From the Beer Writer: The majority of beers given the bourbon barrel-aging treatment are stouts of the imperial ilk. Robust and high in alcohol, they are ideally suited for prolonged aging in whiskey-soaked wooden vessels. Their notes of roast go well with the toast of the oak while their sweetness matches the caramel and vanilla notes imparted by the liquor. But those big beers can sometimes mask the whiskey notes a bit and those 10-12% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) stouts are the type of high-octane, viscous brews that require beer-geek assistance when attempting to get through a 750-millilitre bottle. This is not the case with this week’s featured beer, New English Brewing Company‘s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Brewers Special Brown Ale. The base beer is Britain-born brewmaster Simon Lacey‘s 6.5% ABV English-style brown, an archetypal ale that took a bronze in the World Beer Cup earlier this month. After being spending several months in wet Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, it comes out with a huge, vanilla-rich nose and a flavor that’s akin to whiskey on the rocks. Except, instead of watery former ice-cubes, the dilution effect is provided by the nutty, caramely flavors of the brown ale. And thanks to the beer’s lighter body, this comes across as a rare, highly quaffable barrel-aged beer.
From the Brewer: “Based on the multi-award winning Brewers Special Brown Ale, the bourbon barrel-aged version of this smooth, rich and malty English-style beer has been resting in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels for six-to-nine months. In order to create a perfectly balanced final-product, we blend ale from first- and second-use barrels. The freshly dumped first-use barrels contain discernible amounts of liquid when they arrive at the brewery, the wood has also soaked up a significant quantity of the whiskey at barrel-strength over the years at the distillery, and all this flavor and aroma is transferred to the beer. Beer from the second-use barrels yields a complex mix of wood, tannins and vanilla flavor from the American white oak, which, when blended with the beer from the first-use barrels, melds into a seamlessly delicious and enthralling elixir that is warming without heat and as aromatic as it is flavorful. The current version is the sixth batch produced and is the second to be bottled. A limited release is available at the best local bottle shops, and can also be purchased at the brewery.”—Simon Lacey, Brewmaster, New English Brewing Company
After the opening series at Petco Park, wherein this native San Diegan’s beloved Friars failed to score a single run against the Dodgers, it’s hard to even type the letters LA. But fortunately, I have a very positive reason to do so thanks to the Los Angeles International Beer Competition, the results of which were recently posted. Numerous San Diego breweries garnered awards, proving that, while we still can’t get a hit off Clayton Kershaw, SD has plenty going for it where brewing is concerned.
San Diego County-based breweries brought home 43 medals in 96 diverse beer categories. Certain breweries just plain cleaned up. And they’re not the larger, better-known interests you might have expected. For instance, the brewery to win the most medals was Miramar’s small (but expanding) Intergalactic Brewing Company. That space-themed operation amassed 10 medals (two of which were gold), while Mike Hess Brewing Company took five, Sorrento Valley’s New English Brewing Company nabbed four and San Marcos-based Rip Current Brewing Company further solidified its reputation for quality beer across many styles with five medals, including a gold for its Breakline Bock, which won that same award at last year’s Great American Beer Festival.
Among all of the hundreds of beers submitted, Council Brewing Company’s Gaderian, a Brettanomyces-spiked, barrel-aged English-style old ale, took Best of Show honors. The Kearny Mesa nanobrewery also won two of the three spots—silver and bronze—in the American-style Brett Ale category for its newly released Les Saisons and Nicene, respectively, and notched another silver with the cherry version of its Beatitude Tart Saison. A full list of the winners from this year’s competition is included below.
Best of Show
This marks the first in a three-part line of year-end posts. Today’s will focus on the most alluring ghosts of new beers past from 2015. Each year, I have the pleasure (the honor, actually) of sampling literally hundreds of beers from San Diego-based breweries. The following are the 50 that were most memorable for their great flavors, aromas, textures and, in some cases, their adventurousness (but only when creatively daring pursuits paid successful dividends for imbibers). Surely your list varies as no two beer fiends’ palates are alike. But this isn’t about being right…it’s about being comprehensive, so pile on your favorite new beers of 2015 in the Comments section so others can benefit from your guidance. Happy drinking and God bless us, everyone!
Dark & Roasty Beers
Rare and special beers are what Geoi Bachoua is all about. So, it’s no surprise that when the anniversary for his Normal Heights bottle shop, Bine & Vine, rolls around, he chooses to celebrate with a custom brew. Last year, he impressed local ale enthusiast with a special India pale ale developed by Alpine Beer Co. When deciding how to folly up that hoppy offering, Bachoua turned to not one, but two local businesses with solid reputations for quality craftsmanship—New English Brewing Company and Dark Horse Coffee Roasters.
Bine and Vine’s fourth anniversary beer is called Adams Avenue Imperial Porter. Coming in at 8.5% alcohol-by-volume, the dark, English-style ale was brewed with medium-roast Guatemalan coffee from Dark Horse, one of San Diego’s hottest roasters. They just happen to be Bine & Vine’s neighbor, whereas New English is based in Sorrento Valley.
Upping the intrigue for this beer is New English’s recent win at the Great American Beer Festival. The largest, most prestigious annual brewing competition in the country, GABF issued New English a gold medal for Zumbar, an imperial stout brewed chocolate and…coffee, making that the best coffee beer in the U.S. for the calendar year. It stands to reason that java expertise should serve this beer well. Adams Avenue Imperial Porter is scheduled for bottling today and should be available exclusively at Bine & Vine soon after. For updates on availability, follow Bine & Vine on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
After several years in which San Diego County breweries had strong, but annually declining performances at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), the 2015 edition of the country’s largest and most prestigious brewing competition saw a whopping 19 medals awarded to San Diego breweries (20 if you count the silver to San Diego-based Karl Strauss Brewing Company’s Costa Mesa brewpub for its Singularity American-style black ale).
Held each year in Denver, Colorado, GABF takes place at the Colorado Convention Center and gets bigger each time out. This year, 242 judges from 15 countries judged more than 6,000 beers from 1,552 brewing companies, vying for gold, silver and bronze medals in 92 beer style categories. Each brewery that received the opportunity to enter the competition was allowed five entries per brewery-equipped location.
Each of Pizza Port’s four San Diego County brewpubs won at least one award. San Diego breweries nearly swept the Coffee Beer category altogether. And first-time winners abounded. But no rookie win was more unexpected or prestigious than that of Santee-based BNS Brewing and Distilling Co., which shocked the industry by beating out 335 other India pale ales to win the competition’s most highly contested category—IPA. As big a deal as that was, one brewery did even better. San Marcos’ Rip Current Brewing Co. was named the “Very Small Brewery of the Year” for 2015 behind gold and silver medals earned in the Bock and Scotch Ale categories, respectively.
The following is a list of all of the San Diego County winners from the 2015 GABF competition.
Very Small Brewery of the Year: Rip Current Brewing Co., San Marcos
Coffee Beer: Gold—Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout, New English Brewing Co., Sorrento Valley; Bronze—Bacon & Eggs, Pizza Port, Ocean Beach
India Pale Ale: Gold—Revolver IPA, BNS Brewing & Distilling Co., Santee
Session India Pale Ale: Gold—The Coachman, Societe Brewing Co., Kearny Mesa
Wood & Barrel-Aged Sour Beer: Gold—Veritas 015, The Lost Abbey, San Marcos
American-Belgo-Style Ale: Gold—Le Freak, Green Flash Brewing Co., Mira Mesa
Bock: Gold—Break Line Bock, Rip Current Brewing Co., San Marcos
Scotch Ale: Silver—Black Lagoon Scottish Strong, Rip Current Brewing Co., San Marcos
Oatmeal Stout: Silver—Scripps Pier Stout, South Park Brewing Co., South Park
Session Beer: Bronze—Guillaume, Pizza Port, Ocean Beach
International-Style Pale Ale: Bronze—San Diego-style IPA, Karl Strauss Brewing Co., La Jolla
Imperial India Pale Ale: Bronze—Teahupo’o, Breakwater Brewing Co., Oceanside
American-Style Amber/Red Ale: Bronze—Shark Bite Red, Pizza Port Bressi Ranch, Carlsbad
Double Red Ale: Bronze—GRAMBO, Pizza Port, Solana Beach
French- & Belgian-Style Saison: Bronze—Saison, URBN St. Brewing Co., El Cajon
Other Belgian-Style Ale: Bronze—Witty Moron, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Liberty Station
Export Stout: Bronze—Z-Man Stout, Pizza Port, Carlsbad
South German-Style Hefeweizen: Bronze—Windansea Wheat, Karl Strauss Brewing Co., Pacific Beach
Chile Beer: Bronze—Serrano Pale Ale, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, Scripps Ranch
San Diego County brewers brought home six gold medals, two silvers and 11 bronzes, with 10 of the awards going to breweries located within the actual City of San Diego. Nearly San Diegan neighbors that also won include Aftershock Brewing Company, which took bronze for its oatmeal cookie-flavored porter in the Herb and Spice Beer category, and Garage Brewing Company, which won gold for its Bucket Seat Blonde in the Munich-style Helles category. Both companies are based in Temecula, California. A full list of every winner can be found on the Brewers Association‘s website.