Blending with Friends

There’s a quote attributed to Isaac Newton, invoked by our friends over at The Rare Barrel in Berkeley for their collaborative series of beers paying tribute to those who have gone before, which comes to mind as I begin to lay the groundwork for the wood-aged and sour beers program we at Magnolia will be pursuing once we get Magnolia Hall, the space adjacent to the Dogpatch restaurant and brewery, up and running. “If I have seen further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants,” he wrote, presumably with such figures in mind as Ptolemy, Archimedes, Aristotle, Copernicus and Galileo. The Rare Barrel has done a nice job of homage with contributions from such Craft Beer luminaries as “Wicked” Pete Slosberg and Lauren Limbach of New Belgium, and as we prepare to install our beautiful old foeders and shiny new coolship it must be acknowledged that we won’t be going it alone.

First off, Lauren will be involved with our efforts as well, especially as she heads up the wood program of our Colorado parent company, and as it happens is the most recent winner of The Brewers Association’s Russell Schehrer Award for innovation and excellence in brewing.  She has already provided extremely valuable advice as I’ve prepared to buy foeders and have our coolship manufactured, and as we contemplate the kinds of projects that will kick things off, wood-wise. She and I have talked about bringing in some of New Belgium’s wonderful wood beers, first for blending with things that we produce, and later for kick-starting our foeder inoculation program.  

New Belgium works with two basic wood beers, the pale Felix and darker Oscar, with which they produce nearly all of their blends.  Oscar is probably best recognized as the heart and soul of La Folie, while Felix has laid down the law in such beers as dry-hopped Le Terroir and the lovely peach of a beer, Eric’s Ale.  Kim and I also used Felix a number of years ago when we collaborated on a sour pumpkin and cranberry beer called Kick. Once we get the foeders in place we’ll think about filling a couple of them with live beer from our friends at New Belgium, in order to complement some of the other things with which we’ll be feeling our way.

Meanwhile—and not to be putting too many eggs in a single basket—we’re also working with some other friends to the south, down at Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks in Buellton.  I recently accepted an invitation from Jim Crooks, blendmaster for all the wonderful Barrelworks beers, to drive down and taste through several dozen barrels in anticipation of doing the same kind of thing (blending and inoculating) with beers of a bunch of different makeups.  Barrelworks handles a number of different inocula, with varying amounts of microbiological this and that, and with which they produce such artfully blended favorites as Agrestic, Sour Opal, Bretta Weisse and Krieky Bones. Parenthetically, I like to think I had a mainly passive influence years ago on their decision to produce El Gourdo, a wild roasted pumpkin ale.  In any case, Jim and his gang laid out a wood beer feast of individual barrel samples, intended to display the unadorned characteristics of beers they blend together to make the wonderful bottles with which many of us are familiar.

A couple of weeks later all the Magnolia brewers got together at my house for paella and the opportunity to taste through these beers in blended and finished form, thanks to the box that Jim sent up for us to sample.  While not on the surface surprising, having tasted many single barrel examples so recently it was eye-opening and wonderful to have the immediate experience of seeing what Jim and his crew had made of the building blocks that is barrel-aged beer.  It certainly got us all thinking.

The plan?  Bring totes of wood-aged sour beer from both New Belgium and Barrelworks to fill a handful of our foeders, hoping that what takes up residence in the wood will eventually provide a palette of variation for us to play with into the future.  In the meantime, we’ll produce beers of our own—and not all of them sour—with the idea of blending delicious hybrids we’ll perhaps bottle and also serve across the bar. The coolship? I knew you were wondering about that.

I have to be honest. Where the coolship is concerned we don’t at all know what to expect.  As soon as we can—and damn the torpedoes where the weather is concerned—we’ll start experimenting with producing wort and cooling it in the coolship, allowing whatever microflora is resident in the Dogpatch air to inoculate the wort prior to running it into either a foeder or a straight-up stainless steel fermenter.  And then we’ll see. We’ll see how it takes off and how it changes. We’ll see if it combines well with anything else we have on hand, either from other foeders or with more conventionally produced beers. We’ll see if it’s any good at all. Once again reverting to honesty, I’m sure we’ll put a fair amount of it down the drain.  In any case, we are all looking forward to the experiments that—with help from our friends—will take us into our next creative phase. It’s hoped that whatever route we follow, delicious will be the destination.

Guest Blog Post: Seth Wile, Head Brewer

Earlier this month, we sat down with Head Brewer Seth Wile to talk beer trends. With two new types of aging vessels about to be put into action – the city’s only coolship and a dozen oaken wooden foeders – Seth and his team are looking forward to exploring new ways to ferment and experimenting with unique flavors. Here, Seth shares his thoughts on hazy, juicy IPAs, spontaneous fermentation, pastry stouts, and more.

Q: What type of beer do you think will be trending this year?

A: “The hazy, juicy trend hasn’t gone away and isn’t going away. That flavor profile is still at the forefront of what a lot of breweries are doing. Now, however, they’re putting their own spin on it by adding fruits or making it more bitter-forward.”

Q: We’ve heard of chocolate beer, coffee beer, and even Lucky Charms beer. What do you think will be the next big infusion trend?

A: “The basics – such as fruit, vegetables, spices, and wood – will always be on the table. However, brewers are now doing stranger things like brewing pastry stout: a thick, viscous stout meant to have the texture and taste of biting into a pastry. People are becoming more and more comfortable with adding more and more – for lack of a better word – shit – to a beer. It used to be looked down upon by purists, but now all of the popular breweries are adding everything but the kitchen sink to their beers. As far as what we’re willing to do, the creativity is there, but we know when to rein it in.”

Q: What are you most excited about at Magnolia in the coming months?

A: “I’m looking forward to working with our new coolship. Back in the day, before refrigeration, coolships were the only option brewers had to cool down the wort (a.k.a. unfermented beer). Now, they are predominantly used for spontaneous fermentation. The coolship enables you to spread the wort out across a large surface area to cool, while also exposing it to wild yeasts and bacteria from your specific environment. This creates an entirely unique, funky flavor. There are only a few U.S. breweries with coolships; most are located in Belgium, where lambic beers originated.”

Q: Are you seeing any trends in packaging?

A: “Mostly differences in volume rather than any new types of packaging, like you may see with wine. 750 ml bottles are getting downsized to 550 ml and more beers are going into 19.2 oz, 22 oz aluminum cans. The most impactful part of the packaging, however, is the branding. So many people these days make their buying decisions based on the label, despite what’s inside.”


Come by to explore a tasting at either our Dogpatch or Haight Street locations. We’re about to get even more creative with our new coolship and foeders out on the floor!

Ales & Tails (and Heads & Claws) | A Magnolia Brew Boil

On March 26th, join us at Magnolia Brewing Dogpatch for Ales & Tails (and Heads and Claws) a Magnolia Brew Boil. With crawfish and other fixings running down each table and all you can drink pitchers of beer to quench your thirst, this is going to be a full on eating and drinking fest!

So tell your friends, grab your fork and knife, and put on your game face! $65 per person includes food and all you can drink beer pitchers during the duration of the event. Tickets available for purchase until March 24th.

Get your tickets here!

When: March 26th @ 7pm
Where: Magnolia Dogpatch – 2505 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA
Cost: $65 (includes tax and tip)

Very Scary—Lots to Look Forward to in Early 2019

As I write this our containerload of foeders sits, awaiting shipping across the Bay, in the Port of Oakland.  Today had been floated as a possible delivery day, but now we’re hoping for tomorrow.  Once they arrive we’ll have to see first whether they’ll all fit though the door, and if not, where we’ll stick them temporarily as we await the fashioning of a large enough opening into the upcoming event space along 3rd Street.  And then, a bit farther down the road, there’s where to put the coolship—it’s finished and ready to ship, we just aren’t quite ready to receive it. But enough about difficulty.  Once everything is here, the funky fun begins.

In the meantime, however, we’ve also got to get ready not just for SF Beer Week (Feb. 1-10) but the antecedent event jointly put on by Magnolia and 21st Amendment, Strong Beer Month.  This year, for starters, we’re kicking off a new theme (imagine I’m holding a flashlight shining upward below my face in the dark): Monster Beers.  It’s kind of a no-brainer (as they say), given that all the beers are big and strong, many of them 10- or 11-per cent monsters in their own right, but where the poster is concerned (and hats off to the graphics crew at 21A, I must say) it’s actually a three-brainer, a sort of earthbound King Ghidorah, if you’re hip to the Kaiju canon.

Check this out.

A couple of Magnolia favorites have surfaced from the deeps and lagoons from whence they first arose, and while the potential effect of overindulgence might prove a scary prospect, their names are like the idyllic beginning of the movie before the monsters escape from the lab or arrive from outer space.  Promised Land Imperial IPA is back, in a version very similar to last year’s re-think of the longstanding classic, and a hefty blend of Old Thunderpussy barley wine and sour beer called Queen of the Underground will also be on offer beginning, along with all the rest, on February 1.  And then there are the featured creatures: King Koln Imperial Kolsch, Cucumber Constrictor Double Eclectic IPA, Brute Cocktail Imperial Tropical Eclectic IPA, Stop Motion Amburana-aged Imperial Stout and the collab we’re throwing together with our buds at 21A, a hazy and lightly smoky Imperial IPA called Smog Monster.  All these beers will pour as long as they last into the month, and once again devotees will have the opportunity either to buy or earn free a bitchin’ commemorative glass.  And as a special treat we’ll have a showing of a couple of classic monster movies we’ll decide on later on Wednesday, February 20th at Dogpatch. And since it was so much fun during Eclectic IPA month, we’re doing a beer school event on February 17th at 21st Amendment, mainly to showcase Shaun’s and Dick’s badinage.

And then (pause for breath-catching), there’s SF Beer Week.  We’ll be bringing back a couple of tried-and-trues, partly because people always show up in reasonably well-mannered droves, but also because we love them just for ourselves.  So yes, Oysterfest is back, on Tuesday Feb. 5, with oysters offered both on the half-shell and in various ways that chef Roque comes up with.  Oyster Head Stout will be nip and tuck, so we’ll see about that.  And on Thursday, the 7th, we’ll be doing Festival of Firkins, with a bunch of Magnolia beers served the natural way, alongside a hand-picked array of some of the Bay Area’s best real ale producers.  Nor will Dogpatch be left out of the fun.  On Wednesday, the 6th, we’ll do a lobster vs. crab head-to-head with East Coast buddies Allagash Brewing—can’t wait to see what Laurance comes up with for the menu.  And on Friday, the 8th, we’ll throw down with our local Brut IPA brethren for the first-ever (as far as we know) Brut IPA fest, called (you could have thought of this, but we did) Et Tu Brut.

There’s other stuff we’ll be up to, of course, at other accounts and in various combinations.  There will galas and tap takeovers, food-paired things and rare releases.  And when it’s over we’ll all be exhausted.

Reporting Back and Looking Forward

Heading into 2019 brings all sorts of excitement and interesting projects—foeders and coolship likely arriving later this month, and a bunch of fun collaborations, to say nothing of embarking on the conversion of the new event space next door at Dogpatch—but before I go there, I can’t resist reporting back on what I was up to during part of the month of November…

After various invitations, demurrals, schedulings and determinations, Kim and I headed south to São Paolo, Brazil to join our friends at Tarantino Brewing for some long-anticipated projects.  The brewery is the brainchild of a trio of guys—two Brazilians and an American—one of whom, Gilberto “Giba” Tarantino hosted a BA group I was a part of back in 2013, during his days as a beer importer.  In the intervening years he had asked me to come down and brew pumpkin beer at another brewery with which he was associated, but that never worked out.  But now he has a brewery of his own, and when I saw him this year at the Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, he renewed the idea.  Rather than pumpkin beer, we would brew some beers more along the lines of my most recent book, Brewing Eclectic IPA.  We’d source Brazilian ingredients, the kinds of things that have beguiled me during judging the Concurso Brasileiro de Cervejas in Blumenau, Brazil over the past couple of years.  We would have fun coming up with things on the fly.

So we went.

The first thing we did, of course, not long after Giba picked us up at the airport, was have a caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail.  I had one made with cashew fruit, the reddish orange pulpy mass that’s attached beneath cashew nuts.  Who knew, right?  Well, I did, from previous trips.  In any case, not long after that we sat down for a tasting of beer aged on about a dozen different woods.  Wood, of course, is another one of my areas of interest, and one thing that’s unique about wood-aging in South America is that since after the last major geologic upheaval in the Americas, oak was unable to migrate very far south of the Isthmus of Panama.  As a result, if you’re aging spirits, wine or beer in or on wood, either you’re buying oak or you’re using something else.  Probably the most popular wood is amburana, which throws earthy and spicy aromas—a little cinnamon, a little nutmeg—and a bag of which I happen to have, given me by Wicked Pete Slosberg (look for some kegs of this upcoming!). We tasted Jaquera (yellow jackfruit wood), castañera (Brazil nut tree, pollinated only by two rare types of Brazilian bee), Ipe (which I think my deck in Seattle is made of!), balsamo (minty and eucalyptus-like) and a number of others.  Our choice for aging a brown ale was Putumuju, which was reminiscent of strawberry, and especially fruity when burned.

Our education in Brazilian fruits was twofold.  On one day we tasted around a dozen different fruit purées, things, once again, pretty much unknown up here.  Oh sure, we know maracuja, but by a different name—passion fruit—but the maracuja they grow down there, and which you can buy in any decent supermarket, are as big as baseballs.  We also tasted such things as jabuticaba (which I happen to know Peter Bouckaerdt has been trying to get his hands on), cajamanga, jenipopo, seriguela and a bunch of others, not all of which, to be honest, were entirely pleasant (Kim thought mangaba tasted the way latex paint smells—and she was right).  In the end we chose Cambuci (lime, mint, light pepper) and Umbu (tart, again peppery, and green) to put in an IPA.  Fruit for another beer we would choose from something we found on the next day’s journey to the fruit farm.

Yes.  The fruit farm.  Alexandre, the head brewer at Tarantino, has over the past few years cultivated acquaintance with folks who back in the nineties converted some pasture land near a town called Paraibuna, about midway between São Paolo and Rio near back to jungle, but with a bunch of indigenous fruit trees worked into the mix.    It was quite a rainy and muddy day, especially when we got off the main road and made much of the trip on unpaved roads in Luciano’s (another Tarantino partner) Land Rover, eventually arriving at Sitio do Bello.  Kind of expecting trees planted in rows, we were pleasantly surprised by the wildness of it all.  The idea, after all, had not been to plant an orchard as such but to help the land convert back to jungle, albeit with perhaps a higher concentration of native fruits than might completely naturally occur.  The first ones we encountered with our guide Cintia were pitanga, which we had also seen growing on the streets of São Paolo.  Looking like a tiny heirloom tomato, they are sharply berry-like and have a pretty big seed.  We kept going, and shortly had my favorite fruit of the day, garcinia, which look like limes when they’re immature, but ripen to yellow, a bit larger than a golf ball and kind of tartly mango-like in flavor and texture.  I ate the whole thing.  And in the course of our further wanders we saw uvaia, grumixama (looks kind of like a purple rose hip, tastes vaguely cherry-like and has lots of seeds) and another whose name translated roughly to “furry little guy,” but which escapes me now.  When we were done roving we tasted some juices for fruits that weren’t then in season, and chose coquinho aceda to make another pale ale with later in the week.

Tho folks at Tarantino were terrific, and their brewery was a pretty nice setup—a 30 hectoliter main brewhouse with a little 1 hL test brewery with four fermenters.  Alexandre’s crew was diligent and helpful.  KiKa coordinates all the behind the scenes action, with her oversized T-shirt and requisite groovy hat, and the other guy, whose name eluded me at first and subsequently reintroduced himself as Douglas, took care of milling, sanitizing and making sure everything was kept in trim.  The one member of the ownership triumvirate I haven’t yet mentioned is Isaac, an American guy from Maine whose wife is Brazilian, and who was midway through the tricky process, despite still running aspects of the brewery, of moving to New York.

One other detour we made was to the Coffee Lab, a place I’d actually been before, a place that takes coffee very seriously.  It’s important to point out that while Brazilians love and produce a lot of coffee, there isn’t all that much of a café culture—people mostly drink it at home.  We ran through a number of coffees and eventually chose a blend of Yellow and Red Cataui, which we ended up putting in a pale ale, both on the hot side and as a cold bean addition late in fermentation.

If I seem at all vague about all these beers, it’s because (of course) they weren’t ready by the time we left São Paolo.  I’ve gotten reports as they’ve come along, and I’m hoping that one of these days some cans will arrive (that was the plan).  In any case, I have to chalk the whole thing up to a wonderful, un-reproduceable adventure.  None of those fruits, as far as I know, are even available in this country.  Hence there will be no beers brewed reminiscent of latex paint—or the wonderful juiciness of many of the others. I did bring back some little bags of cubes of some of some of the woods we tried, so we’ll likely be running some small-scale experiments with those.

The foeders, the coolship, the collaborations with Fal from Anderson Valley (Yuzukosho Gose) and the folks from Barebottle (a hazy IPA with grapefruit, Meyer lemon and retro hopping)?  I’ve gone on so long about Brazil that’s going to have to wait.  Stay tuned.

Punch Your Ticket (and Collect Your Glass) for Eclectic IPA Month!

For many years now we’ve teamed up with the folks at 21st Amendment during November for BRU-SFO, bringing out six Belgian-style beers from each brewery in an annual masterpiece of brewhouse coordination and creative abandon.  We loved BRU-SFO, and while we also love the styles of beer inspired by that teeny little country these days struggling to keep its head above the increasingly insistent lapping of the North Sea, we’re putting it on a Sabena flight to posterity.

But our November partnership with 21A is by no means over—and, by the way, no, in case you’re wondering, it wasn’t last year’s Fennel Face that constituted BRU-SFO’s last straw.  In fact, this year we’re doubling down on the creativity, sort of inspired by the publication of my book, Brewing Eclectic IPA back in May.  This November we’ll be co-celebrating Eclectic IPA month with six beers from each brewery—two of them collaborations—three of them to be released at the beginning of the month, followed by one more each week leading up to just before Thanksgiving.  We’ll also be hosting events at our newly reopened Dogpatch brewery and at the SF 21A location to give attendees an exclusive sneak preview of the last beers, along with food, talk and merriment.

Shaun O’Sullivan of 21A and I have shared a fair amount of all those things over the years, and in some ways took similar vines—er, paths—to brewing distinctiveness and hilarity: think watermelon and pumpkin.  Now we’re poised to raid the spice and produce markets to come up with a dozen new beers—new IPAs—for the upcoming month.  It’s going to be fun.

The whole concept of Eclectic IPA revolves around the interplay between hops and other ingredients in beer, kicked up a notch or two by the extreme treatments of brewing embodied in IPA.  The past thirty years or so have seen a parade of new hop varieties presenting bold, fruity, herbal and distinctive flavors and aroma previously unknown in the history of brewing.  Not surprisingly, these bold varieties, beginning with Cascade, then followed by Centennial and Chinook, onward to Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe and all sorts of crazy stuff with Maori-sounding names from New Zealand, have along the way been embraced by craft brewers in this country and elsewhere to make some pretty radical beers.  But the hops are only half the story.  Other ingredients, things like fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, coffee and chocolate can be manipulated to tie into the essential aromas and flavors of hops carried by the essential oils—or terpenes—inherent in them and individually identified by both analysis and just plain sensory appreciation.  Turns out terpenes are in things other than weed; in fact, they are part of pretty much everything that grows in the ground, and even in such things as the excretions from some insects.  That’s the base concept inherent in Eclectic IPA: flavor combinations that just work, whether because they play so well together or because they present a contrapuntal combination that is beguiling and delicious.

So onward to the beers—and by the way, no once more, there will be neither fennel nor the excretions from insects in any of the IPAs we’ll be offering in Novemeber:

We haven’t settled on the order of things, but these are what we plan to produce at Magnolia:

Red Spruce—IPA made with currants and spruce tips

Shiso Fine—IPA made with shiso leaves, added three times

South Island Hiss—IPA made with gooseberries and New Zealand Nelson Sauvin

Theabelgo—Belgian Black Chocolate IPA (brewed with Recchiuti Chocolate)

TukTuk Tea—Thai/Vietnamese Iced Tea-inspired IPA, made with Cha Dem Yen tea and lactose

Our collaboration with 21A will be Henna Tattoo Double IPA, brewed with Buddha’s Hand fruit purée and pink peppercorns

21A’s beers:

Hazy Imperial Passion—Imperial hazy IPA with passion fruit

Imperial West Coast Pine—Imperial IPA brewed with pine and lemon verbena

Brut Fruit—Mango-strawberry brut IPA

Pancake Syrup—Maple IPA brewed with toasted fenugreek seeds

SuperNatural IPA—brewed with Peet’s Ethiopian Super Natural and Etolie coffees

And Urban Forage, which we’ll all do together. This collaboration should be fun.  On October 29, a bunch of the brewers from both breweries will rove through Chinatown in San Francisco and select things on the spot to brew with.

As in the past, we’ll be issuing punch cards, in order that motivated maniacs can try all the beers in the course of the month and be rewarded with a commemorative glass.  Glasses will also be offered for sale at any time, and will be given away at the two brewery events.  I will be presiding at the Dogpatch event on November 19th and I’ll join Shaun at 21A on the 18th, along with various other brewers, in order to talk about the beers and enjoy the paired bites created by our respective chefs.  The bites will also be available at both the Haight Street and Dogpatch locations and at 21A throughout the month and as each beer is released, riffing on the great pairings that Chef Roque Mendoza dreamed up this past February for Strong Beer Month at the Magnolia pub, and enlisting the inspirational expertise of Laurance Gordon, our new chef at Magnolia Dogpatch.  Ticketing information will be forthcoming for the events, at which attendees will also have the first crack at the last releases, to be unveiled for the general public on that last Monday before Thanksgiving.  Our Dogpatch event will also be a chance for anyone who hasn’t yet made it to the newly reopened Magnolia location to come and give it a look.  Stay tuned.

Dogpatch Evolution—Here Comes Magnolia Dogpatch!

Look around Dogpatch and you’ll see a lot of change happening, and the more you choose to notice the more you’ll see.  All those new buildings along Indiana are one instance, and head up 3rd Street to where the Chase Center is springing up in anticipation of the Warriors’ move next year—those are obvious changes.  Those port and industrial buildings over toward the water may look essentially the same, but just zoom in with your phone and you’ll see they’ve got shiny new interiors to keep the best of the old while retooling for more modern function.  Pier 70 will take a few years to happen, but before you know it that stretch of nondescript wasteland too will take shape as new residential, retail and recreational space.

Not everybody is for all this change; such is the way of the world, after all, for neighborhoods the world over where artists have wriggled into spaces left behind by industrial obsolescence.  By the time you read this, parking meters will have begun their colonization in previously wilder park-lands.  New buildings are always somewhat divisive, of course, and so is just about any change at all.

So we expect a gasp or two when we reopen Magnolia’s Dogpatch location on September 28th.  We think it’s amazing, with a groovy new décor motif for the restaurant and an artfully repurposed loading dock/beer garden space where gatherings of all kinds can take place.  There’s even going to be a big TV out there, across from the bleachers (!) for folks to watch the Warriors, of course, but other local sports events, or for presentations for larger groups.

I think one aspect of resentment to change has to do with love for the way things have been, and attachment to particular places.  We think Smokestack was a great looking place, too, and the barbecue was super-tasty.  But this is a neighborhood—and a city—in transition.  There are lots of people who want a more varied menu to accommodate different dietary choices.  Not only that, but barbecue doesn’t particularly lend itself to brunch.  And in case you haven’t noticed, brunch—and particularly in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill—is an underserved meal slot.  We plan to march right in with chef Laurence Gordon’s new take on what we think the neighborhood wants and will appreciate.  We’ll also have table service, so people won’t continually have to jump up to get another beer, cocktail, or glass of wine.

In the year or so since New Belgium and I took over operations at the two Magnolia locations, no moss whatsoever has grown on our brewing acumen and accomplishment.  We’ve been turning out new beers nearly every week and offering things people never thought they’d see at Magnolia given its earlier stylistic premises, at the same time we’ve kept some of the old favorites cycling through.  Most of these beers have come from the pub—a smaller system simply lends itself to variety—but with having moved production of canned Kalifornia Kolsch and Proving Ground to New Belgium, the Dogpatch brewery as well has been able to develop new beers we hope to be able to sell around the City using Matagrano’s (our SF distributor) Fresh Van, a scheme designed to get beer from us to our on-premise customers as quickly as we can.

But don’t just take my word for it.  These are the beers we’re planning on offering right out of the gate when we open on the 28th.  There are some you’ll recognize, of course; there are some you may have had recently if you’ve stopped by the pub; and there are special things we’ve squirreled away, and others which we’ll release for people’s very first opportunity to try.

Proving Ground IPA

Kalifornia Kolsch

Blue Bell Bitter

Bombay Brut IPA

Summer of Love IPA

India Print (Slight Return)

Weekapaug Gruit 2018

Station 12 Red Ale

City & County California Common

Cucumber Squeeze (cucumber and Meyer lemon) IPA

Petty Oligarch Baltic Porter

Cold Cruiser Pilsner

Dueling Scar Double IPA

Conflagration Imperial Red Ale

Admarillo ESB

Unlimited Devotion—soured and barrel-aged

Chardonnay barrel-aged Saison (name?)

New Belgium Le Terroir

New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA

New Belgium Spiced Apricot Sour

For the first couple of weeks, until we feel we have our feet beneath us, we’ll just be open for dinner.  Then will come lunch, and finally weekend brunch.  And once all that is working properly we’ll begin construction on the big event space we’ve taken next door in the southward 3rd Street direction.  We’ll be able to accommodate larger parties down there and bigger events.  Not only that, but today (as I write this), I wired the deposit to the Italian barrelmaker to secure a container load of large barrels and even larger wooden foeders, which we will put in that space in order to embark on our own larger-scale wood beer project.  But details about that are more appropriate for a later post.

In the meantime, please join us as we move into Magnolia’s next phase in the Dogpatch!  We’ll see you on the 28th and afterward.

The Evolving Nature of (Magnolia) Beer

It’s an interesting creative assignment to pick up a project in progress.  Lots of great movies have been the result of a succession of writers or directors, and many of the world’s architectural marvels have been designed, redesigned and eventually realized by a sort of historical relay, with the creative baton passed through generations of endeavor.  Not to aggrandize too much the portfolio of a small brewpub in a hippie neighborhood in San Francisco. Still, with all the history and accomplishment wrapped up in Magnolia’s beers, it’s worth pausing to make a couple of observations about the process of taking up, evaluating, tweaking and altering a venerable and beloved lineup, especially when placed against the changing landscape of craft beer at large.

For a couple of decades, of course, Magnolia has been known for a collection of beers mainly harking to classic English styles, including versions demonstrating an impressive devotion to traditional cask ales.  In addition to the bitters, pale ales, porters and stouts one might expect, patrons have been presented with multiple versions of these days relatively obscure styles such as mild and brown ale, styles which in England itself rarely rear their heads at all.  And there have been beers which didn’t particularly fit this model.  It’s seemed a little funny to me that the biggest selling beers for a while now at Magnolia haven’t been English-style ales: Kalifornia Kölsch and Proving Ground IPA, the former a North-German style golden ale and the latter a West Coast IPA nonetheless displaying some sturdy English root stock. (You might have noticed that we recently refreshed the packaging for both of these beers too!)

The history of craft brewing has many chapters centered on a number of different and progressing stylistic developments and trends.  In the beginning it was enough simply to make your own beer, often in a single style with your own name on it. Sometimes there was a dark version and pale version, named no more creatively than that: pale and dark.  The classic brewpub of yore typically added something amber to the mix. Then came emulations of beers from around the world. Often pubs were centered on beers harking from a particular European point of brewing origin: England or Germany, mostly, and eventually Belgium.  Then all hell broke loose and American craft brewers riffed on everything, folding it all back on itself and making flights of ridiculous deliciousness to keep themselves entertained and their customers beguiled. All sorts of crazy stuff happened, and continues to happen every day.  Times change, at Magnolia as well.

At Magnolia, these days you’re likely to see some representation of the place’s former lineup: Kölsch and Proving Ground, of course (though even casual observers have noted a substantial change for the modern in PG’s profile), but perhaps Blue Bell Bitter or Aliciela (we’ve got a new version using fresh yarrow), or even (gasp) one of the excellent milds brewed throughout Magnolia’s history.  But they’ll see other, crazy newer stuff which we make every effort to make delicious and interesting. You’ll see beers of my device, such as the large handful of so-called Eclectic IPAs of the past couple of months, and you’ll see beers reflecting the creative efforts of brewers Seth (Galactic Rift, Pigtail and Fivey Time) Wile and Andrew (Petty Oligarch, Native Sable and a succession of Session IPAs) Combs.  You’ll see beers celebrating our city and neighborhood, such as Station 12 Red Ale and our upcoming modernist take on California Common, which we plan to call City and County.

We appreciate your attention and indulgence as we come up with new beers and maintain a loose rotation of the old.  Some particular things to look for these days:

Summer of Love IPA—This is the second version of last year’s beer commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of 1967’s iconic season.  The malt bill is much the same, with just a touch of rye amid pale others, and a concentration on Southern Hemisphere hop stalwarts Pacific Gem and Galaxy along with good old Mosaic.  6.5% abv and 65 IBU

Conflagration Imperial Red Ale—Another nod to first responders at our city’s and regional fire departments, this is a massive—and massively hopped, with the same Cascade and El Dorado—version of Station 12.  8.5% abv and 80 IBU

Momomojo Smoked Peach Ale—Built of pale malt and small percentages of white wheat and peachwood smoked malt, puréed peaches (momo is Japanese for peach; mojo, well, nobody entirely knows what that is—and that’s the point) are added to the ferment to bring a fruity touch to a lightly smoky ale of 5.8% abv and 36 IBU.

Prague Bock—Say it aloud and it sounds like a beer we had on for Strong Beer Month back in February, and like Prog Bock it’s a strong lager.  This time around, however, it’s built on a Pilsner chassis, with lots of Saaz hops and pale pilsner malt. Say it soft and there’s music playing (on the Charles bridge), say it loud and it’s almost like praying. 7.4% abv and 40 IBU

Spice Girl—We thought long and hard before deciding not to commit to just one of the Spice Girls for this Strawberry Wheat Ale.  There’s a pint of fresh-squeezed ginger in it (and a touch of coriander), so Ginger Spice might have been the way to go. It’s not so big, so maybe Baby; moderate, even Sporty at 4.9% abv and not particularly Scary with just under 40 IBU; but its cloudiness probably makes it something other than Posh.  

Admarillo—In enthusiastic support of our local Admiral Maltings in Alameda, Andrew brewed this pale ale with three of their malts:  Maiden Voyage for the base and Kilnsmith II and III, along with a dash of white wheat and a fair amount of Amarillo hops. 5.5% abv and 50 IBU

Coming Soon: Magnolia Dogpatch!

Passers-by in Dogpatch have probably noticed that Magnolia’s Smokestack location has paper up in the windows, busy crews of workers coming and going, and a general air of mystery about just what’s going on there. The place is closed, it’s true, for the next couple of months anyway, as we refurbish the restaurant space and its concept, convert a loading dock area into an indoor beer garden, and prepare to embark on annexing and constructing an additional 5000 or so square feet next door along 3rd Street. I know that’s a lot to chew on, so let’s take these things one at a time…

First the restaurant. For the past few years, Smokestack has been turning out delicious barbecue for Dogpatch visitors and residents, as well as running Magnolia’s production-scale brewery behind the scenes for local draft and canned beer. The new restaurant will be less limiting in concept, and will be geared more for hanging out and enjoying a drink or a couple of beers while tucking into food geared more along the lines of what the Magnolia’s Haight Street pub provides, along with some more involved dishes for a more dining-committed experience. The bar area will remain essentially the same, but we’ve taken some liberties with the coming look and feel of the place, as well as the introduction of friendlier and more navigable table service. At the pub, chef Roque Mendoza has done a brilliant job putting fabulous pub food in front of Haight Street beer drinkers, especially recently as he’s been called upon to pair his wares up with a pretty interesting array of new beers. He’ll be working with Magnolia Dogpatch’s new chef to bring the best of the Magnolia ethos to a rapidly changing neighborhood in the City.

Speaking of which, a lot of our changes are tied to what’s happening in the bigger Dogpatch picture, changes bringing the Golden State Warriors to their new arena a scant six blocks up the street, the mega-development of the pier 70 area, the fleshing out of the massive UCSF hospital complex, as well as the proliferation of construction cranes gradually providing the area with thousands of new residential units. We’ll need to be ready for all these people coming into the neighborhood, with the mentioned alterations to the Dogpatch restaurant and the conversion of the loading dock off 22nd Street (which within a year or so will be converted to a park fronting various new businesses in the American Industrial Center complex) into an indoor beer garden where patrons can sit at long tables or on permanently installed bleachers while watching a game or simply hanging out. Yes, there will be a TV—table service and a TV, along with delicious cocktails and a full lineup of interesting and innovative beers.

Many will remember some of the verbiage included in the announcements covering the takeover of Magnolia back in October by me, New Belgium and Oud Beersel, in which we described some of the brewing and blending projects yet to come. The event space we’ll be building out after all the abovementioned projects are completed is where we’ll be putting the coolship and foeders for spontaneous fermentation, aging and blending, as well as a space for events we trust will become one of the most sought-after in San Francisco. We’re calling this phase three, since it won’t really get underway until after we’ve pretty much completed the restaurant and beer garden projects.

So there you have it. We hope you’ll bear with us as we undertake all this exciting new renovation and re-expression of the Magnolia brand, responsive to and in anticipation of the changes to the essence of its neighborhoods. We’re having a great time bringing out new beers and giving Magnolia’s loyal customers an ongoing reason to stay in touch, and to raise a pint, etc., as we collectively figure out how we all want to take it further.

Eclectic IPA Is In Season!

Over the past year or so I’ve been working on a book for Brewers Publications on what we’re calling Eclectic IPA—that is, IPA augmented with other ingredients such as fruit, vegetable, herbs, spice, etc. Their plan is to have a whole series of books—monographs, really, since they’re not super-long—each treating a particular sub-style: American, British, Imperial, whatever, since these days IPA is so popular among brewers and beer drinkers. I’ve actually recommended Magnolia founder Dave McLean for the British book, since he’s a specialist in English-style beers. In any case, my book came out a few weeks ago, timed for the Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, at which I had a couple of signings and gave a talk related to the book.

The book has around 25 different recipes for Eclectic IPA, covering pretty much every category I’ve mentioned above, as well as coffee, chocolate, tea, and sour treatment in wood. There’s even a recipe for IPA infused with active THC and weed, since even though professional brewers aren’t allowed under their federal licenses to mess around with such supposedly controlled substances, as 20% of the US population now lives in places where weed has been legalized—and probably a greater proportion than that of home brewers, given the states involved—it’s simply a public service to make such information available.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been brewing some of these recipes—and more—in anticipation of a book signing event slated for June 9th at the Magnolia pub on Haight Street. I’ll be hanging out and signing books from 3 to 7 pm. We’ll be pouring five distinctly different IPAs made with some pretty interesting ingredients, hopped with varieties that play off the specialty ingredients. That’s kind of the gist of the book, really, that the essential oils, or terpenes, in hops in all their proportional variety correspond with their occurrence in fruits, and vegetables, and herbs and pretty much everything organic and grown, suggesting flavor combinations both intuitive and otherwise. With IPA being a style so dependent on hop character, it just makes sense that ones suggesting grapefruit or guava or thyme or plums might go well with some of those precise materials. Anyway, on to the beer…

We’ll be releasing one of these beers each day next week as we head into the event on Saturday. There’ll be Cranberries for Sal, a hazy, New England-style IPA made with cranberry and orange peel, hopped with Cascade and Citra; Cucumber Squeeze, an IPA made with cucumbers, Meyer lemon and Citra; June of ’66 Rosemary IPA, with rosemary branches in the mash and needles in the whirlpool, finished with Nelson Sauvin; Hot Guava Monster makes its return (it was one of the beers for Strong Beer Month back in February), a guava-habañero double IPA hopped with Motueka and Mosaic; and one that wasn’t in the book, Wild Island, an IPA made with Tangerine and Soursop and hopped with Amarillo, Citra and Cascade. Of course tasters and flights of all these beers will be available.

The very next day, June 10th, is the Haight Street Fair, and we’ve brewed a couple of beers for that as well. They’re both pouring now, actually. One is a Fest Lager called Haightfest, kind of along the lines of a German-style Marzen, a 6% abv beer brewed with noble hops and the Augustiner lager yeast. The other is a beer we intend to keep making, and in larger batches over at the Dogpatch as (we hope) it catches on. It’s a 5.8% abv red ale brewed in honor of and in conjunction with the Haight-neighborhood Fire Station #12, whose logo borrows liberally from Grateful Dead imagery (though ours doesn’t). The beer is called Station 12, and part of the proceeds from its sale will go to the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program, a massive toy drive that the SF firefighters’ union conducts every year. It’s actually the biggest firefighter toy program in the country. The beer is lightly roasty with a solid but not overbearing hop character; both beers are a perfect foil to the riotous flavors and aromas you’ll enjoy in the Eclectic IPAs.

Come out both days to check out the beers, the book and the fair!