Monday, January 27, 2014

Beer #130-153 / Day #24-27: The Biggest Little Beers In The World

My sister-in-law Sarah was celebrating her 40th birthday, and spur of the moment, my wife Camille asked if we could surprise her Sis and show up for her big B-Day bash over the weekend.  The problem is they live 450 miles north of us in Reno, NV.  Then again, Reno has a quickly burgeoning fancy beer scene.  And casinos with $49 rooms.  Oh, and my sis-and-bro-in-law are two of my favorite people in the world, as well.  OK, not much arm-twisting necessary.
Shitty casino with good beer. Who knew?

Friday night we braved a long ass drive, thru 20 degree temps,  near pitch black conditions, and white-knuckled driving, praying not to plow into a stray deer or elk, but we arrived safely in Reno just after midnite, pooped out and ready for booze.  It's a casino town so the libations would be free-flowing & easily accessible at any hour, right?  Especially on a Friday nite!  Um, no.  The first three bars we went to in the casino were closed.  At 12:30am.  WTF?  We finally found the Jade Bar in Harrah's, and I christened my first tap of the weekend with the UINTA BREWING HOP NOTCH IPA - Beer #130, an old favorite, made even more favorable by the fact that it was the first available beer in this shabby casino.  Frankly, I was surprised and impressed that this random bar in a bastion of old school Reno was catering to the craft beer community by offering this brew.  Hmm, maybe this would be promising after all. We headed across the street to the even shabbier Cal-Neva and grabbed an ANCHOR BREWING CALIFORNIA LAGER - Beer #131, a basic but very solid beer, that should raise the bar & represent the new "average" for beers, if there was any justice (or taste) in this world.  We also shared the staple of NorCal hoppiness, the LAGUNITAS BREWING IPA - Beer #132.  In spite of these finds outside of the usual Coors & Bud realm, downtown Reno was freakin' dead!  It's Friday night, yet the only thing missing from this part of town was a cattle skull on the sidewalk, and a stray tumbleweed ambling slowly down the middle of Virginia St. 
Rad beer is a stone's throw from the river

Sarah's party was at 6pm, so we spent the first half of our Saturday exploring downtown Reno on foot.  I'd researched some local breweries in advance, but rather than drive to all of the outlying industrial parks, we opted to hoof it and checkout what Reno hipsters were doing to revitalize this depressed and depressing part of town.  We stumbled upon a fantastic establishment called the Old Granite Street Eatery, with an impressive tap list, and excellent food.  The perfect brunch spot and a great way to kick off our day.  It was 10:30am.  Too early?  Oh hell no.  I started with a sampler of the GREAT BASIN BREWING ICKY IPA - Beer #133, and followed with a full pint of the superb TAHOE MOUNTAIN BREWING LOCAL LAGER - Beer #134, which represents excellence in keeping beer simple.  It's a lager, but there's so much going on in this glass, I spent my time rambling about how tasty it was, rather than chuggin' it for a quick buzz and immediately forgetting it, like 96.8% of lagers on the market.
Breakfast of champions
We walked back towards the river and settled down at the bar of the Wild River Grille.  The bartender was friendly, and willing to accommodate my request to try a few different taps.  I had a sip of Camille's UNDER THE ROSE SAISONBEER - Beer #135, and then went for samples of the RUBY MOUNTAIN BREWING ANGEL CREEK AMBER ALE - Beer #136, BRASSERIE ST. JAMES RED HEADED STRANGER - Beer #137, and the GREAT BASIN BREWING OUTLAW MILK STOUT - Beer #138.  All were great, and the stout was my favorite, but since it wasn't even 12pm, I didn't want anything too heavy to bog me down for the afternoon, so I went for a full pint of the St. James Red... bitter, wheaty, farmy, a real corker... I heart this beer. 
The newest convert.

Next, we crossed the river to check out the Sierra Tap House, a spot run by Sierra Nevada Brewing.  Aside from the picturesque location, I was excited by the kegs available here, several of which are not available in bottles.  There were eight taps, and flights were four glasses, so we got two flights and tried every beer on tap.  Their PALE ALE - Beer #139 has always been so-so in bottles, but I think due to such large production many of their bottles sit in distribution warehouses much longer than they should. When you have a freshly tapped Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, it's like night & day.  This is what it's supposed to taste like.  The TORPEDO EXTRA IPA - Beer #140 was also a winner when freshly tapped.  Their BLONDE ALE - Beer #141 was good, but non-descript; my least favorite of the eight.  We're not huge hefeweizen fans overall, but we both loved the KELLERWEIS - Beer #142, a cloudy, complex, and tasty Hef.  When it warmed up closer to room temperature, their FRENCH STYLE SAISON - Beer #143 was a simple but delicious farmhouse ale.  Our favorite of all eight was the NARWHAL STOUT, which I couldn't count in my Big Year because I already claimed it a few nights prior as Beer #129.  Still this inky, lush stout is the crown jewel in not only their seasonal brews, but all of their brews.  Next was an old favorite I haven't enjoyed for a good year or two, the RUTHLESS RYE - Beer #144, a fantastic rye IPA, and as noted in an earlier posting, I'm a freak for anything rye-related. Last on the tasting docket was the KNIGHTRO STOUT - Beer #145, an Irish style stout with a hint of coffee, on nitro.  The bartender accurately described this creamy, malty offering as "Guinness with flavor".  The Wife has never been the biggest fan of Sierra Nevada, but the opportunity to sample the gamut of brews fresh, and not from 6 month old bottles, made an enormous difference, and converted her into a believer.
In the house of pies and pints

We were 15 beers into our day, and it was only 3pm.  Time for some food.  We grabbed some coffee, and then happened upon Z-Pie, a gourmet pot pie shop with its own offering of local taps. Camille went for a pint of the great Great Basin Icky IPA.  I tried a taster of the BRASSERIE ST. JAMES DAILY WAGES SAISON- Beer #146, which is a good 'un, especially when it warms up, but not nearly as good as the pint I settled on:  The BRASSERIE ST. JAMES JAMISON'S STATION PORTER- Beer #147.  Wow, St. James is for sure on my wish list of beer destinations next time I come to town.  These mother effers know what they're doing.

The Birthday Girl and my Birthday Twin
So, the party's comin' up at 6pm, we'd already spent a good 6-7 hours drinking, and Sarah still didn't know we were coming.  Time to nap, make a pathetic attempt to sober up, and head over to see the Sis.  Needless to say, they were surprised to see us, and I was happy to be with this beautiful family once again.  I got to spend quality time with my other Sis-in-law Amy, numerous cousins, and many newfound friends. My drinking mojo had been fully saturated, and I wanted to remain in a condition to drive since we were going out to see a band, so my only drinking for the next few hours consisted of H2O, and a quick sip of my bro-in-law Rick's ROGUE DEAD GUY ALE - Beer #148.  I seriously don't like to be a hater, but effin' Rogue has yet to make a beer that I truly love.
We spent the rest of the evening at the Peppermill casino seeing an awesome, soulful 11-piece band called The Inciters.  I nursed a few neat rye snifters, eventually danced like the mildly toasted 40-something I am, and had the best evening with my family-in-law.  I love these people. The 16 hours on the road there and back were 1000% worth it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

After a long drive home, The Mrs and I shared a perfect bottle of the STONE / 10 BARREL / BLUEJACKET COLLABORATION SUEDE IMPERIAL PORTER - Beer #150, enhanced only by our zillionth viewing of "The Big Year". 
This was my favorite weekend in recent memory, and my only way to continue the good Reno vibes was to bring back 30 or so bottles of brews from their local Total Wine & More store.  They carry a considerable number of beers I can't find in SoCal.  I wrapped up this evening with some seriously excellent brews:  JOSEPH JAMES BREWING HOP BOX - Beer #151, a truly superior Imperial IPA from this brewer outside of Las Vegas, the GREAT BASIN BREWING WILD HORSE ALE - Beer #152, a well crafted amber ale from one of my new favorite breweries in Reno, and finally the SANTA FE BREWING STATE PEN PORTER - Beer #153, one of the best porters I've had in recent memory (aside from Beer #150), from a Southwestern brewery I haven't visited since 2006... all proof that the Old West can hold its own with the newest of hipsters.  That's it, I'm trading in my flannel for a cowboy hat.
Proof that the Old West is the Best

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Beer # 116-129 / Day 20-23: The Yoosh

After such a crazed weekend, I was expecting to take it easy this week.  Wrong.  "Slow and steady wins the race" is the old adage.  I've been doing exactly that.  Randy Carncross is already about 80 beers ahead of me from what I can tell, but no matter.  I'm enjoying the journey.  And as the Big Year progresses, I'm convinced it will become increasingly more difficult to rack up such huge numbers in one fell swoop.
Enjoying hops with my link.

Nothing too exciting this week. Just making my way through a collection of 12oz singles.  I've been sticking with mostly run-of-the-mill beers during the week.  I tend to keep "special" beers for special occasions.  The problem is my beer fridge, which is a regular sized fridge, is at full capacity with beers I'm saving.  I need to come up with a special occasion very quickly in order to make room for more.  Aside from the crazy bottle selection at home, I also visited Link N Hops in Atwater Village earlier this week, adjacent to the nice beer & wine bottle shop 55 Degree.  Link N Hops has been a favorite for the Wife & I since they opened, and they offer some great exotic meat sausages, as well as the full gamut of taps. I went for an excellent wild boar link, and some unique selections: The BALLAST POINT HABANERO SCULPIN - Beer #116, spicy, delicious, with a slight burn that doesn't linger, and it's not overpowering at all; The NEW BELGIUM / CIGAR CITY COLLABORATION CHILE BEER - Beer #117, not awesome in spite of the fact that Cigar City is one of my favorite brewers in the country; And lastly, the FIGUEROA MOUNTAIN 3rd ANNIVERSARY IMPERIAL OATMEAL STOUT - Beer #118, tasty but not mind-blowing.  That evening at home, I went for some standbys:  STONE LEVITATION ALE - Beer #119 and JOSEPH JAMES RED FOX RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #120, the latter of which really excites me... it's the first beer I can recall enjoying from Nevada, just outside of Vegas, in Henderson.  Only recently have I been hearing great things about this brewery, and this stout lives up to the word on the street.  Oily, dark, inky, delicious, and crazy affordable at $8 for a four-pack.  Can't wait to try the other Joseph James brews.

I also have the usual Tuesday evening INFEST practice, which as of late means a visit to The Snug, which means even more beer. Although I'm about 2 weeks away from exhausting all of my options at this sleepy Burbank hangout which hasn't rotated its taps since I started going there.  I went for their best selection this week with the CHIMAY ROUGE - Beer #121, followed by some of their lesser taps, the BASS PALE ALE - Beer #122 and the STELLA ARTOIS - Beer #123, both of which are palatable at best.

I rounded out the week with several everyday-but-tasty singles at home:
SHIPYARD MONKEY FIST IPA - Beer #124: I've avoided this one because it seemed like a novelty beer. Not incredibly memorable, but decent, and worth drinking if it's the best option available.
GOOSE ISLAND MATILDA - Beer #125: These days their distribution is ridiculous, thanks to new parent company Anheuser Busch.  Thankfully they haven't compromised the quality of their product.
NEWCASTLE WEREWOLF - Beer #126:  A seasonal red ale I've hoarded since my Wife's uncle brought it over during the holidays.  So much better than the standard Newcastle brown ale.
FIGUEROA MOUNTAIN HURRICANE DECK DIPA - Beer #127:  A gift from my pal Matty B., by far the best brew in the Fig Mtn roster.
SIERRA NEVADA BEER CAMP #95 IMPERIAL RED ALE - Beer #128:  Another one I've been hoarding since last year, just so I can enjoy it this year.  One of the better offerings from the largest indie brewer, and somewhat limited.
SIERRA NEVADA NARWHAL IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #129:  A seasonal release, and so glad I grabbed a 2013 before they disappear.  My favorite Sierra Nevada brew, hands down.  A superior imperial stout, but not sold at beer nerd prices.

Now my kid can enjoy "beer" with me.  Stay classy, America.
In spite of the sleepy week, there have been a few oddball beer-related items brought to my attention.
#1: My friend Lily Thai forwarded me info on a new Jelly Belly flavor called Draft Beer.  Wow.  When there's a jellybean that tastes like beer, you know craft beer has "jumped the shark".  Let's all hang it up now, shall we?
#2: My buddy Steve Enders told me about his trip to Portland. Of course, this is already a major beer hub, but nowadays you can fill a growler at the gas station!  This is a state which doesn't allow you to pump your own gas, and yet you can fill up a 64oz jug of beer while they're filling your tank?
I say "WTF" only because I'm jealous.
Incredible action shot of beer sitting on my kitchen counter!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Beer # 83-115 / Day 16-19: I Found My Thrill On Brewer's Hill

I did ease up on the beer consumption the middle of last week, knowing full well how severe the level of self-abuse would be on my three day trip to Baltimore.  On my last evening at home, I opened only one beer, NORTH COAST BREWING COMPANY BROTHER THELONEOUS - Beer #83.  A reliable classic on the North Coast roster, and just enough to help me get enough sleep before waking at 5am for our flight.
Leinenkugel's.    Gesundheit.
Despite the incompetency of nearly every United Airlines employee, we hit our departure from LAX unscathed, and with the early hour of the flight, we weren't inclined to indulge in our usual plain, plane beers until the very end, when I went for a run of the mill HEINEKEN - Beer #84, which was still the best of the three offered on-board.  There was a noticeable 50 degree difference between SoCal and Baltimore, and as metrosexual as they can be, I immediately regretted not bringing a scarf.  We hit the venue, and I grabbed one of the two standby Baltimore beers, a YUENGLING TRADITIONAL LAGER - Beer #85.  People like it because it's local, and I understand the rationale.  But honestly, like most regional cheap beers, this brew really does effing suck bad.
So many opportunities not taken this evening. *sniff*
I met up with my East Coast co-hort Dave Witte at the venue, Baltimore Soundstage.  I had a good four hours before our band played, so Dave and I headed across the street to Douchebag Central aka Power Plant Live, a super cool, old, industrial brick complex that is now a framework for cheezy neon restaurants and clubs.  But they have a decent brewpub called Leinenkugel's.  There was an acoustic duo playing '90s covers in the corner of this massive gathering spot, yet for some reason it was deemed necessary for this off-key duet to be amplified at full volume through speakers from every corner of the room.  It was close to impossible to carry on a conversation, but I desperately needed a good beer and some food, since I hadn't eaten for about 10 hours.  I chose the LEINENKUGEL BIG EDDY RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #86, the first time I've had one of their proprietary beers, and it was surprisingly good.  Dave and I are on the same page with our selections; if possible, we always try to order something we wouldn't order anywhere else, whether it's good or bad.  But Dave had the misfortune of choosing the SHINER HOLIDAY CHEER - Beer #87, a complete failure of a dunkelweizen.  He knew it wouldn't be great, but we both tried it, and agreed it was underwhelming in every regard.  I didn't want to get too drunk before playing, so we cut it off, and went back to finish off the show at the Backstage.  Infest had a good time playing, despite a few flubs.  Playing for and hanging out with people who are genuine is my favorite part about our shows out of town, and this was no exception. Many thanks to Dom from A389 Records for making this happen.
Looks like a Dischord promo pic.
The show was over by 1am, which was only 10pm my time, and I was ready to drink.  Dave and I went back to the house of our old pal Blake Harrison, best known for his skills playing the ironing board in the band Pig Destroyer.  We walked to a nearby bar and I tried THE BREWER'S ART BIRDHOUSE PALE ALE - Beer #88, which made me happy since I didn't get to hit Brewer's Art on this trip. Last call arrived quickly so we retreated to Blake's house, where Dave unveiled a plethora of beers that are not obtainable in SoCal.  We started with one of the latest he has been raving about, the WESTBROOK BREWING ONE CLAW RYE PALE ALE - Beer #89 from South Carolina.  I was surprised this one was in a can, as was the HARDYWOOD PARK CREAM ALE - Beer #90.  Hardywood Park is a flawless brewery out of Virginia, and I've tried a ton of their output thanks to Mr. Witte.  Next I chose yet another Virginia beer, DEVIL'S BACKBONE SCHWARTZ BIER - Beer #91.  Blake was willing to let us open his last 3 Floyds Dark Lord, but it was now 3am, and I was finally feeling the affects of being awake for almost 20 hours.  It was snowing, my hotel was on the other side of town, and regretfully I turned in for the evening.
Faidley's and Natty Boh:  Breakfast of Champions

In advance of this weekend, my favorite part was knowing Infest would play on Friday after we arrived, meaning I had all day Saturday to drink beer and hang with friends.  Joe Denunzio tagged along with me, so we hopped in Dave's car and headed out to Lexington Market.  We started out the day right, with crab cakes (well, "crab lumps" as they call them) from Faidley's and a Natty Boh, aka NATIONAL BOHEMIAN LAGER - Beer #92. In spite of the freezing weather, the whole indoor mall was bustling with live music and loud people.  Super ghetto, super fun.  Everyone wants spare change, and everyone's got an angle.  I love this place.
This lady knows how to have fun.  Especially after I gave her change.
Next, we headed out to Brewer's Hill, location of the Natty Boh Tower.  Directly across the street was a spot I missed when we played Maryland Death Fest last Memorial Day:  Of Love And Regret, the wheelhouse for all things Stillwater.  We wasted no time diving headfirst into the inimitable tap list, a mixture of Stillwater Artisinal creations, collaborations, and like-minded output from fellow, respected brewers.
Cheers-ing at Stillwater central.

I started with the OXBOW BREWING  FREESTYLE 20 - Beer #93 and SINEBRYCHOFF PORTER - Beer #94, but before I knew it Mr. Witte was bringing in growlers from Virginia for a bottle share (with the blessing of our hosts, naturally).  Witte pulled no punches and treated our table of 10 to the EXTRA BILLY'S CITRA ASS DOWN - Beer #95, a truly exceptional IPA, created by a homebrewer for this Richmond-based BBQ spot.   Denunzio wanted something dark, but received a saison by mistake, so he gave it to me & my next beer was the amazing STILLWATER STATESIDE SAISON - Beer #96, apparently one of the earliest releases in the Stillwater stable.  Witte delivered another one-two solar plexus combo by cracking open a new growler of the EXTRA BILLY'S KONG KRUSH - Beer #97, the imperial IPA version of the Citra Ass Down.
I burp.  He brews.  It's a win-win.
As if we weren't having a good enough time, Stillwater brewer and mastermind Brian Strumke sat down with us for quite a while.  I had an awesome time nerding out about beer, but also finding we had similar backgrounds in music, as we both ran independent record labels in the 90s.  We discussed the many analogies that can be drawn between the underground music and beer scenes. He explained the business model is the same as his label, and each new beer is a new release.  The discussion was fascinating, enlightening, and much appreciated, not to mention accented by mind-blowing ales.  One of my favorites was the STILLWATER FOLKLORE - Beer #98, a Belgiany dark, earthy ale.  Followed by the excellent STILLWATER / DC BRAU / PUB DOG COLLABORATION TIME & PLACE STOUT - Beer #99, and a sip of the STILLWATER A SAISON DARKLY - Beer #100, one of the first dark saisons I recall being brewed.  Thanks to a sip from my buddy RJ, next I tried the PUB DOG BREWING WILD CHERRY PORTER - Beer #101, unexpectedly refreshing, desserty, complex.  Wow!  And the "Wows" weren't subsiding, especially after Witte continued the bottle sharing with the phenomenal JACKIE O'S BOURBON BARREL OIL WITH COFFEE - Beer #102. I've only had the pleasure of trying two Jackie O's bottles, both courtesy of Mr. Witte, but they are hands-down one of my new favorite breweries.  This release as well as their Dark Apparition are the stuff of legend, in my book.  After five solid hours of beer nerding and couple final samples of the STILLWATER AS FOLLOWS BELGIAN PALE ALE - Beer #103 and STILLWATER DEBAUCHED FARMHOUSE ALE - Beer #104, it was time to move on through the icy night winds.
 No trip to Baltimore is complete without a visit to Max's, in Fells Point.  This place could easily be douchey, considering all the neighboring bars and establishments, but it's thankfully accessible, not to mention one of my favorite beer bars in the country.  I loved the TERRAPIN WAKE-N-BAKE COFFEE OATMEAL IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #105, and had a sample of the related TERRAPIN CINNAMON ROLL'D WAKE-N-BAKE - Beer #106 (I liked the standard Wake-N-Bake better).  I ordered the AGAINST THE GRAIN BREWERY KENTUCKY RYED CHIQUEN - Beer #107, which seemed a bit sweet and cloying for a rye beer.  Sadly I didn't love it.  But I did love the straight forward MAINE BEER COMPANY PEEPER ALE - Beer #108, a no-nonsense American pale ale that I could drink anyday & everyday.  Mr. Strumke actually made an appearance while we were hanging out, and treated us to a 2012 bottled version of his Saison Darkly.  Oh hell yeah....
You stay classy, Baltimore.
We stumbled over to the Soundstage to catch the second evening of the A389 Hardcore fest.  Before heading in, Witte, Harrison, RJ Ober, Denunzio, and myself decided to be real classy and enjoy a round of VICTORY BREWING HOP RANCH - Beer #109 in the parking garage.  This is a truly tasty IPA, courtesy of Mr. Ober.  Victory cannot brew a bad beer.  Inside the club, I was treated to a FLYING DOG SNAKE DOG IPA - Beer #110, MILLER LITE - Beer #111, and a FLYING DOG K-9 CRUISER WINTER ALE - Beer #112.  Someone bought me another beer, but I didn't know what it was, but it was a watery lager so I assumed it was Yeungling.  Several hours later, I was wrapping it up in a hotel room at 4AM with large, bearded, flannel-clad Canadians from the brutal band Haymaker, surrounded by close to 100 empty cans of Natty Boh.

It goes without saying, my Sunday morning was a bit rough.

On the flight home, I had Dewar's and a BUDWEISER - Beer #113.  A quick liquor store run after landing at LAX resulted in a majorly tasty LAGUNITAS A LITTLE SUMPIN' SUMPIN' ALE - Beer #114.  And relaxing with the family once again, safe & sound at home, was rounded out by a GREAT DIVIDE YETI IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #115.  A deep, rich, wool blanket of a beer, which is exactly what I needed to wrap myself up in after three solid days on the go.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Beer #80-82 / Day 14: Takin' It Easy

I had a big weekend, and I've got an even longer, bigger weekend ahead of me.  The band is headed to Baltimore to play this A389 Fest on Friday, the 10 year anniversary of this East Coast record label. A ton of my beer buddies are coming to town... Dave Witte, Avi Kulawy, and RJ Ober who also happens to work at Victory Brewing Company, so I'm expecting to be swimming in brews for three days straight (and I'm not speaking figuratively).
In light of these bookend weekends of heavy consumption, I'm trying to lay low and take it easy this week.  I didn't have any beer on Day 13.  Tonight, Day 14 (well, Night 14) was practice, so we met for our customary drinks ahead of time.  We bellied up to The Snug, and I went for some more ordinary choices this evening. 312 URBAN WHEAT ALE - Beer #80 is touted as Obama's favorite beer.  I'm thinking that man needs someone to school him on some truly great beers.  312 is about as average as it gets. Not bad, not great, it just "is", which is pretty zen I suppose.  But this beer is not necessary.  Likewise, next up was HARP LAGER - Beer #81, exactly what one would expect at an Irish themed pub.  Tastes like beer.  If I wanted to be super snobby and come up with "tasting notes", I couldn't.  It's freakin' "beer".  Like if you looked up the word in the dictionary.
I picked up an old standby, the FIRESTONE WALKER DBA - Beer #82 for practice.  We ran through the set twice, and cringed about how early we need to get up to make our flight out of LAX on Friday morning.  I'm already dreaming of endless East Coast brews, so our short-lived sleep-deprived stupor will be entirely worthwhile. With that in mind, I'm laying low the next few days.  Going to give the liver a rest, spend some quality time with the family, and show up to work with all of my brain cells intact.  Not to mention, I've received confirmation of three friends who are doing a Big Year In Beer:  Dave Witte, Randy Carncross, and Chris W.  And ALL THREE OF THEM ARE AHEAD OF ME!  I thought I was a baller at over 80 brews in 14 days, but my tally is child's play, it turns out.  Humbling to say the least.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Beer #49-79 / Day 11&12: Hittin' My Numbers

And so the weekend begins.
Further proof that my Wife does love me, evidenced by her indefatigable support and companionship this past weekend, as the Big Year In Beer launched into overdrive, logging 27 different brews in one day.  We were both in the mood for our usual, weekend, mid-day lunch at one of the endless, new beer spots in SoCal.  It was a beautiful afternoon, worthy of sitting outside (unlike in the other 90% of the country), so Camille suggested the Laurel Tavern in Studio City.  We headed out that way, down Ventura Blvd, when my eagle-eyed spouse spotted STOUT.  One quick, and highly illegal U-Turn later, we were on their patio, splitting a mouth-watering burger, and enjoying their excellent tap & bottle list.  Our server Kasey was super cool, and offered to bring me several tastes when I couldn't decide.
I tried the ANDERSON VALLEY THE KIMMIE, THE YINK, AND THE HOLY GOSE - Beer #49, a mildly fruity, mildly sour and acidic gose with sea salt.  Tasty, but a taste was just enough. Happy to try it, but a full glass would have been too much.
Next, I tasted the LOGSDON FARMHOUSE ALES SEIZOEN BRETTA - Beer #50.  Logsdon saisons are infallible in my experience.  This one was excellent.  Light, perfumy, complex, slightly wild.
We also tasted the DOGFISH HEAD SAH'TEA - Beer #51, listed as an Ancient Ale, this is their take on a traditional Finnish sahti, and I'll admit I've never known a damn thing about sahtis until now.  It was like many of the spiced ales out there, but much better. Clovey, yeasty, and super good.
Camille went for the SMOG CITY HOPTONIC IPA - Beer #52. I had a sip.  And then a few more. So refreshing, a real powerhouse of an IPA. Some serious hop funk. Delicious. If I wasn't on a quest to drink so many different beers, I'd make this one of my regular house beers, no question.
I chose the FLYING DOG SIMCOE SINGLE HOP IMPERIAL IPA- Beer #53.  Deep, rich, hoppy, and round. A winner, although I'd go for the Hoptonic as my first choice.
We love this place.  Funny thing is out of about 40 choices they only had two stouts on the list.

Yes, we have arrived.
I was focused on trying to hit a beer tasting at Vendome Wine & Spirits in Toluca Lake.  We cruised over there, and not surprisingly there was not one available seat, and no one was in any hurry to leave.  I was intent on trying this tasting, so to pass the time, we decided to head up into North Hollywood to The Federal.  Half a block from our destination, once again my Wife's beer radar was operating with maximum reception as she pointed out THE DISTRICT PUB, another new spot I've never seen.  Yet another speedy U-Turn, and we were saddled up to the backroom bar, where a gregarious gentleman, who insisted his name was Fox, treated us to some decent sized tasters before we even looked at the list. He poured us a couple classic Belgian brews:  BRASSERIE DUPONT AVEC LES BONS VOEUX - Beer #54, and BRASSERIE D'ACHOUFFE LA CHOUFFE - Beer #55.  Camille decided on a sampler flight, which I horned in on as well.  Their paddle consisted of:
*STIEGL PILS - Beer #56, a solid and easily accessible Austrian pilsner.
*WEIHENSTEPHANER HEFEWEISSBIER - Beer #57, a legendary hefeweizen from one of the world's oldest breweries.
Gettin' flighty.
*BEAR REPUBLIC RACER 5 IPA - Beer #58, I've mostly dismissed this beer in the past, given how easily accessible and "common" the Racer 5 is... big mistake on my part, this is a damn good IPA that I've avoided for no good reason other than I'm trying to be a snob.
*EPIC BREWING 825 STATE STOUT - Beer #59, a bit more fluid (i.e. more watery, less inky) than I prefer in a stout, but still pretty tasty, and Wifey really liked it, so that made it even better.
I went for a pint of the MONKISH CRUX - Beer #60, listed as a "single ale with elderflower". I don't know what the hell an elderflower is, but this akin to a Belgian pale ale, light and crisp.  I'm never disappointed by this Torrance brewery.  I'm overdue for a pilgrimage there.
Knowing full well we still intended on muscling our way into the Vendome beer tasting, we cut ourselves off early, although we could have easily spent the entire afternoon at the District Pub.  Apparently they had only been open for five days, so I'm happy we were one of the first to try it before the word gets out about how this is the new beer spot in NoHo. 

Well, maybe only two sheets.
Second time was a charm at VENDOME, and we easily found two seats at the tasting area.  Thanks to the incredible tasting menu selected by Harley, the house Cicerone (the beer equivalent of a wine Sommelier), we were in heaven.  The theme of this tasting was "malty ales". We were in for waaaay more than we could have ever imagined, quality-wise and quantity-wise.  The list was progressively more incredible with each pour.  While the entire flight was excellent, they truly saved the best for last.  I was ready to make love to the North Coast Old Stock by the time we reached it.  But that's what this whole nerdy ass beer adventure of mine is all about... true love of the craft, and a sensory experience that transcends all expectations. As for the tasting list:
*BROCKHOUSE BRYGGERI DRAUPNIR - Beer #61, slightly sweet with honey and pine flavors.
*BROCKHOUSE BRYGGERI ESRUM KLOSTER - Beer #62, like the previous one but more caramel and spice. Camille and I agreed both of the Brockhouses had a slight hint of cough syrup as well.
Do not disturb the nerd.
*GRAND TETON BREWING  DOUBLE VISION DOPPLEBOCK - Beer #63, a favorite of the tasting, rich and malty, and the tasting notes mentioned it was brewed "in strict adherence to the Reinheitsgebot", which are the German "purity laws" for brewing beer.  In spite of it being a centuries-old tradition, tell me with a straight face that doesn't sound Hitler-esque!
*THE BRUERY SHEGOAT - Beer #64, tastes surprisingly like a subtle banana bread with caramel.
*DOGFISH HEAD THEOBROMA - Beer #65, a really damn good cocoa & chili beer, great heat but well balanced. I love this one. Perhaps second only to all of the unique chili brews coming out of Vista's Aztec Brewery.
*BROUWERIJ DE BRABANDERE PETRUS WINTER #9 - Beer #66, a Belgian strong ale that's thick, mildly bitter, but finishes clean.
*BROUWERIJ DILEWYNS VICARIS WINTER ALE - Beer #67, a Belgian strong ale with a hint of a licorice, anise quality
*HALEN BREWERIES MARIENRODE QUADRUPLE 12 - Beer #68, another strong favorite, bad ass and easy to remember when you think of Van Halen.
*MODERN TIMES BLACK HOUSE - Beer #69, my first brew from this San Diego outfit, a bit too overwhelming on the coffee, I couldn't really taste anything else happening. Interestingly, it's distributed in cans.
*BALLAST POINT INDRA KUNINDRA - Beer #70, I had this last year & didn't love it.  This time I truly enjoyed it.  A real curry & coconut bomb. Indian food in a glass. I wouldn't want a full pint, but a taster is excellent, and just the right amount.
*BLACK MARKET BREWING INVASION IMPERIAL RED ALE - Beer #71, Wow, the biggest surprise of the tasting. I've mistakenly disregarded Black Market as a novelty brewery. Boy, am I stupid. This imperial red is exceptional!
Love is...
*CLOWN SHOES CRUNKLE SAM BARLEYWINE - Beer #72, another favorite, super dense, super delicious.  Is it me or are American barleywines improving by leaps and bounds in recent years?
*NOBLE ALE WORKS GONE TO PLAID - Beer #73, their take on a Scottish wee heavy, good but difficult to distinguish between such powerful barleywines.
*ALASKAN BREWING ALASKAN PILOT SERIES BARLEYWINE 2013 - Beer #74, yet another big favorite, holy Christ, what a superior, rich brew this is, leaps and bounds above the other Alaskan ales I've tried.
*NORTH COAST BREWING OLD STOCK CELLAR RESERVE BRANDY BARREL (2011) - Beer #75, the crown jewel of this tasting, un-freaking-believably delicious. If you splurge on one more expensive beer this year, this is the one!

Action shot of Emery's
Needless to say, after a 27-beer Saturday, our limits had been pushed, so Sunday I decided to show some restraint, if you could call it that.  We invited some old friends over, Katie & Jon Emery and Melissa Gearhart, sat on the back patio, grilled and chilled while the boys played Xbox inside.  I uncapped a few singles throughout the course of the day:
*ABBEY BEVERAGE COMPANY MONKS' ALE - Beer #76, slightly misleading as it's neither brewed by monks, nor brewed at an abbey.  It's from New Mexico.  But it's still a darn tasty Belgian style pale ale.
*MAREDSOUS BRUNE - Beer #77, a classic knockout Belgian brew, dark, complex, and addictive.
*LAGUNITAS MAXIMUS - Beer #78, a more powerful IPA from this NorCal brewery that seemingly cannot brew a bad beer.
Action shot of beer on a counter top.
*RUHSTALLER 1881 - Beer #79, categorized as a red or amber ale, depending on what you read, but it's smooth like a Creamsicle... I refuse to use the term "mouthfeel", but this is one of those rare instances when it would apply.

If it's not obvious, drying out after such a soggy weekend was no easy task. Next weekend I'm headed to Baltimore for some hardcore beering, so I need to rest up and prepare for some serious action.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Beer #47 & 48 / Day 10: Dive Talkin'

"I wanted a mission, and for my sins they gave me one" - Capt. Willard, "Apocalypse Now"

It was Friday night, the end of the work week, the evening my Wife & I look forward to the most.  Sometimes we do something nice, sometimes we opt for the ridiculous. Whatever it may be, we like to try something new.  Neither of us really felt like going out, but we had spent the entire week at home vegging in front of the TV.  We needed to get off our asses and go do something, even if it was completely lame.

This looks like a snuff film, doesn't it?
So, I made us try out a dive bar in Sunland/Tujunga called The Rattler. We had driven by last month, and it looked like it had a fresh coat of paint & was trying to be something other than a crappy dive bar.  Surprise! Turns out it's a crappy dive bar. We like our dive bars, but this was even way weirder than either of us expected. The layout of the room was odd and uninviting. The bar was uncomfortable, with foot rests too high unless you're Billy Barty. Someone put money in the jukebox and, without irony, started playing songs that we've only heard our 10 year old son & our young nieces listen to... "What Does The Fox Say"? While a blond gal straddled the jukebox & gyrated to little kids' dance music, some guy was getting his mouth bloodied & teeth knocked out during an MMA match on the TV. Another drunk local stumbled up behind me and muttered complaints about me taking his seat. I offered it back, but he cashed out and left. Another drunk patron loudly blabbed about how she was going to create a reality show about The Rattler.  Much like reality shows, this place bore no resemblance to actual reality.  Also very unrealistic was the fact that I didn't order a beer.  I went for Jameson, because it seemed strangely more fitting.  The only saving grace was the extremely cheerful and accommodating bartender who was generous with the whiskey pours. 
Best sign in Tujunga.

After one round, we crossed the street to an old school establishment, Al Read's.  From the outside, it looks like the most awesome mid-century steakhouse.  On the inside, it looks like the room of a 1970's office complex.  It felt like we were at the tail end of an Elk's Lodge social, where the six occupants of the room were all at least 20+ years older than us.  And yet, we felt much more at home.  These locals were funny, friendly, welcoming, and you know they've been coming to the same room and telling the same jokes for the past 40 years.  I sucked up my beer snobbiness and went for the least likely choice I could make, the MICHELOB AMBER BOCK - Beer #47.  Speaking of dated, I can't remember the last time I had a Michelob, or if I ever have, for that matter.  Strangely enough, this beer really isn't that bad.  As the name implies, it's a semi-dark bock style, that's malty and easy.  In an environment like this, I wouldn't expect, nor would I want, anything fancier.  We enjoyed some appetizers, chatted with the cool old guy bartender, and caught the first half of the Clippers vs. Lakers game. And for the record, I'm a long time Clippers fan. I root for the underdog, and they've nearly always been the underdog, especially considering the long shadow cast by the legacy of the Lakers.
Old Man beer.

At halftime, we headed home to get comfy & catch the last half of the game.  I decided to go fancy for the second half, so I popped the cork on a MOA FIVE HOP - Beer #48.  I was expecting a Nelson hop blast, but it was more subdued and creamy.  Subtle and tasty.
It was a Clippers blowout, they decimated the Lakers by 36 points.  I was ready to decimate the same number of beers this weekend, so I turned in early and dreamt unreal dreams of game animals wandering through our living room.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Beer #44-46 / Day 9: Cooking With Beer a.k.a. Pretending To Be Healthy

Not like I've ever been slim & trim, but I definitely fell off the wagon diet-wise over the Holidays. Is it possible that drinking 46 beers over the course of 9 days may have anything to do with it?  Nahhhh....

I had surgery for cancer last October, and since then I've been eating much, much healthier overall.  The Wife & I have gone vegetarian or vegan over the course of several weeks at a time. We're trying to cut down on meat and dairy, and also consciously exercise more. When I'm not vegetarian, I try to eat a lot more fish.  I feel better, I'm less tired, and I poop more regularly (OK, too much information?!).  And yes, I KNOW drinking a shit-ton of beer is not conducive to weight loss, but I decided long ago that 2014 would be my Big Year In Beer, and damn it, come Hell or Artesian water, this IS my Big Year.  I'll just need to take extra precautions to eat healthier than ever, and exercise more than ever, in order to compensate for the accelerated beer consumption. Is this akin to having a burger but ordering a DIET Coke because you think it's more healthy and "balances" out your unhealthy meal?  Most likely.

When I started dating my Wife in 2006, my life experiences expanded greatly through art, music, and just enjoying every day things like cooking.  I never, ever cooked prior to this, and had no interest in it whatsoever.  Throughout these past years, I've learned a lot about cooking from my Wife, and while not every dish is a winner, in my completely biased opinion, I'm a damn good cook these days.  I don't always use beer in cooking, but for obvious reasons, I try to integrate it more.  Tonight I modified a vegan recipe by adding GREEN FLASH WEST COAST IPA - Beer #44 to the dish, instead of veggie stock or water.  It's an Asian dish, and as noted by our trip to Orochon Ramen last weekend, IPAs go great with spicy Asian food (who knew???).  In all honesty, this excellent beer is not prominent in the flavors of the dish, but I took great pride in integrating it into this awesome recipe.  I finished off the Green Flash while cooking, so I went for the garden variety STONE IPA - Beer #45 to drink during dinner.  Even though this is one of the more "common" Stone beers that one can find in any rinky-dink, corner liquor store nowadays, it's freakin' great, no doubt about it.  Hail Stone for knowing when they have something good and not futzing with it.  I capped off the evening with the DESCHUTES BREWING OBSIDIAN STOUT - Beer #46, a malty, inky, delicious everyday stout from these Oregonian stalwarts.

Not to get all "Foodie" on y'all, but for the hell of it, and just because it's damn tasty, here's a mildly spicy vegan recipe with beer (the best part is you drink most of the beer while cooking):

- Serves 2
- Prep time + Cooking is about 30-40 min.  Put on some good tunes & just do it.

1 block of firm or preferably extra firm tofu
2 Tbsp peanut oil
a few large cloves of garlic, sliced
a large piece of ginger root, sliced
4-6 green onions
6 Tbsp soy sauce
6 Tbsp rice vinegar
4 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
2 Tbsp agave nectar or simple syrup
2 Tbsp Sriracha
4 Tbsp IPA
White, Jasmine, or Basmati rice for 2

*Drain the tofu. You need to get as much water out of it as possible.  Let it sit in a colander to drain for a while, then press it (not too hard) between paper towels to absorb additional moisture.
*While the tofu is resting between dry paper towels, start cooking enough rice for two, according to the instructions on the package.  Start it now, so it's ready by the time the tofu is done cooking!
*Cut tofu into long strips, about 1 inch wide.  But don't be all OCD about being exact.
*Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, peanut butter, agave nectar, Sriracha, and IPA in a bowl and whisk until well blended.
*Cut the garlic cloves and ginger root into slices. DO NOT worry about being too accurate or uniform with these slices because you will eventually discard them!
*Heat a large pan on High.  Once hot, add the peanut oil.  After the peanut oil heats for about a minute, add the sliced garlic & ginger.  Cook them in the oil for a minute or two.  Once everything smells awesome, then remove the garlic and ginger and discard. You have just flavored the oil, so keep it in the pan!
*Add the tofu strips to the pan and brown them on all sides in the oil.  This will take 8-12 minutes.
*While the tofu is browning, prep the green onions by cutting them into diagonal slices.  This will be your garnish when the tofu is done.
*Drink the rest of the IPA.
*While you're waiting for the tofu to brown, your rice should be ready by now, so plate it in two large bowls right before you start the next step.
*Once the tofu is sufficiently browned to your liking, turn the heat to low, add the sauce and coat the tofu well. Leave it on the burner for about a minute, but not too long or the sauce will become too thick.
*Pour the tofu and sauce in equal portions over the rice in two bowls (you did already put the rice in the bowls, didn't you?)
*Top with your fancy, sliced green onions.
*Have an awesome meal with your spouse / girlfriend / boyfriend / companion, and prepare for an evening of incredible sex because they'll be all over you after this tasty dish.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Beer #38-43 / Day 7&8: Expressions Of True Love

Tuesday band practice means the weekly Union Meeting with Domino & Denunzio.  We typically end up at The Office or Tony's Darts Away.  This week we mixed it up & tried a new spot in Burbank:  THE SNUG.  We thought it would be a silly, over the top, Irish pub, or the crummiest dive bar.  It was neither.  The Snug is officially our new hangout.  It's clean, hipster free, non-pretentious, non-crowded, with a decent selection of taps and hard liquor, a friendly bartender, affordable drinks, 70s classic rock & 80s hits in rotation.... No complaints. The Snug is The Shit!
The Shiznit.
Instead of limiting themselves to Guinness and Bass, like most of these faux Limey bars, they had some unexpected & interesting selections.  Domino was hooked as soon as we found out Fireball shots were $4 with any beer.  Welcome home!  I opted to start with the AVERY BREWING WHITE RASCAL - Beer #38, one of the more complex witbiers out there. I away shy from many lighter beers, but this has a lot going on, and exemplifies why Avery is one of my favorites Stateside.  Next, I went for the ALASKAN BREWING IPA - Beer #39.  Funny how it's doesn't have a name other than "IPA", but it's appropriate because that all it is.  It's not frou-frou, fancy, or ultra-rare... it's just a freakin' IPA, so deal with it.  Good, not amazing, but it does the job.
Avoid eye contact with the Brew Jawa
We stopped drinking a bit earlier than usual, in favor of actually having a good practice (i.e. not showing up shit-faced).  Good plan considering we're headed out to play Baltimore in 10 days.  On the way there, Domino stopped at the liquor store across from The Snug and discovered they carried singles of several good beers.  I knew this guy loved me the second he showed up at practice with a tall boy of GOLDEN ROAD POINT THE WAY IPA - Beer #40 for me. One of my top local favorites, no question.  Since we're playing out soon, we agreed practice next week should be sober.  Then again, we're not exactly famous for keeping our promises.

Wednesday night after work, I was without a car and needed to wait for a ride from The Mrs.  There's only one bar within a block of my work, and that's THE OFFICE.  I've frequented this room a million times, not so much because I'm such a huge fan, but because it's within walking distance. Any going away party or other co-worker milestone is celebrated at this establishment.  The Office is also the standard Infest pre-practice watering hole. The bartender knows us and occasionally hooks us up. And its less than a mile from where we practice. The Office has decent taps (although they rotate infrequently), uncomfortable chairs, but nice bartenders. The more I come here, the more I recognize the regulars. There's a few guys I see every time, no matter what day of the week. Gotta love local drunks.
Beer selfie.  Act natural.
Speaking of, I decided to start with the SIERRA NEVADA CELEBRATION ALE - Beer #41. The keg actually ran out halfway thru the pint, so the bartender gave it to me gratis. Good lookin' out, Sister!  That's service!  Showing true love, I say.  I somehow avoided this beer during the Holidays, which is when it's released annually, but wanted to get a taste before it disappears til next Fall. It has that familiar Sierra Nevada varietal hop bite, but its more akin to a hoppy, brown ale. Since I'm here often, and I usually order the same few things (Green Flash IPA, North Coast Old Rasputin, Angel City Angelino IPA, or Ballast Point Sculpin), I decided to mix it up & try something new.  I went for another seasonal selection, the SAMUEL ADAMS COLD SNAP - Beer #42.  This one is wheaty, and barnyardy.  Like a bale of hay fermented in apple juice. Not entirely awesome.  I wasn't expecting greatness, and I got what I expected.
The Wife scooped me up, and we wrapped up the evening at home with a SIERRA NEVADA OLD CHICO CRYSTAL WHEAT - Beer #43.  I've never seen this beer in SoCal, but my Mom lives in Chico, home of Sierra Nevada, and on her last visit brought me four cases of different Sierra Nevada brews.  That's true love, right there.  Old Chico is a perfect everyday beer.  Not overwhelming, but superior to any other mainstream beer you'd pick up on Game Day.  It's light, refreshing, but with distinct, gritty malt and barley flavor.  I've got another 10 or so stockpiled if you want to try it.
And to top off the evening, the Clippers win again.  Further proof that someone up there does love me!


Monday, January 6, 2014

Beer #31-37 / Days 5&6: Keep It Real!

Sorry. No wacky misadventures. Just a lot of time at home & work, but still making my way through a deep collection of 12 oz. singles to stay on my game.
Slangin' the bottles, and pimpin' the digits.
Keepin' in real, yo...
*GREAT DIVIDE BREWING TITAN IPA - Beer #31: You know it, you love it. A good 'un.
*BALLAST POINT BIG EYE IPA - Beer #32: Old reliable. Better fresh on tap though.
*CLOWN SHOES TRAMP STAMP BELGIAN STYLE IPA - Beer #33: Within a year Clown Shoes is freakin' everywhere in SoCal. Props to their distributor for doing an amazing job of accelerating this brewery's profile from Zero to 60.
Here's an exciting pic of beer bottles.   Wow.
*BRASSERIE DES LEGENDES NOEL DES GEANTS - Beer #34: Belgian strong ale that isn't much to write home about when its cold, but really opens up at room temp.
*MAUI BREWING BELGIAN STOUT - Beer #35: There's a reason Maui isn't known for stouts.
*STONE BREWING RUINATION IMPERIAL IPA - Beer #36: Yet another one for the Old Reliable category. Nothing fancy. You can find it everywhere. But hell, after all these years, it a fuggin' awesome beer.
*CALEDONIAN BREWING NEWCASTLE CABBIE BLACK ALE - Beer #37:  Another one much better at room temp.  When it's cold, it lacks any personality or taste.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Beer #17-30 / Day 4: Valiant and Noble Attempts At Drinking

She was happier when ramen arrived
Saturday, Camille and I planned on a long day in Ventura, but our plans were foiled when she woke up with a severe cold.  Best thing for a cold is hot soup, so we hit Orochon in Burbank, and got some spicy bowls of ramen.  This place is known for one of those "extreme food challenges" that so many restaurants have these days. Orochon's challenge is based on an over-the-top spicy bowl of ramen. If you finish in 30 minutes, you get your photo on their Wall Of Bravery.  As for me...I opted for a medium-spicy bowl, and a selfie in front of the Wall Of Bravery.
Hoppy IPA + spicy ramen = Who knew?
This restaurant has a surprisingly decent tap selection, and I went for the ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING HOP OTTIN' IPA - Beer #17.  Most Asian food places don't offer IPAs, and this is the first time I remember having an IPA with spicy noodles. It paired perfectly!  The beer itself is a no-nonsense, hoppy, awesome IPA, but it also cut through the heat of my food effortlessly.  More Asian restaurants need to branch out from Sapporo and Kirin!

The Wife needed quiet time to rest, so I decided to trek an hour South, down to Orange County to check out some old punk bands.  And of course, it was the perfect excuse to leave early and explore some breweries that I haven't been to yet.  I chose to visit a couple tap favorites: VALIANT BREWING COMPANY and NOBLE ALE WORKS.  Hmmm...Valiant and Noble.  That's how I like to picture myself as a beer drinker.  You know, something more distinguished than just Fat and Tired.
Like most breweries worth their salt, these two are located in nondescript industrial parks, tucked around a few corners, so you'd never know they existed if you weren't specifically seeking them out.  Valiant is a thing of beauty.  Non-pretentious and dedicated to high quality.  I've been planning a pilgrimage here ever since I tried my first Valiant brew about a year ago.  I've sampled their beer at a couple festivals, but even at local craft beer bars it's difficult to find them, at least in LA proper. 
So beautiful, it brings a tear to the eye
It was a full house. The man behind the taps was Andre, and he was in fact doing a valiant job of running the room by himself.  Additionally, he was happy to answer my nerdy questions, and was knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and positive about their operation.  The perfect dude to man a tasting room. If I had to describe their beers with only one word, I'd say "rich".  Each one is complex, deep, and best of all freakin delicious.
I tried 10 beers and EVERY SINGLE ONE was excellent! These guys obviously CARE about what they're brewing. Plus I had no idea how deep their bench goes as far as the variety of styles. And all are exceptional:
*GOLDEN MOUTH INDIA PALE LAGER - Beer #18:  I love the idea of IPLs. The Bruery Humulus is the King of IPLs, but this one is damn good in its own right.
*MUZZLELOADER WEST COAST IPA - Beer #19:  A brand new one. Killer.
*10.5 MPG FALL PERSIMMON SAISON - Beer #20: Perfect, and not a hint of being a cloying "fruit beer".
*KRATOS BELGIAN GOLDEN STRONG ALE - Beer #21: Possibly my favorite of the entire Valiant roster.
*PATHOS BARREL AGED IMPERIAL CHOCOLATE PORTER - Beer #22: Tastes as awesome as it sounds. Barrel Aged? Sign me up!
*MIGHTY MAXIMUS PREMIUM BITTER - Beer #23: Mellow and sessionable (did I just make up that word?)
*VERANDA BIERE-DE-GARDE - Beer #24: Great rustic biere.
Oh, hell yes.
*JERICHO IMPERIAL IPA - Beer #25:  Joshua fought the battle of Jericho. Chris Dodge drank the bottle of Jericho.
*DECEMBERFEST IMPERIAL MARZEN LAGER - Beer #26: Simple, tasty, easy to drink.
*STONEWALL JACKSON 5 DOUBLE RED WHEAT - Beer #27: Rich, but clean.

Valiant has recently started bottling, and it's only one beer:  The Jericho IPA.  I bought one for me, and another to take to Dave Witte when I go to Baltimore in a few weeks. I want him to be the first man on the East Coast to try Valiant.
Props to the Hobo Co. Pizza truck for parking at Valiant. Excellent made-to-order pizza for ten bucks, and great service. Pizza and beer. A legendary combo, and when both the pizza and beer are of the highest caliber, it's just that much better.

"Open": My favorite word
A few miles South, in another generic industrial park, I visited Noble Ale Works.  I still had a long night ahead of me, so as much as I wanted to go crazy and try everything, it was in my best interest to show some moderation. This is another down to earth, all-killer no-filler brewery.  I went for the CITRA SHOWERS DOUBLE IPA - Beer #28. Aside from a name that sounds kind of nasty, it's crazy good, gloriously skunky, with that strong, resiny hoppiness we love so much on the West Coast.  Up next was the TOO DARN HOT IPA - Beer #29, a beer "infused with a medley of chiles". I've come around to really enjoying chili beers over the past year, because there's so many damn good ones these days. It tasted to me like there was some habanero in there. Delicious with a good kick, but mercifully easy to drink, and the heat doesn't linger. It finishes clean.  Unique and frickin delicious.
Beer selfie. Never look into your own camera.

I made my way over to The Observatory in Anaheim, an awkward little club in an office park complex (think "Office Space") that's trying desperately to pretend it's The Place To Be. I caught four hardcore punk bands, and strangely enough, I first saw all four of these same bands back in the '80s.  DISSENSION from Long Beach, BATTALION OF SAINTS from San Diego, ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT from Oakland, and POISON IDEA from Portland. I'm always on the fence about these shows.  I don't want the good memories of my youth to be tarnished. At the same time it renews my faith when the bands are actually really good after all these years.  In spite of having only one original member, Battalion Of Saints was my favorite of the evening. They were loose, energetic, and they all seemed to be having a good time. They kept it short, and played the songs I wanted to hear. "Leave 'em wanting more", I say.  Attitude Adjustment was fast, mean, and tight, the way they've always been post-Andy Andersen (would that be 1989?). Really solid, but they should have kept the set to 30 minutes. The biggest surprise was finding out this club served a few decent beers. I chose BROUWERIJ HUYGHE DELIRIUM TREMENS - Beer #30 during A.A.'s set.  It was $10.  Apparently PBR was $9.  And a lot of people were drinking PBR.  No, I don't understand it either.  Poison Idea also has only one original member, legendary vocalist Jerry A., and half of the band looked like they could have been his kids. His days of broken bottles and fire breathing are over.  Self-abuse has been replaced by sweatpants. It was great to hear the tunes, although they seemed disconnected, and could have benefited from tightening up the set... more songs back to back with no breaks, less down-time.
Battalion Of Saints ruling
Overall, it was great to see old friends.  The whole evening was a combo of odd, nostalgic, strange, and comforting moments.  But you can't blame the beer for that.


Beer # 14-16 / Day 3: Everybody's Burpin' For The Weekend

Friday night. Official start of the weekend. Time to party?  Not so much, considering New Years Eve was only a couple days ago.  With that in mind, we were content to stay home and chill out for once.  The Mrs. and I made dinner together, relaxed, and shared a few new beers.  I made mahi mahi, so I picked a few different bottles to see how well they would pair with fish.  Honestly, the fish didn't make it past the first beer, so I have nothing to report on that front, but whatever... it's bad enough I'm one of those dorky beer bloggers, it's not like I need to pretend I'm a pretentious Foodie as well. 

The evening was kicked off with ALPINE WILLY - Beer #14, somewhere between a pale ale and a wheat beer with mild maltiness.  Low alcohol, easy to drink.  The modest Alpine Beer Company is located in the remote small town of Alpine, CA, in the mountains east of San Diego.  Their Duet and Nelson beers are legendary.  This one is not a show stopper, but it's a good unassuming brew.
LOST COAST INDICA IPA - Beer #15, from the brewery that has been around for as long as I can remember.  I grew up in Northern California, so I used to see their beers around SF quite often in the '90s.  In spite of the embarrassingly outdated, '90s label art of Lost Coast beers, they are damn consistent in their brewing.  This IPA is a thick one, deep in color, and mildly hoppy, especially when it warms closer to room temp. Very tasty indeed.
Admittedly, when it comes to choosing beer, I typically gravitate towards American and Belgian selections 98% of the time. So, most UK beers are, with irony,  foreign to me.  My pal Matt Becker picked this out for me & I'm sure glad he did:  INNIS & GUNN SCOTTISH PORTER - Beer #16.  So complex, malty, and rich.  According to the label, they even added treacle, which is molasses.  Hell, aside from the movie with Sting, I had no freakin' idea what treacle was until now, but now I'm a fan.  This beer rules!  I'm not going to shy away from Innis & Gunn in the future.