My birthday gift to myself was to travel to a lab in San Diego. White Labs to be precise (on Candida Avenue, which is ironic because Candida is a wild yeast). White Labs has been a major player in the craft beer boom since the 1980’s but most people don’t know about them even though they provide a key ingredient in making your beer taste, well, like beer. And that would be the yeast.
Yeast makes that Golden Road Hefeweizen sing with flavors of banana and clove and it makes your favorite Belgian ale barnyardy and funky. They even have Special Release yeast from their platinum series, like a brewer has special seasonal beers. Last year, White Labs opened a tasting room so that the public can really see what a difference the yeast makes in your beer. At any given time they may have up to 32 beers on tap with 3 cask offerings coming soon as well. And their tasting room, tucked in an obscure location near Miramar is a cool place with tap handles that look like scientific beakers set into a stone wall. Cushioned barstools and a dark wood bar give the feel of walking into a classy hotel bar.
I ordered up the ESB flight that was brewed in collaboration with Coronado Brewing Co. 6 beers. All the same recipe with the only difference being the yeast. Irish Ale yeast, British Ale yeast, Bedford British Ale yeast. Then there were mixes of Irish with Super San Diego, Bedford with Super San Diego and Irish with Bedford. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to taste a difference but lo and behold, it was easy. Bedford had a banana twist to it and the British had a bit more fruit to it than the Irish, which to me was a bit dry. And depending on the tap list, you could repeat the test with a set of IPA’s or hefeweizens or even Belgian wits. Plus they also have tours as well.
And if learning about yeast isn’t enough, there are literally a handful of breweries mere minutes away from White Labs. Me and my friend, Rich, hit up Mike Hess Brewing which make a really nice Claritas Kolsch. Five minutes from Hess is Rough Draft Brewing which has a big facility and a great value on their taster tray. (Rough Draft bottles may be spotted in L.A. in limited amounts). Five minutes from there is the new Green Flash tasting room which was humming with activity and a huge tap list. And we didn’t even get to AleSmith, Ballast Point or the new San Diego darling, Societe.
Oh and my favorite ESB yeast was a mix of Super San Diego and Irish.
The Beer of the Week is from Knee Deep Brewing. Simtra is a triple IPA with generous doses of Simcoe and Citra hops. If you like the Kern River Citra or Lagunitas Sucks then this 10.1% ABV T-IPA will be right up your alley. It is light, effervescent and very fruit forward while still packing a bitter edge.
The suds-related Homework this week is to replace wine with craft beer when you go to housewarmings or other parties. Why is it de rigueur to bring a bottle of Pinot Noir to a gathering but a bottle of El Segundo Brewing Co. isn’t? Even non craft beer fans can be easy to buy a bottle for with a little research and a good bottle shop. There are many beer choices that will match up well and add another layer of flavors to food and festivities. Whatever the occasion that brings people together, there is probably a beer that will do the same, adding a layer to the fun.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.