There can only be one undistributed beer of the week. The competition is fierce in San Diego's beer community, but someone has to take the title. This week's best undistributed beer is ...
AMPLIFIED ALE WORKS: BOMBSHELLES
Style: Helles Bock
ABV: 8.4 percent
Pair with: A roasted chicken dish or pot pie
We sat down with Jeff Campbell, director of brewing operations, and Alex Pierson, co-founder at Amplified Ale Works, to chat about this big beer that is dangerously drinkable, malty and a step in a tasty direction, compared with some of the beers we typically see hitting our taps in San Diego.
"This beer is made with 100 percent German malts; it's about 40 percent Vienna malt and the rest German pilsner malt," Campbell said. "It has a pretty light, easy-drinking malt profile but there's a lot of the malt. You get a good mouthfeel, good body and a higher percentage of alcohol.
"We use a German Bock yeast that also gives it that subtle fruit character and more of the not-so-common lager undertones but not the usual sulfur-y, pilsner profile that you're used to," he said. "It took a normal amount of time for fermentation, a week and a half or so, and then it did two months of lagering."
This style of beer, a nice break from some of the more common players we see in the San Diego beer scene, is made to be something you can sip with ease out in the sunshine, without requiring a sacrifice on the flavor front.
"I always liked the technical side of brewing lagers," Campbell said. "I come from an accounting background and so, when I brew lagers, I switch everything to Celsius and I take a lot of notes. Since it's such a simple beer, there is not a lot to hide. If you mess up, it's going to show instantly, so I am very meticulous throughout the whole process.
"The beer is done and clear pretty early in the process, but it's interesting to see how the beer matures as you lager it," he said. "With other beers, we send the beer during fermentation over to the bright tank and force-carbonate it. With this one, while there's still some activity in the tank, we cap it and have the yeast naturally produce the carbonation, which gives it a smoother mouthfeel, I think."
The spinning wheel of popular beer styles seems to be landing back on an easier drinking, less-hoppy brew these days. Perhaps it's that we all drank so many IPAs, our taste buds are somewhat burned out, especially in San Diego.
This beer is heavy on the malt and grains, which makes a high alcohol beer quite easy to sip on. Remarkably easy, really. It's smooth, balanced and still offers the bite of hop that we like. Beyond that, you'll also pick up on some fruity notes of light citrus that linger throughout the brew.
"I love that this is a big, easy-drinking beer," Campbell said. "It's simple enough, but it's also complex. I think the unknown and challenge of this beer is the main reason I wanted to create this.
"We originally brewed our beer Sellout with the intention of entering it into a competition," he added. "I still had some of the lager yeast left and I couldn't really find a style of a big lager that I thought would be well-suited for drinking at the beach. It was like, OK, I don't want a big, dark lager, so I thought, let's make a balanced, light lager. I wanted to go out of style and brew a big beer because I am a big guy - so I wanted a big beer."
For the record, Campbell is 6 feet 7 inches tall, so a big beer is needed, indeed. For those who aren't quite as tall as he is (me included), this beer is still a suitable, strong and tasty alternative to a light lager. Although some style guidelines are needed for producing quality beer, it's clear that some outside-the-box thinking took place with this one. That process is fun and is the essence of craft brewing, he said.
"I think it's important for preserving beer culture and history," he said. "That being said, I don't think deviating from the style should be frowned upon or restricted. That is what craft beer is all about. It's about breaking ground and trying new things, but it is important to keep historical styles preserved so you know what beers should taste like and understand the brewing process."
This beer is available to try on tap at Amplified Ale Works. Get it while it's cold!
9030 Kenamar Drive, Suite 309, Miramar, and 4150 Mission Blvd., Suite 208, Pacific Beach. amplifiedales.com