Pacific Brewing 1 year Anniversary 05

Pacific Brewing Celebrates One Year of Serving Beer

A year ago I was at Pacific Brewing Company when they had their grand opening party. Now they are still around and pouring their core beers. For the anniversary party they put on an anniversary double IPA, a barrel aged version of their stout, and a double dry hopped version of the Bombora IPA. Unlike other anniversary parties around they didn’t have a price at the door so you could come by and have a few tasters or a pint without any of the other stuff if you want.

Pacific Brewing 1 year Anniversary 05

I had a taster flight that included the barrel aged stout, anniversary double IPA, double dry hopped Bombora IPA and the Sticky Icky. To me the barrel aged stout was a bit more heavy on the vanilla and didn’t have much of the bourbon flavors I was expecting. They seem to have decided to showcase the flavors of the base beer. I could have done with more bourbon flavors because the vanilla gave it a little syrupy sweet flavor that didn’t work for me.

Pacific Brewing 1 year Anniversary 03

Then came the anniversary double IPA, a nice lightly herbal beer with a solid bitter bite and mild amount of sticky sweetness. This was great and would go nicely as a pint. Then I had the double dry hopped Bombora, a sticky dank citrus beer with plenty of extra kick thanks to the extra hops. It stood up to the anniversary even though I had it after the anniversary double.

Pacific Brewing 1 year Anniversary 02

I ended with the Sticky Icky to see how it held up since the opening. It seemed a little less sweet than I remember it being but it was a bit more balanced, which gave it a very pleasant taste. The beer had a nice light roasty flavor and mild hop bite, making it a proper stronger amber without going overboard like many try to do.

Pacific Brewing 1 year Anniversary 04 Pacific Brewing 1 year Anniversary 01

It was good to see Pacific sticking to their core beers they started with. Since opening they added the televisions so they have some of the games on as well. I’m glad they managed to keep similar hop flavors going in their anniversary beer despite the difficulty of getting many of the hops they likely used to start with. I look forward to what Pacific will come up with over the next year.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Bottles of Vienne with the Irish Stout and Vienne in tasters.

Council Brewing continues to release fantastic small batch bottles

Council Brewing started out strong when they opened last year, delivering a wide variety of beers to appeal to all sorts of craft beer drinkers. Since then they have done a few limited releases of beers in bottles starting with a sour saison then a barrel aged tripel then a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout then their tart saisons and finally yesterday they released Vienne, their first barrel aged french saison.

While I haven’t yet opened my barrel aged pirates breakfast imperial stout the barrel aged tripel they released last year was quite delicious. In the San Diego area the french farmhouse ale known as Biere de Garde is not widely produced. Lost Abbey bottles one that is available around town fairly regularly if you know where to look. Other versions are so limited that I did not know they existed. Stone brewed one sometime last year though I never heard about it.

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Council’s release of their own Biere de Garde is part of the brewer’s participation in the trend of local breweries exploring styles that are only known to a smaller group of enthusiasts. I had not been aware of the Biere de Garde style until I read “The Brewmaster’s Table” earlier this year that describes the style under the section for French beers.

I stopped by the brewery yesterday to pick up my two bottles of Vienne. While I was there, I had a taster of this new brew and also tasted their Irish Stout that was put on a few weeks ago for St. Patrick’s Day. Sadly, the bottles of Vienne sold out so quickly that your only chance of tasting this beer will be to visit the brewery over the next day or two and hope that they still have it on tap, or to find someone willing to part with their bottle. The quick sale of this beer shows just how much demand there is in the local market for beers in this style.

Bottles of Vienne with the Irish Stout and Vienne in tasters.

Bottles of Vienne with the Irish Stout and Vienne in tasters.

Taste wise, I really enjoyed Vienne. The beer was lightly tart, showcasing some nice peach and stone fruit flavors. At other times it displayed a sweet caramel flavor that balanced the tartness nicely. The flavors were smoothed out by the oak quite well. I am looking forward to tasting this beer again when I open my bottles in a few months. The Irish Stout was also impressive, giving a good amount of roasty flavor for the low alcohol content. This is a nice alternative to the stronger Pirate’s Breakfast double oatmeal stout.

If you are a fan of Council’s tart saisons, now called Beatitude, keep an eye out for future small releases of the beers in bottles at the tasting room. Also keep an eye out on the brewery’s facebook page for announcements of future small batch bottle releases because the next one may end up selling out just as quickly as Vienne.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Silva Stout Release 2015 03

Green Flash Silva Stout Release Party 2015

Green Flash had a special release party to promote the first of many barrel aged beers they are aging at their new facility out in Poway they call Cellar 3. Though they weren’t able to hold this event in Poway, they had a big bash and brought out a number of specialty beers for the occasion. Among the special versions was a special coffee version of the stout that somehow was stronger than the original version, clocking in at a gigantic 13%.

Silva Stout Release 2015 01 Silva Stout Release 2015 02

Also for sale at the tasting room were bottles of the barrel aged stout. Silva Stout is a blend of bourbon barrel aged double stout and the regular double stout. The coffee version was so strong that I could feel it seriously after only a small 4oz taster. Flavor wise it was not particularly boozy and had a good smooth caramel flavor along with a nutty coffee taste.

Silva Stout Release 2015 03 Silva Stout Release 2015 04

According to the flavor notes they handed out with bottles of Silva Stout the grand opening of their Cellar 3 will be held on May 16, 2015. I look forward to visiting that facility to taste the different beers they have but for now some of the special beers they brought out for the party should hang around for a little bit.

First set of tasters, Left to right, Brett Saison, Apricot Le Freak Barrique, Boysenberry Saison, Candella Barley Wine.

First set of tasters, Left to right, Brett Saison, Le Freak Barrique, Boysenberry Saison, Candella Barley Wine.

Among them they had some barrel aged Saisons with Brett, a delicious barleywine in collaboration with Cigar City, two varieties of Silva Stout on tap including one extra strong version with Mostra Coffee, a barrel aged Le Freak with Brett and an Apricot version of the same with Brett.

Second set of tasters, Cask Silva Stout front left, Black Tiger, back left, Coffee Silva Stout right back, Apricot Le Freak front right.

Second set of tasters, Cask Silva Stout front left, Black Tiger, back left, Coffee Silva Stout right back, Apricot Le Freak front right.

Of these the standouts to me were the Candella Barleywine, Le Freak Barrique, and Apricot Le Freak Barrique. The new recipe of Le Freak works great with the barrel aging and addition of Brett. The Silva Stout was also quite delicious with plenty of smooth chocolate and bourbon flavors. I also came home with two bottles of Silva Stout.

Mango Inferno (left) and Silva Stout (right).

Mango Inferno (left) and Silva Stout (right).

I was glad to see that the bottles of Silva Stout were still available three hours after opening and there will also be quite a few that were sent out to distributors you might find in stores. The opening of Cellar 3 should mean more availability of Silva Stout and hopefully some of these delicious Brett Le Freak varieties as well going forward. If you want to try some of these beers you should stop by the tasting room over the next few days so that you can taste some before they go.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Culture Brewing 01

Culture Brewing Company – Solana Beach

The day after I visited Toolbox for the first time I stopped by Culture Brewing to see what they had available. Though there were a number of lovely specialty offerings available because they had an anniversary party the preceding two days I tried a few of their core beers as well because to me solid core beers are the most important to a brewery’s long term success. Sadly, the Mosaic IPA was out so I tasted a specialty version instead.

Culture Brewing 01

While I was there, I tried the Keyhole IPA, milk stout, brown, black IPA, coffee IPA, oaked saison, and triple IPA. Starting with the keyhole I thought it was a solid grapefruit/citrus IPA but it didn’t really blow me away or make me want to order a pint. Next came the black IPA, which I thought was too bitter for the malts. Mostly I got a ton of pine flavors from the hops but couldn’t taste much roasted malts or other flavors that I expect in the style.

My first flight. Yes, no taster glasses yet, but I'm not complaining.

My first flight. Yes, no taster glasses yet, but I’m not complaining.

The brown ale was an easy drinking beer with a nice light roast flavor and good caramel flavor. The light body makes this one you would want a few pints of. Then the milk stout was interesting because it had a light mint flavor that I wasn’t expecting. The mint combined nicely with the roast flavors that reminded me of coffee and the sweetness was not overpowering either.

Second flight.

Second flight.

Then I moved on to the coffee IPA on nitro made with coffee beans. It really had a strong coffee taste to it that reminded me of a fairly bitter cup of black coffee. This is one for the coffee drinkers for sure, and not those who feel the need to add sugar. The Oaked Saison was my favorite of the bunch, offering a delicious spice and mild pepper that was mellowed out by the oak. Later I learned that this batch was mixed with some of the regular saison to reduce the barrel aged flavors that were quite strong at first. I ended up having a bigger pour of this later and quite enjoyed sipping it.

Culture Brewing 02

Finally, I ended with the triple IPA, a sweet beer that had plenty of delicious tropical fruit, mango, and citrus flavors and wasn’t overly boozy despite a strong 11% alcohol. If I didn’t have to drive back I might have gotten a larger pour of this one instead.

My half pour of the oaked saison for more delicious beer.

My half pour of the oaked saison for more delicious beer.

Culture also had fairly loud music playing through a pair of studio monitors on the ceiling. It made it difficult to order a beer because the bartender couldn’t hear orders the first time. Also, being close to the beach be prepared for some cool sea breeze that might come in through various open doors and windows. They also have food trucks occasionally parked in the back where there is an enclosed outdoor area.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Rip Current North Park 01

A Hoppy Visit to Rip Current and Belching Beaver

Sometimes as a blogger I am not able to try every single beer at a brewery, either because certain styles aren’t interesting to me or because there are too many beers on tap, or other times because I plan on visiting two places in one trip. In this case when I visited Belching Beaver and Rip Current together in their North Park locations, especially because of their proximity, I mostly tried the hoppy beers available at both.

At some point I may go back and update the blog with information about some of the other beers they have but for now this will be the first in what may become a series of Hoppy Visit series of posts primarily aimed at telling hop-heads what is good at a brewery.
Belching Beaver North Park 01
Before I get into the beers though I wanted to make an observation about the atmosphere at Belching Beaver North Park. Like other bars in the area I found Belching Beaver to be the sort of place I would not want to spend much time, due to loud music, often in the form of hip-hop that made me leave as soon as I finished my four tasters. The music was thankfully not as loud as I tend to encounter at Toronado but not something I like to see at a tasting room.  I’m sure I will en joy Belching Beaver’s beers in bottles elsewhere but I probably won’t be returning to the tasting room anytime soon.
Belching beaver is known for the peanut butter milk stout and horchata imperial stout because they get the most buzz. If you like flavored stouts these are great but I did not try them in this visit. I tasted the Hop Highway IPA, Rabid Beaver Rye IPA, Great Lei pina colada IPA and Damned Imperial IPA. As you will see in the photo, Belching Beaver uses some interesting tall skinny taster glasses.
Belching Beaver North Park 02
The Hop Highway IPA was a solid balanced west coast style IPA with lots of citrus and not too bitter. It is a nice easy drinking beer. Compared to hop highway, the rabid beaver is a bit more bitter and has some of the additional bite from the rye but is otherwise a very similar flavor of beer. I prefer the rabid beaver personally and think it is more of what I look for in an IPA.
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I actually really liked the great lei pina colada IPA with its light body and low bitterness and plenty of great coconut flavors. It did a great job creating the pina colada flavors without making it too sweet. Finally, the Damned, a boozy double IPA with plenty of caramel malts and tart apple flavors that are balanced by some intense bitterness. This is much more interesting when you get to sip a larger pour, like in a 22oz bottle I have tasted before, but it is still an interesting beer overall and a solid double IPA.

 

Next came Rip Current where I tried their Impact Zone, Lupulin Lust, Double Impact Zone, and In the Curl. I also added the Palomar Chocolate Porter and Vanilla Coffee Stout after that. Rip Current was noticeably less busy and more importantly less noisy. I was able to relax and take my time to sip my beers.
Rip Current North Park 01
The Impact Zone IPA was a solid basic IPA with plenty of good citrus and low bitterness. Though here as well I preferred the Lupulin Loop sporting much more flavor and a nice balance of citrus and resin.
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Next came up the Double Impact Zone which was much more flavorful though a little boozy and more what I like to taste. The higher alcohol intensified the citrus flavors, making it more tasty. Then came the In the Curl, another double IPA that was very similar to the Double Impact Zone. Both were quite good.
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Rip Current North Park 03
Finishing with some dark beers, the Palomar Chocolate Porter had some nice dark chocolate and roasted malt flavors. The beer was overall good and smooth, a solid porter. The vanilla coffee stout was a bit higher on the alcohol but it really hides it well. It had some great tastes of nutty coffee and vanilla like you typically see from this style.
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Though both breweries had some solid offerings I found myself favoring Rip Current due to the more relaxed atmosphere and lack of loud music. If you are a fan of IPAs or stouts you will find plenty at both though the flavored stouts at Belching Beaver are not for everyone.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Valley Center Brewing 01

Valley Center Brewing – Complex Beers Worth the Drive

If driving to Oceanside the previous weekend to visit Bagby was far, I especially was not very excited about driving all the way to Valley Center to try a brewery. Though Oceanside is right off a major highway, Valley Center is only accessible by a few smaller roads where you aren’t going to be driving very fast. Though, after tasting some of the really tasty beers, I was glad I made the trek. I visited Valley Center Brewing on February 1st 2015.

Valley Center Brewing 01

Because I visited with a groupon, I started out with a bunch of tasters. Though I also had two full pours to look forward to, also included, since my husband, who was driving back, was only going to help me a little bit with those. I was intrigued by the selection once I noticed some styles that I don’t expect.

Valley Center Brewing 02

To start with I ordered a flight of Rusty Pail Pale Ale, Farmhouse Ale, Oaked Red Ale, Hell Hole Cayon Stout, Smoked Porter, and Evening Star Barrel Aged Stout. Later I also tried the Belgian IPA, the Coffee Stout, and the Coyote Run IPA.

First taster flight. Note how dark the beers in the back are as well.

First taster flight. Note how dark the beers in the back are as well.

The farmhouse ale was quite tasty, offering plenty of mild tart flavors and a little crisp fruity bite at the back end. The brewers describe this as having apple flavors. Rusty Pail pale ale was a very typical pale ale flavor like a Sierra Nevada Pale though the malts were a little less intense and didn’t overpower the hops. This one was just OK to me.

The oaked red ale was the first beer I noticed that really had some different flavors at the beginning compared to the end. Later I noticed that a lot of the other beers had flavors that changed over the course of a taster sometimes very significant. At first the red ale was too smoky but when I got closer to finishing the taster I started to notice the smoke balanced much better with the rest of the beer.

Next came the smoked porter. This was interesting because the bourbon flavor was much lighter than you typically see in San Diego bourbon aged beers, giving it an almost sour flavor. Combined with that was a light smoke flavor to balance it out. This is certainly not your typically roasty porter and my husband was not a fan.

Valley Center Brewing 04

Then I tried the Hell Hole Canyon stout. This one was so good I had to stop my husband from drinking the whole taster before I got to try it. This was also the second of my full pours later. Flavor wise, I was quite impressed by all the different things I tasted from coffee to bitter chocolate and plenty of roasty flavors. I hope this one sticks around for quite some time.

The Belgian IPA was also very tasty. At first I got a ton of spice with mild citrus hops but over time the spice seemed to mellow out, leaving me with some fantastic citrus flavors and a little bit of ripe fruit. This was later my first full pour and still very enjoyable. The Coyote Run IPA started out with a powerful ripe peach flavor with plenty of tart and as I progressed through the taster the malts became more prominent. Though I wasn’t immediately drawn into this beer it seemed to be quite popular among regular visitors. Sadly the other IPA they usually have was gone when I stopped by, perhaps due to popularity.

Full pour of the Belgian IPA.

Full pour of the Belgian IPA.

The coffee stout, made with local roasted Sumatra beans, was a tasty coffee beer with plenty of coffee flavor at the forefront. Though to me compared to the Hell Hole Canyon it was hard to ask for more. Finally, the bourbon barrel aged stout called Evening Star, like the smoked porter had an interesting intense tart flavor that I don’t normally find in this sort of beer. This sort of tart flavor tends to come from something aged in wine barrels.

When I asked the head brewer about these two tart aged stouts I was told that they used barrels that had already been previously used by another brewery, so they didn’t have the same intense flavor of bourbon that tends to come from first run use. I didn’t find either of the barrel aged beers to have the sorts of flavors that typically get me excited about bourbon aged beers so they aren’t for everyone.

Valley Center Brewing 07

From what I tried, I was glad I made the drive up to Valley Center. I still can taste the delicious flavors of the Hell Hole Canyon Stout and the Belgian IPA. They also had four lighter beers that I wasn’t able to try, a Kolsch, Blonde, Cream, and Summer Ale. I’m told that these were added due to local demand and since I am not a big fan of those styles I stuck to what I enjoy. At some point I may make my way back there, possibly while I am in the area for some seasonal event, so that I can try the other IPA that was not available when I stopped by.

Valley Center Brewing 06

Valley Center Brewing is also interesting because they had a few experimental beers on tap to try. I didn’t end up tasting the experimental beers while I was there either, but it sounded like there were some interesting beers available on there. If you are in the area and want to have a beer, Valley Center Brewing offers a great lineup of interesting IPAs, Stouts, and even a solid farmhouse ale. The Belgian IPA and Hell Hole Canyon both stick out as great beers that have just the right flavors.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Wrought Iron IPA 02

Abita Wrought Iron IPA – a Delicious New Favorite of Mine

Part of what got me started with this blog is the desire to cut through the noise and let people know when a great beer shows up. Usually this is from local breweries, but occasionally something from out of town gets wider distribution and becomes available locally. That happened to be the case with Louisiana brewery Abita that I just noticed in the local shops with an interesting IPA.

Wrought Iron IPA 02

What first stuck out to me was the fantastic little informational chart on the six pack itself spelling out the different types of hops, malts, yeast, and water used as well as how dark and bitter the beer is and even suggested food pairings. Based on the description I was intrigued because it seemed to be a lighter color hop-forward beer just how I like it.

Wrought Iron IPA 03

When I poured my first glass of Wrought Iron IPA I was hooked and immediately went back to where I got the six-pack to buy another one in case they ran out before I got back. Grapefruit flavors balance nicely with the malts leading to a distinctive flavor that I haven’t had elsewhere. The light grapefruit closely resembles Alpine’s Nelson. Bright general citrus flavors give a solid bitterness as well.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Green Flash Food Truck 01

Green Flash’s new House Food Truck is Here to Stay

Ever since Green Flash started having food trucks at their brewery in Mira Mesa I have been chasing the food trucks. Thanks to their schedule posted online I was able to decide when to go based on when my favorite food truck was there. Now that has all been replaced by a house food truck that will be serving food at the brewery whenever they are open.

Green Flash Food Truck 01

The menu can be found on the Green Flash web site where they previously listed the schedule of food trucks. Now it explains that the Green Flash Gastro Truck is here to stay and the current menu is displayed. When I visited on February 11, 2015 the initial menu already presented plenty of great options.

Bahn Mi with Alpine Nelson.

Bahn Mi with Alpine Nelson.

The group I was with ordered the Pork Bahn Mi, Rocket Salad with Chicken, and Shrimp and Gritts along with a side of fries that later turned into two. Prices are in line with the food trucks I am used to seeing at Green Flash, around $10 per item with some of the starters a little less. The side of fries for $3 is large enough to share with a friend or two while you each enjoy your order.

Shrimp and Grits.

Shrimp and Grits.

The Pork Belly Bahn Mi paired delightfully with the Alpine Nelson I had with it thanks to the recent acquisition of Alpine by Green Flash. The habanero aoli on the pork, which was flavorful and not overpowering, really responded nicely to the grapefruit flavors of the Nelson. As you can see below, the Rocket Salad had a good portion of chicken. Also, my dad very much enjoyed the flavors of the shrimp and grits.

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Green Flash Gastro Truck felt like a combination of some of the best culinary ideas I have experienced at visiting food trucks. I’m looking forward to doing some beer and cheese pairings on a future visit with their cheese board. If you have enjoyed other food trucks at Green Flash in the past, this new house truck will feel right at home.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Budweiser Superbowl Commercial Makes fun of Craft Beer in an Ironic Way

It is no surprise to see a Budweiser Commercial be a huge part of the Superbowl. They have been one of the big spenders for years. But what is surprising is their choice to shift away from the ads focused on the masses that don’t show you a single thing about beer to something that proudly trumpets their Macro beer status and mocks craft beer at the same time.

There are many things wrong with this ad, but most of all is the suggestion that craft beer drinkers only care about sipping and dissecting their beers and not about actually drinking and enjoying their beers. There are many different styles of beers, from the easy-drinking session IPAs, brown ales, and pale ales, to the more sipping-friendly double IPAs, barley wines, and imperial stouts. Though tasters are a common part of craft breweries, they exist not to promote sipping but to give beer drinkers a way to try the different types of beers available at a brewery without having to order a pint of each.

What the craft beer movement shows is not that craft beer is meant to be sipped but that there are many different types of beers available for all kinds of fans. If you want something lighter, and equivalent to Budweiser, there are plenty of delicious local Blondes, Session IPAs, and Ambers that are meant to be enjoyed all day long. If you are looking for something with a little more punch, there are plenty of West Coast style IPAs that are a bit stronger but still can be enjoyed over time.

Finally, there are the barley wines, imperial stouts, double IPAs, imperial reds, and other sorts of beers that are best enjoyed slowly either because of the rarity or the high alcohol. These beers are not fussed over, though. Instead, they are enjoyed for all the flavors they present.

The ad is also ridiculously ironic considering AB In Bev is currently on a buying spree, picking up craft breweries. Most recently this includes 10 Barrel out of Oregon and Elysian out of Seattle, Washington. For a company to simultaneously make fun of craft beers while buying up new breweries to promote it is hard to tell what the focus is. Either way, it is a sad attempt to attack the craft breweries that have been winning over the public’s appreciation lately.

UPDATE: Craft Beer response to the Budwesier ad is below. Totally nailed it.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Hop Industry Predictions from the Source

During the Hop Grower’s Convention that was hosted by Stone Brewing Company I got to meet with the owners of 47 Hops, a mid-sized hop grower and distributor that helps bring some of the much-sought-after hops to the market. The evening was a lot of talk about the hop industry as it exists right now and some of the challenges ahead that will end up ultimately affecting the type of beer available and what the smaller breweries can make.

The guys at 47 Hops were kind enough to treat a few other bloggers and me to beers, cigars, and pizza, though anyone present could tell you we were there mostly for the opportunity to chat about hops with someone in the industry. As many enthusiasts already figured out, one of the big problems facing the industry going forward is the massive increase in demand for certain varieties of hops. This means that citra and mosaic hops are becoming so much in demand that it is impossible for smaller breweries to get them.

Consumers can demand beers made with these delicious hops (that among other things deliver some delicious citrus flavors that San Diego beer fans have grown to love) but there simply isn’t enough of either hop being grown to keep up with demand. Part of this comes from a sad reality of hop growing. In order to increase production to keep up with demand there needs to be some serious increase in funding, and the money just isn’t there.

And as the amount of money involved becomes much larger, the length of contracts required before someone can buy hops becomes that much longer. Though five years ago the thought of a five year contract for hops seemed unthinkable, it is now a requirement especially if a brewery wants to keep some consistency and the hop growers want to know that they are going to be able to get the return on investment that makes expansion possible.

Aside from funding, another thing keeping hop capacity from growing as fast as the hop heads might like comes down to certain requirements before a piece of land can be good for growing. Aside from finding the right place to grow as far as climate and quality of soil, growers have to worry about being within an hour’s drive of some cold storage facility. Just as heat can harm a hoppy beer and take away that bite, so too heat can harm the hop oils while they are still present in the buds, leaving the grower with a product that is much harder to move. And of course building a cold storage facility large enough to keep everything and keeping that running is not cheap.

It is also not as easy to get those hops out to brewers in the form of wet hops or whole cone hops. This is because while that form of hops provides some fantastic intense flavors, they also are not able to survive long voyages. Thus, when hops are going to be transported from Washington State, where many of the hops are grown, to east coast cities like New York City the most practical way of doing that is by processing the hops into pellets. The same thing is true for hops shipped overseas. When hops are transported in large boats across the water, the best way to make sure they survive the voyage is to process the hops into pellets. This if why pellets still remain the most common way of purchasing hops.

So with demand growing for certain varieties of hops, what is a likely prediction for the future? Most of the small breweries are not going to be able to get their hands on some of the more popular varieties. Hopefully this will lead to some experimentation in the sorts of flavors present in the beers as brewers try to make West Coast Style beers without some of the now common and expected hops. I expect some of the brewers will do just fine and will find ways to make interesting styles of IPAs with common varieties hops that hop-heads have otherwise gotten tired of. Maybe this will lead to some experimentation with the type of malts used such that things don’t all taste like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

I also expect that it will be hard for smaller breweries to get their hands on large quantities of certain hops over the long term. The longer contracts are expensive and there is only so much to go around. So once they brew a fantastic beer with certain varieties of hops, without a contract in place that beer won’t taste exactly the same the next time. I am already seeing this around San Diego with smaller breweries IPAs varying from batch to batch due to supply. This makes it hard to consistently order the same beer from a smaller brewery if the small variations in hop variety change your enjoyment.

I’ve realized recently that while I love hoppy beers, I don’t love every single variety. There are a lot of flavors of hops that I love, the citrus, tropical fruit, and occasionally the floral, and other flavors that I like sometimes and other times can’t stand. Though in some ways that is part of the fun of exploring beers and IPAs in particular. It is fun to learn to talk specifically about flavors you like so you can ask the bartender how a specific batch is and make a decision based on that without having to try a sample.

And for the beer drinkers who can’t stand hoppy beers, don’t expect that they are going to disappear at any time but you might appreciate the experimentation in flavors other than hops that we may see out of this. It is always great when a small brewery makes a beer that showcases the unique flavors of rye in just the right balance. Others are waiting for an explosion of wild yeast flavors that have yet to become mainstream in San Diego but that enthusiasts have been enjoying for years. Scarcity of certain varieties and increase in cost may help push those trends to the mainstream more quickly as well.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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