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.

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