HOPTOLOGY

San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!


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Alpine Beer Company

Alpine Beer Company has been my white whale for a while now. A trip to visit their facility was a seemingly impossible feet. It’s been elusive and always just out of my reach. Alpine is known for making some of the best IPA anywhere, so it makes sense that going there should be a foregone conclusion. They have a limited distribution network, which makes those times when you find it on draft somewhere all the more special. Amongst my friends, who were just as eager to go and enjoy a sip from that heavenly tap for a day, we could never come up with a game plan that worked best for the drive. By “worked best”, what I really am saying is that we all wanted to drink and not worry about getting a DUI on the way home. Drinking Alpine beer is like eating Pringles, once you pop you can’t stop! So the trick was always going to be finding a way to make the half an hour drive (not unreasonable by any means) but also make it back to central San Diego. We needed help.

Enter fellow blogger Megan, of monkeybreadandsweetpea.com

She and her husband happen to be two of my closet compadres and drinking buddies here in San Diego. As you may know from her blog, recently she had been trying a new cleanse program. This new cleanse, for reasons I’ve yet to comprehend, did not allow for the consuming of alcohol. This included beer. So this kind and goodly woman offered, of her own free will, to be our designated driver. Her application for sainthood is on the way!

The drive to Alpine is very nice. Just head east on the 8 and you’ll be there in no time flat. Once you get to the small town you get a very good sense of the charm it holds. If you park right in front of the building you’ll be faced with two choices. To your right is where they brew the beer. This is the door you want to go in for your growler fills or if you want to take a peek at the shiny equipment they have housed within. The door on your left is the Alpine Brew Pub where you can dine on some well prepared pub food while you enjoy to high quality beers on hand.

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We had plans to eat but like many of the best laid plans, we managed to foul things up somehow. It started out innocently enough as we started with two glasses of Duet, a nice golden pour with a nose full of tropical fruits. This is a 7.0ABV and it’s a sensational way to start a day of IPA’s. Next up was what would become the beer of the day – Pure Hoppiness. I swear I went into the pub with the intention of trying several tasters worth of their other beers, but as I said before, the plan got thrown out the window. This lead to Pure Hoppiness becoming the beer that ruled the day, and rightly so. This is a fantastic example of Imperial IPA being all it can be – an explosion of big hops flavor in your mouth that leaves you wanting more. You get you nice pine flavor and some crisp citrus as well. The hops is profound here, I need to emphasis this for those who maybe are not as crazy about that flavor as I am. This has a hops punch on the front and all the way through to the back. It’s delicious, delightful and damn good beer. It clocks in at 8%ABV and when you are drinking it in pitchers, well, this is why we needed to make sure we had a driver.

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As the day progressed we had more and more friends venture up and we had a great day at the pub. The only sad note is that one of my personal favorites was sold out that day – Nelson IPA. Nelson is another amazing IPA that will make your eyes pop when it touches your tongue. Simply put, if you want amazing IPA it’s pretty hard to go wrong at Alpine Beer Company, these guys have figured it out and they knock it out of the park every time.

Eventually, we stumble back to the car, oh so very thankful that we had a driver who either didn’t mind or is just used to chauffeuring drunks around town. Now we have to concoct a new plan so we can go back and let Megan enjoy the fun too. I wonder if my wife is planning a cleanse anytime soon…

Be sure to take a look at Alpine Beer Company’s website if you’d like directions or to know whats on the menu before you plan your trip to East County.

I can’t recommend it enough!

Cheers,
Tom

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Clem’s Tap House

It’s always nice when your friends invite you for a drink at a place you’ve been meaning to get to but just have not carved the time out for. As usual, time is the number one constraint that prevents me from getting to more places more often. Well, that’s not entirely true, money is a big factor in that endeavor as well. But for arguments sake we’ll just blame it on time.

On this night, I couldn’t have been happier to have made the time to go and check out Clem’s Tap Room. It’s conveniently located right behind Clem’s Bottle Shop, almost like they planned that on purpose, at 4108 Adams avenue in the Kensington neighborhood.

Most people are familiar with the bottle shop due to their reputation for a great selection of beers and wine, as well as their ability to acquire some of the harder to find styles that are out there. Naturally news of them opening a tap room was very exciting and an opportunity full of potential.

Walking through the parking lot I was immediately impressed with what I saw. The first thing you notice is a nice area out front for drinks on warm, sunny day. When you walk in you are immediately struck by a warm cozy feeling. It’s not a huge space by any means but it has a nice atmosphere and a good setting for sampling beers and wine. Yes, thats right, we have a wine mention here on the site. So if you know someone who prefers wine over beer (not sure why you’d like that kind of person very much) you can bring them with you and they will feel just as welcome here.

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What they offer at the tap room is a rotating selection of beers that are available as flights. For the time being it’s flight size only, but the good people at Clem’s are hard at work on upgrading that liquor license so full drafts should be available in the near future. I promise to let you know the moment that happens.

On this night, we (the wife and I) had talked about getting a single flight to share. To my good fortune and not so much hers, she was still getting over a little cold and we have a strict ‘no sharing germs’ policy when one of us get sick. So that meant two flights for the night, one of IPA’s and one that was a nice mix of different styles for the lady, which I would get to sample first so as to avoid the icky-ness.

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The mixed flight was good. It consisted of Almanac Honey Saison, Figueroa Mountin Paradise Road Pilsner, Latitude 33 Straw Horse Wheat and Societe’s The Debutante. Big surprise that Societe was the star of that flight. Those guys just understand what makes beer good and they just do it well every time.

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The IPA flight on this night consisted of four excellent selections. First was Hanger 24’s Columbus IPA,7.0%ABV, it had strong citrus notes and some sweet flavors from the malts. Moylans Hopickle IIPA, 9.2% ABV, made its presence known with strong piny flavor and floral finish with the noticeable presence of orange and grapefruit. Next was my first beer from Black Diamond, Rampage IIPA, 9.5% ABV. This was a good beer with a lot of the same flavors as the Hopsickle, however the pine was more subtle which, is usually an element I like to be more assertive but this is still a good beer. Finally, The Maharaja, 10.5%ABV, from Avery with its dark copper color, big hoppy flavor and some fruit notes in the form of grapefruit citrus. It was too close to call but this was probably my favorite.

Clem’s Tap Room is a great spot, especially if you are trying to avoid the more typical bar scene on Adams avenue. There is a really great ambiance to the place and with its convenient location to the bottle shop you can taste a beer and then go buy it to take home with you. How is that not a win? The people who work there are very friendly and knowledgeable about both the beers on draft and the wine selection as well. Next time you find yourself in the area it’s worth making the time to check it out. I know I will be.

Cheers,
Tom


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It’s a group thing.

It’s not often that we entertain guests at Casa de Hoptology, but on those rare occasion that we do I like to go grab a couple 22oz bottles from the local store so that we can have an impromptu beer tasting. Now what I normally try to do is grab something that is a little different, a little out of our comfort zone of the hopped beers that I love to talk about. On this particular evening I decided I would split the difference and grab a bottle of something new, and then a bottle of something new but familiar.

I decided to roll with the Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale and New Belgium Brewing’s Rampant Imperial India Pale Ale
Old Guardian - drained.
Old Guardian – drained.

First up was the Old Guardian. This is an 11.6ABV and a few sips in will have you slurring in a hurry. Barley Wine is something that I do not drink at all. It’s not for a lack of interest in this style of beer, it’s a simple matter of it being a cold day in hell when I order anything other than an IPA. After filling up the tasters and placing them on the table everyone took a glass and held it close to get a nice whiff of the scents before putting glass to lips and giving it a taste. Now, an important detail to keep in mind is that I didn’t tell people what the beers were, thinking I’d get some good honest reactions . So how did the tasting go?

“Delicious.” “Sweet” “Slightly fruity”
The consensus was that it’s very good but nobody was quite able to put their finger on the exact style of beer.  I think this speaks volumes about what Stone is doing with beers because in many cases you know when you are having a barley wine style. Stone reminds that this is an ale as well, so it has a more well rounded flavor profile and isn’t what you would normally get in many barley wines on the shelves today.
Next up we had rolled out the new Imperial IPA from the deviants in Fort Collins, Colorado; New Belgium. It comes in at 8.5%ABV. New Belgium’s standard IPA is Ranger which is a very good IPA. I like to consider Ranger a solid and reliable beer but I personally don’t put it in my top 5 IPA’s. My good friend and taster at this event, Pete, does. I was insanely curious to see what he thought of this new big brother to Ranger. One of the first words out my buddy’s mouth was “lemony”. Comments from the others included statements like “tastes like IPA”, “Citrus” “great for a summer day” “refreshing” only one person picked up the notes of sweetness and it wasn’t me. The citrus seemed to be the most prevalent flavor but again, the beer met with approval all around the room. After an impromptu rating system was constructed out of 5 it rated a solid 3.5. It was fun revealing to Pete that this was in fact a creation of New Belgium.
All in all, I thought the tasting went well. I’m working on making this sort of little experiences happen more often just because I love being able to get a really good conversation about the flavors of beer going. I’m sure there are a few bottles of Old Guardian available along with it’s brother, Old Guardian Oaked. New Belgium is currently ramping up with marketing for Rampant, be sure to check out their channel on youtube under NBBFILMS.
Pete eyes up the tasters

Pete eyes up the tasters

In the meantime, I hope spring is finding it’s way to wherever you are and get ready for a flood of new posts over the coming weeks. Fingers crossed that some of the new developments I have in mind for the site start to be made known as well.
Cheers,
Tom