KARL Goes Global With Australian Collaboration Brew “The Bloke”
Here in San Diego the craft beer industry is synonymous with top notch quality and has been growing at record pace over the last 25 years. The opening of our Downtown San Diego brewery restaurant kicked off a revolution that has evolved into one of the defining economic sectors of our city, employing thousands and putting San Diego squarely on the map as being on the forefront of the movement. But it all had to start somewhere…
As many legends go, it was a combination of luck, coincidence and good fortune that led to the inception of Karl Strauss Brewing Company. Chris Cramer, fresh out of college and exploring the world, sat down for a beer at the Sail & Anchor Hotel in Freemantle, Australia with the intention of simply letting off some steam after a long day traveling. What he tasted there blindsided his notions of what beer could be. Inspired, he returned to San Diego and collaborated with college buddy Matt Rattner and Master Brewer Karl Strauss to bring the same quality and (at the time) novelty of serving beer brewed onsite to locals in San Diego. The rest is history. Interestingly enough, Sail & Anchor’s origins are uncannily similar to our own: “Any lover of Aussie craft beer worth their salt will be familiar with the story of the Sail & Anchor, the Fremantle venue formerly known as the Freemason’s, where a young brewer who was working at the Swan Brewery and a couple of his mates decided to turn the beer world on its head. Brewing and selling their own beers direct from an onsite brewery back in the early 80’s when Australian hotels were more likely to be serving nothing but the local megabrewery’s swill to rooms full of men, they went on to found Matilda Bay and take their venue concept across the country” –The Crafty Pint
With February 2, 2014 marking our 25th anniversary, we wanted to do something special, something we had never done before. So, we hooked up with Aaron Heary, the brewmaster at Gage Roads Brewing Co. who now handles the production of Sail & Anchor beer, and devised a unique tribute to our shared history and the Godfather of Beer himself, Karl Strauss. Our own Paul Segura collaborated with Aaron to dial in the recipe and jetted off across the globe for not only our first collaboration brew, but to extend some international love and goodwill to the boys leading the Australian craft beer movement. When describing the tastes and developing trends of the Aussie’s, Paul found the West Coast style hop bombs we’ve grown accustomed to here in San Diego are still on the fringes in Freemantle. “The scene is definitely not in its infancy, but you’re not going to find many Double IPA’s over there. Tower 10 is pretty robust for their tastes….having said that, people down there still drink a TON of beer.” One reason for this trend that eschews a higher ABV is likely the taxation system for beverages, which is based on alcohol percentage, and stumps brewers creativity by actively discouraging them to pursue pushing the boundaries of certain styles. However, the result of this taxation system is an incredible variety of sessionionable beers that are of top quality and turning many locals away from the mass produced light lager’s the country is known for. History and cultural lessons aside, “The Bloke” is the star of the show here, so let’s get to it. Being a tribute to Karl, who we often refer to as “the man”, our Australian brethren threw their own twist on the name, calling it “The Bloke”, an oft used phrase that captures exactly who Uncle Karl was to us. Medium-bodied and ruby red in color The Bloke showcases bold grapefruit and tangerine flavors with a potent combination of Cascade, Chinook, Ella and Galaxy hops that are complimented by a nice toasty finish. “It’s hoppy red ale, and it’s got all kinds of assertive malts but it’s also pretty dry. It’s got a beautiful fruitiness from the fermentation and a lot assertive hops too. It’s got everything that a beer lover could want.”
Of course, while the art of brewing is universal there are unique differences between each brewery and their approach. “Brewing beer is the same whether you’re brewing on a 100 hectoliter system or a 60 barrel system. It’s similar, but it’s the equipment that makes it a little different. So adapting to their brew house presented a bit of a learning curve…but that’s the fun of it, that’s the good stuff.” The collaboration was great for fans of the local craft beer scene, reminding them of the importance of the Sail & Anchor in providing many of them with that first taste of fresh brewed beer so many years ago.
“It brought some great PR to that little iconic brewpub in a pretty historic area of Freemantle, or Freeo for short, and it’s going to bring awareness to the Sail & Anchor brands of beer down there, so it’s a pretty cool thing for all of us. It was fun getting to meet all the guys down there and hang around their brew house for a few days sharing in their passion and their camaraderie. They run a tight ship and I know the beer was done right from start to finish.” In total, 6 batches (100 Hectoliters apiece) were brewed and packed in bottles. As to whether some might be making an appearance stateside, it will not be widely distributed but stay in the loop by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates on when we’ll be holding exclusive tastings at our Tasting Room.