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Stout by the Sea Side

I have been brewing professionally for almost 11 years now. Inevitably I get asked that oh so fun question. “What is your favorite beer.” Like a proud father, I respond…” They are all my children and I like them equally as much.” Of course this is the PC answer but I am also an Uncle in real life and I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that I most certainly have a favorite niece. Does this mean that I am entitled to have a favorite beer? Absolutely although you most likely won’t hear me speak about it publicly.

Yet, if you want to know what beer a brewer likes the best, ask them what they drink when they’re not working. On a side note, I can’t believe I just wrote that. Anytime a brewer is at their brewery, they are inevitably working no matter what time of day or week it is. More often than not, when I was brewing in Solana Beach at the Pizza Port, I could be found coaxing the life out of Seaside Stout our homage to the Irish Dry Stout.

It started out easy enough. I was sitting at the Santa Barbara Brewing Company one day enjoying a pint of their State Street Stout. In true session beer fashion, it weighed in at a whopping 3.8% ABV. And it was everything delicious that a dry stout should be. At first, it was creamy like a cocoa frosting. It was instantly more acrid with a hint of burnt bitterness that ended in a smooth rounded finish of espresso without heading off into that territory of beers that finish with all the panache of an ashtray at last call. But this beer was a revelation that low alcohol goodness was possible even in Southern California.

I spoke with my good friend Eric Rose who was responsible for making this beer. A recipe was developed for the Pizza Port in Solana Beach and we were on our way to low abv riches. We released the beer to coincide with St. Patrick’s day a few years back and the tank lasted less than a month. This is an incredible achievement for Stout beers AND more so for low alcohol beers as well. Apparently, we were on to something?

Later that fall, we entered the beer in to the Great American Beer Festival. Seaside Stout was awarded a silver medal in 2003. The next year, it won the Gold and the following year another silver. Last year marked the first time in four years that Seaside Stout did not win a GABF medal. Was I bummed? Absolutely. You see, no matter how many esoteric or exotic styled beers I make, I will always have a soft spot for the everyday dark beer that is Seaside Stout. It may not be talked about in brewing circles but that doesn’t mean it is without merit.

Many people call my brewing style innovative, envelope pushing and at the forefront of American Brewing today. While these are certainly great things to be called. I would hope that consumers recognize the value of our range of beers from top to bottom. Seaside Stout was knocked off the GABF podium last fall. We’ll make sure that beer finds its way back to the top. Still, I can still sleep at night knowing full well that another beer we brew around 4.0% called Dawn Patrol Dark is on a great streak as well having won two medals at the GABF in 2005 and 06 as well as another at the World Beer Cup in 06 where it hit the top of the tote board.

So next time you want to know what a brewer considers to be their favorite beer. Step back and examine what it is they are drinking. If you’re lucky enough to see them order or pour themselves a second pint, you may have your answer. AND, if that brewer happens to be me and our drinking paths cross in Solana Beach, you won’t even have to squint to make out the heart of darkness that is Seaside Stout which is always by my side.

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