AUG/SEP 2005 | REGIONAL | WEST
||Suds Surfin' San Diego : 8th
Annual Real Ale Festival
By Rich Link
I have to admit, I’m getting spoiled. Three times a
year there are beer parties at Pizza Port Carlsbad, and every
one of them is world-class. The events are organized by Tomme
Arthur, Jeff Bagby and Tom Nickel. The Strong Ale Festival
takes place in late fall, the 12-Hour Belgian Beer Party in
March, and the Real Ale Festival (RAF) in June. This year’s
Real Ale Fest on June 10–11 found 40 real ales being
served via hand-pump or by gravity.
Real ale is defined as being unfiltered and naturally carbonated
in the cask. Carbon dioxide is not used to force the beer
through a tapping system. Hand-pumps draw the beer from the
cask, or they are simply served via gravity through a tap
in the bottom of the cask. These beers are served warmer than
keg beers and have lower CO2 levels than most beers, thus
having a softer mouthfeel. Also, many brewers add hops to
the cask (dry-hopping), giving the beer a fresh hop aroma.
Since real ale is still a fairly new idea here in the U.S.,
there isn’t a huge demand for it. Therefore, brewers
don’t make very much of it. Some brewers only make cask-conditioned
beers for special occasions. It’s interesting to taste
the cask-conditioned versions of beers that are normally kegged
or bottled. Less gas and more hop aroma make for a perfect
session of ale drinking. Fortunately, more craft brewers are
adding real ale to their repertoire.
In the United Kingdom, most real ales tend to be under 5%
alcohol content. Only two of the beers at the RAF came in
under 5%. Most were between 5% and 8%, with a couple of others
in double digits. The majority of the ales were IPAs or some
derivative. Other cask styles included oatmeal stout, American
red and mild ale.
Eleven San Diego breweries brought casks to the event. The
rest came from other California breweries or breweries in
Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon. I sampled my fair share
of them on Friday evening. Most were excellent, garnering
ratings of 7 to 9 on my 10-point scale. Some of the best were
India Pelican Ale from Pelican Pub & Brewery in Pacific
City, Ore.; Black Ice Imperial Stout from Santa Barbara Brewing
Company; Lou P Lin from Pizza Port Solana Beach; and Ruination
from Stone Brewing Company. Check out pizzaport.com
for information on upcoming festivals.
Fortunately, more craft
brewers are adding real ale to their repertoire.
Speaking of Pizza Port, some major personnel changes have
been made there. First, longtime Solana Beach brewer Tomme
Arthur has been named director of brewing operations. Arthur
is tasked with overseeing the operations of the three Pizza
Second, Kirk McHale, brewer at Pizza Port Carlsbad and Pizza
Port San Clemente, is no longer with the company. Replacing
McHale for the interim are three well-known local brewers.
At Carlsbad, brewing duties will be shared by Tom Nickel,
O’Brien’s publican and former brewer with the
Oggi’s chain; and Skip Virgilio, formerly of AleSmith
Brewing Company and Pacific Beach Brewhouse. Jeff Bagby, current
Oggi’s brewer at the Vista and Carmel Mountain Ranch
locations and former assistant to Arthur in Solana Beach,
is taking on the brewing chores in San Clemente. Arthur and
Assistant Brewer Jeff Helms will continue brewing at Solana
Arthur stresses that it will be business as usual at all
three pubs. All of the beers that the public has come to know
and love are still available in all three pubs. Arthur is
currently accepting and reviewing applications for a full-time
Also, Pizza Port is considering expanding its brewing operations.
A larger off-site production brewery would allow Port Brewing
to produce more of its award-winning beers for draft and bottle
La Jolla Brewery has opened in the site that formerly housed
the On Tap! Bistro and Brewery in University Towne Centre.
The new brewery restaurant has a similar menu to that of its
predecessor. I recently stopped in for a sampler set that
included six new beers. My pick for best of the lot was the
brown ale. More on this brewery to follow in future issues.
Lastly, two popular beer festivals are coming soon. Stone
Brewing Company’s ninth anniversary party will be held
at the new Stone brewery in Escondido on Saturday, September
10. There will be two three-hour sessions. Last year’s
fest was so crowded that the fest has been split into two
sessions to help reduce the long lines for beer. Go to stonebrew.com
for more info.
The San Diego Festival of beer will be held Friday, September
23, at the corner of Columbia and B Streets in downtown San
Diego. Expect 50 breweries at the 11th annual version of this
fest. Go to sdbeerfest.org
for more information.
La Jolla Brewery
4353 La Jolla Village Dr.
San Diego, CA 92122
Rich Link is an associate editor of the Celebrator
Beer News. He lives in Santee, Calif., and has been brewing
beer at home since 1980. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.