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.
As 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.
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.
I’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.
One of the pleasures of the Craft Brewers Conference is sneaking away for a pint and Toronado is an easy bus ride away from The Town and Country.
I found Lagunitas Waldo, a deliciously hoppy Double IPA among plenty of other great beers.
Toronado seems to be the unofficial brewers hangout during CBC, if you’re into meeting the best of the best in the craft beer world, stop in for a pint in the next few days, chances are you’ll see some of your favorite brewers.
Rumor has it Lagunitas Waldo will show up at 4:20pm tomorrow (Friday) at Tiger!Tiger! also.
I say not quite San Diego brewed because Butcher’s Brewing is currently contract brewing their beers at other locations (including Irvine’s Bayhawk) while they are working towards opening their own brewery in Carlsbad.
Butcher’s Brewing is the brainchild of Rey Knight, formerly of Knight Salumi Co. I talked to Knight at Bottlecraft a few weeks ago for the Free Range IPA release and one thing that stood out was the fact that he wasn’t shy about the beer being contract brewed for now. In my opinion there’s nothing inherently wrong about contract brewed beers, it’s when companies try to hide the fact that their beer is contract brewed that bothers me. Knight told me where the beer was made (they use two different facilities) and told me about his plans to open their own brewery here in San Diego County.
Free Range IPA isn’t a perfect beer, but it’s a great start from such a young brewery. The 7% ABV beer is hoppy with that sweet tropical fruit smell and flavor of Nelon Sauvin hops. Free Range IPA also uses Summit hops, which some people perceive as smelling and tasting like garlic or onions, but I don’t get any of that from this beer. It’s hoppy, but not a total hop bomb, there’s a bit of toasty malt, not overly sweet but it’s there. I prefer a more dry, totally hop forward, hop bomb of an IPA, which this isn’t, but it’s not bad and isn’t a bad start.
Free Range IPA is worth trying, but it may be hard for them to compete in such a crowded market. I paid $8.59 for this 22oz bottle at Bine and Vine, which is around the same price (or even more expensive) than other tried and true IPAs and Double IPAs like Alpine’s Nelson, Ballast Point’s Sculpin or Port Brewing’s Mongo. (This problem of pricing isn’t unique to Butcher’s Brewing, it’s a problem many new breweries face). This is one style of beer where Butcher’s will have plenty of competition, but this isn’t a bad start. Free Range IPA might not be my favorite IPA, but I’ll certainly drink it again.
I don’t think I had ever had Palate Wrecker before this latest batch was released a few weeks ago – Palate Wrecker is now Green Flash’s Spring Seasonal available in 12oz four packs and 22oz bombers throughout Green Flash’s distribution area – the name always sort of turned me off. I know, don’t judge a book by it’s cover (a beer by it’s name?) but every time I saw Palate Wrecker on draft there were a few other beers I wanted to try also, beers that weren’t close to 10% ABV and didn’t imply that they would wreck my palate, so I opted for others instead.
Now that Palate Wrecker is available in bottles I figured I’d give it a shot. The first thing that caught my eye was the brewing process, from a press release Green Flash sent out announcing the beer’s release:
Chuck Silva came up with a new method to make intensely hoppy IPA by performing a double brew to make a single beer. First, there is a single infusion mash and subsequent boil at 65 IBU with Columbus and Centennial hops. Then a second, duplicate mash using the 65 IBU wort instead of water and another 65 IBU boil using the same hop schedule. The result is a higher gravity beer with kettle caramelizing in place of crystal malts, an elevated hop flavor and bitterness that could not be achieved in a single brew.
I don’t know of any other beers made like this, maybe they’re out there, but I’ve never heard of them. In the wrong hands a beer like this could turn out pretty bad, but Chuck Silva knows what he’s doing when it comes to stuff like this.
So the brewing process is cool, but how’s the beer? Not bad, but not really my thing. There are a lot of people that love this beer, like go crazy for it. I’m not a huge fan of sweeter Double IPAs, and while this one apparently doesn’t use crystal malt there’s plenty of carmelization from the double brew. I’ll drink it, but I probably won’t order a second pint when I’m done. It’s plenty bitter but I don’t pick up much hop flavor, the malty caramel like sweetness and bitterness dominate.
I picked up this single 12oz bottle at Bine and Vine for $3.29 (it’s a bit cheaper per bottle if you buy a four pack) and also available in 22oz bottles.
Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum doesn’t seem to get as much attention as some other seasonal beers that beer geeks go crazy over. Maybe it’s the fact that four packs of Hoptimum can be found pretty much anywhere that sells decent beer, and at a relatively reasonable (for a seasonal Double IPA) price of $10 for said four pack.
As the name implies, Hoptimum is hoppy, 100 IBU’s of whole cone hop goodness including some new Sierra Nevada proprietary hops as well a Simcoe, Citra, Chinook and German Magnum.
Just like you’d expect, it’s bitter, but it also has a great grapefruit and fruity hop flavor. Like many Double IPAs, Hoptimum is fairly sweet, but has the hop bitterness and flavor to balance those sweet malts out.
Hoptimum won’t be on shelves for long, so pick some up soon (and if you do manage to find a bottle a few months from now it’s best to avoid it, all the hoppy goodness will have probably faded).
San Diego Brewed is sponsored by Bottlecraft.
Bottlecraft is a retail shop and tasting room in Little Italy showcasing local, domestic and international craft beers. They offer hundreds of beers for your enjoyment in their onsite tasting room or to-go, as well as daily beer flights, events, glassware, merchandise, and gifts. Open Noon-10pm seven days a week. 2161 India Street, San Diego, CA 92101.
I’m not a huge Barleywine fan, but enjoy them enough and try to have one from time to time. Stone Brewing Co.’s Old Guardian is probably one of the first I ever had (it was either Old Guardian or Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot). I was a bit fan of the Belgo Old Guardian last year, so much so that I don’t think I had the regular version at all.
From what I can recall Stone tweaks the recipe of Old Guardian from time to time, this year is no exception. “For 2012, we made a deliberate effort to move away from the English hop influence of the past few years,” Brewmaster Mitch Steele said in a press release. “We took out the East Kent Golding hops and used a blend of American Chinook, Calypso and Cascade, which gave strong hints of grapefruit and pine to the aroma and flavor.”
First off, this is a beer that needs to warm up. Take the bottle out of the refrigerator and let it sit out longer than you think is necessary. Don’t guzzle it down while it’s too cold or you’ll miss much of the flavor.
At 11% ABV it’s boozy, and at 85 IBUs it’s hoppy, but there’s so much rich flavor from the malts that, while I wouldn’t call it balanced, it all comes together pretty well.
I often don’t think much about food pairings, but a beer like this I knew needed something that could compliment it well. I picked up some Stilton Blue Cheese (which just so happened to be on the recommended pairing list, thank you Dr Bill). The Stilton complimented the beer perfectly, the rich, creamy cheese coats your mouth and starts to prepare your taste buds for the intense flavor to come. The beer washes the cheese away as you drink, perfectly transitioning from rich creamy cheese to big hoppy, malty beer.
I don’t remember it well enough from year’s past, but I have to say I think the aggressive American hops might be a bit much for me. Though surely many fans of super aggressive West Coast IPAs will enjoy it.
Note: Stone provided this bottle free of charge as a press sample, but 22oz bottles are on the shelves at better beer shops where Stone is distributed (including Bottlecraft)