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Pucker Up Buttercup! SourFest 2014 at Churchill’s Pub & Grille

I like sour beers. Scratch that. I love sour beers!

However that wasn’t always the case. I remember my first time trying a Flanders Red Ale and my tastebuds freaking out! “What the hell is this?” I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that out loud. In fact I’m pretty sure I said something far worse. My palate wasn’t yet ready for the complexity and mouth puckering awesomeness that waited in a tulip glass, with it’s funky nose of brettanomyces, lactobacillus and all the other yeast beasts that could funk up any beer and take it to another level. Nope, at the time all I could think of was, “This tastes like sour patch kids”.

It was a slap in the face to my taste buds. This is one of those moments were getting a slap in the face was a good thing. It woke me up to a whole new world of beer styles that I had been relatively ignorant of for a number of years. That had to change. My quest to continue to evolve my palate and to expand my beer horizons had found something new to absorb, and I relished the opportunity to learn and to taste my way to finding some of the finest beers in the world. It was time well spent.

Fast forward to now.

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to attend Churchill’s Pub & Grille 5th Annual Peter Reeves Memorial Sourfest. The event is an opportunity to not only have some of the finest sour beers from San Diego and around the world, it’s also an opportunity to make a donation to cancer research which is always a worthwhile cause and one that I’m more than happy to drink to.

The bottle and draft list featured over 60 world class concoctions including an impressive array of delights from Almanac, Cascade, Lost Abbey, Russian River and international superstar Cantillon. Impressive is a word that would almost qualify as an understatement when used to describe this list of beers.

My wife and I made the trip to San Marcos with a quick stop on the way in Escondido to grab our North County drinking partners, then we braved the heat and stood in line for twenty or so minutes before making our way inside and grabbing a comfy seat and we quickly got to work on the menu.

What you don't see is us melting in the sun.

What you don’t see is us melting in the sun.

All said we managed to drink right around 25 sours, which was a lot more than expected but once my wife offered to drive us all home, it was something we couldn’t resist. We only experienced a few misses, as the sours weren’t quite tailored to what we like, but they were by no means bad beers. We experienced far more great and amazing beers than we had any right to expect, and rather than list off all the ones I liked I’ll share with you my top 3 of the day, in no particular order;

Lost Abbey Spontaneous Cheer – Spontaneously Fermented Blonde Ale with White Peaches, 6.0% ABV and oh my God is it good! No surprise that the same people who make Duck Duck Gooze also make a bunch of really great sours, but this one was a standout for me.

Societe Highbinder – Sour Ale Aged in Wine Barrels with Raspberries Added, 6.2% ABV and sweet fancy moses is this beer amazing! Everyone knows how I sing the praises of the guys over at Societe and beers like this are the reason why I will continue to do so. I can’t wait to try their next one.

Cantillon Cuvee Saint Gilloise – Lambic Aged for Two Years Dry Hopped with Hallertau Hops, this was a close call because Cantillon’s Lou Pepe Gueuze 2010 was pretty damn kick ass too, but this one just had a certain something that beat it out. Incredible flavors and aged to perfection.

Almanac Dark Pumpkin Sour, Cantillon Lou Pepe Gueuze2010, Societe Highbinder, Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze!

Almanac Dark Pumpkin Sour, Cantillon Lou Pepe Gueuze2010, Societe Highbinder, Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze!

Overall it was another fantastic visit to arguably the best pub in North County San Diego, and I didn’t even get to mention all the amazing eats we had while working our way down the menu. If you’ve not yet had the opportunity to visit Churchill’s, I highly recommend doing so, they have a continually amazing draft beer and bottle list that can make even the most discerning beer drinking happy and a great menu of meals to compliment them all.

So maybe sours aren’t your thing or maybe you’ve not had the opportunity to try very many just yet. I urge you to give them a chance, they are drinks that fit nicely into the beer genre but you should prepare your palate for a completely different adventure with every sip you take.




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OB Noodle House – A gem of a bar and the food is great too!

I like soup. I really do. It’s one of those food items that I sometimes get a craving for and can eat it all day long. Chicken noodle, cream of potato, tomato, clam chowder maybe even a nice lobster bisque if I’m feeling fancy. But for reasons that I can only assume are based on preconceived notions, I never really had much interest in ever going out and trying pho. That dish just so happens to be the specialty at OB Noodle House, a place of which I’ve heard good things about for years but in times past when I would make an attempt to dine there I would quickly be defeated by the incredible long lines and wait times.

Emphasis on bar!

Emphasis on bar!

Well, I can say with all certainty, ‘that was stupid of me’. Everything that hit our table was instantly gobbled up by our party and met with rave reviews from all around. You can now consider me among the converted, pho is great and they have a pretty extensive menu of other noodle based dishes that I will hazard a guess and say are pretty delicious as well. In case you are wondering, I ordered the OB Special (XL) (as a former resident of Ocean Beach I felt obliged) that comes with rare streak, well done steak, brisket, flank and tripe. It was more than filling and pretty impressive as well.

That is a whole lot of meat!

That is a whole lot of meat!

But I’m not here to talk about the high quality food they serve up, I’ll leave the restaurant reviews to my friend Megan over at monkeybreadandsweetpea.com. Nope, I’m going to tell you about one of the most impressive rotating draft lists I’ve seen at a restaurant in a very long time.

The bar at OB Noodle house is legit. On the night of my visit I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but what I got blew the top of my head straight through the roof. As we rounded the corner to our table adjacent to the bar and I saw the large pink Delirium elephant, I dared to dream that maybe, just maybe, this bar was going to have a decent selection. When the bartender placed the draft list in front of me, a single tear rolled down my cheek. It was magnificent.

Aside from Delirium Tremens, you could find such delight as Petrus aged pale xtra sour, Gulden Draak Belgian Triple, Double Dog Imperial IPA on Niro, Lambic Peche Fruit Beir, St. Louis Gueze xtra sour, Avery “Czar Russian Imperial stout”, The Bruery “Autem Maple”, Dogfish Head 60 & 90 minute IPA, Cuvee De Jacobins Rouge Sour, Uinta Hop Notch IPA, Stone’s 17th Anniversary IPA, oh and a little favorite of mine known as Blind Pig from Russian River.

Blind Pig pairs well with pho

Blind Pig pairs well with pho

That’s just a fraction, they have 40 taps of awesome at this place and if the beer isn’t enough for you they also have sake, of which we saw several table doing sake bombs…of which I have retired from since after my last experience I’m pretty sure I talked to Jesus…or a homeless guy in an ally. It’s very fuzzy.

The place has a great energy and vibe to it. From the lighting to the music and martial arts movies playing silently on the giant TV behind the bar, this place is a really good time.

One of these day I’ll sit down and write more about the underrated craft beer scene in Ocean Beach, but until that day do yourself a favor and check out the offering from OB Noodle House. Go for the noodles and stay for the beers…or go for the beers and stay for the noodles. Either way you’re going to be more than happy with your choice.

OB Noodle House is located at 2218 Cable St San Diego, CA 92107. Reservation for groups of 8 or more are available after 6pm. Also look out for great happy hour deals every day of the week.



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Dating a ‘Younger’ man. Pliny the Younger that is.

“I’m kind of a big deal”

The words may have been spoken by Ron Burgundy, but they could easily apply to the extremely scarce triple IPA known as Pliny the Younger from the good people at Russian River Brewing. If you are an enthusiast of the craft beer scene here in California, you may have heard about it in hushed whispers. It’s the beer with a big reputation, the #2 rated beer on the planet and in a move that only fuels people’s desire for it, it’s only available for a very small window in February.

I’ve had some bad luck in years past, usually not in the right place at the right time. So Pliny the Younger has been elusive, the Moby Dick to my Ahab if you will.

This year, I went into Pliny season with a renewed sense of hope. With my job status currently currently hovering somewhere around none and zero, and my school schedule confined to Tuesday and Thursday, I really believed I’d have a shot at sipping from the fountain of wow.

This past year is really when I first started using Twitter. I’ve always found it a little odd but it has been growing on me. Turns out Twitter has been my best friend for tracking down when and where bars are tapping Pliny. The flip side of the coin was that two bars in my area had announced their tappings about an hour before hand and they did it on a Thursday, just to kick me in the balls a little. Not just any Thursday mind you, but Valentine’s Day. Yup, the wife would love me forever if I ditched school and Valentine’s Day to drive around with the hopes of some Pliny dancing in my head.

Turns out I needed have worried. Toronado blew their keg in 50 minutes and Hamilton’s blew theirs in 16 minutes, according to reliable sources via Twitter. Savages, I tell you.

So Friday morning rolls around and after I finish my work out at the gym, I head to Costco to grab a few things for the house and as I’m walking back to my car with a cart full of stuff, I see the tweet from Toronado, they are tapping another keg at 11:30am. I look at the clock on my phone, it’s 11:00am already. I decide ‘what the hell’ and race up to North Park, groceries in the back of the car and all. I do a drive by, if the line is going to be wrapped around the the block I’m going home. It’s maybe 30 people deep, not too shabby. So I quickly locate a parking spot and hurry to get in line. It’s at that point I notice that I’m still in my sweaty, stinky gym cloths. Oh well, this may be my only shot.

11:30am rolls around and Toronado lets us in quickly. I ordered up two of the insanely rare beverage with the thought that I’d better make this last.

I settle in at a table and take a moment to reflect. I’m a little sad that none of my friends could be here, but texting them and sending pictures to taunt them is almost as much fun.

So how does it taste? Does it meet the mountain of expectations and hype?

It’s hard to say really. A week of reflecting as not really settled the debate in my mind. There is no doubt that it is a great beer, and one of the finest triple IPA’s I’ve ever had the fortune to drink. Would I drink it again? Hell yes. Would I stand in line and wait for it? Maybe. Hard to say for sure, that may have more to do with my aversion to standing in line for anything.

It’s a strong, boozy blend of hops and malt, coming in at close 13%ABV. One of the reason’s I believe in it’s popularity is that fact that this might be the smoothest triple IPA on the planet. It goes down incredibly easy. It’s also great to look at with it’s golden color and distinctive scent of hops and booze.

No doubt it’s a great beer. In fact, if I do find it again this season I’ll be more than happy to drink it with a smile on my face. This is a supreme effort from Russian River and they deserve a lot of praise. I know a lot of people who were delighted with this beer at the recently concluded San Francisco beer week.

So if you find yourself in a position to try some and you never have, I truly believe you should take advantage of that. If you miss out….well, there is always next year. Or just order Pliny the Elder, that is an IPA of excellence as well.

There are still Pliny the Younger keg tappings scheduled for the upcoming weeks, follow me on twitter @hoptologysd and i will keep you apprised as I learn of them.