HOPTOLOGY

San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!


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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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The Stunning Conclusion: Part 2 of Pizza Port, The Burning of Rome and Eukaryst on The ThreeBZine Podcast!

When last we left our heroes, their lives were in mortal danger at the hands of The Joker as his plan to release his deadly joker toxin into Gotham’s water supply nears success…

Oh wait…wrong podcast.

The only danger Cody, Dustin and myself were in was having too much and fun and drinking too much incredible craft beer. Head over to ThreeBZine or Itunes to check out the final installment of epic time hanging out at Pizza Port Bressi Ranch with Pizza Port OB Head Brewer Nacho Cervantes, and the guys from The Burning of Rome and Eukaryst. Also, check out this sweet video that Pizza Port made for our show!

Cheers!

Tom


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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.

Cheers,

Tom