Dec 2008 07

I’ve almost recovered from the beer-topia that was the 12th Annual San Diego Strong Ale Festival.  It took just two nights, a turbulent cross-country plane ride, and a hangover, ironically named for the position you resemble over the toilet if don’t want one in the morning.  The VIP ticket cost just $40 but was worth infinitely more than that and I imbibed in some of the finest brews of 8% and above potency, worshipping and drowning in it like Madonna in a swimming pool filled with Kabbala water.  I’m surprised we weren’t required to sign our soul over to the Hop Duvel in order to accept the tasting glass at the door, although the lineup did warn you to request short pours if you were determined to sample a case worth, so they wouldn’t have to wheelbarrow you out. More like scoop you off the ground and pour you into the Bette Davis Center…

The VIP session included 10 taster tickets with additional tickets available for purchase. I started with #92, Maui Brewing’s Father Damien, a Belgian style dark Strong Ale which I found to be slightly roasty but a little malty sweet for my tastes. My favorite was #3, De Vogelbekdieren by Avery. Also known as the Platypus, this delicious blend of Belgian style ales aged in three different barrels danced on my tongue with a perfect measure of sourness and carbonation. I also enjoyed seconds of the Lost Abbey Veritas 002, a deep ruby colored barrel aged Belgian ale blended with Redstone Raspberry Nectar, and raisins and plums with a bready malt.

Alpine Beer’s Exponential Hoppiness is brewed by adding hops at different stages in the process. It has that citrusy, piney hop pungency that West Coast style IPA’s are known for and that makes me unabashedly a hop whore. Firestone Walker’s Saucer Full of Secrets combines flavors of vanilla, caramel, and wood with dark fruits and chewy malts. The Port Brewing Tovarish Imperial Expresso Stout was a nice change of flavors with its roasty coffee and caramel with subtle notes of dark fruits and chocolate.

There were very few beers that I wasn’t fond of, although a couple didn’t quite meet my high expectations. Russian River Consecration had a pleasantly low carbonation but had a sweeter fruity taste than the typical RR tarty sourness I love- maybe that will develop with some age. I was also disappointed in Boulevard barrel aged 6th Glass. I felt the boozy flavor took away from the cherry and wood flavors. I hope to have the opportunity to attend next year’s festival- one more year to sober up!