Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Days 3 & 4 / Beers 5-7 - I Get A Little Sumpin' Sumpin'

While not local to San Diego, Lagunitas Brewery was excited to bring down some special brews  to San Diego to help celebrate San Diego Beer Week at Churchill's Pub & Grille in San Marcos. Hailing from Petaluma, CA, Lagunitas is big on giving back to the community and providing some solid, easy-drinking beers across the board. I happily settled in for a free mason jar glass along with a few pints of their more popular offerings.

Beer #5 - Lagunitas PILS - Czech Style Pilsner - ABV: 6%

Served up in a trumpet-shaped pilsner glass, it looks a bit more golden than say, your average American lager - and the taste is not much more than a "lager plus" - kind of better than those faux-premium releases from Budweiser (Platinum) and Beck's (Sapphire). In all fairness, if I'm on a warm beach, I might actually grab the Sapphire over a PILS - but only because the PILS seems to have a slight taste of hops that appears here and again. PILS' hop notes are like a classroom where the one student keeps trying to get attention at the back of the class, but is mostly unnoticed.

All in all, it's not a bad beer - not really a signature pilsner or solid representative of a lager. While it's not 100% by the books, PILS is a decent-enough summer beer.
Lagunitas PILS (top) and Little
Sumpin' Sumpin Ale

Beer #6 - Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale - India Pale Ale - ABV: 7.5%

Out and about in Beer Week, had to get myself a little sumpin' - and yes, my fiance was sitting just a stool over, sipping on Highwater's Campfire Stout (which I didn't get to review this round per her iron grip on the pub glass and stares that in no way compromised my masculinity - there are plenty of large, fearsome jungle cats that are justifiably terrified by their mate.)

LSS has got hops, it's got wheat, it's basically the perfect balance between the two -giving you the light hops of an ale and the solid farm-based feel of a lager. It's the beer you convince your friends to try when they refuse to have an IPA - it looks like a strong IPA, smells like a strong IPA, and tastes like an odd mix - but very satisfying. It sneaks the hops past you, along with the 7.5% ABV, and you'd hardly notice you were drinking an IPA.

This isn't a beer that heady beer snobs like yours truly would sip in a smoking jacket in a room filled with taxidermy and dark mahogany - but it's a beer that is the right decision when you can't decide what beer you'd like.

Beer #7 - Lagunitas SUCKS - Strong Ale - ABV: 7.85%

A brilliant turn on some of their more negative Google searches, Sucks was made to fill a void left by their Brown Shugga' Ale and stuck around in their regular lineup. Called a "cereal beer", much like its Brown Shugga counterpart, there's no doubting the level of grain that goes into Sucks. It's a hefty slice of pie kind of beer - bit of sweetness and hops, but easy to drink for a beer with a little bitterness at the beginning and end.

Plus I felt extra classy drinking it out of a sizeable jug obscured by a paper-bag coozie.  I have a feeling that Lagunitas' goal is to slip extra percentages of ABV into beers, keeping that strong alcohol taste out, and replacing it with a level sweetness that seemed to make light cameo appearances across all three beers.

I was told that Sucks is often served in a flute, similar to the PILS, which might do well to balance the carbonation a bit, while another bartender stated it goes in a tulip glass, due to the fruit/citrus aroma off the top.

I stuck with my jug. (read earlier sentence: Extra. Classy.)

Sucks, in all fairness, was much better than I expected - a beer meant to simply help meet demand for another supposedly superior brew with a gimmicky name. Next time, I will shoot for a wider glass so I can get a better experience of the aroma, though if I continue enjoying these 7-8%'ers sneaking past as lighter fare, I may end up passed out on top of my paper bag.


Lagunitas PILS - 6.5 out of 10
Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale - 9 out of 10
Lagunitas SUCKS - 7.5 out of 10 

Next up on Friday - On to conquer the ales of Alpine Brewing, along with a special release beer and some incredibly "gravy" fries.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Day 2 - Let The Good Times Flow - MODERN TIMES PT. 2

Modern Times has the Flavordome in North Park and the Fermentorium in Point Loma, two names that evoke gladiator battles and clashes on the field of malt, hop and yeast-based battles. And so what two better beers to pair off against one another than a wet-hopped India Pale Ale and a dark coffee stout, served up on Nitro. (Two notes: we'll cover some of those terms in a minute, second, no actual battle occurred, though I did stub my toe on my stool.)

Literally shades of light and dark, MT's City of the Sun is a golden IPA that utilizes three particular hops - Mosaic and Motueka that give it that west coast IPA citrus hop kick and Simcoe to balance it with pine at the end. The version I sampled is a Wet Hop IPA. Hops are a super delicate flower which can fall apart after being harvested, so most breweries dry the hops to preserve them for the brewing process. A "wet hop" is one that isn't dried and stays green until it's added to the mix. Wet hops usually provide a solid one-note flavor to ales, though often losing some of the complexity you find in multi-hop ales.

City of the Sun (Lest we forget, Beer #3, an American India Pale Ale, ABV - 7.8%), uses the wet hop to bring out the fruity flavors of the two main hops, and strengthen the best aspects of the IPA. Having had the dry hopped version and left off with a head-tilting "not bad" feeling, the wet hop is a certain step in the right direction. Another excellent example of what can be done with simple methods, and a good source of inspiration for homebrewers that may want to try wet hopping their own recipes.

Beer #4 - Black House (Nitro) - Coffee Stout - ABV: 5.8%

Think of that perfect glass of Guinness. You may not like it, but that shar division between the white head of foam and solid black body sticks in the mind. That slightly creamier flavor comes from the beer being nitrogenated, a word I totally didn't just make up. The carbonation from nitro beers comes from a greater amount of nitrogen than carbon dioxied (Your usual carbonation go-to.) Basically put, nitrogen bubbles aren't beer-soluble, so they rise to the top inside your beer, creating that strong foam head, a creamier beer taste and a greater spread of flavors.

For an example, next time you pour a Guinness, you can point out the bubbles rolling down the sides are the nitrogen distributed from the tap and split up from the beer, racing down the sides as the main flow of bubbles push up in the center of the glass. Fun facts like that will guarantee the swooning and swarming of members of the opposite sex at your local beer depository. (Editor's Note: This is 100% true. It's how I got engaged. Any other reason is a bold-faced lie, regardless of how true they may be.)

So onto Black House, a standard fare at Modern Times and one of the cans you'll find on store shelves. The nitro version mellows out the strong bitterness of the coffee and falls back on the roasted flavor of espresso beans. I'm not saying it's not bitter, this is coffee stout for coffee stout purists. Heck, they even have their cold-pressed coffee two taps away, that has to count for something. I'll hold off on getting into the deep explanation of their in-house coffee related to their beer for the Black Friday Black House event coming up at the end of the month.

BH on Nitro has got that chocolate and coffee scent and follows up with nice, smooth roasted flavor. It's a definite pull away from the non-nitro version, which puts their home-brewed coffee in the spotlight. BH on Nitro takes out the bold and replaces it a combination of dark roast flavors and some sweetness, smoothly delivered.

Final Scores:

City of the Sun, Wet Hopped - 8 out of 10
Black House, Nitro - 7 out of 10

Next up - Drinking out of a paper bag and some beer that really "Sucks" - It's Lagunitas Night at Churchill's Pub and Grill!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Day 1 - Here We Flow Again @ MODERN TIMES BREWING

With the hustle and bustle of San Diego Beer Week packing your local taprooms and brewhouses, it's nice to get away to a spot where you can stretch out and enjoy yourself without having to jaws of life your way between other beer aficionados to get a taste. So before getting into some of the special Beer Week releases, we'll start with four beers from a brewery that only recently celebrated their one year anniversary, but hold a quality beer like they've been around for decades.

Modern Times was founded by former Stone guy, Jacob McKean, named after a small community of peace-loving individuals (pick a word here, hippies, beatniks, nutjobs, hoopy froods), in Long Island, New York from the late 1800's. Their basic policy was finding a perfect little oasis in a crazy world, and Jacob has endeavored to bring that attitude to his tasting rooms and his beers at Modern Times.

Dubbed the Fermentorium, the space nestled in one of the more ill-reputed areas of Point Loma reflects that "oasis" vibe. There is a giant post-it note mosaic on one wall, the others covered in pages from comic books and cookbooks, and completely surrounded by barrels, cans and the brewing facility itself.

In front of the taps at Modern Times Lomaland Fermentorium, from left to
right: Funky Lomaland, Universal Friend, City of the Sun Wet Hop IPA and
Black House Stout (Nitro)
Arriving in the facility on a late Friday evening, there was a small Mexican family playing Jenga while the adults sipped tasters, two women in their mid-30's sipping Lomaland and speaking very little, and a compatriot and I (only occasionally loudly) discussing surreal films and which comic books plastered on the walls we used to own.

It was an odd collection, but seemed to fit right into the style of the tasting room McKean sought to emulate. It was peaceful, with me moving my taster glasses around in their own personal zen garden box before diving into four of their unique, tap room specialties.

Beer # 1 - Funky Lomaland - Tart Saison - ABV: 6.0%

Lomaland is a nice, easy-going saison, something simple, no-frills and matches that original San Diego style of being a beer you could drink on the sand, grass; basically anywhere under the sun. The Funky version mixes that style up a bit, throwing in two types of Brettanomyces, a yeast most homebrewers endeavor to avoid. The way it interacts with beers can cause bottles to overflow, explode and pretty much ruin any chance my fiance will ever let me homebrew. (Editor's Note: She is a sweet angel and if she never reads this article, then I encourage everyone to never educate her on the hazards of homebrewing. As far as we're all concerned, it's a beautiful art of cookery that always keeps the house free of stains, shattered glass and always smells like roses and new books.)

However, more brewers are experimenting with the so-named "funky" type of yeasts, which can bring a flavor of tropical fruit, tartness or sour to beers like saisons or pale ales. In the case of the Funky Lomaland, it really defines what these yeasts are capable of, increasing the hay-like base of the saison, an almost peppery lemon hint and an introductory sour taste. This is the ideal spot to start if you're looking to venture into sour beers, as it is gentler to the palate. For those who simply want to enjoy a solid tart saison, or those that want to see what Brett yeasts and a variable flavor are like, Funky Lomaland is a great way to start - and a solid flagship taster for 100 Beers in 100 Days.

Beer #2 - Universal Friend - Pinot Saison - ABV: 7.1%

Brewed with their house Saison yeast, UF is a Saison modified with Pinot Grigio grape must, the unfermented juice from grapes before they become wine. (I know, where's the fun in that?) The must certainly carries over, making this a beer with strong white wine hints. The taste finishes with that similar sweetness to a semi-dry white wine, almost sour cherry-like. It's incredibly similar to the Funky Lomaland, though with a more citrus smell and sweeter taste.

Not quite as complex as its funky brother, UF is a saison with a twist. While most experimental saisons are simply one-note tart bombs, UF is a nice introduction to how beer and wine can actually have a rather harmonic relationship, as opposed to simply being two members of a dysfunctional, low-ABV family. (Editor's Note: Especially since now we can all be snooty about both! Take that, Miles Raymond, Paul Giamatti's character from Sideways.)

Final Scores:

Funky Lomaland - 7.5 out of 10
Universal Friend - 7 out of 10

Next up - Modern Times' other two offerings - City of the Sun w/Wet Hops and Black House Coffee Stout (Nitro)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Day Zero, 2014 - 100 BEERS IS BACK!

100 Beers in 7 Days? Wait, no, hold on...


The Blog is Back!

With some support from former readers and local breweries, 100 Beers in 100 Days is back and ready to tackle the incredible beers of beautiful San Diego!

And what better way to restart the pursuit of honest and entertaining beer reviews than San Diego Beer Week 2014.

100 Beers didn't make it all the way last time, but some faithful readers stuck in there and now that we're permanently in America's Finest City, 100 Beers is ready to take on the greatest beers SD has to offer, from the most basic of brews to the rarest of ales.

Be sure to start sharing and following - as we kick off Beer Week tonight with a visit to OB Noodle House on Niagara and the esteemed Hamilton's Pub! If you've got any recommendations, beers you'd like to see included in the List Of 100, make sure to post a comment below!

We always want to keep an open mind when it comes to beer review, and are out to also answer questions you may have about the beers of San Diego. Don't hesitate to post questions, comments and most of all, enjoy those brews!