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Nobility at it’s Finest; Noble Ale Works’ Mosaic Showers Double IPA.

It should come as no surprise that after my visit to their Anaheim brewery, Noble Ale Works is a brewery that I’ve continued to pay a lot of attention to. Noble has been very busy expanding their line-up and growing their number of devoted fans with a steady stream of finely tuned ales and one milk stout that has gained a cult following, Naughty Sauce. There can be little denying that Noble has become one of the preeminent breweries in Orange County and they continually rise in the ranks of all Southern California breweries.

One particular series of Noble’s that has captured the attention of Hop Heads everywhere is the ‘Noble Showers’ series. This bombastic set of double IPA’s is a platform to display the complex and alluring flavors of a single hop variety while using the same base recipe. Previous releases in the series have highlighted such hop strains Nelson Sauvin, Chinook, Amarillo, Citra and more. The latest entry in the series, highlights a favorite of mine, Mosaic, and I wrote down some of my thoughts that will hopefully inspire you to run out right now and find your own bottle of this single hop double IPA.2015-01-01 17.48.46

Nobel Ale Works – Mosaic Showers Double IPA; 8.8% ABV; available on draft or 22oz bottles.

The beer pours from the bottle with a beautiful golden color, with excellent clarity as the bubbles of carbonation dance to the surface and form a nice thin layer of foamy goodness. The nose is a starburst full of big fruit flavors, mango being the most obvious to my senses. The aroma of the beer is vibrant and gets the mouth watering in all the right ways a finely crafted beer should. On first taste, you know this is a big, flavorful double IPA that is packed with hops on the front end. While the hops hit you in the front, the malts play the important roll of making sure all the fruity, hoppy flavors of the mosaic don’t overwhelm the palate. The malt back bone does it’s job very well by not trying to battle with the hops and allowing for all the flavor potential of mosaic to be on full display. For IPA fans, this beer is insanely drinkable and provides a wonderful example of what mosaic hops brings to the table.

Final Verdict – Go get this beer immediately. If it’s not in your area, find someone to bottle trade with because it’s really that damn good.

I’ve enjoyed almost all the releases in this series that I’ve been fortunate enough to try. Mosaic Showers DIPA is no exception as it starts 2015 on a very high note. I can’t wait to see what the guys at Noble Ale Works have in store for the Showers series for the rest of the year. All I know for certain is that I’ll be more than happy to continue drinking them.

Cheers,

Tom


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No need to be humble; New English Brewing’s Humbly Legit IPA is on point!

New English Brewing has been around San Diego for a while now, almost seven years if memory serves. For reason’s I can’t possibly explain, other than perhaps my own sillyness, I’ve not made the time to try more than a small handful of beers from them. It’s possible that my love for big hop bomb IPA’s has clouded my judgement to this point. Maybe I delude myself into thinking that they only make english style ales that I wouldn’t be interested in. I’m here to tell you that it was a error on my part to not make the time for the creative brews coming out of this inventive brewery and it’s something I’ll be remedying in 2015.  Simply put, whenever I do have a beer from New English Brewing, I come away impressed.

This past year I was able to try their Brewers Special Brown Ale, which to me was on the same level as Alesmith’s Nut Brown Ale as perhaps two of the best representations on that style here in San Diego. The pleasant surprise that beer gave me was quickly forgotten as my next dose of New English was in the form of their Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout. A big, chocolatey, roasty glass of goodness like this is certainly something to be shared with the masses. After having only two offerings, New English had blown the doors off my expectations.

In what could only be negligence on my part it took me almost six months to make the next opportunity to try New English Brewing, this time in the form of an IPA called Humbly Legit, a West coast style IPA that still manages to stay true to the English Ale roots by which New English operates.2014-12-29 23.55.29

Humbly Legit comes in at a healthy 7.5% ABV and upon popping the top you get a wonderful floral nose with hints of citrus and all the goodness that awaits within. The beer tastes incredibly clean and crisp with a malt presence that is certainly noticeable but not in the manor typically associated with the type of IPA’s made in the United Kingdom. The use of English style malts here is put into a complex and careful harmony with the use of cascade and centennial hops, which provide that wonderful aroma as you drink your beer. The sweetness of malts never threaten to overwhelm as the hops provide a nice level of bite that keeps a certain west coast character in the brew, it’s a wonderful balance and it drinks very clean with only the slightest lingering of hops on the backend.

My Assessment: This beer is a winner and will provide the final kick in my pants to get me over to their brewery in the very near future, because these guys are making really great beers of all styles with traditional English malts but healthy dose of West Coast hops to create something truly unique and exciting to try. Go get you bottles of Humbly Legit now or just stop by the tasting room at 11545 Sorrento Valley Rd Suite 305 San Diego, CA 92121

Cheers,

Tom


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Brew Review: Evil Twin Brewing : Molotov Cocktail Single Simcoe Hop Edition

Evil Twin Brewing has always been a brewery with a uniquely compelling backstory. That being said, I’ve yet to have the opportunity to really dig into their wide array of brews unless it’s in a collaboration with another brewery. Even then, my opinion of the collaboration beer was always a little off from the general consensus. There is little doubt that Evil Twin has a very solid reputation in the craft beer community and I was more than excited to give one of their beers a taste, and when you tell me it’s a simcoe hop edition of said beer, I’m even more into it. So lets talk about Evil Twin’s Molotov Cocktail: Single Simcoe Hop Edition.

Molotov cocktails are perhaps the weapon of choice of political dieesents the world around. Usually you see them whenever a peaceful demonstration turns violent. It’s a weapon of the masses, easily made and even more easily deployed. The more practical applications of a molotov cocktail are fighting off roaming hordes of zombies or a Cyberdyne Systems Series Model 101 Terminator who has come back in time to kill you. A molotov cocktail can be a pretty useful concoction to use against your enemies. Besides, who doesn’t want to stick a rag in a bottle of alcohol and light it on fire?2014-12-27 21.29.48

As I opened the bottle on this 22oz bomber, I got a nose full of pine and citrus aroma. The beer pours as a hazy golden copper with medium carbonation. Upon raising the glass to my lips, I’m surprised as the beer hits my palate with sticky sweetness that begins to coat my tongue. It’s not what I was expecting at all. Perhaps even more surprising was the resin like after taste that lingered in the back of my throat for a minute. Setting the beer down, I went about resetting my expectations for the beer and went back to tasting and gathering my thoughts. The beer has a very serious malt backbone to it, which is perhaps what accounts for the simcoe hops being considerably muted from my point of view. Granted, I tend to prefer all my IPA’s to be much more hop forward than this beer, so perhaps I hold a skewed perspective. The beer drinks easily enough and is insanely smooth considering the high 13% ABV that is hardly perceptible. I only wish the simoce hops more easily stood out from the malty sweetness of the brew. If you like your IPA’s with a strong malt character this beer might be right up your alley.

It might seem as though I’m down on this beer, but I’m nothing if not diligent when gathering information so I went about checking around and it does seem that I’m in the minority when it comes to this beer. It rates very highly on both beer advocate and ratebeer.com. Perhaps it’s a simple matter of my palate being more geared to hop forward beers or my everlasting devotion to West Coast Style IPA’s, but this beer didn’t knock my socks off.

My Assessment: If you like your IPA’s with a more pronounced malt profile and sweet caramel notes, you will really like this beer. If you prefer your brews to be more aggressively in your face with hoppy, bitter goodness, you might want to look elsewhere.

I’m looking forward to trying more beers from Evil Twin, if you have any suggestions on what to try next please let me know.

Prost,

Tom


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Merry Christmas, you filthy animals.

Back after a longer than expected break and what do I look around and see? Christmas lights and Christmas trees. The season is once again upon us and I couldn’t be happier about it. I always find this time of year to be magical and I love to think back to those Christmas glories of long, long ago. It’s very silly of me, but I still sit back and watch all the Christmas classic movies and animated specials and I get that feeling deep down that still wants me to believe in Santa Claus. Corny? Probably, but growing older just means that now I have the chance to play Santa to my loved ones, and if you happen to be a lover of craft beer, which I know you are, you are probably dying to see what Santa has in his bag this year.

Last year, I gave you a run down of twelve of my favorite winter/holiday/Christmas beers, click here for part 1, part 2, and part 3. I still stand by these beers as welcome additions to your holiday festivities, but this is a new year and I’ve found a few more that I’d like to bring to your attention to help make your Christmas merry and bright!

Avery Brewing – Old Jubilation Ale – At 8.3% ABV, this is pretty big beer in a small twelve-ounce bottle. Described as a strong ale, I found this beer to be a delight to drink. Rich, dark color, which is appropriate for the holiday style, the beer is smooth and drinks very easy with noticeable notes of toffee and hazelnuts. This is an excellent ale sure to put a smile on old Uncle Ebenezer’s face. The beer is also cellerable, so be sure to set one aside to see how is grows next Christmas.2014-11-29 22.08.47

The Bruery – 7 Swans-a-Swimming – A traditional Belgium Quad brewed by the gifted guys in Orange County? Sign me up please! This is a really big beer at 11% ABV with lots of raisin and apricot flavors to along with sweet, sticky caramel and a hint of pecans. An incredibly tasty beer that I have also placed a bottle in the cellar to see how it ages. This one will have Tiny Tim doing backflips in no time!2014-12-15 14.33.04

Gouden Carolus Noel – This might be the most controversial beer of the day. Some people will love it, other will not. This Belgian Strong Ale comes in at 10.5% ABV and has one of the most divisive flavor profiles I’ve yet to encounter. I hate the flavor of liquorice and this beer is dominated by it. However, perhaps due to the mixture of sweet candied sugars and spices, something about this beer kinda works for me. I wouldn’t recommend it over the other beers I’ve listed, but if you are one of those people who love the flavor of black liquorice (and aren’t in jail for being a serial killer) this is a beer you will absolutely love to have around your holiday table.2014-12-07 19.56.24

So that will wrap things up for a few new holiday brews to pass around to your loved ones this holiday season. I hope you all have a safe and wonderful Christmas and we all get lots of really neat beers and beer related merchandise from Santa!

Prost,

Tom


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November 10th; The day Green Flash Brewing bought Alpine Beer Co.

It’s a Monday morning in America’s Finest City and its mega craft beer event, San Diego Beer Week, is in full swing. Most of us craft beer enthusiasts are contemplating which of the dozens of fantastic and fun events lined up all over the county to attend. Then something happens. News from the craft beer industry breaks and San Diego beer drinkers do a collective double take and everything in our world of hand crafted brews comes to a screeching halt at the news and we let out a gasp of “What with the what what?”

Green Flash Brewing has bought Alpine Beer Company.

Honestly, it took me several long minutes for me to wrap my head around the very notion of it. While it’s certainly not unheard of for a craft brewer to acquire a smaller craft brewer, Samuel Adams has been doing it for a while now (even if you don’t consider them to be craft any longer), the idea of it happening here in San Diego took me by surprise.

As is no longer shocking, after a quick perusing of my social media feeds, there was a lot of mixed reaction. Some people liked it, some didn’t. Some out right hated it while others where just hoping the beer wouldn’t be affected. I think if the announcement wasn’t coming on the heels of the news of Anheuser-Busch purchasing Portland craft beer legend 10 Barrel Brewing this past week, the news might not have met with such diverse reactions.

I think a lot of assumptions were made initially, and hopefully now that the shock has worn off, people see this for what it is, two craft beer companies coming together to make each of their brands stronger and increase their odds of continued success in a beer market that is, with the exception of craft beer sales, flat or in decline depending on whose numbers you are looking at.

After reading several articles on the sale and the official press release, which you can find here, it’s clear that this is a move the will benefit both companies and craft beer drinkers alike.

Green Flash has an incredible line-up of beers, excellent marketing strategies and well thought out expansions plans, including a new facility which has recently broken ground in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Their larger production facility will mean that Alpine beers, long coveted and argued to be the best IPA’s in the world, will now be available to more people. How can this be considered a bad thing?

On the surface, it may look to some as if this is like Anheuser-Busch, a giant corporation gobbling up the little guys in an effort to stop the competition. I believe there is nothing further from the truth. What A.B. is doing is an attempt to get a foot hold in a market that they have been boxed out of by purchasing companies like 10 Barrel, Goose Island and others that already have a foot in the door.

The situation with Green Flash and Alpine is totally different. For one thing, Green Flash helped to create the market they are in. To the people who run the company, craft beer isn’t about competition but about comradery and the belief that great beer brings great people together. Alpine Beer Company on the other hand, has enjoyed immense popularity, particularly for their murder’s row of IPA’s like Duet, Nelson, Hoppy Birthday, Exponential Hoppiness and others. However, the bottom line has always been that they are a small brewery in east county San Diego and the demand for their beers continues to outpace their ability to brew it all fast enough. An experiment earlier in the year, where Alpine allowed Green Flash to brew their IPA’s meet with Alpine head brewer & co-founder Pat McIIhenny’s approval. One could speculate that this was the genesis of the idea for the new ownership arrangement.

Alpine Beer Company will still be run the same way. The labels on the bottle will be the same. The beer in the bottles will be the same. Pat will still be making the beer to his exacting standards. The small brewery and brewpub will still be open in Alpine, the plans for a new, larger restaurant are still in the works. The biggest change will be the volume of beer made and where it’s made at; Green Flash. This opens the door to wider distribution throughout California and I’d guess it’s only a matter of time before 49 other states will get their chance at some of the best beer in the world. And perhaps most importantly, the roughly 20 employees who work at Alpine will now have the opportunity for health insurance, 401K and other perks that the small scale brewery was unable to provide before now.

While a tiny part of me is sad that the Alpine Beer Company that was something of San Diego secret is now done and over with, the rest of me is very excited for the the rest of California, and the country to now be able to get their hands on what I consider to be the finest craft beers on the planet, because if you’ve not had Nelson IPA from Alpine, you are truly missing out on something special.

Cheers,

Tom

 

 


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San Diego Beer Week 2014; It’s Here!

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year. Time continually seems to move with the rapidity of a crimson and gold cowled super hero (The Flash, he runs fast!). Yet here we are, almost 365 days removed from the start of one of the most amazing times to be a resident or a visitor to the Craft Beer Capital that San Diego has become. That’s right folks, the electricity in the air, the gentle rumbling of stomachs, that little bit of drool I have in the corner of my mouth… it all signals the start of San Diego Beer Week!

The local breweries of the city have all be busy this past year. Most are growing, setting up new and larger brewing facilities. Some are cementing their reputations for quality, some are still starting up and this is their first year as part of the beer week fun, but one thing cannot be denied, over the past year San Diego has continued to turn out some of the finest craft beers on the planet and this is the week that we all, locals and visitors alike, get to celebrate and share our high quality fermentables with everyone at just about every bar, restaurant and brewery in town.

There are so many fun and incredible events every day between November 6th (Beer Week eve) to the end of the event on November 16th that it’s practically impossible not to find something to suit your needs. This is also an amazing opportunity to take your friend who maybe hasn’t yet had the opportunity to sample the craft beer scene here in town and help show them whats it’s all about and spoil them with some fantastically fresh and tasty beers as well.

The amount of events is almost impossible to cover here, but a pretty detailed listing is available at SDBW.org, so head over and check it out. There is also a convenient app available for your smart phone that will help make planning your time considerably easier.

A lot of the events are free to get into, but some do require tickets to be purchased. Please check with each location if you have any questions about that before you head out. Also, you might want to download a ride-sharing app like Uber, Lyft or Sidecar to make sure that in all of your excitement, you still have a way to get home.

I’m only going to mention a few of the insane amount of events/tastings/pairings and tap takeovers that are planned. Use the site listed above, or check social media of your favorite bars, breweries and restaurants for their event schedules.

November 6th (Beer Week Eve Kickoff)

Friend of the blog, Rudy Pollorena Jr. aka Crafbeerd, will be holding the first of many pop up events tonight at Mike Hess Brewing in North Park at 6pm. Swing by for a beer and check out the latest designs from our resident craft beer artist.

Ritual Kitchen will be hosting a Rare & Local taps event tonight featuring incredible beers from IPA juggernauts Alpine Beer Company as well as Alesmith, Groundswell, Lost Abbey, Monkey Paw and Ballast Point.

You might see me at both places today.

November 7 & 8th

Guild Fest – This is the spot where you can rub elbows with San Diego’s craft beer dignitaries while taking in a great view with craft beer and tasty food in your hands. A not to be missed event, tickets are required, get them at SDBW.org

November 9th

– Worlds Largest Bottle Share – Friend of the blog, Brian Beagle is helping to make this new event one that will be talked about for a long time to come. This is the opportunity to hit bars along the legendary 30th street, from Normal Heights to North Park to South Park, all on a shuttle bus as you and your friends share bottles (bring a few, nothing fancy unless you want) and get to sample some amazingly rare beers along the way. Tickets are only $10 and the event goes from 1pm to 6pm and knowing Brian, there will be a ton of fun along the way. Click here for more details and how to get your tickets.

– 6th Annual Green Flash Smoke Out at Carnitas Snack Shack. If that doesn’t say enough, this link will have to, because I don’t have the words.

November 12th

– Alesmith’s Speedway Grand Prix – So let me get this straight, I’m going to sample 12 different variations of the finest stout in all the land? Sign me up. Tickets here.

– Battle of the IPA’s at Urge Gastropub. A fun, blind tasting event where your votes will help decide the winner! This is always a good time and the food at Urge is second to none. No tickets required. More info here on all their SDBW events.

There is a very good chance that I’m at both of these events.

November 14th

Hamilton’s Tavern will host its Firkin Friday with dueling casks from Monkey Paw Brewing, with personal favorite Bonobos going up against their 3rd Anniversary Ale. No SD Beer week is complete without at least one visit to this fantastic bar.

Also over the course of the week head to Toronado for only about 50 different IPA’s and take a look and the new “other side of the bar” as Toronado grows! They will also be hosting an event on the 14th, no tickets needed but it should be a blast as always. Be sure to say hi to Nate.

This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of all that will be happening in town over the next 9-10 days, depending on how you want to count. Check the websites of your favorite bars and breweries to see what they have going on. Lots of tap take overs, meet the brewers, keep the glass events that I can’t even keep track of.

Enjoy your Beer Week San Diego, you’ve earned!

Cheers,

Tom


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It’s the Great Pumpkin (Beers), Charlie Brown!

It’s that time of year when the temperature begins to drop and the cool, crispness in the air signals the change of season from summer to fall as the leaves begin to turn color and sail to the ground where they wait for us to rake them up into big piles for the children of the neighborhood to jump into.

Well, maybe not in Southern California.a97bf1d1-794a-401e-a8dc-16a9dfe23805

October in San Diego usually means odd pumpkin patches in the middle of parking lots with straw on the ground. Costume shops in every strip mall that has an unoccupied building and lunatics who try to tell you that cold cider is just as good as hot cider. Savages I tell you!

But what we don’t have in the way of the more iconic definition of the fall season, we more than make up for in our efforts to evoke that fall feeling of cool nights and crisp air with some truly wonderful pumpkin ales made by some of the best craft brewers in San Diego, and for this list, one who is slightly further away.

Much like last week’s post on specialty ingredient hibiscus, pumpkin is something that can easily be done wrong. It’s also easy to look at the absolute flood of pumpkin related items and say that pumpkin beer is simply a gimmick to get money from suckers who worship at the house of gourd.

The question has been asked to me on several occasions; can pumpkin beers be considered a true craft beer? Or do you lose credibility because of the perception that pumpkin beers are merely a fad? It’s a question I like to answer with another question; Is it brewed by a craft brewer? Than the answer is yes, it’s craft beer. However, if you want to delve into the question further, I will happily elaborate. The beer must be carefully crafted to be something unique, not something that is simply allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon added to a fermentor. The design of the beer has to be really strong and showcase what real pumpkin flavor can bring to the world of craft beer.

That being said, allow me to present four craft beer that might make you rethink the way you look at pumpkin beer.

Coronado Brewing Company: Punk’in Drublic Imperial Pumpkin Ale.2014-10-08 18.39.43

The beer opens with a rich orange/amber color. lightly carbonated. The nose is a mix of pumpkin and nutmeg with a noticeable hint of cinnamon. First taste is a nice blend of natural pumpkin flavor with more sublet notes from the added spices and a light honey sweetness. The beer drinks easy and has all the nice flavors that a fall beer should have. The spices don’t overpower the beer, you can readily taste the natural pumpkin flavor without thinking that you are being force-fed pumpkin pie in a bottle. Plus the brew has a nice 8.0%ABV which you might not suspect as I found it to be a rather subtle. I love the design on the bottle and the name alone kind of makes it an easy sell to me, good thing it is also easy to drink and even easier to recommend.

Mike Hess Brewing: Magma Cucurbita, Imperial Pumpkin Stout.2014-10-13 16.06.38

Another beautiful bottle for a stout that pours at an impressive 7.25%ABV. The color is a dark molasses with a rich foamy head. The aroma is a roasted earthiness mixed with subtle hints of spice. Taste wise, it’s matches well with it’s aroma. This beer is roasted like pumpkin seeds and has an earthy quality like the brew just came out of the ground at a pumpkin patch. This beer drinks very well and gets more complex and enjoyable as it warms up to room temperature. On the front end of your palate, you get all the malty goodness, the pumpkin and spices are more subtle and noticeable on the back end. This is a wonderful beer to sit around on a cool autumn night with to help you stay warm.

Alpine Beer Company: Ichabod Ale.

With the amazing brewers at Alpine using a wheatwine as the base for this ale, you have to know it’s going to have a little something behind it, and at 10%ABV it doesn’t disappoint. The ale pours a golden orange color with a lovely nose of cinnamon and nutmeg but used moderately so as not to over power the beer they have crafted. It tastes as good as it smells and with a sticky wine sweetness that adds to the overall enjoyment of the beer. This isn’t one that should be gulped down in a hurry, this is a much more easy going, take a sip and enjoy the leaves changing color sort of beer. Take your time with this one and you’ll truly appreciate what it has to offer.2014-10-11 16.16.37

Kern River Brewing Company: Pumpkin Ale.

Kern River is not a San Diego brewery, but you’d never know it from the way their “Just Outstanding” IPA tastes. In fact, that beer is the sole reason I was so excited to try out this pumpkin ale. The label is simple yet the tag line says it all, “So good it’s scary!”. The beer pours a healthy orange color with a nice level of carbonation. The nose on this ale is full of fresh pumpkin smell and that’s exactly what you get as the ale touches your tongue. You’ll notice a soft undercurrent of allspice on the backend, but only if you are paying close attention. This pumpkin beer is amazingly drinkable and at only 5%ABV it’s not going to end your night of trick r’ treats early. The restraint from the temptation to over spice this beer is perhaps the most impressive thing of all. It takes true craftsmanship to show that level of restraint and let the fresh pumpkin flavors be the star of the beer. A phenomenal ale and luckily, everyone I’ve shared it with has agreed with that assessment. Highest recommendation you go find this beer right now.2014-10-13 23.06.59

So there are my four favorite pumpkins ales for this Halloween season, did I forget any? Let me know which ones have caught your eye.

Now if we could only get the brewers to make that beer with the turkey/cranberry/gravy/stuffing flavor for Thanksgiving we’d be all set!

Cheers and Happy Halloween!

Tom

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