Thursday, May 19, 2011

MAXED OUT: Karl who?

It's a Thursday afternoon... you're getting ready for the weekend... you may be getting a tad thirsty... you've come to the right place... Maximus, the floor is yours.

What’s the good word my beer guzzling brothers and sisters? We’re back in action and I’m feeling feisty! You know what that means; I’m 'bout to put someone on blast and this week Karl Stauss has the dubious honor of being just that brewery. Unfortunately (or fortunately for some of you), this post won’t be very long as I don’t really have much to say about Karl Stauss’ 22nd Anniversary and 8th Annual Beach to Brewery event that was held at their primary brewing facility. But regardless, let’s do this!

So one of the perks of working at a bar is that you often get hook-ups to the local events held in the city that you tend bar in. Sometimes it’s awesome and you have the time of your life. Other times, as is the case with this event, they just suck. So Karl Strauss hosts their annual Anniversary party called ‘Beach to Brewery’ (the reason they call it this escapes me, seeing as though the event is held in the industrial section of Pacific Beach just west of the I-5 and you can’t even smell the ocean from there) in what is basically a big parking lot with live music and exclusively Karl Strauss beers. They tend to coordinate the amount of beers that they tap with the anniversary that they are celebrating. This was their 22nd Anniversary, so of course they tapped twenty-two beers. ALL KARL STRAUSS! Had I mentioned that?

So a quick history lesson, or at least what I have heard about what Karl Strauss was, and what they are today and why. The Karl Strauss was a former big-wig at Pabst (I know, amazing credentials) and was asked to help open up a brew pub in San Diego in 1988. They really did help to bring craft beer to San Diego, and for that, we thank you. But their beers never really got over the hump of mediocrity. When Papa Strauss passed, new brewers were put in his place and over the past several years they have been playing catch up to the exploding San Diego craft beer scene. A hit here, but usually a miss there, Karl is still trying to keep the image of a “craft brewery” but unfortunately tends to miss the mark for the most part. Ok, history lesson done, let’s get to the event.

So I score three tickets to this shindig and take a couple of my beer-nerd buddies. Hold up, I’m getting ahead of myself. Last year, I got the hook-up with two tickets. The weather was perfect, girls were in bikinis, and they had some of the best beers that they’ve ever created on tap. Not to mention some really good local music and have I mentioned girls in bikinis? This year the weather was crap, no girls in bikinis, and twenty-two of the most mediocre beers on the planet were tapped! HOORAY! As with most beer events, you get a certain amount of “free beers” which are shown on a chincy little plastic bracelet. This year, FIVE! Are you freakin’ kidding me? I get FIVE little samples? Way to go all out there, Karl.

So last year Karl Strauss’ 21st Anniversary Ale was a delicious beer made with Old Vine Zinfandel grapes. Yum! This year, it was a rather boring Imperial Stout with Vanilla. Meh! Last year they also had, perhaps the best beer that the Karl Strauss Brewery has ever concocted, the Belgian Stranger. Nice Belgian flavor, a little bit of a bite from the hops, and fairly strong if memory serves correct, coming in at around 9% ABV. They had also just introduced The Conquistador, a nice pruney, raiseny Dopplebock. For some reason, Karl decided to discontinue the Belgian Stranger but kept the Conquistador around. WHY WOULD YOU DISCONTINUE THE BEST THING THAT YOU’VE EVER CREATED?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Ok, I’m now stepping off of my soap box.

I’d tell you the beers that I tried but I honestly I don’t remember. They were all so mediocre that as soon as I tried them I forgot them. Highlight of the day were the bands. Only problem was that they were so “underground” that I don’t know their names. Rad. So all-in-all it was a great time! Did I mention no bikinis? DAMN YOU WEATHER GODS!

Like I said, I’m cutting this one short because there really wasn’t much to talk about. I was looking forward to Karl Strauss coming out with a surprise beer or two like they did last year, but to no avail. Sorry kiddos. But thanks for joining as always, and you know where to hit me up. Below, email, facebook, blah blah blah. OH! I almost forgot. This weekend Beers with Demo and Maxed Out are joining forces in a 45 person brewery tour! We will be hitting up Alesmith and Port/Lost Abbey! Bus leaves at 11 am from Hoffer’s in downtown La Mesa and there are just a few tickets left. If you want to jump onboard you have to let me know ASAP! Email me at

Until next time my beer loving brethren, have a beer for me.

(ed. note: The wine barrel-aged 21st anniversary ale Max references was indeed phenomenal. It tasted so wonderful it was thought to be highly sessionable the first time we had it. Unbeknownst, however, that beer checked in around 10% ABV. Hello, Yellow Cab!

Karl Strauss, the man and his brewery, despite their past and present mediocrity, really do deserve a lot of credit for establishing a beachhead here in San Diego (along with Pizza Port) from which the 2nd generation ground troops of the San Diego craft beer movement (Stone, Alesmith, Alpine) could advance on new territory and set the stage for truly blowing things up here over the past decade.)


SarahB said...

On the ripple effect of Strauss in San Diego: 2011 is turning out to be a good year for Escondido. First we finally get an In-N-Out and now this...a story this week that Stone Brewery plans to build a boutique hotel adjacent the Escondido property and the new hospital. In a shining example of the marketplace trumping government planning, Stone is giving Escondido something it's long needed and the city government has been unable to deliver. Long term plans for a city subsidized Marriott downtown adjacent sketchy neighborhoods and businesses that are barely open on weekends have frustrated taxpayers for over a decade. No one wants pay for fancy hotel room next door to the homeless park. But Stone, up on its promontory near the freeway and the soon-op-be best hospital in the county is the perfect place for a swank digs. And they are going to rescue a local farm too boot? And they give folks a reason beyond Lawrence Welk Village to hit Esco? Love these guys! Capitalism and the free market at its finest. Plan to hit them for dinner this weekend (even if the over conceptualized food sort of sucks).

SarahB said...

link to story...oh, and for you in San Diego, Stone is planning a restaurant down there too:

Dean said...

"(even if the over conceptualized food sort of sucks)."

Love it! Beer bistro snobbery at its finest.

As you have perhaps gathered from Max and myself, the SD beer community has a love/hate relationship with the Stone brand.

Yes, I had heard that Stone was going to be building a hotel next to the brewery. Hell, Disneyland has a hotel next to it, right?

Thanks for the NC Times link.

mike atkinson said...

Sometimes in my dreams, I can still taste the 21st Anniversary Ale. Oh how you are missed... :(