As noted previously, this coming Friday, November 15th is the last day of my first Big Year In Beer. I started counting November 16th, 2012, and not at the beginning of the proper calendar year. With only a few days to go, and my numbers in the high 500's, my goal has been to at least break 600 for my Big Year. Additionally, my wife was sick last week, and I've been guessing I'd get sick this week, thereby affecting my beer count. I started feeling that telltale tickle in my throat and weirdness in my sinuses, telling me I either have really bad allergies or the sickness is lurking on the horizon. And when I'm sick, I don't drink. Especially no new beers. If I can't taste them, I can't enjoy them. Earlier this year when I caught a particularly bad flu, I couldn't taste anything for 2 weeks straight, and therefore, I lost 2 weeks of serious beer time. Needless to say, right now every hour counts.
My pal Ryan who runs the incredible Grill Em All burger joint in Alhambra, CA mentioned they were one of the few establishments around town that still had The Bruery Autumn Maple on tap. Say no more. The adventure was underway...
Co-owners Matt and Ryan were both at the restaurant yesterday. Business was unusually slow; bad for them, but for selfish reasons I was glad we had time to catch up. Being the truly awesome gentlemen they are, the second I walked in, they poured me THE BRUERY AUTUMN MAPLE - Beer # 594 in my Big Year. And not one of those frou-frou splashes in a tulip glass either. They pour like MEN... a 16 ouncer! That's what I'm talking about. This beer tastes like its name. It tastes like harvest time. The idea of a maple beer didn't really appeal to me until I tried the Anchor BigLeaf Maple a few months ago, and damned if I wasn't converted. The Bruery does very little wrong, and this is on par with all of their other excellent selections.
Next I had a bit of the TROOPER beer by Robinsons. I already counted this brew earlier in the year, so it wasn't in my official tally for the day, but when you're at freakin' Grill Em All, the hotbed of all things metal and meat related, it's a must that you indulge in a beer specifically brewed for Iron Maiden.
Food-wise I opted for the Anvil Fries, incredible duck confit frites named after the blundering Canadian thrashers. And as further proof that Grill Em All is the greatest establishment in the contiguous United States, one of the staples of their menu, dating back to their food truck days, is The Witte burger named after beer guru and drummer extraordinaire Dave Witte. Seriously bad ass.
Afterwards, I headed one block west to 38 Degrees Ale House, a craft beer restaurant which took up residence in the former location of the old California Brewing Company. I lived in Alhambra 12 years ago, and it was never this cool. I used to go to California Brewing back then, and the food was excellent, but their beer was very much hit and miss. 38 Degrees is the opposite; their food is so-so, but the reason to make the trip out there is for their impressive tap & bottle selection. And the biggest selling point for me is having the option of buying 5 oz pours instead of full pints. This is the first place in Cali where I've seen Portland's Gigantic IPA on tap, so they get major kudos for that alone. With Beer # 600 in such close striking distance, I racked up the 5 ouncers, determined to hit my numbers and beat out any impending sinus ailment.
ALESMITH EVIL DEAD RED - Beer # 595. Sure doesn't taste like a traditional red ale. Way more complex, smooth, and caramely. Totally different, totally excellent.
GOLDEN ROAD BRANDY BARREL AGED HUDSON PORTER - Beer # 596. I had the standard Hudson Porter earlier in the year, and thought it was pretty good. This is a completely different animal. The brandy barrel aging gives it a much more dense, sweeter taste than expected. This would make a great dessert beer to finish off during a chilly fall evening by the fireplace.
BEACHWOOD BREWING THE DOMINATOR IPA - Beer # 597. Major skunky hops, extreme, delicious. A winner from Long Beach.
PIZZA PORT SOLANA BEACH (PORT BREWING) LOW TIDE FRESH HOP - Beer # 598. Mild hoppy herbiness, tasting green and a bit like sage. I don't like sage in my beer, but this is mild enough to stay tasty.
MONKEY PAW LOW AND SLOW RAUCHBIER - Beer # 599. Wow, this is the beer of the day. An incredible smoked lager that's akin to BBQ brisket in a glass. Impressive.
And yes, at last, the victorious glow of my goal achieved: HAIR OF THE DOG BLUE DOT IPA - BEER # 600 IN MY BIG YEAR! Easy drinking, hoppy but not oppressively hoppy, a good nitecap.
Time to sober up, head to band practice with Infest, and chug a billion milligrams of Vitamin C. And if I don't stay healthy for the next couple days, at least I can relish in the victory of hitting 600... even though it would be way more metal to reach 666.
MONKEY PAW LOW AND SLOW RAUCHBIER
The Best Of JOHNNY CASH - "Ring Of Fire" LP
No matter how many mustacheoed, flannel-wearing hipsters and rockabilly rejects like him, I'm still a Johnny Cash fan. He's straight forward and gritty. Just like this smoky rauchbier. This is a beer you drink when you're telling stories about your time on The Yard, or that time you shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.