CVIndependent

Sun04302017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Erin Peters

The diverse and impressive musical lineup makes the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival one of the most popular events in the world—but it’s the food and drink lineup that rounds out the experience for many festival-goers.

Nic Adler, who also puts on Eat Drink Vegan in Pasadena, has been curating the food at Coachella for four years. I recently had the chance to interview him.

How has the food and drink morphed at Coachella since your first year working on it?

In many, many ways. … There are a lot of things that happen back-of-house to make restaurants and vendors successful front-of-house. For many years, the vendors that we used—and still use—at Coachella have been used to vending at high-volume events. However, a lot of the restaurants that I brought in were not used to being in front of 100,000 people. They might do a food festival with 4,000 or 5,000 people, but nothing on the level of what we’re doing at Coachella. So, there was a lot of work to do … for us to understand how vendors work, what their needs are, and how to deal with chefs. Chefs are artists, and they’re used to very specific things. They know their kitchen. They know where everything is. They know that everything’s working. That’s not always how it works when you come out to a large festival like Coachella.

Putting together the right team to support these chefs, restaurants, bartenders and mixologists took a little bit of time.

All of our restaurants (from) year one struggled a bit. It took us some understanding on what people wanted. It took them (a while to) understand how to put out food in a way that was pleasing to the festival audience. Both of those things have come together, and they’ve kind of met in the middle. It’s made for really interesting, great food that’s visually beautiful, and food that is portable—bowls, wraps and things like that. It just took a little bit of time.

What are some of the restaurants that have been there since the beginning, that were super-successful, and people loved?

It’s interesting: We don’t do a lot of returning restaurants, although the ones that have returned have been there from very early on. Beer Belly would be one that has been with us since the very beginning. KazuNori in the Rose Garden has been there from the very beginning.

We really try to keep the food program (like Goldenvoice President/CEO) Paul Tollett keeps the music lineup: There are some (acts) that return. Maybe they take a year off, and they come back again; they get bigger and go to a bigger stage. We kind of look at the food program in a similar way: We need to have these big names that people recognize, and then we’ve got to have a whole middle tier that people know. … And then we have a bunch of (vendors) that have never done anything like this before, and are kind of the new up-and-comers.

Are you actually the person who chooses the restaurants?

Yes, I do. I have a really solid team. I work closely with Lizzy Stadler, and between the two of us, we spend nine months searching out restaurants and chefs that we think would work well with the festival.

Where are most of the restaurants from? Do you have to stay kind-of local because of the equipment they bring?

Yeah. We do have a good amount from Southern California—but this is the first year that we’re really making a big transition to having Coachella be more of a national food program, so we have 2nd City from New York. In our Outstanding in the Field program, we have chefs from Miami, Chicago and New York. MatchaBar started in New York as well. We’re just trying to look around the country and see what’s happening and bring that to Coachella. We don’t do a lot of Coachella Valley restaurants—although we do have The Venue Sushi this year—only because this is also one of the busiest times of the year for those restaurants.

How many restaurants are at Coachella this year?

In total, in the food program, there are more than 150 restaurants and vendors. As far as our curated, featured restaurant lineup, there are more than 40.

I imagine you’re trying to cater to the organic and vegan crowd, too.

Yeah, being a passionate vegan myself. We have Ramen Hood doing ramen. We have Taqueria La Venganza. We have 118 Degrees. We have Strictly Vegan. I would say there are about 10 to 15 restaurants. Then you have a restaurant like Sumo Dog that is known for their crazy Japanese-style hot dogs, which has a separate grill (for making vegan food) inside of their restaurant. They have amazing vegan hot dogs. … Every vendor has to offer a vegetarian or vegan item on their menu.

How many craft breweries are there this year?

The Craft Beer Barn started four years ago. We’ve consistently had somewhere between 100 to 150 breweries as part of that program, and that includes the rare beer bar, which we introduced last year, where Jimmy (Han) from Beer Belly curates. He spends all year (curating); he’ll call me in September telling me how he got a keg of something, and that he’s hid it in the back of the cooler and wrapped it up. He gets these little gems all year long. … He’s really worked with the breweries to get special, unique kegs out there. That’s also because we invite so many of the breweries to come down: At any given time, there are 20 or 30 brewmasters or owners or technicians who are here onsite at the festival. When you’re walking through the Craft Beer Barn, and you look over and see the head brewer from one of your favorite breweries, that really makes a difference.

Last year, there was a big push for sours, and the IPAs are obviously always really big. This year, one my favorites has been the hazy IPA, the New England-style IPA. I can’t get enough of it. It’s got very little bite on it; it’s super-refreshing, but you still have all of that hop. It’s really exciting to learn about those beers.

We also have a tiki bar that’s something that’s new for the festival this year. I’m really excited to be working on that with the guys from PDT in New York … which stands for Please Don’t Tell. They really ushered in revival of the speakeasy. They’re known to be some of the best bartenders in the world there, and they’ve come out to Indio to be part of this tiki bar. It’s not on any map. We don’t tell anybody where it is. When you find it, you know it.

Whether you’re new to craft beer or are already familiar with some of the best and brightest brewers across our 50 states, this non-comprehensive and unofficial list of 25 great craft beers is a good start.

Keep in mind there are now more than 5,000 breweries nationwide, so this is just a taste of all the amazing beers available. In no particular order:

1. AleSmith Old Numbskull: American Barleywine (11 percent ABV)

This barleywine has won three Great American Beer Festival awards and two World Beer Cup medals. It’s extremely well-balanced and full-bodied, and can be paired with anything from roasted meats and stews to a variety of pungent cheeses.

2. Allagash White: Witbier (5 percent ABV)

Spiced with a special blend of coriander and Curaçao orange peel, this Belgian-style wheat beer has won numerous awards, including gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2015, and gold at the World Beer Cup in 1998, 2010 and 2012. Clove, banana and orange notes dominate the taste, but in a deliciously balanced and subtle way.

3. Allagash Black Ale: Belgian-Style Stout (7.5 percent ABV)

Allagash brews some of the most delicious craft beers on the market. Technically, there is no such thing as a traditional Belgian stout, but the good folks at Allagash don’t always necessarily follow the rules. This beer is a little easier to drink than some regular stouts and finishes clean.

4. Bell’s Expedition Stout: Russian Imperial Stout (10.5 percent ABV)

Chocolate, dark fruits, coffee and molasses come together in this warming, super-smooth and complex beer. This is one of the best Russian imperial stouts on the market, and one that gets even better with age.

5. Brauerei Aying Ayinger Celebrator: Dark Doppelbock (6.7 percent ABV)

This is a full-bodied beer showing off notes of caramel and toasted malts, and mild notes of dark fruit. Touches of alcohol warmth give it a gorgeous, long finish.

6. Cigar City Guava Grove: Farmhouse Ale (8 percent ABV)

This award-winning brewery brews Guava Grove in tribute to Tampa, Fla.’s fruity nickname. It’s made with a French strain of Saison yeast, with a secondary fermentation with pink guava puree. With this beer, experience barnyard flavors, carbonation, guava (of course), pepper, citrus, watermelon, clove and wheat.

7. Deschutes The Abyss: American Double/Imperial Stout (11 percent ABV)

You’ll want to dive into The Abyss at least once, thanks to its nearly immeasurable depth and complexity. This is barrel-aged for 12 months in bourbon, Oregon oak and pinot noir barrels.

8. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA: India Pale Ale (9 percent ABV)

It’s named after the amount of time it’s continuously hopped, providing smack-you-in-the-face hop bitterness, while a good amount of malt sweetness provides balance. Notes of pine, pineapple and honey lend to its drinkability.

9. Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA: American IPA (7.5 percent ABV)

This is pretty darn close to a perfect beer, in my book. The bouquet is crammed with Pacific Northwest hops. Notes of lemon, pineapple, papaya and pine give it a juicy and resinous quality.

10. Founders KBS: Imperial Stout (12.4 percent ABV)

This world-class beer is available starting this month (April), so mark your calendars. Take your time to fully taste all of the layers: coffee, brown sugar, chocolate, vanilla, licorice, charred nuttiness and bourbon. After sitting in oak bourbon barrels for a year, KBS emerges with a boozy sweet bourbon profile.

11. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout: Imperial Stout (13.8 percent ABV)

From the bottle: “The original bourbon barrel aged Stout”; “Since 1992”; “Stout aged in bourbon barrels.” It smells like a bourbon dessert with sweet caramel up front. The complex notes include plums, figs and milk chocolate. This is decadence in a glass.

12. Green Flash Palate Wrecker: Double IPA (9.5 percent ABV)

The appropriately named Imperial IPA has thick, sticky, chunky lacing and pistol-blazing intense bitterness. The pineapple, mango and grapefruit sweetness perfectly balance with the insanely high number of IBUs.

13. Jolly Pumpkin La Parcela: Pumpkin Ale (5.9 percent ABV)

This is a perfect fall beer (that’s also good now!) with notes of pumpkin, cinnamon, brown sugar, chocolate, caramel, lemon zest, sour cherries and toast. This isn’t your average pumpkin ale, as it finishes with a refreshing tart sourness.

14. Kern River Brewing Citra: Imperial IPA (8 percent ABV)

This citrus-forward beer is almost faultless. There are lingering notes of lemon cake, candied mango and chocolate-covered strawberries. Citra is bright and fresh with a creamy mouth-feel.

15. Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale: Pale Ale (7.5 percent ABV)

The balance between malt and hop makes this wheat ale outstanding. With grapefruit, pine, mandarin and a hint of wheat malt sweetness, the flavor is bright and clean, with an excellent harmony of citrus hops and sweet malts.

16. Pizza Port/Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme: American Wild Ale (11 percent ABV)

The brewery made famous for brewing amazing Belgian-style beers decided to brew an unconventional sour brown ale in 1999. Made from four fermentable sugars, it is fully fermented before being placed in bourbon barrels, where it ages for one year with sour cherries. Think cherry, oak, vanilla, bourbon and brown sugar.

17. Russian River Pliny the Elder: Double IPA (8 percent ABV)

Beer-drinkers have been known to stand in line to enjoy this limited-supply double IPA. This is the easiest IPA to imbibe. It’s powerful, fragrant and amazingly complex, yet very smooth and clean. It’s worth the hype.

18. Saison Dupont: Saison (6.5 percent ABV)

This must-try beer is a top fermentation beer, with re-fermentation in the bottle. Since 1844, this beer has been brewed at La Brasserie Dupont’s farm-brewery. Hints of banana, pineapple, tropical fruit, pear and black pepperfinish with a German hop flavor. In the background hangs a light screen of barnyard funk.

19. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: American Pale Ale (5.6 percent ABV)

This is a homebrewer’s dream that turned into one of the most iconic beers in the craft-beer world. A generous amount of premium Cascade hops give the pale ale its fragrant bouquet and spicy flavor. Its piny and citrus-hop aroma comes with a slightly dry finish.

20. Stone Brewing: Imperial Russian Stout (10.6 percent ABV)

Go ahead and enjoy this decadent, black-as-night beer now, or age at cellar temperature. Or buy two and do both! This is heavy on dark fruits, molasses, chocolate, coffee and licorice, with a hint of alcohol burn.

21. The Alchemist Heady Topper: Double IPA (8 percent ABV)

Brewed out of Vermont, this is a world-class beer. The scent is a burst of tropical hops like pineapple, mango, grapefruit and peach. A hoppy start flexes and finishes into a malty finish, while staying incredibly smooth.

22. The Bruery Black Tuesday: Imperial Stout (19.2 percent ABV)

Released on the final Tuesday of October every year, this beer is The Bruery’s take on a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout. The nose is typically all dark chocolate, roasted coffee, toasted oak and bourbon. Despite its decadence and booziness, it’s wonderfully smooth.

23. 3 Floyds Zombie Dust: Pale Ale (6.2 percent ABV)

This intensely hopped undead pale ale pours peachy gold and gives off big aromas of citrus and tropical fruits. The taste is toasty buttered breadiness, and ripe tropical fruitiness. This is an exceptional beer.

24. 3 Floyds Dark Lord: Russian Imperial Stout (15 percent AB)

This RIS is brewed with coffee, Mexican vanilla and Indian sugar. Not for the faint of heart, Dark Lord is among the most opaque and black stouts on the market. What you smell is delivered in the taste—dark chocolate, cherries, plums, caramel, roasted malt and burnt sugar.

25. Victory Prima Pils: German Pilsner (5.3 percent ABV)

This signature pils is brewed with heaps of whole flower European hops and fine German malts. You may notice grass, cracker and pepper notes on the nose, and pear, white grape and hoppy bitterness in the taste. Enjoy it alone or with seafood or burgers.

There was a time not too long ago when I cringed at the sight of a raspberry wheat or berry blonde beer. I thought these beers were too dainty, too affected—and frankly, not worth my money.

However, I’ve changed my tune in recent years—and I am not alone.

Let’s look at just one beer category, flavored IPAs, for evidence. In 2015, sales of “tropical-flavored” IPA increased by 250 percent, according information presented to the Craft Brewers Conference in Philadelphia in May 2016. According to market-research firm Mintel, in 2010, 15 percent of new beers introduced were flavored. In 2015, 27 percent of beers to come onto the market were flavored.

But fruit has not been relegated to just IPAs. Brewers are also infusing pale ales, saisons and even stouts with fruit from the farm—grapefruits, oranges, lemons, limes and so on.

Take San Diego brewer Ballast Point’s Pineapple Sculpin, for example. Since Ballast Point’s purchase by Constellation, this beer and its relatives—Habanero Sculpin and Grapefruit Sculpin, introduced in 2014—are more widely available. This is a very good thing.

Some of these juicy new beers have come about thanks to experimental hops with aromatic qualities, which pair better with fruits. Brewers are also developing styles that are better able to carry the fruit flavors. As fruit beers have gotten better, they’ve not only won over some hard-core beer-drinkers like me; they’ve brought more non-traditional beer-drinkers into the craft-beer world.

Take New Belgium’s Citradelic Tangerine IPA, launched in January 2016, as another example of a popular, widely available fruit-forward beer. The sweet, tangy orange character intertwines nicely with the hops—including Citra, citrusy Mandarina Bavaria, tropical Azzaca and fruity Galaxy hops. On top of all this, the brewers add tangerine-infused orange peel to the brew.

Coachella Valley Brewing Co. is the local brewer that’s been using fruits in its beers the most. CVB’s Chris Anderson is not only an award-winning brewer; he knows his way around a kitchen. He served as executive chef at Moose’s Tooth and Café Europa in Anchorage, and headed culinary operations for the Tatitlek Corporation for seven years.

“I’ve seen more and more brewers using locally grown fruits, and fruits indigenous to their local areas,” Anderson said. “Fruit beer is certainly becoming more popular. It used to be said that it was a ‘chick beer.’ At CVB, we sell a ton of fruit beers and fruited sours to men.”

Anderson said he’s definitely seen fruit beers bring newbies into the craft-beer world.

“Customers are continually looking for variety; brand loyalty is a thing of the past,” Anderson said. “Fruit beers are in the footbridge realm for many non-craft-beer people. These folks might find a banana hefeweizen or passion-fruit farmhouse ale more inviting than a fresh double IPA.”

Hopped-up IPAs often work well with fruit additions, thanks to complementary hops like the lemony Sorachi Ace and the grapefruit-hinted Cascade—but it’s not just IPAs that Anderson likes when it comes to fruit.

“I think just about any beer can work fruited as long as it marries and doesn’t conflict,” he said.

Of course, there is an art to brewing and noting the citrus qualities within hops. Yes, fruit is good, and fruit in beer can be awesome—but adding too much or not understanding thresholds or blending could lead to an awful brew. No fruit, however delicious, can turn an ordinary beer into something super-tasty. But when you start with a great beer, fruit can make it even better—creating perfect sippers for warmer days.

“There is good living, where there is good beer.”

Since I started writing about beer, this has been my mantra—and, of course, good food is part of good living, too.

There’s more synergy between the beer and food worlds than ever before. Brewers have produced a range of delicious beers to suit nearly every kind of food. The Brewers Association reports that the number of breweries in the U.S. just passed 5,000—a record high. That means there’s a ton of beer-and-food-pairing potential! Therefore, it’s no surprise that restaurateurs are increasingly recognizing the versatility of craft beers—and their various complex favors—when it comes to food pairing.

“Dr.” Bill Sysak is respected around the world for his encyclopedic knowledge of beer styles and flavor profiles. Dr. Bill, as he’s known in the craft-beer community, is the co-founder and CEO at Wild Barrel Brewing Company and the former craft beer ambassador at Stone Brewing Co. He suggests matching strength with strength: Strong-flavored foods demand assertive beers. And for crying out loud, taste things first!

“I’ve always been a proponent whenever possible of knowing the flavor profiles of both the beer and the food, personally, versus just reading about it,” says Dr. Bill.

Grains like wild rice or polenta pair well with clean and crisp Bohemian-style pilsners or American amber lagers. The complementary grain flavors balance hops while staying light on the palate.

Love sour and funky beers? Try them with rich meats and root vegetables. Combining these flavors brings out umami.

While filet mignon is classically paired with pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon, a rich stout has the potential of bringing out flavors that one won’t taste with wine. Brown ales are also bold enough to complement roasted meat.

That said … breaking the rules is totally OK—and even encouraged! Discover what works together on your palate.

Wes Lieberher, the executive chef at Beer Belly in Los Angeles, is a rule-breaker, as well as a food and beer lover. You must try his beer-braised octopus. He’s putting his own twist on what’s popular; for example, he created a French dip with duck and duck au jus. When it comes to pairing, he tends to experiment with what’s available.

“I leave it open,” Lieberher says. “We switch our taps so much, so there’s always a different beer, so there could always be a slightly different flavor to it, which is kinda cool.”

As for breaking rules: He pairs his beer-battered fish and chips, a lighter dish, with a hoppier IPA, rather than the lighter pilsner used in the dish.

“A lot of people will say, ‘This goes with this,’” Lieberher says. “I won’t cook with an IPA, but IPAs will go great with something I’m using a lighter beer with.”

More and more, brewers, restaurateurs and chefs are using what’s available to them locally. This tends to lead to better natural pairings.

“I was one of the first major people at my level—beer-and-food pairers—to talk about regionality,” says Dr. Bill. “Back when water was bad for you, people had to have whatever (alcohol was available in the) area of the world they lived. … In the Grape Belt, they drank wine with their meals, or diluted wine for their children. In the Grain Belt, everybody drank beer or mead or cider.

“If you had to eat the same kind of food sources every day, and the only beverage you had to wash it down with made you say ‘yuck’ every time, those styles wouldn’t survive, right? You would find the styles that work well.”

Julia Herz wrote the book on beer pairing. No, really: She co-authored Beer Pairing: The Essential Guide From the Pairing Pros with Gwen Conley. Herz is the Craft Beer Program director at the Brewers Association and a certified cicerone.

“The localization movement isn’t just isolated to food,” she says. “That’s where we became aware of it—from the slow-food movement, farm to table—and now it’s farm to keg to tap! We’ve got brewers thinking like chefs.”

While beer has reclaimed its place at the dinner table in some places, many restaurants still put only wine in the spotlight. Herz believes it’s time that more of the 115,000 people in the U.S. craft-brewing community speak up with a simple request: “Dear restaurateurs: It’s time to have your menu present beer in the same manner as food and wine.”

Herz suggests trusting the waiter or beer-server if you’re at a restaurant that has a respectable-looking beer menu

“Go to establishments that hang their hat on pairings. Have them be your guide,” she says. “If they have wine pairings, it’s a good place to push them and ask them about beer pairings.”

But to repeat: The one definitive source for what beer works well with what food is your own palate. Experiment and embrace your inner anarchist.

“We all aren’t the same tasting type, and we’re not all going to perceive what we taste as the same,” Herz says. “So it’s all about the journey—experimenting and being able to articulate to yourself or to others what you did and didn’t like.”

Thankfully, people are taking her advice. As of March 2016, nearly half of craft-beer drinkers surveyed said they drink craft with food more now than they did a couple of years ago.

Make no mistake: Beer is king and should have a place at the dinner table. When combined, the sales of wine ($37.5 billion) and spirits ($69 billion estimated) in the United States barely surpass the sales of beer ($101.5 billion—$19.6 billion from small and independent U.S. craft brewers). This tells us there is unmistakable potential.

Cheers, and bon appétit!

I would like to shove the year 2016 into the anals of time—I mean right up into the bowels of the space-time continuum.

Not only did we lose Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Alan Rickman, David Bowie, George Michael and Carrie Fisher (I’m weeping again); record temperatures are taking hold as climate change accelerates. And then there’s the fact that a minority of Americans elected a climate-denying, misogynist, racist, egotistical guy who’s clearly not qualified for the job.

On the upside … 2016 did give us some amazing new beers.

Behold—some of the year’s best winter beers.

Bell’s Winter White Ale: This is a lovely wheat alternative to your normally heavy and dark winter beers. It’s low in alcohol at 5 percent and has some of those delicious clove and fruity aromas that are reminiscent of the holidays. Try it with eggs Benedict, omelets or cranberry-apple cobbler. It is available through the end of January.

Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper: This “winter warmer” appeals to those who just want a dark, strong Russian imperial stout without barrel-aging or added spices or fruit. This is one seriously naughty but nice beer. Flavors of heavily roasted grain, espresso, molasses, roasted malt and light bourbon make this beer the real deal.

Pyramid Snow Cap: A rich, full-bodied winter warmer crafted in the British tradition of holiday beers. This deep mahogany-colored brew balances complex fruit flavors with a refreshingly smooth texture, making Snow Cap a highly drinkable and desirable cooler-weather drink.

Samuel Adams Winter Classics Mix Pack: This is a nice starter for beer-lovers who are just discovering craft beer. Though it can change from year to year, the pack often contains Boston lager, Old Fezziwig ale, winter lager, holiday porter, black lager and cranberry lambic.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: This is a true classic for hop-heads, having been on the market since 1981! Beyond a pretty significant bitterness at 62 IBUs, this beer is dry-hopped, which elevates the hops in the aroma and the flavor. When you’re drinking Celebration, you’re drinking a bit of history.

Great Divide Hibernation Ale: Great Divide cellars Hibernation until late October. A lengthy aging process gives Hibernation a malty richness, a complex hop profile and a hearty warming character. Hibernation is a lively treat that really beats the winter chill. This scrumptious, collectible and imminently cellar-able ale has won four Great American Beer Festival medals and is fantastic with grilled beef tenderloin.

Stone Xocoveza: This “Mexican hot chocolate” packs a delicious punch of bittersweet cocoa, cinnamon, Mostra coffee, pasilla peppers and vanilla. It was first brewed in 2014 with San Diego homebrewer Chris Banker after his recipe won Stone’s annual homebrew competition. Craft-beer drinkers clamored for more, and it quickly became a cross-country sensation. Drink it fresh or age it at cellar temperature. Try it with bacon-wrapped figs or tiramisu.

Avery Brewing Old Jubilation: We all need more feelings of jubilation in 2017. This winter strong ale has a gorgeous mahogany hue, a hint of hazelnuts, and aromas of mocha, toffee and darker cracker malts. It has chocolate flavors, with residual sugar notes of blackstrap molasses and fig, and a wisp of smokiness.

Scaldis Noel Premium: This is how the Belgians make a winter warmer. This beer is rich with lots of malt, and though malt dominates, the complexity from the wilder yeasts Belgians tend to use, plus the unusual practice of aging this beer with hops flowers, gives this brew unique flavor and character.

Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve: Rogue’s annual holiday offering is a variation on the classic Saint Rogue Red, with double the hops—including Chinook, Centennial and a mystery hop called Rudolph from head brewer John Maier. This holiday elixir is brewed with a variety of malts, coastal water and Maier’s proprietary top-fermenting Pacman yeast.

Brasserie d’Achouffe N’Ice Chouffe: This Belgian specialty ale is a 10 percent alcohol-by-volume slow-sipper. N’Ice Chouffe is brewed with thyme and Curaçao orange peel, and has a candy-sweet malty aroma with cherries and apples. It has a strong finish but is superbly well-balanced.

Telegraph Brewing Winter Ale: With hints of cinnamon, allspice, caramel, vanilla and sweet ancho chilies, this spiced dark ale is inspired by Mexican hot chocolate. It has a 7.7 percent ABV; make sure to let this warm up a bit to bring out the flavors.

Firestone Walker Anniversary XX 2016: It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since brothers-in-law Adam Firestone and David Walker established their brewery in a converted shed at the back of the family vineyard. This is a limited release, and here’s why: 17 winemakers convened in late August to help create the blend for XX, combining 250 oak barrels and five different beers including Parabola, Stickee Monkee, Velvet Merkin, Bravo and Helldorado. The resulting brew is silky-smooth, with molasses and rich brown sugar, and touches of cinnamon spice and brandy soaked cherries.

Enjoy now—or age for four years to celebrate a new president!

Someone once said that “history flows forward on rivers of beer.” It’s true: Beer has played a significant role in shaping the human experience.

This brings us to Nov. 3, when stout-lovers across the world celebrated the delicious, dark beer during the Sixth Annual International Stout Day. Hundreds of craft breweries and pubs hosted Stout Day events—and I was fortunate enough to be invited to fly to the Emerald Isle for events at that most famous and historic of all breweries, Guinness.

Arthur Guinness started brewing ales in 1759 at the St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin. On Dec. 31, 1759, he signed a 9,000-year lease at 45 pounds per year—quite possibly the smartest investment in history.

I was thrilled that the good folks at Guinness officially celebrated International Stout Day. Created by yours truly in 2011, the day symbolizes everything that is good about this iconic beer style, and the collaborative community that enjoys it. After Guinness invited me to the brewery, I felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka at times.

There has been an experimental brewery at St. James’s Gate for more than 100 years, but it is newly open to the public: In November 2015, The Open Gate Brewery opened with the intent of allowing people to sample new beers by Guinness brewers, who are given free rein to experiment and explore new beers.

At Open Gate, these brewers oversee all Guinness beer innovation globally—which is a tremendous responsibility, since Guinness is sold in more than 150 countries around the world. The brew system is manual, so they are able to replicate any of the beers at any Guinness brewery. It’s the size of a typical craft brewery—just inside the massive Guinness walls. It’s the perfect place to taste the wider variety of Guinness’ drink portfolio.

Head brewer Peter Simpson gave me a private tour before the celebration. These lucky brewers have everything a brewer could want—in order to brew just about anything they want. They have a mini-roaster, in order to experiment with different grains. Hearty English hops, like Northern Brewer, grow outside in the hops garden. And Guinness’ “Super Yeast” is used to brew all of the company’s styles of beer.

“Every new Guinness launch from now on will start in here—and will be on the tap here first,” Simpson said. “At the moment, we’re doing two new beers every month.”

The brewery made history again that very evening: On Stout Day, Guinness invited other breweries to the event. Ireland, like the United States, is experiencing its own craft-beer resurgence and revolution—and I was told this was the first time that brewers from Irish craft breweries were invited to enjoy pints together at an event held by Guinness, on Guinness property.

Joining Guinness at the Open Gate Brewery that evening were representatives of Kellys, 5 Lamps, Porterhouse Brewing Co., Dungarvan Brewing Co. and London’s 40ft Brewery.

Liam LaHart, the founder and brewer of Porterhouse, leaned into me after the event and whispered, “Erin, you realize this is unprecedented, right?”

I got goose bumps.

Each craft brewery brought two to four stouts beers each. Guinness offered a delicious list of varietals: Apple Stout at 6.2 percent alcohol by volume, Sea Salt and Burnt Sugar Stout at 6.3 percent ABV, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout at 7.5 percent ABV, Weisen Stout at 7.2 percent ABV, Antwerpen Export Stout at 8 percent ABV, Nitro Double Coffee Stout at 5.5 percent ABV, and Guinness Draught at 4.2 percent ABV. The eighth tap featured 40ft Brewery—the first-ever guest tap.

The brewers from 40ft had to board a ship and a train to bring their 40ft Deep stout over to Dublin for the event. It was a brilliant 5 percent ABV stout, with notes of coffee, dark chocolate and licorice. It’s hopped with Target (UK) and Bravo (U.S.), adding a touch of orange and spice to the aroma.

Guinness’ new Sea Salt and Burnt Sugar Stout was especially tasty. It offered a pleasing clash of flavors.

Simpson explained: “It’s very difficult to get the balance of salt and sugar right. The saltiness and the sweetness carry each other a lot better with the bitterness of a stout than they would in a lighter ale or beer. The Admiral hops give you a nice background bitterness with a slight green note. … You’re hit initially with a little bit of roast barley and sweetness from our burnt sugar, then leading into subtle saltiness and ending with a pleasant bitterness.”

Porterhouse brought four stouts, including the only oyster stout brewed in Ireland.

Simpson was grinning from ear to ear as he showed me Guinness’ barrel-aging stouts: Antwerpen Export Stout and West Indies Porter, both in rye bourbon barrels.

“Best job in the world,” Simpson said. “And the best part is seeing people enjoy it.”

Simpson and the other Open Gate brewers recently brewed a Kettle Sour—the first time Guinness has ever brewed a Sour style.

The beer app Untappd awarded a Stout Day badge for anyone logging in a stout beer on Nov. 3. In the U.S., there were 377,718 total check-ins. In the Netherlands, Stout Day saw 16,539 check-ins, and in the United Kingdom, there were 16,582, numbers followed by Canada, Sweden, Norway, Brazil, Germany, Australia and Finland.

The top-logged beers via Untappd were Guinness Draught, Stone Xocoveza (2016), Founders Breakfast Stout, and Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro. The top cities on Stout Day were Chicago, New York City, London, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, Washington, Denver and Austin.

International Stout Day brings stout-beer lovers around the world together and gives the variety of beer a day in the spotlight—which it so rightly deserves.

Start planning for next year at www.StoutDay.com.

Celebrate all things beer in November with both Coachella Valley Beer Week and the sixth annual International Stout Day!

Each year, beer weeks celebrate the culture and community of craft brewers across the United States—and Coachella Valley Beer Week, which I am organizing, will commence for the second time, on Nov. 11. Before I get into the details of what will be happening here in the desert, let’s get into the history of beer weeks, why they exist—and why they’re important.

Back in 2008 (the same year when I started The Beer Goddess website), Joe Gold, of Victory Brewing (who would become the founder of Baltimore Beer Week), traveled to Philadelphia to talk with some beer loving friends: Tom Peters, of Philly’s Monk’s Café, and Don Russell, the “Joe Sixpack” columnist. They discussed the possibility of a week-long celebration of beer.

Thus, Philly Beer Week was born. It started the “beer week” tradition in 2008 and today is the country’s largest, boasting more than 1,000 events. The area boasts more than 400 beer bars that feature craft beer and food.

In 2011, I spoke with Greg Koch, of Escondido, Calif.-based Stone Brewing, about beer weeks and how they help a community. (Side note: Stone just went through a massive layoff, perhaps because the brewing company grew too quickly—but that’s a topic for a whole other column.)

“I like it, because I think that the most important thing about beer weeks is that it moves the needle … among people in a region,” he said. “When you have all these events going on, and then it gets in the papers, and they’re even maybe mentioning on the evening news or something, and all the bars are promoting it, that causes not just beer fans, but just the more average beer consumer, to perk up and go, ‘Huh? I wonder what this is all about.’”

Since 2008, beer weeks across the nation have been popping up to celebrate the craft and the people behind the craft.

It should be repeated why these beer weeks exist: At its best, the craft brewer embodies not only an entrepreneurial spirit, but also a basic human kindness toward his or her fellow brewer, as well as an infatuation with the art of brewing, and a respect for its American consumers.

Beer weeks also show off the vitality of today’s American brewing community, which is using ridiculous amounts decadent ingredients and embracing radical beer styles. Breweries that celebrate beer weeks believe in collaboration and, generally, are incredibly welcoming and egalitarian.

This brings us to Coachella Valley Beer Week, a 10-day area celebration of local and original beer. This year, we are celebrating with festivals in Indio and Palm Springs, a brewmaster beer dinner at the Purple Room, an art-and-beer painting event at Coachella Valley Art Scene, a BBQ and Beer event at Stuft Pizza, an event at the Date Shed, and much more. See the complete and updated schedule at www.coachellavalleybeerweek.com.

Let’s talk a little more about the “Beer Craft” event at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 17, at the Coachella Valley Art Scene in the Westfield shopping center in Palm Desert. CVAS is dedicated to advocating local art and culture at their Westfield pop-up art space, MAKE. Come check out the scene while listening to tunes and trying some tasty brews. Guests will get to decorate beer bottles and help make an interactive sculpture using them. It will be a night of fun with crafts, music and craft beer!

However, Coachella Valley Beer Week is not the only beer event worth celebrating in November: On Thursday, Nov. 3, pubs, breweries and restaurants around the world will once again celebrate that iconic beer style—the stout, with International Stout Day. Guinness itself will be hoisting a pint with a special celebration of their own at their new Open Gate Brewery in Dublin on Nov. 4.

Since 2011, Stout Day (which I helped create) has grown by leaps and bounds, with events held around the world, in Australia, Spain, Ontario, Nova Scotia, England, South Africa, Ireland, Croatia, Sweden and nearly every state across the United States. Celebrate Stout Day by collect the Untappd 2016 Stout Day badge, and be a part of a revolution that’s being embraced internationally.

“There are 4,700 breweries in the U.S., and 10,000 wineries. There’s room to grow.” —David Walker, Firestone Walker Brewing

The craft-beer movement has reached nearly every nook and cranny of the Golden State: Some 80 percent of Californians live within five miles of a craft brewery—including the vast majority of us in the Coachella Valley, thanks to Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, La Quinta Brewing Co. and Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

Thus, it makes perfect sense that the folks at the California Craft Brewers Association decided to brew up the California Craft Beer Summit.

The second annual three-day event recently took place in Sacramento. There are now 700 breweries in California, which provide jobs for more than 50,000 people, according to the California Craft Brewers Association. California craft beer contributed $7.29 billion to the state economy in 2015, and the summit plays a vital role in bringing together all of the players involved in the industry—from brewers to retailers, from distributors to craft-beer drinkers.

The event began on Thursday, Sept. 8, with a welcome reception. I missed it—but Sactown welcomed me just fine. America’s self-proclaimed Farm-to-Fork Capital has also proudly staked a claim as a craft-beer paradise. It would have been impossible to pay a proper visit to the region’s 45-plus breweries (with more on the way), but we were able to visit a couple while also soaking in beer knowledge at the summit. While Sacramento is obviously an important political city, the people there totally know how to have fun.

My Thursday night began at the Dive Bar. There’s a double meaning within that title that combines two of my favorite things: dive bars with great beer, and swimming. Strange, yes, but this rollicking bar features mermaid-costumed women swimming around in a giant fish tank above the bar. Seriously.

On Friday, the CCBS held educational sessions including “Bringing Malting Back to California” and “A Talk with AleSmith, Chartering Growth Over 21 Years.” Peter Zien, the CEO and owner of San Diego-based AleSmith, talked about staying true by brewing high-quality beers with passion and integrity—even when the market wasn’t quite ready for them yet back in the mid-’90s.

“You’re an artist and you’re a businessman, or -woman,” he told the audience.

In 2008, when much of the economy was suffering, Zien was ordering a brand-new brew system from China in order to “up (our) game.” AleSmith went from 1,100 barrels to just more than 4,000 that year—but it wasn’t without blood, sweat and fears. While the brew system was making its way to California on a ship, Zien feared the system would end up at the bottom of the ocean due to a grizzly typhoon that was brewing off China. Thankfully, the new brew system made it to San Diego just fine.

“It allowed me to dream,” Zien said, adding that the system helped AleSmith celebrate its most profitable year in 2013.

Long-time brewers like Zien have inspired younger brewers to dream—like Ken Anthony, of Device Brewing Co. in Sacramento, who is now making a name for himself with quality artisanal beers.

Anthony, Device’s owner and head brewer, was a structural engineer before entering the beer business, so it’s no surprise that Device uses a beautiful, custom-built 7 BBL brewhouse from Bennett Forgeworks to brew up some delicious IPAs and awesome seasonal brews.

I also got to know—and fell in love with—Berkeley-based Fieldwork Brewing Company, thanks to its beers, branding and atmosphere. The brewery makes awesome cards explaining every beer in detail, with humorous antidotes. The Salted Cucumber Farmhouse Ale is perfect for a hot day—and probably equally delicious on days that aren’t all that warm. According to the detailed card, “The addition of French sea salt keeps all taste buds on high alert, convincing you to keep chasing the cucumber.”

On Saturday, I attended the “Master Pairings: Craft and Artisanal Chocolate” session with Bill Sysak. “Dr. Bill” is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on craft beer and food pairings. His session was a wonderful way to start a day. That afternoon, the Summit Beer Festival pleased hundreds of beer-drinkers with the creations of more than 160 breweries. The lineup was arranged by region across the Capitol Mall: San Francisco Bay area, Northern California, Los Angeles, San Diego and Central California.

It was an awesome weekend that showed how truly amazing the California craft beer industry has become. Cheers to California craft!

It’s no secret that the scorching-hot weather can extend well into September and October here in the Coachella Valley. However, locals don’t need to fret or sweat—because crafty beach cities with more moderate temperatures are less than a couple of hours away.

I recently spent some time in Orange County’s beach cities—looking for some of the best places to enjoy craft beer, of course. Here are some of my findings.

The Laguna Beach Brewery and Grille (pictured below) is under new ownership, and I’m loving the Taco Tuesday specials—two tacos for $5 or $6, depending on whether you get fish, carne asada, chicken or pork. The inside bar and floor have a sleek look thanks to concrete and marble, and a handsome copper tank from Czechoslovakia sits near the kitchen. While it’s not filled with local suds yet, it should be serving beer in about six months. In the meantime, you’ll find taps from Laguna Beach Beer Company and several other local breweries. Chef Guillermo Sandoval comes from the Hilton Los Cabos Beach and Golf Resort; serving classic, contemporary and regional Mexican dishes comes naturally to him. Try pairing the delicious south-of-the-border fare with craft beers from Tijuana and Baja.

Newport Beach’s best-kept affordable dining secret is, of all things, a speakeasy-style tavern tucked away in the back corner of the city’s Whole Foods. Yes, really. If you’re not content with the 15-20 beers on tap at the Back Bay Tavern, grab a bottle from the Whole Foods store, and have them open it at the bar. Prices are indeed reasonable, and the place has a decent happy hour, with $2 off drinks and appetizers from 4-7 p.m. weekdays.

Crow Bar and Kitchen in Corona Del Mar boasts a creative craft beer selection from breweries like Pumpkin, Russian River and Paradox Beer Company. The restaurant buys as much produce as possible from independent, local farms based on seasonal availability, giving this American gastropub a gourmet touch.

Also located in Corona del Mar, SideDoor puts the “gastro” in gastropub. The menu offers a little bit of everything. From the charcuterie station, the prime rib chili cheese fries and duck-liver pâté to the warm goose-confit salad and butternut squash with wild nettle pesto, the food at SideDoor will thrill casual foodies. The pub cycles through a draft beer selection often, with choices like Sierra Nevada Kellerweis and Ballast Point Watermelon Dorado. The seasonal small plates are portioned for sharing, and the menu changes daily.

For Great American Beer Festival Award-winning brews, head to Newport Beach Brewing Company. The second brewery to open its doors in Orange County—back in 1995, in case you were wondering—resides in the historic Cannery Village on the Balboa Peninsula. Fondly known as BrewCo, the brewery adheres to the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law), using only water, hops and barley in the production process. Bonus: BrewCo is just two blocks from the beach.

If you find yourself in Huntington Beach, head to the Speakeasy. Check out “Tap Tuesdays,” with $4 select draught beers all night. Just a little more than two miles away, Johnny’s Saloon has one of the best beer selections in town. It’s been voted one of the top dive bars in Orange County for years. Like an aging punk rocker, the dark, unpretentious pub sings to a different tune, with 181 craft whiskeys and 100 craft beers. Also: Slater’s 50/50 isn’t to be missed, especially if you’re a meat-loving craft-beer drinker like me. The restaurant’s namesake is its 50/50 patty—made of 50 percent ground beef, and 50 percent ground bacon. Pair a burger with one of the 100 beers on tap; after all, it’s always a good day for a burger and a beer. Every year, Slater’s 50/50 taps more than 1,000 different craft beers, which is saying something.

If you feel like heading west of Los Angeles rather than south, mark your calendars for late September and consider the BAM Fest, Beer, Art and Music Festival, in Santa Monica on Saturday, Sept. 24. With 18 open studios, arts activities and exhibitions—and, of course, beer from 42 breweries—the event is fun, and it supports a great cause: Proceeds help the 18th Street Arts Center, one of the top artists’ residency programs in the country.

Of course, one of the best things about getting away is coming home—and Coachella Valley residents are blessed to live in a place with fabulous pool parties, chill bars and impeccably designed hotels—as well as a wider craft-beer selection than ever before.

We’re lucky. Southern California residents have an amazing amount of variety and choice when it comes to craft beers—and in a matter of just hours, you can enjoy a cold one by the pool with views of palm trees and mountains and on the sandy beaches of Orange County. Either way, there is good living where there is good beer.

Like IPAs? You aren’t alone.

According to the Brewers Association, IPAs accounted for less than 8 percent of the craft beers sold in 2008. As of August 2015, 27.4 percent of beers sold were IPAs.

That’s a huge amount growth—and the popularity of IPAs continues to rise: According to the 2016 Craft Brewers Conference, by the end of 2017, the IPA category is projected to have grown to one-third of the nation’s total volume of craft beer.

The bitter brew has grown to new, different and stronger heights. To dive deeper into the popular style, I spoke with three amazing Southern California craft brewers.

First: Mitch Steele, until his departure on June 30, was the head brewmaster at Stone Brewing, and is the author of IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. IPAs account for more than 50 percent of Stone Brewing’s sales!

What are some of your favorite hops to brew with and why?

That’s a loaded question. For the past several years, I’ve really liked Citra. I think it’s a wonderful hop. We have done a lot of work with Australian and New Zealand hops, (like) Galaxy. … (Stone is) doing a collaboration brew with Heretic and Beachwood, and we’re using a new hop called Idaho 7, which I think has a lot of potential; it’s a new American variety. It’s got a lot of really nice citrus and piney character to it. … Centennial has have been one of my favorites. We’re doing a pilsner using Sterling in it, which I think is … absolutely a wonderful hop.

Do you think the overall growth in the industry and better drinkers’ palates have affected the popularity of IPAs?

Yeah, absolutely. It’s all anybody drinks, by in large. … I think people have gotten used to the taste of hops in their beer, and they enjoy it. It’s an acquired taste; I don’t think it’s any different than coffee. Most people don’t like them the first time they try them. At this point, craft is becoming—I don’t want to say mainstream, but a lot more popular than what it had been, and I think people are embracing the hop character and looking at. … We’re always looking for new flavors to get out of hops, and I think that’s a big part of it.

What are some of the latest trends you’re seeing in IPAs?

Two things right now really stand out. No. 1 is the fruit IPA thing—the IPAs with added fruit, which only makes sense, because a lot of these new hop varieties that are out there produce flavors that are reminiscent of peach, pineapple and grapefruit and all that. So to actually augment the hop flavor with a fruit—it’s not new, but it’s really has taken off within the past year. … The other one would be the whole New England IPA—unfiltered IPA, really opaque versions of IPA. They’ve really gone to another level. There’s a lot of debate among brewers as to whether it’s a good thing or not. Most brewers are trained that you’ve got to have a clear beer when you serve it in the glass. This kind of flies in the face of that. You can’t deny the popularity of the beer.

What do you like about single-hop beers and that trend?

We do a lot of single-hop beers in small batches. … It’s a great way to really understand how a particular hop works in a beer, because so many beers are brewed with blends of hops. If you really want to get a feeling for what the hop is really all about, you’ve got to brew a single hop and do something fairly intensely hopped.

Do you have an overall philosophy in brewing IPAs? Has it changed or morphed over the years?

Yeah, I think it has evolved since Stone. I think a couple things have changed. I think the amount of hops used in a dry hop has gone up across the board with all brewers. It used to be that if you were using three-quarters of a pound of hops per barrel, you were dry hopping pretty aggressively. Now there are a lot of brewers who are using two pounds per barrel on a regular basis. That’s kind of something that I’ve embraced. …  By using four or five different varieties of hops, as flavored hops, if you do run into a crop issue with one of them, or the beer sells a heck of a lot more than you anticipated, and you can’t get one of the varieties, it’s a little easier to make a substitution than if it’s a single-hop IPA or one or two hops in the IPA. … (For me), the past four years have been about discovering new hop varieties and putting them in our beers. That’s been our main focus. In the past, it was, ‘OK what hops can I get?’ And I’ll build our beers around that. And now, it’s like, ‘OK, I want to build a beer around this hop.’”

What do you love about IPAs?

I like being challenged with the flavor. When you get an IPA that just captures that really brilliant intense hop flavor and hop aroma, it’s liquid gold to me. I love hoppy beers. They don’t have to be IPAs, but I love IPAs, because I know I’m always going to get a pretty intense hop character, and that’s going to teach me something.

What would you tell homebrewers out there who are interested in brewing IPAs?

Minimize crystal malt usage in the recipe. Sweet IPAs aren’t as drinkable as dry IPAs—and then the other thing is when the beer ages, the crystal malt corrodes, and the flavor totally masks the hop character. I would say it’s OK to use hops that aren’t traditionally used in IPAs, and have some fun with that; that’s how we discovered Sterling. It’s considered a noble type hop, and we threw it in an IPA and it’s just absolutely incredible. … You’re going to learn something either way, whether it turns out great or not.


Ben Cook is the president and master brewer at Hangar 24 in Redlands. While Hangar 24’s ever-popular and refreshing Orange Wheat makes up 55 percent of the company’s beer sales, Hangar’s Betty IPA makes up much of the rest. After a popular first release, the Double Betty was recently re-released.

“People appear to not be getting enough IPAs,” he said. “The Betty, since inception, has seen double- and triple-digit growth. … Often, it’s fun for brewers to see what we can do and push the limits on the alcohol and hop character we can fit into a beer, while making it still a really tasty beer—and not just, you know, a mess.”

Do you think the overall growth in the industry and better drinkers’ palates have affected the popularity of IPAs?

Yeah, absolutely, I mean, we were even resistant to it a little bit. We brewed so many different styles of beer. I think last year, when we were really focusing on top-line growth, we brewed more than 50 different styles of beer, using local ingredients … and then you go brew just a standard IPA, and it flies off the shelf. So, IPAs for sure are where the consumers are still at. … People have evolved to want more—more flavor, more bitterness, more hop profile, and so they moved onto IPAs, and haven’t quite started venturing out a lot more yet. People are getting into sours and other categories, but right now, the numbers pop: IPAs and IPA variants dominate.

What do you like about single-hop beers and that trend?

We used to do one. Our regular flagship IPA was called Columbus IPA. I like them, because … you can see what brewers are doing, so from a technical standpoint, I think they’re a lot of fun. I think they’re great to taste; it’s great for the brewers to drink them and know what that hop tastes like when it’s only in that beer. … Sometimes, it’s challenging to get those beers to have the same complexity and depth as beers that have multiple hop varietals in them. But you also have some amazing single hop beers; it’s just harder. It does make it a little more special.

Besides your own beer, what are your go-to IPAs right now?

I don’t think about beer like I used to. That would have been a really good question to ask toward the beginning of my beer career. But now, it’s not really a thought that enters my head, because it just depends on where I’m at. I’m never at a bar and ask, ‘Do they have this?’ It’s more of a, ‘What’s on tap?’ Then I look at what’s available, and if I’m drinking an IPA, I’ll look at the IPA list. If there’s anything I’ve never heard of … I’ll do a quick little search online and make sure I’m not diving into something I shouldn’t be diving into. My favorite beer is the one in my hand. That’s the joy of craft beer—there are all these varieties.

What are your thoughts on experimental hops and new or trendy hops like Citra and Mosaic? Do you have a process on choosing what hops to use with which beers?

I think that it’s fun, and it allows us to be innovative. I know brewers love it; the consumers love it. Experimental hops are a win for everyone. I hope the growers keep going down that path, and it appears they are. The more hops we have, the more we can differentiate ourselves and offer the consumer the variety they’re looking for.

What would you tell homebrewers out there who are interested in brewing IPAs?

Experiment. I think that’s what it’s all about. Do weird stuff that no one has ever done. Have fun experimenting, don’t stay within the standard practice and the standard amounts. Have fun with it.


Kyle Smith, the master of brewing for Kern River Brewing, focuses on IPAs. The category makes up 75 to 80 percent of the company’s craft-beer sales. Last year, the brewery produced close to 2,000 barrels. This year, it’s on pace to brew between 6,000 and 7,000 barrels.

What are some of the latest trends you’re seeing in IPAs

I’m seeing really aggressively hopped beers. It’s hard to find some of the balanced IPAs anymore. Don’t get me wrong; there are some really, really good ones out there, obviously. … (Drinkers) don’t want a bad IPA, where 10 years ago, we may not have known the difference. It’s kind of hard to find a bad IPA any more. Everybody’s palate is diverse now and can figure out, ‘Hey, this doesn’t work,’ or, ‘Wow, this really works,’ which is awesome.

Besides your own beer, what are your go-to IPAs right now?

There are so many good ones out there now. Anything from Russian River—you can’t go wrong. Where we’re at, since we’re so rural, I never see Russian River up here, so if I can pop a Blind Pig, I’m pretty stoked. I just had the new collaboration … from Noble (and) Cellarmaker, Dank You for Being a Friend. That was an awesome IPA. Societe Brewing—anything from those guys. A good stand-by is Sierra Nevada Torpedo; you can’t go wrong with that beer.

Do you have an overall philosophy in brewing IPAs? Has it changed or morphed over the years?

My philosophy is always, when it comes to actual brewing, I like to go heavy on the later additions, which gives you more of a floral aroma. Also, I try to stay away from the caramel malts. I’ll use a little bit, but be real sparing, because after a while, the caramel malts will stand out more than the hops. … If it’s a single IPA, I really enjoy keeping it mid-range alcohol content, somewhere between 6 and 6.5 percent. I feel like it’s a little bit more drinkable.

What do you love about IPAs?

I love the amazing aroma that comes off from the floral hops that we use, and then also a little bit of a bitterness and the balance of the malt. That’s what we kind of strive for in our IPAs. It’s more of a balance-forward IPA, not just strictly hop-forward—there’s just a little bit of a malt balance also.

What are your thoughts on experimental hops and new or trendy hops like Citra and Mosaic? Do you have a process on choosing what hops to use with which beers?

We use a lot of those hops. We use a lot of Mosaic in our session IPAs. … We do a series of experimental IPAs called Think Tank. We rotate a different hop just to see what kind of profile it has. I enjoy a lot of those hops. Citra has been around for a while. Some of the newer experimental hops … we’ve used a few. They seem to be a little muddled; they seem to be a cross between all these different flavors. … With Kern’s Think Tank series, we are able to experiment at the pub … and get feedback from the locals.

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