From the Beer Writer: Beer dinners take place all the time in San Diego. Not to sound completely jaded, but after going to dozens of them, it’s easy to take some for granted, even when the food and beer taste great. Typically, the fermentation-based feasts that stand out are the ones held by businesses that go the extra mile. Case in point, O’Brien’s Pub. Not only does owner Tom Nickel and his crew form real relationships with local brewers and cull some of the most interesting ales and lagers from their stock, he also brews collaboration beers that take his venerable establishment’s multi-course affairs to the next level. Last weekend, O’Brien’s teamed up with Bay Ho’s Bitter Brothers Brewing, debuting O Brother, Where Tart Thou?, a collaboratively-created wine-barrel-aged golden sour ale. Three versions of the beer were presented to diners, each of which documented a different stage in its evolution to the final product, which goes on sales in bottles at Bitter Brothers’ tasting room today.
From the Brewers: “O Brother, Where Tart Thou started out as a golden sour ale dry-hopped with Mosaic hops. It was then moved and spent time in white-wine barrels. At the eight-month mark we added apricot and let it mature for another two-and-a-half months. The beer is slightly orange in color with a sturdy white head and nice acidity. It was really cool to try all three iterations of this beer—dry-hopped and both the fruited and non-fruited barrel-aged versions—at the O’Brien’s dinner. It was nice to enjoy and compare them side-by-side, and we’re happy we’ll have all three of them at our tasting room, plus bottles for sale, starting today.”—Tyler Tucker, Head Brewer, Bitter Brothers Brewing Company
“When the idea came up to do a collaboration with Bitter Brothers, it immediately struck me that we should do a kettle sour with them based on how good their seasonal Family Tart series was right from the start. We talked about making a beer a bit stronger and, since it was for O’Brien’s, a bit hoppier, of course. The original version of the beer was a 6% golden kettle sour dry-hopped with Mosaic hops. It was a fantastic beer, but it was just stage one. The beer was aged in Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc barrels for several months. After tasting it, we decided to add apricot purée. The result is a fruited sour beer that I am so proud to have been a part of. The overall impression is myriad fruit and sour flavors with subtle barrel notes. My favorite thing about it right now is that next year’s batch has already been brewed. Cheers to the entire Bitter Brothres crew for creating a wonderful libation…and O’Brien’s’ own Tyson Blake for the amazing name.”—Tom Nickel, Owner, O’Brien’s Pub & Nickel Beer Co.
From the Beer Writer: Whereas most craft fans’ favorite beer style is IPA (not that there’s anything wrong with that…they’re incredible), my favorite beers are Belgian-style farmhouse ales. But wait, like the IPA fan who can tell you they specifically like unfiltered, 7% alcohol-by-volume, tropical-flavored India pale ales dry-hopped with Citra, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin, I too can get way too specific about the types of farmhouse ales (AKA: saisons) I prefer. I like when they are spiked with Brettanomyces and aged in barrels, particularly those which have formerly housed white wine. I prefer Sauvignon Blanc barrels, but I’m not a picky man (despite what everything leading up to this has led you to believe). So, when speaking with local brewer Robert Masterson about future plans he had for his then yet-to-open Resident Brewing, and he told me the first thing he was going to do was get his saison into white-wine barrels so he could start aging it, I tucked that nugget away and started biding my time. It was as if he had intercepted some letter to Santa and, despite my naughty status, decided to bring my beer wish to life. A few weeks ago, that beer, Resident Saison Prestige, made its debut in 750-milliliter bottles, and I went straight to work getting my hands on some. And I’m glad I did, because it is exceptional. Oenophiles will be drawn in by a lustrous bouquet rife with aromas of lemon peel, honeysuckle, pears and grape must, while lovers of farmhouse and sour ales will go gaga for a multifarious yet balanced taste sensation offering up passion fruit, lemongrass, white pepper and oak-borne vanillins with a touch of funk delivered against a textural backdrop that’s medium and slightly creamy, leaving lingering traces of vanilla and kiwi. It’s prestigious enough to live up to its name and available exclusively at Resident’s base of operations, downtown’s The Local Eatery and Watering Hole.
From the Brewery: “Saison Prestige is a barrel-fermented, mixed-fermentation saison aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels. This farmhouse-style ale gets its character from two types of saison yeast, multiple Brettanomyces strains and Lactobacillus. The beer rested in wine barrels for over a year, before being bottled in June 2017. The beer was inspired by a few amazing American farmhouse breweries that have been putting out amazing beers for the past half-decade. We secured some amazing Chardonnay barrels from Chateau Montelena. After the saison picked up their character, we selected the three barrels that had the best-tasting beer inside. We didn’t want to utilize fruit with these killer barrels. Instead, we wanted them to stand out on their own and show San Diego what a wine-barrel and funky, tart saison can taste like without fruit additions.”—Robert Masterson, Head Brewer, Resident 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
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: I saw the name come through the online trademark database—Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker. No way, I thought. How could San Diego’s third-largest craft brewery be planning to package a beer that complex? For those who’ve never heard of Passion Fruit Kicker, that name was developed when former Green Flash brewmaster Chuck Silva and director of beer education Dave Adams worked with yours truly to develop a recipe to brew for the Beer to the Rescue anti-lupus campaign. The most complex of the 30-plus beers the fundraising effort birthed, PFK was a wheat India pale ale (IPA) with Brettanomyces and passion fruit procured from Stone Farms that was dry-hopped with experimental hops and blended with a wine barrel-aged IPA. While it was delicious and even thought-provoking in its unique character, going national with something like that hardly seemed feasible. Then I read the approved label and discovered the name was applied to a low-alcohol wheat ale brewed with passion fruit concentrate and passion fruit tea. While almost totally different, it’s also quite nice. Based on the base recipe for Alpine Beer Co.’s wheat ale, Willy (Green Flash Brewing Company acquired Green Flash in 2014), it has a subtle creaminess that gives way to restrained fruit tartness in the finish. A mineral quality similar to Sauvignon Blanc wine is also present. This 5.5% alcohol-by-volume session ale has a lot going for it…and is a heck of a lot easier to explain than its namesake.
From the Brewer: “Passion Fruit Kicker has a pretty unique origin story. It came about when two different ideas from two different sources merged. The brewers had been experimenting with teas in casks and single-keg one-off beers. Our favorite tea to use was a passion fruit tea (from local company, Tea Gallerie). It has an amazing aroma and flavor like a ripe passion fruit. At the time we were playing around with that tea in different beers, the idea for a tart, fruity wheat beer emerged. So naturally we tried making that beer with the passion fruit tea. It was a perfect match! We combined passion fruit concentrate with the tea to make a uniquely pungent, aromatic, tart and refreshing wheat beer. It actually smells and tastes like you’re drinking it out of a hollowed-out passion fruit gourd! The background of a very clean, crisp, lightly bittered wheat beer lets the passion fruit shine for a truly great fruit beer experience.”—Kevin Barnes, Lead Brewer, Green Flash Brewing Company