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Friday, May 24, 2013

Societe Brewing Co.

Logo'd chalice filled with Publican 
Do you like IPAs? Well I love them! It seems like it's almost a requirement for every new brewery that pops up to have an IPA, especially in San Diego which is widely known for perfecting the style.  The big problem is most get their IPAs wrong.  Too much crystal malt, too many types of malts, hops that just don't play well together. The end result is a beer that while bitter, lacks a lot of the subtle nuances that makes a good IPA great.

A perfect example of a new San Diego brewery that understands what it take to make a great IPA is Societe Brewing Co. Founded in 2011 by Travis Smith and Doug Constantiner, both of whom have a rather impressive brewing pedigree having work at such icons as Russian River and the Bruery.  In the short time since they opened (May/June 2012) they have been knocking beers out of the park and their IPAs continue to be some of the best I ever had. 

I remember the first time I was finally able to have one of their beers.  It occurred while enjoying dinner at Churchill's Pub. I had heard a lot about The Pupil so I was jazzed to see it on the menu.  I can clearly recall the first sip, it was very reminiscent of the experience I had when I first tasted Alpine's Duet as I was blown away by the perfection of the hop profile. Absolutely one of those transcendent beer experiences that I'll always remember.   I even took Bonnie to Churchill's the next day so that she could try it. 

The world's nicest growler
A couple of weeks later, as part of a larger bachelor party, I planned a brewery crawl for my buddy.  I set it up to stop at a lot of breweries from Orange County in San Diego with the ability to cut breweries out if need be.  There were however a few breweries that I insisted we stop at one of them was Societe which was a perfect transition location for the evening.

Getting to see the brewery and try their Belgian inspired brew really drove home the point that these guys get it. My buddy Daniel was especially geeked out by their very in style Belgian inspired beers. He was able to pick up the yeast they were using commented about how great water profile was.  He was so impressed that we are planning a Tao of Fermentation pilgrimage back on the 22nd of June.

During the bachelor party visit  I unfortunately confirmed that they have no plans on bottling their IPAs as they want to maintain complete control of their freshness.  If you do want to get their beers to go you have an option of a glass growler with a pewter handle or a stainless steel one, on my second visit with Bonnie we opted for a stainless version filled with the Publican. When I go back down on the 22nd I'm hoping to grab a fill of the Pupil.

The next frontier for them is their wine-barrel aged sours which have been quietly aging in their barrel room for a while. Given their track record with everything else, I can't wait to try them. 



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Firestone Walker Brewing Company - Barrelworks

The excellent setup for the taps
Nestled in the hills of the Santa Ynez Valley in Buellton California you will find the latest venture for Firestone Walker Brewing Company and a strong candidate for beer nirvana Barrelworks!

The building, which also holds one of the Firestone Walker Taprooms, is perfect location for such an undertaking as sour beer production.  Located 92 miles away from the main brewery in Paso Robles the physical separation lowers the risk of unwanted bugs finding their way into Firestone's core lineup.

Walking in through the side door emblazoned with the Barrelworks logo you are immediately greeted by the hundreds of barrels currently making up Firestone's growing sour program in addition to a large oak fermenter aka foudre.  Just past the foudre you come to the heart of Barrelworks, its tasting room.  It's not the smallest nor the largest tasting room I've been to but it's the perfect size for the intent of Barrelworks, which is to provide explorers with the opportunity to truly sample a large range of oak influenced beers. Having set out to deliver a tasting room experience all pours are limited to reasonably priced 3 oz tasters.

The best part of Barrelworks overall is because they are focused on being a tasting room they are able to put on beers you'd be hard pressed to ever find.  This includes their highly elusive and sought after sour beers, a rotating selection of Proprietor's Reserve Series, some of their Anniversary beers as well as the individual components that go into them. Another cool thing that they are doing is single barrel tasting where they put on beer from a single barrel.  I was able to sample a lot of beers some of which I'd been wanting to try for years.

In my between two trips I was able to try the following.
The taplist
  • Barrel #22 Dry Stout
  • Barrel #66 DDBA
  • Barrel #94 Rufus
  • Barrel Aged Rufus With Brett - Wow. The aroma stopped me mid-sentence while I was talking to the bartender
  • Bravo Barrel Aged Brown Ale
  • Bretta Weisse
  • Helldorado (Cask)
  • Lil' Opal (2013)
  • Parabola (2012)
  • Parabola (2013)
  • Parabola (Cask)
  • Reginald Brett
  • SLO-ambic - FINALLY. I've been wanting to try this for the longest god damn time.
  • Sticky Monkey - One of the last Anniversary components I've never had
  • Velvet Merkin (Cask)

While you can't get a growler fill of SLO-ambic or Sticky Monkey to go you are able to buy beers there. In addition to being able to pick up a couple bottles of the latest release of Parabola, I was given the opportunity (but did not execute on it) to buy all of the latest Proprietor's Reserve Series (Double DBA and Sucaba) as well as various vintages and Anniversary Bottles back to 13. The vintage bottles are vintaged priced which is what affords the ability to keep them available 

In short, my trip to Barrelworks excited my already lofty expectations and you can bet whenever I find myself in Buellton during their hours of operation (Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m) I'll definitely stop by.



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