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.

Yeah.
Manny O.
(The Younger)!

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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.

Cheers,
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.

Everyday:

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.

Monday:

Toronado
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.

Wednesday:

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.

Thursday

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.

Friday:

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.

Cheers,
Manny O.