HOPTOLOGY

San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!


1 Comment

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!

Tom


Leave a comment

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!

Cheers,

Tom


1 Comment

Save the date: August 23rd is Beer-Con!

Craft beer is my passion. If you are reading this blog odds are pretty good that it’s your passion as well. One of my favorite things to do here on the website and with my friends out at the bars is to share my knowledge and to hopefully learn new and exciting bits of information and insights into the world of craft beer. Whenever the opportunity arises sit back and listen to a respected member of the craft beer community speak about important issues in the world of craft brewing, I will always jump at the chance to sit in and try to soak up as much knowledge as I can. Luckily for us here in San Diego, there is a wonderful collection of very smart and knowledgeable beer people who can not only be informative but also very entertaining. It also doesn’t hurt that quite a few of them can also make a really nice beer to drink.

This is why I am so excited that on August 23, Beer-Con is back!

If you are not familiar, Beer-Con is a convention that is hosted right here in San Diego for all levels of craft beer lovers, from the newest of novices to the most expert of experts, Beer-Con is where you bring your passion for craft beer and share it with others. But this isn’t simply a gathering of craft beer enthusiasts, this is a convention designed to help you learn more about the world of craft beer and you have an opportunity to engage with the people who create your favorite brews. Panels are designed to help impart knowledge and to allow patrons to ask questions of their own.

This year the fun begins at 10am with a keynote address from the master of craft beer pairings, “Dr.” Bill Sysak, which I can speak from personal experience, should really help set the tone for a fun day. Panelist for this year will include, Doug Constantiner from Societe Brewing, Mike Hess from Hess Brewing, Shawn Dewitt of Coronado Brewing, Tristan Faulk-Webster from Aztec Brewing and many more as you get a full day of information and discussion from some of the best craft beer minds in Southern California. Your ticket will also get you a lunch, provided by MishMash, that gets paired with local craft beers and as if that isn’t enough, when the symposium wraps up, the beer festival starts! From 5pm to 8pm you can sample fine brews from the breweries listed above as well as Rip Current, Latitude 33, ChuckAlek and more!

I should also mention that your ticket entitles you to a free limited special edition t-shirt made by CraftBeerd himself, Rudy Pollorena Jr. It’s pretty badass.

You can also get more details on the event itself from my friends over at Three B Zine, the latest episode of the podcast features Michael Bowen, the creator/organizer of Beer-Con as well as Rudy Pollorena Jr. who talks about what ideas went into the design for the special edition t-shirt. It’s great stuff. You can find that episode right here.

This is not your typical beer festival, this is an excellent opportunity to increase you craft beer knowledge and it just happens to have a beer festival at the end to celebrate a successful day of learning from some of the best around about craft beer. Click here to go directly to the ticket purchasing page.

It’s important that all of our understandings of craft beer continue to grow. It’s vital that as consumers, we amass as much information as we can so that we will continue to make informed choices on how and where we want to spend our money. Smart consumers are what macro breweries are most afraid of. Craft Beer can’t change the world unless we help propel it to the great heights that it deserves to be at. Smart, well-informed consumers are going to be the ones that put macro breweries on notice that their time is done. Beer-Con is here to help make new well-informed consumers and help increase the knowledge of those who are already helping to spread the word. So when you go to beer con on August 23rd, take a person with you who needs that little extra push to be a smart consumer, heck bring two or three who need that push. When craft beer drinkers are legion is when we change to world. The revolution has already started, Beer-Con is here to help grow our army. This is your chance to become a better craft beer advocate as well as help make two or three new ones.

Having said all that, be sure to go and have fun! After all, if you aren’t having fun while drinking craft beer… you are doing it all wrong.

Cheers,

Tom


2 Comments

Going to Coronado Brewing without using a bridge.

Perhaps you suffer from acrophobia, the fear of heights. Or maybe it’s a case of gephyrophobia, the fear of bridges. Or maybe you just get easily distracted by scenic views of San Diego’s skyline. These are all reasons why you might try to avoid the Coronado Bridge. So how else would you get to Coronado Brewing?

For the sake of this blog we will also assume you have a fear of the South Bay and the Silver Strand, and since Imperial Beach is more or less my hometown, I’m kind of offended by your irrational fear so I would thank you not to mention it while in my company.

So, again, how would one make it over to Coronado Brewing without actually having to go to Coronado?

Did you know Coronado Brewing has a tasting room in Bay Park? Well, I didn’t so thanks for telling me. Somehow this news completely missed my ears, I blame school for this oversight. When the news did finally reach my previously occupied brain, I wanted to make arrangements to head over at the first opportunity. Fortunately, that opportunity was a lot easier to come by do to the fact that I live more or less around the corner from the location in question. Also making it easier is the fact my wife loves to go to places that are in a less than five mile radius of our home.

20130607-231926.jpg

After a few rights and a left we found ourselves outside of a very understated yet elegant design to the front of the brewery and tasting room. We made our way inside and were immediately impressed with the layout and the design of the place. On the right hand side of the impressively large space are the tools of the trade, this is where they make the magic happen. On your left is a really nice bar area with stools and tables along the invisible line separating brewing area from tasting. They have a refrigerated unit just around the corner so you can load up on your favorite 22oz’s and small area for any merchandise that may have caught your eye.

20130607-232404.jpg
Located at 1205 Knoxville Street in the Bay Park neighborhood, Coronado Brewing originally opened this location in 2012 as a 20,000 square foot, 30 barrel brew house to help keep up with the increasing demand for their beers. Judging from the beautiful tasting room I’d have to say it has been money well spent.

20130607-232557.jpg
The beers we selected were mostly of my wife’s choosing, but she is an IPA girl so it’s not like a pilsner was coming across my lips anytime soon. We started with Rambler Red, a nice easy drinking red ale the clocks in at 5%ABV. Next we moved to the Mermaid Red this one has a 5.7%ABV and while still very tasty I think I preferred the more brightly colored Rambler. To complete the warm up round we went ahead and had People’s Choice Pale #3, a very mild pale, light hops and strong notes of citrus. This was also only in 5%ABV range, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

20130607-232649.jpg
For the IPA portion of the program we dove head first into the Rye Dogg IPA, spoiler alert its a rye and its pretty tasty. At 6.2%ABV, I thought this beer handled its flavors well and showed some complex characteristics to boot. Next we went to the Sting Ray Point IPA, this one has a 6.8%ABV and comes along with a light body and a crispness to its taste. I found this to be a very refreshing IPA. Finally, we had to try the Frogs Breath IPA, the name alone beckons to me, this is a very fragrant brew, it has a floral aroma that I found pretty inviting and the citrus notes really pop off your taste buds. I liked this beer quite a bit as well.

20130607-232741.jpg
Now, you probably have noticed that we stayed away from the Islander & Idiot IPA’s. This was done for the sole reason that those are two beers that have been a staple of Coronado Brewing for quite some time. If you have not had one yet, I say have at it and give it a go, they are rock solid and that’s why they have been around since Coronado Brewing opened their doors almost 20 years ago.

All in all, I’m really happy that we made the time to go and check this place out. As much as I love some of our more famous craft beer neighborhoods, it’s nice to see a respected brewer like Coronado Brewing opening their doors in Bay Park, which has a pretty decent craft beer scene of its own happening too. The best part is I can drive there without having to worry about tossing my burrito off the side of the bridge and accidentally hitting a motorcyclist who looks like Jack Black and is then going to kick my dog off said bridge. I hate it when that happens.

Cheers,
Tom