I find myself a little paralyzed by choice—so I’m going to be hopping around different topics this month. You’ve been duly warned, so let us begin.
• I have been noticing a small push by brewers to make IPAs that resemble pre-New England (AKA “hazy”) IPAs.
If you’re relatively new to IPAs, let me explain. They used to be clear, have a malt presence, and be noticeably bitter. It brought the term “IBU” to the lips of people who never needed to know what it means, and we’re still getting over it. (IBU + International Bitterness Units; don’t worry about it unless you’re a professional brewer.) However, these beers I’ve tried so far have compromised somewhere between current IPAs—which have much lower amounts of bitterness and malt flavor—and the IPAs of yore. What you get, if done well, is the best of both worlds.
We’ve had a few really incredible examples locally available, like Beachwood Brewing’s Hops of Fury (my personal favorite when it comes to the style), El Segundo Brewing’s Power Plant and—on tap at one of the La Quinta Brewing’s locations—Pliny the Younger. In the past, beers like this would have been very bitter experiences, although not necessarily bad ones. Now the malt and the hops share the stage, and you can have an 11% alcohol by volume beer that’s much better for the senses. Stone Brewing recently released some beers that were re-brews of old recipes like the Ruination Double IPA, and it’s some of the best stuff they’ve released that I’ve tried in a long, long time. I just hope they keep this trend going concurrently with the “California IPA” style that is hop-flavor forward.
• Speaking of Stone: The Lost Abbey brewing, which moved into Stone’s original brewing space in San Marcos 17 years ago, just announced its sister company, Pizza Port Brewing, is taking over the spot, as The Lost Abbey is looking to “grow down” their production. Brandon Hernandez of SD Beer News has a much fuller write-up here, but I’m going to take a shot at summarizing what seems to be happening here: They came up against a lease renewal and didn’t want to pay the new rent. They were trying keep only a part of the current building and downsize, but they didn’t like what the property owners were going to do with the remaining suites. So, as a result, Pizza Port will be there and will take over brewing the Port Brewing and Hop Concept brands (both separate, but tied together in some crazy way I haven’t fully explored). The Lost Abbey will move to a new location and, from what I gathered, push into other parts of the beverage market.
If you’re unfamiliar with The Lost Abbey, the brewery was doing Belgian-style ales at a time a while back when the craft beer audience was fully into it. Today, good luck finding an American-made saison. Lost Abbey is still around; they started making lagers and canning them. Their Czech and Italian pilsners were both fantastic, and co-founder and San Diego brewing legend Tomme Arthur still has his fingerprint on the brand. I am curious to see how everything shakes out in the end.
• Speaking of Italian pilsners, I wanted to share an interesting article about how they came to be a style; it’s by Kate Bernot at CraftBeer.com.
To summarize, Birrifico Italiano brewed a beer called Tipopils, which inspired Firestone Walker Brewing’s Pivo Pils; several others breweries, like Modern Times, then ran with the idea. As a lover of both a good, crisp lager, and of hoppy beers, this style is hitting me just right when I find a good version. They’re essentially German-style pilsners that aggressively use European hops, and there have been some real winners around, including the aforementioned Mopeds in Milan from The Lost Abbey, Burgeon Beer’s Pergola, and Bottle Logic Brewing’s Semplicita. With temperatures climbing, keep an eye out for this style, and see what you think.
• I’ll conclude with a quick mention of a visit I took to Las Palmas Brewing a few weeks ago. Their Farmhouse IPA and Schwarzbier were both absolutely delicious, and I ended up having a pizza from a pop-up caterer there called Bella’s Pizzeria, out of El Centro. I pulled the trigger on the relatively expensive Cacio e pepe pizza after I heard one of the pizza-makers talking passionately about ingredients with a customer—and I have zero regrets.
I am very glad that Las Palmas exists and encourage you to check them out whenever you get the chance, because Sam and Rey deserve the love for what they’re doing there. We have to hold on to gems like this as much as we can, because the desert beer scene needs them.
I encourage you to send me word of any other gems in the valley so that I can check them out and share that love.