Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Self Righteous

Stone Brewing's Sublimely Self Righteous black IPA made a comeback this spring to brighten time spent sheltering in place. Sublimely Self Righteous first appeared in 2007 as Stone's 11th Anniversary beer, and soon after became part of Stone's year-round beer offerings until its retirement in 2015. Part of the beauty of brewing is that nothing needs to stay retired for ever, and Stone has returned to its recipe vault with great success. Late last week I picked up a crowler of Sublimely Self Righteous at Stone's Liberty Station World Bistro & Garden's tasting room, and I am all in for Stone revisiting its classics.

In my mind, black IPAs were designed, in part, as bitter or more aggressive stouts (and also an attempt to label any style an IPA). What hit me with Sublimely Self Righteous was not so much its bitterness, but its upfront and all around sweetness. If dessert beers were a category, Sublimely Self Righteous would land in the center of it. The candied dark malts evoked chocolate and coffee, and Stone did a good job of hiding the 8.7% abv.

When I drink black IPAs I expect the hop flavors to standout, but I cannot think of a case where this has happened, and if Stone can't do it, no one can. I find Sublimely Self Righteous excellent, not because of its hops, but because the hops mix so well with the malt. The sweetness required to match the heavy hops and malt define this beer. Without it, the malt would suffocate taste, like having a loaf of dark bread shoved in your mouth, or the hops would turn the beer acrid, or the 8.7% abv would make it a boozy mess. Instead, it shines; no gags from too much malt, no burnt bitter winces from excessive hops, and no singes from alcohol heat. Sublimely Self Righteous is Stone exhibiting its master brewing techniques.

I can't drink a beer this big on a regular basis, it's beer gluttony. I feel the same way about Enjoy By, which is released four times a year. Stone's idea to make Sublimely Self Righteous a special release is smart, and at least for me, increases its demand factor.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


I try to keep positive on this blog, but I have to vent. If you order beer or food to go, or pick beer and food to go: WEAR A FACE MASK AND SOCIAL DISTANCE. Please do not turn employees at restaurants and breweries into enforcement police. It is rude, it is not their job, and you are putting them at risk as well as making them uncomfortable. You know the rules - obey them!

Over the past week I have been at several restaurants and breweries where some patrons had to be reminded to put on masks and that they had to wait in line. Yes, even if you order online, you have to wait with everyone else for pickup. It is not that hard, I promise. Don't be a Karen - or way more likely - a Male Karen.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Glimmers of Hope - II

The West Coaster had a link to this spreadsheet today, which is a crowdsourced status update of San Diego breweries. You can find this spreadsheet on the San Diego Brewers Guild's website. The database of breweries is a good reference. In looking through the list, I am impressed by how many breweries are operating and selling beer at some level. If I am reading the spreadsheet right, only two breweries have closed permanently, Escondido Brewing and Iron Fist Brewing, and only a handful of other breweries are closed due to COVID-19. The good news is how many breweries are open and selling beer in some form. I did notice that Blind Lady / Automatic Brewing is listed as closed, but in reading Blind Lady's instagram, it is now selling some food and beer on weekends. Last weekend was its second weekend and its stock of foods sold out fast.

I am not going to guess how or when the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Reading this list gives me hope that my initial fears back in March of widespread closures and a permanent change to San Diego's craft beer industry may have been false fears.

Glimmers of Hope

In the twenty minutes it took me to write the previous post on Societe's Pupil I received one of Societe's regular update emails. The opening note is worth repeating in full:

To all of our incredible and loyal fans, thank you.  Thank you for the 8 years of support leading up to the Covid-19 crisis. Thank you for the continued patronage these past 8 weeks.  And thank you for being excited about future releases.  Prior to the pandemic, 90% of our beer was consumed from kegs at bars and restaurants.  Luckily though, we got our own canning line up and running in mid-January and have pivoted hard into packaging. What used to look like a kegging factory now looks like a canning factory.  Our sales team, production team, and retail team have been hard at work making this drastic shift feel normal and thanks to you, we’re now looking to buy more tanks to increase our capacity!  For those of you who miss our tasting room, please know that we miss you too.  And I guarantee you that every bar and restaurant that you miss also misses you.  While it will take some time for this to pass, every time you purchase or drink a Societe beer, you’re indirectly thinking of us here at the brewery and those thoughts definitely make us sleep a little bit better.  Cheers to your health.
Societe is "looking to buy more tanks to increase our (its) capacity." This is incredible. Societe shifted to cans when 90% of its business stopped and now needs added capacity, which must be from demand. From a craft beer industry standpoint this is some of the best news I have read in a long time. It also says a lot about the management and employees at Societe that an established business can adapt and transform its production so fast.

Pupil "That Beer"

The Indie Beer Show is back podcasting again, and on the May 5, 2020, episode (at about 21 minutes into the podcast), Brandon Hernandez made a statement I am still thinking about. To paraphrase him, he said if Societe Brewing's Pupil IPA had been released a few years earlier, it could have been the Sculpin of the beer world, or "that beer." Brandon's right. Now this could not have been possible because Societe did not exist when Sculpin became Sculpin, and he clarifies this. But the point is that Pupil is so good and such a standout beer, it could have had the same impact on the beer world as Sculpin, which Ballast Point rode to its $1 billion sale to Constellation.

Pupil IPA (7.5% abv) is still a standout beer. Every time I have one I tell myself how good a beer it is, and I have been saying this to myself for eight years. I don't doubt Pupil could have stood in for the role of Sculpin in the craft beer world, but then Pupil would have changed, Societe would have changed, and everything Societe would have sucked, except maybe Doug's and Travis's bank accounts.

Upheaval due to COVID-19 happens fast. Years' of business and product cycles are now occurring in the span weeks. I just want a pint of Pupil's consistency.