Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Fest Time

I don't know if it is just me, but it seems like there are more local Oktoberfest, or Fest beers available this year than in past years. I have seen canned Fest beers from Societe Brewing, AleSmith, and Karl Strauss (which has made its Oktoberfest beer for years), and a draft marzen version from Mike Hess. Eppig Brewing cans its FestBier, too, and puts it in distinct 16 oz cans. Eppig is a top-notch lager brewer, and it shows in FestBier. The beer brings out the distinguishing yeasty bread taste of a good Fest beer. It is malty and sweet, with slight mineral flavors. The mild bitterness is present but sits in the background and does not protrude. It is not as malty as the big German beers of this style, and it has more hop character, albeit subtle. It pours clear and more orange than a typical lager, but is paler than German Oktoberfest beers. FestBier comes in at 6% abv, but drinks and feels lighter than its abv. This beer showcases the Fest style while still capturing a Southern California sensibility. Wunderbar!

I am glad at the rise of local Fest beers. I think craft brewers used to cede this style to the big German brewers, like Paulaner, Spaten, and Hacker-Pschorr.  The German beers are good, which may have played a part in the reluctance of craft brewers, and also, I think, too, craft consumers wanted hoppier, less malty beers so brewers were afraid to brew a time consuming lager and have it not sell. Lagers seem in the midst of resurgence, which helps lowers the risk of the beers not moving. I am more apt to buy a local Fest beer, so brew away. I think Eppig brews and cans FestBier twice a year: spring and late summer/early fall, but there is no sense in waiting to get a four-pack of this beer. 

Monday, September 21, 2020


Pizza Port and Burgeon Beer collaborated on Nug-O-War Wet Hop IPA. Two versions were brewed; the one brewed at Pizza Port is a West Coast style IPA, and the one brewed at Burgeon is a hazy IPA. Both were released last week and both are wet hop IPAs. I picked up the Pizza Port West Coast version and it is fantastic. Brewed with Strata hops, this beer is sticky and bursts with citrus juice. Nug-O-War is only 6.5% abv, which is an accomplishment given its intensity. This beer is a smash hit that must be enjoyed as soon as possible. The ripeness of wet hop beers diminishes fast, so it is best to drink wet hop beers soon after they are brewed. They do not go bad, but the fresh squeezed pop, which is the joy of these beers, is short-lived. I am on the lookout for the hazy version brewed at Burgeon, and I hope it shows up stores and is not a brewery only release. 

Pizza Port has released one great IPA after another this year, and this is (I think) the second collaboration, or maybe it is the third, I don't know but it does not matter they have all been excellent. Pizza Port's special releases have been a bright spot in 2020.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Virtual Trip To A London Tap Rom

I am trying to stay positive and look forward. I like to investigate breweries in cities I like by reading about them, looking at pictures, researching Google maps, and taking notes for future visits. Here is an article from Pellicle on London's Anspach & Hobday Brewery that has me checking on flights to London. This small brewery is putting out some good beers - its flagship beer is a 6.7% abv porter. A straight up, no nonsense porter. A freaking flagship porter! Rechecking flights now.

The article by beer writer Will Hawkes is well written and the pictures are quality (see below). Don't be afraid of the article's The New Yorker length, it reads fast and is worth the time. Anspach & Hobday has its tap room along the Bermondsey Mile, a part of London south of the Thames River where breweries and other artisan businesses have set up shop in railway arches. I had the chance to visit one brewery here in 2014 (Partizan), but I did it rushed, which I regret. I need to spend a whole day or two along the Mile, hitting bakeries, cheese shops, coffee roasters, as well as breweries and what ever else looks interesting. (I still don't understand why so many tasting rooms in London are only open on Friday and Saturday, compared to the seven days a week in the United States.) 

A picture Anspach & Dobday beers from the Pellice article. Not sure what the beer is.

In addition to its porter, Anspach & Dobday brew a pale ale, a lager, an IPA, as well as special releases and collaborations, and it cans some of its beers; just like breweries here in the United States. But the UK still has its differences even if hazy and West Coast IPA are common. Anspach & Hobday would have its brewers guild card cut in two if it did not brew a cask ale. After the porter, its Ordinary Bitter cask ale is the beer I'd most like to try, although it would make sense to drink the bitter first. 

Anspach & Dobday's Bermondsey Tap Room. Picture from Anspach & Dobday's website.

I recommend reading Pellicle. It has quality food and drink-centric writing and photography. While it is UK and Europe focused, it is not exclusive to this region. It is as much a travel site as it is a food site. Pellicle has podcasts, too. It is worth a follow if you don't already.

Thursday, September 17, 2020


The nightmare year continues its ominous roll. San Diego Eater reported today that Tiger!Tiger! will not reopen. Done. Gone. History. Memory. This one hurts. I did not frequent Tiger!Tiger! because I do not live nearby, but the times I went were all great. Every time. Good food; outstanding beer. The ambience, the employees, and the diverse menu and beer list, when mashed together made each visit positive. It was one of those places that if we wanted to venture out of our neighborhood we always thought about, because we knew the meal would be special and worth it. 

During the COVID lockdown, we have picked up pizzas, salad, and beer from Blind Lady Alehouse (BLAH), Tiger!Tiger!'s sister restaurant, and the process from order to pickup to quality of the food was excellent. After reading the Eater article and interview with Tiger!Tiger! and BLAH owner Clea Hantman, it is time to get another order into BLAH.

I try to keep this blog positive. I try to not even give bad beer reviews anymore (although they are more fun and easier to write). The unrelenting bad news is becoming hard to handle. Restaurants like Tiger!Tiger! made San Diego a better place to live. I am worried about another restaurant here in Point Loma, Royale!, which has been "temporarily" closed for over a month. I am trying to stay optimistic, but still afraid "temporarily" becomes permanent. I know new restaurants will open, and they will be good, but that does not ease my immediate anger about all the Tiger!Tiger!s that are being forced to closed due to events they did not cause. So much damage was avoidable and COVID's impact should have been far less catastrophic. I thought of the last lines of Philip Larkin's short poem The Mower when I heard about Tiger!Tiger!:

The first day after a death, the new absence

Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind

While there is still time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020


Remember the last time you had a Stone IPA? I don't either. This is at the heart of Stone Brewing's problems. This article from Good Beer Hunting, posted yesterday, presents a bleak outlook for Stone and makes a case that Stone's slide started with its filing of a lawsuit against MillerCoors. The article confuses the lawsuit filing date, with the text stating that the lawsuit was filed in February 2019, but it has a timeline graph showing the lawsuit starting in February 2018. Whatever date the lawsuit was filed, people were no longer talking about Stone's beer.

The story should start in July 2016 when Stone received $90 million of private equity financing. One month later Stone hired a new CEO, Dominic Engels, who resigned last month. New private equity investors, new CEO, and the founders still involved. What could go wrong? As part of my day job I get to analyze and see private equity's impact on companies. The cash is great for companies, but this cash comes with a price. From my experience, and I have no idea if this is the case with Stone's investors, private equity focuses on asset extraction for carried interest payments. Stated another way: private equity only cares about paydays for its principals. 

The article states that Stone is actively seeking to sell itself, and that is being driven by the private equity investors. This is news, but it is no shock. Stone's new CEO, Maria Stipp, comes from Lagunitas where 50% of the brewery was sold to Heineken three months after she began, and then Heineken purchased the remaining 50% of Lagunitas less than two years later. Stone denies any plans to sell, which I hope is true.

Going back to Stone IPA, Stone needs to focus on beer. I checked Stone's website, and outside of Delicious IPA it is rare to see any of its other year-round beers at restaurants I frequent. Tropic of Thunder - nope; Fear. Movie. Lions - nope; Tangerine Express - nope; Ripper - nope; Scorpion Bowl IPA - nope; Ruination - nope; Buenaveza - nope; and even Stone IPA - nope. For a brewery, beer must be foremost, but beer is not the first thought that comes to mind when you think of Stone. It is ironic that the most brand and image conscience craft brewery lost sight of marketing and the market, which diminished the brand.

On a personal level, I am pulling for Stone. I like its beers, I like its bistros and tasting rooms, and I like its brand. Cans of Buenaveza have been a household favorite this summer, and in writing this post I learned that Stone IPA now is brewed with several varieties of New Zealand hops, which makes me want to get reacquainted with this classic.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Missing The Modern Times Podcast

The Modern Times: The Podcast ran just seven episodes from April 2019 until January 2020. Then it disappeared. It no longer shows up on the podcast app (Overcast) I use, not even archived episodes, and I can't even find a link on Modern Times' website. (I found the link above on PodBean, and it has all seven episodes, so it is not extinct.) It is too bad, because it was a quality podcast. A beer podcast from a brewery runs a high risk of touting non-stop propaganda or boring you with brewing technicalities. The Modern Times' podcast avoided these traps and kept episodes to around 45 minutes. 

The podcast was informative. For example, it discussed why Modern Times releases more hazy double IPA in its special releases than other beer types (episode 5); the simple answer is greater demand for bigger IPAs. This may seem obvious, but Modern Times' sales run counter to the beer narrative that people want low alcohol beers, thinking that lead to poor selling session IPAs. Other topics I found interesting included how Modern Times selected beer festivals to attend (episode 2?), how it managed its beer release schedules, and a discussion with the Modern Times' employee responsible for the art and design at the various Modern Times locations (episode 4). My favorite part of each podcast was Modern Times' one-star Yelp reviews put to music. These funny songs are worthy of a compilation episode. I am not sure if the Modern Times' podcast was a Covid-19 casualty or not, but it was fun while it lasted.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Northern Pine Extra Pale Ale

Same county but so far away. Northern Pine Brewing is in Oceanside, about thirty-five miles north of where I live. It is not on the way to anywhere I frequent, which makes a trip to the brewery more an aspiration than a likelihood. Lucky for me, my neighbor brought me a crowler of Northern Pine's hoppy extra pale ale, Oceanside Dip*. It is brewed with Simcoe and Idaho 7 hops. It is hoppier (and darker) then a typical extra pale ale, and has a 6.0% abv, which I think is at the high end for this style, too. It had an upfront, piney resin feel in the mouthful, but what else would you expect from a brewery with "Pine" in its name. I liked this beer, not only did it taste good, it was well made. Pulling out the resin on a 6% beer takes skill. Oceanside Dip was bolder than a typical extra pale ale and you could not be faulted for thinking it a hoppy pale ale, or even an IPA. 

Extra pale ale is a style that deserves more popularity. Extra pale ales have more character and flavor than one dimensional session IPAs, but with not much more abv. I know session IPAs are a dead trend, so advocating for extra pale ales to step in as a replacement is an empty argument. Culture Brewing has some decent session IPAs, but my favorite Culture beer was its extra pale ale, which had less than 1% more abv than its session IPAs. In the meantime, I will appreciate extra pale ales when I can get them, like Northern Pine's Oceanside Dip.

* A note to Northern Pine: Please list your beers on your website.

Friday, September 4, 2020

IPA Style Guide

Are you confused by all the different IPA styles? Here is a good breakdown of different IPA styles from beer writer Matthew Curtis in MASH, which looks like a UK trade publication. The article includes definitions of IPA styles I have never heard of (Mountain IPA), an IPA style the author made up (London IPA), IPA styles I have never tried (Sour IPAs and Milk Shake IPAs), and IPA styles I'd like forget (White IPA and Brut IPA). It even goes so far as to kick Session IPAs out of the IPA style altogether, and add India Pale Lagers (IPLs), two decisions I approve. 

Reading this article I realized the Modern Times' Neverwhere IPA I wrote about earlier this week is a Farmhouse IPA. (This is an IPA style that needs to trend! #farmhouseipa.) Curtis gives examples for most of the IPA styles. It's a UK publication, so not all examples are available in the United States. Of course, as soon as you read a style guide you think of beers that bend the style guide, like Societe Brewing's Pupil IPA that has Nelson hops from New Zealand and Citra and Centennial Hops from the United States. So is it a New Zealand IPA or a West Coast IPA? Does it matter? 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

AleSmith IPA Returns

AleSmith IPA my old friend

Step on in and let me shake your hand

So glad that you're here again*

What's old is new again. AleSmith Brewing Company has re-released its original IPA in 16 oz cans. This has become my go-to beer this summer, and it is outstanding. It has that classic West Coast IPA taste profile of pine and citrus. Its bitterness is not overwhelming (or as bitter as I remember it) but it is still sharp enough to extend through the beer's long finish. AleSmith IPA is brewed with Citra and Columbus hops and has a 7.25% abv, which is just right given the malt level. This beer tastes modern (the Citra hops? where they around when AleSmith IPA was first brewed?), and does not transport me back to 2005. I have no problem with AleSmith refreshing its reboot.

The packaging on this beer is outstanding. The yellow and green design, which reminds me of the Oakland Athletics or Green Bay Packers, is eye-catching yet restrained and sleek. I did not buy this beer for its wrapper, but if I did not know AleSmith IPA I would have bought it for the look of the can alone. I know greed is not good, but I would like to see AlesSmith re-release YuleSmith, X Extra Pale Ale, and Anvil ESB in 16 oz cans. 

* From Steely Dan's Midnight Cruiser, with modifications.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Stone Brewing's New CEO

Stone Brewing has hired a new CEO. Maria Stipp, formerly of Heineken-owned Lagunitas Brewing, takes over from Dominic Engles who resigned last month. Stone co-founder Steve Wagner had been serving as interim CEO and will remain in that position until Stipp starts on September 14, 2020. Both Wagner and co-founder Greg Koch will remain active at Stone. According to San Diego Beer News (link above), Stipp's duties include: "overseeing Stone's breweries on the West and East Coast, its hospitality venues (two Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens restaurants, plus seven Stone Brewing Tap Room locations), Stone Distributing Co. and distribution of Stone beers to all 50 states and more than 40 countries. She will also sit on the company's board of directors."

Stone had some bad press this summer, which I am not going to address here, but if you follow craft beer you know the stories. The Beer Rover wishes Ms. Stipp the best and is willing to give her and Stone the benefit of the doubt. Stone gets plenty of grief on-line and any mis-step is relished. Stone's hiring of Stipp is a right step.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020


When it first opened back in 2013, I found the beers from Modern Times Beer fine enough, but not exciting. Lomaland was a decent saison, and if I remember right, Blazing World, not marketed then as an IPA, and Fortunate Islands, then a hoppy wheat beer and now a pale ale, were good but not stellar beers. I thought Black House stout the best beer from the new brewery. I did, though, appreciate Modern Times' attempt to build a core list of beers and avoid the all-IPA, all the time route. Then, soon after it opened, I bought a bottle of Modern Times' special release Neverwhere, an IPA that used Brettanomyces yeast, a yeast used in sours and wild ales, not IPAs. I found it bold and creative, a beer that worked at all my sensory levels. It was funky and intense of character, but remained easy to drink. Neverwhere, in my opinion, raised Modern Times to the level of a serious brewery.

Earlier this summer, in its first July special release, Modern Times re-released Neverwhere in 16 oz cans. I am not sure how much this version of Neverwhere adheres to the original recipe, but it still has a heavy Brett influence, which I liked in the first version. It has a 7.0% abv, nice tropical sweetness, and a funky dryness. It poured orange with a slight cloud; not clear like a West Coast IPA, but not a hazy IPA either.

Modern Times described the beer as,"Fermented with an irrepressibly tropical strain of Brett yeast and hopped with generous amounts of 100% Citra hops, this beer is an explosion of pineapple-laden fruit character, without the tartness of funk typically associated with Brett beers." It had minimal hop bitterness, and I disagree with Modern Times' claim that Neverwhere does not have tartness or funk; it does and that is the joy of the beer, and why you want to drink it. 

Since 2013, Modern Times has earned its status as an elite brewery. It retired Lomaland; Blazing World is now called an IPA; and Black House remains excellent. Modern Times has added beers to its core line up, including Ice pilsner, and releases a number of seasonal and regular monthly beers. It also offers one or two special releases of canned and bottled beers per month, which may include collaborations with other breweries. Modern Times can push boundaries with these beers, and it is where it offered Neverwhere. 

The environment surrounding IPAs has changed since 2013. Hazy IPAs, nonexistent in 2013, have become common, of which Modern Times is a master, and new hops varieties have been developed to lessen bitterness and enhance fruit flavors. I half-expected reality and seven years of IPA evolution to tarnish my opinion of Neverwhere. That did not happen. Neverwhere is still one heck of a standout beer.