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 ...
Culture Brewing Co.: Keyhole IPA
ABV: 6.6 percent
Pair with: fish tacos
This citrus-filled beer gives your standard fruity IPA a fresh take, literally. The Keyhole IPA uses whole grapefruits in its mosaic IPA that complement the citrusy hops perfectly, allowing the brew not to be overly acidic or bitter and light-bodied. It is fragrant, juicy and a refreshing Southern California classic.
This beer comes to us from Steve Ragan, owner and brewmaster at Culture Brewing Co. Keyhole IPA has ties to local skateboarding and art, which is how it got its name.
"When we realized we had such high foot traffic in a residential area, I wanted something to have a form of entertainment and decided to do that by having an art wall," Ragan said. "We started the company, started brewing beer and began to realize how much time and focus it took to make the beer and run the business; it was a lot all at once.
"Two months went by, and then we finally connected with (J.) Grant Brittain, a legendary skateboard photographer."
That initial connection led to Brittain's work becoming the brewery's first art display. The show's theme was based on the Del Mar Skate Ranch, with photos from the mid-1980s to early '90s. One of the most famous features of the Del Mar park was a keyhole-shaped bowl, which inspired this beer, Ragan said.
"The Keyhole had blue and orange tile, so that was like a visual aspect for me, creatively, that I wanted to think of what I could do with that for beer," he said. "I scrapped a bunch of ideas and then finally, we decided to take our mosaic IPA and transform it into our Keyhole IPA by using grapefruit," he said.
Mosaic IPAs tend to already have an upfront, citrus kick, delicious on its own. Adding some fresh grapefruit to a mosaic IPA helps put an exclamation point on the natural flavors already present from the hops in this tasty brew.
"Normally when I try to make beer, there's a good balance between flavor with just the beer by itself. The hops give a great citrus profile to the beer. Initially, you don't know when you're tasting hop or grapefruit. We use whole, real grapefruits, and we spend a lot of time prepping for juicing into the beer," Ragan said. "Our beers vary batch to batch because we are working with the seasonality of the produce. It's a real fruit. You're not getting concentrate or a spoonful of extract to make it more intense. So, because of that, it has a very complimentary flavor."
The beer itself boasts more than just a grapefruit taste. There are also notes of tropical fruit, melon and a nice amount of bitterness that you'd hope for in a hoppy, grapefruit beer. The bite isn't too overwhelming and the acid from the fruit is mild, making it a very easy-drinking brew.
Ragan said that although making this beer is fun and exciting to share with those who appreciate quality beer and know the style well, it's even more rewarding to broaden his new customers' horizons.
"My favorite part about brewing beer is for the new consumers who have yet to discover what craft beer is - that's the most rewarding thing," he said. "For the people who have never experienced the full range of flavors that beer has to offer, it's a brand new experience for them. You aren't expecting it.
"It's like getting a pony on your birthday. It's like a big surprise you weren't expecting to love," Ragan said. "You just see the lights just go off in their head and it clicks, and that is the best part of this, to me."
111 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach, or 4845 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach. culturebrewingco.com