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Thursday, July 26, 2012

San Diego 2012 - Part III: Smoke and a Sausage

Friday was a pretty light beer day (not LITE beer) in terms of actual consumption, because we decided to head up north to Harrah's Rincon Valley Center to see Cheech and Chong in concert!  Harrah's is a mammoth casino complex housed on an Indian reservation about an hour outside of San Diego proper.  I'd listened to Cheech and Chong's Greatest Hit compilation tape quite a bit back when I was a kid, and also saw several of their movies (my favorite being "Up in Smoke"), so it was kind of a "bucket list" decision... let's go and cross it off the list!  After all, when else would we get the chance to see these two comedy icons in the flesh?  

But first, we headed to Rancho's again for breakfast, then to Rite-Aid for some gym-related articles, and finally to the gym for our workout before stopping in at Pizza Port OB for their awesome lunch special - a slice of pizza, a hefty salad and a beer.  Today, I went with the Chinooki Pale Ale brewed with 100% Chinook hops.  The sign on the tap list was quite humorous and depicted the Snookie (from that God-awful MTV show Jersey Shore) Monster from a fairly recent South Park episode.  I got a kick out of it.  


 We had a bit of time, so we decided to check out a brand new brewery called Societe that just opened about six weeks prior to our visit.  We were surprised to find a fairly large brewery and tasting room situated in one of the many industrial parks that seem to house many of the San Diego breweries.  But the floor plan was so open, that they definitely have plenty of room to grow and expand.  Overall, I really enjoyed the vibe of Societe.  I get the feeling that they are trying to create a Victorian-style fictional town, given the names of their beers and images on their merchandise.  They only had five beers on tap during our visit, so we opted for a sampler, which included generous pours of all five beers.   Of the five beers, three were IPAs (The Dandy, The Apprentice and The Pupil) while two were Belgian-style ales (The Harlot and The Widow).  My favorite was, without a doubt, The Pupil, an IPA brewed with one of my favorite hop varietals - Nelson Sauvin.   In retrospect, Societe may have been my favorite of the "new" breweries we visited during this trip.  I look forward to returning to see what else they've come up with since this past visit.


Inside Societe's brewery
We milled around OB for a bit and headed back to Dano's to get ready for the Cheech and Chong show.  After chilling for a bit, we embarked on the hour-long drive to Harrah's.  The roads were quite Californian - long, winding mountainous two-lane highways that made me wish I was in the front seat (motion sickness, you know?).  We made it to the casino about an hour before the concert was set to begin, and we had to secure tickets and eat dinner.  Lucky for us, one of the restaurants in the casino was pretty dead, so we ordered and were served in about fifteen minutes.  We chose a steakhouse, not the best option for Brewslut and I, but we had very limited options. So we both inhaled our chicken Caesar salads and headed to the venue.  Overall, the show was great, with Chong's wife (extremely HOT wife, that is) opening the show and acting as MC throughout the night.  The duo performed many of its musical hits (Basketball Jones, Earache My Eye, Born in East LA) and a solo set from Blind Melon Chitlin.  And of course, they performed the classic "Dave" and "Let's Make a Dope Deal" skits, among others.  After the show, we headed back to San Diego for some much needed rest, as tomorrow would be a busy drinking day, indeed!


We had a pretty hectic itinerary planned for June 16.  First up was our daily visit to Pizza Port OB, followed by a stop at Ballast Point's newly expanded tasting room.  I was pleased to find that they beefed up the beer selection from about eight or ten selections to a whopping twenty-two taps, complete with most of the flagship and seasonal beers, as well as several one-offs and specialty beers rarely seen in PA.  We decided to get several samplers, as there was plenty on tap that we'd either never had previously, or wanted to drink again!  We opted for the Barrel Aged Piper Down (a Scottish ale), Three Sheets Barleywine, a special batch of Black Marlin Porter brewed with chipolte peppers, cocoa nibs and orange peel, Indra Kunindra (a curry stout brewed with cumin, cayenne, kaffir leaves, coconut and the aforementioned curry), and finally Barmy ale (brewed with apricots and honey).  We honestly could have stayed for another hour.  

So many taps... not enough livers!
 Aside from the beer, we also met a local fellow at the bar with whom we struck up a conversation.  When we mentioned we were both from Pennsylvania, he informed us that his cousin lived there, but in a small town we'd likely never heard of - Shamokin!  As you probably know, both Brewslut and I grew up in Shamokin and lived there until we graduated high school.  So it was quite amusing to meet someone three-thousand miles away who'd heard of little old Shamokin.


Up next on the agenda was a visit to a relatively new brewery called Hess Brewing.  I must admit that I'd never heard of them before, but I soon found that they had only opened in August 2010.  Hess has the distinction of being San Diego's first licensed nano brewery, meaning the are REALLY small (they brew in 1.6 barrel batches, or about fifty gallons per batch).  It appears that Hess has a penchant for brewing some pretty ballsy brews.  Of the four beers we sampled, the lowest ABV was 6.3% (a tasty coffee and cream stout named Grazias Induresco).  We also tried the Amplus Aeerba, a San Diego Pale Ale weighing in at a mammoth 11.3% ABV, as well as Ex Umbris, a rye imperial stout (9.8% ABV) and finally Solis Occasus, a DIPA with Meridian hops and weighing in at 7.7% ABV.  We were also feeling a bit peckish, and thankfully there was a food truck outside peddling European sausages.  Lucky for us, they had an apple chicken sausage with cheese and caramelized onions that was delicious and really hit the spot!




Next was our much-anticipated return visit to Alesmith.  If you may recall, they were closed the last time we visited San Diego, and needless to say, we were quite bummed out.  This time around, we made sure the tasting room was open!  Lucky for us, they had a killer tap selection and a recently expanded tasting room to boot.  We enjoyed the Yulesmith Summer DIPA, a double coffee version of the amazing Speedway Stout and also the standard version of Speedway.  It was pretty much elbow to asshole in the tasting room, so we decided to chill and sit on the floor and enjoy our own company rather than try to be sociable.  I also picked up the first of several brewery T-shirts at Alesmith, a cool black and gray all-over print design featuring the Alesmith brewery logo as well as their high gravity beer logos.

It's a bit too big for Pleeps, so I guess I'll keep it!
Just a hop, skip and jump away from Alesmith is Green Flash Brewing Company.  We'd visited once before during our inaugural trip to San Diego, but we were thrilled to find that they too have expanded their tasting room... and entire brewery, for that matter!  We enjoyed pours of the Double Stout, Le Freak, White IPA and Palate Wrecker, the two latter beers I'd never had before.  Green Flash makes some amazing beers, and it was great to see how much they have expanded since our last visit.  We also got talking to some folks who were in the process of opening a new brewery somewhere in California (if memory serves me correctly), so perhaps there will be another new brewery waiting for us on our next visit.  Check out some great pics, courtesy of Brewslut...



As if this day wasn't epic enough, we decided to make the 90-minute trek to Orange County to visit The Bruery.  But I will save that story for Part IV.  Until then... cheers!

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The Pour Travelers thank you for reading about our beer travels!