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Beer of the Week: Port Nelson the Greeter IPA

Oct 13

Nelson the Greeter from San Marcos’ Port Brewing Company

From the Beer Writer: First the world wanted more hops in their India pale ales, then they wanted more alcohol in their IPAs. The brewing world happily obliged. Then the world wanted less bitterness followed by a yearning for less alcohol in their IPAs. The brewing world let out a semi-frustrated sigh, then found the pleasure in obliging. Through all of this, drinkers and brewers alike came to an unspoken understanding that seven percent alcohol-by-volume was the sweet spot for single IPAs. But at some point in the past year, imbibers, manufacturers or some combination of the two (I would venture cost-analyzing logistics professionals taking notice of current IPA fans’ crowing about “crushable” beers) decided the best ABV for an IPA is 6%. And so it has come to pass. There are a number of new IPAs hitting the market and many of them are at or hovering around this new alcohol-content standard. Of them all, the best I’ve encountered thus far comes from the hop veterans at San Marcos’ Port Brewing Company, who recently released Port Nelson the Greeter. This sixer comes in a sixer and features one of the most popular hops of present day, Nelson Sauvin. Those pelletized greens give off myriad aromas and flavors, from tropical, citrus and stone fruit to vinous taste sensations reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc grapes. All of that comes on the front end of this beer, but for me, the real beauty of Nelson the Greeter is its crisp finish and the way a clean bitterness resets one’s palate after each gulp. Translation: It is, indeed, crushable, bro.

From the Brewer: “Paying homage to a rather (in)famous surf spot/clothing optional beach in San Diego, Nelson the Greeter is the newest hoppy offering from Port Brewing. Using the brash flavors of Nelson hops to lead the charge, the Greeter has a strong hop supporting cast using Denali, Lemon Drop and Mosaic varietals to round out this pale ale. Notes of gooseberry and passionfruit dominate the nose with a clean tangerine and freshly cut stone fruit notes leading to a smooth, bitter, citrus finish. The pale ale will be quite the experience…kind of like a naked Nelson greeting you at the trail head.”—Tomme Arthur, Director of Brewery Operations, Port Brewing Company

 

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First Look: Wild Barrel Brewing Company

Sep 29

Wild Barrel Brewing Company’s Bill Sysak (left) and Bill Sobieski

After 20 years of assisting breweries through consultation and serving as a high-profile beer expert via a number of platforms—most notably his work as craft beer ambassador for Stone BrewingBill Sysak knows there’s a big magnifying glass on him as he prepares to open his own beer-manufacturing operation. That interest, Wild Barrel Brewing Company (692 Rancheros Drive, San Marcos), will soft-open, tomorrow, Saturday, September 30, and Sysak says he’s ready to put his money where his mouth is. From the looks of the soon-to-debut business, he’s done just that.

Wild Barrel is installed in a 10,000-square-foot building sharing space and a lobby with a batting-cage facility. That structure is across the street from the San Marcos DMV, one of the busiest offices of its type in the county. Wild Barrel’s tasting room takes up roughly half of the total square footage, accommodating up to 228 patrons. Wood-topped-barrel belly bars make up the majority of the seating, with stools at the main bar and rail bars, but the focal point of the room is a giant faux barrel near the center of the room. Visitors can enter that cylinder, which contains its own belly bars and will eventually house a fountain fashioned from three used barrels, plus rotating art-for-purchase from local artisans. It’s not the only visual media at Wild Barrel. San Marcos resident Maddie Thomas recently painted a colorful mural depicting a glass emblazoned with the company’s logo on the east wall, adding a punch of vibrancy to the mostly oaken interiors.

Another unique tasting-room feature is a pole with directional-arrow signs tacked to it pointing in the direction of other local breweries. Stone, Mason Ale Works, Rip Current Brewing and The Lost Abbey—which is located on the opposite side of the DMV—are represented along with one outlier (and one of Sysak’s favorite breweries), Belgium’s Cantillon. Sysak says this is a small show of appreciation to the operations who’ve been helpful to him throughout his career, in particular since he started work on Wild Barrel roughly a year ago. Stone and Rip Current have sold him hops, Mason has lent him several items and The Lost Abbey’s Tomme Arthur has offered both assistance and advice.

During his decades of consulting, Sysak always stressed the importance of being hyper-focused and selecting the right beer styles; ales and lagers capable of generating enough sales to keep a business afloat without competing with each other. In assessing the current marketplace, Sysak is going heavy with India pale ales (IPAs) and fruited kettle sours, plus barrel-aged wild ales and imperial stouts (the base recipe for the latter was developed in consultation with Todd Ashman of Bourbon County Stout and FiftyFifty Eclipse fame). The opening-day beer-list will include two IPAs—the 7% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) Indie IPA, and an 8.4% imperial model double dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Motueka called Prince of Dankness. A pair of 5.6% Berliner weisses dubbed San Diego Vice (playing off the proper pronunciation for weiss) will also be on tap. One is flavored with Montmorency cherries, the other with pink guava from head brewer (and fellow Stone expat) Bill Sobieski’s backyard tree.

Sysak and Sobieski will also capitalize off the popularity of coffee beers with Hipster Latté, a 5.5% ABV milk stout brewed with coconut palm sugar, lactose and a proprietary blend of beans from Rancho Bernardo-based Mostra Coffee. The blend that will be served at tomorrow’s opening will be the first of four, all of which will incorporate different types of coffee. The plan is to eventually serve them side-by-side (and can all four in a single four-pack) so customers can examine the subtle taste differences. And rounding out the board is a 5.5% Belgian-style witbier called White Rabbit (the character that lures people down its proverbial hole) brewed with traditional ingredients plus a “Valencia orange zest kicker” to give it extra citrus appeal. Rather than having several “gateway beers” such as a Pilsner, hefeweizen, Kolsch and blonde, which might compete and cannibalize off of each other, he wanted to brew one that can thrive on its own.

A recent shipment of ready-to-go Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey barrels will make up the aging program’s initial stock. All that oak will be stored on the south side of the facility in plain view of the tasting room, with glycol-equipped lines plumbed over the public space to pump beer over from the brewery to help avoid contamination. Eventually, Sysak hopes to take over a space next-door and convert it to a barrel-aging warehouse. Once matured, barrel-aged beers will be packaged in 500-millileter bottles and released at the tasting room and as part of Wild Barrel’s beer club, which went live on the company’s website earlier this week. Sysak will also call on his many friends within the national brewing community to work on collaboration beers, the majority of which will be hazy IPAs and kettle sours. His initial trio of conspirators hail from as close by as Carlsbad and as far away as Florida: Burgeon Beer Company, Bottle Logic Brewing and J. Wakefield Brewing.

The tasting-room bar is equipped with 15 taps, plus a nitro-tap that will dispense coffee. But Sysak hopes to go further with java, installing a barista area in the tasting room that will operate from 7 to 11 a.m. weekday mornings to capture business from DMV visitors and establish an additional revenue stream. Also en route is a crowler-filling machine, which should arrive within a week. The food program will be all about mobile vendors and pre-packaged items. The latter will consist of cheese and charcuterie boards as well as confections from North County’s So Rich Chocolates.

Sysak, Sobieski and fellow co-founder Chris White (not to be confused with the founder of Miramar business White Labs) were able to complete the construction of their shared vision in less than a year and, though there are some small touches left to attend to, it’s already an impressive addition to the local brewing scene. Wild Barrel will be open seven-days-a-week, and its hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

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Beer of the Week: The Lost Abbey Genesis of Shame

Jul 21

Genesis of Shame from The Lost Abbey

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

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Best San Diego Beer Futures: North

May 24

The project site for Wild Barrel Brewing in San Marcos

This is the third in a series of four posts taking a look at some of the most promising brewing venues currently in the works around San Diego County. The first two examined spots in the eastern and western communities. Today, we switch our attention to North County and the Hops Highway.

Wild Barrel Brewing Co., San Marcos: Two ex-Stone Brewing employees are teaming up to produce a wide variety of beers steps from Stone’s original brewery (now home to Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey). Renowned beer-expect Bill Sysak is leading the charge while Bill Sobieski (formerly of Anaheim’s Hoparazzi) will do the brewing using a brewhouse procured from El Cajon’s since-closed URBN St. Brewing Co.
Click here to read more about this project

Horus Aged Ales, Oceanside: Creating a portfolio made up exclusively of barrel-aged beers is no easy feat, but it’s one Kyle Harrop is eager to attempt. And he’ll do it with a little help from his friends, namely brewers from all over the country, including local interests such as Abnormal Beer Co., Rip Current Brewing and fellow North County work-in-progress White Fence Brewing. This is a boutique brewery if there’s ever been one.
Click here to read more about this project

Ebullition Brew Works, Vista: While information on the beers that this long-time work-in-progress will debut are hard to come by, details uncovered about the environment they’ll be consumed within are promising. A stylish tasting room with plenty of bar space and a special beer-delivery system in which glasses are placed onto pop-up taps and filled from the bottom up will provide a pretty cool differentiator that doesn’t exist in any brewery in the county.

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San Diego International Beer Festival winners

May 2

Winners of the San Diego International Beer Festival’s professional brewing competition were released today. A component of the San Diego County Fair’s annual festivities, the competition included entries from across the globe judged by professional beer judges and Southern California brewing professionals in late-April. A total of 68 medals were awarded to San Diego-based breweries. Of that number, 23 were gold, 21 were silver and 24 were bronze.

San Diego breweries won all three medals in eight categories: American-style Red/Amber Ale, Bitter, Bold Stout, Brett and Other Sour Beer, German-style Ale, German-style Weiss, Imperial Stout and Pilsener. Miramar-based AleSmith Brewing Company once again took home Champion Brewery honors behind three medals—a gold and silver in the same category (one of which was awarded to a Scotch ale) and a gold in the Barley Wine category.

The most local medals went to Pizza Port. That brewpub’s Carlsbad brewpub also won a gold and two silvers. Its Ocean Beach arm won two (one gold, one bronze) and Bressi Ranch production brewery earned a silver. The most medals awarded to a single brewery went to San Marcos’ Rip Current Brewing Company and less-than-a-year-old North Park interest Eppig Brewing. Both of those companies earned a gold, silver and two bronzes. San Marcos’ The Lost Abbey and South Park Brewing Company earned three medals apiece, as well. Also impressive was Rip Current winning two of three medals in the German-style Bock category.

The following is a complete list of the winners from this years SDIBF…

Gold Medals

  • AleSmith Brewing Old Numbskull, Barley Wine
  • AleSmith Brewing Private Stock Ale, British-style Strong Ale
  • Bagby Beer Sweet Ride, Pilsener
  • Bagby Beer Three Beagles Brown, English-style Brown Ale
  • Barrel Harbor Brewing Rungnir, Belgian-style Dark Ale
  • Belching Beaver Brewery (Oceanside) Here Comes Mango! IPA, Fruit Beer
  • Burgeon Beer Taking the Biscuit, Bitter
  • Council Brewing Magic Factory Lickable Staves, Brett and Other Sour Beer
  • Dos Desperados Brewery Blonde Kolsch, German-style Ale
  • Duck Foot Brewing Black Leprechaun, Specialty Stout
  • Duck Foot Brewing London Calling, Porter
  • Eppig Brewing Kottbusser, American Wheat Ale
  • Finest Made Ales Imperial Red Ale, Imperial Red Ale
  • Karl Strauss Brewing Mosaic Session IPA, Session Beer
  • Mason Ale Works Charley Hustle, American-style Amber/Red Ale
  • Mike Hess Brewing Umbix, Imperial Stout
  • Mother Earth Brew Co. Renown Brown, American-style Brown Ale
  • North Park Beer Covington Cream Ale, Golden or Blonde Beer
  • Pizza Port (Carlsbad) Z Man, Bold Stout
  • Pizza Port (Ocean Beach) Junk In Da Trunkel Dunkel, German-style Weiss
  • Prohibition Brewing Hop Chronicles, American-style Strong Pale Ale
  • Resident Brewing Golden Kiss, French- and Belgian-style Ale
  • Rip Current Brewing Java Storm Coffee Imperial Stout, Coffee Porter and Stout

Silver Medals

  • AleSmith Brewing Wee Heavy, British-style Strong Ale
  • 2kids Brewing Incredulous Ordinary Bitter, Bitter
  • Breakwater Brewing Rye Dawn, Rye Beer
  • Burning Beard Get Thee to a Nunnery, Belgian-style Pale Ale
  • Coronado Brewing Coastwise, Session Beer
  • Eppig Brewing Glitz and Glam, Fruit Beer
  • Intergalactic Brewing Shut Up Wesley Wheat, American Wheat Ale
  • Karl Strauss Brewing Windansea Wheat, German-style Weiss
  • The Lost Abbey Serpent’s Stout, Imperial Stout
  • The Lost Abbey Veritas 018, Brett and Other Sour Beer
  • Mason Ale Works Gunnar Noir, American-style India Black Ale
  • Mikkeller San Diego Forste Fodselsdag, Specialty Beer
  • Pizza Port (Bressi Ranch) Sharkbite Red Ale, American-style Amber/Red Ale
  • Pizza Port (Carlsbad) Kickflip Kolsch, German-style Ale
  • Pizza Port (Carlsbad) Today Was a Good Day, Australian/International-style Pale Ale
  • Pure Project Brewing Sensei, Pilsener
  • Rip Current Brewing Breakline Bock, German-style Bock
  • San Diego Brewing Biere Welter Wit, Belgian-style Wit or White Ale
  • Second Chance Beer Mulligan Irish Red, Irish-style Red Ale
  • South Park Brewing Grassmarket, Scottish-style Ale
  • Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station Cimmerian Portal, Bold Stout

Bronze Medals

  • Abnormal Beer Tummy Cuddles, Chocolate and Chili Beer
  • Amplified Ale Works Barrel-Aged Nyctophobia, Wood and Barrel Aged Strong Stout
  • Ballast Point Brewing Piper Down, Irish-style Red Ale
  • Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern & Grill Thizz Is What It Is, Imperial India Pale Ale
  • Burning Beard Brewing Circle of Hops, American-style Pale Ale
  • Coronado Brewing Seacoast Pilsner, American-style Lager
  • Council Brewing Magic Factory Broken Wand with Raspberries, Brett and Other Sour Beer
  • Culver Beer Tiger Ride, Belgian-style Pale Ale
  • Eppig Brewery Natural Bridge Baltic Porter, Porter
  • Eppig Brewing Sinister Path, Bold Stout
  • Fall Brewing Plenty for All, Pilsener
  • Indian Joe Brewing Pineapple Passionfruit Gose, German-style Weiss
  • The Lost Abbey Carnevale Ale, French- and Belgian-style Ale
  • Mike Hess Brewing Deceptio, American-style India Black Ale
  • New English Brewing Barleywine, Barley Wine
  • Nickel Beer Devil’s Copper, Rye Beer
  • Novo Brazil Brewing Mulata, American-style Amber/Red Ale
  • Pizza Port (Ocean Beach) Eyelashes, Belgian-style Pale Strong Ale
  • Rip Current Brewing Delaminator Doppelbock, German-style Bock
  • Rip Current Brewing Rescue Buoy Russian Imperial Stout, Imperial Stout
  • Societe Brewing The Harlot, Hybrid Belgian-style Ale
  • South Park Brewing 2 Griffs, Bitter
  • South Park Brewing Here N Gone, German-style Ale
  • Stone Brewing Delicious IPA, American-style India Pale Ale

The three-day public beer-fest portion of the SDIBF will take place at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Friday, June 16 through Sunday, June 18. Tickets and information can be found online.

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