Category Archives: Beer Events

California Love (Part 1)

Yeah, that’s how we’re starting this week.

I just got back from a vacation visiting my best friend in Los Angeles. Our trip just happened (I swear this is true) to coincide with Stone’s 18th Anniversary Party–my friend’s brother lives near Stone’s location in the Northern part of San Diego County, and we were thinking about going to see the brewery and its vaunted World Bistro and Gardens anyway, so we decided to just go for it.

Rather than simply open the Bistro and have a celebration of all things Stone and only Stone, the Anniversary Party is basically an all-day beer festival split into two sessions; one earlier in the afternoon and one later. Some sixty breweries were featured, with well over 100 beers available for sampling. Tickets weren’t exactly cheap ($45—and yes, I paid for them), but the price ensured a crowd of die-hard craft beer enthusiasts. The crowd was as big as you’d expect considering Stone’s popularity, but not so big that I had any difficulty getting around the San Marcos campus of California State University, where the Party was held. Also, I should compliment everyone involved in setting up and running the Anniversary Party; I can’t remember ever attending such a well-organized beer fest, completely lacking in the B.S. that usually makes me avoid beer fests.

Make no mistake, though: it was a big crowd, and some breweries attracted a lot of attention.

IMG_2061

This was the line to sample what The Bruery brought (their tent is the one straight ahead in the picture)

And the line for Russian River sampling was twice as long, but the pourers worked efficiently and lines progressed smoothly. Overall, very well done.

After the Anniversary Party on Saturday, we were treated to spots in a tour of the Stone brewery on Sunday, along with reservations at the Bistro (those I’ll thank Stone for). The brewery tour itself is…well, it’s a brewery tour—they’re all fairly similar:

“These are tanks!”

“These are tanks!”

 

"MOAR TANKS"

“MOAR TANKS”

“These are other tanks! And pipes!”

“These are other tanks! And pipes!”

This actually was pretty cool to see: these are the small tanks that make up Stone’s ‘pilot’ brewery, where they experiment with recipes to see what works and what doesn’t (I almost made a “rough drafts” joke here).

This actually was pretty cool to see: these are the small tanks that make up Stone’s ‘pilot’ brewery, where they experiment with recipes to see what works and what doesn’t (I almost made a “rough drafts” joke here).

I always enjoy brewery tours though, and at Stone I appreciated not only our knowledgeable and engaging tour guide, but the carefully selected samples poured for those on the tour immediately afterwards in the Stone Company Store. Not to mention the well-stocked refrigerator (note the presence of 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA, the new 18th Anniversary Golden Brown IPA, Enjoy By 9.20.14., sixers of Coffee Milk Stout, and not pictured are the bottles of Bastard In The Rye that I couldn’t stop myself from snagging one of):

"Buy ALL THE THINGS, Nick. DO IT."

“Buy ALL THE THINGS, Nick. DO IT.”

There were a couple noteworthy items during the tour: The first, on the heels of my last ArlNow.com column (about the issues California breweries are having with the state’s ongoing drought) was that Escondido—the North County area in San Diego where Stone is located—was under a boil alert the weekend we were there. Testing that Friday the 15th showed the presence of coliform bacteria, so the first thing we saw when parking at Stone on Sunday was a very large truck outside pumping clean water in. By Monday the 18th, the alert had been lifted for all but around 60 of the reported 6,300 water customers in Escondido. While this issue in Escondido wasn’t drought-related, it was interesting to see how an operation their size had to scramble to handle a temporary water emergency.

The other thing that came up on our tour was the news, released the day before the Anniversary Party, that Stone has narrowed the potential locations for its East Coast brewery to three finalist cities: Richmond, Norfolk, and…Columbus, Ohio? Ok, then—I’m still rooting for Virginia to get the nod (and rumors are flying about large spaces in both Virginia cities that could potentially work for Stone), and it sounds like we won’t have to wait much longer to find out for sure.

 

The Bistro

The Bistro

The Bistro is everything you’ve heard about it: a bit pricey but the food is delicious, with carefully chosen ingredients prepared very well. The draft and bottle beer lists are exceptional, featuring more than a few Bistro exclusives by Stone, along with cool unexpected Belgian selections and brews from Evil Twin and Mikkeller. My advice if you’re visiting? Grab a snack and a couple pints and enjoy a walk around the lovely outdoor area; I can imagine that as a really nice way to spend an afternoon.

Getting back to the Stone 18th Anniversary Party, here are some highlights from the beers I tasted there:

Stone Brewing Company stuff: Of course, there were a lot of Stone beers at the Party. I started the day with their 18th Anniversary Ale, which is just arriving in Virginia this week. A ‘Golden Brown IPA’, the malts make a nice counterpoint to the all El Dorado-hopped IPA. I’m partial to El Dorado right now; it always brings a nice, minty feel of freshness and a restrained amount of the citrusy/piney hop character that can be overdone in too many beers. Something I didn’t expect to see was Enjoy By 9.20.14., but it’s always appreciated. This batch won’t be hitting Virginia or DC, but if you need your fix it is available in Maryland. One I’d never heard of was Tiger Cub, a Saison in this case aged in white wine barrels with sour cherries. As you’d expect, opinions varied but I thought it was lovely. The new Coffee Milk Stout was great; not too strong, not overtly sweet, and if the six-packs ever get out here I’ll be stocking up on it for sure. My wife didn’t like the recently released W00tstout 2.0 as much as last year’s, but I found it to be just as punchy, rich, and enjoyable as before.

4 Hands Prussia Passion Fruit: I’d heard next to nothing about St. Louis’ 4 Hands Brewing before going to San Diego, but now I’m obsessed and it’s solely because of this Berlinerweisse with passion fruit added to it. It’s 3.5% ABV, tart as all get out, and the passion fruit just worked so well in the style. I must have it.

Russian River Compunction: Sure, most folks were waiting in the absurd Russian River line for Pliny The Elder, but many of us were intrigued by Compunction, a Sour Ale of theirs that I personally wasn’t familiar with at all. Turns out to be a Sour Blonde with pluots (a plum/apricot hybrid). I was looking for more fruit character, but Compunction does not disappoint—it’s a Russian River Sour, after all.

Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin: Sculpin is about as perfectly-made as West Coast IPAs get; this variant with grapefruit added is just a little more perfect. If we don’t get bottles (or cans? Please?) of this in Virginia it’ll be a travesty. Ok, that’s a bit strong, but I really would like to have some to sell. In the meantime, I’ve heard of bottles popping up in DC, so keep an eye out.

The Lost Abbey Fuzzy Angel’s Share: I’ve only had Angel’s Share once or twice, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to, but this was wonderful. This version of Angel’s Share was made especially for the 18th Anniversary Party, adding black tea and stone fruit to the 12.5% ABV Brandy-barrel Strong Ale. Heady (especially as it was my last beer of the party), but so complex and just packed with flavor.

Modern Times Black House: Tasty Oatmeal Stout, under 6% ABV, in a can? Yes, please. Clean, smooth on the palate, delightful beer.

Beechwood Alpha Master Pale Ale: “Simcoe, Centennial, and Columbus hops in the kettle. It’s then generously dry hopped for two weeks with Simcoe and Centennial…” yeah yeah yeah, I know, another over-hopped West Coast beer–but wait. This is a 5.6% ABV Pale Ale, clocking in at 80 IBU but not enamel-shredding by nature. The kind of beer I wish more West Coast breweries aimed to make (more on that in a couple weeks).

Port Brewing ChronicAle: This wasn’t at the Anniversary Party (at least I didn’t see it there), but I picked this up the night we landed in L.A. during a BevMo run. ChronicAle, in its canned form, is a 4.9% ABV hoppy Amber Ale that can function as a hoppy Session Beer. The malt works really well here, shouldering the burden of the hops to carry the beer, and adding to the ‘Sessionable’ feel. The best part? ChronicAle comes in six-packs of tallboys, and cost $9.99 at BevMo. This was the first moment I thought to myself “Nick, have we landed in The Promised Land? Yes, Other Nick, we sure have.”

More travelogue next week, along with an awesome visit to The Bruery. See you then!

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Substitution for Friday Night Tasting

Unfortunately, the Ayinger Oktoberfest didn’t show up today, but the new Unibroue Quatre Centieme did, so we’ll be trying that out tonight.

Beermonger

Local Kicks Column, Weekend Preview….and The Beermonger Mini-Review: Stone Vertical Epic 8.8.08

Hey Hey,

Local Kicks Column here. Kind of past-due now that I’ve had a chance to try this year’s Vertical, but oh well.

Friday Tasting at Rick’s Wine & Gourmet:

-Victory Festbier

-Paulaner Oktoberfest

-Ayinger Oktoberfest

-Just for the hell of it, I’m tasting out Allagash Four. I’m very curious to try it, and it’s my beer department so that’s what we’re going to do.

Saturday Beer Tasting at Rick’s Wine & Gourmet:

-Allagash Fluxus. Tried this tonight. Very cool beer. Ginger is very much the big flavor here, and it drinks so much bigger than the average Belgian White. This is the beer for your friends who give you shit for drinking White Rascal or Southampton Double White. You show ’em.

-Lagunitas We’re Only In It For The Money. Surprise! The boys in Petaluma weren’t going to send this one out (didn’t want to deal with the state’s label approval bullshit—understandable) but apparently changed their foggy little blessed minds. I’ve heard it’s a Belgian-style Tripel.

-Stone Vertical Epic 8.8.08 (More info below)

-Rogue Brewers Ale 2008. Bigass ceramic bottle. Bigass amber hoppy beer. What else do you need to know?

-Weyerbacher XIII. Trying this out tomorrow. Sounds like an absolute monster. A 13.6% ABV Belgian-style (notice a pattern here?) Stout. I’ll be bringing some serious beer food to handle this beast.

So, Vertical Epic…Always a highlight of the Beer Year for me (it’s like Advent, except not). The ’08 version is a Belgian IPA, and boy is it. It really is San Diego by way of Ghent. I’ll give a shout out to thebeersnob who mentioned mango and banana notes in it. Those are there—the yeasts are very specific in flavor and are huge even for the style. The story here is the hoppiness, which is a ballsy lupulin smack that I don’t think the Belgians have quite nailed yet. Even the biggest of the Belgian IPA’s are finesse; nothing too crazy, hoppy but never leaving your mouth slightly numb. This isn’t a Belgian IPA, per se: It’s an IPA-Tripel.

I think the fruity flavors are great in the beer, though it will be interesting to see how it develops over time. I think in about 8-12 months this is going to be a shockingly refreshing Belgian Strong Pale Ale. Almost like some of the De Dolle stuff, but more exaggerated.

Overall, 8.8.08 is kick-ass. Impressive in all kinds of new ways, as the guys at Stone (who don’t spend a lot of focus on Belgian-style ales, thought that seems to be changing) keep upping their game. Good on ya, gargoyle. See you Saturday if you can make it out.

Beermonger

Weekend Tastings & the Youtube Clip of the Week!

This week’s clip features my favorite U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team member, Alicia Sacramone. Yes, I’ve logged some time with the Games this week…Anyway, here she is knocking a douchebag out.

Excellent.

So, Friday night it’s gonna be Oktoberfests and Pumpkin Ales:

-Brooklyn Oktoberfest

-Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale

-Southern Tier Pumpking

Also, we’ll be trying the excellent Abita Pecan Harvest Ale. Weihenstephaner Fest Bier and Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest just arrived, so they might get cracked open as well.

Saturday I’ll have Devin from Dogfish Head in. We’re in between special releases, so I might bring some goodies from home to taste. At this point the table’s looking like:

-60, 90 and120 Minute IPA (120 batch bottled July 7th)

-India Brown Ale

-Festina Peche

-Midas Touch

-Black & Blue

And whatever else I can scrounge up. It’ll be a good time as always. See you this weekend at Rick’s!

Beermonger

p.s. I’ve caught Olympic fever. One thing is seriously bothering me, though: The commercials for ‘Knight Rider—The Series’. Really? As opposed to, ‘Kight Rider—The Musical’? Actually, I might get into that. Only if Drunk Hasselhof plays the lead again, though.

Seriously, this looks like it’s going to suck. Hard.

Tasting Lineup Change and a Surprise…

Heads up,

Redhook Sunrye is out of stock, so we’ll be tasting out the Redhook Autumn Ale instead.

The surprise is that I’m getting a case of Southern Tier Pumpking for the weekend. I’ll likely be featuring it next Friday, so if you can’t make it out this weekend no worries.

Beermonger

Friday Tastings for August

Hey,

As I receive more and more Fall-themed beers (Octoberfests, Pumpkin Ales and Autumn Ales), I find I have no room on the Saturday tastings for them. So, every Friday night throughout August, I’ll be tasting the lastest arrivals from 5-8PM. This week:

Hofbrau Oktoberfest

Spaten Oktoberfest

Clipper City Balto Marzhon

Lancaster Octoberfest

Expecting Brooklyn Octoberfest and Post Road Pumpkin next week. We’ll see what else happens…

Beermonger

Oops…

Ok, so apparently I waited a little too long to submit this week’s column and I missed the deadline. Oh well, it is what it is (that’s for my fiance, who has recently taken to constant vocal disdain of that phrase). But Local Kicks‘ loss is your gain, as you all get a (very) revised and uncensored version of this week’s column.
Without further ado…


The Beermonger: Mahalo, M&*%#*f*$&@^!!!

So it’s August and yet again I think about the beach. I think about vacations and relaxing and all those things that other people do. August is my most cynical month of the year: It’s been seven years since my last legitimate vacation. Seven years of hauling ass to try to pass for ‘getting by’ in Dick Cheney’s America. August is when I feel it the most. August is the last chance for escape. But with a full schedule of events and beers, there’s no hope for me yet again this year. From September on I won’t really have time to think too much about being tired or wanting a break as it’s practically a dead sprint through the holidays for those of us in retail. It’ll be one arrival or festival or tasting after another until one day I’ll wake up and it’s January 1st and I have inventory to count while massively hungover. Amid all of this daydreaming and envy comes the recent arrival of beers from Hawaii’s Kona Brewing Company.

Hawaii. Land of Spam and honey. A wild Technicolor-shirted endless summer surf dream where it’s sunny and beautiful everyday. Poi. Polynesian/Asian/American foods smashing into each other creating fascinating new flavors and dishes not to be found anywhere else in nature. Slack Key lap steel laid back wonder. Hawaiian chicks…

Aloha means Im single...

"Aloha" means "I'm single"...

So yeah, I’m stuck in the middle of the swamp that is the Mid-Atlantic wishing against wishes that I could get away and what shows up? Hawaiian beer. Someone up there is pissing on me. I figured I should try the beers, at least. Glad I did.

Kona was founded on the big island in 1994 by the father and son team of Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa. Their beers reflect where they’re from. They’re easy yet complex, expressing that aura of beach life that is the rush of everything important and massive in the universe being condensed into the simple chant of tides and the breeze.

Longboard Lager is smooth and refreshing—great for us as we enter the dog days of summer. It has a nice hoppiness that gives it a crispy edge. Longboard is a great beer for hanging outside or for a lawn work break. I could see it on a newspaper-covered table as my family works its way through a bushel of crabs or three. If every lager were as fine and round and clean as this one, what a world this would be. Think of all the clean feel of an Oberon or Hop Sun with the flavor of the freshest Lager you ever pulled from your dad’s cooler when he wasn’t looking.

Fire Rock Pale Ale is a “Hawaiian-style” Pale Ale that has a slightly copper color as a result of its malt addition. On top of that it has a forward but balanced hop character that satisfies the hophead without being too much for the average drinker. I’d rate the hoppiness somewhere between Sierra Nevada Pale and the new recipe Lagunitas Dogtown. In the same way that Clipper City’s Loose Cannon is a perfectly balanced IPA (even though it’s not called an IPA), Fire Rock is a perfectly balanced Pale Ale.

The beer I’ve found most interesting so far is Wailua Wheat Ale. Named for a waterfall on Maui, Wailua is a bright wheat beer that is brewed with passion fruit, giving it a slightly bitter but sweet flavor that is absolutely perfect for the summer. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Wailua Wheat; I’m pretty familiar with passion fruit and know that it’s an intense flavor that can easily be overwhelming. But the wheat seems to round out the passion fruit without the brewers having to add a cloying amount of sugar to make it work. This is the more obvious comparison to beers like Oberon, but the fruit takes it someplace else. It’s very clever and very well done.

Redhook Brewery representative Stacey Huffman will be joining me at Rick’s Wine & Gourmet this Saturday, August 9th from 12-5PM to help me introduce the Kona beers and show off Redhook’s Sunrye summer seasonal (which I haven’t tried yet but I’m a sucker for rye beers, so…). Then again, maybe you’re out of town, enjoying the summer, pool or beachside sucking down some kind of iced cocktail without a care in the world. In which case, go fuck yourself. I kid, I kid—enjoy. really.

If you’re in town, however, swing by and try some of these great Hawaiian brews with me. We’ll bitch and gripe and moan about how we all deserve a month-long vacation every year and rail against the upper class for the sport of it. Then again, I work about 10 minutes from Old Town, so maybe I’ll put a cork in the workers’ revolution. Either way, come by and check these beers out—it won’t be white sands and blue waters, but it’ll be fun anyway. Until next time.

Beermonger

p.s. This is very much the ‘Director’s Cut’ version of the column I’d originally written. This would never get published on Local Kicks. I have to admit, I had a lot more fun with this.