Wednesday, November 6, 2013

100 taps and NOT ONE beer to drink!

I have only 10 days left in my first Big Year In Beer, and now that I'm in the home stretch, I have my eyes on the (non-existent) prize, looking to rack up some numbers.  I'd like to beat 600, at least.  Yesterday, I enjoyed Beer #572 - Beer #582.

When I'm looking for a lot of new beers to try, I generally avoid places that advertise "We have 101 taps!"  More often than not, I've found these establishments don't carry anything special. It seems unfathomable that a room with 100+ taps could lack anything new & interesting beer-wise, but I can't tell you how many times I've sat down and the "huge" beer lists are comprised of:
1. Budweiser
2. Bud Light
3. Bud Premium
4. Bud Select
5. Bud Special
6. Bud Not So Special
7. Bud Extra Boring
8. Bud Lame Reserve
9. Bud Clamato & Old Sweat Sock Lager
.... and so on.
Everything in the middle is a variation between "bland", "blah", and ordinary.
Then the list ends almost-promising, but still relatively common:
98. Stella Artois
99. Guinness
100. Stone IPA
So, I always order the Stone IPA.  I've had it a million times, but at least it's a solid beer.

Did I mention I'm going to punch the next bartender who tries selling me Shock Top as a "craft beer"?

Which brings me to Slater's 50/50 in Pasadena, CA.  After much hesitation, I finally checked out their touted 101 taps.  Sure, they carried a lot of the usual suspects, and if you run a business for the general public you need to carry some of the obvious choices.  I get it.  But much to my surprise, they carried a good number of specialty, small batch kegs from smaller breweries including Ohana, Aztec, The Dudes, and Smog City.  The bartenders where friendly and actually knew their beer.  Thank god. Thumbs up overall.

I started with the awesome Bruery Batch 1000 Bryeian black IPA, and then moved to a flight consisting of:
*Green Flash Green Bullet imperial IPA - Wow, talk about SKUNK beer.  This is way more of a palate wrecker than the Green Flash Palate Wrecker.
*Double Mountain Hop Lava IPA - Not bad, but nothing special. It's a textbook American IPA.
*Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA - Great habanero kick, but still clean and refreshing. I love habaneros, I love IPAs, and I love this beer.
*Firestone Walker Reserve Porter - Not a hard one to find, but I've never tried it. Closer to an imperial stout than a porter, which is a good thing in my book.  Inky and almost like dessert.

Next, I hit Stone Pasadena. Time to really nerd out on beer.  They had multiple offerings on tap which were not available anywhere else, so I took advantage of them all.  I couldn't believe they had four of their old Vertical Epic series on tap; there's no way these bottles could be found these days, especially the 2004.  Sad, I know, but these are the sort of things that really get me excited.

So, I started with tasters of the four available Vertical Epic releases, all supposedly brewed on their respective dates:  04.04.04, 06.06.06, 07.07.07, 09.09.09.
All were Belgian inspired, but all were completely different styles.  I gravitated toward the darker ales.  The 09.09.09 was the winner in my book. I'm just happy for the opportunity to taste what these brews were like after being aged for so many years.
I followed with the Stone Farms Dandelion IPA which was solid, and the Stone Witty Moron, a black witbier... different, complex, excellent.
As expected, the Stone tasting room is Nerd Central, where I was able to bond with kindred spirits over our shared appreciation for these beers.  Helpful, knowledgeable staff.  But no free tasters, so don't ask.

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