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Posts Tagged San Diego International Beer Festival

Beer of the Week: Rock Bottom Devil’s Thumb

Mar 17

Rock Bottom La Jolla’s Devil’s Thumb Belgian-style golden strong ale

From the Beer Writer: As I wrote a short while back, many are the brewers who tell me, “I brew beers that I like drinking.” Judging by the quality of her hoppy offerings, particularly her Mosaic-heavy IPA, I’d say Rock Bottom head brewer Carli Smith has an affinity for lupulin-laced ales. I like when brewers do right by their taste-buds, but find it particularly impressive when they defy them, crafting styles they aren’t as fond of so others may enjoy them. Case in point, Rock Bottom Devil’s Thumb. This Belgian-style golden strong ale is utterly traditional in its look, scent, taste and feel. Its bouquet contains notes of lemongrass and gardenias, while the beer itself offers a vast array of flavor components—honey, lemon rind, white peppercorn, bubble gum and thyme. At 8% alcohol-by-volume, one would expect something overly impactful, but this beer is balanced and drinkable; enough that the beer-menu warns about its tendency to sneak up on imbibers. Smooth, sweet-smelling and delicious…what’s not to like? For that, we’ll have to ask Smith, because she harbors staunch distaste for Belgian beer-styles, making the quality of this ale all that more remarkable.

From the Brewer: “Being at a brewpub, I am able to keep my beer-list stocked with lots of stuff that I like to drink. Belgian beers not being one of those things, they rarely make their way onto my board, but I have a few regulars that really enjoy Belgian beers and they have been bugging me to make one. One of the things that I dislike about Belgian beers is the high amount of residual sugars that are usually present in the final product. So for mine, I wanted to make something that had a pretty simple grain-bill, pretty much just Weyermann Pilsner malt. This way the yeast is the star of the show, and if I could get it to totally ferment out, I knew the finish would be clean with just enough Belgian-ester sweetness. I am really happy with how it turned out, which was extremely surprising to me and everyone else. I get lots of weird looks when I say, ‘Here, try my Belgian beer,’ when everyone knows I strongly dislike the style. When I carbonated it and put it on tap I was able to drink almost a whole eight-ounce serving in one sitting, very big for me…ha. I was inspired to enter it into the San Diego International Beer Festival competition, because I felt that it was an almost perfect representation of the Belgian golden strong ale style. I also thought it would be hilarious if the brewer who hates Belgian beers won a medal for one. Oh, the irony! “—Carli Smith, Head Brewer, Rock Bottom La Jolla

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Meet Barrel Rescue Brewing Company

Jun 22

BRBMany local breweries lend their skill and effort to charities, but it takes an nth-level degree of devotion to make a cause the crux of a brewing company’s entire identity. But that’s how deeply engrained Greg Littrell’s and Katie Earle’s shared love of rescuing dogs is. In fact, it’s how they met ten years ago when Littrell adopted dachshunds from Earle’s rescue. During that transaction, they discovered that they had more in common than canines, namely a love of beer and brewing. Fast-forward and the duo is in the process of opening a boutique operation called Barrel Rescue Brewing Company (8125 Ronson Road, Suite F, Kearny Mesa).

Last week, Littrell and Earle signed the lease on a 2,000-square-foot space in which to install a projected seven-barrel brewhouse which they intend to acquire from an existing local brewery looking to up its capacity, 300 oak barrels and a tasting room. Like the output of most of its beers, the tasting room will be very tiny—likely a mere 500 square feet (though an outdoor patio is planned to provide patrons extra space). If all goes as planned, the interior will feature canvas-wrap wall art of dogs available for adoption from various San Diego rescue groups.

Additionally, Barrel Rescue’s brews will be named after some of their four-legged friends. A Belgian golden ale built for barrel-aging will bear the name of Nellie, a dachshund Katie rescued from a puppy mill, and a blueberry sour will be called Rainbow Blueberry Frost after the first deaf dog she rescued. Additionally, there will be a line of Brettanomyces-fermented beers will be called the Goldilocks Series: Papa Brett, Mama Brett and Baby Brett (though they’ve never had pups named Goldilocks or Brett).

In reading that last paragraph, astute imbibers will notice that every beer mentioned falls in the sour or wild category. As the business’ name implies, this will be Barrel Rescue’s bailiwick. There will be year-round beers, but Littrell and Earle are all about crafting “true” barrel-aged sour beers aged at least a year before blending or fruiting. They aim to produce lambics, gueuzes and fruited sour ales. The latter will incorporate more typical fruits such as cherries, raspberries and apricots, as well as lesser utilized edibles such as apples and Meyer lemons.

Greg Littrell and Katie Earle are all smiles after signing the lease on the site for Barrel Rescue Brewing

Greg Littrell and Katie Earle are all smiles after signing the lease on the site for Barrel Rescue Brewing

Littrell and Earle will both handle brewing, extending on four years spent brewing sour beers as a tandem. They started with two used barrels from San Marcos’ The Lost Abbey, followed by a quartet of oak receptacles from a local winery. From there, they entered some of their ales into local competitions, garnering awards and positive feedback. Earle also won an internal homebrewing contest while working at Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits (she now works at The Lost Abbey Confessional in Cardiff), which led to the commercial brewing of Home Brew Mart Homework Series #5, a hoppy Belgian-style pale ale. That beer recently took silver at last weekend’s San Diego International Beer Festival. Still, one of the most rewarding moments of their time on the tart side was when a friend of theirs took a bottle of their framboise to Belgium’s lambic mecca, Cantillon, and were told the brewer they shared it with refused to believe it was a homebrew creation.

A number of Barrel Rescue beers are already resting in oak. Littrell and Earle used homebrewer Jeff Swem‘s home brew system (which readers may have seen on the cover of the June issue of West Coaster) to brew the base beers. As soon as their brewhouse is installed, the duo plan to get to work immediately brewing up beers and transferring them to barrels to begin the aging process. Still, they report it will be at least a year before the business opens. Even when that happens, beer will be rather scarce. They liken it to a boutique winery producing very minute vintages. Once a year, they will offer up limited-release bottles of their barrel-aged stock and when they’re gone, they’re gone.

In selecting Kearny Mesa, not only did Littrell and Earle pick a community with a burgeoning beer scene and breweries they share the sour bug with, they also inherited built-in comrades who have already been exceptionally helpful to them, lending advice throughout the early stages of Barrel Rescue’s life. Among them are Douglas Constantiner and Travis Smith of Societe Brewing Company, Liz and Curtis Chism of Council Brewing Company, and Tom and Lindsey Nickel of O’Brien’s Pub. But who wouldn’t want to help an operation that will not only rescue dogs in need, but as Earle puts it, “rescue barrels from the horrible fate of becoming planters sold at Dixieline.”

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San Diego International Beer Festival June 22-24

Jun 19

The 6th Annual San Diego International Beer Festival starts this weekend Friday, June 22nd and ends Sunday June 24th. A festival within the San Diego County Fair (aka Del Mar Fair), the general admission has two sessions Friday 6/22 at 12-4PM & 5-9PM, and Saturday 6/23 at 11A-3PM & 4-8PM. There is also one session on Sunday from 1-5PM. The general admission ticket is $48 with Fair entrance included. Inspired by the Great American Beer Festival and organized by Tom Nickel (of O’Brien’s, Julian Brewing Co., and West Coast BBQ & Brew), the festival will serve unlimited 1oz tasters of over 300 beers from nearly 140 breweries from around the world.

At the VIP Brewers Lounge, beer drinkers can taste unlimited, larger 6-oz pours not only from the 300+ beers being tapped, but also from extra brews located only in the Lounge area. VIP ticket-holders also enjoy half-hour early admission to the Festival, food stations with unlimited grazing for the first two hours of the session, and a special souvenir tasting glass. VIP admission is $90 with Fair admission, and has sessions on Friday 6/22 from 4:30-9PM, Saturday 6/23 from 10:30AM-3:00PM & 3:30-8PM, and Sunday 12:30-5:30PM

Click here for tickets! (Enter passcode BARLEY on Ticketmaster and save $10 for the Friday 4:30-9PM session or for the Saturday 10:30AM-3PM session. Use passcode MALT for $10 off the Sunday VIP session)

Further reading:

San Diego Beer Blog’s post on the 2011 SDIBF

Peter Rowe’s Recap of the 2010 SDIBF

This post sponsored by the San Diego International Beer Festival

Post updated 4:37PM on 6/19 with corrected passcode info & extra Sunday VIP session

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5th Annual San Diego International Beer Festival

Jun 26

The north side of the Chevrolet Del Mar Arena swells with beer drinkers at the San Diego International Beer Festival from June 24 to 26.

Many beer festivals preach to the choir, but one that attracts suds novices, macro drinkers and full-fledged beer geeks alike is the San Diego International Beer Festival. The Festival took place over four sessions June 24 to 26. Held in the Chevrolet Del Mar Arena during the San Diego County Fair, the event is now in its fifth year. This year, the Festival attracted big crowds comprised of just about every demographic imaginable (much to the lament of Interstate 5 commuters).

The 2011 festival featured a special “Brewer’s Lounge” element during  Saturday’s afternoon session where eventgoers had the opportunity to bump elbows with brewers from some of the 150-plus brewing companies that showed up to the festival. Even if imbibers didn’t have the chance to meet industry artisans, they had the chance to get familiar with their wares. Over 350 beers were available and, in Great American Beer Festival style, there was no limit to the amount of one ounce  sampling a session ticket entitled attendees to.

In addition to unlimited tastes of hundreds of beers, present were brewers such as AleSmith’s Peter Zien and non-brewer beer industry entrepreneurs like Misty Birchall from PubCakes. Vendors treated crowds to free seminars on a number of topics from beer tasting to their product lines.

In the end, it was all about the beer.  Specifically, who had the best beer.  In the Festival’s official competition, a number of local breweries medaled. The following is a full list of those that came in within the top three spots in individual categories:

Unique Ingredient Beer: Stone/Dogfish Head/Victory Saison du BUFF (1st Place), Ballast Point Victory at Sea (3rd Place)

Specialty Beer: The Lost Abbey Veritas 008 (1st Place)

Rye Beer: Alpine Nelson IPA (2nd Place)

European Lager: Pizza Port Carlsbad Murphy’s Lawger (2nd Place)

Golden or Blonde Beer: TailGate Beer Blacktop Blonde (1st Place)

English Style Pale Ale: Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale (3rd Place)

American Style India Pale Ale: Pizza Port Carlsbad Welcome Back Wipeout (2nd Place), Alpine Duet (3rd Place)

Imperial India Pale Ale: Pizza Port Carlsbad Poor Man’s IPA (1st Place)

American Style Amber/Red Ale: Green Flash Hop Head Red (1st Place), Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale (3rd Place)

Imperial Red Ale: Port Brewing Shark Attack (1st Place)

Scottish Style Ale: Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing McGarvey’s Scottish Ale (3rd Place)

Irish Style Red Ale: Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale (1st Place)

English Style Brown Ale: Pizza Port Ocean Beach Skidmark Brown Ale (1st Place), Rock Bottom San Diego Brown Ale (2nd Place), Pizza Port Carlsbad Good Grief Brown (3rd Place)

American Style Brown Ale: Port Brewing Hot Rocks Lager (2nd Place)

German Style Ale: Mission Blonde (2nd Place)

German Style Weiss: Pizza Port Solana Beach Hot Spots Hefeweizen (2nd Place)

French & Belgian Style Ale: Green Flash Summer Saison (2nd Place)

Sour Ale: The Lost Abbey Red Poppy (1st Place), The Lost Abbey Amazing Grace (3rd Place)

Belgian Style Pale Strong Ale: The Lost Abbey Inferno Ale (3rd Place)

Porter: Rock Bottom La Jolla Moonlight Porter (2nd Place)

Bold Stout: Pizza Port Ocean Beach A.B.L.E. American Stout (1st Place)

British Style Strong Ale: AleSmith Decadence 2010 English Old Ale (1st Place)

Barley Wine: AleSmith Old Numbskull (2nd Place)