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: One goal of the West Coaster Beer of the Week is to help people discover special, high-quality beers they might not otherwise come across (and in some cases sadly find out about after they tap out). In the case of this week’s featured beer, there were plenty of people in the know and willing to point me in its direction. The day I was headed to the East Village’s Half Door Brewing Company, I shared my eventual destination with a pair of beer drinkers. Their eyes lit up as they blurted out the same thing: “Buzzwords!” It was the beer I was en route to sample. Nothing like finding out you’re on the right track. If you haven’t yet heard of this beer (or been keyed in by the aforementioned boisterous brew fans), allow me to introduce you to Half Door #Buzzwords. This highly-hopped pale ale revels in its en vogue nature (i.e., it’s hazy, bro). Pop-culture adjectives like “juicy” and “dank” fully apply, as the beer comes across more like grapefruit juice or a mimosa on the front-end, before a pleasant punch of pine finishes things out, reminding you that you are, in fact, enjoying a beer, and a delicious one at that. #Buzzwords revels in appealing to craft fans’ current tastes while staying true to traditional flavors from household-name hops.
From the Brewers: “#Buzzwords is our super-dank, 8.7% (alcohol-by-volume) India pale ale. It was the first hazy double IPA that we made, using a simple grain bill of Pilsner malt and flaked wheat. We use hops throughout the hot and cold side starting with mash-hopping, first wort hops and a generous dose in the whirlpool. On the cold side, depending on scheduling with yeast, we will either do one or two dry hops and the beer finishes around two-and-a-half to three pounds per barrel total. We ferment #Buzzwords with London Ale 3 yeast and adjust the water profile to a 2.5 to 1 ratio of chloride to sulfate. We mix as many hops as we have on hand but make sure to go heavy with Chinook or Simcoe, then balance using numerous hops of New Zealand origin, mostly Southern Cross and Motueka. The result is a beer with notes of tropical fruit…mostly pineapple and mango…plus some lingering pine and grapefruit citrus in the finish.”—Daniel Drayne, Head Brewer, Half Door Brewing Company
If you miss the good old days, when classic C hops ruled the day, pale ales registered mid-range on the SRM meter and beer menus went from blonde to stout, Brett Stampf can relate. A veteran brewer who worked at Stone Brewing and Green Flash Brewing, he can appreciate the IBU-rich beers that played a big part in those operations’ successes. He says he left each as said success led to each growing into larger entities, stating that just wasn’t for him. He prefers a smaller stage and the freedom that provides, and has spent the past two years constructing his own passion project with partners John Bull and Josh Gilko. That spot, Alta Brewing Company (1983 Julian Avenue, Barrio Logan) is on track to open in early August (ABC willing).
When San Diegans last tasted Stampf’s beers, he was the opening brewmaster at La Jolla Brewing. While there is little he cared to bring with him from that venture, his current beer list includes a number of offerings from his time there. When the doors open, he will have a quintet of ales available. The first is a golden ale with a surprisingly biting finish that will be served on CO2 and nitrogen. Ditto the house IPA, which is hopped with big-money hops, Citra and Simcoe, and comes in at 7% alcohol-by-volume. A 6% ABV pale ale is a throwback that comes across like a tamer version of Sierra Nevada’s copper-colored flagship, with a bitter finish that resembles that of Stampf’s Chinook- and Centennial-stoked brown ale. A dry Irish-style stout rounds things out. Belgian-style ales and an IPA hopped exclusively with Azacca are in the works.
Those beers will be available solely in Alta’s tasting room, which was pounded into shape by the company’s founders—all of which have contracting backgrounds—in a 2,000-square-foot space at the base of the Bread and Salt building. That 40,000-square-foot facility is being reborn and reconfigured with an eye toward art and artisan manufacturing. Alta’s corner of it includes an indoor bar nicely appointed with a large bull-head mural by local artist Gloria Muriel featuring beer’s four main ingredients, plus a lacquered wood-topped bar with rebar forged into a playful design based on the letters A, L and T. Rail bars line two walls, giving way to views of Barrio Logan and an outdoor patio that will someday border a beer garden.
Alta’s brewery comprises a five-barrel brewhouse feeding into 10-barrel fermentation tanks. Stampf says he will aim to produce around 500 barrels in year one, but has the ability to max out annual production at 1,100 barrels. Stampf says the name Alta translates to over and above, and describes the way he is looking to brew; remaining true to tradition, but keeping up quality while infusing a bit of himself and his personal preferences. The skeletal bull-head logo is a nod to his business partner of the same name and is affectionately named “Juan Toro”. A “recovering contractor”, Bull has worked on numerous local restaurant projects, including Tribute Pizza, Union Kitchen and Tap, One Door North, PB Shore Club and Pacific Beach AleHouse. Once Alta is up and running, the team will identify sites for one or two satellite tasting rooms. So far they have evaluated two, Chula Vista and Ocean Beach.
From the Beer Writer: I have been fortunate enough to participate in a number of collaboration brews with San Diego breweries. My participation has ranged from lending elbow-grease on brew-days to conceptualizing beer styles. It doesn’t get much better for a beer-nerd like me and each has been an honor to take part in, not to mention a learning experience. But it was an extra-special privilege coming up with a fun idea with Green Flash Brewing Company barrelmaster Pat Korn earlier this year. That brewery’s flagship beer, West Coast IPA, has been a long-time icon that helped define and communicate the hop-centric nature of San Diego beer. Many are the beer enthusiast who have memorized its dank, tropical, citrus-like flavors and aromas, myself included. Which made me all the more eager to find out what this beer would taste like fermented exclusively with Brettanomyces. Green Flash Brett Coast IPA answered that question when it debuted earlier this week at an event for Beer to the Rescue, the anti-lupus campaign it was brewed to raise funds for. For an in-depth description of this lovely beer’s characteristics, I will turn things over to the man who coaxed it into reality.
From the Brewer: “When Brandon approached me about being involved in Beer to the Rescue, I immediately said ‘yes.’ You see, my mother Barbara has Lupus, and I have never lived a day of my life without it being a part of my life. My mom is a tough lady, someone you don’t mess with, but I have spent many days watching her deal with the horrible effects of the disease. So for me, being involved in this great fundraising endeavor was a no-brainer. For this beer, we decided to harken back to our roots and re-brew a classic IPA that has a long history with Green Flash. But instead of using boring old Cal Ale yeast, we fermented the beer with our house strain of Brettanomyces. Two-row and C30/37 Crystal are the malt base and the beer is hopped with Simcoe, CTZ and Cascade, then dry-hopped with Simcoe, Citra, Centennial and Cascade. And just to enhance that good old Vista flavor, the beer was then racked onto two-pounds-per-barrel of whole-leaf Simcoe. It clocks in at 7.1% alcohol-by-volume and is a classic West Coast IPA, but the use of our house Brett adds flavors not usually associated with those beers. Dark gold in color with a full, crisp head, the beer has aromas of pine and grapefruit from the dry-hopping with verbena and horse blanket from the Brett. The flavors are an alluring mixture of pine, lemon, verbena and grapefruit; with a strong Brett character of phenol austerity and a seashell mineral-ity that adds a slight brininess to the beer.”—Pat Korn, Barrelmaster, Green Flash Brewing Company
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