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Showing posts from May, 2017

Beer in Carlsbad: Rouleur Brewing Company and More

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We drove up to Carlsbad over the weekend to check out a few breweries in the area. We hit four in total, and both my wife and I agree that although each had something to offer, one stood out among the rest.
Rouleur Brewing Company According to Wikipedia, rouleur (pronounced "ruler") "is a type of racing cyclist considered a good all-rounder." I know nothing about the world of bicycle racing, which is the brewery's theme, but I can tell you that the beer at Rouleur Brewing Company is quite good.

The key, according to the brewery's web site, is a "proprietary Amero-Belgo yeast blend, which is a clean fermenting strain that adds hints of dark fruit, spices and a faint tartness." Having sampled all seven beers on tap at the time, I'm happy to vouch for the claim. If I had to use one word to describe the flavor profile of the brews in Rouleur's portfolio, it would be "clean."

If I had to use another, it would be "balanced," …

Growing Hops

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We're growing hops in our backyard this year. A local grower generously donated three rhizomes, which we have planted in pots (roughly following guidelines given in this Brew Your Own article from 2009) filled with nutrient-rich soil.

The photo above is of our nascent Centennial bine, which has grown considerably in the few days since it was taken and will eventually stretch 20-25 feet. Normally the bines grow upward, but we are going to have them climb a tomato cage as outlined in this Brew Your Own article from 2001 (thank God the Internet never forgets).

We also planted Cascade and Chinook hops. The Cascade hasn't done much yet (above ground, anyway), but the Chinook is showing signs of life. As with every other aspect of making beer, patience is key.

From everything I've read and heard, we shouldn't expect usable cones this year, as the bines root themselves and grow to full size. That doesn't keep me from hoping, of course. Who wouldn't want to wet-hop an…

Hunting for Beer in Huntington Beach

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My wife and I recently found ourselves in Huntington Beach, and decided to check out a couple local breweries. We enjoyed a flight at RIIP Beer Company and another at Beachwood. Both were quite good, though we liked one a little more than the other.
RIIP Beer CompanyRIIP started as a beer delivery service (the 1931 Helms Bakery Coach remains parked out front as a reminder of humble beginnings) but has since become much more. Inside are two separate tasting rooms, with 10 taps pumping out a delectable variety of brews. Some are even available to go.

Both rooms were packed on a warm Saturday afternoon. The brewery's location in a strip mall on a major thoroughfare doubtless helped, but in the end it's quality that matters.

We started with Jetty Water Blonde, a crisp and clean beer that is drinkable and satisfying. Fresh grains dominate, augmented by hints of lemongrass and honey, with a mild hop snap on the finish.

Next came Riip-a-Chino, an American porter with coffee and choc…

Beer and Food, Food and Beer

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The photo above was taken at a local pizza joint nearly five years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I'm not sure what's on the pie—looks like sausage, and knowing me there's probably at least two of pepperoni, mushroom, olive, and onion—but the beer is Karl Strauss Amber Lager. News flash: it goes great with pizza.

Last weekend a friend took me to a hole-in-the-wall called Garlic Shack for dinner. I had a Korean barbecue sandwich type thing that was quite delicious. I'm not normally a fan of "Asian fusion" because it's often a euphemism for not knowing how to fix proper Asian food, but this worked.

There were a few local brews on tap, so I chose one I'd never had but been wanting to try, a juicy IPA from Novo Brazil Brewing. Otay IPA checks in at 6.0% ABV and 65 IBU, and according to the brewery's web site is "a bitter, moderately strong American pale ale that uses its clean, supporting malt to showcase its hop character."

Big Belgians in Little Italy

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On a recent jaunt to Bottlecraft in Little Italy I had the pleasure of sampling several delightful beers. I've been on a Belgian kick lately, as evidenced by the four tasters you see above. Clockwise from the top they are Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (Boulevard Brewing), Four Seasons of Mother Earth Spring 2017 (Mother Earth/The Bruery), La Vie En Rosé (Pure Project Brewing), and St. Bernardus Tripel (Brouwerij St. Bernardus).
Tasting notes Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale: I'm picking up bread dough, pepper, coriander, and grapefruit. This is a bit hoppier and hotter than I'd expected. Then again, it's 8.5% ABV, so some alcohol burn shouldn't be too surprising. The beer looks great: clear, good head and lacing. Personally I like my saisons a little smaller and less aggressive, but this is solid for what it is.

Four Seasons of Mother Earth Spring 2017: This doesn't taste like a saison at all, but I can't complain. There's mild tartness up front, although I'm not gett…

Review: Craft: The California Beer Documentary

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Craft: The California Beer Documentary provides a solid overview of the history and (relatively) current state of the craft beer industry in California. It spans from the birth of craft beer with Fritz Maytag's purchase of Anchor Brewing in 1965 on through 2014ish, with a few minor updates in the epilogue.

Several industry titans are interviewed, including Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman, Stone Brewing founder Greg Koch, Pliny the Elder creator Vinnie Cilurzo, and many others. A variety of regions within California are represented, showcasing the diversity of character and beer found throughout the state.

In addition to brewers and brewery owners, representatives of brewpubs, yeast suppliers, and even the famed UC Davis brewing program discuss what craft beer means to them and where the industry might be headed next. Popular topics of conversation include the ever-changing definition of craft beer as well as whether the market has reached its saturation point.

It's fun to h…

Memories in a Glass

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One thing I love about beer is its ability to trigger memories. This turns out to be an important component of tasting, where familiar flavors may come flooding back mid-whiff or mid-sip.

For example, Deschutes Black Butte Porter is a favorite beer of mine. I don't drink it as much as I used to because there are so many others to try, but when I return to it I'm always rewarded. It has that rich, chocolaty taste and killer mouthfeel I adore, but it also takes me on a quick journey to Oregon.

As I drink, I'm reminded of trips to Portland. I can picture the Deschutes taproom, and the Portland State Farmer's Market, remember the little boutique shops and Powell's City of Books, and all the other great breweries in town (including the otherworldly Cascade Brewing pictured above). Memories float in my mind like driftwood along the Willamette River, which aside from being an incredibly forced metaphor is pretty much the way it works for me.

With each sip I think of plac…

Get Thee to O'Brien's!

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I love a great beer bar and am lucky enough to live within walking distance of one of San Diego's finest, the legendary O'Brien's in Kearny Mesa. The selection is always top notch, the atmosphere inviting, and the staff friendly and knowledgeable. It's one of those places where I have no problem asking whoever is behind the bar what their favorite beer currently on tap is and ordering it. I don't usually do that, but it's nice to know I can if the mood strikes me.

The food is standard pub faire: sandwiches, burgers, fries. There's nothing fancy, but everything is well executed and pairs well with beer (go figure). A personal favorite is the garlic Parmesan fries. I could eat those morsels of tastiness all day. Pub faire isn't your jam? No problem, there are a ridiculous number of excellent alternatives on Convoy, home to the best Asian cuisine in San Diego. Pick a place at random and you're likely to get an excellent meal at a reasonable price.

I…

Homebrewing Is Kind of Awesome

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After getting laid off from a lucrative but unfulfilling corporate gig in February 2016 I had a little extra time on my hands, so I decided to give homebrewing a try. I'd been thinking about it for a while, read some books, taken a class. Plus my wife was game, which helped.

If nothing else, we would at least gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for the ingredients and effort that went into making our favorite beers. Who knows, we might even like brewing. And if we got halfway decent at it, we might even like the beers we made.

The good news is, brewing turns out to be fairly simple if you approach it with the right attitude. First off, understand that you will make mistakes. Probably lots of them. But if you document your process (I'm a writer by trade, so this part comes naturally to me) and figure out where things went wrong, you'll improve. Get your reps in, keep working on making better beer.

That's just my opinion, as a guy who likes beer and who has…

A Journey of a Thousand Pints Begins with a Single Sip

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Everyone has an origin story. Mine is a little fuzzy, but I first discovered good beer in England, in 1990. Before then I knew only the homogenous, flavorless macrobrews that dominated the United States market in those dark days.

Details have been lost to the passage of time and more than a few pints, but the gist of it is that a good friend and I were traveling around England by rail. We visited a fair number of pubs in London as well as in several smaller towns, whose names and locations are no longer known to me, that dotted the countryside.

Being curious by nature I made it a habit to order whatever the locals were drinking. Bartenders, being the kind lot that they are, noticed my American accent and assumed I would be happier with something more familiar, gently nudging me toward the very macrobrews I had flown across the Atlantic to escape.

I politely insisted and was rewarded with a warmer, richer, fuller experience no doubt enhanced by my presence in a most convivial space, w…