Category Archives: Craft Brewing

TheArtofBeer and Life..2013

My Year in Review

TheArtofBeer

2013 kicked off with a new chapter in my career.  After a 2nd layoff in 4 years in my old industry, I decided to pursue something that I have passion for. ::Insert Legally Blond quote:: “Luckily” Stone Brewing Company took a chance on hiring this geeky beer girl and the rest is history.  It has not been an easy year for me.  Learning the beer industry is far more challenging on the inside than it appears from the outside looking in.  I have battle scars but I have also learned so much.  I have had respect for Stone Brewing Co from my very beginnings in San Diego in 2002.  Stone was the company that flipped me from a wine drinker to “TheArtofBeer” and that was no easy feat.  But wowser this industry is tough!  I cut my teeth on amazing craft beer because of Stone and I came to appreciate the heart and soul of the craft brewing industry.  I learned so much in 10 years and I developed friendships across the country because of this silly little blog and my life on Twitter.  How amazing is it that I ended up working in the industry?

Craft Brewing is not an easy row to hoe and I have respected just how challenging the path is from the very beginning.  Now that I have spent a year selling beer, I can honestly say that it is the hardest thing I have ever done.  Despite a conviction deeply set in the core of my being, I have had to face the reality that craft is still just a small blip on the screen that is the overall beer market.  The masses just haven’t caught on yet.  Since passion is something I have always had plenty of, even when selling mundane plumbing/hvac products , this became a very personal mission for me. Game on!

I am most thankful for the amazing wins I have been able to chalk up and I am thankful for some of the great chains that have been patient with me as I navigated my way through this very foreign industry .  I have made mistakes but hopefully I have learned from them.  I am also thankful for some of my Stone comrades that have helped me make it through some very challenging times.  My favorite motto learned “It’s Just Beer” has helped me through some rough days and every win I have made has meant the world to me.

Aside from World Peace, my wish for 2014 is that we are able to get more people to venture into the amazing world of craft beer.  As main stream retailers take a chance on bringing craft into their stores, I hope my fellow craft beer drinkers will remember to appreciate the fact that this is how we can expand our share from 8% to 20% and beyond in the coming years.  Don’t get caught up in beer snobbery and judging breweries for selling in more places than just our beloved Bottle Shops.  For every new consumer that passes by a corporate beer to pick up a Stone Mixed 12 pack or (insert any craft beer package) on the shelf, it’s a win for craft.  It paves the road for the tiny new craft breweries that open daily and gives them a path to success.  When we expand the base of craft beer drinkers, everyone wins.  The larger craft breweries are making it possible for new breweries to have a chance of succeeding.  Please remember that.

This year has not been without some personal hardship.   As I prepare to walk away from my home, the lesson learned is that home will always be where I make it.  Trust me when I say, this is the hardest thing I have ever gone through short of losing my parents, but… I will survive.  I also had another good health scare that left me minus some flesh but it’s a blessing that I was given the ability to make a difficult choice before it was too late.  My vanity has taken more of a beating but I feel good about the outcome.

Even my closest friends do not know that once again, I exposed my heart and once again I made a bad choice.  I guess I have resolved myself to having the worst taste in men EVER — but I blame myself for being a difficult person.  At the end of the day, I have to own my faults.  As much as I wish I could find love, I am beginning to find peace with being alone.  The holidays are always the hardest for me.  It has been so long since I have had family, I don’t remember what it even feels like.  But I do appreciate the friends that stand by me…no matter how difficult I tend to be.

I am thankful for so many good people in my life.  There are too many to name.  You know who you are and I appreciate each and every one of you.  Thank you for keeping me in your prayers and for putting up with me when I am being a royal pain in the ass.  Please forgive me if you are not in the photo montage  I did my best to capture as many people as possible but it was impossible to get everyone that matters.

My Year in Review

My Year in Review

Thanks for putting up with me…World Peace

xoxo

TheArtofBeer

My Craft Beer “Awakening”…

Reflecting on my new career and the year ahead prompted me to go back to my early blog posts.  I found this one in 2009 and giggled.  If you had asked me in 2009 if I could see myself working in the Craft Beer Industry my response would likely have been “I wish!”  Yet here it is the eve of 2013 and starting next week I will be doing just that and working for Stone Brewing Co. no less.  WOW! If you have time read the post below, please do so and you will see the correlation.  I moved to San Diego in 2003. My beer education began by happenstance and Stone Brewing was a huge part of my education.  Of all the many things I am thankful for in my life, this ranks very high…

Happy New Year – May it be filled with great beer, sustainable food and glorious friends!

TheArtofBeer
xoxo

Grapes To Grain – My transformation from wine snob to craft beer lover…(September 2009)

A friend asked recently when I had converted from a wine snob to a beer geek.  My tweets about my parallel universe as a “beerophile” were posting to my Facebook page and she was not the first person to comment on my transformation.  After pondering the question, I decided to write a little about my journey.

I started drinking wine in my mid-twenties when I moved to California.  I truly enjoyed the seemingly endless options of fabulous wine available and as my taste developed so did my passion for wine.  My palate evolved over the years and I found I was more prone to fine wine than basic grocery store selections.  My investment in my habit grew.  I loved wine and was enthralled with the complexities of appearance, the nose, the feel and the taste associated with the many types, styles and brands.  Wine and of course, the food that compliments it, was a huge part of my social life as the years passed.   I loved sharing my wine finds with good friends over dinner at both my home and restaurants.  I shudder at the thought of the money I have spent over the years…

While I had always enjoyed beer, I honestly never thought much about what I was drinking.  I preferred to drink micro-brewed beer, but was not really conscious of the decisions I made.    I just knew that I didn’t care for Coors, Bud or any other watery beer on the market.  There was no real passion in my beer selections and I rarely took the time to think about the ingredients going into the beer, much less the business and political implications of my choices.  Never had I pondered which beers would best pair with an artisan cheese platter I had assembled for a cocktail party nor had I contemplated a social dinner offering different beer choices with the course I would prepare.

That is until I moved to San Diego in 2003…  I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with a young man who founded a craft brewing business in San Diego.  A neighbor in my building, GK brought his own beer selections to a party at my loft and even brought his own glassware.  I was in no way, shape or form offended by his apparent beer snobbery.  On the contrary, I was intrigued by his passion.  I recognized there was a lot I could learn from this incredible entrepreneur.   Many of my new neighbors in Park Loft were also  craft beer fans.  With Greg as a generous anchor, there was never a social event in the building (and boy did we have a lot of them!) that didn’t include several of the many choices of beer brewed by Stone.   There were many group outings to local craft beer mecca’s like O’Brien’s, The Local, Hamilton’s, and The Whistle Stop.  This was the beginning of my craft beer education.

August Schell Brewing – The Meaning of Craft & Tradition

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This post is related to the recent controversy surrounding the “Definition of Craft Brewing” as defined by the Brewer’s Association as it relates to August Schell Brewing.  People are pretty steamed about the publishing of a [for lack of a better term] “Black List” of non-craft breweries in the US.   I am saddened by the whole mess.

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
George Orwell, Animal Farm

It’s 1860 and you want to start a brewery in the United States.  How easy do you think that was?  Probably not very…  I can’t even fathom what life must have been like in those days much less how hard it must have been to build a brewery.  Yet August Schell did just that.  Even more amazing is that Schell’s Brewing is still alive and brewing 152 years later and this timeline includes some pretty trying times.

Thanks to friend and fellow beer lover, Brett Glenna, I finally got an opportunity to visit New Ulm, Minnesota in October for a brewery tour and a slice of Schell history.  To say it changed my perspective on brewing traditions would be an understatement.

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Brett Glenna & David Berg

Dave Berg [@schellbrewer] has been brewing at Schell since 2006.  He is walking encyclopedia of the history of the brewery and to say the least, he is intensely passionate about the beer he brews and about the brewery.  We were there during Oktoberfest and there were hundreds of adoring fans lined up waiting for the brewery tours but Brett & I got VIP treatment from Dave.  August Schell started the brewery in 1860 and times were pretty sketchy in that area.  The brewery was one of the only buildings in town that was not burned to the ground during the famous “Sioux Uprising” aka  the “Dakota Conflict” and all because of the kindness of the Schell family toward the Sioux people.  There were 1900 breweries before Prohibition began in 1919 and Schell’s Brewing Co.  was one of only 600 that remained when it was repealed 14 years later.  They survived by brewing soda and non-alcoholic beer but rumor has it their was a little moonshine action as well.  They almost lost their license for allowing a batch of beer to go out at .75 % ABV when .50 was all that was allowed by law.  Hard to fathom in this day and age.  Go to the Schell website and follow the timeline to learn in detail about these things.  It’s fascinating to read.

http://www.schellsbrewery.com/home.php

In 1885 August Schell built the mansion that exists on the property today for $5k which was no doubt a huge sum of money at the time.  Not long after that he spent $25k importing the copper kettle you see below.  Talk about having your priorities straight!  Clearly August was passionate about brewing beer from the very beginning and I would say this brewery has managed to keep that passion alive in the business over all 152 years of its existence.

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The Marti family was involved early on in the Schell brewing tradition when George Marti married one of the Schell daughters.  The Marti family carries on the Schell tradition to this very day.  You can find the well-written response to the BA list from Jace Marti in the link at the  bottom of this post.  One of my very favorite stories told by Dave IMG_5995Berg during my visit to New Ulm was about the tiny, wee tap room in the brewery where the locals could go to drink beer and play cards.  The room was very small and located at the back of the cave in the brewery.  Warren Marti had his office directly above the “tasting” room.  When the boys got too rowdy,  which was often the case, Warren would simply turn off the tap from a shut-off valve in his office, signaling the night was over!   There was an “open ticket” program that started in the brewery after prohibition and lasted into the 80’s.  When locals came to the brewery to pickup beer, it was added to a tab which I think was settled up at the end of the month.  Sounds pretty dangerous to this beer girl.   I would probably have to turn over my entire paycheck every month!  Another great story that really touched my heart relates to business survival.  In the 70’s, Schell was struggling to make it’s payroll and times were very tough.  There was a 100 year old, extremely rare black walnut tree on the property that had been imported from Europe and it was worth a considerable amount of money.  The tree was sold to make payroll for the employees of the brewery.  That speaks volumes to the integrity of the Marti family.  There were no government bail outs in those days — imagine that!

beer_pilsI am not ashamed to say that I appreciate a finely crafted lager and Schell’s Pils tops my list.  Anyone that says this beer is not well made is woefully lacking in both taste and beer knowledge in my humble opinion.  There is much controversy surrounding the use of adjuncts in beer right now, but as is the case with Schell and many other reputable independent breweries, the use of adjuncts have their place in the brewing process.  Schell has been brewing beer styles that have weathered 150 years of history.  How dare anyone call them out for using local corn when it is clear the ingredient has been a part of their recipe since the very beginning.  This is not a macro-brewed beer using adjuncts to cheapen and lighten the product.  We know full well that adjuncts are used discreetly to enhance flavor in a myriad of “craft” beers and it is hypocritical to point out adjunct use for this very purpose at some breweries and not others.  Schell’s Pils has won many awards, including medals from the prestigious Great American Beer Festival and you can read a quote below from a craft beer legend that has likely turned in his grave over the publishing of this list.

” One of the best American examples of the Pilsner style.”
—The late Michael Jackson, world-renowned beer aficionado and writer.

DSC_0240August Schell Brewing Company has contract brewed for many well known “craft” brands including Schafly and 3 Floyds over the years.  Schell brews with pride and they stand by their product.  We should not marginalize their place in the world of craft beer based on loosely worded and frequently edited definitions of “craft” that seem to serve some type of agenda.  There are many breweries not on this list that use adjuncts with much less transparency in their beers.  Naming them serves no purpose but I will say that many of these beers are great tasting, well made and well respected.

At the end of the day, we decide which beers we spend our hard earned dollars on.  If I lived in a state that sold Schell beers, suffice it to say I would buy them.  If you have an opportunity to visit New Ulm, Minnesota in the future, by all means plan a brewery tour at Schell’s Brewing Co.  Of all the places I have visited in my beer travels, the day I spent in New Ulm stands out as a favorite for many reasons.  I consider this brewery to be “craft” and I wouldn’t let any list tell me otherwise.    Smart people don’t need lists – I’m just saying!   It is my sincerest hope that you will do the same.

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http://beerpulse.com/2012/12/august-schell-brewing-to-ba-in-response-to-craft-vs-crafty-shame-on-you/

Thanks for listening…
Cheers!
TheArtofBeer
xoxo

PS – People in Minnesota rock!  Especially the Glenna family who graciously took me into their home for the weekend and treated me like family.  I also had the pleasure of sharing beers with Mr & Mrs @13Mikey [Their real names I swear!]  The state has many things to be proud of.  #thatisall

Much Ado About Beer & Food

It’s easy to forget how lucky I am to live in such a great beer and food town.  Granted…San Diego is not famous [yet] for being a Gastro-Mecca; but honestly, this lovely city deserves honorable mention.

Alpine Nelson

I ventured out this afternoon to meetup with a lovely Twitter beer friend ( @gandalfcat ) at Hamilton’s Tavern in South Park.  On the Second Saturday of every moth, Hamilton’s “puts out a spread” of food and fantastic beers.  This event features a brewery — Alpine Beer Company in this case — and you can expect a tap selection of stellar beers from the featured brewery at this event.  Alpine is a “beer institution” in San Diego.  This impeccable brewery maintains a modest production so distribution of these finally crafted ales is extremely limited.  Known for “hop explosions”, Alpine brews with the #HopHead in mind.  I credit Alpine’s  Pure Hoppiness as my “first-love” in the hoppy beer arena.  I had my first sip at The Local on 4th Avenue and the rest is history.  Suffice it to say, I have never had a disappointing beer from this local gem.   Today was no exception…

It was hot and woefully sweaty in Hamilton’s this afternoon but honestly, it’s worth enduring the sauna!  This beer bar holds a very special place in my heart.  Good memories flood my mind as my eyes adjust to the darkness when I walk in the door.  There are no frills here but the vibe is solid.  The staff is beer savvy and friendly.  The prices are reasonable and the beer selection is world-class.  If you visit San Diego and you love craft beer; Hamilton’s is a must.

http://hamiltonstavern.com/

FACT: Hoppy beers make me hungry! Not sure there is any science to support this theory, but I believe hops stimulate my palate.

Alchemy San Diego

I find that I experience more intense flavor explosions from the food I eat when drinking hoppy beers.  I stopped off at Alchemy for some supper after leaving Hamilton’s this evening.  I am ashamed that I have not eaten there in quite some time and tonight I was reminded of how much I have been missing.  I have chosen to eat a fairly strict “Paleo” diet since my surgery in February.  It’s not always easy but I can say with all certainty that it is saving my life.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Paleo-Friendly selections on the menu at Alchemy.  I selected the Ceviche, white fish marinated in citrus juice with pasilla peppers, mango, red onion, cucumber & cilantro served with plantain chips for my starter.  Absolutely #DELISH!!!

Larb Goong

Next up the Larb Goong – Mexican white shrimp spiced up with Thai chili, lime and cilantro; served in bibb lettuce cups.  Holy #Paleo Heaven Batman!  I absolutely loved this dish!  I had to omit the peanuts but the flavor balance in this dish was excellent.  I can’t remember the last time I had something this flavor-packed.  I will definitely be trying to recreate this dish at home but the lesson learned today was one of remembering restaurants that support my food ethics.  Alchemy is the poster child for ethical eating and I plan to hold myself accountable to eating here on a more regular basis.

I would like to note that this dinner (more than filling) was $19.  I realize that not everyone can afford to eat out on a regular basis but for a splurge, this is good value for the money.

Ceviche at Alchemy San Diego

The brilliant thing about places like Alchemy is that they inspire people to be more creative in the kitchen.  You can bet that I will be trying to recreate the Larb Goong at home but that does not mean I won’t be going back to Alchemy again soon to experience more of Chef Ricardo Heredia’s brilliant creations.

http://alchemysandiego.com/

Our Purpose: “to serve food with meaning prepared by people who care”

If you are visiting San Diego, be sure to check out @Hamilons and @AlchemySD

Peace & Love

TheArtofBeer

Beer Research Call to Action!

I received a request from Anthony Simone (@erroneousrex) , a grad school student in New York that is doing research on Craft Beer Marketing.  He sent me a survey and asked that I respond to it.  You will find my answers below.  You may not agree with me—That’s okay with me.  If you have an opinion you should answer them and email (details below) your response back to him. Words I live by:

“The World is Run by Those Who Show Up!”

Do you believe it is important to use local ingredients in beer production and why/why not? –

I do not think it is completely feasible for all beer to be brewed with local ingredients but I really respect breweries that release specialty beers that do use seasonal, local ingredients.  I believe there are more and more craft breweries that are focused on utilizing local products.  Many breweries are growing their own hops now and some are and using local fruit.   Cascade Brewing makes some amazing barrel-aged sour beers using fruit from Oregon.  Logsdon is a co-op that is growing some of the ingredients they use.

I think you will find that many craft breweries promote the pairing of their beer with locally sourced food.  I would guess a large percentage of Craft Beer drinkers trend toward Farmer’s Markets, humanely raised meat and organic ingredients.  Breweries like Bison Brewing help people associate the source of ingredients to the food they eat and the beer they drink.

If you do believe it is important to use local ingredients there is an instance where they would be more expensive to acquire do you believe the ethical choice of “buying local” would trump the financial decision?

I can only speak for myself but I think there are many people that feel the way I do.  I will absolutely pay more to support local products.  I buy 80+% of my food from local sources.  With regard to beer, I support my local breweries but I am also a “beer traveler” that visits other great beer cities and brings home beer to share.  I support “craft” and appreciate well-made beer from all over the country.  I love to ship my local favorites to people in other places as well.

There are over 40 hop varieties in America alone not to mention multiple varieties of barley malts.  Do you believe the average drinker of even high-quality craft beers can actually tell the difference between these different varieties? Do you believe it is necessary or productive to mention esoteric ingredients in a craft beer’s marketing?

I do believe people with refined palates can differentiate the more prominent hop varietals.  It is no different that people with a strong palate for wine varietals.  I don’t think the average person can articulate what they taste without reference points made in beer descriptives (is this a word?), but the more they sample and identify with, the more they can ell the difference between the major varietals.  I think it is great when breweries call out specific ingredients because it teaches people to differentiate.  The wine industry has been doing this with grapes forever.  Beer is far more complex in my humble opinion.  A newbie can read a label and correlate the ingredients with what they taste.

There is a perception of elitism in craft/micro-brew beer marketing and culture. Do you believe this might have the negative effect of turning off potential craft beer newbie’s? Or would you even consider this a “negative” effect?

Absolutely not!  I think Craft Beer marketing actually encourages newbie’s because geeks, and socially awkward people are the poster children for Craft Beer. Look at Greg Koch from Stone Brewing.  He is a brilliant public speaker but he is not a social butterfly when in a one-on-one situation.  When he is on stage talking about his passion for beer – He lights up a room.  People can identify with his passion.  One of the beautiful things about craft beer is that it embraces the hipsters, geeks, brainiacs and yes, even the #pretty people.  Craft welcomes anyone that has an appreciation for the road less traveled.  Young and old come together to share an appreciation for craft.

I do believe the beer reviews and forums on Beer Advocate can intimidate people but truthfully, the few  “doucebags” that talk smack on BA are a source of entertainment for many people and there are heaps of great reviews to be found there as well.  I support anyone wanting to learn about craft beer and I will go out of my way to help people learn.  I am not alone in this thinking.  Craft Beer is an “equal opportunity” product.  It does not discriminate.  There is no wrong or right.  Your taste is exactly that…it’s your taste.  True craft beer lovers champion individual taste and they do not criticize people for having a different opinion.  How I wish this would translate to other aspects of life…

There is a perception that mega-brewers are selling a lifestyle while craft and microbrewers are selling an authentic and quality product. However as craft and micro-brews are sold using contemporary marketing techniques one could say they are also selling a lifestyle and in a sense “selling authenticity.” Would you agree with this? Do you believe that the average craft/micro-brew consumer is savvy enough to realize this but consciously “buys into” the message?

I think macro-beer is selling alcohol above all else.  They market to people that don’t care about quality or “craft” – They care about calories, price and being able to drink massive quantities before they toss their cookies in the toilet.  Craft Beer tends to market ethics,  flavor, social responsibility and the beautiful interaction with food.  Just look at the growth of the Craft Brewing segment.  It out-paces macro consistently.  People in this country are finally waking up!  They are more educated about quality, ethics and sourcing in food as well as alcohol.  They understand the value of supporting local food, beer and businesses in general.  Everyone has the ability to vote with his or her wallet and I believe the number of people choosing “craft” everything will continue to grow.  Food, clothing, alcohol, etc…all represent making better choices.  People that are independent thinkers grasp the importance of supporting local products. The masses will follow the early-adopters.  It is just a matter of time.

Beer is not food but an alcoholic beverage. However, craft/micro-brewed beer marketing and culture tend to treat it like a fine food, something almost on par with artisanal cheese or caviar. Do you believe it is the responsibility of craft/micro-brewed beer producers and promoters to impress upon consumers the fact that beer is an alcoholic beverage and not food apart from the obligatory government warnings?

I do not believe brewers should have to answer to stupidity. People that cannot differentiate between food and alcohol have much bigger issues.  We do not need any more government regulation.  We need more individual responsibility.  People need to take responsibility for their own actions.  Drinking alcohol should be done in moderation, regardless of the beverage.  Craft breweries advocate for this.  They preach quality over quantity. This is the key.  I do not drink to get drunk.  I drink to experience the flavor and the interaction of the beer with the food I eat.   I truly appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that go into Craft Beer and I respect the people that risked it all to bring their beer to market.  Capitalism at work…

Help Anthony Simone(design grad in NY doing masters on craft beer marketing. with his research)…Answer the questions above and email to him at:

anthony.simone@mail.com

@erroneousrex

Grad student at the Pratt Institute working on a Masters in Communications Design. I like water, malted barley and hops (preferably together).

New York City

http://www.behance.net/gallery/Graphic-Design-Portfolio/3708366

Forgive my spelling, grammar, etc…Happy to answer any questions you have!

Cheers
TheArtofBeer
xoxo

Bear Republic – Racer 5 India Pale Ale

Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA is a staple beer in my home.  I like that it comes in 12 oz bottles.  I try to keep my beer consumption low on a weeknight so this is a perfect selection.  I don’t really like drinking beer from pint glasses.  My glass of choice is a tulip.  I like being able to hold the glass by the base.

Pours sunny tangerine, slightly hazy from suspended yeast, with medium carbonation and fine, off white head that dissipates fairly quickly.  Tiny bubbles continue to rise to the surface.  Nice lacing on the glass.  I get tropical and citrus notes on the nose with some subtle pine and sweet maltiness in the background. I love the way Racer 5 smells!  Racer 5 is 7% ABV and is beautifully hopped with Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial.

Citrus and floral up front on the taste but not overpowering and bitter. I also get a little pineapple.  The finish is a little malty but still has the hoppy bitterness I love.  Admittedly I am a hop head but I do not find Racer 5 to be a huge hop bomb.  There is a nice balance to this beer that makes it incredibly easy to drink.  Just remember that it is 7% — It does not taste like it so it can sneak up on you.

Bear Republic Brewing Company is a true family owned and operated brewery in Healdsburg, California.  The Norgrove family are just plain, good people with two generations at the helm and a third that, I suspect, will be active as soon as they are of age!  Their barrel-aged program is off the hook so if you ever have an opportunity to try something from it, jump at the chance.  They are very limited in availability so mostly only accessible in Northern CA at the brewery and special events.  I am hoping I luck into one or two this coming week when I am up there.  You can check them out at the website link below.

http://www.bearrepublic.com/ourbeers.php

http://www.bearrepublic.com/home.php

If you find yourself in Sonoma County be sure to visit Bear Republic in Healdsburg.

Cheers to Great Beer!

TheArtofBeer
xoxo

Funding Options for Startup Breweries –

I read this very interesting article (See Link Below) this morning at SF Gate – the online site for the San Francisco Chronicle.   In the past year, I’ve seen more and more Crowd Funding” campaigns,  like Kickstarter,  for small start-up breweries.   I invested in one such venture  last summer for Wilderness Brewing Company in Kansas City.  They were successful in hitting their target using Friends, Family and Social Media.  I just got my t-shirt last week and I enjoy reading about the progress of these young entrepreneurs.

Crowd Funding is a great way to raise funds that make entrepreneurial dreams come true but it is not easy.  Investors are doing so for T-shirts, VIP memberships and other perks; not shares in the business.  There are laws that limit actual equity shares to a very small number of people.  Certified Investors are the only ones allowed by the SEC beyond this number.  This is the problem.

Read the article and learn a little about the possibilities and the challenges.   If you aspire to owning a brewery, brew pub, or craft beer bar;  this is a subject that should be of great interest.  I do hope to see the laws change so that I could consider actually investing for equity and the article suggests there is movement to do so.   I suspect I am not alone.  The Craft Beer Community supports the underdog in more way than one.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to see how many put their money on the line?

Here is the link to the article:

Crowd funding, an online path for small businesses

Here’s to New Breweries & Good Beer!

TheArtofBeer
xoxo

The Hopocalypse Approaches… « DrakesBrewing

When times get a bit tough, I measure my life in segments of  “things to look forward to”, aka small adventures that make me smile and forget the hard parts of life.   The event below @DrakesBrewery is one of those things.  It is not a secret that I am a fan and friend of talented young brewer @brewsugar (#girlpower) and that I am also a huge fan-girl of Drakes!  If you happen to be in the Bay Area on the weekend of the February 4th — check out this “not to be missed” event. I’ll buy you a beer if you show up!

Maybe we can play “Pin the Tail on the Beer Advocate Douchebag” and I will donate rare beers as prizes for winners!!!

Be sure to make public transportation arrangements or have a designated driver.

The Hopocalypse Approaches… « DrakesBrewing

#DrinkResponsibly

TheArtofBee
xoxo

@BrewSugar

San Diego Craft Beer – Part Two – Walk, Trolley & Drink Beer in Downtown!

San Diego is a beautiful city with great, down-to-earth people and a Craft Beer Community that ranks in the Top 10 in the United States.  How many cities can you name where it is actually possible to walk from the airport to the action-packed, beer-centric, downtown area?  Not many and possibly none other is my guess.  There are over 500 tap handles with a 3 mile radius of my condo and that list probably expands to 1000 if you go to 10 miles.

I live in Little Italy, one of many fabulous little neighborhoods in the greater downtown area.  In Part One of this series, you learned about South Park, North Park & Normal Heights and the famous 30th Street Beer Corridor; all accessible via an inexpensive ride on MTS – San Diego’s Public Transit!  In Part Two I’ll suggest some great picks for a downtown San Diego Pub Crawl!  You can walk or you can hop on the San Diego Trolley.

The San Diego Trolley

You are looking at about a 3 mile walk to hit all of these locations but you can also ride the San Diego Trolley.  It runs smack dab through the middle of town.  Just like the Hot Deuce, you can buy a $5 ticket and ride all day.  It’s great fun and great people watching.  San Diego is a laid back town so no need to get all dressed up here!

I will touch on some of the places I know and love that are all within walking distance of my home in Little Italy.  You should definitely walk or ride the trolley to these places — parking can be a bear and if you are drinking more than one or two beers, you should not be driving anyway!  There are many other fantastic Craft Beer spots that I won’t have time to mention.  There are just too many to include them all and frankly, I have not had the time to check out all the new venues that have popped up in the past year.  You can check out the Tap Hunter App to see most of the locations right from your smart phone. It provides a map, the address, phone number and an amazingly accurate list of what each place has on tap.  You can also visit their website for locations at the link below.

http://sandiego.taphunter.com/location/

Little Italy welcomed two very positive Craft Beer additions in 2011; Bottlecraft and Under Belly.

Bottlecraft!

Bottlecraft, owned by Brain Jensen, opened in the summer and prompted a serious happy dance when I visited just after the opening.  The variety is stellar.  Staple beers as well as those that are hard to find like Cantillion and Nebraska BrewingHop God” fill the shelves.  Bottlecraft doesn’t just highlight great San Diego brews, they offer up the best available in California within the constraints of the good old, 3-Tier distribution system.  What makes Bottlecraft unique is a liquor license that allows opening and drinking the beer purchased. There are places to sit and be comfortable.  They also have a great choice of glassware, books, t-shirts and even Dog Biscuits because Bottlecraft is pup friendly!  This is always a category that I give bonus points for.  They have a great, rotating variety in the cooler section and they offer two innovative taster flights daily.  The people who work at Bottlecraft are not only beer-centric, they are friendly and fun.  They help beer-newbies find a beer that will ease them into our beloved Craft Beer world.   If you find a beer that you want to try and it’s not in the cooler — not-to-worry — you can get it chilled in about 15-20 minutes.  There is no food offered but there are tons of nearby options that you can pick-up and bring to share with friends.  I also like the people who come here to drink beer.  They are not beer snobs and they are not “all “hipsters. There are a few “fixies” outside but I have yet to see anyone display the “I’m way too cool for you” attitude.  The age range is diverse and the common thread involves the comfort of hanging out with friends enjoying good beer.  What’s not to like?  I guess the New York Times agrees with me because Bottlecraft was listed as a top pick for pick #14 San Diego in  the New York Times “45 Places to Go in 2012”

http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/travel/45-places-to-go-in-2012.html?pagewanted=2

Under Belly opened in October and Holy Hot Ramen Batman; they add a new dimension to the already superb food culture that defines urban life in San Diego.  Don’t eat here if you are not an experimental foodie that appreciates adventure.  The secret to good Ramen is in the broth and in my opinion, they have captured the essence and added a twist of creativity to the ingredients.  There are 24 local and beyond tap handles and a California wine selection.  Vegan choices are available along with a good range of appetizers like gyoza and pork buns.  There are some rules involving traffic here.  Order your food first and then find a spot to sit.  The space is a bit narrow to navigate through but it just makes it part of the adventure, right?   Under Belly is part of the same ownership as Neighborhood SD, Craft & Commerce, Noble Experiment and El Dorado; Consortium Holdings, owned by Arsalun Tafazoli and Nathan Stanton.

Craft & Commerce is less than 2 blocks from my house and I can get my Craft Cocktail  (Manhattan for this girl) and my Craft Beer Cocktail fix here.  “Up in Smoke” – Allagash Curieux, Islay Scotch, Fuji Apple and Lime – is an example of a Beer Cocktail and in 2010, this was the very 1st place I ever tried this now exploding, cocktail trend.   They have the most creative drinks and it is completely by design.  They opened in August of 2010 and were a success from the start.  The decor is Hipster Prohibition but the vibe is welcoming so don’t be put off by the hipster crowd.  They won’t bite!  Craft & Commerce has 12 rotating tap handles.  The food is decadent and fabulous.  The menu changes based on availability of produce in season.   The Salmon BLT is a favorite and there are days when I would sell my soul for the Bacon-Wrapped Dates!  They have some limited patio seating where dogs are welcome.

Neighborhood Tap Handles

Neighborhood opened in 2007 and is hands-down, still my favorite place in the San Diego downtown area for Craft Beer and Casual Dining.  They offer 27 craft beer taps and a notable rare bottle collection.  The food is local, sustainable and ethical; just the way I like it.  The Deviled-Eggs (only available at night) are superb.  I am also a huge fan of the “Street-Tacos” and the burger.  DO NOT come here if you put ketchup on your food.  It is not available and if that freaks you out, there are plenty burger joints nearby that serve high-fructose corn syrup.  If you appreciate the flavor of of quality, seasonal ingredients; you have found a great place.  I find the service here to be friendly and the staff is well versed on the beers that they serve.  Neighborhood also makes Craft Cocktails but only those of the whisky and bourbon variety.  For the key to an even greater Cocktail Experience – visit The Noble Experiment if you dare unlock the secret to entry…

http://nobleexperimentsd.com/

Best Damn Beer Shop is located in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego and the name is completely appropriate.  Located inside “Super Junior” market on 7th Avenue, you would NEVER guess how terrific the beer offering is by looking at the storefront.  Parking here is next to impossible so walk there and cab it home with you beer spoils if too big to carry home on foot.  Best Damn Beer has access to some pretty limited allocations and you can subscribe to their newsletter for updates on new releases.   There have been several events hosted by Best Damn Beer that feature hard-to-find Craft Beer tastings; some to help charities.  They recently added a home-brew supply section to the store so downtown home-brewers have a convenient place to pick up what they need to brew.  The owners plan evolve into more of a gourmet market over time but for now, be advised that the appearance outside does not reflect how terrific the beer offering is on the inside!  This family owned business is related to South Bay Drugs in Imperial Beach which is temporarily closed due to zoning issues but expected to resurface someplace fresh in 2012.

Monkey Paw Pub, the latest venture from Scot Blair, owner of Hamilton’s & Small Bar. They opened in August of 2011 offering 30 Tap Handles, 2 Cask Engines and a bottle list.  Sample one of the creative Craft Beer Cocktails and jump on the latest craze.  They feature 4-5 of the beers from Monkey Paw brewer, Derek Freese and it is clear there is a lot of great beers to come.  He is brewing some pretty amazing session beers like “Pineapple X-press” and “Thatcher in the Rye” at 5.2% and 4.5% ABV. Give a shout out to bartender Ashlee if she’s working.  This girl knows her beer and she does a great job making folks feel welcome.

Monkey Paw is in the part of downtown that I guess I would refer to as our “Skid Row”.  It may look a bit daunting as you walk around the area but please don’t be afraid.  Because of San Diego’s ideal climate, we do have a large number of homeless folks in the downtown area, even in Little Italy.  It’s just part of life in any city and it keeps my reality in check.   There are several homeless shelters and outreach programs in this area so the people tend to congregate near the places that offer some help.  A huge percentage of the people on the street have drug addictions.  Rest assure the people are, for the most part harmless.  I have walked safely through these neighborhoods for 9 years now.

Downtown Johnny Brown’s could be the biggest Craft Beer Sleeper in San Diego.  If you can find the place without someone directing you there; you excel in navigation!  DTJB’s is 3 blocks from my house and it’s tucked inside a courtyard at the Civic Center Plaza.  They have ample, pet-friendly patio seating and a great collection of beer pouring from 18 taps.  they also have some great bottle selections.  Check their website for special events and releases.  They have some pretty special kegs tucked away and you just never know when owner Todd will put one on tap.  The crowd here is eclectic because many are not all “here for the beer”.  They are located next to the theater/opera venue and many people go there to grab a bite to eat before a show.  But the local beer people know about this haven and it   Many a great bottle sharing event has taken place here and the staff is kicked backed and friendly.

There are scads of other good Craft Beer spots downtown but for brevity puposes, I picked the ones I know the best for now.  There are many you might pass along the way to those featured so keep your eyes open.  I have posted some more names below of places I must visit and highlight as I expand this series.

I hope you have the opportunity to visit these great Craft Beer establishments and be sure to give me a shout out with details of your adventure!

World Peace & Craft Beer!
TheArtofBear
XOXO

Bottlecraft
2161 India Street
(619) 487-9493
http://bottlecraftbeer.com/

Underbelly
750 W Fir St (at Kettner)
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 269-4626
http://www.godblessunderbelly.com/

Neighborhood
777 G Street
(619) 446-0002
http://neighborhoodsd.com/

Best Damn Beer
1036 7th Ave
(619) 232-6367
http://bestdamnbeers.com/beerlist/about/

South Bay Drugs
Announcing New Location & Name Soon
(619) 424-5164
http://sites.google.com/site/southbaydrugs/

Monkey Paw Pub
805 16th St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 358-9901
www.monkeypawbrewing.com

Downtown Johnny Brown’s
1220 Third Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 232-8414
www.downtownjohnnybrowns.com

Honorable Mentions:

The Tipsy Crow
770 5th Avenue
San Diego, Ca 92101
(619) 338-9300
www.thetipsycrow.com

The Hopping Pig
748 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 546-6424
www.thehoppingpig.com

Local Habit
3827 5th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
619-795-4770
www.mylocalhabit.com

The Best of San Diego Craft Beer – Part One

Tap List at BLAH

If San Diego is in your travel plans for 2012, this post will offer up a few good suggestions.  If you live under a rock <kidding> in San Diego and have never checked out the places that make us known as one of the greatest Craft Beer Cities in the U.S. then you’ve come to the right place.

Part One of the series starts with an adventure in public transportation that will take you safely to South Park, North Park & Normal Heights.  That’s right – you heard me.  San Diego Metro Transit Bus Route #2,  aka The “Hot Deuce” < Hot Deuce Schedule – Saturday >  travels from downtown San Diego to the top of 30th Street (The Craft Beer Corridor of San Diego) at Adams Avenue.  Catch the Deuce at the Americas Plaza stop near the Trolley Station or on Broadway at 3rd Ave. For $5 you can hop on and off the bus all day, not to mention the fact that you can enjoy your beer responsibly.

During San Diego Beer Week, this is the route I chose for visiting Twitter Craft Beer Friends @TheBeerWench (Ashley), @JessHunter (Jess), @MllBess (Bess), @BisonBrew (Dan) and Amie.  There was side-splitting laughter and beer experiences that we will remember for years to come.  I hope you will enjoy it as much as we all did.

Here are the great Craft Beer spots you can hit and pace yourself please:

Hamilton’s – Hop of the Hot Deuce at the 30thstreet, about 15 minutes from the stop on Broadway.  Open the screen door and allow your eyes a few seconds to adjust to the darkness that lies within.  Don’t be surprised if there are several adorable pups hanging out at the bar; Hamilton’s is pet friendly!   They have 28 tap handles and 2 cask engines pouring a kick-ass variety of local craft beer as well as some world selections .  They have a cooler stocked with bottles that include rare finds like Firestone Walker Abacus and library selections from breweries like Stone and Lost Abbey.  You can order food from the take-out place next door through a tiny window located near the pool table.  Don’t expect anything fancy but rest assured that it is good pub-type fare.  On the second Saturday of the month, a local brewery is featured on all tap handles and there is a feast of “free” food to boot.  Plan on getting there early.  It gets crowded fast…
(619) 238-5460
1521 30th St, San Diego, CA
http://hamiltonstavern.com/

Next stop The Linkery on 30th just south of University Avenue.  The Linkery boasts artisan sausages, made on premise, and a terrific menu of farm to table selections that showcase the strength of the Slow Food movement in San Diego.  Fresh **Local** produce and pasture-raised meats are featured along with 10 tap handles and a cask engine. The Linkery has a highly innovative menu and the staff here tends to know their stuff when it comes to beer.
(619) 255-8778
3794 30th St
http://thelinkery.com/blog

Walk about 5 blocks north on 30th  (past University Ave) and you will find the infamous Toronado San Diego (left or west side of street) , the sister location to the original in San Francisco.  There are more than 50 taps and several cask engines showcasing the Best of San Diego, the US and the world!.  You can find them all listed on the gynormous chalkboard hanging above.  If you can’t find a beer here that you like then you are in need of therapy <enough said>.  Don’t faint when you look at the epic bottle collection in the cooler.  Last time I was there we enjoyed a 2 year vertical of “Cable Car”; a very special American Wild Ale brewed by Lost Abbey for Toronado.
(619) 282-0456
4026 30th Street
http://www.toronadosd.com/iWeb/Site/Welcome.html

Cable Car

Cable Car Vertical

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across the street and up a block or so up from Toronado,  you will find Ritual Tavern , one of San Diego’s BEST farm-to-table restaurants, featuring old world, traditional cuisine with great beer pairings to compliment the food served.  Innovative and ethical; Ritual serves up great food. Ritual has 8 tap handles and a cask engine; plus bottle selections.  Prepare to have your socks knocked off at Ritual.  The food is as interesting as it is outstanding.  “Hop” back on the Deuce at the next stop north or back toward Toronado.
(619) 283-1618
4095 30th (& Polk)
http://ritualtavern.com/

Next stop Tiger! Tiger! Tavern – the latest brilliant venture by San Diego local favorites Lee and Jenniffer Chase along with Jeff Motch and Clea Hantman.  Located just off the now famous 30th Street Hot Deuce route at El Cajon Blvd, Tiger! Tiger! offers up a mighty selection of sustainable, seasonal small plates and sandwiches.   My fav is the Bánh mì (photo right) but I love the oysters as well!  There are about 30 tap handles on this custom built Direct Draw Draught System.  The selections include Belgian-styled beers.  Don’t be fooled by the pizza oven.  No pizza served here but they bake some terrific bread.  Save the pizza for the next and final stop on the Deuce; sister property Blind Lady Ale House.
(619) 255-2491
El Cajon Blvd (just east of 30th)
http://tigertigertavern.blogspot.com/

Last stop on the Hot Deuce loop is Blind Lady Alehouse (BLAH as the locals call it).  Exit the bus at the Adams Avenue stop on the corner of 30th.  DO NOT go inside the really scary bar on the corner unless you are missing most of your teeth and have a meth problem.  You’re going to stroll east on Adams Avenue for about 7 blocks where you will find BLAH on the left (north) side of the street.  By this time the walk will do you good if you have indulged in a beer at each stop thus far!  Blind Lady Alehouse is the original venture by Lee and Jenniffer Chase, Jeff Motch and Clea Hantman.  This group of friends turned their passion into a successful business that has made Draft magazine’s “America’s 100 Best Beer Bars” list.  Lee brought an impressive brewers resume to the table for the restaurant and Nano brewery (Automatic Brewing) as well as expansive knowledge of the craft beer industry in general.  All four owners are passionate about food ethics and chef Aaron La Monica serves up the finest in locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.  The thin crust pizza** selections are as tasty as they are creative and pair perfectly with the selection of 26 craft beers handles, a cask engine and a few bottled beer choices.  There are always vegan menu items at BLAH but fear not #Bacon lovers.  BLAH has pork products available! Order at the bar, grab your plates and utensils and find a seat.  This is the way it works so deal — the food is awesome and the beer superb!
Closed on Monday for Lunch
(619) 255-2491
3416 Adams Ave
http://www.blindladyalehouse.com
Do not order pizza here if your idea of great pizza is Papa John’s – You will not like it #justsayin

If you make it through all 6 of these locations you are A) Worthy of your SD Beer Card and B) A Craft Beer Consumption Rock Star.  Walk off a little more of your beer on the way back to 30th Street to catch the Hot Deuce back to the downtown area.  I sincerely hope you enjoy this adventure.  This beer geek is woefully proud of the San Diego Craft Beer Culture.
Stay tuned for Part Two of the series which focuses on the best places to sip good beers in Little Italy and the downtown area.  Part Three will highlight the other great Craft Beer spots San Diego County and last but not least, Part Four will offer up some top brewery picks.   These lists are based on my experience and opinions.  There are scads of other spots in SD that are also highly regarded so please do your own homework.  Please also check Hours of Operation.

Cheers —- TheArtofBeer

xoxo

Special thanks to @Goats_Udder for the crash html lesson!

Please Drink Responsibly

Map locations are not exact so pay attention to addresses listed above

The Hot Deuce Route Map