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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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Best Beer Futures: East (& West)

Apr 25

thunderhawk_csIn closing out my bi-annual preview of upcoming brewer-owned businesses showing the most potential, I’m focusing on the East County. Problem is, the list hasn’t changed since the last time I previewed the expansive east in September 2015. Back then, La Mesa’s long-delayed (and suddenly controversial) Depot Springs Beer Company, the future Santee headquarters of Karl Strauss Brewing Company and Lakeside’s first brewery-to-be Knox Corners Brewing Company appeared to have the best legs…and they still do. So, instead of rehashing those, I’m sharing three honorable-mentions from the west, since that is the region with the most exciting projects going on right now.

Barrel Rescue Brewing Company, Kearny Mesa: It’ll be really tiny with extremely sporadic releases of super-small-batch offerings, but with barrels “rescued” from becoming garden planters and plans for some very interesting beers, this figures to be a really cool operation. And big-time bonus points go to the owners for carrying the rescue theme through to local canines due to their mutual love of supporting adoption organizations focused on the preservation of at-risk dogs.

Thunderhawk Alements, Miramar: Sure, the sign outside the building slates its delivery date as…2015. Despite thinking that was a bit too wishful, this figures to be a quality addition to the local brewing scene that will play nicely with cross-street neighbors 2kids Brewing Company and Pacific Brewing Company. Having tried Thunderhawk’s coffee pale ale awhile back, I can attest to its standout character and hope the rest of their beers are in line with that tasty sneak-preview.

Fighter Town Brewing Company, Sorrento Valley: People don’t really talk a lot about La Jolla Brewing Company, the founders of which are behind this contract-brewing project. But there is a buzz around this work-in-progress facility, which could bring beers of notable brewing operations from other parts of the country—or other countries entirely. If the right folks sign a contract, this could turn into something really intriguing.

Past Promising Projects: East

2013: Nickel Beer Company (Julian; Grade—A; a variety of quality beers provides way more than pie and snow in SD’s getaway town)

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