HOPTOLOGY

San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!


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We work hard for the money!

Just a quick note help kickoff your Labor Day Weekend!

Please go out, have fun and take the time to enjoy your long weekend. This is the end of summer, the start of fall and the next batch of Holidays are all likely to be ruined in some way by our families. Fingers crossed that maybe your family is cooler than mine!

So while we grab a well earned Monday off, just remember that not everyone is so lucky so be sure to take extra good care of the people who are working and especially all the good folks who are pouring our beers and making sure we have the best time this weekend.

Go have fun, but be careful. We all know the check points will be waiting out there so make sure you have your rides ready and a cab company in your phone.

And if you run into me out and about, please say hi and lets talk about beer!
Cheers,

Tom

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Getting fresh with Stone Brewing or Enjoy this blog by 9.21.12

It was only a matter of time before Stone Brewing took the concept of freshness dating beer and punched it in the face before dropping it on it’s head. It also shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to find out that the beer they produced to show off their ingenuity was in high demand and very hard to track down.

I am, of course, referring to Stone’s Enjoy By 9.21.12 IPA.

This is a double IPA clocking in at 9.4%ABV. It’s available in draft and 22oz bottles in  three regions of the country, Southern California, Chicago and New Jersey. It’s a bold new approach to freshness and I, for one, certainly appreciate the desire to create a beer that is meant to enjoyed at it’s optimum flavor quotient. A beer meant to be savored not saved, I love the whole thought process on this beer.

I spent the early part of last week in a scramble to track down a few bottles of this new beer. Lots of stores sold out quickly and a few never even got theirs. I lucked out that the BevMo closest to my home still had several bottles and were able to sell me two. I considered this quite the victory as many other locations were limiting customers to one bottle. Even with two bottles already secured I did allow myself to fall victim to the mania and soon found myself calling BevMo’s and bottle shops around the area in search of a few more. After all was said and done, I ended up with a total of five bottles. A good friend of mine took advantage of the fact he lives down the street from Stone Brewing to buy eight bottles and get a growler fill. Bastard.

The most difficult part of buying these bottles on a Tuesday, was waiting to open one up on Friday. Why wait till Friday? With beer like this I didn’t want to drink alone. So I waited for my buddy to find a bottle for himself and we’d kickoff the weekend in style.

Cracking the cap off this 22oz bottle, you’d have to have the worlds worst sinus infection to not notice the tasty, hoppy aroma that instantly floats out of that bottle. Seriously, even before it touches your lips, that aroma lets you know this a insanely fresh beer.

We poured into chilled pint glasses and eagerly took our first sips. Sweet Christmas! This beer is delicious! Aggressively hopped is a bit of an understatement but the use of bitter hops is very minimal. You get some pinyness but not too much, you won’t think you’re sucking on a pine cone. That’s accompanied very nicely by some citrus and grapefruit flavors. Good malt character help to hold everything together. Marvelously well balanced, this is a double IPA that is almost too easy to drink. Which leads to my next part of my weekend with the Enjoy by IPA.

So after spending Friday night with the bottle I decided that Saturday would be a great time to try and find it on draft. Easier said then done. The bars we went to on Saturday night were all out. Disappointment abounds. Now Sunday rolls around and another good friends reaches out and lets me know he has found ‘Enjoy by’ on draft at Live Wire Bar on El Cajon Blvd. in North Park. We make our plan to meet for a quick beer, I’d like to put a special emphasis on ‘a quick beer’, and we descend on the bar where we are treated to some shenanigans out front of the bar by some of the more…colorful personalities in the neighborhood. Once we scoot past that scene, we grab our beers and sit in the nearby booth.

Just as with the bottle, The aroma rolls off the top of the pint glass and makes everything in the vicinity smell a billion times better, including my friend who had just run six miles. What strikes me the most as I take my first swallow is how similar the beer from the bottle is to the beer from a keg. The freshness is the real key to this beer. To me, that is really what makes this ‘Enjoy By’ program so fascinating. This is the next best thing to actually being on hand at the brewery as its crafted. I’m curious to see how the Enjoy By initiative grows and develops from the excellent first entry. They are certainly off to great start, so I tip my cap to Stone Brewing once again with this beer. Suffice to say, my friends and I, we enjoyed the hell out of this beer and that ‘one quick beer’ became five. Maybe six…I sort of lost count.

Go out and do the same!

Oh, I’ve been told that Toronado on the 30th St in North Park has not yet tapped their keg of the ‘Enjoy By’ yet…so I’d be on the lookout for something happening there around September 21st.

Cheers,
Tom

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Happy 16th Stone!

It’s Stone’s 16th Birthday this month. A worthy reason to celebrate if ever there was one. The 16th Anniversary Lemon Verbena IIPA is being tapped across the region and the ‘Enjoy By 9.21.12’ is hitting bars and bottle shops this week, Stone clearly continues to excel and stake their claim as the greatest brewery on the planet. So I thought I’d recount the tale of my first crack at a bottle of Stone IPA. This story my be shocking and slightly appalling to some of you.

My first sampling of Stone IPA was not a case of love at first sip.

It was roughly six years ago at a friends birthday party. Other than the birthday girl herself, I knew zero people there. Seeing a cooler of beer in the corner of the backyard I make my way to it as quick as I can. Now at this point in my life, IPA was not a style I was familiar with at all. I’d had only recently started drinking pale ale’s in order to escape the doldrums of Miller and Budweiser, and even that track record was spotty as I was learning my way around and trying to evolve my palette. As I opened the cooler, it was bottles of Stone as far as the eye could see…or as far as the ice in the box would let me see.

I had never tried Stone before. Sure, I’d heard of it, but I had only recently moved back to San Diego and when I left as kid, craft beer wasn’t even a word yet. So I grab one and I’m instantly intrigued by the bottle. The gargoyle logo is so bad ass, it’s screams righteous metal to my Judas Priest, head banging inner self!

Popping the cap off that bottle the aroma hit me in the face and I’m thrown off, beer doesn’t smell like this does it? I’m still intrigued but it’s tinged with a little doubt, that maybe I don’t know what I’m getting into with this. Placing the bottle at my lips, I tip it back and let that beer roll onto my tongue…the flavor explodes in my mouth and it takes all of my strength to not make what I now refer to as ‘IPA face’, when someone who doesn’t drink IPA first experiences the hoppy goodness. I swallow it down and look back at the bottle and a sad thought slaps me in the face. This beer is hardcore…but I don’t think I’m hardcore enough for this beer.

That doesn’t sit well with me. I consider myself a manly man. The idea that a beer is more manly than me is not something that I will stand for. So I throw back another swallow…and I’m pretty sure I didn’t like it even more. But that won’t stop me, I’ve played hockey games with a broken nose and high ankles sprains, you think a beer is gonna stop me now? No way. I finish my bottle and all those crazy flavors linger with me, at the time I didn’t really think that this beer was gonna change me. Until the following weekend when the beers I was ordering just weren’t doing it for me, they all were lacking something. They weren’t hardcore enough for me. Before I even know it, a buddy I’m with makes a recommendation for an IPA, and I say make it two. Second time around, it’s a different world, and I can appreciate the flavors and the complexity that has gone into crafting these beers. That’s not to say I didn’t hit a few rough patches along the way, but my view of beer was forever changed and I owe that to Stone.

As for the 16th Anniversary Lemon Verbena IIPA that they brewed up – It’s fantastic. Beautiful color and aroma comes off the top and this beer has some hops to it, not quite as aggressive as I would have thought but still great.  The lemon notes are not over powering and I found the beer to have a surprisingly smooth finish and at 10%ABV, well, lets just say you can have some fun but order more than one at your discretion. Overall, I found it to be a really nice beer that I’d happily order again, try it for yourself and let me know what you think.

So happy Birthday gang, keep up the great work, I can’t wait for you to take over the world!

Cheers,
Tom

Stone’s 16th Anniversary Lemon Verbena IIPA! Happy Birthday!


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A one man wolfpack in LA (sorta) – Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Co.

On a weekend where I had family commitments in the Los Angeles area, I had made the assumption that I would not get the opportunity to really indulge in much beer drinking. Most of the people in my family still consider Budweiser “The good stuff”. It really didn’t seem like I was gonna be able to pull off  any quality beer time after the plan got all jumbled up just before the trip. But, as they say, “where there is beer, there is a way”…I think that’s how that goes.

My mother lives in the Santa Clarita area. Not exactly a hotbed of craft brewing. Before leaving San Diego after work on Friday, I took a moment to check yelp and see what restaurants are near my mom’s house where I would take her for dinner. One caught my eye immediately Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Company. I did not, however, pick this spot to take my mom. Just didn’t think going beer tasting with my mother sounded all that much fun. So I tucked that name away in my brain and hoped I could find a little time on Saturday. Which worked out well because my Mom said she wanted to go for pizza at Oggi’s nearby anyway. Oggi’s is a popular San Diego pizza and brewery chain that has several location in Orange County and Los Angeles now. I enjoy the Torrey Pines IPA, and the fact I can get it in a 22oz glass is even better. I will have more to say about Oggi’s in a later post, I promise, but in the meantime go get that Torrey Pines IPA.

On Saturday, plans changed again and all of a sudden I had a ton of time to play with. I wrapped up a few errands and checked in with my brother who was in the area as well. We agreed to meet up after he finished a few things he was doing at the time. This was my window of opportunity to check out Wolf Creek.

I’d also like to point out, at this point in the afternoon, temperatures outside were reading 104 degrees. It was hot and I was a sweaty mess. Beer sounded like just what I needed… or maybe it was just a great excuse to sit in a nice cool building.

Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Company is tucked away in a small shopping center that I’ve driven past many times on trips to visit family but had never stopped in before. Walking in, you couldn’t help but notice the very busy lunch crowd that was here on this super hot Saturday. Not that I was going to let the lunch crowd stop me. I pulled up a rustic looking wooden stool and sat at the end of the bar. The TV was playing gold medal round women’s basketball and most of the people there seemed to have there attention on it…even though the US was up by 30 points.

Looking around the bar, there is a good feel to the place. A glass window behind the bar shows where the magic happens – where they make the beer! Hanging proudly on display are the various medals the beers have won over the years, a nice accolade that I enjoy seeing prominently placed. Framing the window are rows and rows of mugs for a mug club that the bar has going on. What I like most about the mugs is that they are all individualized, I saw no two mugs that I saw were the same. Very neat.

The time to place my order arrives and would it surprise you to find out I ordered a flight of tasters? Predictable but worth it in every way. Check out of the photo and you’ll see these are pretty nice 4oz tasters.

The flight is six of the house beers, sadly, two of the house beers were out on this day. They were happy to substitute two of the guest drafts in their place, so Green Flash IPA and Great Divide’s Titan IPA rounded out my flight. Here are my thoughts on what Wolf Creek was brewing.

Golden Eagle – 4.5%ABV – A light blonde ale that is easy drinking, especially on a day when it’s 104 degrees outside! Light on the hops but clean and refreshing.

Wild Angels Dubbel Trubbel – 9.0%ABV –  Belgian style, smooth drinking and very sweet. Brown sugar and notes of chocolate. I did like it, but probably too sweet for me to order on a regular basis.

Howlin Hefeweizen – 6.2%ABV –  Yeah, this is hef. It’s got a fruity quality to it, strong wheat flavor and, thank god, no need to drop a damn lemon in it. Good color too. A very enjoyable and solid hefeweizen.

Midnight Howl Black IPA – 8.5%ABV –  Roasted bittersweet chocolate and caramel malts was the first thing I noticed, then the big hops flavor came on and was a very nice surprise! This is an award winner for a reason, it has an excellent balance which I think most Hop heads would enjoy! My big winner of the day for sure!

The two beers they were out of, Surfin Monks Tripel, which sounded amazing from the description I was told, and the Renegade Rye Imperial IPA, so I guess that means on my next trip up north I will swing by again and gladly. Also, from perusing their website I learned that they have several other tasty treats that they are known to brew up depending on the season. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for Alpha Wolf IPA, Big Bear Brown Ale, Desperado IPA, Don’t Tread Red, Hopdazed Imperial IPA, Irish Red Ale, Mountain Hawk Red Ale, Timber Wolf Bourbon-Oaked Ale, Werewolf Harvest Ale, Winter Wonderland Ale, Wolfpack Pale Ale and Yellowstone Wolf Pale Ale.

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So as you can see, they have some pretty serious brewing going on in Santa Clarita at Wolf Creek. My only real complaint is that all those beers I just listed weren’t currently on tap. The opposite side of that coin is that after what I drank on Saturday, I have full confidence that when I do have the chance for those beers, they are gonna be pretty damn good.

Wolf Creek also boasts an impressive rotating guest draft selection and a bottle selection that would make any craft beer enthusiast weep with joy! There really isn’t a bad beer to be found in the place. Color me impressed!

They have two locations – the one I visited is located at 27746 McBean Parkway, Santa Clarita CA 91354 and their newest location in Calabasas at 26787 Agoura Rd Calabasas CA 91302. I do suggest that the next time you find yourself in the LA area and in need of some tasty craft beers, this is a pretty can’t miss spot.

Maybe LA isn’t so bad after all…unless we’re talking about the people who still root for the Raiders. Or USC. Or the Dodgers….

I kid I kid, (or do I?)

Cheers,
Tom
Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Co on Urbanspoon


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Ritual Tavern – My home away from my old home.

Today I want to share one of my favorite places in San Diego. This is a place that has played a vital role in my development as a craft beer enthusiast. It’s not a secret how much I love this place, so don’t even think this is a review, it’s a glowing endorsement of a place that people should check out immediately.

I am referring to Ritual Tavern.

Located on the northern end of the pinnacle of all beer corridors in town, 30th St, Ritual Tavern is a multifaceted bar, able to accommodate the craft beer crowd, the wine lovers and fans of good food. A hat trick for any who enjoy treating their taste buds.

When we moved back to San Diego four years ago, we were lucky enough to live two blocks off of 30th St and Ritual was the bar right on the corner. Our first visit there was something of an eye opening experience. I was keenly aware my craft beer knowledge was at a pretty amateur level, but I had no idea just how deep the pool I was jumping into was. I found the experience to be utterly fascinating and intoxicating…on multiple levels.

Mike and Stacey, the owners, are incredibly friendly and very knowledgeable when it comes to describing the qualities of a beer to anyone who asks, and as they have gotten to know, my fiancee loves to ask questions. They are great people to get to know, and they take a lot of pride in what they do.

This is the place where I had my first Bear Republic, Duvel, Shipyard, Mission, Alesmith , and so many others that I don’t even have a count. Every time we went it with a mission to keep trying new things and Ritual never disappointed with its constantly rotating selection of drafts and bottles.

Going here was a near weekly experience and probably one of the places I miss the most after we moved out of North Park. Our visits back have been sporadic at best, but that something that I’m working to rectify, especially since my most recent visits have really reminded me just how much I love it.

Walking inside still gives me the sense of walking into a place that knows it’s beer. The whole place has a very cozy feel, and the hospitality that you get almost makes you feel like you are a guest at your long lost Bavarian Uncle’s house. Steins line the ceiling and bottles line the back wall of the bar. When you’re there at night, the lighting is low and adds to the cozy vibe. The only thing missing is a fireplace.

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An aspect that I find personally appealing, most especially when I’m out with the fiancee, is the noise level in Ritual is at a level where we don’t always need to shout at each other in order to have a conversation. Also, the crowd is of a friendly sort, always happy to strike up a conversation if you find you’re drinking alone for a bit.

Probably the biggest addition to Ritual Tavern since we moved out of the neighborhood is the Beirgarten/Patio around back. It’s a nice open area with tables, plenty of sunlight and a real good energy to it that I found conducive to drinking beer on a Saturday afternoon. My visit included such delightful beers as Socitete’s Scrapper Dark Ale, Rough Draft’s Emboozlement triple finished off with another from Societe, The Harlot. Three wonderful beers that I plan to talk about more in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

I’ve not eaten often when here, but when I have, the food has always very good. I appreciate the fact that they use chemical free ingredients and that the condiments are made in house. It’s a great touch. In fact, the new brunch menu looked great so I’m thinking that another visit is right around the corner.

Also would like to note that Ritual participates in the Drink About San Diego – a free bus service that has 8 bar stops in South Park, North Park, Normal Heights and University Heights. Drink About is the 3rd Wednesday of every month.

So whether you feel like pulling up a chair at the bar for a draft, sitting on the patio with a glass of wine, or dining in the cozy atmosphere, Ritual Tavern is a place that is sure to take care of you and treat you well. It should be a destination for any beer or wine lover, no matter how discriminating your palate may be.

Ritual Tavern is located at 4095 30th St, San Diego CA 92108 – It’s on the corner of 30th and Polk. Check out their website for upcoming events and other info.

Cheers,
Tom
Ritual Tavern on Urbanspoon


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IPA Day! YAY!

IPA Day is today.

August 2nd 2012

My understanding of this momentous day is that all lovers of craft beer take time out of their day and make a public declaration for their love of craft beer and specifically, their love of the hoppy wonderfulness known as the IPA. Get your favorite IPA in hand and spread the word. Get crazy on the Twitter, the Facebook or whatever your social media preference is and declare your love. Highlight you favorite brews, highlight the awesome bars that serve it, hell highlight the bad-ass IPA that YOU made in your garage! Show your love and own it.

I love IPAs!

They are an amazing burst of flavors that make your tongue come alive and your soul sing a song of delight.

I’d love to say that I knew at first sip, that IPA’s and I were meant to be together, that our souls were intertwined and fate of the galaxy rested on our shoulders…wait, that last part was Star Wars. You know what I mean, right?

Going from a guy who drank nothing but Miller and Bud (hereby referred to as “waste of my time”) to a Stone IPA was something of a rude awakening to the potential of what real beer should taste like and what I’d been missing out on. It didn’t happen overnight, but I got the bug, and it made me want to cultivate a better beer palate. Found some good ones, found some bad ones, and then I started to find the remarkable ones. It might be hyperbole, but it was a life changer, at least as far as my drinking life was concerned. All of a sudden I wanted to know more about beer, how it was made, where did these wild flavors come from? It’s been a real treat for me, and being in San Diego has made it all the more special to me since this is my hometown. We may not win a World Series any time soon, but dammit we can brew the hell out of most towns in the country. There is a lot more to my intro to the craft beer world, but this isn’t about me today. Today is all about IPA.

Three letters that are indicative of the high standards that brewers hold themselves to.

I plan on going out tonight and having a couple of IPA’s with friends who will also be taking part in this wonderful event. Whether you’re at home, or at the bar or maybe bored at work. Take a minute and tell the world what IPA would make your day. From Ballast Point to Deschutes, Foundry to Dogfish Head, make IPA Day yours!

Suck on that Arbor Day!

Cheers,
Tom

It’s Sculpin time!