Everyone, meet Eric Jensen, brewmaster at Pacific Beach Alehouse in San Diego, California. I first met Eric a year or so ago, when I lived in the beautiful Southern California city and worked at the sister restaurant, the famous Cane's on Mission Beach. Eric became the brewer from the first rrrrr of the saw, and helped open the doors in April 2008 with four beers on tap: Whitewash Wheat, Crystal Pier Pale Ale, Amber Wave, and PB Porter (my fave).
From whence did all of this brewmastery spring forth? Actually, like so many brewers and winemakers alike, Eric was in a job that he couldn't bear any longer. In his case, accounting. His love of beer had always been a dominant force, as he was an accomplished homebrewer all the while. So his decision to enroll in courses at the American Brewers Guild came naturally. After a 12 week course in brewing, Eric took an unpaid internship in Berkeley, at Golden Pacific Brewery, which closed and is now Trumer. After working with the brewery for 2 years, he moved back to San Diego and began brewing with Karl Strauss, where he would remain for 6 1/2 years, becoming their head brewer. After an additional 2 years at La Jolla Brewhouse, he decided it was time for a break, took a year off for traveling, and pursued another passion of his, woodworking. But it wouldn't be too long till the kettles were clanging and the fermentation tanks bubbling in an Alice in Wonderland-type symphony, calling him back home to brewing...
So after chit-chatting and catching up for a bit, I posed the question I've been dying to ask him, and one I will continue to ask EVERY brewer I ever meet: In today's brewing world, what do YOU feel is the primary difference between and porter and a stout?
Eric's answer? In one simple, yet firm sentence, the level of roasted malt character in the beer. You see, not only does the level of roasting affect flavor and bitterness, but also the color. In a stout, you have more of the highly roasted malts,such as Black Patent and Chocolate Malts. Hence, darker color, more intense notes of coffee and chocolate, and a sizable bitterness on the finish. In comparison, porters are known for their use of crystal/caramel malts, which are stewed rather than roasted, and lends a rich, brown, caramel color and a malty sweetness in flavor, that manifests as toffee, caramel, and maple. And yes, I used caramel three times in the same sentence, but THAT'S the color and flavor folks. Also the addition of Munich malts, which are employed in Oktoberfest, Bock, and Marzen beers, often find their way into porters, and impart a maltiness to the brew.
Eric was inspired to start producing porter after having the Fuller's London Porter on cask on vacation. I said, "You've got to be @#$% kidding me. Fuller's London Porter on CASK?" I couldn't believe it. "How was it?" I implored. "AWESOME," he replied. (As you read in my review, I enjoyed drinking the Fuller's. It was a smooth, easy, session-type beer perfect for a game or BBQ. I can only imagine how ridiculously smooth it would have been on cask. Like brown velvet...
So WHAT IS Eric loving these days in the beer universe? For an IPA, the Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (will be featured in my 12 beers of Christmas!) and Belgian Trippels, such as Trippel Karmeliet, and Green Flash's Trippel.
Which leads me to my next question of what he is itchin' to brew up a batch of... He gives an answer that causes me to give a silent squeal of delight: Belgian IPA. Yes. Yes. Yes! Inspired by the Belgian breweries Orval and La Chouffe, and America's own Green Flash Belgian IPA Le Freak, (all amazing beers), Eric is ready to develop his own. And I can't wait to taste it.
You know the saying, Curiosity killed the cat? Well, I'm allergic to felines, and I'd already come this far, so I figured I was safe in asking what was in the works for upcoming beers....I was thrilled to hear Eric is planning an Imperial Porter for February and a Saint Patrick's Day stout for March.
I shared with him my drinking experiences with the very divergent styles of Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter and the Rogue Imperial Porter. Turns out that ole Gonzo is one of his favorites, and an inspiration with its vibrant hoppy character. I look forward to tasting his version! With the Patty's Day stout, he plans to hop up and malt up a traditional Irish Dry Stout to make an interesting brew for the drinking man's holiday. Stay tuned for a title on both of these!!
Eric was such a pleasure to talk to, and I'm SURE I will be picking his brain many more times in the future. If you are in or visit the San Diego area, stop by, ask for Joe the hot and awesome bartender, and try out Eric's yummy brews. Click here to see the current selection. (I like the porter, of course) Ohhh, and their Ahi Tuna Sandwich and sweet potato fries are DEEEELICIOUS.