Nick Larson and Jake Devincenzi
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Kinesiology senior Nick Larson and aerospace engineering senior Jake Devincenzi are Mustang News beer columnists.
This past weekend, we attended the SLO Craft Beer Festival at the San Luis Obispo Veteran’s Hall. It was our first time at the sold-out event, and we weren’t quite sure what to expect — besides beer, of course. The lineup of nearly 40 breweries extended from local San Luis Obispo breweries to notable East Coast powerhouses such as Dogfish Head Brewery and Brewery Ommegang. Needless to say, the Craft Beer Coalition did a great job bringing in more breweries than they have in the past.
The event started at 1 p.m., but we got there early. To our delight, we were let in upon arrival. We grabbed our complimentary glasses and set off into the greatness that is beer tasting. It took us less than half a glass of New Belgium ale before something on the side of the entrance caught our eye. We know we’ve mentioned it before, but we love to save unique 22-ounce bottles to put on our wall nearly as much as we love to drink the beer inside. When we saw the table full of bottles that had been given a second life by Chop Top Bottle Co., we were enthralled. They cut and shape bottles into functioning cups while also recycling or “upcycling” bottles that might have otherwise been thrown away. While they mostly displayed bottles that had been cut into glasses, they also specialize in jewelry and chandeliers. Let’s be honest — who doesn’t want a chandelier made of silk-screened beer bottles?
After our slight detour and a few glasses to wet our whistles, we headed into the main room. To be completely honest, we had to stand in the middle of all the booths for a minute or two just to take in the scene — and also because we couldn’t decide where to go first. We made our rounds, checking out Dunbar’s from Santa Margarita, which had a delicious Irish Red on tap, and The Dudes, who brought a solid Imperial IPA, before finding one of our new favorites, Oskar Blues from Colorado. Different from many craft breweries, they got their start as a brewpub, only brewing their beer in the basement. They are also the first craft brewery to can their beer rather than bottle it, which they continue to do exclusively, making them a leader in the new canning trend. We tried their Scotch ale, Old Chub, as well as their Imperial Red ale, G’Knight. We loved both these beers, as well as TenFidy, their Imperial Stout, which we’ve had in the past. All of this combined with the cool representatives who were more than happy to share their entire story with us made this brewery memorable.
We moved on to other favorites: the hop-happy Knee Deep Brewing, devilishly delightful Stone Brewing, perfectly palatable Green Flash Brewing and our favorite neighbors to the north, Deschutes Brewery. The last non-local brewery we stopped by was Black Market Brewing, out of Temecula. They won our hearts by being the only brewery (that we found) to have a sour. Their blackberry sour was solid and something we would drink again. It had a tart aroma and was more on the sour side, but tasted good from start to finish. After a delicious mouthful, the blackberries kicked in during the aftertaste, leaving the palate completely content.
One thing we have come to learn recently is just how spoiled we are with our local brewery scene in San Luis Obispo. We were happy to try the newly formed Bang The Drum (BTD) Brewery and were pleased with the results. Its King Mate IPA, infused with Yerba Mate, was flavorful and well-balanced. If you didn’t know, mate is a drink common in South America, that likens most closely to an extremely caffeinated tea with an acquirable bitter taste. How do we know so much about this tasty drink? One of the first (and favorite) home brews made by yours truly was a yerba mate IPA. We hear it’s pretty good. In our completely unbiased opinion, BTD’s King Mate ALMOST stacked up. You’re almost there, BTD. That being said, its chipotle-infused porter was surprisingly drinkable, and not as spicy as most beers of this style. We’ll admit, it might be better than anything we’ve brewed. Bang The Drum, we might have to share some brew secrets soon.
David Jang | Staff Photographer
Central Coast and Creekside were as great as always, both bringing samples of their flagship brews. The general consensus was if you are looking for a low-key craft beer tasting day, it’s hard rong with Central Coast, Creekside or Bang The Drum.
To close out another heavenly beer-filled afternoon, we were invited to attend a special vertical tasting of Firestone Walker’s Sucaba (formerly Abacus) Barleywine. We sat down and poured four (hearty) pours of the delicious Paso Robles barrel-aged elixir. Our first legitimate vertical tasting, we began by indulging our taste buds in the 2014 Sucaba, then slowly worked our way back through craft beer history. Upon completion, we decided the 2012 was our favorite. The dark chocolate and vanilla were especially prominent in the 2014, even hinting at a dark cherry flavor subtly sneaking through the malty, yet slightly tart body.
As the festival came to a close and beers were put into coolers, we delightedly clinked our glasses, finished our last sips and strolled through the exit. Never had we experienced so many beers and so many brewers in such a short time, and never before had our palates been so wrecked it seemed we would never be able to taste another beer for years.
For anyone who missed out on this year’s SLO Craft Beer Fest, we would highly recommend getting your tickets early next year, as we have a feeling another sellout is imminent.
If you can’t wait until next year and want to enjoy craft beer with craft beer lovers ASAP, come to Nick and Jake’s College-Budget Whale Party this Friday from 6-9 p.m. For guidelines and more information, check out this past week’s column.