Lagunitas Day – Cross Country Buying Spree

It must be a helluva big plate that Lagunitas has because they have added a lot to it recently. Lagunitas – Azusa is in progress with a 2017 spring target and now they have 5! more projects of varying scope across the country and up and down the West Coast. Or as the press release names them, “intense local alliances with very special local brewers whose work we admire and are proud to partner with.”

For us in Southern California, the big news is that Brian Hunt’s much lauded Moonlight Brewing Company will become part of Lagunitas while still retaining their brand and beers. This is huge because this is one of those small, passion businesses that may have been lost when the visionary behind it decided to call it a retirement. Now, Death & Taxes and other beers from the Moonlight stable will continue on and maybe in greater numbers.

Independence Brewing Company of Austin, Texas will also retain their name and brewing team but will have the resources of Lagunitas to work with. In Charleston, Southend Brewery & Smokehouse will be re-branded as the East Coast Lagunitas Taproom and Beer Sanctuary. This will give a small 10-barrel system to Lagunitas to create special beers just for South Carolinians.

And that is still not all! Two brand new “Community Rooms” will be opened up in Portland and San Diego. Not taprooms and not for the general public but instead these spaces are strictly for Non-Profit fundraising efforts. Expanded from what is already done in Petaluma and Chicago into stand-alone outposts. A Lagunitas team will be there to help with the event and the live music. This is the most exciting news to me because it shows that charity and smart promotion can easily co-exist. Lagunitas could have opened satellite taprooms and crowds would gather but instead they are becoming part of the community from a different angle.

Another nugget from founder Tony Magee’s statement, “ I believe that we will find more partners in other parts of the country that we can also share with and cultivate regional relationships through. If we can get this first step right then it is just the beginning for all of us.” So if things are humming along in 2017, expect more breweries to join up.

You can read more coverage on this news HERE and HERE.

Man(zanita) Down – Toolbox Heading North

Good News and Bad News for San Diego. (I mean other than the 10 Barrel expansion into town.)

Bad – Manzanita or Twisted Manzanita has fallen and will be no more. I had a couple of their beers and was impressed enough by them but the crowded market had me tasting other breweries from the area and that must have happened on a larger scale and they were squeezed out. They had gone through multiple names and contract brewed but anytime that a head brewer leaves and isn’t replaced, is not a good sign.

Good – But, Toolbox Brewing seems to be moving forward and expanding into Los Angeles where they will be distributed now so we can get Bog Sauce and Purple Drink.

What do these two pieces of news mean? To San Diego it will have one set of ramifications but to those of us in L.A. it means that more beer is headed our way and that we need to be incrementally more judgemental. Not in a “you’re not fit for our town way” but more discerning. Taste the beers and find out which ones make the beers that you like. Maybe SD Brewery # 1 makes sours that you like and # 2 makes Session beers that you prefer. Find the strengths and notice the weaknesses.

L.A. beer needs to improve not just for the sake of improvement and not just in the beer quality sense. Our beer will need to stand up in San Francisco and San Diego and any other San ____ around. But business sense needs to improve too. That means money and distribution and marketing need to be managed.

As time passes the lessons from both of these San Diego breweries will need to be first bullet-pointed and then learned. We don’t hear too much news of closings but we should listen to that news along with the good of expanded distribution.

Featured Review – Mango Beatitude from Council Brewing

I have only vaguely heard about Council Brewing but the yellow of the label and the promise of mango lured me to try Beatitude Tart Saison.
Tart this one is. My first beer from Council pours a very light yellow saison looks more like a fruit soda than a beer. That sour nose is strong on this one. You can almost smell the acid on this one. There is a wheat taste underneath the tart that adds a dimension to a beer that could become one note because the mango, though present, doesn’t wrest control of the beer from the tart. At the back end the beer ends with a watery note plus a nutmeg/cinnamon hit that is there and gone very quickly.

Here is the brewery description, “Beatitude is the French word for bliss which is what we float away on whenever we enjoy this specially brewed beer. Although this Tart Saison is brewed in the historical Wallonian tradition of other low gravity, tart farmhouse ales, the magic happens when our house blend of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and Saison yeast throw an out-of-this-world party in our fermenters. Aged  on various fruits and bottled with precision and care – this yields a beer with a lacto forward nose, an intensely tart fruit flavor, a doughy complexity from our no-boil process, and takes the word “refreshing” to a whole new level.”

Off to Idaho?

If someone told me that a California brewery was building a second out-of-state brewery, I would say, “Where in North Carolina?”

But the state in question is Idaho and it is San Diego based Mother Earth Brew Co. that is planning a brewery and tasting room in Nampa, ID, outside of Boise, for later in 2016.

The new brewery will allow Mother Earth to drastically increase the amount of barrels produced per year plus it will give them closer access to both the Pacific NW and the Midwest.

Featured Review – Willow Wolves from Acoustic Ales

First off, the label & bottle cap for Willow Wolves from Acoustic Ales beer is super cool and must have cost a pretty penny to not only create but to get onto the bottle in the correct way.
I wish the beer had been as good. WW pours a muddy orange brown with no head. It just did not look appealing in the glass at all. It was redeemed, somewhat by the aroma which is very earthy.

The beer has a dank flavor without balance with a very lingering bitterness that just sorts of sits there without popping. It is a very one note beer which is odd because I had tasted the blonde ale and found it to be very well done and complex.

Anniversary Stop # 1 – Bagby Beer

After some truly gnarly traffic (to use surf slang), My wife and I arrived in Oceanside and the home of Bagby Beer. I have heard nothing but good things about the beer and was excited to try their beer for the first time.  Food was also on the agenda. Splitting a burger and ice cream sandwiches.  I ordered up a sampler tray with a brown ale, a Kellerbier, honey ale and a hoppy weisse. All were high quality. With Worker Bee taking the top spot for me. Then I ordered a taster of Dinkus, their “big” IPA.  It was the winner. Suitably strong but very fragrant with huge fruit notes in the taste. The balance was just spot on.

I was also very impressed with the look. Lovel green walls. One TV only that the bar could see and boy is this place huge and very well decorated with unique chairs and tables plus very in the San Diego way with chairs aligned to view the street style. High praise from my wife includes the saying, “Very Portland”.  This spot gets that nod. Many different seating areas and options.
Believe the hype. You get so many beer choices. I would have been easily occupied by just their beers but they had a large grouping of guest taps too.IMG_5010

SD Brewery # 3 – 32 North

The third and final stop in the never ending stream of breweries in San Diego is 32 North. Not a latitude or longitude but the explorer themed brewery. I love the minimalistic design of the logo. Gives a Livingston, Zoo, pith helmet type of vibe.

And I found (4) beers, after much deliberating, to put in my imaginary first taster tray….

Landfall White Sour (Berliner Weisse)“ German Perle hops give Landfall an incredibly pleasing floral aroma paired with a sour crispness that makes for a light but awesomely full-flavored beer that you won’t be able to put down… but at 3.5% ABV, you might never have to!”

Fly By Night Milk Stout
“…a coffee-forward, incredibly dark, and curiously sweet beer that will never fail as the perfect cap to any beer tasting foray. It’s malt variety creates a smooth body that blends seamlessly into an endless chocolaty/coffee finish. Those looking for a thick mouth feel beer will not be disappointed. Carefully curated coffee beans, ample amounts of Victory malt, …”

Rye IPA“ Coming in at 6.3%, this is one of the smoothest IPA’s you’ll encounter. The Equinox hop really comes out in both the taste and nose, with a light but solid bitterness on the back end.”

Peanut Butter Cup Porter
“A strong peanut butter nose highlights the many strengths of our Peanut Butter Cup Porter! It’s taste and scent are extremely consistent with it’s namesake, and the lighter body doesn’t lead to being overly sweet. The strong peanut butter front end leads to a crisp vanilla finish…”

San Diego Brewery # 2 – Quantum Brewing

Similar to the Ecliptic Brewery in Portland, Quantum Brewing of San Diego borrows science lingo (some celestially related) for their beer names. Which makes constructing a taster tray almost dependent on the names rather than style. Which might be a good thing because I think more people should taste the full palette of beers and not just the hoppy ones.

So my science fictional taster would start with the Singularity Stout, then move backwards in time and style to the Boron Brown before trying the Uncertainty Red and the Pale’s Constant Pale ale and finishing with the Hadron Wheat Collider.

Then maybe try one of the hoppy lab creations with only numbers attached to them like the Project 95 IPA.

Gypsy in L.A.?

Mikkeller SD

The news that Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and Peter Zien are expecting to be brewing Mikkeller Beers in the almost old AleSmith facility by June was presaged by their collaboration on Beer Geek Speedway earlier this year.

But buried in the press release was this small sentence, “Bjergsø also foresees opening other locations throughout California.” Seeing as how there is already a Mikkeller bar in San Francisco and that the new AleSmith/Mikkeller tasting room is underway, that leaves where? The biggest city left would be us! L.A.

No offense to cities from Sacramento to Santa Barbara but it seems like the next logical choice. Of course it may have to wait for his Denmark brewpub and other enterprises to come to fruition but if I could get a bar as unpretentious and still artsty with a killer beer list like Mikkeller SF, I would be all in.

The other cool news is “the plan on having many brewers from around the world come through and collaborate, …. to set up a ‘collaboration of the month.’” That alone would be a big draw for beer geeks to head to Miramar.

San Diego Brewery # 1 – Toolbox Brewing

It seems like at least once, if not twice, a year, my monthly brewery feature travels to San Diego. 2015 is no exception as more breweries are firing up their kettles. So let’s get started….

I give extra gold stars to breweries that can incorporate multiple meanings to a name especially if it is a (to me at least) obscure reference to a city skyline which is the case for Toolbox Brewing in San Diego. I don’t particularly see it but others look at San Diego and see an “Allen wrench, Phillips Head and Flathead screwdrivers and a chisel.” It is also a reference to the military history of the area as well which is a cool nod.

Toolbox focuses on small and brett, in no particular order. And these are the beers that I would put in my taster tray (which I assume will have a tool theme):

GRASS FED LETTUCE – Dry Hopped Blonde Sour Brett

MINI MUDDER – Milk Stout

MY COUSIN, STRAWBERRY – Wild Brett Beer w/ Strawberries


THE VIRGIN CHERRY – Tart Cherry Wild Ale