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.

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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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Societe Brewing Quietly Opens In San Diego

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On my way out of town last Sunday, after a week in San Diego for the Craft Brewers Conference, there was one more stop I wanted to make. I’d known brewer Travis Smith since his days at Russian River, where he brewed all the beer on their brewpub system, which was especially important while Vinnie Cilurzo was building their production brewery a few years ago. Smith then moved south to The Bruery, where he also brewed for a time, before setting off to start his own brewery. That effort has now paid off, as his new venture, Societe Brewing, founded by Travis and his partner Douglas Constantiner, quietly opened their doors this Wednesday, May 9. On Sunday, he agreed to show me around as I was leaving town and I met Travis and his family at the brewery.

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The new Societe Brewing. BTW, it’s pronounced “society,” spelled differently for ease of copyright.

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Inside the large 16,000-sq. ft. space, 2,000 of it is dedicated to a tasting room. By the time you arrive, there will be tables and chairs here, too. There’s also a dedicated outdoor patio that’s licensed for patrons, too.

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The shiny new brewhouse. Travis will have essentially three lines of beers. A Belgian-influenced line, a line of hoppy beers, and a barrel-aged line. Societe’s brewery includes a separate cold room for barrel aging, with room for around 400 barrels.

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Co-founder and brewer Travis Smith behind the handmade redwood bar. When I was there, two of his beers were already on tap. The first, The Harlot, which he called a Belgian Extra, is essentially a low-alcohol version of a Belgian Golden Strong. Whatever you call, it was tasting fine, a really nice beer to kick things off. All of their beers will be named from society, occupations and people, as society is many things. The second beer on, The Apprentice, was a nice hoppy IPA brewed with Cascade, Centennial and some other varieties of hops. Travis, who is a perfectionist, wasn’t 100% happy with it, but I certainly was. The Apprentice is terrific, a solid hoppy beer.

The soft opening began Wednesday, and they’ll be open now Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. They’re “keeping this soft opening low key so [they] can continue putting the finishing touches on the tasting room” as they work toward the big Grand Opening, which will take place on Saturday, June 30. So come down and help them work out the kinks of operating a tasting room, and get a preview of San Diego’s newest brewery. I’ve been impressed with everything Travis brews, so I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Check them out, and become part of Societe’s society. Oh, and the address is 8262 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, San Diego.