Lost: Abbey

GNAG0255“Excuse me, you look familiar,” I say to a deadpan bald man with glasses, holding a pitcher of beer with a puffy vest jacket. He pours me three fingers of a cloudy gold beer. “I don’t think we’ve met,” he says as I squint and take whiff. Croissant and a lick of caramel on the nose, I think to myself…where have I had this beer?



“I’m Tomme Arthur, pleased to meet you.” I totally knew that. I just get bashful when meeting pioneers of the beer business. “This is Avant Garde, our farmhouse lager.”

GNAG0267On the back patio of Verdugo Bar (a Ryan Sweeney joint), picnic tables are strewn about topped with Delirium Tremens pink elephant umbrellas and beer signs from around the globe. Each table is filled with corked and caged Lost Abbey beers and lit beer label veladoras. Surprising is the total lack of petrichor despite a windy downpour that ended an hour ago.

The evening is hosted by The Lost Abbey for industry publicans and bottle shop big wigs. A few beer writers were sprinkled in for good measure; I’m glad to get the call.

GNAG0258The Lost Abbey, San Diego’s only quality volume sour/funky beer producer (in my opinion), is here to re-introduce themselves and do a tasting of rare beers. L.A. and O.C. have a wealth of quality mixed fermentation breweries, and sometimes a gentle reminder of what the pioneers can do is a breath of fresh air.


Jon Sanchez receives holy communion

Jon Sanchez, owner of Native Son Alehouse in downtown Santa Ana, noted, “Lost Abbey kegs are reasonable compared to the competition.” From my standpoint, It seems like pints of Lost Abbey beers cost more. He went on to add that one L.A. brewery raised the price of their kegs to keep cost in line with what some establishments charge for pints. The perception that wild ales cost more isn’t always the case.

GNAG0269Over three hours, we rifled through nine beers, pouring faster than consumption. Veritas 17 with Blackberries was my absolute favorite, noting it smelled like fresh linens stained with fresh berry jam, and was super soul-refreshing. I do hope we see some of these showing up on tap handles soon, as it seems the most storied barrel programs in the U.S. needs to get back on the front page.

Beers sampled:

  • Avant Garde – farmhouse lager
  • Devotion – dry hopped Belgian blonde
  • Hop 15
  • Red Poppy – sour with cherries
  • Veritas 17 – sour with blackberries
  • Cuvee de Tomme – 15
  • Cuvee de Tomme – 09
  • C-9 – barley wine with peaches aged in conjac barrels
  • Ad Idem – sour with peaches.

Grits Fullerton Changes the Beer Dinner Game

A grit can be described as a small stone, just big enough to count with the naked eye. It can also be used to describe backbone, big enough to pull off a packed $135 per sitting beer dinner in downtown Fullerton…at a brunch spot…a few days before Christmas. Stone? Yeah, there was Stone, eight of them to be exact.


For the price tag, Grits Fullerton had a lot to live up to. I went in thinking it needed flow, cloth napkins, and extended pinkies. I thought, we would all get to dive into Stone’s cellar and come out like masked robbers. Having been to two chef Cody Storts beer dinners and two “Dr.” Bill Sysak pairing events, I know the madness both are capable of.


When the first beer is 2008 Stone Brewing Old Guardian Barleywine at 11%, the tone has been set. This isn’t going to be a hoity-toity affair. This is going to be a feast.


Stone’s brand ambassador, “Dr.” Bill Sysak, ruled the beer side. Chef Cody mans the Christmas bush.

Various animals, grains and vegetables are shuffled and hit the table like a no-limit poker game. Plates like cards, beer glasses like poker chips. Do I go all-in or fold?


Course 2 – cajun octopus with a dazzling candied citrus. tequila barrel aged cali-belgique IPA played off the citrus like a margie.

Amuse #1 and #2 down the hatch, “now the fun begins,” yells chef to applause. Smoked trout rillettes paired with Matt’s Burning Rosids, an imperial smoked saison, is served. I’ve seen this beer pulled out for a few events over the years and is drinking beautifully. RIP Matt, always glad to remember a comrade, your burning rosids beer and rillettes didn’t leave much for the dish cleaning crew…it was my fave of the night!

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Preview: Stone Stochasticity Project – Hibiscusicity

There are beers in the world that can be pronounced no matter how drunk you are. “Bud”, “Coors” or even “Pabst” can be yelled at the noisiest of bars by the sloppiest of drunks and a fizzy yellow beer will slide across the bar in a frosty mug. With Stone’s Stochasticity Hibiscusicity, MIT students might even stumble. Hell, for the last project release of the Quadrotriticale I asked a bartender for a “Stone Quadruple Testicle” and she poured the right beer, smiling.

IMG_7038So anyways, my gargoyled friends in Escondido were inspired by a refreshing hibiscus beer and thought, lets take this bus to Stoke-a-stis-city Hibiscus-city. Instead of a Stone IPA, this beer comes by way of “Belgian Style”, which means it has some fruity/spicy yeast things happening. Knowing Stone and their library of beers, I can sometimes taste the beer before it’s been opened, but not with these Stochasticity Project beers.

On the pour, I’ve never seen a gargoyle blush, but this beer looks like it got caught masturbating on a pile of furbees after playing with mom’s makeup. It’s showy like a a hibiscus plant in Hawaii. If this beer were in a vase, I would probably drink it, then tend to my flower garden, with gloves for safety.


IMG_7032IMG_7033The bouquet is like sticking one’s nose in a box of Krispy Kreme raspberry/strawberry filled donuts. Some caramel malts and a breeze of orange peel adds to the complexity. The first few sips bring out more of the jelly-filled donut notes, balanced with some bitter cranberry and yeast spice. I also caught a metallic note, no doubt part of the hibiscus flower. I seem to recall other hibiscus beers doing something similar to my palate.

Hibiscusicity is a refreshing beer and will be out 9/15, just in time for our never-ending summer. Since I don’t really do Pumpkin Pie beers, this makes a nice alternative. It’s definitely worth checking out, if you can pronounce it! Had it? Let me know what you think below or on facebook/Twitter!


Leveling the Playing Field // A Look Back at the San Diego Beer Week Guild Fests

I’m not sure why, but the first things I do after checking in a hotel:

  1. Open the Window
  2. Check the drawer for a bible
  3. Hose off
  4. Wait for my wife to get ready in the hotel bar

First off, my window view from the 11th floor of the Sheraton:


Then, the Sheraton bar beer menu:


deliciousJust when I thought the view couldn’t get any better, I did the Patrick Stewart triple-take on the bar menu. Expecting the standard macros (which are there), I’m happy to get the pre-game started with my first taste of a Stone Brewing Liberty Station brewed beer. Stone’s Delicious IPA is exactly what it sounds like: a busty hop delivery system. The sunset across the bay puts me at ease, only to be shaken by my wife’s hand landing on my shoulder. “Shall we get a cab?” she says as I toss back the lower third of this fresh, hoppy beer. “Heels? At a beer fest?” I think to myself, knowing full well if I say anything it will mean at least twenty more minutes before we leave. IMG_2529

Here for both San Diego Brewer’s Guild festivals and general San Diego debauchery, my only real expectation is to sample beer from fifty or so SD breweries next to the water in a really cool looking building. Instead of traversing the entire county, a proper Cliff’s Notes version should do the trick. The Friday night session is the “VIP brewer takeover” session (a term that confuses the hell out of me…are the brewers VIP’s? Do I physically get to take over a brewer?) and a bigger general admission beerfest on Saturday afternoon. Both festivals are held on the Broadway Pier which is generally purposed for cruise ship boarding.

Friday Night Brewer Take Over Session // Dia De Los Muertos Hígado

PBCupPorterInside only, breweries are ez-upped and situated alphabetically. Although odd, it does make my day fairly navigable. Skipping the initial clusterfuck near A-F, I land at Green Flash and nab a Lil’ Freak, a pleasant wild yeast beer with crisp, fluffy carbonation and notes of tropical fruit. The whole reason my wife is here is to drink Karl Strauss’ Peanut Butter Cup Porter, a beer she texted me about weeks prior to this event. We both agree this should be a regular offering from ol’ Karl.


As this event includes food in the price, we opt to scarf next and are somewhat underwhelmed. Of the ~20 or so eateries, 75% brought sliders, 20% trays of various pasta and 5% interesting food. For out-of-towners like us, this is a missed opportunity for craft beer friendly eateries to give a reason to come back and check them out. The one stand-out for me is Stone Catering’s crispy fried risotto followed by their tropical cream cake. The problem is, we eat there regularly and discovered nothing new. Nonetheless, we eat like we are stuck on a deserted island out of necessity, knowing full well an empty stomach and the worlds best beer = chumming off the end of the pier, projectile style.

IMG_2540Beer-wise, imagine for a quick second that I’ve never been to San Diego and have never heard of any of these breweries. My overall impression walking out at the end of the night is San Diego is a “Barrel Aged Beer” city. By 8 o’clock, my tongue feels like my belt. The problem is, if you started at A and worked your way down, you started with Alesmith’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Speedway Stout and the beer only degraded from that point on. Many came close, including Ballast Point’s Rum Barrel Victory at Sea and Stone’s 2010 Double Bastard aged in bourbon barrels. Others were good, but failed to match the balance an intensity of the big guys. Perhaps blending vs. cuvee is the issue? Maybe good base beers don’t fare well in bourbon? I hate to sound like a complainer, it’s just that I expect big things if I intend to defend San Diego as a beer mecca. Thus far, I’m confused why carbonation issues are a thing at a SD beer festival. I would be embarrassed to serve undercarbed beer as a homebrewer to friends, much less a VIP session kicking of SDBW.

Of the non-barrel aged goodies, Iron Fist’s Roots of Wrath and On the Tracks Real Ginger Beer blows me away. With loads of palate fatigue and a four ounce pour, I’d be lying if I tried to break them down for you. Put them in your beer spank bank and order them at once if on tap. But were there hops? Not much. A few breweries have double and triple IPA’s. St. Archer wins me over with balance and freshness. I’m shocked there is no fresh/wet hop beers being 11/1. San Diego, you’ve failed me.

Saturday Afternoon Brewer’s Guild Fest // the brewer’s gave it back for the non-VIP’s (or something)

Compare/contrast from Friday night: Same great location plus more breweries inside and out, plastic tasting glasses instead of glass, sunshine, food vendors, easier to move about, less carbonation issues, bands, not as much barrel aged goodies, more hops.

Saturday’s session is where it’s at. A bright and cheery festival with a great mix of food, friends and mix of San Diego’s best beer at a gorgeous location. Next year, I plan on skipping the Friday session and hitting a few more events around town. Until then, I’ll keep wandering around the huge county in search of the best beer.

(Friday/Saturday glassware below and random pics)

IMG_2546 IMG_2559



Freshly shorn Greg Koch, me in the middle and my Beercamp brother (#94) Sean Laidlaw (brewer at Mission)


My sleeve of craftbeer temporary tattoos



Saturday session setup with the USS Midway.


no dumping – drains to ocean



Thanks San Diego! I’ll see you soon.

How To Fly a Plane with Patrick Rue | Urge Gastropub Collab

patrick rue grains in

patrick rue deals with a leaky grantDespite his rock-star brewer/founder/CEO status, there’s no persian rug laid out when Patrick Rue brews. There’s no floor-stand candles lit with dripping wax, no nearby couch with hot groupies watching, and not a single tattoo in sight. On the wee three-barrel pilot system of The Bruery, there’s only Patrick, his ingredients and whatever inventive idea floats his way.

Here bright and early on a Friday morning, the production brewery is bustling on an Autumn Maple brewday. It smells like fresh pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. Brewers elevate large drums of mulling-spiced yams into the boil kettle, then top it with a healthy bucket of organic black molasses. Filling-line bottles clank wildly over Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”, fighting my eardrums like Mike Tyson at a Justin Bieber concert. Patrick is nearby knelt-down fiddling with a finicky heat exchanger on the pilot brew system and doesn’t seem phased, “Tyler (King) says it starts up for him every time,” he quips nodding twice.

godzillaThe pilot brewery sits quietly off to the side of the main brewhouse. If you’re familiar with the old Bruery tasting room, the kettles and tanks sit (sort of) where the main bar used to be. It’s a simple system, easy to work on like a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle. If you were in a Godzilla costume, the miniature brewhouse would be a perfect set to recreate a Takusatsu film, pretending the tanks were large buildings, thrashing and smashing about while screaming like a giant green lizard.


Most breweries tend to use a tinier half-barrel RIMS homebrew system for pilot batches (15 gallons); however, The Bruery has flexibility to barrel age small batches, do micro-releases for the tasting room, test out different recipes, and collaborate quickly and easily on the 180 gallon system.

patrick rue and grant of urge gastropub discuss hops

Today’s brew comes by way of collaboration. Grant Tondro, general manager and proprietor of Urge Gastropub in San Diego is here to help brew their third anniversary beer. “We were thinking of doing a Belgian pale ale with bourbon soaked Madagascar vanilla beans and orange zest – inspired by an orange cream soda,” says Patrick with an Elvis-like raised lip. Grant adds, “if there’s time, I’d like to hit it with some french oak to enhance the vanilla.” With only seven weeks until the anniversary party (late July), oak spirals are definitely an option.

grant of urge gastropub and cambria griffith of the bruery in the tasting roomWith Patrick in the pilot seat, the brewday is child’s-play; he grains-in while Grant breaks up the dough-balls. I even get to lend a hand, holding up Patrick’s black hefty sack. As grains slowly convert to sugar, flavor and color over the next hour, the true spirit of collaboration takes hold – time is filled with beers and funny stories. At 9:45 A.M., Patrick guides us through a couple unreleased Bruery beers and Grant talks about Urge Gastropub’s latest endeavor that includes a bowling alley on a half-acre lot opening Feb 2014. “24,000 square feet of craft beer goodness!” says Grant.

grant of urge gastropub hops in2

patrick rue fights a boil overBack in the brewery, the system vorlaufs, sparges, then lauters into the boil kettle.  The two gentlemen get down to business as Patrick snaps on the latex gloves. “Is it time for my exam?” asks Grant to my amusement. “Lets talk hops,” says Rue sliding open the cooler. As a wine sommelier, Grant prefers to let the the complexity of the beer derive from the yeast, vanilla and orange zest in secondary. Patrick suggests Columbus, a good clean bittering hop as the sole sixty minute hop addition. Hands are shook. Knuckles are bumped. Pellets are weighed out, then pitched as the boil starts. Boom.

grain outAs the brewday winds down, Grant glistens while graining out. Oxygen is pumped inline through the wort on its way through the chiller. “We can chill down to fifty or hit any temp we want going into the fermenter,” says Patrick on the nimble system. Rue then prepares a healthy pitch of 2.2 billion house-strain yeast cells, squirts down the fittings with sanitizer and sets the little microorganisms free to pursue a life of alcohol/Co2 production and religious consciousness. Beer is being made in pilot proportions.

colorful bruery beersAs Patrick Rue balances his time between family life and operating one of Orange County’s most prolific breweries, it’s great to see his brewday skills are still intact. He’s relaxed, methodical and creative. His brew muscle is roided out and ready to chuck knuckles. The next time you drink a Bruery pilot beer, remember that it’s anything but accidental.

 Aftermath! – the beer, called “Rue the Day” ended up at 8.3% and was very “creamsicle-y and super drinkable.” says Grant.


Vacation in a Glass | Stone R&R Coconut IPA Collaboration #IPAday

stone r&r coconutIPA

mauiLooking like a Maui sunset, Stone Brewing’s R&R Coconut IPA is a mass of orange incandescent liquid. The carbonation flows like an upside-down tropical rainstorm, flooding the head like a freshly crashed wave. The froth begs to be inhaled and releases all tension upon doing so. This beer is a vacation in a glass. (click here for some relaxing ambient wave crashing noise)


The sun melts away the thick chill haze revealing a crystal clear golden beer. Duck-diving the top wave, I come up with big notes of bit-o-honey candy, some honey graham cracker, pink cotton candy and a touch of sweet herbal tea. Sadly, the coconut is lost on a deserted island. I climb every tree and come up empty, brah! Even as it warms, the hop aroma turns herbal masking any coconut.

P1060224The taste comes in waves; sets of sweet foamy crystal malt, then 90 IBU’s of juicy tropical hops, the next wave carries an ankle slapper of coconut, followed by a ten foot glassy bitter finish. Sip after sip, I go back out for another set looking for the perfect wave. As it warms, the coconut comes out, but by that time, the temp is washed out for the style of beer. The body is notably creamier than the standard “Stone mouthfeel”, making it deceivingly chuggable at 7.7%ABV.

P1060220Overall: This is a damn fine IPA. As a coconut fan, I was hoping to get socked in the nose and gut with coconut, yet walked away unscathed. If you hate coconut (aka you’re a total “Barney”), you’ll probably do just fine with this beer. Stone’s Brewmaster Mitch Steele quotes, “The primary flavor note is coconut, and its intensity was achieved by two additions, one in the whirlpool and the other post dry hop. The selected hop varieties add subtle tropical fruit and berry notes that blend well with the coconut.” I get the tropical thing, but I really have to dig for coconut…only getting a brief flash near the back end of the taste. I don’t necessarily want Malibu Rum in a beer either, just some nice toasted coconut to remind yourself to get outside and enjoy summer. Regardless, I’ll personally be on the lookout for it.


The chill haze burn off was one of the most intense I’ve ever seen with any beer. I actually prefer the chill haze look as it lends a more summery luau cocktail visual. As it clears, it gets boring like your grand-pappy’s IPA. Pictured left, before and after, ten minutes.

Stone R&R Coconut IPA is a homebrew competition winner re-brew collaboration (with Robert Masterson & Ryan Reschen/RIP Current at Stone Brewing Co.) and is well worth picking up. As with all IPA’s, drink it as fresh as possible. Share it with your mom. Shaka!

Food Pairings: Ahi Poke, SPAM musubi, aged gouda, pineapple cottage cheese, jalapeno/pineapple pizza, thai coconut curry, mango shrimp tacos.

UPDATE: I bought a few more bottles, and the later tastings have displayed more coconut aromatics, retronasal olfaction while swallowing, and coconut finish. Perhaps my initial bottle was served too cold.

Disclosure: Initial bottle courtesy Stone Brewing Co. Purchased three more for personal consumption and further review.  

Stone Brewing Co. 16th Anniversary IPA

A blog post about a beer you will most likely purchase and consume is pointless. Instead of boring you with yet another beer review, I think an anniversary is great time to reflect on a brewery, its accomplishments and how they have grown.

WHOA, Hold on a second there mister…this beer has lemon verbena in it? I never thought I would see ingredients commonly found in my wife’s Bath & Body Works lotion in a beer. After a recent ball surgery, I used that lotion to assist with determining my ball swimmer count.  The “Complete Aromatherapy Handbook,” likens the scent of Lemon Verbena to “morning, when everything seems fresh, new and promising.” Exactly what I want my genitals to smell like!

The sun sets as I crack my Stone 16th Anniversary IPA for a tasting. Another balmy 95 degree day comes to a close…not a minute too soon. The fountain outside gurgles and drips. The fire pit crackles and roars as I stare in a daze. While pouring this beer I feel the same nervous excitement when I cracked my first Arrogant Bastard Ale. Thoughts of “How buzzed will I be after drinking this?” and “what if I’m not worthy?” dance around my head. 10% beers drunk alone sometimes push my boundaries.

On the pour, a deep gold molten core is topped with a swiss-cheese cratered moon crust of head. I swirl it and sniff. My eyes pop…Stone has done it again! This time letting some herbs ride shotgun over my palate’s proverbial State Line. Mud flaps are flappin’, truckloads of malt and hops CB each other in a convoy down to my belly. 10-4 good buddy! Notes of clover honey, lemon verbena and salvia on the nose. My first sip is herbal sweet and spicy clover honey, citrus zest, followed by a low scoville hop heat. Salt and pepper even make a cameo appearance; perhaps Rye malt? Interesting. Balanced. Delicious.

Steve Wagner, parties like its 1999 IBU’s

I get the feeling the addition of Stone Farms will continue to play a part in the “Farm to Kettle” movement as seen with Saison du BUFF and GK and LU’s Mixtape beer seen around town. Bottom line, this is still a Stone beer with much of the same mouthfeel and bitterness characteristics fans should expect. At 10%, there’s some heat; somewhere around what the Stone Ruination 10 Year Anniversary beer has. As the temp rises, this beer does not fare well. Split a bottle with friends or keep in the fridge between pours.

Overall, I set out to do a reflection post on Stone Brewing Company but was derailed by a nice imperial herb IPA. Reflections are only good when someone’s dead right? Pick up a bottle, and if you don’t already have tickets to the huge Anniversary Bash on August 18th, I suggest you do so quickly, like NOW.

San Diego Brewery Tour!

credit Dor & Bob on flikr

Snowblinding Noble Ale Works                    credit http://www.dorandbob.com/

I’m a sucker for San Diego brewery tours. When I heard there was a tour departing from Noble Ale Works in Anaheim, I instantly registered and X’d off my calendar  until the big day came. It’s been at least a year since I’ve been down there which is WAY too long. That’s like 30 fortnight in brewery terms.

The day is finally here, and frankly, I’m frilled! Visiting Noble Ale Works at 1 in the Afternoon is something I’m not a stranger of.  “Any cask left?” I say, referring to the cask of Citra hopped Nobility DIPA from the night before. As I sit and sip, the bar seat hisses like a pissed-off anaconda. The remnant of this cask is slightly carbed, grassy, pissy, and monster mango delicious! As a few couples funnel in and order beers, I get the feeling I’m the only loner of the group. Great!

The tour coach, rented by LA Craft Beer Tours is bright yellow and looks like a big Nuprin. It’s clean inside, has AC and there’s more than enough room for everyone. Pat and Dale run the tour and pack enough beer fuel for the long trip down to San Marcos and abroad. For starters, they brought a keg of Old Orange Brewing Co. Rookie Red which was sucked down by the time we hit San Clemente! The cooler is packed solid with random singles from Lagunitas, Oskar Blues, Rogue and a few Arrowhead waters for the trip back. Protip: If you don’t care for red solo cups, bring your own glass!

First stop is Lost Abbey/Port Brewing in San Marcos. Kevin at Lost Abbey is quick to give us five taster wrist bands and we’re off! I make a quick run of some Lost Abbey Seasonals, starting with 10 Commandments. Thou shalt not put blacked raisins in a beer? Do not covet thy neighbors Rosemary? Lost Abbey does not obey. This is insanely tasty and complex. “Can I order two at a time?”, “Hell yeah!”, “Let me do a side by side of the Saisons.” Saison Blanc and Red Barn. I prefer Red Barn based on the body; Saison Blanc is a tad chewy for my taste; especially on a hot day. I’m almost tempted to buy a few bottles but lets face it: buying a bottle or two at the first stop of a brewery tour wouldn’t last five minutes on the bus.

“It’s all ball bearings these days.” – Fletch

My last two tastes I hit some Port Brewing Mongo DIPA and Summer Pale Ale (SPA) while hitting the brewery tour. After the Belgiany goodness, a nice hopload goes perfect with my beet-pizza I scored out front. SPA wins my visit to Lost Abbey/Port Brewing with a decent body, crisp bready malt and a shit-ton of hops. This beer would work well with any Summertime BBQ. I highly recommend doing the tour as it is full of great brewing info for all levels of beer knowledge. I’m glad we found Lost Abbey.

Second Stop: Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits. Despite having just opened a sizable patio, BP is still quite cozy. As the sun sets, I hit the beers I haven’t tried yet; first up is Indra Kunindra Curry Stout. Yo momma quero, mama! This beer is a party my mouth! Big notes of coconut, curried graham cracker and some other tasty eastern spices. Indra would go great with Yellow Thai Curry, some Kimchee or a coconut macaroon.

It’s no secret among friends that I really like Ballast Point’s Wahoo Wheat. When I saw a Thai Chili Ginger Lime Wahoo Wheat, I was like, “Wha-hhhhweeet” and order it. I love that Ballast Point was born from a Homebrew Mart and still keeps that spirit alive by tweaking their proven base beers. It’s also no secret among friends that Sculpin IPA is not only my favorite IPA, but one of my top ten favorite beers of all time. When I saw Dorado DIPA, my boxer-bound boner pushed me a few inches from the counter, trustfalling backwards into a complete stranger. Honestly my palate is shot at this point, but this beer is one tasty guy. Tons of bright tropical fruits, earthy hops, backed up with caramel malts. I’d like to try this beer on a fresh palate, without a boner, even though palates are made out of wood.

I managed to get a shot of an actual Green Flash. What are the odds?

Last Stop: Green Flash. We’re here with an hour to spare at 8PM. The bus is rowdy, loud and ready to party. $1 tasters? $2 half pints? Craft beer on a college student budget here! The tasting area has an ample tasting “pen” inside the size of a Rodeo and a picnic area on the side of the building. I work my way through their San Diego series consisting of East Village Pilsner, Park West Porter, and 30th Street Pale Ale. All are sessionable at ABV’s less than 6%. 30th Street Pale Ale is remarkably hopped and will be on my radar when down in SD. For my nightcap, I grab Le Freak, then a Tripel before pounding some serious water. Did I mention $2 half pints?

Last Last Stop? Home. I fall asleep before the bus is out of the parking lot and wake up near home. I love when that happens! Magically, nobody barfed that I was aware of, although the nice smell from when we first got on the bus has turned into 31 flavors of ass.

A color for each brewery.

The tour was a complete success! Pat and Dale of LA Craft Beer Tours know how to run a tour and highly suggest you check them out. Check their website calendar for future tours! I look forward to hitting an LA tour soon.

Pat and Dale  of Craft Brewery Tours.

A Nation Ruined Ten Years Later – Stone Brewing RuinTen

Stone Brewing Co. Ruination 10th Anniversary IPA Review and Release Notes

Road-raging home after dodging a big-rig fender-bender with the venus-crossed sun in my eyes, finding a box on the front porch from Stone Brewing Company instantly snaps me back to a great mood. “I will not be stabbing a hobo today” I think to myself as I pull out a boning knife to open the box. I’m hoping there’s beer inside and not, say, a severed head ala the movie Se7en with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman.

I put the bottle in the freezer, set the chicken timer at 30 minutes, then crack this hoppy hell demon.

On the crack, a moist “PSSSSST” sneaks out like a genie from a lamp. I quickly shove my nose in and whiff a hop farm in the tiny two inch headspace.

In the glass, this beer shows gorgeous crystal clear copper with a tinge of white foam that briefly clings to the perimeter. As the malt bill is Pale 2-Row and Crystal 15, I assumed it would be golden. Perhaps filtered lupulin oil gives a red tint? On the nose, a mushroom cloud of Centennial hops hit my sinus cavity like a backdraft from hell and puts me in a daze. This is getting serious.

 From the Stone Blog:

“…an amped-up version of Stone Ruination IPA, with a bit more malt to bring the abv up from 7.7% to 10.8%, and a very heavy dose of hops. “Classic” Ruination uses 2.5 pounds of hops per barrel–which is more than double the amount we use in any other of our core beers–but for Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA, we went double again, using an impressive 5 pounds of hops per barrel, including about a pound each of Citra and Centennial in the dry hop. (Hell. Yes.)”

This beer showcases Centennial hops with wafts of over-ripe sweet juicy grapefruit. Imagine a box of grapefruit in a Turkish prison. No? How about a box of grapefruit in a college dorm? Nah. Box of grapefruit near the ocean after a rain? I’ll go with that. There’s a bit of dank earthyness that hides out among the fruityness. I would highly recommend putting a bag over your glass, then huffing this beer’s aroma until you pass out. Searching for Citra Hops on the nose I come up empty, thankfully, as Citra is one of those hops my nose categorizes as ‘cat urine’.

My first sip freaks me out. This Sub-tropical hop sipper starts out sweet and fruity, followed by a lingering pepper spiced hop bitterness. It’s like french kissing a hell demon after it ate a hop plant. (Those naughty, naughty hell demons!) The mouthfeel is very Stone-like but chased with a sweet-hot alcohol which keeps the bitter hanging out. As I continue to drink, I start to crave street tacos al pastor with onions, cilantro and a dash of lime topped the hottest salsa available. Fresh tortilla chips with a mango habanero pineapple salsa are also calling my name as a pairing.

Remembering my first sip of a Stone beer (IPA), there’s a certain ‘Stoney’ flavor profile that exudes and this beer is no different. As super-hopped beers are commonplace in this era, it’s refreshing to be reminded of what started it all just a decade ago. Stone Brewing Co. makes a strong statement and leapfrogs the vast landscape with this release. I tip my hat to Mitch, Greg, Steve and the entire Stone Brewing family for their efforts. If the twenty year release isn’t 20% ABV and ten pounds of hops per barrel, I’ll be pissed.


Additional Info:

Stats: 10.8% abv, 110 IBUs
Availability: Limited 22oz bottles & draft. One-time release, beginning June 11th
Distribution: AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA
Malt bill: Crystal 15, Pale Malt
Hops bill: Columbus and Centennial. Dry hopped with Citra and Centennial.

San Diego Launch Event
Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA Party at Henry’s Pub
Sunday, June 10, 5-10pm |
618 5th Ave, San Diego
We return to the first SD bar to ever pour Stone Ruination IPA, throwing an awesome birthday celebration filled with brews, food, music, and a lot more! On deck are guest appearances by Stone CEO & Co-Founder Greg Koch and Brewmaster Mitch Steele, five taps with special versions of Stone IPA and Stone Ruination IPA, food pairings with dishes created just for this momentous occasion, plus limited-run Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA glasses and T-shirts on sale. Full details.

Media Sample provided by Stone Brewing Co.

 Additional Pics:

Beercation: Alpine Beer Co.

While down in San Diego/Escondido I ditched my reservation at Stone World Bistro for a trip to Alpine Beer Co and pub. Before you hit the back button, Alpine Beers rival Stone on almost every level. Okay, really, please don’t click the red X button! I’m not an arrogant bastard!

Having been to Stone on several occasions, I know it’s practically Heaven. Craft Beer newbies and enthusiasts from all over the world worship at the gargoyle alter. Coors Light drinkers are routinely sacrificed on the large monolithic stone in the lobby. Greg Koch (CEO and half owner) routinely signs bottles for beer fans as if some sort of celebrity. If you haven’t been to Stone, go. Make sure to not make eye-contact with Mr. Koch or he might break out in a mirror-practiced speech several times about sustainability and profitability. I kid of course, Stone beers are a benchmark to how others are measured. I love what Stone has done for Craft Beer. Greg Koch is a business master and exhibits passion that I truly admire. I’ll get off my knees now…

I wanted to hit Alpine Beer Co ever since trying a bottle of “Pure Hoppyness” my brewer friend Scott “StarRaptor) Bennet from SNB Brewing brought to an IPA tasting. The beer really stood out with a huge hop aroma, dank oily piney hops similar to Pliney, but Socal. I found out they have a pub with really great pub food as far as yelpers were concerned. Not knowing what to expect, we hit it up. Google Maps points you to a place called Alpine Inn which is wrong. Keep going down the main drag another half mile and you can’t miss the rustic carved wooden sign. If Google maps doesn’t know where you are, you are truly off the beaten path in the beer world!

Some dude named Al makes a Pine beer? Hardy har har

The pub is about the same size as a typical 7-11. It has a ten person bar, four booths, a side bar looking out the window, and 4 four person tables. We walked in and sat at the only available table 2pm on a Sunday. We ordered up some flights and wings. Not knowing what their beers names were I asked our waiter what some of them were. Two of their beers, “Willy” and “Nelson” brews aren’t related to the singer, unfortunately. I’m sure they get that a lot.

While there I banged out almost their entire beer menu. My wife (lets call her “the HopHater”) enjoyed their Mandarin Nectar, and I started off with “Hoppy Birthday”; a big Pale Ale that is two hop cones shy of an IPA. Sister in law had a “Nelson”, being her wife’s maiden name. Nelson is a big smooth Rye IPA with huge hops and the rye makes for an incredibly smooth beer. Drinking these beers I’m picturing brew master Pat McIlhenney shoveling piles of hops into the kettles like a firebox crew in a steam locomotive.

I ordered up a tasting flight. They give you a slip to fill out and they serve it in a numbered muffin tin in order of how you wrote it on the slip. I love having tasters served all at the same time to really get down to business with comparing.  I had Duet, Pure Hoppyness, Willy Vanilly and Cap’n Stout. Duet is a 50/50 mix of my two favorite hops – Amarillo and Simcoe. Willy Vanilly is their Wheat beer with huge Vanilla notes. The HopHater really enjoyed it. The Stout was pretty dry ala Irish Stout.

I always forget to photograph it before I guzzle. Notice I always save the best for last!

The Pub has no take away beers. The brewery and pub are in the same strip mall, but not connected. They have their own hours. If the brewery is closed you have to go down the street to a liquor store to buy their brews which was the case for us. At the local liquor store I was able to grab their Red Ale which wasn’t tapped at the pub. The Red, like the Stout was done in Irish Tradition. Its aromas and flavors brought me back to my trip a year ago to Ireland; drinking copious amounts of Smithwick’s and Murphy’s Irish Red…so good!

Hoppy Birthday okay guys. Great session pale ale with huge hop notes.

The Food was BBQ style pub grub served fresh with huge spicy and sweet flavors. I loved the menu says to tell the server if you don’t like spicy food. We grabbed some smoked wings with dry rub to start then settled into some serious grilled cheese, black-n-tan onion rings, buffalo chicken sandwich with jalapeno jack cheese and their green beans…yes, their green beans were diabolical. There wasn’t a speck of food left when we ordered another round. They didn’t have dessert which is fine by me; more room for beer!

The only negative was one of the servers was a little testy (or is it “teste”?) and didn’t want to explain the beers. I asked a couple times for a flight sheet, refills, and had to go to the bar to ask the other server. He asked us how long we were going to stay as there was a wait outside. When your bill is over a hundred bucks, one shouldn’t feel rushed. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was having a shitty day which is fine. It didn’t rub off on me! Craft beer waiters shouldn’t have attitudes like 1990 Tower Records employees. The other server on tap was awesome and joked with us. I dug his “Holiday Inn Cambodia” shirt he actually got in Vietnam at a Holiday Inn.

Sure this isn’t a place in Orange County, but it is reachable by a daytrip. There’s many quality options for great craft beer in San Diego, but consider going a bit off the path to Alpine Beer Co!