HOPTOLOGY

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An Epic of Epic Epicness!

History is full of tales of people coming together to wage battle against the forces of evil and defend the world from impending darkness. This isn’t quite as dramatic as that.

When Cody Thompson first asked me to join him and Dustin Lothspeich on their podcast as the third member of their show, ThreeBzine.com podcast, I was both elated and slightly nervous. It would be a big task to bring my views and personality to a show that already has a stellar reputation in San Diego Craft Beer and Local Music community. Luckily, I’ve become friends with both Cody and Dustin over the past year and that made the task as easy as slipping on a velvet glove.

This past Wednesday was my first episode as a member of the show and the guests we featured couldn’t have been any better to help me realize how much fun this is going to be.

We spent the evening at Bagby Beer Company in Oceanside, California with our two hostesses, Dande Bagby, of Bagby Beer Company and Melanie Pierce of Keep a Breast, to discuss not only all the goings on at Bagby but to also the put a spotlight on the wonderful work that Melanie has done for this weekend’s Brewbies Beer Fest at Bagby Beer Company, a charity event where all proceeds go to the Keep a Breast Traveling Education Booth to assist in early detection of breast cancer.

So in short, it’s kind of a big deal.

We might become a traveling band.

We might become a traveling band.

Dande and Melanie might be my two new favorite people on the planet, sorry Kanye; beat it! This episode is an absolute delight; it’s full of funny stories, insightful information and a story or two that might even tug on the old heart strings. Basically, you want to listen and maybe even get involved.

Head over to ThreeBzine.com for all the info on downloading or streaming the show and please don’t hesitate to let me know what you think of it. Maybe crack a beer or two while you listen and enjoy!

Cheers,

Tom

 


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Societe Brewing sets loose their latest and greatest, ‘The Miser’ Triple IPA.

Friday the 6th of November will kick off the start of San Francisco beer week. While an exciting time for craft beer lovers in not only the bay area, but much of Northern California itself, down here in San Diego we really know what SF beer weeks means. It means it’s the official start of Pliny the Younger season, where all the hop heads of Southern California begin to pester the bartenders around town for any and all information on when their favorite bar will hold a tapping of this universally praised triple IPA from the hop masters at Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California. In fact, I’ve overheard multiple conversations about this years Younger release since shortly before Christmas. That’s how excited people get for it.

A few years ago, the triple IPA was something of a rare bird. Usually only trotted out by craft breweries for special events and rare occasions like the local beer week or their own anniversary party. The unyielding rise in the popularity of the IPA style of craft beer has lead to double and triple IPA’s becoming increasingly more common. Many breweries will usually have one or two that they release over the course of the year, unless of course, they are in a position to keep the beer amongst it’s yearly offerings. It’s become an increasingly crowded field with arguably Pliny the Younger being the beer that has set the standard to which all triple IPA’s aspire to be.2015-02-04 12.59.55

In my humble opinion, over the past couple of years, a lot of breweries have raised their game in an effort to nudge Younger from its top spot. Knee Deep Brewing’s Simtra, Drake’s Hopocalypse and Green Flash’s Palate Wrecker are just a few examples of triple IPA’s that have pushed to style forward.

Starting now the style gets pushed forward even more.

Today marks the release of ‘The Miser’, a 10% ABV triple IPA from Travis Smith and his team of talented brewers at Societe Brewing. Already boasting a standout double IPA in the form of ‘The Roustabout’, one of their rotating specialty beers, they decided it was time to unleash their biggest hop-monster yet…at roughly the same time that Northern California will be sipping it’s Pliny the Younger. Whether the timing is by grand design or simply by coincidence, this beer does not disappoint.2015-02-04 13.00.28

Big, hop forward, resinous, citrusy, hints of pine, this is a dank beer in all the best ways. With hop profile that includes huge amounts of Citra, Amarillo, Mosaic and El Doradro (Thanks to Societe’s Mike Sardina for helping me identify those last two) you know this beer will be big on flavors. The hops mingle nicely on both the front and back ends of your palate. Did I mention, it’s big? Big. Dank. Delicious. If any of those three words don’t motivate you to drink it, nothing will and that just means more for me. This beer shows a level of precision in its crafting that is almost unparalleled. It is simply sensational.

In my estimation, while The Miser is certainly no match for the hype and cache that Pliny the Younger has deservedly earned over the years, this beer might be it’s biggest rival to date. In fact, it’s my opinion that this San Diego craft beer might even be better.

Cheers,

Tom


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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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