Monday, June 23, 2014

Beer #1002-1090 / Day #158-169: Innovation and Aggravation

Part 1: Innovation
If you’re a hermit who just recently integrated yourself back into society, then you’re the only remaining person on the planet who is not aware San Diego County is Ground Zero for microbrewing (I refuse to call it “craft” anything).  Not only is it birthplace to many of the most respected and revered names in the beer scene, but it continues to lead the pack in trend-setting and innovation.  A couple weekends back, I picked a few breweries at random to visit, and I didn’t pick all obscure destinations either, which is what I’m prone to do.  It was Father’s Day, and as a proud Father, I treated myself to my own gift.

First stop was a new one for me: White Labs.  This company has been supplying yeast to the brewing community since the mid-90s.  Only in recent years did they start their own brewing program, and open it to the public.  Their tasting room is comfortable, and their list is impressive.  What makes White Labs so pioneering & unique is their flights:  Four samplers of four of the same beer, but each one is fermented with a different strain of yeast.  Tasting them all side by side, you understand how much impact each different yeast culture has on your beer.  I had the IPA flight, and all four were distinct.  Most notable was the WLP 4000 Vermont Double IPA Yeast, which I was told comes from a “famous Vermont brewer”.  Was I tasting the cousin of HEADY TOPPER?  It could be neither confirmed nor denied, but suspicions were well founded.  Also highly notable were the “Franken” brews, all containing a mixture of 96 combined yeast strains; Tastiest of all of them was the FRANKENSTOUT.  Proof that science can be both fun and tasty. Double props go to White Labs for handing out free growlers to all of the Dads who showed up on Father's Day!

Next stop:  Ballast Point, Old Grove Location. Mid-afternoon on Sunday and this joint was packed to the gills. It took some patience and creative jockeying to catch the eye of a server, but well worth the combat-tasting experience.  If you’re in SoCal, you can find Ballast Point anywhere.  If you’re a beer snob, you might consider it a bit of a “ho hum” choice, but I’m telling you the tasting room is a completely different beast worthy of being tamed.  20 taps, plus a cask or two.  In addition to the usual suspects, there’s a ton of experimentation resulting in new one-off brews, and oddball varieties of the tried & true beers.  Like the hoppy BLACK MARLIN PORTER WITH ROASTED PEANUTS AND COCOA NIBS ON CASK.  Or the CHIPOTLE BLACK MARLIN PORTER.  Or the WINTER SAN SALVADOR BLACK LAGER WITH OYSTERS.  Or the GRAPEFRUIT SCULPIN IPA.  I love breweries that constantly push the envelope, and despite their size, Ballast Point maintains that D.I.Y. grassroots vibe.  Not to mention their beer is consistently excellent across the board.

Next, a hop, skip, and jump over to AleSmith Brewing Company.  And I did indeed feel like hopping, skipping, and jumping for joy after finally visiting this mecca of brewing perfection.  They were pouring a few items exclusive to their tasting room, so I went for the 394 SAN DIEGO PALE ALE, the OLDE ALE MMXIV, BALTIC PORTER, and the SPEEDWAY STOUT WITH ETHIOPIAN SUPERNATURAL COFFEE.  All world class beers, and I love the continuing variations being introduced into the Speedway Stout.  I’m going to visit this place more often, and take advantage of these Local’s-only innovations.

It was finally time to make my way Northward towards home.  After making a bit of progress on the road, I went for one final pit stop at Pizza Port San Clemente. I’m a huge fan of this franchise.  Each Pizza Port location brews their own proprietary beers, and in my experience 95% of them are outstanding.  All styles, always something new, interesting, and sometimes challenging. 
The perfect capper to this day was coming home to incredible homemade gnocchi from my Wife.  She ended the day with her own brand of innovation.  Damn, now I wish every day was Father’s Day.

Part 2: Aggravation
Tuesday night is band practice night.  Often I’ll meet up with Matt Domino and Joe Denunzio prior to practice at a local dive bar, but occasionally we’ll hit a spot that actually carries beers I want to try.  The other week we chose Story Tavern in Burbank.  I’ve been there before, but it’s been a year or so.  Last time I had a flight of excellent Stone rarities at a Tap Takeover night.

Domino sporting the Tuesday shirt
This time I asked about ordering tasters of a few different beers.  The waitress checked with the management, and informed me they couldn’t sell me any tasters because of their Kinetic Brewing tap takeover. Even though half of their board was non-Kinetic brews, the rule still applied.
OK, I have no problem with an establishment who simply doesn’t sell samplers.  And I have no problem if there’s a special event, and they want you to buy a full pour on that night.  I get it.  But I was already aware of the Kinetic taps, and I was also aware that the official Kinetic Tap Takeover event took place on the Thursday before!  It was now Tuesday... five days later!  The actual event of a Tap Takeover is traditionally on one evening.  After that, sometimes there’s leftovers, as was the case here.  To add insult to injury, half of the fucking Kinetic beers on the board were crossed out because they ran out of them.  Not cool.  At all.  As for full pours, nothing on the board was under $8.
Don’t make an excuse that there’s a tap takeover when it’s five days after the fact and half of the goddamn featured beers aren’t even available.  I felt like I was being fleeced.  Regardless, we stuck around and had a few pints (or tulip glasses, depending on the beer).  In spite of my ruffled feathers, the Kinetic brews were outstanding, especially the KINETIC FUSION PORTER.  
Thumbs down to Story Tavern.
Thumbs up to Kinetic. 

The beering continues...

Sat 6/7 – A few flights at Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena, and a few pints in various spots around Downtown LA
1002 - PORT BREWING ANNIVERSARY ALE – Rich ‘n hoppy excellence.
Patiently dealing with my beering
1003 - GREAT DIVIDE BREWING HERCULES DOUBLE IPA – Hefty, caramelly, malty DIPA. Flex those pecs!
1004 - MOTHER EARTH BOOKOO IPA – Light, crisp, crunch hops, tastes like one of the many session IPAs out there, and that’s a good thing. Very tasty.
1005 - RITUAL BREWING EXTRA RED – Decent red, I think I got it too cold on tap. Last sip was the best when it started to warm up.
1006 - IRONFIRE BREWING NUHELL IPL – Loved this one, following in the sizeable footsteps of Bruery Humulus. From one of my new favorites straight outta Temecula.
1007 - THE BRUERY MISCHIEF – Their flagship Belgian style. Golden, refreshing goodness.
1008 - SANTAN BREWING MR. PINEAPPLE WHEAT – Different spin on wheat beer, not syrupy as I’d expect. Really tasty, wish I was on a beach in Maui sippin’ this.
1009 - VICTORY BREWING SUMMER LOVE – Mild lager, good mild hoppiness and hints of barley. Victory never disappoints.
Slater's 50/50: Great food & flight friendly
1010 - NINKASI DAWN OF THE RED – Hoppy red, with a slight acidic bite like pink grapefruit.
1011 - LADYFACE ALEHOUSE LA GRISETTE – Majorly lemony saison.
1012 – CHIMAY CINQ CENTS TRIPEL – Mild, golden, yeasty, floral esters. More comforting than Christopher Cross on a sailboat.
1013 – SPEAKEASY THE INFORMANT SAISON – Decent, tart saison, not incredible, but OK.
1014 - SMOG CITY BREWING SABER TOOTHED SQUIRREL AMBER – Very nice, rich, full bodied.
1015 - UNITED BREWERIES KINGFISHER PREMIUM LAGER – What I expected, maybe a little better. Lite lager that goes will with our incredible Indian food at Badmaash, downtown LA
1016 – OMMEGANG HENNEPIN FARMHOUSE SAISON – Citrusy farmhouse brew, it’s got the Yum Factor.
Sun 6/8 – Chillin’ at home
1017 - BAYHAWK ALES CHOCOLATE PORTER – Roasty & chocolatey, could have been more dense for my tastes, but still a good sipper.
1018 - THE LOST ABBEY GIFT OF THE MAGI BIERE DE GARDE – Cloudy amber beer with mild spice, faint hops, light carbonation.  Decent.
1019 - EEL RIVER BREWING IPA – Nondescript, but OK.
1020 - VICTORY BREWING STORM KING IMPERIAL STOUT – Awesome hop-packed stout.

Mon 6/9 - Home
1021 - EPIC BREWING BRAINLESS IPA – Yeasty and IPAey, best of both worlds
1022 - ROGUE ALES MOCHA PORTER – First Rogue brew I’ve had in many years, I’ve been avoiding them.  Pleasantly surprised that I actually like this one quite a bit.
1023 - ANDERSON VALLEY BROTHER DAVID'S TRIPLE ABBEY STYLE ALE – Trippin’ balls about this triple. Good one.

Tues 6/10 – A few at Story Tavern, Burbank and a couple at home
1024 - DOUBLE MOUNTAIN IRA – Heavy, hop forward red ale.  Awesome, best Double Mtn to date.
1025 - KINETIC BREWING RUSTED COFFEE AMBER ALE – Coffee overload, like I’m having my morning coffee with a shot of booze.
1026 - KINETIC BREWING FUSION PORTER – Best Kinetic brew yet, super roasty, rich, freakin’ delicious. Cheers to the high desert’s finest.
1027 - KINETIC BREWING IGNITION PALE ALE – Fookin’ great, citrusy, crushingly hoppy. Love it.
1028 - BRASSERIE DIEU DU CIEL SOLSTICE D'HIVER BARLEY WINE – Delicious barleywine, heavy on the caramel, perfect nitecap, comforting, should be served with vanilla gelato.
The Morrison: Who knew Glendale doesn't have to be lame?
Wed 6/11 – Starting at home, watching the Kings blow it at Beer Belly, nitecap at The Morrison
1029 - DOUBLE MOUNTAIN SACRE BLEU – That just sounds like a nasty double entendre, doesn’t it?  Double mount’n? Very Beavis & Butthead. Anyhow, this is a decent Belgian style double, amber, malty goodness.
1030 - CRAFTSMAN BREWING O' STOUT – Drinks more like a black lager, low carbonation, decent.
1031 - CRAFTSMAN BREWING SAISON – Excellent, rich, fruity farmhouse ale with a deep orange color.  It just looks satisfying.
1032 - CRAFTSMAN BREWING MAIBOCK – Real tasty, malty, wheaty, creamy ale. My Wife says it would go well with cookies.
1033 - THE LOST ABBEY CARNEVALE – Tart and wild, very good. I liked the Craftsman Saison much better though.
1035 - BELHAVEN BREWERY WEE HEAVY – Super sweet, rich, delicious, a liquefied powerhouse dessert in a glass
1036 - BELHAVEN BREWERY BELHAVEN BLACK – On nitro, excellent roasted malts, lighter mouthfeel, but full of flavor

Thurs 6/12 – Home
1037 – SAM ADAMS LONGSHOT GRATZER – Smells smoky, tastes like melted Popsicle in a used ashtray. Recipe is from the winner of a homebrew competition.  Gratzer is a traditional Polish smoke wheat beer.  There’s a joke in there somewhere…
1038 – UINTA BABA BLACK LAGER – Solid, roasty, easy drinking, and organic if you’re worried about such things.
1039 – GOOSE ISLAND ENDLESS IPA – Lite but sharp hop bite, very tasty session IPA, bottled 6 weeks ago, so still nice, fresh, and crunchy.
1040 – FIRESTONE WALKER VELVET MERLIN OATMEAL STOUT – Ol’ Reliable, a mighty brew that’s oaty and stouty, of course, but also very affordable. Firestone Walker is bringin’ high quality brew to The People!

Fri 6/13 – Opening a couple bottles with family, and a few late night samplers at Boneyard Bistro
1042 - CLOWN SHOES BROWN ANGEL – Hoppy imperial brown ale, even a honky like me knows how freakin’ bad ass it is
1043 - BRASSERIE CARACOLE SAXO – Super wheaty and crisp, decent golden ale
1044 - BROUWERIJ VERHAEGHE DUCHESSE DE BOURGOGNE – Tasty, both sweet and sour, I could marinate some pork in this & make Chinese food
1045 - SMUTTYNOSE FINESTKIND IPA – Aggressive hoppy IPA. Great stuff, Maynard.
1046 - SMUTTYNOSE ROBUST PORTER – Excellent, deep roasted malts. Maybe some mild hops lurking in there, too?

Sat 6/14 – Barely even starting in San Diego
1047 - BELL'S KALAMAZOO STOUT – So-so stout.
1048 - IRONFIRE BREWING SIX KILLER STOUT – Emphasis on “killer”, strong coffee and roasty cocoa. Great!
1049 - HUMBOLDT BREWING BLACK XANTUS – Barrel aged brilliance. Mouthfeel is smooth as silk, flavors are thick as a brick, absolute perfection.
1050 - ACOUSTIC ALES WESTBOUND AND DOWN BELGIAN QUAD – Thick and spicy Belgian Quad, two thumbs up.
1051 - ACOUSTIC ALES RUN FOR THE HILLS DIPA – Fuggin’ fantastic nuclear hop detonation.
1052 - BALLAST POINT CALICO AMBER ALE – Classic amber, rich and tasty.
Blackmail material.
1053 - CORONADO BREWING ISLANDER IPA – This is the semi-secret gem of West Coast IPAs, always a favorite, but never touted as the incredible IPA that it is. Not as easy to find as the Idiot IPA, but worth the extra legwork to track down.
1054 - BALLAST POINT BLACK MARLIN PORTER – A hop heavy porter that’s so damn good, it’s a revelation.
1055 - BRECKENRIDGE BREWERY OATMEAL STOUT – I was excited to find this Colorado brewery in California for the first time. That said, the stout itself is less than exciting. Decent, good cereally barley nose. Granted, after the excellent stouts I had earlier in the day, they’re a tough act to follow.

Sun 6/15 – San Diego contributes to the best Father’s Day ever
1056 - WHITE LABS FRANKEN STOUT – The “Franken” refers to a combination of 96 yeast strains used for fermentation. A beautiful freak of nature.
1057 - WHITE LABS TABBERER IPA WLP 001 CALIFORNIA ALE YEAST – Well balanced West Coast style IPA.
1058 - WHITE LABS TABBERER IPA WLP 090 SAN DIEGO SUPER YEAST – Citrusy with a creamy mouthfeel.
1059 - WHITE LABS TABBERER IPA WLP 4000 VERMONT DOUBLE IPA YEAST – Wheaty, clean, rural, yeast tastes like undercooked bread or cookie dough. The fella running the taps said they got this yeast strain from a “famous Vermont brewer”.  He would neither confirm nor deny that this is Alchemist yeast, but it seems likely. Is it the cousin of Heady Topper?  If he told you the answer, he would have to kill you?
1060 - WHITE LABS TABBERER IPA WLP 550 BELGIAN ALE YEAST – Heavy citrus nose and taste
1061 - WHITE LABS FRANKEN SMOKED MILD – Heavy fruit and a little bacon, not only Mild in style, but mildly smoked. Not a smoke bomb like Schlenkerla. Mellow and easy drinking.
1062 - WHITE LABS BIER DE GARDE WITH CHERRIES ON CASK – Very rural, cherries are subtle, hints of sour apple
1063 - WHITE LABS FRANKEN LAGER WITH MOSAIC – Clean, crisp, with a hint of pear
1064 - WHITE LABS FRANKEN LAGER WITH SORACHI ACE – Lemony and bready… again, all of these aforementioned “Franken” beers contain a combo of 96 yeast strains.
1065 - BALLAST POINT GRUNION PALE ALE – Crisp, solid, hoppy ale, heavy orange and kiwi.
1066 - BALLAST POINT WINTER SAN SALVADOR BLACK LAGER WITH OYSTERS – Killer spiced oyster black lager, maybe even some sage in there?
1067 - BALLAST POINT EVEN KEEL SESSION IPA – On par with all others in the recent wave of high-quality Session IPAs.
1068 - BALLAST POINT GRAPEFRUIT SCULPIN IPA – Wow, heavy acidic grapefruit overwhelms the hops. I could probably mix this in a margarita or a greyhound.
1069 - BALLAST POINT REEF RYE BROWN ALE – Rye forward and great.
1070 - BALLAST POINT CHIPOTLE BLACK MARLIN – A godsend. This already brilliant beer is taken to the next level with chipotle pepper; even superior to Habanero Sculpin in my book.
1071 - BALLAST POINT BLACK MARLIN WITH ROASTED PEANUTS AND COCOA NIBS ON CASK – Completely different beer than the Black Marlin above. The peanut flavor is overwhelming, I was expecting a PB & Chocolate bomb, but it’s mainly a peanut bomb. I don’t taste the Marlin hops, and the cocoa is extremely subtle.  Innovate and simultaneously weird.
1072 - ALESMITH BREWING 394 SAN DIEGO PALE ALE – Named for SD Padres local legend Tony Gwynn, in reference to the Hall Of Famers batting average, this drinks like a clean session IPA. Hop prominent, and delicious.
1073 - ALESMITH BREWING OLDE ALE MMXIV – Crazy sweet malts, almost a barley wine.
1074 - ALESMITH BREWING SPEEDWAY STOUT WITH ETHIOPIAN SUPERNATURAL COFFEE – Really smooth mouthfeel, rich and oily, mild espresso and cocoa presence. As superior as expected.
1075 - ALESMITH BREWING BALTIC PORTER – A bready and malty treat.
1076 - PIZZA PORT (SAN CLEMENTE) PIER RAT PORTER – A damn solid roasty Porter.
1077 - PIZZA PORT (SAN CLEMENTE) BLACK SEA BASS SCHWARTZBIER – On nitro, smooth but kinda watered down, one of the only Pizza Port brews I didn’t love.
1078 - PIZZA PORT (SAN CLEMENTE) DANGER ZONE DOUBLE IPA – Big time cannabis weed ale with those skunky hops… they should ditch their Chronic Ale, and replace it with this.
1079 - PIZZA PORT (SAN CLEMENTE) CITRA-R-RAMA -  Hoppy and light, a total yum fest.

Mon 6/16 – Home with the parents visiting from Chico
1080 – BLACK SHEEP BREWERY MONTY PYTHON’S HOLY GRAIL ALE – Tastes like a malty, melted Popsicle. In a word: Semprini.
1082 – SIERRA NEVADA BLINDFOLD BLACK IPA – If I’m going to be blindfolded, I think I need a “safe word”.  How about “Cacao”?  Anyhow, freakin’ great beer, powerful hop bite, love it. 
Even the sign has a bend.

Tues 6/17 – A couple at Whiskey Bend, a couple at home
1083 – SIERRA NEVADA NOONER SESSION IPA – Quite toothsome, as expected. I’ve been Nooned.
1084 – MICHELOB ULTRA – Shit beer sent through a time warp from 1986.
1085 – NEW BELGIUM FAT TIRE – Your best bet if it’s offered in a dive bar tap line-up.
1086 – GRAND TETON BREWING BITCH CREEK ESB EXTRA SPECIAL BROWN – Slight caramel malt and mildly bready. Yeah, you heard me, Biatch!

Wed 6/18 – Chillin’ at home with the family
1087 – SAM ADAMS ESCAPE ROUTE – Most Sam Adams make we wish I had an escape route. This one’s an OK kolsch, some light malts and lemony overtones (no, I didn’t say “notes”).
1088 – SIERRA NEVADA SNOW WIT WHITE IPA – Clever name, given the 7 experimental dwarf hops they used.  Awesome white IPA.
1089 – KNEE DEEP BREWING RYEDENTITY CRISIS – Not what I was expecting. Like a rye infused sour with a hint of handsoap.
1090 – GREEN FLASH DOUBLE STOUT – 5 years ago this was my favorite stout. I haven’t had it in a couple years, and it turns out this bad boy still holds its own. Deep licorice, chocolate, roasty tobacco.  I never hear anyone rave about this beer, and I have a feeling this is overlooked by the general populous in the beer community. Still awesome!
Party time.

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