From the Beer Writer: The first year of Beer to the Rescue (the charity campaign established to raise money for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California) numerous local breweries crafted specialty beers to tap in the name of humanitarianism. The majority of them were kind enough to ask me what I’d like them to brew or for input on what they wanted to brew. I took this as an opportunity to try to hit all beer styles and take many of them in interesting directions. They all turned out nice, but their esoteric nature hurt their sales. So, this year, when kindly brewers asked what I’d like, I consistently responded with one word: HOPS! As a result IPAs and other hoppy brews make up the majority of the beers that are riding in to the rescue. One that’s on tap at all three of Urge Gastropub‘s locations in Rancho Bernardo, San Marcos and Oceanside is Mason Ale Works Vera Lynn Double IPA. I can’t take any credit for the hop-bill, because it was made without any of my influence other than the “hops” mandate, but in using Citra, Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin hops, they pretty much read my mind. These are some of my favorite, big-flavor varietals and they did a brilliant job with this imperial, massively flavorful and aromatic charity beer!
From the Brewer: “Vera Lynn is the latest release from Mason Ale Works. It gets its name from the Pink Floyd song ‘Vera’ and serves as a reminder that, over time, all vanishes. The song references Vera Lynn, who turned 100 this year, and has dedicated her life to supporting charitable causes. Her relentless efforts to better this world should be an inspiration to all. Vera Lynn IPA is a collaboration to promote Lupus awareness and support Lupus research so that one day we quote the lyrics in regards to Lupus and ask, ‘What has become of you?’ This bright and juicy imperial IPA has been dry-hopped with two-pounds-per-barrel of Citra, Nelson and Mosaic hops, bringing some serious tropical fruit and pine to your nostrils. At 9.2% alcohol-by-volume, this sneaky little lady will have you sipping till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away. As hazy as these times seem, I know we’ll meet again some sunny day…”—Jason De La Torre, Research & Development Brewer, Mason Ale Works
From the Beer Writer: You know that feeling when you arrive at a bar or a friend’s house and, before you can even say a word, you’re handed a beverage that you hastily take a sip of and instantly find yourself completely blown away by? Of course you do. It’s one of those magic moments beer-lovers live for: the exciting discovery of something brand new and exquisite. That happened to me last weekend at Dos Desperados Brewery. I arrived at that San Marcos establishment to help staff one of my Beer to the Rescue fundraising events and was greeted by a full pour of a lovely golden beer with a fluffy white head, Dos Desperados Nelson Lager. Happy to be there and off State Route 78, I dove right in…and fell in love. It was the perfect beer for the sunny day I was in the midst of—light in body yet big on hop and lager-yeast character in the nose and on the palate. The limestone and floral notes from the yeast dovetailed beautifully with vinous flavors from the Nelson Sauvin making up the beer’s entire hop-bill. It was simple yet special, so much that I could have spent hours drinking pint after pint, something that wouldn’t have been too tough given the beer’s 4.9% alcohol-by-volume stat. The recipe for this all-day pleaser (which, as good as it was, is only in its R&D phase) was developed with fellow San Marcos operation, Prodigy Brewing Company, with assistance from a noted lager expert at Mission Valley’s Gordon Biersch brewpub. I’m glad to report it will be on-tap and helping Beer to the Rescue tomorrow, and soon become a staple in Dos Desperados’ year-round portfolio.
From the Brewer: “Our Nelson Lager is a Prodigy Brewing, Gordon Biersch and Dos Desperados Brewery collaboration for Beer to the Rescue that benefits the Lupus Foundation of Southern California. A special thanks goes out to Dean Rouleau and Doug Hasker for this Czech-style lager with rich, crisp maltiness and freshly crushed gooseberry flavor—think Sauvignon Blanc grapes from New Zealand, which come care of the Nelson Sauvin hops we used.”—Steve Munson, Owner & Brewmaster, Dos Desperados Brewery
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: On the botanic side of brewing there are certain money-hops, the flavor and aroma profiles of which keep hopheads clamoring for more. Breweries often reference such en vogue hops right in the names of the beer—Citra, Mosaic, Cascade, Simcoe. With the rising number of brewing companies across the world, getting some of these hops is becoming more difficult. A common brewer-to-brewer question is “Got [insert name of popular hop here]?” One of the most sought-after hops—and certainly the most coveted New Zealand varietal—is Nelson Sauvin. Known and enjoyed for its tropical flavor and Sauvignon Blanc-like wine undertones, its local rise to fame coincided with Alpine Beer Co.’s Nelson IPA (a key example of a successful money-hop moniker). Now, many breweries use it, provided they can get their hands on some Nelson (as it’s called for short). Count North Park’s Thorn St. Brewery among them thanks to this approachable 7.2% alcohol-by-volume India pale ale (IPA), which has a slightly lighter body than one might expect, allowing the hop to come through with a good amount of punch. It’s definitely a “full” Nelson of a beer!
From the Brewer: “Ever since I first had Nelson Sauvin from Alpine maybe 10 years ago, I loved that hop. I know there is Chinook in it as well, or at least there used to be, but you totally got that lovely white wine/grape bouquet from that beer. And at the time I had it, New Zealand hops were very hard to get, especially that one. As a home-brewer, I would buy it when and wherever I could, but usually way over-priced and, more often than not, I had to use NZ varieties like Pacific Jade, Pacific Gem, NZ Hallertauer and Green Bullet. Fast-forward to just a couple years ago, Thorn Street had been open about a year and I’d been able to contract a lot of our favorite hops: Amarillo, Citra, Centennial, Simcoe, Cascade. But, of course, not Nelson. After bugging my rep from Hopunion nearly every week, I finally got a call from her to let me know that she had a surplus of Nelson hops that had not been needed by a larger brewery. Cash-flow was very tight but I told her I would take all she had and put them on a credit card. I had to store the majority of them in a chest freezer in my garage, which my wife wasn’t a huge fan of but I was stoked nonetheless. The only thing that I could think to brew was a single-hop IPA. I mean, if the hops are so hard to get, why would I blend them out with other hops and dilute the goodness? It’s a very straightforward, simple recipe that lets the hops shine through. I used about 10% wheat in the beer to soften the palate a little as well as improve the head retention and add a little ‘rustic haze’ to the beer. It’s not very bitter at all, but instead places the emphasis on the flavor and aroma of the Nelson hop. For me, that equates to white wine grapes, stone fruits and honeydew melon. We currently brew Got Nelson? as part of our rotating IPA series along with beers such as Tropic Daze and Mystic Gnome, but we have secured hop contracts for 2016 and 2017, meaning that we should be able to offer it to a wider audience beginning in about a year. Unfortunately, the area around Nelson on the South Island of New Zealand is small, and currently there are no plans to expand the crop. With larger breweries contracting the hop in larger amounts, it has become nearly impossible to contract this hop from the farmers any further out to the point that the contracts are not being offered anymore. So for us at Thorn, it may mean two years of a good run and then we will have really no choice but to retire it’s jersey. It may be something to be enjoyed in the moment then relished when it’s gone, but isn’t that life itself?”—Eric O’Connor, Brewmaster, Thorn St. Brewery