From the Beer Writer: Last year, Benchmark Brewing Company began canning beers in its Parks Collection series. The first to get the cylinder treatment was an extra pale ale (or XPA, acronym purism be damned) called Benchmark Beaten Path. Like the vast majority of this Grantville brewery’s beers, it is beautiful in its simplicity, relying on nothing more than traditional ale-brewing ingredients to carry the day. And while Citra hops are at the forefront of this sunny seasonal, they are in perfect balance, enough that rather than shove their way to the forefront, they casually make their presence known from sip to swallow care of citrus notes lifted by light carbonation and accentuated by a hint of malt sweetness. Four-packs of the beer recently went on sale at Benchmark’s tasting room, making this the perfect time to give this fresh, rather silky pale ale a try. Last year, it was a beer I consumed more than just about any other of its kind. It’s an ideal summertime beer for those who value balanced craftsmanship and hops presented in perfect proportions.
From the Brewers: “This beer was originally designed to celebrate the fifth anniversary of SD DrinkAbout: five percent alcohol-by-volume, five ingredients, five years. It was brewed totally Iron Chef style, because the turnaround on the beer needed to be fast, so we could only use ingredients we already had in-house. The five ingredients are oats, California Ale yeast, water, pale malt and Citra hops. Beaten Path highlights and celebrates the amazing flavor and aroma of this hop. The resulting beer is something that is just so easy to drink, bright and juicy with a smooth body, it is totally crushable. It comes in 16-ounce cans and is available on draft. We make this beer about four times a year, and the entire team here just itches for the next brew every time it runs out.”—Matt Akin, Co-owner & Brewmaster, Benchmark Brewing Company
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
From the Beer Writer: A few years back, I headed the Naming Committee at Stone Brewing. This was at a time when that company was releasing more beers per year than at any time in its 20-year history. New beers need new names and while there is always a certain amount of fun in developing monikers, these days that process is downright challenging, particularly if you’re coming up with a call-sign for a hoppy beer. With thousands on the market, nearly everything has been done…and many of the names have been trademarked. Many were the moments at Stone where we had brainstorms; short-lived a-ha moments that were quickly killed by Internet searches revealing we’d been beaten to the punch for a potential beer name. Puns are the most popular outlet for aspiring hoppy-beer namers and most play off words like “hop”, “dank”, “pine” and, these days, “hazy”. Rather than beat their heads against a brick wall etched with trademarked names, the folks at Carmel Mountain’s Second Chance Beer Company have settled on a clever solution, releasing a series of hop-driven beers under the catchall handle “Clever Hoppy Name”. The series started with a pale ale and moved on to an IPA followed by a rye-infused IPA that is the current Beer of the Week: Second Chance Clever Hoppy Name #3. Infused with just enough rye to add complexity that goes beyond a standard San Diego-style IPA, but not enough to render the beer a spice-bomb, numero tres allows a citrus-rich hop-bill to shine through on the palate. And thanks to balance and its 7% alcohol-by-volume figure, one can enjoy three of number three while pondering what Second Chance has in store for number four.
From the Brewers: “Clever Hoppy Name #3 is part of our Revolving Hop Series. We started this series to allow myself and our brewers the freedom to make a new hoppy beer every batch. We have a lot of great hop varieties, and it is a shame to not try different combinations and amounts. Sometime we even play with the dry-hopping technique or the amount of time the hops spend in the beer to see what will happen, always in pursuit of getting that perfect extraction of hop flavor and aroma! Number three is a rye IPA. Rye has always been an interesting ingredient for me, as it can come on strong if overused. But in the right amount, it can impart a great, rich and spicy malt character that can play really well with lots of hops. We used Amarillo, Citra and Centennial hops in this beer to impart citrus and tropical fruitiness, a perfect match to the rye. As my wife (fellow Second Chancer Virginia Morrison) would say: ‘It tastes like sunshine!’ As I sip on one while writing this, I have to agree.”—Marty Mendiola, Co-Founder & Brewmaster, Second Chance Beer Company
From the Beer Writer: In addition to writing, I am fortunate enough to be a part of the local brewing industry. It’s a special scene where the majority of its members truly champion San Diego craft-beer as a whole over our individual companies. This is aided by several trade organizations, including the California Craft Brewers Association, which holds a number of events each year to keep the ties of camaraderie that bind Golden State brewers taut and well-fortified. My favorite event is the CCBA Summit, which took place last month in Sacramento. A combination industry-conference and beer-festival, it shows beer professionals and fans alike what makes our local ales and lagers so special. On the first day of the conference, I volunteered to pour beer at a bar set-up within the Summit grounds by the San Diego Brewers Guild. We were pouring a trio of beers, including one I’m very familiar with as a Rancho Bernardo resident, Boss Pour IPA from Abnormal Beer Company. A thirst- and taste-bud-quenching, 7% alcohol-by-volume India pale ale projecting myriad hop flavors and aromas ranging from fruity to piney to wine-y, it’s a go-to for me whenever I’m visiting the brewery in closest proximity to my house…given it’s on-tap at the time. That’s not always the case, unfortunately. But just as when I was pouring samples in Sacramento, I am happy to say Boss Pour is currently pouring, and pleased to let more people in on a favorite of mine from my immediate neck of the woods.
From the Brewer: “In Southern California we like our IPAs dry, light in color and packed with hop flavor and aroma. This beer will give the people what they want. Most of the bittering is produced at the end of the boil with a heavy dose of Simcoe hops. Then the entire batch is run through our hop-back, which is loaded with whole-leaf Cascade hops, an entire pound-per-barrel. But the hop additions do not stop there. After fermentation, we dry-hop with Nelson Sauvin and Citra at 2.2 pounds-per-barrel, giving the beer a heavy, dank aroma that you can smell a few feet away.”—Derek Gallanosa, Head Brewer, Abnormal Beer Company
From the Beer Writer: The writer in me who loves the intricacies of our language, gets an almost unrivaled kick out of wordplay. Applying it in the brewing industry, where hop puns and such run rampant, is a lot of fun. Often, it’s marketing personnel who come up with these clever gems (or poxes on liquor-store shelves depending on one’s opinions on such things), but back during my days at Stone, former brewmaster Mitch Steele employed a beer-name that not only referenced the company, but yielded an inventive recipe as well. Steele suggested combining Citra hops and local avocado honey in a double India pale ale, then calling that beer “Citracado” IPA as a nod to the street that’s home to Stone’s Escondido brewery and packaging hall. We all loved the idea immediately and there were plans for it to serve as Stone’s anniversary ale at least once, but it took nearly three years to come to fruition. In the end, it’s rather fitting that this beer serve as liquid commemoration of two decades in the brewing business. Stone 20th Anniversary Citracado IPA embodies the brewery’s hop-forward, often high-alcohol (9% alcohol-by-volume, in this case) style while incorporating an authentically “Escondidian” ingredient. Citrus flavors come on strong but are balanced nicely by a sturdy malt backbone that tastes more and more of that sweet, earthy bee nectar the more the beer warms up.
From the Brewer: “The recipe for Stone 20th Anniversary Citracado IPA has been alive for about three years. I came up with the idea as we were brewing the Suede Imperial Porter with Tonya Cornett from 10 Barrel Brewing and Megan Parisi, who at the time was with Bluejacket in Washington, DC (she is now a research brewer for The Boston Beer Company). In that collaboration beer, we used jasmine and calendula flowers as well as avocado honey. I had bought some avocado honey a few months earlier at a farmer’s market, and found that it was so delicious, rich and fully flavored that I thought it would be perfect in a beer. Plus, I thought it would pair really well with jasmine flowers. During the brew day for Suede, we tasted the honey and I immediately realized it would be great to also use it for an IPA recipe. That’s when I had the ‘a-ha’ moment: If we used Citra as the primary hop, we could then call it Citracado IPA and really have something cool that provided a nice tie-in to the address of Stone’s Escondido brewery–1999 Citracado Parkway. Unfortunately, we never had enough Citra hops contracted to use it for a Stone Anniversary Ale, as the success of Stone Go To IPA and Stone Enjoy By IPA set us back a few years. This year, we finally had enough Citra hops to pull it off. It also turned out to be one of the last beers I formulated at Stone, and I am really excited about it!”–Mitch Steele, former Brewmaster, Stone Brewing