Closer to Me

by Sean on July 24, 2014

The big news this week (apologies to Stone in Deutschland) is the move of rightly famed brewmaster Victor Novak from OC to LA as he will be moving to Golden Road Brewing (so much closer to me) from TAPS.


This move leads to many Questions with a capital Q:

~Will this mean that the GRB haters will pause or will they find another excuse to complain?

~Who will take the reins at TAPS?  ‘Cause past proteges have done VERY well.

~What will change at GRB?

~Will the barrel program get bigger?

All will have to wait until September when the move happens and probably later to see how the fit is.



…this is what I would drink
If you do go to OBF (which starts today!) this year.  Have one of them for me!


Hot days in L.A. will be the norm and I am glad that I will have a supply of Mexican Logger from Ska Brewing to turn to in the heat.


This Colorado brewed lager pours a very light yellow.  It is neither bubbly (on the tongue, certainly is in the picture) or creamy but in the middle of that spectrum.  It is very flavorful.  I get grapefruit pith, floral accents and a nice amount of cereal grain as well.  This is an impressive set of flavors for such a light beer and puts the Saaz hop right in the spotlight.  It certainly made me wish it was in a 16oz can instead of the 12.  And it once again disproves the lager is boring myth

The only downside being the design, which is certainly striking but not the type of artwork that I prefer on a can.  It does make me wonder if there is a differently hopped version out there.


Woot 2.0

by Sean on July 22, 2014

What happens when you replace Greg Koch with “multi-talented actress, comedian, podcaster and homebrewer Aisha Tyler”?  You get Stone w00tstout 2.0.


“The original recipe for Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout drew on each collaborator’s personal background and included wheat (i.e.: Wil WHEATon), rye and pecans, with a portion of the beer stored in bourbon barrels for two months (honoring Curtis, the Kentucky Southerner) and then blended with the rest of the brew. This year, ChocoVivo Cacao was added to the recipe for a chocolate complexity, enhancing the already deep, roasty chocolaty and coffee notes. The result is a robust, full-bodied beer with pronounced notes of cocoa, coffee, black licorice, oak, nuts, vanilla and bourbon.”

Now I thought the original showed promise but ultimately didn’t reach what I thought the long description was detailing.  The verbiage is as long as ever and hopefully the recipe tweaks will make an improved beer.

“To give this year’s special edition bottle a pristine flair, famed comic artist and co-creator of the “Watchmen” series Dave Gibbons was commissioned to design the label. The new bottle features illustrations of Wheaton, Curtis and Tyler as superheroes–The Myrcene-ary, Captain Obvious and Lady Temerarious, respectively–equipped with special powers (theoretically), capes and masks. A heroic gargoyle emblem is also included on the bottle neck. At the request of Gibbons, Stone donated the label-design commission fees he would have received to The Hero Initiative, a charitable organization providing retirement funds for golden-age comic book artists.”

The label is still cool though.  I am sure to see many a Stone fan wearing this shirt at fests in 2014.


A Stone in the Marienpark

by Sean on July 22, 2014

Stone Brewing Co. has finally pulled the trigger on their on “East Coast” brewery expansion with their “announced plans to open a production brewery and expansive destination restaurant in Berlin, Germany.”


I am glad to see this move progress. It has been talked about for awhile and it will be very interesting to see how a really physical export of American craft beer fares in Europe.

“With an anticipated opening in late 2015 or early 2016, Stone is making an initial investment of more than $25 million to renovate a historic gasworks complex in Marienpark Berlin, turning the more than two acres (9,290 square meters) of indoor and outdoor space into a world-class operation that will welcome beer enthusiasts from around the globe. Stone will be the first American craft brewer to independently own and operate a brewery in Europe. Stone Brewing Co. – Berlin will encompass three components: a brewery and packaging hall, a Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens restaurant and a Stone Company Store.”

What remains unsaid is how much they will Deutsch-afy this outpost. Will they brew any maltier beers? Will they just do what they do in Escondido? Or somewhere in between? I hope they take this opportunity to do something different. Embed Stone in the community. One step could be to have a lead brewer from Germany who has some free reign in the Brewhouse.

“Additionally, the company launched an Indiegogo crowd-participation campaign today, so fans can participate in the venture by purchasing special collaboration beers to be brewed with award-winning, renowned craft brewers from around the world at Stone Brewing Co. – Berlin once the facility is operational.”

This is probably the weirdest part of the press release. Why is this part of it? I would not have used crowd sourcing at all. Need extra funds? Sell those same rewards for the same price via your own website. Add a certificate stating you are helping to build the new brewery and call it a day. This is because, I believe that crowd funding is for smaller entrepreneurs without access to conventional loans.

When all is said and done, this is a really positive step forward. My questions are more along the line of, how will this turn out rather than hyper-critical.


A Cave to Spelunk in

by Sean on July 21, 2014

Every once in a while, someone will come back to L.A. from the midwest with a few precious bottles of New Glarus beer.  I am always jealous.  But now even more so thanks to this article I spied about their Wild Fruit Cave.


You read right, a Wild Fruit Cave.  It isn’t an actual cave but it has foeders and a coolship.  Check it out here and get ready to be jealous too.



The theme for Up From the Cellar for July is a year. 2011 to be specific. Also Imperial Stouts. Number two is The Czar from Avery Brewing in Colorado. To be ultra specific. Batch 10 from November of 2011.  Which the brewery describes thusly, “Inhale the noble Hallertau hops, spicy and floral. Savor the flavors redolent of English toffee, rich mocha, sweet molasses, candied currants and a hint of anise. We highly recommend cellaring additional bottles, as the Czar will continue to mature and become denser and more complex with age.”  A little flowery perhaps.

It pours a dark black. There was a bit of a head that faded like the tide. The initial aroma is of molasses. Very sweet on the nose. A little bit of tobacco as well. The taste is a bit on the viscous side. Notes of fig and prune are there as well. And there is even a dose of bitterness still holding on for life. As the beer warms up the pop of tobacco is more pronounced and the fig seems to fade a wee bit.


The Verdict? – The Czar has lasting power, more so than anyone on Game of Thrones for sure.  This beer had no discernible off notes nor did it go too sweet.  It had a complex swirl of flavors that really worked well together.  For my palate it is too sweet and tobacco for desserts and would be better off in a snifter with a classic of Russian literature.  I read Bradbury with my glass though.



by Sean on July 20, 2014


OK, so the Brewers Association has a much better (and interactive) graphic about this but I am (obviously) not a web designer so my hurrah to surpassing the 3,000 brewery mark is much more jpg’y. Here is the press release info from their website with my comments in orange.

“The American brewing industry reached another milestone at the end of June, with more than 3,000 breweries operating for all or part of the month (3,040 to be precise). Although precise numbers from the 19th century are difficult to confirm, this is likely the first time the United States has crossed the 3,000 brewery barrier since the 1870s. Wieren (1995) notes that the Internal Revenue Department counted 2,830 “ale and lager breweries in operation” in 1880, down from a high point of 4,131 in 1873.”

To think that we have crossed the 3K mark is incredible.  And I do think when all is said and done, the U.S. will have close to the record.

“What does 3,000 breweries mean? For one, it represents a return to the localization of beer production, with almost 99% of the 3,040 breweries being small and independent. The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a local brewery, and with almost 2,000 planning breweries in the BA database, that percentage is only going to climb in the coming years.

Secondly, it means that competition continues to increase, and that brewers will need to further differentiate and focus on quality if they are going to succeed in a crowded marketplace. While a national brewery number is fairly irrelevant without understanding local marketplaces, 3,040 breweries could not happen without increased competition in many localities.”

99%!  Damn that is a lot of small.  I would like to see that become a smaller number.  I think to truly integrate into the minds of every beer buyer, there needs to be breweries of all shapes and sizes and with multiple locations.  Nothing against nano.  But a world of just nano will eventually stagnate in my thinking.  And larger generally does mean more QC and lab and hopefully higher quality.

“What it does not mean is that we’ve reached a saturation point. Most of the new entrants continue to be small and local, operating in neighborhoods or towns. What it means to be a brewery is shifting, back toward an era when breweries were largely local, and operated as a neighborhood bar or restaurant. How many neighborhoods in the country could still stand to gain from a high-quality brewpub or micro taproom? While a return to the per capita ratio of 1873 seems unlikely (that would mean more than 30,000 breweries), the resurgence of American brewing is far from over.”

Great, now we get to have the saturation debate again.  Oh how I love the doomsayers and their predictions which are as close to coming true as apocalyptic preachers.



flying dog logo

Flying Dog Brewery is our next stop in Maryland.  Easily recognized by a large distribution footprint as much as for their iconic Ralph Steadman artwork on their labels.

Since their beers are seen around the country (and this column is ostensibly to promote people traveling to these breweries), I have chosen from the “rarer” side of their beer ledger for my taster tray from this Frederick based brewery, starting with:

Lemongrass Rice Ale

“This beer was inspired by the unique spice blends in Thai cuisine and is as versatile in matching up with those flavors as a Thai menu is (often) overwhelming. You know what to drink, so the trick will be deciding on what to order.”

Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale

“Dead Rise was brewed to highlight the indelible, bold character of OLD BAY with citrus hop notes and a crisp, tart finish. Pair it with tables piled high with shrimp, corn, and Maryland Blue Crab.”

Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout

“With the perfect balance of roasty stout and chocolately coffee notes, Kujo’s bark is just as big as his bite. Flavor notes: Subtle earthiness with prominent coffee, vanilla, chocolate, and toffee flavors Pairs with: Anything nutty, chocolately, or toffee-flavored”

Woody Creek Belgian White

“Woody Creek is light and refreshing for a reason, so be careful not to overpower it with heavy foods. Flavor notes: Refreshing and light citrus notes with subtle wheat, coriander, and orange flavors Pairs with: Light cheeses; Asian foods with wasabi and ginger; light shellfish; fruity desserts”



TripleDouble what about Single

by Sean on July 19, 2014


If you are making a hoppy collaboration then it is probably pretty smart to invite Chuck Silva of Green Flash Brewing to the brewhouse, which is exactly what BarrelHouse Brewing did.

This oddly monikered Session IPA is an entrant in their “Small Batch Barley and Hop Project” and will be draft only and pretty limited but if you see it, order one up.  If for nothing else then for this description:

“Why call it “Triple Double?” Because, it makes about as much sense as “Session IPA!” To us, the phrase “Session IPA” is a contradiction in itself. This ‘new’ style is just a heavily hopped pale ale, but there is something about the letters IPA that makes our mouths water. We also believe in giving the people what they want, which is a truly sessionable beer with an enticing aroma, big flavors and a crisp clean finish. This is the perfect big, little beer for all you hopheads.”