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Posts Tagged Saison

Fallbrook’s “Homegrown” collaboration beer

Aug 19
The Fallbrook Homegrown Saison brewing team, plus one (from left-to-right): John Maino, Clint Stromberg, Chuck McLaughlin, Lucas Nelson and Ryan Brooks

The Fallbrook Homegrown Saison brewing team, plus one (from left-to-right): John Maino, Clint Stromberg, Chuck McLaughlin, Lucas Nelson and Ryan Brooks

One morning, standing in a green room awaiting a television segment with the owners of Fallbrook Brewing Company and Bolt Brewery, I watched both gentlemen take a shine to each other. It made sense. After all, they represent the only two breweries to be established in the extreme North County town of Fallbrook. While Chuck McLaughlin’s FBC has been holding down the civic fort for the past two years, the initial version of Bolt opened in Fallbrook back in 1987, with current owner Clint Stromberg acting as assistant brewer to then-founder Paul Holborn. That was the first brewery to open in San Diego post-Prohibition (yep, even before Karl Strauss Brewing Company came along in 1989), and though it closed less than a year into its original life, it held a spot in the hearts and history of San Diego beer and its fans. In late-2014, Bolt and Stromberg resurfaced in La Mesa, but it still has plenty of love for the old neighborhood. Enough that, in that green room, Stromberg and McLaughlin came up with the idea to collaborate on a locals-only Fallbrook beer.

Ironfire Brewing's John Maino harvesting citrus in Fallbrook

Ironfire Brewing’s John Maino harvesting citrus in Fallbrook

Many months have passed and Stromberg fell out of the equation, but McLaughlin ran with the idea and other friends with Fallbrook roots. That group included his FBC lead brewer Lucas Nelson, Coronado Brewing Company brewmaster Ryan Brooks and Ironfire Brewing Company president John Maino, who came together to brew a dry, “San Diego-style” saison. Coming in 7% alcohol-by-volume, the beer gets its SD-ness care of an assemblage of hops introduced via a BYOH method that saw each brewer bring their own pellets to the party. Polaris, Equinox and Citra coalesce along with a variety of Fallbrook-grown ingredients, including avocado blossom honey as well as citrus—grapefruit, oranges, lemons and prickly pears—the quartet took a field trip to a local grove to pick themselves. McLaughlin’s enjoyment of the collaborative process went far beyond the beer-making. Each of the members of the aforementioned team were instrumental to him as he worked to open—and keep open—his small-town main-street brewery.

Dubbed Fallbrook Homegrown, the beer will make its official debut at FBC’s second anniversary celebration, a three-day affair taking place from August 21 to 23. Admission is free and live music and food from mobile vendors will be available each day. Musical acts will include Lee Koch, Tackey Little Hat Shop, Dulaney and Miller, plus Nelson’s band, Moonpool. Sunday’s festivities will start earlier than the other days (11 a.m.) and go by a “Sunday beer brunch” theme that includes coffee from The Swell Cafe, “beermosas” made with FBC beer and fresh squeezed juices, and a blend of kombucha and beer called “beerbucha.” Information about the anniversary events can be found on FBC’s website.

Editor’s note: The first paragraph has been revised to include mention of Paul Holborn, Bolt’s original founder. 

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Beer of the Week: Lightning Dark Current Ale

Jul 24
Lightning Red Current Ale, a black saison brewed with currants and citrus for Beer to the Rescue

Lightning Red Current Ale, a black saison brewed with currants and citrus for Beer to the Rescue

From the Beer Writer: Before I was a beer writer, I merely drank beer. It was fun, tasty and something I really didn’t put a lot of thought into. But when I was ready to go from merely enjoying beer to finding out what goes into making it and making a business of it, there was a local brewer who was more than happy to take the time to converse with me on those subjects—Jim Crute. The founder of Poway’s Lightning Brewery, Jim was the first brewer I ever shared a conversation with. At the time, I wrote solely about food and hadn’t yet expanded into the beer realm. The time he took to explain the art and science of brewing made me want to learn more, and made me want to meet more brewers and business owners. In a large way, he helped me to get my writing to where it is today and expand my passion for something I already loved into something I could share with my readers. I am very thankful for that, as well as this beer he crafted for my Beer to the Rescue lupus campaign. Coming in at 5.9% ABV, it’s an outlandish take on a Belgian saison that debuts today at Lightning’s tasting room (13200 Kirkham Way, Poway) Another upcoming debut for Crute will be an outdoor beer garden that’s an A-OK from the ABC away from opening to the public. Look for that to open come August or September.

From the Brewer: “We were proud to brew Dark Current Ale to support our friend in the beer trade’s lupus initiative, Beer to the Rescue. The beer—which is only available at the Lightning Brewery tasting room—is a Belgian-style farmhouse ale that incorporates black malt into the grain bill to give it a translucent black appearance. We’ve accentuated the farmhouse characters of this beer by introducing the flavors of orange zest and black currants. A play on words…for sure. A great beer to enjoy…definitely!”—Jim Crute, Owner & Brewmaster, Lightning Brewery

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Council’s new Beatitude Magic Factory

Jul 8
Council Brewing Co.'s Beatitude Magic Factory

Council Brewing Co.’s Beatitude Magic Factory

Though a nanobrewery, Council Brewing Company is big from a popularity standpoint. Just over a year after opening, marrieds Liz and Curtis Chism’s baby was getting too big for its britches from a capacity standpoint. Their answer: the Council Beatitude Magic Factory, an 1,800-square-foot industrial suite located in the same business park complex as Council’s brewery and tasting room.

The Chisms signed their lease on the property in February. After several tenant improvements, they began using it in April. It is currently home to six 45-barrel plastic tanks. Three of those are fermenters, with two being utilized for fruiting and the last one for blending. The space also contains a ten- and three-barrel fermenter. Overall, Council is up to 15 fermenters with seven being used for clean beer and the other eight for sours. Adding their secondary facility should allow them to up production more than 400% from Year One and as much 567% more than the initial 12 months once the space is maxed out.

Council Brewing Co.'s staff packaging a bottle-run of its tart saison

Council Brewing Co.’s staff packaging a bottle-run of its tart saison

The Beatitude Magic Factory is named after the company’s popular tart saison, because this is where it will be fermented, fruited, blended and packaged. The day I stopped by was their initial bottling of the beer, which will soon be sold at Council’s tasting room (with a one-case limit). It will also be lightly distributed to some bars and utilized for special events. The Chisms state lack of visibility as being one of the larger challenges of being a nanobrewery and hope that some placement of their beer outside the brewery will help them overcome that.

When asked why lead with a tart saison, Liz says it’s because the beer is well suited for San Diego’s mostly-sunny year-round weather. On top of that, the beer is a hit among Council’s fans, and the Chisms aren’t interested in competing in the local IPA arms race (even though their Bully Pulpit IPA took bronze in the American-style India Pale Ale category at last month’s San Diego International Beer Festival).

council_03The Chisms also have their eyes on a 4,000-square-foot suite within their park that, if acquired, will house a quality-control laboratory and be used mostly for storage as well as administrative space. Of course, the couple has plans that go beyond their current digs. They would like Council to grow into a larger brewery with a 30-barrel brewhouse; stainless steel, glycol-jacketed fermenters; larger barrel-aging program including a foudre farm. This is what they are working toward and, given their early success, the odds seem favorable that they’ll get there someday.

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Rip Current honors influential homebrewer with What Would Dave Drink?

Jun 30
Rip Current's What Would Dave Drink? Belgian-style dark strong ale honors QUAFF homebrewer Dave Levonian

Rip Current’s What Would Dave Drink? Belgian-style dark strong ale honors QUAFF homebrewer Dave Levonian

It happened in a most apt environment, a beer festival teeming with recreational fermentationists the day before the start of the American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrewers Conference (NHC). It was there, on Broadway Pier, that I bumped into Rip Current Brewing Company co-owner and brewmaster Paul Sangster, who escorted me back to his San Marcos-based brewery’s table to sample a beer very close to his heart. Dubbed What Would Dave Drink?, it was a Belgian-style strong ale referencing QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraterninty) legend Dave Levonian.

Dave’s last name may sound familiar to those in the local beer know as both Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits and The Lost Abbey brewed farmhouse ales called Brother Levonian Saison to honor the homebrewer, who sadly lost his battle with cancer back in 2008. Gone but far from forgotten, Dave’s legacy and spirit for crafting quality beer in domestic environs lives on in the many he touched, including Sangster, who offers up the following explanation of this very special beer.

“The AHA approached Rip Current and a few other reputable San Diego County breweries to brew commemorative beers for the NHC. They asked for 1,000 bombers to give to attendees. Having won the Ninkasi Award when the NHC was held in San Diego in 2011, I was happy to participate, but there was one sticking point—we don’t bottle our beer at Rip Current. So we had to get creative. I asked QUAFF if we could do a collaboration where the homebrew club would provide the recipe and manpower to help with bottling, and they agreed.

Dave Levonian's sister, Andra Fromme holding a bottle of her brother's tribute beer

Dave Levonian’s sister, Andra Fromme holding a bottle of her brother’s tribute beer

“A few of QUAFF’s leaders got together and decided to make a beer straight out of Dave’s recipe book. Since Brother Levonian was a saison, we wanted to do something different. Dave was particularly well known for his expertise with Belgian and English beer styles, and we found his recipe for a Belgian-style dark strong ale we thought would be great to make in his memory. We brewed the beer based closely on Dave’s recipe but with a couple of modernizations. As planned, Dave’s sister, Andra Levonian Fromme, and members of QUAFF attended the brew day to mill the grains, ceremoniously add in hops and drink several bottles of Dave’s homebrew that his friends had cellared. Three weeks later, we set up bottling stations and hand-filled all 1,000 22-ounce bottles with the help of a bunch of QUAFFers using eight homebrew-style, single-shot bottle fillers (i.e., beer guns). It was an incredibly fun day.

“Dave was known as both a beer expert and a foodie. Because of this, friends would often ask him for food and beer suggestions. This prompted the posthumous creation of a t-shirt that read: What Would Dave Order? And that’s where the name for this beer came from. Also popular was a shirt mimicking the logo aesthetic of Duvel, but altered to read “Davel,” referencing the name of a Belgian-style golden strong ale he created using notes from a conversation he had with Duvel’s brewmaster.

“What Would Dave Drink? is 9.8% alcohol-by-volume and recently went into distribution. During NHC, we gave out the bottles and poured the beer at associated conference events. All the feedback has been amazing so far, so we’re pleased to share the remaining barrels with San Diego accounts and visitors to our tasting rooms. But more than anything, we’re excited to hear friends of Dave’s who’ve tasted this beer say it’s very similar to what he brewed.”

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Summer of Saison

Jul 1

Check out our July issue for info on the history of saison, as well as 5 reviews that aren’t included in this post.

Although saison is a Belgian style, many of the best examples being made today are coming from American craft brewers who have taken to the style with great enthusiasm.   The free-flowing framework of saison is very similar to the brewing philosophies of many American brewers, and the style seems to be finding new energy at their hands.

One of the most popular and widely available is Hennepin from Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York.   A dry, spicy, and relatively clean example of the style, it is pretty easy to find and a good starting point if you are just getting acquainted with the style.   Boulevard Brewing Company out of Kansas City Missouri makes an outstanding strong saison titled simply, “Saison-Brett ” as a nod to the use of the wild yeast strain Brettanomyces during finishing; this gives the beer a dusty, funky, and lightly tart profile that is somewhat reminiscent of Fantome.   Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales from Dexter, Michigan is perhaps the American brewery that most strongly reflects the Belgian farmhouse tradition.   All of their beers are produced with open fermentation and see time in oak barrels where they pick up a distinctive mix of wild yeast and bacteria character that gives them a powerful signature.  Bam Biere is one of their flagships and is an incredibly flavorful and refreshing saison that falls into the traditional range at only 4.5%ABV.   The mix of woody and wild elements is subject to variation, and sourness develops with some time in the bottle, giving the beer a puckering and refreshing finish.

Being a California native, I have to give some credit to a few local brewers who are pumping out excellent saisons.  The Lost Abbey down in North County San Diego has in recent years gained a reputation as one of the strongest American saison producers.   Their standard saison, which was featured on the cover of our July issue, Red Barn Ale, is a particularly peppery take on the style. Read more »

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