Green Flash Buys Alpine Beer

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I don’t know many details at this point, but Craft Business Daily is reporting that “San Diego’s Green Flash has just announced their acquisition of small, local 3,000 barrel Alpine Beer Company. Financial terms were not disclosed,” adding — quite correctly, I think — “the age of craft buyers acquiring craft brewers is upon us.” I know that Green Flash had been brewing kegs for Alpine recently, while founder Pat McIllhenney was working on expansion plans for his brewery. As more details come to light, I’ll update them here.

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Alpine founder/brewmaster Pat McIllhenney with Tomme Arthur at the inaugural Firestone Walker Invitational a few years ago.

UPDATE: I have now received a press release from Green Flash with additional details on the deal:

At Alpine Beer Company this morning, Green Flash founders, Mike and Lisa Hinkley and Alpine Beer Company founders, Pat and Val McIlhenney announced that their breweries will join forces, teaming up to share resources, knowledge and experience. Both the McIlhenneys and the Hinkleys view the affiliation as mutually beneficial, and are committed to supporting each other for the success of both breweries. Each company will remain independently operated and maintain its distinct brand and culture. Pat will remain Alpine’s President and Brewmaster to oversee all operations of Alpine Beer Company while also ensuring Alpine beers continue to meet his unwavering standard of quality, whether brewed at the Alpine or Green Flash facilities. The most notable change will transpire over the next several years, as Alpine beer will become available to their legions of fans from across the country who have only experienced the greatness of Alpine beers while visiting California.

In a “handshake agreement,” Green Flash began brewing Alpine beer in November 2013 at their San Diego facility with the goal of helping longtime friends at Alpine raise capital to expand their production capacity. Green Flash has been producing three of Alpine’s brews (Nelson, Hoppy Birthday and Duet), increasing Alpine annual production from 1500 to 3000 BBLs.

The experience of brewing together has been a successful learning experience for both breweries. Green Flash Brewmaster, Chuck Silva divulged, “It was both intriguing and challenging to meld our philosophies while we worked together to scale up Pat’s recipes to be brewed in larger quantities. We worked together to stay true to the original beer and were very happy with the ultimate results. Working with a close friend is a real treat, but for me, brewing with Pat and making Alpine beers, is yet another highlight of my brewing career in San Diego.”

The successful arrangement they have shared over the past year was the impetus that prompted the breweries to take their relationship to the next level. Each views the partnership as an organic evolution that will benefit both of their operations in many ways. “Our team was thrilled to be able to brew the awesome beer from Alpine when we began teaming up,” says Mike Hinkley of Green Flash. “The excitement of our brewers is what prompted me to think about additional ways we could work together and help each other. We perceive this solid new partnership as an incredible opportunity to continue to explore our craft while benefiting from the passion and experience of Pat McIlhenney.”

“After working with Green Flash for the past year, I have come to truly trust and deeply respect the entire Green Flash operation – Chuck and all of their brewers are meticulous, yet easygoing, and I am comfortable working with the team,” says Pat McIlhenney of Alpine Beer Co. “There are many benefits in teaming up with Green Flash as a partner. Not only are they committed to producing high-quality beer, the company culture and mom and pop roots of Green Flash are very similar to our own.”

Alpine employees 20 people, is distributed exclusively in California with the ability to produce a maximum of 1500 BBLs from their San Diego County brew-house, with most of their beer sold directly from their on-site pub. Brewing capacity limitations have made it impossible for Pat and his team to support the overwhelming demand for their exceptional products. As partners, Alpine will be able to tap into the growing Green Flash team of talented brewers, their production capacity, access to capital, and human resources in operations and administration. Mike added that “I am hopeful that the culmination of the next few years will be that, together, we build a new production facility in Alpine. Maybe we will even brew some Green Flash ale in Alpine.”

“I know there is strength in unity, which will allow both of our breweries to secure even higher quality ingredients – we will be a great force as a team,” exclaims Pat. “However, the most important advantage is how this partnership will help improve the quality of life for my employees. For the first time, Alpine will be able to offer our team an excellent company benefits package including affordable health care, 401K plans and other perks made possible by this exciting partnership.”

In 2015, Green Flash will begin bottling select Alpine brews in 22oz bottles adding to the three current draft offerings. Collaborative brews are already in Chuck and Pat’s top-secret conversations, so consumers can expect these to appear in their tasting rooms and at the best craft beer bars in Southern California. The two Brewmasters are already talking about how they can work together at Green Flash’s Cellar 3, a special barrel-aged beer packaging facility that is currently under construction in Poway, and will include a cork-finish bottling line.

Chuck said, “I consulted Pat and borrowed some of his ideas when I made our tenth anniversary Flanders-style ale, which was a great success and will be recreated at Cellar 3. I am always on the look-out for ideas. With Pat and me on the same team, you can count on us to push the envelope even further.”

Mike summarizes, “This partnership is win-win-win. Green Flash wins because we are teaming up with a truly iconic brewery. Alpine wins because they get to see their beers enjoyed by so many more of their adoring fans. But most of all, beer geeks everywhere win, because Chuck and Pat will be working together to create beers that will blow their minds.”

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Green Flash Brewmaster Chuck Silva, Alpine Beer Company President and Brewmaster Pat McIlhenney and Green Flash Co-Founder and CEO Mike Hinkley.

Beer Birthday: Tomme Arthur

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Today is Tomme Arthur’s 41st birthday. Tomme is Director of Brewery Operations for Port Brewing and the Lost Abbey. One of the established stars of the San Diego brewing scene, Tomme is justly famous for his terrific beers, like his Cuvee de Tomme, the Red Poppy, the Angel’s Share and the Track series. Plus, he introduced washoes to the brewing community. Join me in wishing Tomme a very happy birthday.

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At GABF in 2005. Jeff Bagby, brewer at Pizza Port, Tomme, and Eric Rose, brewer at Hollister Brewing Co..

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After the Five Guys and a Barrel Beer Dinner, a toast was offered with Isabelle Proximus, the Collaborative Sour Ale made by blending beer and done by the five of them. Top row: Adam Avery, Rob Tod, Bruce Paton and Sam Calagione. Bottom row: Tomme and Vinnie Cilurzo.

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Tomme and me after another beer dinner, relaxing in the Cathedral Hill bar with Blind Pig IPA.

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Tomme Arthur and his oldest daughter Sydney in front of aging beer barrels, when she was very young.

Beer Birthday: Yuseff Cherney

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Today is the 45th birthday of Yuseff Cherney, co-founder, COO and head brewer of Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego. I usually run into Yusseff in the Bay Area or at GABF. He’s a great person and a terrific brewer and I’m certainly glad we can find his beers up north. Join me in wishing Yusseff a very happy birthday.

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Claudia Pamparana, co-founder of Faction Brewing, Yuseff, Jeff Bagby, and his then-assistant brewer, Noah Regney, now with Hollister Brewing at the Boonville Beer Festival in 2007.

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Sierra Nevada’s Steve Dressler with Yuseff and his wife at the Chico leg of Beer Camps Across America earlier this year.

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Yussef with Fal Allen (from Anderson Valley) at Prost Brewing during CBC this year in Denver.

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Matt Matthew Brynildson, Earl Kight, and Yuseff at the European Beer Star Awards in Germany last year.

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Yuseff with last year’s Hop Queen. (Note: last two photos purloined from Facebook.)

Bagby Beer Almost Open

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A little over a week ago I was in San Diego to take part on a panel at the Beer Bloggers Conference. After my participation was over, I was keen to see the progress Jeff and Dande Bagby were making on their new brewery, Bagby Beer Co., so I drove out to Oceanside to see the new space for myself. As I drove down the main thoroughfare in Oceanside — Coast Highway — parallel to the coast, the new brewery is on your left, making it oceanside, too. The first thing you notice is that it’s massive. I knew the space had previously been used as a car dealership, but that still didn’t prepare me for the size of it. It’s on the corner of Minnesota, a block away from Wisconsin, and takes up a sizable portion of the long block. The exterior is mostly finished, and it looks amazing.

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The view from across the street.

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Signage along the front of the building, visible from any angle.

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At the corner of the Coastal Highway and Minnesota Avenue.

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Inside, the brewery is finished, up and running, with six Bagby beers in the fermenters. It’s been 18 months since any Bagby-made beers have been available, and to my way of thinking, that’s far too long.

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The brewhouse.

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The entire restaurant side of the place will seat around 350, and there are wonderful nooks and crannies everywhere, including an upstairs open-air balcony and on the ground floor there’s this quiet sitting area for four with umbrellas tucked into a corner space.

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Downstairs, there’s another outdoor seating space, and these are not including what’s inside.

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Inside, several bars are nearing completion.

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Dandelian and Jeff Bagby in the upstairs loft dining area, with a separate small bar. The plaid back of the bench seating was inspired by Jeff’s winning plaid pants that he used to wear for GABF award ceremonies, as I detailed several years ago in Jeff “Lucky Pants” Bagby Wins Big.

So when will Bagby Beer Co. be open, with Bagby beer once flowing in the San Diego area? It should be any day now. Hell, for all I know, they might be open right now. Or maybe not. But it will be soon, and it will probably be done quietly. So if you find yourself in the area, drive by and see if the lights are on. You might get lucky, and get to be one of the first to drink some Bagby beer in a year and a half. At some point in the early fall, they’ll have a big grand opening, and that will be preceded by some pomp and ceremony. But until then, they’ll take the brewpub out for a test drive, working out the kinks, getting the food just right and pouring what I can only imagine will be some incredibly tasty beer. Frankly, I can’t wait until my next trip there.

Roller Coaster Couch Trippin’ in San Diego

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I flew down to San Diego this afternoon, a quick trip to speak at the Beer Bloggers Conference tomorrow. Tonight, Lagunitas threw a party for the attendees after a dinner at Karl Strauss Brewing. One of the fun things they did for the brewhaha was a green screen couch ride for the Couch Trippin’ contest.


Here’s me, along with Emily Sauter, from Pints and Panels, and Fred Abercrombie, with Lagunitas (and he also blogs at Ünnecessary Ümlaut), riding a sofa roller coaster through the Lagunitas bottling line.
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Pizza Port To Release Their Beer In Cans

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Pizza Port, a.k.a. Port Brewing, announced today through a press release from Ball Corp. that they will be releasing three of their beers in cans this week throughout their home market of San Diego, California. From the press release

For the first time in its 26-year history, Pizza Port will be entrusting its hand-crafted passion to a new, more portable can package. “It was a natural evolution for us,” said Pizza Port co-founder Gina Marsaglia. “Our consumers like to be outside and want to take great beer with them. The can is a portable and sustainable way for them to do that.” Vince Marsaglia, her brother and co-founder of Pizza Port Brewing, adds, “Our highest priority has always been to deliver the best quality beer to our consumers and aluminum cans help us keep our beer fresh by keeping out light and oxygen.”

Beginning this week, three of Pizza Port’s most popular beers will be available in recyclable cans throughout San Diego County. The labels will include Chronic Amber Ale (known as ChronicAle), Ponto Pale Ale and their very “sessionable” Swamis IPA that has the hoppy-ness of an IPA but is still very drinkable.

“By putting their exceptional beer in Ball cans, Pizza Port further confirms that aluminum cans are a premium packaging option for many of the best craft brewers in America,” said Rob Miles, senior vice president of sales for Ball’s global metal beverage packaging business. “Aluminum cans from Ball are helping craft brewers differentiate their products while realizing efficiencies in operating costs and energy savings.”

Here’s the three beers to be released in cans:

Swami’s India Pale Ale
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Chronicale
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Note: Curiously, a number of years ago Lagunitas was turned down when they submitted their amber ale under the label Kronik, which seems awfully similar. They were told it was rejected due to the drug reference, though I remember joking at the time that “Bud” was okay. Today it’s called Censored.

Ponto S.I.P.A.
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Know Your Beer Flavors: The Beer Pyramid

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Today’s infographic is Know Your Beer Flavors: The Beer Pyramid, created by Jennifer Hood for an article in San Diego’s Locale Magazine, Beerology: How to analyze flavors, why you shouldn’t drink from a can, and why you vote like you drink…

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Click here to see the pyramid full size.

UPDATE: It looks like the material for the pyramid was taken from Cicerone Michael Agnew’s video he did for Betty Crocker. Here’s a link to the video, Beerology: The Flavor Triangle.

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Vertical Epic Vertical Video

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Two weeks ago I flew to San Diego to take part in a fun tasting of all the Vertical Epics from Stone Brewing. The event was Livecast, but if pacing that was described as just below the excitement level of watching paint dry is not your idea of a fun way to spend a couple of hours, you’ll be happy to learn that it’s also been distilled down to a 4 and a half minute video.

For those of us who were there, of course, it was anything but dull, and trying all eleven of the beers was a rare treat. None were completely off or undrinkable, remarkable in and of itself, though as you’d expect a few had started showing their age. Both 02.02.02 (a Witbier) and 03.03.03 (a Belgian Strong Dark Ale) had started to show some papery, sherry-like notes from oxidation. Given that a witbier is not a beer you think of for aging, it was perhaps most surprising, not that it was oxidized, but that it was still drinkable at all. The 03.03.03 — a more personal one for me, since March 3 is my birthday — had the more desirable aged characteristics you might expect in a strong (8.5%) Belgian-style beer. The 04.04.04 (a Belgian Strong Pale Ale) aged a little better but was unremarkable to me, just a decent strong beer starting to show some complexity, though I must say it was surprising that the kaffir lime was still evident in the flavors, among other yeasty notes.

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05.05.05 (another Belgian Strong Dark Ale) on the other hand, was the star of the show. An everlasting gobstopper of a beer, it had complexity to spare and kept changing considerably as it warmed. It was just a beautiful beer that showed the unmistakeable benefits of aging. The first four were all done by Lee Chase, who was Stone’s head brewing during that time period.

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06.06.06 (also a Belgian Strong Dark Ale) was the first one done by Mitch Steele, who’s been the head brewer at Stone since that year. It was a close second to the previous year, and was made with the same yeast. It was almost as complex and was certainly very tasty so it’s hard to put into words exactly why I found the 05.05.05 preferable. They were both great beers, aged beautifully, but the older one just seemed to have more layers and was ultimately more of a joy to drink.

The 07.07.07 (a sort of mix between a Saison and a Tripel) was one I was also hoping to really enjoy, since it’s also my daughter Alice’s birthday every July 7th and so I have several bottles squirreled away until she turns 21, which won’t be until 2025. I don’t think the beer will make it that far, though it’s still tasting pretty good right now. The spices — ginger, cardamom and a “blend of grapefruit, lemon and orange peel — are still there, especially the ginger, were soft and round, making it a fun one to drink, even though I’m not sure I could finish a pint of it. But give me a snifter of it, and I could comfortably sip on this one with my daughter.

Next, Stone tried a Belgian IPA with 08.08.08, which was essentially a “Strong Golden Belgian style ale highly hopped with American hops (Ahtanum, Amarillo and Simcoe).” As you’d expect, the hops had begun to hide in the folds, but what was more surprising was how bright they still were, actually. My memory of this beer when it was fresh (always a dangerous assumption to make) was that they were over the top, so that my impression is that their mellowing with age has had a positive effect on the beer today, though I shouldn’t think it should be aged much longer, if you happen to still have an unopened bottle of this beer.

For the 09.09.09, they finally went dark, with an Imperial Belgian Porter brewed with vanilla beans and aged on French oak chips. Though to be fair, the color wasn’t particularly Porterish, more of a dark copper or mahogany. But it was the vanilla that really spoke loudly in this beer, though I must confess I’m particularly sensitive to vanilla so a very little goes a long way for me. The 10.10.10 (a Strong Belgian Golden Ale with chamomile and mostly Muscat grapes) was an unusual beer. The grape character was definitely evident, but seemed more to mirror a beer aged in wine barrels rather than one that had grapes added during fermentation. Perhaps that what the aging had done to their character. But it was still a nice beer, with interesting notes, although it wasn’t one of my favorites of the group. I’d like to try it again in a few more years.

Last year’s Vertical Epic was spiced with Hatch green chiles. Though I’m not at all a fan of chili beers, the 11.11.11 was one of the best two chili beers I’ve had (the other was at a New Mexico brewpub). That being said, it still is not my cup of tea, so it’s hard to judge this beer objectively since it grabs hold of my taste buds, wrestles them to the ground and all but ruins me for the next few hours. I’m also a spice wuss, it must be said. So no matter how you slice it, this beer is not for me, no matter how good is seems to be.

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The new release, 12.12.12, is obviously not an aged beer so we’re tasting the only fresh beer of the bunch. The aromas remind one more of a Christmas beer or winter warmer, with spices like cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg along with banana and clove notes from the yeast. It’s a melange of wonderful smells and tastes, and seems best fresh right now, as I suspect that these spices will drop out over time. If you’re not a fan of big, spicy Christmas beers that may be a positive for you, so how long you want to age this beer is probably directly proportional to how much you enjoy holiday spices in your beer. If you love them, drink it now. Don’t wait, the world may be over in a couple of weeks. You never know.

A big thanks to Greg Koch, Mitch Steele and Brandon Hernandez for allowing me to be a part of this epic tasting. For Mitch’s tasting notes on these beers, see the Final Chapter and all of the homebrew recipes (except for 12.12.12) along with tasting notes from previous tastings can also be found at the Stone Vertical Epic Ale page.

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Greg Koch welcoming us to the tasting (and displaying his keen fashion sense).

Bagby Signs Lease On New Brewery Location

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This is excellent news. Jeff Bagby, who won a boatload of awards while brewmaster at Pizza Port Carlsbad and Director of Brewery Operations for the entire chain, has been searching for the ideal location to open his own brewery, to be called Bagby Beer Co. He announced earlier today that he and his wife, and business partner, Dande Bagby, have signed a lease for the property at 601 S. Coast Highway in Oceanside, California. The 11,000 square foot space used to be “the historical Continental Motors and BMW Oceanside,” and consists of three separate buildings and a small courtyard, which they hope to turn into an outdoor beer garden. They anticipate starting construction on the brewery and restaurant in early 2013. There’s still a lot of work to do before they’re up and running, and Jeff is brewing beer again, but at least they’re over the first hurdle. Join me in congratulating Jeff and Dande on finding a location for their brewery.

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Live Vertical Vertical Epic Tasting Thursday

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Thursday is going to be a fun day, an extra fun day, apart from the travel, at least. I’m flying down to San Diego for what should be a very interesting beer tasting, one that you’ll actually be able to watch, but more on that in a minute.

Almost eleven years ago Stone Brewing began an epic journey, releasing a new beer on subsequent Bonza Bottler Days each year. Created by Australian Elaine Fremont in 1985, “Bonza,” in down under slang, meaning “super, great or fantastic,” while “Bottler” is apparently Australian slang for “something excellent.” So a Bonza Bottler Day is a “super excellent day.” She created Bonza Bottler Day so there would be at least one day each month to celebrate. They occur each month when the day matches the month, so there’s a Bonza Bottler Day every January 1, February 2, March 3, April 4, etc.

Stone Brewing went one step farther and added the year, so that the first Stone Epic Vertical was released on 02.02.02, or February 2, 2002. The sixth was on my daughter Alice’s 3rd birthday, 07.07.07, or July 7, 2007. The eleventh, and last, release will come out in a few weeks on December 12, 2012, thankfully just nine days before the world will end … or not.

But before the Earth is reduced to a smoldering mass of ash by a cataclysmic fireball, I’ve been invited to try all eleven Stone Epic Vertical beers, which includes an early taste of the latest offering, 12.12.12. The entire beer tasting will be broadcast live over that series of tubes known as the interwebs via livestream this coming Thursday. Here is Stone Brewing’s description of the event.

Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale marks the end of an era. Since 2002, Stone has released a unique, Belgian-influenced, bottle-conditioned ale, with each subsequent beer available one year, one month and one day from its predecessor, and designed to be aged and enjoyed together on 12.12.12. Beer collectors everywhere are planning tastings and wondering how these long ago procured beers taste. In preparation, Stone founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner assembled a panel of beer experts to provide fans a live, comprehensive report on the state of the Vertical Epic Ales. That group includes top tasters and the very artisans who constructed these beers. Join Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele, former brewmaster Lee Chase, craft beer ambassador “Dr.” Bill Sysak, beer journalist Jay Brooks, Joe Tucker of RateBeer, Stephen Johnson of New Brew Thursday, plus Jason and Todd Alström of BeerAdvocate as they join Greg and Steve for an examination of one of the most ambitious brewing projects in history.

So join us for this monumental beer tasting on Thursday, November 15, beginning at Noon, Californy time (3:00 PM EST) until 1:30 PST (4:30 East Coast time). Watch the festivities on livestream. It’s going to be epic!

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