THe Next Beer Style War is…

19 Apr

Ok, guys, its time for the next Beer Style Wars 

Fruity Wheat Beer! Tell me what to drink!

Beer Style Wars: Double IPA

15 Apr

When I announced that this installment of Beer Style Wars was going to be a Double IPA comparison I expected more response than usual, but I was overwhelmed by the amount of people and suggestions that came in for this round. Big thanks to everyone who shared! From the list of 25 or so suggested beers that came in, I had to narrow it down to 3 for the sake of my tongue and liver. Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Elder actually had multiple votes, so it was lucky that I just happened to buy a few bottles the day before. The remaining two spots went to Port Brewing Mongo and Green Flash’s Imperial IPA.

So, lets get moving on the next chapter in my beer education! Woo! The appearance of these three beers was pretty similar. The color was golden and a little bit on the orange side with Pliny the Elder being a little paler than the others. Mongo was a little hazy, and stayed that way during drinking. Interestingly, the head and retention on these went right in order. Mongo had the foamiest head that stayed around, Pliny the Elder was right in the middle, and Green Flash IIPA’s head was small and went away rather quickly.  BJCP guidelines say, “Color ranges from golden amber to medium reddish copper; some versions can have an orange-ish tint. Should be clear, although unfiltered dry-hopped versions may be a bit hazy. Good head stand with off-white color should persist.” So far so good.

The aroma on the Mongo and Pliny the Elder were quite similar, both had very distinctive pine and citrus aromas. Mongo had a grapefruit aroma come through as well. The Green Flash IIPA was very different, this was a little perfumy and had had a little of a spiciness to it. There was also an earthy smell, I want to say grassy. This all seems to be in line with the BJCP: “A prominent to intense hop aroma … (although a citrusy hop character is almost always present). Most versions are dry hopped and can have an additional resinous or grassy aroma, although this is not absolutely required. Some clean malty sweetness may be found in the background. Fruitiness, either from esters or hops, may also be detected in some versions” I think its very interesting how different the Green Flash IIPA is from the other two, and yet they all fit into the guidelines of how a beer in this category should smell. Just goes to show how much room there is for expression in the brewing world.

On to taste! The two words that I have written down for each of these beers are “Biscuty” and “Bitter” That basically sums up this style, the high level of hops has a strong enough malt profile to balance it. I noted that Pliny the Elder had a bright pine flavor, and the Port Mongo was a little maltier with a little citrus. The Green Flash IIPA gave me a different set of tastes, as I expected after smelling it. Along with the hoppy bitter, and malt biscut taste I also noted “Pumpkin seed?! orange, and the teeniest bit of anise.” A very interesting beer. And they all had a bitter aftertaste, not unpleasantly so. How did they measure up style wise? BJCP says, “High to absurdly high hop bitterness, although the malt backbone will generally support the strong hop character and provide the best balance. Malt flavor should be low to medium, and is generally clean and malty although some caramel or toasty flavors are acceptable at low levels. No diacetyl. Low fruitiness is acceptable but not required. A long, lingering bitterness is usually present in the aftertaste but should not be harsh”

 Overall, I enjoyed each of these beers! I don’t think I’ll sit down with three double IPA’s again in the near future, but for the sake of learning it was worth it! With another Beer Style War down, I continue to be impressed with the range of interpretation and flair that is seen within each style.  Yay, craft brewers!

The Homebrew That Broke my Toe

13 Apr

My toe hurts. I blame the beer that’s fermenting in my closet. After taking a break from brewing to have my tonsils out and then having a batch go wrong and get infected, I had been a little out on homebrewing for a while. Last week I finally had the itch to get back in the kitchen with a big kettle and a glass jug. So I took to my Twitter friends for brewy inspiration. My answer to getting out of my brewing funk came from Mark aka @SoCalBrewer with the suggestion of brewing a Cream Ale. Not only did he have the winning style suggestion, but he graciously shared his recipe with me.  Saturday, I wandered into Home Brews and Gardens and picked up the ingredients for this:

5 Lbs Light DME
0.5 Lbs White Winter Wheat
0.5 Lbs Belgian Munich
60 min .75 oz Tettnang 4.9 AAU at 15 IBUs
5 min .75 oz Saaz 5.6 AAU at 3 IBUs
Wyeats 1028 Lodon Ale

Everything went fine, I was getting back into the groove. Grains steeping smelled amazing and I remembered why I liked brewing to begin with. The boil got going, so I hauled my carboy into my bathtub to give it a final scrubbing before sanatizing. Yes, you read that right. I wash my carboys where I wash my hair, its just easier. As I was clamoring out of the tub, my foot caught on the sliding door and two toes got bent way back. Yep,

Check the bruised middle toe

broke the middle one. Holy hell, it hurts. Every once in a while I take a step that shoots pain though my leg, and I’m convinced that shards of bone are stabbing their way out of my toe. Possibly an overreaction. So, limping around, I finished my brew and tucked it away in a safe place to get to fermenting.

 The first few days of fermentation is my favorite. I tend to sit in front of a carboy and watch the bubbles in the airlock and the gentle swirling of the yeast doing its thang. Imagine my delight when I got to watch this the next day:


Go, beer, Go! I’m excited to see how this one turns out. Stay tuned.

Brewery visit: Manzanita Brewing Co.

7 Apr

Last Friday was a beautiful day in San Diego. The sun was shining. The birds were singing, well the crows by the dumpster were cawing; and it was the perfect day to head to Manzanita Brewing after work. After trying their Jazz Man at the Mission Valley Craft Beer Festival, my friend Aaron and I knew we had to get out to Santee to check it out in more depth. One of my favorite things about visiting a brewery for the first time is finding it. Most breweries are tucked in a suite of an industrial complex, and finding them is akin to finding the secret door to a speakeasy. In this aspect Manzanita did not disappoint. Apart from the bacon wrapped hotdog guy setting up outside, the façade looks just like any other business front in the building. Stepping inside the door was a pleasant surprise; there was a cool little bar hiding in there. The back wall has a big manzanita tree painted on it, and the six tall tables with chairs gave it a comfey vibe. So we made out way to the back of the room, and ordered a pint of Jazz Man at the bar. Coming back to this beer after a taster at a fest, it still managed to impress me. It’s a pale ale that’s brewed with Jasmine flowers, so it had a really nice floral aroma and a citrusy taste that the hints of flowery sweetness went well with. I moved on to the Gillespie Brown Ale next, another beer that I really enjoyed. It was sweet and roasted and a little chocolatey, but still has a bit of a hoppy bite. After one more Jazz Man and a bacon wrapped hot dog, we were on our way. But not without some beer to go. I took home a growler of Gillespie Brown and Aaron sagged some Jazz Man. I found out that they have a Growler Gold Club Card: buy 9 and get your 10th fill free. I am now an official Manzanita Brewing Gold Card carrier.  I want to take a moment here to give props to the staff in the brewery; they were extremely friendly and patient. They actually came out from behind the bar to get us refills and the growlers were delivered to the table. This is the main reason why I felt like a total dick when I realized that we were going to be short on tip money. The woman behind the bar handled it with humor and forgiveness, telling us a story of the woman who went out to her car to get a tip and came back with 75 cents. So with a promise of proper tipping on our next trip, my visit to Manzanita Brewing had come to an end. It was a fun afternoon that was worth every second of the 15-minute drive from my office, and one I hope to repeat again soon.

2011 San Diego International Beer Festival

5 Apr

I just got a bit of information that I thought San Diegoans and surrounding locals would like to get in on: San Diego International Beer Festival discount! This is a fest and brewing competition that goes on during the San Diego County Fair every year, and is a pretty big deal. Showcasing 150 breweries and upwards of 350 beers, there’s opportunity to try them in one of the four sessions June 24th-June 26th. A presale starting on Friday, April 8th through the 15th get you $10 off the regular ticket price. Get them on Ticketmaster and the secret password is “Stout”

Check out the flyer:

The path to beer drinking is paved with good baking intentions

4 Apr

Intending to make the delicious looking cupcakes on the Karl Strauss blog, I bought a bottle of Karl Strauss 22nd Anniversary Vanilla Imperial Stout. It wasn’t until I was writing up my grocery list that I remembered that I freaking hate baking, so I just drank the beer instead. Getting into this bottle was a bit of a challenge; the cap and neck were dipped in about an eighth of an inch of wax. That doesn’t sound like much, but once I took my knife to it the wax might as well have been a foot thick. I overcame and got a strip of the wax off big enough that I could get in there with a bottle opener, and voila! Access to the beer!   It poured a really deep brown with a creamy hued head. The label says that this beer is 75% stout and 25% stout aged in oak with vanilla beans added. Given that, the aroma wasn’t as bold as I was expecting. The roasted aroma was there, and I could pick up a bit of the oak and bourbon from the barrel aging. Though it came in at the end on sniffing, the bourbon flavor was very apparent in the first sip of the beer. I think the 9% ABV also added to it tasting like I just took a sip out of a snifter. The bourbon taste mellowed pretty quickly and the vanilla showed up with the really nice roasted taste of you expect from stout. The oak was always present in the background and hung out the longest in the aftertaste. Although the cupcakes sounded like they would have been quite tasty, I’m glad I sat down with this beer. It would be a great accompaniment to a rainy night movie fest. Also, if anyone happens to make the cupcakes and want to share, I wouldn’t say no.

Party in a Parking Lot

30 Mar

 This past weekend I attended the Mission Valley Beer Festival at the Handlery Resort in San Diego, benefiting Fresh Start Surgical Gifts. The festival started and noon, and I got there with my friends shortly after 1 PM. By the time we arrived, there was already a pretty substantial crowd inside. We were all holding pre-purchased tickets, so entrance was a breeze. Wristbands on, a quick ID flash at security, and we were in. Geezer was playing on the stage at the far end of the festival area, and was nice to listen to while we grabbed our first beer and tried to figure out how everything was set up. This was a festival with good intentions, but not the best execution. Apparently the organizers were preparing for a crowd of roughly half the size that showed up, which of course means the food and beer ran out. Early. One real boon to this festival was the inclusion of taster food as well as taster beer, and the chefs really brought their A game. We were able to get our mitts on a bacon wrapped hot dog, a few Pubcakes, some carnitas, a street taco, a grilled on the shell clam, and spiced shrimp before they were out. Unfortunately by the time I digested a bit and was ready for round two, most places were out. Getting beer was a bit of a challenge. The area of the parking lot where the booths were set up wasn’t very conducive to the lines that were forming, breweries ran out of cups, and just plain ran out of beer a while before the festival was scheduled to end. But again, it’s to be expected when a crowd twice the size of expected shows up. That’s not to say people were in any way going thirsty. The tastes being poured were generous and there were plenty of breweries in attendance. I especially enjoyed the Jazz Man from Manzanita, it’s their newest beer made with jasmine. Funny, I believe it was Manzanita that I was most impressed with after the SDBW fest in November too. Good job, guys!

I think with getting through the organizational snags of this festival, it has a lot of potential. There is obviously a demand for this kind of event in that area, and with a little tweaking in the preparation; the next Mission Valley Craft Beer Festival can be very successful.

As you can see, I really took a lot of pictures on the day. So, if you want to see some great shots and a great post on the festival, please head over to