Monday, April 21, 2014

Beer #535-595 / Day #96-107 - CD in DC

Neither bright eyed nor bushy tailed
The African-American stripper ended up being a terrible stripper. First of all, she was fully-clothed. I'm not sure where I was, but this so-called strip-tease was just a 30-something woman with an afro singing along to a backing track of James Brown's "I Got The Feelin'".  Then she started doing magic tricks.  A large hoop ring was pierced through her bottom lip, and this in turn was looped through a large brass ring she was holding, but then magically they separated.  All performed without missing a lyric to this funky anthem.  Then the entire scene vanished while a constant beeping steadily grew in volume, until.... I woke up.
3:45am on Friday.
What the hell?
Oh, right.  I woke from a surreal dream to kick off yet another surreal real-life weekend with my bandmates in Infest.  This time our destination was Washington DC.  The show promoter who organized this Damaged City Fest we were playing, an old friend Chris Moore, sadly booked a 6:45am flight out of LAX for us, which meant we all got up at least 3 hours prior. We're all in our mid-to-late 40s and don't take kindly to this sort of thing, but we reluctantly schlepped our asses to the airport in time for our pre-dawn departure.  I count on drinking on the plane to help pass the time, but no such luck on this round.  6 in the morning is way too early to start, no matter who you are. Although with an hour layover in Cleveland, and a Great Lakes Brewing micropub directly in front of our gate at the airport, the hour seemed irrelevant and it was clearly not too early to start with a tasty Rye IPA and a few sips of their decent Porter.  All too soon, we were on a tiny commuter jet bouncing our way over to DC.  With a few steep drops and hairpin turns, we arrived at Ronald Reagan Airport.  Reagan, the old codger in the running for "Most Inept President Ever", but likewise, also owed a debt of gratitude as the primary linchpin of all classic early '80s hardcore punk - a great deal of which was spawned right here in the Nation's Capitol by the likes of the early Dischord bands.  After running into Chicago hardcore legends Crudos at the airport, and catching up a bit, we were off to our motel in Silver Spring, MD.
Red stains, this motel is safe, right?
Days Inn, in the heart of a shabby Ethiopian neighborhood.  It took them a while to find our reservations, then we spent an hour in the lobby while they figured out a major billing mishap.  Of course, it wasn't worth the wait.  The rooms were super shitty.  I haven't stayed in a crappier motel since we were in Miami a year ago.  Everything was dirty, stained. There were mysterious red stains in the middle of the carpet.  The brightness of the red was the only reason I wasn't convinced someone had been murdered in our room.  I texted my Wife to tell her how lousy this place was. She looked it up on Yelp, and informed me they had one star.  And just the day before someone posted a comment about how there were mice at this motel.  She suggested we move elsewhere.  I said, "What, and possibly miss out on some great stories?"
Old Man Beer
Joe Denunzio and I talked our bearded pal Alex Sanchez into driving us around to find a good spot to drink, before heading out to see some bands.  We settled on the Red Derby, a hipster establishment well-known for their 3rd floor rooftop tables and bar.  Their beer list was long, but nothing was on draught.  Cans only.  Denunzio and I kicked it off with some tallboys of Schlitz, the ultimate Old Man Beer.  Frankly, I ordered it because I didn't think they made it any more. For as much as we beer snobs love to slag everyday beer, Schlitz really isn't that freakin' bad. Seriously.  Neither is National Bohemian aka Natty Bo. And once Denunzio caught wind of their dollar Natty Bo special, that was about to expire in 10 minutes, he bought eight of them! We also grabbed a Yeungling, which compared to Natty Bo is watery and flavorless.  Natty Bo is a real man's cheap beer.  Sanchez didn't love the Maui Coconut Porter that he ordered, but I dug it, so I helped him finish it off.  I followed that up by choosing something random that can only be found on the East Coast, I went for the Butternut's Pork Slap Pale Ale from New York, which sorta tasted like a liquid Xmas tree.
Mmmm... bacon.....
We ditched the hipster enclave and headed over to the venue, St. Stephens Church.  This spot is legendary in DC hardcore history.  Many of the earliest, now-classic shows were held here in the early '80s... Minor Threat, Void, G.I., S.O.A., Youth Brigade (DC), The Faith, and so on.  And apparently, the father of the MacKaye brothers is an active senior member of this church (I saw his name on one of the offices).  Aside from the hellish experience of trying to find street parking in this neighborhood, St. Stephens was packed to the rafters with throngs of sweaty, geeky, excited, record-collecting kids.  No alcohol allowed, so I chugged water and checked out the scene. We were playing Saturday night, so tonight we had no obligations, and just got to check out bands and chit-chat with our fellow scenesters. The highlight for me was finally seeing Government Issue, part of the original first-wave DC hardcore bands. I never got to see them in '80s, so I was stoked to catch them playing a set of their earliest demo, 7", and comp material. While it was clear these gents have spent a considerable amount of time away from the HC underground, it was equally as clear they were having a good time.
Gov't Issue: Old, sloppy, and proud
They were sloppy, imperfect, and many of the between-song banter fell flat with a crowd that was predominantly half-to-a-third their age, but I loved every minute of it.  I figured it probably wasn't that much different than the show they would have put on 30 years ago.  Loose and not really giving a shit. Kudos to John Stabb and Co.!
Matt Domino finally awoke from his mouse-motel slumber and cabbed it to the church.  The two of us embarked on a long walk to hit the after-show early, over at The Pinch, a small establishment with decent taps, and bands playing in the basement.  Best beer on tap, and one of my favorites for the entire trip, was the Evolution Rise Up Stout, a coffee stout that I actually love... I've burnt out on coffee stouts overall, too many average ones, but this one is excellent.  Thick like motor oil and not a coffee bomb. After a few brews and a decent sized, not-so-reluctant Fireball shot (I always say how much I hate it, but Domino always talks me into it), we checked out the bands downstairs.  With a decent buzz, I lost my shit to Floridian high-speed experts Shitstorm. Totally relentless sonic punishment. These guys rule.  I even got kicked in the face during their set, and it was totally worth it.  We got the bum's rush at 3am, and drunkenly convinced an off-duty cab driver to take us back to the motel. 
Rare Brew Jawa sighting in DC!
Saturday I awoke at 9am unsure of what to do. Whenever I'm in a new city, I tend to sleep less and explore more. Then again, not staying close to anything remotely cool was incentive to sleep for another round.  Then again, my pal Dave Witte told me earlier in the week about a DC Beer Fest happening at the Washington Nationals baseball stadium. And they had an afternoon session from 1pm-4pm, exactly the time during this trip when I didn't have any obligations. I didn't buy advance tickets because I wasn't sure what the ride situation would be, or if I'd be too hungover, or too unmotivated to find my way down there solo. While contemplating, I drifted off to sleep again, waking around 11:30am.  Screw it.  I'm going.
A quick shower, avoiding the enormous dead roach on the bathroom floor.  A quick check with my roommate Denunzio who was clearly down for the count, and not joining me.  A quick check-in with the clueless front desk to be sure I was walking the right direction to the Metro station.  Let's do this!
Figuring out public transportation like a big boy
I walked half a mile to the train station, confirmed with a local where I needed to go (turns out it was not even close to the route I read about online a few days ago at home), fumbled with the ticket machine for a city I had no familiarity with. After 35 minutes and a switch from the Red Line to the Green Line, I had arrived.  Easy access, the stadium was only a block from the Metro station.  On the corner, a Jesus freak with a microphone yelled at the advancing crowd, "Sure, all you want to do is get drunk, but after you get drunk, then what?! Is that what life is all about?"   I followed the throngs of frat boys and girls to my destination, disheartened by most of the conversations I overheard about partying and "getting fucked up".  These were not my people.  These were not beer fans.  They were mostly spoiled 20-somethings with disposable income, who were ready to "branch out" in their beer tasting by trying Shock Top today.  You don't know how right you were, Jesus Guy!
Me and an adorable plastic novelty mug
Being a mid-40s nerd with glasses, a grey beard, and a flannel, I stuck out like a sore thumb, but I didn't give a shit.  I was lost in a sea of Polo shirts, khaki short shorts, dudes wearing pale pastel salmon or pink clothes and flip flops.  Do these people really exist? I've somehow been transported to Cape Cod 1985!  Despite minor panic trying to find a table selling tickets (EVERYONE else who arrived already had tickets, I experienced a moment of horror thinking I wouldn't be able to get in), I made my way into the stadium, with tiny, plastic, novelty beer mug in hand.
Nationals Stadium was a great spot for the DC Beer Festival because there was plenty of room to move around, and no chance of it selling out.  However, for a Beer Fest they were laughably unprepared for beer drinking on that scale by the thousands who arrived.  No water stations whatsoever.  Any beer fest worth its salt needs to have free and plentiful water dispensers, common sense... keep these thousands of drinkers hydrated!  You're just asking for trouble, and a lot of puke, when 4 o'clock rolls around.  Another complaint, practically no food options.  Of course, I'm probably spoiled living in LA, the World's capitol of plentiful food trucks. Only four stadium food windows were open and they offered the usual array of ballpark snacks, which are akin to a 10 year old boy's diet:  Chicken fingers, hot dogs, pretzels, soda, water.  I stocked up on a couple waters, which were mandatory considering how hot this afternoon was, and how little shade there was.  Another reason to hate this event was the practically ever-present DJ music blaring in every goddamn direction. At 1:30 in the afternoon, while I'm sampling beer and trying to ask the brewer a question, it's not necessary to have Biggie Smalls overpowering our conversation at volume 11.  Annoying as hell, to say the least.  The Cape Cod brats seemed to love it, so clearly it wasn't geared for me anyway.
I hate this DJ and all he represents
I had scoured the list of breweries well in advance, and I was genuinely excited to check out some East Coast brewers with limited distribution, some of which I'd never heard of before. Aside from the great variety of breweries, a big plus for this fest was unlimited pours. Most of the folks pouring didn't listen when I told them I only wanted a half-pour.  I was in it to sample and enjoy as many different beers as possible, not get as drunk as possible, after all I had to perform with the band tonight! 
I was lucky enough to try some new brews from old favorites, and discovered numerous new breweries I'd never tried before that clearly knew what they were doing.  The Pros outweighed the Cons:  Smuttynose, Perennial, Burley Oak, The Brewer's Art, Champion, Capitol City, Lost Rhino, Williamsburg Alewerks, Devil's Backbone....
Post Beer Fest, trippin' balls...
Not really buzzed, under control, and slightly burnt out on IPAs, I Metroed by way back to our shitbag motel in Silver Spring. The Saturday night show actually started and ended earlier than the Friday show, but we didn't realize that until it was already 7pm.  We were still in Silver Spring, and only 3 more bands until we played.  Dammit, we needed to get to the church, ASAP!  Luckily, we made it with time to spare.  The Infest set went off with only minor hiccups.  I couldn't hear a damn thing on stage, aside from Matt's guitar, but everyone did their usual nutty stage dives, and amidst the chaos, we had a great time.
Best friend and beer guru Dave Witte made the drive up, with an old UK pal Jamie Thomson in tow.  As usual, Dave came prepared, with several bottles of high-quality brew.  Jamie pointed out how in our teenage punk rock years, it would have been typical to hang out at the car and drink.  Here we were 30 years later doing the same thing, except nerding out about barrel-aged stouts and the subtleties of a persimmon saison.  Ha!
Thomson & Domino: Drinkin by the car, mid-40s style
Dave had to drive back to Richmond, VA, so Domino and I made our way to the after-show, like the night before, again at The Pinch.  This evening we missed all of the bands downstairs, and instead spent our time chatting with show-goers, one of which spilled my Evolution Stout in Matt's lap, resulting in a complimentary round of Great Lakes Eliot Ness. Good one. Thanks for taking one for the team, Matt! Again, we drank and caroused until they shut the doors at 3am. Jose from Los Crudos let us tag along to a party around the block, where we topped off the morning with some H2O, er, I mean Coors Light. 5am bedtime.  What could possibly go wrong Sunday?
Everything went wrong Sunday.  We were scheduled to play a quick afternoon show before our flight home.  The show started at 12:30pm, which was about the time everyone in our entourage started waking up. Only two opening bands. Factor in how long it takes to get any group moving, but especially this cast of characters who alternately
A. Need a smoke.
B. Need something to drink.
C. Need something to eat.
D. Need to take a shit.
E. Need to stop and talk to someone random
and it's a cookbook chock full of recipes for tardiness and idiocy. Coupled with drummer/driver Bob Kasitz's inability to follow even the most rudimentary of directions (not to mention he parked 12 blocks from the venue) and it was a frickin' miracle we showed up in time to play. It was a small show in an art institute in front of maybe 150 people, a more interactive & intimate setting compared to the 600+ folks who saw us the night before. Lots of high speed, lots of smiles and good vibes, a perfect corker to the weekend.  I feel like an asshole missing the two opening bands though.
Apparently some people have to be told
By then, it was already time to head to the airport for our painfully long journey home; instead of a 5 hour direct flight, we had a 3hr 20min flight to Dallas, a 2hr layover, and another 3hr 20min flight to LAX. A man who will happily admit he's a horrible driver, Bobby took us on the worst possible route directly through the center of the city, full of tourists and cherry blossom viewers, a 1.5 mile stretch that took a good hour to navigate.  I fumed silently in the back seat, oblivious to all of the jokes Domino was cracking.  Once we finally hit the freeway and were cruising, he missed the enormous sign with the arrow pointing to the Ronald Reagan Airport, and instead took the highway BACK into town, with no exits for the first 5 miles. Bob punched the steering wheel, and lurched all over the highway in frustration, nearly causing Denunzio to hurl in the front seat.  After finally, and feebly, returning to the Airport, Bob then announced he needed to find a gas station to fill his rental car.  The verbal bludgeoning that followed him over the course of the afternoon is unparalleled in the history of the English language.
By some Act Of God or freak of nature, despite our endless buffoonery, we somehow caught our flight with 10 minutes to spare prior to boarding.  The stress of the past few hours was weighing on me, and I realized it was after 6pm and I hadn't eaten a single thing all day.  The airport deli was mercifully quick, and I sank into my aisle seat, relieved as hell that I was going to sleep in my own bed tonight, even though my front door was still a good 9 hours away.   Another intense, ridiculous, brew-filled, unreal weekend, capped off by a solid night's sleep in my comfy bed, out like a light. Sans magical stripper dreams.

The tally continues....

Sunday 4/6 - Another substantial beer tasting at Vendome, Studio City, thanks to Harley the Cicerone:
  • BROOKLYN BREWERY WILD STREAK WILD ALE AGED IN BOURBON BARRELS - Beer #535, Brought in as a bottle-share by a fellow taster, golden and tasty with mild wild funk
  • THE BRUERY SOUR IN THE RYE - Beer #536, mild pucker, well-balanced, rye barrelly goodness
  • ADELBERT'S BREWERY FLYIN MONKS QUADRUPEL - Beer #537, Creamy and yeasty with a woody barrel bite
  • SHMALTZ BREWING HE'BREW R.I.P.A. ON RYE - Beer #538, Rye & barrel tastiness with a slight bite
  • HARDYWOOD PARK SIDAMO COFFEE STOUT RESERVE SERIES - Beer #539, Richmond, VA beer I brought in for the bottle share, thanks to Mr. Witte. Caramelly & smooth.
  • CISMONTANE BREWING T.J. SLOUGH - Beer #540, brown sugar, caramel, sweeter than I was expecting, but still a nice big beer
  • CORONADO BREWING BARREL AGED OLD SCALLYWAG - Beer #541, Barleywine in oak bourbon barrels? I'm listenin'...
  • DESCHUTES MIRROR MIRROR BARLEYWINE 2014 - Beer #542, Label says you're supposed to hold onto this until 2015. Is Deschutes too lazy to hold onto it & bottle at the proper time? No matter, it tastes great now!
  • LADYFACE ALEHOUSE DERAILEUR BARREL AGED SAISON - Beer #543, bottle share growler courtesy of Mr. Harley himself. Citrusy, evenly balanced farmhouse deliciousness.
  • FIRESTONE WALKER SUCABA BARLEYWINE 2013 - Beer #544, Whoa! Candy in a glass, heavy vanilla, hope you're ready for dessert.
 Monday 4/7 - Home
  • RUHSTALLER OLD SOUL THE KENYAN RED ALE WITH COFFEE - Beer #545, Crazy good, I love the idea of a non-stout coffee beer, complex, well done

Tuesday 4/8 - Home
  • EVIL TWIN LOW LIFE PILSNER - Beer #546, A joke on Miller High Life perhaps? Love this brewery, but didn't love this pilsner. Ordinary.
Wed 4/9 & Thurs 4/10 - Home, not feeling great, no beer, total bust

Friday 4/11 - DC via Cleveland
  • GREAT LAKES BREWING RYE OF THE TIGER – Beer #547, Perfect pit stop for our layover at the Cleveland Airport, Great Lakes Brewing has their own brewpub spot on site.  Decent food, above average beer.  This Rye IPA was a full-bodied treat.
  • GREAT LAKES BREWING EDMUND FITZGERALD PORTER – Beer #548, Took a few sips off Joe Denunzio’s pint.  Nice one.  Not unique, but good everyday porter.
  • SCHLITZ – Beer #549, Tallboy can at the Red Derby, DC. I had no idea it was still around, and it’s surprisingly not bad for a cheap, old man beer
  • MAUI BREWING COCONUT PORTER – Beer #550, Took a few sips from Alex Sanchez, way tastier than I remember. Slight coconut on the back end, but I get mostly chocolate out of this.  Very good.
  • BUTTERNUT’S BEER AND ALE PORK SLAP PALE ALE – Beer #551, Another Red Derby can from a NY brewery I don’t see back home.  Tastes like piney juniper berries, not unpleasant, but I wouldn’t be able to drink more than one in a single sitting.
  • EVOLUTION CRAFT BREWING RISE UP STOUT – Beer #552, On tap at The Pinch.  This one is impressive.  Enough of a balance so it’s not an annoying and cloying coffee-bomb.  We went back for more the following night.  I’ve been burning out on coffee stouts overall, but I love this one. 
Saturday 4/12 - harDCore - Beer Fest and more!
  • PORT CITY TARTAN ALE - Beer #553, Good one
  • LOST RHINO BREWING FACE PLANT IPA – Beer #554, Poured from a can, after one look at the packaging I wasn’t expecting much, but this was very good, straight forward, I’d have no problem drinking this as an everyday beer.
  • LOST RHINO BREWING RHINO CHASERS PILSNER – Beer #555, See above.  Really liked this one.  Way more character than your average pilsner.
  • SCHLAFLY AMERICAN IPA – Beer #556, Great IPA bite.  Been wanting to try this brewery for a while.
  • SMUTTYNOSE NOONAN BLACK IPA – Beer #557, Wow!  Yum!  Great New Hampshire brewery. The lady representing Smuttynose was super friendly, knowledgeable about what she was pouring, and not oblivious to the fact that she was being subjected to an enormous frat party.
  • OLD DOMINION MORNING GLORY ESPRESSO STOUT – Beer #558, Insanely rich with a nice bite of the bean.
  • BROOKLYN BREWING SUMMER ALE – Beer #559, decent, easy drinking, non-descript
  • SAM ADAMS REBEL IPA – Beer #560, I felt less like a Rebel and more like a Traitor giving this one a try.  Considering how many lackluster SA IPAs I’ve tried, this is one is pretty good, and I think it’s in the corral of some other decent everyday IPAs you wouldn’t be ashamed to drink (Note:  I said “You”). That said, with so many other great options these days, many of which are available at the same price, there’s no reason whatsoever to choose this one.
  • LEINENKUGEL’S SUMMER SHANDY – Beer #561, Like a frozen lemonade cup after it has melted.  Refreshing on a hot day like this, but one bottle would be enough.
  • ATLAS BREW WORKS ROWDY – Beer #562, Nice graphic aesthetics with this brewery.  Decent rye beer.  Tasty, but I’d like to try what else they have to offer.
  • PERENNIAL SAISON DE LIS – Beer #563, Fruity, farmhouse ale, good one, worth the longer wait in line.
  • BURLEY OAK BREWING ‘MERICA BROWN IPA - Beer #564, great beer! To go with the obvious... 'Merica, Fuck yeah!
  • THE BREWER’S ART OZZY BELGIAN GOLDEN ALE - Beer #565, spice, farmhouse, delicious
  • MOTHER EARTH BREWING SISTERS OF THE MOON IPA - Beer #566, From North Carolina, NOT the one from Vista, CA.  Not bad, not a standout either.
  • AVIATOR BREWING DEVIL’S TRAMPING GROUND TRIPEL - Beer #567, citrus bite, estery, nice
  • LEGEND BREWING BROWN ALE - Beer #568, Richmond, Va, they've got a long way to go, esp with the competition in The Richmond area alone
  • BLUE MOUNTAIN BREWERY EVIL 8 BELGIAN STYLE DUBBEL - Beer #569, not bad, bready, yeasty, dark, mild molasses
  • CHAMPION BREWING PACECAR PORTER – Beer #571, chocolatey & good, yum, Charlottesville, VA represent!
  • WILLIAMSBURG ALEWERKS SPRINGHOUSE ALE – Beer #573, delicious golden-amber saison, damn good
  • EVOLUTION CRAFT BREWING EXILE ESB - Beer #574, OK, didn't love it like I loved their stout though
  • Capitol city brewing amber waves ale - Beer #575, hoppy amber ale, very nice
  • Sly fox brewing phoenix pale ale – Beer #576, canned in PA, good pale, solid
  • SweetWater 420 extra pale ale - Beer #577, pungent, hoppy goodness
  • Atwater brewery vanilla java porter – Beer #578, Detroit brewery, nice vanilla porter, but “nice” like all the rest
  • Fordham Route 1 session ipa – Beer #579, Delaware brewery, creamy hops, not light like other session IPAs
  • Devils backbone pear lager - Beer #580, tasty, easy drinking, not overly fruity, good one, and I happily chose it instead of the billionth IPA
  • Smuttynose Durty mud season brown ale - Beer #581, Wow, that's a damn good hoppy brown. The love child of your favorite brown and fave IPA.  Last of my DC Beer Fest brews.
  • JACKIE O’S RUM BARREL OIL OF APHRODITE – Beer #582, The venue we played at was All Ages – No Alcohol, so we had a few at Dave Witte’s car.  Anytime I enjoy a bottle from Jackie O’s, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.  This was no exception.  A flawless, outstanding Ohio brewery.
  • WILLIAMSBURG ALEWERKS BITTER VALENTINE DOUBLE IPA – Beer #583, Freakin’ yummy DIPA, thanks Mr. Witte
  • TIRED HANDS THE EMPTINESS IS ETERNAL WINE BARREL FERMENTED PERSIMMON SAISON – Beer #584, Mild hops and tartness, supremely delicious.
  • GREAT LAKES ELIOT NESS – Beer #585, Hanging out for the second evening at the “after show” at The Pinch, some fella who sat down to talk to me about the bands knocked over my Evolution Rise Up Stout, spilling it in Matt Domino’s lap.  He bought us both the Eliot Ness on tap.  Wow, really good beer.  Thanks for taking one for the team, Domino!
  • COORS LIGHT – Beer #586, Generously offered at some guy’s house party that we crashed around the corner from The Pinch.  Thirst quenching at 4am.  Still, not necessary good.
Sunday 4/13 – Saturday was a late night, so just a couple taps during our layover at the Grease Monkey, Dallas Airport, Terminal D.
  • SAINT ARNOLD ELISSA IPA – Beer #587, Tasty & refreshing, even moreso after a 3.5 hour flight.
  • FRANCONIA WHEAT – Beer #588, Damn good, impressive for a wheat beer, especially for an airport bar selection. Full bodied, unfiltered, really like it.
Monday 4/14 - Home
  • AMERICAN RIVER BREWING COLOMA BROWN ALE – Beer #589, Bottle I picked up recently in NorCal.  Pretty good.  Actually liked it better when I finished the bottle a day later.
Tuesday 4/15 - Home
  • SANTA CRUZ ALE WORKS IPA – Beer #590, See above.
Wednesday 4/16 - Home
  • LAKEFRONT BREWERY ANNIVERSARY SERIES BELGIAN STYLE APRICOT ALE - Beer #591, Thankfully not a sweet fruit beer, the apricot is subtle, the yeasty Belgian style lends to it.  Not bad.
  • SIERRA NEVADA DEVESTATETION BLACK IPA - Beer #592, taking lemons and making lemonade, or in this case, taking a bad harvest and brewing a killer beer anyway.
Thursday 4/17 - Home
  • JOSEPH JAMES RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT AGED IN BOURBON BARRELS - Beer #593, inky and delicious, well done, Comrades!
 Friday 4/18 - Home
  • FLYING DOG UNDERDOG ATLANTIC LAGER - Beer #594, Basic lager but better than a Bud, good everyday beer
  • ESTRELLA DAMM INEDIT WITBIER - Beer #595, designed by and for some fancy Euro chef, it's mild, yeasty, kinda citrusy, but not a show stopper. They spent more time on the packaging than the beer.  Don't believe the hype.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Beer #463-534 / Day #81-94: Not Feeling Quite So San Frantastic

Spring Break 2014!
Beer bongs!
Wet T-shirt contests!
Foam parties!

Well, not in our household...
Our son is only 10, so Spring Break actually means our annual family trip.  No beer pong and body shots for us.  It's a time for family-friendly activities & venues.
This year we chose to spend the week in San Francisco and Monterey.  The Wife and I usually hit SF once or twice a year, and spend the majority of the time hitting cool bars and hipster restaurants. This was our first time with The Boy, so we had to rewire our thinking in how we approach the Bay Area. Although we wouldn't spend afternoons loitering at favorite haunts like The Alembic or Toronado, we would be taking in the activities we would never otherwise explore on our own... Cable Cars, Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, The Exploratorium, Golden Gate Park.  And while we couldn't exactly barhop on this trip, thankfully our kid is pretty adaptable restaurant-wise... he doesn't have a tantrum if we go somewhere other than McDonald's.  Give the kid a root beer and some fried calamari, and he doesn't care where we are.  Additionally, my Mom and Stepdad met us for a few days as well.  My Stepdad is always a good drinkin' buddy.  The two of us were overjoyed to find out the California Academy Of Sciences carried beer in their commissary.

We had the best time indulging in touristy activity, with a few rest stops at beer-centric destinations. Something for everyone... but mostly me. We planned on a fun week exploring, eating, and drinking our way through The City.  While we wouldn't be loitering at brewpubs or bottle shops (no Mikkeller, no City Beer Store), I'd still find a way to seek out new brews while keeping within the guidelines of all-ages environments.

What I didn't count on was getting sick.

Day Four of our trip and I could barely stand.
Dizzy.  Body aches. Chills.  Fever.
What started out as a surprisingly beer-friendly vacation collapsed into days lying in bed, sleeping and drinking nothing but Vitamin Water.
I tapped out for several days without a beer.  After cruising through the year at a record pace, I was hopelessly derailed.  Whenever I'm sick, the last thing I want to do is drink.  And I spent the rest of the week fluctuating between feeling so-so and crummy.  My beering was minimized.

But there's nothing like an unexpected change in routine to alter your perspective.  This entire year I've been in a mad one-man dash to take advantage of every beer opportunity possible, driven by my love of the brau, just as much as a competitive desire to somehow match or surpass my friends who are also doing a Big Year.  After being handicapped by illness, and a lot of time for quiet reflection lying in bed, I realized on numerous occasions I've broken my own rules, and strived for sheer numbers, rather than enjoying the spoils.  I've spent too much time drinking one beer and thinking about what I can have next, instead of keeping myself in the moment, relishing what I'm having NOW.
I give my kid grief about it all the time.  While we're in the middle of some awesome activity, he always wants to know "What's next?"  I tell him it doesn't matter; what we're doing now is what's important.  But when it comes to beer, I'm that same hyperactive kid.... this tastes great, but what am I having after this, and how many more can I cram down my gullet?  I'm a hypocrite, a slave to my own impatience and gluttony.

In addition to my sickness of the past couple weeks, my Wife just went on Short Term Disability from work, so our income is taking a decent hit.  And what's the most expensive thing we spend money on?  Alcohol!  My days of wanton spending are over. No longer can I go crazy stocking up on limited goodies, and filling the fridge with bombers.  I need to drink smart.  The beering will continue, but I'm using a more economically savvy approach. 

My new mindset for The Big Year is to slow down, and truly enjoy as many beers as humanly possible.  And if that means one per day, then so be it. While I'm still focusing on as many different beers as possible, I'm not going to drive myself crazy obsessing over the quantity I can consume per day.

*Discovering that the California Academy Of Sciences sells beer in their cafeteria.  And they carry good stuff, too!  Nectar Ales, North Coast, Drake's!
*Hitting Firestone Barrelworks on the drive home. This place is like Mecca.  Mandatory for any serious beer drinker.
*Comstock, SF - Newer, hipster restaurant/bar bordering North Beach & Chinatown. Excellent food. Great cocktails, and decent beer list.  Good vibe, good service, and live music is a huge plus. We caught an excellent jazz combo the night we had dinner there.
*Jack's Cannery Bar, SF - Smack dab in the middle of touristy Fisherman's Wharf, this place is wonderfully rough around the edges and offers 68 taps, predominantly local. Cash only.

*Getting sick and not having any beer for a few days
*Hitting beer #500 while sampling some of my least favorite beers of the year in Monterey.
*Ordering Alioto's House Ale at Alioto's Waterside Cafe at Fisherman's Wharf and finding out later it's actually Speakeasy  Prohibition Ale.  Well, it wasn't too disappointing because it's a very tasty beer, but I already claimed the Speakeasy  Prohibition Ale as Beer #309, so I can't, in good conscience, tally it in my Big Year list.

The tally continues...
Sat 3/22 - First day in SF:
  • ANCHOR BREWING ANCHOR STEAM BEER – Beer #463, When in Frisco...
  • ANCHOR BREWING ANCHOR IPA – Beer #464, Never knew they had an IPA, not bad, maybe more English style than West Coast style
  • ANCHOR BREWING ANCHOR SAISON SPRING ALE – Beer #465, Never knew they had a saison, very tasty, definitely has a West Coast spin, brewed with lemongrass, lemon peel, and ginger
  • 21ST AMENDMENT BREWERY BREW FREE! OR DIE IPA – Beer #466, it's an IPA, very good but not necessarily distinct
  • SPEAKEASY BIG DADDY IPA – Beer #467, average IPA
  • NIMBUS BREWING  OLD MONKEYSHINE – Beer #468, English style ale outta Tucson, some sorta sharp barley bite, are there hops in there? Damn good!!
Sunday 3/23 - SF adventures continue:
  • ANCHOR BREWING OLD FOGHORN BARLEYWINE – Beer #469, Never knew they had a barleywine, probably favorite Anchor output
  • ANCHOR BREWING BREKLE'S BROWN – Beer #470, Excellent on tap
  • ANCHOR BREWING LIBERTY ALE – Beer #471, Eh....
  • ANCHOR BREWING ANCHOR PORTER – Beer #472, Good one
  • SUDWERK BREWING DRY HOP PALE ALE – Beer #473, Forgot all about this Davis brewery until recently; diggin' it...
  • OMMEGANG RARE VOS – Beer #474, available everywhere, great brewery, great beer
  • 101 NORTH BREWING HEROINE IPA – Beer #475, out of Petaluma, never heard of it before, REALLY diggin' this IPA
  • HERETIC BREWING EVIL COUSIN IPA – Beer #476, tasty brew from the East Coast
  • LOST COAST BREWERY GREAT WHITE – Beer #477, Lost Coast has been around since I can remember, and so has this beer which is tragically forgettable
  • MOYLAN'S BREWERY KILT LIFTER SCOTTISH STYLE ALE – Beer #478, nutty, mildly fruity, love this brewery
  • MARIN BREWING MT. TAM PALE ALE – Beer #479, it's not an IPA? Pretty damn crunchy for a simple pale ale.  Good one.
  • PACIFIC BREWING LABORATORY SQUID INK BLACK IPA – Beer #480, this one has been on tap for years at Delarosa, one of our favorite haunts in the historically-douchey Marina district; Chocolate malty goodness
  • FACTION BREWING PALE ALE – Beer #481, also on tap at Delarosa, tasting notes say "bitter almond, grapefruit, bread"... that's accurate.  It's a good 'un.
  • MOAB BREWERY JOHNNY'S AMERICAN IPA – Beer #482, Utah brewery, comes in a tall boy can.... OK, but not unique.
 Monday 3/24 - Family day at the museum, followed by late lunch on Haight:
  • NECTAR ALES HUMBOLDT BROWN HEMP ALE – Beer #483, in the commissary of the California Academy Of Sciences.  Great beer, made even better by the fact I could drink it at the museum.
  • NORTH COAST BREWING COMPANY ACME CALIFORNIA PALE ALE – Beer #484, see above. Everyday pale ale, but damn tasty.
  • MAGNOLIA BREWERY PEARLY BAKER'S BEST BITTER – Beer #485, shared two flights of six beers each with the Wife, this place has always been crowded when we've tried to get in the past few years.  Finally on a Monday mid-afternoon we were able to get a table and try all of the beers. Great food, friendly service, but sadly I did not love 90% of their beers.  Overall their brews had very mild flavors (maybe I'm just too much of a savage to "get it") and seemed a bit on the watery side.
  • MAGNOLIA BREWERY PROVING GROUND IPA – Beer #489, signature West Coast hop bite, my favorite of all 12.
  • DESCHUTES BREWERY BLACK BUTTE PORTER – Beer #497, on tap at the Balboa Cafe, tasty nitecap; this place whips up some top of the line cocktails; it's more of their specialty than beer, although they carry Pliny on their bottle list. Clearly they've got some clout.
Tues 3/25 - Wed 3/26:
Sick as a dog... TOTAL BUST!

Thurs 3/27 - Slowly recovering on the way to Monterey
  • KONA BREWING LONGBOARD LAGER – Beer #498, average lager, forgettable and not necessary
  • ENGLISH ALES BREWERY MONTEREY BAY WHEAT – Beer #499, tried a flight of four English Ales at Cooper's on Cannery Row.  Not a single good one.  Echh.
  • ENGLISH ALES BREWERY MONK'S BROWN ALE – Beer #500, least bad of the four, too bad it was my #500 Beer for the year.
Fri 3/28 - Feeling better, truly enjoying beer again, but still taking it slow... baby steps:
  • STONE BREWING ENJOY BY 04.20.14 IPA – Beer #503, on tap at Cannery Row Brewing Co., a super touristy venue, but the food is very good, great service, impressive tap & bottle list, no complaints, way better than expected.  And yes, this IPA is equally as killer as the rest of the Enjoy By series.
  • WYCHWOOD BREWERY HOBGOBLIN – Beer #504, delicious
  • GREEN FLASH BREWING PALATE WRECKER – Beer #506, I maintain my original opinion of this beer that it is not a Palate Wrecker at all... the Green Flash Green Bullet DIPA is way more of a palate wrecker than the Palate Wrecker.  That said, it's still a great brew.  No complaints.
  • LAGUNITAS UNDERCOVER INVESTIGATION SHUT-DOWN ALE – Beer #507, sippin' a bottle back at our hotel, love it
  • ANCHOR BREWING ANCHOR BOCK BEER – Beer #508, OK but I really should have had this one before the Lagunitas... after the richness of Beer #507, this one seems flavorless.

Sat 3/29 - Headed home from vacation, with a stop at the beer world's equivalent of the Holy Land... Firestone Barrelworks... all eight of the beers below are World Class:
  • FIRESTONE WALKER DDBA NO. 1 2012  – Beer #516
Sunday 3/30 - Back home and tasting at Vendome:
  • COLNER HOFBRAU FRUH  FRUH KOLSCH – Beer #517, interesting, mild, refreshing, would be good on a hot day, tastes like a popsicle stick on the back end
  • TELEGRAPH BREWING CERVEZA DE FIESTA PILSNER – Beer #518, bottle conditioned, Batch # 108, almost like a tart white wine, but the driest one you've ever had
  • FREIGEIST BIERKULTUR PIMOCK HEFEWEIZEN – Beer #519, creamy caramel and saltines
  • ENGELSZELL BENNO TRAPPISTENBIER – Beer #521, Austrian Trappist ale, honey, nutmeg, a powerhouse
  • FREIGEIST BIERKULTUR HOPPEDITZ DOPPEL STICKE ALTBIER – Beer #522, phenomenal, super rich malty goodness
  • HAIR OF THE DOG BLUE DOT DOUBLE IPA – Beer #523, always loved this brewery, but also have always been slightly underwhelmed by this DIPA
  • ALASKAN BREWING HOPOTHERMIA DOUBLE IPA – Beer #524, good, not as creamy & over the top as most DIPAs
  • SAMUEL ADAMS DOUBLE BOCK – Beer #525, Wow, a Sam Adams I really like... finally! Rich without being heavy.
  • MANZANITA ALES GILLESPIE BROWN   – Beer #526, Toasty, balanced, well done
  • CLOWN SHOES LUCHADOR EN FUEGO MEXICAN STYLE CHOCOLATE STOUT – Beer #527, What a treat! Vanilla, cinnamon mixed with subtle ancho & chipotle chiles... 50 Shades Of Awesome!
  • SHMALTZ BREWING HE'BREW FUNKY JEWBELATION (2014) – Beer #528, Barrel aged blend; delicious but surprisingly tart
  • BEACHWOOD BREWING MOCHA MACHINE DOUBLE PORTER – Beer #529, growler share courtesy of Harley the Cicerone, the name says it all, straight forward and delicious
  • MARIO & DAVID HOMEBREW (SYLMAR, CA) PRE-DYER ST TRIPLE IPA – Beer #530, Met these guys and their friend Brenda at the Vendome tasting; they brought in their homebrew as a bottle share in order to get some outside feedback. To me, it didn't taste like an IPA so much as a Strong Ale... sweet and extremely caramelly.  A very tasty brew, just in the wrong category.  But these guys clearly can crank out top quality brau.
Tues 4/1 - Recovering from a resurgence in my vacation sickness, easing back into beer:
  • DRAKE'S BREWING IPA – Beer #531, What needs to be said? Drake's is consistent and flawless.
Wed 4/2 - Cracking open this limited bottle courtesy of Harley at Vendome:
  • BEACHWOOD BREWING THRILLSEEKER IPA – Beer #532, Meant to be enjoyed as early as possible, akin to Stone's Enjoy By series; Killer!
Fri 4/4 - Friday nite at home with the family, cracking a few bottles squirreled away from NorCal:
  • SANTA CRUZ ALE WORKS DARK NIGHT OATMEAL STOUT – Beer #533, Surprisingly very solid oatmeal stout, not heavy, not watery, evenly balanced and super good; I could totally see this being an everyday staple.
  • CALICRAFT BREWING THE CITY IPA – Beer #534, This brewery is new to me, all of their ales names are SF Bay Area focused; Even better than expected, I'd definitely like to try more from Calicraft