February Craft Beer Report – Catawba Brewing, The Lost Abbey, Pizza Port Brewing, Burgeon Beer Company, Benford Brewing
Whether a brewery sends me a courtesy sample, I visit a brewery on a press trip, or I just stop in a brewery because beer, I drink a lot of beer. Each month, I summarize my favorites in a monthly craft beer report.
February was off the charts good beer-wise. In fact, I had a hard time narrowing this list down to something publishable. Alas, I know readers don’t want to read a digest of everything I drank in a month. I did what I could to cull this list down to my top five with inclusions from my press trip to Carlsbad, California and a few new discoveries from around Charlotte.
Pizza Port Brewing Koa Warrior Imperial Stout (Draught, 11% ABV)
Where: Pizza Port Brewing in Carlsbad, California
With: A flight of beer and pizza
Notes: I realize this next statement is going to make me lose some serious beer cred, but I had never drank anything from Pizza Port Brewing before. As I’m an East Coaster, our paths have never crossed. On the press trip, we stopped at two Pizza Port locations – Carlsbad and Bressi Ranch. And of course, we sampled a ton of beers. The Koa Warrior stood out for its combination of toasted coconuts and coffee with the addition of toasted macadamia nuts. It was like a cookie you grab from the cookie table at an Italian wedding that you don’t know what to call it but want the recipe. Admittedly, it didn’t pair well with the pizza, though. If you go, order it for your liquid dessert.
The Lost Abbey Carnevale Farmhouse Saison (Draught, 6.5% ABV)
Where: Barrel Republic in Carlsbad, California
With: A beer festivals worth of samples from Barrel Republic’s pour your own sampling system
Notes: First, a bit about Barrel Republic as this isn’t your typical beer bar. Barrel Republic is a pour your own beer bar with over 50 taps to choose from. Customers are given wristbands that they swipe in front of whatever tap they chose to pour beer from. You can then pour however much beer you want, from 1 ounce to a full pint.
The Lost Abbey is another brewery that I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never tried before. Once again, I cite my East Coast home base and the fact that this was my first West Coast beercation. Thus, I tried about everything that Barrel Republic had from The Lost Abbey. What stood out most was the Carnevale Farmhouse Saison, their Spring seasonal. It’s an unspiced saison with a dosage of Amarillo and Simcoe hops and an addition of Brettanomyces at packaging. The result is a beer that combines the dryness of a saison with a touch of citrus notes from the hops and an ever so slight funk from the brett.
Burgeon Beer Company Noble Miner Grisette (Draught, 4.3% ABV, 17 IBU)
Where: Burgeon Beer Company’s tasting room in Carlsbad, California
With: A flight of beers
Notes: Allow me to beer nerd out on you for a moment. Grisette is style not all that different than a saison in both style and origin. Whereas a saison was brewed to quench the thirst of French farm workers during their breaks, a grisette was brewed to extinguish the thirst of Belgian mill workers. The beer is brewed with malted wheat and a saison yeast. Burgeon Beer’s Grisette drank like a saison meets a wheat ale. The dryness, tropical notes, and low ABV make it a great beach beer.
Benford Brewing Problem Solver Imperial IPA (Draught, 11.5% ABV, 109 IBU)
Where: Benford Brewing’s farm in Lancaster, South Carolina
With: An interview with brewery owner Brian O’Neal for a Charlotte Five article
Notes: Problem Solver was a collaboration beer between Brian O’Neal of Benford Brewing and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin Brewing. Admittedly, the ratings on sites like Beer Advocate and Ratebeer aren’t the highest. I blame the reviewer and not the beer. Beer needs seem to want imperial IPAs that are so bitter nobody but an elite few can drink them. Benford Brewing doesn’t brew beers for beer nerds. They brew beers that they want to drink, which match closer to the palates of the rest of us. Problem Solver may have some big ABV and IBU numbers, but it’s incredibly easy to drink with bright citrus and mango hops notes over a mild caramel malt backbone.
Catawba Brewing CLT IPA (Draught, 7.2% ABV, 80 IBU)
Where: At several bars along Catawba’s CLT Pub Crawl in Charlotte North Carolina
With: Catawba Brewing and Adams Beverage employees
Notes: As a thank you from Catawba Brewing, the gang at there invited me to tag along for their CLT IPA Pub Crawl. The beer (and pub crawl) was meant to help introduce Catawba Brewing’s new brewery in Charlotte with a beer brewed specifically for the Queen City. In a city filled with a lot of good IPAs – including a GABF gold-medal winner – that’s a tall order. However, Catawba Brewing’s CLT IPA has something many of the others doesn’t – drinkability. That may sound strange with an IBU of 80, but the hops deliver loads of quenching tropical and stone fruit notes over a very light malt bill. This isn’t a beer that will wreck your palate but instead will leave you craving for another.