You can tell right off the bat that this is a whiskey barrel beer that Widmer and Deschutes have put together.  Wood chips and sweet caramel and a touch of the alcohol heat make this less German and more Kentucky. Back in December (and in Oregon) you could sample the barrel aged bitter next to the barrel aged alt, next to the blend of the two.  I wish I had that luxury.  I would love to see which beer stood up stronger against the whiskey.  Because that is the main component that I get from this beer followed by a little bit of bitterness and spice.  You could tell me that it is an imperial brown or an old ale and I wouldn’t be able to talk you off that opinion.

All that said, this is a a smooth and flavorful beer.  I just wished that it was a little less barrel-y.


Ring the Bell’s

by Sean on February 27, 2015

The Bell’s invasion of L.A. has begun!
And boy have they overscheduled! Name a beer spot in L.A. and Bell’s is there. Two-Hearted available in cans and bottles! But more importantly, we are seeing a portion of their beer range beyond that fish labeled IPA.

Oberon is a great start but you can also begin with the Midwestern Pale Ale which is much more in line with what a Pale Ale should probably be, bitterness wise or you can go with the Oarsman Berliner Weisse for a more tart introduction. I was Smitten with their Golden Rye but I am also looking forward to trying the stouts. Expedition and Java are waiting in my ‘fridge for review and at one point, I hope to catch the Cherry version as well.

The only clunker so far was the Third Coast Old Ale. On tap, it tasted of strawberry jam and had the sweetness of a young ale, not an old. But not every beer from a brewery can be a slam dunk.

If you haven’t been to a Bell’s event, look for bottles at your finer beer shoppes.


New-ish TAPS

by Sean on February 26, 2015


In a full 360 degree turn. Times two. TAPS Brewery has re-signed the talent of somewhat recently departed brewers who had left for newer brewing pastures.

David Huls WAS at Barley Forge Brewing but is NOW back as director of brewery operations. Kyle Manns WAS head brewer at Bottle Logic Brewing but NOW has been named brewery operations manager.

The duo will be charged with the Brea, Corona and Irvine locations and the exciting bits of the press release are these duties:

“Take barrel aging of beers to the next level. Huls and Manns have purchased 100 aged barrels including new oak, rum, mezcal and wine.

Create novel styles of packaging, including 750-ml bottles.

Begin providing variations of brews in kegs that have been dry-hopped, fruited, spiced, fermented or dispensed differently in order to extend the array of offerings within the restaurants.

Expand with different beer styles in small production and limited runs, such as Berliner Weisse, Farmhouse Ale, Red-Rice Sake Ale, Imperial Pilsner, Oatmeal Pale Ale and a rare Oyster Stout — a full-bodied stout with a hint of brine.”


New in SF

by Sean on February 26, 2015

San Francisco concluded another Beer Week and two new breweries were in the mix.

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From the brewing ranks of Devil’s Canyon Brewing, Kyle Bozicevic has now launched, Alpha Acid Brewing Company‘s. In between he ran the craft-centric Ale Arsenal which allowed him the time to move at his own pace. That means for now, Bozicevic’s bar is his primary tap location

Beers to watch for are the several versions of their Berliner weisse, a single-hop imperial IPA with the brotherly love name of Citra Bro, 650 IPA, and the Murder She Wroatmeal Stout, brewed with TCHO cacao nibs and coconut.

Cleophus Quealy Beer Co. is the Google employee brainchild of Peter Baker and Dan Watson. The San Leandro brewery with the quirky name (older relatives supplied those) began brewing in November, and like Alpha Acid has been drunk really local with not many kegs escaping the area.

Currently the beers have the less quirky names of batch one, batch two, batch three with styles such as Berliner weisse, coffee milk stout, saisons, Baltic Porter and dubbels. No IPA’s of yet, which I like in a brewery opening in 2014 and 2015.


Not Lost Anymore

by Sean on February 25, 2015

Looks like the Echo Park craft corridor has a new stop. The Lost Knight, a British Gastropub, has taken over the long standing Barragan’s restaurant space.

As you can see from the beer menu, they have a nice local mix. I would like to see more exports on the menu because good British beer is certainly a market to exploit in LA.

Further reports to come after I visit.


Happy 20th Pacific Gravity!

by Sean on February 25, 2015

I don’t know if I could trust a beer geek that didn’t enjoy attending a home brew gathering. Not because the beer is always top drawer, but because the people are excited to show off their beers, even ones that they don’t feel are up to their exacting standards.

Here are some photos from my too short sojourn at the Pacific Gravity 20th Anniversary party. Thanks to Tomm for hosting and thanks to Brian Holter and all the home brewers who shared their creations. (below the photos I will briefly talk about the beers that I tasted)

Choices, choices.

Choices, choices.

Our host, Tomm Carroll holding court.

Our host, Tomm Carroll holding court.

The nautical theme of their tap display.

The nautical theme of their tap display.

Special glasses for the event.

Special glasses for the event.

Club Dubbel – bit of burn. Some sweet dry finish. 20th anniversary.
Horchata Stout – nice and creamy. Spice and chocolate. My second place winner.
Pumpkin porter – a little thin. Not enough pumpkin or pie spice notes.
Blueberry wheat – this beer was 6 years old and showed it but still held up well considering.
Barleywine from Norm was really good, my personal favorite
Centennial Simcoe IPA did not work for me. The hops were at odds with each other.


Alpine Beer & Food

by Sean on February 24, 2015

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I know that being in L.A. means that one can be both simultaneously close to so much but also so far away due to traffic that it can be infuriating.  And there were some spots, back in the day, that held beer sway because at least they cared about it.  Alpine Village occupies that hidden spot for me.  Yeah, it is where Angel City started and yeah, they have done a good festival or two.  But I have never been there.  Instead driving on to Monkish or Smog City.  But depending on the the list of brewers at this event +  it looks like they might actually might try to add food to the mix instead of an afterthought, might make this fest one to look at a little harder than the usual sweaty bro fest.

Look for more information HERE.



Into the Archive

by Sean on February 24, 2015

A bit of future history here.  Seems like the craft beer movement is one of the few movements that the do-nothing congress seems to have let happen.

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The Library of Congress which is probably the only part of Congress that I give a &*$(@ about has added the website of the Brewers Association to their historical record:

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Now it may seem that I am using this post as an excuse to pinata on an easy target but it this is the type of small seeming action that is really important.  Craft beer has become so known that we are now part of the public policy conversation and that means that maybe, small brew friendly laws and rulings may be coming.  Plus, like getting into the Smithsonian, means you have to be culturally relevant to not just a niche but to a big set of America.  So mark 2/11/15 on the calendar.  It might be a date to remember.


Devil’s Backbone has been busy on the West Coast.  Maybe (just maybe) they are planning a future distribution to SoCal but at least we are getting 1/2 of their ideas via Ninkasi and now Coronado Brewing.


Where the Ninkasi team-up was an offbeat style, the Coronado is a straight up San Diego Pale ale, aka IPA. It pours a medium yellow color. Has a Pilsner look to it. The aroma has a bit of cat pee and mango to it. But that shouldn’t dissuade you because this is a nice light IPA. Dare I say session IPA? Not much of a malt presence here. Kind of light and almost too watery. But the grape accented finish works here and pulls it back from the brink.

If this beer was branded as an IPL, I would give it more favorable marks. Or call it an XPA. It’s nice and could pair well with citrus chicken or whitefish. On its own, it is a little too little for me.


The Annual Birthday Beer

by Sean on February 23, 2015

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Yup, forty-five.  Each birthday sorta demands a special beer and with the Oscars falling on my birthday this year, there is an added layer of that makes the decision harder.

The week before, I hit up Sunset Beer to peruse the choices.  I also peered down my list of cellar items.  And I ended up choosing….La Tormenta from Breakside Brewery which they describe as an…”Experimental sour ale hopped entirely with a unique hop blend including Citra, Mosaic, and Equinox. Tart sour notes combine beautifully with tropical and citrusy hop flavors.”


And that is an apt description.  The beer pours a light yellow color and the initial aroma is very tropical fruity.  Some potpourri type notes to it.  Some might call it floral or perfume.  Flavor wise, the sourness is there but not overly harsh, mostly tropical fruit and a bit of lemon peel.  Not twinge inducing sour at all.  The beer is very light on the tongue but so flavorful and quite unique which is saying something in this day and age.  (Mine, not in general.)  It is also a bit slick on the palate as well which is weird when you expect a bite of hops or a tart sour edge to it.  This is quite a smooth sour.