Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Beer #262-301 / Day #50-52: Beers, Babes, Beards, Bellys, and a Birthday

Beer 'n' Babe
So, my BDay is coming up in a few days.  I'll be in Seattle this coming weekend, so last Saturday my Wife put together an advance birthday party for me... a beer tasting session.  Officially, it was four hours, like most sessions you buy tickets for... except with this party you stayed as long as you wanted, and you didn't have to buy tickets... you just had to bring beer, and preferably a selection of braus you've never tried.  The objective is that we open them all, and everybody tastes as many as possible while they can still stand.  From a standpoint of hanging out with friends, it was one of my favorite parties in years.  I had the best time sippin' suds with my favorite buds.  And although 90% of my friends are not "beer people", per se, they did an outstanding job of selecting a broad variety of brews.  Some of them knew what they were doing, others took a random stab in the dark at selecting bottles that sounded different.  Most surprising, a good 60% or so were beers I'd never tasted, and there were only about 4 that I had already claimed in my 2014 Big Year, so it was bounty of beers, perfect for racking up high numbers in one fell swoop.
Official Brew Dog

Since it was my birthday party, there were a few very special bottles that I squirreled away for a private tasting.  Let's be honest, most peeps aren't bothering with "tasting notes" or subtleties when they get past their 15th beer sample, so as the evening wore on, I didn't feel so guilty stashing a couple gems to open later on my actual BDay.  And yes, while I'm at it, I'll brag that I sampled 36 new beers for my Big Year, as well as a couple repeats that were too good not to drink again, such as Coronado Idiot IPA and Stone Brewing Matt's Burning Rosids.

It was a successful session in many ways.  I racked up some good one-day numbers for The Big Year.  I had a great time.  My friends had a great time.  "Pros" and novices alike learned a lot about different styles, resulting in untold surprises, revelations, and discussions: 
Smoked beer?
Why does this beer taste like peanut butter?
Why does this beer taste like meat and cheese?
How do they make a lager that's dark?
13%? Is that true?

It's all fun & games til Domino shows up with Fireball
We handed out tasting cards, and the notes left behind were hilarious, and still proved everyone had a solid opinion, preference, and palate, even if they weren't beer drinkers in the least:
"IPA? Barf."
"Super light. Like an angel farted in my mouth."
"Me like."
"Aging nicely in the oak bourbon barrel of my stomach."

Eight hours later, the cane finally appeared from the wings of Stage Right, and ushered out the last of the party stragglers. For the first time at one of our parties, ALL of our food was gone.  And the vast majority of the fine beer that was brought was actually opened and consumed, which was the entire point of this gathering.  It's definitely happening again, and soon.

The Big Year tally continues:

...and Victory Hop Ranch, already claimed in Baltimore 1/18.
Thursday 2/20, scoping out some Eastern bounty from Mr. Witte:

Friday 2/21, taking it slow, in preparation for the coming storm: 
*STONE BREWING MATT'S BURNING ROSIDS - Beer #265, unique smoked saison, not as smoky as the typical rauchbier, subtle and damn tasty.

Saturday 2/22, BD-Day, let the bombing commence: 
*ANHEUSER-BUSCH NATURAL LIGHT - Beer #266, used by The Wife to boil some of our sausages, I had to take a sip in order to claim it.  Thanks for leaving this in our fridge last year, Grandpa Bob.
*FIGUEROA MOUNTAIN BREWING DAVY BROWN ALE - Beer #267, one of the better Fig Mtn outputs, thanks Ryan Harkins, even though you couldn't make it.
*BRASSERIE GRAN D'ORGE BELZEBUTH - Beer #268, Satanic, heavily alcoholic, love it, thanks Val Verde peeps
*NOBLE ALE WORKS PISTOL WHIP'D PILS - Beer #269, great brewery, thanks Sean Casey
*DOGFISH HEAD MIDAS TOUCH - Beer #270, one of many finely balanced Ancient Ales from this stalwart of adventurous brewing
*SIERRA NEVADA SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE HARVEST - Beer #271, still a killer hoptopic effort, one from my stash
*BROUWERIJ HAACHT RINCE COCHON - Beer #272, my pal Chase brought this solely because he liked the pig on the label, and yet this tripel was delicious on it's own, swine or no.
It beckons.
*MENDOCINO BREWING ANNIVERSARY ALE PALE ALE - Beer #274, Seen this lurking at Sprouts Market for a while, glad to finally taste it, a winner
*ALLAGASH BLACK - Beer #275, Dark ale, not really a stout, not overly rich, damn good though
*EAGLE ROCK BREWERY WHITE RABBIT 4TH ANNIVERSARY IMPERIAL WITBIER- Beer #276, I've cultivated a recent affinity for this local outfit, I'm a huge fan.  Thanks Cynthia.
*MISSION BREWERY BLONDE ALE - Beer #277, easy drinking, good one Sean.
*ALLAGASH CURIEUX - Beer #278, yum
*BRASSERIE DE SILLY BARREL AGED SCOTCH ALE SILLY - Beer #279, crazy sweet, cloying like many barleywines, but still a good one in small doses
*RODENBACH - Beer #280, mildly sour, even more mildly sweet
*BRASSERIE DE BRUNEHART ABBAYE DE ST. MARTIN BRUNE - Beer #281, oh baby, that's a good 'un
*PAULANER ORIGINAL MUNCHNER PREMIUM LAGER - Beer #282, honestly, I'm a German beer novice, so thanks for shoving me out of my comfort zone, Mr & Mrs Emery.
*STONE BREWING CALI-BELGIQUE IPA - Beer #283, never a bad choice, thanks Mr. Trammell
*UNIBROUE LA FIN DU MONDE - Beer #284, found in every store everywhere, but damn is it a consistently great beer
*BROUWERIJ PALM ESTAMINET PREMIUM PILS - Beer #285, from the brewery that has been at it for centuries!
*ABITA BREWING TURBODOG - Beer #286, one of the better Abita's around
*HANGAR 24 ORANGE WHEAT - Beer #287, summer beer
*BLUE MOON GOLDEN KNOT - Beer #288, oddball beer and wine blend, can't say it's amazing, but I'm glad I got to check it out. Thanks Ms. Lee.
*BROUWERIJ STERKENS ST SEBASTIAAN DARK - Beer #289, good choice Brrroh!
*MOTHER EARTH SIN TAX IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #290, peanut butter and chocolate in a stout
*KNEE DEEP BATCH NO 138 IPA - Beer #291, one of my favorites of the evening, Knee Deep is impressive across the board.
*UINTA BREWING LABYRINTH BLACK ALE - Beer #293, another favorite of the evening, I forgot how much I love this
*HANGAR 24 ALT-BIER ALE - Beer #294, not bad, good brewery
*HANGAR 24 CALIFORNIA SPRING BEER- Beer #295, good summertime beer
*WELLS BANANA BREAD BEER - Beer #296, Um, yeah, bananas
*BALLAST POINT SEA MONSTER IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #297, excellent stout, although I think this bottle I've been holding onto wasn't as fresh as it should have been
*BROUWERIJ PALM STEENBRUGGE TRIPEL - Beer #298, good one from this ancient brewer
*AECHT SCHLENKERLA RAUCHBIER - MARZEN - Beer #299, dubbed this one the "Hickory Farms Beer", smoked meat & cheese platter in liquid form
*ALESMITH BREWING OLD NUMBSKULL BARLEYWINE - Beer #300, good choice from the Infest cohorts, Alesmith doesn't make a bad beer

Complete and utter carnage: The morning after
I feel like there was something after this, but I have no recollection.  It was either more "repeat" beers already claimed earlier in my Big Year, or it was just that last round of Fireball... the real reason I wasn't having such a Pleasant Sun Valley Sunday in the AM.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Beer #242-261 / Day #44-49: Blog With A Dog

A new layer of complexity has been added to my Big Year In Beer...

It's not some brand new frou-frou, metrosexual adjectives to use as "tasting notes".
It's not a newly discovered pre-Mesopotamian yeast strain that Dogfish Head has unearthed through obscure molecular biology for a new line of Ancient Ales.
It's not a ridiculously crushing metal ale from Three Floyds, bottled with actual jagged shards of metal in each bottle.

It's a dog.
Donnie:  Dog With A Beer Blog.
His name is Donnie.  The Donster.  The Donmeister.  Donareeno.  Donnie Of The Dead.
We have no idea what breed he is.  He's a mysterious mix of random breeds we can only venture to guess.  Longhair Dachshund meets Cavalier King Charles Spaniel meets Papillon.  Whatever he is, he's ours.  And he's awesome. 
And now that we have another "boy" we're responsible for, we need to drink responsibly.  And by that, I mean we need to rewire our brains for how we approach beer bars.  And by rethinking, I mean aggressively locating all of the dog-friendly drinking establishments.
Previously, I didn't give much thought to which beer locales had outdoor seating, because The Wife and I are generally "bar people", meaning we drink at the bar, not at a table.  But now I find myself quickly scrambling to recall which thirst parlors are potentially pooch-accommodating.

Donnie has only been with us for a few days, but we gave the canine/beer combo a trial run last Monday with a trip to Link N Hops in Atwater Village, and aside from some obvious oversights ("Um... where do we put the leash while we're eating?"), it was decidedly a success.

Link N Hops N Mutts
So, here's to Donnie...  Our new mascot and brew companion for 2014!
He makes our outings more challenging, and our drinking at home infinitely more entertaining.
And if you're feeling philanthropic, please feel free to forward any suggestions for mutt-receptive brew venues in SoCal.
The tally continues....

Valentine's Day 2/14:
*LOST ABBEY RED POPPY ALE - Beer #242, been sittin' on this one a while. Tasty with mild cherry flavors and a hint of sourness, but not enough to truly qualify as A Sour.  Nice one.  Took some effort to get the cork out.
*ALESMITH MY BLOODY VALENTINE ALE - Beer #243, a slightly morbid celebration of V-Day, but a truly toothsome red ale.  Alesmith does no wrong.
Saturday grillin' at home with The Beckers 2/15:
*STONE BREWING / KOOCHENVAGNER'S BREWING COLLABORATION - STOCHASICITY PROJECT: GRAPEFRUIT SLAM IPA - Beer #244, been reading a lot of hype about this collab.  Good, but not amazing. I'm not a grapefruit fan, but thankfully that part of it was subtle. Maybe I'll try a different bottle to figure out why my mind wasn't blown on this first outing.
*CALDERA BREWING RAUCH UR BOCK - Beer #245, very tasty Oregon smoked lager, pairing very well with my smoked whole-trout.

Sunday at home, adapting to dog ownership 2/16:
*BROOKLYN LAGER - Beer #246, decent, solid, lagers are not known for greatness, but I'd drink this any day.
*LA TRAPPE JUBILARIS - Beer #247, good one, but the La Trappe Quad is the one worth selling your kidney for.
*RIO GRANDE PANCHO VERDE CHILE CERVEZA - Beer #248, I picked this up in Reno, and I was expecting a chili beer with some kick. Instead it's a mild green chile flavor. Hence, "verde chile" in the name. El Duh!
*FIRESTONE WALKER PALE 31 - Beer #249, extremely common in LA, but don't let that fool you. This can be picked up in any grocery store in our fine state, but it's still better than 90% of the pale ales on the market.
*RUBY MOUNTAIN BREWING BUCKAROO BREW PALE ALE - Beer #250, Eastern Nevada represent! Holy shit... they're OUT THERE.  Out by Elko, NV.  If you've ever been to Eastern NV you understand.  If you haven't, go to The Boonies, and then keep going!  Not a life-changing beer, but decent.  Bet it's tasty on a frosty morning after corralling them "doggies".

President's Day holiday, celebrating at Link N Hops... because it sounds like "Lincoln" Hops.  But not really.  Then popping a few caps at home.  2/17:
*EPIC BREWING CO. HOPULENT IPA (on Nitro) - Beer #251, smooth, creamy, tasty.  IPAs on nitro are always interesting.
*CORONADO BLUE BRIDGE STOUT - Beer #252, good one, prominent with the coffee.  I love Coronado, and their Stupid Stout is my favorite.
*CISMONTANE BREWING DOS CONE ES - Beer #253, welcome back Old Friend, after an absence of what, two years?  Beautiful rye infused strong ale. New labels, same spectacular taste.
*PRETTY THINGS BABAYAGA SYLVAN STOUT - Beer #254, Boston area brewing, superior stout. Crazy layers of complexity goin' on. Above the bar, in a league with heavy hitters.
*CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE BREWING MAIN ST. VIRGINIA ALE - Beer #255, pleasantly well-rounded everyday ale in a can from VA, thanks to Mr.Witte.

INFEST practice nite.  Tinhorn Flats, Burbank.  Ogling slutty bartenders who look 21 and under, and enjoying beers $5 and under.  2/18:
*THE DUDES' BREWING COMPANY GRANDMA'S PECAN BROWN ALE - Beer #256, local brewers, like a brown/porter hybrid.
*BALLAST POINT SCULPIN IPA - Beer #257, The Legend.  Say no more.
*FIRESTONE WALKER 805 BLONDE ALE - Beer #258, honey ale, good for sessioning, surprised I found it on tap outside of the Central Cali area code.

Wed nite chillin' with The Wife and The Dog after a long day.  2/19:
*DC BRAU BREWING THE CORRUPTION INDIA PALE - Beer #259, thank you again Mr. Witte, I love this one.  IPA, but freakin' delish.  I'll be in DC mid-April, and damned if I'm not tracking down this brewer in person.
*BROOKLYN BREWERY LOCAL 2  - Beer #260, like a Belgian dubbel with more spice.  Really damn flavorful, when it mellows from fridge-temp to room-temp.  Picked it up in Reno because I can't find it in LA, but of course, brewed in NYC. I love all output from this brewer.
*FOUNDERS BREWING ALL DAY IPA SESSION ALE - Beer #261, another classic, consumed on the West Coast, thanks only to the deft shipping skills of Mr. Witte. Low alcohol means mass consumption if you're lucky enough to hold more than a solitary bottle (which is my situation out here).

Friday, February 14, 2014

Beer #195-241 / Day #39-44: Serious Sippin'

Saturday started with a slow recovery from our night out with GasThai, a viewing of the film "The Big Year", and a reluctant, and extremely strenuous hike in Griffith Park. After a quick lunch, including an awesome Tenaya Creek DIPA and a Mammoth Real McCoy Amber, then a longer-than-expected nap, it was showtime.  Infest was playing the Echoplex with a line-up almost too staggering to be believed:  Local lads Cave State, SD County thrashers Suspect and Impulse, South LA legends Despise You, and the untouchable Los Crudos. 
Serious ordering; not so serious beer
I rolled up early for load-in.  The room was bigger than I remembered, and the stage was higher, but I was ready for action.  The Mrs and I roamed Echo Park in search of good food & grog.  We settled on Xioa, a Vietnamese-Mexican fusion style joint, across the street from The Echo. Very tasty, reasonably priced, non-pretentious vibe. We shared a couple Vietnamese bottles, Saigon Export and Hue Beer, the latter being tastier than the former, but both were as expected, extremely simple lagers meant to refresh you & cool the heat from too much chili oil.

INFEST: a rare non-beer related moment
With plenty of time to spare, we walked down a few doors down to one of our favorite spots in LA County, El Prado.  They serve beer and wine, a couple snacks, and that's it!  Low lighting, cool '70s lookin' wood & brick decor, and a short but broad selection of mostly SoCal specialty beers. Camille and I shared The Dudes' Juicebox Blood Orange ale, and the Highwater Campfire Stout, but the real winner here was the El Segundo Mayberry IPA, a killer, classic West Coast style hopfest.  I didn't want to get tanked before playing so we hit the Echoplex, and checked out the great line-up.  Well, I don't get tanked before we play, but when we set up on stage and Domino was missing, I called him and he answered with that familiar laugh that says "I've been hitting Fireball shots and I can't remember how many."  In spite of that, we made it through the set intact, and gulped some hipster PBR tallboys while Crudos closed out the evening & absolutely killed it. Instead of partying all night, The Wife and I headed home.  I needed some beauty rest because Sunday I had a long day ahead of me, with a long drive and two more shows in San Diego.
Domino's PBR con Los Crudos. Que lastima!

On Sunday, Infest and Crudos were playing again at the Che Cafe in the La Jolla area; an afternoon show & an evening show.  I wasn't about to hit San Diego County and ignore the endless brewery options, and I also didn't have much time to explore since the first show was at 3pm, so I left a little early, and stopped first at Pizza Port Carlsbad. Part of the extensive Port Brewing family, this spot is located in Carlsbad Village which can described in no other way than quaint.  It's a "cute" beach community.  Fortunately, Port Brewing brings something cool to the area.  Excellent pizza, and outstanding beer, much of it brewed on-site. Their Attrition IPA was one of my favorite brews of 2013. Sadly it wasn't on tap today, but no matter. Every beer they brew stands on its own. In spite of the bustling throngs of thirsty patrons, the staff was all upbeat, quick, and helpful.  I enjoyed a brunch of two pepperoni slices and two flights with a total of eight beers, all world class, my favorites being the Thruster Triple IPA, Bourbon Barrel Aged Night Rider, and Claudie's IPL which is the best Imperial Pale Lager this side of The Bruery's Humulus, which is my benchmark for any of those rare IPLs out there.  In short, I can't rave about this place enough.
Pizza + Beer = Breakfast Of Champions
To improve upon a good thing, Pizza Port Carlsbad has now opened a bottle shop next door, offering a brag-worthy selection of 700+ beers to take home. Despite my lack of fridge space, I couldn't help picking up a few things, including a few cans of Pizza Port Carlsbad's own creations, which I enjoyed at home these past few evenings. Yes, they sold singles. And this made me a very happy dranker.   

Culture shock
For my next stop, I cruised down to Solana Beach to check out Culture Brewing. When I turned down Cedros Street it was packed with douchey rich types. This whole area reeked of overpriced overindulgence, and I was expecting to be disappointed, in fact I nearly left the area immediately, but I figured I may as well give it a shot since I bothered schleping out there in the first place. Thankfully, as usual, I was wrong again! I sampled all 12 beers offered at Culture, and enjoyed them all. Their Matt Courtright Barleywine, Black IPA, and American Strong Ale were especially memorable.  Then again like a frickin' fool I asked for all 12 samplers to be poured at once. I asked for them in order of what was listed on the board, but it occurred to me after the first four that this was clearly not the case. This actually made it more fun, to challenge myself and see if I could identify which was which. I'll never know for sure but I'm confident I guessed at least 80% right.  And out of those, 92% were excellent. The area has that upscale, expensive vibe so I was expecting something overpriced yet run of the mill. Thankfully, Culture is down to earth enough to know what they're doing with the multitude of styles across the board. Several have an earthy base to them, and a few had a wheaty, sweet, almost cookie dough aftertaste.

The Hunter, Beer, Denunzio = TLF
Time to sober up, and hit the Che for the afternoon show with Crudos, Impulse, and Piglife.  Good times, good friends, good tunes, even without distortion.  After a quick one, it was time for a quick one.  I headed down a few blocks to Rock Bottom La Jolla with Denunzio, Domino, and The Hunter.  I've never expected greatness from Rock Bottom because I have preconceived notions about any establishment that's a chain.  That said, I've patronized locations in Chicago, Denver, and La Jolla and always found something I enjoyed.  Each location seems to carry a selection of the standard, flagship beers that they're probably contractually obligated to pour, but then dig a bit deeper and you'll find the unique beers brewed only at that location, and there you can find some real gems.  Naturally, I ordered the sampler, partially out of curiosity, partially out of a desire to up my Big Year numbers. The usual corral of beers was decent, as anticipated, but the Bourbon Barrel Aged Samurai Imperial Stout and Mary Jane IPA made the visit worthwhile. With a mild buzz, and some solid downtime, I was rejuvenated & ready for the second show:  Liberate, Suspect, Crudos, and Infest.  Crudos played early in order to head down to Tijuana for an additional midnight gig. The Infest set was one of my favorites, good vibes, kids hanging from the rafters, full distortion.  I felt like we nailed it.  Then again, maybe eight samplers at Rock Bottom swayed my opinion.

Despite being on-the-go the whole time, and the fact that I needed to work on Monday morning after getting home after midnite, the whole weekend was top of the line.  And since then, I've spent each weeknight keeping a fraction of the pace but still making progress on my New Beer numbers:

2/8 - Saturday's tally:
*TENAYA CREEK TANDEM DOUBLE IPA - Beer #195, so good, I can't believe they're outside of Vegas
*MAMMOTH BREWING REAL MCCOY AMBER ALE - Beer #196, this brewery is near infallible.  What I really want is a bottle of their Farmhouse Saison.
*SAIGON EXPORT - Beer #197, You're eating spicy food? You need a non-intrusive lager to cool off your taste buds.
*HUE BEER - Beer #198, see above, except this one's better than Saigon Export.
*THE DUDES'  JUICEBOX SERIES: BLOOD ORANGE - Beer #199, we decided this is a sangria beer, fruity and mildly spicy, strangely sweet, but still drinkable & satisfying
*EL SEGUNDO BREWING MAYBERRY IPA - Beer #200, wow, sooo freakin' good.
*HIGH WATER BREWING CAMPFIRE STOUT - Beer #201, liquid s'mores
*PABST BLUE RIBBON - Beer #202, total shit beer for hipsters, but still drinkable when the club puts out a plastic barrel of free tallboys

2/9 - Sunday's San Diego Country exploration:
*PIZZA PORT VERBENA BELGIAN STYLE ALE - Beer #203, Belgian style ale with lemon verbena
*PIZZA PORT THRUSTER TRIPLE IPA - Beer #204, the usual SoCal hop bomb, but one of my favorites of the day.
*PIZZA PORT STATE BEACH IPL - Beer #205, Touted as an IPL, not super hoppy, but still crisp, refreshing
*PIZZA PORT BOURBON BARREL AGED NIGHT RIDER - Beer #206, I'm a freak for anything barrel aged, this one's a Russian Imperial Stout in bourbon barrels.  The pic of David Hasselhoff on the tap helps tremendously, as well.
*PIZZA PORT SHARKBITE RED ALE  - Beer #207, a hoppy red ale
*PIZZA PORT CLAUDIE'S IPL - Beer #208, now THAT'S the IPL I was hoping for.
*PIZZA PORT PONTO'S SESSION IPA - Beer #209, great, one of the few excellent session IPAs I've run across, along with Angel City All Day Session IPA and Drakes Alpha Session IPA.
*CULTURE BREWING AMERICAN STRONG ALE - Beer #211, amazing right out of the gate
*CULTURE BREWING NEW STYLE TRIPLE IPA - Beer #213, Great! Yes, I'm one of those boring hopheads.
*CULTURE BREWING DUNKELWEIZEN - Beer #214, damn good. I feel like visiting Bavaria after this one.
*CULTURE BREWING BLACK IPA - Beer #215, one of their best offerings.
*CULTURE BREWING  BLONDE - Beer #216, pretty light, not much going on. Then again, that IS the stereotypical "blonde" so maybe these brewers are even more brilliant than I thought.
*CULTURE BREWING  IPA - Beer #217, Yum!
*CULTURE BREWING MATT COURTRIGHT BARLEYWINE - Beer #219, another one of their best.
*CULTURE BREWING  IMPERIAL STOUT  - Beer #220, honestly I don't remember.  Could I still feel my taste buds at this point?
*CULTURE BREWING BLACK LAGER - Beer #221, purty good.
*ROCK BOTTOM BREWERY BELGIAN STYLE WHITE ALE - Beer #224, good barley and orange in this one
*ROCK BOTTOM BREWERY IPA - Beer #225, decent
*ROCK BOTTOM BREWERY MOONLIGHT PORTER - Beer #227, now you're talkin'
*ROCK BOTTOM BREWERY BOURBON BARREL AGED SAMURAI IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #229, OK this is what I was waiting for all along, very sweet, still a good 'um.
*ROCK BOTTOM BREWERY MARY JANE IPA - Beer #230, better than their standard IPA, hop forward, I'd order this again.

2/10 - Starting off the week right at home:
*PRETTY THINGS AMERICAN DARLING PALE LAGER - Beer #231, good one, should have saved it for a sunny weekend afternoon by the pool
*SIERRA NEVADA FLIPSIDE RED IPA - Beer #232, been holding a few of these since last Fall, I don't remember it being THIS good, but it is!

2/11 - Tues band practice nite:
*NEW BELGIUM BREWING SPRING BLONDE - Beer #233, what you'd expect in a blonde, not much substance.
*STONE BREWING PALE ALE - Beer #234, @ The Snug. Didn't realize this was still unclaimed in my Big Year.
*STONE BREWING ARROGANT BASTARD - Beer #235, same as above.  Another tap I didn't realize hadn't been claimed yet. I had the Oaked version recently, but not the "classic" one til now.
*ALESMITH BREWING EXTRA PALE ALE - Beer #236, another brewer that is incapable of creating a bad beer.

2/12 - Wed nite home with The Fam:
*CISCO BREWERS INDIE PALE ALE - Beer #237, awesome, and very different from West Coast style. This reminds me of a limerick: "There once as a beer from Nantucket..."
*PIZZA PORT SWAMI'S IPA - Beer #238, a superior IPA
*BOULEVARD BREWING LONG STRANGE TRIPEL - Beer #239, I love this one.. thanks Larry McQuaide!

2/13 - Thurs nite home with The Fam:
*PIZZA PORT CHRONIC ALE - Beer #240, a brown ale which I mistakenly was expecting to be an IPA. Derrrr...
*AVERY BREWING OUT OF BOUNDS STOUT  - Beer #241, Avery is king of stouts, and there's no doubt.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Beer #179-194 / Day #37-38: Confessions Of A Male Beer Model

Are they trying to say I'm easy?
Last Friday started out wonderfully beery when The Mrs sent me a link to the tap takeover page for our favorite beer locale in Koreatown, Beer Belly.  We visited them for the first time maybe three years ago. At the time they weren't too busy & we hung out with the owner & his wife.  She was taking some photos to use for promotion on their website. They asked if we were OK with being photographed & included on their site. Naturally, we obliged. I checked their site a few times afterwards and never saw any pics of us from that day.  Dang!
Jump ahead several years, and there we are. I say "we" because my wife is the blurry one behind the text. But it's mostly me, a few years back, cheersing the owner.  Toasty.  Pleased.  And with a much shorter beard.
Wow, how cool. 
Full of octopus and proud of it
Then it occurs to me.  There's a pic of my face with the phrase "One Night Stand 2014" next to it.  Of course, it's Beer Belly's euphemism for monthly tap takeovers. But just the wording itself is the perfect analogy of my Big Year... being a complete beer whore for the duration of the year. Sippin' anything within arms reach, but refusing to go back for more. Like a goddamn tramp. My pal Sean Casey said it's a very '70s pic.  I'm just missing gold chains and a wider collared shirt.  Loose, drunk, and on the prowl for ladies to satisfy.  I've never been mistaken for a gigolo. Not once.  But for this one and only time, I enjoy the double entendre.
Cheers to Beer Belly!

Later Friday nite, we hit Honda-Ya in Little Tokyo with our friends Jim Gascon & Lily Thai, known from here on out as the celebrity couple GasThai.  This Japanese standby has been around for a while on the 3rd Floor of the shabby, dated, and mildly-depressing Little Tokyo Galleria Market. GasThai are regulars to this downtown LA spot, but it was our first time.  Seriously, one of the best dinners in recent memory, despite the lengthy wait.  Not an incredible beer selection, but a truly incredible food selection... raw wasabi octopus, deep fried octopus balls, skewers of beef tongue, pork belly, chicken heart... insanely, ridiculously delicious.  We'll definitely be back, as often as possible.
Even better, the restaurant was only one block away from Angel City Brewery.  This brewery is an enigma.  Since I moved to LA in 2001, I've been aware of Angel City, and I've randomly run across their beers in downtown restaurants & bars, but only in recent years did they open their doors, and only in the past year did they finally start bottling a handful of their brews.  Their tasting room is based out of a funky, industrial warehouse space downtown, the exact room that Jim Gascon's mom ironically worked out of, only a few years ago.  It's a large space, beer only, yet still comfortable and inviting.  I bought us a couple flights so we could sample everything.  Of course, flights are the best way to rack up numbers on one's Big Year, and Ms. Thai is just now starting hers.  No better place to kick it off.  Great beer across the board, friendly service, and they even pour a rare session IPA, their All Night IPA. Delicious & comparable to the other rare session IPAs I know & love, like Drake's Alpha.
Cuteness and beer, my two favorite things

After finishing pints of our favorites from the flights (mine was the All Night IPA, theirs was the Schwarzbier), we stumbled down to 3rd St, aka Hipster Central.  There's a semi-hip, but still down to earth bar / restaurant down the block from the eternally crowded Wurstkuche... we wrapped up our evening of over-indulgence at Americano. We were overly full from dinner, but the wafting of food smelled incredible.  Their tap & bottle list is very impressive.  Not crazy extensive, but just enough to cover all bases, and "exclusive" enough to please any serious beer nerd.  We all ordered something different & passed our braus around for tasting, like the faux-hipsters we claim not to be, but actually are. We drank, laughed, drank, and laughed even harder at the fact that our server graduated high school in 2008 and could easily have been our kid.
Downtown LA is The Shit.  But we decided to wrap it up, head home for rest & prepare for the coming manic weekend.

The tally from Thurs 2/6. Opening some bottles at home:
*RIO GRANDE DESERT PILSNER - Beer #179, picked this up in Reno. Great label, OK pilsner. 
*BOULDER BEER COMPANY HAZED AND INFUSED - Beer #180, mild pale ale, simple.
*IRON FIST VELVET GLOVE IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #181, liked but didn't love this big boy.

The tally from Fri 2/7 downtown:
*SAPPORO DRAFT BEER - Beer #182, does its job. Average brew, non-intrusive, easy drinking and a decent companion to Japanese food.
*ANGEL CITY BREWERY GOLD LINE PILSNER - Beer #185, refreshing, straight forward
*ANGEL CITY BREWERY WHITE NITE- Beer #186, the biggest surprise of the evening, a "golden stout". Looks like a witbier, tastes like a box of cocoa nibs
*ANGEL CITY BREWERY SCHWARZBIER - Beer #187, the first choice of my other three companions 
*ANGEL CITY BREWERY BERLINER WEISSE - Beer #188, oddest sour I've tried, but not too acidic or punishing
*ANGEL CITY BREWERY ALL NIGHT IPA - Beer #189, my personal favorite on the Angel City roster, awesome session IPA
*BROUWERIJ WEST SAISON EXTRA - Beer #190, great one from a West Coast brouwerij that doesn't disappoint.
*ABITA BREWING HOP GATOR - Beer #191, hoppy pale, not bad
*TRUMER PILS - Beer #192, I'm not the biggest pilsner fan, but after hundreds of years, this Euro implant to Berkeley is a tried & true favorite
*BLACK MARKET BREWING BAVARIAN STYLE HEFEWEIZEN - Beer #193, light, tasty, good for a summer's day by the pool
*ALESMITH BREWING GRAND CRU - Beer #194, a darker Belgian style treat with yeast obtained from a Trappist monastery.  All I know is I want to trap this in my stomach as often as possible.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Beer #170-178 / Day #34-36: Adventures In Old Man Beer

The week started like any other... the usual workday followed by an evening of sampling new beers:
*BROOKLYN BLAST IPA - Beer #170, a tasty hybrid of English style IPA with some West Coast kick.  I still haven't found any Brooklyn Brewery stock in SoCal.
*FLYING FISH ABBEY DUBBEL - Beer #171, a thick, malty, tasty treat from this Jersey brewer. Another one I don't see in SoCal.
*DESCHUTES / GREAT LAKES COLLABORATION CLASS OF '88 IMPERIAL SMOKED PORTER - Beer #172, Whoa!  This is a beer to find at all costs. This is the most delicious BBQ melted down to liquid form.  The best qualities of a porter and a rauchbier, if they mated and spawned.

PBR is soooo 2010.
The following day, my Wife sent me a message about the Atwater Tavern serving Olympia.  This was my stepdad’s go-to beer for about 30 years straight, until the brewery was sold.  Since then, Oly’s distribution is more limited, and according to the old man, their recipe changed as well. You can’t find it in SoCal, or most of NorCal for that matter.  Of course, by doing this Atwater Tavern is baiting a hook for flannel-clad hipsters who want to try this old staple, more for the irony than for the fact that it’s a marginally palatable lager.  Call it the “new thing” for any beardo who’s sick of drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon.  I got a good chuckle out of it, and didn’t think much of it until it was time for the weekly INFEST union meeting with Domino & Denunzio. 

'Merica... fugg yeah!
This week we patronized Joe's Great American Bar & Grill in Burbank.  This joint is what you expect from your average American bar… semi-attentive service, dreary regulars, average food, and a beer selection on par with the corner liquor store.  And yet, in spite of all of this mundane Americana, I appreciated the fact that they serve shit beer, but without irony. As proof, no PBR!  Joe’s isn’t out to impress anybody.  Take it or leave it.  This is the ideal Old Man Bar with Old Man Beer.  And with our grey beards, Domino and I decided to roll with it.  When in Rome...We kicked it off with a COORS – Beer # 173.  What appealed to me most about this was the retro bottle, a small, fist-sized grenade.  It feels good, and makes you feel American and proud.  Shit, I was ready to buy a shotgun and some camouflage and go duck hunting. This Coors was malty with a sweet finish. I could see getting a stomach ache after a day of drinking these.

Next, we went for ROLLING ROCK EXTRA PALE - Beer #174.  We chose this because I can't remember the last time I saw a Rolling Rock, outside of 1995.  Rolling Rock doesn't taste like anything whatsoever, especially after the Coors. It's like mineral water. Does Crystal Geyser bottle this beer? Devoid of flavor, or anything resembling substance. I didn't know they still made Rolling Rock.  Maybe they don't.  For all I know, this bar is trapped in the '90s and carries leftover dusty cases of Rolling Rock next to the final, remaining bottles of Zima.

First bathroom selfie. Seemed appropriate.
 We finished the Old Man Beer trifecta with an AMSTEL LIGHT - Beer #175. Amstel Light brings back that sense memory of trying my first beer at the age of 13... although that beer was actually an Oly.  It just tastes like "beer".  Not good, not bad, it just "is”.  Years ago, The Wife & I found a copy of the band Ambrosia’s technical rider (list of requirements provided to the club).  One that we’ve never forgotten was a request for a case of “premium beer”, and it noted Amstel Light an example.  Nice, nice, very nice.

Warming up for the Blue Man Group
We left for practice, so I hit a random liquor store on Burbank Blvd, and in spite of the corner store stigma, this place carried a damn good selection of beer, including one I needed to try before it was too late.  At practice Domino & I split the STONE ENJOY BY 02.14.14 IPA - Beer #176.  After our cavalcade of middle-of-the-road beers (or maybe that's end-of-the-road), he compared it to drinking a pine tree. All of the Enjoy By IPAs have that extreme hop crunch, kinda citrusy, and after shitty beer I can see how it also has a bit of a tree-y bite.

Last night, I went back to my fancy 12 ozers with the SANTA FE BREWING PALE ALE - Beer #177, and the SIERRA NEVADA BEER CAMP #94 BELGIAN STYLE BLACK IPA - Beer #178.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, and back to the sublime once again.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Beer #155-169 / Day #29-33: Frosty Revelations

January has passed, February is kicking into gear, and I'm already 1/4 of the way to matching last year's Big Year tally.  I don't want to get too cocky, considering it will be more & more difficult to consume unique brews as the year progresses. I've already hit a few duplicates. Additionally, upon reflection of my first hardcore month of beer hunting, I continue to experience many brew-centric revelations:

#1: The Troubador is legendary for everything except their beer.  Last Friday, the Wife and our pal Melissa Gearhart checked out a show at the Troubador with The Wood Brothers and Amy Helm.  Cool, hipster Americana tunes.  What was neither "cool" nor "hipster" was the Troubador's beer selection, one of the worst around.  Were it not for the saving grace of Firestone Union Jack IPA, I would have stuck with bourbon the entire evening.  I already claimed this beer on Day 2 of my Big Year, so I didn't rack up any new numbers, but at least I didn't suffer through their other swill, which consisted of the usual Bud and Miller and even a Sharp's non-alcoholic beer.  If they're going to continue to carry shit beer, but maintain their status as a hipster hang, they need to at least carry PBR.
#2: It's not necessary for me to patronize Congregation Ale House in Pasadena ever again.  Their beer selection is top notch, their food is excellent, their service blows.  It always has.  Today was no exception.  They hire young women who look good in skirts, and are otherwise clueless, borderline rude, and thoroughly unhelpful.  Pasadena has too many other great beer-based options these days... Haven, Slater's 50/50, The Blind Donkey, Lucky Baldwin's, King's Row, and the Stone Company Store for starters.  Sorry.
#3: I never added a rule about non-alcoholic beer when I posted my Big Year rules.  It's still technically beer, isn't it?  Therefore, I say it counts. Besides I've got an O'Doul's that has been sitting my cabinet for the past 3 years. I think I should at least sip it then throw it away, instead of just throwing it away.
#4: 12oz singles are essential to making your way through a good number of different brews at home.  I've stocked my fridge with almost all 22 ouncers.  It's tough to get through many, or any, of these on a work night when I don't have a drinking partner.
#5: Have a drinking partner!  My Wife is an awesome drinking partner. Even better she's logging her own Big Year. Unfortunately, she doesn't always want beer when I do.  Hence, revelation #4 above.
#6: Cans are rad.
#7: Denver Broncos are dumb.  I'm a Seattle fan, because I was born in Tacoma, but I was somewhat expecting the Broncos to win.  They're a great team.  I live in LA, and since LA doesn't have a team, I've adopted several NFL teams I like... Seattle is one of them, and Denver is another.  But they played like they'd just chugged a few pints of Avery Mephistopheles before hitting the field.
Denver brews = The best.
Denver Broncos = A self-imploding, orange and blue huddle of sadness, despair, and regret.
#8:  Beer tastes even better when it follows a day well spent with my family.

Proof that beer even looks better when you're enjoying with family.

A quick recount of the past few days:
KIRIN ICHIBAN - Beer #155 - Enjoyed with sushi at Matsuda in Studio City, with the family, celebrating The Wife's BDay.
BROOKLYN BREWERY BLACK CHOCOLATE STOUT - Beer #156 - Dessert for the Wife's BDay, fudge suicide cake in a bottle.
HANGAR 24 HULLABALOO WINTER BEER - Beer #157 - Let this winter warmer warm up, and it's even more rewarding.
BUTTE CREEK BREWING ORGANIC IPA - Beer #158 - Tasty NorCal brew, and don't let the "organic" part scare you away.
STONE BREWING OAKED ARROGANT BASTARD - Beer #159 - This bottle has probably been sitting around for longer than it should have, but still damn good, especially when it's not ice cold.
KARL STRAUSS RED TROLLEY ALE - Beer #160 - On tap at Duke's in Malibu, from one of the oldest & most respected SoCal microbreweries.  Reliably good, although they've got superior competition these days.
DRAKE'S 1500 PALE ALE - Beer #161 - Also at Duke's, the best tap at the best restaurant on the coast. Drake's never fails. It's a pale ale with IPA muscle.
Pray to The Fe.
SANTA FE BREWING SAISON 88 - Beer #162 - We visited Santa Fe Brewing about 7 or 8 years ago, and I don't remember their output being as awesome as it is now.  This adds to their legacy.  And the first saison I've ever poured out of a can. I had their Chicken Killer Barleywine last year, and it's one of the best in recent memory.
LAUGHING DOG ROCKETDOG RYE IPA - Beer #163 - Idaho brew. Mildly hoppy. Barley-ey. Yum-ee.
GREAT DIVIDE BREWING COMPANY LASSO IPA - Beer #164 - On tap at Congregation, a beautifully balanced IPA from this flawless brewer
KNEE DEEP BELGO HOPTOLOGIST DIPA - Beer #165 - Also on tap at Congregation, this baby wins. If I'm in a situation later this year where I can only drink duplicate beers, I'm praying this is one of them.
SIERRA NEVADA ESTATE HOMEGROWN ALE - Beer #166 - Kicking off the Super Bowl with a super brew. All proprietary hops and barley grown on their property, so it's no lie to say no other beer tastes like this.
RUHSTALLER HOP SAC 2013 KUCHINSKI HOP RANCH - Beer #167 - Another super unique Cali Central Valley beer. Not a hop bomb, as expected. Barnyardy and rural, just like NorCal itself.
TENAYA CREEK HAULING OATS OATMEAL STOUT - Beer #168 - This Las Vegas brewer is one of many quickly staking Nevada's claim on the beer map. Solid.
FLYING FISH BREWING COMPANY HOPFISH IPA - Beer #169 - From a NJ brewer that I haven't found in SoCal; I picked this up in NV last weekend. Reminds me of a more English style IPA than the hopnados spawned on the West Coast. A nice change of pace.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Beer #154 / Day #28: Staying True To The Game

I was weened on hardcore punk music around the early 80s. Not only did the music itself appeal to me, but I was drawn in by the fact that anyone could get involved. I was 15 when I started drawing flyers for local shows, and sending contributions to various fanzines. I eventually started making music myself, and had the opportunity at a very young age to open for some of my favorite bands. And being involved helped assure I wouldn't be called a "poser", which is a scarlet letter no one wants to be tagged with.  Even to this day, I'm still involved in The Scene.  But one of the underlying mantras of The Scene that has stuck with me these past 30 years is staying true to your roots, not compromising, not selling out. My definition of "selling out" has always meant you do something you wouldn't ordinarily do, you go against your morals and make decisions that should be out of character, but you do them anyway in the interest of some superficial gain.  Not cool.
Life is tough when you're 16, trying not to be a poser
Last Tuesday was the usual Infest practice night, which typically starts with me, Domino, and Denunzio at a local bar.  Our latest haunt has been The Snug.  Prices are right, bartender is friendly, music is good, and the locals are not douche bags.  In spite of that, I’ve quickly made my way through their taps in recent weeks, racking up numbers for my Big Year, and there were only two remaining that I hadn't yet claimed: Guinness and Shock Top.  In light of so many incredible stouts being produced these days, Guinness is somewhat bland in comparison, but in the interest of something "new" for my Big Year, I went for it:  GUINNESS DRAFT– Beer #154, it was on nitro, and visually it was a pint of perfection. The nitro made it creamy and smooth, and it looked lovely, but as I remembered, it lacked much depth. With the basic Guinness pint on my list, it was time for the big showdown.  The lone tap in the house missing from my Big Year list:  Shock Top.  A horrifying corporate brew, weakly posing as a "craft" brew.  Yes, there are worse corporate beers on the market, but something about a shitty beer trying to be a cool, grass roots one has always rubbed me the wrong way.  It was a moral dilemma… order a Shock Top and willingly drink a shitty pint in order to raise my numbers, or avoid it altogether, and fail to add an easy one to my count.

I chose Stone IPA, a beer I've already had on the 9th day of my Big Year (Beer #45).  I avoided a pint of Shock Top and didn't add to my numbers, but man, did I thoroughly enjoy that Stone! 
And despite intentionally handicapping my Big Year tally, I was proud of myself for not selling out.  

Not to mention, I hate posers.
Not the greatest, but also not an embarrassment