The “Big 3” Struck out! So What’s Next?

Discussion in 'Pacific' started by RaulMondesi, Jul 10, 2020.

  1. riko

    riko Initiate (121) Jan 18, 2008 California
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    I bought my share of GF Double Stout, Hop Head Red and West Coast IPA back in the day. That first batch of Silva Stout, delicious and a nice discount if you bought a case, still brings back great memories. It was fun to hang out at the Vista brewery and talk to Chuck Silva about his beers (he once shared a Cantillon with me and some others, too). But once they moved to Mira Mesa, it was all downhill. They ruined WCIPA, retired other beers, bought and ruined Alpine, launched that awful Cellar 3, ruined Silva Stout, etc. etc.

    I loved old Ballast Point stuff -- OG Sculpin, Sea Monster Stout, that killer batch of BA Piper Down, etc. -- and hanging out at the Home Brew Mart and learning something new almost every time I went. And their anniversary parties at their old brewery and even the first one at Liberty Station were great fun. But then they put everything into Sculpin and dumb adjuncts and have never been the same.

    Stone was definitely a gateway craft brewery for me. Back when I lived in Ohio at the turn of the century, there was this one bar that had good bands and bombers of Arrogant Bastard for cheap; I had some great times with that. I used to like a lot of their beers but never loved them the way I did some of the other breweries that started popping up. Still, I liked their attitude, craft beer advocacy and ethos, though I guess they've dropped at least the "no advertising" part because I saw a Stone ad on Twitter this morning.

    Still, all three of them helped pave the way for a lot of the breweries that we love today, so I don't want to pile on too much. I would love it if any of them were to come out with a new home run beer, but I'm not holding my breath.
     
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  2. dcgunman

    dcgunman Savant (925) Jul 1, 2009 California
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    Anyone try Ruined Again?
     
  3. RaulMondesi

    RaulMondesi Poo-Bah (3,211) Dec 11, 2006 California
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    Hated it.
     
  4. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Meyvn (1,485) Mar 12, 2013 California
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    He's got a brewery up in paso Robles and is still a very chill and pleasant person to hang around. I was only there once and the beers were solid and he was a great host
     
    gregoryG and riko like this.
  5. AlmostDeadly777

    AlmostDeadly777 Initiate (53) Apr 29, 2018 California
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    I thought it was somewhat close to the original RuinTen but as it warmed up it tasted almost syrupy to me. It's fine, but if you're gonna drink I wouldn't let it get anywhere near room (let alone outside) temperature. That orange peel and vanilla bean version was kick-ass though, wish they brought that one back more than the original.
     
  6. RaulMondesi

    RaulMondesi Poo-Bah (3,211) Dec 11, 2006 California
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    I agree about the syrup. It’s a big ass beer and not subtle
     
    AlmostDeadly777 likes this.
  7. VitisVinifera

    VitisVinifera Initiate (145) Feb 25, 2013 California

    how can any 'Big 3' California breweries not include Sierra Nevada?
     
  8. PatKorn

    PatKorn Initiate (161) Aug 30, 2007 Texas

    Think they are inferring big 3 san diego county breweries.
     
    RaulMondesi, redeemer and ChicagoJ like this.
  9. Retsinis

    Retsinis Crusader (723) Sep 25, 2009 California

    I agree. I had been saying for the last several years that something like Figueroa Mountain, multiple locations, was the way to go. Though that model struggles too if rents are too high in prime locations. It's also interesting that the older models, Gordon Biersch, BJ'S, and those like them from the 90's seem to be the way to go now, a bit full circle in a weird way to me. Though modern Brewery/taproom/kitchens, like the darkness dojo of modern times for example, or MacLeod's Pizza Kitchen model are also great ways to go.
     
    Miruguy likes this.
  10. JayhawkJeep

    JayhawkJeep Initiate (29) Feb 7, 2015 California
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    Thought the problems were when:
    Mitch Steele left Stone
    Chuck Silva left GF
    Ballast Point selling out
     
    m34josh, riko, UnknownKoger and 3 others like this.
  11. dcgunman

    dcgunman Savant (925) Jul 1, 2009 California
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    I think most of the people are still drawn to these 3 and other sub par breweries that were once big in the industry. New breweries pop up and serve more interesting beers these days. Me personally, I don’t care for sell outs. There are much better choices out there that there’s no need to be drawn to these or others anymore. Occasionally I will pick up an Enjoy By for ole time sake.
     
  12. jakecattleco

    jakecattleco Poo-Bah (2,327) Sep 3, 2008 California
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    Stone could win me back by returning Levitation, offering Ruination v1.0 again, and doing the 10th Anniv of Ruination again (not that overly sweet knock-off RuinTen). I've even shyed away from EB recently.
     
  13. mhucker28

    mhucker28 Initiate (58) Apr 24, 2020 California
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    but Stone never actually sold out...
     
    Brent212 likes this.
  14. fegelFatso

    fegelFatso Initiate (184) Jun 23, 2013 California

    Stone could win me back by not suing anyone with “Stone” in their name. I’m with Sawstone!!!
     
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  15. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Meyvn (1,485) Mar 12, 2013 California
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    Stone could win me back by offering dark beers again. They made (make?) great porters, stouts, and barley wines
     
  16. mhucker28

    mhucker28 Initiate (58) Apr 24, 2020 California
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    Stone IRS is what got me into stouts.
     
  17. riko

    riko Initiate (121) Jan 18, 2008 California
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    I don't get nostalgic for cask nights often, but when I do, I remember the cask Stone Smoked Porter with vanilla bean I had at the PB Tap Room most fondly.
     
  18. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Meyvn (1,485) Mar 12, 2013 California
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    that smoked porter, my god. Never go to try it with vanilla but that sounds amazing. Fucking alaskan brewing can somehow make the economics of a smoked porter shipped from fucking alaska work, but it just doesn't work for stone for some reason
     
    fegelFatso and riko like this.
  19. StonedRaider

    StonedRaider Initiate (154) Oct 25, 2007 California
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    I have really fond memories of the vanilla smoked porter. I first tried it at the 11th Anniversary. I chased it at every bar I found it at for a few years. Then they bottled it for a few years. Those were the Stone glory years. I know I’m repeating myself but I really wish they would go back to some of these classics. As it stands, I rarely reach for Stone nowadays and when I do, it’s typically Stone IPA which is one of the few classics left in their regular lineup.
     
  20. pro100

    pro100 Initiate (107) Oct 12, 2014 California

    Grapefruit Sculpin was the truth when it first came out. Ballast Point really hasn't done much after this beer release and its different variants. To me they would've been the perfect brewery to have special 4 pack releases of sculpin haze and stouts to go along with their shelfie staples. You already knew Green Flash was going to fall off trying to be nationwide overnight and changing beer formulas. Stone is still doing their thing.
     
  21. RaulMondesi

    RaulMondesi Poo-Bah (3,211) Dec 11, 2006 California
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    I wonder if anyone from those three breweries reads these forums and realizes that user feedback is a crucial thing.
     
  22. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Meyvn (1,485) Mar 12, 2013 California
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    1) I highly doubt it. Maybe Stone. Still doubt it

    2) might as well start with you Raul, who are your big 3 on the CA stage these days? Not necessarily your faves but the ones carrying the banner?

    It's a hard question for me but I'd go;

    Firestone Walker
    Sierra Nevada
    Modern Times (?)

    I guess it was starting with me, but that third spot was real.tricky
     
  23. RaulMondesi

    RaulMondesi Poo-Bah (3,211) Dec 11, 2006 California
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    Brother Spider... I dunno. I’m putting Modern Times at #1. They just seem to be going up and up. Sierra Nevada is kind of weird. They’ll always be big, but they’re kind of boring. Firestone hasn’t really moved the needle for me in years... My answer is Modern Times and the rest I don’t know.
     
  24. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Meyvn (1,485) Mar 12, 2013 California
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    Totally fair, I definitely agree with the 'boring' aspect of both SN and FW. But they are both out there putting solid, west coast based style beers on shelves all over the world. And I think to your point in the OP, there are few brewers who can really claim even statewide acclaim.

    We could name North Park, Highland Park, Casa Agria, SARA, Alvarado st, Cellarmaker, The Bruery, Russian River, and on and on and on as standard bearers. But all of those breweries are only available if you are willing to put in serious effort and/or are local. I think you definitely identified a shift that was marked by the arc of the brewers you ID'd. We're in a localizing world nowadays
     
    RaulMondesi likes this.
  25. bassofthec

    bassofthec Initiate (101) Aug 7, 2008 California
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    10 years ago: 1) Firestone Walker 2) Bear Republic 3) Sierra Nevada

    Flash forward to present: 1) Modern Times 2) Casa Agria 3) Bottle Logic (North Park coming in right behind.) Of course this is my asshole and every one has an opinion. Wait....
     
  26. RaulMondesi

    RaulMondesi Poo-Bah (3,211) Dec 11, 2006 California
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    Thank the beer gods for Green Cheek Too which has guest taps! I was finally able to try SARA and Cellarmaker. Would love to try North Park as I keep reading about them on here... I can’t believe I forgot about Russian River, so put them at my #2, while #3 can be “Wuteva.” Do people still drink Bruery? Haven’t heard about them in years.
     
    unlikelyspiderperson likes this.
  27. dcgunman

    dcgunman Savant (925) Jul 1, 2009 California
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    North Park cans are available here in OC/LA area.
     
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  28. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Meyvn (1,485) Mar 12, 2013 California
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    I tried the helles cans they put out earlier this year. But their thread on here is one of the most active so I assume someone is still drinking them.
     
  29. RaulMondesi

    RaulMondesi Poo-Bah (3,211) Dec 11, 2006 California
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    Where at? My main spots are Bradley’s in Tustin, Mr. K’s, and Windsor.
     
  30. dcgunman

    dcgunman Savant (925) Jul 1, 2009 California
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    I’ve seen at Mr K’s and Bottlecraft Long Beach.
     
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  31. elNopalero

    elNopalero Poo-Bah (3,905) Oct 14, 2009 California
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    What’s the criteria for a “Big Three” of Califas craft? SN, boring or not, is a standard bearer. Size & distro makes me rule out local or speciality shop favorites (Cellarmaker, Russian River, Alvarado, etc). Pre-acquisition Lagunitas would be in play. Do they still hold sway? Firestone Walker has wide distro. I think Drake’s is overlooked by the BA crowd, but it seems like they should be a contender in terms of longevity and reach. 21st Amendment might be larger, although I can’t remember the last time I’ve had anything from them. It could just be that bigger is boring, and all the excitement is coming from the smaller fries these days.
     
  32. RaulMondesi

    RaulMondesi Poo-Bah (3,211) Dec 11, 2006 California
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    Does Drake’s still brew beer? Randomly tried a really fresh Denog months back and it was terrible. Never see their stuff anywhere now. What about AleSmith? They are big-ish.
     
    unlikelyspiderperson likes this.
  33. annakarina

    annakarina Initiate (191) Jul 29, 2016 California

    Yeah, I don't know the last time I've even spotted any Drake's.
     
  34. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Meyvn (1,485) Mar 12, 2013 California
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    I'm pretty sure the weird gas station with the excessive bomber selection has had the same drakes denog bomber sitting there for 4 years. Right next to the 2017 KBS bomber

    Honestly Stone is probably still in any "big 3" craft brewers in CA list you're gonna make. They might've fallen out of favor with the beer nerd crowd but they're still the 2nd (?) largest craft brewer after Sierra Nevada in the state and they are the ones who many folks associate with Cali hoppy beers.

    What about Pizza Port? They don't make it all the way up here but I always grab at least some swamis when I'm down south. Solid beer, great prices, they seem to move some volume cause I always find it fresh even at random liquor stores and stuff
     
    jakecattleco likes this.
  35. jakecattleco

    jakecattleco Poo-Bah (2,327) Sep 3, 2008 California
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    I'm with @unlikelyspiderperson, After SN and FW it's probably Stone in 3rd on my list. Though they sure seem to be trying hard not to be there much longer.

    I'm still amazed at how routinely I find Pizza Port stuff that's fresher than more local Norcal entities. And usually at a competitive or better price point.
     
    unlikelyspiderperson likes this.
  36. dorfilms

    dorfilms Initiate (78) Oct 31, 2009 California
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    If you have access to their society beers, I think they've been making some of the best beers they ever have over the past two years. The Bruery has still got it and I'd put their BA beers up against just about anyone else, IMO.
     
    ryno09 likes this.
  37. RaulMondesi

    RaulMondesi Poo-Bah (3,211) Dec 11, 2006 California
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    They are a 15 minute drive away from me. Not into the 750ml format though.
     
  38. AndrewK

    AndrewK Aspirant (285) Oct 20, 2006 California

    A good chunk of their beers now come in 16oz cans (all of their year-rounds, the occasional sour, most of their stouts).
     
  39. SoCalBeerIdiot

    SoCalBeerIdiot Defender (680) Mar 10, 2013 California
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    I used to get *so excited* when Aroma Coma would come out. It's been years since I had it. Last couple times it was just meh.
     
  40. SoCalBeerIdiot

    SoCalBeerIdiot Defender (680) Mar 10, 2013 California
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    I don't know about "Big 3" but my personal Big 3 right now (and I realize they are not necessarily "big") are Monkish for haze, Highland Park for west coast, and Bottle Logic for dark stuff. Everything else just fills in the cracks anymore. I feel like I got the "beer" portion of my life figured out, lol.
     
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