HOPTOLOGY

San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!


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Beachwood Brewing warns of Invasive Species.

An invasive species is an animal or organism that is introduced to a non-native environment where it is expected to cause great harm to that eco-system and the inhabitants of that eco-system.

This is a fitting description for Ballast Point Brewing and their opening of a Long Beach location in the middle of an area that is home to local and independently owned Beachwood Brewing. While it is likely that this would have been problematic even if Ballast Point were still owned and operated by the same people who started it over 20 years ago, it is all the more contentious since Ballast Point was acquired by Constellation Brands (owners of Corona) a little over a year ago.

When the plans for opening were first announced, it could only be interpreted as shots fired by Big Beer against small, independent local breweries. Instead of cowering in the shadows or simply ignoring the threat against them, Beachwood took action. On July 29, 2016 they adopted the hashtag #independentbeer, they marked the day as one to unify and stand-up to corporate beer and their attempts to bully the smaller, local breweries who were clearly their targets.

Next up in their acts of independence was a bold yet simple idea; a growler exchange program. Bring in your corporately owned brewery growler (i.e. Ballast Point and a few others) and have it swapped out for free with a brand new Beachwood growler and a $5 gift card. Essentially paying the consumer to ditch their big beer gear and support local and independent.

As great as those ideas were and are, Beachwood saved the best to close out the year 2016. This is when, for the first time ever, they would release a mixed 4-pack of 12oz bottles that would essentially recreate the famous Ballast Point lineup of Sculpin beers. The four beers in the pack consisted of a standard Sculpin-like IPA, a mango
, habanero and most importantly a grapefruit variant. This series was titled “Invasive Species” and features the logo of a dead fish and the bold words of “It matters who makes your beer” and a new hashtag       #truetobeer.img_8156

As a staunch supporter of the independent beer movement, this release was too good to pass up.

Now, as a consumer, I’ve not purchased or drank a Ballast Point beer in over a year, so my recollection of those initial offerings might be fuzzy. With that said, I must also disclose that my palate happily agrees with just about all the beers that Beachwood is currently brewing.

So how were the beers? They were all winners.

The Beachwood take on these four staples of the Ballast Point lineup were, in my opinion, superior to those of the original. The Habanero had a lingering pepper flavor that did not burn, yet allowed for natural beer flavors to shine. The Mango was subtle, not overly sweet like the Ballast version I remember. The grapefruit was masterfully recreated and it avoided overloading the palate with fruit flavor. And the standard IPA? Another masterstroke as it might have been the best version of Sculpin I have had in many years and served as a reminder of what put Southern California on the beers map in the first place.

While it is not yet known if Beachwood will continue to brew these four reinterpretations, I tend to think that these are the beers that might just make the average, non-informed consumer pay a little more attention to where their beer is coming from and just how good it can be when you strip away the billions of dollars and have quality people focused on making quality beer for all to enjoy. Long live Beachwood Brewing and long live Independent Beer!

Cheers,

Tomimg_8155


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Societe IV : Let the Games Begin!

2016 has been something a weird year for me in the world of craft beer. I have never had to defend my own personal opinions from other beer drinkers in the way that I have had to do since January when the usage of the term “indie beer” got exposure on a quasi-national level. It marked something of a turning point for me as I realized that the craft beer world was not quite not the shiny, happy place that I had turned it into in my mind. In short my love affair was under something of a strain.

So leave it to Societe Brewing to host an event that not only delivers the goods on every level but helps to rekindle the fires of my passion for this elixir that I love so much.

Societe Brewing has been one of my favorite breweries since they opened their doors four years ago. Honestly, Societe is probably my personal favorite but the thought of trying to rank breweries in San Diego is not only daunting but counterproductive to the harmony and unity between breweries in the area. Those ideas of harmony and a collaborative spirit between breweries was proudly on display at Societe’s fourth anniversary party this past Saturday, known simply as Societe IV.IMG_7095

Part of the fun with anniversary parties at Societe has been that every year is something new and they are continually raising the bar. This year will be a hard one to beat. Incorporating an Olympics theme, complete with a torch and a parade of the “Ale-thletes” to start the event, Societe invited nearly two dozen breweries (and one-man team Nate Soroko) from all over San Diego and one from Northern California to compete in a variety of brewers games, including a washer toss tournament, grain stacking challenge, tri-clamp challenge, Beer Chugging, Stein Holding and even an impressive barrel throwing event, which for those who are not sure, a barrel weighs right around 90 pounds and is not the easiest thing to throw for distance, but was a sight to behold. The spirit of camaraderie and friendship were on display for all to see and take part in and the fun that these folks were having was simply infectious as it was impossible to find someone not having a great time.IMG_7098

As fun as all the games were to watch and enjoy rooting for your favorite local brewers, we also came for the beers. I found several new treats to savor while enjoying all the festivities the day had to offer. New variations of The Bachelor, their single hop IPA series, included Nugget, Calypso and Idaho 7 while The Bachelorette, their single hop lager, introduced the Sterling varietal. To round out the new beers was the first Societe witbier, The Filly. Suffice to say everything was incredibly enjoyable and of the highest quality.

What came as perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire day, and announced only a few hours before the event, was the opportunity to purchase their very first bottled beer, a feral ale called The Swindler. As someone who was lucky enough to have this beer during the Societe 3 event last year, I can attest to its absolute incredibleness.IMG_7103

At four years in Societe is continuing to showcase not only their excellence at brewing but at displaying the strong sense of community between an incredible number of local San Diego breweries. In a lot of ways I was filled with a great deal of pride, even if my connection to the brewing industry is tangential at best, the event left me invigorated and rejuvenated. So cheers to Societe and all the Ale-thletes, I hope this one becomes a tradition, but even if it doesn’t, I will still be there to give all the support I can.

Cheers,

Tom


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Copenhagen to San Diego: Good Beer Knows No Boundries

In case you have somehow missed the news about Mikkeller San Diego opening its door this past weekend, I offer my own humble report for your perusal.
First off, I love this place. Walking in, you still recognize the bones of the old Alesmith. They have since moved to a brand new and massive brewery space just a little further down Miramar Rd. Yet Mikkeller (Originally out of Copenhagen, Denmark) has made the site very much its own. The tasting room area is cozy with plush couches and tables making for a very welcoming tasting room experience. It is hard not to feel both welcome and very comfortable as you walk in and take in the feel of the place. The lighting was low and added a special ambiance to the space, and while it was a packed house with long lines for beers, the environment was so relaxed that most people were very good about simply having a good time and not making a fuss about the wait.  IMG_6799
On this opening weekend the beer menu was full of variety, something for everyone so that even if you were not a fan of or had never even tried Mikkeller before, there was very little reason for a person to not find something to their liking. From a hoppy pilsner, big IPA’s, to dark Belgian delights, to the legendary Beer Geek Breakfast Stout, the draft list and killer, and with Mikkeller being known as a man who is not shy about putting a beer recipe together, there are literally thousands of option that exist and will eventually see its time on the board at some point.
A quick history for this not familiar with Mikkeller (also known as Mikel Bjorg Bjergso). He is what is known as a “Gypsy Brewer”. It simply means (prior to this opening) he did not have a dedicated location for brewing his recipes. He would travel to other breweries and either do it himself, or let that brewery team pull it together according to his instructions. San Diego is his first steady base of brewing operations. Perhaps the smartest, and from a local perspective, the best decision he made (aside from setting up in San Diego) was the hiring of Bill Batten.
Bill Batten is the man who has helped make Alesmith Brewing what it is today.IMG_6803
So if you are going to hire a brewer to work in the old Alesmith Brewery, you might as well bring on the guy who knows how to get the most out of that particular brewing system. It should be noted, that Alesmith is a parter in this venture, so the idea of Bill being the brewer should not come as a total shock.
On this opening trip, the crowd was lively, the beer was tasty and much like the warm sunny weather on this opening day, the future for Mikkeller SD looks to be very bright and I cannot recommend enough taking a visit to check it out for your self.
Cheers,
Tom


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The Battle for the Soul of San Diego Indie Beer

At the end of 2015 big beer made a barrage of acquisitions in an effort to expand its portfolio of “craft” Brewers. The moves were significant, and showed that corporate beer is not planning to sit back and let its share of the market be reduced any longer.

On the local front San Diego felt the sting of losing two of its own local breweries as Saint Archer was purchased by Miller/Coors, and more devastatingly, Ballast Point selling for 1 Billion dollars to Constellation Brands i.e. Corona. 

Now with the news that 10 Barrel Brewing, a property of InBev that masquerades as still being a local, independent brewery based out of Bend, Oregon, will be opening a location in downtown San Diego’s East Village neighborhood it has become clear that big beer is no longer content to simply buy the competition. They want to bury it. 

10 Barrel sold to InBev in November of 2014. Since then big beer has made a concerted effort to aquire at least one indie Brewer in every major market of the western United States. They purchased Elysian in Seattle, Golden Road in Los Angeles, Saint Archer and Ballast Point here in San Diego, Four Peaks in Phoenix and Breckenridge Brewing in Colorado. 

By placing a brewpub in San Diego, InBev has shown that it will continue to rely on deception and outright lies to attempt to create a ruse to confuse and trick customers. It is shameful. This is an effort to severely damage the indie beer culture of San Diego and we cannot sit back and take it.

One of the many rewarding aspects of loving the local, independent beer scene of San Diego is the knowledge that your money is staying in San Diego and supporting small business. Your money is helping your neighbors, and not lineing the pockets of rich people who do not give a damn about the community of San Diego. They see our city as dollars signs. They know their product does not stand a chance when lined up against the world class beers brewed by many of our local, indie Brewers. Deception is the new strategy.

Recently on a trip to Portland, Oregon I spent a Saturday night hopping from brewpub to brewpub in the downtown area. After a few hours I stumbled upon the 10 Barrel location; it was packed. I was shocked. Portlanders are known for their being savvy when it comes to supporting local business over corporate greed. It opened my eyes to a few truths that I still wrestle with but two of those truths are that not only are InBev’s deceptions working, they are working very well even in a indie beer town like Portland.

The most dangerous weapon we possess in the revolution against big beer is a knowledgable consumer. It is now more important than ever that we, as consumers, take the time to learn who owns who and where our hard earned money is going. Big beer is betting that we are too lazy to bother with seeking out the truth. It is time to teach how wrong they are. 

One of the most interesting details of the proposed location for the corporate beer sell out is the proposed location; just a block away from local favorite and Great American Beer Festival gold medal winning Monkey Paw Brewing and Pub. While I do not know their reactions to the news, I do know this: Monkey Paw Owner Scot Blair and Head Brewer Cosimo Sorrentino are two of the best the San Diego independent beer community could hope to have on the front lines for this battle. These are two people that I will always have the backs of and the San Diego indie beer community will be right there with me. 

InBev just brought a knife to a gunfight.

Cheers and remember to keep your money local,

Tom


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San Diego Beer Week is upon us!

The popular saying around San Diego is that in reality, every week is beer week. Sure, living in the craft beer mecca that San Diego has become can seem that way with the sheer number of breweries and a seemingly endless barrage of events happening throughout the year, but the fact remains that this week is special and should be held above all other events in town. This is the March Madness of the craft beer world.

The list of events is staggering, from tap takeovers to special barrel releases and insanely fun and delicious food & beer pairing dinners, it is impossible not to find an event of six to satisfy your beer drinking desires. Head over to the SD Beer Week website for the full calendar of events and have a truly great time. 

This past weekend, myself and my broadcast partner/ good friend Cody of ThreeBZine fame, were lucky enough to have the privilege to record our latest podcast episode live from the SD Brewer’s Guild Beer Festival, the annual kick-off event for Beer week. The conversations we had with some of San Diego’s elite brewing talents are both entertaining and insightful. If you’d like to hear what was said, please follow the link to ThreeBZine where you can listen or download from iTunes or your other favorite podcasting app. Thanks for listening and have a happy SD Beer Week!!IMG_2473 copy


Cheers,

Tom

 


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Pizza Port, The Burning of Rome & Eukaryst; A Trilogy of Awesome!

Pizza Port has long been one of my favorite destinations in San Diego County. Whether it is the original location in Solana Beach or Carlsbad, or my personal favorite, Ocean Beach, you can always rely on a fantastic array of lovingly crafted beers and ridiculously tasty pizza and other assorted delights. It is a place where I’m happy to go solo, because I’ll always find someone to chat with, but I’m always eager to take a group of friends with me, especially if they have never been to one before. The employees of Pizza Port are a delight. They are nice, friendly and laid back. It help give the restaurants the right feel for a pizza place that is steps away from the beach. Simply put; It’s impossible to not have a great time at any one of their locations.

Pizza Port is also home to a lot of creative people, and I’m not only talking about Ocean Beach’s head brewer Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes, who is continually whipping up some of the best craft beer in San Diego but it is home to his assistant brewer Gino Fontana, bass player in the local metal band Eukaryst and Joe Aguilar, long-time beertender and guitar player for local legends and kings of “death-pop”, The Burning of Rome.

If the names of those bands sounds familiar but you are not plugged into the local music scene, much like me, it’s possible you know those names from the two fantastic beers which are named for each band. The Burning of Rome IPA is a sensational beer that will measure high on any IPA geek’s stat sheet, and is a personal favorite of mine. Then there is Eukaryst Sinister Imperial Stout, it is simply a monster of a beer infused with darkness, it’s like drinking straight from the abyss where Cthulu resides, and loving every second of it. 

This past Monday, the ThreeBZine podcast crew, consisting of Cody, Dustin and myself were invited to join Joe, Gino and Nacho for a lively discussion about the beers and the bands and how it all come to be at the large production facility and restaurant in Bressi Ranch. We were excited, and we had very moderate expectations of how the session would go. We thought we would sit in a small room private room adjacent to the restaurant to record. Instead we were treated to a huge round table loaded with pitchers of The Burning of Rome IPA and growlers of Eukaryst Sinister Imperial Stout, including the barrel aged version and six-packs of Ponto, Swami’s and Chronic Ale directly in the center of the main production brew house. Not only that but they even filmed the podcast and are putting together a video that I will be sharing with the world very soon. It was a humbling and exhilarating experience all at the same time, and easily one of the best and most exciting things I’ve had a chance to be a part of. The hospitality and generosity of Pizza Port and its crew is second to none. These people work hard and they take amazing care of their guests. Cody, Dustin and myself all agreed it is an experience that will be hard to beat.2015-06-08 18.55.49

The conversation was long and epic! We go deep into the worlds of music and craft beer and how the two intersect. Head over to ThreeBZine to listen to part one of this amazing podcast or download from itunes and please let me know what you think.

If you’d like to get familiar with the bands, here is a link to a great video and song by The Burning of Rome and here is a link to an video by Eukaryst filmed in Pizza Port OB that also shows their beer being brewed.

If you’d like to check out Pizza Port here is the link to their site with all the locations listed, and please call me so we can go together. I’m always up for more great pizza and craft beers.

Cheers,

Tom

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Nobility at it’s Finest; Noble Ale Works’ Mosaic Showers Double IPA.

It should come as no surprise that after my visit to their Anaheim brewery, Noble Ale Works is a brewery that I’ve continued to pay a lot of attention to. Noble has been very busy expanding their line-up and growing their number of devoted fans with a steady stream of finely tuned ales and one milk stout that has gained a cult following, Naughty Sauce. There can be little denying that Noble has become one of the preeminent breweries in Orange County and they continually rise in the ranks of all Southern California breweries.

One particular series of Noble’s that has captured the attention of Hop Heads everywhere is the ‘Noble Showers’ series. This bombastic set of double IPA’s is a platform to display the complex and alluring flavors of a single hop variety while using the same base recipe. Previous releases in the series have highlighted such hop strains Nelson Sauvin, Chinook, Amarillo, Citra and more. The latest entry in the series, highlights a favorite of mine, Mosaic, and I wrote down some of my thoughts that will hopefully inspire you to run out right now and find your own bottle of this single hop double IPA.2015-01-01 17.48.46

Nobel Ale Works – Mosaic Showers Double IPA; 8.8% ABV; available on draft or 22oz bottles.

The beer pours from the bottle with a beautiful golden color, with excellent clarity as the bubbles of carbonation dance to the surface and form a nice thin layer of foamy goodness. The nose is a starburst full of big fruit flavors, mango being the most obvious to my senses. The aroma of the beer is vibrant and gets the mouth watering in all the right ways a finely crafted beer should. On first taste, you know this is a big, flavorful double IPA that is packed with hops on the front end. While the hops hit you in the front, the malts play the important roll of making sure all the fruity, hoppy flavors of the mosaic don’t overwhelm the palate. The malt back bone does it’s job very well by not trying to battle with the hops and allowing for all the flavor potential of mosaic to be on full display. For IPA fans, this beer is insanely drinkable and provides a wonderful example of what mosaic hops brings to the table.

Final Verdict – Go get this beer immediately. If it’s not in your area, find someone to bottle trade with because it’s really that damn good.

I’ve enjoyed almost all the releases in this series that I’ve been fortunate enough to try. Mosaic Showers DIPA is no exception as it starts 2015 on a very high note. I can’t wait to see what the guys at Noble Ale Works have in store for the Showers series for the rest of the year. All I know for certain is that I’ll be more than happy to continue drinking them.

Cheers,

Tom