From the Beer Writer: Acronyms are used across the alcoholic-beverage industry, typically to describe particularly fine product. Cognac uses VSOP (very special/superior old pale) and XO (extra old), and I’ve always been a fan of Napa-based Chateau Potelle’s using VGS (very good shit) to describe its finest vintages. Alpine Beer Company issued an acronymous handle to its Mosaic-, Simcoe- and Citra-infused India pale ale…Alpine HFS. It’s not so much a descriptor as a reactionary phrase broken down into a publicly suitable format; the sort of happily expletive-laced comment one’s liable to make after tasting this rich, bold IPA. It debuted to great fanfare last year as a draft-only offering before taking a bronze medal in the American-style Strong Pale Ale category at the Great American Beer Festival. The next chapter in this brew’s short but illustrious lifespan is its first release in bottles. That will take place starting at noon, today at Alpine’s tasting room in its namesake East County town. They don’t figure to stay in stock for long. Show up tomorrow to pick some up and you may find yourself shouting Holy F***ing S*** for all the wrong reasons.
From the Brewer: “The beer that named itself. We always strive to offer the best beer we can possibly make, and with this beer we felt it was perfect right out of the gate. No adjustments were necessary. We got exactly what we wanted out of the beer: huge hop aroma, light body and immense drinkability. We hope this beer stays in heavy rotation.”—Shawn McIlhenney, Head Brewer, Alpine Beer Company
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
The 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.
There 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:
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.
Unfortunately 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.
In 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.
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.
No 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.
Someone 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…
(San Diego, CA) – This month, Green Flash Brewing Co. is installing 6 new 250 barrel fermenters, bringing the San Diego brewery to 100% production capacity, about 100,000 annual barrels. Additional production increases will come from a second brewery in Virginia Beach, Virginia, currently in planning. Green Flash has steadily increased production capacity ahead of demand since completing the initial build out of its state of the art San Diego facility in 2011. After re-watching Suds County USA, a 2012 documentary chronicling the timeline of San Diego’s craft beer explosion, Green Flash Co-Founder and CEO, Mike Hinkley was again struck by the “all-hands-on-deck” spirit of craft beer’s earliest pioneers. Mike had recently heard that Pat McIlhenney of Alpine Beer Co. was looking for a contract brewer, so that he could make enough beer to raise capital to expand operations. Mike immediately called Pat and offered to brew kegged beer for Alpine at Green Flash.
Mike presented the terms of the “non-contract” to Pat: Green Flash will not make a profit on the beer, only recover its costs, and only brew the beer when it does not interfere with meeting orders for Green Flash. The timing of the arrival of the new tanks, fit Alpine’s timing perfectly and the price could not be beat. So the only thing left was the hand shake.
“We are not contract brewing, we’re just helping Pat accomplish his goals of building a new brewery.” emphasizes Co-Founder and CEO, Mike Hinkley. “We have no interest in contract brewing and I cannot think of another scenario that would prompt me to make that call. San Diego’s craft beer scene was built on a foundation of community, with brewers helping each other to succeed. We benefited greatly from help and advice of other breweries, including Alpine, while getting started. I am very proud to be able to help Pat and Alpine.”
Green Flash is brewing only kegged beer for Alpine. Alpine is finalizing plans to work with Cold Springs in Minnesota to produce canned beer. These combined efforts will allow Alpine to produce about 5,000 barrels annually – an increase of about 200%
“I have known Pat for over 15 years as a brewer in San Diego and we work well together,” explains Chuck Silva, Brewmaster at Green Flash. “Because we brew similar styles, I know this arrangement is a great fit which will make it easy for our teams to work together. While Green Flash will not benefit financially from the arrangement, I think our production team will reap the rewards from this as a learning opportunity.”
Green Flash will brew three of Alpine’s most popular offerings: Hoppy Birthday, Nelson and Duet to spec, hops and other ingredients provided by Alpine. Green Flash will be ready to brew as soon as the latest cellar expansion is complete. They will brew Alpine beers for approximately one year, brewing a rotation of 250 barrel batches of these three Alpine beers. Chuck and Pat will work closely with the brewing team at Green Flash to ensure these beers are brewed to spec, and White Labs will ensure each release is consistent to Alpine’s formulations with lab testing prior to distribution.
“Having Mike Hinkley call with his most generous offer to help is overwhelming and came as a beautiful surprise,” says Pat McIlhenney from Alpine Beer Co. “The quality and craftsmanship Chuck and crew bring to their beers gives me the greatest confidence we will be able to seamlessly introduce a greater supply of our highly sought after beers. I am humbled by Mike’s generosity.”
Beer will be packaged in Alpine’s kegs and Alpine will be managing their own distribution. Finalizing compliance and other necessary legalities is currently in process, and there is no timetable in place –starting in September at the earliest. However, the Brewers met yesterday evening over a beer to finalize next steps, sealing their agreement with a handshake and another round. Just like old times.
About Alpine Beer Company
Alpine Beer Company was founded in 1999 by contracting with AleSmith Brewing Company for their award winning McIlhenney’s Irish Red. Located in the eastern part of San Diego County, this family owned and operated brewery opened in 2002 in their little home town of Alpine. Since that time we have offered over thirty different brews, some barrel aged beers, multiple IPA’s and unique lagers to name a few. A tiny pub was opened in 2010 and offers a delicious barbeque themed menu.
About Green Flash Brewing Co.
Green Flash Brewing Co., is located in San Diego, California, and was founded in 2002 by Mike and Lisa Hinkley. Brewmaster, Chuck Silva, leads brewing operations. Green Flash is an award-winning brewer of fine, hand-crafted ales, and specializes in brewing assertive and distinctive beers, such as the nationally acclaimed West Coast I.P.A.: an award-winning beer whose wide acceptance has helped define a category. Green Flash brews a wide variety of beer styles that are available on draft and in bottles as well as a growing lineup of seasonal and special offerings, including several barrel-aged beers, throughout the year. Please visit the Green Flash website www.greenflashbrew.com for more information.
Information obtained via press release
In order to celebrate 19 years since the opening of O’Brien’s Pub, and 10 years of Tom and Lindsey Nickel owning it, local breweries Societe and Alpine have both crafted special anniversary beers that will debut at the Kearny Mesa bar/restaurant this week.
“I wanted each brewery to make a beer that was outside of the existing line up each had,” said Tom Nickel in one of his typically jam-packed newsletters. “Societe makes great beers, but nothing under 6%, so they are brewing 10/19 O’Brien’s Anniversary Ale, a sessionable hoppy ale made with 100% Chinook hops. And Alpine makes amazing IPAs, but nothing in the tweener range of IPA and Double IPA between 7 and 8%. So Shawn has made 19/10 O’Brien’s Anniversary Ale, a 7.4% strong IPA that is 100% hopped with Columbus.”
Societe’s creation goes on tap Tuesday the 15th no later than 5 p.m. Alpine’s ale comes out Friday the 18th at lunch. Nickel believes there’s enough of each beer to last through the second half of the month. West Coast BBQ & Brew in La Mesa, which celebrates its one-year anniversary in February, will also see several O’Brien’s anniversary kegs grace its taps.
Looking ahead, O’Brien’s celebrates Russian River ‘TION’ Weekend starting on Friday, with 15-20 full-size kegs expected from the popular Northern California brewery.
Brewers from San Diego county won 15 medals at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. In total, 7 gold, 2 silver and 6 bronze medals were awarded. Over 4,000 entries were submitted to this year’s GABF from 666 breweries. Congratulations brewers!
Category 12 (Session Beer)
Gold: Twerp, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad
Category 14 (Experimental Beer)
Bronze: Track 8, The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing Co., San Marcos
Category 16 (Indigenous Beer)
Bronze: Hot Rocks Lager, The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing Co., San Marcos
Category 18 (American-Belgo-Style Ale)
Gold: Le Freak, Green Flash Brewing Co., Mira Mesa
Category 19 (American-Style Sour Ale)
Silver: Red Poppy, The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing Co., San Marcos
Category 22 (Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer)
Gold: Manhattan Project, The Beer Co., San Diego
Category 23 (Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout)
Silver: Silva Stout, Green Flash Brewing Co., Mira Mesa
Category 52 (American-Style India Pale Ale)
Bronze: Duet, Alpine Beer Co., Alpine
Category 55 (Imperial Red Ale)
Bronze: 547 Haight, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad
Category 70 (Belgian and French-Style Ale)
Gold: Saint’s Devotion, The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing Co., San Marcos
Category 72 (Belgian-Style Abbey Ale)
Gold: Tripel, Green Flash Brewing Co., Mira Mesa
Category 73 (Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale)
Bronze: Grand Cru, AleSmith Brewing Co., Miramar
Category 76 (Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout)
Gold: Seaside Stout, Pizza Port Solana Beach, Solana Beach
Category 78 (American-Style Stout)*
Gold: Order In The Port, Pizza Port San Clemente, San Clemente
Category 80 (Oatmeal Stout)
Gold: Oats, Pizza Port Solana Beach, Solana Beach
Category 82 ( Scotch Ale)*
Gold: Way Heavy, Pizza Port San Clemente, San Clemente
Category 83 (Old Ale or Strong Ale)
Bronze: Decadence ’10, AleSmith Brewing Co., Miramar
Best Decorated Booth (Endcap)
Stone Brewing Co.
*Not included into the total count of medals (outside of San Diego county).