Monday, December 31, 2012

It's New Year's Eve - Don't drink & drive!

You know the right thing to do, so I won't beat you over the head with it.  Don't drink & drive, period.  If you plan to drink, plan ahead and make sure you have a safe ride home.  If you don't plan ahead and find yourself without a safe ride home, AAA is coming to the rescue.  Their Tipsy Tow service offers a free ride and tow home tonight.  Check out their website for details, as well as some helpful tips for any festivities you may be planning for this last day of the year.  Have fun, be safe, and I'll see you next year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Brewery Project: Stone

There are few, if any, craft beer circles that would omit Stone Brewing Co. from conversations about the San Diego beer scene.  The Escondido headquarters of this local brewing giant and 11th largest craft brewer in the country is awesome, and must be seen to be appreciated.  I've featured them in numerous posts including this review, this post about their current expansion, and these posts on the Vertical Epic series.  On this visit I decided to do my own Vertical Epic tasting with a glass of 11.11.11 and 12.12.12.  The 11.11.11 had really mellowed.  The Anaheim chilies and cinnamon were not nearly as predominant in the glass as when I first had it over a year ago.  That's not to say the beer wasn't good, it was excellent, just different.  The 12.12.12, on the other hand, exhibited more of its spicy notes this time around than the bottle I had just a few weeks back.  I didn't actually like it as much as I did the first time, but I was also drinking it on the heels of its predecessor, so that could have been the difference.  The beer speaks for itself, the tour is great, the food in the bistro is delicious, and the setting is amazing.  If you haven't been to this brewery yet, you need to make time to check it out.  After all, it's just a Stone's throw away!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Beer. It's What's For Dinner

Now, this Texas ranch knows how to treat its cattle!  If they give IIPA to the cows, I wonder what perks are had by the ranch hands?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bull testicle beer, anyone?

No, it's not a typo.  Check out Bon Appetit's Strange Brews: The Weirdest Beers in America.  It looks like I've got more beers to put on my bucket list!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Who said that?

"No, they're not brussel sprouts.  They're hops."
- The Hop Daddy

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Good beer, good food, good cause

Blind Lady Ale House posted the following on their Facebook page yesterday, regarding today.

"Tomorrow BLAH will be donating 100% of the profits from the entire day to Sandy Hook Elementary School where the terrible shootings took place last week.

Heidi, one of our managers, grew up in Connecticut and her friend, Courtney Martin, has been a teacher at the Sandy Hook Elementary School for ten years.  Courtney was a true hero on Friday morning.  She locked her classroom door and huddled with her children in a corner, keeping them calm and telling them she loved them.  Courtney and her students were fortunately unharmed.

Sandy Hook Elementary School is relocating to a new school in Monroe, a nearby town.  Courtney plans to prepare and decorate their new classroom for a fresh start.  She wants to make the classroom a peaceful and calm place for her students as they begin the healing process.

To help Courtney and her third graders, BLAH will also be collecting gift cards to Office Depot, Target, Staples- places Courtney and the other teachers can purchase supplies for the new school.  If you can, come on by BLAH Sunday (tomorrow.)  We are open from 11:30am to midnight- and bring a card to include in our pack, or simply eat and have a beer.

Spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, by carrier pigeon, reindeer network, etc.  With your help, we can directly help this teacher, her kids and this school."

A special reason is never needed to visit BLAH, but I can't think of a better one than this.  This is a wonderful thing for them to do, and a great chance for San Diego to directly impact those affected by this horrific tragedy.  Have some great beer, great food, and help out a great cause.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Brewery Project: Alpine Beer Co.

One brisk, wintry evening I got into my car and ventured east.  I drove and I drove.  I drove for what seemed to be hours, but was only about 15 or 20 minutes, to the outer reaches of East County.  Finding myself in the quaint community of Alpine, I made my way further east on Alpine Blvd. until I came to a small strip mall.  There, flanking a beauty salon and a small book store, sat Alpine Beer Co., with its brewery at one end of the complex and its pub on the other end.  Intrigued, I went inside.  Alright, so this wasn't my first trip to this small, yet mighty, brewery.  It was, however, a cold, dark, winter's night when I made this trip, so I felt dramatics were in order.  Skipping the small tasting room that I usually visit for samples and growler fills, I went right into the pub.  Bustling as usual, I shared a table with Ricardo, my Alpine connection, and we quaffed a few beers.  Wanting something I hadn't had before, I ordered Keene Idea, a special beer brewed for the 25th anniversary of San Francisco's legendary Toronado Pub.  Brewed as a double version of their popular Nelson IPA, this IIPA packed a wallop of a hop punch.  Extremely aromatic, there was no question what I was about to taste when I took a whiff.  This was an assertive beer, possibly due to its use of lots of Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand, and almost off-putting.  I'll have to explore this hop variety further to see if this is the taste that struck me or if it was something else in this monster of a beer.  The brew was impressive, nonetheless, and is definitely worth a try.  You'd better hurry in, though, if you want to try this limited edition beer, as there's very little available and when it's gone it's gone.  Worth the drive, I recommend a visit to Alpine and its namesake beer oasis.  As they say, "Drink Alpine Ale or Go To Bed!".

Monday, December 17, 2012

Goodbye, cruel world!

Since the world is ending and all on Friday, I thought a weeklong tribute to "world-ending" beers was in order.  These beers may or may not be all that, but the brewers would like to think so.  Enjoy, before it's too late.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Brewery Project: Pizza Port Solana Beach

The spot where it all began, Pizza Port Solana Beach offers the same ambiance and charm as the local chain's subsequent locations, but also has the history associated with being the first.  I have actually only been to this location a couple of times, but have yet to be disappointed.  On this visit I was treated to a couple of beers that I had never had before.  The first, Lou P. Lin, was a rich IIPA.  True to the style, this was a big, hearty beer that screamed hops.  While I sometimes describe this style as "muted", this one was anything but.  I really liked it, but probably couldn't drink more than a couple in a sitting.  Going a completely different direction I tried a local favorite, Santa's Little Helper.  An Imperial Stout, I found it very drinkable.  Not a huge fan of this style, I didn't find it better or worse than any other I've had.  As usual the beer, food, and atmosphere all worked together to create another wonderful visit.  Current roadwork in front of the building makes it a bit tricky to get to, but when it's done it'll be easier than ever to reach this great local landmark.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday rambling randomness

Why is it that non-beer drinkers think a restaurant has a "good beer selection" when Stella and Blue Moon are on the menu?  Is it me, or do others look for a minimum of 20 taps when choosing a place to eat?  If the only beer vessel available is a bottle, mug, or shaker pint, do you reconsider your dining options?  Perhaps it's just me.  Perhaps I'm just thirsty.  Perhaps it's just Friday.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cucumber, Bacon, & Breadfruit

No, it's not my grocery list, it's Draft Magazine's Top 25 beers of the year: 2012.  These are just a few of the interesting ingredients found in the beers taking top honors this year.  The highly sought after Westvlteren XII, subject of yesterday's post and nationwide sales frenzy, is on the list.  Is your favorite?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Did I miss something?

Apparently, I did.  I had seen word of the release of Westvlteren XII today, but didn't know why the release of this beer was such big news.  I do now.  Color me late, color me sheepish.  This is a good blog post about the beer and its unusual release.  Word I've seen is that this is probably already sold out just about everywhere, but it may be worth a look around town anyway.  It looks like it's time to do a tuneup on my beer radar.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thanks, Mom!

My mom surprised me with an autographed copy of Brew Food, a cookbook featuring San Diego beers, chefs, and recipes.  Autographed by the author and several local beer "celebrities", I'll have a good time cooking my way through the beer-laden recipes.  Actually, The Hop Mommy will have a good time cooking her way through the recipes and I'll have a good time eating them!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Brewery Project: Hillcrest Brewing Co.

Cozy, warm, and welcoming are the words that came to mind when I walked through the door of Hillcrest Brewing Co.  There is no mystery here, there are no guises.  The folks here are open and genuine.  A look through their menu, PG-13 though it may be, reflects the carefree, whimsical spirit that makes this brewery unique.  That same spirit comes through in their beers.  With 9 house beers, there is a style to suit any taste.  I ordered a sampler which gave me a taste of 5 of their creations.  The unfiltered U-Hawl Hefe was good, but I really liked the smooth, balanced Brain Lubricant Imperial IPA and the big, sweet Banana Hammock Scotch Ale.  The standout, though, was Long & Stout, their Russian Imperial Stout.  It was very rich, yet its 11% alcohol offered a lingering warmth that begged another sip.  Each of their beers were solid offerings from a brewery that has only been open since June.  I enjoyed my visit, and I'm sure I'll enjoy another soon.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Who said that?

"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."
- Henny Youngman

Thursday, December 6, 2012


My excitement built over the last couple of days as a bottle of Stone Vertical Epic 12.12.12, the culmination of a 10 year series, sat chilling in my refrigerator, waiting for the perfect moment to give it its due attention.  Perfect moments, as it turns out, are hard to come by.  I could wait no longer, so a Tuesday night around 11:00pm seemed as good a time as any.  As I poured the opaque, midnight brown brew into my glass, the rich body of the beer became evident, and produced a thin, caramel colored head that quickly dissipated.  My nose immediately detected spicy notes that were confirmed by my first sip.  A strong winter warmer, my mind was quickly brought to the spices of the season, including cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice.  The mouthfeel was full and rich, as if I had just taken a big bite of pumpkin pie, sans the pumpkin.  Roasty malts came through in the middle, finishing with hints of chocolate and coffee which became more evident as the beer warmed, as did its sweetness.  Bitterness that I had expected in the end was not present.  Instead the brew finished very smoothly, with a bit of effervescence where bitterness would have been.  A beer with spices such as these would not normally be something I would gravitate toward, but this beer is put together so skillfully and is so well-balanced that I found myself drawn to it.  Its 9% alcohol content doesn't hit you right away, but as you make your way through the bottle you know your drinking a big beer.  Having yet to read the bottle, or any other review of this beer for that fact, I don't know how my thoughts stack up against the brewer's intentions or others' impressions.  I've spelled out what I tasted, plain and simple.  I'd love to hear what you think of this final "epic" release.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Has it been 79 years already?

Learn all about Repeal Day here, and think about the turbulent history of what's in your glass today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I wonder what he was buying?

There's not much I can say about this news story.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Epic Conclusion

Stone Vertical Epic 12.12.12, the final installment in the 10 year project, is in stores now.  I've got mine, do you have yours yet?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Brewery Project: La Jolla Brew House

My visit to La Jolla Brew House was, in a word, miserable.  Perhaps just one word isn't enough to describe my visit, but it's the first one to come to mind.  My experience is certainly not indicative of everyone's, as the place was completely packed and I wasn't even able to find a seat.  That in and of itself isn't a strike against this establishment, as there are many places I visit where I can't find a seat yet am completely happy.  The reason this place was packed and no seats were available was because a football game was on.  Everyone there was sporting their team colors of choice.  Loud cheering thundered throughout the space, heavy-handed banging on tables echoed through the room, and several patrons shouted loudly at the many screens hanging from the walls, hurling obscenities like casual greetings.  I don't like football, but I can respect the sport and its fans.  I can also respect establishments that cater to football and its fans.  However, when I'm out to have a good, craft beer the last thing I want to be surrounded by is loud, aggressive football fans.  That's just not my scene.  Putting my surroundings aside, I finally waived down the bartender and ordered a beer.  I had just two house beers to choose from, so I thought I'd try each of them.  I started with the Pale Ale and was not impressed.  It had a funky, soapy taste that I'd only tasted from one other brewery in the county, and I had a hard time finishing it.  After paying $6 for this sub-par brew, I wasn't interested in trying their other offering, a Stout, which isn't one of my favorite styles in the first place, so I called it a day.  Had the beer been stellar I could have forgiven the unfavorable atmosphere.  Since it was not, my whole experience was poor.  The one positive was the employees, who were friendly and helpful.  If you're looking for a place to catch a game with some friends and don't care what you drink, this seems like a great place to go.  If you're looking for a night of great beer, brewed on premises, there are many, better suited places to choose from.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Julian Brewing Co. update

Yesterday's post profiling Julian Brewing Co. had some outdated information.  I was contacted by the new head of brewery operations, Mike Gabbard, and informed that Tom Nickel and his wife Lindsey have not been affiliated with the company since June.  That means that my kudos on the great beer I had go to Mike.  Sorry for posting incorrect information.  Thanks for setting me straight, Mike.  I look forward to my next visit!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Brewery Project: Julian Brewing Co.

When I heard that Gina and Vince Marsaglia, owners of Pizza Port and Port/Lost Abbey, had opened a barbecue restaurant in Julian and a subsequent brewery headed by local craft beer guru Tom Nickel, I new this was a spot I had to hit up.  The Bailey Wood Pit Barbecue proves that Gina and Vince know barbecue every bit as well as they know pizza, and the addition of Julian Brewing Co. to the operation proves that Tom is right at home overseeing the brewing side of things.  Now, I am not a huge barbecue fan, but the Burnt Ends Beef Brisket Sandwich was out of this world.  The sides I tried, including beer battered onion rings, french fries, and potato salad were all excellent as well.  I sampled each of their current house beers, which included Drew's Double IPA, Pale Ale, and Smoked Pumpkin Ale.  All of the beers were good, but I was blown away by the Double IPA.  As one of, if not my favorite, types of beer, I've had really good and really bad interpretations of the style.  This particular beer hit the mark!  Its style was obvious, powerful without being cloying, and it had the smooth, dulled finish that I always look for.  If this beer was ever bottled or widely distributed, it would definitely be one of my go-to brews.  That being said, I can't wait for my next trek to the mountains for some more tasty grub and grog!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wiens Brewing Co.

As promised, the following is from Jacob, my Temecula correspondent.  Nice job, Jacob!

"My wife and I took an anniversary getaway to Temecula wine country and one of our favorite wineries, Wiens, has the best reds in the valley, amazing stuff! If your already rolling your eyes, don't worry stay with me, they recently sent us an email to check out their new brewery that has just opened! We stopped by on a Friday afternoon armed with our curious but inexperienced palates. It was pretty empty inside so at least we didn't have to fight our way to the taps. The employees were very friendly and recommended the eight board taster of all of their beers. It was nice to see a lot of activity in the background, one guy was comparing, smelling, swishing, then he looked up and smiled as if to say yes this job is awesome. We moved thru the tasters from the lighter more forgettable brews, got hit hard with a very good, yet smoky porter, both of us laughed as we almost choked a bit. We recovered with the Red Ale, then we nervously paused just before our last two which were IPA's. Here we wish we had the more seasoned taste buds of the Hop Daddy, but we bravely pressed on knowing he'd be proud. As I pressed my nose deep into the first glass of their Insomnia IPA, I was greeted with amazing scents of grapefruit, citrus, and plenty of hops, inviting me, no daring me to let it flow across my tongue. I bit and was well rewarded, I was surprised that both of us really enjoyed this IPA. It had a nice Brandy like mouth feel finish. We ended our visit with their Descend IPA, a robust dark bitter chocolate taste along with notes of caramel and raisin, it was a welcome assault on the senses. Overall it was a nice shiny new brewery, great people, and quality beer, and that's a formula for success, we hope to be back to try the Braun IPA coming soon!"

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanks, Jacob & Ellice!

My Temecula correspondent and his wife brought me a growler of Descend Black IPA from the newly opened Wiens Brewing Co.  If you are familiar with the Temecula wine scene you probably know of Wiens Family Cellars.  Once focused solely on winemaking, they have opened a brewery now, as well.  I have yet to try the beer, but am anxious to do so.  I am also anxious to make my own journey to the young brewery, but will post Jacob's review in the meantime.  Until then, I've got a growler to open!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Brewery Project: Karl Strauss La Jolla

This week I found myself at a Karl Strauss Brewing Co. brewery restaurant that I had never been to before, La Jolla.  The exterior is understated, blending in with the surrounding architecture.  Inside you find tall ceilings with lots of windows making for a bright, open, airy space.  The staff, as usual, was friendly and attentive.  The bartender told me they were reaching the end of a cask of Big Barrel Double IPA, so that is what I chose.  I was drooling as the beer was cascading directly after the pour.  This is a rich, filling beer and was the perfect choice for my visit.  I really liked this location and am sorry it took me so long to get to it.  That being said, I've got some lost time to make up for here!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The state of beer in California

This is a fair article, but the following snippet made it a worthwhile read.  I'll make sure to pass this along to all of my Colorado friends.  Colorado makes awesome beer, but I've got to be loyal to my home state!

"California is home to more breweries and produces more craft beer than any other state in the U.S., according to statistics provided by the California Craft Brewers Association, a non-profit trade association.  When the craft industry reemerged in the 1980s, the movement was centered in the state, and now 1 in 5 bottles of craft beer made in the U.S. is brewed in California.  According to the association, “California’s craft brewers have been the drivers of innovation in the beer industry,” because as small and often independently owned businesses, they have the ability to respond quickly to market demands and experiment with new techniques."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Take the helm!

You may remember my visit to Helm's Brewing Co., still in its infancy, last month.  Well, they're all grown up and ready for business.  The grand opening is tomorrow, so let's get out there and show our support for this great new brewery!  Watch the video below for all the details.

Click here if you don't see the video.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

This is Epic!

Vertical Epic, that is.  As we quickly approach the arrival of the final beer in the renowned series, Stone Brewing Co. whet our appetites today with a live tasting of each edition, ending with the forthcoming 12.12.12 release.  Relive the experience below.  If you'd like to have your own tasting experience, check out details of the upcoming Stone Epic Festival here.  I told you this was Epic!

Click here if you don't see the video.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Karl Strauss renovation update

I've been anxiously awaiting the completion of renovations to the Karl Strauss Brewing Co. main brewery in Pacific Beach.  They were hoping to unveil the changes during San Diego Beer Week, but that obviously didn't happen.  The following is from their website.

"When we kicked-off our brewery renovation project earlier this year, we were hoping we’d be open to the public by now.  However, as with most construction projects, we’ve run into a bit of a delay – but don’t worry, it’ll be worth the wait.  Look for the Karl Strauss Main Brewery and Beer Garden to open to the public in early 2013."

I'm sure it will be worth the wait!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Who said that?

"Payday came and with it beer."
- Rudyard Kipling

Monday, November 12, 2012

Oh, so true!

This was floating around Facebook last week when I originally shared it there, but I felt it deserved another posting as San Diego Beer Week officially ended yesterday.  Happy San Diego Beer Year!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Brewery Project: Rock Bottom Downtown San Diego

While the food and beer are generally the same at each Rock Bottom, the look and feel to the Downtown San Diego location is decidedly different.  I originally paid them a visit here.  A large bar dominates the lower level of the brewery restaurant, with additional seating sprinkled around the main floor.  A small bar with more seating is located upstairs, overlooking the aforementioned space.  Not as family friendly as other locations, in my opinion, the layout here better matches the nightlife that San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter is known for.  Familiar with each core beer they offer, my eye was drawn to the current cask beer on their beer engine.  A sign read, "Smoked Porter aged 8 months in a Woodford Reserve barrel  ABV 7.5%".  Naturally, this was the choice I made.  The pour was a deep, dark mahogany with an ample head.  The taste was dry, bourbon hitting you right up front, smooth, almost a little thin, and had a strong, boozy finish.  What I didn't detect was any smoke.  Perhaps the bourbon barrel aging masked any smoke the beer originally had.  There was a lot going on in the glass, but it was an overall good beer.  Making the beer even better was its modest price of only $3.75.  I'm always looking for specialty or seasonal releases, so to find one of this caliber, at this price, made me very happy with this stop.  I'm look forward to seeing what other innovative beers they come up with in the future, and will definitely be back to try them!