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.
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.
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 try to do most of my beer shopping at small, locally owned shops; places like Bottlecraft, Bine and Vine, Olive Tree Market and (though I don’t stop in nearly enough because the location isn’t very convenient for me) Best Damn Beer Shop. Places where I can be fairly confident that the beer turns over with some regularity and isn’t sitting around on the shelves for months at a time. But every once in a while I find myself near a BevMo and decide to stop in to see what they have.
Yesterday I was near BevMo in La Mesa and went in to check out the selection. While browsing the beer aisles I came across Widmer Brothers Nelson Imperial IPA, a beer I’ve heard good things about but have never had. A four pack of 12oz bottles was around $8 and the 22oz bombers were selling for around $4.50. I decided to get the 22oz, picked one up and kept browsing. When I was nearly done and about to pay I l looked at the label again and noticed the date code on the bottle. This beer had been bottled in August of 2011 and had been presumably sitting out on the warm shelves of BevMo ever since. Widmer Brothers describes Nelson Imperial IPA as having “a powerful hoppy character” but at 7+ months of sitting around on warm shelves I decided to skip it. I checked the four pack, which showed those beers had been bottled in February which seemed much more reasonable, though not being refrigerated wasn’t doing the beer any favors.
Though there are exceptions, most beer should be consumed as fresh as possible, especially IPAs and other hoppy beers. Sitting around for a few months shouldn’t ruin a beer, but the taste will start to drop off over time. Being stored cool and at a constant temperature helps maintain freshness.
I’m sure the Nelson Imperial IPA was still drinkable, though I’d be willing to bet it wouldn’t have nearly as much of that “powerful hoppy character” Widmer Brothers boasts, the hops would have faded and it would be much more malty and sweet. It certainly wouldn’t be dangerous to drink and shouldn’t be considered “expired”. But chances are had I drank it without knowing how old it was, my perception of Nelson Imperial IPA and Widmer Brothers IPAs in general would go down, causing me to avoid the products in the future.
Not all breweries put dates on their bottles, but for those that do it’s a good idea to check out how old a beer is before you buy it, especially if you’re shopping at stores that might not take such good care of their beer. The breweries that do date their bottles often use different formats, this site can be pretty helpful in find and decoding what a date on a given bottle means.
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.
South Bay Drugs has reopened as Bine and Vine Bottle Shop at 3334 Adams Ave in Normal Heights. Until they closed early last year, South Bay Drugs was one of the most beloved craft beer shops in all of San Diego despite their inconvenient-for-most-people location just a few miles north of the border in Imperial Beach.
Unlike South Bay Drugs, Bine and Vine doesn’t have a pharmacy attached and instead is instead nearly 100 percent focused on quality beverages: craft beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages, like gourmet soda’s and tea.
They’ve been open a few months now, fixing things up and getting the shop setup just they way they want it and just recently officially announced the name of the new shop and started telling all of South Bay Drugs old customers where the new location is.
The prices are fair, they’ve got plenty of cold storage and Geoi the owner is a cool guy that knows beer. And if you have out of state friends that are always hounding you to ship them beer, send them to Bine and Vine’s website, they ship to over 30 states.
3/10/12 See update with info from Arsalun Tafazoli at bottom of post.
I have no idea if this pint glass, adorned with the Neighborhood name and logo along with the Stone Brewing Co. name and gargoyle is a commentary by Neighborhood aimed at Sid Mikhail of Best Damn Beer Shop. If you know Sid you’ve probably been greeted by him with “Hey bro” at least once, it’s something he’s fairly well known for in the local beer community. I’ve had multiple people bring it up with me when talking about Best Damn Beer Shop. Granted some people don’t like it, some people find it a little odd, others just understand it’s the way the guy talks and don’t mind it (myself included).
Neighborhood recently had a fairly public dispute with Best Damn Beer Shop when they announced plans to open a tasting room and off-premise bottle shop near their current bar/restaurant at 8th and G St Downtown (which happens to be just a few blocks from Best Damn Beer Shop). You can read more about that here (and be sure to read the comments).
An email to Arsalun Tafazoli, owner of Neighborhood, asking about the glasses and if they are a commentary about Sid Mikhail was not returned. Neighborhood’s publicist who sent me the image of the glass and info about the night had this to say about it: “It’s just a Neighborhood saying that means just that. A quote from Arsalun I believe.”
I’m perfectly willing to admit that there’s a chance that this has nothing to do with Sid and Best Damn Beer Shop, if that is the case it is a most unfortunate coincidence. Previously Arsalun Tafazoli said his opening a bottle shop wasn’t about competition but rather about building community in craft beer. If that’s really what he’s after this certainly isn’t the way to do it. Arsalun is a smart guy, and pretty on top of things, it’s hard for me to imagine that even if it weren’t his intention he wouldn’t know that some people might see this as a comment about Sid at Best Damn Beer Shop given what’s gone on between the two businesses recently.
And just why is the glass co-branded with Stone Brewing Co.? The glasses will be given away Tuesday night (March 13th) with the purchase of any Stone Brewing Co. beer at Neighborhood, when they’ll also be releasing for the first time a new custom blend which they just got ABC and TTB approval for, Stone Mixed Tape-GK & LU’s Blend Vol. 1 will be on tap for the first time ever. It’s a blend of Stone Levitation Ale, Stone LeVariation Ale (Levitation w/ our Belgian yeast strain), Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, Stone Smoked Porter, Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, 2011 Stone Imperial Russian Stout and 2011 Stone BELGO Anise Imperial Russian Stout with added notes of sage, peppers, lemon thyme, and Citra hops.
In an email Greg Koch CEO of Stone Brewing Co. distanced the company from the glass and any potential bad blood between Neighborhood and Best Damn Beer Shop, “I’m not aware of the source of the “Bro” thing. We were not part of the design process of the glass. We are not part of any ‘spat,’ and I’m not aware that the glass is either.”
As for the beer I’ll say it sounds interesting — in both the I am really genuinely curious how that will taste sense of the word, as well as the way one might stretch out the first syllable when they say the word, innnnnteresting, to denote that they might have a few reservations about it. One way to find out how the blend works out is to try it, 6pm Tuesday at Neighborhood, Koch will be on hand to see how folks respond to it.
Update: Arsalun Tafazoli of Neighborhood wrote back to say this has nothing to do with Sid and Best Damn Beer Shop and that glasses were actually planned and made for a San Diego Beer Week event that had to be bumped due to scheduling conflicts. So it turns out that this is just a really unfortunate coincidence as I previously wrote could be the case. I asked around a bit before publishing this post yesterday and every one I talked to assumed this was aimed at Best Damn Beer Shop, so regardless of intention, I wasn’t the only person that interpreted it as such. Tafazoli’s email is below.
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)
Last Wednesday Ryan Lamb at West Coaster put up a blog post with a few details about a proposed bottle shop and tasting room that Arsalun Tafazoli, owner of downtown restaurant and craft beer bar Neighborhood is hoping to open in the same building that houses Neighborhood on the 700 block of G Street. As Lamb put it, “This move would bring the beer-for-here/beer-to-go model close to the Gaslamp Quarter where many tourists and conventioneers stay while in town.”
Tafazoli filed for a Conditional Use Permit with the Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) on January 17th. West Coaster’s post provided a contact at the Centre City Advisory Committee that readers could contact to get more information about the project, and concluded with: “Support for this project can be sent to Lorena Cordova at the CCDC is the woman to contact. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Support was positive on Facebook and Twitter with a few people leaving comments in favor of it. One person said that it would be a great addition to East Village while another said he wrote an email to Cordova at CCDC to show support. But it turns out not everyone is looking forward to the possibility of Neighborhood opening a bottle shop downtown.
A few days later on February 13th, Neighborhood posted the following messages to Twitter:
Wow, just got call from the City only one to protest our retail license was @BestDmnBeerShop. Really??? pretty deceitful.
— Neighborhood777Gst. (@NeighborhoodSD) February 13, 2012
You could have came to us in person and tried having a conversation. Its not about competition but community you schmucks.
— Neighborhood777Gst. (@NeighborhoodSD) February 13, 2012
According to Tafazoli CCDC contacted him to let him know that Sadeer Mikhail (Sid at Best Damn Beer Shop (BDBS), and the son of the owner of Super Jr Market which houses BDBS) emailed to inquire about more information on Neighborhood’s plans and for information on how to petition the license application. Mikhail would not confirm nor deny that he wrote the email to CCDC which said in part, “I’m afraid if the Neighborhood Ale House opens up a bottle shop/tasting room it will dramatically effect us [Super Jr Market/Best Damn Beer Shop] directly considering we are 3 blocks away. Please let us know how we can petition this application for beer and wine off sell license.” The email also listed three other businesses that would be effected if Neighborhood were to open a bottle shop, though Mikhail later declined to provide me with any contact info for other business that would be effected.
Mikhail provided a statement (which he asked that I post in full, see below) in which he said “I was told by a few people in the community that The Neighborhood has plans to open up a bottle shop beer & wine. So I inquired about what their plans are. I was told to email CCDC to find out more information about the license they are applying for. I’m not the only business that is concerned about this application. Super Jr. Market (Best Damn Beer Shop) never filed anything. My family has owned the store since 1978, and many employees and family members live off of Super Jr. Market. We have nothing against The Neighborhood Ale House, I actually enjoy that they do not supply ketchup with their fries. However, any business person would try to protect his/her livelihood and their employees from someone opening a similar type of business 3 blocks away.”
One can’t fault Mikhail for wanting to protect his family’s business, but some don’t like the way he’s possibly going about it, with one person responding to Neighborhood’s tweet: “WEAK!” another person commented on Facebook, “It really sucks. I love the Best Damn Beer Shop, but such animosity for fellow beer lovers makes me not want to patronize them anymore.” Tafazoli added in an email, “the city official was even surprised she said it was the first time she had seen a protest from another business on the grounds of competition.”
Tafazoli doesn’t seem deterred, “As you know this town has been flooded with establishments focusing on Craft Beer which has been a good thing for all, and something we’ve taken an enormous amount of pride in. We’re not competing against each other, our interests are aligned, and for those guys to actually file a protest is really disappointing. But the community will prevail. Ever since I sent out that tweet, the feedback has been awesome, Jack [White] from Ballast Point, Greg [Koch] from Stone, even Rob Tod [from Allagash] who is in Maine offered to help me out if needed. Greg said he would come out and speak in support if there was a hearing.”
Below is Mikhail’s full statement