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Northpark x San Diego, CA
Are you a fan of Toronado San Diego? Dumb question. Better question. Have you ever wanted to have Toronado all to yourself? Well, on Sunday April 14th, 2013 you can… Sort of. Continuing their (almost) monthly Craft Beer Brunch event schedule Owner and Operator Ian Black will be closing the doors of Toronado San Diego to offer a small group of fans of both food and beer “an opportunity to try some great beers from pioneering California Craft (Beer) Brewery Sierra Nevada along with a special menu prepared by chef Nate “The Toronado Islander” Soroko.”
Recently Toronado has wowed us with their 2012 Holiday Beer Brunch held in December complete with rare beers from around the world. In January the Alpine Beer Company provided many of their hard to get beers, including “Keene Idea” to their incarnation of the Toronado Beer Brunch. In February Alesmith Brewing Company upped the ante with their highly rated and highly coveted Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout. Along with rare beers comes the promise of food, truly gourmet at that, in step with pairings complementing the beer and preparing the palate for the next course.
These past brunches were don’t miss events, and next Sunday’s promises to be no different. The Sierra Nevada Beer Brunch begins with a seating at 10:30AM with a welcoming glass of Sierra Nevada/ RRBC Brux wild ale followed by a plating of this five-course brunch:
1. Oyster “Ceviche” with a cucumber/chili/lime juice and a Brux sorbet shooter with hop-salted rim paired with Sierra Nevada Kellerweis.
2. Hamachi Tartare/Nicoise w/ Fava bean spread white corn, heirloom tomatoes, confit of purple potato paired with Sierra Nevada Draft Pale Ale.
3. Spiced Lamb Belly in a yogurt brine served on a bed of Faro with a Poached quail egg paired with Bigfoot Barleywine on draft and barrel-aged from the bottle.
4. Coconut Seared Duck w/ a beet puree, pea shoots, & heirloom tomato paired with Ovila quadrupel with plums.
5. Lemon Curd and black pepper sugar “Ears” paired with Torpedo Extra IPA from the cask.
The past two beer brunches were packed with many local Craft Beer Tasters as well as industry insiders and brewers. Brewers Sean McIllhenney and Bill Batten of Alpine and Alesmith, respectively, were on hand to introduce each course and how they were built around the beers. This event will follow suit with Sierra Nevada’s Steve Grossman*, the Beer Ambassador at Sierra Nevada, and co-founder Ken Grossman’s older brother. Steve will “be on hand to talk about the beers and perhaps a little history of this brewery that helped start the American craft brewing movement.”
We hope to see you Sunday morning 4/14/13 at Toronado San Diego’s Beer Brunch with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
Won’t you join them?
Ensenada x Baja California x Mexico
The biggest reason for visiting a beer fest, hands down, has to be the promise (or at least hope) of trying New and Exciting beers. Well. That’s a pretty tall order to fill. It is more feasible to expect beers from New breweries as opposed to New beers, right? But where’s the fun in that?! Craft Beer Tasters traveled down to the Baja Beer Fest in Ensenada this past weekend along with a van-load of Tasters in pursuit of just that something new.
One of the standouts of our trip to Baja was Tijuana based brewery “Cerveza Frontera.” Owned and operated by Omar Toscano, Roberto Riatíga, and Trebil Morales is a 7bbl brewery based in consistency. These brewers had, for lack of a better term, professional grade beers. Though the styles were not anything out of the ordinary, their quality was high. I asked the brewers what they did to achieve the caliber they did. “80% of brewing is clean, clean, and clean.” Brewing on a professional stainless steel system, in a controlled environment, their beers are very consistent. The same ABV, IBU, color, flavor – batch after batch. Frontera’s facilities are a short drive from San Diego, and a place I want to visit soon.
We also spoke to Carlos Teran and Moises Sanchez of Cerveza Peninsula based out of the northeastern Baja town of Mexicali. Born and raised these BFFs (since age 4) Carlos and Moises are a duo of Mechanical Engineers and Gastronomic Businessmen (respectively) educated at CETYS University in Baja. Originally starting their path in the world of beer as homebrewers, these craft collaborators are now full-time brewers making brews in a familiar West Coast style. I hope to be visiting these Mexicali brewers along with our friends at The Big Bad Breweing Company, and Cerveceria 686 in Mexicali in the weeks to come.
Coyoacán is a very old town in Mexico City, older than Mexico itself. Cerveza Coyoacán originated in Mexico City as the brainchild of Gerardo Perez Rocha. Educated at the Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts, Boston was the city that taught Gerardo about Craft Beer. Drinking his beers, it was clear the amount of influence the east coast had on his beers. With styles that focus more on malt, grains, and yeast – Coyoacán doesn’t rely on hops entirely to flavor his beers. In 2008 Gerardo and company started perfecting Coyoacán’s recipes. In 2011 Coyoacán established their brewery in Ensenada. When asked why he considered leaving a Megaopolis like Mexico City Gerardo explained it quite simply. They wanted to leave the big city, join family in Ensenada, enjoy the coastal lifestyle, be in Baja – the brewing capital of Mexico, and close to San Diego – the brewing capital of the U.S. In the next year Coyoacán wants to increase output in an effort to be more a part of the local food movement, slow food, sea food, wherever there’s good food, they want to be there.
You may recall that Craft Beer Tasters recently visited J. Eduardo Arce Díaz at Distrito Barra Pública in Ensenada on a recent trip down south. At that time we reported on the impact this bar is having on the scene as a Craft Beer Bar. Now they pride themselves on being a brewpub. Though Distrito has been around for a little over a year now, the owner began brewing 3 years ago and was one of the people who helped Mauricio Peralta, founder and Head Brewer at Zombie Brew Labs, learn how to brew. Mauricio is now considered a Master in his field and shares a brewhouse with Cerveceria MX and Distrito Brewpub. There are not very many brewpubs in Baja. Sotano Suizo and the BCB Tasting Room in Tijuana are the only two brewpubs I can think of, showing that Distrito is continuing their history of innovation. The goal of Distrito has been to bring craft beer to the people. Craft Beer is expensive, especially in Mexico, and especially when compared to Mexican macro beers. As part of their goal to bring Craft Beer to the people Distrito chooses to keep prices of beer, especially those of their own, low so they can reach as many people as possible.
We had a lot of great Craft Beers, a lot of less than great Craft Beers, and a lot of works in progress. We made a lot of new friends, had a few (dozen) tacos, drank a real Mexican Clamato with our Homebrew Hero John Palmer, and headed back up the coast of Baja to San Diego. When we got to the border we were able to use the “ready-lane” and crossed in 1 hour on a Saturday. This may seem like a while, but compared to the 4 hour wait everyone else had, it was quick. We can thank our friends at The Baja Tourism Board for providing us with tourist fast passes for our visit to Baja. As we left the van we all hugged and sad goodbye, but lingered as we shared stories of the day. We hope to bring more and more people down to Baja to experience what we did in Ensenada. Won’t you join us?
Ensenada x Baja California x Mexico
As recently announced http://www.craftbeertasters.com has had the opportunity to work with the good folks at The Baja Craft Beer Tasting Room in Tijuana, Baja California – Mexico. As mentioned in a previous post BCB is one of Tijuana’s premiere Craft Beer Gastropubs. Our first venture together, it was decided, was to bring a select group of people to check out the Craft Beer scene in Baja. As time went on, the thought became a thing, and an opportunity presented itself. No, the obvious trip, a visit to the tasting room, though sensical, was a bit too obvious. The real opportunity? The Baja Beer Fest.
This Baja Beer Fest was the fifth incarnation of the craft beer festival forged by the ACABC Asociación de Cerveceros Artesanales de Baja California aka The Baja California Association of Craft Beer Brewers. Previously held in Ensenada, Tijuana, and Mexicali – This Baja Beer Fest was held on a sunny and breezy day in the Baja California coastal town of Ensenada. Before we head down to Ensenada, let’s talk about the trip.
BCB provided a private driver and 15 passenger van that picked up 14 Craft Beer Tasters in San Ysidro on the U.S. side of the border. After a quick ride across the border we headed to the toll roads and down the Baja California Coast with beautiful views of The Pacific. I half joked with one of the Tasters that this ride was like the Baja version of Big Sur, a statement with which he whole heartedly agreed. A big blue ocean, majestic waves crashing on jagged shore, juxtaposed with the desert terrain to the east, the drive alone was worth the trip. As we drove down the coast we shared stories of previous travels and tastings, eagerly awaiting Baja Craft Beers that so few Americans have sampled.
Upon arrival at our destination, a beautiful and private plaza, we were greeted with tickets and escorted to the entrance. Though a bit early, and, not by design, we were greeted by friends/brewers from Baja. With their endorsement, I, along with the group, were granted press passes for early entrance to the fest. We used this time to familiarize ourselves with the festival layout and breweries. For me, I must admit, it was a bit of a family reunion, catching up with some great people we have showcased in the past: Kudos, Distrito Barra Pública, Cerveza Zombie, Old Mission, Tres B, and 686, to name a few, were all there. Though it was great to catch up, and try there wears, I was on a mission to Taste something new, for you… For Science!
Costa Azul, aptly named as it is based out of Ensenada, was one such brewery. Owned and operated by Carlos Castillo, current President and co-founder of ACABC, Costa Azul made a Kolsch that was a perfect match for the Spring like day. Though they had more beers to sample, I was more interested in capitalizing on talking to the president of the ACABC.
Now boasting a membership of 50+ breweries Mr. Castillo, a corporate lawyer by trade, along with many others founded ACABC 3-years ago. Having previously served as Secretary, Mr. Castillo used this experience along with skills gained lawyering for the Ensenada wine industry to help perpetuate the collective efforts of Baja’a craft brewers. Yes, he is a fan of his fellow brewers, and law, but he fell in love with beer and wine when he studied abroad while writing his thesis for law school. Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Napa Valley were places where he learned the business and litigious side of the alcoholic beverage industry. “Beer was a part of my life, why not make it my business?” Business it has been. Whether securing certificates of origin for wineries, or building and growing his own craft Beer brewery, this artisan of craft beer will serve ACABC as President for the next 2 years. ’2 years?!?’ I exclaimed. Carlos responded with a serious smile. You know the type: easy and confident. Seeing this I knew to press further. ‘What do you hope to accomplish in this time?’ I questioned. “We will go to the heart of Mexico, to De Efe (D.F. Distrito Federal aka Mexico City aka The Capital) and showcase what Baja Beers are, we will also turn Baja into a region that will grow and produce Hops and Barley on a grand scale.” These are grandiose plans, but, given the growth in the Baja Craft Beer scene, the caliber of their wears, the level of education and political saviness of these artisans, I am certain they can achieve all they wish, and then some. Join us throughout the week to learn more about emerging trends from Baja, or as I prefer to and will categorize it as: our region.
Tijuana x Baja California x Mexico
The Craft Beer Revolution in Baja California, Mexico is alive and thriving! We first reported on this revolution way back in July of 2012, when we attended the Baja Beer Fest in Tijuana. After attending that festival, several other Craft Beer events, as well as various craft beer bars in Tijuana, Mexicali, and Ensenada – it seemed like the logical progression would be to bring more people along for the trip. Last weekend we took that next step and brought a group of Craft Beer Tasters from San Diego to the Baja Beer Fest in Ensenada (more on that throughout the week). Very recently, however, http://www.craftbeertasters.com partnered with Baja Craft Beer Distribution aka “BCB” in a joint effort to bring more people down to Baja and see for themselves the Craft Beer Revolution happening south of the border, down Mexico way.
This past Saturday we were sponsored by our friends at Baja Craft Beer Distribution to bring a group of industry folks down with us to Tijuana to visit the their craft beer bar: The BCB Tasting Room. Dr. Q along with various industry insiders were picked up on the U.S. side of the border in a private van with a private driver and into Tijuana. One of the Tasters I had along with me was visiting Tijuana for the first time. Passing along the Zona Rio with the Centro Cultural, Plaza Rio, and roundabouts I could see the surprise on his face. “It’s not like the movies is it?” I ask him. “Not at all.” he said with amazement.
Post 9/11 many folks have not visited Tijuana and in that time Tijuana has continued to be a city on the grow. With a population exceeding 7 million people, with that there has been much progress in the city. Part of that progress is owed to the Craft Beer Revolution. We were headed to meet with one of the loudest voices in that Revolution: Ruben Valenzuela.
Ruben is the proprietor of Tijuana’s BCB Tasting Room, a world class Craft Beer Bar. The decor is somewhere between Northpark and Downtown San Diego. Rustic and rugged, yet sleek and sophisticated. Empty kegs serve as chandeliers, rebar serve as stylistic adornments Hand crafted tables and chairs are set up in a way that lets you enjoy conversation, or the latest Xolos game on the flat screen.
Ruben and his staff reserved us a table and brought out course after course of bar fare somewhere between American Pub Cuisine, and a fine dining experience. Cheese fries, Mac and Cheese, Buffalo Wings, Sausages are all quite innovative in terms of bar fare in Tijuana. Most bars have only beer with no expectation of a gastronomic experience. The caliber and quality of these eats put BCB in a category New to Tijuana: Gastropub.
However you can’t spell Gastropub without PUB. The BCB Tasting Room is, first and foremost, a Craft Beer Bar. The selection of beers is truly Amazing. Sure they had some of the best Craft Beer brands of Tijuana: Insurgente, Monastika, Ramuri, and Border Psycho, but their selection was worldwide!
8 refrigerators filled with the best from Baja, San Diego, Oregon, Denver, and the world. Ballast Point, Deschutes, New Belgium. IPAs, Sours, Lambics abound in these fridges. A cold room that was as clean as a hospital with lines very close to the taps. A sophisticated clientele well aware of the caliber of BCB’s beer selection. The BCB Tasting Room is and will be Tijuana’s go to Gastropub as well as nightlife hot spot.
We hope to take you there in the not too distant future. Are you ready to join us?
Point Loma aka Lomaland x San Diego, CA
There has been a big buzz in the San Diego Craft Beer scene as of late. No, there isn’t a sudden resurgence of all the honey bees that have gone missing around the country recently (although, what’s that all about?) what there is a buzzin’, however, is a buzz about a wild-eyed young man and his crack team of brewing ninjas that wish to make a splash in the San Diego Craft Beer community by providing beers based in innovation and integrity.
Jacob McKean – The Glorious Leader
Matt Walsh – Head Brewer
Derek Freese – Brewer & Party Ambassador
Alex Tweet – Brewer & Flavor Developer
Mike Tonsmeire – Labor Statistician & Flavor Developer
Amy Krone – Roastface Killah
Leonardo – Leads
Donatello – Does Machines
Raphael – Cool, but rude
Michaelangelo – Party Dude
Okay, those last four ninjas may have been ninja turtles, but the rest are truly a part of a hopeful and earnest set of brewers. I say hopeful because, though MODERN TIMES BEER is a company on the grow, right now the crew at MTB has more promise than progress under their belts. Although it should be noted that the aforementioned team of ninjas has a combined brewing expertise, industry experience, and list of awards that would lead one to believe that they likely know what they’re doing.
Very recently, however, http://www.craftbeertasters.com had a chance to find out for ourselves if this team was the team when we visited the “Lomaland Fermentorium” to partake in the 3rd public tour given by the Modern Times team.
When we got to the area promised to house MTB, as navigated by google maps, we found a large industrial zone near an adult cabaret (read as: strip club) and a cadre of craft beer tasters loitering in front of a warehouse of some sort. As we joined this rogues gallery of local beer nerds waivers were signed, I.D.s were checked, and Jacob shared that we were all in for a treat, or something to that effect.
One of the treats was the fact that Jacob McKean – The Glorious Leader, Derek Freese – Brewer & Party Ambassador, and Alex Tweet – Brewer & Flavor Developer were all together at the same time, and for the first time in a professional capacity and there just for us curious beer nerds. Before we discuss the tour and time we had with these folks, let’s learn their story… in Jacob’s own words (and voice):
Incredibly high standards for beer. One of the first things I did after leaving my job (at Stone Brewing Co.) was to enlist my friend & world class homebrewer Mike Tonsmeire to help formulate our recipes. We’ve been working on them together for a over a year, and now with Derek, Alex, and Matt involved, they’ve progressed even more. I have obnoxiously high standards for beer; we won’t brew any clunkers. Strictly the danksauce whales bro. Well, I can promise that we’ll try. Additionally, MTB wishes to be an ethical, and socially responsible business. While brewing cockstaggering beer is what gets me up in the morning, doing it in a way that doesn’t suck for the world is just as important to me. I won’t be satisfied unless Modern Times is an utterly fantastic place to work that’s also a comet of human goodness. Towards that end, I’ve committed to helping San Diego move beyond cars & asphalt while preserving it’s surreally beautiful backcountry.
Those are some great values to have, to be sure, but – in this cynical world, what do these ideologies look like? According to Jacob Modern Times will be “an urban brewery in the heart of San Diego right off ‘The 8′.” The location, about 15 minutes or less from most any part of SD, is something Jacob takes great pride in. They are a half mile from the Old Town San Diego transit location affording them an opportunity to affect the cultures and ideals on transportation in a way that makes sense to them.
The MTB crew is optimistic and hope to be open mid-May to June. Derek Freese, Party Ambassador, was quite optimisitic that they would make their mark, and hit their notes. So optimistic, in fact, that the good folks at Modern Times revealed their secret with us: we would be one of the first people to enjoy the danksauce that is Modern Times Beer Co. While visiting we had access to Modern Time’s beers such as their:
Loma Land – Saison using a saison dupont strain of yeast.
Red Rye IPA – An ipa using 100% Simcoe Hops and 18% rye in its recipe.
Blazing World – An Amber IPA brewed with Nelson, Mosaic, and Simcoe.
It should be noted that these beers were all made on a pilot system and to believe that they were anything more than rough drafts is irresponsible. It is absolutely responsible to assume that the beers we tasted, however, are all close to interpretations which we will have soon, and are something that we can report is already commercial grade. It should also be noted that Modern Times engages in a lofty social experiment called: open sourcing.
Open source brewing, according to the good folks at MTB, is described as follows: All of our recipes are public–published for all the world to see–but more importantly, for all the world to tinker with. Incredibly, this has already started happening, and homebrewers have been modifying and tweaking our recipes to come up with fascinating variations. I very much want this to continue and grow and evolve and become part of a feedback loop between homebrewers and the brewery. We plan to scale-up variations we’re particularly fond of with the help of the responsible homebrewer.
In addition to trying their wares, we took a walking tour of the soon to be brewing facility. The many thousand square feet facility has afforded the MTB crew a chance to dream, and dream big. Whether it is of the potential to have a 300 barrel tank, or house a 1,000 square foot cold room for beer storage or a barrel room to house their sour and barrel-aging programs. The have the space to dream and grow. Moreover, the good folks at MTB know where they are headed an already have a plan of attack, they are ninjas. That plan? Providing beers in 16oz 4-packs of cans provided via an on-site canning line, 22oz bombers filled with a diverse group of styles, as well as a variety of growlers, mostly blanks, and done so in conjunction with (or at least in regard to) the recent changes in the state regarding such a matter. They hope to have a very classy tasting room free of televisions, but awash in a sea of velvet paintings commissioned by a set of Tijuana based artists.
If this sounds like the kind of place you and others would like to have in your Craft Beer Community, please join them in their Kick Starter campaign by clicking here: Modern Times Kick Starter
Modern Times’ fermentorium should be a simultaneously ridiculously fun, and a cerebral kind of place to be, it feels like the kind of stuff that fun is made of.
Mission Valley x San Diego, CA
This past Sunday http://www.craftbeertasters.com went to a family reunion. Well, not exactly a family reunion, but it sure felt that way! That was the vibe coursing through MVCBF x 4 …aka… The 4th Annual Mission Valley Craft Beer Festival. When we walked through the parking lot of Mission Valley’s Hamdlery Hotel we were awash in a Sea of Craft Beer Tasters. The line was so long you’d think that it was a free Pliny The Younger tapping.
As we queued up we were able to see all the VIPs on the inside who had the dubious honor of partaking in the festivities a full hour ahead of time, and couldn’t wait to get in. We were lucky enough to run into Mike Shess, Publisher of The Westcoaster SD who gave us our vendor passes for the fest. You’d think we would be tired of things ending in fest, well you’re almost right. Almost, but there are several fests we hold near and dear to our hearts: The San Diego Brewer’s Guild Fest, Baja Beer Fest, and The Mission Valley Craft Beer Fest. What was so fab about The MVCBF?
Come for the beer, stay for the food. Come for the food, stay for the beer. Either way you need to be here. This event is produced by Superstar Chefs such as Karl Prohaska and sponsored by local champions of Craft Beer, The Westcoaster SD. According to Chef Karl “I really think the thing that makes us different is the food side of it. We do more and better food than any other festival in town. It’s really the thing that sets us apart… Food is almost an afterthought… We believe beer AND food are natural partners and we offer a wide variety of both. Our food vendors are all chefs who bring their “A” game to the table. It’s part of our unique identity that we refuse to lose.”
There were some very amazing eats on Sunday, to be certain, but what was more amazing was seeing these Chefs serving their amazing creations themselves. This may sound a bit out there, but the fact that these chefs were cooking on the line and serving their own dishes? The strength of these gestures showed how right Karl was, and how seriously Chefs take this fest. They showed a lot of respect to the audience this fest attracted, and gave them some gourmet eats in a very casual environment.
There were some great eats, but even better beers, sorry Chefs. As mentioned earlier, the vibe coursing through the air was one of family reunion. We got a chance to catch up with some of the friends we have made over the last year. Karen Blair (owner) and Cosimo Sorentino (head brewer) of Monkey Paw Brewpub with Cosimo’s newest creation: Great Ape Nectar Hazelnut Chocolate Milk Stout. David White (head brewer) and Austin (assistant brewer) from The Hillcrest Brewing Company with their Banana Hammock Scotch Ale. And Derek Gallanosa of Karl Strauss with their (in my opinion) Best In Show: Wreck Alley Cask with Jameson Oaked Wood Chips. It was great to catch up with them all… and to try their brews. Other standouts were Hess Brewing Company’s official event beer: Ursus Augustus a Tripel made with Blood Oranges, as well as El Cajon Brewing Company’s Coffee Stout that Lead Brewer Daniel Cady had running through a randall of Irish Cream and Vanilla Coffee Beans.
The vibe was warm, the sun was out, the breezes were cool, the food gourmet.
Speaking of gourmet. We chatted with event organizers Chefs Karl Prohaska and Gus Thompson.
Karl: We want everyone here to have a good time making the connection between craft beer and food. This isn’t a typical grab a beer, grab another beer kind of fest.
Gus: We set out to throw a party we would want to go to. It should be easy to get into, with no long lines, a good flow.
Karl: We want to focus the attention on the vendors. Chefs cooking. Brewers pouring. Local chefs. Local beers. Great food.
All in all this fest was a lot of fun, as well as a success. The sad part though is this: the word on the street is this is the last MVCBF :’( I say No! The Chefs want it again, the brewers want it again, the sponsors want it again, and, most importantly the festival goers want it again (if you can trust the amount of positive tweets read since Sunday). I say Mission Valley is a big place, big enough for a 5th annual MVCBF, but who would dare host such a successful event?
Dr. Q x Jerry
Words x Photos