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San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!


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White Labs : Getting my learn on while drinking…or the Beast from the Yeast!

If White Labs were around when I was in High School, I might have paid a lot more attention during science class. If we talked more about beer in class I suspect I might not have failed chemistry. OK, you got me, I probably still would have failed, but it sure as hell would have been more fun. (On a side note, I have a similar theory for Breaking Bad and meth)

For the past several months, I’ve been chomping at the bit to go and check out White Labs, the whole concept of the place is fascinating to me, but for one reason of another plans to go have seemly gotten derailed at the last moment. Which has been slightly frustrating but also helped to build my anticipation level for checking this place out. I’d like to think I did a pretty good job of keeping my expectations in check.

For those who are unfamiliar with the name, White Labs isn’t your typical brewery. In fact, I don’t even know if brewery is even an accurate word for them. They make yeast. They make yeast for beer, for wine and all the different ways it can be fermented. These guys are freaking scientists! As we know, most scientists have a tendency to go evil and try to take over the word. I’m looking at you Dr. Doom. These guys use their brains for the betterment of humanity, they do what they do to bring us awesome beer and wine. From the biggest of breweries and vineyards all the to the smallest of home brewers, White Labs offers there services to any any all who have an interest in liquid divination.

They also have a tasting room with plenty of beers for drinking.

Now, that said, again, it’s not your typical tasting room. They brew beer here in very small batches, in fact they brew with the standard equipment of the average home brewer. It’s probably safe to call them experimental beers. The point here, from my understanding, is to brew up say, five or six IPA’s, but by using different strains of yeast and fermentation techniques for each one to see how it changes the beer’s flavor profile. They do this with Belgiums, Porters, Pilsners, Saisons – you name it, they do it. Over 30 taps to conduct your own flavor experiments on.

Think on that for a moment.

30 taps. To show off different strains of yeast. These people are crazy in all the right ways.

Personally, I really got a big kick out of lining up five IPA’s that are essentially the same beer, just made with a different strain of yeast and seeing just how unique it could taste. Let me tell you what most anybody who has ever brewed before already knows. Yeast is kinda a big deal. It can change the flavor of a beer in subtle ways, or more overt ways depending on what each brewer is going for. My level of fascination knew no boundaries here.

For the home brewers out there, let me emphasize – you can just walk in here and buy yeast ready to drop in your creations. You can also bring your home brew in for analyzing. If something isn’t working right in your beer, these might be the guys who can help get you on the right track. Or maybe, you’re beers are so awesome you’re ready save the recipe, but you want to know more details about your masterpiece. White Labs is here to help you.

My level of interest in the company is boundless. I could sit there and listen for hours at what the people both behind the bar and in front of it have to say about beers and brewing. It was an education with beer. Someone should run for office on this platform.

Also while there, I handed in a flyer I got at the San Diego International Beer Festival back in June, this flyer entitled me to a free gift which I’m always happy to get. Turns out I’m the fist person to turn one in, kinda crazy, but it get me a pretty cool Yeastman plushie/keychain thing. So I clipped that bad boy to my belt for the rest of the day.

I strongly encourage anyone who has even the slightest interest in brewing beer to swing by and check out the tasting room. I haven’t even described just how fantastic a set-up it is. Hopefully my pictures will do most of the talking on that front.

I’m also going to take a second to mention a book by Chris White, founder of White Labs and Jamil Zainasheff have put out called, surprisingly, “Yeast: A practical guide to beer fermentation”. I’ve only just started the book and have found it to be a very interesting read that does a great job of keeping a non-technical person engaged.

White Labs is located at 9495 Candida Way San Diego, CA 92126, the tasting room is open from 12pm to 8pm Monday-Saturday and they do tours. I recommend the tours…half of what they said was lost on me, but it was still fascinating!

Beer and a little education? You had me at beer.

Cheers,
Tom

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Monkey Paw Pub – A tale of two (K)nights!

As promised, the full recounting of my adventures at Monkey Paw Pub.

Adventures. Plural. More than one.

Because once is never enough, I found myself back for more a few days later, and the second time around I was on a mission!

But lets start this tale where most things typically do – the beginning.

For the last few weeks, I’ve had a real itch about getting over to Monkey Paw. It was one of my late nights at Tiger Tiger, I came across one of their beers that, while not my favorite of the evening, certainly got my attention. Which beer that was, however, is lost forever in the haze inside my brain. Suffice to say the name of the brewery stuck with me and I put it on my list. Finally this past weekend, the opportunity arose and it was time to strike.

The bar is located at 805 16th St. on the corner of F St. in the East Village area of downtown San Diego and stands out pretty easily. On my two visits there has been a good amount of street parking nearby as well.

So upon entering the first thing that I notice are the unique windows, sort of a stain-glass look that I found very appealing. The next thing to catch my eye was the massive chalk board of wonderful craft beers that instantly sent my mind twirling with possibilities. The space reminded me a bit of Hamilton’s but with more leg room. They had a pretty decent sized crowd inside for 3pm on a Saturday, but there is room to spread out. I pull up a stool at the bar and quickly order up a flight of the six house beers they had on tap that day. Here is my impression of those six.

Gose Bananas : 3.7% ABV – Another entry in my new experiences with sour beers. This one was a big surprise for me. Tart sure, but the sour in this wheat beer is not as overpowering as my last run in with a sour. You get that, slight but noticeable flavor but it doesn’t destroy your palette for the rest of the day. It’s light and crisp and very refreshing. Delightful.

Bekanton Saison : 5.5%ABV – This beer is a collaboration with Stillwater Brewing, the first word that came to mind while drinking was flowery. The second word was grapefruit. It has a hint of spice, not sure what kind, but overall it’s a nice saison. Not my personal favorite. I’m weird about grapefruit. Sorry.

Pineapple X-Press : 5.2%ABV – An extra pale ale that is big on citrus with a little kick of sweetness to balance it out. Drinking this I felt like there was a lot going on in the tiny 5oz taster I got, and what I got was enough to keep me intrigued for more. Very nice beer and one I felt very appropriate for the summer season.

Mandrill American IPA : 7.3%ABV – Now we start to get into my reasons for walking through the door. Give me those hops baby! This IPA is piny and citrusy and has a bit of a flowery finish. It’s very distinctive from other more well known San Diego IPA’s but this is a solid entry as it stand on it’s own without trying to imitate what has come before it. Will be happy to order again…and again…and again.

Rich Man’s American Double IPA (or IIPA) : 8.7%ABV – Well hello lover! As one of my buddy’s would say “This is chewy!” Outstanding flavor profile, strong balance of malts and hops. Little pine, little citrus and lots and lots of hops. Did I mention the hops? It’s worth repeating. This beer is all kinds of hopped up and I loved it! Some IIPA’s can go overboard or nor get the beer balanced enough… not this one. Simply fantastic!

Sweet Georgia Brown : 5.8%ABV – This is an English style brown, and it was the last beer in my taster flight. Which meant it had the unfortunate task of coming to bat after the two IPA’s. This is a solid brown. Hints of chocolate, coffee and caramel throughout.. Light body and easy drinking with a small hops profile. As you may know by now I’m not much for that coffee flavor, but if you dig it, I think you’ll enjoy this brown.

At this point I should also mention the fridge behind the bar is full of excellent bottle selections as well.

After my flight, I grabbed a pint of the Mandrill and placed an order for food. I wasn’t really sure what to expect out of the kitchen, but the menu looked good and I knew I needed the food in my belly in bad way. I placed an order for the Pulled Pork Roll. Oh boy, did I hit the jackpot here. The pulled pork here is fantastic! Smokey and spicy, tender, succulent. If you have a good adjective, please insert it here. This is bar food to blow you away! Oh and they serve it all up with waffle fries. How sick is that? I already liked the beers, but the food puts this place over the top! GO HERE NOW!

Night 2

As some may know, I’m a bit of a sucker for a good glass night. Just so happen that while in the bar on Saturday, I see that this coming Thursday night would be Monty Python Holy Grail goblet night. I knew immediately that I would move heaven and earth to get this goblet. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was a staple of my childhood, particularly my high school years. Clearly, I was a chick magnet. My friends and I would enjoy reciting word for word scenes from this movie that elevated the art of comedy and I’m not ashamed of that. My fiancee, on the other hand, is slightly embarrassed by it.

Glasses were to go on sale promptly at 5pm, with a little help from my manager at work, I got there at 4:50pm. It was a full house already and you could tell that most of these folks came for one reason. To get the goblet. With a little time to kill I order up an IPA and patiently wait for the clock to strike. A few minutes pass when all of a sudden I see the goblets getting filled. I down the IPA in about a gulp and a half and move back to the bar as the masses surge forward around me as we attempt to get the bartenders attention. I stay patient, I stay calm and I get my goblet. Victory! As I move back to the little area I had secured for myself I turn back to the bar to see that the goblets are no more! They hold sold out in less than 15 minutes. But what’s even more delightful than getting the glass? The fact they are playing the movie on the TV above the bar. Didn’t matter that the sound was off. I knew it by heart.

On a side note, if you follow me on twitter I was tweeting some of the highlights of the night as well as random thoughts. Big fun while I waited for my friend to arrive.

So I actually had to do a little research on the beer that came in the glass. At the bar it was just called Monty Python Holy Grail, No mention of the brewer. After a little digging, I find that it’s made by Black Sheep Brewery from Yorkshire, England. The only thing I know about Yorkshire is what I saw in Braveheart. I’m guessing it’s gotten nicer since then. The Holy Grail comes in at 4.7%ABV I would call it an amber ale, with a strong malty flavor rounded off by some fruit that gives it a pretty dry finish. It was a pretty solid beer. Most important tonight was that this is a beer that would not require me to call a cab.

So I walked out one happy customer tonight. Good beers, great glass and you better believe I had some pulled pork waffle fries. Thanks to my buddy for those!

So if the choice ever comes down to going to Monkey Paw or to Camelot, you pick Monkey Paw. Just remember what King Arthur has to say about Camelot –

King Arthur : “On second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place”

OK, I kind of forced that quote in, but I don’t care, it makes me smile.

Cheers,
Tom

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Beer & Comic-Con

Tomorrow is the kick off of Comic-Con here in San Diego.

This is a big deal.

Whether you a fan of the massive pop culture convention or not, this show is huge for the city of San Diego. This is a tax revenue machine. We need that around here because in case you didn’t know, the potholes are not going to fix themselves.

This will be my 9th year attending comic-con.  Hopefully you are still reading after that admission.

I’ve never really been able to find the right word to express my feelings but it’s kinda neat to see downtown San Diego get overrun with nerdy events like zombies runs at Petco Park when most of the time I try to avoid the gas lamp area due to the high concentration of douche-baggery on the weekends.

So what does this have to do with beer?

A lot actually.

During my misspent youth I was very fortunate to make some amazing friends who happen to work in and around the comic book industry. Most of these people live on the east coast, most of them in New York, so this convention is one of the few times during the year where we can get together and catch up on what’s new in our lives. So I sure as hell am not going to waste that time drinking Miller Lite.

What I like to do with my friends in town is showcase the amazing local craft beer scene to an audience who is most likely not familiar with the majority of them. It also helps that some of these guys who work in the industry know how to down a few.

Sometimes navigating the bar scene in downtown San Diego is tricky. It’s night clubs and cocktails as far as the eye can see. This is where a lot of trendy bars are happy to charge you $7 for a Budweiser. But as the years have passed more and more bars are serving up the good stuff. So here are three of my favorite spots to hit up for good brews when downtown.

The Local – Located on 4th Avenue just above Broadway, this bar has gotten known for serving up killer craft beers and a menu of tasty delights to satisfy anyone. One of the best things about the location during comic-con from my point of view is that for most comic-con goers, crossing Broadway is sort of a unofficial border. Most folks will not want to haul all their schwag from the convention center to this spot unless their hotel is nearby. This is good to know if you are planning to be downtown and want to avoid the convention crowd. 15 taps to choose from, a nice variety on any given night with what is usually a fun easy-going crowd.

Knotty Barrel – 844 Market St, over 20 taps and something around 70 different bottles/cans to choose from make this spot where you are sure to find a brew that will please your palette. It’s listed as a gastropub, so there is food to be found within as well. I’ve not had the opportunity to eat here yet, but what I’ve seen and smelled sure seemed like it would be a nice complement to beers you are able to choose from. Market street is also a spot where the con crowd tends to thin out. Last year was my first visit to this spot and I was pleased to find a seat easily and get my drinking started good and proper.

Mission Brewery – 1441 L St. If your going to be downtown anyways, why not stop off someplace where you can get the beer fresh from the source? 7 different brews to taste and in my opinion it’s always fun to talk to the people who brew the beers themselves. Simple, easy, fun and while I’m not 100% sure of what kind of crowd will be there over the comic con weekend, I can at least say they have pretty good taste in beers.

I’m always hopeful to find new places with craft beer and I’ve been getting some good reports about a few other spots downtown as well. I hope that this weekend will give me a chance to check out a few places I’ve never been before. I’m looking at you Monkey Paw Brewing!  Pretty sure I’ll manage to find some time between long lines at the convention and burying my nose looking for back-issues of Spider-Man. Maybe next year we can get a Ballast Point station set-up inside the convention? Too good to be true.

If you go to show, have fun and try to be patient with the lines and the general orgasm of chaos that ensues when people see free shit. If you are avoiding the show, do it in style and have a few tasty brews with friends. Especially your friends who don’t know their craft beers yet. With any luck I’ll send my friends back home on a quest to find great craft beers in their area for me to sample on my next trip to visit them.

Oh, and let me know where you think I should go this weekend. I always like a strong recommendation.

Cheers,
Tom