From the Beer Writer: If there’s any gringo brewer that’s going to do right by both San Diego and Baja, it’s Ryan Brooks. He has lived a cross-cultural life, residing in Tijuana and working with brewers spanning as far east as Mexicali, soaking up the cross-border brewing culture along the way. Brooks is so enamored with the exciting things happening in his adopted region’s brewing scene that his new business, SouthNorte Beer Company (a spin-off brand of parent-operation Coronado Brewing Company), aims to celebrate the flavors and ingredients of Mexico along with the personal brewing heritage he amassed in Southern California. A key component to doing so is forging a flagship Mexican-style lager, and Brooks has done so with SouthNorte Sea Señor. Rather than rely on bells, whistles and adjuncts to add extra character, this inaugural 4.5% alcohol-by-volume offering is as true-to-form as it gets, relying on traditional ingredients to produce a crystal-clear, clean and incredibly refreshing beer. Tinged with the slightest bit of sweetness and complimentary herbal notes (think thyme and marjoram), it has what it takes to serve as an ambassador to the glories of craft beer for Latinos, who until recently, haven’t been marketed to all that well nor given much reason to give locally produced ales and lagers a shot. That changes here and now. Viva la revolución de la cerveza artesanal!
From the Brewers: “Sea Señor is the flagship beer that really kickstarted the idea of SouthNorte Beer Co. I was experimenting with the flavors and ingredients of Mexico, and brewing my take on a Mexican lager. I wanted something refreshing and easy to drink—like the beers I was enjoying in Baja—but brewed locally with quality ingredients. I use crisp pilsner malt and a classic yeast strain to get the smoothness typical of the style, but with a fuller flavor. We use European Noble hops at low hopping rates so the beer is balanced but not overly bitter. We then lager for three weeks so the beer is incredibly smooth and goes down easy, whether it’s by the pool or over a meal with friends. I’m excited for people to experience what SouthNorte is all about. Sea Señor is just the first of what’s to come—I am so inspired by our border culture and I can’t wait to brew recipes that showcase our ‘crossroads of cultures’ style.”—Ryan Brooks, Founder/Head Brewer, SouthNorte Beer Company
Kurt Bach began homebrewing with his friends in 1983 in Portland, Oregon. They may or may not have been of legal drinking age at the time, but they kept at the hobby until they were…and far beyond. Fifteen years ago, Bach really wanted to open a brewery in The Beaver State, but he felt it was too saturated. There were 50 breweries in Oregon at the time, with roughly 10 opening each year. Fast-forward and there are now more than 230 breweries there. He kicks himself regularly. But instead of wondering what could have been, Bach, now a San Diego resident, is finally in the process of building his passion project, Attitude Brewing Company, at the Mercado Del Barrio development at 1985 National Avenue in Barrio Logan. He says it was “now or never.”
Specifics such as system size, cellar capacity and exact styles are still being worked out, but Bach has a lot in store for his 4,500-square-foot space. In addition to the brewing component, Bach is installing a quick-service food venue called Attitude Gourmet Wraps, Burgers and Beers. It will be the first of several planned locations for that eventual chain, all of which will serve beers produced at the Barrio Logan progenitor. Those beers will combine American and Mexican suds sensibilities with the goal to someday distribute them in Mexico. Bach sees Barrio Logan as the perfect neighborhood to base this sort of cross-cultural operation, but there are many other positives that drew Bach to Mercado Del Barrio. Chief among them were its accessibility to freeways and an abundance of parking. A five-story parking garage will be available to patrons directly across the street.
Bach has participated in many brew days at professional breweries over the years, doing it for both joy and education, but he is particularly excited to mash in on his own system. He remembers the “cool guy at the party” effect beer had for him back in those maybe-legal days, and hopes to build a warm, down-to-earth place where employees make customers feel like the cool ones. That feeling will also be available to go care of crowlers. Attitude is currently on-track for a December soft opening.
I never grow weary of the incredulous if not reviled looks I receive when telling the unindoctrinated about the harmonious beer-and-dessert pairing that is carrot cake and India pale ale. I can relate. The first time Ballast Point Brewing veteran Colby Chandler shared this one-two punch with me, I was floored. It sounded ridiculous to marry any confectionery creation – much less one fueled by beta carotene – with a hoppy beer, but once we put that theory to practice during a cookbook shoot, I found out how meant to be this unlikely duo actually is.
In the years since, I’ve indulged in this pairing numerous times and found that what takes it from being a good pairing to a great pairing is beer selection. For the most part carrot cake tastes the same from baker to baker, but IPAs can vary dramatically. Those that are more of the old-fashioned English or imperial kind tend to be sweeter with more malt-born caramel notes, while San Diego-style IPAs are drier with unimpeded hop aromas and flavors. All these types of IPAs will work, but hop-profile is key. Classic C hops – Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus – lead with resinous, pine-like characteristics that are among the few that don’t mesh well with carrot cake. IPAs brewed with hops exhibiting the essence of tropical and citrus fruit – Citra, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin – fare much better with this classic dessert.
Until recently, this was the extent of my technique for pairing IPAs and carrot cake, but the emergence of a new ilk of India pale ale recently inspired me further refinement, and it turns out that, with its unbelievably fruit-forward flavors and low-grade bitterness, hazy Northeast-style IPAs brewed with hops packed with tropical punch are the penultimate option in this sweets-and-suds game. Options abound from breweries all throughout San Diego County, but when experimenting I ventured into the heart of the “Murklands”, Miramar’s Pure Project Brewing. In just over a year they have made a big name for themselves thanks much in part to their ever-hazy line of hop-heavy offerings. After some trial with very little error, I can attest that their Northeast-style IPAs pair nicely with carrot cake, but I wanted to take things to a new level, by not only selecting a well-suited beer, but tweaking the cake to blend especially well with its liquid counterpart.
Enter my tropical take on carrot cake. I start with a time-tested recipe for that dessert, then adjust its many mix-ins, which often include raisins, nuts, pineapple, coconut flakes and carrots. The latter remain, of course, as does the pineapple, which is the most obvious flavor-bridge for the tropical-fruit essence of the hops in the IPA. The coconut and raisins stay, as well, but the latter are made to soak in a substantial dose of spiced rum before going in, adding to the tropical nature of the finished product. And though popular, I do not add any walnuts or pecans, as they don’t bring much flavor to the party, and none that aids in pairing with the IPA.
On the frosting front, it would be downright sacrilege to mess with the glory that is cream cheese, butter and sugar, but instead of adding milk or lemon juice, I substitute in some pineapple juice. A generous sprinkling of toasted coconut helps bring things together while adding texture. It also makes this dessert a shoe-in pairing with Vacation Coconut IPA from Resident Brewing, which comes across as the Piña Colada of beer.
Pure Project head brewer Winslow Sawyer suggested grilling the pineapple, but given the lack of caramel notes in the beer I selected, a murky IPA hopped exclusively with Mosaic called Thousands of Money, I felt it was best to go with unadulterated pineapple. But by all means, switch things up and try your own forms of experimentation. The results will be as fun to savor as your friends’ reactions when you tell them how well carrot cake pairs with hoppy beer.
Here’s the list of beers (plus one cider and one mead) that will be on tap by 5 p.m. today:
– Burning Beard Circle of Wet Hops
– Newtopia Granny’s Lupulin Lust Cyder
– Chuck Alec Star B Out
– South Park Brewing Baby Buck XPA
– South Park Brewing Starpolito IPA
– North Park Beer Co. Chinolito Wet Hop Ale
– Monkey Paw Same Day IPA
– Craft Brewing Double Legged IIPA 8%
– Thunderhawk Liberty’s Teeth ESB
– Thunderhawk Death to Selfies Saison
– San Diego Brewing Co. SD S.M.A.S.H.
– Asylum Space Grass Session IPA
– Golden Coast Hopped Honey Star B Crystal Session Mead
– Amplified Toad the Wet Hoppit
– Pure Project Everyday California
– Wicks Brewing Wet Ever 4 Ever
– Mission Fresh Hop
– Fall Crystal Mess IPA
– Prodigy Wet Hop Grisette
– Mikkeller M is for Murker
– Nickel Standing Eagle Wet Hop IPA
– Nickel Hook in Mouth Chinook Wet Hop IPA
– Nickel My Way Wet Hop IPA
– Nickel/Benchmark/South Park Wet Hop Table Beer
– Nickel Green Truck Wet Hop Double IPA
– Nickel/Monkey Paw Buffalo Paw Wet Hop Brown
– Nickel Star B Wet Hop Pale
– Nickel Fresh Mountain Crystal Wet Hop IPA