Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stone Brewery Tour

Last Wednesday, Michelle organized a surprise outing for me.  Well, I ended up guessing what it was that morning, so maybe it wasn't a complete surprise.  But it was a wonderful treat!  Michelle arranged to pick me up from work early (good start to the surprise already!), and we went to Stone Brewery to do their free brewery tour.  We've always said that we wanted to do the tour, but we had never actually done it.  Now, I'm glad that we finally did!

The tour is free.  You just have to get there early enough to reserve a spot.  Michelle went beforehand to secure our tickets, just in case a large group came in.  We arrived about 30 minutes ahead of time, so we had a quick drink in the bar.
Michelle had a Black Market Hefeweizen from Temecula, and I had Lightning - Old Tempest from Poway, served on cask.  Both were delicious.

After our drinks, we got started on the tour.  There were about 12 of us.  They walk you around all the big beautiful stainless steel brewing tanks, and tell you a little bit about how beer is made.  Our tour guide reviewed the ingredients in beer (water, barley, hops, yeast), and explained how the different variations in just those 4 ingredients create the multitude of beer varieties we can enjoy.  We tasted the barley and smelled the hops.
I wish our tour guide had talked a little more about the actual brewing process or the history of the company, instead of making lots of silly jokes, but we did learn some interesting facts (which I've now forgotten, unfortunately).  It was fascinating to see how they brew beer on such a large scale (well, large for a craft brewery anyway).  Stone is going to start brewing 24 hours a day in order to keep up with the demand.
At the end of the tour, everyone gets 4 free beer tastings!  You get to try the Pale Ale, Smoked Porter, IPA, and Arrogant Bastard.  I tried to trade in some of my tastings for a taste of the specialty beers, but they wouldn't allow it.  I really wanted the Old Guardian Belgo Barley Wine!  But, I can't complain about free beer.  And, as the generous husband that I am, I offered to help Michelle finish her tastings too.
I highly recommend the tour.  Stone Brewery is one of the elite San Diego breweries.  While not everyone will love their amazingly hoppy brews, the brewery restaurant and gardens are worth the trip alone.  For the low price of $0, you get to tour the brewery, learn about the art of craft brewing, and sample some of the best beers from San Diego.  Who says you can't get anything for free?

On a related note, that same morning that we did the tour, Stone had a large media event where they announced some exciting new expansions.  I can't wait to see how their plans turn out.  It's exciting to see a local North County brewery doing so well.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Game Night - 5/11/11

Game night was at my house this week, with Matt, Condo and my dad. I love playing cards with my Dad. After all, my love of games partially comes from him. Growing up, we played countless games of Rummy and Canasta. His favorite card game is Pinochle, so I knew he'd enjoy Tichu.

Tichu is a popular Chinese card game that I would describe as a cross between Pinochle and Poker.  It's highly interactive and each play is a tough choice to make.  The goal is to get rid of your cards first by playing progressively higher combinations of cards in each trick (single, pair, full house, straight, etc).  It's a partnership game, so reading your partner plays a big part too.
Condo and I teamed up against Matt and my dad.  They were worthy opponents, but the deck was stacked against them this night.  In all but 2 or 3 hands, Condo and I went out first, earning us 200 points each hand toward our 1000 point goal.  Matt and Dad spent almost the entire game in negative points.  I think they made it into the black on the last hand, but by then it was too late. 
Our beer selection for the night was:
  •  Ballast Point - Big Eye IPA: A great all-around IPA from one of the great San Diego breweries.  Great flavor, easy to drink, yet packs a decent punch at 7%.  You can't go wrong with this.
  • Mikkeller - Koppi Coffee IPA: Mikkeller has quite a few unique brews out there (Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, I'm looking at you.)  This is one of them.  I had never heard of a Coffee IPA before tonight, so was excited to try it.  However, while I thought the brew was quite delicious and a unique twist on your typical IPA, I tasted no coffee whatsoever.  The color was a hazy amber, much lighter than I expected from a coffee beer.  There were no coffee notes in the nose.  And only a slight hint in the flavor.  I enjoyed this, but if you try it, don't expect bold coffee flavors here.
  • Karl Strauss - Parrot in a Palm Tree:  Great choice by my dad in bringing this delicious Baltic Porter from Karl Strauss.  KS is really stepping it up with their seasonal releases.  I think they've seen the huge market in San Diego for specialty craft beers.  They don't disappoint with this one!  It's one of the best porters I've ever tasted.  Aging it in port barrels gives it a unique taste compared to other porters.
  • Avery - Dihos Dactylion: I picked this up on my last trip to Denver.  I was in the bottle shop and I asked the guy there what were some local beers that I wouldn't be able to get back home.  He brought this one out of the back room for me.  It was the last bottle!  Now, we do get Avery beer here in San Diego.  But this was an extremely limited release.  I believe there were only 264 cases bottled.  It was a sour ale aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, over 10%.  Very tart and sweet, but not so harsh as a Flanders Red can be.  I found it to be very smooth and easy to drink, though I don't know if I'd enjoy drinking a whole bottle.  This was a good one to end the night with.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Game Night - 5/4/2011

Game night on 5/4/11 was hosted by Erik.  In attendance were Erik, Daniel, Matt, Condo, Darryl, and Todd.  Austin was there early on, but had to leave early so did not have a chance to play.  This was the largest turnout for game night in quite some time, and it was Todd's first time joining our group.

With such a large group, we decided to play 7 Wonders.  This is one of the newer additions to my collection, but has quickly become my game of choice for large groups (it takes 3-7 players) and for newer players.  Even with a large group, the game does not drag because everyone takes their actions simultaneously.  So with 3 players or with 7, it still takes about the same amount of time.  It is also easily explained within 10 minutes.  The concepts are easy enough for newer gamers, but interesting enough for experienced players.  And the 7 different civilization boards, each with 2 sides, adds variability between games.

Darryl won with an impressive 53 points.

Our second game was The Traders of Genoa (or just Genoa, as the newer edition of the game is now called).  I recently picked up a used copy of this game from Pair-A-Dice for $20.  This was my first time ever playing the game, so setup and rules explanation took a bit longer than normal, but we got the hang of it after a few turns.

Darryl and Condo sat out this game, so it was just me, Matt, Erik & Todd.  Traders of Genoa is a negotiation game, where you play the role of a trader trying to make money by filling orders and delivering messages throughout the city.  What makes it interesting is that just about everything is up for negotiation.  You can trade goods, order cards, special cards, or money to get the things you need.  Because everything is up for negotiation, there is little down time, since all players can be involved in negotiations.  I barely won this game, with just a few ducats more than Todd in the end.  Now that we understand the game, we want to play it again soon.

The beers we enjoyed this evening were:
Shipyard - XXXX IPA - Nice Imperial IPA.  One of the best I've had from Shipyard.
Left Hand - Wake Up Dead  - An Imperial Stout I brought back from Denver.
Mikkeller - Big Worse - Very potent barley wine.
Karl Strauss - Blackball Belgian IPA - I liked it, but not as much as Stone Cali-Belgique.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Greetings fellow gamers and craft beer lovers!  This blog will be devoted to all things involving designer board games and craft beer.  Game night session reports, beer reviews, game reviews, and other ramblings to follow.