I greet most days with a boundless thirst for beer. It’s the kind of admission that is usually met with crooked stares or unsavory accusations, but not today. Today is special. After months of patiently grinding through days that were not 100% dedicated to beer, San Diego Beer Week is upon us. Awesome.
On this glorious Friday morn, day 1 of SDBW’s metric 10-day week, I have plotted out a staggering itinerary of drinking opportunities under the guise of proper beer journalism. I expect to tantalize my palate, expand my horizons and probably shave off a few years of worthwhile liver function. This is my quest – to see if one man can summon the constitution to endure a single day of SDBW’s bounty and give you the play-by-play along the way. If you’re the type that believes in retroactive prayer, I’d be grateful for it.
My daughter, while not actively thwarting my arrival at Daddy Disneyland, is not helping my egress. Either she didn’t get enough sleep or she’s been struck with a mild case of that Waking Dead disease because she’s meeting my prods for urgency with a blank stare and guttural moans. She’s whittled off enough time in the bathroom alone that for the first time in my parenting history I’m compelled to say “Sweetheart, daddy needs you to poop harder.”
Soon, SDBW. Soon.
I just learned from my wife that we have to attend the monthly “Character Counts” award ceremony because my daughter decided that October would be the perfect time to finally start demonstrating character. It’s sweet and all, but where’s my award for patience in the face of interminable sobriety?
After paying the standard downtown luxury tax to give my car a place to rest, I’ve finally crossed the threshold of Karl Strauss. The event is referred to as “BYOB”, an acronym expanding in this case to “Brew Your Own Beer Brunch”. I don’t know whether to be more miffed that the event should rightfully be called “BYOBB” or that I needlessly carried a case of beer to the restaurant.
The BYOBB is many events lumped into one. There is, of course, a sumptuous brunch buffet paired with some of Karl Strauss’ beefier quaffs (Parrot in a Palm Tree Baltic Porter & Chocolate Pancakes with Spiced Whipped Cream, anyone?). They further promise to enrich the event with a live brewing demo (making a crowd-sourced Oatmeal Stout recipe) and a presentation on the company itself. This brunch is going to be more productive than most of my work days.
Before diving headlong into the repast, Brewmaster Paul Segura stands atop his stainless steel throne to walk us through the some of the technical aspects of the brew being produced before our very eyes. It’s pretty interesting stuff, though it feels like a sinister mechanism to keep me from full throttle binging on breakfast and beer. Thanks for nothing, Learning.
This is Karl Strauss’ CEO/Co-founder Chris Cramer who moments later dove into oral history of the company from his perspective. It’s a delightful story, but I’m beginning to wonder if he’s filibustering to cover a french toast-related crisis in the kitchen. That said, listening to Chris referring to the company figurehead as “Uncle Karl” is too endearing for words.
Here it is. The gambit. The first beer of the day. It seems so peculiar that inauspicious little tumbler will likely later be recalled as the first in a long series of mistakes.
Trays of food are finally zipping out as quickly as the beer samples that accompany them. Despite my voracious hunger, I merge into the line with a bare minimum of snarling toward those crowding around me.
Karl Strauss thoughtfully provided placemats that serve to curate and organize the meal pairings. Unfortunately they didn’t take into account that I’m a rebel that cannot be constrained by The Man and his many tools of creative oppression.
On an unrelated note, I’ve just lost track of what beer I’m supposed to be drinking for the 5th time.
Food coma…building. Ability to coherently string together sentences…fading. Plan to hit next zeppelin in about 15 turnips after the hour…unlikely.
It took a little to shake the the euphoria induced by the SDBW Peanut Butter Porter Cup & Cream Cheese and Plantain Stuffed French Toast, but I’m ready to rally. I’m thinking the dueling casks of Sculpin IPA at Ballast Point will help to shake off any remaining cobwebs.
Sculpin is always a treat. Sculpin on cask is a gift. Sculpin on cask with special edition hopping is a godsend. Today we’re experiencing Sculpin with Citra hops versus Soriachi Ace hops. I think I am partial to the Citra if only because it feels like an evolution of Sculpin more than a reinvention of it, but opinions among those on the patio vary widely.
Luckily none of those other people have beer columns. The Citra was better. So there.
The scene over here is wonderful. It’s delicious beers coupled with people very clearly shirking their day jobs. I’ve heard more than one conversation to the effect of “Well, I haven’t gotten any emails yet, so I guess we can stay here.” It’s a slice of humanity who love their beers enough to put their careers in jeopardy. You have to respect that level of commitment.
The next stop has put us in the heart of Rough Draft. I’ve only previously been able to try a couple of the hoppier beers that have leapt from their 15 BBL system, so the barrel aged “Freudian Slip” should be a real treat.
The crowd is bustling and lively. I’m honestly beginning to wonder why San Diego just doesn’t declare this a work holiday because with this many people playing hooky no non-beer commerce could possibly be transpiring today.
For those of you hoping to make more a surgical attack on their first Rough Draft brews, let me suggest starting with the Eraser IPA (owner Jeff Silver’s favorite) and their surprisingly full flavored Amber Ale. My favorite by a long margin was their barrel aged Emboozlement Trippel, a creamy and full bodied incarnation of the style that really delivered.
Apropos of nothing, I spend about 5 minutes trying to come up with a reason to ask this guy for a picture. I ultimately landed on “Hey, your beard is awesome. Can I take a picture of it?” Worked like a charm.
I’m still not entirely sure why I wanted it, but you saw the size of that flight. It made perfect sense at the time. It’s probably time to move on.
Lest you think this article is degenerating into some gonzo beer journalism, I want to make it clear there’s been a fair amount of undocumented rehydration on the agenda as well. It’s not easy to put anything in front of URGE Gastropub‘s release of Mother Earth Brewing Company‘s SDBW specialty beer, but I managed to.
After a restorative water and cheese fries interlude, we summoned two of the aforementioned Wet Hop Dreams by Mother Earth. As you can tell by the chunky lacing all over the top of the glass, this is a substantial IPA. It was made with 160 lbs of fresh Citra hops, so you don’t exactly need a forensics team to unearth the bitter citrus and spice notes.
To be quite honest, I’m feeling pretty spent at this point. This would ordinarily be when I would pack it in most days, but this isn’t most days. SDBW must be shown no quarter. Luckily, courtesy of Sublime Ale House, I’m about to finish my day as I started it – with pancakes.
Sublime Ale House’s pre fixe dinner with Latitude 33 Brewing features a 3 course meal with equal parts refinement and whimsy. However, I’m not well equipped as a food writer so let me capture a few random observations.
The Latitude 33 “Dirty Thirty” Saison makes a pretty fantastic vinaigrette. I will have to remember to pour more beer on my mixed greens at home.
It takes a pretty potent brew to cut through the succulence of a white cheddar and gruyere mac ‘n cheese, but the Wet Hump DIPA is up to the task. That said, this is at least the second time today I’ve felt sexually harassed by a beer’s name and will be seeking restitution for this outrage post haste.
As much as I love breakfast for dinner, breakfast for dessert (chocolate pancakes with vanilla bean ice cream, topped with candied bacon and ground espresso beans plus a side of hot maple syrup) may well trump it since I don’t even have to pretend it’s intended to sustain me.
With the placement of my cloth napkin on the table, I’m signaling more than the end of my meal. I am throwing in the proverbial towel. I’m waving the white flag of surrender, albiet with a bit more chocolate sauce on it than prior to the battle. San Diego Beer Week has wrung me out and it’s not even 24 hours in yet.
It’s gonna be a long week. Awesome.