HOPTOLOGY

San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!


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San Diego Beer Week 2014; It’s Here!

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year. Time continually seems to move with the rapidity of a crimson and gold cowled super hero (The Flash, he runs fast!). Yet here we are, almost 365 days removed from the start of one of the most amazing times to be a resident or a visitor to the Craft Beer Capital that San Diego has become. That’s right folks, the electricity in the air, the gentle rumbling of stomachs, that little bit of drool I have in the corner of my mouth… it all signals the start of San Diego Beer Week!

The local breweries of the city have all be busy this past year. Most are growing, setting up new and larger brewing facilities. Some are cementing their reputations for quality, some are still starting up and this is their first year as part of the beer week fun, but one thing cannot be denied, over the past year San Diego has continued to turn out some of the finest craft beers on the planet and this is the week that we all, locals and visitors alike, get to celebrate and share our high quality fermentables with everyone at just about every bar, restaurant and brewery in town.

There are so many fun and incredible events every day between November 6th (Beer Week eve) to the end of the event on November 16th that it’s practically impossible not to find something to suit your needs. This is also an amazing opportunity to take your friend who maybe hasn’t yet had the opportunity to sample the craft beer scene here in town and help show them whats it’s all about and spoil them with some fantastically fresh and tasty beers as well.

The amount of events is almost impossible to cover here, but a pretty detailed listing is available at SDBW.org, so head over and check it out. There is also a convenient app available for your smart phone that will help make planning your time considerably easier.

A lot of the events are free to get into, but some do require tickets to be purchased. Please check with each location if you have any questions about that before you head out. Also, you might want to download a ride-sharing app like Uber, Lyft or Sidecar to make sure that in all of your excitement, you still have a way to get home.

I’m only going to mention a few of the insane amount of events/tastings/pairings and tap takeovers that are planned. Use the site listed above, or check social media of your favorite bars, breweries and restaurants for their event schedules.

November 6th (Beer Week Eve Kickoff)

Friend of the blog, Rudy Pollorena Jr. aka Crafbeerd, will be holding the first of many pop up events tonight at Mike Hess Brewing in North Park at 6pm. Swing by for a beer and check out the latest designs from our resident craft beer artist.

Ritual Kitchen will be hosting a Rare & Local taps event tonight featuring incredible beers from IPA juggernauts Alpine Beer Company as well as Alesmith, Groundswell, Lost Abbey, Monkey Paw and Ballast Point.

You might see me at both places today.

November 7 & 8th

Guild Fest – This is the spot where you can rub elbows with San Diego’s craft beer dignitaries while taking in a great view with craft beer and tasty food in your hands. A not to be missed event, tickets are required, get them at SDBW.org

November 9th

– Worlds Largest Bottle Share – Friend of the blog, Brian Beagle is helping to make this new event one that will be talked about for a long time to come. This is the opportunity to hit bars along the legendary 30th street, from Normal Heights to North Park to South Park, all on a shuttle bus as you and your friends share bottles (bring a few, nothing fancy unless you want) and get to sample some amazingly rare beers along the way. Tickets are only $10 and the event goes from 1pm to 6pm and knowing Brian, there will be a ton of fun along the way. Click here for more details and how to get your tickets.

– 6th Annual Green Flash Smoke Out at Carnitas Snack Shack. If that doesn’t say enough, this link will have to, because I don’t have the words.

November 12th

– Alesmith’s Speedway Grand Prix – So let me get this straight, I’m going to sample 12 different variations of the finest stout in all the land? Sign me up. Tickets here.

– Battle of the IPA’s at Urge Gastropub. A fun, blind tasting event where your votes will help decide the winner! This is always a good time and the food at Urge is second to none. No tickets required. More info here on all their SDBW events.

There is a very good chance that I’m at both of these events.

November 14th

Hamilton’s Tavern will host its Firkin Friday with dueling casks from Monkey Paw Brewing, with personal favorite Bonobos going up against their 3rd Anniversary Ale. No SD Beer week is complete without at least one visit to this fantastic bar.

Also over the course of the week head to Toronado for only about 50 different IPA’s and take a look and the new “other side of the bar” as Toronado grows! They will also be hosting an event on the 14th, no tickets needed but it should be a blast as always. Be sure to say hi to Nate.

This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of all that will be happening in town over the next 9-10 days, depending on how you want to count. Check the websites of your favorite bars and breweries to see what they have going on. Lots of tap take overs, meet the brewers, keep the glass events that I can’t even keep track of.

Enjoy your Beer Week San Diego, you’ve earned!

Cheers,

Tom


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Finding the Gateway to Craft Beer.

This is a metaphor.

Not this kind of Gateway.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that all of us have had bad beer at some point in our drinking lives. Whether we knew it was bad beer at the time is something that can probably be debated. If you were like me, you were young, you were broke, and you wanted the most volume for your limited dollars. Enter that sweet 30 pack of whatever was the cheapest and you were only too happy to drink down. When you are in your early 20’s, that is what we call ‘living the high life.’ Good thing for marketing campaigns.

Nowadays, ten plus years removed, it is fun to look back and think of the bad beers we have poured down our throats. It’s pure nostalgia and it helps to transport us back to times when we were living to party. Paychecks meant your drinking money for the weekend. Your night life revolved around getting as many of your friends together as possible and doing stupid stuff, usually in an effort to impress others. In that sense, it’s hard to look at all those beers as a negative thing, after all, you have so many positive memories attached to them.

For some people, they stick with the beers they know. People like things that are of a comfort to them. Why rock the boat? You know what you like so you stick with it. There is nothing wrong with that. For me, and a lot of people that I know, this mentality doesn’t work for us. Most of us have sought to broaden our beer drinking horizons, after all, it’s a big world and people are brewing up a lot of new and different beers. It’s an exciting time to be a craft beer lover. Out of this world IPA’s and mouth-puckering sours are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the brave new world that craft brewers want to lead us to.

But how did we get here? Specifically, how did you get here?

At some point we made the leap into the unknown, leaving the beers of our youth behind us and letting our palates come alive to all the flavor potential that exists in the world. How did your palate progression happen?

In my case I remember growing bored with beer. The big macro brews had grown dull so I craved something new. I started drinking Samuel Adams, say what you want about Sam, but he got me out of drinking macros in the 90’s. From there I started drinking Yuengling, a favorite of the region I lived in. For a few years I was a lager guy. Then two events happened that would turn my beer world upside down. First was with my very first taste of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It was not love at first sip. Secondly, I moved from the east coast back to my home state of California. Three beers would lead me to become the hop head that I am. In hindsight I realize I might have tried them out of order. Stone IPA was handed to me at one of the very first parties I went to in San Diego. I wasn’t worthy at the time. Next someone suggested Karl Strauss’s Red Trolley, a safe beer which I dug for a while. The third beer, well, this is the one that I give the most credit to for shaping my palate into what it is now, this is my gateway beer; Ballast Point Yellowtail. Currently known as their Pale Ale, this beer, which is actually a kolsh, had the perfect flavor profile and just the right amount of hops to make my tongue percolate. It was only a few weeks later when I stepped up to the plate and had my first Sculpin. I was hooked on IPA from that day forward.

Even if you aren’t a hop-head, you prefer stouts or browns or Belgians, at some point you had to find these beers. At some point you had to break away from macros and start to explore all the amazing malts, the dark fruits and floral notes, the citrus flavors, the piney aromas. I want to know, what was your crossover beer? What was the gateway to the world of craft beer for you?

Here are five recommended crossover beers. Now keep in mind that every person’s palate is unique and if they aren’t ready, they will probably not appreciate the beer the same way you do. You can’t give a person who has been drinking Coors for twenty years a freshly poured Pliny the Elder and expect them to fall to their knees and weep at the beauty of the beer. It’s not their fault. They just need to be exposed to a great craft beer that’s right for them before they can give it the same love as you. Having said that, once I started bringing them home, my wife took to IPA’s like a fish to water, so remember, it’s all subjective. These beers are available year round and are bottled or canned for ease of purchase and listed in no particular order. *Pictures are from each brewery’s respective website. Links to said sites are provided below. 

 

  1. Sierra Nevada Pale AleMight as well start with the beer that basically started the craft beer movement back in the late 70’s. The beer is light and fresh without having an overpowering hops profile. Having said that, it can and probably will come across as bitter to a person more accustomed to sweeter, malty beers. That’s alright, it’s an entry point so they can get familiar with the style. Plus you can tell people all about how they are the world’s leading Clean Energy brewery. paleale
  2. Alesmith Speedway Stout I’m probably a little out of my mind for suggesting you use this 12%ABV monster stout as an entry point to craft beer but hear me out; the complexity of the beer, it’s multitude of flavors and it’s pure, easy drinkability make this is prime example of craft beer at it’s finest. This beer will be a hit with your friends who can’t get enough coffee during the course of their work day. Plus, it didn’t win the 2013 Sore Eye Cup for best regularly brewed beer in San Diego for nothing…along with a score of other awards over the years as well. Alesmith-Speedway
  3. Modern Times Fortunate IslandsModern Times may be a new brewery but this beer is simply fantastic. The bright, tropic flavors and aromas will make this a beer that goes easy on craft beer newbie’s palate. The hops profile is noticeable but it compliments the beer without stealing the show and dominating your taste buds.MOD_webislands_220_488_85
  4. Anchor Steam Beer (California Common)Another beer with great history in the craft beer revolution, this beer might seem simple compared to some of the others I’ve mentioned, but that’s the point. Some peoples palates get completely thrown off when you hit it with too much too fast. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the beers you are trying, I suggest a switch to this. It has a malty base with only bare essential hopping, a benefit if suffering from hops fatigue. You get a sweet, caramel colored beer that drinks incredibly well anytime of day or year.steam-bio
  5. Firestone Walker DBA (Double Barrel Ale)This beer is also profiles with more of a malt base with only mild hops flavors, but I consider this beer to be an excellent platform beer. The well balanced flavors mingle nicely and can easily entice a drinker to see what other offerings might be brewed by these masters…which will eventually lead you to Union Jack, which in my opinion is kind of a big deal.DBA

The real question after reading over my list is, are these beers you agree with or have I lost all my marbles? The whole topic is subjective and open to multiple opinions. Depending on the tastes of the person who is trying craft beer for the first time you could very easily add brown ales, dubbels, barleywines, it’s never ending. We live in a time where getting craft beer is now as easy as walking to the corner store. The most important thing is to get people to make that leap, let them try anything and everything. Breweries and most bars in town are only too happy to pour you a taster. It’s easier than ever to find one that suits you and gets you started on the adventure of craft beer and the incredible journey that evolving your palate can take you on.

Cheers,

Tom


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Finding a dark corner to drink in the City of Lights

Paris, France is a city known for dozens of delights in the culinary world. It’s a land of baguettes, croissants, es cargo, and mouthwatering pastries that can stretch your waistline just by looking at them. The cheeses are simply some of the best I’ve ever had and they pair the wide variety of cheese very nicely with any one of a hundred wines that are grown and fermented across the region. It’s impossible to visit and not find something to satisfy the foodie that lives in all of us and usually takes control of us while on vacation. But how does a beer lover satisfy his or her need for biscuit-like malt flavors and some form of hops that we are all in love with?

There is a way.
Of course when you are in  Paris, or anywhere in France, you truly owe it to yourself to seek out wine from area and sample it. Just about every local we spoke to was more than happy to point us in the right direction on the extensive wine lists that are found in just about every restaurant, cafe and bistro you walk in. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t beer to be found in France. Craft Beer is a little harder to find, but I’ll get to that later.
Just about all the cafes and restaurants will offer a limited selection of beers, mostly on draft and mostly beers from the InBev family which, if you are like me, you will avoid with every fiber of your being. Luckily with neighbors to the north like Belgium, it isn’t too much strain to find something that isn’t owned by a giant corporation that cares little for quality and craftsmanship of their beers.
Now as much as I would have preferred to spend my time in Paris like the Beer Hunter Michael Jackson, I had to spend much of my days there being a tourist and photographer for the wife. Not that I minded too much. Well, maybe a little if I’m being honest. It was after one of our tourist adventures that I finally managed to do a little beer hunting of my own. After crossing the river Seine back to the left bank we walked the winding roads of the 5th arrondissment (district), not too far from where the Pantheon stands, I found a bastion of craft beer and it was noteworthy.
If a smiling beer face doesn't make you want to drink I don't know what will.

If a smiling beer face doesn’t make you want to drink I don’t know what will.

BREWBERRY – 18, Rue du Pot de Fer 75005 Paris www.brewberry.fr
Brewberry is basically a bottle shop with cold beer on hand that can be consumed on the premises while snacking on a tasty cheese board and other delectable delights. It can also be described as something of a beer cellar, as you walk down the steps and enter you get the feeling that you have entered into the basement of a good friend who knows good beers and hordes them all. If you don’t know what a basement is, I’d recommend meeting someone not from California to help fill you in. The walls are lines with shelf after shelf of fantastic beers, most are organized by style, but it’s easy to find your way around and get what you are looking for. In the center of the room are several tables for you and your friends to sit and enjoy your beverages. This is where craft beer lives in Paris.
There is a little bit of home on these shelves.

There is a little bit of home on these shelves.

Having been open for just about three years, Brewberry has in that time carved out a nice niche for themselves in a city of wine lovers. The staff is very friends as was the mix of locals and ex-pats who were there on the night we stopped by for our visit. Oddly enough, of all the places I went looking for beers made in France, this was the only spot out of an innumerable amount of bars we visited that carried them. Brasserie Fleurac makes a pretty solid tripel and I can only hope that the brewery gets more success in its own country. The selection of bottles on hand is very diverse and I had to admit a fair amount of pride at seeing some of San Diego’s best breweries prominently on display like Green Flash, Alesmith and Lost Abbey.
French beer. Pretty good!

French beer. Pretty good!

Paris has several other highly praised bottle shop spread around the city as well as one or two micro breweries that I wish I had the opportunity to visit. Unfortunately my old enemy, time, prevented me from finding more locations that I could compare to Brewberry. Another reason was that I didn’t want to get too crazy with the beer in Paris because our next destination was Belgium and I needed my liver in top condition.
This is called a "Prelude" of things to come!

This is called a “Prelude” of things to come!

So how did Belgium go? Stay tuned.
Cheers,
Tom


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12 Beers of Christmas pt. 2 : I’ll have a Brew Christmas (with or without you) Beers 5-8

Here we are, Christmas is less than a week away and you know what that means, I need to get the rest of this list out fast! So let’s cut the chit-chat and get right down to the brass tacks.

The 12 beers of Christmas numbers 5-8.

A holiday tradition

A holiday tradition

5. Alesmith – Yulesmith (Winter) – Imperial Red Ale 8.5%ABV. This beer is a long standing tradition for me, the beer presents a rosy amber color with an aroma of sweet malts balanced by a nice combination of pine and citrus hops. The strong malt backbone is what makes itself known first on your palate. You get a little sweetness almost like caramel notes, just as the bittering hops kick in and make all the flavors pop together in your mouth like a symphony. While this Yulesmith is slightly less enjoyable than its summertime counter part it is no less an essential of the holiday season.

Lost Abbey's 1st ever IPA

Lost Abbey’s 1st ever IPA – Not my best photo

6. Lost Abbey Merry Taj – Imperial IPA 8.0%ABV – When setting out to write this series of Christmas blogs I had put together a pretty good list of beers to drink that I then would then narrow down to twelve. This beer wasn’t even on the list, partially because I had somehow never heard of it and Lost Abbey has NEVER made an IPA. So you can understand my surprise when I was drinking at Stone World Bistro in Liberty Station and saw this on the menu. I even asked if it was a mistake. Luckily for me, and the rest of the beer drinkers lucky enough to find this draft only beer from the brew masters at Lost Abby it wasn’t. Lovers of IPA will find a lot to like from this beer as soon as you catch a whiff of the aroma on this one. Piney hop notes will lure you in and coat your tongue with holiday cheer. The malts are subtle but bring a light, crisp quality to the beer. Easy to drink and very tasty, I only wish Stone had offered up a bigger pour, 8oz just wasn’t enough. Lost Abbey’s first IPA is a delight and that fact it’s a holiday beer is just a bonus for me to include it in this post.

So damn good!

So damn good!

7. Affligem – Noel -Belgian Strong Dark Ale 9.0%ABV. Finally a Belgium beer makes its presence known on this list and this one does so with authority. My serving was on draft at Stone Brewing and the glass presented with a lovely dark gold color and a nice frothy head on top. The nose on this beer is distinctly of dark fruits – raisins, dates, maybe some fig as well as spiced holidays flavors. The beer drinks incredibly well as the candied sugars used in most Belgians help to obscure the high level of alcohol. This one also has a nice warming effect and as is the case with most of the best beers from Belgium, this beers flavors really start to come alive as the glass warms. This is a fantastic Christmas treat.

Santa might be a drunk.

Santa might be a drunk.

8. Rogue – Santa’s Private Reserve Ale – Amber Ale 6.0%ABV – This is the second red ale to make the list, but this one is something of a craft beer holiday classic. Rogue brews this up annually and it’s always a treat. My favorite thing about ales from Rogue is the rich creamy head that shows up in most of their brews. Santa pours a deep red, kind of like his suit. You will notice a sweet malty aroma. When I took my first sip what jumped out at me was the strong malt base of the beer. It’s the back end is where the hops make their presence shown. Chinook hops give the beer a very tasty pine quality that helps to further the idea of this as the beer of choice for Saint Nicholas. I can’t emphasize enough just how impressive the creamy foam head on this beer is.

So that’s beers 1-8 for Christmas 2013. I still have four to go and a few surprises might be waiting underneath the Christmas tree.

Cheers,

Tom