HOPTOLOGY

Respect the Craft!


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Pucker Up Buttercup! SourFest 2014 at Churchill’s Pub & Grille

I like sour beers. Scratch that. I love sour beers!

However that wasn’t always the case. I remember my first time trying a Flanders Red Ale and my tastebuds freaking out! “What the hell is this?” I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that out loud. In fact I’m pretty sure I said something far worse. My palate wasn’t yet ready for the complexity and mouth puckering awesomeness that waited in a tulip glass, with it’s funky nose of brettanomyces, lactobacillus and all the other yeast beasts that could funk up any beer and take it to another level. Nope, at the time all I could think of was, “This tastes like sour patch kids”.

It was a slap in the face to my taste buds. This is one of those moments were getting a slap in the face was a good thing. It woke me up to a whole new world of beer styles that I had been relatively ignorant of for a number of years. That had to change. My quest to continue to evolve my palate and to expand my beer horizons had found something new to absorb, and I relished the opportunity to learn and to taste my way to finding some of the finest beers in the world. It was time well spent.

Fast forward to now.

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to attend Churchill’s Pub & Grille 5th Annual Peter Reeves Memorial Sourfest. The event is an opportunity to not only have some of the finest sour beers from San Diego and around the world, it’s also an opportunity to make a donation to cancer research which is always a worthwhile cause and one that I’m more than happy to drink to.

The bottle and draft list featured over 60 world class concoctions including an impressive array of delights from Almanac, Cascade, Lost Abbey, Russian River and international superstar Cantillon. Impressive is a word that would almost qualify as an understatement when used to describe this list of beers.

My wife and I made the trip to San Marcos with a quick stop on the way in Escondido to grab our North County drinking partners, then we braved the heat and stood in line for twenty or so minutes before making our way inside and grabbing a comfy seat and we quickly got to work on the menu.

What you don't see is us melting in the sun.

What you don’t see is us melting in the sun.

All said we managed to drink right around 25 sours, which was a lot more than expected but once my wife offered to drive us all home, it was something we couldn’t resist. We only experienced a few misses, as the sours weren’t quite tailored to what we like, but they were by no means bad beers. We experienced far more great and amazing beers than we had any right to expect, and rather than list off all the ones I liked I’ll share with you my top 3 of the day, in no particular order;

Lost Abbey Spontaneous Cheer – Spontaneously Fermented Blonde Ale with White Peaches, 6.0% ABV and oh my God is it good! No surprise that the same people who make Duck Duck Gooze also make a bunch of really great sours, but this one was a standout for me.

Societe Highbinder – Sour Ale Aged in Wine Barrels with Raspberries Added, 6.2% ABV and sweet fancy moses is this beer amazing! Everyone knows how I sing the praises of the guys over at Societe and beers like this are the reason why I will continue to do so. I can’t wait to try their next one.

Cantillon Cuvee Saint Gilloise – Lambic Aged for Two Years Dry Hopped with Hallertau Hops, this was a close call because Cantillon’s Lou Pepe Gueuze 2010 was pretty damn kick ass too, but this one just had a certain something that beat it out. Incredible flavors and aged to perfection.

Almanac Dark Pumpkin Sour, Cantillon Lou Pepe Gueuze2010, Societe Highbinder, Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze!

Almanac Dark Pumpkin Sour, Cantillon Lou Pepe Gueuze2010, Societe Highbinder, Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze!

Overall it was another fantastic visit to arguably the best pub in North County San Diego, and I didn’t even get to mention all the amazing eats we had while working our way down the menu. If you’ve not yet had the opportunity to visit Churchill’s, I highly recommend doing so, they have a continually amazing draft beer and bottle list that can make even the most discerning beer drinking happy and a great menu of meals to compliment them all.

So maybe sours aren’t your thing or maybe you’ve not had the opportunity to try very many just yet. I urge you to give them a chance, they are drinks that fit nicely into the beer genre but you should prepare your palate for a completely different adventure with every sip you take.

Cheers,

Tom


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Beer-Con Podcasts; Sounds so good you’ll think you’re drinking craft beer!

On Saturday August 23rd I had the privilege to attend Beer-Con 2014, and it was truly a special event that I’d like to share with everyone. Luckily, Cody from ThreeBZine.com has made that really easy by being onsite and recording his podcast live from the top floor of the ballroom. Cody sat down with each of the guest speakers and really get to the heart of what each person was bringing to the table as far as why they were at Beer-Con and why it’s important that the event continues to grow. It was an impressive lineup of San Diego Beer heavyweights like “Dr” Bill Sysak, Mike Hess of Hess Brewing, Shawn Dewitt of Coronado Brewing, Mike Sardina of Societe Brewing, Grant Fraley of ChuckAlek, Steve Zigray of Rip Current, Angel Miron of Lets Go Clandestino, Katy Hall from White Labs, Misty Birchall of PubCakes, Charles Eck of bottletrade.com and a few others heaped in for good measure, like Rudy Pollorena Jr. and Michael Bowen, the founder of Beer-Con. To be crystal clear, these guys weren’t at the event as some sort of sales pitch to buy their beers, these guys were here to share why it’s important that everyone continues to help craft beer grow and thrive in communities around the country. What these people had to say was fascinating and you’ll be able to tell from they way they speak on the subject, just how passionate they are about craft beer.

What is also very cool about these podcast episodes is the fact that Cody was gracious enough to allow me to sit sidecar as his usual co-host Dustin (who also gave me his blessing) was unable to attend. It was a truly special moment for me personally to get to sit in on these sessions and for that I can’t thank Cody enough. I hope you’ll seek out the sessions that are most appealing to you and enjoy them as much as we did making them, and then you can go back and listen to all the rest because there is some really great information in there as well as a couple of guys having a lot of fun. Cody has been releasing episodes on the iTunes store under podcasts at keyword ThreeBZine (they are free!) as well as on his website (also free!) and if you want to get crazy, head over to bandcamp.com where you can download all the sessions as one great album (Free! but please donate if so inclined).

Please check it out and let me know how we did. Well, to be honest, Cody crushed it as usual, so please let me know how I did.

Cheers,

Tom   


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Save the date: August 23rd is Beer-Con!

Craft beer is my passion. If you are reading this blog odds are pretty good that it’s your passion as well. One of my favorite things to do here on the website and with my friends out at the bars is to share my knowledge and to hopefully learn new and exciting bits of information and insights into the world of craft beer. Whenever the opportunity arises sit back and listen to a respected member of the craft beer community speak about important issues in the world of craft brewing, I will always jump at the chance to sit in and try to soak up as much knowledge as I can. Luckily for us here in San Diego, there is a wonderful collection of very smart and knowledgeable beer people who can not only be informative but also very entertaining. It also doesn’t hurt that quite a few of them can also make a really nice beer to drink.

This is why I am so excited that on August 23, Beer-Con is back!

If you are not familiar, Beer-Con is a convention that is hosted right here in San Diego for all levels of craft beer lovers, from the newest of novices to the most expert of experts, Beer-Con is where you bring your passion for craft beer and share it with others. But this isn’t simply a gathering of craft beer enthusiasts, this is a convention designed to help you learn more about the world of craft beer and you have an opportunity to engage with the people who create your favorite brews. Panels are designed to help impart knowledge and to allow patrons to ask questions of their own.

This year the fun begins at 10am with a keynote address from the master of craft beer pairings, “Dr.” Bill Sysak, which I can speak from personal experience, should really help set the tone for a fun day. Panelist for this year will include, Doug Constantiner from Societe Brewing, Mike Hess from Hess Brewing, Shawn Dewitt of Coronado Brewing, Tristan Faulk-Webster from Aztec Brewing and many more as you get a full day of information and discussion from some of the best craft beer minds in Southern California. Your ticket will also get you a lunch, provided by MishMash, that gets paired with local craft beers and as if that isn’t enough, when the symposium wraps up, the beer festival starts! From 5pm to 8pm you can sample fine brews from the breweries listed above as well as Rip Current, Latitude 33, ChuckAlek and more!

I should also mention that your ticket entitles you to a free limited special edition t-shirt made by CraftBeerd himself, Rudy Pollorena Jr. It’s pretty badass.

You can also get more details on the event itself from my friends over at Three B Zine, the latest episode of the podcast features Michael Bowen, the creator/organizer of Beer-Con as well as Rudy Pollorena Jr. who talks about what ideas went into the design for the special edition t-shirt. It’s great stuff. You can find that episode right here.

This is not your typical beer festival, this is an excellent opportunity to increase you craft beer knowledge and it just happens to have a beer festival at the end to celebrate a successful day of learning from some of the best around about craft beer. Click here to go directly to the ticket purchasing page.

It’s important that all of our understandings of craft beer continue to grow. It’s vital that as consumers, we amass as much information as we can so that we will continue to make informed choices on how and where we want to spend our money. Smart consumers are what macro breweries are most afraid of. Craft Beer can’t change the world unless we help propel it to the great heights that it deserves to be at. Smart, well-informed consumers are going to be the ones that put macro breweries on notice that their time is done. Beer-Con is here to help make new well-informed consumers and help increase the knowledge of those who are already helping to spread the word. So when you go to beer con on August 23rd, take a person with you who needs that little extra push to be a smart consumer, heck bring two or three who need that push. When craft beer drinkers are legion is when we change to world. The revolution has already started, Beer-Con is here to help grow our army. This is your chance to become a better craft beer advocate as well as help make two or three new ones.

Having said all that, be sure to go and have fun! After all, if you aren’t having fun while drinking craft beer… you are doing it all wrong.

Cheers,

Tom


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When Hoptology and Three B Zine met; Next stop: World Domination!

Last week I had the privilege of joining local San Diego craft beer advocate, beer blogger and podcaster Cody Thompson on his excellent Three B Zine podcast, (co-host Dustin Lothspeich was unable to join us that night) which you can find on the Three B Zine website and is conveniently available at the iTunes store and the best part is it’s free! So what is Three B Zine?  Simple, the three B’s stand for Beer, Bands, and Bites, three things that I’m all too happy and have way too much to talk about.

Being asked to be interviewed was very flattering, but very fun. With a format like podcasting where you are sitting across from another person and they are firing questions at you, it definitely keeps you on your toes and forces you to gather your thoughts quickly and spit them out coherently. A task that, for me, is not as easy as it looks. Luckily for me, Cody is very good at what he does as the host of the show and always manages to keep everything on track. He is able to create a casual environment where you just want to sit back and chat with your buddy. It didn’t take too long for me to forget the fact that there was a microphone in the room. The Boo Koo IPA from Mother Earth Brewing probably helped with that.

We had the opportunity to talk not only about our love for craft beer and why we’ve gotten into the world of blogs and podcasts, but we also talked about some topics from the retail side of beer sales as well as a recap of our time at San Diego Comic Con. It was an absolute blast and I hope I’ll get the opportunity to do it again one day.

I am humbly asking that, if you enjoy a good podcast, head over to ThreeBZine.com or find them on the iTunes podcast app and download episode 35, featuring me. Early reports are that I don’t sound like an asshole, so that’s good. But I’m always looking for more validation in life that says I’m not an asshole, so please listen and let me know what you think. Then once you are addicted to the sweet melodious sounds of Cody, peruse their back-episodes and download those as well. There are quite a few gems in the bunch. Thanks, and my fingers are crossed that you don’t think I sound like a douche nozzle.

Cheers,

Tom


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2014 Sore Eye Cup; Will your Favorite Beer be Representing?

Last year I was invited to participate in the judging for the first ever Sore Eye Cup Award, given to the brewery who produces the best regularly brewed beer in San Diego. Alesmith Brewing was deemed the winner for Speedway Stout and while they faced sturdy competition, they were able to easily outdistance themselves from the pack. This year, Brian Beagle of Sore Eye Sports, has graciously allowed me to return the judges table and help determine this years winning beer and brewers. Speedway Stout, as reigning champion, is not eligible to win this year. This is where we need your help.

There are a lot of really great beers being produced in San Diego year round. So many in fact, that it’s almost impossible for a panel of judges to have had each and every one, especially in a competition of this scale. That’s why we are asking for your help. This is one of my favorite parts about the Sore Eye Cup, everyone in San Diego, and across the country, can have a say and help us narrow the field down to the true cream of the crop.

Head over to Sore Eye Sports right now and vote for your top three regularly produced beers from San Diego county. It’s a big field of competitors and there is a wide range of styles being represented. What if you don’t see your favorite? Just email Brian and he can still add your favorite to the ballot. Right now you can find a list of local favorites from Ballast Point, Stone, Alpine, Helms, Societe, Pizza Port and more!

There aren’t too many beer competitions around that solicit for the opinion of the people who actually drink the beers. By helping us to narrow the field, not only are you making our job as judges easier, you are making sure your favorites are represented and getting a shot at the title.

The Sore Eye Cup will be awarded August 22nd, but this is the final week of voting, so don’t delay and get your votes in. You can vote for three beers a day, so there is still a lot of time to help your favorite beers make it to the final round where it’s awesomeness will be judged. So whose beer will fill this 64oz chalice? Help us decide!

Cheers,

Tom

One Cup to Rule them All! - photo by Brian Beagle

One Cup to Rule them All! – photo by Brian Beagle


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Finding the Gateway to Craft Beer.

This is a metaphor.

Not this kind of Gateway.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that all of us have had bad beer at some point in our drinking lives. Whether we knew it was bad beer at the time is something that can probably be debated. If you were like me, you were young, you were broke, and you wanted the most volume for your limited dollars. Enter that sweet 30 pack of whatever was the cheapest and you were only too happy to drink down. When you are in your early 20’s, that is what we call ‘living the high life.’ Good thing for marketing campaigns.

Nowadays, ten plus years removed, it is fun to look back and think of the bad beers we have poured down our throats. It’s pure nostalgia and it helps to transport us back to times when we were living to party. Paychecks meant your drinking money for the weekend. Your night life revolved around getting as many of your friends together as possible and doing stupid stuff, usually in an effort to impress others. In that sense, it’s hard to look at all those beers as a negative thing, after all, you have so many positive memories attached to them.

For some people, they stick with the beers they know. People like things that are of a comfort to them. Why rock the boat? You know what you like so you stick with it. There is nothing wrong with that. For me, and a lot of people that I know, this mentality doesn’t work for us. Most of us have sought to broaden our beer drinking horizons, after all, it’s a big world and people are brewing up a lot of new and different beers. It’s an exciting time to be a craft beer lover. Out of this world IPA’s and mouth-puckering sours are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the brave new world that craft brewers want to lead us to.

But how did we get here? Specifically, how did you get here?

At some point we made the leap into the unknown, leaving the beers of our youth behind us and letting our palates come alive to all the flavor potential that exists in the world. How did your palate progression happen?

In my case I remember growing bored with beer. The big macro brews had grown dull so I craved something new. I started drinking Samuel Adams, say what you want about Sam, but he got me out of drinking macros in the 90’s. From there I started drinking Yuengling, a favorite of the region I lived in. For a few years I was a lager guy. Then two events happened that would turn my beer world upside down. First was with my very first taste of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It was not love at first sip. Secondly, I moved from the east coast back to my home state of California. Three beers would lead me to become the hop head that I am. In hindsight I realize I might have tried them out of order. Stone IPA was handed to me at one of the very first parties I went to in San Diego. I wasn’t worthy at the time. Next someone suggested Karl Strauss’s Red Trolley, a safe beer which I dug for a while. The third beer, well, this is the one that I give the most credit to for shaping my palate into what it is now, this is my gateway beer; Ballast Point Yellowtail. Currently known as their Pale Ale, this beer, which is actually a kolsh, had the perfect flavor profile and just the right amount of hops to make my tongue percolate. It was only a few weeks later when I stepped up to the plate and had my first Sculpin. I was hooked on IPA from that day forward.

Even if you aren’t a hop-head, you prefer stouts or browns or Belgians, at some point you had to find these beers. At some point you had to break away from macros and start to explore all the amazing malts, the dark fruits and floral notes, the citrus flavors, the piney aromas. I want to know, what was your crossover beer? What was the gateway to the world of craft beer for you?

Here are five recommended crossover beers. Now keep in mind that every person’s palate is unique and if they aren’t ready, they will probably not appreciate the beer the same way you do. You can’t give a person who has been drinking Coors for twenty years a freshly poured Pliny the Elder and expect them to fall to their knees and weep at the beauty of the beer. It’s not their fault. They just need to be exposed to a great craft beer that’s right for them before they can give it the same love as you. Having said that, once I started bringing them home, my wife took to IPA’s like a fish to water, so remember, it’s all subjective. These beers are available year round and are bottled or canned for ease of purchase and listed in no particular order. *Pictures are from each brewery’s respective website. Links to said sites are provided below. 

 

  1. Sierra Nevada Pale AleMight as well start with the beer that basically started the craft beer movement back in the late 70’s. The beer is light and fresh without having an overpowering hops profile. Having said that, it can and probably will come across as bitter to a person more accustomed to sweeter, malty beers. That’s alright, it’s an entry point so they can get familiar with the style. Plus you can tell people all about how they are the world’s leading Clean Energy brewery. paleale
  2. Alesmith Speedway Stout I’m probably a little out of my mind for suggesting you use this 12%ABV monster stout as an entry point to craft beer but hear me out; the complexity of the beer, it’s multitude of flavors and it’s pure, easy drinkability make this is prime example of craft beer at it’s finest. This beer will be a hit with your friends who can’t get enough coffee during the course of their work day. Plus, it didn’t win the 2013 Sore Eye Cup for best regularly brewed beer in San Diego for nothing…along with a score of other awards over the years as well. Alesmith-Speedway
  3. Modern Times Fortunate IslandsModern Times may be a new brewery but this beer is simply fantastic. The bright, tropic flavors and aromas will make this a beer that goes easy on craft beer newbie’s palate. The hops profile is noticeable but it compliments the beer without stealing the show and dominating your taste buds.MOD_webislands_220_488_85
  4. Anchor Steam Beer (California Common)Another beer with great history in the craft beer revolution, this beer might seem simple compared to some of the others I’ve mentioned, but that’s the point. Some peoples palates get completely thrown off when you hit it with too much too fast. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the beers you are trying, I suggest a switch to this. It has a malty base with only bare essential hopping, a benefit if suffering from hops fatigue. You get a sweet, caramel colored beer that drinks incredibly well anytime of day or year.steam-bio
  5. Firestone Walker DBA (Double Barrel Ale)This beer is also profiles with more of a malt base with only mild hops flavors, but I consider this beer to be an excellent platform beer. The well balanced flavors mingle nicely and can easily entice a drinker to see what other offerings might be brewed by these masters…which will eventually lead you to Union Jack, which in my opinion is kind of a big deal.DBA

The real question after reading over my list is, are these beers you agree with or have I lost all my marbles? The whole topic is subjective and open to multiple opinions. Depending on the tastes of the person who is trying craft beer for the first time you could very easily add brown ales, dubbels, barleywines, it’s never ending. We live in a time where getting craft beer is now as easy as walking to the corner store. The most important thing is to get people to make that leap, let them try anything and everything. Breweries and most bars in town are only too happy to pour you a taster. It’s easier than ever to find one that suits you and gets you started on the adventure of craft beer and the incredible journey that evolving your palate can take you on.

Cheers,

Tom


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My Craft Beer Tour of Boston; How do you like dem Apples?

This past week I had the opportunity to spend time in Boston, Massachusetts. This was my first time visiting the city and I was not entirely sure what to expect from it. I knew, if nothing else, I’d have a good time visiting all the historical sites from the American Revolution and finally having the opportunity to see Fenway Park with my own eyes. From a purely tourist perspective, I was aware I’d have a full plate to keep myself busy. From the perspective of a Craft Beer Enthusiast, I had a whole separate agenda to occupy my nights with.

When one thinks of a craft beer mecca, Boston is probably not the first place that springs to the front of your mind. It’s very likely the first brewery you think of is Samuel Adams. After all, it says ‘Boston Lager’ right there in the name. However, this is a dramatic misconception as the craft beer scene in Massachusetts is a strong and vibrant one with close to sixty breweries in the state featuring a wide variety of styles. It is not simply a land of lagers, but home to a really diverse set of brewers who help to make the beer landscape very unique in the region.

Our first night in the city after spending all day on a plane from San Diego we decided to keep it low key and stick around the area of our hotel near Boston Common area. After getting an outstanding pizza at Sal’s on Tremont Street we walked around the corner and found Stoddard’s Food and Ale, 46 Temple Pl, emphasis on ale. We quickly found ourselves in love with the place and our new favorite bartender Alice, whose quick wit and great beer knowledge provided us with an excellent entry point to the craft beer scene of Boston. I had made a promise to myself that I’d always try new beers on this trip, nothing I could get back home. Alice helped point me in the right direction with a Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union, considered a hoppy lager, this served to get my palate ready for what was to come from brewers in Boston. I then proceeded to drink my way down their draft list…all in the name of research, I swear!

Just one of the fine bottles at Stoddards.

Just one of the fine bottles at Stoddards.

 

On Sunday afternoon, we made what could be considered an obligatory stop, but on a personal level was an absolute must. We stopped for a few quick beers at Bull & Finch Pub, also known as the “Cheers” bar. I grew up loving this show and had no reservations about dragging my wife who never watched a single episode to the bar that inspired the show. The taps had a few macro brewery offerings, but also a nice mix of local micro brews as well. If you plan to go, be forewarned that it’s always busy there and despite what the song has lead us all to believe, they have absolutely no idea what your name is, but at least they are nice about it.

Cheesy? Maybe, but still essential.

Cheesy? Maybe, but still essential.

For Sunday night we scheduled a brewery/bar tour from the Boston Beer Tour Group. This is a great way for out-of-towners to get a chance to explore city and some of its finest breweries and bars in the area with a meal included at one of the brew pubs. They offer different destinations depending on what day of the week and what time you choose. For a Sunday evening tour we got a pretty eclectic mix. Our first stop was Harpoon Brewery, 306 Northern Avenue, Boston 02210, they are located right on the waterfront which makes for a great backdrop for the brewery.

When you enter the brewery, which you can skip the massive line if you have signed up with Boston Beer Tours, you will climb the flight of stairs and find yourself in a massive beer hall. It’s an impressive sight with a lot of good energy in the room. We quickly ordered one of the three flights they offered as we waited for our 5:30pm tour to begin. It was a nice sampling of their IPA, Rye IPA, Dark and a tasty number from their barrel series called Citra Victorious, our favorite of Harpoons offerings. As for the tour itself, it’s a really nice one. Of course if you’ve done a brewery tour before there is a certain element of familiarity but it’s interesting nonetheless. What I found to be the best aspect of the tour is the private tasting room area where you get to sample everything that Harpoon has to offer and as much of it as you like in the time that you are permitted there during your tour. For the record, I had everything, and more than one pour on most of them.

The private tasting room.

The private tasting room.

The next stop on the tour was Boston Beer Works, a local franchise with two spots in the city. Ours was the location just across the street from TD Garden, home of the Bruins and Celtics. This is where we got our meals as well, a huge selection of gourmet pizzas that hit the spot. The beers they brew here were good, solid offerings, the most interesting being their blueberry ale which has actual blueberries floating throughout the beer from the carbonation, a very cool visual.

From there it was a short trip across the Charles River to visit Cambridge Brewing Company, 1 Kendall Square, Cambridge MA 02139. This spot whips up some really nice brews in a variety of styles from saisons and wild ales to big IPA’s. Some of the standouts were Flower Child IPA, Audacity of Hops and Benevolence, a American wild ale aged in bourbon barrels; boozy and delicious.

The last spot of the night was Meadhall, 4 Cambridge Center, Cambridge MA 02142, which is a truly exceptional sport for craft beer from all over the world. They have a huge tap list and an impressive bottle collection. From here we found so many unique craft beers from the region that it became a little hard to keep track of all that we had over the course of our time there. One beer that we did have that I’d like to point out was our first taste of America’s first and only trappist brewery: Spencer; a golden ale that tastes pretty damn close to its brothers on the other side of the Atlantic. And what would a visit to a place called Meadhall be without having my first taste of actual mead? Wow, if this is what Romans and Visigoths were drinking back in the day, it’s amazing they actually found the motivation to kill the hell out each other.

American Trappist; It's a thing now.

American Trappist; It’s a thing now.

On Monday we toured around Harvard and found a brew pub called John Harvard’s Brew House, it’s not an overwhelming selection but there is certainly something for everyone and it’s a nice space located in a large brick basement, a nice atmosphere for a drink. We would stick around Cambridge for the rest of the evening and would make our way back to Meadhall, this time to enjoy some dinner while continuing our exploration of the dense beer menu. The food was fantastic and one of our favorite bars on the trip.

Tuesday was the day we had marked for a journey down to the Jamaica Plains neighborhood. Our Uber driver urged us to not wonder around the streets and to call for a pick-up from the parking lot of our destination. So what was this destination located in such a dicey area of the Boston suburbs? Samuel Adams of course! The Brewery is located at 30 Germania St, Boston MA 02149. Whatever you may think of Sam Adams currently, there is little doubt they played a big part of the craft beer movement of the late 80’s and 90’s and on a personal level when I was living in Maryland and first began to venture away from macro beers Sam Adams played a big part in my learning what existed beyond Budweiser, Miller and Coors. With that said, obviously they have become so large that they now have to petition the Brewers Association on a yearly basis for the definition of ‘craft beer’ to be broadened so that they can still qualify to use that particular branding with their beers. This has caused me to question their legitimacy as well as the fact that they don’t even brew their beer in Boston…nor even in Massachusetts. Most beers with the Sam Adams label are, in fact, brewed in Pennsylvania. The brewery in Boston is mostly used for R&D purposes but when you visit Rome, you obviously have to at least take a look at the Pantheon. So we ventured to Sam Adams to see what is up. Honestly, the tour was pretty fun. They have a good group of people working there who keep things fun and lively and represent the brand well. They also pour a lot of beer on the tour. My biggest complaint was the simple fact that they didn’t have a dedicated tasting room so that I could indulge in some of the beers being created there. So I was sort of frustrated with that aspect of the day. So it’s a good thing I had another idea in my back pocket, which turned into a highlight of the trip.

You like this or you hate this.

You like this or you hate this.

After getting picked up by another Uber driver we had him head to Everett, MA which is right next to Charlestown, which if you watched “The Town” you know is home to all sorts of bank robbers and a skanky version of Blake Lively. Fortunately Everett is home to Night Shift Brewing and hands down my favorite brewery of the trip. Night Shift, in many ways, reminds me of a smaller version of SoCal favorite The Bruery, with a wide variety of styles and aged offerings to choose from. Amongst my favorites were two Berliner Weisse style beers and a Belgian Quad that had been aged two years in wine barrels. Ever Weisse and the Cape Codder Weisse along with the Quad Reserve and Jojo, an American Style IPA with some very interesting fruit notes, really made this place stand out and I expect their reputation to continue to grow as they expand operation in the newly opened location at  87 Santilli Highway, Everett MA. If you happen to be in the area and you swing by I hope you see Katrina because she has some of the best dance movers ever and if you are lucky you might get to enjoy the spectacle that she creates. There are lots of fun times to be had at this fast rising regional brewer.

Night Shift is fantastic!

Night Shift is fantastic!

The next day we spent hanging around Fenway Park and seeing the Red Sox do some business against the Braves and while beers were drunk, Harpoon IPA mostly, it wasn’t anything I’ve not already mentioned in this post. We also spent a lot of time partaking in historical tours and finding time to eat crazy fresh clam chowder and lobster rolls. The lobster mac and cheese from James Hook’s is absolutely phenomenal in case you were wondering. Or perhaps I should say it’s wicked awesome.

In conclusion I was insanely impressed with Boston, if it wasn’t for the absolutely atrocious winters and abysmally hot summers I would actually consider living there. I love the history and the biggest surprise was how nice the people were to us, I expected it to be much more like New York or Philadelphia. Perhaps we just got lucky. What is even more impressive than the city is that it is nice to see another state with a strong and growing craft beer scene. That said, a east coast IPA still doesn’t measure up to what we offer here in San Diego, that is not a bad thing, it just means I’m always really excited when I get home and I know what kind of beers await me.

Last one before I get my West Coast IPA.

Last one before I get my West Coast IPA.

Have you been to Boston? Any places I need to add to my list for next time? Or if you plan to be there and you use my experiences to help drink your way around the city, let me know how it turns out for you.

Slainte,

Tom

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