Changing of the Barrels 2014- Karl Strauss
Pacific Beach, CA
The county of San Diego is a global hub for the craft beer scene and Karl Strauss is no stranger to its stage. Their famous Red Trolley Ale has won seventeen different awards (including a gold at the 2012 World Beer Cup and a gold at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival) for its amazing flavors of caramelized malts and toffee. Just writing about it makes me want one! Karl Strauss beer isn’t just like any beer. It is a quality local craft beer that San Diegans are very proud to call their own. When I found out that I won a pair of tickets to their “Changing of the Barrels” event from Locale Magazine, I was ecstatic! Brady and I had been to a few Karl locations in the past and couldn’t wait to experience their new site in Pacific Beach.
Just to give you some KS background- if their beer can’t entice you, their venues surely can. Karl’s Mira Mesa location is serene and opens up to a Japanese Zen garden. You’ll be completely at peace whether having dinner or an afternoon drink. In Carlsbad, you’ll find a large brewery nestled on top of the Flower Fields and after snooping around on the internet (I had to figure out what to wear of course), I got a quick glimpse of their PB location. I also read about the “Changing of the Barrels,” a celebration of their 25th anniversary as a brewery, complete with an unveiling of their anniversary beer and the beginning of the aging of next year’s batch. This year’s brew? A 25th Anniversary Dopplebock. No idea what dopplebock meant, but I was excited and so was Brady!
The next night we were standing in line with three hundred other beer connessieurs, eagerly anticipating what was in store. Everyone was handed their own 25th Anniversary tasting glass- the golden ticket to the unlimited tastings of everything that Karl Strauss had to offer. (I saw this as my chance to be daring and try beer I would never ordinarily try!) The crowd was let into the tasting room and the (organized) tasting chaos began.
Their new location in Pacific Beach is a great site that’s filled with character. The space has an industrial feel, complete with wooden beams, cement walls and a glass viewing area of the brewery and bottling production line. Its minimalistic design was strategically planned to make their beer the main focus of the location. Candlelit tables and wooden barrels with “KARL” slapped on their sides were scattered throughout the tasting room, which added to the brewery ambience. We made our way to the tasting bar and were excited to see the selection of twenty great beers from which to choose. Brady felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Naturally, I went with something familiar: the Amber Lager, my favorite Karl Strauss beer (tied with Red Trolley). Brady tried their Tower 20 IPA. (I’ve never been an IPA fan, but he loved it!) We tried the 25th Anniversary Doppleback and thought it was excellent. I am no beer expert, but the beer was dark, strong and had a flavor of whisky, which developed through a year of aging in bourbon oak barrels.
After a few tastes we ventured outside to the outdoor area that was lit by soft yellow lights that hung from the roof to the fences. I felt like I was in a pinteresty, (yes-that’s a word now!) laid-back and spacious backyard. Wooden picnic benches cultivated a friendly atmosphere, where complete strangers became friends as they chatted over their favorite brews. It was homey and charming. The atmosphere of the entire site was welcoming and made us want to grab a few beers and stay a while. It struck me as a great location for a rehearsal dinner, or a party amongst loved ones ready for a good time.
While Brady had his fill of beer for dessert, I had a few too many Pubcakes. Cupcakes baked with beer—sooo delicious! (Brady only thinks I had one) We listened to music by the Brothers Grim, ate tacos and sipped on the different brews. They gave tours of the brewery every thirty minutes and we were able to see the jackpot of all beer fridges. Karl Strauss Brewing Company knows how to throw a great party. (Heck, they even had a photo booth!)
What goes hand in hand with a great party? A great host. Chris Cramer, the CEO of Karl Strauss and a fourth-generation San Diegan, was a very gracious and welcoming host. He made his way from person to person, welcomed them into Karl Strauss’ newest tasting facility and treated everyone like a member of the family. Brady and I had a chance to talk to him and heard his story and the story of the Brewery, which made us appreciate the Karl Strauss brand even more. Chris talked about his constant admiration of San Diegans for their innovative qualities and adventurous nature. He contributed the success of the Karl Strauss brand to the qualities of the people of San Diego and their openness to embrace new concepts. What a great beer and CEO to represent our beautiful city!
All in all, we had an absolute great night. The Doppleback was great, I learned about the brewing process and met some really interesting people. If you ever get a chance to check out their PB location, or any of their locations for that matter, I highly recommend doing so. Word to the wise— if you purchase a Karl Strauss Growler, you can refill it on Fridays for only $8!! That’s an awesome deal. Just be sure to find the special code for the day, but I was told that the friendly staff at Karl Strauss would be happy to assist you. Cheers to Karl Strauss, their great staff and to another great year in upholding the reputation of the craft beer in San Diego!
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