Monday, August 18, 2008

Stone 12 Anniversary Celebration

I had an awesome time this weekend at the Stone Brewing Company's 12th Anniversary Celebration. This year it was at a new venue in San Marcos. The grass was cool under my feet, the sun was shining, a light breeze was blowing. In short, it was the perfect day for a beer festival.

As soon as I walked in I went directly to the Stone tent to try their 12th Anniversary Ale. Every year, Stone brews a Special Release (a phrase that always makes me giggle) for their birthday. This year it was a Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, and it's awesome. This is a nice soft well-balanced stout. Like most Stone beers, this one is not shy on the flavor. They use bitter cocoa from Carlsbad jewel Chuao Chocolatier, which gives it a deliciously chocolate flavor, but no cloying sweetness that this style is sometimes guilty of. Secondary flavors are hints of coffee and anise. The beer finishes with a chalky dryness that balances out the creamy velvet mouthfeel provided by the Oats and the 9.2% ABV! I risked killing my palate by trying a deep black stout as my first beer, but the risk payed off. This is a great beer.

As I mentioned in the previous post, part of the reason I went to this event was to try other Bruery beers. I really loved Trade Winds Tripel, which is their Summer seasonal beer. Its a Belgian-style Golden Ale, but in The Bruery's practice, they mixed it up a little bit. Instead of using candi sugar like most Belgian Goldens, they used rice as a malt source/ This actually lightened the body of the beer while still providing enough fermentable sugars for some high gravity. And here's the kicker, the beer is then flavored with Thai Basil. How much do you love that? This is a delightful beer, that harkens to my other favorite asian flavor inspired beer Great White. ABV: 8%. I also got to meet Bruery owners Patrick and Rachel Rue and their very talented brewer Tyler. They are cool people and Patrick had even read this little old blog. I'll definitely be bringing you more news from them!

So as I was standing in the incredibly long line for Victory (never got there), a middle-aged guy with a big sunburn kept holding out a beer to me... "Here!" he said, "I don't like it," and handed the glass to me. A couple of things ran through my mind. My immediate reaction was to not accept this beer, for obvious reasons, but since he assured me that he hadn't drunk from the glass, I decided to risk getting ruffied. (Don't do this.) I took a sip, and I loved it! What was this wonderful beer, and how was it that someone could not like it?

When I turned around to ask him, he was gone. Was he just a good samaritan, or was he the elusive beer fairy that I've been hearing about my whole life? I don't know, but he gave me a great beer from Pizza Port in Carlsbad, the taste was something familiar, I was able to lean my head around the crowd and see that it was a sage beer. Interesting, since Craftsman Triple White Sage is the only beer I've had with sage and its one of my favorites! Anyway, I didn't really get the name of this one, but I loved it. I don't think that you can get it in bottles, so if you are ever at Pizza Port and you see a sage beer - get it. Its good.

I also met the owner of Wandering Aengus Ciderworks from Oregon. I love and have recommended their Medium Sweet 100% heirloom apple cider. This time I tried their dry cider. It was super dry and had a definite champagne quality. This cider is also made with heirloom apple varieties that have big tannins, then the cider is fermented and aged in untoasted Oregon white oak barrels. It was nice, tart, spicy, woody and dry - PLUS its 8% ABV. Delish.

The last beer of the day I had was a surprise big favorite. I had the Oaked Arrogant Bastard ale from Stone Brewing company on CASK. Oh happy day. I like Arrogant Bastard, but I really have to be in the mood for it, you know? However, I was so pleasantly surprised by this beer on cask, I couldn't believe it. I thought that without sharp carbonation in this beer, it would be super malty and sticky, but the combination of the dry oak barrels used and the soft cask creaminess, this beer was amazing. It was woody and dry, toasty and nutty, it had a wonderful piney hop presence and a perfectly balanced 7.2% ABV maltiness. I totally geeked out on this one. If I ever have a bar with beers on cask - I'll have this one on tap for shizzle.

And that's my recap for the 12th Anniversary Celebration! The only bummer was that Craftsman wasn't there this year. (They are a little busy over at the brewery!) I can't wait until next year...only 363 days left.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Bruery

No, I didn't spell it wrong - The Bruery is an awesome new Belgian-style craft brewing company from Orange County, California. Its spelled "Bruery" because the brewer's last name is Rue. So clev-ah. I hadn't heard of them when I saw a big beautiful 750ml bottle of The Bruery Saison Rue, sitting all alone on a shelf. Well, Saison being one of my very favorite styles, I had to buy the bottle and check it out.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this beer. First off, when I poured it into my crystal tulip-shaped glass, it was a deep rich amber - much darker than any Saison I've ever had before. It was also much heartier than the others I've had, which I didn't think I'd like - but the toasty notes were a nice addition to the peppery spice, the tart brett and notes of hmmmm...what is that?...I have to look at the bottle to see. Oh its RYE! Now I get it! Yum. The finish was nice and dry with some citrus rind in the exhaust. (ABV is 8.5% 0 IBU is 30)

The Bruery never filters or pasteurizes their beers and all of their beers are 100% bottle conditioned, which means that there's no forced carbonation - the beer is ready in its own sweet time. They say that they "strive to use unconventional ingredients." And I'm excited that I'll get to try some more of their interesting beers tomorrow when I attend the Stone Brewing Company's 12th Anniversary Party in San Diego.

I'll update you when I return!

Click here to check them out online.

P.S. How are you liking my beer-tography?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

This Beer is Turning Me Green

So, I love the environment as much as anyone else, but I'm generally not the hugest fan of organic beer. It's not that some of it isn't good, its just that "Green" and "Organic" are sometimes turned into marketing terms to sell beer to the Inconvenient Truth fans of the world. To me, the real environmental impact of beer comes from the shipping and distribution. So, its never made much sense to me to buy an organic beer for environmental reasons and then have it shipped from the UK, you know?

That being said, I loved this new beer from Deschutes Brewery out of Bend, Oregon called Green Lakes Organic Ale. Do I like it because its organic? No, I like it because it's a damn good beer.

It pours a pretty orange / amber with some citrus on the nose with touches of rose petal and plum. The first taste is tart with toasty pecans in the middle followed by a nice hop bitterness and dry finish. My first thought was that I liked this beer better than their flagship beer Mirror Pond, and my second thought was that this was a great session beer. At 5.2% abv, I could drink a lot of these!

Now for the organic part. After working with Oregon Tilth, a nonprofit research and education membership organization dedicated to biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture, Deschutes received organic certification for its 50 barrel brew house and can now brew organic ales year-round.

This award winning beer (Gold Medal at the 2008 World Beer Championships) was brewed with five types of 100% organic malted barley and balanced with Liberty and Salmon-Safe Sterling hops. The way these flavorful, rich hops are grown makes sure that streams are shaded and there is not runoff to nearby waterways. That way the rivers stay cool and clean for migrating salmon.

That's pretty cool. Its good to be kind to the fishies. Am I becoming green? This beer is definitely helping me get there.