With only one week until January 1st, the beginning of my new Big Year In Beer, my biggest dilemma has been whether to enjoy new beers, or to “save myself” so I can ensure these new brews end up in my 2014 Big Year total. My answer: Live for today. Or drink for today, more appropriately. After all, once The Big Year starts, I’m starting from scratch so I can enjoy ALL of these beers again. Why wait? We now live in a world whose kegs have runneth over with a ridiculous number of quality beers. I will have many problems in 2014, but unless I’m held hostage in an Applebee’s year-round, one of my problems will NOT be that there aren’t enough new beers to try over the course of 365 days.
I planned on an all-stout holiday, but family and friends had other plans for me. Believe me, I'm not complaining. A few nights ago, chilling with The Wife, we opened a few everyday stouts... "Everyday" meaning affordable and relatively easy to find. At least in LA.
CISMONTANE BLACK'S DAWN IMPERIAL STOUT has a new, updated label, but the brew is still the thick and viscous one I know and love, with a mild espresso shot for added character. One of my favorite, underrated SoCal breweries. We followed with the MOTHER EARTH SIN TAX IMPERIAL STOUT, a new one for me (one I somehow missed when I hit the brewery in Vista, CA last Oct). The Mrs pointed out the peanut butter taste immediately, which almost ruined the experience for me. Yes, a thick stout with peanut butter and vanilla on the palate. Talk about a dessert beer. But somehow it didn't bother me, mainly because those parts of it were subtle, and it was still tasty overall. It wasn't over the top, cloying, and comical like a Rogue novelty beer. It was nearly Christmas, it was late, I was relaxing, so I enjoyed it for what it was. Would I buy it again? I doubt it. Seriously, who wants a fuggin' peanut butter beer?
In spite of the fact that I'm working practically every day of this holiday season, my Xmas has been chock full of holiday cheer. My Christmas Eve started out with my boss buying me lunch, a shot of Maker's Mark, and a GREEN FLASH WEST COAST IPA. Proof that my work does in fact love me. A few hours later, I was home with my Wife's family, who all somehow got the message that I like beer. My presents included a mixed STONE 12-pack, as well as a few bottles of NEWCASTLE WEREWOLF, a beer I purposely avoided around Halloween, convinced it was a novelty. But I was pleasantly surprised now that I've popped a couple caps. I associate Newcastle with "average", but the Werewolf is a satisfying, dark red ESB. So much tastier than I could have imagined. After everyone left, I capped off the evening by popping the cork on a PORT BREWING OLDER VISCOSITY that I've been holding for the last 6 months or so. I'm a fan of their thick, more readily available OLD VISCOSITY Stout. The OLDER is a smaller batch cousin, aged in oak barrels. If I tried them back to back, I'm sure I could tell the difference. Tasting them months apart, I can't. Don't get me wrong, the Older Viscosity is an outstanding beer. I wouldn't kick it out of bed. But at $16 for a 12 oz bottle, Older Viscosity is steep, considering I'm just as happy with the 22 oz Old Viscosity which is nearly twice the volume at half the price. For that matter, the Cismontane stout only set me back $5! You do the math...
Alas, Christmas Day was finally here. Our Son opened presents at the crack of dawn, we played XBOX for four hours straight, the wife & I shared an excellent BARRELHOUSE IPA, then it was time to get ready for our annual Xmas Day fondue party. Yes, fondue... we're That 70's Couple. Fewer people this year, but just as much food as ever (read: "too much"). And whad'ya know? Our friends somehow knew I was into beer. Our pal Matty B. hooked me up with a mixed case of 12 different brews. So awesome on its own, but so perfect for kicking off my next Big Year, so I'll sit on 'em for the next week, at least. Not to mention, he's one of our few friends who has actually seen the film THE BIG YEAR, and watches it even more than The Wife and I do. So, he gets it. Then our friend Lily brought over five huge bottles, and she & I drank them all throughout the course of the day. Matty and Gina B. brought some amazing wines, all of which I tasted, and all of which were consecutively more incredible than the last. But these days wine just takes up valuable beer real estate in my stomach, and I had a drinking partner in Lily, so we were off to the races. I left her in the driver's seat, and she did a commendable job of navigating.We started with the LA TRAPPE QUADRUPEL which was outstanding to say the least. And that set the stage for an afternoon of the highest quality imbibement. Every beer she brought was top notch, each one impressive in its own way: OMMEGANG ABBEY ALE - a phenomenal Belgian style dubbel, the TELEGRAPH WHITE ALE - a witbier that is ridiculously more complex than any of its counterparts (but Santa Barbara's TELEGRAPH just can't do wrong, I say), the ALESMITH NUT BROWN ALE - I'm not the biggest fan of brown ales, but this one converted me... the best brown ale I've ever had, hands down. And finally the TELEGRAPH STOCK PORTER.
The bottom line: CARPE BEERUM. In English: SEIZE THE BEER! But most important of all, good family and friends. Without having them around to share the awesome beer tasting experience, these braus are practically useless.
Much love and happiness to my family, my friends, and my extended family in the music and beer communities. Here's to an amazing 2014! Six days and counting... Get ready for the Biggest Year In Beer ever!