I have a slightly later start on my last full day in California. Grant only collects me at 9:30.
We've a couple of events planned, one out at ChuckAlek's tasting room in Ramona, the other at the Beer Project in San Diego.
An unusual landscape rolls by as we drive up to Ramona. Literally up as it's 1,000 feet above sea level. Unusual landscape for me, I should say. Hills covered with straggly brush, some randomly strewn with boulders, resembling faces disfigured by some horrible skin disease.
Ramona itself is small and dusty, a chequer board of low buildings and empty lots. ChuckAlek is in a small strip mall, between a butchers and a Thai restaurant. It's not a town, being unincorporated. Not sure what you'd call it. A settlement, maybe.
Grant shows me around the brewery before setting up for the day. It doesn't take long. It's tiny. Especially compared to Stone, the last brewery I saw. I'm sure there are keen homebrewers with setups of a similar size. A couple of stainless steel tubs, some plastic conicals, a few stainless conicals and that's about it.
The kit is good for 1 US barrel and by brewing twice Grant gets enough to fill his 2-barrel conicals. The finished beer is mostly filled into sixtels (sixth of a US barrel kegs) though small amounts are sometimes hand-bottled. A good chunk of what Grant brews he sells in the tap room, either in the form of growler or drink-in sales.
The bar itself is small but cosy. A few bits of decoration. Nothing too fancy.
While Grant is swapping the beers on tap, the pancake man turns up. That's what we'll be eating for lunch. Yum.
Why is Grant changing the beers? Because, as a rare treat, all five beers (so far) of his Archive Series will be on tap. That's got me all excited. A chance to try five hostorc Porters and stouts. You don't get that every day.
1850 Running Porter
1890 Double Stout
1880 Irish Stout
1912 Triple Stout
1832 Brown Stout
They're based, some more loosely than others, on stuff in my blog and books. After I've spent a good 30 seconds arranging my books in a tempting way, I get stuck into a sampler set of them. I tried the Double Stout yesterday and really liekd it. Especially the chocolate-like brown malt character.
After Grant opens up at 11, drinkers start to dribble in. The home brewers make a beeline for me and start to chat. This is fun. A line of historic beers in front of me and people who want to talk beer. A couple of home brewers have brought along books for me to sign. Others buy a copy.
Crepes and beers slip down, chatter flows. I rather like the Triple Stout. Even better than the Double. Though all five beers are pretty nice.
Just one event left and then it's back to Amsterdam.
ChuckAlek Independent Brewers
2330 Main St, Suite C
Ramona, CA 92065
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