Societe Brewing Company The Butcher

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Butcher'd Tiramisu with The ButcherIt’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Societe Brewing Company. Ever since I met Travis [Smith] and Doug [Constantiner] I knew they’d be making great beer. I’ve slowly sampled my way through all of their available beers (well, except for the new Every Man’s IPA they released this week that is). They have a handful of IPAs — five now by my count, and another four more non-IPAs, three of which are Belgian style beers. I enjoy all of their beers, though I certainly have my favorites (I’m looking at you The Dandy) but it was The Butcher that I had been wanting to try for a while now, but it had alluded me until recently.

It’s been on tap quite a bit, I’ve had a few chances to try it, but The Butcher is a roughly 10% ABV Imperial Stout that I just couldn’t bring myself to order when it’s close to 90 degrees outside. But thankfully it was on the menu, paired with dessert, at The Grill at The Lodge at Torrey Pines beer dinner with Societe Brewing Company and Rough Draft Brewing Company. Dinner took place outside, not far from the coast so by the time dessert rolled around some fog was in the air and the temperature had dropped below 80, making The Butcher more desirable.

The beer was paired with Tiramisu, which had been soaked in The Butcher to add some beer flavor. The pairing wasn’t perfect in my opinion (though no one was complaining, me included). The dessert was sweet, I didn’t really get much flavor from the beer in the Tiramisu, which contrasted pretty drastically with the deliciously roasty beer.

And how big and roasty it is. With all the roastiness it’s reminiscent of coffee and dark chocolate. It’s full and rich but it’s 10% ABV doesn’t show.

With weather like this I’m not sure when I’ll choose to enjoy The Butcher again, but come cooler weather The Butcher will be hard to beat. And while I haven’t heard that they have any specific plans, I imagine some day they’ll put some of The Butcher in some sort of old spirits barrels and it will only get better with age.

Cigar City Brewing Cucumber Saison

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Cigar City Cucumber Saison with an Armenian cucumber in my garden

Cigar City Cucumber Saison with an Armenian cucumber in my garden

I’ve been slightly obsessed with cucumber’s lately, mostly the process of fermenting them into sour pickles. So I was pretty bummed when I heard about Cigar City Brewing’s Cucumber Saison. Not because I didn’t like the idea behind it, but because Cigar City isn’t distributed in California so I thought I’d never get to try it. Cue a backyard BBQ and a friend with a Rare Beer Club membership. So a big thanks to Ken for sharing this with me, otherwise I probably won’t have gotten a chance to try it.

I’m sure I’ve said this about other beers before, but this time it could just be the one: This seems like the perfect summer beer. Saisons are already great beers for long hot days, but the added cucumber here just makes it that much more refreshing. Sitting around drinking it the idea of aging came up. Maybe, just maybe Cigar City threw some bugs in, so that that what is now a bottle of fresh Cucumber Saison may start to develop some sour pickle-like flavors after a bit of aging.

Stone Brewing Co. Announces New 4-Packs

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Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous AleStone Brewing Co. this week announced that they would be releasing Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, their Black IPA previously limited to draft and 22oz bottles in 12oz 4-packs. They will also be transitioning Stone Ruination IPA and OAKED Arrogant Bastard from 12oz 6-packs to 12oz 4-packs.

It will be nice to have the 8.7% ABV Sublimely Self-Righteous available in 12oz bottles for those times you don’t want or need to drink an entire 22oz. And personally I think that removing two bottles and dropping the price a bit from Oaked Arrogant Bastard and Ruination should help with sticker shock as well a bit. Speaking of price, Stone tells me price per bottle for Ruination and Oaked Arrogant Bastard isn’t changing.

As you’ve probably noticed beer prices tend fluctuate from store to store, I’ve seen the 6-packs going for anywhere from $15 to as high as $16.50 which works out to $2.50-$2.75 per 12 ounce bottle. Keeping the price per bottle the same would equate to $10 or $11 4-packs, which sounds about right as Stone PR Specialist Sabrina LoPiccolo said in an email that they should retail for the same price as 6-packs of Stone Pale Ale, Stone IPA and Stone Levitation Ale, commonly between $10 and $11.

(As an aside, does this mean that if a particular store charges more for say Stone IPA 6-packs than they do for Levitation Al 6-packs they’re just making more profit on the IPA?)

Ruination and Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale will continue to be available 22oz bombers as well, but in my mind look much less attractive price-wise now. I don’t know that I’ve ever bought a 6-pack of Ruination, but I’ve picked up plenty of 22oz bottles of it over the years. But the 4-pack, at a lower cost per ounce and in smaller servings seems like a much better way to go. It’s far easier to drink two 12oz bottles than it is to only drink half a bomber depending on your mood.

4-packs for Sublimely Self-Righteous should be hitting shelves very soon (if not already) and the 6-packs of Ruination and Oaked AB will be coming out as current 6-pack inventory runs out. Which means if you’re still seeing 6-packs a few months from now you might want to take a good look at the date stamps on the bottles.

Alpine Beer Company/New Belgium Super India Pale Ale

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Super India Pale AleAs a San Diego hophead I recognize that Alpine Beer Co. makes some of the best IPA’s in the world. Despite how infrequently Alpine’s beers show up at local bars and bottle shops, we’re pretty damn spoiled with the fact that the brewery is a short 30 minute drive from San Diego, where we can buy bottles and fill growlers five days a week.

Alpine has extremely limited distribution outside of their own brewery and pub, I’ve heard there are a few shops in the LA area that occasionally get Alpine’s beer (legitimately from an actual distributor, there are many more shops around the state that buy beer at Alpine and then resell it, a process frowned upon by the brewery) but for the most part if you want to drink Alpine’s beers you have to be in San Diego (and maybe even drive up to Alpine). The fact that their beer is so good, and so hard to come by outside of our small corner of the country has caused quite a bit of demand amongst beer geeks out there. Demand that just cannot be filled by Alpine’s rather small brewery.

So when I learned that Alpine Beer Co.’s Pat and Shawn Mcilhenney were headed to Fort Collins to brew an Alpine style Double IPA in collaboration with New Belgium Brewing Company I was certainly excited for the beer itself, but recognized this might be a much bigger deal to those folks within New Belgium’s wide distribution area but outside of Southern California. A whole lot of people are about to be exposed to Alpine Beer Company, many probably for the first time. Thankfully Super India Pale Ale is superb beer and even though it wasn’t brewed in Alpine, CA it’s well deserving of having Alpine’s name attached to it.

I picked up a bottle of Super IPA at Bine and Vine (which I hadn’t been to in a month or so, I have to say it’s looking pretty nice in there) last night for $6.99, I think I saw them tweet that they’re now sold out but are expecting more next week. New Belgium brewed a lot of this beer, 1400 barrels according to one of Alpine’s past email newsletters, which they state is almost equal to Alpine Beer Co.’s entire annual production, but demand is expectantly high. It’s all over town, but may take a bit of searching to find, especially at some of the more popular beer spots.

Super IPA is everything you would expect from an Alpine IPA, big and hoppy. Without having drank the two side by side (so this may not be an accurate comparison) it reminded me a bit of a bigger version of Duet. Quite a bit of citrus and pine hop flavors supported by a malt backbone that doesn’t get in the way of the hops. It comes in at 9% ABV but it’s not overly sweet or too boozy. Super IPA is delicious, but I don’t know that it’s any better than other Alpine IPAs/Double IPAs (in fact my tastebuds are still loyal to Nelson). So while I hope to drink a few more of these while they’re around, once this one-off beer is gone I’ll go back to drinking Nelson, Duet and Pure Hoppiness and have no complaints. But for those beer drinkers that aren’t as lucky to be able to pick up beer’s from Alpine regularly, this is indeed a special treat.

And as a side note, I think this might be one of the coolest beer bottles I’ve ever bought. I don’t save too many bottles, but this one is a keeper.

Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA

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That Stone Brewing Co. decided to brew a stronger (10.8% ABV), hoppier (110 IBUs) version of their Stone Ruination IPA in honor of it’s tenth anniversary shouldn’t surprise anyone. Bigger isn’t always better in my opinion though, and while Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA certainly isn’t bad, now that I’ve tried it I’ll be reaching for the more subdued original Ruination next time that hop craving comes calling.

Note: Stone Brewing Co. provided this bottle of Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA as a promotional sample free of charge, but that in now way biased my opinion of it.

Societe Brewing Co. Grand Opening – June 30th, 2012

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Societe Brewing Co. Grand OpeningWhen Societe Brewing Co. opened last month with two beers on tap, The Harlot, a Belgian Pale Ale and The Apprentice, a Strong IPA they called it their soft opening. Since then they’re released a few more beers in their tasting room and kegs have started to get around town. At the end of the month, Saturday June 30th to be exact, they’ll be celebrating their Grand Opening at their Kearney Mesa brewery.

There will be two sessions of 150 people each. Tickets went on sale yesterday and the first session is already sold out. The $5 tickets include entry (no entry without a ticket, no tickets sold the day of) and your first beer. Subsequent beers will be available for purchase. There will be six beers on tap for the Grand Opening, three IPAs, two Belgians and one San Diego Gold. That last style has me curious.

I’ve had tastes of both The Harlot and The Apprentice, both of them are quality beers that I look forward to enjoying more of soon. Since they first opened Societe has released three more beers, The Pupil, a Citra and Nelson hopped IPA that I’ve heard many people compare to an Alpine IPA (let’s face it, Alpine is the gold standard when it comes to clean hop forward IPAs), The Widow, a Belgian Strong Ale and the so-new-I-haven’t-heard-anything-about-it (other than that it’s a 6.4% “San Diego IPA”) The Dandy.

With how fast tickets to the first session sold out I wouldn’t wait to buy tickets for the second session if you’re interested in going. Societe has said on Twitter that they may add a third session on another day if there is enough demand and the two Saturday sessions sell out.

Image: Societe Brewing Co.’s Instagram

Drake’s Brewing Alpha Session

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Drake's Brewing Alpha SessionI’ve been increasingly on the hunt for flavorful “session” beer lately, something I can drink a couple of and not feel it too much. Drake’s Brewing Alpha Session fits the bill pretty well. It’s 3.8% ABV, so by the time I finish this 22oz bomber ($5.99 at Bottlecraft) I won’t be feeling the booze too much. Ratebeer lists it at 75 IBU, which kind of surprises me, it’s hoppy, but I’d expect the IBUs to be lower along with the the alcohol.

Brian Jensen at Bottlecraft mentioned that he thought the aroma was better than the taste, which I have to agree with, though I don’t have many complaints about the flavor (nor did it sound like he did). This beer smells good. From the smell alone you’d have no idea that it’s such a low alcohol beer, you might think you’re in for a hoppy IPA or even a Double IPA. The taste is definitely hops, pine and grapefruit, but the body is (understandably) on the light side.

I’d drink this again no questions asked, but I think I’ll be on the lookout for slightly stronger Session IPAs. For their part, Drake’s doesn’t call this an IPA or even a Session IPA, they label it a NorCal Bitter– a nod to the low ABV English style Bitter but with their own West Coast touch.

San Diego Beer News Roundup

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Apologies for the lack of posts lately. Things have been busy outside of beer blogging.

The 2012 Craft Brewers Conference and World Beer Cup have come and gone. San Diego brewers didn’t do as well as two years ago at the WBC, but our local brewers still brought home a handful of awards. The full winners list can be seen here.

Earlier this week Green Flash Brewing Company posted a picture to their Facebook page of a bottle of West Coast IPA with a bottled on date. Until now it’s been hard to know for sure just how long that bottle of Green Flash beer had been sitting on a shelf, but once these new bottles with dates start getting out into stores it should be easy enough to tell exactly when the beer was bottled. I have to admit, the lack of bottle dates has kept me from buying Green Flash beers on more than one occasion (usually at larger stores, places like Trader Joes, where I don’t know how long the beer has been sitting around). I see more four packs of fresh West Coast IPA in my future.

For the last few weeks beers from Michigan’s Founders Brewing Company have been turning up at various bars, restaurants and even a few bottle shops around town. Founders hasn’t distributed in California in the past, and unfortunately this looks like it is only temporary. The beers started showing up around town during the CBC in early May, according to The Full Pint, Founders has a temporary 60 day license for distribution here, which will end next month after the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival. Some people have speculated that Founders could be using this time as a way to test the market, but so far there is no indication that Founders is looking to distribute here on a regular basis. So if you see anything from Founders on tap at your favorite bar in the next few weeks it might be a good idea to order a pint. The stand out for me has been the All Day IPA, a 42 IBU, 4.7% ABV session IPA that tastes much hoppier than the IBU’s let on.

A thread on the BeerAdvocate Forums last week pointed out that Stone Brewing Co. is looking into opening some sort of tasting room and retail store in Pasadena. The post links to a PDF at the City of Pasadena website regarding a public hearing for a conditional use permit. The notice describes the space as being 2,071 square feet including a 363 square foot outdoor patio which would have on-site tasting of beer and off-site (to go) sales. No word on exactly what this will be, but it sounds a lot like the Stone Company Store South Park and the in progress Stone Company Store Oceanside. The public hearing was held last week and it looks like the recommendation was to approve the permit.

Speaking of Stone Brewing Co., they have a number of special releases coming out in the next few months:

Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA will make it’s debut Sunday, June 10th with a special release party at Henry’s Pub downtown. It’s described as an amped up version of Stone Ruination IPA which clocks in at 10.8% ABV with extra dosings of Columbus and Centennial hops as well as Citra and Centennial for dry hoping. 22oz bottles should start hitting store shelves the next day.

Stone’s version of the second release of Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du BUFF was rebrewed in early May when Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione and Victory Brewing Company’s Bill Covaleski were in town and is set to be released Monday June 18th on draft and in 12oz bottles. I was a big fan of the original Stone brewed version released about two years ago, but recently picked up a bottle of the new release of the Dogfish Head version and was pretty disappointed. The herbs (the beer is brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) were way too over the top for my tastes. I typically like herb-y beers, but couldn’t finish a 12oz of this one. Here’s to hoping that I find the Stone version more palatable.

Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean and Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers are also being released in 12oz bottles on Monday June 18th. Stone has been brewing both of these as occasional draft only beers for a few years now, so it’s nice to see them make it into bottles. Stone says “It’s a one-time only bottled release, unless we decide to change our minds later.”

Last but not least, Ken Schmidt / Iron Fist / Stone Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout was brewed a few weeks ago and is expected to be released on draft and in 12oz bottles sometime in early July. Ken Schmidt was the top prize at the Stone March Madness Homebrew Competition which earned him the right to brew his beer at Stone as a collaboration with them and another brewer of his choice. If the name Ken Schmidt sounds familiar it’s because he was also the winner of the original Stone March Madness Homebrew Competition a few years ago, which brought us Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter

Siebel Institute of Technology Calibration Station of Off Flavors in Beer

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The Siebel Institute of Technology hosted an off flavors in beer calibration tasting at The Craft Brewers Conference Friday.

The tasting used Coors Light as the control and base beer and then spiked twelve samples with different common off flavors found in beer. These included: Acetaldehyde, Contamination (Diacetyl and Acetic acid), D.M.S., Isovaleric Acid, Spicy (cloves), Papery (oxidation), Diacetyl, Ethyl Acetate, Ethyl Hexanoate, Geraniol, Hefeweizen (Eugenol and Isoamyl Acetate), and Isoamyl acetate.

Participants were instructed to sample the control beer first (unspiked Coors Light) and then move on to the spiked samples. Attention should be paid to smell, taste and mouthfeel with each of the spiked samples. The levels for the spiked samples were fairly high to help the off flavors stand out more and make them more easily detected.

For my part I was easily able to smell and taste the off flavors in all but one of the spiked samples. It turns out I’m not very susceptible to D.M.S. sticking my nose in the glass for a good whiff and then tasting there was a very slight difference, a dry sort of bland taste, but it wasn’t easy for me to pick up on. I even resorted to getting a second glass with the control beer in it to smell and taste side by side but the two samples were almost (but not quite) identical to me. In a commercial beer where D.M.S. might show up in lower amounts without a control sample I don’t think I would be able to detect it.

As strictly a beer drinker that might not be such a bad thing, but as a homebrewer and someone that likes to critically evaluate beer it could be a problem. With this knowledge that it is hard for me to detect D.M.S. I can work on improving my ability to taste it through more sampling and analysis.

On the other end of the spectrum the Isovaleric Acid spiked sample was one of the worst thing I’ve ever tasted. The description of sweat socks and cheesy held true for both the smell and taste, it was repulsive. I’m happy to say I’ve never had a commercial beer contaminated this badly with Isovaleric Acid, and hope I never do.

This was my first time doing a comprehensive off flavor tasting and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in craft beer.

The Siebel Institute offers classes on off flavors as well as kits one can purchase to spike beers with off flavors on their own.

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