From the Beer Writer: During my time working for Stone Brewing, I made many great friends. The company is packed with brilliant, fun and kind people, and one of the nicest of them all is the man in charge of brewing operations at Stone’s Liberty Station brewpub, Kris Ketcham. A champion of creativity who has indulged the desires of many novices in his brewhouse, he not only dares to try things others would avoid, but possesses the skill to pull off nearly every challenge thrown his way. In 2015, when I kicked off a charity campaign to raise money for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California through the sale of specialty beers from local breweries, I had the chance to brew with Ketcham, and it was a joyfully educational experience. This year, he let me back in the brewhouse to help conjure another charity beer: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station Trending Travis-ty. Aside from being long as all get out, there’s significance to the name of this hazy, “Northeast-style” session IPA. At the brewery I currently work for, Societe Brewing, clarity is king. Our brewing team strives to avoid haze in our IPAs and our brewmaster, Travis Smith, finds what he calls the “muddy IPA” haze-craze to be ridiculous if not a sacrilege. So we took this raging trend and made our own little “Travis-ty”. To be fair, Ketcham and I prefer clear IPAs, too, but we thought it would be a fun challenge to create a not-overly-hazy IPA with big hop appeal and extremely low alcohol; a crushable beer that would benefit from increased body from a variety of adjuncts and provide that “juiciness” beer fans are looking for these days. It’s on tap now and a portion of proceeds help lupus patients in San Diego and Imperial Counties care of the Beer to the Rescue campaign.
From the Brewer: “There have been a lot of trends in brewing over the years. The most recent one I can remember is session IPAs, and now we have ‘the L replacement’ hazy, juicy IPAs. As someone who’s taken pride in learning and employing multiple techniques for achieving beer clarity, I find it such a travesty that we’ve shifted into this. However, as much as I love to knock them, there is a uniqueness to them that even I find enjoyable from time to time. I also need to remind myself to keep an open mind, as we’ve come a long way in the past twenty-plus years. All of us as ‘craft’ brewers have changed the perception of beer over the years and still continue to do with styles like these. Sometimes we enjoy them so much that we try our own interpretations with our own signature twists. Trending Travis-ty mixes the past and current trends brewers have been chasing. Take all the adjuncts that give you the trending haze and put them to use in a style that’s lacking in body—session IPA—and you get a win-win result. For this beer, we used a blend of two-row, oats, wheat and dextrin malt to increase body and haze levels. No hops where harmed in the boiling of the wort. Instead, all of the hops used in this beer were added at the start of fermentation and post-fermentation to really bring on the haze. The combo of Mosaic, Loral and Vic Secret hops was a fun combination that uses Brandon and I’s favorite new hops with a hop that is in damn near every single IPA on the market today. Clocking in at 4.3% alcohol-by-volume and 40 on the IBU (international bittering unit) scale—all from the dry hop—this beer fulfills those whose hipster mantras include ‘I only drink hazy IPAs’ and ‘I only drink session beers.’”—Kris Ketcham, Liberty Station Brewing Manager, Stone Brewing
Societe Brewing’s Lorah Smith keeps her co-workers fed and her Facebook followers salivating
Last year, I took a job at Kearny Mesa’s Societe Brewing Company. Having been a long-time fan of that operation, I’d had the pleasure of getting to know numerous members of the Societe team prior to coming aboard. I’d long admired their deep-seeded appreciation for beer and the brewing process, and looked forward to working with like-minded souls in that regard. But I had no idea that I’d also find common-ground where my culinary passions are concerned.
One of my biggest concerns in spending five-days-a-week at Societe was how I was going to resist the urge to consume The Pupil, The Dandy, The Butcher and their cousins on a far-too-frequent basis. It remains challenging, I’ll admit, but I manage somehow. As it turns out, there’s even more to be tempted by at my workday digs—namely a constant barrage of home-made, edible goodness brought in on plates and platters, in tinfoil and Tupperware, and always warm, odoriferous, fluffy, gooey, piping hot or otherwise desirable thanks to its maker, Lorah Smith.
To many, Lorah is “Travis’ wife”, and while that is true from a literal sense (she does sport a wedding band bestowed upon her by our brewmaster), to her family at Societe, she is so much more—kind-hearted spearhead of our charitable and humanitarian efforts, coordinator of our offsite beer-dinners, maternal herder of cats and nourisher of the masses. I found out about that last one after being treated to three days of tasty baked goods during my first week of employment. Many dishes, both savory and sweet, have followed. So, too, have dozens of conversations about food and her daily cooking conquests, proof of which are presented via her appetizing Facebook timeline.
I instantly felt a kinship with Lorah. We’ve both been bitten by the cooking-bug, but she’s far more prolific than I am these days. I marvel at her output and creativity. There have been times when she’s made more food than her audiences can consume. Keep in mind that her audiences regularly consist of her hungry-man husband and trio of kiddos, and the 20-plus employees of a brewery where more than half of those folks have completed a challenge that involves consuming a two-and-a-half-pound burrito and full-serving of imperial stout in less than 20 minutes. To outcook these folks is quite the feat.
If you’re not impressed yet, a look at some of the dishes she’s fixed up ought to do it: herb-crusted rack of lamb with balsamic-glazed portobellos and chevre-stuffed potatoes, home-made pho, New Orleans-style Asian braised pork belly, chilaquiles with hatch green chile salsa, and carnitas made from a pig that Travis guy butchered himself. Then there’s the hearty chili made with meat from a bear gifted to the Smiths by local beer-scene gadabout Bobby Mathews, which was both exotic and delicious! And keep in mind, these aren’t things she busted out for special occasions. These are days-that-end-with-a-Y territory. The woman just loves to cook and can do it well.
So, when it came time to focus on a local culinarian with chops, gusto and some recipes to share, it was a no-brainer that I shine a light on this generous gastronome. You can call her “Travis’ wife” if you insist, but you’d do just as well to refer to her as “chef.”
Bangers and Mash with Braised Cabbage and Beer-Onion Gravy
Paired with The Haberdasher English IPA or The Pugilist Dry Stout
Yield: 4 servings
Place the potatoes in a large pot of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil until the potatoes are fork tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. While the potatoes are boiling, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add 2 cups of onions and sauté until soft and tender, about 6 minutes. Place the bangers to the skillet and add enough beer to cover them. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the bangers are fully cooked, 15 to 20 minutes. You may need to add more beer to keep the bangers covered at least to the halfway mark as the liquid evaporates. Once the potatoes are tender, drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Mix in the milk and 5 tablespoons of butter and mash to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper, then cover to keep warm.
Melt the remaining butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to caramelize, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the cabbage and some of the broth from the bangers to help wilt it. Cook until slightly tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove the bangers from the broth and keep warm. Increase heat to medium-high and reduce the onions and broth mixture by half to create a thin gravy. Add Worcestershire sauce, and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder as desired.
To serve, place a mound of mashed potatoes onto a plate and top with a sausage. Ladle the onion gravy on top of the bangers and mash. Spoon some cabbage on the side and serve immediately with an English-style IPA or dry Irish-style stout.
Paired with The Savage Feral Dark Ale with Cherries
Yield: 6 servings
For the Filling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the batter, cut the milk and butter into the remaining dry ingredients and set aside. For the filling, place the cherries in the bottom of a greased 9-inch baking dish. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar with the cornstarch. Stir in the boiling water, then pour the mixture over the cherries. Pour and spread the batter evenly over the cherry mixture. Evenly sprinkle the remaining sugar over the cobbler. Place in the oven and bake until the cobbler top is golden-brown and cooked through, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes.
Serve warm alone or topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Either way, pair this dessert with a Flanders-style red ale or barrel-aged, cherry-infused sour ale.
—Recipes courtesy of Lorah Smith, Events Manager & Director of Charitable Giving, Societe Brewing Company
From the Beer Writer: Each week for the past several years, I’ve made a point of highlighting what I believe are exceptional beers produced by San Diego County breweries. Because I not only write about the beer industry, but am a part of it, there have been a handful of times when a Beer of the Week has come from a brewery I’m employed by. I understand the perceived conflict there, so I attempt to avoid that whenever possible, and am always sure to disclose my affiliation when doing so. But this week, the origin-story and humanitarian purpose behind my featured beer selection is such that I feel compelled to share both even though it’s manufactured by my employer, Societe Brewing Company. Allow me to go into detail. Each year, Societe holds a holiday food-drive. In its first year, this effort amassed just under 300 pounds of food. The addition of annual incentivizing ripples in the drive increased its effectiveness to the point where, last year, the brewery collected nearly 5,000 pounds of food. Happy but not yet satisfied, brewmaster Travis Smith and company devised a new plan for 2016, centered around the release of a new blended, wine barrel-aged, cranberry sour ale, Societe The Urchin. From now through December 31, this tart, fruity, tannic offering is available in 500-milliliter bottles for an admittedly exorbitant $50. Too rich for your blood? There’s a much more affordable and meaningful alternative. Simply bring in 50 pounds of food from the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank’s list of needed items (click here for that list) and you can get a bottle of The Urchin for just five dollars. The drive started on November 21 and, within four days, Societe had surpassed its 2015 total, delivering more than 5,000 pounds of edible sustenance to the Food Bank. As of today, total donations stand at 8,588 pounds. It’s a wonderful case of the goodness of local craft-beer flowing beyond the glass to make a positive difference for those in need in our community, and I’m happy to shine a light on it in hopes of maximizing that effort. Happy holidays!
From the Brewer: “The Feral beer program at Societe revolves around blending and, to a lesser extent, experimentation. The Urchin arose out of an experiment loading cranberry purée into one of our red-wine barrels. We liked the flavor enough that we decided to take the experiment to the next level by fruiting several more barrels, and the base to The Urchin was born. This first batch of The Urchin spent between 10 and 24 months in barrels before making it into this final delicious, festive Feral blend of fruit and funk. With cranberries being a favorite holiday flavor, and The Urchin being my favorite blend to come out of our barrel room so far, this is the perfect beer to go along with our annual Holiday Food Drive to incentivise the donation of needed items to the San Diego Food Bank.”—Travis Smith, Brewmaster, Societe Brewing Company
In 2014, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company reached out to breweries across the country to brew collaboration brews as part of a mammoth undertaking called Beer Camp Across America. That program saw a dozen collaboration beers (including one with local business Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits) nationally released in six-packs and multiple beer fests featuring hundreds of craft breweries held throughout the nation. It was such a tremendous success that the company is rolling out a second edition of Beer Camp Across America. This time around, the company has reached out to brewers in six beery regions of the United States. Not surprisingly, Southern California is one of them and, as one would expect, the prowess of not one, but several San Diego County breweries were solicited—Oceanside’s Bagby Beer Company, San Marcos’ Port Brewing Company / The Lost Abbey and Kearny Mesa’s Societe Brewing Company. That trio was teamed with Los Angeles County interests Beachwood BBQ and Brewing and Smog City Brewing Company to create a beer that will be offered in this year’s Beer Camp Across America 12-pack.
I make my living as a storyteller, but the opportunity to peel back the tent door and let the Beer Campers themselves share insights from this world-class collaboration is too rich to pass up. Read on for more about this prestigious project.
Tomme Arthur | Director of Brewery Operations, The Lost Abbey
It was a pleasant surprise when we were contacted last fall about this opportunity. Working with Sierra Nevada on this was a lot like having the Vatican call up and ask if we’d like to participate in Easter Mass. How could we say no? The Beer Camp Across America program was such an amazing accomplishment when they first launched it. I wasn’t sure it was ever going to make a comeback, so I was very pleased at the opportunity it presented us when we were solicited to be a part of this new set of beers. All of the contributors to our beer are brewers that I admire and consider to be some of the very best in this great region for brewing. I’ve known [Beachwood BBQ brewmaster] Julian Shrago for 10-plus years now and trust him completely to lead this band of miscreants. In terms of the actual working process with Sierra Nevada, the level of interaction and staffing that it takes to pull off a project like this is mind-numbing. For every email we receive detailing the process, I am certain there have been multiple meetings that needed to take place ensuring everything keeps running on schedule. These guys are the pro’s pros of doing big great things for brewers and it’s always a pleasure to be around passionate employees who believe in such a great project. I believe we have an exceptional beer in the works and everyone who tastes it should see what happens when some bitchin’ brewers put their thinking caps on and agree on a solution to a simple request: What kind of beer do you want to make?
Jeff Bagby | Owner & Brewmaster, Bagby Beer Company
The beer is an American-style stout. Getting together with such a great group has been awesome. We all brewed the original pilot batch at Beachwood. After we all had a chance to taste it, the recipe was just slightly tweaked before we all joined up to brew another pilot batch at Sierra Nevada in Chico, Calif. That was quite an experience. We will be able to taste that batch very soon, and the main batch will be brewed and packaged later this year so that it can be combined with the other five beers for the 12-pack release, which will include two bottles of each beer brewed for this project.
Douglas Constantiner | Brewery Curator & Brewer, Societe Brewing Company
The brew-day up at Sierra Nevada was incredible and, without a doubt, the highlight of my career. Julian, Bagby, Tomme, [Smog City brewmaster] Jonathan Porter, [Societe co-founder and brewmaster] Travis Smith and I decided to brew a stout for this collaboration rather than an IPA in order to showcase our diversity as brewers. San Diego and Southern California’s fame for hoppy IPAs can, unfortunately, overshadow other styles we love to brew and drink…like stouts. The five breweries representing our region have won medals for stouts, so we thought it would be suiting to show the country that there’s more to Southern California than IPAs. It’s hard to put into words what it was like to sit down at a table with brewing legends like Bagby, Tomme and Julian to discuss the direction, process and recipe of this beer. And then to have Sierra Nevada bring it to life is beyond imaginable.
Tomme Arthur | Director of Brewery Operations, Port Brewing Company / The Lost Abbey
All told, it continues to be exciting each time we get together as we approach the next benchmark which will be the actual brewing on the big system of the beer for the release. At that point, the heavy lifting will be done and the chance to sit back and enjoy the release will be imminent. There will be no sadness, only joy knowing we were part of this great thing called Beer Camp Across America 2016.
From the Beer Writer: There are many session India pale ales—IPAs coming in lower on the alcohol-by-volume scale than their typically 6-to-8% ABV forebears—on the market these days. And many leave a lot to be desired where depth of flavor is concerned. Some merely taste like hop-infused water, but Societe Brewing Co.’s The Coachman offers layers of flavor. That’s fitting considering one of those tiers is onion-like earthiness that shows up in the aroma along with foresty pine notes. The onion continues to the palate, marrying nicely with flavors of garlic, lemon and spruce. Despite being low in ABV, the beer doesn’t taste or feel watery, yet remains very refreshing. And since Societe has a large tribe of followers regularly draining its kegs, The Coachman isn’t allowed to degrade at the expedited pace of session IPAs. It’s one small beer for man, one giant leap for session IPA kind!
From the Brewer: “We make IPAs…lots of them. The Publican is like an IPA, only small. And The Coachman is also like an IPA, but really small. It is in the 4.5% ABV range, so you can drink a couple and still safely drive your coach home. In addition to malted barley, The Coachman contains a hefty load of malted wheat—about 40%–far more malted wheat by percentage than in any other beer we make. It’s intense, but not overly bitter. Hop character comes from Saaz, Simcoe and Mosaic. Some may consider it a ‘session IPA’ or a ‘session wheat IPA’, but in the scope of our lineup, it is our ‘really small IPA’.”—Travis Smith, Brewmaster, Societe Brewing Co.