Ladies, Gentlemen and Beings of Inconceivable Horror, welcome to yet another guest edition of the Beer Barrel without Make It Snow. I am Low Commander of the Super Soldiers and much like Mattingly’s sideburns, you just can’t get rid of me. But fear not, for I have an extra special edition of the Barrel this week, as I joined 3 friends this past weekend on our annual tradition of attending the San Diego International Beer Festival at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for the 4th year in a row. Of all of the beer festivals in the area, this one continues to not only be the largest and have the biggest selection, but also is just the best overall deal. For $60, you get a full 4 hours to drink as much of the over 300 different beers available, as well as admission to the fair itself. Because we are classy folk, we attended the session starting Saturday morning at 11am, leaving us free to stumble around for the remainder of the day.
For those that have never been to something like this before, you are provided a small glass to wander and the tenders are supposed to give a 1 oz pour, but it’s usually more, especially if you ask. There being no limitations like tickets, you are able to go back and fill as much as you’d like. Here, there are at least 2 beers from every participating brewery. The ones that do not get their own booth have volunteers pouring the beer, and unfortunately, generally know nothing about their wares. For those that spring for the booth, you can typically talk with a brewer, get free merch and have a much wider selection available to you.
Every year before we start, the group and I always pledge to try the lighter beers early on before getting to the heavy ones in order to actually be able to taste them. This… never happens. 2 years ago we somehow ended up at Green Flash’s booth first thing, with me sampling their Road Warrior Imperial Rye IPA.
What follows are my notes from the event, mostly on the beers that stood out to me for one reason or another. I’ll try to elaborate on some, while keeping my original notes (mostly) intact.
Mischief Belgian Golden Ale from The Bruery (Anaheim, CA) – First one and have to go with an old staple. Sweet Belgiany goodness, and hey, it’s light! So far so good. The rest of The Bruery’s offerings here were sours, which aren’t my thing. Moving on.
Beer Geek Breakfast Stout from Mikkeller (San Diego, CA) – Beer #3. So much for staying lite, but when a good thing is right there in front of you… I’ve wanted to try something from Mikkeller for a while and while this smelled great, the taste was a little underwhelming. Thankfully, right next door was…
Cash Imperial Coffee Stout by Mason Ale Works (Oceanside, CA) – I’ve had this before and it’s wonderful. Sitting at a clean 10%, this is the kind of roasty, bitter and sweet coffee combo that I was looking for.
Hoperation Overlord Imperial Oatmeal IPA by Little Miss Brewing (San Diego, CA) – Beer #8; a new ‘fest record before reaching an IPA! At 9.4%, you don’t even taste it. You get the upfront hop hit like a usual IPA that then just folds into itself and leaves a smooth oatmeal finish, almost like a stout but without all of the usual sweet or bitterness. First new beer I’d tried that I would definitely recommend.
That Guava Beer by Legacy Brewing (Oceanside, CA) – I was extremely hesitant to try anything from Legacy again, as I had been to their tasting room twice and left extremely disappointed both times with their beer, despite desperately wanting to like the place for its very cool Colonial-tavern feel. This beer though, was really good! Almost creamy like avocado and citrus but dry. I would’ve never said it had Guava in it if it wasn’t part of it’s name. I’m not sure if I’d get a six pack of it, but I am finally ready to give them another try. Side note: One of my friends said this beer’s smell had notes of “cat… no, wait, hamster pee,” which was oddly specific. I couldn’t tell you that I got anything close to that, but she worked in a pet store for a while so I’m just going to trust her. Despite that she seemed to like the beer. For this, I’m willing to give Legacy my completely useless:
Covington Cream Ale from North Park Brewing (San Diego, CA) – Not much taste up front but great aftertaste. Reminded me a lot of Mother Earth’s Cali Creamin’ but without so much of the sweetness.
Bossa Haze Double IPA by Novo Brazil (Chula Vista, CA) – The “Haze Craze” was only somewhat noticeable at the festival this year, as opposed to just walking into almost any every brewery in the area. While appearing to be somewhat of a gimmick around here at first, the Northeastern Style Hazy IPA has proven to me that it does have a place along side its West Coast brother in San Diego and beyond. I had actually heard quite a bit about this beer before coming in and was looking forward to it. Maybe that’s why I was so disappointed with it. I give it a solid:
RYE Dawn IPA by Breakwater Brewing Co (Oceanside, CA) – My only note here was “Well balanced,” so it clearly wasn’t that special. What was memorable and worthy of eternal written shame was my friend’s statement after drinking it: “I’m on a rye kick. It’s i-rye-nic.”
Funkin’ Juicy Double IPA from Indian Joe’s Brewing (Vista, CA) – This is a PALATE WRECKER, which for a hazy IPA is kind of a tough thing to do. Super juicy, hazy as all hell, yes. This is what I was looking for in the Bossa Haze. Welcome back, Indian Joe’s!
2016 Stygian Descent Barrel Aged Black IPA by Stone Brewing (Escondido, CA) – Stone might just be my favorite brewery, and when I saw that they were pouring a Black IPA, which is one of my favorite styles, I got pretty excited. However, this just missed the mark. Far too sweet and that’s all I got. Maybe if it got the chance to warm up, I could taste more. Of course, I didn’t realize until actually writing this that it was bottle aged from last year, which totally explains it.
Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Ale from 21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco, CA) – I usually hate fruit beers, which is why I’ve walked by this in the store pretty much every week without a second look. This was done so right though. Perfectly balanced, really crushable. It’s a strong watermelon taste, but not overpoweringly sweet. I would bring this to the beach any day and would definitely recommend this to my Commentist friends afraid of bitter hops. Wait, didn’t Snow review this one? …Uh, not really!
Sage Against the Machine Saison from Arcana Brewing Company (Carlsbad, CA) – A saison I like?!?! This is the second one that I’ve had in two days to not have a hint of that trademark dish soap taste that has made me practically remove this style from my world. That terribleness is replaced by a crisp hit of sage, and I really liked it. Also, they win my completely useless:
Fix It and Fugheddabouditt Double IPA by Nickel Brewing (Julian, CA) – Nickle Brewing has made some really great things, including their Devil’s Copper Rye Ale, which aptly won bronze at the event earlier in the day. There was something wrong with this one though, as it tasted like there was mold in the line or keg or something and it was just awful. I just included it because I’m pretty sure it was named by our own Yeah Right.
Rungnir Belgian Dark Strong Ale by Barrel Harbor Brewing (Vista, CA) – BH is a local favorite of mine and I was very pleased to see this bad boy win Gold at the ‘fest earlier in the day. Roasty plum and not very sweet with a kick of hops, making it unique from most other Belgian Strong’s that I’ve had. I can definitely see why it won.
Mayan Tripel from Border X (San Diego, CA) – What the hell? Tripel?! It tastes like you’re drinking straight up french vanilla ice cream soup. My exact notes were “Vanilla as FUCK!” Put this over a scoop of chocolate and make a float! Despite how weird it seems, it was really good, and at 9% it’ll put you on your face in a hurry. Holy shit, no one tell Brad Childress about this beer!
Fortrm Unfiltered Double IPA from Resident Brewing (San Diego, CA) – This reminds me strongly of Stone’s Enjoy By Unfiltered DIPA, but a little sweeter. Anything that draws a comparison to one of my favorite beers gets a hearty recommendation from me.
Plenty For All Pilsner by Fall Brewing (San Diego, CA) – If you partake in a certain almost legal medical/recreational herb, you would love this beer. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been drinking for nearly 4 hours, but this tasted like taking a hit of something really clean and fresh. I got seconds, (allegedly).
Delirium Red from Brouwerij Huyghe (Belgium): The international selection definitely took a hit compared to years past, and there wasn’t much available that stood out to me. Delirium is a big name though (I guess in the same way Bud is big here), and I wanted to give this different style a try. It looks like a bubbly melted cherry Jolly Rancher, and that’s exactly what it tasted like. I’m glad I didn’t have to spend $15 to find that out.
The Big Meat Doppelbock by Enegren Brewing (Moorpark, CA) – “Baccccconnnnn” I have never had a great Doppelbock before, which is kind of surprising considering that I generally love smokey beers. This was incredible. The smoke wasn’t overpowering and it wasn’t very sweet, like a lot of others that try to pair that bacon taste with maple. Makes sense that it won a silver in the “Smoked Beer” category earlier in the day.
Low Commander of the Super Soldiers is an ALL OF THE BEER and drank everything you see above, plus at least 40 others. The final note that he made and has no recollection of was “Who are you? Im drunnnk.” He quickly found fair food following the Beerfest. but only lasted another hour or so before going home and taking a nap. It took 48 hours for him to even want to look at a beer again, which is a good thing. Make It Snow is expected to be back next week to take back Barrel duties, allowing Low Commander to resume his usual amateur drinking schedule.
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