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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

San Diego 2017 - Part 6: Revenge of the Herbs

Dano and Jen had decided to organize one of their famous dinner parties on this particular evening, so we decided to keep things local and not stray too far from home base. Cy (from Amplified) and Luke (from Kilowatt) would also be joining us for a multi-course feast prepared (mostly) by Jen.

Pariah was one of those other breweries on Cajon Blvd. in North Park we stumbled upon when they were closed. We'd just been to Eppig the day before. These breweries were next door neighbors situated in a small plaza just off the main drag. As a name, Pariah intrigued me and also connected with me on some level. A pariah is an outcast, or in Lehman's terms, a "black sheep." I've always considered myself to be the black sheep of my family, if not for my unorthodox way of doing most things in life (holding a writing implement, wiping my behind, my approach to drumming, etc.) then certainly for my religious beliefs (i.e. none). Needless to say, I felt somewhat of a kinship with Pariah. Hopefully the beer would be good.

Inside Pariah's tasting room.

Keeping in line with its namesake, Pariah offered a motley bunch of slightly off-kilter beer styles (aside from the IPA) that comprised an eclectic flight for us to share. Here's the deal:
  • Dank Drank IPA - Their take on the classic West Coast IPA. They employ a technique called "hop-bursting," a topic on which they don't really go into detail. This was a dank one, indeed.
  • Off White Wit - Belgian-style witbier poured through a Randall with mission figs and blackberries. The base beer is inspired by Thai style Boba Tea and brewed with orange blossom honey, jasmine green tea, fresh lemongrass, sweet orange peel, and fresh ginger. 
  • Erotic Night #IWCBD - 9.5% ABV strong ale brewed with Petite Syrah (grapes... I had to look it up), orange blossom honey, lavender, and star anise. The hashtag is the abbreviation for "International Women's Collaboration Beer Day."
  • Dorcha Extra Stout - foreign export stout brewed with a proprietary locally roasted coffee, carob molasses (cross between molasses and honey), and organic, fair trade cocoa nibs.
Among the outcasts at Pariah. Actually, it was just us.

The beers were solid for a place that had just opened its doors in February 2017. I'm always pleased to find a brewery that knows what it wants to do right from the get-go. It seems like these guys have put a lot of thought into its beers and ethos, which both Brewslut and I have come to appreciate over our years of beer travel. I can't tell you how many times we've been duped into stopping at a brewery, only to find mediocre beers named "Red Ale," "Pale Ale," "Brown Ale," etc. with pedestrian, worn-out descriptions for its beers. When we find a place like this, I just have to sit back and smile.

The small "light beer" tap handle dispensed water. #winning 

Further down (or up, depending on where you're standing) was another new place for us. North Park seemed an unlikely location for Barn Brewery. Outside, the place looked like - you guessed it - a big barn, complete with an iron weathervane. Inside, the building boasted an exposed wood beam construction with a massive brick fireplace, and working barn doors. Their focus on beer and fare echoed its "down on the farm" vibe. This place was casual and the bartender was super-friendly.

Down on the farm! At the entrance to Barn Brewery.

Although Barn featured a small but respectable selection of house-made beers, it rounded out the wall with several guest taps featuring primarily CA-brewed beers. However, we were there for the house beers. I settled on Rooster Call, a straight-up West Coast-style IPA, which was just what I was in the mood for at this precise moment. This was a no-frills, balanced yet hoppy IPA with a fragrant, citrus-forward nose with some pine resin mixed in for good measure. It's everything a West Coast IPA should be. It's not a palate-numbing hop bomb or over-the-top attempt to bludgeon your tastebuds into oblivion. It's beers like Rooster Call that drew me to the style in the first place. I would hold this beer in the same esteem as Bear Republic Racer 5, Stone IPA or Lagunitas IPA. Good company, indeed!

Brewslut opted for Little Saison, a light, refreshing 4.2% ABV farmhouse-style ale. Barn seems to have a penchant for brewing farmhouse-style ales (aka saisons), and rightly so. It certainly fits with their vibe. To lift a quote right from Barn's web site: "We try to honor the spirit of the farm workers who historically drank saison ales to get through the long work day by crafting our own modern variations on the style to help you unwind after a long day."

The food also sounded great here, but it would have to wait for another visit, as we were saving room for the epic, multi-course meal being prepared by Jen and Dano (though mostly Jen).

Monkeying around with Pleeps at Barn.

In San Diego 2017 - Part 2: Welcome to the Flavordome, I'd referenced meeting a sales rep from Bitter Brothers. We tried to swing by on an earlier date, but unfortunately they were closed. This time, we were hopeful we'd get to try some of their beers. When we parked the car and rounded the corner onto the sidewalk, we discovered a good sign... literally.

Lookie here. Beer!

Bitter Brothers was open for business! In retrospect, I'm really glad we made it here, because the beers were stellar and we had a great visit. Some of the beers (at least one in particular) turned out to be favorites of the whole trip. But more on that in a minute.

I like orange.

We decided on a sampler flight, not only because there were so many sweet-sounding beers on the menu, but also because Corey (the sales rep we met at Flavordome) told us to show his business card to the server for a complimentary flight. That was mighty nice of him! Here's the low-down:
  • O Brother Where Tart Thou? - Golden sour dry-hopped with Mosaic.
  • White Peach Family Tart - Peach Berliner Weisse. Oh my freaking goodness was this amazing! Definitely one of our favorite beers of the trip, and a contender for best sour beer of the trip. We really need to start having "Best Beer" awards for each trip. 
  • Little Brother - Session IPA rife with citrus and tropical fruit. Pretty sure this one will be champion some day. Homestar Runner dot net... it's dot commmmmm!
  • Hazy Blue Line - NE style juicy IPA... another in the long line of beers playing the "haze game" this trip. This one was pretty bangin'!
  • Black Sheep - coffee porter brewed with local coffee from Arcidiacono.
Pleeps is ready to dig in!
Everything we sampled was enjoyable and well-done. Bitter Brothers seem to have all its ducks in a row. It was hard to pick a favorite, but we both agreed that the White Peach Family Tart was something very special. Since our sampler flight was free and the bartender had been so friendly and talkative, I felt we had to at least order a pint of something. Enter Sibling Rivalry, an aptly named IPA from a brewery called Bitter Brothers. This one is brewed with loads of Pacific northwest hops including Simcoe and Centennial for a citrus-forward smack of grapefruit and orange. While this was a very good IPA, the malt backbone was a bit too hefty for my liking. I enjoyed both the Hazy Blue Line and Little Brother more, as these are more in my flavor wheelhouse for IPAs.

No sibling rivalry for Pleeps, who's an only child.

We had time for one final stop before heading back to Dano's for our dinner party. On our last trip, we had enjoyed Acoustic Ales quite a bit, not only for its music-centric imagery and tasting room atmosphere, but also for its well-crafted beers. I also like the fact that they don't utilize "Brewing Company," but rather came up with something a bit more clever in "Brewing Experiment." 

"We're goin' acoustic!" - Ffej, circa 1992, SAHS talent show.

Inside, the place was just like I'd remembered it. This time, the room was void of patrons save for one older guy currently bending the ear of the much younger bartender. I could sense that the bartender was happy to see us. Soon enough, I noticed a tattoo of Ronnie James Dio (if you don't know who that is, I feel sorry for you) adorning the arm of the bartender. We immediately struck up a conversation about the late, great vocalist of Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own eponymous band. This led to the older guy regaling us with a story of how he was an amazing metal guitarist back in the day and "could have made it." Once he overheard my Dio comments to the bartender, he informed us that he, in fact, wrote the song "Stand Up and Shout" (the opening track from Dio's fine Holy Diver album), but that Ronnie had stolen it from him. "Ugh," I thought to myself. "We're dealing with one of these guys." Everybody knows one of these kind of guys. They can't shut up about themselves, and somehow always seize the opportunity to derail a conversation and segue into a story or anecdote that makes him seem much cooler than they actually are. My, what a vivid imagination this guy had. A few free words of advice: lay off those drugs. Oh yeah, and please shut the fuck up. Thanks.

Pleeps hangin' with his bud, Kopi Luwak.
OK, now that that's over, let's talk about beer. And, of my, did we have some fine ones during our visit. First up was a 9.5% ABV heavy hitter, Unplugged Kopi Luwak Stout, an imperial oatmeal stout brewed with Belgian milk chocolate and Kopi Luwak coffee. This beer was killer: decadent, coffee-forward, viscous; basically everything I long for in a coffee stout. In case you're wondering what Kopi Luwak coffee is, it is generally regarded as the "most expensive coffee in the world." This is due, in part, to how the beans are... let's use the term "harvested." Kopi Luwak coffee beans include part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet (basically an Asian rodent). Yes, you read correctly. Defecated. Most folks know that word is a nicer way to say "shat" (past tense, of course, for shit). I've been in the know for quite some time about this particular type of coffee. I believe I first encountered this phenomenon many years ago with AleSmith's Kopi Lowak variation of Speedway Stout. Learn more about Kopi Luwak coffee here.

Brewslut opted for something lighter and went with the Kiwi Sour with tart cherry. Since I was having such an awesome conversation about music with the bartender (Yngwie's guitar teacher had since left, probably to go home and spiral further down his self-imposed ass-canal of defeat), I talked Brewslut into sharing another beer with me. Enter Willow Wolves, an IPA hopped with Nelson and Simcoe. This was a pleasant and fragrant IPA with hints of citrus fruit, melon, and white pepper and punctuated a day well-spent. I could have stayed here for at least another hour and talked shop with this guy, but we had to get back to Dano's. After all, we were the guests of honor, right? 

Back at Dano's, it was great to get some hang time in with basically everyone we know from California. It was super nice of Jen to put together a well-thought out and executed "Ffejetarian" menu with mostly veggie dishes and salmon as the main course. It was probably my favorite meal of the trip, not only for the tasty vittles, but also for the great company. Thanks to Jen for the great photos lifted from her Facebook page. This is just a sampling of what we consumed for dinner!

Dinner is served!

Roasted salmon with butter, lemon and herbs.

Tomato party!

Afterward, we shared a variety of beers including the Pizza Port sampler 12-pack of pounder cans I bought as well as Electrocution IPA from Amplified (Cy) and some rare Lost Abbey treats (Luke) including Agave Maria, a tequila barrel-aged strong ale, which we'd never tried before. We capped off the evening with a screening of Revenge of the Nerds, a movie over which Dano and I bonded at an early age (certainly too early for us to have been introduced to the wonders of "hair pie"). Perhaps some other things happened that night. Who knows? Will said things happen again? Maybe on our next trip. We'll see. Until next time...



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