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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

San Diego 2012 - Part VI: Let's Wrap This Shit Up!

OK, even I think this epic trek to San Diego is taking forever to wrap up.  So, what do you say we end it?  Ready?

We're at Monday, June 18th, and its time for our daily visit to Pizza Port OB.  Today, we're enjoying the $3 Pint of the Dizzle, which happens to be the tasty yet sessionable Longfin Lager by Ballast Point.  This is one of those simple yet poundable session beers that you can drink all day at an outside party. 

After a quick beer, we headed over to Toronado, the kinder, gentler southern California counterpart to the more gruff, original San Francisco location.  We bellied up to the bar, perused the tap list, and made our selections.  I went with Bear Republic Double Apex, while Brewslut opted for Maui's Hawaii 90.  Immediately, we were pegged as "not locals" by the friendly bartender.  Perplexed, we asked how he deduced this phenomenon.  He informed us that most regulars order Alpine beers, and most other Californians will tend to go with Pliny the Elder.  I kindly retorted with, "Well, we just visited Alpine yesterday, and just had Pliny at O'Brien's* before that."  With such a great, varied tap list, we decided to have seconds, so we went with New Belgium Vrienden (sour collaboration with Allagash) and Port Older Viscosity, the latter of which I enjoyed, but not quite as much as I was anticipating.  It's definitely not for the faint of heart!  At any rate, being out-of-towners definitely paid off, because not only was it happy hour, but the bartender also comped our first round as a "welcome" to San Diego.  A nice gesture, indeed!

Chillin' in front of Toronado
*Editor's Note: I somehow neglected to mention our visit to O'Brien's, one of the premier beer bars in San Diego and coincidentally the hoppiest place on earth.  Regardless, the place is awesome and always worth a visit.  I must have been too busy basking in the hops to have bothered to jot down what we were drinking.  Well, it was Russian River's most excellent Pliny the Elder.

After a pleasant experience at Toronado, it was off to a brand new brewpub called Monkey Paw.  Upon entering, it was clear that they weren't monkeying around.  OK, that was a bad pun.  This place is adorned with all that is monkey.  If you don't believe me, check out some cool Brewslut approved pics below.  This time, we decided to share a sampler tray, which included the following house beers: Rich Man's DIPA, Monkey Stones American Black Lager, Pineapple Express Extra Pale Ale, and  Bekantan Farmhouse Saison, the latter of which was a collaboration with Stillwater Brewing Co.  The beers were commendable, although the one that stood out was the Pineapple Express, simply due to the beer's uniqueness. 

Monkey Paw was definitely Pleeps' favorite place of the trip!

Clever chalk artwork @ Monkey Paw

More cool chalk artwork @ Monkey Paw
 After monkeying around at Monkey Paw, we headed over to Coronado Island to meet up with Dano, Andy and Tony (two of Dano's co-workers) at Coronado Brewing Company, where we enjoyed the delicious Idiot IPA and Coffee Stout.  If you read my previous San Diego blog, you may remember that during our last visit, they were plumb out of Idiot IPA, much to the chagrin of this beer geek.  Nevertheless, it is always an enjoyable visit, especially since Dano is a mugger there and knows just about everyone.  So this time, I was happy to imbibe in idiocy of Idiot IPA.  It is an often overlooked West Coast DIPA in the grand scheme of things, but I think it stands up with the best of them. 

The next day, we headed down to South Beach again for Taco Tuesday and Sculpin.  Taco Tuesday rules because all of the tacos (save for the lobster tacos) are $2.75 each.  They also have a great happy hour with cheap drafts daily.  Brewslut went with a Port F.N.G. Pale Ale this time around.  Tasty as always.  South Beach will always be a San Diego staple for us. 

Next up was an amazing visit to The Lost Abbey, Port Brewing's Belgian-style offshoot brewery.  We were definitely both excited to get back here after having only visited one other time during our inaugural trip to San Diego.  As with AleSmith, Green Flash and Ballast Point, The Lost Abbey also boasted a newly expanded Tasting Room, and we were happy to indulge.  We started off with a pair of typical brews: Serpent Stout and Dark English Mild.  We followed these up with Mo' Betta Bretta, a sour collaboration beer brewed in conjunction with New Belgium.

However, the highlight of this particular trip (and Brewslut's favorite beer of the trip), was enjoying a bottle of the extremely rare Box Set series beer called "Track 6: Highway to Hell."  Despite being a 375ml bottle, these were extremely limited and only available for purchase and consumption at the brewery.  Also, each "Track" is limited to 450 bottles.  So, we were indeed lucky to get our hands on one of these bottles!  Described as "Deliverance in reverse – Brandy barrel-aged Serpent’s Stout blended with bourbon barrel-aged Angel’s Share," this beer was a powerhouse.  Brewslut is still upset that we couldn't bring this back home with us.

...and he's going dooooown!  Pleeps is on a Highway to Hell!!!
Oh yeah, they also had a "hidden" tap, which happened to be Bourbon Barrel-aged Angel's Share, so I had to have one of those too, right?  Right!  By the way, the reason I discovered this "hidden" beer was due to the fact that I counted the tap handles and then counted the beers listed on the chalkboard.  Noticing this discrepancy, I asked the bartender if something new had just gone on.  He said, "No, but that's Bourbon Barrel-aged Angel's Share.  We just don't have it listed.  Do you want one?"  Um, yes sir, please!

Bon Scott's remains are hidden in one of these barrels!
Since I discussed the tour in some detail last time, I will spare you most of the details.  So fast-forwarding to the end of the tour, we were able to sample four of Stone's flagship beers: Levitation, Smoked Porter, IPA and Arrogant Bastard.  Afterwards, we stuck around for dinner and enjoyed a tasty ceviche appetizer and almond-crusted tilapia as our entrees.  We paired our meals with double dry-hopped Sublimely Self Righteous and Saison du Buff, two very different (but tasty nevertheless) beers. 

Yum, yum, gimme some!
Unfortunately, our visit to Stone was cut a bit short, because we had to head back down to Coronado to pick up Dano, who was experiencing car trouble.  Now, the average beer novice or even intermediate drinker would have been on his or her knees by now.  But not the Pour Travelers, for we were back at Coronado for a second time in two days. While we were there, I tried their new Frog's Breath IPA and Brewslut had another Coffee Stout.  I mean, we were there, right?  But it doesn't end there, either.

Yup, you guessed it... it was back to old reliable, Pizza Port OB for pints of California Honey and Jetty IPA, the latter of which was my "Sunshine Pils" of the trip (ie: my go-to, or fridge, beer).  Tasty stuff for sure!  And with that, we cap off another momentous day of beer hunting.

On Wednesday, we tried going to Mission but were foiled by a Padres home game.  And again we find baseball ruining our plans.  With the downtown area in clusterfuck mode, we bolted as quickly as possible and went to the Ballast Point homebrew shop.  To our surprise, Dorado had just been released for the first time in a few years!  This was the beer responsible for getting Brewslut into hops.  Thank God!  We enjoyed samples of this liquid grapefruit and also purchased a bomber for consumption at home.  I wanted to send this back, but couldn't resist cracking it open back at Dano's due to the freshness of the bottle.  In addition to the Dorado, we also samples Barrel-aged Piper Down, Ginger Big Eye/Black Marlin blend and Tongue Buckler.  I also picked up a cool Victory at Sea T-shirt, which is perhaps my very favorite of all Ballast Point's amazing beers.

After a nice visit to Ballast Point, we headed over to the brand new Rough Draft Brewing Company.  Just opened in March 2012, Rough Draft boasted a comfortable, spacious tasting room and ample bar area.  They definitely have room to grow, too.  We settled on a sampler again, which featured the following cleverly-named beers: Eraser IPA, Frontal LaBottleMe IPA, Hop Therapy DIPA, and Freudian Sip Strong Ale.  Brewslut opted for the three following samplers: Rye Ale, Belgian Vanilla Stout, and the Hop Therapy DIPA.  The beers were all pretty solid, though nothing really stood out or was that memorable.  Still, this place has tons of potential and we will definitely come back next time.

Inside Rough Draft's tasting room
After Rough Draft, we settled on Rock Bottom (yeah, yeah, I know... it's a chain), but you know what?  Their beers are almost always solid and they are pretty consistent from location to location (we've been to several across the country).  Best of all, they have a pretty bangin' Happy Hour.  So, we snacked on a chicken quesadilla and chicken BBQ pizza and washed them down with Hop Bomb DIPA and a Kolsch.  The Hop Bomb was quite commendable, I must say. 

Afterwards, we checked in for our daily Pizza Port OB visit.  This time, I enjoyed a Port Mongo DIPA and Brewslut went lighter with a PP Hawaiian Hefe. 

Back at Dano's, we watched an excellent documentary on Wesley Willis and shared a bottle of Firestone Walker Wookey Jack I picked up at Olive Tree Marketplace earlier.  Without going into too many details, Wesley Willis was an artist and musician from Chicago who was also a chronic schizophrenic.  (Click on the link above... he was a really interesting person.  Plus his music is hilarious!)

OK, so I failed to finish this bitch tonight.  Stay tuned for the final four days of this jaunt!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

San Diego 2012 - Part V: No rest on the Seventh Day

You know, Sunday is an underrated day for drinking.  It's easily one of my favorite days to imbibe.  I guess you could say I pray at the altar of Ale and my prophets are Hops, Yeast and Barley.  But enough with the religious analogies, because this day we were off to one of my favorite and severely underrated breweries in all of California - Alpine Beer Company.  Nestled in the small town of Alpine, CA, about thirty miles northeast of San Diego, Alpine brews some serious IPAs... some of the best I've ever consumed, as a matter of fact.  Pure Hoppiness, Duet and Nelson are just three of the world-class hoppy beers concocted at Alpine.  The brewpub itself is a tiny establishment, with seating for perhaps forty people at the most.  Two doors down is the production brewery, which is equally as small.  We didn't get to visit the actual brewery this time, because they are closed on Sunday.  Also, our friend Cy had moved on from Alpine to a brand new brewpub at California Kabob called Amplified Aleworks, but more on that later.

This was our second visit to Alpine's brewpub (the first time was during last year's brief trip during our West Coast venture).  This time, the tap selection was equally impressive, with a whopping FOUR IPAs on draught: the aforementioned three IPAs plus a brand new offering, a DIPA named Bad Boy.  I opted for the Nelson first (one of my favorite beers of all time - an IPA hopped with nothing but the zesty Nelson Sauvin variety from New Zealand, the country's best export since Flight of the Conchords).  Following the pint of Nelson, I went with the Bad Boy and also Odin's Raven, a delicious bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout.  Brewslut opted for the Odin's Raven first, which promoted me to get my own snifter... yeah, it was THAT good!  She also tried the Captain Stout and the Chez Moneiux Kreik, the latter of which was the only clunker of the bunch.  For lunch, we both agreed that the Southwestern salad was the way to go.  With spring mix greens, black bean corn salsa, cheese and avocado served in a tortilla bowl and topped with chipotle ranch dressing, this proved to be a delicious (and filling) lunch. 

Pleeps lookin' cool and sharin' my Odin's Raven.
Our next stop on the itinerary was a new place called Manzanita Brewing Company in Santee, CA.  The brewpub itself is a fairly small and boxy yet modern-looking room with dim lighting.  We sat at a high-top table and got a round of beers.  I chose an American Pale Ale brewed with Cluster hops and cleverly named Cluster's Last Stand, while Brewslut opted for a light wheat ale called Riverwalk.  Since we spent quite some time at Alpine, we decided to go with a "one and done" approach.  The beers were pretty solid, but overall it wasn't one of the more memorable spots on the trip. 

Joking with Pleeps as he poses with the coaster at Manzanita.
After visiting Manzanita, we made a quick stop at Beverage For Less, a great liquor and bottle shop we discovered on our inaugural trip to San Diego.  I picked up several bottles to ship home for consumption and to share with my beer peeps, the most notable being a bomber of the Alaskan Brewing Co. Pilot Series named Birch Bock and brewed with birch syrup.  I can't wait to try that one!

Surf's up at Pizza Port OB!
 Up next was our daily visit to Pizza Port OB, where I sampled Foam Ball, an English style Pale Ale.  Then, it was up the street to the famous Newport Pizza and Ale House, where Brewslut and I enjoyed the amazing Firestone Walker Parabola, a delicious Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged for eight months in circa 1990's Heaven Hill bourbon barrels.  Forget the snifter... this was so good that we enjoyed a full pint of this delectable treat.  Needless to say, after hitting three brewpubs and then offing a full pint of this bad boy, I was pretty wiped out for the time being.  We also happened to run into Cy, our brewer friend who we'd met through Dano on our first visit to San Diego.  We talked at the bar for a while, and I bought him a beer.  We were about to head out with Dano and Mags to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner, so we made arrangements for Cy to tag along.  This was Brewslut's and my first foray into the world of African food, and let me tell you, it was well received!  The food is served family style, whereby your party orders several entrees which are served on a large communal plate atop of a spongy bread that is ripped apart and used to grab the various food items.  We found this to be a great concept, especially when dining with multiple people!  After our fantastic dinner, we headed across the street to Small Bar for a nightcap (aka another beer).  I ended the night with one of my favorite beers of the trip, Port Brewing's 6th Anniversary IPA. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

San Diego 2012 - Part IV: Road Rage Sidestep

Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't react well to heavy traffic.  Having worked from home for the past year, I am even more susceptible to the agitated frame of mind one tends to experience while suspended in a state of non-motion.  In other words, I despise traffic.  I simply don't understand how an open five-lane highway can all of a sudden become as congested as a skinny, frail kid with asthma.  At any rate, we hit a wall of cars while en route to our final destination (The Bruery) of the "epic beer day" that began with Pizza Port OB and continued with Ballast Point, Hess, AleSmith and Green Flash.  After what seemed to be an eternity of grueling bumper-to-bumper gridlock, we faced defeat and pulled off at the San Clemente exit for some much needed liquid relief.  Lucky for us, Pizza Port San Clemente was only minutes away, so we decided to dock ship, regroup and hit the highway when things settled down a bit. Since I was still fairly agitated from the traffic (though happy to be sitting somewhere AND accomplishing something simultaneously - drinking a beer), Brewslut's notes failed to capture what I was drinking.  She went with the Pier Rat Porter.  Let's just say that I went with an IPA, which is my drink of choice when visiting the various Pizza Port locations.  We also enjoyed some pizza while we waited for traffic to die down a bit.  In the grand scheme of things, I'm actually glad we hit some dreaded traffic, because the Pizza Port San Clemente location was the only Pizza Port we hadn't yet visited.  So to quote Ricky, we got "two birds stoned at once." 

Pleeps and Brewslut love them sours!
After a pit stop in San Clemente, we were back on the road to our final destination, The Bruery.  I must admit that it took a while for The Bruery to impress me with their beers.  After a few decent offerings and a disappointing drain pour of Papier.  However, I became an instant convert after a beer friend, Tanger, shared three amazing bottles one night at a tasting.  Those beers were Sour in the Rye, Barrel-Aged Two Turtle Doves and the outstanding Chocolate Rain.  Chocolate Rain, in particular, was so good, that it is one of my highest rated beers on BA (and that's saying a lot, because I've reviewed over 1700 beers)!  Brewslut also loves sour beers, and The Bruery definitely has a proven track record brewing tasty sour concoctions.

Wood Jerry... wood!
The tap selection was quite impressive, featuring a bevy of sour beers including Tart of Darkness, a sour stout aged in Black Tuesday barrels.  We also sampled Burly Gourd, a milk stout brewed with pumpkins; Nottenroth, an un-soured version of Hottenroth, which was light and refreshing... and the result of a brewing mistake: the batch simply wouldn't sour); Sans Pagaie, a Belgian Kriek; Tradewinds, a Tripel brewed with Thai basil; and finally Mother Funker, a sour blonde ale.  Wow!  That's a lot of palate-wrecking tartness, eh?

Outside, there was a cool medieval-themed food truck with a bunch of different kinds of corn dogs and fries. The even had a corn dog named after my favorite "man... I mean dragon-man... well, maybe he was just a dragon," TROGDOR, the Burninator!  If this reference has you scratching your head with confusion, get thee to Homestar's dot commmm!  Anyway, I grabbed a chicken sausage corn dog and some tots, and both really hit the spot.  As last call approached, I grabbed a bottle of Fruet and Burly Gourd for my friend, Chris, and we headed back to Ocean Beach.

Stay tuned for Part V, which finds us visiting one of my personal favorite brewpubs, Alpine Beer Company, as well as a new place - Manzanita Brewing Company, plus our daily visit to Pizza Port OB.  Until next time...

Um... this picture needs no caption.