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Posts Tagged Toronado

Bitter Brothers’ Family Dinner series an inspired hit

Feb 15

With a name like Bitter Brothers Brewing Company (4170 Morena Boulevard, Bay Ho), one might think it a bit of a standoffish operation and think twice about attending its “family dinner” events. But taking part in one of these affairs is actually rather sweet. Company co-founder Bill Warnke was a professional chef for many years before getting into the beer-biz. Not only does all that experience mean he has chops in the kitchen. It also means he has a vast number of friends in kitchens all over San Diego County. It’s these very taste buds that help make Bitter Brothers’ Family Dinner series so special. Read more »

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Beer Touring: Arts District Brewing Company

Dec 22

Though she spent a relatively short period helming fermentation operations at Pizza Port’s original Solana Beach location, Devon Randall brewed up a good name and following. Many were disappointed in 2015, when she left that position and San Diego County to assume the head-brewer role at a start-up brewpub in Los Angeles. Named for the downtown La La Land neighborhood it inhabits, Arts District Brewing Company is where Randall currently hangs her hat, as well as the Great American Beer Festival silver-medal she won in the Smoke Beer category this summer. That hardware went to Cowboy Curtis, a smooth-drinking smoked porter that’s one of a great many beers Randall has concocted since Arts District went live a year ago. It’s a good beer and indicative of what one can expect when visiting Arts District—balanced, extremely drinkabile brews with nice but not overblown upstrokes of flavor. It’s fair to say that the beers she brewed at Pizza Port were bolder, but subtlety is most prominently on display at Arts District; something that’s arguably more difficult to achieve and essential at her new stomping grounds.

Arts District Brewing Co. head brewer Devon Randall

In Solana Beach, Randall worked at a craft-beer Mecca known across the country as the first link in a chain displaying legendary brewing prowess. There was no one to convert. Everybody who showed up were hallelujah-shouting members of the hop-head choir. Though there is a burgeoning and swiftly growing craft-beer scene in Los Angeles, Randall is right to dial things back to a small degree. Doing so should help win a larger percentage of patrons over during Arts District’s infancy. Most Angelenos don’t arrive at Arts District aware of Randall’s solid reputation, so they’re getting to know her through her beer-list, which is highly varied, offering ales ranging from session to the low-end of high-octane.

When visiting last month, 17 house-beers were on-tap. Seventeen! Holy Bagby Beer, Batman! On the lighter, more introductory end were an English summer ale, golden ale, Belgian singel, wheat amber ale, oatmeal stout, and an Irish-style dry stout and red (on nitro). Each of them are extremely to-style and only two come in above 5% alcohol-by-volume. The smoothest of the bunch is the aptly named Velveteen Rabbit oatmeal stout, while the best of the thirst-quenchers in this group is the singel, which goes by the name Francois. A Bavarian pilsner (a new addition to the line-up) is a light yet potent archetype of this en vogue style that also hits the spot.

Experience across various styles is one of the key attributes a good brewer picks up working within the Pizza Port structure. So, too, is the ability to brew a mean IPA! Randall’s were some of the best in San Diego and often incorporated one of her favorite ingredients: rye. Arts District had five India pale ales on tap when I was there. My favorite was Redbird, a red rye IPA (a version of which was available in Solana Beach under the name “Ghost Fire Spider”) with a citrusy hop-bill supported by a malt-bill rife with peppery rye-spice. Even with all that complexity, it goes down (maybe a little too) easy. A wheat-infused IPA called Expo Line is similarly drinkable, but flagship IPA Traction is where it’s at for those seeking a little more body to go with an onslaught of orange and stone fruit-like flavors.

All of Randall’s beers are served (along with a succinct but admirable list of guest-beers) at a long rectangular bar erected around stainless steel tanks. Seating is provided indoors and outdoors, plus there are myriad games—Skee-ball, ping-pong, darts—and a pair of food options. A small eatery called Fritzi is attached to Arts District, but because there is no passage from one venue to the other and only a handful of house-beers are available there, I’d recommend ordering from the limited food-menu offered at a walk-up window inside the main space. Or just skip the food, but make sure to sample through a decent number of Randall’s ales. They’re definitely worth the trip.

Though unorchestrated, the timing of this post works out well in that Randall and her beers made guest appearances at Toronado in North Park during last night’s Drinkabout festivities, meaning there’s a good chance the latter can be sampled by locals who, like me, miss this talented brewer and liken losing her to the City of Angels, to seeing former Padres player and coach/current National League Manager of the Year Dave Roberts sporting Dodger blue. Of course, SD-homerism isn’t required to enjoy Randall’s brews. All you really need is a simple appreciation for good beer.

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November Events Sampler Flight: Best of Beer Week

Nov 1

sdbw_logoIf ever there were a month made for craft-beer revelry, November is it. San Diego Beer Week takes place from November 4-13 and includes literally hundreds of events throughout the county. They range from pint-nights to full-on festivals. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure of sorts, allowing beer-fans to tailor these ten days to their personal tastes. I urge everyone to have it your way, but in an effort to guide those looking for a good time as I see it, I’ve listed my dream Beer Week scenario below. Enjoy the hoppiest time of the year, but don’t forget there are plenty of other awesome events taking place before and after Beer Week. For the most comprehensive list of local events around, consult the constantly updated West Coaster events calendar.

Friday, November 4

  • Rare Beer Breakfast, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Escondido
  • 4-Year Anniversary & Barrel-Aged Bottle Release, Amplified Ale Works, Pacific Beach
  • VIP Brewer’s Takeover, Port Pavilion at Broadway Pier, Downtown

Saturday, November 5

  • Beer for Breakfast with Abnormal Beer Co., Small Bar, University Heights
  • San Diego Brewers Guild Festival, Port Pavilion at Broadway Pier, Downtown
  • Fall Brewing 2nd Anniversary with The Creepy Creeps, Casbah San Diego, Little Italy

Sunday, November 6

  • Modern Times Vegan Brunch, Churchill’s Pub & Grille, San Marcos
  • Barrel-Aged Vanilla Storm Bottle Release, Rip Current Brewing Company, North Park
  • The Bruery Beer Dinner, George’s at the Cove, La Jolla

Monday, November 7

  • Fishing with the Brewers; Fathom Bistro, Bail & Tackle; Shelter Island
  • Pink Boots Society Special Release, Rock Bottom, La Jolla
  • Brew, Views & Chews, Tom Ham’s Lighthouse, Harbor Island

Tuesday, November 8

  • Table Beer Tap Takeover, Benchmark Brewing Company, Grantville
  • Beer to the Rescue Bad Hombre Release, White Labs, Miramar
  • Chicks for Beer with Laura Ulrich, The High Dive, Bay Park

Wednesday, November 9

  • Sour Beer Fest, Intergalactic Brewing Company, Miramar
  • Speedway Grand Prix, AleSmith Brewing Company, Miramar
  • Tyson’s Big Ass Barrel Night, O’Brien’s Pub, Kearny Mesa

Thursday, November 10

  • San Diego County Beer Week Frisbee Golf Tourney, Morley Field & Hamilton’s Tavern, South Park
  • The New Kids Brewing & Distilling Festival, Marina Village, Mission Bay
  • Paradox Beer Dinner, The Bellows, San Marcos

Friday, November 11

  • We Got the Funk, Pizza Port, Ocean Beach
  • Battle of the Guilds, Toronado, North Park
  • Roll Out the Barrels, North Park Beer Co., North Park

Saturday, November 12

  • Stone AHA Rally, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Liberty Station
  • Carnitas’ Snack Shack Beer Brunch Buffet, Thorn St. Brewery, North Park
  • 2nd Anniversary Celebration, O’Sullivan Bros. Brewing Company, Scripps Ranch

Sunday, November 13

  • Danksauce & Dog Show, The Quartyard, East Village
  • Garage Sale with Garage Project, Sessions Public, Ocean Beach
  • Beer Garden, The Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla

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August Events Sampler Flight

Aug 1

20th-crown-3As evidenced by the plethora of happenings on West Coaster’s Events Page, August is a busy month with a bounty of opportunities for beating the summer heat with ales and lagers that are cool, both literally and figuratively. Here are some of the more notable goings-on this month.

August 13 | Second Saturday: The second Saturday of each month, Hamilton’s Tavern showcases beers from featured breweries. Be prepared for a crowd, because a duo of red-hot cult faves—Cellarmaker Brewing and Sante Adairius Rustic Ales—will be in the house this time around. | Hamilton’s Tavern, 1521 30th Street, South Park, 5 p.m.

August 19 & 20 | Stone 20th Anniversary Celebration: The biggest local beer-fest of the year will be even bigger this year, because Stone Brewing is celebrating two decades of bold, brazen beeriness. Join Team Stone for a Friday-night brewer’s reception or Saturday’s main event. Either way, you’ll be helping out local charities. | CSU San Marcos, 333 Twin Oaks Valley Road, San Marcos, Times Vary

August 27 | Treasure Chest Fest: Green Flash Brewing Company’s relentless support of the fight against breast-cancer continues with the sixth-annual edition of this top-notch beer-and-food event benefitting Susan G. Komen and featuring a charity IPA brewed with grapefruit, prickly pear and hibiscus. | Green Flash Brewing Company, 6550 Mira Mesa Boulevard, Mira Mesa, 12 p.m.

August 27 | Uncasked: This “neighborhood craft beer fest” is put on in coordination with the San Diego Brewers Guild, and is unique in that it scatters four beer-gardens stocked with SD suds throughout Westfield UTC. It’s kind of like searching out gyms in Pokémon Go, but a lot more rewarding! | Westfield UTC, 4545 La Jolla Village Drive, University City, 4 p.m.

August 28 | Beechwood Brewing Brunch: If beers from the reigning best large brewpub in the country aren’t enough to get you up and over to Toronado on a Sunday morning, outrageously creative food from chef Nate Soroko and his taste-buds oughtta do it. These beer-brunches never fail to impress! | Toronado, 4026 30th Street, North Park, 10:30 a.m.

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Parking Lot Pop-Up @ Council Brewing

Jun 9

You expect culinary innovation, exotic flavors and artistic plating from five-star restaurants. You enter a white-linen or a modern gastropub replete in its reclaimed-chic motif, and you know you’re in for something special. But when you walk into the tight confines of a small brewery and see a gaggle of chefs huddled about a plethora of pots, pans and plates in the abutting parking lot, your expectations are justifiably more subdued. But if that sampling space-meets parking space venue is Council Brewing Company during a beer-pairing dinner, lowered standards are bond to be shattered, and taste-buds and minds blown.


The chefs in their makeshift kitchen

I recently attended this Kearny Mesa brewery’s first such gastronomic event, a six-course, seven-beer affair benefitting Becky’s House (a shelter established for victims of domestic abuse). After seeing the assemblage of chefs involved, the dishes they intended to prepare and the rare beers they’d be pairing them with, I determined it a can’t-miss event, full-kitchen or not. That status came as a result of my familiarity with the cooking prowess of the sextet of chefs—Mike Arquines (The LAB: Dining Sessions), Tyson Blake (O’Brien’s Pub), Matt Cammack (Hamilton’s Tavern and South Park Brewing Company), Phil Esteban (The Cork and Craft), Nate Soroko (Toronado) and Kristianna Zabala (Nomad Donuts).

Chevre Gnocchi Nero with Lump Crab, Farmer’s Gold Sea Urchin Velouté & Uni Foam

Chevre Gnocchi Nero
with Lump Crab, Farmer’s Gold Sea Urchin Velouté & Uni Foam

Cammack took the lead, assembling this tried, true and trusted gastro-gang, which was visible throughout the whole dinner via the roll-up garage door at the rear of the tasting room. It made for appetizing dinner-theater watching the team work together toplate more than 50 iterations of each dish, all while jawing at each other, joking around and launching food, three-point-shot-style, into Big Nate’s mouth from across the parking lot (Camack was four-for-seven—eat your heart out Steph Curry). One could have mistaken them as a full-time brigade for their cohesion in the kitchen and on the plate.

The meal kicked off with goat-cheese gnocchi (dumplings) turned black with the addition of squid ink and given a double-shot of oceanic accompaniment with an uni foam and shellfish broth. The brininess of the foam—which was made using Council’s Farmer’s Gold Saison—provided a brilliant flavor-bridge for the brewery’s barrel-aged farmhouse saison, Nicene. Another barrel-aged beer—an English-style old ale fermented with Brettanomyces called Gaderian that was full with dried fruit flavors on the front-end but bitingly dry in the finish—went well with the natural sweetness of sweet potato risotto and cherry jus while resetting palates for the next bite. (The recipes for both of these dishes have been provided for your home-cooking adventures.)

Seared Duck Breast with Sweet Potato “Risotto”, Dried Cherry Jus & Pistachio Dust

Seared Duck Breast
with Sweet Potato “Risotto”, Dried Cherry Jus & Pistachio Dust

Brett collided with similarly heightened cuisine in the form of Council’s wild yeast-stoked Belgian-style tripel and a thick lobster roulade with shelling beans, smoked celery root puree and a salty sea-bean chimichurri. But it wasn’t all about Belgians and Brett—one of the biggest hits of the night, beer-wise, was Bully Pulpit, a Mosaic- and Simcoe-hopped IPA that was the first beer to come off Council’s newly arrived stable of stainless-steel fermenters. Brimming over with citrusy, tropical aromas and delivering bright flavors of the same ilk, it was as satisfying as it was incredibly fresh, especially with perfectly cooked spring lamb loin topped with grated, Meyer lemon-cured egg yolk and Vichyssoise (classic creamy French potato and leek soup).

The meal closed out with both a dessert and a cheese course. Gouda with honey for the latter, and a fluffy boysenberry-iced donut—the center of which was piped with foie-grass mousse—for the former. It was one of the best beer dinners I’ve attended in some time. Most of the other top-tier feasts I’ve enjoyed have come courtesy of collaborative chef efforts, as well. The right mix of chefs—and beer—transcend the kitchen. Even a parking lot can become a center for haute cuisine when the ingredients and the technique of the individuals using them are top-shelf.

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