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Craft beer & baseball, and a visit to the 2012 San Diego Padres Beerfest

June 04, 2012 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Events, Travelin'

Baseball - Padres cup

From the minors to the majors, more and more baseball fans are picking up a craft beer at the stadium to wash down their peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

Some stadiums are offering upward of 60 varieties of beer, the Associated Press reported last month, the result of increased demand for craft and local beers.

At AutoZone Park in Downtown Memphis, craft beer from Ghost River Brewing is served alongside Yuengling and domestics like Budweiser, Miller and Coors.

Ghost River even created Home Run Red for its inaugural season of serving beer at the home of the Memphis Redbirds, and the craft beer has since become a staple for beer drinkers at the park. (Outside the park, the red ale has become one of Ghost River’s year-round beers, better known as Copperhead Red, winner of the 2011 Great America Beer Festival silver medal in the Irish-style Red category.)

AutoZone Park is also home to the annual Memphis Brewfest, one of the premier tasting events in the Mid-South.

On my visit to San Diego last week, I experienced another way ballparks are trying to capitalize on the craft beer movement.

The 3rd annual San Diego Padres Beerfest was a craft beer festival held two hours before the opening pitch of the Padres-Arizona Diamondbacks game at Petco Park.

The festival featured a mix of beers from San Diego-area breweries, Northern California breweries and national craft brands like Samuel Adams and Shiner. Admission to the festival was free with your game ticket, but a roughly 12-ounce pour was $5, with proceeds going to charity.

It was a great opportunity to try beers from San Diego that I missed out on during my brewery visits throughout the week. I got to try The Lost Abbey’s Devotion, Mission Brewery’s IPA, Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA, all from San Diego, and from Paso Robles, Firestone Walker’s Union Jack.

Baseball - WelcomeThe first pour was at 5 p.m., just over two hours before the first pitch at 7:05.

baseball - crowdThe festival was held in a green space beyond the outfield wall at Petco Park, with lots of soft grass to sit on.

Baseball - breweriesThe brewery list included, among others, Kona Brewing Company, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Coronado Brewing Company, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Anchor Brewing, Deschutes Brewery and Rogue Brewery.

Baseball - Firestone WalkerFirestone Walker’s Union Jack was my favorite beer of the day.

Baseball - Green FlashGreen Flash served its excellent Le Freak and Hop Head Red.

Baseball - Broken LizardKevin Heffernan (left) and Paul Soter (second from right) from the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, who starred in the movie “Beerfest,” were on hand to meet fans. They liked my Yazoo Brewing shirt, which was specially made for the Memphis Brewfest.

Baseball - Petco ParkAnd after the beer festival, there was baseball. Craft beers available at the stadium concession stands include selections from Stone Brewing Company and Gordon Biersch Brewing Company.

No fizzy yellow beer here: A visit to Stone Brewing in California

May 24, 2012 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Travelin'

Mike and Stone Greg

I’ve been to a lot of breweries, big and small, but Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, Calif., may be the swankiest brewery of them all. The brewery features the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, which includes a 300+ seat restaurant, open-air patio, one-acre organic beer garden and company store.

And by sheer luck, I happened to show up at Stone on the day of the book release of “The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.,” a behind-the-scenes look at the history of Stone Brewing, with recipes from the bistro and never-before released homebrew recipes for Stone beers.

As a result, I got to meet Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, co-founders of Stone Brewing Co., and Randy Clemens, public relations coordinator at Stone, who are co-authors of the book. (That’s me and Greg pictured up top.)

And that’s not all! I happened to show up at Stone for a special tasting of the excellent 2010 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine, which was aged in bourbon barrels. Later, on a tour of the brewery, I also got to sample Stone Pale Ale, Stone Smoked Porter, Stone India Pale Ale and Arrogant Bastard Ale. It’s hard to beat fresh Stone beer on tap.

Stone - tabletStone was founded in 1996 in San Marcos, Calif. The first keg of Stone Pale Ale was sold on July 26, 1996, to Vince Marsaglia of Pizza Port fame.

Stone - bottles & grainsThe tour at Stone started with everything you need to make beer!

Stone- tour guideOur tour guide’s sage advice: “If you’re worried about calories, ride your bike to the liquor store.”

Stone - Long view of tanksStone projects that it will produce 180,000 barrels of beer in 2012.

Stone - tanksThe brewery is among the fastest-growing in America over the past 15 years, averaging 43% year-to-year growth in that period.

Stone - bottling lineStone’s bottling line can produce 20 cases per minute.

Stone - Cases of Stone IPAStone IPA, along with Stone Pale Ale, are Stone’s flagship beers.

Stone- WussiesStone is known for brewing beers with “big character.” They are not for wussies.

Stone - restaurantStone’s restaurant, which seats 385, has 32 craft and specialty beers on tap, plus more than 100 bottles, as well as an extensive wine list.

Stone - GargoyleA gargoyle is the mascot for Stone Brewing Company and appears on Stone’s labels, which are some of the coolest labels around.


So it’s been eight months since my visit to Stone Brewing Co. in the San Diego area, and I’m just now getting around to posting these photos from the trip. And guess what? I’m headed back to San Diego very soon. So before I head that way again, please leave a comment below and tell me what breweries and brewpubs I need to check out in San Diego.

Schlafly’s James Ottolini wins Brewers Association award for innovation

May 04, 2012 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer

James Ottolini - SchlaflyJames Ottolini, brewmaster at The Saint Louis Brewery Inc. and Head of Brewing Operations at Schlafly Beer since 1992, won an achievement award for innovation in brewing this week from the Brewers Association.

Ottolini won the prestigious Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing, awarded at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego.

Here’s more from the Brewers Association press release:

Described by a fellow brewer as an artist, a scientist and an inventor, James Ottolini of the St. Louis Brewery, Inc. is the recipient of the 2012 Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing. The list of his creative brewing solutions ranges from redesigned milling processes to reduce brewers’ exposure to dust to extensive research on dry-hopping, which has been said to result in “beer with bold floral characteristics, but a soft, inviting quaffability.”

Others winners were Doug and Wynne Odell and Doug’s sister, Corkie Odell, of Odell Brewing Co., recipients of the Brewers Association Recognition Award; and Tom McCormick, full-time executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association, who won the F.X. Matt Defense of the Industry Award recipient.

The Brewers Association is a trade association representing small and independent brewers.