Sunday, December 1, 2013

S.CA Craft Beer Haven

Southern California is a haven for Craft Beer lovers (link here).

- Total beer revenue in California exceeded $4.6 billion in 2012.
- California produces more craft beer than any other state, brewing more than 2.4 million barrels (32 gallons per barrel). (sorry my NYC friends, who think Oregon is Craft Brew Capital of the US)
- In 2012 annual Beer production in California increased by over 400,000 barrels from the previous year.
- California has more craft breweries and had more breweries open in 2012 (56) than any other state.
- California has 12 of the top 50 largest craft breweries by volume in the country.

...and since there's so many local California offerings, and the Craft Brewers are such nice guys who truly believe "a rising tide lifts all ships" they often cross-distribute and mutually promote other breweries.  At the Stone Brewery brew put in North San Diego, they offer a dozen other beers that are not Stone brewed, along with all of the Stone beers.  This cooperation fosters more diversity, and a plethora of beer choices to the consumer.  I've been enjoying the Porters and Stouts, in moderation - about one a week this Fall, compared to the one or two a day last Winter.  Here are a few of my favorites from October & November:

Ballast Point Brewery's Victory at Sea Imperial Porter is delicious.  Coffee, Vanilla, full bodied, wonderful to drink with food or without.  I've enjoyed 3 bottles of this from my local WholePaycheck (Total Wine does not carry this offering from Ballast Point).

Left Coast Brewery in San Clemente are really nice guys.  We've been to the brewery and met the owner, had beer flights for samplings of multiple varieties, and Left Coast hosts many of the local beer events ('Beer Week', 'Oktoberfest', etc) as a main sponsor.  Their Voodoo American Stout made such a  strong & positive impression, I even bought a T-shirt with the Voodoo skeleton on it.  This is a full bodied beer, that is the American version of Russian Imperial stouts, and it is formidable.  Highly recommended.

Cismontane's "Black Dawn, Imperial Stout with Coffee Added" is a good buzz beer in the Drew Carey tradition.   I've had two bottles of this through the month of November, and they were each good beers with steaks at dinner on a cool Fall evening where I was sleepy long before bed time and I did not want to wake up at 2 or 3am in the morning, so a caffeinated full bodied stout with dinner grilled in my back yard appropriately filled the bill.  (Cis-montane = 'this side of the mountains')

Stone Brewery collaborated with Blue Jacket brewery to make a 10 barrel batch of "Suede Imperial Porter" that was smooth and flavorful, very enjoyable.  "Ale brewed with calendula flowers, jasmine and honey".  It was a very interesting Porter indeed.

I saw the Heretic Shallow Grave Porter at Total Wine - while looking for a Ballast Point Imperial Porter that they didn't carry - and thought "for $6, why not...?"  I had no idea there was a Pittsburg California, but that is where Heretic Breweries are located.  "Don't follow the crowd".  This "Rich, Smooth Porter" did not.

"Shallow Grave porter is as dark as night, perfect for a cool evening out in the woods. This is a big, dark ale with a complex and rich chocolate and carmel malt character followed by a touch of warmth and light malt sweetness, leaving you ready for more after each shovelful.  You will love this so much, you won't have to dig a six footer, so make it a Shallow Grave.  We're sure you'll dig it."

If you have a chance to sample any of Heretic's offerings, you should not miss the opportunity.

Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown NY has a line of HBO licensed "Game of Thrones" beers that is interesting.   Because of the open market in Southern California for Craft Beer, and the informed beer drinking consumer here knows that Goose Island, Guinness, Shocktop, and other PSEUDO-craft beers are just fronts for corporate soul-less mass production, the true craft brewers collaborate and support each other, welcoming Ommegang into S.CA beer haven.  

This "Game of Thrones 'Take The Black Stout'" was very good.   My taste buds are not sophisticated enough to have detected the star anise and licorice root - or if they were there, the brewing process transformed them into a smooth delicious full-bodied mouthful of flavor that was entirely pleasant.  My buddy Ryan has googled them to find out that this is Ommegang's 4th or 5th G.O.T. variant in conjunction with HBO.  Good for them.   I hope it brings them continued success.

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