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.