Word to the Wise: Sour Ale Releases

Lost Abbey just put out their Red Poppy Ale to some very off-putting reviews. Many people reporting swampy and pond water like aromas. I was able to taste a bottle of the 2012 alongside the 2011 version, and while age certainly played a role with a beer that has been cellared for a year, the 2012 bottle was vile that even with conditioning, the swampy nose would be hard to overcome. The release date was pushed back to allow the bottles to condition, but if you look back enough, you’ll notice a common theme among sour ale releases in San Diego and resultant variations among vintages.

Alpine released Chez Monieux Belgian Kriek ale, and while it was on tap at the pub and tasting rather delicious, reviews out of the bottle have not been as flattering. The release for this beer was also delayed and pushed back to allow the bottles to further condition and develop more souring qualities. BeerAdvocate has a total of 61 reviews for this beer with an overall rating of 88, or “good”. Of the 61 reviews, 10 of them are of the newest 2012 vintage (16%) though, so time has not yet judged this recent batch in its infancy.

Lost Abbey had a similar thing with the 2010 batch of Cuvee de Tomme. The release was pushed back a few months and too was not up to the standard of other vintages. I’ve personally only had one tasting of the 2010 version, so I’d be ignorant to judge. Just reporting what I’ve heard.

This may or not be anything, but just a recent topic of conversation when I hosted a bottle share this past weekend. With sour ales costing so much money: $15 for the 375mL bottles of Lost Abbey, to $25 for 750mL at Alpine Beer Co., it is maybe best to dip your toe in and have a taste before jumping in and making a purchase rather than solely buying the beer on reputation or hype alone. Warning though: people will line up and buy this beer regardless, but that is just the crazy beer scene of today.

Manny O.
(The Younger)!


Book Review: Randy Mosher – Tasting Beer

This is my second book by Randy Mosher and they have been great in its wealth of information presented in an easy to follow narrative of beer history and culture. His first book, Radical Brewing, focused on the brewing history of beer from its incarnation all the way up to the stylized recipes for today’s modern beer styles. Tasting Beer shifts its focus as an “insiders guide to the worlds greatest drink”. Packed with a great deal of sensory evaluation, beer history, tasting profiles, and food pairing recommendations.

Randy Mosher does will in instructing the best fashion to drink beer from glass ware, serving temperature and pouring technique. There was a lot learned to serve the über correct beer. As the title of the book suggests, there is a lot of technical information to dissect individual flavors. Mosher instructs the cause and origin of individual nuances of beer both wanted and unintended. The book has instilled more confidence in my evaluation of beer as now I have some added vocabulary when it comes to identifying components in beer.

This book has been the greatest I’ve read when it comes to beer and food pairings. Each individual beer style is unique to food pairings that will both highlight or contrast competing flavors. My new pairing knowledge will certainly be fun in new found cuisine experiments.

Perhaps the only faults I find with this book are in its technical statistics of beer styles (gravity, ABV, color, IBU) as I found it overly simplified. For example when it comes to differentiating a Märzen and Vienna style lagers, they are completely identical when it comes to gravity, alcohol, attenuation, color, and bitterness. This only confuses me more if ever tasked with differentiation and explaining the two styles apart. While style guidelines are lengthy when it comes to writings such as the BJCP Guide Book, seen as the standard, this book just falls a bit short in truly evaluating beer as true to style with little to go off of.

Lastly American beer styles is the shortest and least detailed portion of the book. Seeing as Randy is from Chicago, I was wishing for a bit more. There are more typos as well, listing “Lost Coast/Pizza Port” as makers of American style wild ales. We all know it is Lost Abbey, not Lost Coast that is affiliated with Pizza Port. Another mistake is listing Lagunitas Brown Sugga (sic) in the double IPA category. Equally confusing is listing the same beer as an imperial brown ale (totally different style) on the same exact page. Perhaps it is American beer that I have the most familiarity with and can scrutinize more, but after finishing the book I couldn’t stop thinking about other missed contractions or errors when it comes to beer styles I know less of, like German lagers.

Overall, it is a good book, and the best when it comes to the tasting and evaluation portion of beers. There is a lot of historical information when it comes to the development of beer styles, but it did not really fit in with the theme of the book as a “beer experience guide”. Tasting Beer is an essential book to anyone looking to become a Cicerone, and highly recommend this book to anyone looking to appreciate and experience beer a little more.

The San Diego 6 Pack

With my brother driving up to Portland and Seattle, I thought of the beers he should bring down. While the pacific northwest is heavy in brewing tradition and skill, I really cannot think of many exciting beers I would have my brother bring back for me. There are many beer guides suggesting I visit this bottle shop and that bar, but to order and pick up what? That’s what is hard to figure out. Sure in Portland, there’s Deschutes, Widmer, and Rogue, but we already see great distribution down here. So I started looking, limiting myself to a total of six bottles and the research began.

Hopworks, Cascade, and Elysian came to the surface first, offering unique beer styles ranging from the fruity Elysian styles, to the sour barrel aged beers coming out of Cascade. I am not very knowledgeable about the beer scene up there, but I think I know a bit about San Diego. So here it is, my six pack (plus a little more) of the beers to pick up while in San Diego:

1. Anything Alpine (IPA’s preferably – Duet, Nelson, Pure Hoppiness)

Alpine is the leader in the west coast IPA beer styles with each offering that big citrus and fruity hop profile backed by a nice dry finish. Certainly not for the faint of heart or those who don’t care for bitter beers, but you’ll be missing San Diego’s best local brewery if you decide to pass this one up. This beer maybe a little harder to find, but call around, and stick to the bigger bottle shops around town. (I can think of maybe a dozen that carry Alpine, or just go and visit the brewery itself!) Should be able to find a 22oz for around $8

2. Alesmith Speedway Stout

Once ranked the best beer in the world, this Imperial Russian Stout clocks in at a boozy 12%. Split a bottle of this coffee packed beer with a few friends and be greeted a rich roasty stout experience. Year around availability, 750mL, around $12

3. Ballast Point Sculpin

One of the more sought after IPA’s coming out of San Diego, this beer keeps true to its west coast roots with hoppy notes of apricot and mango prevalent. This beer should be easy to find in both 6 packs and 22oz bottles ($14 for sixer, $9 22oz)

4. Anything Lost Abbey

These guys are the Belgian cousin of the award winning Pizza Port brewery and easy stand on their own producing fine Belgian style ales. The Lost Abbey has a wide range of styles that can fit your taste, whether you like something a bit light like Red Barn Ale, or something a bit bigger and intense like the Judgement Day Quadrupel Ale. They’re year around offerings are good, but their seasonals are a treat if you time your trip accordingly: Serpent Stout and Carnavale come to mind. Prices vary but expect anywhere from $8-$14

5. Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard Ale

Stone is the largest brewery in San Diego and has been around long enough to pioneer styles such as the American Strong Ale. It all started with the Arrogant Bastard Ale back in 1997, and while surely there are more sought after ales, Arrogant Bastard stands on its own being an in your face bitter assault backed by a sticky rich malt profile. Stone is distributed pretty well and chances are you can find this beer in your area, but I say go to the brewery, take a tour, and grab a table as the brewery is one of the nicest settings and to drink a beer. $4-$5 for 22oz, year around available. Also available in 6 packs.

6. Pizza Port Old Viscosity

“Not your dads 30 weight” motor oil sits in on the front of the label and this big Imperial Stout, partially aged in oak barrels is a rich treat. 20% of the beer is aged in oak which picks up some smoke, booze, and vanilla notes. A complex brew that is easy to find for $9 or less a 22oz.

That is it!

Here are some breweries and beers to seek out produced outside of San Diego that you should snag up:

Russian River: Pliny the Elder, its double IPA is most hyped but you’ll find its sours are world class. Note that the sours are a bit expensive at $15ish/375mL or 12 oz bottle.

Firestone Walker: good solid year around beers with some seasonals like Velvet Merlin which is a favorite of mine.

Green Flash Brewing: Maybe should have included them in my 6 pack, but get their Double Stout, Imperial IPA, or West Coast IPA.

The Bruery: Great Belgian inspired beers, they often experiment with spices and other adjuncts which put a new twist to established styles like using yams instead of pumpkin for its Autumn Maple.

Hope this will serve as a small guide if you are visiting San Diego and looking to take home some of the beer back with you.

Manuel O.

Craft Beer on a Budget

Here’s a list of deals I’ve found around town to grab a great beer at an even better price.


OB Noodle House
2218 Cable St, Ocean Beach

Happy Hour 3p-6p: 1/2 off all taps

11a-5p: $1 beer special

This Vietnamese place in OB specializes in Pho, but backed by an awesome beer list. $1 daily specials on beer is excellent ($4 pitchers?!) make this an easy spot to check out especially on a rainy day where some Pho hits the spot.


4026 30th St, North Park

$3 local pints (all day)

This special is really great if your trying out some local beer, as they are one of the only places to have Alpine on tap. Maybe the best beer bar in town, and with this special, makes it hard to miss.


KnB Wine Cellars
6380 Del Cerro Blvd, Del Cerro

$3 beer (all day)

This Wednesday deal makes it quite the popular hang out nearby SDSU. They heavily discount most of their beer offerings to just $3. You will find some premium beers discounted to $5, but you will find they are normally priced at $8 or higher. Great bottle shop attached as well with a wide selection on beer, wine, and liquor as high as the ceilings.


Local Habit
3827 5th Ave, Hillcrest

$2+ Progressive cask ($2 from 4:30-5:30) +$1 every hour after that to a max of $4

Local Habit is one of the newer bars to open up in San Diego, but they have made waves with their beer dinners and focus on locally sustainable food. This is a great deal for the after work beer, and just an excuse to get the weekend started a little early.


Blind Lady Ale House
3416 Adams Ave, University Heights

$2 cask (11a-2p)

Every week Blind Lady will tweet out their cask offering for friday. They open at 11am,and get there early as you will find the cask killed before 2pm. Recent beers have included Green Flash 30th Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Celebration, and Hangar 24 Pale Ale. Named in Draft Magazine’s 100 best beer bars, you will not be disappointed.

Karl Strauss Brewing
Multiple locations

$8 1/2 gallon growler fills

Karl Strauss puts out a growler “code” on their Twitter or Facebook to get any growler fill for just $8. Doing the math, it comes to just $2 a pint, and when you can get some good/strong beer like Off the Rails, or their Imperial Russian Stout, the deal is really worth it.

There are many more local deals around town, and I suggest to check out WestCoasterSD.com as well as KingofHappyHour.com for other great deals. You don’t have to sacrifice your wallet to enjoy great beer.

Manny O.

Alpine Beer Co Newsletter: To Bodly Brew Where No Brew Has Gone Before

Just a copy/paste of Alpine’s recent newsletter. News that Expo will no longer be released in growlers, possibly bottles as well. Chex Moneiux also set for a release… ready for it? tomorrow.

“Since it has been too long since I’ve disrupted your life and “made” you buy good beer, it’s now time to turn up the heat and really get you all shook up. We have four beers to tell you about and some changes on how we announce our releases.

On tap, right now, at the pub and brewery for pints, pitchers, and growler fills, are “Bad Boy,” “Odin’s Raven” and “O’Brien’s IPA.” All are fresh and really good, since we brewed them for the upcoming “World Beer Cup.” If you are new to our lineup, here are just the facts, ma’am. “Bad Boy” is our other double IPA weighing in at 9.25% abv and it uses hops that weren’t around when our original double IPA, “Pure Hoppiness,” came out. “Odin’s Raven” is an Imperial Chocolate Stout that’s 10% abv and chalked full of roasty, chocolatey goodness as we use real Hershey’s Chocolate in abundance in this fine brew. “O’Brien’s IPA” is our Gold Medal winning Strong Pale Ale in the World Beer Cup beer that’s sure to put a smile on the face of any hophead. “O’Brien’s IPA” is 6.2% abv dryhopped-like-an-IPA pale ale that’s balanced with a sweet malt backbone.

On Wednesday, February 29th, bottles of “Chez Monieux” will go on sale. Limits on bottles will be enforced to a maximum of 4 bottles per person per day. If we suspect you are a retailer buying for resale, you will be denied sale, period. Since I don’t get out much, going to Belgium and concentrating of “Belgian Kreik” as a style to perfect was a big deal. I put my entire brewing prowess to work on making this edition one for the ages. We used very tart Balaton Cherries to infuse this sour, tart elixir into a beer we’re very proud of. Chez Monieux” is 7% abv and comes in a 750 ml Belgian style bottle for $23.95 plus tax and crv.

You have seen your very last growler of “Exponential Hoppiness” ever to be dispensed. http://www.ebay.com/csc/i.html?_from=R40&_sacat=0&_nkw=exponential+hoppiness&LH_Complete=1&rt=nc

Since I previously stated if I ever saw a growler of “Exponential Hoppiness” for sale on ebay there would never be another growler sold again. Don’t blame me, but you can see who to blame on the above link. As for bottles of “Expo” on ebay, I’m seriously considering never bottling it again. This is not just a personal issue, it’s illegal. The fact that people drove down from LA to make a quick buck and denying the locals the chance to buy some is also just plain wrong.

So, you can see the timing of the releases listed above. The first two beers were released last week, the next comes out today and the last one comes out tomorrow. That is the most advanced notice you ever receive. Our little operation is focused on supplying the local market with fine beer. If you live in the area you can now get first crack at our releases before they can drive in from points unknown. That’s the best I can do for you, my loyal locals.

Pub Specials every Friday and Saturday night, after 5 pm. Guest beers include “Le Freak” from Green Flash Brewing and “The Pope” from Hollister Brewing in Goleta. Pub hours 11am –10pm weekdays and 11 am – 12 pm weekends, 12am – 9 pm Sunday, closed Mondays, all of them. Brewery hours Tuesday – Saturday 12 am – 6 pm. 619-445-2337 (BEER). Closed Sunday and Monday.”

Idea for Beer Releases: Release Components of Blended Beers

Thought of this idea with the recent Lost Abbey release of Track #2, the second release in its Box Set series set for monthly releases. While Track #1 was a new beer to begin with, Track #2 was a blend, and an interesting blend at that: 60% Bourbon Angels Share spiked with peaches, 20% Cuvee de Tomme, and 20% of Project X (Wild Fermentation Projection). I have not had two of these beers, the peach-infused Angels Share, and this Project X and it would have been nice to taste the individual components that went into these beers.

My suggestion then is for breweries to release in (super small amounts), the individual components that go into a blend. I’m thinking just 2 oz samples of each, and charge a little bit more on top of the beer purchase. For instance, Track #2, with 3 2oz samples of the individual components of the blend go for an additional $5. This could be an educational tool for the consumer as well, getting to taste the individual beers that went into the blend and gain a better appreciation for the brewmaster’s blending process.

Firestone Walker had done this exact concept with its 15th Anniversary release. A blend of multiple beers, Firestone Walker had put together “15 Deconstructed” an event in Los Angeles that offered every individual beer that went into the final blended anniversary beer.

The downside to this proposition is that it will lower the total yield for the final release. Especially so with these Track beers from Lost Abbey, which are super limited to release with, I am not sure if this concept is even conceivable. As a beer geek, I’d like to gain a better knowledge of the product I am enjoying, and with something like my proposition above, it would be a great opportunity to gain some knowledge in the trial and process that beer blending is.


-Manny O.

I’m going to head over to KnB Wine Cellars this evening. $3 beers!

Stone Winter Storm 2012

The new tradition of heading over to Stone Brewing Company before the Superbowl took its second anniversary for us beer geeks. We met up with a lot of our twitter friends: Cesar, Ken, Tony, Dante, and even got to meet Becker of @beckerink (sorry if I was awkward. It’s not you, its me). While it did take a while for the bartenders to get to us, the reward was well worth the wait. Ended up doing two flights of 4 beers (each 4oz) to split between my dad and I. Should have eaten before as didn’t purchase a beer below 8% ABV.


We started off the way of the stout and went with the Barrel Aged 12th Anniversary Bitter Oatmeal Stout, 2008 Barrel Aged Imperial Russian Stout, 2002 Imperial Russian Stout, and 15th Anniversary Double Dry “Hopped” with Espresso Beans. All were fantastic. I found the 2002 to be overly oxidized and well past its prime, the 15th was excellent with the roasty espresso really playing nicely with the hopped up Black IPA. 12th Anniversary Stout was nice, maybe I was expecting more, but well off, and the 2008 Barrel Aged Stout? Well maybe my favorite Stone beer that they make. Needless to say after these four, the buzz was coming.


Second flight went towards the strong ale/barley wine route: 2008 Old Guardian aged in Red Wine Barrels, 2006 Double Bastard aged in Brandy Barrels, Stonewall, and 8th Anniversary. Pictured below (one is missing), all these were pretty amazing. Liked the Double Bastard over the Old Guardian, but only by a tad. Stonewall, Stones’ strongest beer to date, is tasting pretty good right now, and I likely wouldn’t be holding onto it much longer if you happen to have it. The 8th Anniversary was a new one entirely for me, brewed by Lee Chase, and it has held up nicely for an Imperialized Mild (sounds like a weird style right?).


Our gracious friends had offered some samples out of bottles like Sawyers Triple and StoneWall, so we contributed with a 2007 Imperial Russian Stout. It blew most people away, and really tasting fabulous. Having had a 2008 version only a week prior, the 3-5 year range on these stouts is where I like them the most.


Dad got a pic with Stone Greg (he said he’s retiring the “Greg Face”) . My dad is not letting it die.


Some random people who wanted a pic. If you happen to be these people, let me know if you want the big uncompressed version


Would just like to thank Stone Brewing for putting on this awesome event. Great beer on a beautiful sunday afternoon, and with the awesome company of people who I’ve gotten to meet over twitter and this site.

Cheers to Stone and great friends!

-Manny O.

2012 Beer Trends

I know I may be a little late to the game on this one, but with over 90% of 2012 left, thought I’d share my thoughts/predictions for what this year has in store for craft beer.

Beer style on the up? Berliner Weisse. Very limited and with few breweries actually producing sour beer, I think that the style will receive more attention this year, especially in the summer months. Low in alcohol, (under 5%) it is light, refreshing, tart, and with fruit or syrup additions, it’ll gain more female appeal.

Breweries will take greater control and have differing methods of releasing highly limited and pricy beers. With Stone last year, releasing the first of its 500mL barrel aged beers to have a raffle benefiting charity, Stone was able to allow more people a shot at the beer, escape the mayhem of hundreds of beer geeks lining in front of the brewery, and also benefit a local charity. There will be differing methods, The Reserve Society put on The Bruery is also a different avenue by buying into an annual membership that gives you rights to exclusive beers and events. Flying Dog, out of Maryland recently adopted a similar membership idea with their Junto Society. More local, The Lost Abbey, took a drastic step in their release of their monthy “Track #’s” beers. By limiting beers to be an on-site consumption only and not allowing any distribution, Lost Abbey was able to eliminate any second hand beer market or trading. Whether it is raffle, exclusive memberships, or limiting beer to be draft or on-site consumption only, I think breweries will take greater control in releasing sought after beers.

Lastly, beer mixology? Hmm.. not buying it, but what I do think may be on the rise is beer mixing. Weird for sure, mixing two different styles of beers in hopes of incorporating both flavor inputs. Mix an oatmeal stout with a vanilla infused wheat beer? Vanilla chocolate stout sure does sound awesome and more or less, that’s the result when you can find combinations that will work. Beer mixing is not going to huge, but I can see a few restaurants/bars advertising certain beer only cocktails on their menu. 


Manny O. (the younger)

Airdales’ Closing and San Diego Craft Beer Market Saturation

The news this morning that Airdale Brewing Company has gone belly up and closing its’ doors has some people talking about the San Diego craft beer market and if we have hit a saturation point and if we are to see more breweries close shop.

Airdale Brewing, founded in 2008, ran its production up to an estimated 1,200 barrels in 2011 according to Peter Rowe of the Union Tribune. With a portfolio of seven different beers and being a mostly draught only company, “The Angry Panda” was its’ only bottled beer. Production levels for Airdale puts it about equal to Alpine, Lightning, and Manzanita Brewing. While these breweries are looking to expand and Lightning just having secured distribution through Stone, things looking to be going well for these three.

I do not know the story behind Airdales’ closing and can only speculate. According to Taphunter, an already 14 breweries are in planning or have opened up this year. What it means to the new comers to the market? I do not know, but to survive, it will have to be backed up by quality. San Diego is full of award winning breweries and it is a tough market to enter, but I do not think we have hit a saturation point. A bubble may be in the future, but as long as San Diego keeps being the leader in awesome beer, there will be room to grow.

More to come.


Manny O. (the younger)

Beer Review: Alpine Hoppy Birthday

Released 1/17/2012, reviewed on 1/19/12. 1/2 gallon growler picked up at the brewery.

Appearance: Super pale gold/yellow. Only a tad darker than your standard blonde/golden ale.  Head retention is great, but small to begin with.

Smell: Deep citrus: mango, pineapple, some apricot notes. Definitely hop forward.

Taste: Big dose of American and west coast style hops. Juice flavors rounded by a piney-like sharp finish. Finishes very dry, little to no malt backbone, only providing a slick and crisp flavor. Malt is of light biscuits.

Overall: Hoppy, crisp, dry, juicy. As an american pale ale, it hits all of its strides in being very light, crisp, and refreshing brew packed with serious hop flavor. Perfect session beer. A+. Get it while you can.


Manny O