From the Beer Writer: Whereas most craft fans’ favorite beer style is IPA (not that there’s anything wrong with that…they’re incredible), my favorite beers are Belgian-style farmhouse ales. But wait, like the IPA fan who can tell you they specifically like unfiltered, 7% alcohol-by-volume, tropical-flavored India pale ales dry-hopped with Citra, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin, I too can get way too specific about the types of farmhouse ales (AKA: saisons) I prefer. I like when they are spiked with Brettanomyces and aged in barrels, particularly those which have formerly housed white wine. I prefer Sauvignon Blanc barrels, but I’m not a picky man (despite what everything leading up to this has led you to believe). So, when speaking with local brewer Robert Masterson about future plans he had for his then yet-to-open Resident Brewing, and he told me the first thing he was going to do was get his saison into white-wine barrels so he could start aging it, I tucked that nugget away and started biding my time. It was as if he had intercepted some letter to Santa and, despite my naughty status, decided to bring my beer wish to life. A few weeks ago, that beer, Resident Saison Prestige, made its debut in 750-milliliter bottles, and I went straight to work getting my hands on some. And I’m glad I did, because it is exceptional. Oenophiles will be drawn in by a lustrous bouquet rife with aromas of lemon peel, honeysuckle, pears and grape must, while lovers of farmhouse and sour ales will go gaga for a multifarious yet balanced taste sensation offering up passion fruit, lemongrass, white pepper and oak-borne vanillins with a touch of funk delivered against a textural backdrop that’s medium and slightly creamy, leaving lingering traces of vanilla and kiwi. It’s prestigious enough to live up to its name and available exclusively at Resident’s base of operations, downtown’s The Local Eatery and Watering Hole.
From the Brewery: “Saison Prestige is a barrel-fermented, mixed-fermentation saison aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels. This farmhouse-style ale gets its character from two types of saison yeast, multiple Brettanomyces strains and Lactobacillus. The beer rested in wine barrels for over a year, before being bottled in June 2017. The beer was inspired by a few amazing American farmhouse breweries that have been putting out amazing beers for the past half-decade. We secured some amazing Chardonnay barrels from Chateau Montelena. After the saison picked up their character, we selected the three barrels that had the best-tasting beer inside. We didn’t want to utilize fruit with these killer barrels. Instead, we wanted them to stand out on their own and show San Diego what a wine-barrel and funky, tart saison can taste like without fruit additions.”—Robert Masterson, Head Brewer, Resident Brewing Company
From the Beer Writer: San Marcos’ The Lost Abbey is well known for its Belgian-inspired ales. Of their core offerings, a favorite of mine has always been Inferno Ale. It represents a challenging vision forged to life by a top-notch brewer. Director of Brewery Operations Tomme Arthur set out to recreate the Belgian golden strong ale archetype, Duvel, and knocked it out of the park with Inferno. Production of that beer has since been shelved, but its legend lives on in the brewery’s latest offering, The Lost Abbey Genesis of Shame. The same yeast strain used to ferment Inferno was used to ferment the base blonde ale that was aged in one of The Lost Abbey’s pair of oak foeders before being blended and finished with peaches and Brettanomyces to create this complex beer. As a result, the beer has an inherent spiciness reminiscent of Duvel and Inferno, plus a sticky, fluffy, snow-white head so durable you could camp under it in a hailstorm. The aroma is big on floral and stone-fruit character with a subtle touch of verdant funk, while the taste offers slight tartness and a touch of Brett spiciness with light peachiness bringing everything together. The name Genesis of Shame is a nod to Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden for consuming forbidden fruit. Fortunately, this beer is not taboo, because it’s a tasty introduction to The Lost Abbey’s foeder forays.
From the Brewer: “Genesis of Shame was developed to replace our Ten Commandments as the summer seasonal for 2017. We knew going into the process that we wanted to create a Brett-forward beer and marry some beer from our oak-aging program with a beer that was primary fermented in stainless steel. Back in 2016, we commissioned two 110-barrel French oak foeders and filled them with a blond sour base beer. Foeder #1 was the more active of the two and displayed some awesome Brett notes with a very soft oak finish. The final blend was 20% of the foeder beer married with 80% of the base beer. We also spiked the batch with some peach concentrate to build a refreshing beer with a tartness that accentuates the fruitiness. Our crew chose Brettopia to finish out the beer. While there was Brett in the foeder, it only accounted for 20% of the final blend. We used about half of the 3,400 gallons in the tank to produce Genesis of Shame. Some of the residual liquid will be blended into an anniversary beer for our friends at Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia. The last of the beer in Foeder 1 is set to be released into full distribution the first week of September. Foeder #1 is off to a great start and adding amazing opportunities for our brewers to imagine and implement new beers. It was refilled this past weekend and we hope it will be ready to provide more beer in the fall of 2018 or early 2019.”—Tomme Arthur, Director of Brewery Operations, The Lost Abbey
From the Beer Writer: I have been fortunate enough to participate in a number of collaboration brews with San Diego breweries. My participation has ranged from lending elbow-grease on brew-days to conceptualizing beer styles. It doesn’t get much better for a beer-nerd like me and each has been an honor to take part in, not to mention a learning experience. But it was an extra-special privilege coming up with a fun idea with Green Flash Brewing Company barrelmaster Pat Korn earlier this year. That brewery’s flagship beer, West Coast IPA, has been a long-time icon that helped define and communicate the hop-centric nature of San Diego beer. Many are the beer enthusiast who have memorized its dank, tropical, citrus-like flavors and aromas, myself included. Which made me all the more eager to find out what this beer would taste like fermented exclusively with Brettanomyces. Green Flash Brett Coast IPA answered that question when it debuted earlier this week at an event for Beer to the Rescue, the anti-lupus campaign it was brewed to raise funds for. For an in-depth description of this lovely beer’s characteristics, I will turn things over to the man who coaxed it into reality.
From the Brewer: “When Brandon approached me about being involved in Beer to the Rescue, I immediately said ‘yes.’ You see, my mother Barbara has Lupus, and I have never lived a day of my life without it being a part of my life. My mom is a tough lady, someone you don’t mess with, but I have spent many days watching her deal with the horrible effects of the disease. So for me, being involved in this great fundraising endeavor was a no-brainer. For this beer, we decided to harken back to our roots and re-brew a classic IPA that has a long history with Green Flash. But instead of using boring old Cal Ale yeast, we fermented the beer with our house strain of Brettanomyces. Two-row and C30/37 Crystal are the malt base and the beer is hopped with Simcoe, CTZ and Cascade, then dry-hopped with Simcoe, Citra, Centennial and Cascade. And just to enhance that good old Vista flavor, the beer was then racked onto two-pounds-per-barrel of whole-leaf Simcoe. It clocks in at 7.1% alcohol-by-volume and is a classic West Coast IPA, but the use of our house Brett adds flavors not usually associated with those beers. Dark gold in color with a full, crisp head, the beer has aromas of pine and grapefruit from the dry-hopping with verbena and horse blanket from the Brett. The flavors are an alluring mixture of pine, lemon, verbena and grapefruit; with a strong Brett character of phenol austerity and a seashell mineral-ity that adds a slight brininess to the beer.”—Pat Korn, Barrelmaster, Green Flash Brewing Company
Beer festivals take place nearly every weekend in San Diego County. We are, arguably, the craft-beer capital of the country, after all. But even with such a local plethora of opportunities to celebrate and consume copious amounts of craft-beer, there are out-of-town events of such high caliber that they merit travel expenses. Popular examples include the country’s largest event, the Great American Beer Festival, and most Californians’ be-all-end-all, the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival. But there’s a relatively new arrival to the must-visit ranks where every ale and lager is special, Collaboration Fest.
Held in Denver, Colorado each March during Colorado Craft Beer Week (CCBW), Collaboration Fest is an initiative conceived by the Colorado Brewers Guild and Two Parts in 2014 to bring together breweries to a degree that goes beyond standard beer-festival camaraderie. Each year, the Guild’s member-breweries reach out to brewing companies to brew special collaboration beers specifically for this festival; one-time-only creations that are here then gone, making for the type of unique experience adventurous, whale-hunting beer connoisseurs live (and die) for.
This year’s Collaboration Fest, which will take place at the National Western Stock Show Complex on March 25, will feature 100-plus breweries serving more than 75 collaboration beers. Last year’s event was stocked with a similar assemblage of players and project-beers, the majority of which went outside the box of standard-styles. Many were ultra-hoppy, funky, style-bending or infused with exotic ingredients, creating a beer-list unlike that of any other festival.
Several of 2016’s collaborative efforts involved San Diego brewing interests. Rip Current Brewing brewmaster Paul Sangster paired up with Littleton’s Living the Dream Brewing to brew a San Diego-style IPA. Stone Brewing small-batch brewer Laura Ulrich cooked up an imperial stout with old friends and coworkers from Fort Collins’ Odell Brewing, where she worked from 2002 to 2004 before joining the gargoyle clan. Both San Diegans were on-hand at the event to interact with festival goers and check out the other beers on the floor.
Other San Diego collaborators included Bagby Beer Company, Ballast Point Brewing, Green Flash Brewing and Pizza Port, who worked-up a pair of beers with Cannonball Creek Brewing and Twisted Pine Brewing. (A full rundown of the individual beers from San Diego collaborators can be found below.)
Some of the standout sours included a tart dark ale with Brettanomyces from Crooked Stave and Evil Twin Brewing, a black saison called “Ramblin’ Man” from Liquid Mechanics and Odd 13 Brewing, “Deux Funk” from Funkwerks and Wicked Weed Brewing, and a vanillin-kissed, barrel-aged sour from Denver Beer and Spangalang Brewing called “Cross Eyed Funktion”. An oak-aged Gose from TRVE Brewing and Prairie Artisan Ales exhibited brilliant depth and fruitiness from Colorado peaches. Rare styles like Kvassier (Call to Arms, Denizens and Conshocken Brewing), Kottbusser (300 Suns Brewing, Gemini Beer) and a rye- and wheat-beer hybrid (a roggenweiss) from Prost! And Dogfish Head provided even more depth and variety.
Even takes on IPAs went outside the box. Epic and Ska Brewing teamed up for a barrel-aged American IPA dubbed “Skeptic Ale”, while Crazy Mountain Brewing and Stillwater Artisan Ales’ “Neoteric” sour wild IPA was one of the fest’s most impressive offerings. There was also a reunion stout called “Breeze’s Mom” brewed by the founders of Call to Arms Brewing with their longtime former colleagues at Avery Brewing. Then there were all-in collabs like an outstanding barrel-fermented sour brewed by Our Mutual Friend, Scratch Brewing and Hopworks Urban Brewery; and a dubbel forged by the collective powers of The Bakers’ Brewery, Breckenridge Brewery, Pug Ryan’s Brewery, Angry James, Broken Compass, Backcountry and Dillon Dam Brewing.
Some may find it difficult to justify traveling halfway across the country for three-to-four hours of beer-tasting, no matter how outstanding, but more awaits visitors to Collaboration Fest. Denver is home to 65 breweries, brewpubs and beer-centric bars and restaurants, many of which—roughly 25 breweries and 20 or so hot-spots, including Falling Rock Tap House, Euclid Hall, Star Bar, First Draft, Tap 14 and Avanti—occupy the downtown core. Thanks to free public-transit along the 16th Street Mall, a wide array of them can be accessed easily and expeditiously. And because the event is held during Colorado Craft Beer Week, many of those venues have special events and promotions taking place, adding value and enhanced experiences to one’s travel itinerary. (Between 40 and 50 CCBW events were planned within Denver at press-time).
San Diegans are fortunate to live in a suds-saturated locale, but remarkable events like Collaboration Fest remind us that there’s a whole world out there, and that it’s one worth exploring.
San Diego Collaboration Fest Beers
Kearny Mesa’s Council Brewing Company and Vista’s Toolbox Brewing Company share an affinity for tart and wild ales. The brewing minds from these outfits have wanted to collaborate on such a beer for a long time, but found their schedules unaccommodating until a confluence of seemingly unfortunate developments provided ideal teaming conditions. First, a shipment of bottles Council had ordered was delayed, forcing them to push back the packaging date for one of their beers. Then, news came of a week-long stretch of cold, stormy weather. Council owners Liz and Curtis Chism contacted Toolbox head brewer Ehren Schmidt to see if he was free to brew on their would-be bottling day. He accepted and they were off to the races—all they needed was something to brew. Fittingly, this spontaneous collaboration yielded a spontaneous beer…a spontaneous fermenting beer, that is.
Yesterday, Schmidt, the Chisms and Council’s wild-yeast aficionado, Jeff Crane, brewed the wort for a beer that will ferment based solely on the airborne microorganisms occurring within their Kearny Mesa business park. Doing so loosely follows the age-old Belgian tradition of brewing Lambic beers. In Europe (and a small number of breweries in the U.S. such as Allagash Brewing Company, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project and Jester King Brewery), this is done by allowing wort (unfermented beer) to cool in open, shallow metal vessels called coolships, which allow wild yeast full access to the wort. Unlike domesticated yeast used to produce the vast majority of the world’s ales and lagers, wild yeast and bacteria such as Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces and Pediococcus, are extremely unpredictable and bring forth a host of tart, dry, earthy, funky flavors and aromas. These are desired traits by connoisseurs of these beers, but they are challenging to produce and the Council-Toolbox crew has no idea how their finished-product will turn out. It’s as much about experimentation as anything else, and they look forward to learning from this batch as well as a second, identical batch that they will brew tomorrow at Toolbox’s brewery.
Since neither company has a coolship, they are utilizing large plastic bins. The wort racked into them incorporates under-modified Pilsner malt, flaked and unmalted wheat, as well as Crystal hops Toolbox has been aging at its facility for nearly three years. Those matured pellets are nearly brown in appearance and have a scent similar to that of ripe blue cheese. After transferring the wort to the bin, that receptacle was transported across the business park to the suite the Chisms refer to as their “Magic Factory”, where they house their oak foudres and barrels. That is where it will ferment and age for at least a year. That spot is home to a host of “bugs” that will have their way with this beer. During warmer times of the year, there are typically too many undesirable microorganisms in the air for this process, which often leads to spoiled beer, making the upcoming week of cooler weather favorable for this project.
Because of it will ferment in a different environment, the Toolbox-brewed version of this beer is bound to taste different. The team plans to check in on both beers at the six-month and one-year marks but figures it likely won’t be finished for at least 18 months. At that point, they will coordinate release events at their tasting rooms where they will sell bottles of the individual beers as well as a blend of both. Additionally, provided the beer meets their standards, they will hold some back and continue brewing this recipe on an annual basis so they can produce a Gueuze, a term used to describe a blend of one-, two- and three-year-old Lambics. It’s a grand undertaking made entirely possible by a delayed delivery and the biggest series of storms to hit San Diego since 2010.