From the Beer Writer: Stone Brewing hosts many top-tier events, but one of my favorite is the company’s American Homebrewers Association-sanctioned AHA Rally and its associated homebrewing competition. Every year, some of the county’s most talented, ambitious recreational brewers submit their beers for judging by a panel of Stone employees, including key members of the brewing team. Each year’s winning beer gets produced on Stone’s system and distributed nationally (which now means to all 50 states). While Stone is known for innovating, the company has a defined style of bold and largely hoppy beers, so it is always fun to watch the brewers tackle beers that, for the most part, don’t fit the typical gargoyle-shaped mold (read: insert-type-of-IPA-here). This year’s winning entry, Paul Bischeri & Patrick Martinez / Abnormal / Stone Neapolitan Dynamite, once again goes against the grain in a delicious attempt to bring the primary flavors of Neapolitan ice cream—chocolate, vanilla and strawberry—to the forefront in an imperial stout. Freshly poured, the beer comes across slightly creamy on the palate with big cocoa and a touch of vanilla, but as the beer warms up, the latter makes itself more known along with strawberry fruitiness. It’s for sure a beer that would not be part of the Stone portfolio were it not for this contest, and the quaffable embodiment of why this event is such a brilliant component of Stone’s heritage.
From the Brewer: “The AHA brews are always a good challenge for us to scale-up. I think it’s great experience for the homebrewers as well to see how a small recipe gets magnified to production. This beer had a lot of ingredients. Our goal is always to be as faithful as possible to the original recipe, but at the same time it needs to be realistic on the big scale. The biggest ingredient challenge here was the strawberry addition. They used a lot of strawberries, and if we would have scaled it up to be exactly the same, we would have depleted the world’s supply. But seriously…it was too much to use on a big scale. We were able to play with a couple of different addition points and got some strawberry purée—which was all real fruit, of course—that was really intense and came through nicely. Strawberry in general is a tough one to get to come out in beer and it really does come through here in equal measure to their original beer. That’s always the coolest part of this gig: when we have the homebrewers try the scaled-up version and they are stoked. So, the day we tried it with Paul and Patrick was awesome because they were really happy with how it came out. I think the beer is great!”—Jeremy Moynier, Senior Innovation Brewing Manager, Stone Brewing
From the Beer Writer: Last month, I ventured to Sorrento Valley for a Monday-night session at New English Brewing Company, where my eyes gravitated to a beer on the board called “Hop Slap’d”. In a matter of seconds, I was lifting a full pint, but before I could take a sip, I was shocked into a neutral state by the outrageously vibrant hop aroma wafting up from the glass. Freshly zested oranges, mowed grass and a hint of lemon registered with force. When I eventually took a taste, all of those components were there along with a touch of casaba melon. As potent as it was, I figured it must be a newly tapped beer, but it had already been on-tap for a month. Just as I began wishing I’d have visited the brewery 30 days earlier, the barkeep mentioned the beer was part of a series of pale ales with rotating hop bills, the next of which, New English Hop Slap’d #5, was about to make its debut. I immediately made plans to come back to try that beer, which derives its hoppy appeal from Citra hops, coming on strong with scents and flavors of myriad citrus and tropical fruits, minus the grassy, melon-like nuances imparted by the Mosaic that gave Hop Slap’d #4 its unique characteristics. I’ll definitely be back for future editions of this pale. Consider me hop slap’d!
From the Brewer: “Hop Slap’d pale ale is designed to educate drinkers about the differences between hop varietals and also about the difference between ‘hoppiness’ and ‘bitterness’. Brewed using the same base recipe for each batch, we end up with an American pale ale weighing in at 5.5% alcohol-by-volume and 40 IBUs (international bittering units). Very crushable! The key to these rotating-hop-series beers are the late kettle-hop additions and, more specifically, the dry-hop additions. Each successive batch of Hop Slap’d features different hops, so if you try #4 alongside #5, for instance…as you can right now at the New English tasting room…you can eliminate the base beer as a variable. Any difference in taste or aroma is down to the hops alone! Batch #4 used all Mosaic for late and dry additions, while #5 used all Citra. The difference is amazing, and since the beer isn’t overwhelmingly bitter like some IPAs tend to be, the character of the hops themselves shines through. In order to accentuate the difference and literally slap you in the olfactory organs with flavor and arom,a we load up the dry hops at almost two-and-a-quarter-pounds per-barrel. That’s the same as our double IPA! Hop Slap’d #5 features big tangerine and ripe citrus aroma plus a light scent of pineapple. The taste is like fresh-squeezed OJ on the palate with a mild bitterness and light malt character. This is a thirst-quencher and perfect for the hot, dry weather we’ve been having.”—Simon Lacey, Owner & Brewmaster, New English Brewing Company
From the Beer Writer: Today marks the start of the ninth annual San Diego Beer Week. Taking place from November 3-12 throughout the county, it’s a little idea that’s grown to gargantuan status. I remember the first meeting I had with a San Diego Brewers Guild member where they introduced the idea to me. It seemed like a fantastic idea, but I wondered how much noise our smattering of, then, around 25 or 30 breweries would be able to make. Turns out, a whole lot. So much, that by the second and third editions of SDBW, ours was among the best regional beer weeks in the country. And it all stemmed from the heavy lifting of those industry veterans, the example they set in year one and continue to set with each run of this ten-day celebration of locally produced ales and lagers. The 100-plus new breweries that have debuted since have happily and zealously picked up the torch and endeavored to help put on promotions that push the envelope and go beyond everyday events and festivals; individually and in unison. For the latter efforts, the Guild remains the prime mechanism for planning and execution. That organization is celebrating its 20th year of operation this Beer Week. In recognition of that milestone, Guild member breweries that have been operating for 20 years or more (AleSmith Brewing, Coronado Brewing, Karl Strauss Brewing, Oggi’s, Pizza Port, San Marcos Brewery and Stone Brewing) got together to conceive the recipe for a special IPA that will make its official debut at the official opening event of SDBW, tonight’s Guild Fest VIP Brewer Takeover at downtown’s Broadway Pier. Brewed with Vic Secret, Idaho 7 and Motueka hops donated by BSG CraftBrewing plus whole-cone Cascade hops from Star B Ranch and Hop Farm, as well as San Diego Super Ale yeast from Miramar institution White Labs, the beer comes in at 7% alcohol-by-volume. To give all Guild members a hand in the beer, breweries were encouraged to submit potential names for it. Those monikers were later voted on by the membership, resulting in the apt handle Capital of Craft IPA. Kegs of this limited-edition brew will be distributed to events and accounts throughout San Diego County, and a portion of profits from the beer (which was brewed at Coronado Brewing’s Bay Park facility on a day that saw dozens of local brewers venture there to participate) will go to the Guild to aid its ongoing efforts to raise awareness about its members and the importance of supporting local, independent craft brewing companies.
From the Veteran Brewery Owners: “What an awesome opportunity for all of us here in the San Diego brewing community to get together and make this incredible beer! Some of us have been around for 20-plus years and some for just a few. It was great to see all the brewers and Guild members who came out, old and new, to brew this beer. It really shows how far our industry has come and that we have a really bright future ahead of us. By the way, did I mention that the beer turned out epic?”—Rick Chapman, Co-owner, Coronado Brewing Company
“When the San Diego Brewers Guild was founded, I was lucky to be a part of a very small, informal group of people who casually met up once a month. Everyone present had a common goal to unite and share ideas to promote our passion for craft beer. Although that hasn’t changed, the explosive brewery growth in San Diego has allowed so much experience over the years for us to grow the Guild into such an amazing, organized resource. Many thanks to many people. Cheers!”—Gina Marsaglia, Co-owner, Pizza Port
From the Beer Writer: There are magic moments where you take a first sip of a beer and are instantly aware of its flawlessness care of a perfect blend of flavors, aroma, body and balance. I experienced such a moment about a month ago when my wife afforded me a try of the Baltic porter she’d ordered: Bagby Herd of Turtles. The beer is mild and silken with notes of baker’s chocolate augmented by a slight minerality from the slow-fermenting lager yeast that give this brew it’s fun moniker. To be fair, I often feel like I’m drinking technically and culturally perfect beers at Oceanside craft Mecca Bagby Beer Company, but what made this instance extra-special was Herd of Turtles being awarded a silver medal in the Baltic-style Porter category at the Great American Beer Festival a mere two weeks after I was introduced to it. That precious metal in no way makes the porter any better than it already was, but it sure is gratifying to have proof of a decent palate confirmed by the country’s preeminent professional-brewing competition.
From the Brewer: “A true lager beer, the primary fermentation for this beer takes around four weeks. It is then lagered over a period of eight-to-ten weeks. This long process allows the lager yeast to do a lot of work rounding out all of its deep flavors. The lager component allows the beer to be very clean and bright despite its age and complex array of flavors. The dark-malt depth in this beer is huge. It has flavors and aromas of dark fruit, sugar and cocoa. It also has a very slight roast note, and despite its high alcohol percentage, is relatively light-bodied with a crisp finish. We actually had the name for the beer before the beer, itself, thinking what a great image an actual herd of turtles would make. Obviously, it’s named this because of its super slow fermentation and cellaring. Because of that long lead time, this is a beer we make just once a year, and had only made once before the current batch. To us, that made it especially cool that it medaled.”—Jeff Bagby, Owner & Brewmaster, Bagby Beer Company
From the Beer Writer: When endeavoring to locate Division 23 Brewing Company for the first time, one relies heavily on a series of A-frame signs leading from Trade Street through a labyrinthian Miramar industrial park. In addition to helpful arrows, those signs tout the amenities of that business’ tasting room, including “air conditioning.” Talk about an understatement. Division 23 is a spin-off business of HVAC company, DMG Corporation, the offices for which are directly above the brewery and tasting room. Both are equipped with numerous sample units mounted on the ceiling directly above plush seating, a trio of TVS, shuffleboard and a ping-pong table. A beer drinker couldn’t ask for a cushier place to imbibe. Equally as comforting is Division 23 Helles Yeah!, a to-style take on a type of lager that, despite its high level of drinkability and compatibility with nearly year-round sunshine, isn’t widely produced in San Diego. With its scone-like touch of sweetness and light earthiness, it’s a less hop-forward lager that goes down easy and will appeal to many, especially those less familiar with craft who may be turned off by the bitterness of, say, a Pilsner. Spend an afternoon drinking this beer in what it is one of the coolest tasting rooms in the county, both literally and figuratively.
From the Brewer: “Here at Division 23, we love when fall comes around in San Diego. Not only is the weather perfect for tipping a pint, but German-style beers start popping up all over town. We have also been in love with lagers lately, so to celebrate the season we decided to brew a traditional German Helles. Light in color, big in body, our Helles Yeah! starts off a little sweet and finishes crisp and dry…with a little lingering floral hoppiness on the tongue. It’s a great beer to soak in the season.”—Jimmy Lewis, Brewer, Division 23 Brewing Company