Wet T-shirt contests!
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.
HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR NORCAL TRIP:
*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.
LOWLIGHTS OF OUR NORCAL TRIP:
*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!!
- 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.
- 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 BONNIE LEE'S BEST BITTER – Beer #486
- MAGNOLIA BREWERY BLUE BELL BITTER – Beer #487
- MAGNOLIA BREWERY DARK STAR MILD – Beer #488
- MAGNOLIA BREWERY PROVING GROUND IPA – Beer #489, signature West Coast hop bite, my favorite of all 12.
- MAGNOLIA BREWERY KALIFORNIA KOLSCH – Beer #490
- MAGNOLIA BREWERY WEATHER REPORT WHEAT – Beer #491
- MAGNOLIA BREWERY BIG CYPRESS BROWN – Beer #492
- MAGNOLIA BREWERY NEW SPEEDWAY BITTER – Beer #493
- MAGNOLIA BREWERY COLE PORTER – Beer #494
- MAGNOLIA BREWERY WEEKAPAUG GRUIT – Beer #495
- MAGNOLIA BREWERY SPUD BOY'S IPA – Beer #496
- 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.
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.
- ENGLISH ALES BREWERY BLACK PRINCE PORTER – Beer #501
- ENGLISH ALES BREWERY DRAGON SLAYER IPA – Beer #502
- 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
- DRAKE'S BREWING DENOGGINIZER – Beer #505, yum
- 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 LIL OPAL 2013 SAISON – Beer #509
- FIRESTONE WALKER HELLDORADO BLONDE BARLEY WINE – Beer #510
- FIRESTONE WALKER PARABOLA 2014 RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT – Beer #511
- FIRESTONE WALKER SAUCER FULL OF SECRETS BELGIAN STRONG ALE – Beer #512
- FIRESTONE WALKER / MIKKELLER COLLABORATION LIL MIKKEL SAISON – Beer #513
- FIRESTONE WALKER AGRESTIC BELGIAN-AMERICAN WILD RED ALE – Beer #514
- FIRESTONE WALKER FERAL ONE – Beer #515
- 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
- ALPINE BEER COMPANY ALPINE ALE – Beer #520, solid
- 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.
- DRAKE'S BREWING IPA – Beer #531, What needs to be said? Drake's is consistent and flawless.
- BEACHWOOD BREWING THRILLSEEKER IPA – Beer #532, Meant to be enjoyed as early as possible, akin to Stone's Enjoy By series; Killer!
- 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