If I am eating chocolate beignets and drinking a Peanut Butter Cup Porter for breakfast, then it is more than likely San Diego Beer Week. That combo was the final pairing of Karl Strauss’ Brewmaster’s Brunch held at their production brewery. The intimate garden setting of the still relatively new tasting room was the perfect place to kick off San Diego Beer Week. A gorgeous, sunny San Diego fall morning accompanied by delicious food catered by Chef Rocio of the MIHO Gastrotruck and paired with tasty Karl Strauss beers. Is this America’s Finest Beer City or what?
On arrival we were greeted with the choice of a “Hofimosa” — a combo of Windansea Wheat and orange juice — and a “Hop Hound” combo of Tower 10 IPA and ruby red grapefruit juice, a puckering palate cleanser. I had both, for the sake of both research and your vicarious pleasure dear reader.
On to the main event… Round one pairings consisted of Windansea Wheat, a Bavarian-style hefeweizen with fluffy, free-range scrambled eggs with goat cheese and scallions served in their own shells; a nice complimentary mix all around. This was followed by an aged version of Mouette A Trois, 2012’s Holiday Fruitcake Ale, aged on oak barrels with tart cherries and apricots added during fermentation. This tasty sour was paired with a wild salmon blini. The last course of the first round was a Tower 20 Double IPA paired with local spiny lobster tamalito (a small tamale) with habanero and passion fruit salsa. Perhaps a slight miss on this one as the hops in the Tower 20 seemed to overwhelm the delicate flavor of the lobster, but this is a minor quibble in the big scheme of things.
Round two pairings consisted of the Union Brick Barleywine paired with pomegranate-glazed, grass-fed hanger steak with cabrales creme. Both of these were delicious and the fruity malt flavor of the beer complemented the steak nicely. I “cheated” a little and tried some of the Wreck Alley Imperial Stout with the steak which was good match too. The next course was Off The Rails Imperial Red Ale, in essence a Red Trolley Ale on steroids, paired with a beer-braised, grass-fed beef tongue served on a crispy potato galette with apple and persimmon slaw. The combination of the fruit and meat went well with the dried fruit flavors found in the beer. Pairing six saw Wreck Alley, an Imperial Stout, paired with smoked, braised pork belly that was then fried in beer batter and serve with cauliflower puree. Both the beer and the dish were great, though in this case the richness of the battered and fried pork belly required something perhaps a little more astringency. I ended up saving the last of my Wreck Alley to pair with the chocolate beignets and had the pork belly with some Tower 20 Double IPA, which interestingly cut through the richness of the dish and handled the mild smoky flavor of the pork with ease.
By the time happy hour arrived I had almost digested the aforementioned brunch. So, a good time to head out to the San Diego History Center’s “History Happy Hour,” a monthly event tied to their “Bottled & Kegged” exhibition highlighting the history of San Diego as a brewing city.
This particular “happy hour” was sponsored by the Stone Brewing Company with a tasty buffet set up supplied by the folks at Soda and Swine. Numerous Stone beers were on hand to sample including Double Bastard Ale, Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine, Stone Levitation Ale, Stone Cali-Belgique IPA and a number of Vertical Epic Ales including Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale aged in red wine barrels, Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale aged in white wine barrels, and just for good measure, Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale. All this with the accompaniment of live music provided by local singer/songwriter Christopher Dale.
Then it was off to Broadway Pier for the much anticipated VIP session of the San Diego Brewers Guild Fest. There is no way I could list all the fabulous beers proudly presented by local brewers for both their peers and the smart people that bought tickets to this event. Suffice to say maybe the finest selection of beers ever served on a pier anywhere on the planet ever!
After the VIP session I soldiered on to the Tap Room in Pacific Beach where Rip Current’s tap takeover was in full swing. On tap: Scotch Oaked Black Lagoon Scottish Strong, Vanilla Storm, Rescue Buoy batch #1, Caught in a Rip Triple IPA, In The Curl Double IPA, Wave Rye-der Session IPA and Barrier Reef Nut Brown. Brewer/Owner Paul Sangster was in attendance and it was a privilege to be able to sit and learn about the more intricate details of some of these fine beers as they were being imbibed. The San Marcos-based brewery is doing several tap takeovers during Beer Week, with events happening at Churchills, Urge, Sublime Tavern, O’Brien’s, Regal Beagle, Raglan and Hamiltons.
The last few drops of my super hop-infused Caught in a Rip Triple IPA, brewed with Centennial, Galaxy, Simcoe, Nelson and Chinook hops, registering 145 IBUs and 11.2% ABV, were interrupted by a sudden crash of the Tap Room bar cymbal and the lights being turned on to floodlight mode; it was midnight. I, and more importantly my liver, had made it through day one!