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Posts Tagged California

Amplified Ale Works goes collab crazy

Jan 11

The Amplified Collab Crew (left-to-right): Jeff Campbell, Cy Henley, Alex Pierson and JC Hill (also of Alvarado Street Brewery)

Many are the brewers and brewery personnel whose passion for music rivals their fervor for fermentation, but when analyzing the degree to which the musical bug has sunk its teeth into an entire business, no local operation is as afflicted as Amplified Ale Works. From the day it opened within its Pacific Beach kebaberie home, head brewer Cy Henley (you might not know it, but you’ve definitely shared space with him at a local live-music venue numerous times in your life) and company have driven home their love of aurally conveyed entertainment via beer names, apparel, graphics and more. So it’s no wonder that, when the estate of famed Motörhead front-man, Lemmy, sought a business to brew a beer commemorating the metal legend, they hit up Amplified.

Brewery owner and co-founder Alex Pierson was approached by a licensing firm last year. At first, he wasn’t 100% sold on the legitimacy of the company’s request, but when he ventured to an L.A. hotspot to meet with an entertainment exec, and that man was greeted with a knowing wave by star and recent Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, that gesture bolstered his faith level significantly. The two came to terms quickly, leading to Born to Lose IPA, a Citra-heavy India pale ale in the mid-6% ABV (alcohol-by-volume) range that takes cues from the recipe for Amplified’s Pig Nose Pale Ale. A prototype of the beer was on-tap at a Christmas Eve (its honoree’s birthday) release-party at famous West Hollywood live-music venue and Lemmy haunt, the Rainbow Bar & Grill, which now includes features a life-sized statue of Lemmy. A refined version of the beer is scheduled to come out in cans in February or March of this year, and a bourbon barrel-aged version of Amplified’s Belgian-style quadrupel is aging in bourbon barrels, waiting for its own Christmas Eve coming-out party later this year and a date with a bottling machine. That creation will be called Ace of Spades.

On the reunion tour front, Henley, Pierson and director of brewery operations Jeff Campbell spent a day collaborating at their Miramar brewhouse with Amplified co-founder JC Hill. Hill who now calls the coastal city of Monterey home and spends his time on the larger project he’s since moved on to, Alvarado Street Brewery. The fruits of the foursome’s enjoyable labors, Trois Cabrones (a name inspired by a classic album by The Melvins), will go on-tap at Amplified’s Miramar tasting room tomorrow, Thursday, January 12. The beer is a “hazy IPA” that had Summer and Nelson Sauvin hops added in the kettle, followed by Nelson and Mosaic in the whirlpool. It incorporates a combination of wheat, rice hulls and oats in its malt bill and was designed to smell and taste of big hops…and look like custard. The quartet admits this collaboration should have happened a long time ago. In an effort to make up for lost time, the Amplified crew will travel to north the last week of this month to brew the beer again at Alvarado Street, where it will be canned as well.

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Stone Brewing opening Napa tap room

May 20
Napa, California's Borreo Building will house Stone Brewing Tap Room - Napa

Napa, California’s Borreo Building will house Stone Brewing Tap Room – Napa

They say it takes a lot of good beer to make good wine. The tons of empty bottles and cans littering vintners’ trash cans in wine-country is testament to that. Soon, those grape-driven artisans will have even more ales to fuel their endeavors—and seriously hoppy ales at that—courtesy of Stone Brewing. Today, the company announced that it will begin renovations to a space in Napa, California’s historic Borreo building to convert it into a venue that will go by the name Stone Brewing Tap Room – Napa

Located on the corner of Third Street and Soscol Avenue in downtown Napa, the 10,000-square-foot spot will include many of the same components as the Stone Brewing Tap Room abutting Petco Park in downtown San Diego’s East Village—a bar, on-site kitchen and merchandise availability. Unlike its local predecessor, the Napa iteration will bring outdoor-seating into the fold and be equipped with its very own 10-barrel pilot-brewery.

Beers produced in Napa will include riffs on core offerings as well as beers incorporating indigenous ingredients. Local edibles will also be folded into the food menu, which will take cues from its sister Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens restaurants. Much of that will be sourced from small, local, organic farms in and around Napa.

This announcement comes in the midst of construction on two of the company’s high-profile projects, Stone Brewing Richmond and Stone Brewing Berlin, both of which have experienced significant delays, but are on-track to open before the close of 2016. Stone Brewing Tap Room – Napa is scheduled to open sometime in 2017.

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Ramona’s ChuckAlek arrives in North Park

May 17

chuckalek_01The passage of Assembly Bill 2004 was huge for craft-brewers in that it allowed California brewing companies to sell their wares at farmers’ markets across the state. It was while doing just that at the Thursday North Park Farmers Market that the married co-founders of ChuckAlek Independent Brewers came up with a plan for the next phase of their Ramona-based business, a mostly-al fresco satellite sampling space inspired by German culture and excursions to Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe.

ChuckAlek owners Marta Jankowksa and Grant Fraley pose at their new North Park beer-garden

ChuckAlek owners Marta Jankowksa and Grant Fraley pose at their new North Park beer-garden

While stationed beneath a telephone pole near the intersection of University and Herman Avenues, Grant Fraley and Marta Jankowska took notice of a fenced-but-open outdoor garden space owned by non-profit organization Art Produce, and thought it was ideally suited to house a German-style beer-garden. One day, Art Produce owner Lynn Susholtz was walking her dog by ChuckAlek’s farmers’ market space. They struck up a conversation, she toured them around and instant understanding and mutual respect gave way to a long-term partnership and the ChuckAlek Biergarten (3139 University Avenue, North Park).

The satellite tasting venue includes a small 300-square-foot indoor space (some of that area is taken up by an eight-foot-by-six-foot cold-box) featuring a large mural of Grant and Marta’s grandfathers, Chuck and Alek, in the company’s red-and-black color-scheme. This is where guest can order in addition to a walk-up window. But when it comes to enjoying the beer, it’s all about the 3,000 square feet of outdoor space.

chuckalek_03A number of shaded picnic tables are located on the east side of the space with several other wooden tables and chairs situated along a pathway bisecting gardens housing a bevy of produce (strawberries, Japanese eggplant, kale, kumquats, guavas, chile de arbol and assorted herbs). Family-friendly to the nth-degree, there is also space for kids to sit when they’re not meandering between trees and planters. Fraley and Jannkowska are parents. Providing a place for modern moms and dads who integrate beer-tasting into their family lives was of great importance to them.

chuckalek_05The aforementioned area is supplemented by a private-event space that can be rented as well as utilized by ChuckAlek ad Art Produce. On Mother’s Day, both organizations got together to offer activities there as well as in Art Produce’s studio bordering ChuckAlek’s indoor ordering space. The building’s other tenant, Tostadas, gets in on the action as well. Their Mexican cuisine can be ordered and delivered straight to the garden; a rather delectable value-added feature. On the grand-scale event front, ChuckAlek intends to celebrate Oktoberfest and other obvious biergarten-geared events. Also in the works is holding a traditional German-style Christmas market on Herman Avenue.

chuckalek_04Jankowska takes the lead at the biergarten while Fraley spends the majority of his time on brewery operations at the Ramona brewery. Beer is transported from the latter to the former roughly once a week to stock North Park’s 16 taps (which are stocked with an assortment of lesser-seen styles, including beers from ChuckAlek’s specialty Trading Co. series), house-made radlers and root beer.

The ChuckAlek Biergarten will help Fraley and Jankowska get to the next chapter for their business. When asked what that will be, they envision a small brewery that follows a model much like that of their shared North Park space. They want something programming- and experience-driven for people of the community to enjoy in tandem with their beer. Being involved with a non-profit as they are with Art Produce (a portion of their proceeds go to the organization as part of the lease agreement) is something they hope very much to replicate.

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Beer of the Week: Duck Foot The Looker California Blonde Ale

Apr 15
Duck Foot The Looker Cali Blonde Ale

Duck Foot The Looker California Blonde Ale

From the Beer Writer: In the vast world of beer styles, there are some that come across as vague and underappreciated. One of those is the humble but nearly ubiquitous blonde ale. In a county where hoppy brews rule, somehow this is the only type of blonde that doesn’t tend to turn too many heads. But good blonde ales should, and Duck Foot The Looker California Blonde Ale is one of the good ones. Easy-drinking with enough body to be substantial, it comes on with a touch of honey-like sweetness plus a touch of pink Bubble Yum that seems appropriate for a beer with a cheery grinning young lass as the focal point of its bottle-art. More people will be able to get a taste of it now that it’s being packaged in 22-ounce glass. A good time to get a taste of this 5.6% alcohol-by-volume crowd-pleaser will be at Duck Foot Brewing Company’s Miramar tasting room, tomorrow (April 16) from 6 to 10 p.m. during a party celebrating the debut of this and two other bottled beers dubbed “22 Oz to Freedom.” It, like this beer, is bound to be sublime.

From the Brewer: “Duck Foot beer is in bottles for the first time ever! We’ve managed to wrap some glass around some of our finest malty and hoppy concoctions just so our fans can have something to drink when they’re not actually visiting us (though why anyone would ever want to leave our tasting room, we’re not sure). It’s the same delicious beer that we’ve been brewing since we opened last year, but we’ve decided to give each beer a fun new name. Our Cali Blonde Ale is now called The Looker and incorporates the artwork that can be seen (by some of us) in the women’s restroom in our tasting room. The Chocolate Hazelnut Porter is now ChocoNut Lust and uses the ‘Punks’ artwork which can be seen in the bathroom alcove. And finally, the West Coast-style IPA is now called The Contender, and uses the robot-boxer imagery seen on our big wall. So we’re as excited about the bottle artwork as we are about the beer itself, and we hope everyone else is, too, as we embark on a new phase in Duck Foot history.”—Brett Goldstock, Head Brewer, Duck Foot Brewing Co.

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AB-InBev aims to open downtown brewpub

Jan 27

10barrel_logo10 Barrel Brewing has sent an application to the City of San Diego to expand an existing structure in the East Village into a brewpub. And I say, that’s a great idea…in 2014 before that Bend, Oregon-based business sold out to AB-InBev. As it stands now—with 10 Barrel a crucial link in the chain of acquired craft brands stretching from Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington to Golden Road Brewing in Los Angeles and east to Arizona’s Four Peaks Craft Brewery, Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery and anchor 2011 acquisition, Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company—it’s simply the latest bit of negative news I have to report to a legion of artisanal beer fans growing increasingly tired of Big Beer’s recent rash of tactics to diminish the market-share owned by real, independent craft breweries.

Many will simply say, “Who cares?” Those of that sentiment understand that 10 Barrel, a brewery that made good and interesting beers (and likely still does, though I won’t be drinking any of them), is not what it once was. The interest has devolved from a member of the craft brewing community into a pawn to be positioned against it, and AB-InBev is attempting to advance that pawn right into the heart of the urban action in what is arguably the country’s craft-beer capital. Into a 10,450-square-foot structure at 1501 E Street, to be exact. That’s a block north of Makers Quarter. Looking for an even more familiar landmark with which to orient? Try this one. It’s a block west of Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery, one of the most fiercely independent and vocally anti-Big Beer establishments in San Diego County. That should make for good drama, but after sellouts by local companies Saint Archer Brewery and Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits in 2015, Big Beer-inspired drama is the last thing San Diego imbibers need…or want right now.

Downtown San Diego—an area where as much if not more money comes in via tourists as locals—certainly makes for an attractive project site. Should 10 Barrel’s brewpub go in, most who visit it will simply assume it’s a local business. In all honesty, the majority of its patrons won’t concern themselves with something so trivial and inconsequential. With plenty of financial wherewithal behind it, the place will surely look fantastic and be highly marketed. And beyond the East Village, the beers brewed at 10 Barrel’s brewpub will almost surely find their way into distribution to the network of bars and restaurants where AB-InBev products are served, further chipping away at that oh-so-precious market-share Big Beer so doggedly covets.

At the end of 2015, I expressed the sincere hope that I’d spend more time writing about craft beer and less time discussing the business of beer, yet less than a month into the New Year, here we are. But such is the nature of business and, like it or not, craft beer is officially big business.

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