It is always a daunting task to put together my picks for each day of San Diego Beer Week, and, as always, I direct you to the official website to put together your own plan of action. Hopefully this smattering of events will help. Have fun and be safe over the next 10 days!
Yuengling Brewery's Tampa, Florida facility caught fire over the weekend causing an estimated $1 million in damage. Read more about it here. Operations were expected to return to normal today, as the majority of the damage was to an exterior wall. As America's oldest brewery I'm sure they've had their share of trials and setbacks over the years, but you don't earn that ranking by letting a "little" fire hold up production. Brew on, Yuengling, brew on.
Passion. Excitement. Enthusiasm. These are the feelings I was infectiously left with after visiting South Bay's new family-run Border X Brewing. Owner Marcelino Favela and his son Marcel guided me through each of the 4 beers they currently have on tap, explaining the methodology of each brew, going over ingredients & brewing techniques, and forecasting what the future holds for them as one of the newest entrants onto the thriving San Diego craft beer scene. Not only was I impressed by the energy of the people behind the beer, I was equally impressed by the beer itself. Abuelitos Pale Ale was probably the most complex of the bunch, made so by the use of locally grown hops and the addition of locally grown figs. I liked this beer a lot. Random Hoppiness IPA was a bit tame for my IPA-abused palate, but was still good and had a very unique flavor profile. My personal favorite, Gran Jefe, was a crystal clear Hefeweizen weighing in at around 6.1% alcohol. All of the banana and clove notes you would expect from this style were prominent in the nose, and despite its moderately high alcohol content, the beer wasn't heavy at all. Incredibly light and refreshing, this is a beer I could drink all day long. Their "Seasonal" beer was a Saison, and also very good, featuring the spicy notes that have become characteristic of classical farmhouse brews. They currently brew on a small 15 gallon system, but have recently purchased 100 gallon tanks in order to ramp up production as demand increases. From what I've seen, and tasted, that won't be very long, and I can't wait to see what they do with the increased capacity. You know what to do, head for the Border!
Moldy beer bottles, that is. I have been to 3 separate grocery stores recently where I have found mold growing on the outside of the beer bottles. Somehow it's always been the beer I wanted to purchase! Some of the beers I passed up, others I cleaned off before or after buying. Perhaps it's my own fault for buying beer at a grocery store instead of a proper beer or liquor store. Whatever the case, I would just like to know where this mold is coming from or what is causing it! Can anyone tell me?
I was excited to visit the new Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits Little Italy location, officially known as their "Tasting Room and Kitchen", and certainly wasn't disappointed! Open less than a week, the spot was hopping on a late Sunday afternoon. Featuring more than just their stellar beer lineup, a wide range of food options are available to enjoy with your brew, and they even offer a kids menu. While I didn't order any food this time, I did get to try a couple of beers I had never had before. Their Homework Series #2, a Belgian Double IPA, was just as advertised. The Belgian yeast complimented the big beer without overpowering it, giving a nice counterpoint to the massive, yet balanced, hop/malt profile of the beer. Ingrid's 1 in 8 (2012), categorized as an American Strong Ale, defied description. "Unique" is the word that came to mind as I sipped it. It was very good, but there was a flavor I couldn't put my finger on. I suppose a bit of research could reveal the mystery ingredient, but I'd rather just order it again and see if I can figure it out myself. That will require a return trip before the beer is gone, which isn't a bad idea since I didn't get to try the food yet. I have a feeling I will be seeing a lot more of Little Italy now!
As usual, I had a wonderful time at this year's Great American Beer Festival. Also as usual, I met some great people and drank some fantastic beer. You can see some photos from the day here. I had the pleasure of pouring beer for BlueTarp Brewing Co. out of Decatur, Georgia. Owner/brewer Tom Stahl and his wife were great to work with and showed real passion for the brew. Open just 10 months, the quality of the beer was excellent. The kitschilly titled "Mother Hoppin' Double IPA", which was kitschilly defined as "anti-sessionable in nature", was among the best I've ever had. That's saying a lot for a brewery that's been open 10 years, let alone 10 months! Great people and a great product is what's required for long-term success, and these guys are on the right track. Although I was perfectly happy to stay right where I was and sip on Tom's beers, I ventured out into the sea of beer drinkers several times throughout the day to see what other fine beer was available. Kudos go to Avery Brewing Co. for serving my favorite brew of the day, "Uncle Jacob's Stout". A massive Bourbon Barrel Stout clocking in at almost 18% alcohol, I've not been able to get it out of my mind ever since. My goal is to find this beer and buy as much as I possibly can. I can only imagine what a few years of aging will do, and I plan on finding out! Sadly, and at no fault of their own, my least favorite taste of the day was of a beer by Stone Brewing Co. You read right. Stone Brewing Co. "Reason Be Damned", a Belgian Style Abbey Ale aged in Red Wine Barrels, for me had picked up too much red wine in the aging. With the first sip I was transported to an ill-fated evening that started with several bottles of beer and ended with a single glass of red wine. I'll spare you the details, but needless to say I don't plan on reliving that evening, or this beer, ever again. Great people. Great beer. Not-so-great beer. It's all part of the experience, and I can't wait to do it all over again next year!
Before I give my highlights (and lowlights) of the event, I wanted to pay tribute to this year's competition winners. The complete list can be found here. A special congratulations on the 11 medals brought home by our local San Diego breweries. Although I'm familiar with some of these award-winning brews, several are new to me. I'd like to get out and try these beers in the coming weeks, and I recommend you do the same. Taste for yourself why San Diego always does so well in Denver each year!
I'm back from Colorado and the Great American Beer Festival! Delighted, dazed, and perhaps a bit dehydrated, I had an amazing time. That being said, I am so happy to be back in San Diego, home to the best people, breweries, and beer in the world! More importantly, I'm back with my family where I belong! I will put together a recap of the festival, but right now I'm just going to relax, enjoy the beautiful weather, and possibly even have a beer!
Cue up John Denver, because I'm headed to his namesake for the Great American Beer Festival, where I'll be pouring beer for thousands of craft beer fanatics! I'll keep you posted pictorially over the next several days so that you can take the trip with me! See you in Denver!
You can usually judge the popularity of a brewery by the level of noise it emits as you approach it. When I got out of my car, parked on the street a short distance from Belching Beaver Brewery, I instantly knew I had found a North County hotspot! Open nary a year, this young brewery has not only developed a large enough fan base to keep the original tasting room packed with people at 5:30pm on a Sunday afternoon, just 30 minutes before closing time, but a second tasting room in North Park has also been going strong since the end of April. I've had very limited experience with their beer, but I like what I've tried. On this visit I experienced Dammed! Double IPA. It was dam good! Sorry, I couldn't resist. Their affinity for beaver themed beer names is infectious. Anyway, these guys are doing it right! Good people, making great beer, treating their customers like old friends. That is a recipe for success, and I believe they have it mastered!
North County's burgeoning craft beer scene has given birth to several great breweries over the last year or so, Rip Current Brewing being one of them. Casual and comfortable, the tasting room features a nice sized bar, several barrel "tables" with bar-height chairs, a wall lined with vintage beer cans (my favorite feature), and has a nice view of the brewing area. An extensive tap list with styles ranging from Hefeweizens to Porters instantly had my mouth watering, but I decided to just try an IPA and a IIPA. I know, what a shock. The Lupulin Lust IPA, which weighed in at 8.3% alcohol, was quite good. Very smooth for an IPA, it drank more like a IIPA. In The Curl IIPA, at 10.3% alcohol, was also very good, and had a very distinct twang from one of the hop varieties used in the brew. It took me off guard at first, but a few sips in and I was acclimatized to the unique flavor profile of this beer and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the glass. If these beers are indicative of their other offerings, and I believe they are, then several return visits will be necessary to fully explore the rest of their menu. Changes to their tap list with each visit could complicate that plan, but I'm willing to put in the time and effort needed to get to know this brewery, and the great beer they produce, better!
Apparently I missed the memo that today was a day dedicated to barrel aged beers. The day has all but passed, yet nothing barrel aged has passed through my lips. Perhaps this weekend will hold such a beer. Perhaps not. Either way, I think any day is a good day for a barrel aged beer, don't you?
A great, or not so great, craft beer experience can make, or break, an evening out at your favorite restaurant or bar. Sometimes you can't even put your finger on it, but something is off, and the outing ends on a less than perfect note. Arming yourself with a few things to look for can go a long way in assuring a stellar beer-drinking experience each and every time you go out. This article has some tips that will help you keep your eye out for great, and not so great, beer practices at the spots you frequent. With a little diligence, great beer service can become the norm, rather than the exception.