Sunday, June 26, 2016

New Breweries in Ventura - Part 3

Topa Topa

This is the last of three posts on a recent visit to three new breweries in Ventura that the former Ventura Craft Beer Examiner visited and sampled.

Located at 104 Thompson Blvd in Ventura and founded just over a year ago in June 2015, Topa Topa is the brewery closest to Anacapa, the only legitimate craft brewery the VCBE discovered during his heyday, back in 2010. Which is not the same as saying it was the only brewery in existence in Ventura at the time, nor that Anacapa is legitimate today.

Topa Topa shares a parking lot with the Ventura Surf Shop, which does NOT appreciate brewpub patrons parking in their spaces. On the recent June evening that the So Cal Craft Beer Bloggers visited, there was a man giving us the evil eye when we dared to park in a surf shop space. We briefly thought about the Second Amendment, lax gun laws, and how cheaply the National Rifle Association was able to buy the United States Congress. (FYI, the NRA has not apparently contributed to Ventura's Congresswoman Julia Brownley). 

So, we backed out of the surf shop space and, fortuitously, squeezed into a space between a Maserati and a Tesla parked at rakish angles in front of the functional hipster Topa Topa brewpub.

Reeling from our brush with possible gun violence, we quickly downed a pint each of Chief Peak IPA and Vic Secret Single Hop IPA. Here's how the eminently worthy Chief Peak is fancifully described on Topa Topa's website:
From shrubland to woodland to highland, you’ve creekcrossed and switchbacked through it all today. You pause on the trail for a moment and crack open a Chief Peak. The piney hops are first to arrive. The tropical tones of passion fruit, orange, and gooseberry aren’t far behind. Watch as the sky blends from orange to blue. Look out on the valley and trace the contours of the mountain. Breathe in the thinning air, wipe the sweat from your brow, and take another well-earned sip.
One of the beer sommeliers in residence was kind enough to share her fact sheet on Chief Peak. Clocking in at 7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 75% IBU (international bitterness units), with an SRM (standard reference method) color of 5 (basically golden, like the California sunset), the fact sheet informed us that Chief Peak was a "dank West Coast style IPA with big grapefruit and tropical fruit notes."

The beer sommelier did not have info on the single-hop brew, Vic Secret (maybe because it was a secret?), but it was also a highly worthy beer. A brewer friend in NorCal informed us that Vic Secret is "a lately hip and beloved hop from ... somewhere with a lot of sheep." In fact, according to Hopslist, Vic Secret is from Victoria, Australia and had its first commercial harvest in 2013.

In the So Cal Craft Beer Bloggers' opinion, Topa Topa seemed to be the brewery to watch—we felt their ambitions were long range and veered toward the kind of greatness we'd found in Russian River, Drake's, and Deschutes, to name just a few favorite West Coast breweries. Topa Topa's head brewer, Casey Harris, worked at Stone in San Diego previous to this gig—as senior brewer, no less.

A Word on the Name. The SCCB Bloggers have done a lot of research on the original inhabitants of the Central Coast, and so were drawn particularly to this brewery's name. It comes from the indigenous name for a local mountain range that contains a California condor sanctuary. Sespe Creek, which flows out of the Topatopa Mountains, is one of the last wild rivers in Southern California.

New Breweries in Ventura - Part 2

Made West

This is the second of three posts by the former Ventura Craft Beer Examiner on new breweries in Ventura.

The aesthetic at Made West, located at 1744 Donlon Street in Ventura, is decidedly "industrial." With beers named "Standard," "Pale," "IPA," and "Classic," the emphasis is on the beer, not the marketing.

In contrast to the artful, hand-drawn menus at both Poseidon and Topa Topa, the lineup for Made West was announced via the kind of old school fluorescent menu board the So Cal Craft Beer blogger remembers from independent meat markets and drive-ins.

The highlight beer of this tasting was the Prospect, a vanilla coffee porter with "a heavy dosing of whole Madagascar Vanilla beans and 100 pounds of single origin coffee beans from El Salvador," roasted by Prospect Coffee Roasters, located on the other side of Telephone Road from Made West.

Made West beer is currently distributed by Stone in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

Marketing and Art Director Scott Chenoweth has the best beard on the Made West team.

On a personal note: according to Made West's Facebook feed, the brewery opened this year on January 30, which just happens to be the So Cal Craft Beer Blogger's birthday. Coincidence? Perhaps.

New Breweries in Ventura - Part 1

Poseidon Brewing Company

The former Ventura Craft Beer Examiner (VCBE) -- now the So Cal Craft Beer Blogger -- recently spent a lovely weekend in Ventura drinking fresh new Ventura Craft Beer. This is the first of three posts.

Located at 5777 Olivas Park Drive in Ventura, Poseidon Brewing makes some very worthy craft beer. Two standouts from the SCCB's tasting of ALL the brews in the lineup above were Bubblehead Blood Orange Pale Ale, which was like a fruit punch in beer form, and Dirty Diver Double IPA, which was smooth like butter. We've tasted nothing else like it.

Here are the tasting notes on these two from the brewery's website:
Bubblehead Blood Orange Pale Ale ~ New Batch Released May 21, 2016 ~ American Pale Ale; 5.7% ABV; 32 IBUs; Hop forward, dry, oranges/floral
Bubblehead Blood Orange Pale Ale is a citrus-centric American Pale Ale. We dry hopped this beauty with Cascade hops and plenty of blood orange zest from our friends at Casitas Valley Farm. Strong citrus and mild pine aromas are present and the malt profile is mild with a solid hop bite in the finish. If you love flavorful pale ales, this is a must have. 
Dirty Diver Double IPA - Mosaic ~ Released June 4, 2016 ~ Double India Pale Ale; 8.6% ABV; 100+ IBUs; Hop forward, bitter, tropical fruit/tangerines

For this Double IPA, we focused on extracting as much hop flavor as possible without extracting excessive hop bitterness. We used over three pounds per barrel of Columbus, Cascade, Centennial and Mosaic hops. We kept the water profile free of minerals to deceptively decrease bitterness and soften the mouth feel. Orange in color with hop aromas of mangoes, guavas and tangerines, Dirty Diver ~ Mosaic is sure to satisfy your craving for hops. 
Poseidon opened on August 11, 2014 and all we can say is that we don't know why it took us so long to get there! Co-proprietor Vinita told us that the brewery currently has a very limited distribution footprint. "You can find us in Ventura at Barrelhouse 101 and Saloon BBQ Company," she said, "and in Ojai at The Deer Lodge. We just started on tap at Brasserie Communautaire in Oxnard. And then we're on several rotating taps, including Two Trees Cafe in Ventura, Newhall Refinery in Newhall, Ojai Beverage Company in Ojai, Golden Nugget Pub in Simi Valley and Villa Wine Bar and Kitchen in Santa Barbara."

Finally, you gotta check out Crew Member Ginny's amazing tattoos. The Navy SEABEE Veteran has deployed in Africa, Spain, Japan, Iraq, Kuwait, the Philippines, and Guam, among other places, and claims to have enjoyed beer from over 190 countries. Just think about that for a minute. How many beer-producing countries can you name? How many places can you imagine beer is made? That still leaves about 100 countries that the SCCB Blogger cannot even comprehend as places you can say you've enjoyed beer from.