HOPTOLOGY

San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!


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Getting crazy @ Crazee Burger North Park

When we moved back to San Diego after two years on the east coast, the choice was made to move to the North Park neighborhood. Initially, I had some concerns. Before we left town, North Park wasn’t exactly a great part of town to spend your time in. A friend we had in the area had said thing were changing, the neighborhood was evolving into something new. While I still had my reservations, we picked our apartment and become residents of what would become one of my favorite parts of town, full of fantastic food and even better bars. Oh, and 30th street, the Mecca of craft beer bars, are all here too.

Sadly, we would eventually move out of the neighborhood for a bigger place. However, that has not stopped me from going back and spending many of my weekends roaming the various bars in the neighborhood.

This past Sunday, we made our way back to one of the first places we ever went to eat and drink when we moved in, just around the corner from us – Crazee Burger.

As you may have read on this blog in the past, I’m a bit of a burger fiend. Generally, I live by the rule that if you can’t make a decent cheeseburger there is no point in me trying anything else on your menu.

At Crazee Burger, I have to put that rule aside.

Getting a basic beef burger is a mistake. Not because it’s not a good burger, but because that’s missing the point of the place. There are so many other burgers you could be checking out.  From meats that have started to become more common, like bison and salmon all the way down to alligator and kangaroo. They even offered rattlesnake a few years back, but the Food and Drug Administration thought that was a bad idea, just another example of ‘the man’ keeping us down!

This past Sunday, the misses and I split the blue crab & surimi burger with chili cilantro sauce and the antelope burger with smoked chili sauce. Both burgers were very good, I had thought that the antelope might be too gamey, but with the chili sauce, it all went very well together. As for the crab, well, it’s not going beat anything from Baltimore, a town where I lived for a very long time, but something about this burger works very well for me.

I can also whole-heartedly recommend any of the sausage dishes as well. They are great!

But what about the real reason we are all here? The Beer.

Oh the beer.

It’s a nice selection of drafts and bottles. It’s not going to set the world on fire but, the choices they give you are nice and go very well with the burgers and sausage meals they prepare for you. If you love Stone brewery, you’re going to love it here, as Stone IPA, Pale Ale, Smoked Porter and Levitation were readily available on draft, along with Trumer, Spaten and a few other German selections. I would have more names for you but I already had my nose in my beer.

Are you ready for the best part?

Happy hour is everyday from 3pm-6pm and all drafts are just $2.99

So in theory, you can just go, pull up a stool and drink a pint of Stone IPA for $3

That’s not too shabby in my estimation. The thought of sipping on a cold IPA for $3 and munching a basket of fries if I’m not in the burger mood is a pretty appealing way to spend a few hours in the afternoon.

I think it’s fair to call it a dive, but in the good way.

So if you want something a little different to eat, check out the menu, but I do believe the happy hour prices make this a stop worthy of your attention next time you find yourself on El Cajon Blvd & 30th Street and you need a little beer in your life. After all, who doesn’t need that?

Cheers,

Tom

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6th Annual San Diego International Beer Festival

My first trip to the San Diego International Beer Festival was three years ago; It was something of a surreal experience, like Christmas day, you just want to rush around and try everything you could get your hands on. 60 minutes into your 4 hour drinking session you would realize that maybe a little restraint was in order, as you wobbled your way through the crowds. Restraint might not be the right word, perhaps its best to just say that it’s better to take your time and savor the new and unique brews being offered to you, instead of throwing them back and rushing to find more.

A lot has changed for me and the festival since that not so long ago time.

In preparing to write this blog I found myself with a lot of different thoughts and emotions on the festival held this past weekend at the Del Mar fairgrounds. A lot of my thoughts could be considered contradictory, or perhaps even negative, which I don’t want to give the impression that I wasn’t having a blast. I just wasn’t quite sure on the best way to organize my thoughts. So I turned to the man who all men turn to in their darkest hour – Clint Eastwood

So I present to you the 6th annual San Diego International Beer Festival a.k.a ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’

The Good

The Beer. The hero of this movie has to be the beer. There is just a lot of variety in styles, flavors and ingredients that it’s hard not to find a lot of beers to please the palette.

One thing that has changed for me at the festival is, I tend to shy away from breweries that I have access to on a regular basis. Unless they are serving up something new I try and seek out new brewers and beers I’ve not had a chance to sample before. A brewer that most of you are probably familiar with, but one that I have only in the last six months been drinking is Deschutes, out of Bend, Oregon.  Their ‘Hop in the Dark’ was probably my favorite of the show. Also of interest was the ‘Voodoo Doughnut’ from Rouge Brewing, a bacon maple ale that was what I would imagine a liquid breakfast would be like in a perfect world.

Also of note are two new brewers who I came across.

Rough Draft is a brewer I first came across back in April at the North Park Beer Festival and was very excited by the two beers I was able to sample, the Eraser IPA and the Amber ale if memory serves, at that event. Well, I was insanely delighted by what they brought with them over the weekend, the standout being the “Hop Therapy IPA”. If you are afraid of hops, than this beer is not for you. I’m already planning out my first trip to the tasting room to really indulge in more of that fantastic brew. I’m not even sure’ hoppy’ is a sufficient description, but by this point of the afternoon, my notes were a mess.

Another new brewer, this time I was not familiar with at all, is Stumblefoot Brewing Co. located in San Marcos, CA. They only had two of their beers with them, but they sure made an impression on me. First was the ‘Schwartz be with you…Black Lager’. I do like a nice lager on occasion and this one certainly found a way to stand out with its dark roast qualities. Normally a roast flavor isn’t something I’m looking for, but it works really well in this beer. Second up was the ‘Otay Chipotle Stout’, its smoky with chipotle flavor and a little heat on the back end. Very enjoyable.

Honorable mention to Moylan’s : Hopsickle Imperial Ale – I love Moylan’s, so this beer doesn’t surprise me, but I love it just the same.

I’d also like to offer my congratulations to Lost Abby for winning best in show for Carnevale, which is a beer I really would have loved to try, but that leads to…

The Bad

No beer! A lot of beers were in short supply, and this was pretty frustrating. Maybe shelling out $90 for the VIP tickets would have prevented this, but I felt $90 was a little excessive.

I honestly lost count of the times we would get to the table to find out that the beer we had been waiting in line for was gone and had been for some time. A lot of the stations were completely empty by 2pm, which was an hour before our session was to end. It put a damper on things, but it did also drive me to try more beers that maybe I would have passed over otherwise. Still, it really shouldn’t have come to that.

One reason they may have been out of beer could have something to do with…

The Ugly

The crowd. The popularity of beer drinking in San Diego continues to go up, so it’s only natural for the popularity of the event to go up as well, but sweet fancy Moses, there were a ton of people there! Perhaps they oversold the event, I don’t really know, but when you have that many people and a limited amount of beer that you can serve per session, something has to give. In my case, the beer gave out before the people did. I’m not sure if this was the case for every session but I would not be surprised if this is just how it was all weekend.

That said, the vast majority of people there were great to chat with and had a good humor about them. Of course, whenever you get that many people together you are bound to get some clowns too and I know for sure some clowns were out Saturday afternoon. I guess it’s not the fair if there are no clowns.

Overall

All things considered, beer shortages and all, the festival was as fun as ever and I’m always excited for the chance to spend the day drinking beer with some of my best and closest friends. I know it sounds silly to a certain extent but, in my life, beer brings people together. Its been over some pints of some the best beers on the planet I’ve been lucky enough to forge some outstanding friendships and the San Diego International Beer Festival is where a lot of those friendships started.

Cheers,

Tom

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San Diego International Beer Festival @ The Del Mar Fairgrounds

Just a quick note for this wonderful Friday – Today is the kickoff of the San Diego International Beer fest at the fair. This is pretty much the only time I even attempt to check out the fair, usually I just find it’s not worth the trouble, but I absolutely love the beer fest. It’s like Christmas, 6 month early.  I hope to see a ton of people having a blast while I’m there.

Which reminds me – Do to the current layout of the blog you may not have seen that I have a Facebook page and Twitter feeds that you can follow. I plan to post a lot of pics this weekend, assuming my signal strength is good – which it usually is. So scroll to the bottom of the blog and sign up, follow along and see whats happening if you can’t make it, or if you are waiting for your session to start.

And if you see a guy in a ‘HOPTOLOGY’ t-shirt, say hi, I’m only a little weird in person.

Cheers,

Tom

Oh yeah, if you’re not hitting the festival let me know where you’re grabbing your drink this weekend.


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Pint Night – Lagunitas @ Urge Gastropub

For those who don’t know this about me and pint nights, if you tell me I can keep the glass I’m going to be there.

If you tell me that glass is going to be a mason jar from Lagunitas Brewing Company, I’m coming and I’m bringing a few friends.

Now, I’ve been to Urge Gastropub before and I really love it there. The selection of what they have on tap is always impressive and the bottle selection is nice as well. As for the food, well, the food is simply amazing. I mean, these guys really know what they are doing in the kitchen. Tonight I was only snacking due to a meal waiting for me at home, but the mini corn dog lollipops with sculpin mustard was fantastic and my friend let me sample a bite of truly out of this world meatloaf. So when you go, do yourself a big favor and eat.

As for Pint Night itself, with it being a Wednesday night and me being a little further out from home than I prefer when drinking during the work week, I keep my pints limited to the IPA, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The Lagunitas IPA is a superb mix hops and malts. The beer deserves your attention when you drink it. Just wonderful bright, hoppy flavors.

So if there is a downside to tonight it was my own limitations. I would have loved to sample the Waldo’s Special – Double IPA and the Farmhouse Gueuze Saison. I’ve made a mental note to check back, while out and about this weekend.

And as for the mason jar glass? As you can see, it’s pretty damn awesome.

 

Cheers,

Tom

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Hess Brewing

Hess Brewing is a new beer for me. My first encounter was back in April at the North Park Beer festival, where I don’t really remember what it was I had from them but it left a nice impression on me and it planted the seed to find out more about them. I’m very glad that I did.

Saturday afternoon I made my way up the 15N to Miramar and after complete driving past it once, I manged to get my head in the game and find this small gem of a brewery tucked away in business park on Silverton Avenue. Upon parking the first thing to be noted was the awesome, savory smells coming from the Swieners tent that was out front of the brewery cooking up some amazing sausages and brats for the patrons at Hess. This almost lead to my being utterly distracted from making into the brewery but I managed to pull it together and cross the threshold of the brewery.

I always enjoy walking into a brewery and taking it all in, seeing how each tasting room is organized and laid out. Being a nano brewery, Hess has a little less to take in, but that doesn’t mean what’s there isn’t downright impressive. I was particularly taken with the fridge full of growlers, its a small touch, but it’s the kind of things that sticks in my head down the road.

My friend and I both decide we’re going to get the taster flight, that comes with a keeper glass. Again, a simple thing really, but a touch that sticks in the brain. The flight was for five beers, but seeing as how they had six on tap I had a feeling we’d end up trying each of them. We did.

Grazias – Vienna Cream Ale : Not gonna lie, the cream ale, part of the title had me pause for a second before tasting, but this is a solid alre with a really good balance of hops and malts. It’s clean and refreshing.

Grazias Induresco – Strong Brazillian coffee flavor. Not being a coffee person person, I could help but notice that strong flavor. It’s not overwhelming though, which I feel is very important. Very glad I tried this.

Pallidius – Had a little spice to it, little pepper flavor that was a nice surprise.

Aurum – Belgium Golden ale -I really liked this one. Light and crisp, with some fruity flavors to boot, but again, balanced very well so you don’t think someone poured Hawaiian Punch in your beer.

Solis Occasus Meridian IPA – They told us this IPA goes by a lot of names and I kinda felt like I was trying to say Russell Crowe’s names from ‘Gladiator’ but really all you need to know is that this is good. It’s not a slap you in the face hoppy, but it brings something different to the table in the San Diego IPA market.

Amplus Acerba – San Diego Pale Ale or Double IPA – It’s a strong beer but again, the brewers show there love of balance by keeping the extra hops temped with extra malts. To my palette, it had a little boozy-ness, but was an easy to drink. Oh, and this bad boy is an 11.6% ABV, so the Swieners was starting to call my name by this point.

Ex Umbris – Rye Stout – This is a good beer. I have some peculiarities when it comes to my stout beers, but this one measures up quite well. Big malty flavors, mixed with roasted chocolate and some hops in there for good measure. Good stuff.

So by this point, we decided to order a full pint of something – We both went with the Meridian.

We both had a blast checking our Hess for the 1st time. The people who worked there are friendly and full of information and the crowd of regulars that come by were a lot of fun to chat with as well. Honestly, one of my favorite parts of visiting a brewery is talking to the people there, you’ve all come for the same reason so its you already have something in common. It’s almost like a feel of community. Crazy right?

So to wrap up – Hess Brewing is a great nano brew that is starting to hit its stride. Work is under way on a new facility in North Park, where it will not only serve as brew house/ tasting room, but also a canning line. Details can be found here from our friends at West Coasters.

And yes, I had the Swieners on the was out and it was pretty awesome too!

Cheers,

Tom