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It’s the Great Pumpkin (Beers), Charlie Brown!

It’s that time of year when the temperature begins to drop and the cool, crispness in the air signals the change of season from summer to fall as the leaves begin to turn color and sail to the ground where they wait for us to rake them up into big piles for the children of the neighborhood to jump into.

Well, maybe not in Southern California.a97bf1d1-794a-401e-a8dc-16a9dfe23805

October in San Diego usually means odd pumpkin patches in the middle of parking lots with straw on the ground. Costume shops in every strip mall that has an unoccupied building and lunatics who try to tell you that cold cider is just as good as hot cider. Savages I tell you!

But what we don’t have in the way of the more iconic definition of the fall season, we more than make up for in our efforts to evoke that fall feeling of cool nights and crisp air with some truly wonderful pumpkin ales made by some of the best craft brewers in San Diego, and for this list, one who is slightly further away.

Much like last week’s post on specialty ingredient hibiscus, pumpkin is something that can easily be done wrong. It’s also easy to look at the absolute flood of pumpkin related items and say that pumpkin beer is simply a gimmick to get money from suckers who worship at the house of gourd.

The question has been asked to me on several occasions; can pumpkin beers be considered a true craft beer? Or do you lose credibility because of the perception that pumpkin beers are merely a fad? It’s a question I like to answer with another question; Is it brewed by a craft brewer? Than the answer is yes, it’s craft beer. However, if you want to delve into the question further, I will happily elaborate. The beer must be carefully crafted to be something unique, not something that is simply allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon added to a fermentor. The design of the beer has to be really strong and showcase what real pumpkin flavor can bring to the world of craft beer.

That being said, allow me to present four craft beer that might make you rethink the way you look at pumpkin beer.

Coronado Brewing Company: Punk’in Drublic Imperial Pumpkin Ale.2014-10-08 18.39.43

The beer opens with a rich orange/amber color. lightly carbonated. The nose is a mix of pumpkin and nutmeg with a noticeable hint of cinnamon. First taste is a nice blend of natural pumpkin flavor with more sublet notes from the added spices and a light honey sweetness. The beer drinks easy and has all the nice flavors that a fall beer should have. The spices don’t overpower the beer, you can readily taste the natural pumpkin flavor without thinking that you are being force-fed pumpkin pie in a bottle. Plus the brew has a nice 8.0%ABV which you might not suspect as I found it to be a rather subtle. I love the design on the bottle and the name alone kind of makes it an easy sell to me, good thing it is also easy to drink and even easier to recommend.

Mike Hess Brewing: Magma Cucurbita, Imperial Pumpkin Stout.2014-10-13 16.06.38

Another beautiful bottle for a stout that pours at an impressive 7.25%ABV. The color is a dark molasses with a rich foamy head. The aroma is a roasted earthiness mixed with subtle hints of spice. Taste wise, it’s matches well with it’s aroma. This beer is roasted like pumpkin seeds and has an earthy quality like the brew just came out of the ground at a pumpkin patch. This beer drinks very well and gets more complex and enjoyable as it warms up to room temperature. On the front end of your palate, you get all the malty goodness, the pumpkin and spices are more subtle and noticeable on the back end. This is a wonderful beer to sit around on a cool autumn night with to help you stay warm.

Alpine Beer Company: Ichabod Ale.

With the amazing brewers at Alpine using a wheatwine as the base for this ale, you have to know it’s going to have a little something behind it, and at 10%ABV it doesn’t disappoint. The ale pours a golden orange color with a lovely nose of cinnamon and nutmeg but used moderately so as not to over power the beer they have crafted. It tastes as good as it smells and with a sticky wine sweetness that adds to the overall enjoyment of the beer. This isn’t one that should be gulped down in a hurry, this is a much more easy going, take a sip and enjoy the leaves changing color sort of beer. Take your time with this one and you’ll truly appreciate what it has to offer.2014-10-11 16.16.37

Kern River Brewing Company: Pumpkin Ale.

Kern River is not a San Diego brewery, but you’d never know it from the way their “Just Outstanding” IPA tastes. In fact, that beer is the sole reason I was so excited to try out this pumpkin ale. The label is simple yet the tag line says it all, “So good it’s scary!”. The beer pours a healthy orange color with a nice level of carbonation. The nose on this ale is full of fresh pumpkin smell and that’s exactly what you get as the ale touches your tongue. You’ll notice a soft undercurrent of allspice on the backend, but only if you are paying close attention. This pumpkin beer is amazingly drinkable and at only 5%ABV it’s not going to end your night of trick r’ treats early. The restraint from the temptation to over spice this beer is perhaps the most impressive thing of all. It takes true craftsmanship to show that level of restraint and let the fresh pumpkin flavors be the star of the beer. A phenomenal ale and luckily, everyone I’ve shared it with has agreed with that assessment. Highest recommendation you go find this beer right now.2014-10-13 23.06.59

So there are my four favorite pumpkins ales for this Halloween season, did I forget any? Let me know which ones have caught your eye.

Now if we could only get the brewers to make that beer with the turkey/cranberry/gravy/stuffing flavor for Thanksgiving we’d be all set!

Cheers and Happy Halloween!


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Real Men (& Women) Drink Pink Beer!

Specialty ingredients in beer are always something that people have a ton of opinions about. Some people think it’s gimmicky, some people think it’s creative and there are all kinds of opinions that fall in-between and around those two opposing thoughts. Recently I’ve had two beers that are two different styles that are tied together with one common specially ingredient; hibiscus.

Hibiscus is a flower most commonly associated with tropical and sub-tropical regions. When not in flower form, it’s most commonly used as an ingredient in specialty teas. However this is San Diego and we aren’t known for brewing tea, we are known for brewing beer. So lets grab some hibiscus and make some beer with it. First up…

Stone Brewing’s Stochasticity Project: Hibiscusicity.2014-10-02 23.47.07

This beer is a Belgian style ale, normally a golden ale, however with the inclusion of dried hibiscus leaves to the recipe this beer now pours a beautiful shade of pink with a really nice floral nose touched with a hint of citrus, probably from another ingredient used; orange peel. I found both the color and the aroma of the beer to be very surprising. Initially I had moderate expectations for a Belgian style ale that was using dried flowers as a selling point for the beer, but after seeing how it poured and letting it’s aroma fill my sense of smell, I had become intrigued. Very intrigued. Putting the glass to my mouth, the floral and citrus hit your palate nicely and then you discover a hint of tartness mingled with the spice that is customary in a Belgian ale. It finished dry and is amazingly refreshing. I honestly couldn’t get enough of this beer which was something I wasn’t expecting. This beer comes in at 7.4% ABV and is dangerously easy to drink. I highly recommend giving this entry in the Stochasticity Project a taste because I’m confident you won’t regret it. It’s delightful!

The next beer I had recently with this ingredient was none other than…

Coronado Brewing Company’s Hibiscus IPA.

For an IPA, you will know this beer is pretty different just from reading that it’s ABV is only 4.9%, a pretty low level for most beers to be called an IPA. Something else to note is that it also has a very low IBU (International Bittering Units) level as well, at 40 which is as low as you can go and still be considered an IPA. If those sort of numbers set off alarm bells in your brain, I suggest you ignore them because this beer is really good. When I poured to my glass I noted the vibrant pink color and the floral aroma that came off the beer, it was mingled with a slight citrus smell. When the beer hit my palate, the first thing I thought was just how smooth and easy drinking this beer is. The presence of chinook and centennial hops are noticeable but they play a complimentary role to the hibiscus, they don’t over power the beer in anyway. Again, this was also an incredibly refreshing beer, especially considering its IPA characteristics. It should be noted that this is not a new beer, it was originally a collaboration between Coronado and Maui Brewing to help raise funds for the breast cancer awareness organization, Beer for Boobs. Now the beer is being made once again, this time it’s Coronado on it’s own, but the link to the fight against breast cancer remains as a portion of proceeds go to the charity. A pink beer to raise breast cancer awareness, I love the way brewers think! In closing, the beers is fantastic and you owe it to yourself to give it a shot and not dismiss it because it’s pink bottle and low ABV frighten you. This beer is totally legit and really, really good!2014-10-03 00.31.17

That’s all for now guys. Have a great time drinking craft beer!



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ThreeBZine’s Dustin Lothspeich Q&A! Yea!

This year has been a banner year for HoptologySD in the sense that I’ve spent a lot of time branching out and trying to meet other folks who talk about and cover the Craft Beer scene here in San Diego. I’ve made a lot of new friends as the months have rolled along and none of those have been better than the guys at ThreeBZine.Com. You probably remember Cody, one-half of the ThreeBZine podcasting duo, who was kind enough to contribute to my series on craft beer snobs and craft beer geeks. However, I had not had the opportunity to engage with the other half, the musical half, of ThreeBZine.com, and that is the one of a kind, Dustin Lothspeich.

In my estimation, Dustin is a modern day renaissance man. Not only is he a podcaster, he’s a writer of both words and music as well as a vocalist and guitarist for several local San Diego bands. As someone who has zero musical ability, other than singing every thrash metal song ever written, I’ve always been insanely envious of musicians. A strange thing about my relationship with Cody has been that more often than not, Dustin and I had not had the opportunity to meet on my appearances on the ThreeBZine podcast. Well, I had to rectify that immediately and I wanted people to have the opportunity to get to know Dustin better, so he was very kind when he agreed to be the first victim, errr… guest to be interviewed by me, here at HoptologySD.com.

I’m thrilled to present the interview I did with Dustin of ThreeBZine.Com, Old Tiger, Diamond Lakes, Boy King, and I’m pretty sure he was also in Motley Crue and Poison at some point as well.

First a quick thanks for agreeing to do this, you and Cody with be my first interviews on the site. Hopefully it goes well and I don’t make a mockery of internet journalism. If that’s even possible. First, I wanted to ask how you got involved in the ThreeBZine Podcast?

“”A mockery of internet journalism” — LOL even the use of the word “mockery” and the fact that all of those words are spelled right, puts you several steps above most others in the field. haha

I had originally become involved with Cody and ThreeBZine about three years ago. He caught my band Old Tiger at a small club in La Mesa randomly, we ended up chatting and I became his first band interview for his online zine. We talked more and hung out and I decided to volunteer to help him write some articles for the music part of the site. I did some interviews, reviews and a couple other articles until I had to devote most of my free time to the bands I was in. But we remained good friends and every so often, he’d bring up the idea of doing a podcast. As with everything, there are the ideas that happen and the ideas that don’t. Well, we batted the idea around for maybe a year until one day, he was like “I’ve bought a mic, I’ve got my buddy scheduled to sit in and how would you feel to be a co-host on the show?” Of course, I was in. The funny thing was, I thought maybe we’d do one and then that’d be it. It’s hard to keep grand concepts like that going, especially with all the schedule strangling that goes on with projects like that. But it turned into an almost weekly thing (or as frequently as we can). We started doing them, had fun, got to meet cool people, talk about fun stuff and decided there was no real reason to quit. And here we are, 35 episodes later.”
Do you think being a vocalist in several bands has helped to make you comfortable in front of the mic for a podcast? Or was there an adjustment period where you had to find your footing in something different from being on a stage?
“I don’t really know if it helped or not, to be honest. haha. I’ve never been particularly comfortable playing in front of people, and feel especially awkward when it comes to stage banter. So, I doubt it helped. For the first few episodes, I was pretty nervous when the tape started rolling. Beforehand, I’d be talking like normal, just goofin’ around and then we’d start recording and I felt like nothing came quickly or naturally. I felt like I sucked big-time. But now, I think we’ve settled into a good groove — I don’t even realize we’re rolling these days. I actually get kinda amped when we press “record.””
It’s kind of a different animal right? The idea that people are listening to your conversation can be a little strange at first, I’d imagine. One of my favorite aspects of the show has been listening as you have grown from being very new to craft beer to someone who is growing more and more comfortable talking about and describing the beers you are drinking. Can you talk a little about your evolution as a craft beer advocate? It’s alright if you want to blame Cody. Haha!
“Lol, I totally blame Cody! I never would’ve gotten into craft beer if it weren’t for him. I had no desire to learn about it and actually didn’t really like the taste of beer at all. But when all you’ve had to drink your whole life is Corona, PBR and Coors Light, can you blame me? Haha. It’s been strange and interesting, the more I’ve gotten into it. I find myself flip-flopping between the beers I like the most. Sometimes it’s a hoppy IPA. Sometimes it’s a really dark, heavy stout. I’m still not altogether comfortable describing beer to people who actually know what they’re talking about (like Cody and nearly every “beer” person that comes on the show) because I feel like there’s just so much I don’t know. But I’m able to pick out certain reasons for why I like certain beers and why I don’t like others. Before the pod, it used to just be “that one tastes OK, and that one doesn’t”. Now it seems like I have a slightly better handle on WHY I like or dislike certain kinds. And I think it has just come with drinking as many different beers as I can. I’m becoming more familiar with brands that I like as well. For example, I’ve found that I don’t typically like Stone beers. They’re too aggressive for the most part, in my opinion. I think that’s probably their MO, but they’re not for me. But I do like most of the Modern Times releases I’ve tried – most of them seem very balanced to me. I think that’s really what I look for the most now – it used to be I’d look for beers that “tasted” good. That’s why I didn’t like IPAs as a whole. Now, I seem to gravitate towards any kind of beer that has a clean finish, some character, but isn’t overwhelming on any particular front. It’s all about balance, in my book. Either way, I’m still learning. Every time we do an episode, I feel like I’m just soaking up information. And that’s one of the cool things that I think our show offers – it’s not for the ultimate beer drinker/expert. It’s for everyone. People who are just dipping their toe in the whole craft beer scene can start to understand what it’s all about, while those that already know about it all will be entertained – and hopefully we can make ’em both thirsty.”
I think you’ve nailed it. Since the start of the year my focus has shifted to not only talking up great craft beers but trying to help new people to enjoy the craft beer movement while hopefully providing enough insight that people who are already well versed are enjoying/learning from what I’m writing. It’s not an easy balance but a fun one to be sure. I can also relate to you in the sense that I can sometimes get quite around “experts” because I don’t want to say anything foolish in front of them, but the more I hang around these people, the more comfortable I get with my descriptions of beers. I’ve learned there are not really any wrong answers (well, that’s not entirely true, if you drink an IPA and say it tastes like mustard, I’m pretty sure that’s wrong) And most people won’t judge you negatively. Each beer you drink is your own personal experience and your palate is different from everyone else. I know in my case, I’ve broken my nose several times and that has an effect on the palate so sometimes when I’m having a complex beer I can miss subtle flavors, but nobody has ever mocked me for not detecting soft notes of jasmine in a saison or anything. Ha! Sorry for the long response.

Another aspect of the show that I enjoy the hell out of, is when you and Cody get started on food topics. Red sauce vs. green sauce, your battle at Taco Fiesta to get a breakfast burrito are just a few of my favorites. You guys enjoy talking about food so much that you’ve rebranded the show by changing one of the three B’s to stand for ‘Bites’. In your experience, is there a meal that you think goes hand in hand with a great beer? And if so what do you like to eat with a great beer?  
“Man, so many great meals go hand in hand with beer. It’s hard to make that call: For a crisp, session style beer, it’s hard to beat some killer fish tacos. But for a really hoppy IPA, I gotta go with brats. Grillin’ up some brats, tons of mustard — nothing compliments that more than a great beer. I haven’t paired a lot of food with porters or stouts at this point, but there’s nothin’ quite like enjoying some chocolate, ice cream or most other kinds of dessert with an oatmeal or coffee stout. That’s one of my most favorite pairings ever.”
Lets wrap up with my favorite kind of hard hitting questions, the ones that are borderline absurd. Lets suppose you find yourself stranded on an island not too dissimilar from the one on “Lost” and you locate a bunker that has a CD/Record/Tape player and a complete catalog of a single artist. You also find a lifetime supply of a single type of food and a single type of beer. What do you want the band to be? What do you want the food to be? and what do you want the beer to be? 
“The band would be: Led Zeppelin. The sheer volume of awe-inspiring music those giants released still amazes me, and would provide for a lifetime or musical enjoyment. I hear something new everytime I listen to them.
The food would be: Pizza! You can’t really go wrong with any time of pizza. I like it all. Straight cheese, pep, deep dish, thin crust, regular crust, meat lover’s, veggie, surpreme, ricotta, margherita: you name it — I like it. And there’s enough variety to keep it interesting!
The beer would be: It’s a toss up between Modern Times Phalanx and Russian River Blind Pig. I love the Phalanx because the grapefruit flavor lends a little tartness and a little sweetness to a finely balanced IPA. Immensely drinkable and I enjoy it every time I’ve had it. But I’m also partial to Blind Pig. That to me, is basically the perfect drinkable IPA. It’s SO refreshing and balanced while having that crazy fresh hoppiness. Plus, I don’t get to drink it very much so maybe that would explain why I want it so much. LOL. I’m goin’ with the Pig.”
So that’s Dustin in a nutshell. In the time since we did this interview via email, I have had the opportunity to meet the man face to face and found him to be a very kind and gracious individual. If you are interested in hearing what Dusting gets up to musically and what he writes about while covering the local music scene here in San Diego, here are the links you’ll need.
He plays bass in Diamond Lakes, and the first track off our new EP is available to listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/diamond-lakes/borrowed-bones-3
He sings/plays guitar in Old Tiger. Here’s our FB: https://www.facebook.com/oldtigermusic
He plays guitar in Boy King. Here’s our FB: https://www.facebook.com/longliveboyking
He also writes about music for ThreeBZine.com, ListenSD.com, San Diego Uptown News, TourWorthy.com and NBC SoundDiego.
I’d also like to mention that his band, Old Tiger, is playing a show this coming week, October 9th at The Casbah, tickets are cheap and it’s going to be a great night so head out to support local music while drinking local craft beer. tumblr_ncdev7sR1E1qkmmhco1_500