two, or multiple breweries or tasting rooms it is hard for out-of-town or out-of-state craft breweries to get attention, and this gets harder if the interloper only brings one well-known beer.  I want to believe this is the problem facing Green Flash, not some foreboding industry sign.  Green Flash’s strategy to re-focus and distribute near its breweries, gives my idea some credibility.  It makes sense for Green Flash to focus on its local markets and position its beers within range of its brewery facilities and tasting rooms.

The idea of just how local craft beer has become was driven home to me on a recent trip to New York City.  I wanted to go the famous Ginger Man* and looked at its tap list online.  The number of breweries I did not know shocked me.  Ten years ago I would have known of most of the craft breweries on its tap list, both big and small.  Today, looking at its craft beer list brings bewilderment, not recognition.  The Ginger Man’s current tap list is here, and while I know the big breweries - Avery, Captain Lawrence, Allagash, Bells, and Brooklyn - there are many breweries unknown to me.  Most are not that far from New York City either, including Equilibrium, Chelsea Craft Brewing, Common Roots, Flagship, Grimm, Gun Hill, LIC Brew Project, and Rockaway, to name just some on the tap list.   

Craft beer is better than it has ever been.  Breweries like Green Flash need a coherent plan to overcome all the competition they face, and not just from the big breweries but from small breweries, too.  AB InBev is not backing down and neither are the local breweries.  There is no crime if a brewery can’t expand nationally.  I believe if Green Flash focuses on brewing good beer it can solve many of its issues and become a stronger company.

* The Ginger Man has a literacy reference.  It was mentioned several times in Jean Stein’s Edie: American Girl, which is an oral history of ‘60’s personality Edie Sedgwick, and as part of that encompasses New York City’s art culture and night clubs.  This book is not for the squeamish, but at the same time it is hard to stop reading the selfishness and personal destruction.

Monday, January 22, 2018

This Is A Public Service Announcement

Know your rights; all three of them.

Number one:  You have the right to great beer.

Number two:  You have the right to clear beer.

Number three:  You have the right to a big double IPA, as long as you're smart enough to actually try it.

I am making a public service announcement (PSA) for the special release collaboration between Pizza Port and Ventura's MadeWest Brewing.  Queen of the Coast is one heck of a double IPA.  It is brewed with honey, but don't let that turn you off (it almost did me); you can barely taste it.  A good double IPA is sweet, and Queen is sweet, but it is far from cloying.  Queen does not have an overwhelming hop bitterness, either.  The interplay between bitter and sweet is smooth and complex, resulting in a level of drinkability you rarely find in a double IPA.  That is the scary part, because at 9.8% abv, Queen's alcohol is nearly hidden behind all its other flavors.

Queen's mountain stream clarity is striking, yet it seems almost out of place in the era of hazy beer.  So many beers I have tried recently, and not just the on-purpose hazy New England IPAs, have some level of opacity.  Not Queen.  Its clear filter gives the beer a brightness and crispness that seemed to bounce around on the palate, not the lugubrious mouthful of a hazy IPA.  (The picture above does not clearly show the clarity of Queen due to condensation on the glass.)

I am familiar with MadeWest Brewery from trips to Ventura.  I have been to its brewey / tasting room twice. It is big, inviting, and located in a light industrial area not far from the 101   The MadeWest beers I have tried have been good, too, and it is now distributing select canned beers in San Diego.  When I saw a flyer at the Ocean Beach Pizza Port for a special collaboration can release with MadeWest I went to buy it, thinking (or assuming) it a pale ale.  When I saw it was a 9.8% double IPA I passed on buying the six-pack.  Now days I try to avoid beers much above 8.0%, and Queen of the Coast exceeded my threshold.  I did compromise with a taster, and immediately realized Queen's exceptional quality.  Not buying the six-pack of Queen gnawed on me the rest of the evening.  Despite its abv, a few hours later I broke down and returned to Pizza Port to buy a six-pack, for fear Queen had already sold out.

The Beer Rovette does share my affinity for most IPAs, but when she tasted Queen, she wanted her own glass of it, not just a taster.  That in itself is some kind of benchmark for IPA greatness. I recommend trying this beer while it is available.  The craft beer boom has produced plenty of good beers, but great beers are still rare and finding one is still a treat.  Queen is a great beer.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Legal Brew - Oceanside Ale Works

The West Coaster had an article last week on Oceanside Ale Works closure and the plan to re-open it, possibly under a different name.  I hope it's as easy as Oceanside Ale Works' co-owner Mark Pruciel makes it sound:  essentially, close for a few months, and then use the equipment Pruciel owns to open a new brewery.  I am a little wary at the nonchalance because in my business experience whenever there is money, co-partners, and lawsuits involved, nothing is easy or timely.  I have more than once seen partners undermine healthy, or at least viable businesses on purpose just to hurt or spite the other partners.  The part of the story that is head shaking in its silliness is that Pruciel's co-partner backed away from the business in 2013, due to Pruciel's decision to put his face on Oceanside's Dude double IPA label, in design that mimicked an Obama campaign-style poster (image below from the West Coaster).  You never know the things that push people over the edge.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Waterfront Mystery

I hear on podcasts and read online that Eppig Brewing is making great beers.  Its planned Point Loma tasting room would make it convenient for me to taste some of these beers.  But I do not know what is happening with Eppig Brewing's tasting room on the docks in Point Loma.  Several articles describe the new waterfront space, including this one from the West Coaster from late October.  I have seen and walked around the building.  The windows are covered so you can not see the extent of any interior finishes.  The North Park-based brewer expected to open the satellite location in November or early December.  It has not opened yet and I have not read any updates on Eppig's Facebook or Twitter feed that gives a new opening timeline.  Let's hope that the ABC and the San Diego police are not playing games with Eppig like they did the Little Miss at its thwarted Ocean Beach location. 

UPDATE:  Yesterday evening I saw that the Eppig Point Loma location had a big fence around it and a build-out is underway.  I did not see any signage.  This looks like a positive development.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Beer In Literature

I love finding beer references in good books.  I always mean to note them here when I read them, but usually don't get to it.  Well, it's a new year and a new effort to try and highlight quality beer appearances in books I read.  I can tell when an author appreciates beer, and these are the passages I plan to post.  Here is one from J.L. Carr's sublime 1980 A Month in the Country

I  didn't work to set meal-times and came down the ladder when I was hungry. And, in the middle of those hot August days, I usually cut two rough rounds of loaf and a wedge of Wensleydale and took it outside to eat.  On Saturdays and Sundays, I had a bottle of pale ale; week-days water.
This passage is short, simple and captures the weekend reward of a beer after hard work, and as a bonus, has a nice nod to cheese.  Carr could have said "beer" or "ale", but the specific "pale ale" made this passage standout to me.  The novel is set in the early 1920s, so pale ale has been a beer of choice for nearly a hundred years.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Not Bar Wannabes

I wrote in October about the San Diego police rejecting licenses for tasting room in its Western Division and the ABC choosing to not decide against the police.  New Year's Eve is an example of why this is a bonehead move by the police and ABC.  New Year's Eve is one of the biggest drinking days of the year, a bonanza for bars.  But all the craft beer tasting rooms that I know of closed early, skipping the late night party.  Closing early on a surefire drinking day is not a move of bar wannabes.  I agree with police efforts to curb drunkenness and the crimes related to it, but punishing brewery tasting rooms is misguided.