Monday, November 26, 2018

Three Beers on a Pod

The Indie Beer Show podcast Episode 8, as one of its features, posed the question of Top Three Go To beers.  I heard this as the top three beers, readily available and widely distributed, you see on a tap list and know the bar or restaurant knows its beers.  For example, if you go to a restaurant and that has Stone IPA on tap you know there is at least one good beer option.  The answers, outside of the first round, got pretty esoteric (Orval), obscure, and seasonal, and became more of a wish list than a go to list.  (The pod's primary hosts, Brian Beagle and Esthela Davila, kept their picks to year-round local beers.)

Listening to the show's hosts and guests discuss their beers I began to think of my go to beers, or the beers I look for when I enter a restaurant to assess the tap list quality and credibility.  My liquid safety blankets are as follows:

3.  Any Stone IPA.  Whether its IPA, Delicious, or any other Stone IPA, it is reassuring to me when I see a Stone tap handle.  

2.  AleSmith Brewing's .394 Pale Ale.  A fantastic beer that is widely available and gives immediate respect to any restaurant that carries it.

1.  Societe Brewing Pupil IPA.  Pupil is not rare, but it is not in as many locations as .394 or Delicious, which makes that much more of a go to beer when I see it. 

For honorable mentions, I'd include Arrogant Bastard, Modern Times' Black House Stout or Blazing World, and Pizza Port's Swami IPA.  I know my list is IPA-centric, but IPAs are the current defining craft beer style.  I look forward to seeing one of Eppig's lagers on tap lists all over town.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Societe Brewing's Highwayman

I used to make an annual lists of my beers of the year, but I have not produced a list for several years.  If I were to make a list for 2018, Societe Brewing's Highwayman would top the list.  What a beer.  It's a wild ale, feral according to Societe.  It is sweet and spicy, but not too sweet or spicy, with a concentrated carbonation.  The Brettanomyces yeast gives Highwayman its wild, funky flavors.  I thought I noticed some woody flavors, too, from the barrel aging.  To me, the arc of this beer, and what makes it outstanding, is the harmonious interaction of its flavors.  No one aspect dominates: no slicing bitterness, or heavy malt, or puckering yeast, or distracting wood, or annoying sweetness.  Together, the favors glide to near perfection from start to finish.


Drinking from a small glass, alone in a crowded restaurant/bar (The Joint in Ocean Beach) waiting for takeout on the first night of San Diego Beer Week, is not the preferred way to enjoy Highwayman, but even under these hectic conditions the brilliance of Highwayman jumped out of the glass.  In a year of too many bland and indistinguishable hazy IPAs, Highwayman is a clarion howl for great beer from one of the best breweries in the world.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

San Diego Beer Week

This year's San Diego Beer Week starts tomorrow, November 2, 2018, and runs through next Sunday, November 11th.  SDBW is sponsored by San Diego Brewers Guild and there are events at breweries, bars, and restaurants all over the county.  This list of events on the SDBW website is comprehensive and lists events by day.  Get out, hit some events, and drink some San Diego beer.

A Coors Light Town No More

The San Diego Reader has a great article titled "Brews That Built San Diego Beer."  It states in one of its first paragraphs that San Diego used to be a Coors Light town.  I know, my friends and I drank plenty of Coors Light.  Trips to the Princess of Wales Pub - now named Princess Pub, but still located in a much different Little Italy - for more favorable English and Irish beers, and to the nearby original Columbia Street location of Karl Strauss' brewpub for beers with even more flavor, began the inevitable and inexorable switch to craft beer.

Reading the article, I was struck by how long the process took for San Diego brewers to arrive at the hoppy West Coast IPAs that made San Diego beer famous.  Even though hoppy beers are now in every bar and restaurant in San Diego, the evolution took about ten years or more after Karl Strauss opened in 1989.  It was not until the late 1990s and early 2000s that big, bitter IPAs became the style that continues to define San Diego beer, and it was not until much later (maybe around 2010?) when restaurants finally began to stock IPAs and local beers as an everyday offering. 

I had forgotten how popular malty red ales were, and these beers were critical to the success of San Diego breweries.  Karl Strauss' Amber Lager is a red beer, and Ballast Point's Calico ESB is a red ale, Pizza Port's Shark Bite Red has red in its name, the original Stone Pale Ale was a malty, red pale ale, and I would call Arrogant Bastard a form of red ale, even with its big bitterness.  Red ales have become anachronistic today, but all the pioneering "red" ales were good beers bursting with flavor, and which made all the Coors Light I drank a memory embarrassment.

I encourage you to read this article, especially as San Diego Beer Week kicks off.  It is good history of the early days of San Diego beer.  Now I want an Arrogant Bastard.