From the Beer Writer: Every time I find myself strolling the beer aisle of a local grocery store, I marvel at the amount of fruit-flavored beers in the mainstream market, many of which are manufactured using extracts. It’s obvious the demand is there, but it can be tough to find all-natural options, partly because brewing with real fruit is more costly, more complicated, and more labor-intensive. Because of that, the process is far better suited to small breweries like Nickel Beer Company, an operation carved into an old jailhouse in Julian. Every week you can find owner and brewmaster Tom Nickel hunched over buckets of local grapefruit, zesting and juicing one after another to get enough flavorful raw ingredient for Nickel Grapefruit Bighorn IPA. He’s not even a fan of fruit beers, but he knows his customers are, even folks like me who generally dislike grapefruit. The manner in which the bitter citrus comingles with the fruity bitterness of the beer’s hop bill really works, particularly when consuming this beer on Nickel’s outdoor patio on a sunny day in Julian.
From the Brewers: “I would consider myself more of a traditional brewer and not prone to adding extra flavors to beer, my one exception being an obsession with all things spicy, so I do love my pepper beers. But when I saw locally-grown grapefruit from Borrego Springs at our produce stand in Julian, I thought it seemed like a good fit to try with one of our IPAs. The intensity of the fresh grapefruit in the beer struck me immediately, and while I certainly thought it was good, I had no idea how folks—especially our local regulars—would react to it. For the time that we have had it on, it has been our most popular beer. I have now used three different IPAs as a base to blend with the Borrego grapefruit, but the Bighorn IPA is a perfect match. The beer was brewed for the Anza-Borrego Foundation‘s 50th Anniversary in April. It was made with 100% German hops, including Hallertau Blanc for finishing and dry hopping to give the beer a substantial citrus profile. It is very light in color and clocks in at a very drinkable 6.4% (alcohol-by-volume). The grapefruit is commanding in the aroma and finish but the overall impression of the IPA remains. I think my favorite comment about the beer so far comes from my mother-in-law, who said it would be an excellent breakfast beer. I wholeheartedly agree.”—Tom Nickel, Founder & Brewmaster, Nickel 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
In less than two years, The Cork and Craft has established itself as one of inland North County’s best restaurants. The food and ambience are enough that it would be a draw even without its onsite winery and brewery. Those amenities—particularly Abnormal Beer Company—are tremendous value-addeds, particularly when their wares are incorporated into special pairing dinners featuring guest chefs, vintners and breweries.
C&C opened with adventurous chef Phillip Esteban at the helm. He made such a name for himself, both in RB and at the many offsite events he participated in—that he was hired away by powerhouse bar-and-restaurant entity Consortium Holdings to serve as its culinary research-and-development mastermind. His departure left big clogs to fill at C&C, but current executive chef Scott Cannon has been on the job for three months and is turning out solid cuisine that might even be better suited for the tastes of RB denizens.
Dishes remain intelligent, but are a bit easier for the average diner to get their head around. They’re less fussy but just as flavorful. And in some cases, even more flavorful. A prime example is a seemingly simple salad of raw and grilled endive. It’s the only first-course greenery I’ve felt deserving of must-try status, but it’s perfection on a plate. Spiced pecans bring in a gingerbread-like flavor segueing beautifully with the sweetness of cider-like vanilla-poached pears complement and Moody Blue goat cheese contrasts. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a breakfast-for-dinner starter, seared foie gras over French toast with a fried quail egg and nasturtium. The toast is golden and not the least bit soggy while the edible flowers serve a purpose by lending a touch of balancing bitterness.
A Colorado lamb entrée features nicely cooked chops, but the star of the plate are tender agnolotti stuffed with tender braised shoulder-meat. It’s an edible education in what al dente pasta should feel like. Other dishes like a Hamachi crudo appetizer served with a shishito pepper relish as well as scallops with meaty king trumpet mushrooms (and, oddly, more shishito peppers) lack the wow-factor of the previously mentioned recipes in Cannon’s current canon, but they’re in keeping with fare offered at C&C from day one.
Back on the beer-front, Abnormal is set to release its first two canned beers at a release-party this Saturday, March 18 starting at 11 a.m. at C&C. Both of those aluminum-clad brews are hazy (AKA: New England-style or Vermont-style) India pale ales. The first is New Money IPA, a juicy, 7% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) offering massively dry-hopped with Amarillo and Simcoe, followed by its industrial-strength cousin, Turbidity, an 8.5% ABV double IPA brewed with Mosaic and Idaho 7, that pours thicker than the average hop-bomb. Both beers will be sold in four-packs and dishes from the restaurant’s bar-menu will be available.
Societe Brewing’s Lorah Smith keeps her co-workers fed and her Facebook followers salivating
Last year, I took a job at Kearny Mesa’s Societe Brewing Company. Having been a long-time fan of that operation, I’d had the pleasure of getting to know numerous members of the Societe team prior to coming aboard. I’d long admired their deep-seeded appreciation for beer and the brewing process, and looked forward to working with like-minded souls in that regard. But I had no idea that I’d also find common-ground where my culinary passions are concerned.
One of my biggest concerns in spending five-days-a-week at Societe was how I was going to resist the urge to consume The Pupil, The Dandy, The Butcher and their cousins on a far-too-frequent basis. It remains challenging, I’ll admit, but I manage somehow. As it turns out, there’s even more to be tempted by at my workday digs—namely a constant barrage of home-made, edible goodness brought in on plates and platters, in tinfoil and Tupperware, and always warm, odoriferous, fluffy, gooey, piping hot or otherwise desirable thanks to its maker, Lorah Smith.
To many, Lorah is “Travis’ wife”, and while that is true from a literal sense (she does sport a wedding band bestowed upon her by our brewmaster), to her family at Societe, she is so much more—kind-hearted spearhead of our charitable and humanitarian efforts, coordinator of our offsite beer-dinners, maternal herder of cats and nourisher of the masses. I found out about that last one after being treated to three days of tasty baked goods during my first week of employment. Many dishes, both savory and sweet, have followed. So, too, have dozens of conversations about food and her daily cooking conquests, proof of which are presented via her appetizing Facebook timeline.
I instantly felt a kinship with Lorah. We’ve both been bitten by the cooking-bug, but she’s far more prolific than I am these days. I marvel at her output and creativity. There have been times when she’s made more food than her audiences can consume. Keep in mind that her audiences regularly consist of her hungry-man husband and trio of kiddos, and the 20-plus employees of a brewery where more than half of those folks have completed a challenge that involves consuming a two-and-a-half-pound burrito and full-serving of imperial stout in less than 20 minutes. To outcook these folks is quite the feat.
If you’re not impressed yet, a look at some of the dishes she’s fixed up ought to do it: herb-crusted rack of lamb with balsamic-glazed portobellos and chevre-stuffed potatoes, home-made pho, New Orleans-style Asian braised pork belly, chilaquiles with hatch green chile salsa, and carnitas made from a pig that Travis guy butchered himself. Then there’s the hearty chili made with meat from a bear gifted to the Smiths by local beer-scene gadabout Bobby Mathews, which was both exotic and delicious! And keep in mind, these aren’t things she busted out for special occasions. These are days-that-end-with-a-Y territory. The woman just loves to cook and can do it well.
So, when it came time to focus on a local culinarian with chops, gusto and some recipes to share, it was a no-brainer that I shine a light on this generous gastronome. You can call her “Travis’ wife” if you insist, but you’d do just as well to refer to her as “chef.”
Bangers and Mash with Braised Cabbage and Beer-Onion Gravy
Paired with The Haberdasher English IPA or The Pugilist Dry Stout
Yield: 4 servings
Place the potatoes in a large pot of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil until the potatoes are fork tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. While the potatoes are boiling, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add 2 cups of onions and sauté until soft and tender, about 6 minutes. Place the bangers to the skillet and add enough beer to cover them. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the bangers are fully cooked, 15 to 20 minutes. You may need to add more beer to keep the bangers covered at least to the halfway mark as the liquid evaporates. Once the potatoes are tender, drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Mix in the milk and 5 tablespoons of butter and mash to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper, then cover to keep warm.
Melt the remaining butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to caramelize, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the cabbage and some of the broth from the bangers to help wilt it. Cook until slightly tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove the bangers from the broth and keep warm. Increase heat to medium-high and reduce the onions and broth mixture by half to create a thin gravy. Add Worcestershire sauce, and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder as desired.
To serve, place a mound of mashed potatoes onto a plate and top with a sausage. Ladle the onion gravy on top of the bangers and mash. Spoon some cabbage on the side and serve immediately with an English-style IPA or dry Irish-style stout.
Paired with The Savage Feral Dark Ale with Cherries
Yield: 6 servings
For the Filling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the batter, cut the milk and butter into the remaining dry ingredients and set aside. For the filling, place the cherries in the bottom of a greased 9-inch baking dish. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar with the cornstarch. Stir in the boiling water, then pour the mixture over the cherries. Pour and spread the batter evenly over the cherry mixture. Evenly sprinkle the remaining sugar over the cobbler. Place in the oven and bake until the cobbler top is golden-brown and cooked through, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes.
Serve warm alone or topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Either way, pair this dessert with a Flanders-style red ale or barrel-aged, cherry-infused sour ale.
—Recipes courtesy of Lorah Smith, Events Manager & Director of Charitable Giving, Societe 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