"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beer Not in Colorado: Coronado Brewing

This is a continuation of the previous post titled Beer Not in Colorado: The Bruery.  Do yourself a favor and read that one first.

If you’ve ever watched the show Intervention then you know that, if you’re an alcoholic, true friends shed blood, sweat, and tears and fight with every iota of their earthly vessel to keep the poison out of your reach.  If you’re a beer enthusiast, true friends do quite the opposite.
After visiting The Bruery Provisions, Nicole and I headed to Culver City to visit Erin, a friend from my years as an undergrad at Western State College, and her brother Kenny.  Erin generously let us crash at her apartment that night and even more generously volunteered to be our designated driver to local craft beer bar Father’s Office.  We needed a designated driver less because we were planning to get ripped and more because we were fed up with driving in L.A.
F.O. (as it is advertised on the wait staff’s uniforms) is a hip place with lots of dark wood and mood lighting—quite different from the wobbly tables and family-friendly Italian restaurant air of Freshcraft or the artsy Bohemian ambiance of Hops and Pie.  As you might expect from a name like “Father’s Office,” attire along the lines of a stylish suit or polo shirt seemed to be the norm.  Certainly, said attire would have been more appropriate than my damp and dusty hoodie and Odell trucker cap.  Not that we were getting dirty looks but I do feel that F.O. caters to the yuppie population rather than the jeans-patched-with-corduroy free-spirits so common in Colorado.
The first beer I ordered was one I’ve heard a lot about but have never actually put to lips: Russian River Brewing Co.’s Pliny the Elder (8% ABV), a double IPA ( if Wikipedia is to be believed, Russian River can be accredited with inventing the double--or imperial--IPA style so one would hope they know what they’re doing).  It took but one sip for me to realize that this is what an IPA was meant to be.  Bitter, undoubtedly, but not the type of bitter that overpowers the floral and piney flavors of the hops.  Yes, the bite may make you grimace a bit but you’ll find yourself smiling immediately afterwards.  Even though it tasted so good, I think I spent more time sniffing than sipping.  It smelled so soothing.  Back in the day (and in some parts of the world today), people used to fill pillowcases with hop leaves in order to relax themselves into a deep slumber.  If you’ve ever had Pliny the Elder then you understand how great an idea this was.
As my birthday was the previous day, Erin offered to buy my next round.  I chose the Atticus IPA (7.1% ABV) from Strand Brewing Company out of Torrance, CA.  It was good to be sure but it’s hard to follow Pliny the Elder’s act.  Also, Atticus is a malty IPA and, as I’ve said in previous posts, I don’t like my IPAs to be malty.  Good beer, not great beer but, heck, it was free to me so I’m not going to keep complaining. 
We ate, we slept, we thanked Erin for her hospitality, and headed to Knott’s Berry Farm (finally, some coasters that were operating).  We picked up some Cerveza Caguama, an El Salvadorian beer recommended by Kenny, and met Nicole’s friend Collin for some after-work beers at The Local Peasant, another craft beer bar, on Ventura Boulevard.  Instead of a California beer, I ordered the Deadlift Imperial IPA from Widmer Brothers Brewing Company out of Portland, OR.  I don’t remember much about the beer but I do know it was amateurishly served to me in a goblet.  With an IPA, a tulip glass or even a simple pint glass is preferable.  Those wide-open goblets let the aroma and carbonation escape too quickly.
The next day we pointed south and drove to San Diego in hopes of finding sunshine and beer.  We managed to fulfill half our ambitions.  San Diego was neither hot nor cold or wet nor dry; it existed in the gray ether in between.  Not exactly lay-on-the-beach climate.  The weather was, however, accommodating enough for us to enjoy outdoor activities like Belmont Park and the San Diego Zoo (where we saw a sexually frustrated polar bear and the majestic "Arabian Wildcat" AKA housecat) and, no matter the weather, craft beer is always an agreeable diversion.
Why is this mangy cat worthy of being in the San Diego Zoo?
The Coronado Brewing Company is a brewpub of most unremarkable appearance and repute.  It’s a plain red brick building on a plain suburban thoroughfare and, unless you’re a freak about beer like me, you wouldn’t go out of your way to eat or drink there.  I don’t want to paint the picture that Coronado Brewing is bad, I just want to stress that there isn’t anything to stress be it good or bad.  It’s a face in the crowd.
I ordered the Idiot IPA (8.5% ABV) is a light, transparent yellow/orange in color with hints of orange-flavored hops on the nose.  And the taste?  Pliny the Elder this is not.  The satisfying flavor of hops is completely overwhelmed by bitterness akin to chewing on an orange rind.  This unsavory flavor loiters in the mouth for much too long.  I like to man-up my beers with plenty of ass-kicking bitterness but it’s all for naught if you get no flavor from it.  
Idiot IPA (not to be confused with Mermaid's Red)
I’ve come to learn that Idiot IPA belongs to the sub-sub-sub genre known as West Coast IPAs (Pale Ales > India Pale Ales > American IPAs > West Coast IPAs).  The delineation between West Coast IPAs and other IPAs is simple; it basically comes down to different varieties of hops (those grown on, of all things, the West Coast) and at what time during the boil they are added.  Very, very simple deviations that somehow create a monster that turns me, an avid IPA lover, off.  Somewhere in history somebody on the West Coast got it in their mind that a good beer must be high on bitterness and low on flavor and the left side of our nation has been worse off for it.  Still, it is beer that I can at least stomach and I would not turn one down if offered to me.  If you want to experience this type of beer for yourself, Green Flash Brewing Co.’s unimaginatively named West Coast IPA can be found in at least a few Denver stores.  Failing that, Avery Brewing Company’s standard IPA is a decent approximation.
Where you goin’?  More California beers coming soon.

After The Bruery, most of my beer drinking was limited to sips here and there so that I could help Chris with the beer assessment. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy trying new beer and tasting different flavors, but beer is not a waistline friendly food. So, when we went to Father’s Office, I enjoyed a nice glass of ice water instead. When we first walked into Father’s Office, I noticed how busy it was for a Monday night. I also noticed the lack of a hostess which would mean that we would have to scope out the place and try to find a table. On our first walk through, there were no open tables. This is the point where I start getting irritated.
Since I didn’t have any beer at Father’s Office, I will turn my part of this blog into a food critique. I should probably start with the fact that I am a picky eater. I stick to the basics, chicken, turkey, steak, fish, shrimp, a few fruits and veggies. Another note, I don’t eat dairy. When I heard that Father’s Office was a “burger joint”, I figured there would probably be something else, like a salad or chicken that I could enjoy, since I don’t eat burgers either. But, I was wrong! I found a lot of foods that I don’t really adventure into like eel, duck, lamb, or Brussels sprouts. And, there was only one burger on the menu and of course it had cheese. So, I figured that I would choose the burger (minus the cheese) and stick with something that I could handle. This was until I looked at the bottom of the menu that reads, “Not substitutions, modifications, additions or deletions. Yes, really.” Well that was a slap in the face! Really, I can’t ask for “no cheese?” What about people with food allergies? I was back to a search for something that was healthy and didn’t have cheese.
My options were pretty limited so I settled on shrimp wrapped with bacon after much coercion from Chris to be polite and pick something. I double-checked with the lady behind the bar to make sure that they couldn’t “delete” the cheese. She snootily replied, “We don’t modify our food.” At that point I wanted to tell her that I wanted to modify the chef’s face, but I sucked it up and ordered the shrimp. Thankfully, Erin ordered some sweet potato fries because four small shrimp aren’t really a dinner. The only thought that kept running through my mind is that the chef must think he/she is God’s gift to the culinary arts since he/she won’t dare modify the food. Well, I can tell the chef that the shrimp with bacon was nothing special. In fact, it was pretty mediocre. I think that I am capable of making the same thing in my oven. But, Erin was nice enough to take us out and show us around, so I didn’t want to be too much of a pain in the ass. If I hadn’t been a guest, I would have gotten up and found another place to eat. I noticed that I wasn’t the only person who was not pleased about the lack of accommodations in the menu options. The ladies next to me chatted about it as well. But seeing as how most of the other people in the place were enjoying their food, I will chalk up my disapproval to my picky eating and food allergies.
After leaving L.A., we ventured to San Diego. One of the highlights of the trip for me was the San Diego Zoo. Again, this is the science geek in me. One of the most exciting animals, as Chris mentioned, was the Arabian Wild Cat. Look how exciting it is. But truthfully, the monkey that was clinging to the fence as she took care of some bathroom duties for all to see was hilarious as well as the monkey that was looking for something on another monkey’s butt. So, after a day of watching animals do crazy things it was time to visit Coronado Island. We visited the Coronado Brewing Company. The first thing I noticed when we walked in was the noticeable smell of hops and malt. They were in the process of brewing, which we could view as we ate our lunch. Again, I opted for water. I could smell the hoppiness of Chris’ beer from my seat across the table. I took one sip which, in my opinion, was one sip too many. It was too bitter for my enjoyment and left a bitter aftertaste in the back of my throat. The bitterness felt like a punch to my mouth that lingered even after I continued eating. I rarely like IPAs because of their hoppy and bitter character. I have found a few Colorado IPAs that actually don’t frighten my palette. I wish I would have tried another beer so that I could give Coronado Brewing Company a fair assessment. After the brewery, we walked around Coronado so that I could visit the library to do some homework. We also found a liquor store that had some brews that we hadn’t seen before. So we chose a few and packed them for the trip home. We also wandered through the Hotel Del Coronado and finished our time on the island with a stroll along the beach.



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