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Ten Days For Beer Lovers

The interior of Bottlecraft in Little Italy, which features a boutique beer shop and a tasting room.
Bottlecraft Beer Shop and Tasting Room
The interior of Bottlecraft in Little Italy, which features a boutique beer shop and a tasting room.
San Diego Beer Week
Jeff Hammett, host of San Diego Beer BlogAndrew Higgins is the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens pastry chef, creating delicious pairings of beer and desserts.

San Diego Beer Week returns tomorrow and will showcase San Diego craft beer, local food pairings, and live music. This year's Beer Week is rather, ten days of 350 events. Most events are beer tastings, while some are themed pairings. Whether you're a craft beer aficionado or aren't sure what hops are, there's something for everyone at Beer Week.

Jeff Hammett, host of San Diego Beer Blog gives his top five picks for this year's event:

Brewers Guild Festival is an all day event and kicks off Beer Week. Features over twenty-five breweries and food from local eateries. FM 94/9 hosts live music with Matthew Sweet, Telekinesis, The Stone Foxes, and more. This Saturday at Liberty Station in Point Loma.


If you're new to the world of craft beers, consider:

Blind Lady Ale House's Flight Tasting with the Brewmasters: This is a meet the brewer event. There will be a flight of six beers, all from same brewery with the brewer leading you through the flight. This is more educational since they guide you through the tasting. This Sunday at Automatic Brewing Co.

Beer picks:

Night of a Million Zillion Speedways: Alesmith Speedway Stout is a local beer made yearly with coffee. This event will feature flights of ten different versions and variations of the Speedway Stout. Next Saturday, November 12 at O'Brien's Pub in Kearny Mesa.

The Flavors of Yeast with White Labs: White Labs is a company that makes yeast here in San Diego and provides yeast for local brewers. This event will showcase the same beer with four different yeasts in order to highlight the importance of yeasts. Next Wednesday, November 9 at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park.


Bottlecraft's Bison Bourbon-aged Chocolate Stout Release Party: Berkeley's own Bison Brewing has been brewing this rich chocolate stout for over twenty years. A variation on the theme has been created in the new bourbon-aged stout. You can try these stouts side by side while enjoying bacon food pairings. This Sunday at Bottlecraft in Little Italy.

Andrew Higgins is the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens pastry chef, creating delicious pairings of beer and desserts.

Beer & Chocolate: Double Truffles!: This over-the-top feast will feature chocolate truffles created by local chocolatier Dallmann Fine Chocolates and pastry chef Andrew Higgins. These sweet treats will be paired with craft beers. This Sunday at Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido.

Jeff Hammett, host of San Diego Beer Blog. Works in IT during the day, brews by night.

Andrew Higgins, pastry chef at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You may keep hearing that San Diego is one of the beer brewing capitols of America, but just haven't been able to find out what all the shouting is about. Well, then San Diego beer week is made for you. The 10-day festival features events throughout San Diego where you don't just get to taste local beers but you learn how they're made, and what too eat with them. I'd like to welcome my guests, Jeff Hammett is the authority of the San Diego beer blog. Upon he also brews his own beer at home. And Jeff, welcome back to the show.

HAMMETT: Thanks for having me

CAVANAUGH: Andrew Higgins is the pastry chef at stone brewing world bistro and gardens. Welcome

HIGGINS: Hi, Maureen. Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And we'll tell everybody what you're doing here in just a few minutes


CAVANAUGH: Jeff, this is the third year for San Diego beer week. Give us a sense of how much this event has grown.

HIGGINS: Just looking at the number of event, it's hard to see how much it's grown. Last year there were four hundred 77 events at the end of the week. Right now, there are four hundred and 48 listed on the website. But they've added over 100 in the past 2 days. And the quality of the events looks to be better this year


HAMMETT: Last year there were a lot of events that got added that were just kind of, like, dollar off a pint at this restaurant. Where this year, it's more about the quality of the event, focusing on good beer, not just cheap beer

CAVANAUGH: Not just cheap beer. Do brewers around the county come to San Diego beer week? Is this a very big event for them?

HAMMETT: Yeah. Specialty beer comes in from all over the world


HAMMETT: And there are a few brewers coming out for meet the brewer type events from other areas of the country, some from Colorado, and then some from northern California. And it's a big thing for regular beer drinkers too. A lot of people come visit just to come to the events. The San Diego beer week organizers keep track of the number of hotel room night, and last year there were over two thousand hotel room nights contributing to beer week

CAVANAUGH: And I don't even want to go into how these hotel nights happened. I'm sure a lot of them were locals. Now, with more than four hundred events as you were just telling us, I'm sure folks could use some way to categorize these events, some advice to where to focus their energies as they go through beer week. What would you follow them? What kinds of events will they be find something

HAMMETT: There are a whole bunch of different types of events, and it's a bit of an over simplification, but just to keep things quick, I like to categorize things as formal beer dinners and meet the brewer events where you go and stay there for an hour or two, and the brewer talks to you, tells you what you're drinking, what you're eating, things like that. And then there are other events where they just go in and they have different beers from the same brewery, and they showcase different beers where it's more informal, you just kind of come and go as you please

CAVANAUGH: The first event you're recommending is the big brewers' guild event which kicks off the festival. Why do you recommend this one?

HAMMETT: It's a highlight of all things San Diego, or all things beer San Diego. I think every brewer in San Diego, or at least almost all of them will be there. They bring some of their best beers, and there's a wide variety of beers. If you don't know what type of beer you like, you'll be able to find something there for sure

CAVANAUGH: Okay. And I have a number of events to talk to you about. Of the but let's go to the boutique beer shot bottle craft is hosting at bison brewery. That's not easy to say. Tell us about that one.

HAMMETT: Bison brewery, they're up in the bay area. They make a beer called chocolate stout, since 1990. It's kind of their flagship beer. And recently they put a small amount of it into four roses bourbon barrels and aged it for about 6 months, and they're debuting it. The first time ever will be at bottle craft in little Italy on Sunday evening. And they'll have both the bourbon barrel aged version as well as the regular version so you can taste them side by side. And see what defense it makes to put a beer in bourbon barrels for 6 months

CAVANAUGH: Barrelling of beer is very popular. We had a beer show a while ago, and there were so many different tastes that come just from keeping beer in these different barrels.

HAMMETT: Yeah, and it's really interesting to taste, you know, barrel aged beers on their own. But tasting it side by side with the original beer, you can compare them and see what a difference it makes.

CAVANAUGH: Now, I wanted to talk about this chocolate beer event because I want to get our second guest, Andrew Higgins, as I said pastry chef for stone brewing company restaurants. Do all sweets go with beer, Andrew, or do you have to limit yourself to certain ingredients?

HIGGINS: No limitations with beer, actually. Beer is very versatile. And stands up to any and of everything

CAVANAUGH: Because of its -- the strength of the flavor?

HIGGINS: Yeah. And there's so many different kinds of beers, sweet, low alcohol content, aged barrel beers. And you can use the beer as a vehicle with a certain ingredient that we're using or you can use it to go with or just -- there are so many things that the beer can do, people would be very surprised

CAVANAUGH: I know you're doing some pairs for San Diego beer week. If you would, take us into the kitchen. Do you spend, let's say, a lot of time drinking a certain beer before you can come up with the correct beer -- dessert/beer pairing?

HIGGINS: No, not a lot of drinking, unfortunately. We have a system at stone, which is great. We have an in-house beer guru, doctor bill. And when I have a pairing just like this one, I'll sit down with him, come up with the menu and say, okay, these are the ingredients I'm using, flavor profiles, and I'll make, like, for instance six truffles, but I'll make three kinds of each truffle. Then we'll sit down, you'll go grab 15, 20 different beers. At stone we have every beer. Craft brewed, three hundred different kinds of beers so we'll bring it to a table, sit down with a group of people who have a good palette. Alex that baio, or executive chef, and we'll go through and shoot around and see what flavors go with what and what would be more popular.

CAVANAUGH: So when it comes to which comes first, the chicken or the egg, lots of times the desert comes first

HIGGINS: Yes, definitely.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, that's interesting. So give us a sense of where you've gotten adventurous this year in your pairs

HIGGINS: This year, we kind of went totally crazy with the truffles. There's so much truffles around, and you're going to be, like, oh, I've had that flavor before, I've had this flavor before. Me and my staff, we sat down and came up with cities, and we said, okay, let's do truffles from cities. So we came up with six truffles from just based on a city, like we did Cuba libre, as aid can, I went to Cuba a lot. So we did coke, we reduced it, we had some rum to it, some orange zest, and -- I mean lemon zest, lemon peel, juice, and give you a kind of Cuba libre feel. We did a smoked garlic named after an Italian city. So we did that sense

CAVANAUGH: Wow, they are adventure. Garlic and chocolate and beer?


CAVANAUGH: Wow. Itch it's a sweeter black garlic. It's not pungent because it's smoked and cooked in sugar syrup. But it's really good

CAVANAUGH: Now, you have six. These truffles compared with six beers; is that right?


CAVANAUGH: And is that -- so when you're drinking the beer, do you drink the beer and then the truffle and then another beer and then the truffle? How how it goes?

HIGGINS: Well, doctor bill will walk you through it. First you take a sip of the beer, cleanse your palette a lot, get away from whatever you've been eating before. And then you take another sip, and you try the truffle, and we go along like that. And bee normally start at, like, the smallest or, say, the lighter flavors and go up.

CAVANAUGH: I see. That would be commonly known as a flight, right?


HAMMETT: Yeah, a flight is typically a serving of small portions of beer, five or six of them, usually.

CAVANAUGH: I see. And with different tastes going from light to dark, right?

HAMMETT: Usually, yes.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Now, I have to ask you, Andrew, everybody can hear your accent, you're from Jamaica


CAVANAUGH: Did you grow up eating a lot of sweets and deserts? Is that what got you to culinary school?

HIGGINS: Not really. A little bit. My mom made some. But in Jamaica, football, what you call here soccer, is king. And when I was probably 13, I think I broke my shoulder. And went back to high school there, like you shouldn't play soccer for a while since you just had that. So I had two choices. I could do home economic, which was baking, or I could do wood work. I'm like, okay, I guess I'll do the home ec. And it started from there.

CAVANAUGH: I see. So the direction you took into pastries was just a whim?

HIGGINS: No, I actually liked it a lot and went to culinary school. And they kind of guide you. Nowadays, you can specialize. When I went, you couldn't. You had to do everything. And your chef at the time would say, oh, and give you suggestions where he thinks your talent lies. My chef, I said pastry, and he actually laughed. He said you're clumsy, too big.

CAVANAUGH: And he was wrong

HIGGINS: Yeah, I'm trying to prove him wrong.

CAVANAUGH: Well, besides beer, one of the things that beer and pastries have in common is yeast. And yeast features prominently in the sea rocket bistro beer. Tell us about that. There's an event I believe that's centered around yeasts

HAMMETT: Yeah, so we're has four main ingredients, water, some sort of grain, hops, and yeast. And wee lucky to have white labs, one of the biggest yeast suppliers in the country based here in San Diego. Neva parker over at white labs grewed this -- the same beer with the same water, same grain, and same hop, and then put three different types of yeast in each one. And they'll be serving them at sea rocket on Wednesday so that you can taste just what addition of the flavor to the gear the yeast gives

CAVANAUGH: You do a blog and taste a lot of beers I would imagine. Is there ever a time when you come and taste a beer and say oh, this one just goes too far? This isn't even beer anymore?

HAMMETT: Well, they're all beer. But there are definitely time where is some of the more extreme and crazy ingredients do go too far. But one of the nice things about beer, it's all personal preference. A beer that I hate, other people love.

CAVANAUGH: For folks at home, and I know there are a lot of people who have started or tried to start home brewing, and they want to make a deserved -- desert. Or -- well, first of all, they want to start their home brewing. What's an easy mistake that people make? A common mistake when they just start up.

HAMMETT: The most common mistake is lack of sanitation. Everything has to be very clean. If you get everything clean, usually things will go okay. You might not be making word class beer, but you'll be making drinkable beer

CAVANAUGH: That's good to know. And I'm wondering, Andrew, with you, and your ingredients and trying to pair them with the different beers or trying to find a beer that goes with the tastes of your truffles, is there a -- tough an a favor ingredient right now that you're really excited about and how that taste goes with different beers?

HIGGINS: Actually, I have a couple of things that we're working with right now. And I just got in last week two flights of chocolate persimmons from a friend of mine, which is very rare in this part of the world. We grow persimmons here, but chocolate not as much. So it's kind of working out, so those are amazing. Persimmons are very good flavor. And we have those now. And I've been doing a lot of reconstructing of my bakery, make it more -- I say vegan friendly. So I've been taking out all animal products from most of my recipes. Agar is one of the main things that we're doing. It kind of ungulfs more people in deserts and stuff, which is great. So those two things is the new revolution for me for the last 2 weeks.

CAVANAUGH: And how about where you get your ingredients? Do you try to keep it local or do you basically say the world is my oyster when it comes to finding the perfect chocolate or the perfect ingredient?

HIGGINS: Stone is a world bistro and gardens. So some things we do, like chocolate, yes. Right now, I have 12, 13 different chocolates in my bakery. Stuff from mad gas car, stuff from Venezuela, all over the world. So every chocolate would be different, different note, flavors, profiles. Which is great. Steve and Greg basically just get the best stuff for us. With produce, it's local. We try to do -- we have a farm, and we stay within probably a first mile radius to get our produce.

CAVANAUGH: And I'm also wondering when you think of pairing sweets with chocolate, I think the natural go-to might be dark chocolate. Do use a lot of dark chocolate?

HIGGINS: We do use a lot of dark chocolate. But I think there is a very big misconception out there on chocolate that whites not good or milk is not good. But I think if you get quality stuff, high quality milk, my quality white, people will enjoy it as much as they do dark

CAVANAUGH: If you wanted to, if you were brewing your own beer as Jeff just told us, keep it sanitary, and you had -- and you wanted to surprise your guests with a great desert, how would you go about pairing a beer with a desert? What notes would you look for?

HIGGINS: When baking, you should try to keep it real simple. The simpler the better

CAVANAUGH: Don't try to do this at home?

HIGGINS: No, do it at home. But don't try to make a triple chocolate souffle that you see on TV, like, your first shot. You know? You on the other hand -- with baking, it's just 10,000 hours is what they say to become a professional at anything, sports, whatever you do. But with baking, it's repetition. So you don't want to try the first time, oh, I'm going to make this truffle that I see on TV. Do something light, persimmon, apple. But to stand up and say you're brewing a stout, to stand up to it, you go get some -- iope, at the market some basil blossom or something that is pungent, and you mix it in there somehow with the glaze or sprinkle it on top, it will stand up to your beer. And it doesn't have to be rich chocolate. It's just simple ingredients that you can use that you don't have to put in a great amount of time and worry about the baking. It's pretty simple.

CAVANAUGH: That's great advice. And just a last bit of advice, Jeff, what is your favorite event at beer week if you don't feel that you're going to compromise yourself by letting us know?

HAMMETT: Last year, some of my favorite events were at blind lady ale house. They do a series of meet the brew are events where they bring in a different brewer. I think they're doing six of them throughout the 11 days of beer week. And you get a flight of beer, about six beers from that brewer. And over a two-hour period, the brewer guides you through a tasting. They tell you stories about how the beer was made, ingredients, things that you should be tasting in there. And it's a great way to actually reason about beer instead of just sit around drinking peer

CAVANAUGH: A learning experience. San Diego beer week. The third annual San Diego beer week runs November 4th through the 13th at various locations around the county. For more information you can visit their website at or you can get recommendations on Jeff's blog, which is I've been speaking with Jeff Hammott, the author of the San Diego beer blog, and Andrew Higgins, pastry chef at stone brewing world bistro and gardens. Thank you both very much.

HAMMETT: Thank you Maureen.

HIGGINS: Thank you.