From the Beer Writer: Last week’s featured beer was a double IPA. For most local craft-fans, that’s the only double-referencing beer-style they’re bound to seek out, but I’ve been a long-time fan of Belgian dubbels. The middle-ground member of the monastic family of Belgian beers, they traditionally come in a chestnut-to-brown-hued package registering between six-and-eight percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV), and are the complete opposite of the hop-forward, dry, sun-geared ales San Diego is famous for. As such, few local breweries produce dubbels, so when I sample any I come across. Such was the case last week at Lomaland’s Bay City Brewing Company, when I found myself in the midst of a raucous pre-Gulls game packed-house. Once the hockey fans cleared out, I ordered the 7% ABV Bay City Dubbel and, before even taking a taste, felt myself falling in love thanks to big, flowery, banana-like aromas. Those sensory clues were in keeping with the flavor-profile of the beer, which is big on Belgian yeast character coming across as banana bread, baking spices and calendulas. Unlike poor examples of this style, the beer was not overly sweet and was above-average from a drinkability standpoint.
From the Brewer: “Bay City Dubbel is a dark, amber-colored ale inspired by the monks of the Franciscan Order. Dark crystal malts from both Europe and the U.S. give this beer its darker appearance and a subtle caramel flavor. The Belgian yeast used during fermentation lends a spicy character that balances the malty sweetness and creates a medium-bodied beer. Belgian yeasts are unique to brew with because of the phenols, esters and glycerin that they produce at various levels. This particular strain creates a medium bodied beer that is easier to drink than some more traditional versions of the style.”—Chris West, Head Brewer, Bay City Brewing Company
I was one of the first to find out about Chris West’s new brewing project. I visited the site of said brewery numerous times before it had any beer at the ready or its doors open to the public. Yet, once the business went live, it took me way too long to get back to check it out, even with the positive buzz that, despite me trying to keep from hearing, I couldn’t help but catch wind of. So, it was with great pleasure—and more anticipation than usual—that I finally had the chance to try West’s wares at the recently opened Bay City Brewing Company (3760 Hancock Street, Point Loma).
I will disclose upfront that the night I was there was the same night of a fundraiser hosted by Bay City for the Beer to the Rescue lupus awareness campaign I set up earlier this year. That said, the company’s generosity in no way swayed my views of West’s beers. In fact, the special Coffee Pale Ale he conjured to help raise funds for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California drives home the main thing I took away from Bay City. This newbie’s beers are best when they aren’t messed with! Allow me to explain.
The aforementioned pale ale (which was infused with beans roasted down the street at Swell Coffee Co.’s Point Loma roastery) had plenty of java potency that was deliciously in sync with the beer’s hop bill when served on CO2. For fun, the tasting room served the beer on nitrogen. The result was a beer with a fantastically soft and coating mouthfeel, but far less vibrant flavors. Diminishing taste and aroma returns is the lament of anti-nitro imbibers. I happen to believe there are plenty of right times, places and beers for nitro technology to be employed, but the fall-off was so severe in this case that sticking with a standard delivery method did the Coffee Pale Ale far more justice.
Similarly, Bay City’s Session IPA (no silly, clever, fancy or stupid monikers here, West and company simply label beers by their style) may be my favorite low-alcohol India pale ale in a county, nay, a country, overflowing with this trendy style, but only in its original form, which comes packed with bright piney, tropical fruit flavors and aromas brought on via Chinook and Equinox hops. But a version of the SIPA altered by the addition of cucumber and basil was easily the worst thing I had all night. It rendered the beer pickle-like in nature and took it to a nearly undrinkable place for me, leaving me pawing for more of the original version.
While improvisations were mostly unsuccessful, one experiment was rather fruitful; an Experimental San Diego Pale Ale to be exact. Huge scents akin to melon and peach give way to similar flavors. A Southern Hemisphere Pale Ale brewed with Wakatu and Helga hops is well rounded with a surprising bit of bubble gum in the mid-palate. A Vienna-style lager was the best surprise of the night next to the SIPA; a poundable beer delivering plenty of the yeast character that lager fans crave. Admirable, but not quite as fine-tuned as I’d have liked, was a pair of sour ales that feel like first drafts and offer hope for future creations as well as flavors that go beyond the typical tart scope.
Bay City lived up to the hype and provides a great option for pre- and post-game and concert fun at Valley View Casino Center across the street. Though easy to find from the freeway—the logo-swathed building looks out onto Interstate 8—one must venture deep into the industrial sections of Lomaland to get to the actual tasting room. But once there, a fenced-in outdoor patio provides a nice buffer from the traffic. A similarly pleasant respite can be had in the sleek if not a tad stark (it’s still a work-in-progress) indoor tasting bar.
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.