1485 Hollow Glen Road, Julian
I love the Padres and Chargers, but a balding, portly friar and buffed out lightning bolt are hard to get excited about. San Diego isn’t known for cool mascots. Fortunately, it is known for exceptional craft beer, and that’s easy to get behind. I recently came across a beer that’s so representative of the community in which it’s brewed that it warrants mascot status—Nickel Apple Pie Ale. Developed by Tom Nickel at his namesake Nickel Beer Co., it’s an inventive hybrid of beer and cider, both of which are crafted in the unincorporated town of Julian, AKA Apple Town.
Nickel lives in Julian and his wife won the Apple Days pie-baking competition a couple of years back. It’s Julian’s number one dessert that inspired Tom to come up with a beer mirroring its flavors. In doing so, he tried to recreate three tiers of flavors — apple filling, spices, and pastry. Tackling the crust element led to what Nickel calls a “kitchen sink” beer that includes more different grains than in any beer he brews. Vienna and Munich provide a formidable malt base and Biscuit gives the beer some color. From there, it’s a who’s who of malts — Wheat, Honey, Pilsner, Dark Munich and more — minus any Crystal varieties.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice, and ginger add depth. The latter was inspired by some good ginger-infused ciders Nickel has tasted of late, so he leaned more heavily on that ingredient, knowing that cider made from local apples would bring in the filling element. The beer is two-thirds beer and a third cider, which makes for a good balance. Bright, slightly tart apple notes dominate the front palate, while the finish is dry with lingering biscuit character. It’s the perfect beer for Julian and one worth trying as well as revisiting. Apple Pie Ale figures to be on through April of next year, and should change along with the seasons. Early season apples are less sugary and the acidity of the fruit will change as well, something Nickel will attempt to adjust to by experimenting with mash temperatures.
But it’s not all about the apples at Nickel Beer. The more traditional beer offerings are tasting quite nice. Nickel recently brewed two wet hop IPAs, India pale ales given extra aroma and hop presence care of freshly harvested whole hop cones. Each is named after the local hop farms from which their hops were sourced, Star B (Ramona) and ZP (Valley Center). Both will be on tap during the annual Wet Hop Festival at Nickel’s Kearny Mesa beer bar, O’Brien’s Pub, which starts tonight and runs through Sunday. Tonight will feature a special cask of ZP Wet Hop IPA dry-hopped with Star B hops. Potential mascot for San Diego County hops?