The winners have been announced from this past weekend’s 2008 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, and congratulations are in order to a number of San Diego-area breweries. With Gold, Silver and Bronze winners in 75 categories, there are plenty of awards to go around, but local breweries nabbed more than their fair share.
Most notably, the Alesmith brewing team was named the Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year. You’ll get no arguments here.
Alesmith also took home the Gold medal for its Wee Heavy in the “Strong Scotch Ale” category, the Gold for its Decadence Old Ale in the “Old Ale or Strong Ale” category, the Silver medal for its Vintage Speedway Stout in the “Aged Beer” category and the Silver for its Old Numbskull in the “Barley Wine-Style Ale” category.
The only other San Diego-area brewery to take home a Gold medal was beerandburritos favorite San Diego Brewing Co., which got the Gold for its wonderful Hopnotic in the “Imperial or Double India Pale Ale” category.
The local brewery with the most awards, if you lump all their locations together, is Pizza Port/Port Brewing.
- Pizza Port Carlsbad won the Silver for its Party Pants Pilsener in the “German-Style Pilsener” category, the Silver for Night Rider Imperial Stout in the “Imperial Stout” category, the Bronze for Port Truck Stout in the “Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout” category, the Bronze for Cow Stout in the “Sweet Stout” category and the Bronze for its State Beach Blonde in the “Herb and Spice or Chocolate Beer” category.
- Pizza Port Solana Beach won the Bronze for its Big Wednesday in the “American-Belgo Style Ale” category.
- Pizza Port San Clemente (OK, it’s Orange County and not San Diego, but it’s a local company) won Silver for Way Heavy in the “Strong Scotch Ale” category. (Now I wish I’d tried that when I was at PP San Clemente two weeks ago.)
- Port Brewing and the Lost Abbey won Bronze for Hop 15 in the “Imperial or Double India Pale Ale” category.
Also, Rock Bottom in La Jolla got the Silver medal for its Ragtop Red in the “Irish-Style Red Ale” category.
The Coronado Brewing Co. has a nice Sunday growler special during the NFL season.
Half-gallon fills are just $5 on Sundays beginning this weekend and running through the Super Bowl.
They have some nice brews there.
What more do I need to say?
Aside from college football, one of the things I really look forward to in the fall is the fresh-hop beers that come around. For the uninitiated, fresh-hop beers are those made with, er, fresh hops instead of pelletized hops. Hops are harvested in the fall and the fresh-hop beers are made soon after harvest time. The beers tend to be extra flavorful and delicious.
Thanks to Sierra Nevada, we don’t have to wait for fall to have a fresh-hop beer. Sierra Nevada recently introduced its Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, which uses fresh hops from New Zealand, where hops are harvested in the spring instead of the fall because the seasons run opposited down there. The Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale can be found in bottles at BevMo and other good bottle shops, and on tap at various bars around San Diego. I guess it was introduced in May but only recently made it to San Diego.
According to the label on the bottles, Sierra Nevada made arrangements to get the hops from New Zealand and begin brewing with them at Sierra Nevada’s brewery in Chico within a week after harvest time. It was worth the effort. The Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale has the characteristics of a good fresh-hop ale, and is a nice treat.
Here’s some more info, from the Sierra Nevada Web site:
|alcohol content 6.7% by volume
||yeast Ale Yeast
|beginning gravity 14.7 Plato
||bittering hops Pacific Halertau
|ending gravity 3.9 Plato
||finishing hops New Zealand Motueka & New Zealand Southern Cross
|bitterness units 66
||malts Pale & Caramel
Drinking beer out of a can usually means drinking beer I’m not all that crazy about. Yeah, you can find Newcastle in cans and that’s certainly not bad, but it’s not exactly a microbrew.
There is a new exception, though. Colorado brewery Oskar Blues recently began distributing its beers to San Diego, and the one thing that sets Oskar Blues apart from other craft brewers is that it sells its beer in cans (and on draft) but not in bottles. I can only assume they got a great deal on a canning machine or something, as I don’t know any craft beer aficionados who actually prefer beer in a can over beer in a bottle.
I tried the Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale and Gordon IPA on tap at some local bars and while I thought both were decent, I didn’t see myself ordering them again unless there was a specific reason to. That reason came last weekend, when Mrs. Beer & Burritos and I went to the Over-The-Line tournament at Fiesta Island. Thanks to a special permit, people were allowed to bring beer to the tournament, but of course the beer had to be in cans and not in glass.
I picked up some cans of Dale’s Pale at the La Jolla BevMo and they turned out to be a very nice companion to the Over-The-Line debauchery. For now at least, it will be my go-to beer when I have to drink something from a can.
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.