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San Diego Beer News

Beer of the Week: Societe The Coachman

Sep 4
Societe Brewing Co.'s The Coachman "really small IPA"

Societe Brewing Co.’s The Coachman “really small IPA”

From the Beer Writer: There are many session India pale ales—IPAs coming in lower on the alcohol-by-volume scale than their typically 6-to-8% ABV forebears—on the market these days. And many leave a lot to be desired where depth of flavor is concerned. Some merely taste like hop-infused water, but Societe Brewing Co.’s The Coachman offers layers of flavor. That’s fitting considering one of those tiers is onion-like earthiness that shows up in the aroma along with foresty pine notes. The onion continues to the palate, marrying nicely with flavors of garlic, lemon and spruce. Despite being low in ABV, the beer doesn’t taste or feel watery, yet remains very refreshing. And since Societe has a large tribe of followers regularly draining its kegs, The Coachman isn’t allowed to degrade at the expedited pace of session IPAs. It’s one small beer for man, one giant leap for session IPA kind!

From the Brewer: “We make IPAs…lots of them. The Publican is like an IPA, only small. And The Coachman is also like an IPA, but really small. It is in the 4.5% ABV range, so you can drink a couple and still safely drive your coach home. In addition to malted barley, The Coachman contains a hefty load of malted wheat—about 40%–far more malted wheat by percentage than in any other beer we make. It’s intense, but not overly bitter. Hop character comes from Saaz, Simcoe and Mosaic. Some may consider it a ‘session IPA’ or a ‘session wheat IPA’, but in the scope of our lineup, it is our ‘really small IPA’.”—Travis Smith, Brewmaster, Societe Brewing Co.

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Adventures in Lambic Land

Sep 3

Sometimes I reflect back on the early days of my journey into the life of a beer geek (my journey into the brew, you might say) and I miss the revelatory experiences. Everything was so new and excitement took hold of me in a way that only comes along a few times in life. I felt so strongly that this was what I was meant to do with my life. Those early moments of revelation still stand out so clearly in my mind. I remember some of those early beers better than what I drank last week. They meant something that most beers now, thousands later, just can’t hope to match. I’ll never have my first Orval or Hop 15 again.

During my recent trip to Belgium, I hustled down to Chez Moeder Lambic as soon as we checked into our hotel in Brussels. It was getting dark by the time we got into town and the Grand Place was filled with hundreds of tourists treating the cobblestones like a grassy field for an evening picnic. My dad and I took a seat at the Moeder bar and perused the draught list. There are a handful of things that make Chez Moeder Lambic one of the greatest beer bars in the world, one of which being that they have six hand pumps of lambic at any given time, including several from Cantillon, which is just a short walk down the street.

Adventures in Lambic Land. Photos by Larry Tierney

Adventures in Lambic Land. Photos by Larry Tierney

I ordered a Cantillon Kriekenlambic and promptly felt my head explode. These are the moments that you chase but seldom capture. Fruit lambic is so present that it’s easy to take for granted. I think Timmermans Kriek was actually the first “lambic” that I ever had way back when I was first getting into beer, and Lindemans Framboise pretty much makes its way to nearly every random store in this country. These sweet beers tasting of fruit syrup and calling themselves “lambic” hint at the possibility of a symbiosis between fruit and beer that they fail to deliver on time and time again. I’ve had many fruit lambics between that questionable Timmermans and this unquestionably great Cantillon, but never has a beverage affected me quite like this one did. I’d actually had a draught Cantillon Kriek earlier in the day at De Heeren van Liedekercke – another wonderful beer-centric restaurant in the Brussels suburbs – but even that paled in comparison to this beer. Apparently, Cantillon makes a special draught kriek for Moeder that has more cherries and a special blend of sweet and sour varieties. From its saturated red color to its seamless synergy of signature Cantillon Brettanomyces earthy, lemony funk, and HD-quality sweet-sour cherry flavor, this was a perfect expression of what fruit lambic can be. Finding a fruit lambic this fresh and vibrantly fruit-forward in the U.S. is nearly impossible. In Brussels, it’s the way of life.

Lambic is a beer that time forgot. In the early 20th century pure cultured yeast, the newfangled invention out of Denmark, was sweeping the continent. In it’s wake, most beer styles that had a mix of wild yeast and bacteria in them either died out or changed into cleaner, acid-deficient versions of their former selves. Some lambic brewers probably saw the writing on thewall and moved on to brewing with cultured yeast, leaving lambic behind. Most lambic brewers simply went out of business as interest in the style waned. Others like Lindemans chased the evolving palate of the drinking public with syrupy, pasteurized fruit beers based on lambic but lacking its defining character. Many drinkers came to know this adulterated offspring as the only lambic they’d ever experience. But some lambic brewers carried traditional methods on through the lean years, with Cantillon perhaps their most steadfast champion.

A Belgian Coolship

A Belgian Coolship

Lambic disrupts the modern beer paradigm because it is the last beer style to never have accepted the domain of brewer as biological master. Instead of fermenting beer by adding yeast grown in a lab from a single genetically identical colony, lambic brewers let naturally occurring yeast and bacteria in the environment do the work. By letting their wort cool in shallow open copper vessels called coolships, wild yeast and bacteria living in and around the brewery are able to fall in and begin a slow fermentation that lasts from several months in the case of young lambic, to three years for fully mature old lambic. Perfectly brewed and aged lambic doesn’t just happen—it’s the result of generations of knowledge passed down from brewer to brewer, often father to son. The handful of traditional lambic brewers left in and around Brussels are the last to carry on this vestige of pre-biology brewing. American brewers have often approximated this fermentation by making sour ales with a mix of Brettanomyces and bacteria from a lab, but the effect of spontaneous inoculation leads to a complexity and array of micro organisms that can never be recreated from a lab.

Using only one base beer, brewed with a blend of barley malt, raw wheat, and aged hops, lambic brewers and blenders go on to create a whole spectrum of beers. The most popular lambic is created by blending different aged lambics (often one, two, and three year old barrels) into gueuze (or geuze in Flemish instead of French), which then conditions in the bottle to result in a nearly clear, sparkling beverage with a dry, acidic flavor and complex aroma often described as akin to grapefruit skin and barnyard, though every brewer has a unique signature from the microflora unique to their brewhouse and neighborhood air. More rarely, you can try single batches or barrels of lambic unblended, which have singular and sometimes challenging flavor profiles. Young lambics of under a year are often still turbid and slightly sweet, while old lambics up to three years get more acidic, funky, and dry as they increase in age. Unblended lambic is usually only found on draught around Brussels, but some brewers will bottle it on occasion, such as the Broucsella 1900 Crand Cru from Cantillon, which is lambic that has aged for three years and is of the highest quality in the brewery.

Brasserie Cantillon

Brasserie Cantillon

Alternately, lambic brewers can blend their base beer with dark candi sugar syrup to create faro, which has to be either pasteurized or served quickly on draught so that the sugar does not ferment and cause the serving vessel to explode. Pasteurized faro from the more industrial brewers can be sickly sweet, but draught faro from the traditional brewers is just sweet enough to cut the acidity of a particularly sour barrel and has a balance similar to a good lemonade, making it very refreshing on a hot Brussels afternoon with no air conditioning.

As I already mentioned, fruit and lambic can come together to form an otherworldly combination of flavor and aroma. I find many fruit beers taste flat and flabby on the palate due to a lack of acid. Acid is a key flavor profile in most of the fruit that brewers put in beer and getting fruit flavor in a beverage that can’t deliver enough acid fails to deliver the whole package of fruit character. Lambic, and sour beer styles in general, fix this issue by adding that acid back from the fermentation through lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. Add in the complex array of esters and phenols that Brettanomyces contributes to thearoma and it’s no wonder that lambic so strongly dominates the traditional fruit beer category. Sour cherries have typically beenthe most popular option for lambic brewers due to their tart flavor, deep red color, ease of handling, and availability, but other fruits such as grapes, raspberries, plums, apricots, blueberries, and even Swedish cloudberries have been used as well.

Adventures in Lambic Land

Adventures in Lambic Land

As any sour-lover that has made the pilgrimage will tell you, visiting Cantillon is one of the pillars of beer-geekdom. Cantillon has worked to preserve the history and tradition of lambic and gueuze by opening the brewery to the public as a museum and retaining as much of the original equipment and methods as possible. Wandering through the coolship room, barrel storage cellars, and massive stacks of conditioning bottles is a journey back in time. They even retain the pulp filter that ever other brewery replaced decades ago. Modern craft brewing has brought us a new ​spectrum​ of amazing beers now being produced all over the world, but Cantillon gives you a window into a past where brewers in one region made beer like nobody else in the world. With the information age upon us, it’s hard to imagine this kind of tradition developing again anywhere else.

There has been some debate over the last several years (and probably more) over whether you can brew lambic outside of the Senne Valley around Brussels. It has tended to boil down to two schools of thought: lambic is either a geographic definition like Champaign, or a style like IPA. For a long time, brewers thought that because the natural environment was so key to the flavor of lambic, you couldn’t make it outside of its traditional home. This theory was proven at least somewhat false when it was discovered that most of the micro organisms that ferment lambic exist almost everywhere in the world. Breweries like Russian River and Allagash have proven that with the right process, you came make a lambic-like beer in different locations and climates, but they have stopped short of calling their beer lambic. Their general consensus seems to be that they don’t call their beer lambic simply out of friendship and respect for the traditional lambic brewers who feel that reserving the lambic name for beers brewed in their native region and to traditional methods is the best was to preserve the tradition that they have fought so hard for over the years. So whether we call it spontaneously fermented beer, coolship beer, or something else we can come up with, if we are carrying on and expanding upon the rich tradition of lambic brewing, it’s a win for beer drinkers everywhere.

Coming Soon: Carlsbad Brewfest 9/12

Sep 2

tix on sale now carlsbad brewfest 2015 smMore than thirty craft brewers are convening at this year’s Carlsbad Brewfest on September 12, 2015. The Rotary Clubs of Carlsbad, organizers of the event, invite all San Diegans to make merry with suds from breweries that crisscross the county, California, the United States, and the Western World.

Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Co. is a major sponsor of the event for the second year in a row, and local brewery industry supplier and stalwart, Premier Stainless of Escondido has stepped up to join them.

Sierra Nevada, Stone, Ballast Point, Belching Beaver, Mother Earth, Booze Brothers, Barrel Harbor, Arcana, Einstock (Iceland), Stumblefoot, and more will all also be in attendance to delight the Carlsbad crowd. A full list of participating breweries can be found here.

Tickets are on sale in advance for $40 until the day of the event, and tickets purchased at the gates will be $45. Special $10 non-drinking passes are available for designated drivers. Tickets can be purchased via the festival’s website ( or through the event’s Facebook page (

Over 1000 attendees came last year’s Brewfest, and brewers and visitors alike gave glowing reviews of the festival’s accommodations and atmosphere. The crowd is expected to double in 2015, the event’s second year.

Music and games will complement the fun offered by brewers’ booths, and local restaurants will line visitors’ stomachs with their best offerings.

Carlsbad Brewfest will be in Holiday Park in Carlsbad during the afternoon between 12:00-4:00 on Saturday September 12. The location is just off the 5 Freeway at the Carlsbad Village Drive exit.

The Rotary Clubs of Carlsbad host the Carlsbad Brewfest, and have separately hosted 30 years worth of Oktoberfest celebrations for the North County community. Brewfest proceeds will benefit scholarships for local students and marines who choose to further their educations, and will assist with other Rotary Charities. The Rotary Clubs of Carlsbad are perpetually dedicated to “Service Above Self”.

This post sponsored by Carlsbad Brewfest

TICKET GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment below (be sure to include your e-mail when filling out the form). Five winners will be chosen randomly. Comments will close at 10PM tonight.

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Q&A: Will Galaspy

Sep 2

qa_32northHead Brewer, 32 North Brewing Co.

It wasn’t all that long after Miramar’s 32 North Brewing Company opened that the business’ head brewer hit the road to pursue other projects. Recently, owner Steve Peterson hired an East Coast transplant to take the reins of his 32 North’s brewhouse. I could work to eloquently introduce this rather unique individual, but feel his personal flair for storytelling is such that I’ll cut to the chase and allow him to do so.

How did you get into the brewing field?
From an early age, it was clear that I was not like other kids. If my parents left anything fermentable lying around like grain, grapes, apples or honey, it would be transformed into delicious alcohol nearly immediately. Unsure of how to raise a child with my unique abilities, they swaddled me in Liefman’s wrappers and left me on the doorstep of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. The school started to have way better parties. I am not at liberty to discuss much of the events that followed, but some years later, an owl dropped a letter down my chimney notifying me that my skills were needed in the private sector, and I began to travel the country aiding and abetting the activities of such elite units as Rock Bottom, Boscos, Parish Brewing Co. and Heartland Brewery in their collective mission to drench this great nation in delicious craft beer.

What led you to San Diego?
I was working in a little beverage-backwater known as New York City, where I was routinely forced to choke down IPAs of lesser than 100 IBUS and darker than 0.5 SRM. The situation was untenable. But I knew in my heart that on a far-off coast there was a land where the sun is always shining, the beer is bracing, the surf is stunning, the tacos are tantalizing, the punk rock is punishing and the weather is basically perfect. I kept the faith and have been delivered through the desert to the Promised Land. A choice assignment, indeed!

What has been the most challenging part about joining 32 North?
Catching up. This summer, I walked into a brewery with a lot of empty tanks, some cranky equipment and no instruction manual, but we’re getting it into shape and I’m starting to see a point where I have time to really put myself into new product development.

How will you alter the beer lineup?
As I understand it, the lineup at 32 North has been shifting since opening. Moving forward, you can expect to see us hone in our focus on putting out a solid and consistent lineup of ales available year-round as well as continuing to experiment with our Lactobacillus and wild yeast-fermented Berliner weisse. We also hope to get our barrel program off the ground in the coming months. I’d also like to add that anyone who hasn’t come by the taproom in a while will find several light, dry session beers, something that seemed to be absent when I arrived.

How does it feel to be in such a brewery-dense section of San Diego and have you had a chance to get to know some of your “Beeramar” neighbors?
It’s wonderful. I once swore I’d never work in another industrial park, but I made an exception here because it seems everyone around here makes something awesome. I can walk to some of the best breweries in the country, and if I walk to too many I can just sleep in my office. We’ve been swamped, so I haven’t gotten to bring brownies around to everyone like I hoped to, so if anybody reads this, come say “hi.”

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September Event Sampler Flight

Sep 1

sdfob15Summer is fast coming to a close (but not before some record-breaking mercury spikes). Soon, session ales and lighter golden liquid fare will give way to pumpkin- and spice-laced concoctions of a more amberish hue, but not before local beer interests send another wet hot American summer out in style. Check out some of these premier happenings then refer to our full list of local craft beer events.

September 4 | Padres Beerfest: Much as the great-on-paper San Diego Padres have yet to demonstrate mastery of the diamond, this fest isn’t perfect (tasters are 12 ounces, essentially a full-pour), but stocked with local MVPs, the brewery roster is star-studded. And by the time this game rolls around, the Friars may be in the midst of a playoff run. (A lifelong fan can dream.) | Petco Park, 100 Park Boulevard, East Village, 5 p.m.

September 12 | Carlsbad Brewfest: Rotary clubs aren’t what many people look to for a hoppin’ good time, but it appears two such groups in Carlsbad definitely know how to party, and will be proving it via this second annual suds gathering, featuring more than 30 craft breweries including local interests, Arcana Brewing Co., Guadalupe Brewery and Pizza Port. | Holiday Park, 3400 Pio Pico Drive, Carlsbad, 12 p.m.

September 12 | Peter Reeves Memorial Sour Fest: Any day at Churchill’s Pub and Grille promises a solid array of 50-plus beers, but one weekend each year they break out a tap list dealing exclusively in the tart arts. It’s a six-year tradition honoring a fallen friend celebrated with rarities from the likes of Cascade Brewery, The Lost Abbey and Russian River Brewing Co. | Churchill’s Pub & Grille, 887 West San Marcos Boulevard, San Marcos, 11 a.m.

September 18 | San Diego Festival of Beer: San Diego County’s longest-running beer festival is now old enough to drink. And like a headstrong young-yet-legal 21-year-old, it’s going as strong as ever. One-hundred-percent volunteer-driven and fortified by plenty of ales and lagers plus numerous live music acts, it’s the fest that inspired the many, many others that sprouted up after it. | Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier, 1000 North Harbor Drive, Downtown, 6 p.m.

September 26 | Tour de Fat: It’s almost that time of year again, when New Belgium Brewing comes rolling into town in all its outlandish, traveling-circus glory, all in the name of beer-fueled (responsible) biking and support of a smaller carbon footprint. A costumed bike parade through South Park will close out in Golden Hill with entertainment, games and, of course, beer! | Golden Hill Park, 2590-2596 Golden Hill Drive, Golden Hill, 10 a.m.

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