Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Start Of My BIG YEAR IN BEER 2014 (or "Happy New Year for Crafty New Beers"): Beers #1-7 / Day 1

As noted previously, during my last BIG YEAR IN BEER, I tasted 610 different beers. Although I was keeping track, I wasn't all that focused on challenging myself to reach a high number until I was already several months deep into my 2013 Big Year.  For 2014, I'm ready, focused, and thirsty.
Towards the conclusion of my first Big Year, I had several friends express interest in pursuing a 2014 Big Year as well.  In case you missed it, the rules are here.  I know of several people going for it, and many others who are undecided.  Or perhaps their indecisiveness is a clever ruse to throw me off of the track of their secretive Big Year pursuits.  No matter... my Big Year will be very public, via this blog, so anyone hoping to beat me will know exactly where I stand (or pass out) during all 365 days.
After checking out the field, and judging by Untappd posts of my compatriots, at the moment I'm thinking the biggest "threat" to my title is probably Randy Carncross, who runs The Hangover craft beer bar in Nakano-ku, Japan.  This man racks up a consistently high number of brews on a daily basis.  Aside from Dave "The Machine" Witte, I'm putting my money on Mr. Carncross to topple my crown at the end of 2014.   
Chris Wilder of Los Gatos, CA is another silent but deadly contender. Weeks ago he definitively stated he's not doing a Big Year, which seems completely out of the realms of possibility. The fact that he was so direct about not doing a Big Year, tells me he's doing a Big Year.
Then again, my Wife has started keeping track; she says she's not going for a Big Year, but she's with me on most of my drinking adventures, tastes all my beers, and therefore can claim them, so she could very well be the dark horse this year.  This will be interesting... check with the oddsmakers in Vegas...

The Wife and I started out New Years Eve by watching THE BIG YEAR, appropriately enough. Then we packed our bags, and toted ourselves up to the residence of Matt & Gina Becker in the secluded hills of Val Verde. We were joined by their roommate Jayme, and old friends Paul and Darrick.  It was a perfect NYE filled with good friends, crazy animals, big outdoor fires, loud tunes, and an overabundance of impressive food & booze.
I packed my bottle carrier with some sure-fire winners.  Instead of busting out a bunch of new ones, I decided to stick with tried and true brews. I made selections from my beer fridge with the phrase "Old Reliable" in mind.
I kicked off the evening with the ALMANAC EXTRA PALE ALE - Beer #1.  The familiar hoppy deliciousness immediately made me a happy man.  I love everything from Almanac, but this along with their Barrel Noir are by far my "go to" beers of everything on their roster.
Next was the BOULEVARD SMOKESTACK SERIES DARK TRUTH STOUT - Beer #2. A winning and affordable everyday stout. Malty, thick, and mildly smoky & hoppy.
THE BRUERY RUGBROD - Beer #3 followed.  This one has been out of rotation for a good amount of time.  Welcome back, old friend.  A marvelously perfect rye beer.  I was told by a beer guy that the translation of "Rugbrod" is "rye bread".  As long as ends up in my mouth, you can translate it into anything you want.
Party Animal, crashed out
Speaking of welcoming old friends, the LAGUNITAS HAIRY EYEBALL - Beer #4 was up next.  I may be mistaken, but I don't believe this has been produced for a long time.  Last time I had it was at a beer themed party for my birthday in 2011.  I don't recall seeing it since.  I guess you could classify this as an American Strong Ale.  High alcohol, high malt, easy to drink, smooth and powerful.
Considering I was going through full bottles, and not tasters, I made my last beer of the evening the MOA IMPERIAL STOUT AGED IN PINOT BARRELS - Beer #5.  I had this for the first time only a few weeks ago, but it was love at first sip.  Really unique.  The red wine barrel funk of this New Zealand brew is definitely in there, but somehow works perfectly with the dense, dank stout.

I know what you're thinking: "Hey Dodge, New Year's Eve is still 2013. Why are you counting these towards your 2014 Big Year?"  I already thought of that.  I opened all of these bottles in 2013, but left a bit in each bottle to go back to and drink after midnight once 2014 struck. And yes, I drank them all again in the same order. Yes, I'm that much of a nerd.  But I'm an honest nerd.

We crashed in the wee hours, and I awoke this morning to ice picks being driven into my cranium. I couldn't believe it.  I'm a professional, dammit... What's with the hangover? Yes, it was only five beers, but they were high in alcohol and the total volume was just shy of a large growler (64 oz, that is).  That could do it, but I've survived worse.  Then I remembered:  SCOTCH!  One was ARDBEG UIGEADAIL. I don't recall the other one. A few decent pours of heavy duty scotch whisky between those beers was all it took to push my skull over the edge.  I love the smoky Band-Aid taste of these spirits, but Ouch, I was infinitely less enamored with them this morning.
Hair Of The Dog... how appropriate.

With a continual wince, we drove home to recoup from our year-end debauchery.  After a ton of water, a burger, a nap, and a shower, I was feeling human again and ready for a bit of the ol' "hair of the dog", so I capped off the First Day of my Big Year In Beer 2014 with a couple more old favorites.  Appropriately, HAIR OF THE DOG FRED GOLDEN SPECIAL ALE - Beer #6.  I haven't had Fred in a very long time, and I didn't remember it tasting this sweet.  Immediately reminded me of buttery popcorn with heavy brown sugar.  Not exactly what I was in the mood for, but a unique bottle conditioned ale that's better suited for a nitecap. And speaking of "not in the mood", I didn't feel like going overboard beer-wise tonight, so I wrapped it up with the easy drinking, sublimely hoppy CORONADO IDIOT IPA - Beer #7.  Not overpowering, just balanced & distinctly, consistently good.

Time to take a break from my second true love, and hit the hay early so I can be functional at work tomorrow.  Although tomorrow night is band practice with Infest, so my "break" from beer will undoubtedly be short lived.


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