As the weather turns colder, people turn to heavier beers to get them through the blistering cold of winter. While San Diego doesn’t experience bitter cold per se, evenings do come along during the winter where many a beer drinker reaches for a porter or stout as their chosen libation. Drinkers who want an extra bit of warmth often opt for a barrel-aged stout, and FiftyFifty Brewing has barrel aging down to an art form with their annual Eclipse Imperial Stout. Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido hosted FiftyFifty for a meet the brewer night on Wednesday, and it was the first opportunity to try this year’s Eclipse outside of their brewery in Truckee, CA.
Eclipse is more than just a stout, it’s a nine-headed beer hydra imprisoned in a wax-dipped bottle. While many breweries do one style of their barrel-aged stuff, FiftyFifty separates Eclipse into different batches, and each one of them is significantly different. This year, seven of the nine batches were aged in a different bourbon barrels, one aged in rum barrels, and they doctored up the final batch with coffee from Reno’s Wood Fire Roasted coffee company.
FiftyFifty’s meet the brewer night has become an annual event at Stone, and it’s the perfect way to usher in the “cold” months. “Stone is a leader in craft beer,” said Alicia Barr who co-founded FiftyFifty with her husband Andy. “San Diego is one of the Meccas of quality beer, and we’re honored to be so welcomed here.” Besides Andy and Alicia Barr, attendees also had the opportunity to talk with brewers Todd Ashman and Alyssa Shook while sampling the fruits of their labor.
Speaking of the fruits of their labor, the wax-dipped bottles lined the back counter at Stone’s outdoor bar. Normally the color of the wax is the only indicator of which style you’re drinking, but the bartenders wisely labeled them so they didn’t have to keep track of colors like a homeland security alert chart. Of all of the styles, the big standouts were the Elijah Craig 12-year and the Java Coffee. The Elijah Craig was so smooth, you’d hardly believe it was barrel-aged at all, while the Java Coffee packed so much coffee flavor, it’s perfectly acceptable to drink for breakfast.
Whether it’s the Elijah Craig or the Four Roses batch, any of the Eclipse styles are well worth a try. As far as the release party at Stone is concerned, hopefully it continues to be an annual event. “To be honest, any reason to come down to San Diego and drink good beer is a good reason,” said Alicia Barr. With Eclipse’s following, if they keep making it, San Diegans will keep drinking it.