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San Diego Beer News

Beer of the Week: Mother Earth Ma’s Kettle Sour

Nov 27
Mother Earth Ma's Kettle Sour Berliner Weisse

Mother Earth Ma’s Kettle Sour Berliner Weisse

From the Beer Writer: Though located barely over a mile away from its headquarters and brewery, Mother Earth Brew Co.’s “Tap House” bar draws in big crowds on a consistent basis. Roomy, set up for food deliveries from nearby restaurants in Vista’s Old Town area, and just plain fun, it’s arguably the most alluring spot for artisanal ale enjoyment in a municipality stocked with more than a dozen such options. Part of the draw is Mother Earth’s homebrew shop next-door. Last week, the company announced it will be closing that business and replacing it with a “provisions” concept offering yet-to-be-disclosed food to-go. Recreational fermentationists are advised to head over get in on deals for the remaining homebrew inventory. They are further advised to celebrate their discounted haul with a stop at the Tap House and a pint of a newly tapped Berliner weisse. Branded Mother Earth Ma’s Kettle Sour, it’s a low-alcohol, kettle-soured offering that’s mildly acidic and extremely refreshing, making it a great entry-level beer for folks looking to give sours a try.

From the Brewer: “True to tradition, this kettle sour was brewed with 25% wheat malt and fermented with our German house yeast. Souring was done on the brew stand using Lactobacillus cultures and after our target pH (a numeric scale used to assess acidity) was met, the brew was transferred to the fermenter where our house yeast finished the process. What’s left is a 3.4% alcohol-by-volume beer with extreme sessionability and a light tartness every drinker can enjoy.”—Chris Baker, Head Brewer, Mother Earth Brew Co.

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Ian’s Beer Week Diary

Nov 25

Editor’s note: We sent our intrepid reporter out into the field to embed himself in San Diego Beer Week proceedings and share a daily account of his impressions. We found him after day 10, curled up in a heap behind Benchmark Brewing, moaning something about Vladimir Putin’s treachery and clutching at this diary.

Day 1 – Friday – SDBG GuildFest

A-001The line for the Guildfest is staggering. It does my heart good to know I am in the company of so many other craft brew fans. That said, were the earth to swallow them all whole so I could get to the front 10 minutes sooner, I’d welcome it.

My extensive industry pull has granted me entry to the opening festival a whopping 4.5 minutes earlier than everyone else. This means I am first in line to get pours that are about 85% foam, since everyone is still fiddling with their tap settings. It’s good to be the king.

Despite it being my job to drink copious volumes of SD beer, I am finding there’s a surprising number of brews here I’ve yet to encounter. For example, I just had my first Belching Beaver Pound Town Triple IPA. The name is appropriate: it tasted like a pineapple was having rough sex with a pine cone in my mouth. The new AleSmith Hawaiian Speedway Stout also made an appearance, which, true to its name, was like Speedway served with a Mounds bar for a swizzle stick.

The food vendors are really bringing the heat this year. The bacon-wrapped ribs are just an orgy of pork. A “porgy”, if you will. Brothers Provisions graced us with brownies made with over a gallon of Epic Brewing’s Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout, each crowned with a dollop of Mexican Mocha frosting. They taste like God smiling.

Despite being stuffed with beer and swine, I am not sated. Guildfest has only whetted my appetite for more. Sadly, in a less figurative sense, I honestly am in danger of physically bursting.

Day 2 – Saturday – Barrel Aged Night @ Sublime Ale House

The inaugural SDBW event has passed and ushered forth the inaugural SDBW rocky morning after. It’s not exactly a hangover, but more of a dull system-wide ache that subtly reminds that my body no longer approves of having fun at my age.

followyournose_5733There was a surprising amount of traffic on the 78 tonight, so rather than drive over to Sublime Ale House in San Marcos, I hitched a ride on one of the aromatic trails of their macaroni & cheese that wafted by my house.

Their list of barrel-aged beers is impressive, not that it matters to my wife. It might as well just have Hangar 24 “Pugachev’s Cobra” written in 80 point font, with marquee lights flashing around it, in the middle as far as she’s concerned.  She begrudgingly shares a sip with me, allowing me to revel in the dark fruits, soy sauce and molasses that come tumbling out of the taster. It’s so good I consider going in for a second taste, but her curling lip and raised hackles definitely signal I shouldn’t.

I instead opt for a lap around the barrel-aged world, enjoying many but worshiping the Lost Abbey Agave Maria Ale. I’ve had a few tequila barrel-aged beers in my time, but I’m convinced no one does it better. If you have any allegiance to tequila at all (and, let’s face it, tequila has likely ruined enough evenings to not be on the friendliest terms with most) it’s worth the extra coin to experience this brew.

Day 3 – Sunday – Danksauce & Dogs with Modern Times Beer

I’ll admit it: when I found out that Danksauce & Dogs wasn’t some kind of illicit barbeque event, I was mildly disappointed. Then I saw a dog wearing a malt bag and all was forgiven:


Danksauce and Dogs @ Quartyard

This was my first time to the Quartyard and it was kind of a revelation. Until I arrived there I never even considered the option of having a Modern Times Fortunate Islands while attending to my dog at the park. Now I can scarcely imagine a world without it.

C-001Unfortunately I budgeted my time poorly and wasn’t able to stay long enough to see which dogs won for best costume. So I’ll just say for the record that if it wasn’t this dapper gent, you, sir, were robbed.

Day 4 – Monday – Duck Foot Brewing Stout Release

I was lured to Duck Foot Brewing tonight with the promise of my first Ukrainian Imperial Stout. Despite my encyclopedic knowledge of sobriety-inhibitors, this was a style I was totally ignorant of. I eagerly unsheathed my pad and pen upon arrival, ready to capture the rich and storied history of this esoteric style.

“It’s just like a Russian Imperial Stout, but without the Putin!”

Oh. Well, beer may be an odd platform to share a geopolitical outlook, but the name they chose is more appetizing sounding than Willful Violation of 1994 Budapest Memorandum Stout.  I’ll roll with it.

The first thing I noticed about the Putin Is A Colossal Dickbag Stout is how sticky it is. The aromas cling to the nose, the brew clings to the glass, and the chocolate-covered espresso bean notes cling to the palate. As you chew on it further subtler notes of molasses and dark fruit emerge, all the while wearing its 10.8% ABV with ease.

Day 5 – Tuesday – A tragic, but necessary respite

I wanted to get out today, but courtesy of Duck Foot Brewing I was far too engrossed reading up on the 2014 unlawful annexation of Crimea. I really need to start following periodicals that aren’t beer related.

Day 6 – Wednesday – AlesSmith Brewing Company Speedway Grand Prix

AleSmith Brewing Company is not a place I typically associate with whimsy. Their reputation is primarily derived from a penchant for developing highly consistent and nuanced brews. However, for three brief days in SDBW, Peter “Wildman” Zien lets his hair down for Speedway Grand Prix.

E-001In this annual celebration the much ballyhooed stout becomes a canvas for members of the AleSmith team to augment as they see fit. This usually amounts to 3 or 4 variants that are sensibly treated with coffee and a multitude of others borne out of one of Willy Wonka’s fever dreams.

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and crack wise on something like a Bananas Fosters Speedway, but I must confess that each variant, for better or worse, really did articulate the flavors they advertised. Whether it was a Butterfinger or PB&J Speedway, the snozzberries did indeed taste like snozzberries.

F-001Day 7 – Thursday – Beer + Bites @ Maker’s Quarter

I visited the Maker’s Quarter website for details on the Guild’s Beer + Bites event, but quickly became distracted by the About link. I made the mistake of reading it without access to my Millennial Decoder Ring and am left trying to suss out what it means to be “both a place and a collective ethos.”

The festival itself was pretty standard fare. It had tiny cups, a couple dozen breweries with a handful of non-standard brews, and vendors offering paraphernalia with various hop-based puns. However, it did have something that no other brewfest prior has offered:

Where you at on this one, Darwin?

Day 8 – Friday – Avery Barrel Aged Night @ Stone Brewing Co.

ian-stoneNo one has ever accused Stone Brewing of harboring low self-esteem. Certifying your beers as Liquid Arrogance signals a healthy ego. Hell, even the newest iteration of their cherished gargoyle seems to be throwing a little Blue Steel our way.

“But why gargoyle models?”

Still, it takes a large degree of self-assuredness to take one of the precious few SDBW slots and offer a tap-takeover to an outside brewery. Not that Avery Brewing isn’t worthy of the attention, especially when they trot out their barrel-aged wares.

The average ABV of the featured beers hovered somewhere around 16%. Needless to say, my tasting notes devolved into something resembling a richter scale reading pretty quickly. All I can say with certainty is you’d be hard-pressed to find a lovelier setting to enjoy them in than a fall evening on the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens – Escondido patio.

Day 9 – Saturday – Alpine Beer Company Tap Takeover @ Sublime Ale House

When I was putting my plan together for this week I was operating on three key principles:
1. Hit a variety of events
2. Don’t visit the same venue twice
3. If I run into Brandon Hernández, get him to autograph my tits

It was a pretty good plan and a simple one to execute considering the volume of SDBW happenings. And it was working for me right up until a friend clued me in that Sublime Ale House in San Marcos had Alpine H.F.S. on tap. My integrity has sold for far less.

While many breweries would suffer from being as far flung as Alpine Beer Company, they have flipped that paradigm on its head by becoming a walez-generating machine. Whether it’s Kiwi Herman or Exponential Hoppiness, there’s always a next Alpine brew to covet and chase in vain. H.F.S. American IPA, renamed from its former incarnation as a Bine & Vine anniversary brew, is one such ale.

As I am an tired and jaded beer writer, very few brews ever deliver the insta-gasm of the hypetrain that precedes it, but H.F.S. comes close. Next to Avery’s Raja DIPA, it is the juiciest IPA I’ve had in awhile. It extracts flavors of orange, pear and pine with startling acuity, but with little to no residual bitterness. A very tasty brew, worthy of SDBW’s grandeur.

Day 10 – Sunday – Karl Strauss Beer Brunch

In years past I always made hitting a SDBW beer-for-breakfast event a priority despite it having predictably poor results. It was always intended to be a launching pad for a frenzy of beer-y shenanigans, but more commonly it left me bloated and ready for a nap. As I am a consummate professional I would still soldier on to the subsequent events, feigning interest while mopping at the meat-sweats that enveloped me.

This may sound like I’m down on beer brunches, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Meat-sweats are a great way to flush out all of the toxins that have accumulated in my system from eating so much vegetable matter. It’s only the expectation to be ambulatory afterwards that I resent. So this year I decided to let a Karl Strauss breakfast buffet be the capper to my glorious SDBW experience.

While most beer pairing experiences run on rails, the Karl Strauss brunch takes more of a Montessori approach. You are free to express yourself creatively through collaborative play. Servers facilitate your hands-on learning, with suggestions and samples rather than edicts, because they know you are a very special person with remarkable insights to offer. This also how I learned the hard way that nothing pairs particularly well with an olive-bacon-sundried tomato-ham-bacon-spinach-garlic-peppers-jalapeño-cilantro-cheddar cheese omelette. A Windansea “Hefemosa” comes close though.

G-002Someone did suggest that Red Trolley Ale pairs nicely with pancakes…with Red Trolley-infused maple syrup. Since pancakes are essentially only a vehicle to get syrup into your mouth, this is really tantamount to saying Red Trolley Ale pairs well with Red Trolley Ale. But they weren’t wrong, I suppose.

I capped the breakfast with a bacon-cookie sandwich and a barrel-aged Peanut Butter Cup Porter, because I promised myself as a child these would be the sorts of decisions I would make upon finally becoming an adult.

I was thoroughly sated, but found myself craving a cup of coffee. I was about to order one when I had a fantastic realization: Why order it now when I could have it at greater expense, much farther away, and discretely parceled across several Benchmark Brewing stouts? The choice was obvious.

This sudden change of plans is really emblematic of why San Diego Beer Week is so great. While there’s never a shortage of beer around these parts, for ten days a year SDBW lends the entire industry a festive feel. No matter what inspires you, there’s bound to be an event in proximity that will tickle your fancy. In this case, I wanted coffee and sublimated that need into getting tickled by brewmaster Matt Akin. Only culinarily speaking, of course. He’s happily married, I assure you.

My thanks to the San Diego Brewers Guild and the many, many breweries that kept this party going for so long.

Until we meet again, SDBW…


Benchmarks Donuts, Coffee and Stout event

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Green Flash’s Hop Odyssey continues

Nov 24

gf_pacificgemBusiness as usual—it’s more than the ubiquitous and fundamentally false battle cry of former craft breweries that have been acquired by Big Beer giants. In the case of current craft breweries like Green Flash Brewing Company (6550 Mira Mesa Boulevard, Mira Mesa), it’s actually true. This, despite having recently and gracefully accepted the resignation of its long-time brewmaster and subsequently promoting former lead brewer Erik Jensen to head of fermentation. The show will go on, and that includes the company’s alpha acid-driven Hop Odyssey series of beers.

Established in 2013 as a manner of exploring the flavors and aromas of cutting edge hop varietals, the 2015 series will come to the close with the impending release of Green Flash’s Segal Ranch Session IPA, featuring a blend of Cascade, Centennial and Tomahawk hops plucked from the Yakima, Washington hop farm of the same name. That beer will be available in six-packs, 22-ounce bottles and on draft nationwide.

The focus of the 2015 Hop Odyssey lineup was on session IPAs; India pale ales coming in at a lower alcohol-by-volume percentages for prolonged enjoyment. In a similar trend-conscious manner, the 2016 series will be all about single-hop beers, starting with the release of Pacific Gem Pale Ale in January. Styrian Golding Pale Ale will follow in May and Nugget Pale Ale in September. Each beer is named after the hops they will exclusively depend on for their unique sensory qualities, and incorporate classic UK pale malt Simpsons Golden Promise in the grain bill. The latter component advances on the successful use of that Golden Promise in Jensen’s recipe for a beer called Golden Naked Promise, which was brewed for the National Homebrewers Conference, which was held in San Diego this May.

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Honoring Vets a Beer Week Highlight

Nov 23

During Beer Week in San Diego, it’s no surprise that Churchill’s Pub & Grille in San Marcos is standing room only on a Wednesday night. But there’s one table on the back patio that stayed empty all night.

The Missing Man Table, common in military mess halls and Navy ships, pays homage to POWs and those who have gone missing in action. It was at Churchill’s on Veterans Day as part of the “Hoist,” a grass-roots event that honors men and women who have served in the U.S. military.

San Diego Brewers Guild president Kevin Hopkins and his close friend, Steve Cates, started the Hoist a decade ago and it has since taken on a life of its own, attracting close to 100 people. It’s held at Churchill’s each Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

FullSizeRender (1)

The Hoist at Churchill’s Pub & Grille

“It’s just about recognizing that freedom isn’t free and everything that we enjoy about our country, a price has been paid for it and continues to be paid for,” said Hopkins, the chief branding officer at Mother Earth Brew Co. in Vista. “And we must honor it and remember it.”

The idea for the Hoist actually came on Veterans Day in 2005 when Hopkins and Cates were hiking near Jacumba on the Goat Canyon Trestle. After their hike they stopped at a small hotel bar when someone approached them to ask if they were veterans. They are (Hopkins served in the Air Force and the National Security Administration and Cates was a submariner in the Navy), and soon everyone in the bar started buying them beers to pay tribute to their military service.

They were bought so many beers in fact they actually had to sneak out of the place.

“They were just lining them up,” Hopkins recalled with a laugh. “There was no way we could have drank all the beers they bought us.” They were humbled by the gesture and inspired to pay it forward themselves.

FullSizeRenderThe Hoist started more informally with a handful of friends at family. Now there’s a formal presentation, starting with the Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of the National Anthem, the honoring of veterans in attendance, and a guest speaker. Last year, Jack Ensch, a retired Navy captain and former Vietnam prisoner of war, was a special guest. Adam Avery, founder of Avery Brewing Company, attended last year.

Hopkins and Cates have also brought in their friend, Adam Brice, a former master gunnery sergeant in the Marines, to help organize the event.

After the formalities, people may stay for hours to share their stories. And if they don’t stay late, they come early. The Veterans Day event officially was supposed to start at 5:45 p.m., but the first guests started arriving more than three hours before.

“People come early because they want to be a part of it and enjoy the camaraderie,” Cates said. “This thing has grown on its own. We were joking that one year we won’t even show up. And we know that it would still happen without us because people just want to be a part of it. It’s great to see that excitement from everyone, whether you’re military, family of military or know someone in the military.”

Although The Hoist is not an official Beer Week event, it certainly feels like one as countless pints are raised to pay tribute. It’s growing to a point where there’s talk of expanding it to Pearl Harbor Day.

“It’s organic, it’s been a real grassroots effort,” Hopkins said. “It’s just a safe environment for veterans who have sacrificed or anyone to take a moment to share.”

Beer of the Week: Bay City Coffee Pale Ale

Nov 20
Bay City Coffee Pale Ale (on nitro)

Bay City Coffee Pale Ale (on nitro)

From the Beer Writer: When people think of coffee beers, they naturally gravitate toward stouts and porters. Roasted malts with a touch of hop bitterness is the closest thing to a bitter, roasty cup of Joe. So adding coffee makes a great deal of sense when one is looking to add depth of flavor and extra oomph to a dark beer. However, brewers looking to display the flavor of the coffee itself within a beer are beginning to experiment with lighter-colored beers devoid of dark-roasted malts. Cream ales, pale ales and the occasional India pale ale are the most popular styles when it comes to this method. In the case of the latter two, brewers look to select coffee and hop varieties that have similar flavors, which typically come in the form of citrus, berry or earthy nuances. That’s what Chris West, head brewer at newly opened Bay City Brewing Company did when devising the recipe for his Coffee Pale Ale, an extremely flavorful yet balanced beer that delivers hop sensations worthy of a San Diegan’s lupulin-craving palate plus a caffeinated java jolt. The 6% alcohol-by-volume beer is currently on tap, both on CO2 and nitrogen, at Bay City’s tasting room just north of Valley View Casino Center.

From the Brewer: “The inspiration for the Coffee Pale Ale started with our neighborhood. There are now two breweries and multiple coffee roasters in this unique corner of town and we’re excited to see what else develops here. We worked with Swell Coffee Co. and their roaster, John Hermann, to select a bean and roasting profile that created a fruity yet still earthy coffee. Once the bean was selected, we decided to go with a pale ale as the base beer for two reasons. We didn’t want dark roasted grains to interfere with the coffee’s profile, which we all loved during cuppings. Additionally, Swell had recently begun experimenting with dry-hopped, cold-brewed coffee, so the conversation inevitably led to a coffee pale ale as our final product. The beer pours a golden-pale color with a dense white head that lasts. The aroma is coffee-forward with a floral earthiness from Simcoe hops. The taste begins slightly sweet, then finishes with mild bitterness. We hope you enjoy it and help us benefit Beer to the Rescue and the campaign’s goal to fund lupus research.”—Chris West, Head Brewer, Bay City Brewing Co.

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