stuff and things

27 July 2010

Fourth Annual Stone Sour Fest, 2010

I think of myself as the Black Hole of Hip. With a couple of notable exceptions, I've always been pretty far behind every trend. Chances are good you can name a current cultural movement or sub-culture and I'll be stumbling upon it, wide-eyed, in the next five years or so. And so it has been with the Craft Beer movement.

Sure, I gave Andy, my spousal unit, a beer-brewing kit fifteen years ago. But that belongs in another blog entry: the Dismal List of Failed Presents post.

In a tiny stab at defining Craft Beer (and I'm already out of my element), I believe that beer crafters -- whether hobbyists or commercial breweries -- take an artisanal approach to beer making. They research styles from far and near, past and present, and concoct mixtures with a wide range of of hops and grain varieties. Most (and notably the Americans) are not afraid to experiment. When I quaffed my first craft-brewed IPA, or India Pale Ale, I found heaven in a glass. Full of green, hoppy flavors, and very refreshing, it was a beer I could hardly wait to tell my friends about. They were kind, to say the least. No one yawned or said, "What else is new?" or "What planet have you been on?"

Roughly two weeks after my first IPA, we met Brett and Suzy, our beer friends. Sure, we have plenty more in common than beer; Suzy does yoga with me, we sew together, hope to paint together, and Brett and Suzy are incredibly knowledgeable about food.
 Suzy and Brett enjoy the Stone Sour Beer Fest
When Andy's not writing computer books, he delves into what I can only call Extreme Cooking. (You can visit his blog: Vegetarians, be forewarned. Perhaps even non-vegetarians should be forewarned.) Well, whenever Brett and Andy get together, they fire off tips about rare and exotic fruits, sausage making, and anything to do with time-consuming, delicious cookery. And pork.

With me, Brett's claim to fame is that he brews his own beer. And, he's a certified beer judge. So imagine the patience he mustered when, not even a year ago, I raved about my first IPA. A few months after that, they invited us to a beer festival, part of San Diego's Beer Week, held at the opulent Qualcomm, Inc. There, you could taste a slice of hand-raised pork that was nourished on the spent hops that had gone into the beer they served with it. Here was a sub-culture that had been going on for years ... that I knew nothing about! Beer Week was an eye-opener, to be sure.

When Brett and Suzy invited us to the Fourth Annual Sour Beer festival up at Stone Brewing Co., we didn't hesitate. The event was nicely spread out over the lush, one-acre beer garden; well-spaced beer stations poured tastes of various drafts or bottles. Located in sweltering Escondido, Stone made sure to provide plenty of chilled water stations so patrons could beat the heat and pace themselves. The event ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but rumor had it that attendees had started lining up at the entrance as early as 8 a.m. Speaking of lines, everyone waiting for their next pour seemed so nice. Often people would offer a taste of their glass; I gave a few tastes myself. Casually dressed and extremely knowledgeable, the crowd was there to have a nice, mellow time.
Andy enjoys Sour Beers at lovely Stone Brewing Co.
Overall, I found I enjoyed the more intermediate-level sour beers, but didn't care for the super-sours styles like Gueuze (think, aspirin held in the mouth too long); or the super-fruitys like the Raspberry Lambic that tasted like flat pop.

I'm sure the Beer World is waiting with baited (beer?) breath for my favorites: I liked the Bockor Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge; the Deschutes Bender Weiss; the Grand Teton Sourgrass; the Rodenbach Grand Cru; the New Belgium Tart Lychee and their La Folie; -- and then I stopped writing them down. A $40 admission ticket bought 15 tastes; about a quarter-pint each. Many of these brews will be hard to find; you won't come across them at the local Von's.

Quite a few of the taps had run dry by the time we arrived at 1:30 p.m., including everything from The Lost Abbey, a local brewery. Here's a factoid for you: San Diego County holds the distinction for being the USA's center of the Craft Beer movement. That's about right for me: a trend I never suspected, and right in my own back yard.


Sue said...

That day sounded like it was fun. Andy looks like he enjoyed himself! ;-) Too bad you didn't get to taste more of the year?

tina said...

Hi Sue!

Actually, I came pretty close to my full 15 servings. One of my tastes took two tabs and I gave away a couple of tastes towards the end of our day to other members in our party ... so overall I probably tasted about 11 different sour beers. Those mentioned in my post were just the few I marked down on my sheet! :)

kwiltnkats said...

I enjoyed your post. Stone Brewery is a wonderful place. We've been there often, but never to a beer tasting. We enjoyed the trend tremendously and still partake in the local craft brewery establishments around town. We'll have to keep our eyes and ears open for another event such as this one in the future.

tina said...

Sandi dear,
The Stone Brewery is about to celebrate their 14th anniversary; head to their web site to learn more. Apparently it's quite the event!