Pliny alert! How to snag one of craft beer’s most cherished brews
Pliny the Charitable
Issued in small batches once a year, Russian River’s Pliny the Younger is a triumph of brewing and marketing. Every February, a select number of San Diego craft beer bars jockey for kegs of the rare triple IPA, whose local 2018 debut came this week.
If want to try the Younger, you can a.) follow the Twitter feed of craft-savvy taverns and brace for around-the-block lines, or b.) open your wallet for charity.
Two ways to sample Younger while supporting a cause:
1. O’Brien’s, 4646 Convoy St., San Diego, will tap its first keg of Younger on Saturday at 3 p.m. A second follows noon Feb. 22. These are first-come, first-served affairs, but tickets for the third keg — which will be poured from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 21 — will go on sale at 4 p.m. today. The $25 fee brings 10 ounces of Younger and the satisfaction of knowing the entire amount goes to charities supporting veterans, animals and the arts.
2. Hamilton’s, 1521 30th St., San Diego, is hosting a triple IPA challenge, pitting the Younger against — whew! — 15 challengers. Tickets to this blind taste test, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 25, are $50. A portion of the proceeds will benefit victims of last year’s Northern California fires.
As my colleague Daniel Wheaton reported earlier this week, Escondido-based Stone insists its lawsuit against a brewing behemoth is no publicity stunt.
MillerCoors redesigned its Keystone cans to separate the words “Key” and “Stone.” Turned in a certain direction, the can displays just the latter word in big, bold letters. Moreover, 30-packs are sold in cardboard cases promising “30 ’Stones.”
Cue the outrage.
“In the world of beer,” Stone co-founder and executive chairman Greg Koch said in a video posted Monday, “the name Stone is ours.”
While no trademark law expert, I’m declaring a winner: Stone by a knockout. Even if this ain’t a publicity stunt, the nation’s 10th largest craft brewery must be loving this.
By publicly tangling with one of beer’s corporate Goliaths, Stone stresses its roots as a scrappy, pugnacious David making bold, full-flavored brews. In a crowded beer market — San Diego alone has more than 160 breweries — Stone is constantly on the lookout for innovative, eye-catching opportunities to trumpet its upstart message.
Just such an opportunity was gift-wrapped by MillerCoors. Koch’s video? In its first 24 hours, it notched over 55,000 views on YouTube, more than any previous Stone video.
Meanwhile, the conglomerate’s defense has to be read to be disbelieved. The key statement: “Our consumers have commonly used ‘Stone’ to refer to the Keystone brand and we will let the facts speak for themselves in the legal process.”:
Good luck with that.
Kings of Beer
Is Anchor sinking? Under then-owner Fritz Maytag, San Francisco’s hometown brewery was credited with helping launch the craft beer movement in the 1970s, captivating drinkers with its flagship Steam Beer. But in the last eight years, Anchor has been sold twice, first to Bay Area investors and then to Japanese megabrewer Sapporo.
Fans had to wonder. Was it time to bid sayonara to Anchor?
Sampling its new Coffee Porter (6.7 percent alcohol by volume), my answer is an emphatic no. Using beans from a fellow S.F. establishment, Four Barrel Coffee, Anchor has created a complex yet simply delightful ale. From its mocha aromas to its quick, clean finish, this porter is surprisingly cheery. The roasted coffee notes are cut with layers of cream and dark chocolate. Expertly carbonated, this porter is light on the tongue, not overstaying its welcome.
This week’s King, Coffee Porter drives out Customized Yellow Merc IPA (6.9 percent). Fall Brewing’s fruity New England-style IPA is good, sporty fun. Keep it mind if you want a tropical IPA that’s big without being bloated.
Homebrewing Away from Home
Judd McGhee makes brewing look easy.
“It’s a ‘Wizard of Oz’ thing – don’t look behind the curtain,” said McGhee, owner of Citizen Brewers, a “brew-on-premises” shop at 5837 Mission Gorge Road in San Diego.“There are so many things that can go wrong, it’s always a triumph when it works.”
His business, which opened in 2015, is equipped with brew kettles, fermentation tanks, malts, hops, yeast strains — everything novices need to brew their first batch of beer.
Some customers require little attention as they brew. Others want step-by-step instruction. McGhee, 39, is happy either way: “I enjoy hosting. It’s a lot of fun.”
The price of this fun varies with the group’s size and the beer’s recipe. Parties of four to six people can make a batch in under five hours for about $300. The tab includes bottles, caps, labels and five to six cases of beer.
While customers can brew anything from coffee-infused stouts to lemony hefeweizens, one style dominates. Of course.
“It’s still IPA all the time,” McGhee said. “I’ve brewed as much IPA and derivatives of IPA as everything else combined.”
Did you know…
Pliny the Elder was a Roman lawyer, soldier and author who — legend has it — was the first to describe in writing the hop plant. Russian River named its double IPA (8 percent alcohol) after this figure, and its triple IPA (10.25 percent) after his nephew, Pliny the Younger.
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