Sunday, April 17th:
Finally the day arrived for Oakquinox- the barrel aged beer festival put on by Stone! We also took a detour to a few other places on the last full day in San Diego.
Upon entering Stone Brewery we were given the tasting glass and two wristbands for an equivalent of 15 tastes, some of the beers required more than 1 little tab, but there were so many single tab options that I didn’t even bother going for those. Stone had it laid out very well, there were 4 different areas (A,B,C & D) that had different beers and an area set up to purchase food (the prices were outrageous, $5 for a bag of chips?! but the chips were good, guess that makes me a sucker). One of the areas only had beer available in bottles and the other three were draft stations. I started out with a beer from the bottle line, but very quickly this line ended up wrapping half way around Stone’s outdoor area, so I went for the draft beers. I started with a barleywine (surprise there!) …
Midnight Sun Arctic Devil Barley Wine 2010
10 AM barleywines never do me wrong (minus that I didn’t take pictures of all the beers, hah!) and this was no exception. The aroma was caramel-y and a bit spicy, the same notes are very apparent in the taste as well. This bad boy sits heavy at 13.2% ABV (jesus!) and you could definitely taste the booze. It won best barleywine in Alaska in 2010, not sure that says too much though.
The Bruery / Cigar City Brewing Márron Acidifié
Besides the Ladyface beers, this was my next favorite beer at the event. Marron Acidifie is a collaboration between The Bruery and Cigar City (oh really?). It is a Flanders Oud Bruin style beer that is 8.5% ABV. It had the aroma and flavors of dark fruits balanced with a great sour taste. It didn’t make your lips pucker, but you definitely got the sour profile. Great beer for people who don’t really like sours but want to try it out! (looking at you- Teri!)
Ladyface Cabernet Blue-Belly Barleywine
This was, by far and away, my favorite beer of the whole day. It was like a magical combination of my two favorite styles (of the moment), sours and barleywine. This 10.5% ABV (!!) beer was boozy and tart, heavy and light at the same time. A note from the Ladyface website about the barrel aging process they used: “This version of our barleywine has been barrel-fermented with Westmalle yeast, providing fresh bread characteristics and then left to age in its Justin Isosceles Cabernet Sauvignon barrel, which lends complex oak and subtle wine notes.”
I wish that this were available in bottles, or any of the Ladyface beers I tried for that matter, because I would have bought a case (at least). Wherever Agoura Hills, California is, I want to be there to get more Ladyface!
Ladyface Syrah Barrel La Trappistine with Brettanomyces
Clearly, just looking at the name (Brettanomyces), this beer would be a bit funky. It is considered an American Wild Ale (a sour) but weighs in at 9.5% ABV. Wow. A bit of spice from the Syrah barrels but funky and tart from the yeast
Ladyface Chardonnay Oude Blonde
This beer is a version of their La Blonde Ale that has been aged in Chardonnay barrels. It was tart but bready at the same time. It was also a very light beer in comparison to their other offerings, I don’t know the ABV of the barrel aged version, but the regular La Blonde is only 5.3%. I liked this, but not near as much as I like the other two Ladyface beers.
Shmaltz He’Brew Vertical Jewbilation
I have never had any Shmaltz (He’Brew) brews before so I was interested to see what this would be like. John and I were both looking up beers on our phones while going through the list (if we were better prepared we would have done this ahead of time) to decide what we wanted to use our precious tabs on.
This beer had been aged in rye whiskey barrels and you definitely got the flavor of the booze, it is considered an American Strong Ale and has a 10.5% ABV. The flavor in this beer was just huge, a bit sweet like caramel and dark fruits and boozy from the whiskey barrels. I really enjoyed this beer! Now to get some of that Shmaltz in Houston!
Russian River Consecration
I chose this because I had never had it on draft, and I was on a sour kick. It is another American Wild Ale and has a big ABV at 10%.Very tart and the alcohol is definitely masked from the yeast and sour cherry-like flavors. Not my favorite of the Russian River sours, but no doubt it was a sour.
on the pictures: I lost my Oakquinox sheet that I used to number the beers (and thus, the pictures) so until that is found these beers are all anonymous. I do know the first one is the Arctic Devil and the last one in the Russian River! Ha!
Lost Abbey/Port Brewing
Since Lost Abbey & Port Brewing are right down the road, clearly we had to take a break from Oakquinox (it went on all day) to go check out a few other places on our last full day in San Diego. This brewery was in the same style as AleSmith, tucked away in a small industrial park. There was a huge bar for tasting and behind it was a cooler full of beers to take with you and some that could only be enjoyed on site. I started with the Carnevale Ale mainly because it is a light Saison style beer and I had been drinking monsters of beers at Oakquinox and needed a bit of a break.
Lost Abbey Carnevale Ale
I’ve never had this beer in a bottle, but on draft it was quite refreshing. A 6.5% Saison with a citrus aroma and taste, definitely a nice break from barrel aged barleywines and such.
Lost Abbey Judgment Day Abbey Quad
Apparently my “go with some lighter beers” strategy didn’t last long… up next was the Quadrupel weighing in at 10.5%. It had a great dark fruit (figs, raisins, etc) flavor and for the high ABV didn’t really have that boozy burn you sometimes get.
We chatted with the guy behind the bar about how cool it is to us Texans that they can sell the beer to-go at the brewery, as well as have the tastings (this came up quite a bit, if you haven’t noticed) and then decided lunch was the next stop.
Churchill’s Pub & Grille
On the recommendation of our friend, Jay, we ate lunch at a little unassuming place in between Lost Abbey/Port and our next stop, Iron Fist, called Churchill’s Pub & Grille. They had about 40 or 50 unmarked taps (props to the bartenders who remember them, though I’m sure there was a cheat sheet somewhere!) and a bottle selection that we didn’t even look at. I’m pretty sure we had an appetizer but the burger we ordered for lunch was the important part. The Parliament burger: truffle cheese, Kobe beef, pancetta, and crispy shallots. IT WAS SO GOOD. I think the only thing that could have made it better would have been a fried egg, but then again I will eat a fried egg on anything.I asked the bartender what he had on tap that was sour and he brought me the Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge. Then a regular, the bartender and myself argued about who was the more dejected baseball fan (I don’t even really like baseball, but shit talking is so much fun) since the Padres were playing the Astros that day. I won, duh.
Brouwerij Bockor N. V. Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge
This Flanders Red Ale, at 5.5% ABV, definitely fit the bill of “sour”. The aroma was sweet and funky as was the taste. I would have liked a smaller pour (what?!) since it was so tart but a great example of the style.
Coronado Brewing Company Ingrid’s 1 in 8
We had one more beer before heading to Iron Fist and sadly, I don’t remember much about this beer and cannot seem to find any information on it at Beer Advocate or Coronado’s website. Woops! According to some other sources (ratebeer) it is a 6.8% ABV Amber Ale. While a cool San Diego Craft Beer Blog, the West Coaster, states that it is a Belgian Amber Ale brewed with cocoa nibs and ginger (among other things) and happens to be a collaboration between Coronado and Ballast Point. “It was inspired by Ingrid Qua, owner of the High Dive, and all the women in the world fighting for a cure for breast cancer”. Nothing better than drinking a beer for a good cause!
Iron Fist Brewing
We arrived at yet another brewery, Iron Fist, that was hidden away in an industrial park and decided to get a sampler of some of their beers.We went with the Velvet Glove, Dubbel Fisted, Golden Age & Hired Hand. Iron Fist has done a great job on their website, as far as having the information on their beers in one place.
Iron Fist Hired Hand
Considered a saison that they brew year-round, it was crisp, sweet from the malts, definitely some citrus flavors in there was well. At 6.5% it was very drinkable, a good hot-day beer.
Iron Fist Golden Age
This is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale weighing in at 9.5% ABV. This was apparently unmemorable for me.
Iron Fist Dubbel Fisted
This we bought a bottle of to take back home (everyone loves a dirty joke), but I liked this beer better than the others so far. A Dubbel that is 8.1% ABV and very flavorful with caramel and chocolate notes as well as dark fruits. (I may be cheating since I’ve had the bottle since we’ve been back in Texas! haha)
Iron Fest Velvet Glove
To finish off the tasting at Iron Fist, we ended with the Velvet Glove, their oatmeal stout at 9% ABV. The aroma and taste were filled with chocolate, vanilla and coffee, the usual suspects in an oatmeal stout, and this was no exception. I really enjoyed this beer and liked how the coffee flavor didn’t leave too much bitterness in the aftertaste.
Pizza Port- Carlsbad
For dinner and another beer we decided to take the short drive back to the coast to visit Pizza Port. I had never been and wanted to see what everyone was talking about! We ordered our beer, then a Carlsbad pizza (pesto, mesquite grilled chicken, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, & feta) and grabbed a picnic table near the door. I started with a Scotch Ale made by Pizza Port for the Carlsbad location and John had a Black Strong Pale Ale called Tarantulas 2.0 also made by Pizza Port. He absolutely loved this beer! I am not familiar with the style, if it even is a style (BA says American Black Ale), but its definitely not my first choice style of beer.
Pizza Port Reed’s Wee Heavy Scotch Ale
A 9.2% ABV heavy beer to wash down my delicious pizza was probably not my best choice, but it sure was good. It was sweet like dark fruit and had a major malt profile, you’d barely think they used hops at all (which is fine with me!) and of course you got that warm fuzzy feeling from the ABV being pretty high.
Breakwater Brewing Company
On the way back to the hotel in Escondida we just so happened to drive by a place that said brewery, so naturally we stopped. Breakwater Brewing is right off of “the 101″ (silly California people putting ‘the’ in front of all your highways) and is a small place with a big beer list. We chatted with the bartender and found out the brewer used to work at Stone (they sure have a high brewer turnover rate) and now has his own little brewery/restaurant in Oceanside. I was surprised while looking at the list that there was a sour on their regular offerings, so I had to have it.
Since Beer Advocate doesn’t have it listed, the following is from Breakwater’s Website: “A barrel-aged lambic-style Belgian sour ale; dry, tart and fruity, brewed with a dash of locally grown passion fruit”. At 6.1% ABV this was a great sour, tart and fruity almost makes your mouth pucker! I also think it is really cool that they are incorporating local ingredients, like the passion fruit, into their beers.
Well, that’s the end, sadface. After Breakwater we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before our flight back to Texas Monday morning. San Diego was awesome and I cannot wait to return and hit all the other breweries and bars we missed the first time around. It was awesome to see another craft beer culture that is already well-established in contrast to Houston where the craft beer culture is just now burgeoning! I’m super grateful to John for driving (I hate driving and especially in a different place than Houston) and for being the most excellent tour guide! Oh, and for putting up with my incessant need to see the pandas!