Ballast Point Spirits- $1 Billion Purchase Nets More Than SoCal-Style Beer

The recent One Billion Dollar purchase of Ballast Point Brewing may have been just a blip on your local new, but here in San Diego this was Big News. San Diegans were either puffed with pride over the price tag, or horrified at the prospect of a local favorite becoming watered down for the national tastes. Ballast Point’s Sextant Oatmeal Stout is the first beer that I liked- up until I tried a stout, I thought that I just didn’t like beer… it turns out that I don’t like hops.

IMG_9787Constellation Brands Inc. not only bought some choice brews, but included in this deal are the Ballast Point Spirits- four of which are available in cans… yow! Conveniently canned mixed drinks include Fugu Bloody Mary, Three Sheets Rum & Ginger, Three Sheets Rum & Cola, and Old Grove Gin & Tonic.

This could seriously alter my adult beverage drinking opportunities!

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Handy guys deserve a good drink.

We tried the Old Grove Gin & Tonic. Could a classic mixed drink work in convenient pre-packaging? Yes. We highly recommend it. Got a little Pre-Holiday home repair going on? This is a fine occasion to serve a drink to the guy who can take apart a Roomba while doing other home repair, too. Just not too much, at least until the vacuum is fixed.

 

SoNo Fest- Chili Tasting Meets School Fundraiser

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A lot of people trying a lot of chili… and will be sleeping with the windows open tonight, said one of our friends, ha.

And the Genius Award in the category of Fundraising goes to (drumroll)… The Originators of The SoNo Fest and Chili Cook Off Fundraiser for McKinley Elementary School in San Diego.

The South Park/North Park community has a gold mine here. You buy your little sampler pottery bowl for $20 and get to taste five chilis. Want more? Buy another five sample pass for $15 and reuse your bowl. Bring your bowls back from the previous year, too, if you like.

All of the tax deductible proceeds from this event go to benefit the Spanish, art, and music programs at McKinley Elementary… to the tune of over $50K last year.

IMG_9555I realized really quickly that the best strategy for tasting the best chili is the most simple- when my bowl is empty, I try the chili from the nearest booth. It is that simple- they are all are delicious!! One of my favorites was the Duck Confit, Lardon, Sausage and White Bean Chili from Café Madeleine for a non-traditional chili. I’m not the biggest chili fan… OH MY GOSH THIS WAS DELICIOUS!!

IMG_9557My overall favorite was a Pork Belly and Smoked Brisket from The Deck at Moonshine Flats. An unbelievable, savory, meaty, flavorful taste and overall the best chili I’ve ever had. So there. Eat your heart out, every other place. This is something that is served in Heaven, I am sure.

IMG_9558Another out of this word chili came from City Tacos, and may well have been completely unplanned. When they ran out of their Albondigas Chili, they substituted Carnitas. I am already a huge fan of carnitas, and this sample was pushed over the top when topped by chicharrones and tortilla chip strips. I KNOW, RIGHT??? CHICHARRONES!!!

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Finish that beer, there is more chili to taste!!

“Into the fun zone we go,” declared the ID checker we entered the Beer Garden. When one of our group (we’re looking at you, Johnnie!!) was holding up the Chili Sampling (Round 2!) with their unfinished beer, we decided to institute a new motto: Drink for Those Who Can’t… as in, if you can’t finish fast enough, we are now going to help finish it for you!

Music at both ends of the festival, student pottery available for purchase from the incredible gallery that is partly responsible for the SoNo Fest, unique vendors, and a handful of food trucks rounded out the sights for the day. Food trucks? I guess if you think you don’t like chili, you still will find some great eats here.

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Thorn Street Brewery, a festival sponsor
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Happy puppy, happy drinkers inside Thorn St. Brewery– nice people, too. If you two see this, hi!!
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Inside the San Diego Ceramics Connection, major sponsor and partly responsible for the SoNo Fest
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Buy my son some bow ties, Deedee, go ahead! Find these great ties online at ZBSavoy.com

More gratuitous chili photos:

 

San Diego Beer Week 2015 #8 Division 23

So, what do you do if you want a second career because you’d like to branch out from the world of construction and engineering? If you live in San Diego, you start a brewery and hire people who have worked with some of the best California craft beer houses, of course! We LOVED this place.

Kellen Smith, Allen Hampton, and Kevin Dougherty have the praise of their regulars, who proudly told us the backstory of Division 23 Brewing. Some of these brew-flies are practically employees said our bar guide, and bona fide employee Alicia. She knows these beers and walked me through the flight of six small tastes. To paraphrase good ol’ Bill, “They may be small, but they are mighty.” (holy cow, that was a LOT of beer!).

IMG_9207Morrisch Meister German Pilsner- if mass market American beers tasted good, this is how they would taste. It’s flavorful.

Barrel Aged Berlinerweisse- amazingly different. Sour. Tastes like an orange grove, no lie- the musty citrus smell. One guy described it like a Chardonnay.

Sour Superintendent Berlinerweisse- it’s the above beer, not barrel aged. And it’s just weird. Whatever happened in the barrel, that’s what put the finishing touch on this beer.

Night Shift Imperial Stout- smell this, it’s coffee. Taste it, heavy coffee. Really full and heavy. Really toasty and sweet.

Change Order Porter- drinking a porter after a stout is like Cabernet and merlot. Cab makes Merlot taste like water to me. Tasting The Husband’s IPA in between helped. I like it.

Bitter Foreman IPA with Fire Roasted Chiles- holy cow you can smell the pepper. Mamacita, this is gooood!!! No bite from the pepper, it’s all flavor and aroma. And it’s an IPA that I like! I know, right?!? 

The group that was schooling me about the brews.
The group that was schooling me about the brews.

Division 23 Brewing is at the top of our list to come back to where we can share beer talk and brew stories with devoted regulars and Alicia. What a great group of people brought together by quality drinks! They really have done it right, here.

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Shuffleboard, anyone?
Shuffleboard, anyone?
Check out these light fixtures, slick!
Check out these light fixtures, slick!
SDBW 2015 passport stamping
SDBW 2015 passport stamping. Had we known about this White Labs Tshirt scavenger hunt last week, we would have played, too. Boo.

San Diego Beer Week #7 Rough Draft Brewing

Tough day in this ol’ world of ours. And yes, I know that this is a gross understatement.

Having visited Paris and other parts of France (I was a French and Spanish teacher before staying home with my children), I spent a lot of time glued to the Twitter feeds and news channels today. Like the rest of the sane world, I am horrified.

I pulled myself away this evening to visit a new brewery tonight like I have been able to do every night for the past week. I enjoyed sitting with my husband at the bar in the tasting room of Rough Draft Brewing Company, drinking a stout while he enjoyed his IPA. The universe inside this brewery was normal, right down to me not liking his IPA at all, and me finding a stout that was full of flavor with very subtle hints of coffee and vanilla. All was well, all was normal.

Please join me and offer prayers and work for peace and answers for the world outside this little brewery in San Diego.

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Play Corn Hole with the brewing tanks in the tasting room at Rough Draft Brewing.
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Closing time is 9:00, people are finishing up their last call.
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A pint of Southern Triangle IPA, left and a 4 oz (more like 8 oz!) pour of the Stout Stout Baby, brewed with whole vanilla beans for a very subtile spice flavor.

San Diego Beer Week #6 Duck Foot Brewing Company

IMG_9184In Beer-amar Miramar, Duck Foot Brewing Company is tucked into a small strip mall amongst office buildings and warehouses. I bet the people who work in the offices nearby are oh, so happy to wait out an evening’s rush hour in Duck Foot’s tasting room playing with the assortment of games, beer in hand (Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots or Apples to Apples, anyone?). One of the most unique things about  the brewery is that the beers are gluten free. Yes, gluten free. One of Duck Foot’s co-founders with Celiac disease came up with a way of removing the gluten from beer. Got gluten issues? This is your place.

Duck Foot's head brewer Derek Wasak (right) and The Husband
Duck Foot’s head brewer Derek Wasak (right) and The Husband

Sitting next to The Husband, and ready to go home as soon as I stopped asking him questions, was Duck Foot’s head brewer, Derek Wasak. I asked Derek how he was able to make the Chocolate Hazelnut Porter a lighter stout. It had the nice chocolatey, malty, deep flavor of the stouts I have been tasting this week, but it wasn’t so big and heavy. He said that was the secret. Phooey. Who cares if he won’t answer, it was great!

Chocolate Hazelnut Stout and Double White IPA
Chocolate Hazelnut Stout and Double White IPA

I was surprised that I liked The Husband’s beers, his Double White IPA in particular wasn’t a stabby assault to my mouth. Derek explained why- for an IPA, the Double White is malty, and brewed with wheat giving it a more balanced flavor than our usual San Diego style IPAs.

IMG_9177We have several friends ready to come back here with us. The Husband has already said that he thinks this is his favorite spot we have visited. Duck Foot’s tasting room is large, with lots of stools and tables. Tonight a couple of scientists- grad students from UCSD and the Fleet Science Museum, were hanging out, a sign between them announcing they were there to answer your general science questions. How’s that for a great idea to make science approachable? A counter full of various games is available to share with old friends or new people you just met, and a food truck is often out front serving up snacks. Duck Foot Brewing is the place to sit and enjoy the beers and the people.

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San Diego Beer Week #5 New English Brewing Company

It was only a short time ago someone suggested that I try a pint of Ballast Point’s Sextant Oatmeal Stout (on nitro!). Beer? I was skeptical, to say the least. I’ve had sips of The Husband’s brews for nearly three decades, why would I want to try yet another sip of what I used to describe as carbonated soy sauce (the dark ones) or a bitter cross between pine needles and lemon peel (the San Diego IPAs)?

IMG_9164I tried it. Whammo! A stout fan is born.

Here I am, a few years later, and I find a second beer that I like as much as my favorite oatmeal stout- New English Brewing Company’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Brown Ale. Holy Cow and a Heeeeey Macarena we have another one! I know that coffee pairs well with malty, heavy, dark beers, but put it in a barrel that was once home to bourbon? What a great flavor combination.

IMG_9166Liquor can taste about as smooth as rocket fuel- you should always follow my father’s advice: “Don’t drink cheap booze.” Even a good scotch tastes like an old campfire to me. New English’s brown ale aged in old bourbon barrels gives the rich, full ale all the fabulous flavors of the liquor with none of the chest hair singeing fume-like punch in the throat quality of your Old Man’s drink.

IMG_9156To top it off, I didn’t hate The Husband’s IPA- the Humbly Legit West Coast Style IPA. This is a sure sign of the Apocalypse, you know. Look it up. I kid you not.

And I haven’t even mentioned their Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout. This is the same Zumbar, our ultra-favorite coffee shop, which you can walk to from the New English tasting room. I already know that brew is good- we just happened to be getting coffee at Zumbar one weekend morning when New English was offering tastes of this stout at the coffee shop. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

Pull up a barstool in the big main room with the taps, sit in the smaller room with squishy seats, but get down here to Sorrento Vally Road, kind of between La Jolla, Del Mar and Sorrento Valley. Eat something first, buy a bag of Doritos at the bar, or double check the website to see if a food truck will be at the brewery when you visit, but do visit.

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A great write up on New English Brewing Company can be found here, San Diego Magazine’s article “San Diego’s Best Brewery That You Never Heard Of: New English Brewing Co.