San Diego Beer Week 2011 is underway and the first weekend is now coming to a close. I decided this year I needed to take things a little more slowly than I did last year (if I remember right I didn’t drink beer for about two weeks after SDBW 2010) so I missed a few things this first weekend (and surely will miss more events for the rest of SDBW) but here’s what I drank.

Golden Road Hefeweizen

Golden Road Hefeweizen

I started SDBW a night early at Tiger!Tiger! for their Golden Road showcase Thursday night. Golden Road is a new brewery in LA that opened just a couple of weeks ago. From what I hear they have no plans to start distributing outside of LA at this time, but decided to bring a few kegs down to Tiger!Tiger! for San Diego Beer Week. Co-founder Meg Gill (formerly of Speakeasy Ales and Lagers and Oskar Blues) and brewmaster Jon Carpenter (formerly of Dogfish Head) were on hand but I didn’t get a chance to speak with them.

They currently have three beers and brought all of them down. Hefeweizen is a nice flavorful hefeweizen that’s easy to drink and won’t knock you down after a couple of pints at 4.6% ABV. It’s a beer I wouldn’t hesitate to order again (especially on a hot day) but I’m not sure that it stands out when compared to other craft hefeweizen’s.

Point the Way IPA stands out for being full of flavor and on the lower side of the IPA ABV spectrum at 5.2%. The aroma was fantastic and while the flavor didn’t quite stand up to what I expected from the smell it was still good.

Burning Bush is a smoked IPA that was pretty interesting. The smoke was there but not overpowering. At 8% ABV it’s stronger than Point the Way IPA and much more malty. The hops are there, but don’t jump out nearly as much with the smoke and maltiness. And while it’s a very different beer, it reminded me a bit of Rumble (oak aged IPA) from Great Divide. The smoke really is very subtle, it’s there if you look for it but doesn’t overpower the rest of the beer.

Friday night I didn’t go out, opting to spend the night with the family sharing a couple bombers with my brother. We had the recent release of Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea along with Stone Brewing Co.’s 11.11.11 Vertical Epic. This might be my favorite batch of Victory at Sea to date. I don’t have any tasting notes from previous batches, but the coffee seems much more prominent in this batch. The vanilla is still there but it has a nice roastiness to it.

11.11.11 Vertical Epic is an amber colored Belgian-style ale brewed with chiles and cinnamon. I felt like there was a bit too much going on with it. The chile flavor is delicious, it’s right up front giving plenty of flavor without a ton of heat. It’s one of the most flavorful and not overwhelming chile beer’s I’ve had. After that though it seems to drop off a bit. I get some toffee like sweetness from the malt but I didn’t taste much from the Belgian yeast. The cinnamon came out at the end and I really didn’t like it. It wasn’t overwhelming but definitely there and was the last impression with each sip.

Saturday was the San Diego Brewer’s Guild Festival at Liberty Station. There’s a lot to be said about the festival itself, but I’ll leave that for another time. I had a number of beers, one or two I didn’t like at all, quite a few I thought were good and a couple I thought were great. Barrel Aged Tourmaline Trippel from Pacific Beach Ale House really stood out. I think they get passed over quite a bit because of their location but brewer Erik Jensen know’s what he’s doing and makes good beer. This was inoculated with Brett and aged in a previously used bourbon barrel for a few months.

Mary Jane IPA from Rock Bottom La Jolla also stood out. I didn’t get the ABV but I’d guess it’s in the 6-7% range. It was easy to drink with nice pine and tropical fruit flavors.

Green Flash’s 9th Anniversary IIIPA (not sure of the official name, one handwritten sign said Green Bullet but I don’t know if that’s the actual name) was also very good. It was big and hoppy with plenty of hop flavor along with the bitterness. Brewer Chuck Silva told me they used hop extracts in addition to the regular hop pellets. If you get a chance to try this I’d highly recommend it as it might not be around too long.

Later that night I went to Assembly, the vegan beer dinner I helped plan with LoveLikeBeer and Sea Rocket Bistro. The dinner went well with great beer from Jolly Pumpkin and delicious food from Chef Chad White. Fuego del Otono, La Parcela, Bam Biere, and Bam Noire were all served.

Bison Organic Chocolate Stout

Bison Organic Chocolate Stout and Barrel Aged Chocolate Stout

Sunday I stopped into Bottlecraft for the Bison Brewing event. They had Bison Organic Chocolate Stout and Barrel-aged Bison Chocolate Stout being served side by side. The barrel aged version was aged in Four Roses Bourbon barrels (and I was told but didn’t confirm it with the brewer) that they were second use barrels. It’s been a while since I’ve had the regular Chocolate Stout but I was reminded of how much I enjoy it.

The barrel aged version didn’t quite live up to my expectations, it was good but I think I enjoyed the regular version more. Gone was the subtle chocolate sweetness, replaced with a mellow bourbon flavor. At 6.1% ABV it’s lower in alcohol than many beers that are aged in bourbon barrels so it didn’t have the same mouthfeel that one might come to expect from barrel aged beers. Still good, but I’m plenty happy with the regular Chocolate Stout.

There’s still seven days left of San Diego Beer Week. If you’re looking for some things to do for the remainder check out these guides for my take on some of the best beer events and the best beer and food events.