Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Beer #397-443 / Day 70-76: Quality Vs. Quantity

St. Patty's Day marks the arrival of the only fake holiday that makes both Hallmark and bar owners happy.  More importantly it's a beer drinking holiday, that ironically as a beer drinker, I avoid like a potato famine.  It is not a day based on quality, or the genuine love of the beer tasting experience. It's an exercise in excess.  But considering I'm well into my own quest based on hitting numbers, do I really have any right to criticize the patron saint of fratboys, groped women, and DUI checkpoints? 

It boils down to the equation of Quality Vs. Quantity.  I'm constantly straddling this fence, as even now I rest my laurels on having tasted 443 beers in 76 days.  And while I can confidently brag that this number is quite a feat for any human, there are two Big Year participants who have informed me they're well into the 500s... Randy Carncross, and Chris W.  Does my lower number mean that I'm enjoying what I'm tasting more than them?  Are they more savvy in their consumption? Or is it just a reflection of not dedicating every waking second in pursuit of this ridiculous quest?
The Monday Morning Quarterback in me assesses the following comparisons:

Randy Carncross
*Pro – Runs The Hangover Craft Beer Bar.  This man works in the beer industry, spends his day surrounded by beer, a constant rotation of taps and bottles, has distributors providing samples, and customers bringing in bottles to share... all day long. How could you not rack up crazy numbers in this environment? As far as I'm concerned, someone in his position can't be beat.
*Con – His beer bar is in Japan.  I’m not sure this is a disadvantage, but Randy claims it is every time I'm in touch with him.  He says Japan is extremely limited in the beer he can access.  In the same breath, he’s ahead of me by a good 100+ in his Big Year count.  And I constantly see him post pics of U.S. beer that I can’t even get in California unless someone smuggles it to me, or I bring it back myself during my travels... Surly, Three Floyds, Elysian, Sound Brewery, et al.  This Con is more of a con as far as I'm concerned.

Chris W
*Pro – Lifelong, hardcore drinker. While we were both still in our 20s, I remember this man drinking an entire case of beer in one sitting.  His tastes have changed, and he no longer indulges in cases of cheap swill, but his ability to put away mass quantities has not diminished.  Additionally, this man earns an astounding income and spares no expense in buying alcohol. I'm sure he has no shame walking in to a place with 50 taps and ordering samplers of all 50.  Plus he’s determined to beat me. While the competition is friendly, I know he has his mind set on being the winner at all costs, and proving my Big Year isn’t going to be Big enough.
*Con – Big time wine fan, who may eventually step off the beer wagon when he realizes how much he misses really great vino.

*Pro – The Big Year was my idea, so I’m driven to obliterate my tally from last year, and hopefully set a record tally for this year.  Additionally, I travel every couple months to different parts of the U.S., and have accessibility, albeit brief, to many regionally distributed beers I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to taste. This will be an advantage later in the year, as it becomes increasingly more difficult to find non-duplicate, unique beers locally.
*Con – Finances & Time.  My money is really tight.  Fortunately, I have a lot of generous beer friends, and I’ve scouted out some affordable options for multiple tasters in one sitting.  And I have a full time job.  I don’t set my own hours, and can’t exactly take off to go tasting any day on a whim. On weekends, I incorporate beer into our family activities when possible, but I try to remain conscious of not derailing our other plans in favor of brew-related outings.  
My Wife gave me a hard time recently about finishing full pints or bottles, and not always going for tasters. She points to this as a reason why I'm not in the 500s, and I'm sure she's correct. But the whole point of this is spelled out in my rules, under "Mandate #3":
ENJOY what you are tasting. This friendly, rewardless competition means even less if you're not fully enjoying each taste. Focus on the journey, not the destination.

Quality Vs. Quantity?  I like to think both apply equally during the Big Year.


The tally continues....

Tuesday 3/11 - INFEST practice and then relaxin' at home:
  • ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING BARNEY FLATS OATMEAL STOUT - Beer #397, Nice, easy drinking, uncomplicated, and $3.99 for a bomber? Cheap!
  • GREAT DIVIDE BREWING COLETTE FARMHOUSE ALE - Beer #398, always loved this one, straight forward saison style.
  • FLYING DOG BREWERY DOUBLE DOG DOUBLE IPA - Beer #399, more powerful than expected, flavor-wise and buzz-wise, good thing I was already home.
Wednesday 3/12 - Home
  • AVERY / RUSSIAN RIVER COLLABORATION NOT LITIGATION (BATCH #7) - Beer #400, been wanting to try this collab for a few years, good but not astounding
  • EVIL TWIN BREWING YIN IMPERIAL TAIJI STOUT - Beer #401, a thing of beauty, that's what I'm talking about when I say I love stouts.
  • FLYING DOG BREWERY PEARL NECKLACE OYSTER STOUT - Beer #402, OK, not stellar, not bad.
Thursday 3/13 - Home
  • WEIHENSTEPHANER VITUS WEIZENBOCK - Beer #403, Whoa!  Ist der bad ass!  So fuggin' tasty, so much better than expected.
  • BROUWERIJ VAN STEENBERGE GULDEN DRAAK ALE - Beer #404, had this before & really liked it; this bottle tasted musty and green, like a "corked" (spoiled) bottle of wine.
  • PIKE BREWING COMPANY EXTRA STOUT - Beer #405, This is what loving a stout is all about.  I have a crush on this brewery now.
Friday 3/14 - Evening at home with the family; pizza and beer:
  • JOSEPH JAMES BREWING  J.J. PRO AM 2013 FOREIGN EXPORT STOUT - Beer #408, Darn good, love this brewery outside of Vegas, didn't even know about it til this year.
Saturday 3/15 - Four at home with The Wife and The Beckers, then wrapping up the evening sampling at the awesome Newhall Refinery:
  • RUHSTALLER CALIFORNIA TRIPEL - Beer #409, nice, at least there's one good thing in Sacramento.
  • MORLAND OLD SPECKLED HEN - Beer #411, eh...
  • OMMEGANG GAME OF THRONES TAKE THE BLACK STOUT - Beer #412, Very, very impressive, complex but not super heavy
  • STONE BREWING GO TO IPA - Beer #413, I love the idea of session IPAs because I don't always want to get blasted, especially if I'm starting early
  • CISMONTANE BREWING THE MESA - Beer #414, Beer and Wine collab, much better on tap than I remember it from the lackluster bottle I bought last year; This keg was likely fresher, and they got the blend dialed in better this year.
  • SMOG CITY BREWING AMARILLA GORILLA IPA - Beer #415, a SoCal favorite; I have yet to visit their brewery, but it's on the list... soon!
  • THE BRUERY SAISON DE LENTE - Beer #416, Bruery can't brew anything bad
  • AVERY BREWING COMPANY MAHARAJA IMPERIAL IPA - Beer #418, Much better on tap at Newhall Refinery than I remember from the Boneyard in Studio City last year.
  • ALESMITH BREWING OLD ALE - Beer #419, smooth, ye olde toothsome ale
  • PORT BREWING SANTA'S LITTLE HELPER - Beer #420, OK, I love Port Brewing, but this one is my least favorite.
  • FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING COMPANY PRIVATE LABEL BROWN - Beer #421, See above, I'm a huge fan of Firestone, they're nearly infallible, this is good but not great.
Sunday 3/16 - Tasting at Vendome, then chillin' at home: 
  • ALLAGASH WHITE - Beer #423, reliable
  • ALLAGASH TRIPEL RESERVE - BATCH 204 - Beer #424, very good
  • ALLAGASH CONFLUENCE 2013 - Beer #426, clean like a Saltine... no kidding!  Taste it and I dare you not to compare it to a cracker.
  • ALLAGASH INTERLUDE 2013 - Beer #427, limited yearly release, aged in red wine barrels, mildly acidic and tannic
  • ALLAGASH FOUR ALE - Beer #429, shit, that's a winner, soooo good, not heavy at all, but so much happening in that glass you won't know where to start or where to finish, so keep going.
  • ALLAGASH DUBBEL RESERVE BATCH 107 - Beer #430, Mmm hmmm.
  • ALLAGASH FLUXUS 2013 - BREWED WITH BLOOD ORANGE- Beer #431, smooth, with a bready, yeasty aftertaste like cookie dough
  • ALLAGASH ODYSSEY 2014 - AGED IN OAK BARRELS- Beer # 432, aged in oak barrels, similar to Four Ale... in other words, I'd drink this any day, any time, as much as possible
  • SCHOFFERHOFER GRAPEFRUIT HEFEWEIZEN - Beer #433, sounds like the world's most horrific idea, but I brought home some lengua tacos with very spicy hot sauce.... I thought about the fruity and sweet Jarritos sodas at all of the taco joints around LA, and sure enough this was the perfect pairing.  I may have hated it on its own, but with these tacos, it's the best invention.
  • ABITA BREWING PURPLE HAZE - Beer #434, I had this last year and hated it.  I had it this year and hated it.
  • BARD'S ORIGINAL SORGHUM MALT BEER - Beer #435, gluten free, also free of everything I love about beer.
  • AVERY BREWING COMPANY INDIA PALE ALE - Beer #436, good one, I heart Avery
  • COLD SPRING BREWING JOHN HENRY 3 LICK SPIKER ALE AGED IN BOURBON OAK CHIPS - Beer #437, Minnesota brewery, sounds great, but surprisingly ordinary. 
Monday 3/17 - St. Patrick's Day, at Home, avoiding large crowds, frat brats, and projectile vomiting:
  • UINTA BREWING DETOUR DOUBLE IPA - Beer #438, oh Baby, so much better than I remember from the 22 ouncer; this was a 12 ouncer, very fresh, crazy hoppiness, love it.
  • NECTAR ALES NECTAR IPA - Beer #440, excellent, deep, rich IPA
  • RESIGNATION BREWERY / RED HOOK COLLABORATION KCCO BLACK LAGER - Beer #441, alright, not bad, but not memorable
  • BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON BEER WORKS THE CASK DOPPELBOCK - Beer #442, I keep trying to write this off as a novelty brewery with the whole Poe theme, but this is the second beer I've tried from them in the past year, and the second one that has really impressed me, rich and complex.
  • EVIL TWIN BREWING FALCO IPA - Beer #443, What a way to cap off the evening, one of the best IPAs in recent memory, there's a reason I'm in love with Evil Twin.

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