A bar stool at San Diego’s most venerable craft beer bar, O’Brien’s Pub, on an uncharacteristically busy Wednesday night turned out to be the right place at the right time for this beer journalist. That was when owner Tom Nickel found himself in need of a laptop to check his email. He was expecting an important communiqué from Vinnie Cilurzo, owner and head brewer at Santa Rosa’s revered Russian River Brewing Company.
Each year, Nickel calls in favors to get extremely difficult-to-procure beers from Cilurzo’s TION series, an ever-expanding line of barrel-aged and bacteria-inoculated ales; new world takes on old world brewing techniques employed most often in Belgium and France. All of the beers have names ending in T-I-O-N. The most widely available are a Belgian-style golden ale called Damnation, a sour cherry ale named Supplication and the currant- and wood-infused Consecration, but there are dozens of TION beers and no better opportunity to try as many at one time as O’Brien’s Pub’s annual TION weekend.
I’ve made my pilgrimage to the Kearny Mesa hophead hang every year to sit back and sample these exceptional brews, and since discovering this year’s three-day for the cure to beerophile boredom would be held from January 27 to 29, I’d been eager to find out what would be on tap for the festivities. So, you can imagine my delight when, upon getting back my commandeered laptop, the entire list of offerings was glowing back at me like whatever was in that briefcase in Pulp Fiction.
Unlike that movie, you won’t have to wonder about such treasures. Here is the complete list of what awaits…
Damnation (strong golden ale) Batch 23 Damnation (tripel aged on new American oak chips) Redemption (blonde ale) Perdition (biere de garde) Defenestration (hoppy blonde ale) Mortification (quadrupel) Rejection (Belgian-inspired black beer) Supplication (sour brown ale brewed with cherries and aged in French oak pinot noir barrels) Consecration (sour ale brewed with currants) Temptation (blonde ale aged in French oak chardonnay barrels) Compunction (blonde ale brewed with pluots) Sanctification (100% Brettanomyces wild ale)
Four Non-TION Russian River beers will also be offered including Gaffers, an English-style bitter, and Russian River Porter, both of which are usually only available at the brewing company’s downtown Santa Rosa brewpub. Blind Pig IPA and Pliny the Elder, a double IPA that is O’Brien’s Pub’s biggest year-round seller, will also be flowing. O’Brien’s Pub is located at 4646 Convoy Street.