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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit. —Pliny the Younger (A.D. 61-113), author; imperial magistrate to Roman emperor Trajan; nephew and adopted son of the famed naturalist (among other titles) Pliny the Elder.

Almost two millennia later, a man named Vinnie Cilurzo began brewing what came to be considered the first double IPA, in nearby Temecula at his small brewery called Blind Pig. Cilurzo’s name for this beer was Pliny the Elder and was based on a wives’ tale of sorts that the historical Pliny had discovered and named wild hops (lupus salictarius, which were not actually hops, it turns out). The beer itself was undeniable: Despite being brightly dank, catty, citrusy and piney from the generous amount of hops added both during the boil and after, and being 8 percent alcohol by volume, it was all well-balanced with the beer’s malt foundation. “Deadly quaffable” would be how I remember it being when I first tried it.

Cilurzo eventually moved his operation up north to Santa Rosa and renamed his brewery Russian River Brewing Company. His beers, Pliny the Elder especially, have retained a hype that is impressive and mostly deserved since Elder was first brewed in 2000.

Imagine the hype, then, that developed for a triple IPA version of the beer, which Cilurzo dubbed Pliny the Younger: It was 10.25 percent ABV, copper in color, with even bigger hop flavors and a more-substantial malt backbone to match. This beer became legend for the very small amount brewed and allotted to select locations, mostly throughout California, in February.

I experienced the fervor some years back when I went with a group of my Coachella Valley Homebrew Club friends to the now-sadly defunct Barley and Hops Olde World Family Tavern in Temecula. After waiting in line for 30-60 minutes and drinking one of Russian River’s many gorgeous wine-barrel-aged sour ales, I finally got my allotted 10-ounce pour. This was about six years ago, but I remember it being very intense, with citrus and pine aromas and flavors, properly balanced out by the malt. It was hard to distinguish from a hoppy American barleywine—but it was a very nice beer. However, I have a weird habit of bringing much of the overall experience, including the hassle of obtaining the beer itself, to my opinion of a beer. So … was all the hoopla worth the chance to taste this beer?

I chose the word "chance" not incautiously: In many instances, you can find yourself arriving early at such events to find that many people arrived far earlier—with the beer running out before your turn. I experienced this at The Salted Pig gastropub in downtown Riverside a few years ago, and it drove home the point that I ought to figure the time and effort spent to obtain an experience into the overall equation. This is not to denigrate anyone involved, be it Russian River, the venues that serve Pliny the Younger, or the people for whom the equation “four hours waiting in line + one pour of Younger (and often other RR beers) = worthwhile." I just want to make a case for the overall overrated nature of the beer.

In many beer circles, that previous statement is blasphemy. Truly. Pliny the Elder is far more available today, and it is still treated with the utmost reverence, to the point that when it’s available in the Coachella Valley, there are certain people who will hoard it. In the not-so-recent past, Elder was the Holy Grail as far as beer traders were concerned. You could get many prized beers for the right amount of it. However, between Russian River Brewing’s upgrade to a more-expansive brewhouse in Windsor, and the sheer proliferation of amazing double IPAs, Pliny the Elder’s trade value has declined. Might we see a similar decline in the general circus surrounding Pliny the Younger? Well, I have tasted three imperial/triple IPAs that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone that are just as good (if not better) as Younger—all made in Southern California.

Let’s start in Long Beach with Beachwood Brewing’s Hops of Fury, and then move south to San Diego with Societe Brewing’s The Roustabout. Traveling east down Interstate 8 from there puts us at Alpine Beer Company, where their Exponential Hoppiness, while once brewed in much smaller amounts and less easily obtained (but easier than Younger—and in bottles!), has been made for more than a decade.

A perfect illustration of this point is the speed at which Pliny the Younger sold out at the legendary Toronado San Diego. All three of these other beers were also on tap—and still are as I type this, two days after Younger went on. I would be the guy that skips the nuttiness and happily gets pours of the other beauties relatively hassle-free. (Also worth a mention on the "alternative to Younger" front are Melvin Brewing’s 2X4 and Revision Brewing’s Dr. Lupulin, both of which are big, beautiful, hoppy beers that can be found at the right times of year at our local Total Wine and More.)

The reason I chose this topic now is the fact that for the first time, the Coachella Valley has seen not one, but two tappings of this iconic beer. A tapping of Younger at La Quinta Brewing’s Old Town Taproom has already happened (alongside a plethora of other RR beers I’m more excited about, frankly), and another might have also happened at Eureka! Indian Wells. I went to the former tapping at La Quinta (in the name of science, of course). I got there an hour early, having been conditioned by these events that this was already late. I was third in line, and I needn’t have really worried. That’s the charm of our desert beer scene, I guess. I will say that when I finally got my glass, it was brightly citrus and tropical (hints of guava and papaya), with some pine—a shockingly drinkable triple IPA. Yeah, it was worth waiting a little bit for, but had it been more than that, I could have been at peace with missing out.

Those who view me as a "Debbie Downer" will be ecstatic to know that I think this these tappings are a very good sign for our local beer scene—as are the first local sightings of Beachwood Brewing and Beachwood Blendery beers. I’m personally more excited about the beers that will come from the latter breweries, but from what I’m told about Russian River’s new brewing facility, I’m definitely looking forward to what they do next.

Life is short, and it’s important to put a value on the time and effort that goes into any endeavor. Does everything balance toward the positive? Did the object of your desire retain the charm that it had in its pursuit? I sincerely hope so.

Brett Newton is a certified cicerone (like a sommelier for beer) and homebrewer who has mostly lived in the Coachella Valley since 1988. He currently works at the Coachella Valley Brewing Co. taproom in Thousand Palms. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Beer

The San Diego area is renowned for its high-quality beer.

San Diego’s legacy breweries—Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Stone Brewing Co., Ballast Point, Green Flash Brewing Company and AleSmith Brewing Company—have a stellar reputation for brewing consistently great craft beers.

These craft-beer pioneers continue to inspire fellow brewers, homebrewers and beer drinkers alike. Therefore, we decided to check out some new kids on the brewery block that are helping make America’s Finest City even finer.

Half Door Brewing Company: This brewery opened in January and is located downtown in a historic 4,000-sqaure-foot, two-story home on the corner of Ninth Avenue and Island Avenue. The Irish-inspired pub oozes cool. HDBC celebrates old-world European tradition with a new flair. The Bearleener is a day-drinking 3.8 percent alcohol by volume beer brewed with Citra hops and Lactobacillus grown from acidulated malt. Sour, meet wheat; wheat, meet sour. This refreshing summer beer has lovely sour tangerine and lemon notes with a slightly tart finish.

Trick your senses with the Gimmick Ale: a white chocolate peanut butter golden milk stout, brewed with four malts and tons of flavor. It’s dessert in a glass. Sip it from the upstairs deck and listen to the roar of the crowd at Petco Park. Oh, and the food menu is crafted to complement the house beers.

Modern Times Beer: The appropriately named brewery has a dream team of brewers, including founder Jacob McKean, a former Stone Brewing employee and long-time homebrewer. Modern Times Beer just celebrated its second anniversary. It’s also celebrating the fact that it was named one of the “Top 10 New Brewers in the World” by RateBeer in 2014.

Modern Times brews four year-round beers and is one of the only breweries in the world to roast its own coffee in-house for the beer. In July, the brewery finally secured South African hops for its Southern Passion and J-17 IPA. Homebrewers can rejoice, because the brewery provides the recipe for many of the brewery’s special-release beers. The Palace of Cracked Heads (Gotta love beer names!) is a juicy 9 percent ABV American wild ale brewed with 50 pounds of heirloom nectarines per barrel.

Love sticky, danky beers? Don’t miss the First Annual upcoming Festival of Dankness, at the San Diego Waterfront Park on Saturday, Aug. 22. Check out first-hand how badass breweries are using incredible new hops from around the world to craft juicy, aroma bombs.

“Modern Times” was a utopian socialist community founded by innovators and activists, built on Long Island in 1850. All of Modern Times Beer’s brews are named after real utopian experiments or mythological utopias. This new-ish yet already influential brewery is escaping conformity and peacefully providing social happiness—in a stylin’ tallboy can.

Fall Brewing Company: This punk-rock-influenced brewery opened in November last year in the heart of San Diego’s beer epicenter, North Park. Co-owner and graphic designer David Lively has done work for Jack Johnson and G. Love. In an area known for West Coast style IPAs, brewmaster Ray Astamendi brews what he wants. Plenty for All is a California common-pilsner hybrid. This 4.9 percent ABV unfiltered zwickelbier is an easy-drinking, warm-weather standout. Fall is getting a great reputation for clean, simple and sessionable beers.

Societe Brewing Company: Societe is a production brewery that was founded by Travis Smith, formerly of Russian River Brewing Company and The Bruery, and Douglas Constantiner. The brewery opened its doors in May 2012 and now offers three lines of year-round beers: “Out West,” hoppy beers; “Old World,” Belgian-esque ales; and “Stygian,” dark beers. “Drink it fresh” is Societe’s philosophy; the brewery’s crisp IPAs are only sold on tap within a 20-mile radius of the brewery.

The Harlot is a must-try. This Belgian Extra Ale is a tweaked hybrid beer using a pilsner-lager recipe; it’s then fermented with a house Belgian-ale yeast strain. This beer was inspired by three of the founders’ favorite beers—Reality Czech Pils from Moonlight Brewing Company, Redemption from Russian River Brewing Company, and Taras Boulba from Brasserie de la Senne.

The Apprentice is a dry, hoppy American IPA brewed with a winning combination of Amarillo and Simcoe hops, producing pine, bubblegum and tropical fruit notes. Societe is also in the process of doubling its fermentation capacity to deliver even more delicious, hop-forward beer.

Amplified Ale Works: Formerly known as California Kebab and Beer Garden, this California-inspired nanobrewery sits just a block off the beach. This rockin’ brewpub started production in Pacific Beach (my old stomping grounds!) in 2012. Brewmaster Cy Henley came from San Diego brewing pioneers Ballast Point, Alpine and Green Flash.

You’ll find Amplified’s own hoppy brews like the Electrocution IPA and Pig Nose Pale Ale, along with craft beers from other breweries in the city. Electrocution IPA is the flagship beer, featuring tropical fruit notes like passion fruit and lychee. The beer, the location, the vibe—it’s all very So Cal.

Amplified’s rapid growth and popularity has led to a recent decision to sign a deal with H.G. Fenton Company to utilize a ready-made brewing facility in Miramar. The new seven-barrel brewhouse (plus four 15-barrel fermenters) will eventually increase Amplified’s production by an additional 1,000 barrels of beer in the first year.

South Park Brewing Company: SPBC is the youngest brewery on this list, but the owner is no stranger to the San Diego beer scene: Scot Blair was the brain behind Hamiltons Tavern, Small Bar and Monkey Paw Brewery.

Located in San Diego’s famous 30th Street corridor, the 6-month-old seafood-centric brewpub serves fresh yellowtail, bluefin, halibut and oysters along with its award-winning craft beers. Cosimo Sorrentino, from Monkey Paw, is the head of brewery operations.

My suggestion: Don’t miss the Scripps Pier Oyster Stout. Roasted coffee, chocolate and a faint hint of toffee make up most of the aroma. The beer is brewed with water from Scripps Pier, giving it a light saltiness and an earthy flavor.

Whether you're looking to just grab a delicious pint, or pair a beer with a locally sourced dish, the capital of craft continues to push the envelope and please the palate.

Published in Beer