San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Here we are, Thanksgiving is upon us once again and it’s time see the family and over-indulge in all sorts delicious treats, and that includes all sorts of fun winter specialties the breweries have started churning out.

Being a craft beer drinker/supporter/promoter and home-brewer in San Diego we definitely have a lot to be thankful for and as such I’d like to take a few minutes and name just of the things that craft beer enthusiasts in San Diego should be thankful for, not just for the holiday season but every day of the year.
So, in no particular order…
I’m thankful for… San Diego Breweries – Lets just get this one out of the way right off the bat. We are rapidly closing in on 100 breweries in the county of San Diego. There are so many that naming them all actually makes my brain cry. While the big guys like Stone, Ballast Point and Green Flash tend to get most of the attention one that I’m most thankful for is Societe Brewing. Those guys make great beer and there isn’t one that I don’t love on a shockingly intimate level.
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I’m thankful for… Craft Beer Bars – When out of town friends come to town and want to head out for a night of drinking, they are always surprised that we don’t head downtown or to Pacific Beach. Bottom line, over in those parts of town it’s amateur hour and as I’ve gotten older I no longer suffer fools lightly. The guys are very macho and want to fight.The girls are just over the line from being high class hookers. Instead we can go to North Park, or South Park or Normal Heights and a nice selection of other neighborhoods as well. Craft Beer bars are typically frequented by people who are just out having fun and know how to handle themselves when they get a little sloppy (It happen to the best of us) I can’t even remember the last time I saw a fight break out at Small Bar or Toronado or Hamilton’s. These bars have a great atmosphere about them and they aren’t filled with douch bags who are trying to slip roofies in to girls drinks. So that a bonus for all the ladies.
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I’m thankful for… Bottle shops – Maybe the bar scene isn’t for you, you’d rather spend your night at home sitting on the patio and relaxing with friends in the comfort of your own home where bathroom lines tend to be much shorter. This is why we are thankful to have such a  great selection of bottles shops as we do here in San Diego. Bottlecraft, Clem’s and Bine & Vine are just a few examples of truly outstanding shops where you can find a wide array of beers and styles from all over the world. The people in the shops are friendly, knowledgeable and make it really hard to find a bottle that won’t satisfy your refined palate.
I’m thankful for… Our local Homebrew supply stores. I’ve only been brewing beer for 6 months or so but it has quickly become something that I’m passionate about. While it’s great that there are a lot of local shops where I can find all ingredients and equipment a I need for making beer what I have enjoyed the most is getting to chat with the people who work in the stores and picking their brains for insights and their experience. The Homebrewer shop in North Park is quickly becoming a favorite.
I’m thankful for… All the really great people I’ve met and interacted with because of my blog and social media.
And finally,
I’m thankful for… my drinking buddies. I guess I can also call them my friends. Yes, this is completely sappy and mushy but that is what the holidays are for. I run with a great group of people and we tend to have way more fun than most people our ages usually do.  They are the best.
So let all go eat a ton of food and heed the wisdom of the great Louis C.K.
Happy Thanksgiving!


A Real Trick R’ Treat : Gourmet Chocolate, Artisan Cheese & Craft Beer!

When we last spoke, I was busy extolling the virtues of pairing your favorite craft beers with as many varieties of foods and snacks as possible. The point being to further the idea that craft beer is an important compliment to foods on the same level as many people view wine. The topic was easily one of my favorite things to talk about and it garnered a favorable amount of feedback from folks who typically don’t drink craft beer outside of certain social situations and certainly not over a filet mignon from Donovan’s Steak House.

As I intimated towards the end of the post, this was all precursor to a little craft beer & food pairing that I had set in motion with my favorite foodie and fellow blogger, Megan, of Monkeybreadandsweetpea.com. We went into the planning stages with the idea to keep it relatively simple and at a restrained budget since we were literally eating and drinking the costs of the event. We quickly settled on the idea of five different cheeses and chocolates pairing with five different craft beers. Knowing ahead of time that our budgets would preclude us from indulging in buying any Gorau Glas and Bitto cheeses or bottles of Westvleteren XII (which I wouldn’t be able to provide without a trip to Belgium) we set out to design our menus.
I asked Megan to pick the five cheese and chocolates she would liked to see paired up with craft beer and I would set out to find beers that would compliment those choices. In theory I had the easier of the two jobs, but I set out to try and design a truly unique craft beer experience with some choices that would be slightly out of my comfort zone. Some of the rules I made for myself might seem a bit odd, but I wanted to try and push myself to think about the food and the beers in different ways than I typically would. That meant no San Diego beers. I can hear the gasps coming over the internet. The friends that would be at this mini event are my main drinking and eating buddies, we have traveled all over this county drinking beers from every brewer that would serve us. Why not take this opportunity to showcase how food and craft beer pair but also show some other great beers from around the country and even the world? The possibilities became almost overwhelming but in a fun way.
The second challenge I placed on myself had to do with the chocolate portion of the tasting. I was pretty confident in the beer pairings with the cheeses, but the chocolate presented a fun challenge. Typically when pairing beer with chocolate you can pick up a stout or a porter and hit a home run on your first swing. So that was the rule I placed on myself, I would not pick any stouts and would limit myself to only one porter, and even the porter I selected had more to do with the flavor possibilities of one of the cheeses.
With these rules in mind I now present the 1st annual Spooktacular (It was Halloween weekend) Artisan Cheese, Gourmet Chocolate and Craft Beer Pairing, as selected by myself and Megan
Pairing #1 – English Vintage Reserve Cheddar with Dark Chocolate Covered Cranberries paired with Ninkasi Brewing’s Total Domination IPA
Pairing #2 – Uniekaas Reserve (Aged Gouda) with Chili Infused Dark Chocolate and or Chuao Firecracker (Dark Chocolate w/ Chipotle, Sea Salt, Pop Rocks) paired with Drake’s Black Robusto Porter
Pairing #3 – Point Reyes Aged Blue Cheese with Dark Chocolate paired with Ommegang Abby Ale
Pairing #4 – Cinnamon Apple Goat Cheese with Dark Chocolate and Almonds paired with Ayinger Brauweisse Hefeweizen
Pairing #5 – Le Delice de Bourgogne Triple Cream Brie with Truffles (Godiva Milk Chocolate with Caramel, White Chocolate Ganache and Toffee, Or Chocolate Caramel or Dark Chocolate paired with St. Bernardus Tripel


Megan and I agreed that the only real rule was to have fun. We suggested that each person try the pairing as selected first and then start mixing and matching to find out what flavors and combinations they liked the most. A sort of craft beer, cheese and chocolate roulette if you will.

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I can’t speak for Megan on this, but I was very nervous when people first started sampling. I was asking a group of close friends who are die-hard hop-heads to drink porters and abby ales. This could have turned into a disaster. Luckily my worries were for not, I think starting with the IPA up front helped because once people took a bite of the aged cheddar with the Total Domination, you could see people’s eyes get a little bigger with the surprise of how good the sharpness of the cheddar played of the sharpness of the hops from the IPA.

The pairing turned out to be pretty darn good. We got some really great responses from our guinea pigs, er… I mean friends. Two that really surprised me were the Aged Gouda with the Drake’s Porter, we got a really great smoky flavor, and the Goat Cheese with the Hefeweizen, something about the creamy cheese mingling with the clove and wheat flavors that played off each other very well. Ommegang Abby Ale was also a favorite around the table with the big flavors from the aged blue cheese. Pairing a triple cream brie with a belgian tripel is always going to win folks over.
On the chocolate front, the Drake’s Black Robusto went well with everything but I was delighted by the flavors from the IPA with the chocolate and chipotle. I also enjoyed the milk chocolate paired with the Tripel, just delightful. I think it’s fair to say the results were a fun, entertaining and tasty night full of delightful palate popping experience.
I’m also very enthusiastic to say that we had so much fun that Megan and I are hard at work figuring out when we will be planning our next pairing event. If you want invited, you’ll have to talk to her as it’s at her house. So be sure to head over to her site and read her thoughts on the nights events as well.
I want to hear your craft beer pairing stories, so please share.