Monthly Archives: June 2008

Summer Yulesmith

Alesmith makes some of my favorite beers, and they’ve got a special release coming up this week. It’s the 2008 Summer Yulesmith Holiday Ale and they’re selling it at their brewery on Thursday. (If you haven’t been to the brewery before, it’s a little tricky to find. It’s in an office park next to an Indian imports store.)

Here are the details from Alesmith:

Summer YuleSmith is back and will be available at the brewery on Thursday, July 3rd during our special open hours from 1-5pm. Summer YuleSmith is an Imperial/Double India Pale Ale designed to showcase the incredible flavor and aroma of American hops. A substantial maltiness provides a firm backdrop for the big hop profile that follows. Copper colored and full bodied with an alcohol content around 9% abv, Summer YuleSmith is a classic example of the modern Double IPA style. It will be sold in bottles only for $7 per bottle.


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Liars’ Club – Hamilton’s shuttle

I still haven’t forgiven the Liars’ Club for leaving San Diego and moving to Alpine. It used to be an enjoyable and convenient stop when it was in Mission Beach, and now it’s like 40 minutes away. Not good for a place that carries so many delicious and strong beers.

The good news is that on Saturday, they’re going to be running a free shuttle between the Liars’ Club and Hamilton’s in South Park. There will be a van that goes between the two bars continuously, starting at the Liars’ Club at 2 p.m. and going until around 8 p.m.

My advice: Don’t be surprised if the shuttle isn’t as punctual as you’d like. The good news is that whichever way you’re heading, you’ll have plenty of good beers to drink while you wait on it.

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Toronado San Diego

A new bar called Toronado has opened in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood. It’s a spinoff of the popular Toronado in San Francisco. It specializes in craft beer and offers 50 taps and an extensive bottle list. I had high hopes for this place, but after going there the other night, it’s hard to imagine going back.

It’s not that the beer selection is bad. Quite the opposite. The 50 taps serve up offerings from Pizza Port, Bear Republic, Russian River and other favorite breweries. There also are a number of beers I’m unfamiliar with, and that’s good because I like trying new brews.

Finding out what’s on tap isn’t easy, though. The 50 taps are clustered in one corner and many of them have labels that are too small to read from more than a few feet away. There is a menu of beers posted on the wall above the bar, but if you’re sitting at the bar, you have to stand up and step backwards a few paces to see it.

This wouldn’t be so bad if the bartenders were friendly and helpful, but the man working the bar when we were there seemed to be annoyed at having to answer any questions about their beers and affected a hipper-than-thou posture that made me wonder if his last job was working at an independent record store or something.

I can live with arrogant bartenders and a lack of info about a place’s offerings if it has other things going for it. But I had a hard time finding many pluses at Toronado.

The atmosphere certainly isn’t anything to get excited about. Lots of bare walls, bad lighting and drab furnishings. It feels kind of sterile, far from cozy. Yes, it’s only been open about a month so maybe the owners plan to give it character over time, but it’s got a long way to go.

Then there’s the jukebox. It’s one of those cheesy faux-retro Wurlitzers that look like something you’d order out of the Sky Mall catalog. The CDs on it are decent — Pere Ubu, the English Beat, Eddie Spaghetti, etc. — but the cards only list the artist and album title, not the tracks. So unless you know a CD’s tracklist by heart, you can’t pick the songs you want to hear and instead have to kind of stab in the dark. Not that it really matters much; the harsh Toronado acoustics are such that if there are more than 10 people, their voices drown out the music on the jukebox.

It’s not that Toronado is an awful place. If I lived a block away from it I’d probably go on a regular basis. But in a town that has lots of great beer bars, Toronado isn’t worth going out of the way for.


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A free craft beer can be yours

The San Diego CityBeat has a “beer club” that hosts events at local bars on the first Wednesday of each month. If you’re a “member” you get one free craft beer. You have to sign up for it by entering a (last quote-marks, I promise) “contest” through their Web site.

Past events have been held at the Tap Room and Hamilton’s. The next event is July 2 and you have to register by June 27. They e-mail you the location before the event. It’s like a rave, but for dorks.

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A way around the beach booze ban?

Legal (if the cup isn\'t glass) drinking at the beach

The good people at are dedicated to protecting one of our most important freedoms, the freedom to drink beer at the beach. But as we all know, the San Diego City Council passed a one-year “trial” law banning alcohol at all area beaches. Or did they? has gone through the city code and posted a link to a map that shows all of public parks where alcohol drinking is permitted (if you’re 21, of course). And if you look at the map, you’ll see some parks that are pretty much on the beach at a few spots in La Jolla. They also provided a link to the city code (scroll down to page 12) that lists which parks you can drink at, and the hours when drinking is prohibited (either 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. or 8 p.m. to noon).

FreePB also offers some tips for those who are inclined to challenge the laws. They say that, legally, police can’t search your stuff for booze at the beach, and this includes sniffing your beverage container, unless they have probable cause. If a cop asks whether he can smell your beverage cup, you are advised to say, “No.” Police also can’t make you pour out unopened alcohol containers merely for possessing them, according to FreePB.

If you really want to drink booze at the beach or the bay — and who doesn’t? — it appears you can do it legally as long as you’re in the water, past the mean high tide line and aren’t touching the sand, according to FreePB. So grab a raft or inner tube and have at it!


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How to taste beer

You might think beer-tasting is as simple as putting it in your mouth, gulping it down and saying, “Delicious!” You would be wrong.

The following is excerpted from info provided by the good people at Ballast Point and offers a guide to beer-tasting the, ahem, proper way. You can get the long version at the Ballast Point Brewery Web site.



Here are some points to keep in mind if you are getting set to do any kind of serious beer tasting.

Baby your taste buds. The taste buds and aroma receptors are complicated instruments that need to be in prime condition to properly identify the myriad flavors in beer. Spicy, acidic, or thermally hot foods and beverages can all do temporary damage to your taste buds. Smoking will also deaden the taste buds. Optimally, you should guard your taste buds carefully for a full day before you plan on tasting.

Similar precautions should be taken to maximize your olfactory capabilities. Aftershave, cologne or perfume will interfere with your ability to detect subtle aromas. And if you have a head cold, it is advisable to forego the tasting session.

Pour the beer properly. Pour the beer down the side of a glass held at an angle, taking care not to disturb the yeast cake in the bottle. Gradually rotate the glass to an upright position and finish in the center of the glass. These steps will ensure sufficient, but not excessive, head foam — usually one to two inches.

Check the initial aroma. Immediately sniff the beer upon pouring because many aromatics will dissipate quickly. Just a couple of normal sniffs will suffice.

Check the beer’s steady-state aroma. Sniff the beer again, noting any components that have appeared or disappeared. The aroma will generally be less lively, but the background malt and hop character should be perceptible.

Now you get to taste the beer. Take a small sip and note the initial, intermediate and final tastes. Most beers have an initial maltiness that carries throughout the flavor until it is attenuated to different extents by the hop bitterness. Flavors that result from esters, hops, and aromatic compounds will generally be perceived in the middle of the flavor, while the aftertaste will be the sensation that lingers in your mouth. Be sure to swallow the beer to allow the hop alpha-acids to flow across the bitterness receptors on the back of the tongue. Take another sip, swishing the beer through your mouth to evaluate the temperature, carbonation, viscosity, and alcoholic warmth. One or more additional sips may be required to identify subtle flavors, but most beers can usually be properly identified by imbibing two to three ounces.

Evaluate the style. Reflect upon the beer, considering its positive and negative flavors and how close the beer matches the style and/or your expectations. In beer and wine tasting, the overall impression is often more or less than the sum of the parts, but in any case, a good tasting experience should make you want another.

Cleanse your palate. In most tastings, water, unsalted crackers, and/or bread are usually available to help absorb and rinse flavors in between beers. Keep in mind, however, that this introduces different chemicals into the mouth, which may in turn affect the next beer. Any solids should be thoroughly rinsed with water before you proceed to the next beer.


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The Aero Club

Every time I go to the Aero Club, I wonder why I don’t go more often.

It’s got a good draft beer selection. We’re talking Racer 5 and Red Rocket from Bear Republic; Stone Pale Ale, IPA, Levitation and Arrogant Bastard; the comfort food of San Diego beers, Alesmith X; and some boring stuff like Boddington’s, Amstel Light, Newcastle and Bass. The selection doesn’t really rotate like at some places, but there’s nothing wrong with consistency when something is consistently good. And not that I’d care, being a dedicated beer drinker, but it’s also got an extensive booze selection.

The Aero Club also has great servers. Every time I’ve been there the bartenders have been friendly and attentive, making sure I’m taken care of. It’s funny, but I get the feeling they appreciate someone who knows craft beers. When I was there last Saturday, the bartender who served me seemed to smile and nod in approval each time I made my order (Red Rocket, Stone IPA, Alesmith X, Racer 5). I thanked him when I paid my tab, and he thanked me for coming in. Good cheer all around.

Granted, you can get great beer and good service at a lot of places around San Diego. The thing that really makes the Aero Club stand out is the jukebox. It seems like most “beer bars” around here either music so quietly that it’s almost inaudible, which usually is a good thing because most of them play crap music. But the Aero Club has a good, if a little dated, jukebox, and the tunes play at a good volume that’s loud enough to be part of the atmosphere but not so loud that it’s dominant. There are lots of indie rock CDs that would’ve been hot about 10 years ago. Early Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Shins, Pavement, etc., along with some decent classic rock like Queen and Steve Miller Band. There are enough good tunes that I can always play a couple dollars worth and find plenty of decent selections.

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