HOPTOLOGY

San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!


Leave a comment

No need to be humble; New English Brewing’s Humbly Legit IPA is on point!

New English Brewing has been around San Diego for a while now, almost seven years if memory serves. For reason’s I can’t possibly explain, other than perhaps my own sillyness, I’ve not made the time to try more than a small handful of beers from them. It’s possible that my love for big hop bomb IPA’s has clouded my judgement to this point. Maybe I delude myself into thinking that they only make english style ales that I wouldn’t be interested in. I’m here to tell you that it was a error on my part to not make the time for the creative brews coming out of this inventive brewery and it’s something I’ll be remedying in 2015.  Simply put, whenever I do have a beer from New English Brewing, I come away impressed.

This past year I was able to try their Brewers Special Brown Ale, which to me was on the same level as Alesmith’s Nut Brown Ale as perhaps two of the best representations on that style here in San Diego. The pleasant surprise that beer gave me was quickly forgotten as my next dose of New English was in the form of their Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout. A big, chocolatey, roasty glass of goodness like this is certainly something to be shared with the masses. After having only two offerings, New English had blown the doors off my expectations.

In what could only be negligence on my part it took me almost six months to make the next opportunity to try New English Brewing, this time in the form of an IPA called Humbly Legit, a West coast style IPA that still manages to stay true to the English Ale roots by which New English operates.2014-12-29 23.55.29

Humbly Legit comes in at a healthy 7.5% ABV and upon popping the top you get a wonderful floral nose with hints of citrus and all the goodness that awaits within. The beer tastes incredibly clean and crisp with a malt presence that is certainly noticeable but not in the manor typically associated with the type of IPA’s made in the United Kingdom. The use of English style malts here is put into a complex and careful harmony with the use of cascade and centennial hops, which provide that wonderful aroma as you drink your beer. The sweetness of malts never threaten to overwhelm as the hops provide a nice level of bite that keeps a certain west coast character in the brew, it’s a wonderful balance and it drinks very clean with only the slightest lingering of hops on the backend.

My Assessment: This beer is a winner and will provide the final kick in my pants to get me over to their brewery in the very near future, because these guys are making really great beers of all styles with traditional English malts but healthy dose of West Coast hops to create something truly unique and exciting to try. Go get you bottles of Humbly Legit now or just stop by the tasting room at 11545 Sorrento Valley Rd Suite 305 San Diego, CA 92121

Cheers,

Tom

Advertisements


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

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


2 Comments

Pardon the interruption… Happy 1st Anniversary Societe!

I’m going to interrupt my current three part blogging epic for a brief but happy interlude.

Happy 1 year Anniversary to the awesome people at Societe Brewing.

20130717-185258.jpg

Always an impressive selection

Over the course of their first year in business, Societe has quickly climbed the ranks as one my favorite brewers in a town that has more than enough to go around. In fact you can read my first impression of Societe right here. From such awesome staples as The Pupil & The Apprentice IPA’s to phenomenal Belgians like The Harlot & The Madam, not to mention the treats that roll out for special occasions, like the Every Man’s IPA and The Roustabout DIPA. It’s insanely hard to find a beer that will not please your palette.

Did I mention the new hoppy ale, The Publican? It’s fantastic!

This past weekend, July 13-14, the good people of Societe hosted their 1st anniversary party at the brewery in Kerny Mesa and I was very excited to be able to join them in the celebration. I’m the type of beer enthusiast who tries his best to make it to multiple beer events over the course of the year. Some of those events are better than others and even the best have their fair share of problems. This event, however, might be the new gold standard to which all beer events you aspire to be. It was one of the most planned out, thought ahead and well organized events I’ve had the good fortune to be at.

20130717-185518.jpg

I saw how this movie ends…Travis should fare better than that other guy.

My wife and I attended the sold-out second session on Saturday with a coupe of friends who enjoy Societe beers but had yet to make it up to the brewery. From the moment we got there, these guys were on top of things, from the easy-ness of our checking in without having to pull up four different ticket bar codes on my iPhone, to the checking of ID’s, getting our wristbands and the distribution of our souvenir glasses. They had us lined up and ready to go when the clock struck 5 pm and our session began. The only hectic part was getting that first beer, which really wasn’t even an issue as they had plenty of people on hand to fill your glass. We were able to grab a table and I couldn’t help but notice as the line of patrons all filed in and got their drinks, that there was still room to move around, people were not packed in, and we didn’t have to yell to have a conversation. A beer event that wasn’t over-sold. Such a simple yet innovative concept that I wish more people would follow.

Societe also had a couple food stations going, including the Mastiff Sausage food truck as well as an old-tyme photo booth which, of course, my wife made us all do. Also of interest was that despite the dozens of times I’ve been to the brewery I had never taken the tour. We changed that on Saturday as we got a pretty insightful tour from co-owner and head brewer Travis Smith. He shared a lot of details about their beer making process as well as their plans for the first expansion at the brewery. I liked how he talked about “growing into the space” which again, is a simple concept but one I don’t see employed a whole lot. We also got to take a look inside the cold room, which was fun. I heard from a friend who attended the earlier session that he loved this part due to the heat during the early part of the day. Luckily, by evening everything has cooled down quite a bit, except for Travis who was decked out in his early 20th century outfit and was happy to kill a few minutes in the icebox. After swinging past the bar for refills we had the chance to go in the barrel room where they are aging their beers in a wide variety of barrels for the purpose of creating sours. Which, if they are half as good as what they already have on tap, are going to be pretty impressive.

20130717-185711.jpg

Travis and the Tower of Sours!

 

It was a fantastic event with fan had by all and best summed up by Megan “This is a beautiful event.” And that was before all the alcohol kicked in…I think.

So my congratulations to Travis, Douglas and all the super nice staff at Societe for having a great 1st year, I’m happy to keep enjoying your beers for a long time to come.

Cheers,
Tom

20130717-185857.jpg

Yeah…I’m in a band.

20130717-185929.jpg

Happy Anniversary Societe!


3 Comments

Ballast Point/COEDO – West to East IPA : A beer that Godzilla would approve

This past Tuesday I decided to make a rare indulgence and go for a beer in the middle of the day on what was simply a beautiful day here in San Diego.

I’d call it a spur of the moment decision, maybe even impulsive, but after reading this wonderful story over at Westcoastersd it sort become a mission for the day.

This mission was easily accomplished thanks to the good people over at The Local Habit in Hillcrest – if you’ve not been over there, they do a really excellent job of putting together a great tap list.

The beer in question that I was hunting for was the new collaboration beer from Ballast Point, here in San Diego, and COEDO Brewery, from Japan, on a beer they are calling “West to East”

It may be named that due to Ballast Point specialty brewer Colby Chandler going to Japan to brew it. Just a guess.

Well after drinking the final product I’m hoping he has plans to go back because this is an IPA that I found to be very enjoyable indeed.

20130123-184241.jpg

I got a great 16oz draft with a nice frothy head on top of a nice golden color. This brew has a really great nose on it. I’m pretty sure I was able to pick up the distinctive smell of Nelson hops, which I’m kind of crazy about, so that got things off to a really nice start. With the first sip you get that great hoppy flavor right up front that really gets your palette popping. The citrus is what I noticed the most of the back end of, but just the perfect amount. I’m not a fan of too much of that citrus flavor, but I may be in the minority on that. Regardless, it doesn’t even factor into this IPA. This was impressive, although I shouldn’t be surprised at this point, Ballast Point is probably my favorite brewery in town and I’m eagerly awaiting the day when I can get Sculpin in a can.

West to East comes in at 6.8%ABV, so it’s up there, but it right in line where it should be. It gives you a little kick in the teeth but not enough where you are sleeping at the bar.

I can’t recommend this collaboration beer enough! Quite a few of the best craft beer bars in town will be having it this week. Some are listed in the link above, or just put that great Taphunter app to work and track it down as soon as possible.

Well done to Ballast Point and COEDO Brewing in Japan. This team up is almost as good as when Godzilla and Mothra saved the world, remember that? Good times.

Cheers,
Tom

20130123-184404.jpg


1 Comment

Becoming a contributing member of Societe

I had been hearing about Societe Brewing long before I’d ever even taken my first sip. They had been gaining a devoted following quickly and had a lot of people in social media buzzing about them. Tickets to their grand opening earlier this summer had sold out crazy fast only adding fuel to the fire. They were the hot new brew in San Diego. So I must have been jumping out my skin to get up their and sample the brews right?

As Lee Corso says “No so fast my friend”

I can be a little dense sometimes. Anyone who has met me has probably figured that one out. When things get that label of “the next big thing” I tend to chaffe on it. Not every time, but more often than not. It’s that little part of my brain that is still 16 year old and annoyed when the Black Album came out and all of a sudden it was cool to like Metallica, even though I’d be wearing a Master of Puppets t-shirt for six years and getting made fun of for it. I’m kooky that way I guess.

I knew I’d go and have the beer eventually, I just decided I’d go at my leisure, this has been a crazy, hectic summer as we plan a wedding and all that goes along with that, so when I went, I wanted to enjoy it. A few weeks back, Ritual Tavern put all of Societe’s beers on tap. After only trying two, I decided it was time to get my ass up to Societe. Here’s the best part – It’s less than 10 minutes from my house!

Located at 8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 9211, this is one of the few breweries in the county that can call itself centrally located.

Walking in, you can’t help but be impressed by the large wooden bar and the very impressive use of the space in the building. It’s freaking gorgeous inside. Lots of wooden, olde tyme style decorations along the wall with tables a plenty. If you get the opportunity, I recommend checking out Societe’s blog page where you can get the history of it’s two founders – Travis Smith and Doug Constantiner and their impressive credentials. The fact that Travis alone helped make beers like Pliney the Elder while brewing at Russian River should be enough to get even a casual hophead over to check them out.

Now, onto the beers.

On this fine Saturday afternoon, I headed over to Societe with the future Mrs. Hoptology in tow. We were going to discuss more of our wedding plans…but my interests were more in beer area on this day. Shocking, I know!

Before we get started I’d like to let you know that the word “coiffable” is probably the best word you can use to describe Societe’s beers. All of them are immanently easy to drink. Over and over again!

We started on the IPA side of the menu and worked our way over to the Belgium’s.

The Dandy- IPA 6.9% ABV – Golden color medium hops easy to drink. I really enjoyed this, it’s light and crips for an IPA almost a perfect introduction for those who aren’t accustomed to the big hops of other IPA’s

The Pupil – IPA 7.7% ABV – Bright, golden color that stands out. It has a light, clean aroma and a very light head to it. Bright, citrus-y flavors abound and this is another insanely easy to drink IPA.

Every Man’s IIPA 10.0 ABV – Special note, I had to track this down this past Saturday a special trip to Societe was made just for this beer and oh boy was it worth it! Great hoppy flavor, with more citrus and maybe some grapefruit flavor as well. IT’s incredibly smooth and might just be my favorite thing they are currently brewing.

The Apprentice – IPA 7.9% ABV – Bigger hops and malty flavors with an excellent aroma and a gorgeous color. Very tasty. This is more to my personal liking and was my favorite of the day. Just couldn’t get enough of it.

The Butcher – Imperial Stout 9.8% ABV – This beer is pitch black! Dark roasted coffee flavor with hints of chocolate. It’s enjoyable and I believe any fan of stouts would enjoy this a great deal. For me, however, I’m still not crazy about getting that coffee flavor in my beers. Not my personal favorite.

The Harlot – Belgium extra 6.4% ABV -Light, fruity notes with noticeable spices. It’s delicious easy to drink. In a way it reminded us both of Duvel, which we mean with the highest compliments.

The Widow – Strong Belgium 9.2% ABV – Dark malty flavors, slightly boozy but not overwhelmingly so. Pours nicely in the glass and settles quickly so you can get down to business. Again, a strong beer that I was more than happy to drink.

Also as a side note I’m going to throw in a critique of The Scrapper which I had several weeks back at Ritual Tavern and took a few notes.

The Scrapper – American IPA 7.9% ABV – The is a dark IPA and honestly I love the color of the beer to cream colored head. It’s was almost too pretty to drink…but I did anyways. Good balance of light citrus hops and roasted malty-ness. I found this to be very flavorful and really enjoyable to drink. I’m usually not wild about dark IPA but this one did right by me.

So all in all, it was another great outing at a San Diego Brewery. Now that I finally made the trip out to see what these guys are all about, I can say with all honesty that I’m looking forward seeing what else they can brew for the masses here in San Diego. As if they haven’t made enough of an opening impression, I suspect that Societe will continue to grow a nice fan base here in town as their reputation for quality beers continues to spread. I also hope they continue to be social media savvy and keep the high standards that I have seen in action so far. And did I mention that awesome location? I can be there in less than 10 minutes! Hard to beat that any day of the week.

Cheers,
Tom

This slideshow requires JavaScript.