Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Wet Hop Wet Blanket

I'm getting anxiety in the midst of the short wet hop season.  I have now tried a few wet hop beers, and while all have been fine, none have had the distinctive juicy, just squeezed taste I expected.  I enjoy the sticky feel of the wet hopped beers and their humid ripeness, that if brewed right, tastes of fruit and vegetables just before they start to turn rotten.  The perfect wet hop beer catches the apex of the plant's flavor.  I suspect brewing wet hop beers is more intense and expensive than a regular beer.  Hops can vary year-to-year depending on the region and its growing conditions.  The amount and varietal of fresh hops used in the brewing process will impact flavor, too, and it makes sense that a beer brewed with 25% wet hops is going to taste much different than one using 100% wet hops, although brewers will call both "wet hopped."  I'd rather a brewery go all in for one 100% wet hop beer, bursting of pungent wheat grass and melon, and dripping with resin, as if pressed through a juicer, rather than four or five solid, but non-distinctive IPAs.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

San Diego's GABF Winners

San Diego craft breweries won 18 medals at this year's Great American Beer Festival (GABF).  The West Coaster lists all the winners.  I think its cool that Pizza Port's Chronic Amber Ale won a gold medal in the Ordinary or Special Bitter category because it is a regular distribution beer.  Stone Brewing's World Bistro and Gardens Liberty Station won a silver medal for its Cimmerian Portal American stout.  The Stone Brewing Liberty Station beers I have tried have been excellent, and I am glad it was recognized.  I had an ESB brewed at Stone Brewing Liberty Station last weekend and it was delicious.  Good, too, for tiny Thunderhawk Alements in earning a silver medal for its Bowie Knife, American Style Black Ale.  I've no idea what an American Style Black Ale is, but a silver medal is a silver medal.

Friday, October 4, 2019


The foam issue is back, and it is so 2010.  The New York Times takes aim at the issue.  To me, foam is a two-part issue:  proper beer service and bad beer service.  Every beer needs some foam, and some beer styles need more foam.  Pilsners should have more foam than an IPA, for example.  The restaurant, bar, or brewery should know the difference.  If a beer style requires a certain amount of foam, great, just don't use that as an excuse for sloppiness and poor training, or worse a sly way to serve less beer through excess foam.  When you pay for a pint of beer, you expect a pint of beer, especially when pints are now $6 to $8, or more.

San Diego's Blind Lady Alehouse and Tiger! Tiger! restaurants figured a solution a long time ago with fill lines on their glassware.  Now for something heretical:  I don't hate shaker pint glasses.  Shakers were bashed in the NY Times article as not being conducive to correct foam.  Whatever; I like drinking beer from a shaker glass.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Low ABV Reality

This Good Beer Hunting (GBH) article punctures the narrative that low abv beers are the future of craft beer.  The most recent episode of the Modern Times podcast (Episode 5) confirms GBH's story, at least in terms of IPA production, where Modern Times focuses on higher abv double IPAs, not regular IPAs for its monthly special releases (at around the 19:00 minute mark).  People are drinking beer for the alcohol and brewers are meeting consumer demand.

Most "session" IPAs I have tried have been thin and forgettable.  I don't think the IPA style lends itself to beers much below 5.5% abv, as a heavy dose of hops needs a good amount of malt to get a palatable ratio, which boosts the abv.  If not, you are left with an overly bitter, light beer.  The thought of "sessioning" a session IPA hurts my stomach.  I had the same thought during the brief fad for lame Brut IPAs, which seems to have gone away.  Who was Brut IPA's target customer anyhow?  The resurgence of excellent pilsners, and similar German-stye beers is a trend to watch, and should bring a wry smile to your lips as you remember your brief dabbles into session IPAs and how you lied to yourself that you actually liked those beers.

The best lagers, pilsners, and kolsch beers shine in the 4% to 6% abv range.  Stone Brewing's Arrogant Consortia's 5.8% abv Enter the Night Pilsner is excellent.  Eppig Brewing has a bunch of beers at or below 6% abv, including its special release Best of San Diego pilsner and its Festbier, and I think I have stated in nearly every recent post that Eppig Brewing's 4.6% abv Zwickelbier is one of the best beers in San Diego, and I suspect it's one of Eppig's best sellers.  There are popular IPA-type beers, too.  One of the top selling and best tasting beers in San Diego is AleSmith's .394, which is a pale ale at 6.0% abv, but it could pass as an IPA. 

My own beer drinking does not track the high abv trend.  I used to routinely drink Ruination, Palate Wrecker, Winter and Summer YuleSmith, Dorado, and Tongue Buckler.  Not anymore. Now I prefer IPAs around 6% abv, and try not to exceed 7.5% abv; it is my Pupil Line.  Stone Brewing's 23rd Anniversary IPA and its Enjoy By IPAs are rare, welcome exceptions.  The high abv barrel-aged beers I have just take up space in my fridge and closet.  I never find an appropriate excuse to crack one of these high abv beers, even if packaged in a smaller bottle.  

High abv beers may be showing the strongest growth, but I think the under 5% abv and 5.0% to 6.9% abv categories have growth opportunities with pilsners, other lagers, and good ales.  I know I look for beers with good taste and moderate abv.  Breweries that avoid session IPAs and focus on better tasting, more well-rounded beers with low to moderate abvs can expect to see sales growth exceed industry averages.