Sunday, February 14, 2010

San Diego Beer Tour 2010

Where to begin? Probably with the reason for the trip.

Over the past few weeks (maybe even months) I have been feeling a little disconnected, maybe slightly uninterested in Santa Maria and my continued future here. So I began to think about a way to get away from SM for a weekend to reflect on life, and spend some alone time.  Some how I came up with the idea of San Diego. OH I know how I came up with it, Uncle Geno told me over lunch that it was an absolute requirement that i go down to Stone Brewing in SD and take the tour and get all the free beer samples and then eat at their restaurant.  So i started investigating; What else is in SD that I’d like to go and see (aka taste). I started doing the research and just fell in love with what i was finding. Really cool businesses, with apparently really good beer and really good food. One of these places particular was recommended by my friend Jennifer Barthell (Version 1.0), Pizza Port. Well it is not just pizza that Pizza Port does, they’re a brewery with a lot of excitement and crazy ideas. I started with the pizza port site and found their other venture, Lost Abbey Brewing. Oh man. Talk about exciting, realizing that these guys are trying to do things right, trying new things and revamping old things and seemingly taking brewing to a new level. I almost left right then and there. I thought i better think this all the way through. And I did. And that’s how I ended up in San Diego.

Now! On to the tour.
Friday i took a very leisurely drive down the coast of California, stopping at the Le Crueset outlet in Camarillo (realizing that the word “outlet” is a lie, i decided not to make any purchases), heading further down, I stopped in Long Beach for some lunch. Rockbottom Brewery, holds some really good memories. The first time I went to Le Mans race, we had dinner and beer here at Rockbottom. The beer is not spectacular, or not as magical as I remember it, but still good. The Food though, man that is still just as magical. I had the Hickory BBQ burger, the bbq sauce is so spicy, I love it. I highly recommend them just for their dang BBQ sauce. So lunch was good, I had their sampler tray (which was way more beer than i needed so i only drank about half of each sampler), which left me a little on edge. Firstly because the thought of throwing away beer just doesn’t sit well and because I had to drive another 2 hours to the hotel… I was completely fine, but being in a place I wasn’t familiar with, made me a little more nervous.

With the Rockbottom growler filled, onward I went. Things were fine once I was in the car and realized I really hadn’t had very much beer at all.

So I decided the evening before there was one place along my route that i absolutely had to stop at. The rumors of this mysterious place had been passed down to me by my father. OK that sounds way to dramatic. Basically this is a Beer, Wine, Liquor and Tobacco Shop, with a bigger selection that bevmo, well, it’s close, it might not be bigger, but its more vast. I didn’t think it was possible, but I arrived at High-time Wine in Costa Mesa and went in via the “beer” door. At first it was less than overwhelming, the beer section looked sparse so I kept going. This place is amazing, I probably could write an entire blog post on just High-time wine. The Liquor Section was amazing. Two whole rows of Tequila from floor to ceiling, huge isles of wine and other spirits. And then, the humidor!


This is the interior of the humidor, this is only ONE side. the other isle is half the length but just as full. Pretty freaking cool. They also had VERY highend pipes and plenty of different pipe tobaccos. This isn’t just a quantity thing, they had lots of variety and lots of things I had never seen before. Really cool

I then ventured to the primary wine section…


Two isles just like this was the “good” wine section. They also had a section for things that seemed more like, “please buy this today, because we’re not proud we have it (Bitch wine as an example)”.

So at this point i figured i had missed something in the beer room. I did. I didn’t get a picture of this but basically the beer section was a cooler. It was really big, with a lot of Local selection, lots of things i was expecting to taste when arriving in SD and a lot of things that I probably wont see anywhere else. Lots of Imports lots of good US beer. Really cool, i fully intend to go to high-time wine very time i drive past Costa Mesa.

Crap this is going to be long:

There was only one goal for Friday dinner. Get food in Matt's stomach so he could go to Lost abbey before they closed.
Oggi’s Pizza solved this problem. The place was off the chain packed. The wait was going to be like 25 minutes for 1 person. So I was told i could grab a seat at the bar, seemed a little uncomfortable to sit at the bar with a pizza but i was on a time crunch (lost abbey closes at 8pm on Friday nights). So i grabbed a seat and ordered a pizza and their Amber Ale. The beer was pretty good. It was definitely drinkable but not remarkable. Next time I’m in the area I'll have to take some more time with them as they seemed pretty promising. The pizza was… not Marco Polos so it sucked. (exaggeration but anyone who’s had Marco Polos knows what i mean)

On to Lost Abbey. Lost Abbey is tucked away in an industrial business park, that looks like people would participate in shady drug deals in their parking lot. Old Tom Tom, got me there without a problem and i found a seat at the bar (on top a bag of malt and a Keg, little awkward but i didn’t care, just wanted to try their beer). The service was interesting, for the most part it was terrible but the first lady who saw me ended up apologizing profusely for the wait and was very nice. The man who served me, seemed legit. He came over and asked what i wanted, i had no idea, so i asked for his three favorites. He brought back tasters of Red Barn (which is a traditional Belgian Saison), Gift of the Magi (which is their Belgian style holiday ale), and Serpent’s Stout (which is their sweet stout that is supposed to epitomize the balance between the good and evil represented in the Garden of Eden) I dove right in, started with the Red Barn, and although it was very good, Belgian saison’s aren’t really my thing. Think Delirium Tremens from Huyghe, its like the true Champagne of beer. And Red barn was comparable, just not something I’d drink everyday. Next was gift of the Magi… I fell in love. So good, a little more amber in color, not as bright and citrusy, so more malt flavors than the citrus of the hops. And finally on to the stout, which i was excited about. It didn’t disappoint. It was sweet, strong, dark, very little head, pretty much what a stout should be with a tad bit more sweetness. I wish i had pictures of these, but i do have pictures of the bottles. As I purchased a bottle of each.  I also purchased their glass. Beer stemware, I can see it catching on.


I then found a park, very near to where I was for some time of reflecting, smoking (MacBaren’s Scottish blend if you’re curious), and sobering. The park actually was an aquatics facility and a very nice one at that… If I lived there, I’d want to swim there.

Saturday. i woke up before my alarm went off, not sure if it was the comfort of the bed (which was surprisingly nice) or if it was just pure excitement to see Stone Brewing’s Facility. I arrived at Stone at 11am to make sure i could get a pass to one of the tours and get some lunch in before the tour. I was able to get a pass for 1PM and grabbed a spot at the bar. Stone’s bar and restaurant is REALLY cool. The design is very industrial, kind of modern, with lots of stone. (go figure) Come to find out, that it is their Winter Storm Week. Which means they have/had a lot of their beers past and present on tap. Things you don’t normally get to try. And much to my surprise they had things that weren't theirs. I found out the reason for this during the tour… they’re a distributer to the local stores. It gets them in the door, and they get to help smaller brewers that can’t get into larger stores. So randomly, they had Deschutes Mirror Mirror. Which if you know me, I am a sucker for deschutes brewing (bend, OR). So along with the three samplers of Stone, i had to get a sample of Deschutes Mirror Mirror as it is one of their specialties i had been hearing about since my trip to Portland in September. The Stone brews to join deschutes were: Imperial Russian Stout 2007, Cali-Belgique IPA, and Ruination IPA. All three were really good, but i think Mirror Mirror stole the show.



The bottle list… the other side was the draft list and was almost as long.


Their Gargoyle (fends off evil spirits of beer)

After lunch, I had about 45 minutes before my tour started. Seemed like a good time to find a spot for more reflection, sobering and smoking (again Scottish blend).


The view from my new smoking spot.

Finally the tour.
It was a very good tour, I didn’t learn much, as I know the basics of brewing beer. I did learn that stones a distributer, they laser etched their bottles, their tanks hold 11,000 gallons of beer each, most people hate their beer the first time they try it, and Arrogant Bastard Ale (their name sake) was an accident.


Cool table (with stuffed animal doubling as yeast)


Mashing, boiling, and fermenting equipment (and tour guide)


11,000 gallon tank, yes the tour guide was drinking…


Lompoc, CA perlite… used for filtering i believe.


Bottling Line


Pallet of Port brewing in cooler for distribution


Massive Quantities of beer.

Now comes the relaxation part of my trip. Following further tasting of Stone beer (after the tour its free), I purchased a growler of their Smoked Porter, a shirt, and a glass and headed towards Solana Beach for Dinner at pizza port. At this point it was around 2pm yes, i had been at Stone for 3 hours. And wasn’t bored, ever. I drove across North SD county to the coast. I drove around Solana Beach about 2 times trying to figure out where to plant myself (as it was to early for dinner). I found what appears to be the only beach access in Solana beach and found a nice step to sit on.


It was a pretty magnificent view. The first view i found was much better, but there wasn't any seating and definitely no smoking.


Gorgeous view.

So i spent about an hour and a half maybe two hours sitting and people watching. And found that this big cement circle in the middle of the area i was sitting was a kid magnet. it was really weird. Every kid that walked by it had to touch it.


And most, not only touched, had to dance, or run in circles on it. Pretty awesome.


I finally headed out, but first walked down closer to the beach.


I am pretty convinced that if I ever remarry, I’ll be proposing to said woman on this beach.

Pizza Port. The pizza was very good. It wasn’t Marco Polo’s but it was DANG close. I really liked it. I had a pint of their One-Down Brown. Probably one of the best brown ales' I have ever had. I wish i had gotten a growler of it. As i found out later that it was only available at that pizza port and they never bottle it.


The atmosphere was nice, very family oriented.
I had read on their website that there was a “bottle shop” next door, i exited after dinner to go find said bottle shop… it’s next door to the one in Carlsbad… Well i had no where to be, so i drove to Carlsbad. The bottle shop was quaint. Connected to another Pizza Port that was having a benefit “party” (to put it mildly) in support of breast cancer research… Let me just say, you don’t want me to repeat the conversation i heard between a patron and the guy running the register. it was freaking hilarious though. I bought a few bottles that i knew i wouldn't be able to find anywhere else. Nogne-O which is a Norwegian brewery that Stone collaborated on for a Spice Ale, and a few others. Stone/nogne-o Jolly Pumpkin

I headed home… with an interesting debate occurring in my head. Head to the Irish Pub in the parking lot of my hotel, or the bevmo in the parking lot of my hotel? I chose the Bevmo, and I think i made the right choice. I did my shopping for the next 3 months… All locals, mostly all things I wont be able to nab at Bevmo SLO (as in slo at getting things that are good). I picked up a sixer to enjoy rather than the pub. I bought Stone’s Levitation. Really stinkin’ good, probably one of my favorite stone offerings. I could have drank the whole six… But didn’t



(Levitation in Lost Abbey Stemware)


My bottle purchases for the weekend.

So… here we are at the end of the longest post of the century… and where am I? I want to move, I want to move and be a part of the community around Stone and Lost Abbey. The area of California is beautiful, its not yuppyish, its just good people that like good food and good beer. I’d miss the wine country, but the vibe there is really cool. Other than that? I know I have to continue to do my job, continue to seek what God has planned for me, and if He ever decides to up root me from SM, I faithfully pray it is to Escondido/San Marcos or northern San Diego County in general.

I learned some important things about myself, I learned that I am willing to be moved. I can enjoy solitude, I am not disciplined at all at the moment, and drinking is a social thing. As fun as all this was, and how remarkable all the beer i tasted was, its no fun with no one to share it with. I am not convinced I’ll ever remarry, and I am very much ok with that, but if for some reason God does bring another woman into my life, I hope she loves beer, Oh and Jesus… I kid… Jesus first, then beer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brewing Element Ale Batch 3 (New Castle Clone)

This will be mostly pictures.
Brewing date was January 24th, 2010.
First step is cleaning.

The second step is measuring out water needed.
Third is getting the water up to a simmer (155 degrees)
Fourth, should have been step one, open a bottle of drinkable homebrew (thats EA-b2)
Fifth, add specialty grains to your grain sock and add to the simmering water.

Next, sanitization
I swear this isn't as borring as it seems
In the above image, grains have just been removed, now I put the spurs to it and bring it up to a full rolling boil. And add the hops:
After hops have been added it gets to be a weird green color:

I have been experimenting with when to add the malt extract. This batch and the last I added it in the last 15 minutes of boil, as all it needs to do is dissolve, and it isn't adding much flavor if any at all. 

At this point you add additional hops and then try and get the temperature down to between 75 and 80 Degrees. Not easy to take pictures of ice melting. Basically I have been taking my Wort (baby beer) and dumping it on ~7lbs of ice to make this happen. So far so good. Then you add additional water to get it up to 5 gallons, add the yeast and aerate. Seal it up and wait... For the most part, people will disagree with how I am doing the fermenting/storing. Most people use a secondary container after the first 2 or 3 days to allow for the beer to continue to clear. I simply leave it in the original bucket, seems to have done fine so far. 

After two weeks in the fermenter, its time to bottle. This time around I cleaned and sanitized my bottles using the new dishwashers NSF sani-wash setting. 

I racked the beer from the Fermenter to the bottling bucket then hung the bottling bucket over the front of the dishwasher and went to work.

Bottling went very quickly this way, I think it only took about 30 minutes. 
I think I lost more beer than I normally do, but not to much. 

After bottling, I generally leave the bottles in storage for about 3 weeks to let them clear further and for carbonation to be established. From there it is a pretty boring process, LOTS of cleaning. Cleaning of the bottling bucket and fermenter and long with the whole kitchen as it is a mess after bottling. 
Hope you enjoyed the very uncreative post, lots of information in this one. The next will be fun, I hope. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Am I feeling OK?

So it's been a while since I've been to the Grocery store. Tonight I finally went, I hate going, because it always feels so uninspired. Well. Today, I decided I need to buy something different, something that won't end up killing me (in theory).I decided to buy a bag of salad, yeah that doesn't seem like the best way to eat salad, but its easy, and chances are I'd be more likely to eat it if I dont have to cut it all up and wash it (sans a salad spinner). So thats what I bought.
I finally got home from the grocery store (seeing as it's such a long drive from my house). And decided, there is no time like the present, and prepared a salad.
I know what you must be thinking! Matt! What the HELL are you doing having salad for dinner...
Well not to worry fair readers... This was what I washed it down with:
I find it extremely appropriate that I used the "hopworks" mug, this brew is hoppy. Not extremely, I've had things that are much more hoppy, but the aroma... man, the aroma is like being back in Portland, in pubs and breweries filled with the lovely smell of hops. I was worried, because I bought a case of it, with no prior knowledge except that I love all that Sam Adams does. I don't regret the case purchase, its awesome. Go buy some Sam Adams Noble Pils.

You'll have to excuse me though, my beers getting warm and my salad is as well. I must tend to them.