Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Raising a Fiddle and Brew to Another Year at Societe Brewing Company

This past weekend, Societe Brewing Company celebrated its inaugural year, hosting four separate celebratory sipping sessions on Saturday and Sunday.  The celebration was held at Societe's production brewery and tasting room location in Kerny Mesa (that is now, finally, adorned with a handsome new sign), and the entire weekend was a showcase for Societe's beers. The Anniversary Party served as an exposition of Societe's current brewing operations, and it provided an allusion to the future of the brewery.

Societe Brewing Company has quickly become one of my absolute favorite breweries in San Diego, if not the United States.  This has clearly been driven by the beers that owners and brewers Doug Constantiner and Travis Smith have created.  Societe focuses on West Coast IPAs and Belgian-inspired beers, and each beer is a deliberate and conscious effort to create a distinct, delicately flavorful, and profoundly drinkable beer.  It is no surprise that each beer features its own malt-bill, hop profile, and water treatment - the focus on the raw ingredients, and the attention to detail in extracting flavor from the brewing processes and from Societe's brewhouse, makes each hoppy beer unique and different from any other IPA you will find on the West Coast.  Similarly, each Belgium beer is representative of the style, yet each Societe beer has a subtle and deliberate twist to capture the same house characteristics that epitomize Societe's beers.

The Anniversary Party was an excellent opportunity to taste the wide-range of beers that Societe is producing, as the brewery was pouring twelve of the fifteen beers that Societe released during its first year of operation.  Old favorites included The Apprentice and The Pupil (two of the best IPAs available today), The Harlot (a crisp, yet hoppy Belgian ale), and The Widow (a twist on a Belgian Strong Dark Ale).  New (to me) beers included The Scrapper, a "SD Dark IPA" that pours an astonishingly gorgeous brown and amber hue, and tasted crisp and hoppy with some intense roast characteristics.  The Pugilist was also new to me, an Irish Dry Stout with a thin-body that was easy to enjoy, yet still flavorful and delicious.  The Anniversary Party also featured two of Societe's most acclaimed beers, The Roustabout and The Butcher.  The Roustabout is a massive double IPA, extremely smooth and creamy to drink, fiercely aromatic, and simply delicious.  The Butcher is an Imperial Stout that is dark, viscous, and lusciously flavorful with roast and chocolate. All-in-all, I enjoyed a taste of each of the twelve beers, and came away thoroughly impressed with the amount of attention placed on each.  There was also a marked improvement, as I noticed that each beer that I was revisiting seemed better now than the first time I tried them (I first visited Societe in June 2012) - evidently, Societe is dialing in their system and starting to hit their stride.

Although the entire brewery is on display from Societe Brewing's eloquent tasting room,  we had the opportunity to tour the whole facility.  Just as Doug and Travis are deliberately conscious in selecting the ingredients, recipe, and processes for each beer, they were deliberate in choosing the space and designing and setting up the brewery for planned growth.  The space meets the needs of the brewery now, but is also set up to expand with Societe in the next few years, as the brewery intends to focus on producing more beer for the San Diego market that has evidently embraced Societe as a standout.  The tour also featured a visit to Societe's barrel room, where the focus of the barrel program is on sour and funky beers.  Six different base beers presently sit in neutral oak barrels, each having received a different treatment of "wild" yeast.  Look for 750ml cork and cage bottles to be released at some point during Societe's second year of operation (beer geeks everywhere await with baited breath).

Owner and Brewer Doug Constantiner talks about his passion for blending Sour ales.
Travis Smith, formerly of Russian River, talks about Societe's approach to souring and blending beer.

Overall, the Anniversary Party was a tremendously successful event.  Societe organized the party perfectly - there were no long lines in order to get a pour of beer, there was a festive, turn-of-the-century theme (many attendees dressed in costumed garb), and everyone was clearly enjoying themselves responsibly.  The event was a fitting tribute to a nascent, yet successful brewery - I tip my bowler hat to everyone at Societe Brewing Company, and I am looking forward to visiting again as much as possible during Societe's second year of operation.

Be sure to visit Societe's website, or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

Live the craft.  Cheers.

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