HOPTOLOGY

San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!


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2014 Sore Eye Cup; Will your Favorite Beer be Representing?

Last year I was invited to participate in the judging for the first ever Sore Eye Cup Award, given to the brewery who produces the best regularly brewed beer in San Diego. Alesmith Brewing was deemed the winner for Speedway Stout and while they faced sturdy competition, they were able to easily outdistance themselves from the pack. This year, Brian Beagle of Sore Eye Sports, has graciously allowed me to return the judges table and help determine this years winning beer and brewers. Speedway Stout, as reigning champion, is not eligible to win this year. This is where we need your help.

There are a lot of really great beers being produced in San Diego year round. So many in fact, that it’s almost impossible for a panel of judges to have had each and every one, especially in a competition of this scale. That’s why we are asking for your help. This is one of my favorite parts about the Sore Eye Cup, everyone in San Diego, and across the country, can have a say and help us narrow the field down to the true cream of the crop.

Head over to Sore Eye Sports right now and vote for your top three regularly produced beers from San Diego county. It’s a big field of competitors and there is a wide range of styles being represented. What if you don’t see your favorite? Just email Brian and he can still add your favorite to the ballot. Right now you can find a list of local favorites from Ballast Point, Stone, Alpine, Helms, Societe, Pizza Port and more!

There aren’t too many beer competitions around that solicit for the opinion of the people who actually drink the beers. By helping us to narrow the field, not only are you making our job as judges easier, you are making sure your favorites are represented and getting a shot at the title.

The Sore Eye Cup will be awarded August 22nd, but this is the final week of voting, so don’t delay and get your votes in. You can vote for three beers a day, so there is still a lot of time to help your favorite beers make it to the final round where it’s awesomeness will be judged. So whose beer will fill this 64oz chalice? Help us decide!

Cheers,

Tom

One Cup to Rule them All! - photo by Brian Beagle

One Cup to Rule them All! – photo by Brian Beagle


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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.

Cheers,

Tom

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It’s a group thing.

It’s not often that we entertain guests at Casa de Hoptology, but on those rare occasion that we do I like to go grab a couple 22oz bottles from the local store so that we can have an impromptu beer tasting. Now what I normally try to do is grab something that is a little different, a little out of our comfort zone of the hopped beers that I love to talk about. On this particular evening I decided I would split the difference and grab a bottle of something new, and then a bottle of something new but familiar.

I decided to roll with the Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale and New Belgium Brewing’s Rampant Imperial India Pale Ale
Old Guardian - drained.
Old Guardian – drained.

First up was the Old Guardian. This is an 11.6ABV and a few sips in will have you slurring in a hurry. Barley Wine is something that I do not drink at all. It’s not for a lack of interest in this style of beer, it’s a simple matter of it being a cold day in hell when I order anything other than an IPA. After filling up the tasters and placing them on the table everyone took a glass and held it close to get a nice whiff of the scents before putting glass to lips and giving it a taste. Now, an important detail to keep in mind is that I didn’t tell people what the beers were, thinking I’d get some good honest reactions . So how did the tasting go?

“Delicious.” “Sweet” “Slightly fruity”
The consensus was that it’s very good but nobody was quite able to put their finger on the exact style of beer.  I think this speaks volumes about what Stone is doing with beers because in many cases you know when you are having a barley wine style. Stone reminds that this is an ale as well, so it has a more well rounded flavor profile and isn’t what you would normally get in many barley wines on the shelves today.
Next up we had rolled out the new Imperial IPA from the deviants in Fort Collins, Colorado; New Belgium. It comes in at 8.5%ABV. New Belgium’s standard IPA is Ranger which is a very good IPA. I like to consider Ranger a solid and reliable beer but I personally don’t put it in my top 5 IPA’s. My good friend and taster at this event, Pete, does. I was insanely curious to see what he thought of this new big brother to Ranger. One of the first words out my buddy’s mouth was “lemony”. Comments from the others included statements like “tastes like IPA”, “Citrus” “great for a summer day” “refreshing” only one person picked up the notes of sweetness and it wasn’t me. The citrus seemed to be the most prevalent flavor but again, the beer met with approval all around the room. After an impromptu rating system was constructed out of 5 it rated a solid 3.5. It was fun revealing to Pete that this was in fact a creation of New Belgium.
All in all, I thought the tasting went well. I’m working on making this sort of little experiences happen more often just because I love being able to get a really good conversation about the flavors of beer going. I’m sure there are a few bottles of Old Guardian available along with it’s brother, Old Guardian Oaked. New Belgium is currently ramping up with marketing for Rampant, be sure to check out their channel on youtube under NBBFILMS.
Pete eyes up the tasters

Pete eyes up the tasters

In the meantime, I hope spring is finding it’s way to wherever you are and get ready for a flood of new posts over the coming weeks. Fingers crossed that some of the new developments I have in mind for the site start to be made known as well.
Cheers,
Tom


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Is there such a thing as the “Perfect Crime”?

Saissons have always been a hit or miss for me. I have a few that hit just the right cords with my palette and some that, in my opinion, are just too much on the fruit taste. Something about this style of beer has always held it back. You will never catch me uttering the word “I can’t wait to get my hands on that Saison”. Sorry, it’s just not going to happen.

That, however, has never held me back from trying a new Saison before. In fact, like just about any style of beer, I’m always happy to try a new beer with an open mind.

It’s with this attitude that I confidently grabbed a bottle of Stone’s new collaboration saisson with the two gypsy brewers known as Stillwater and Evil Twin. If I’ve ever had brews from either of these two gypsy’s it totally escapes me.

Sadly, the first thing that struck about this beer was the $7.99 for a 12oz bottle. That seemed a little over the top for me but I’ve certainly paid more for a beer in the past.

Once you crack the bottle open you get a nose full of smokeyness intertwined with some maltiness and a tinge of spices. Pouring from the bottle to a glass, it pours out like liquid night. Deep dark black with maybe a slight hint of red to it. As you sip, once you get past the smokeyness on the front end you get a sort of black licorice with notes of coffee, two of my least favorite flavors on the planet. That said, it does go down the gullet smoothly and easily.

So what my verdict on this black Saison? Honestly? I’m not sure too sure I’m the guy to ask on this one. I can tell you that it’s not for me. This is another Saison that despite the creativity that went into making it, just doesn’t strike the right cords on my tongue. That’s not to say that if you enjoy a Saison you should stay away. If you are a Saison enthusiast I would actually encourage you to give it a shot and let me know how it works for you and your palette.

Your feedback is always welcome!

Cheers,
Tom

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12-12-12 The last of the Vertical Epics from Stone

2012-12-12 00.07.24It’s 12.12.12, a pretty cool occurrence in our calanders that won’t be happening again any time soon for most of us. Unless medical science is able to come up with a cure for the pesky death thing.

So I urge you to take a little time out of your day and sample this rare treat from Stone. Perhaps you have plans to attends the big bash that Stone is throwing in honor of the day, in that case take lots of photos to make me jealous.

I will be back later today with a write up of the tasting I held during an impromptu dinner where I just so happened to have a bottle and some beer drinkers with refined palettes over to the house.

In the meantime, enjoy 12.12.12, the date and the beer… The end of the world is right around the corner.

Cheers,
Tom


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Happy 16th Stone!

It’s Stone’s 16th Birthday this month. A worthy reason to celebrate if ever there was one. The 16th Anniversary Lemon Verbena IIPA is being tapped across the region and the ‘Enjoy By 9.21.12’ is hitting bars and bottle shops this week, Stone clearly continues to excel and stake their claim as the greatest brewery on the planet. So I thought I’d recount the tale of my first crack at a bottle of Stone IPA. This story my be shocking and slightly appalling to some of you.

My first sampling of Stone IPA was not a case of love at first sip.

It was roughly six years ago at a friends birthday party. Other than the birthday girl herself, I knew zero people there. Seeing a cooler of beer in the corner of the backyard I make my way to it as quick as I can. Now at this point in my life, IPA was not a style I was familiar with at all. I’d had only recently started drinking pale ale’s in order to escape the doldrums of Miller and Budweiser, and even that track record was spotty as I was learning my way around and trying to evolve my palette. As I opened the cooler, it was bottles of Stone as far as the eye could see…or as far as the ice in the box would let me see.

I had never tried Stone before. Sure, I’d heard of it, but I had only recently moved back to San Diego and when I left as kid, craft beer wasn’t even a word yet. So I grab one and I’m instantly intrigued by the bottle. The gargoyle logo is so bad ass, it’s screams righteous metal to my Judas Priest, head banging inner self!

Popping the cap off that bottle the aroma hit me in the face and I’m thrown off, beer doesn’t smell like this does it? I’m still intrigued but it’s tinged with a little doubt, that maybe I don’t know what I’m getting into with this. Placing the bottle at my lips, I tip it back and let that beer roll onto my tongue…the flavor explodes in my mouth and it takes all of my strength to not make what I now refer to as ‘IPA face’, when someone who doesn’t drink IPA first experiences the hoppy goodness. I swallow it down and look back at the bottle and a sad thought slaps me in the face. This beer is hardcore…but I don’t think I’m hardcore enough for this beer.

That doesn’t sit well with me. I consider myself a manly man. The idea that a beer is more manly than me is not something that I will stand for. So I throw back another swallow…and I’m pretty sure I didn’t like it even more. But that won’t stop me, I’ve played hockey games with a broken nose and high ankles sprains, you think a beer is gonna stop me now? No way. I finish my bottle and all those crazy flavors linger with me, at the time I didn’t really think that this beer was gonna change me. Until the following weekend when the beers I was ordering just weren’t doing it for me, they all were lacking something. They weren’t hardcore enough for me. Before I even know it, a buddy I’m with makes a recommendation for an IPA, and I say make it two. Second time around, it’s a different world, and I can appreciate the flavors and the complexity that has gone into crafting these beers. That’s not to say I didn’t hit a few rough patches along the way, but my view of beer was forever changed and I owe that to Stone.

As for the 16th Anniversary Lemon Verbena IIPA that they brewed up – It’s fantastic. Beautiful color and aroma comes off the top and this beer has some hops to it, not quite as aggressive as I would have thought but still great.  The lemon notes are not over powering and I found the beer to have a surprisingly smooth finish and at 10%ABV, well, lets just say you can have some fun but order more than one at your discretion. Overall, I found it to be a really nice beer that I’d happily order again, try it for yourself and let me know what you think.

So happy Birthday gang, keep up the great work, I can’t wait for you to take over the world!

Cheers,
Tom

Stone’s 16th Anniversary Lemon Verbena IIPA! Happy Birthday!