From the Beer Writer: When the team at Del Mar brewpub Viewpoint Brewing fell behind on their plan to brew a beer in honor of Oktoberfest, they picked themselves up and focused on a celebratory period they were plenty ahead of, the holidays. When brainstorming on an ingredient that would be appropriate from Thanksgiving through Christmas, they decided on the humble yet flavorful cranberry. But rather than make some flimsy, indiscernible “fruit beer”, they aimed to make something complex and unique, selecting a Belgian-style farmhouse ale as the base style and augmenting it with the fruit of the bog. Enter the hilariously named Viewpoint Cranbarely Sauced. With a French saison yeast strain bringing in huge floral, citrus fruit character in the bouquet and palate, this 7% alcohol-by-volume beer comes across tasting like blood orange with hints of anise and lemon thyme in the front, cranberries (sans their inherent tartness) in the middle, with a bone-dry finish leaving a lasting grapefruit pith bitterness in its wake. It’s a very interesting beer that is perfectly suited for the holiday season and unlike anything else in San Diego County.
From the Brewers: “The idea came about while (Viewpoint founder) Charles Koll was talking to chef Nathan Lingle from L’Auberge about the holidays just before San Diego Beer Week. We were hoping to do a collaboration with him for our grand opening but the timing didn’t work out, so we decided to collaborate on a beer for the holidays. While talking about the many different flavors that reminded us of the holidays, cranberry was universal. Charles and I talked about using our French-saison recipe because it has earthy pepper notes that would complement the tartness of cranberries. To add to the overall balance of the beer, we added some Red X malt to the base recipe for more sweetness and a little darker color. Chef Nathan came in to brew the beer with us and we discussed the best way to make the cranberry sauce. Because we added sweetness with the grain bill, no sugar was used while making the sauce. Instead, Nathan made a fennel stock and that was the liquid used to reduce the fresh and dried cranberries. We used about 10 gallons of the cranberry sauce and later added fennel pollen for aromatics, like a dry-hop addition. The Cranbarely Sauced French saison is beer-forward with the cranberry coming at the finish. The fennel is sudden and comes more on the nose. The goal was to keep beer in the foreground and have the other flavors play a complementary role.”—Moe Katomski, Head Brewer, Viewpoint Brewing Company
On Memorial Day weekend of 2016, downtown Julian’s The Bailey Wood-Fired BBQ closed its doors. That move shut down its on-site fermentation component, Julian Brewing Company. The business was taken over and converted into a brewpub in 2012 by San Diego brewing veterans Vince Marsaglia and Tom Nickel. The latter is the owner of O’Brien’s Pub and West Coast BBQ & Brew, and sold off his stake later that year, going on to open his own brewery, Nickel Beer Co., just down the street. Marsaglia, co-founder of Pizza Port, Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey, soldiered on but struggled to make a success of the operation. After exploring the option of selling The Bailey, he made the decision to close it and revamp it almost in its entirely. Soon, it will reopen with a new identity that will make it unique from a beermaking perspective, not only within Julian, but throughout San Diego entire county. Read more »
From the Beer Writer: In last month’s issue of West Coaster, I proclaimed my love of Belgian-style farmhouse ales, better known as saisons. In the February issue, I spoke highly of the quarterly beer-pairing dinners put on at Bay Ho’s Bitter Brothers Brewing Company. So you can imagine my anticipation when I found out Bitter Brothers was crafting a special saison for its most recent Family Dinner affair. That excitement was compounded when brewery owner Bill Warnke offered to contribute a portion of all proceeds from the sale of this beer during the month of May to Beer to the Rescue, a campaign I established to raise funds for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California. Brewed with food pairability and seasonality in mind, Bitter Brothers Spring Fling Saison prominently features lemon verbena, a citrus-flavored subshrub that lends big flavors that meld nicely with the beer’s Belgian yeast esters. It tastes like a pint-glass full of spring, making for an easy and enjoyable way to support a local charity.
From the Brewer: “Spring Fling is a 5.5% saison brewed with lemon verbena and fermented with a French saison yeast strain. It was brewed in collaboration with Eugenio Romero-Wendlandt from Wendlandt Cerveceria to tie in with the next installment of our Family Dinner series, this one focusing exclusively on Baja chefs. The beer is an opaque, straw color with a white, pillowy, sustained head. The aroma is typical French saison phenolics with lemon verbena notes and light banana esters. The flavor follows the aroma, with more prominent lemon verbena herbal presence and a crisp, dry, lightly bitter finish. This is definitely a beer meant to be paired with food and would go great with ceviche, moules frites or other seafoods.”—John Hunter, Head Brewer, Bitter Brothers Brewing Company
Like many families, every Easter mine congregates to enjoy each other’s company and a delicious brunch. This tradition is bolstered by the presence of champagne and mimosas, both of which I wholly support, but there’s something else I look forward to popping the cork on each year – saisons.
For me, there is no beer-style more evocative of and so perfectly suited for springtime as saisons. These farmhouse-style ales of Belgian and French origin convey myriad flavors, many of which epitomize the season on which we are currently and pleasantly entrenched. Esters and phenols from saison yeast strains bring on vibrant bouquets rife with grassy, floral, fruity, spicy and, depending on the presence of Brettanomyces or other wild yeast strains, funkiness often described as “barnyard” in nature. Beer aroma doesn’t get more springtime-in-the-country than that.
On the flavor front, absolutely no type of ale or lager is as unpredictably wide-ranging. Saison’s guidelines are just about the loosest of any style category. A fan of variety, this is what makes saisons my personal favorite. Wrestling a cork from a bottle labeled “farmhouse ale” is always an adventure. My taste buds might encounter a boldly fruity, herbaceous quaff with tight champagne-like bubbles or a spicy, flowery ale with a sticky, fluffy, snow-white head and the driest, sharpest finish imaginable.
When searching out some brunch recipes built to marry with saisons’ wealth of characteristics, I consulted the culinary minds at Breakfast Republic. This early-to-midday chain has spots in North Park, Liberty Station, Encinitas and the East Village, with an Ocean Beach location debuting this month at the former site of OB Warehouse, and a Carmel Valley location coming this summer. If you’re looking for inventive breakfast and brunch fare served in tandem with eye-opening adult beverages, this is your spot.
Breakfast Republic owes its popularity and success to items like shrimp and grits, breakfast bacon mac and cheese, and flights of pancakes or French toast. It’s a strawberry and mascarpone cheese-infused version of the latter that the chain’s kitchen- eam chose as an ideal go-with for a fruitier-flavored saison. And for a drier, spicier or more herbaceous farmhouse ale, they selected their Breakfast Jambalaya, a traditional take on the Cajun classic with shrimp, andouille sausage and fried eggs. The recipes for both of these dishes are included here for your home-kitchen experimentation. When looking for the best saison to pair, feel free to cast a wide net – there are exceptional versions of this style brewed the world over – but know there are plenty right in your own backyard.
Great local saisons include The Lost Abbey’s Brett-infused spring seasonal Carnevale Ale, as well as its year-round Red Barn Ale. They come from the same San Marcos brewery, but taste completely different. Still, each makes for an excellent springtime indulgence. The same can be said for Saison Rustique from Vista’s 100% wild-ale operation Toolbox Brewing, which brings wine-barrel vanillins and grape mustiness into the equation. Other flavorful and thirst-quenching San Diego County offerings include BNS Brewing’s Saloon Girl, Iron Fist Brewing’s Hired Hand, Modern Times Beer’s Lomaland and Second Chance Beer’s Saison Solare, any of which will go well on your brunch table come Easter and beyond.
From the Beer Writer: In spite of strides being made where craft-beer selection and availability is concerned, Pacific Beach is not one of the first places I think about when I’m thirsty for local ales. The fact I just turned 40 is probably another reason it’s not on the short-list of communities I frequent. But every now and then the allure of sun, sand and good old-fashioned beach-bar fun inspires a visit. During my most recent return to the area, I made a point to do something that was far overdue—visit Pacific Beach AleHouse. A fire caused the venue to close down in 2015. During the down-time, management decided to renovate the venue and, on the brewery-side, their brewer left to pursue another project, making way for local Jonathon Reilly to take the reins. After taking a seat on the shaded second-story sky-deck, I made my way through tasters of the five house-beers. As is wise for a place like PB AleHouse that caters mostly to less craft-enthused imbibers, there was a mild lager, blonde and red ale, but I was most impressed by PB AleHouse Slomo Saison. It had nice bubble-gum and floral notes on the nose followed by good orange-like citrus character on the palate. And at 4.5% alcohol-by-volume, it’s just right for waiting out a sunset over the Pacific Ocean…or making it through four quarters of football if you’re a Bills fan. The night I was there, the place was packed with wing-eating, jersey-clad fans who, even though their team lost that night, still had to be elated to be beach-adjacent rather than preparing for another punishing Buffalo winter.
From the Brewer: “Brewing the saison here at the beach, I was following a common idea of having a light and approachable beer in the sun. Knowing wit, wheats and hefeweizens rounded out this idea as well. I wanted to create something that could run between those characteristics. Using local White Labs Belgium Saison III yeast and a simple base-malt gave me the ability to maintain a light and bright beer, and still get some interesting phenolics. The inclusion of wildflower honey and Hersbrucker hops provided a nice, spicy and floral aroma. This beer is notably named after our local hero Slomo. To make a long story short, he was a well-to-do doctor, who gave up his job and lifestyle to pursue a happier and simpler one. He is most commonly known locally for his unique ‘slow-motion’ stance while rollerskating down the boardwalk, just steps from PB Alehouse. And I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that my fiancé came up with the name.”—Jonathan Reilly, Brewer, Pacific Beach AleHouse