HOPTOLOGY

San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!


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Seeing Double…Bastards.

I feel like I’ve been spending quite a bit of time recently sharing with you a lot of beers from the good folks at Stone Brewing, well, here is another one.

The 2012 release of Double Bastard.

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As always, this beer is categorized as an American Strong Ale. This year the bastard brings an 11.2% ABV in a 22oz bottle and if you are planning to drink this by yourself you may want to cancel plans for later in the day. It’s not for the feint of heart! I’d also like to stat for the record that I poured mine into a 22oz pilsner glass. Would you like to know why? Because I’m a grown ass man and that’s how I roll.

Opening the bottle you get great nose of maltiness with hint of bread from the yeast right off the bottle. It pours a nice copper color into the chilled glass and it looks fantastic. I let it sit there for all of four seconds before I moved to take the first sip. You get a strong malt flavor upfront, but not sweet at all, the hops are added to wash that all out and give it what I can best describe as an aggressive flavor. This is Stone we’re talking about so aggressive is pretty much the name of the game. If you are not prepared to be punched in your palette, go get something else. You may also detect some spices and and a boozyness that isnt overpowering.

As usual, this is a beer from Stone that shows their continued commitment to excellence. Like the bottle says, this is a beer not to be wasted on the weak.

Go get yourself a bottle or two.

Cheers,
Tom

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Lukcy Basartd – 3 Bastards walk in to a fermenter, 1 Bastard leaves!

Happy New Year to everyone, hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Too much eggnog and too many Christmas cookies has put me a tad behind in rolling out some blogs but like my waistline, lets get things back in shape.

Lets start with this tasty delight from the small, humble brewery in Escondido called Stone. They rolled this beer out in November so there is a good chance you’ve come across it already. I’m talking about Lucky Bastard, or Lukcy Basartd if you want to make my brain hurt.

This is a big, hopped up ale created to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Arrogant Bastard. The smart guys up at Stone created this concoction by blending three of the bastard brothers to create this brand new limited edition bastard. Stone is quick to point out however, it’s only limited until they decide to make more. Arrogant Bastard, Oaked Arrogant Bastard and Double Bastard all put together in what I imagine is a Thunderdome style fermenter overseen by Tina Turner and Master Blaster. If you get that reference, you’re welcome!

Being a fan of all three of those delightful beers, I was overjoyed to pop the cap of this 22oz. bottle of bastardy goodness. At 8.5% ABV, keep a few pretzels nearby if you’re drinking this alone.

As far as how does it taste? Listen, if you are a Bastard enthusiast, you’re going to like this beer. It’s got the slap you in the face boldness of the original arrogant Bastard, a big splash of the boozy-ness of the Oaked Bastard and then the Double Bastard kinda pokes you in the eye when you least expect it.2012-12-23 11.16.39

It has a nice complexity to it, big roasty flavors held together by the caramel notes from the malts and I really dig that oaked booze flavor. The beer has a great nose on it when you open her up and if you pour into a glass you get a gorgeous copper with a slight reddish tint. It’s a beauty.

Oh and have fun reading the label after you’ve had a few swallows off this monster. The arrogant style spelling gave me a headache. Other that that minor quibble, I absolutely loved this beer and believe that if you are a fan of any of the Bastard beers by Stone tis is very much worth your time. Plus at $5.99 can you really afford not to try it out? Of course you can’t, now go get it.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on the 2012 edition of Double Bastard!

Sláinte,
Tom2012-12-23 11.19.51


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The Epic Conclusion… Stone Vertical Epic 12-12-12

As promised, I have returned to share my thoughts on Stone’s latest limited release, the 12-12-12 Vertical Epic.

If you aren’t familiar with the series, I won’t bore you to death with a recap of the previous beers…mostly because I wasn’t taking notes on beers back then so we’ll pretend like this is the one and only.

12-12-12 is a dark Belgium style beer. It pours from the bottle in a beautiful near black shade and smells distinctly of fruit and spices. At first taste it threw me off a little, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting but in a very good way. I thought perhaps the favors would be overpowering but instead I found a beer that was surprisingly easy to drink and the favors grew on me very quickly. Cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel and even some clove were noticeable but well balanced and not distracting to the beer. Oh and I wouldn’t call say its very sweet at all. Almost dry even.

My friend and fellow blogger Megan described the beer like this. “It reminded me of a Christmas Ale, but one that would keep me Vertical since most Christmas Ales, to me, feel like a punch in the face of cloves and other spices. The more I sipped, the more I enjoyed. However, at 9.0%, if I continued drinking this all night, it would eventually have to be renamed Horizontal Epic.”

Yes, that’s right. This bad boy clocks in a 9.0%ABV. It’s currently on draft and available in bottles around San Diego county and around the country.

In conclusion – this is a good beer that I’m very glad I had the opportunity to drink, but I’m sure glad I had a few friends to share the bottle with. I could see this being a dangerous beer…but in all the good ways. Go out and enjoy some of the events happening to coincide with the awesome day on the calendar. While you are out, go have a beer!

Cheers,
Tom

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Beer Hunt pt 2 : Under the Tuscan Sun or Drunk under a Tuscan table

The next leg of our journey to Italy took us to Florence, right in the heart of Tuscan wine county. Surely beer would be even harder to find here than in Rome. Turns out, maybe that isn’t the case after all.

Florence, or Firenze as the locals call it, was hands down my favorite place we visited. It’s relatively small and easy to walk around and soak up all the history. This is the home of renaissance and the people there have worked hard to preserve that look and feel to the town.
Don’t let that last part fool you, there is still a lot of modern life mixed in with the history. For the record I’d just like to state that the Duomo is possibly the most impressive building I have seen in my life. It’s just amazing to see with your own eyes.

Walking the streets of the Florence is a lot of fun. You are never too far away from a really cool historical landmark or a gelataria for those moments when absolutely need a waffle cone of gelato.
The first pub we came across was nothing to write home about. I stared to get discourage. Did I miss my window to explore some new beers while in Rome?

The next day, after a very nice guided walking tour of the town, we came to a large farmers market. Bread, cheeses, sausage and wine as everywhere you looked in this town square. Tucked discreetly amongst all that bread and cheese was a table for a small micro brewery in the region. The microbrewery was called Conte Di Campiglia.
We were able to sample their standard lager which was pretty solid. The taste was a little different from what most of are accustomed to, I believe this has to with the Italian obsession with hazelnuts. They love hazelnut in everything over there, it may be the one thing they love more than smoking…nah, who am I kidding on that?
This microbrewery embodied that love of hazelnut in everything they made.
We purchased two bottles of their seasonal brews, a pumpkin ale and a Christmas beer, to take back and drink at our hotel later that night.

Both of those seasonal beers were unique to say the least. The pumpkin was strong on the boozy qualities, almost to the point of overwhelming the pumpkin, which was a more subtle flavor. Not my favorite pumpkin beer, but not the worst by far. The Christmas beer was better overall but that crazy obsession with hazelnut was very noticeable in this brew as well. Still, it wasn’t enough to make me put down.

The next night out was where thing got interesting.

We pretty much stumbles across a pub called The King Grizzly, and I was shocked to see some of the beers they had available there. Now it wasn’t a crazy huge selection by any means, but they were stocking a nice assortment of American craft beers including Anderson Valley. Looking at the drafts I saw a bunch of beers I was unfamiliar with but after having a nice conversation about how Italy has a small but growing craft beer movement with the bartender/owner Alessandro, he broke out a couple bottles from his hometown brewery, Birrificio Emiliano – and dig this: These guys are into hops.

The first bottle we broke open was the Rimasta Di Farro – it’s essentially an Italian version of an American pale ale. It’s comes in at 5.5%ABV and has some nice flavor notes to it. You can find the English hops, and it’s not pushed to hard but malts. I enjoyed it very much.

Next up from the selection of Emiliano bottles was Pomposa. It’s a dark ale, along the lines of a Belgian, but I think it’s been tweaked a little to give it a bit of an Italian feel to it as well. It comes in at 6.1ABV but like the previous beer it lacks that sort of kick you in the butt feel that I makes me like a beer more than most.

Our final bottle and the creme de la creme of the whole nigh was Imperium also from Emiliano. This beer was really good. It was about as close I was going to get to a San Diego style IPA and I was very surprised and pleased by it. At 7%ABV this beer is nothing to sneeze at either. Now, listen, if you were to line this beer up against Stone or Ballast Point of Green Flash, I’m not saying it would hold a candle to them but in my opinion this beer is a sign of things to come in Italy and their small but growing craft beer movement. This is the direction I’d like to see that movement head in. The initial reaction I witnessed to others drinking the Imperium seemed to say that maybe they aren’t quite ready for a hops take over just yet, but it’s got to start somewhere and this beer is the kind that will push things in the right direction.

We would spend another evening at the King Grizzly talking further with Alessandro and the evolving beer culture in his country. He’s a good dude and luckily his English is pretty good too but my Italian is for shit.

So basically this was my find of the trip. If we are ever lucky enough to go back to Italy I’d love the opportunity to explore and go on a few more beer oriented adventures. I got the impression that what I found was barely the tip of the iceberg as fast as micro-brewing in Italy is concerned.  For now, the tip will just have to be enough. That’s what she said. BOOM!

Salute,

Tom

Not too shabby

Not too shabby

Hello friend.

Hello friend.

Me happy.

Me happy.

An italian IPA? OK!

An italian IPA? OK!

A nice start.

A nice start.


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Getting fresh with Stone Brewing or Enjoy this blog by 9.21.12

It was only a matter of time before Stone Brewing took the concept of freshness dating beer and punched it in the face before dropping it on it’s head. It also shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to find out that the beer they produced to show off their ingenuity was in high demand and very hard to track down.

I am, of course, referring to Stone’s Enjoy By 9.21.12 IPA.

This is a double IPA clocking in at 9.4%ABV. It’s available in draft and 22oz bottles in  three regions of the country, Southern California, Chicago and New Jersey. It’s a bold new approach to freshness and I, for one, certainly appreciate the desire to create a beer that is meant to enjoyed at it’s optimum flavor quotient. A beer meant to be savored not saved, I love the whole thought process on this beer.

I spent the early part of last week in a scramble to track down a few bottles of this new beer. Lots of stores sold out quickly and a few never even got theirs. I lucked out that the BevMo closest to my home still had several bottles and were able to sell me two. I considered this quite the victory as many other locations were limiting customers to one bottle. Even with two bottles already secured I did allow myself to fall victim to the mania and soon found myself calling BevMo’s and bottle shops around the area in search of a few more. After all was said and done, I ended up with a total of five bottles. A good friend of mine took advantage of the fact he lives down the street from Stone Brewing to buy eight bottles and get a growler fill. Bastard.

The most difficult part of buying these bottles on a Tuesday, was waiting to open one up on Friday. Why wait till Friday? With beer like this I didn’t want to drink alone. So I waited for my buddy to find a bottle for himself and we’d kickoff the weekend in style.

Cracking the cap off this 22oz bottle, you’d have to have the worlds worst sinus infection to not notice the tasty, hoppy aroma that instantly floats out of that bottle. Seriously, even before it touches your lips, that aroma lets you know this a insanely fresh beer.

We poured into chilled pint glasses and eagerly took our first sips. Sweet Christmas! This beer is delicious! Aggressively hopped is a bit of an understatement but the use of bitter hops is very minimal. You get some pinyness but not too much, you won’t think you’re sucking on a pine cone. That’s accompanied very nicely by some citrus and grapefruit flavors. Good malt character help to hold everything together. Marvelously well balanced, this is a double IPA that is almost too easy to drink. Which leads to my next part of my weekend with the Enjoy by IPA.

So after spending Friday night with the bottle I decided that Saturday would be a great time to try and find it on draft. Easier said then done. The bars we went to on Saturday night were all out. Disappointment abounds. Now Sunday rolls around and another good friends reaches out and lets me know he has found ‘Enjoy by’ on draft at Live Wire Bar on El Cajon Blvd. in North Park. We make our plan to meet for a quick beer, I’d like to put a special emphasis on ‘a quick beer’, and we descend on the bar where we are treated to some shenanigans out front of the bar by some of the more…colorful personalities in the neighborhood. Once we scoot past that scene, we grab our beers and sit in the nearby booth.

Just as with the bottle, The aroma rolls off the top of the pint glass and makes everything in the vicinity smell a billion times better, including my friend who had just run six miles. What strikes me the most as I take my first swallow is how similar the beer from the bottle is to the beer from a keg. The freshness is the real key to this beer. To me, that is really what makes this ‘Enjoy By’ program so fascinating. This is the next best thing to actually being on hand at the brewery as its crafted. I’m curious to see how the Enjoy By initiative grows and develops from the excellent first entry. They are certainly off to great start, so I tip my cap to Stone Brewing once again with this beer. Suffice to say, my friends and I, we enjoyed the hell out of this beer and that ‘one quick beer’ became five. Maybe six…I sort of lost count.

Go out and do the same!

Oh, I’ve been told that Toronado on the 30th St in North Park has not yet tapped their keg of the ‘Enjoy By’ yet…so I’d be on the lookout for something happening there around September 21st.

Cheers,
Tom

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IPA Day! YAY!

IPA Day is today.

August 2nd 2012

My understanding of this momentous day is that all lovers of craft beer take time out of their day and make a public declaration for their love of craft beer and specifically, their love of the hoppy wonderfulness known as the IPA. Get your favorite IPA in hand and spread the word. Get crazy on the Twitter, the Facebook or whatever your social media preference is and declare your love. Highlight you favorite brews, highlight the awesome bars that serve it, hell highlight the bad-ass IPA that YOU made in your garage! Show your love and own it.

I love IPAs!

They are an amazing burst of flavors that make your tongue come alive and your soul sing a song of delight.

I’d love to say that I knew at first sip, that IPA’s and I were meant to be together, that our souls were intertwined and fate of the galaxy rested on our shoulders…wait, that last part was Star Wars. You know what I mean, right?

Going from a guy who drank nothing but Miller and Bud (hereby referred to as “waste of my time”) to a Stone IPA was something of a rude awakening to the potential of what real beer should taste like and what I’d been missing out on. It didn’t happen overnight, but I got the bug, and it made me want to cultivate a better beer palate. Found some good ones, found some bad ones, and then I started to find the remarkable ones. It might be hyperbole, but it was a life changer, at least as far as my drinking life was concerned. All of a sudden I wanted to know more about beer, how it was made, where did these wild flavors come from? It’s been a real treat for me, and being in San Diego has made it all the more special to me since this is my hometown. We may not win a World Series any time soon, but dammit we can brew the hell out of most towns in the country. There is a lot more to my intro to the craft beer world, but this isn’t about me today. Today is all about IPA.

Three letters that are indicative of the high standards that brewers hold themselves to.

I plan on going out tonight and having a couple of IPA’s with friends who will also be taking part in this wonderful event. Whether you’re at home, or at the bar or maybe bored at work. Take a minute and tell the world what IPA would make your day. From Ballast Point to Deschutes, Foundry to Dogfish Head, make IPA Day yours!

Suck on that Arbor Day!

Cheers,
Tom

It’s Sculpin time!


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Getting crazy @ Crazee Burger North Park

When we moved back to San Diego after two years on the east coast, the choice was made to move to the North Park neighborhood. Initially, I had some concerns. Before we left town, North Park wasn’t exactly a great part of town to spend your time in. A friend we had in the area had said thing were changing, the neighborhood was evolving into something new. While I still had my reservations, we picked our apartment and become residents of what would become one of my favorite parts of town, full of fantastic food and even better bars. Oh, and 30th street, the Mecca of craft beer bars, are all here too.

Sadly, we would eventually move out of the neighborhood for a bigger place. However, that has not stopped me from going back and spending many of my weekends roaming the various bars in the neighborhood.

This past Sunday, we made our way back to one of the first places we ever went to eat and drink when we moved in, just around the corner from us – Crazee Burger.

As you may have read on this blog in the past, I’m a bit of a burger fiend. Generally, I live by the rule that if you can’t make a decent cheeseburger there is no point in me trying anything else on your menu.

At Crazee Burger, I have to put that rule aside.

Getting a basic beef burger is a mistake. Not because it’s not a good burger, but because that’s missing the point of the place. There are so many other burgers you could be checking out.  From meats that have started to become more common, like bison and salmon all the way down to alligator and kangaroo. They even offered rattlesnake a few years back, but the Food and Drug Administration thought that was a bad idea, just another example of ‘the man’ keeping us down!

This past Sunday, the misses and I split the blue crab & surimi burger with chili cilantro sauce and the antelope burger with smoked chili sauce. Both burgers were very good, I had thought that the antelope might be too gamey, but with the chili sauce, it all went very well together. As for the crab, well, it’s not going beat anything from Baltimore, a town where I lived for a very long time, but something about this burger works very well for me.

I can also whole-heartedly recommend any of the sausage dishes as well. They are great!

But what about the real reason we are all here? The Beer.

Oh the beer.

It’s a nice selection of drafts and bottles. It’s not going to set the world on fire but, the choices they give you are nice and go very well with the burgers and sausage meals they prepare for you. If you love Stone brewery, you’re going to love it here, as Stone IPA, Pale Ale, Smoked Porter and Levitation were readily available on draft, along with Trumer, Spaten and a few other German selections. I would have more names for you but I already had my nose in my beer.

Are you ready for the best part?

Happy hour is everyday from 3pm-6pm and all drafts are just $2.99

So in theory, you can just go, pull up a stool and drink a pint of Stone IPA for $3

That’s not too shabby in my estimation. The thought of sipping on a cold IPA for $3 and munching a basket of fries if I’m not in the burger mood is a pretty appealing way to spend a few hours in the afternoon.

I think it’s fair to call it a dive, but in the good way.

So if you want something a little different to eat, check out the menu, but I do believe the happy hour prices make this a stop worthy of your attention next time you find yourself on El Cajon Blvd & 30th Street and you need a little beer in your life. After all, who doesn’t need that?

Cheers,

Tom

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