Karl Strauss Brewing- San Diego- BBC14

While the panels and speakers at the Beer Bloggers Conference in San Diego were very informative, it was really nice to get out and speak to some people from local breweries.

On Friday evening, we headed to Karl Strauss Brewery for some beer, tacos, and good conversation.

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Beers on draft included the tower 10 IPA, Big Barrel IPA, Wreck Alley Imperial Stout, and my favorite, the Red Trolley Ale. The outdoor beer garden was nicely set up with strings of lightbulbs illuminating the sandy ground. I also thought it was great that there were games and things to play with scattered around. A box of dominoes and cards held court on one table, ladder golf was set up in a corner, and inside the brewery next to shelves of barrel-aged beers was the Karl Strauss cornhole set. The presence of the games as well as the communal picnic tables outside gave a friendly, party atmosphere.

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After we filled up on tacos and beer, Chris Cramer, the CEO of Karl Strauss, came up to the front to speak. His talk was incredibly entertaining and also insightful. Contrasting solid facts with witty anecdotes really worked for the crowd. Although it did start to get loud towards the end of the speech, Chris did hold the crowd’s attention well.

What I thought was most interesting was the legacy of the man who was Karl Strauss, Chris’s relative that he lovingly referred to as “Uncle Karl”. Strauss was born and raised in Germany and studied brewing at the technical university of Munich-Weihenstephan, where he earned a degree in malting and brewing science and a Master Brewer certification. He moved to the US in the 1930s, where he settled in Wisconsin and got a job at Pabst and steadily moved up the ranks. He actually was a part of the team that reformulated the recipe for Pabst Blue Ribbon. Karl worked as Vice President of Production until his retirement after 44 years with the company.

 

Chris Cramer was inspired to bring good beer to San Diego through his travels. He tried Real Ale while in Europe, and at a brewpub in Australia, he saw the small production and how good the beer was and thought it could be feasible to take back to America. At a family event, he told ‘Uncle Karl’ about his idea, and Karl was delighted to pass on the brewing knowledge he has gained over his lifetime.

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The story of Karl Strauss was a feel-good one, since it stemmed from family and hard work. Karl taught Chris and his partner, Matt Rattner, the quality control he had learned from his days at Pabst. The beer was held to a higher standard, with the independence and unique brewing recipes of a small batch, with the diligent quality control of a commercial brewery.

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Karl Strauss Brewery opened in 1989, and celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

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Grey Sail Brewery: Westerly’s Craft Beer Anchor

Last weekend I toured Grey Sail Brewery of Westerly, RI.

Jen Brinton and her husband Alan are the owners of the brewery, and took on Josh LeTourneau as their head brewer shortly after purchasing the building. The brick building itself is historic- it used to house the Westerly Macaroni Manufacturing Company and was built in the late 1920s. Jen and Alan jumped on the purchase of it in 2010 when it was up for sale, after a massive flood took over Westerly. Grey Sail Brewery officially opened on 11/11/11. This year marks their two-year anniversary.

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One of the things I like best about this brewery is that all of their beers, except for special, limited releases, come in cans. Jen said that cans are more environmentally friendly, but that wasn’t the main reason they chose to distribute their beer in cans. Canned beer celebrates the Ocean State, by making beer easy to bring on boats and the beach. Beer in cans has gotten huge, which I noticed a lot this summer, but to have beer exclusively in cans is still pretty unique.

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I tasted the last of the summer seasonal, Hazy Day, a Belgian wit, as well as the new seasonal, Autumn Winds, a tasty Oktoberfest-style marzen. I also had their Leaning Chimney Porter, which is named for a leaning chimney inside of the brewery. Grey Sail occasionally brews special offerings, which are only brewed once, regardless of how delicious they may be (The Stargazer Imperial Stout won first place in the Strong Beer- Russian Imperial Stout category at the Great International Beer Festival).

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The two all-year beers include the Flagship cream ale and the Flying Jenny Pale ale, which is named for the Genova sail on a boat, with a spelling change that pays homage to the brewery owner.

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The brewery faced some legal trouble regarding their name, after receiving complaints from Oregon’s Full Sail Brewery. However, after much persistence, the case was settled and both breweries continue to exist. The name Grey Sail captures the spirit of the Ocean State, and it’s great that they were able to keep it that way.

Their beers are easily found throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island of course, and are expected to spread out through other states around the country soon.

LocalBrew: Shebeen Brewing

The 4th of July holiday gave me an extra day off, so I got the chance to check out Shebeen Brewing in Wolcott, CT.

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The brewery opened earlier this year. Pronounced “shuh-been“, The brewery’s name comes from the Irish word “sibin” which means “an unlicensed establishment or private house selling alcoholic liquor“. Basically, the term for local brewhouses. Shebeen has already created a variety of interesting brews. I tasted the Irish Pale, Royal IPA, Pineapple Wheat, Cannoli Beer, and Rye Porter. I was hoping to try the Bacon Kona Stout and the Concord Grape Saison, but they did not have any kegs available. I definitely plan on returning when they brew more of those two!

The Irish Pale, at around 3% alcohol, is a perfect session beer. Light, slightly sweet, a great beer for all-day consumption.

The Royal IPA was excellent as well. I tasted it both at the brewery and at a local bar, the Pourhouse Tavern, which is one of a handful of bars starting to carry brews on tap from Shebeen.

The Rye Porter is lighter and has many qualities of a brown ale, with more of a toasty flavor.

The Pineapple Wheat was surprising. The tropical flavor was not overwhelming, and the pineapple taste was strongest on the finish.

I love that they take classic styles and put an interesting spin on them. My favorite that I tasted was the cannoli beer. Sweet and spicy, I tasted vanilla and cinnamon. An awesome sweet beer, and a perfect alternative to the sweet stouts I enjoy so much. I also loved the presentation on this one- the glass was rimmed in powdered sugar and the fluffy, cream-colored head was sprinkled with cocoa dust.

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If the numerous beers already brewed aren’t enough of an indication, the size of the brewery shows that there is a lot of room for growth. During the tour, the head brewer explained that he purposely got a larger space (2,500 square feet!) that they could expand into quickly, without running out of room.

The brewery has tasting hours Wednesday through Sunday, which vary by the day and can be checked out on their website here.