What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

Saturday, 10 November 2012 16:48

Beer North Coast

Humboldt County

McKinleyville

Six Rivers Brewery

www.sixriversbrewery.com

Blondie's Food and Drink

http://www.blondiesfoodanddrink.com/

Arcata

Humboldt Brews

http://www.humboldtbrews.com/

Redwood Curtain Brewing Company

http://www.redwoodcurtainbrewing.com

Eureka

Eureka Burger

http://www.eurekaburger.com/

Lost Coast Brewery & Cafe

http://www.lostcoast.com/

Fortuna

Eel River Brewing Company

http://eelriverbrewing.com/

 

Mendocino County

Fort Bragg

North Coast Brewing Company

http://www.northcoastbrewing.com/

Piaci Pub & Pizzeria

http://www.piacipizza.com/

Town of Mendocino

Patterson's Pub

http://www.pattersonspub.com/

Boonville

Anderson Valley Brewing Company

http://www.avbc.com

Ukiah

Hopland Ale House

www.hoplandalehouse.com

Mendocino Brewing Company

http://www.mendobrew.com/

Ukiah Brewing Company and Restaurant

http://www.ukiahbrewingco.com/

Hopland

Hopland Ale House

www.hoplandtaphouse.com

Mendocino Brewing Company

http://www.mendobrew.com

Point Arena

Pier Chowder House and Tap Room

http://www.thepierchowderhouse.com/

Mad River Brewing Company - Blue Lake

http://www.madriverbrewing.com

 

Sonoma County

Cloverdale

Bear Republic Brewery

http://www.bearrepublic.com/

Ruth McGowans Brewpub

http://www.ruthmcgowansbrewpub.com/

Healdsburg

Bear Republic Brewing Company

www.bearrepublic.com

Healdsburg Beer Company

http://www.healdsburgbeercompany.com

Guerneville

Stumptown Brewery

http://www.stumptown.com/

Windsor

Patteson's Pub

http://www.pattersonspub.com/

Sebastopol

Ace Cider Company,

http://www.acecider.com/

Hopmonk Tavern

http://www.hopmonk.com/

Occidental

Barley & Hops Tavern

http://www.barleynhops.com/

Santa Rosa

Heritage Public House

http://www.santarosawineyard.com/heritagepub/

Russian River Brewing

http://russianriverbrewing.com/

The Toad in the Hole

http://www.thetoadpub.com/

Third Street Aleworks

http://www.thirdstreetaleworks.com/

City of Sonoma

Hopmonk Tavern

http://www.hopmonk.com/sonoma/

Murphy's Irish Pub

http://sonomapub.com

Olde Sonoma Public House

http://www.oldesonomapub.com/

Sonoma Springs Brewing Co.

http://www.sonomaspringsbrewery.com/

Petaluma

Brixx Petaluma

www.brixxpizzeria.com

Dempseys Restaurant and Brewery

http://www.dempseys.com/

Lagunitas Brewing Company

www.lagunitas.com

Taps Restaurant and Tasting Room

http://www.petalumataps.com/

 

Napa County

Calistoga

Napa Valley Brewing / Calistoga Inn

http://www.calistogainn.com/

St. Helena

Silverado Brewing Co.

http://www.silveradobrewingcompany.com/

City of Napa

Billco's Billiards and Darts

http://www.billcos.com/beer.php

Downtown Joes Restaurant & Brewery

www.downtownjoes.com

Napa Smith Brewery

http://www.napasmithbrewery.com

Friday, 14 September 2012 18:07

San Diego: The Cool Spot for Craft Beer

 

With a casual, relaxed atmosphere and locals who take good beer seriously without taking themselves too seriously, San Diego is the perfect place to escape for a libation vacation. Industry innovators like Karl Strauss and Stone Brewing make their homes in San Diego, and the region boasts an enviable number of award-winning breweries and a wide variety of pubs and restaurants catering to those who enjoy unique, locally crafted beers.

 

The following are some of the outstanding places where visitors can discover for themselves why beer lovers are flocking to the region's burgeoning craft brew scene.

The Great American Beer CityBlind Lady Ale House PicmonkeyBlind Lady Ale House

San Diego breweries have repeatedly brought home major awards at the annual Great American Beer Festival. In the past five years, San Diego's AleSmith Brewing Company and Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey have been named Best Small Brewing Company, while Carlsbad's Pizza Port has taken home the Brewpub of the Year award on more than one occasion.

At the World Beer Cup, an event that only happens every two years, San Diego breweries dominate. Ballast Point was named the "Champion Small Brewery" in 2010 above stiff competition from around the world. Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey won the same honor in 2008. In 2010, San Diego-area breweries earned more medals at the World Beer Cup than breweries in the traditional beer countries of England, Germany and Belgium combined.

Cited as "a sunny heaven for suds lovers," the New York Times named San Diego as a top travel destination for 2012 for its craft beer culture. In the October 2009 issue of Men's Journal magazine, San Diego was named the "#1 Beer Town in America" and the 30th Street Corridor in North Park was lauded as "easily the nation's best beer boulevard."

In the January/February 2012 issue of DRAFT magazine, San Diego's O'Brien's, Hamilton's Tavern, O'Brien's American Pub and Blind Lady Ale House all nabbed spots on the magazine's list of the "Best Beer Bars in America." In January 2012, RateBeer.com's "Best of 2012" reviewer's lists placed San Diego breweries in two of the top 10 spots on the "Best Brewers" list - AleSmith at #4 and Stone Brewing at #7.

Brewery Tasting Rooms

Many San Diego breweries offer tasting rooms and tours that allow visitors to meet the brewers and sample their wares. The following are just a few of the many options:

The award-winning AleSmith Brewing Company in Miramar is an artisan microbrewery specializing in handcrafted brews. Visitors can find fresh flavors inspired by Great Britain's and Belgium's high alcohol content and strongly hopped beers; AleSmith tours are available Fridays and Saturdays. www.alesmith.com

Alpine Beer Company, located in the East County community of Alpine, opened in 2002 and offers a tasting room with six to eight of their signature beers like Pure Hoppiness, a San Diego style IPA, and Captain Stout, a chocolate oatmeal dry stout, on tap. The tasting room is open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. www.alpinebeerco.com

Ballast Point Brewing Company offers tours and tastings at both their main brewery in Scripps Ranch and home brew store/brewery in Linda Vista. Guests can tour behind the barrels for tastings of specialty citrus hops, scotch ales and German Klosch-style beer; they can also purchase a selection of "do-it-yourself" beer making supplies ranging from starter kits to advanced brewing systems. In Scripps Ranch, public tours are offered at noon, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and the tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. www.ballastpoint.com

Guests can find great ales brewed with recipes from the pre-Prohibition era at the Firehouse Brewing Company in Miramar. A behind-the-scenes tour takes visitors inside the custom-made brew house where the brewery's American Pale Ale and Hefeweizen are created. www.firehousebrew.com

Green Flash Brewing Company in Mira Mesa showcases the use of fine, all natural ingredients in their award-winning beers that are brewed in small batches to insure each glass is of the freshest and purest quality. The brewery is features an on-site tasting room and offers tours on the weekends. www.greenflashbrew.com

Lightning Brewery in Poway offers fine, hand-crafted European style beers with a distinctively crisp, clean aroma, pronounced maltiness and prolonged, slightly bitter finish known as the "Lightning Finish." Unique to San Diego, Lighting Brewery uses the labor intensive "step mashing" brewing process that furthers flavors and enhances the body of beer by releasing starches. Guest tours are available Fridays and Saturdays. www.lightningbrewery.com

Oceanside's first brewery, Oceanside Ale Works, produces an award-winning combination of ales inspired by European brewing traditions and innovative flavors inspired by West Coast brewers. One of the few manual brew houses in the United States, Oceanside Ale Works produces ales true to its Southern California setting like Surfer Stout and Buccaneer Blonde. Guests can sample brews on location daily. www.oceansidealeworks.com

Located in San Marcos, Port Brewing is the home of The Lost Abbey, a niche label focused on brewing beers that follow the monastic and artistic Belgian brewing traditions. Brewed in very small batches, these exquisite beers have won awards - and fans - the world over. www.portbrewing.com; www.lostabbey.com

 

Brewpubs

In addition to creating outstanding craft beer on-site, the following breweries boast great restaurants where beer tourists can fuel up for further exploration.

Stone Brewing Company in Escondido is recognized as one of the best breweries in the United States by the two largest beer enthusiast websites, Ratebeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com. Brewing more than 150,000 barrels of beer annually, it is also one of the fastest growing breweries in the nation. Guests can enjoy big character beers like Arrogant Bastard Ale with its high quality ingredients and high alcohol contents. The Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, a restaurant with a large outdoor patio and one-acre garden, serves a rotating organic menu. www.stonebrew.com

With multiple San Diego settings and brews served and sold in over 2,000 Southern California locations, Karl Strauss Brewing Company is the largest craft brewery in San Diego. The brewery offers a core lineup of seven delicious beers, plus a variety of specialty seasonal beers, each perfectly paired with the restaurant's menu of Southern inspired cuisine. Karl Strauss also hosts monthly "firkin" parties in which kegs are tapped in the traditional way, by driving a spigot through the front of the keg with a wooden mallet. Guests can find locations in Sorrento Mesa, La Jolla, downtown San Diego and Carlsbad. www.karlstrauss.com

Pizza Port, a favorite San Diego North County restaurant with locations in Solana Beach and Carlsbad and Ocean Beach. At Pizza Port locations, guests can enjoy hoppy Pizza Port beers and more than 15 different pizzas served on the Port's signature wholegrain beer crust. www.pizzaport.com

La Jolla Brew House is a casual establishment in La Jolla featuring high-quality, moderately priced classic cuisine and a distinctive selection of craft-brewed and specialty beers. Its private party room and bar are perfect for hosting events and parties, and the outdoor patio and fire pit are pet-friendly. Guests enjoy weekly beer specials and events while watching their favorite sports teams on over 20 flat-screen TVs. www.lajollabrewhouse.com

Family-owned Coronado Brewing Company in Coronado is located just minutes from downtown San Diego. The brewpub features quality handcrafted beers and delicious food like woodfired pizzas and fresh seafood. Eight signature beers are brewed on-site including the popular Coronado Golden, the unfiltered Idiot IPA and the full-bodied Outlet Stout. www.coronadobrewingcompany.com

Gordon Biersch Brewing Company is an upscale brewpub where guests find authentic German-style lagers and creative cuisine. Located in Mission Valley, the Gordon Biersch menu consists of appetizers and entrees influenced by a variety of cultures and ingredients, all designed to complement the signature lager beers. Gordon Biersch brews are available in a wide variety of bars and restaurants throughout California. www.gordonbiersch.com

Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Company serves stuffed pizza and signature beers ranging from a refreshing cream ale like California Gold to the dark, full-bodied Black Magic Stout. Six of Oggi's eight year-round brews are winners of the Great American Beer Festival including Left Coast Hop Juice, in which hops are added to each step of the brewing process, and the Torrey Pines IPA. Guests can find Oggi's in Carmel Mountain Ranch, Mission Valley and Vista. www.oggis.com

Located just steps from the Pacific Ocean, Pacific Beach Alehouse serves up handcrafted beer and great food in a casual beach setting. Favorite brews like the Shipwreck Stout, PB Porter, Crystal Pier Ale and Amber Wave can be sipped on an outdoor deck overlooking the ocean or next to a fire pit on the patio. On the menu, handcrafted burgers and upscale casual items like lobster mac 'n cheese provide a culinary counterpoint. www.pbalehouse.com

Rock Bottom Brewery offers fresh, handcrafted beers and a diverse menu in two San Diego locations, La Jolla and downtown San Diego. The La Jolla brewpub was awarded the "Beer Excellence Award" by the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association and boasts a variety of mouthwatering items on its innovative menu. Rock Bottom's downtown location is a casual dining experience with a $5 happy hour and late-night menu offerings. www.rockbottom.com

Located just east of Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley, the San Diego Brewing Company has one of the largest draft selections in the county with more than 50 beers on tap daily. Weekly specials and sports packages cater to a diverse group of visitingsports fans and locals alike. The hefty menu of burgers, soups, salads, sandwiches and pizza complements the ever-changing selection of homemade beers and out-of-town taps. www.sandiegobrewing.com

San Marcos Brewery & Grill in San Marcos specializes in "American Grill" classics and fine, handcrafted ales from an on-site microbrewery; it also offers a full list of California produced wines. Special features at the brewpub are the Old English Ale and Oatmeal Stout that are dispensed through a traditional hand pump to create a distinct similarity to authentic English Ales. www.sanmarcosbrewery.com

Beer-Centric Bars and Restaurants

San Diego also offers a diverse range of bars and restaurants that truly specialize in rare beers from local brewers and others from around the globe.

At Blind Lady Ale House, located in Normal Heights near Balboa Park, 20 taps pour local, regional and hard-to-find Belgian brews from a list carefully curated by owner Lee Chase, former head brewer of San Diego's own Stone Brewing Company. Future plans include brewing on-site, but in the interim Chase is brewing Blind Lady Ales at the nearby Mission Brewery facility. The restaurant also specializes in hand-crafted Neapolitan-style pizzas with fresh mozzarella, house-made sausages, local produce and sustainable meats. www.blindladyalehouse.com

The Yard House in downtown San Diego's historic Gaslamp Quarter is an upscale, casual eatery known for its extensive menu and self-proclaimed "world's largest selection of draft beer." Guests can find a wide range of brews including classic lagers and obscure ales and stouts served in authentic goblets, pints and half-yard glasses. The Yard House features a transparent keg room containing more than 600 barrels and a fleet of over 130 tap handles. www.yardhouse.com

The laid-back Downtown Johnny Brown's, located in downtown San Diego, has an excellent selection of hard-to-find, specialty local brews from Green Flash, Stone Brewing, AleSmith and Ballast Point. Other selections are also available from top-notch craft brewers from around the country. www.downtownjohnnybrowns.com

Located in downtown San Diego's East Village, Neighborhood offers more than 27 local craft brews on tap and a creative, upscale take on classic American dishes like burgers. Tasting flights of San Diego beers and international selections are also available. www.neighborhoodsd.com

Toronado San Diego, located in North Park, is a sibling of San Francisco's famous beer outpost. At Toronado San Diego, the focus is clearly on craft beer with 50 beers on tap featuring the best from local, domestic and international breweries. Bottled offerings number more than 230 and focus on Belgian, French,German and English brews. www.toronadosd.com

With more than 75 years of service, Hamilton's Tavern in South Park is the oldest beer and wine licensed establishment in San Diego. It offers high quality ales and craft beers from around the world and boasts oneof the most diverse bottle selections in San Diego.

The Linkery in North Park offers gourmet local food that earned it national recognition as one of the "Best Farm-to-Table Restaurants in America" by Gourmet magazine. Guests can find an extensive list of beer made by true artisans, many of them local and regional; rare cask ales are always on tap. www.thelinkery.com

Ritual Tavern in North Park, a dark cozy pub with a modern medieval atmosphere, serves eight local beers on tap and boasts an extensive list of bottled beer that leans heavily toward European imports, with Belgium and Germany well represented. Its menu favors sustainably and humanely raised meats and locally sourced produce with a nod to classic pub fare. www.ritualtavern.com

The 25 taps and extensive bottle list at O'Brien's American Pub in Kearny Mesa features rare brews and local San Diego drafts. Known as the "hoppiest place on earth," guests can find an extensive selection of the pub's specialty, hoppy beers, including Alpine Beer Company's Pure Hoppiness, AleSmith's Speedway Stout and Ballast Point's Even Keel, along with an authentic, tasty tavern menu. www.obrienspub.net

Pub Crawls: On Foot and by Rail Beer Cheers at The LinkeryBeer Cheers at The Linkery

Sampling San Diego's beer culture can be done on foot by visiting the brewpubs, restaurants and bars in downtown San Diego and the North Park and Normal Heights neighborhoods.

In downtown San Diego, there are several options for beer lovers to map out their perfect pub crawl. Breweries within easy walking distance include Karl Strauss' downtown location and Rock Bottom Brewery in the Gaslamp Quarter. Local beers can also be sampled at downtown pubs and restaurants like Downtown Johnny Brown's, The Yard House and Neighborhood.

The North Park neighborhood is bisected by 30th Street which locals like to call "the best street in the world for craft beer." More than a dozen restaurants and bars located along 30th Street proudly serve local craft brews including beer-havens like Hamilton's Tavern, Toronado San Diego, The Linkery and Ritual Tavern. Just a short walk east on Adam's Avenue in neighboring Normal Heights, Blind Lady Ale House serves a top-notch selection including their own craft beers.

The San Diego Trolley and Coaster commuter train also enable visitors to ride the rails to their next great pint.

The San Diego Brewer's Guild offers itineraries with detailed directions by rail for visiting local breweries and brew pubs. A Central San Diego route stops at Ballast Point, Gordon Biersch, Oggi's and San Diego Brewing Company; a North County tour begins at Ballast Point and visits both Pizza Port locations in Solana Beach and Carlsbad www.sandiegobrewersguild.org

Guided Brewery Tours

For those who want to experience San Diego's beer culture, meet the brewers and leave the driving to someone else, guided brewery tours are an excellent option.

Brew Hop offers custom-designed private brewery tours of San Diego. Visitors can relax in luxury as they are chauffeured to their choice of local breweries. The 5-hour "Beer Connoisseur" tour includes samples, behind-the-scenes tours at four breweries and a meal. The 2.5-hour "Beer Tasters" tour stops at two or three breweries and includes samples and tours. www.brewhop.com

Brewery Tours of San Diego offers regularly scheduled tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Each tour visits three breweries and includes transportation, tastings and lunch. www.brewerytoursofsandiego.com

Exciting Beer Events

Throughout the year, the San Diego community turns out in droves for festivals and celebrations of the region's exciting craft beer scene.

From May 1 - 5, 2012, San Diego's reputation for inspired beers will take center stage as the city prepares to host the 2012 World Beer Cup. Started in 1996, the global competition presented by the Brewers Association is the most prestigious beer competition in the world and often referred to as "The Olympics of Beer Competition." Held every two years, a professional panel of beer judges honors the top three beers in 91 categories with gold, silver, and bronze awards.

Celebrating its sixth year and fast becoming one of the largest beer festivals in the country, the San Diego International Beer Festival will return June 22 - 24, 2012 to the San Diego County Fair with unlimited tastings of more than 350 beers from around the world. In addition to the huge selection of beers, the event will also feature seminars on home brewing, food and beer pairing, a Meet the Brewers event and much more. Four different beer tasting sessions will be offered: 4-8 p.m. on Friday, June 25; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4-8 p.m. on Saturday, June 26, and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, June 27. Tickets for each session are $37 if purchased in advance and $43 at the gate; prices include admission to the 2012 San Diego County Fair. www.sdfair.com/beer

This summer, guests can sample craft beer with a backdrop of exciting horseracing action and live music during three special beer events at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. During Beer Fest in August, more than 75 different beers from Ballast, Coronado, Firestone, Full Sail, Gordon Biersch, Green Flash, Left Coast, Lagunitas, New Belgium, Pyramid, Palm and more will be poured from noon to 6 p.m. with live music on the race track's in-field afterwards. Later in August, a Craft Microbrew Festival will feature over 150 locally brewed beers followed by a showcase of local bands. During all three events, guests can purchase $15 wristbands, each good for five 7 oz. sample size beers. Admission is included in the $6 price for Stretch Run general race admission, but additional fees like $10 for parking and $20 for admission will be charged for those attending after the races end at 6:30 p.m. Dates for 2012 are TBD. www.dmtc.com

San Diego has recently gained an international reputation for inspired beers with area breweries earning more medals at the 2010 World Beer Cup than breweries in the traditional beer countries of England, Germany and Belgium combined. San Diego Beer Week returns November 2 - 12, 2012 for a 10-day celebration of local craft beer and San Diego's thriving brewing culture. Festivities kick off with a Brewers Guild Festival and conclude with a Chef Celebration of San Diego Beer, a gourmet beer and food pairing event. Last year's inaugural San Diego Beer Week boasted more than 300 events, ranging from beer dinners to meet and greats with local brewers, with an estimated 20,000 attendees. 2012 San Diego Beer Week events will be posted online at www.SDBW.org

For more information on San Diego's offerings, including exciting vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau's websiteat www.sandiego.org or call 619-236-1212.

 

(This feature also appears in the beer category of Taste California Travel's Drink section)

TravMedia sources contributed to this article.

Editor's note: If you're planning a visit to San Diego, you'll find links to hundreds Lodging and Dining options at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also in the directory is a list wineries in the nearby Temecula region. Recognizing the great interest in craft beers, we have also created a section in our Resource Directory for brewpubs, restaurants and bars that specialize in a broad offering of high quality brews.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012 19:55

San Diego: The Cool Spot for Craft Beer

With a casual, relaxed atmosphere and locals who take good beer seriously without taking themselves too seriously, San Diego is the perfect place to escape for a libation vacation. Industry innovators like Karl Strauss and Stone Brewing make their homes in San Diego, and the region boasts an enviable number of award-winning breweries and a wide variety of pubs and restaurants catering to those who enjoy unique, locally crafted beers.

The following are some of the outstanding places where visitors can discover for themselves why beer lovers are flocking to the region's burgeoning craft brew scene.

The Great American Beer City

Blind Lady Ale House PicmonkeyBlind Lady Ale House photo by Rob TardiSan Diego breweries have repeatedly brought home major awards at the annual Great American Beer Festival. In the past five years, San Diego's AleSmith Brewing Company and Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey have been named Best Small Brewing Company, while Carlsbad's Pizza Port has taken home the Brewpub of the Year award on more than one occasion.

At the World Beer Cup, an event that only happens every two years, San Diego breweries dominate. Ballast Point was named the "Champion Small Brewery" in 2010 above stiff competition from around the world. Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey won the same honor in 2008. In 2010, San Diego-area breweries earned more medals at the World Beer Cup than breweries in the traditional beer countries of England, Germany and Belgium combined.

Cited as "a sunny heaven for suds lovers," the New York Times named San Diego as a top travel destination for 2012 for its craft beer culture. In the October 2009 issue of Men's Journal magazine, San Diego was named the "#1 Beer Town in America" and the 30th Street Corridor in North Park was lauded as "easily the nation's best beer boulevard."

In the January/February 2012 issue of DRAFT magazine, San Diego's O'Brien's, Hamilton's Tavern, O'Brien's American Pub and Blind Lady Ale House all nabbed spots on the magazine's list of the "Best Beer Bars in America." In January 2012, RateBeer.com's "Best of 2012" reviewer's lists placed San Diego breweries in two of the top 10 spots on the "Best Brewers" list - AleSmith at #4 and Stone Brewing at #7.

Brewery Tasting RoomsMany San Diego breweries offer tasting rooms and tours that allow visitors to meet the brewers and sample their wares. The following are just a few of the many options:

The award-winning AleSmith Brewing Company in Miramar is an artisan microbrewery specializing in handcrafted brews. Visitors can find fresh flavors inspired by Great Britain's and Belgium's high alcohol content and strongly hopped beers; AleSmith tours are available Fridays and Saturdays. www.alesmith.com

Alpine Beer Company, located in the East County community of Alpine, opened in 2002 and offers a tasting room with six to eight of their signature beers like Pure Hoppiness, a San Diego style IPA, and Captain Stout, a chocolate oatmeal dry stout, on tap. The tasting room is open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. www.alpinebeerco.com

Ballast Point Brewing Company offers tours and tastings at both their main brewery in Scripps Ranch and home brew store/brewery in Linda Vista. Guests can tour behind the barrels for tastings of specialty citrus hops, scotch ales and German Klosch-style beer; they can also purchase a selection of "do-it-yourself" beer making supplies ranging from starter kits to advanced brewing systems. In Scripps Ranch, public tours are offered at noon, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and the tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. www.ballastpoint.com

Guests can find great ales brewed with recipes from the pre-Prohibition era at the Firehouse Brewing Company in Miramar. A behind-the-scenes tour takes visitors inside the custom-made brew house where the brewery's American Pale Ale and Hefeweizen are created. www.firehousebrew.com

Green Flash Brewing Company in Mira Mesa showcases the use of fine, all natural ingredients in their award-winning beers that are brewed in small batches to insure each glass is of the freshest and purest quality. The brewery is features an on-site tasting room and offers tours on the weekends. www.greenflashbrew.com

Lightning Brewery in Poway offers fine, hand-crafted European style beers with a distinctively crisp, clean aroma, pronounced maltiness and prolonged, slightly bitter finish known as the "Lightning Finish." Unique to San Diego, Lighting Brewery uses the labor intensive "step mashing" brewing process that furthers flavors and enhances the body of beer by releasing starches. Guest tours are available Fridays and Saturdays. www.lightningbrewery.com

Oceanside's first brewery, Oceanside Ale Works, produces an award-winning combination of ales inspired by European brewing traditions and innovative flavors inspired by West Coast brewers. One of the few manual brew houses in the United States, Oceanside Ale Works produces ales true to its Southern California setting like Surfer Stout and Buccaneer Blonde. Guests can sample brews on location daily. www.oceansidealeworks.com

Located in San Marcos, Port Brewing is the home of The Lost Abbey, a niche label focused on brewing beers that follow the monastic and artistic Belgian brewing traditions. Brewed in very small batches, these exquisite beers have won awards - and fans - the world over. www.portbrewing.com; www.lostabbey.com

 

Brewpubs

In addition to creating outstanding craft beer on-site, the following breweries boast great restaurants where beer tourists can fuel up for further exploration.

Stone Brewing Company in Escondido is recognized as one of the best breweries in the United States by the two largest beer enthusiast websites, Ratebeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com. Brewing more than 150,000 barrels of beer annually, it is also one of the fastest growing breweries in the nation. Guests can enjoy big character beers like Arrogant Bastard Ale with its high quality ingredients and high alcohol contents. The Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, a restaurant with a large outdoor patio and one-acre garden, serves a rotating organic menu. www.stonebrew.com

With multiple San Diego settings and brews served and sold in over 2,000 Southern California locations, Karl Strauss Brewing Company is the largest craft brewery in San Diego. The brewery offers a core lineup of seven delicious beers, plus a variety of specialty seasonal beers, each perfectly paired with the restaurant's menu of Southern inspired cuisine. Karl Strauss also hosts monthly "firkin" parties in which kegs are tapped in the traditional way, by driving a spigot through the front of the keg with a wooden mallet. Guests can find locations in Sorrento Mesa, La Jolla, downtown San Diego and Carlsbad. www.karlstrauss.com

Pizza Port, a favorite San Diego North County restaurant with locations in Solana Beach and Carlsbad and Ocean Beach. At Pizza Port locations, guests can enjoy hoppy Pizza Port beers and more than 15 different pizzas served on the Port's signature wholegrain beer crust. www.pizzaport.com

La Jolla Brew House is a casual establishment in La Jolla featuring high-quality, moderately priced classic cuisine and a distinctive selection of craft-brewed and specialty beers. Its private party room and bar are perfect for hosting events and parties, and the outdoor patio and fire pit are pet-friendly. Guests enjoy weekly beer specials and events while watching their favorite sports teams on over 20 flat-screen TVs. www.lajollabrewhouse.com

Family-owned Coronado Brewing Company in Coronado is located just minutes from downtown San Diego. The brewpub features quality handcrafted beers and delicious food like woodfired pizzas and fresh seafood. Eight signature beers are brewed on-site including the popular Coronado Golden, the unfiltered Idiot IPA and the full-bodied Outlet Stout. www.coronadobrewingcompany.com

Gordon Biersch Brewing Company is an upscale brewpub where guests find authentic German-style lagers and creative cuisine. Located in Mission Valley, the Gordon Biersch menu consists of appetizers and entrees influenced by a variety of cultures and ingredients, all designed to complement the signature lager beers. Gordon Biersch brews are available in a wide variety of bars and restaurants throughout California. www.gordonbiersch.com

Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Company serves stuffed pizza and signature beers ranging from a refreshing cream ale like California Gold to the dark, full-bodied Black Magic Stout. Six of Oggi's eight year-round brews are winners of the Great American Beer Festival including Left Coast Hop Juice, in which hops are added to each step of the brewing process, and the Torrey Pines IPA. Guests can find Oggi's in Carmel Mountain Ranch, Mission Valley and Vista. www.oggis.com

Located just steps from the Pacific Ocean, Pacific Beach Alehouse serves up handcrafted beer and great food in a casual beach setting. Favorite brews like the Shipwreck Stout, PB Porter, Crystal Pier Ale and Amber Wave can be sipped on an outdoor deck overlooking the ocean or next to a fire pit on the patio. On the menu, handcrafted burgers and upscale casual items like lobster mac 'n cheese provide a culinary counterpoint. www.pbalehouse.com

Rock Bottom Brewery offers fresh, handcrafted beers and a diverse menu in two San Diego locations, La Jolla and downtown San Diego. The La Jolla brewpub was awarded the "Beer Excellence Award" by the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association and boasts a variety of mouthwatering items on its innovative menu. Rock Bottom's downtown location is a casual dining experience with a $5 happy hour and late-night menu offerings. www.rockbottom.com

Located just east of Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley, the San Diego Brewing Company has one of the largest draft selections in the county with more than 50 beers on tap daily. Weekly specials and sports packages cater to a diverse group of visitingsports fans and locals alike. The hefty menu of burgers, soups, salads, sandwiches and pizza complements the ever-changing selection of homemade beers and out-of-town taps. www.sandiegobrewing.com

San Marcos Brewery & Grill in San Marcos specializes in "American Grill" classics and fine, handcrafted ales from an on-site microbrewery; it also offers a full list of California produced wines. Special features at the brewpub are the Old English Ale and Oatmeal Stout that are dispensed through a traditional hand pump to create a distinct similarity to authentic English Ales. www.sanmarcosbrewery.com

Beer-Centric Bars and RestaurantsBeer Cheers at The LinkeryCheers at The Linkery.  photo: Erik Isacson

San Diego also offers a diverse range of bars and restaurants that truly specialize in rare beers from local brewers and others from around the globe.

At Blind Lady Ale House, located in Normal Heights near Balboa Park, 20 taps pour local, regional and hard-to-find Belgian brews from a list carefully curated by owner Lee Chase, former head brewer of San Diego's own Stone Brewing Company. Future plans include brewing on-site, but in the interim Chase is brewing Blind Lady Ales at the nearby Mission Brewery facility. The restaurant also specializes in hand-crafted Neapolitan-style pizzas with fresh mozzarella, house-made sausages, local produce and sustainable meats. www.blindladyalehouse.com

The Yard House in downtown San Diego's historic Gaslamp Quarter is an upscale, casual eatery known for its extensive menu and self-proclaimed "world's largest selection of draft beer." Guests can find a wide range of brews including classic lagers and obscure ales and stouts served in authentic goblets, pints and half-yard glasses. The Yard House features a transparent keg room containing more than 600 barrels and a fleet of over 130 tap handles. www.yardhouse.com

The laid-back Downtown Johnny Brown's, located in downtown San Diego, has an excellent selection of hard-to-find, specialty local brews from Green Flash, Stone Brewing, AleSmith and Ballast Point. Other selections are also available from top-notch craft brewers from around the country. www.downtownjohnnybrowns.com

Located in downtown San Diego's East Village, Neighborhood offers more than 27 local craft brews on tap and a creative, upscale take on classic American dishes like burgers. Tasting flights of San Diego beers and international selections are also available. www.neighborhoodsd.com

Toronado San Diego, located in North Park, is a sibling of San Francisco's famous beer outpost. At Toronado San Diego, the focus is clearly on craft beer with 50 beers on tap featuring the best from local, domestic and international breweries. Bottled offerings number more than 230 and focus on Belgian, French,German and English brews. www.toronadosd.com

With more than 75 years of service, Hamilton's Tavern in South Park is the oldest beer and wine licensed establishment in San Diego. It offers high quality ales and craft beers from around the world and boasts oneof the most diverse bottle selections in San Diego.

The Linkery in North Park offers gourmet local food that earned it national recognition as one of the "Best Farm-to-Table Restaurants in America" by Gourmet magazine. Guests can find an extensive list of beer made by true artisans, many of them local and regional; rare cask ales are always on tap. www.thelinkery.com

Ritual Tavern in North Park, a dark cozy pub with a modern medieval atmosphere, serves eight local beers on tap and boasts an extensive list of bottled beer that leans heavily toward European imports, with Belgium and Germany well represented. Its menu favors sustainably and humanely raised meats and locally sourced produce with a nod to classic pub fare. www.ritualtavern.com

The 25 taps and extensive bottle list at O'Brien's American Pub in Kearny Mesa features rare brews and local San Diego drafts. Known as the "hoppiest place on earth," guests can find an extensive selection of the pub's specialty, hoppy beers, including Alpine Beer Company's Pure Hoppiness, AleSmith's Speedway Stout and Ballast Point's Even Keel, along with an authentic, tasty tavern menu. www.obrienspub.net

Pub Crawls: On Foot and by RailSampling San Diego's beer culture can be done on foot by visiting the brewpubs, restaurants and bars in downtown San Diego and the North Park and Normal Heights neighborhoods.

In downtown San Diego, there are several options for beer lovers to map out their perfect pub crawl. Breweries within easy walking distance include Karl Strauss' downtown location and Rock Bottom Brewery in the Gaslamp Quarter. Local beers can also be sampled at downtown pubs and restaurants like Downtown Johnny Brown's, The Yard House and Neighborhood.

The North Park neighborhood is bisected by 30th Street which locals like to call "the best street in the world for craft beer." More than a dozen restaurants and bars located along 30th Street proudly serve local craft brews including beer-havens like Hamilton's Tavern, Toronado San Diego, The Linkery and Ritual Tavern. Just a short walk east on Adam's Avenue in neighboring Normal Heights, Blind Lady Ale House serves a top-notch selection including their own craft beers.

The San Diego Trolley and Coaster commuter train also enable visitors to ride the rails to their next great pint.

The San Diego Brewer's Guild offers itineraries with detailed directions by rail for visiting local breweries and brew pubs. A Central San Diego route stops at Ballast Point, Gordon Biersch, Oggi's and San Diego Brewing Company; a North County tour begins at Ballast Point and visits both Pizza Port locations in Solana Beach and Carlsbad www.sandiegobrewersguild.org

 

Guided Brewery Tours

For those who want to experience San Diego's beer culture, meet the brewers and leave the driving to someone else, guided brewery tours are an excellent option.

Brew Hop offers custom-designed private brewery tours of San Diego. Visitors can relax in luxury as they are chauffeured to their choice of local breweries. The 5-hour "Beer Connoisseur" tour includes samples, behind-the-scenes tours at four breweries and a meal. The 2.5-hour "Beer Tasters" tour stops at two or three breweries and includes samples and tours. www.brewhop.com

Brewery Tours of San Diego offers regularly scheduled tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Each tour visits three breweries and includes transportation, tastings and lunch. www.brewerytoursofsandiego.com

 

Exciting Beer Events

Throughout the year, the San Diego community turns out in droves for festivals and celebrations of the region's exciting craft beer scene.

This summer, guests can sample craft beer with a backdrop of exciting horseracing action and live music during three special beer events at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. During Beer Fest in August, more than 75 different beers from Ballast, Coronado, Firestone, Full Sail, Gordon Biersch, Green Flash, Left Coast, Lagunitas, New Belgium, Pyramid, Palm and more will be poured from noon to 6 p.m. with live music on the race track's in-field afterwards. Later in August, a Craft Microbrew Festival will feature over 150 locally brewed beers followed by a showcase of local bands. During all three events, guests can purchase $15 wristbands, each good for five 7 oz. sample size beers. Admission is included in the $6 price for Stretch Run general race admission, but additional fees like $10 for parking and $20 for admission will be charged for those attending after the races end at 6:30 p.m. Dates for 2012 are TBD. www.dmtc.com

San Diego has recently gained an international reputation for inspired beers with area breweries earning more medals at the 2010 World Beer Cup than breweries in the traditional beer countries of England, Germany and Belgium combined. San Diego Beer Week returns November 2 - 12, 2012 for a 10-day celebration of local craft beer and San Diego's thriving brewing culture. Festivities kick off with a Brewers Guild Festival and conclude with a Chef Celebration of San Diego Beer, a gourmet beer and food pairing event. Last year's inaugural San Diego Beer Week boasted more than 300 events, ranging from beer dinners to meet and greats with local brewers, with an estimated 20,000 attendees.2012 San Diego Beer Week events will be posted online at www.SDBW.org

 

For more information on San Diego's offerings, including exciting vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau's websiteat www.sandiego.org or call 619-236-1212.

 

(This article also appears in Drives and Destinations)

TravMedia sources contributed to this article.

Editor's note: If you're planning a visit to San Diego, you'll find links to hundreds Lodging and Dining options at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also in the directory is a list wineries in the nearby Temecula region. Recognizing the great interest in craft beers, we have also created a section in our Resource Directory for brewpubs, restaurants and bars that specialize in a broad offering of high quality brews.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012 13:53

Stout Competition--Cooking with Guinness

by Dan Clarke

Guinness Pint Cascading HiRes SMALL 

What a waste. A loss to humanity, one of us said as we sat at the bar watching all that foam going down the drain.

Of course, it's the nature of things that Guinness Stout must be poured slowly. It throws that wonderful, creamy head and must settle down a bit before the bartender tops it off with a second shot from the tap. Invariably some of the foam is lost as it's swept off the top to accelerate this process. But the foam is still beer, however oxygenated. And it seemed a shame to waste it.

At a neighborhood pub I used to frequent in Sacramento, they served respectable food, but without a proper kitchen their fare tended toward microwaved sausage plates, Cornish pastys and fish and chips brought over from next door. The place was known more for its beer and camaraderie than its cuisine. Surprisingly, the conversation at the bar ran to restaurants and recipes as often as to soccer, politics and more typical issues.

One of the regulars suggested that the foam could settle out and be used in cooking, but not a man—or woman—among us took home any of the dregs to our own kitchen. Over the course of two years occasional noises were heard about using some of that overpour in a cake batter or perhaps adding it to chili—after all, anything and everything can go into chili. Still, these were the musings of people passing time waiting for the next televised ball game or considering the virtues of a longer happy hour.

Once in a great while bar talk is actually translated into action. The “what could we do with all that foam” topc recurred often enough to beget some ideas—not totally recipes yet—that seemed to have some promise. At some point the gauntlet was thrown and a few of the regulars declared a cooking competition could determine whose ideas had merit. To separate the merely opinionated from the doers we required an entry fee. Ten dollars and check with entry, if you please. St. Patrick's Home for Children was deemed a worthy recipient of any moneys raised and we were off. The area Guinness rep was invited to participate and he donated a number of T-shirts and other merchandise to use as prizes. The quid pro quo was that we expand the key ingredients list to include two other products his company distributed; Harp Lager and Bass Ale. Being brewed in Dundalk, County Louth, Harp continued the Irish theme. Bass did not, it being English, but we acquiesced, not wanting to have to give back the T-shirts and other swag. Actually, the addition of the Bass gave us a full spectrum of flavors, from the lighter lager through the ale on the way to the full-flavored stout.

We sought the services of outside authorities. Having neutral, professional jurists would minimize any arguments and acknowledge the talent we thought might come to the fore. Three experts flattered us by accepting seats on the bench: Jean-Luc Chassereau, a genuine French chef; Mike Dunne, food & wine editor of the Sacramento Bee newspaper; and Michael Lewis, retired professor of brewing science from the University of California at Davis.

The competition was to be divided into five categories: appetizers and first courses, main dishes of fish or chicken, main dishes of red meats, vegetarian dishes, and desserts.

Giddy with our own creation, we mailed a few press releases. While still unsure of our own talent, we did feel we might break some new ground by cooking with beer, rather than wine, and thought the world might want to know. Also, more attention meant a better chance for us to do right by the St. Patrick's Home. A newspaper columnist gave us a plug and we were truly committed.

As would-be Gordon Ramseys and Paula Deans began seriously considering how to incorporate beer into a recipe, most thought of very full-flavored dishes. Chili was a recurring theme and some traditional pub foods were suggested, too. Perhaps the initial inspirations were ways to “bury” the beer in a recipe so that its unmistakable flavor (especially in the case of Guinness) wouldn't overpower a dish. The essence of this stout is complex. There is a wonderful creaminess at first, followed by a smoky/toasty flavor.

The day before our contest a late entrant arrives. My old friend, Big Ric Dunseth, drives over from the Napa Valley where he's the reigning barbecue champion. He's also a professional caterer and author of books on wine. We spend hours theorizing about the task at hand. We both feel that using lager or ale is taking the coward's way out and that stout offers an appropriately robust challenge. Ah, the egos of men who cook.

In the morning we set about proving our theories. Ric is preparing a rack of lamb which is to be marinated in cans of Pub Drought Guinness. I'm at work making a chicken in mole—a rich sauce featuring garlic, mushrooms, chili powders and minced pasilla chiles in a reduction of Guinness. Things seem to be coming together and we set off on a tangent.

Is not a draft Guinness with that dark powerful bottom, topped by its lovely, creamy head reminiscent of a root beer float? We pitch into a brain-storming session which yields the idea of sliced bananas and kiwi topped with a syrup made from a reduction of Guinness. We discover that after reducing the stout by about a third, it begins bitter. Uh, oh. What to do? Well, just as some wines go through a “dumb stage” prior to release and eventually come around, so does our Guinness. Curiously, further reductions seem to make it less, not more, bitter. Not wanting to take any chances, we add some powdered baker's chocolate and brown sugar to the syrup and a little orange zest.

Professionals they are, all our judges show up right on time and go over the ground rules. Each dish will be judged within its own category, with an overall winner to be chosen later as best of show. A 100-point scoring system is to be employed, with 20 percent for appearance, 30 percent for creative use of beer and balance (50%) for taste.

Cooking facilities are somewhat limited, but the competitors make the best of it. Most have some some prep work at home and do the finishing touches in the pub's back room. With appropriate ceremony, entrants are individually announced by the pub's owner and walk their offerings forward to the panel of judges. George Thompson comes out first, bearing his cheddar cheese with Bass Ale soup. Steve Tincher follows with calamari stir fried in Guinness. Sandy McCullough has prepared separate dishes of prawns and mussels steamed in Harp Lager and Bass Ale and Bob Martin offers bratwurst and onions boiled in beer. These and other dishes in the appetizer/first course category show that in the hands of good amateur chefs, beer can be a delightful ingredient.

Main dishes of fish and poultry are judged next. I'm proud of my chicken mole—it's rich and complex, the flavors of the Guinness are well-integrated and there seems to be just the right amount of spice and heat. However, I'm denied a blue ribbon by Ann Marie Gonzalez; who has also chosen to tempt the judges with a chicken mole. She's done nearly everything I have, but she's done it just a bit better.

Red meat dishes have attracted most of the entrants. There is formidable competition. Mike Eady has barbecued an excellent flank steak, Betty Madden has roasted a pork tenderloin with vegetables and Ric Dunseth's rack of lamb is beautifully presented and tastes great. Venison stew, pork spareribs and other dishes are also well received, but first place goes to a Yorkshireman, Russ Berriman, who dazzles the judges with a shepherd's pie (á la Bass).

Jim Eady produces a nice pot of beans with bacon and takes a first place in the vegetarian category. We're flexible.

My bananas and kiwi with toasted walnuts and whipped cream over Guinness syrup wins a blue ribbon as the one and only entry in the dessert category. Chef Chassereau smiles and declares it “a good concept.” The concept “damning with faint praise” comes to my mind.

Given the minimal kitchen facilities and waiting time between presentations, the overall food quality was startling. There wasn't a clinker in the bunch and some were truly outstanding. The entrants demonstrated that one rather small pub in California was home to a surprising number of competent cooks and that beers, especially strongly-flavored ones, can both complement good food and be an essential ingredient of a wide variety of dishes.

Those sons and daughters of Erin among us may have hoped for a special nod from the judges, given the mostly Irish theme of the exercise. Grand prize winner by a clear margin, however, was Dennis Fukimoto. His salmon was marinated in Bass Ale, smoked over Guinness-soaked oak chips, and accompanied by a decorative salad with Harp Lager dressing. That the colors of the salmon in a bed of white shaved horseradish with surrounding green lettuces were reminiscent of the Irish flag may not have hurt his chances either.

All involved seemed to have had an enjoyable Saturday afternoon. We turned over $265 to Monsignor Kavanaugh to help his work at the St. Patrick's Home and tended to validate the theory that reclaiming foam had a purpose.

We chefs-for-a-day basked in the afterglow at the pub for weeks. Our swagger increased. We talked of issuing a challenge to any other pub whose chefs wanted to take us on. Before fantasy faded to the inevitable reality, we had even thought of creating a home-and-home cooking series with some pub in Ireland. Now that would have been great fun.

 

Russ Berriman's Shepherd's Pie

 

Ingredients

1½ pounds ground (minced) lamb or beef (or mixture of the two)

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2-3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped or grated

2 teaspoons fresh oregano

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary

1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

½ cup peas (optional

1 pint of Guinness

8 oz. Can of peeled, chopped tomatoes

3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 tablespoons butter

2-3 tablespoons half and half or whipping cream

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

freshly chopped parsley to garnish

 

Method

 

Marinate lamb in Guinness overnight in the refrigerator. Next day remove meat from marinade and place in saucepan (reserve marinade) with onion, celery,m garlic and carrots. Add approximately 4 tablespoons of marinade and cook gently for 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently until meat is well-sealed and almost cooked.

Add tomatoes, oregano, rosemary, seasonings and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 15-20 minutes (You can add the rest of marinade and use a gravy thickener to make additional thicker sauce. This is optional).

Meanwhile, cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender (approximately 20 minutes). Mash potatoes until smooth or use a whip. Add butter and fold until potatoes are creamy.

Place potatoes in a pastry bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe evenly over meat mixture which is now in an oven dish: or, spread potatoes evenly with a spoon and fork up the potatoes for texture. Cook in oven for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees until top is golden brown. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Serves 4-6.

 

Dan Clarke's Guinness Sundae

 

Ingredients

 

4 bananas

6 kiwi fruit, ripe but not too soft

2 cans Guinness “Pub Draft”

juice of 1 orange

2 rounded teaspoons fine orange zest

1-2 heaping tablespoons powdered chocolate (I used Ghirardelli sweet ground chocolate and cocoa)

1 cup maple syrup

1 cup hone

1 tablespoon butter

cinnamon to taste (optional)

whipped cream

8 heaping tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts

 

Method

 

Put the Guinness, maple syrup and honey in a saucepan over medium heat and reduce volume by about half.

While liquid is reducing, place walnut pieces (perhaps meat from eight medium-size walnuts) on cookie sheet and toast lightly. Be careful not to over-toast as they burn easily and turn bitter. Chop walnuts to yield medium-to-fine pieces.

 

Stir orange juice into the liquid and add the orange zest. Add powdered chocolate gradually, tasting several times. Stop short of using both tablespoons if you reach the point where you're happy with the flavor. Add the butter and a little cinnamon (to taste). Continue reducing mixture to desired thickness.

 

Slice banana into ½-inch thick pieces and, after peeling kiwis, slice them into ¼-inch pieces. Place mixture of equal parts kiwi and banana in small bowl, pour warm Guinness syrup over top and garnish with whipped cream and toasted walnuts.

 

Serves 4.

 

Note: As prepared for the competition, both powdered chocolate and brown sugar were used (and in greater quantity), but no honey and no maple syrup. While the liquid reduced to a flavor that was attractive, desired thickness wasn't achieved. A professional chef has suggested this modification. I suggest you have fun and be prepared to taste frequently and adjust accordingly as you proceed.

 

(Editor's Note: This article also appears in the Beer section of Taste California Travel.)

Wednesday, 16 May 2012 13:53

Stout Competition

by Dan Clarke

Guinness Pint Cascading HiRes SMALL 

What a waste. A loss to humanity, one of us said as we sat at the bar watching all that foam going down the drain.

Of course, it's the nature of things that Guinness Stout must be poured slowly. It throws that wonderful, creamy head and must settle down a bit before the bartender tops it off with a second shot from the tap. Invariably some of the foam is lost as it's swept off the top to accelerate this process. But the foam is still beer, however oxygenated. And it seemed a shame to waste it.

At a neighborhood pub I used to frequent in Sacramento, they served respectable food, but without a proper kitchen their fare tended toward microwaved sausage plates, Cornish pastys and fish and chips brought over from next door. The place was known more for its beer and camaraderie than its cuisine. Surprisingly, the conversation at the bar ran to restaurants and recipes as often as to soccer, politics and more typical issues.

One of the regulars suggested that the foam could settle out and be used in cooking, but not a man—or woman—among us took home any of the dregs to our own kitchen. Over the course of two years occasional noises were heard about using some of that overpour in a cake batter or perhaps adding it to chili—after all, anything and everything can go into chili. Still, these were the musings of people passing time waiting for the next televised ball game or considering the virtues of a longer happy hour.

Once in a great while bar talk is actually translated into action. The “what could we do with all that foam” topc recurred often enough to beget some ideas—not totally recipes yet—that seemed to have some promise. At some point the gauntlet was thrown and a few of the regulars declared a cooking competition could whose ideas had merit. To separate the merely opinionated from the doers we required an entry fee. Ten dollars and check with entry, if you please. St. Patrick's Home for Children was deemed a worthy recipient of any moneys raised and we were off. The area Guinness rep was invited to participate and he donated a number of T-shirts and other merchandise to use as prizes. The quid pro quo was that we expand the key ingredients list to include two other products his company distributed; Harp Lager and Bass Ale. Being brewed in Dundalk, County Louth, Harp continued the Irish theme. Bass did not, it being English, but we acquiesced, not wanting to have to give back the T-shirts and other swag. Actually, the addition of the Bass gave us a full spectrum of flavors, from the lighter lager through the ale on the way to the full-flavored stout.

We sought the services of outside authorities. Having neutral, professional jurists would minimize any arguments and acknowledge the talent we thought might come to the fore. Three experts flattered us by accepting seats on the bench: Jean-Luc Chassereau, a genuine French chef; Mike Dunne, food & wine editor of the Sacramento Bee newspaper; and Michael Lewis, retired professor of brewing science from the University of California at Davis.

The competition was to be divided into five categories: appetizers and first courses, main dishes of fish or chicken, main dishes of red meats, vegetarian dishes, and desserts.

Giddy with our own creation, we mailed a few press releases. While still unsure of our own talent, we did feel we might break some new ground by cooking with beer, rather than wine, and thought the world might want to know. Also, more attention meant a better chance for us to do right by the St. Patrick's Home. A newspaper columnist gave us a plug and we were truly committed.

As would-be Gordon Ramseys and Paula Deans began seriously considering how to incorporate beer into a recipe, most thought of very full-flavored dishes. Chili was a recurring theme and some traditional pub foods were suggested, too. Perhaps the initial inspirations were ways to “bury” the beer in a recipe so that its unmistakable flavor (especially in the case of Guinness) wouldn't overpower a dish. The essence of this stout is complex. There is a wonderful creaminess at first, followed by a smoky/toasty flavor.

The day before our contest a late entrant arrives. My old friend, Big Ric Dunseth, drives over from the Napa Valley where he's the reigning barbecue champion. He's also a professional caterer and author of books on wine. We spend hours theorizing about the task at hand. We both feel that using lager or ale is taking the coward's way out and that stout offers an appropriately robust challenge. Ah, the egos of men who cook.

In the morning we set about proving our theories. Ric is preparing a rack of lamb which is to be marinated in cans of Pub Drought Guinness. I'm at work making a chicken in mole—a rich sauce featuring garlic, mushrooms, chili powders and minced pasilla chiles in a reduction of Guinness. Things seem to be coming together and we set off on a tangent.

Is not a draft Guinness with that dark powerful bottom, topped by its lovely, creamy head reminiscent of a root beer float? We pitch into a brain-storming session which yields the idea of sliced bananas and kiwi topped with a syrup made from a reduction of Guinness. We discover that after reducing the stout by about a third, it begins bitter. Uh, oh. What to do? Well, just as some wines go through a “dumb stage” prior to release and eventually come around, so does our Guinness. Curiously, further reductions seem to make it less, not more, bitter. Not wanting to take any chances, we add some powdered baker's chocolate and brown sugar to the syrup and a little orange zest.

Professionals they are, all our judges show up right on time and go over the ground rules. Each dish will be judged within its own category, with an overall winner to be chosen later as best of show. A 100-point scoring system is to be employed, with 20 percent for appearance, 30 percent for creative use of beer and balance (50%) for taste.

Cooking facilities are somewhat limited, but the competitors make the best of it. Most have some some prep work at home and do the finishing touches in the pub's back room. With appropriate ceremony, entrants are individually announced by the pub's owner and walk their offerings forward to the panel of judges. George Thompson comes out first, bearing his cheddar cheese with Bass Ale soup. Steve Tincher follows with calamari stir fried in Guinness. Sandy McCullough has prepared separate dishes of prawns and mussels steamed in Harp Lager and Bass Ale and Bob Martin offers bratwurst and onions boiled in beer. These and other dishes in the appetizer/first course category show that in the hands of good amateur chefs, beer can be a delightful ingredient.

Main dishes of fish and poultry are judged next. I'm proud of my chicken mole—it's rich and complex, the flavors of the Guinness are well-integrated and there seems to be just the right amount of spice and heat. However, I'm denied a blue ribbon by Ann Marie Gonzalez; who has also chosen to tempt the judges with a chicken mole. She's done nearly everything I have, but she's done it just a bit better.

Red meat dishes have attracted most of the entrants. There is formidable competition. Mike Eady has barbecued an excellent flank steak, Betty Madden has roasted a pork tenderloin with vegetables and Ric Dunseth's rack of lamb is beautifully presented and tastes great. Venison stew, pork spareribs and other dishes are also well received, but first place goes to a Yorkshireman, Russ Berriman, who dazzles the judges with a shepherd's pie (á la Bass).

Jim Eady produces a nice pot of beans with bacon and takes a first place in the vegetarian category. We're flexible.

My bananas and kiwi with toasted walnuts and whipped cream over Guinness syrup wins a blue ribbon as the one and only entry in the dessert category. Chef Chassereau smiles and declares it “a good concept.” The concept “damning with faint praise” comes to my mind.

Given the minimal kitchen facilities and waiting time between presentations, the overall food quality was startling. There wasn't a clinker in the bunch and some were truly outstanding. The entrants demonstrated that one rather small pub in California was home to a surprising number of competent cooks and that beers, especially strongly-flavored ones, can both complement good food and be an essential ingredient of a wide variety of dishes.

Those sons and daughters of Erin among us may have hoped for a special nod from the judges, given the mostly Irish theme of the exercise. Grand prize winner by a clear margin, however, was Dennis Fukimoto. His salmon was marinated in Bass Ale, smoked over Guinness-soaked oak chips, and accompanied by a decorative salad with Harp Lager dressing. That the colors of the salmon in a bed of white shaved horseradish with surrounding green lettuces were reminiscent of the Irish flag may not have hurt his chances either.

All involved seemed to have had an enjoyable Saturday afternoon. We turned over $265 to Monsignor Kavanaugh to help his work at the St. Patrick's Home and tended to validate the theory that reclaiming foam had a purpose.

We chefs-for-a-day basked in the afterglow at the pub for weeks. Our swagger increased. We talked of issuing a challenge to any other pub whose chefs wanted to take us on. Before fantasy faded to the inevitable reality, we had even thought of creating a home-and-home cooking series with some pub in Ireland. Now that would have been great fun.

 

Russ Berriman's Shepherd's Pie

 

Ingredients

1½ pounds ground (minced) lamb or beef (or mixture of the two)

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2-3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped or grated

2 teaspoons fresh oregano

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary

1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

½ cup peas (optional

1 pint of Guinness

8 oz. Can of peeled, chopped tomatoes

3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 tablespoons butter

2-3 tablespoons half and half or whipping cream

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

freshly chopped parsley to garnish

 

Method

 

Marinate lamb in Guinness overnight in the refrigerator. Next day remove meat from marinade and place in saucepan (reserve marinade) with onion, celery,m garlic and carrots. Add approximately 4 tablespoons of marinade and cook gently for 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently until meat is well-sealed and almost cooked.

Add tomatoes, oregano, rosemary, seasonings and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 15-20 minutes (You can add the rest of marinade and use a gravy thickener to make additional thicker sauce. This is optional).

Meanwhile, cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender (approximately 20 minutes). Mash potatoes until smooth or use a whip. Add butter and fold until potatoes are creamy.

Place potatoes in a pastry bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe evenly over meat mixture which is now in an oven dish: or, spread potatoes evenly with a spoon and fork up the potatoes for texture. Cook in oven for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees until top is golden brown. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Serves 4-6.

 

Dan Clarke's Guinness Sundae

 

Ingredients

 

4 bananas

6 kiwi fruit, ripe but not too soft

2 cans Guinness “Pub Draft”

juice of 1 orange

2 rounded teaspoons fine orange zest

1-2 heaping tablespoons powdered chocolate (I used Ghirardelli sweet ground chocolate and cocoa)

1 cup maple syrup

1 cup hone

1 tablespoon butter

cinnamon to taste (optional)

whipped cream

8 heaping tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts

 

Method

 

Put the Guinness, maple syrup and honey in a saucepan over medium heat and reduce volume by about half.

While liquid is reducing, place walnut pieces (perhaps meat from eight medium-size walnuts) on cookie sheet and toast lightly. Be careful not to over-toast as they burn easily and turn bitter. Chop walnuts to yield medium-to-fine pieces.

Stir orange juice into the liquid and add the orange zest. Add powdered chocolate gradually, tasting several times. Stop short of using both tablespoons if you reach the point where you're happy with the flavor. Add the butter and a little cinnamon (to taste). Continue reducing mixture to desired thickness.

Slice banana into ½-inch thick pieces and, after peeling kiwis, slice them into ¼-inch pieces. Place mixture of equal parts kiwi and banana in small bowl, pour warm Guinness syrup over top and garnish with whipped cream and toasted walnuts.

 

Serves 4.

 

Note: As prepared for the competition, both powdered chocolate and brown sugar were used (and in greater quantity), but no honey and no maple syrup. While the liquid reduced to a flavor that was attractive, desired thickness wasn't achieved. A professional chef has suggested this modification. I suggest you have fun and be prepared to taste frequently and adjust accordingly as you proceed.

 

(Editor's Note: This article also appears in the Home Cooking section of Taste California Travel.)

San Luis Obispo County has all the ingredients for a delicious culinary adventure. Area farms and orchards SLO Snacks and Wine SMALLproduce fresh, seasonal fruits, nuts and vegetables. Ranches raise natural beef, lamb, pork, and chicken, while coastal Pacific waters offers more fresh choices for discerning palates. A gourmand's playground, the dining scene has exploded with new restaurants showcasing innovative dishes prepared by chefs choosing local, organic and sustainable food available in San Luis Obispo County. Complementing the culinary experience are award-winning vintages produced by the many wineries dotting the Paso Robles wine country and San Luis Obispo County landscape.

Fastest Growing Wine Region

San Luis Obispo County is the third largest and fastest growing fine wine region in California.  There are two distinct wine grape growing areas - Paso Robles and Edna Valley/Arroyo Grande - with over 200 wineries and 125 tasting rooms featuring award-winning vintages and innovative varietal blends.  It is the ideal destination for wine lovers.

The long, hot summers and cool nights, and chalk/limestone hillsides of Paso Robles wine country yield award-winning reds, especially superb Zinfandels and Rhône varietals.  The cool climate and marine sediment of San Luis Obispo's Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande wine regions combine to produce some of the most highly regarded rich, buttery Chardonnay grapes in California wine country.

Annual wine celebrations include: Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival (March); Hospice du Rhône in Paso Robles (April), the world's largest celebration of Rhône variety wines; Paso Robles Wine Festival (May), the largest outdoor wine tasting in California; Roll Out the Barrels Weekend in San Luis Obispo (June); Pinot and Paella Festival in Templeton (June); and Harvest Wine Weekend in Paso Robles (November), featuring winery open houses. (Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance www.pasowine.com; San Luis Obispo Vintners www.slowine.com)

If time is limited and one prefers wine touring on foot rather than by car, the Paso Robles Inn offers a one-night Taste Around package pointing visitors to six of the town's City Park wine tasting rooms with complimentary taste certificates, as well as tastes and a gift from a local olive company and artesian cheese maker. Including breakfast for two, the package starts at $205 based on date of stay. (www.pasoroblesinn.com)

Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast - a Foodie's Disneyland! SLO savor logo cmyk  SMALL

Sunset magazine and the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau will partner for the third annual Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast celebration of food, wine and good living September 27-30, 2012. The event showcases area winemakers, chefs and artisanal food producers and Sunset magazine's expert editors guide attendees through outdoor adventures and farm excursions. Over 7,000 visitors are expected to attend this year's event and enjoy the beauty, bounty and flavor of this largely unspoiled region. Special evening events, like Paso Robles' Paso Glow will be complemented by culinary seminars by celebrity chefs on cooking with local, seasonal ingredients during the Main Event at the Santa Margarita Ranch on September 29 and 30. The four-day foodie delight kicks off with a special food and wine extravaganza at the Central Coast's crown jewel, Hearst Castle, and also includes the Sunset 2012 International Wine Competition in Pismo Beach. (www.savorcentralcoast.com)

Wine Country Cuisine

With so many wineries, farms, ranches, and two fishing ports in San Luis Obispo County, it's only natural that country dining. With local bounty to point to, the farm-to-table movement is alive and well, as local chefs support local farmers to make sustainable culinary masterpieces available. Leaders of the movement in Paso Robles include Thomas Hill Organics, Artisan, Il Cortile, Villa Creek and Farmstand 46.

During the month of January, more than 30 restaurants prepare special menus at appetizing prices during Restaurant Month.  For 30 days, participating restaurants feature three-course prix fixe menus for only $30, plus tax, per person.  Meals can be paired with award-winning wines from Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo wine country for an additional charge. (www.sanluisobispocounty.com)

Straight from the Farm

Farmer's markets can be found throughout San Luis Obispo Country almost every day of the week. The one that set the standard for all others in California, however, is the Farmer's Market in downtown San Luis Obispo on Thursday night from 6-9 p.m. Six blocks on Higuera Street (between Osos and Nipomo Streets) are closed SLO vegetables Stock 3501073 SMALL to traffic and feature booths lining both sides of the street selling produce, fresh flowers, barbecue ribs, chicken and sausages, sandwiches, pizza, arts and crafts. Music and dancers often add to the ambiance, and shops and restaurants along Higuera Street stay open late. Another notable farmer's market to check out is on Saturdays in the quaint city park in Templeton.

For the foodie wanting to discover the source of the fresh ingredients that make up their San Luis Obispo County dining experience, take an Ag Adventures tour. From chickens and eggs, fresh seasonally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs (pick your own in many cases), wine, olive oil, and lavender (yes, lavender is edible), San Luis Obispo County farms, ranches, orchards, nurseries, wineries and farm stays offer something for everyone. (www.agadventures.org) Also check out Mt. Olive Organic Farm (Paso Robles), Jack Creek Farms (Templeton), Stoltey's Bee Farm (Atascadero) and Central Coast Lavender Farms (Paso Robles).

What is an Olallieberry?

Resembling a blackberry, the Olallieberry is about two-thirds blackberry and one-third European Red Raspberry. It is the primary fruit grown by the Linns and is featured in Olallieberry products that are popular items at their Fruit Bin Restaurant and Original Farm Store in Cambria, including Olallieberry pies, preserves, dessert wine, oat bar, curd and syrup. (www.linnsfruitbin.com)

Olive Oil

San Luis Obispo County has become a major producer of award-winning premium olive oils featuring a wide variety of olives, styles and oils infused with lemon, orange, tangerine and lime. A large festival dedicated to all things olive (plus a rich selection of gourmet vinegars to complement the oils) is held annually in the downtown City Park in Paso Robles in August. (www.olivefestival.com)

For an instructive olive oil tasting experience, visit We Olive gourmet shops in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, (www.weolive.com) or scenic Pasolivo (Willow Creek Olive Ranch), long-time producer of local award-winning extra virgin olive oils in Paso Robles that has a tasting room and boasts the largest and newest olive press of its kind on the Central Coast. (www.pasolivo.com) Other local olive oil producers to check out include Tiber Canyon Ranch (SLO), Mt. Olive Organics and Olea Farms (Paso Robles).

For another nutty twist, taste walnut oil produced by Limerock Orchards at their stunning walnut orchard in Paso Robles. (www.limerockorchards.com)

Catch of the Day

Commercial fishing boats moored in San Luis and Morro Bays provide local restaurants with fresh seasonal local seafood, including halibut, sanddabs, sole, crabs and albacore.

Located in Cayucos, The Abalone Farm is the largest and oldest producer of California Red Abalone in the United States. The aquaculture facility, a proud participant in the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program, offers a legal and sustainable source for this prized seafood.  The Abalone Farm's Ocean Rose Abalone is freshly harvested, cleaned, tenderized and vacuum packed for weekly shipments to customers. (www.abalonefarm.com)

Authentic Flavor of the American West SLO Hearst Pool IMG 0472 SMALLWilliam Randolph Hearst's pool.

San Luis Obispo County has a history tied to the American West, including vast rolling hills populated by cattle and cowboys. For natural beef with an extraordinary flavor, foodies should try Hearst Ranch Beef. Raised on the Hearst Ranch surrounding Hearst Castle and the Jack Ranch in Cholame, the cattle are grass-fed, grass finished, humanely raised and never given growth hormones or antibiotics. Hearst Ranch products include aged steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs, beef jerky, plus sauces and olive oils. (www.hearstranch.com)

Speaking of Hearst, Friends of Hearst Castle offer two very special evening food and wine events on the Enchanted Hill: Twilight on the Terrace on June 2, 2012 and Enchanted Evening on September 22, 2012. (http://www.friendsofhearstcastle.org/special_events.asp)

Feel Good Chocolate

Sweet Earth Chocolates, based in San Luis Obispo, is one of a handful of Organic and Fair Trade chocolate makers in the United States. The company was founded by Tom Neuhaus, a California Polytechnic University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo Food Sciences professor, trained French chef, chocolatier and humanitarian, who also teaches the only university level class on chocolate in the United States. What makes Sweet Earth Chocolates different from other chocolate makers is their advocacy for Fair Trade and the West African cocoa farmer; Neuhaus visits West Africa every year to help out the farmers who live in poverty despite supplying America with 75 percent of its cocoa. The benefits of Organic and Fair Trade are the all-natural ingredients used to produce the chocolate - no slave labor, no chemicals, no pesticides. (www.sweetearthchocolates.com)

Say Cheese

Visitors to Paso Robles can taste a unique selection of exceptional handcrafted cow, sheep and goat milk cheeses from around the world at the Vivant Fine Cheese tasting room. They offer nearly 200 kinds of cheese that can be paired with Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo County wines and beers. An added incentive to visit, Vivant's building basement houses aging caves, the first of their kind on the West Coast. (www.vivantfinecheese.com)

Happy Acres Family Farm is a California state licensed working goat dairy that is new and unique to the Central Coast. Happy Acres started with one special goat named Stella, whom owner Stephanie Simonin got to help feed orphan calves her husband brought home. Stella still leads the ever expanding herd of goats, today made up of four unique breeds totaling over 200 head. Happy Acres' goat milk is all natural and hormone-free. Stop by the farm in Templeton to taste the cheese or pick up some goat milk products from the Happy Acres farm stand. (www.happyacresfamilyfarm.net)

Beers

San Luis Obispo County is known as wine country, but beer enthusiasts can please their palates here too with distinctive beers and ales produced and poured locally. Breweries to explore include Firestone Walker (Paso Robles),Tap It Brewing (San Luis Obispo), Pismo Brewing (Pismo Beach) and Dunbar Brewing (Santa Margarita Ranch). A brew pub not to miss is The Pour House in Paso Robles. (www.pasopourhouse.com)

The county hosts two beer festivals. The California Festival of Beers on Memorial Day weekend in San Luis Obispo benefits the volunteer Hospice of San Luis Obispo (www.californiafestivalofbeers.com) and is now in its 27th year, while the new Firestone Walker International Beer Festival takes place during Pioneer Day Festival in Paso Robles in June (www.firestonebeerfest.com).

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

The 11-acre Cal Poly Organic Farm on the campus of California Polytechnic University (Cal Poly) San Luis Obispo has as its primary mission to provide undergraduate students a place to experience hands-on learning in organic and sustainable farming and gardening practices. Vegetable production includes dozens of varieties of produce that are marketed in several direct sales events like farmer's markets, a campus farm market and to local vendors and restaurants. Produce that is not sold is donated to the Food Bank. In addition to produce, various organic products (honey, chocolate bars) plus cheeses and meats are marketed under the Cal Poly brand. Members of the Cal Poly Organic Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) receive a weekly "harvest box" of fresh seasonal produce. (www.aeps.calpoly.edu/organics)

 

(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)

 

Editor's note: Links to the websites of San Luis Obispo County, as well as links to hundreds of lodging and dining options there, can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

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