Blondes on Beers:
In the brewing community, the word "Culture" can mean two things: on one hand, culture can mean the qualities and attitudes of a given community; on the other, it can mean the yeast that ferments in a beer to turn sugar into alcohol.
Hoping to hit on both definitions, Culture Brewing has been in Ocean Beach since November 2014 to bring true-to-style beers to the laid-back, easy-going community (Culture Brewing company has been in Solana Beach since February 2013, and all locations are celebrating the anniversary with specialty releases).
"The main reason we open in the locations we do, no pun intended, but we try to embed ourselves in communities and cultures that we love," explained brewer Aleks Kostka. "OB's culture is like none other. It's one of the last great surf towns, the skate scene is awesome, the surf scene is awesome. People here are super chill. OB in general is like a big family. We want to be a part of the community as much as possible and we wanted to bring something to the table, share some great beers and we really think it's important to find the communities we love and be a part of them. That's part of the culture of Culture. We don't want to be invasive in a community. We want to be immersed in them."
To celebrate the "culture" of OB, the tasting room hosts art shows every month featuring local businesses and artists (without taking any profit) and the first Friday of every month, there is an art show/reception; and all the beers are gluten reduced.
"So, for anyone with Celiac disease or on a reduced-gluten lifestyle or low tolerance, the beers are all safe to drink," Kostka said. "We started to use this enzyme called Clarity Firm, originally produced to clear up the beer a bit more. They realized through some experiments that the enzyme clearing up the beer was actually cleaving the gluten molecules in a way that tricks your body into thinking there is no gluten. It is still there, but broken up in a way that it passes through your body safely. Once we realized that, we wanted to make all the beers gluten reduced."
And the beers that are served at the OB tasting room is reflective of the culture its namesake tasting room.
"You can see here in OB, there is nothing crazy going on. With the beer, while we like to do some experimental batches here and there, as a brewer, our goal is to make true-to-style beers," Kostka said. "So, any time any customer comes in, they can find something on the board they like. Whether it's fruity, malty, bitter, dry, my goal is to have anyone — beer drinker or not — find something they like. We want to have a good variety and when we have the opportunity, mess around a little bit."
Some of the popular, cleanly made beers include the American pilsner; the American strong ale, which Kostka admits is not a "super common" style right now, but still selling well; the single-hop IPA (in this case, Mosaic) and the lagers.
"As a brewer, I'm proud of any lager we can successfully do," Kostka said. "With lagers, there is no hiding. If you make a heavy stout, even if there are off-flavors, the ABV is usually higher and there are other things going on (that can hide it). But the more traditional the style, the harder it is to mask any flaws."
That's not to say they don't have your occasional experimental beers. For the sixth anniversary, Kostka brewed the Wildflower IPA with six flowers and six hops.
"When we tried it for the first time, it was a 'oh hell yeah' moment," she said. "Whenever there is the chance to try something new, we look at what is trending and have the creative freedom to do what we want. Right now, hazys are really big, but if there is a style we haven't seen in a while, we will try to bring it back." Also on the horizon: sours that are currently in barrels, a sour red with figs and a golden sour with fruit.
"We are always looking to improve the beers — whether that is with a different grain supplier, new hops or changing the water chemistry — the recipe is always changing," Kostka said. "We try to rotate in new styles and experimental types whenever we can."
Impression of the venue:
Ashley: I always love it here, it's open and airy but usually crowded. It's a really easy spot to stop in, have a beer and hang out. It can get a little noisy and while this is not in their control, only having one unisex bathroom is less than ideal.
Crystal: I love coming here during the day to sit at the front with a beer and people watch. It's very open so you get fresh air and plenty of room for everyone and their dogs. It seems like most times when I walk by there's a fun event going on or new art hung on the walls.
Mosaic IPA: This beer really showcases the hop well and brings out the fruitiness for which Mosaic hops are known. It is really clean, but finishes with a nice hoppy bitterness. Mosaic was a good choice for a single-hop IPA and I can see why it's popular.
Brut IPA: I am a huge fan of Brut IPAs, and this one might be the favorite that I've had recently. It smells just like a clean glass of white wine, but is not as dry as Brut Champagne. I don't miss the carbonation at all.
Hae-zy IPA: Named for the HBC 342, Amarillo and Ekuanot hops, this beer has a complex-and-fruity sweet smell, but is only slightly sweet in flavor. It's different from some of the other hazy IPAs out there.
Wildflower IPA: For some reason, I expected this beer to be sweet, but instead it is grassy, herbal and bitter. I also appreciate that it smells and tastes floral without tasting like perfume.
Brown Ale: This beer has nice roasted notes, but fades away nicely. Rather than sweet and toffee-like, it is nutty and malty. It has a clean finish, but leaves a bit to be desired. Not my favorite.
Lil' Bits Rye SIPA (Session IPA): This is a strange one in that it is a rye IPA without the roasted reddish brown color of a rye-based beer. But it has all the bready and body of a rye without the alcohol content (it's only 5 percent).
American Pilsner: This beer speaks well to Alek's comment of true-to-style beers. This is light, grassy and has a slight fruitiness to it. This is one of those easy drinking lagers you could enjoy all day.
Equinox DIPA: Incredibly smooth for a double IPA, but oh so hoppy. Low on the bitter scale but has some great fruity notes like papaya. It has a lemon/lime aroma and medium body.
Tart Strawberry Rhubarb Wit: Sweet and tart are the best way to describe this wheat beer. It's bright in color, light in body and bursting with fruit flavors.
American Pils: Culture uses a pre-prohibition recipe for their pilsner dating back to 1860. It's super clear with a lightly sweet, malty flavor profile; some breadiness and very little hops and bitter coming through. Refreshing, simple and utterly perfect. It's a beer you can drink any day without complaint.
Brown Ale: Brewed with Perle and Saaz hops, this brown ale boasts a molasses and earthy aroma. It has a fairly light body with a sweet, malty, nutty flavor.
Marzen: Culture's Marzen is a flavorful single hop, single malt smash. Very well balanced between malty and hoppy, it has a full body with bready and caramel notes.
Red IPA: More hoppy than I expected but in a good way! It's a perfect blend of malts, hops and bitter with hints of fruit. A full body beer with 7 percent alcohol by volume (my kind of beer).
Pineapple Blonde: The Pineapple Blonde is made with activated charcoal, making it a unique green/brown color. The pineapple aroma hits your nose hard but is much more palatable when you taste it. It's crisp and dry with a pleasant earthiness.
• Next month: The Blondes on Beers visit Pizza Port in Ocean Beach.
• To contact the Blondes on Beers: E-mail Ashley Mackin-Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org