HOPTOLOGY

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Living large at Small Bar

After what could, in an understated way, be called a frustrating day at the office on Wednesday, I decided beer would be my remedy. And since I had a quick errand to run in the area, I knew the best place to get the liquid solution to my problems would be Small Bar.

Now Small Bar may indeed be a small bar but it has a large and impressive tap list. 41 handles of delight in a glass and it’s all right at your fingertips.

On this night, I chose Small Bar so I could sample (by sample I mean consume a lot) the Time to Panic Pale Ale from Ballast Point. I had yet to have this beer and was eager to give it a go. I found it to be quite the refreshing beer for putting a hard day in the coal mines behind me. You know, if we had coal mines in Southern California. This beer is a 6.2% ABV so it’s not super light but it’s not going to kick you in the ass too hard either. It has a great golden color with a light, frothy head. Another perfectly enjoyable beer by the gang over at Ballast Point.

I was sorely tempted to keep ordering that beer but when you have 41 taps available to you why would you limit yourself to just one? So I started to zig-zag my way across the giant chalk board behind the bar. I’d cut-in and then out, I’d hook and leap and spin my way all over that board before I realized that hey – It’s only Wednesday!

That’s the kind of place Small Bar is – having a good time and thinking that the weekend is here already wasn’t a big leap for me. The decor is dark on the inside, but I get a cozy vibe when I’m there. They have a patio area outside along the sidewalk, if that’s more your style. The whole black and red color scheme is a personal favorite.

If for some crazy reason you aren’t feeling the beer scene, they also have plenty of liquor on board. The mules are insanely popular over there. I’ve also found the majority of the staff to be very nice as well.

One thing I can’t brag about is the food. But that’s only because I’ve not eaten there yet. Some of the dishes I’ve seen brought out of the kitchen, however, looked and smelled fantastic.

Let me also mention one of my favorite parts about Small Bar – they have great prices! These guys are offering some of the best beers around and they aren’t jacking the prices up like some spots around town are known to do. Their sister bar, Hamilton’s, in South Park, has the same practice and is something that I truly appreciate. Besides, if you cheap the prices down, I’m likely to stay longer and spend more… just an FYI.

So when you’re in the area I do recommend swinging by and checking out Small Bar. It can get crowded there, so if that not the experience you want, pick the time of day you go carefully. Otherwise, go big at Small Bar.

Small Bar is located at
4628 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92116

It’s in the University Heights neighborhood, just south of Adams Ave. Check their website for a list of what currently on draft.

Small Bar on Urbanspoon

Cheers,

Tom

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Camping with the Widmer Brothers and Samuel Adams (Not literally)

Camping isn’t something that I’ve done a whole hell of a lot of in my life, but when I’ve done it, I’ve really enjoyed it.

The term “roughing it” can really only be loosely applied since, as I’ve gotten older, technology has really taken the “rough” part out of the expression. Roughing it now mean your cell phone died at some point and you need to go sit in your car for an hour or two if you are getting jittery without it (This MIGHT be the reason I have no photos for this blog). I kinda feel like our ancestors would laugh at us, but screw it, I don’t like sleeping on the ground. It’s really, really hard.

This past weekend we ventured into the remote forested area of Julian, CA – yes, I’m being sarcastic, to celebrate a good friend’s 40th birthday at William Heise Park and campground. The main objective here was to have a good time and imbibe copious amounts of alcohol. A challenge I’m always up for.

The dilemma I faced was buying beer for a group of people who’s beer tastes had the potential to be all over the map. I’m perfectly happy to sit around and drink IPA’s until my eyes roll into the back of my skull, but I had a feeling I might be in the minority in this instance.

I opted to play it safe and essentially put together a variety pack. I decided this would be a good time to try some beers that I’m not uber familiar with and a chance to mix in some fall seasonal brews that have been ending up my refrigerator lately.

The brewers with the strongest presence in the cooler happened to be Samuel Adams and Widmer Brothers. I know, these are not San Diego brewers, but you got to mix things up to keep it fresh right?

I’ve been consuming a lot of Oregon beers lately and while I was passingly familiar with Widmer this was my first time buying it for home or, in this case, camping. After going back and forth on what to pick up I eventually settled on three. Grabbed a six pack of the Rotator IPA series, this was the Spiced IPA, a collaboration with a San Diego group: Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity aka QUAFF. Grabbed another six pack, this time it was the Okto Festival Ale. Finally I settled on a four pack of the Nelson Imperial IPA.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You might wondering why I bought so much IPA if I was concerned about the drinking habits of my camping partners? Well, that’s where my friend Sam Adams comes into play.
The thought of spending the weekend in the woods got me feeling a little nostalgic for my days on the east coast and autumn season with leaves falling and all that goes along with it. Low and behold I stumble on the latest Samuel Adams fall seasonal variety pack. That should cover the bases for any who are not interested in those lovely IPA’s.
We make the drive up and are instantly surprised to find the temperature here at the park is fantastic! Easily ten degrees cooler here than San Diego which was roasting already when we left at 9am. Sounds like a perfect reason to celebrate! Let’s crack open that first beer of the day.
I decided to come out of the gate hard and I open the Spiced IPA from the Widmer Rotator series. It’s a surprising IPA to say the least. Coming in at 7.0% ABV it’s got a nice kick to it. Flavor-wise the hops are up front but balanced out by the malts along with black tea, cinnamon, clove and a few other spices any baker would have in their pantry. It’s a very good brew and makes for an excellent change of pace if you still want an IPA but you want something different from it.

Next up was the Okto Festival Ale – Basically a marzen all dressed up to celebrate Oktoberfest. I’ve been on a bit of a marzen kick lately as I’m mentally preparing to go to Germany…even though I have no plans to go there in the near future. This crisp, malty treat comes in at 5.3% ABV, I liked this beer, but probably would have enjoyed it a little more if the weather had been a shade or two chillier.

The third entry in my Widmer experience was the Nelson’s Imperial IPA – I’m a big fan of the Nelson Sauvin hops brought over from New Zealand so it was only natural that I pick this beer up…and then I picked it up again and again and again. It’s really pretty fricking fantastic. Great hoppy profile with a little bite that’s rounded off by the malt flavors that are used to balance it. Really easy to drink a few and these and find yourself in some trouble. At 8.6% ABV, that won’t be hard to do.

I spent most of the day working my way through these three beers while the Samuel Adams variety pack was getting picked over pretty well too. In fact, I really didn’t get to have any of it until I snagged a lager shortly before we put the fire out for the night. My future Mrs. was enjoying the Dunklweizen quite a bit. I do have to talk to you guys about Sam Adams, but I’m saving a few things for a blog post that is about two weeks away from seeing the light of day. I will say that Sam Adams is a brewery that I have the bad habit of taking for granted sometimes, but they turn out some great beers and they are the #1 craft beer brewer in the world for a reason.

The camping trip was a big success and I’m looking forward to going again sometime soon. I’m also ready for some more flip cup…

If anyone has a recommendation for what to drink on my next camping adventure, I’d love to hear it.

Cheers,
Tom


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White Labs : Getting my learn on while drinking…or the Beast from the Yeast!

If White Labs were around when I was in High School, I might have paid a lot more attention during science class. If we talked more about beer in class I suspect I might not have failed chemistry. OK, you got me, I probably still would have failed, but it sure as hell would have been more fun. (On a side note, I have a similar theory for Breaking Bad and meth)

For the past several months, I’ve been chomping at the bit to go and check out White Labs, the whole concept of the place is fascinating to me, but for one reason of another plans to go have seemly gotten derailed at the last moment. Which has been slightly frustrating but also helped to build my anticipation level for checking this place out. I’d like to think I did a pretty good job of keeping my expectations in check.

For those who are unfamiliar with the name, White Labs isn’t your typical brewery. In fact, I don’t even know if brewery is even an accurate word for them. They make yeast. They make yeast for beer, for wine and all the different ways it can be fermented. These guys are freaking scientists! As we know, most scientists have a tendency to go evil and try to take over the word. I’m looking at you Dr. Doom. These guys use their brains for the betterment of humanity, they do what they do to bring us awesome beer and wine. From the biggest of breweries and vineyards all the to the smallest of home brewers, White Labs offers there services to any any all who have an interest in liquid divination.

They also have a tasting room with plenty of beers for drinking.

Now, that said, again, it’s not your typical tasting room. They brew beer here in very small batches, in fact they brew with the standard equipment of the average home brewer. It’s probably safe to call them experimental beers. The point here, from my understanding, is to brew up say, five or six IPA’s, but by using different strains of yeast and fermentation techniques for each one to see how it changes the beer’s flavor profile. They do this with Belgiums, Porters, Pilsners, Saisons – you name it, they do it. Over 30 taps to conduct your own flavor experiments on.

Think on that for a moment.

30 taps. To show off different strains of yeast. These people are crazy in all the right ways.

Personally, I really got a big kick out of lining up five IPA’s that are essentially the same beer, just made with a different strain of yeast and seeing just how unique it could taste. Let me tell you what most anybody who has ever brewed before already knows. Yeast is kinda a big deal. It can change the flavor of a beer in subtle ways, or more overt ways depending on what each brewer is going for. My level of fascination knew no boundaries here.

For the home brewers out there, let me emphasize – you can just walk in here and buy yeast ready to drop in your creations. You can also bring your home brew in for analyzing. If something isn’t working right in your beer, these might be the guys who can help get you on the right track. Or maybe, you’re beers are so awesome you’re ready save the recipe, but you want to know more details about your masterpiece. White Labs is here to help you.

My level of interest in the company is boundless. I could sit there and listen for hours at what the people both behind the bar and in front of it have to say about beers and brewing. It was an education with beer. Someone should run for office on this platform.

Also while there, I handed in a flyer I got at the San Diego International Beer Festival back in June, this flyer entitled me to a free gift which I’m always happy to get. Turns out I’m the fist person to turn one in, kinda crazy, but it get me a pretty cool Yeastman plushie/keychain thing. So I clipped that bad boy to my belt for the rest of the day.

I strongly encourage anyone who has even the slightest interest in brewing beer to swing by and check out the tasting room. I haven’t even described just how fantastic a set-up it is. Hopefully my pictures will do most of the talking on that front.

I’m also going to take a second to mention a book by Chris White, founder of White Labs and Jamil Zainasheff have put out called, surprisingly, “Yeast: A practical guide to beer fermentation”. I’ve only just started the book and have found it to be a very interesting read that does a great job of keeping a non-technical person engaged.

White Labs is located at 9495 Candida Way San Diego, CA 92126, the tasting room is open from 12pm to 8pm Monday-Saturday and they do tours. I recommend the tours…half of what they said was lost on me, but it was still fascinating!

Beer and a little education? You had me at beer.

Cheers,
Tom

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A Labor intensive weekend…of beer!

So how he hell did it get to be Friday already?

I love these short work weeks, maybe one of these chuckle-heads running for President can get on a platform to support the 4 day work week. Yeah, I know, but I got to keep dreaming the good dream.

What I’m planning here will be a bit a jumble from my holiday weekend. A little of this a little of that and all the beers I had along the way.

Friday got of to a great start with a quick hit and run visit over to Ballast Point’s Old Grove location at 10051 Old Grove Rd San Diego, CA 9213. The sun was shinning and this was my first opportunity to check out the new front patio area. BP is probably my favorite brewer in town, so a chance to kick off my three day weekend with a Sculpin is always a solid way to start. I also took the opportunity while there to try out the Oktoberfest; a marzen that clocks in at 6.2% ABV. rich amber color and malty profile, this beer was a little sweet but drank very smoothly. Probably would have enjoyed a little more if weren’t so damn hot in town. I like my marzen when the air has some crispness to it.

Next up, was a quick trip to my future wife’s favorite pizza place – Oggi’s in Mission Valley. While here I sipped my way through a tall glass of Torry Pines IPA and more slices of pizza then a normal person should eat in one sitting. I still have a mind to put together a more though review of the Oggi’s beers so for the time being I’ll hold off on saying anything more than, I like the Torry Pines IPA, its a solid and reliable IPA.

Saturday got of to a quick start as I made my way to Hamilton’s in the South Park neighborhood. 1521 30th St. San Diego, CA 92102. Initially, I was heading there to find the new IIPA from Societe that had just been tapped. It had been a few months since my last visit and I have to say, I really enjoy going down there in the afternoons, just a great environment to drink in. They had some college football on the TV which I always enjoy. I started with a bang – Green Flash Imperial IPA right out of the gate. Insanely good, with a fantastic aroma and a really great hoppy character to it. Don’t let the 10% ABV scare you away, you’ll enjoy the hell out of the beer.  Next up was The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest from Avery Brewing, oh boy this was pretty tasty too. While it had a lot of the same characteristics of the BP Oktoberfest, this brew from Avery clocked in at an impressive 10% ABV. Going head to head with the BP, I think I give a slight edge to Avery, but that may have to do with the fact that I was sitting inside the cool air conditioned bar.

I left Hamilton’s shortly after and made my way to Societe Brewing in Clairemont for the super awesome Every Man’s IPA. If you missed it, my previous blog post incorporates that trip, so just scroll down a little more and read my ranting and raving about Societe.

Saturday night we rolled into my old neighborhood of Ocean Beach to grab dinner at Sessions Public. Located at 4204 Voltaire St. San Diego CA 92107, we’ve only been here a few times, but I really enjoy the beer selection and the food is pretty darn tasty as well. I was pleasantly surprised to find Stone’s Enjoy By IPA on draft so I helped my self to one of those while I ordered the session’s dog, which is a big ol’ brat served up covered in pastrami, gruyere cheese and some onions, you also get a side of duck fat fries which I find very tasty as well. I enjoyed the brat but if I had my druthers it would be a little spicier in the future. My fiancee loves the burger there as well. They are into the locally grown and organically raised movement which I’m always happy to support local farmers. For my after dinner treat a Russian River IPA was ordered and that went down very well with my meal. A very good dinner indeed.
Sessions Public on Urbanspoon
Sunday was, well, Sunday was a little different. Had my fantasy football draft first thing in the morning. I’m gonna kick everyone’s ass this year. Next, we went and checked out an organic vegetable farm with my friend and fellow blooger, Megan, of www.mokeybreadandsweetpea.com. Stocked up on the good ingredients for making a ton of salsa for the opening games of the NFL season this Sunday.

Monday was another trip to Ballast Point. One of the few breweries that I could find open on the holiday, and for that I say thanks! I used to work holidays too so I know that it can be a real drag sometimes. Of course we started with some Sculpin’s and drank those till closing at 2pm. As it just so happens 2pm was when Societe was opening their doors for the day, so we rolled over there and I let me friends in on all the fun they had missing by not checking them out with me the previous weekend.

Then on Tuesday I rolled into Ballast Point again. Wait, Tuesday wasn’t part of the holiday weekend you say? True, but as I’ve mentioned sometimes I’m dense, like on Monday when I forgot that I left my tab open at Ballast and went on my merry way. Oops. Probably just my subconscious helping me come up with another way to drink after work. This time up to Ballast I let myself indulge and try out a few more new things. One of those was the Longfin Lager. Lagers take me back to my days on the east coast. The majority of my friends on that coast on drink lagers. Mostly because they are wussies. So how was this lager? I liked it quite a bit, flavor-wise. I’m not going to give my IPA’s for it, but with an ABV of 4.5% this is a good beer to drink when you don’t want to drink heavy. I should also mention that this beer is currently only available in tasters.
Speaking of tasters, also only available currently in a sample size is Ballast Point’s Sour Wench Blueberry ale. The color of this one reminds me of Hawaiian Punch that my mom used to pack in my lunches. Taste-wise, it’s much better than that. It’s fruity, but not in an over-whelming sense. I could see this being something for the person in your life who doesn’t like beer, becasue flavor profile-wise, this doesn’t taste like one at all. Don’t let that fool you, at 6.0% ABV this one could sneak up on you.

There it is. Another busy but insanely enjoyable beer drinking holiday weekend in the books.

I wonder if I get time off for Rosh Hashanah?

Cheers,
Tom

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Becoming a contributing member of Societe

I had been hearing about Societe Brewing long before I’d ever even taken my first sip. They had been gaining a devoted following quickly and had a lot of people in social media buzzing about them. Tickets to their grand opening earlier this summer had sold out crazy fast only adding fuel to the fire. They were the hot new brew in San Diego. So I must have been jumping out my skin to get up their and sample the brews right?

As Lee Corso says “No so fast my friend”

I can be a little dense sometimes. Anyone who has met me has probably figured that one out. When things get that label of “the next big thing” I tend to chaffe on it. Not every time, but more often than not. It’s that little part of my brain that is still 16 year old and annoyed when the Black Album came out and all of a sudden it was cool to like Metallica, even though I’d be wearing a Master of Puppets t-shirt for six years and getting made fun of for it. I’m kooky that way I guess.

I knew I’d go and have the beer eventually, I just decided I’d go at my leisure, this has been a crazy, hectic summer as we plan a wedding and all that goes along with that, so when I went, I wanted to enjoy it. A few weeks back, Ritual Tavern put all of Societe’s beers on tap. After only trying two, I decided it was time to get my ass up to Societe. Here’s the best part – It’s less than 10 minutes from my house!

Located at 8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 9211, this is one of the few breweries in the county that can call itself centrally located.

Walking in, you can’t help but be impressed by the large wooden bar and the very impressive use of the space in the building. It’s freaking gorgeous inside. Lots of wooden, olde tyme style decorations along the wall with tables a plenty. If you get the opportunity, I recommend checking out Societe’s blog page where you can get the history of it’s two founders – Travis Smith and Doug Constantiner and their impressive credentials. The fact that Travis alone helped make beers like Pliney the Elder while brewing at Russian River should be enough to get even a casual hophead over to check them out.

Now, onto the beers.

On this fine Saturday afternoon, I headed over to Societe with the future Mrs. Hoptology in tow. We were going to discuss more of our wedding plans…but my interests were more in beer area on this day. Shocking, I know!

Before we get started I’d like to let you know that the word “coiffable” is probably the best word you can use to describe Societe’s beers. All of them are immanently easy to drink. Over and over again!

We started on the IPA side of the menu and worked our way over to the Belgium’s.

The Dandy- IPA 6.9% ABV – Golden color medium hops easy to drink. I really enjoyed this, it’s light and crips for an IPA almost a perfect introduction for those who aren’t accustomed to the big hops of other IPA’s

The Pupil – IPA 7.7% ABV – Bright, golden color that stands out. It has a light, clean aroma and a very light head to it. Bright, citrus-y flavors abound and this is another insanely easy to drink IPA.

Every Man’s IIPA 10.0 ABV – Special note, I had to track this down this past Saturday a special trip to Societe was made just for this beer and oh boy was it worth it! Great hoppy flavor, with more citrus and maybe some grapefruit flavor as well. IT’s incredibly smooth and might just be my favorite thing they are currently brewing.

The Apprentice – IPA 7.9% ABV – Bigger hops and malty flavors with an excellent aroma and a gorgeous color. Very tasty. This is more to my personal liking and was my favorite of the day. Just couldn’t get enough of it.

The Butcher – Imperial Stout 9.8% ABV – This beer is pitch black! Dark roasted coffee flavor with hints of chocolate. It’s enjoyable and I believe any fan of stouts would enjoy this a great deal. For me, however, I’m still not crazy about getting that coffee flavor in my beers. Not my personal favorite.

The Harlot – Belgium extra 6.4% ABV -Light, fruity notes with noticeable spices. It’s delicious easy to drink. In a way it reminded us both of Duvel, which we mean with the highest compliments.

The Widow – Strong Belgium 9.2% ABV – Dark malty flavors, slightly boozy but not overwhelmingly so. Pours nicely in the glass and settles quickly so you can get down to business. Again, a strong beer that I was more than happy to drink.

Also as a side note I’m going to throw in a critique of The Scrapper which I had several weeks back at Ritual Tavern and took a few notes.

The Scrapper – American IPA 7.9% ABV – The is a dark IPA and honestly I love the color of the beer to cream colored head. It’s was almost too pretty to drink…but I did anyways. Good balance of light citrus hops and roasted malty-ness. I found this to be very flavorful and really enjoyable to drink. I’m usually not wild about dark IPA but this one did right by me.

So all in all, it was another great outing at a San Diego Brewery. Now that I finally made the trip out to see what these guys are all about, I can say with all honesty that I’m looking forward seeing what else they can brew for the masses here in San Diego. As if they haven’t made enough of an opening impression, I suspect that Societe will continue to grow a nice fan base here in town as their reputation for quality beers continues to spread. I also hope they continue to be social media savvy and keep the high standards that I have seen in action so far. And did I mention that awesome location? I can be there in less than 10 minutes! Hard to beat that any day of the week.

Cheers,
Tom

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