HOPTOLOGY

San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!


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Pardon the interruption… Happy 1st Anniversary Societe!

I’m going to interrupt my current three part blogging epic for a brief but happy interlude.

Happy 1 year Anniversary to the awesome people at Societe Brewing.

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Always an impressive selection

Over the course of their first year in business, Societe has quickly climbed the ranks as one my favorite brewers in a town that has more than enough to go around. In fact you can read my first impression of Societe right here. From such awesome staples as The Pupil & The Apprentice IPA’s to phenomenal Belgians like The Harlot & The Madam, not to mention the treats that roll out for special occasions, like the Every Man’s IPA and The Roustabout DIPA. It’s insanely hard to find a beer that will not please your palette.

Did I mention the new hoppy ale, The Publican? It’s fantastic!

This past weekend, July 13-14, the good people of Societe hosted their 1st anniversary party at the brewery in Kerny Mesa and I was very excited to be able to join them in the celebration. I’m the type of beer enthusiast who tries his best to make it to multiple beer events over the course of the year. Some of those events are better than others and even the best have their fair share of problems. This event, however, might be the new gold standard to which all beer events you aspire to be. It was one of the most planned out, thought ahead and well organized events I’ve had the good fortune to be at.

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I saw how this movie ends…Travis should fare better than that other guy.

My wife and I attended the sold-out second session on Saturday with a coupe of friends who enjoy Societe beers but had yet to make it up to the brewery. From the moment we got there, these guys were on top of things, from the easy-ness of our checking in without having to pull up four different ticket bar codes on my iPhone, to the checking of ID’s, getting our wristbands and the distribution of our souvenir glasses. They had us lined up and ready to go when the clock struck 5 pm and our session began. The only hectic part was getting that first beer, which really wasn’t even an issue as they had plenty of people on hand to fill your glass. We were able to grab a table and I couldn’t help but notice as the line of patrons all filed in and got their drinks, that there was still room to move around, people were not packed in, and we didn’t have to yell to have a conversation. A beer event that wasn’t over-sold. Such a simple yet innovative concept that I wish more people would follow.

Societe also had a couple food stations going, including the Mastiff Sausage food truck as well as an old-tyme photo booth which, of course, my wife made us all do. Also of interest was that despite the dozens of times I’ve been to the brewery I had never taken the tour. We changed that on Saturday as we got a pretty insightful tour from co-owner and head brewer Travis Smith. He shared a lot of details about their beer making process as well as their plans for the first expansion at the brewery. I liked how he talked about “growing into the space” which again, is a simple concept but one I don’t see employed a whole lot. We also got to take a look inside the cold room, which was fun. I heard from a friend who attended the earlier session that he loved this part due to the heat during the early part of the day. Luckily, by evening everything has cooled down quite a bit, except for Travis who was decked out in his early 20th century outfit and was happy to kill a few minutes in the icebox. After swinging past the bar for refills we had the chance to go in the barrel room where they are aging their beers in a wide variety of barrels for the purpose of creating sours. Which, if they are half as good as what they already have on tap, are going to be pretty impressive.

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Travis and the Tower of Sours!

 

It was a fantastic event with fan had by all and best summed up by Megan “This is a beautiful event.” And that was before all the alcohol kicked in…I think.

So my congratulations to Travis, Douglas and all the super nice staff at Societe for having a great 1st year, I’m happy to keep enjoying your beers for a long time to come.

Cheers,
Tom

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Yeah…I’m in a band.

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Happy Anniversary Societe!

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Going for the Hat Trick part 2 or How to party in the dark at Russian River Brewing

Our next destination was just a short drive down the 101 freeway to the city of Santa Rosa. Russian River is home to some of the most fantastic IPA’s that have ever crossed my lips, Blind Pig IPA and always epic Pliny the Elder DIPA. They also produce the only beer that caused me to put a temporary hold on my stance about standing in line for anything, Pliny the Younger, the rare double IPA that only makes a brief appearance once a year around February or March. It was worth standing in line for, but luckily I was towards the front and didn’t wait too long at all.

I was very excited to be heading to home of these wonderful beers, and I was even more excited to see what other goodies they may have on draft that haven’t found their way to our little slice paradise by the sea.
As we pull into the parking lot and make our way to the back entrance, something seems a little off. I was expecting to see people outside milling around or going in and out…instead I see nothing. In fact, it looks pretty dark inside. We try to open the door and it’s locked. It’s 3pm on a Friday, so what the hell is going on?
For the love of God, let us in!

For the love of God, let us in!

My wife begins to knock on the door and one of the employees opens the door to lets us know that a two block area of Santa Rosa is having a power outage and that they had to close in the meantime until to juice is back on.
Now this is that part of the story where having a pretty wife comes in handy. Jeannine starts talking and telling the guy how excited we were to come here, we’re from all the way down in San Diego and asks if there is any way we could at least come in to look around. Now it’s important to give my wife the credit here because I probably just would have said, ‘that sucks’ and been on my way. The very nice guy at the door pauses for a second and tells us that if we wanted to get a growler or a couple of bottles to go, we could do that. We jump at the opportunity.
Once inside, the rest of the staff is only too happy to have people there, and before we even know it, they are offering us two glasses of the beer of our choice. We pick two that we’ve not yet had a chance to try before, Row 2 Hill 56 and Defenstration. The Row 2, a simcoe hop pale ale, has an ABV of 5.8% while Defenstation, a hoppy blonde ale, comes in at 7.25%ABV. Both of them are hopped up and simply taste delicious. However, if Defenstration comes on draft anywhere in San Diego and I hear about, I will knock you and 90-year old mother to the ground to get it. It’s simply fantastic.
Not my best picture, but you get the idea; Lots of beers and lots of awards!

Not my best picture, but you get the idea; Lots of beers and lots of awards!

Now while the beers we got to enjoy were excellent, what really made the experience extra special and unique, was directly due to the power being out. It meant all the guys who work there were sitting around and they are incredible fountains of knowledge. They tell us great stories and are incredibly friendly. They also let us know that had the power not gone out, the bar would have been five people deep and having a conversation with one staff member, let alone all of them, would have been much more challenging. So while we didn’t get to have all the beers that we were hoping to try, we got to spend an hour there in a way that most other people won’t, so in a way it was kind of worth it. Plus we left with five bottles of Pliny the Elder. Boom!
Now all we need to do is head back so we can try the rest of those amazing beers!
Soon….sooooooooon!
Cheers,
Tom
She got us in! Woohoo!!!

She got us in! Woohoo!!!


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Going for the Hat Trick or My Trip to Northern California part 1 – Bear Republic

I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Independence Day!
On our recent trip to the Sacramento area to visit with close friends, our very gracious hosts suggested we take a day to go explore the area on our own and have some fun. Explore the area? Who do look like, Lewis and Clark? I know exactly where I’m going – Sonoma County, known around the world as the home to very fine wines & restaurants who continually raise the bar for culinary excellence. But screw that. It’s also home to some of the very best craft beer breweries in the state and probably country. Maybe the entire planet. The hardest part would be trying to visit as many as possible in our somewhat limited time frame.
Good thing I had a plan…
Which was shot to hell pretty much from the get go. From the long wait at the car rental place to my wife insisting she needed food immediately before jumping on the freeway, this put me a little behind on my idealized itinerary. Luckily, I am a man of unending patience. Well, most of the time at least. We had a two hour drive ahead of us, and for the most part it went very well. Eventually we made our way to the 101 Freeway and headed north. Our first destination would be Healdsburg, California, home to one of my favorite brewers, Bear Republic.
Coming here is something I’ve been wanting to do for years, ever since my first taste of Racer 5 when we moved into North Park and my beer-education truly began. That was well over five years ago, so it’s about damn time I made it up.

Lovely

Lovely

We walk in shortly after 12pm and the lunch crowd was at full swing in this nicely sized brew/pub. Good fortune favored us as we were able to secure a couple seats right in the heart of the bar as a group of patrons were heading back to work. The people who populate the bar and restaurant seem to cover just about all walks of life. We enjoyed conversations with blue collar locals,  motor cycle clubs, women who appeared to have just come from the spa/salon just down the street and even a couple of senior citizens who were possibly more excited about there flight of beers than I was. It was diverse crowd and a lot of fun.
Yes, please.

Yes, please.

With a day full of drinking a head of me and a lot of driving in the cards as well, I opted to go with a flight so I could sample as much as I could get my hands on. Fortunately a full belly from my breakfast would also come in handy, although that did turn in to a bit of a sore point as the food at Bear Republic looked and smelled amazing. Can you say fresh caught Fish and Chips? Yeah, I’m already plotting y next trip.
So with all that in mind we decide to skip the beers we have had before, completely forgoing such staples as Red Rocket AleBlack Bear StoutHop Rod Rye and the classic, Racer 5 itself. Fortunately, the selections of specialties on draft that day was quite impressive.
Let's turn this...

Let’s turn this…

I found all the specialty beers to be very tasty and not a single one had any sort of off-putting flavors. That’s not to say I didn’t find a few that I liked more than others. Cher-Ami, 4.7% ABV, is a Belgian style that was an immediate hit, especially with my wife, who is turning into quite the enthusiast for Belgian style beers. Global Kolsh, 4.6% ABV, had a nice refreshing quality to it. This beer reminded me of several lighter pale ales. Normally I don’t much care for pilsners but was pleasantly surprised by the Double Aught, a 4.2% ABV that had more flavor than expected. Next up we had the El Oso, an American Amber at 4.5% ABV and the Maibock which packs a little more punch at 6.7%ABV. Our next beer was one of the more controversial of our day, Crazy Ivan – a Belgian American IPA that comes in at 6.9%ABV. I thought for sure my wife would love this beer due to her absolute obsession with Stone’s Cali-Belgique. Boy was I wrong. She didn’t like it at all, while I thought it was superior to Stone’s in every way. Oh well, if we saw eye to eye all the time we might be living in Philadelphia right now. Yikes. Next we had Red Racer, a red IPA at 6.0%ABV which is part of the ales for A.L.S. charity program, so I’m always happy to have a glass from every brewer who participates. Then it was on to Racer 5000, 7.0%ABV American IPA that was very good, but I probably set my expectations a little too high, as I was expecting something to rival Cafe Racer 15 (which will be available in bottles soon!) and Racer X. We finished up with Black Racer, a 8.1%ABV Black IPA that manages to avoid most of that heavy roasted flavor that I don’t care for.  A very successful tasting with far more hits that misses. You can’t ask for anything more can you?
...into this!

…into this!

Well, I did anyways. We were having a lot of fun chatting up fellow patrons and our bartender when we happened to stumble across another group of San Diegans who had decided to make a day out of visiting breweries in Northern California. That group happened to be most of the brewing team from Mother Earth Brewing, in Vista. A fun group of guys who will factor in more than just this adventure. And since we were having so much fun how could I resist the temptation of getting a big glass of Racer 5 poured directly from the source. I couldn’t, that how.

Although my wife did insist on sharing with one of her new friends.
Bears like beer too!

Bears like beer too!

Bear Republic is located at 345 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448. I highly recommend you go and visit next time you are in the vicinity. I hope to have part 2 of this adventure up in about a week. Hope you’ll come back for more fun.

Cheers,

Tom