Oh yes, I know I’m quite late to the “Hey guys, it’s 2013!” party, but I’ve been busy most days and lazy on all the others. 2012 was a pretty decent year as far as most go (the Giants won another World Series and we survived an apocalypse) but I’m more excited for what 2013 has in store. In the last two weeks there’s already been a lot to get excited about. I brewed my first beer professionally last week (a black IPA with Zythos!) and have been slowly working my way more and more into daily brewery operations at work. It’s mostly cleaning floors and tanks so far, but it’s important work that needs to be done and is a good way to get myself acquainted with using commercial equipment. It’s not a whole lot different than homebrewing but different enough so that I’d probably have trouble running a brew day by myself, at least until i get the process down on this brewhouse.
As far as commercial beers go, it’s January and that means Barleywine season. You can read my little rundown of American Barleywines here if you’re unfamiliar or need a refresher. Actually released in late 2012, Drake’s Jolly Rodger is an absolutely fantastic version of the style and there’s still some floating around, although I’d only buy any from a good bottle shop that takes care of their beer. I would highly recommend getting a bottle or two. It’s seriously the only Barleywine I’ve had to date that is a pleasure to drink fresh. Also arriving this month are Sierra’s Bigfoot (along with a barrel-aged version!), Stone’s Old Guardian, a barrel-aged Old Numbskull from Alesmith, and 21st Amendment’s Lower DeBoom, one of my favorites and a mainstay during Strong Beer Month in February. Magnolia should have Old Thunderpussy going as well during those festivities.
21st Amendment’s Sneak Attack Saison and always-impeccable box art
21st Amendment also released Sneak Attack Saison this winter, a beer brewed with cardamom pods, which I know absolutely nothing about. I do, however, find it to be an absolutely fantastic beer and while I’m upset that there won’t be any Monk’s Blood this year in cans, Sneak Attack Saison is a pretty damn good replacement. The cardamom imparts an almost lavender-esque flavor and aroma and the beer is (gasp!) properly bitter for a Saison. Great yeast character and a peppery sensation on the back of your palate. I just wish it wasn’t so cold right now, because this would be a killer beer for the spring and summer.
On the homebrew front, I just bottled a Belgian Black Ale and I’m anxiously awaiting how carbonation will change its flavor profile. I have a saison in the pipeline that unfortunately fermented a little too cold (but last year’s brew of the same beer did to, so at least I’ve got some consistency there). It recently got a liter of juice from 5lbs of satsumas, 2lbs of Cara-Caras, and 2.5lbs of blood oranges and is fermenting that juice out as I type. The Spalt hops that went into that beer have manifested as an awesome floral aroma which should be absolutely insane with the fruit. I’m not sure what’s up next at the moment though. I’ve got a hankering for something strong, dark & malty but I also want to throw together an IPA and actually brew the mango habanero tripel that I’ve been mentally obsessing over. The weather, my mood, and the speed at which i can get the Satsuma Saison out of the fermentor will decide where I land.
Centennial hop pellets ready for the boil
Wow, four paragraphs on what’s already gone down this year and I haven’t even begun to look to February and beyond. The aforementioned Strong Beer Month arrives in two weeks, so most of my dollars in February will be spent at Magnolia and 21st Amendment in a quest to get this year’s glassware (because I’m a sucker like that). A week later, SF Beer Week 2013 kicks into gear. I’m super excited to be going to the opening gala and pouring for Beltane and I hope to see a bunch of you guys there. We’ve got a great event on Valentine’s Day at the brewery, pouring a very limited Belgian-style Dubbel with Cocoa nibs and raspberries and a Saison with raspberries as well. I’ve sampled these beers out of the tank and they’re going to be insane. Speaking of Chocolate beer, Almanac has one and it’s awesome and coming to bottles like, now. February will also see the release of three of their barrel-aged beers: a Belgian Dark Strong/RIS blend out of whiskey barrels, a wine-barrel aged plum/grape sour, and a pumpkin/persimmon sour. I want a case of each.
Wow, I haven’t even broken into March yet. Well, the rest of the year is shrouded in mystery so I guess we’re okay there. I’m really, really looking forward to seeing a few breweries open their doors. Most of all, Jay at Pine Street finally has his ABC license and I’m dying to see that beer on draft in the city. JJ at Petaluma Hills is also making great progress on his brewery and I can’t wait to see him come online and be completely open this year. Rodger Davis, formerly of Triple Rock and Drake’s fame, should have his Alameda brewery (Faction) open this year as well and I’m itching to see what he pumps out. In San Diego, [Mike] Hess Brewing is opening a second facility and it looks like that should be up and running in a matter of months, if even that. Bottlecraft also has a second store opening up in the same area (North Park) and I’m really looking forward to trying more of the new crop of San Diego breweries this year. Rough Draft, New English, and Rip Current are all on my short list.
Beltane Brewing’s Sable Black IPA
As for me, I’ll be at Beltane shooting some awesome beer out of the brewery. Aside from the Black IPA I brewed we’ve got a Nelson Sauvin DIPA that’s just finishing up fermentation and awaiting a round of dry-hopping, a Belgian Dark Strong conditioning, and a Belgian Golden Strong being brewed today. After Beer Week we should have some cool stuff coming in the pipeline so if you enjoy our beer during the week, get ready for what’s to come. I’ll also be homebrewing some fun beer and updates will be here as per usual. I’m looking forward to see you guys at the SFBW Opening Gala, at the Beltane tasting room, or just around the Bay. Here’s to 2013 being awesome. かんぱい！