Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Beer #776-815 / Day #136-137: Isn't All Beer Vegan?

Earlier this year, I was included on an email chain with a few friends who were talking about all of us going to the LA Vegan Beer and Food Festival
I wasn’t planning on attending.  I’d never gone in the past.  It seemed kinda pricey.  And it looked crowded, overrun with hipsters, and seemed like an overall pain in the ass to deal with.  But having my friends go, who were not predominantly beer-drinkers, sealed the deal.  So, I bought tickets for The Wife & myself.

A lot of co-workers chuckled when I told them about this event.  “Vegan beer?  Isn’t all beer vegan?” was the usual response.  It’s just water,  hops, malt, and yeast, right?  Actually, no!  A surprising number of beers are processed using animal products such as isinglass, the dried swim bladders of fish which are used to clarify some beers, predominantly stouts, and most notably GuinnessBarnivore is a site that lists beers known to use animal products, and the list is surprisingly long.

Vouchers in hand, a couple months later, I talked to my friends about the upcoming Vegan Beer Fest.  Unlike me, they had NOT bought tickets after all.  And they had no plans on going.  Wait…. What?
Remember that scene in the movie “Old School” where Will Ferrell aka Frank The Tank is running down the middle of the street, drunk, in the middle of the night, yelling “We’re going streaking!”  Then he realizes there is no “We”… he’s alone, naked, and no one is running with him.  That was me with my LA Vegan Beer Fest tickets.  Aw shit....

Last Saturday was the day.  Similar to my Sabroso outing, my pre-gaming consisted of two packets of Active Dry Yeast, mixed with Greek yogurt.  Not the greatest tasting combo, but I hoped it would help keep me sober for the afternoon.  Camille and I trekked from The Valley, over the hill, down side canyons to avoid the terminally backed-up Laurel Canyon, towards the Westside, and into the clusterfuck of westbound Sunset Blvd.  It wasn’t until a few days prior that it registered... this beerfest was in the heart of The Sunset Strip… had I known, that would have been the death knell of this outing and I would have sold my tickets.  But alas, I was a day late, and $90 short.  Traffic inched past legendary monuments to unparalleled douchiness… The Saddle Ranch, The Standard, The Viper Room.  At last, the Vegan Beer Fest was in sight… a fenced-in, gravel parking lot opposite The Roxy, with a line winding around the entire block.  I groaned an audible groan, and hunted for parking.  All street parking has a 2 Hour limit which clearly isn’t long enough.  From the looks of the line, we would easily spend half that time waiting to get in.  The few “reasonably priced” $10 parking lots were all full, and there were practically no other options aside from getting a parking ticket or spending $22-$26 parking in the garages of the nearby office buildings.  I searched in vain for options, but after wasting another 30 minutes fighting traffic and frustration, I realized time was being wasted not using these tickets that were already paid for.  I bit the bullet, pulled into a pricey corporate office parking garage, and we made our way to the back of the Vegan Beer Fest entry line.
One long ass line.
There were easily 200 people in front of us waiting to enter, and we still didn’t technically have our tickets. I had to retrieve them from Will Call.  As I pathetically peered through the iron-barred fence into the festival, kept outside like a disobedient pet, glaring at people who weren’t me... people who were enjoying my unlimited beer without me, I tried not to let my frustration and jealously get the better of me.  I was standing in direct sunlight, with a bladder on the verge of exploding after the long ride, and a belly full of active yeast. 
Then the line moved.  Then it moved again.  What I anticipated as another hour was perhaps only 15 minutes.  We were in the homestretch.  There was hope.  It was like being in line forever at Disneyland, and finally queueing up in a numbered row, next in line to jump in our log for Splash Mountain.

Cranky guy needs a beer.  Or 37.
My mood changed drastically once we were inside.  The spoiled brat finally got what he wanted:  Entry to the playground of bountiful beering.  For a Sold Out event, there was a mercifully ample amount of space to move around.  Lines were not overly long.  And my fears of elbow-wrestling against mustachioed hipsters for access to taps were laid to rest.  It was a ruly crowd of average folks like me who simply dig beer.  I even spotted a few cool underground types.  One of them had a “Soy Not Oi” shirt.  Another was wearing a Capitalist Casualties T.  My people were in attendance.  And so were some of the finest SoCal had to offer. 
Eagle Rock unveiled their biting Ginger Saison.  Golden Road unleashed their anticipated seasonal Almond Milk Stout… wait, is that vegan?  Figueroa Mountain has always been so-so in my book, but their Big Cone black ale won me over.  San Francisco's Speakeasy ventured to South Cali with their mediocre Big Daddy IPA, but then scored with their Betrayal Imperial Red. I braved the long line at the Bravery Brewing tent to try their decent La Fleur Hibiscus Wheat and Old Rat English Brown Ale.  Self-proclaimed Godfathers Of Beer Karl Strauss even stepped up the game a bit with their sessionable Mosaic IPA.  San Diego’s Modern Times brought up a few different canned beers, the Lomalond Saison and Fortunate Islands Wheat, which were both astoundingly better than expected.
Me and Faction guy: Big earlobes and great beers
Many breweries played it safe, and brought out their “usual” to pour, but I’m always appreciative to those who bring out specialty kegs.
The most impressive beers of the day, hands-down, were unleashed by Alameda’s Faction Brewing and Hermosa Beach’s The Brewery At Abigaile.  Faction provided a stripped down, DIY style booth with two of the more impressive offerings of the day.  And Abigaile won me as a loyal fan with all three of their beers, especially the Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Black Mass Porter.

I kept with my standard regimen of small pours throughout the day, and managed to sample my way through 37 new beers, plus a few tasty duplicates for good measure… hell, I can’t say no to the Ballast Point Habanero Scuplin.  Ever.  I kept hydrated when possible, although the organizers of this event would have been wise to make water stations plentiful and free.  Instead, some oddball frou-frou Hawaiian bottled volcanic water was for sale.  Not a big deal since it was only $2, but still….
We sampled a few vegan food offerings, both of which were excellent…. Caribbean quesadillas from Real Food Daily which were only $4 for two, and Frito Pies from Beyond Meat which were not only delicious and the perfect accompaniment for beer but, strangely enough, absolutely free!
The Grilled Cheese Truck?  Um…. Hate to break it to you, but NOT vegan.
Something is slightly nasty about this.

We left the Vegan Beer Fest full-bellied, comfortable, pleased, satisfied.  The mounting frustrations that kicked off the day were quickly forgotten.
Would I come here again?  No.  Well, not unless it was free.  And someone else drove.  And they dropped me off at the VIP entrance. 
It was a great time once we were in, but this is one of the worst parts of town to attend any event.  I avoid The Strip at night, and now I know to avoid it during the day as well.
Did the belly full of yeast help me stay sober, or is it a placebo?  I still wouldn’t bet money on it either way, but it seemed to work.  I didn’t hydrate nearly as much as I would have liked. 
Then again, I didn’t leave the Fest with the urge to go streaking through the quad.

The tally continues....

5/16 – Friday nite at home
776 - MAD RIVER BREWING HUMBOLDT HAZE IMPERIAL WHEAT IPA – Dense and tasty, with a name like Humboldt Haze I was expecting some kind of funky hemp beer.  Huh.  Huh huh.  Duuude.
777 - CALDERA BREWING ASHLAND AMBER ALE – I’m really warming up to more Ambers lately, probably because the bar has been raised.  These Oregonian tree huggers know what’s up.

5/17 – LA Vegan Beer Fest +1
778 - GOLDEN ROAD HEAL THE BAY IPA – Great IPA that tends to mysteriously come & go, so I like to enjoy it while I can.  Some proceeds go to a local organization protecting local watersheds.  I’m definitely wearing Birkenstocks whenever I drink this.
779 - GOLDEN ROAD ALMOND MILK STOUT – A limited, specialty release. Super tasty.  Probably doesn’t have milk in it.  Hope not.  This is a Vegan Beer Fest, ya know!
780 - NOBLE ALE WORKS ALL NIGHT LONG – Some sorta complex black ale.  I’m a huge fan of these fellas, and they never cease to push the boundaries of your average stein.
781 - SIERRA NEVADA BREWING SUMMERFEST PILSNER – Easy to drink, inoffensive, better than the usual Pilsner, but I’d opt for any of their other offerings first.
782 - SMOG CITY BREWING L.A. SAISON – Nice one from this Torrance brewery.  Golden, wheaty, farmy, yeasty.
784 - ABIGAILE BREWERY RYE WHISKEY BARREL AGED BLACK MASS PORTER – Beer Of The Fest! Incredible, deep vanilla, barrel-infused, rich malt tastiness.
785 - ABIGAILE BREWERY OATS OF BIRMINGHAM ENGLISH BROWN ALE – Maybe I’m a heretic, but many “English style” beers are lost on me.  This is an exception, and it’s exceptional.
786 - ABIGAILE BREWERY 002 2ND ANNIVERSARY DOUBLE IPA – Lucky I got to try this one.  Fantastic West Coast IPA.  Not soapy or skunky.  Evenly balanced.  Just right.
787 - EAGLE ROCK BREWERY GINGER SAISON – Really decent ginger bite without being overpowering.  Bet this would be awesome with Thai food.
789 - FACTION BREWING DEFCON I BELGIAN QUAD – Inspired, rich, delicious… one of the few today where I enjoyed the full pour.  Excellent output from this modest SF Bay Area brewery.
790 - FIGUEROA MOUNTAIN BREWING HOPPY POPPY IPA – Had it before.  Thought it was one of their better brews.  But then I tried the Big Cone, which blew it away.
791 - FIGUEROA MOUNTAIN BREWING BIG CONE CASCADIAN DARK ALE – See above.  Fig Mtn finally has a beer I really like.
792 - GOLDEN ROAD BERLINER WEISSE – Tart but surprising how easy-to-drink this is.  Highly recommended for anyone needing a starting point to “try out” a sour.
793 - SPEAKEASY BETRAYAL IMPERIAL RED – Not a huge fan of Speakeasy to date, but I truly enjoyed this double red ale.  I guess I’ll start speaking easier about these guys myself.
794 - OMISSION IPA – Gluten free.  Not that great.  But if I had an allergy, I suppose I’d learn to like it.  The best of the three Omission offerings.
796 - OMISSION LAGER – Bleh.
Gotta keep track of these things
798 - BOOTLEGGER'S BREWERY RUSTIC RYE IPA – Enjoyed it more in the past, but maybe it was too cold.
799 - BOOTLEGGER'S BREWERY PALOMINO PALE ALE – I like Bootlegger’s, but this is my least favorite off their roster.
800 - MODERN TIMES LOMALAND SAISON – Excellent canned creation from SD.  Seriously way more impressive than expected.
801 - HANGAR 24 BETTY IPA – Everybody has an IPA.  Now Hangar 24 does, too.  Inland Empire rejoice!
802 - MODERN TIMES FORTUNATE ISLANDS WHEAT BEER – Very, very freakin’ good.  I started out on the wrong foot with this brewery.  Since my first disappointing try, I’ve truly enjoyed all of their releases since.  I’m a fan.  I’m gettin’ with the Times.
803 - OSKAR BLUES DALE'S PALE ALE – You’ve had it.  So have I.  I was really hoping they’d show up with a specialty keg.  Instead it was the standard cans.  Good, but Deviant Dale’s and Ten Fidy are my favorites.
804 - OSKAR BLUES OLD CHUB – See above.  Not the hugest fan of this Scotch Ale, truth be told.
806 - BRAVERY BREWING LA FLEUR HIBISCUS WHEAT – I’m due to head up to the high desert & check out this place.  This pinkish taster was pretty good, not too complex, but I want to give them a chance.
807 - BRAVERY BREWING OLD RAT ENGLISH BROWN – Decent, solid, better than the wheat beer.
808 - OHANA BREWING PALE ALE – Keg wasn’t ready, but I was pushy & insisted on a sip.  Yeah, total dick move.  But nice, easy drinking beer.  I need to visit their tasting room.
809 - EPIC BREWING GLUTENATOR – Their take on gluten-free brau.  Much better than the Omission samples.
810 - KARL STRAUSS MOSAIC SESSION IPA – The big guys are an easy target.  It’s easy to pooh-pooh their beers as not being fancy or DIY enough.  The self-proclaimed Godfather Of Beer hits the mark with this one.  2014 truly is The Year Of The Session IPA.
811 - DESCHUTES BREWERY MIRROR POND PALE ALE – Not fancy, straight forward, but always good.
812 - NEW BELGIUM WILD DUBBEL – Unlike most of my beer drinking friends, I’m not a fan of this Lips Of Faith series.  They usually sound like a good idea, but rarely deliver the goods.  And I know I’m alone in that generalized assessment.  That makes this brew even more enjoyable…. I like it!  Tasty wild ale with a lot goin’ on.  Rich, malty, mildly spicy bite.  Nice.
813 - WOLF CREEK BREWERY HOWLIN' HEF – Ummm. Here’s the thing…
814 - SMOG CITY BREWING LIL BO PILS – Decent pilsner.  Lite and unobtrusive.  Don’t need it again, but I do support this brewery, smog and all.
815 - ABBAYE DE LEFFE LEFFE BLONDE – Post-Fest Belgian nitecap with some friends up in Santa Clarita at a wine place...  No, not a beer place.  You’ve had it.  You like it.
Nerd alert!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Beer #740-775 / Day #128-135: Week or Weak? The Craftiness of ACBW

American Craft Beer Week.  We’re in the thick of it now.  I didn’t even know this was a real “thing” until I read a post about it last weekend.  Another excuse to drink good beer?  Well, twist my arm, but OK!
I launched into this brew-centric week properly by meeting up with my pal Ryan Harkins from Grill Em All, and Lee Bakofsky from Eagle Rock Brewing to talk about creating our own collaborative beer.  And by “collaborative”, I mean Lee is doing all the work. He’s the mastermind, and we’re brewing at his house, with his equipment, using his ingredients, based on his recipe.  Ryan and I have never brewed before, and Lee, being the expert, has generously agreed to show us the ropes.  I’ve been itching to delve into homebrew for many years.  I took a class several years ago at Culver City Home Brewing Supply, bought some (but not all) of the gear, but then I chickened out. 

What if I don’t sanitize everything correctly and my beer spoils? 
What if it doesn’t ferment properly since my garage is hot year-round in LA? 
What if my starter recipe is bland and pointless?

Eventually, I had “What if’d” myself out of giving it a try.  I decided to wait until someone experienced could give me a hand, or at least some guidance so I didn’t completely blow it.  I hit up a few homebrewing friends, and we talked about getting together “next time”.  But “next time” never arrived. Months became years, and I didn’t do a damn thing, except throw away my malt.
Fast forward 5-6 years, when I finally reached the point where I was sick to death of making excuses NOT to do it.  Ryan is a self-made man, who co-owns the coolest culinary outfit around, completely DIY and on his own terms.  I hit him up to be my brewing partner.  Like me, he’s unfamiliar with the process, but he’s tight with Lee, and Lee ended up being super cool & willing to school these two greenhorns on the “how-to’s”.
Our initial meeting was to review the process, understand what’s involved, discuss the recipe, commit to a time to brew, and best of all, hang out, socialize, and enjoy a few.  I supplied a Cismontane T.J. Slough barrel aged brew, and Lee cracked out a few Eagle Rock standbys, the Solidarity Black Mild and Manifesto Witbier.  This cat knows what he’s doing, so I’m very excited & honored to be working on our first beer.  D-Day (or maybe its B-Day) is next Monday, and I’ll be posting all the sordid details.

So, we’re still celebrating American Craft Beer Week, but what does it mean?  Nothing really.  The purpose is obviously to draw more attention to the beer world, raise interest, and increase revenue.  Do I really need a reminder to drink more beer?  Not exactly.  Do I need to drink more beer?  Always.
If anything, ACBW is an excuse to blow the moths out of my wallet, and go out more during the week, especially as this is a week for select tap takeovers, many of which feature rare selections, new releases, and oddball variations of familiar gems… Think: A boatload of barrel-aged brews.

The only real problem I have with this so-called event is the phrase “Craft Beer” itself.  It’s one of my grammatical pet peeves.  It’s a catch phrase that stirs up negative memories of the 1990’s when “Alternative” was used to describe everything, mainly as a marketing tool to move more units of anything from music to beer… Anyone remember those incessant Moosehead Lager radio ads?  “Moosehead is your Alternative Beer for your Alternative Lifestyle for your Alternative Summer!”  Blech. 
I think of “Craft” Anything in the same light.  Craft is the new Alternative.  And when the Alternative itself becomes mainstream, the phrase loses all meaning.  The word Craft implies something made by hand, lovingly created with care and attention.  So how else am I supposed to react to pallets of the Kirkland Signature Craft Beer Selection at Costco, comprised of some third party, mass produced swill?  The beer fests I attend inevitably have some sort of Shock Top, Blue Moon, or Widmer Brothers table.  When Everything becomes Craft, then NOTHING is Craft.  Will someone please start a campaign to bring back the term “Microbrewery”?

On a more positive note, even though ACBW is the equivalent of a Hallmark holiday, I’ve had some damn fine braus the past few days, most notably at the Drake’s tap takeover at Tony’s Darts Away in Burbank.  The new 7 x 70 IPA was unveiled, their awesome, seasonal Alpha Session IPA was reintroduced, and they busted out a few barrel aged specialties:  the Brandy Barrel Aged Drakonic Stout and the Whiskey Barrel Aged Rakish Rye Wine Ale.  Superb!  After this quick tasting, I headed up to meet Matt Domino at Newhall Refinery, where we shared a ton of shit-talking, and more importantly, a ton of beer tasters. Newhall Refinery serves tumbler sized samplers of everything on tap, so I went for a taste of everything I haven’t already tried in my Big Year. Great service, great environment to chill, decent rotating tap list, not to mention it’s the only game in town when it comes to the greater Santa Clarita area.

American Craft Beer Week will officially wrap up in a couple days.  Am I bummed?  Hell no.  For me, every week is Beer Week.  And next week will be even better than this one.  Cheers!

The tally continues…..

5/8-10 – Hangin’ at home, and trying a few mediocre in-store samples:
740 - UINTA BREWING HOODOO KOLSCH STYLE ALE – Hoodoo you think is really into this beer?  Well, I really dig all Uinta beers. This one is on the bottom rung of the ladder though. 
741 - MENDOCINO BREWING TALON SMOKED DOUBLE PORTER – Perty good, not too smoky, standard roasted barley flavor.
742 - EPIC BREWING SOUR APPLE SAISON – Had a quick sample at BevMo in Burbank; spiced, tart, would be better around Xmas time, I’m glad this was just a sample, a full glass is not necessary.
743 - SIERRA NEVADA NORTHERN HEMISPHERE HARVEST WET HOP ALE (2013) – Subtle hop goodness, didn’t club me over the head like most West Coast beers with “hop” in the name.  I’m gonna try it again soon side-by-side with the Southern Hemisphere Harvest.
744 - SPOETZL BREWERY SHINER BOCK – Stumbled upon a tasting at Total Wine in Northridge, CA. Glad I got to taste it & claim it without drinking more than a thimble full.  This bock blows, but you all know that.
745 - FIREMAN'S BREW BLONDE – Tasted these Fireman’s brews at Total Wine as well.  S’OK… not great, OK.
746 - FIREMAN'S BREW REDHEAD ALE – Best of all three offerings, still only about average.
747 - FIREMAN'S BREW BRUNETTE GERMAN DOUBLEBOCK – Decent doppel, wouldn’t order it though.
748 - INDIAN WELLS BREWING COMPANY WHISKEY BARREL BREW BARREL AGED AMBER – Mild vanilla woodiness. Fair. Not as husky as most barrel-aged beers you’ll find on the market. Indian Wells isn’t known for awesome brews, so at least this is a step in the right direction.
749 - GREEN FLASH BREWING ROAD WARRIOR IMPERIAL RYE IPA – Goddamn, this is tasty. I would drink this daily. And I dig the different packaging, a nice departure from their usual boring font & one color labels. I’m ready to get a mohawk and cruise the wastelands with the Feral Kid. 
750 - MISSION BREWERY DARK SEAS RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT – Best Mission brew by far. Awesome chocolate & licorice bomb.

5/11 – Mother’s Day
751 - MAD RIVER BREWING STEELHEAD DOUBLE IPA – Doesn’t taste like a double, but still a good ‘un. Creamy hops. Easy.
752 - HEINEKEN PREMIUM LIGHT – Horrifically bland.  I have a sense memory of trying beer at age 13, and it tasted like stale pee.  I think I need to see a therapist for this resurgence of suppressed memories.  Or maybe I can just sue Heineken for mental cruelty.
753 - STONE BREWING SMOKED PORTER WITH CHIPOTLE PEPPERS – Nice heat, not as complex as other recent chile beers I’ve enjoyed, but still worthwhile, especially when it’s closer to room temp.
754 - LOST COAST BREWERY 8 BALL STOUT – Decent stout, maybe closer to an English style, not super full bodied, but middle of the road, with good subtle maltiness.

5/12 – Monday, start of American Craft Beer Week
755 - COORS BANQUET BEER (1970 ORIGINAL RECIPE) – Turns out Coors was pretty shitty in 1970 as well.
756 - EAGLE ROCK BREWERY SOLIDARITY BLACK MILD – Classic, easy-drinking.  Power to the people!
757 - EAGLE ROCK BREWERY MANIFESTO WITBIER – Wow, somehow I haven’t tried this Eagle Rock brew til now.  Probably because so many Wits are underwhelming.  This is the exception… What a great beer!  Mildly citrusy, but full bodied.  Thanks Lee!

5/13 – Starting at Tony’s with Drake’s Tap Takeover; Finishing with numerous tasters at Newhall Refinery:
758 - DRAKE'S BREWING ALPHA SESSION IPA – The old favorite is back, from one of the few breweries to make a session IPA long before the 2014 surge. Mild, skunk hop bite.
759 - DRAKE'S BREWING 7 x 70 IPA – OK, so 7x70 = 490.  What’s that?  Couldn’t find it.  Then I looked up 7 x 70 on the internet and found it’s a Biblical reference. Something about Jesus saying peeps should be forgiven seventy times seven, which infers forgiving someone for eternity. Brand new IPA unveiled here… mild flavors, decent, admittedly it might be my least favorite Drake’s offering.  Must they now beg for eternal forgiveness?
760 - DRAKE'S BREWING BRANDY BARREL DRAKONIC RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT – “Barrel” and “Stout” are like Peanut Butter and Jelly in my book… they belong together forever. 75% barrel aged for 2 years blended with fresh Drakonic. As complex and crazily delicious as it sounds. Fruity wine-like character paired with dark chocolate berries.
761 - DRAKE'S BREWING RAKISH RYE WINEALE BARREL AGED – Half of it was aged 4 months in whiskey barrels then blended with 50% fresh brew; Rich as any respectable barleywine should be, like a vanilla caramel taffy, I just need some high quality vanilla bean ice cream to pour this over.  Awe inspiring. 
762 - LADYFACE ALEHOUSE BLIND AMBITION BELGIAN STYLE STRONG ALE – Haven’t had this one since last summer, still solid output from these Agoura Hills mavericks.  This brewery gets better every year.
763 - STONE BREWING SPROCKETBIER BLACK RYE KOLSCH –  With a name like this, I can’t help but picture Dieter on “Sprokets”. Dammit, what a great beer.  I have a new favorite Stone offering.  Should we listen to Kraftwerk now?
765 - LOST COAST BREWERY WATERMELON WHEAT – Quite possibly The Worst Beer I’ve Ever Tasted.  Rogue Voodoo Doughnut beer now has some serious competition.
766 - BAVIK PETRUS OUD BRUIN – Oh yeah, what a pleasant sour. Finishes clean. I could sip this baby for a while.
767 - NEW BELGIUM RAMPANT IMPERIAL IPA – I seem to be alone in this, but I’m not the biggest of New Belgium fans.  However, I like this one a lot. Maybe having it on tap makes a big difference.
768 - DOGFISH HEAD 90 MINUTE IPA – The standby.  You gotta dig it.
769 - DOGFISH HEAD APRIHOP IPA – Very good, mild apricot flavor, doesn’t overpower it & make it a fruit beer, just more of a well-rounded IPA.
770 - AYINGER ALTBAIRISCH DUNKEL – Not great, but not Scheisse.
771 - OSKAR BLUES TEN FIDY STOUT – The most wonderful of all motor oils. I see this everywhere, but I’ve forgotten what a truly great stout this is.

5/14-15 - Wed & Thurs at home:
772 - GREAT DIVIDE BREWING RUMBLE OAK AGED IPA –  With a name like “Rumble” the label should depict a showdown between leather jacketed 1960’s hoodlums holding switchblades.  Good, but I’d like to try another one.  I have yet to try any aged IPA that I love.  But I do love most Great Divide releases, so I think it deserves another shot.
773 - INNIS & GUNN RUM AGED –  Cor Blimey!  Like a couple other recent beers, heavy vanilla and caramel, a rich dessert-like beer.
774 – CALDERA BREWING HOP HASH IPA – A tasty hop blend from the ever-reliable Caldera kettle.
775 – EEL RIVER BREWING ORGANIC PORTER – When it comes to wines, the word “organic” always scares me. Organic wines suck. Not so with beer. Organic beers have just as much of a chance as “normal” beers of being good.  Bold malts, underlying chocolate flavor, thumbs up.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Beer #667-739 / Day #120-127: Sabroso, Sam Adams, & Sobriety

The Man... serving The Ladies.
The end of last week was close to wrapping up, and it couldn't have concluded any better than having my pal Ryan Harkins, co-owner of burger mecca GRILL EM ALL, inviting us down to hang out for the evening with him, his awesome wife Kevine, and some of their old Chicagoland pals Emily, her husband Brian, and his sister Maggie.  The invite was all I needed to show up, but Ryan further sweetened the deal by informing me they have the somewhat elusive HUMULUS IMPERIAL PALE LAGER from THE BRUERY on tap.  This is by far one of my favorite local beers.  Legend has it that The Bruery has sworn they will never produce an IPA.  Their way around it?  Create a hop-bomb lager... the very first IPL that I was ever aware of, and since then several larger brewers have stolen the IPL thunder... Sam Adams, Widmer, and a few others.  Humulus is a modern day classic.  But I digress...
While it was an unusually slow evening at Grill Em All's location in the heart of downtown Alhambra, Ryan and his business partner Matt were busy hosting a bevvy of friends and fans, not the least of which were a contingent of old school execs from Metal Blade Records.  In the meantime, my wife Camille and I made fast friends with the Windy City cohorts and engorged ourselves with the greatest, most filling, ridiculously over-the-top, decadent burgers in existence.  Their special burger with ghost peppers and birria was seriously tempting, but I knew realistically I wouldn't survive, so The Mrs and I split a Cowboy From Hell burger topped with BBQ chicken.. Ryan treated our table to every possible combination of fries, all incredible, and my favorites being the No More Mr. Nice Fries topped with chili, and the Anvil Fries topped with duck confit and duck gravy.  Everything was delicious beyond words, and the only thing missing was a stomach pump to remedy our gluttonous overindulgence. 
She has a new shirt, I'm just bad at selfies
After a few pints of Humulus and the Iron Maiden Trooper, an English bitter that was even better this time than I recall, we stumbled a block over to 38 DEGREES, a beer bar with arguably some of the best taps in LA.  They manage to wrangle some of the rarest kegs around, and know their shit.  Ryan's pal Phil Merkow, a fellow mega beer nerd, joined us as a kindred spirit in our communal love for the brau.  Camille and I  ordered a flight to share, and generously, our entire table of eight all passed around each others goblets and tasters.  I ended up trying much more than anticipated for a Thursday night, and it was all outstanding.  Now that ALPINE has recently upped their production thanks to GREEN FLASH, I was able to get their stellar NELSON IPA on tap for the first time ever.  Great peeps, great times, great beer.

After going through the motions of Friday, Saturday had finally arrived... the day I had been anticipating… the day of Sabroso Craft Beer & Taco Festival.  I had been looking forward to this day for months.  What I wasn’t looking forward to were the 90+ degree temps that SoCal had been experiencing all week.  My Wife’s MS has been bad lately, and the heat affects her adversely, so she decided to stay home rather than risk collapsing in some remote hillside park in Orange County.  I tried to find a last minute drinking buddy, but no luck.  I had to eat the extra ticket.  Rather than dwell on the loss, I focused on the positives… there was an extraordinary number of new beers waiting to be tasted, and I intended to make my way through as many as humanly possible over the course of this four-hour session.  But my Wife was going to be the designated driver.  Now what?  I had nightmarish visions of being too tipsy to leave, and a gauntlet of unavoidable DUI checkpoints. 
At the last moment, I remembered a link my overseas pal Randy Carncross posted: Jim Koch, founder of Sam Adams Brewery, talked about a method he adopted to avoid getting drunk at extended beer tasting sessions:  Consuming active dry yeast.
Brilliance or idiocy?
Since reading this a few weeks back, I had been meaning to give this a shot, and today was the perfect occasion to see how effective, or how completely ridiculous, this idea would be.  The more I drove and lingered on the idea, the more I envisioned all possible bad outcomes.
What if the yeast makes me violently sick? 
What if a loaf of bread forms in my gut and I can’t poop it out?
What if the yeast blows up my stomach and I end up expanding like Veruca Salt in “Willy Wonka”?
What if this yeast story is an elaborate prank, purposely planted in the media to ensnare beer geeks into trying something absolutely absurd?

En route to the fest, I stopped at a Ralph’s supermarket in Orange.  In the baking aisle I found the intimidating packets of Fleischman’s yeast.  Koch said he mixed yeast with yogurt to make the taste more palatable.  I opted for a small container of chocolate pudding.
Traversing the country road out to Lake View Park out in Silverado, I reached the parking lot 15 minutes before the start of the session.  Enough time to prep my buzzkill formula.  I couldn’t help thinking this is either the dumbest thing I’ve tried, or the smartest thing I’ve tried.  Considering all of my preconceived fears about active dry yeast, I kept my initial intake small… less than one packet.  To my surprise, it wasn’t bad at all.  In fact, it tastes like Grape Nuts cereal.  Hell, I’m a beer drinker, and I love yeasty beers, so it should have occurred to me sooner this wouldn’t be a big deal.  I speedily scarfed down the concoction, then unsuccessfully asked around the parking lot if anyone needed an extra ticket.  No dice.  In fact, several other folks had extras, too.  I had to accept the fact that I was going to take a bath on the second ticket if I wanted to start tasting on time, so I semi-reluctantly ventured into the tasting area.

The location itself as well as the layout of the event couldn’t have been better.  Plenty of room to spread out.  Plenty of trees for shade.  Live music.  Masked lucha libre Mexican-style wrestling.  Even a few non-beer vendors for those who needed a break from all things brewish. 
This does NOT suck.
And most importantly, the range of breweries represented the pick of the litter of establishments from California's Lower Half.  Many old favorites, many I’ve seen but never tried, and a couple I’d never even heard of.  While I was not in the loop with any hype for the day, it was clear that the buzz was all about the newest Anaheim-based brewery BOTTLE LOGIC.  Neighboring tents catered to lines of 2-3 patrons at a time, while the Bottle Logic tent had a line that doubled back and stretched so far I didn’t even realize the end of the line was actually a line for anything.  I had perused many recent positive write ups about this establishment, but I also don’t have the patience to wait for anything… especially in a park that was teeming to the seams with countless available taps (and on a separate topic to rant about another day, “fuck, no” I’m not waiting in any freakin’ line, even if it's for Pliny The Younger!). 
As expected, this fest, like most, was heavy on the IPAs overall, although 85% PIZZA PORT ORDER IN THE PORT, EL SEGUNDO HYPERION’S STOUT WITH VANILLA BEAN, BACKSTREET SANTO MOLE CHILE STOUT, and the TAPS MOCHA STOUT, although top honors and Beer Of The Day go to BOTTLE LOGIC… once their line finally died down, their premium offerings were still available, and I was lucky enough to sample the next-to-last tasting of their off-the-charts LECHE BORRACHO MOLE STOUT AGED IN TEQUILA OAK CHIPS.  Every BOTTLE LOGIC beer was unique, and although I’m not a hob-nobber or social butterfly in general, I had to shake the hand of their President Steve Napolitano for his innovative and just effing delicious beers. 
of them were damn good.  A surprising number of stouts were available, which made me a happy man, the most memorable being the
Still does NOT suck.
This day was full of continued pleasant surprises.  All of the BLACK MARKET brews were terrific, but I’ve never had an imperial brown ale until I tried their outstanding EMBARGO IMPERIAL BROWN.  The gregarious Phil Thomas repped the excellent CLOWN SHOES SPACE CAKE IMPERIAL IPA. NOBLE ALE WORKS blew me way with their spicy PISTOLA CHILE PILSNER and their complex ROSALITA HIBISCUS PILSNER, both being wonderfully tweaked offshoots of their standard PISTOL WHIP’D PILSNER, not to mention the guys at their tent were the only dudes besides Phil who knew what my SURLY hat was. 
I enjoyed nearly everything I tried, but my runaway favorites for the day were the kick-in-the-pants chile beers... aside from the aforementioned brews, IRONFIRE BREWING HABANERO PALE, BOTTLE LOGIC BREWING ANAHEIM, CA CHILE PALE WHEAT ALE, and VALIANT BREWING HOT & KOLSCH did a fine job of kicking my posterior.  Such a wide variety of unique brewing approaches, from IPAs to Kolsch to Stouts, and I loved every single one of them.
I spent four solid hours consuming delicious tacos from HAVEN and THE KROFT, gulping tons of water, asking for half-pours and getting full pours, and pouring more than half of them out, and in the end I managed to make my way through 44 new beers for my Big Year.  For nearly all of them, I sampled them in three sips and moved on, although a couple were way too perfect to pour out, so I drank the full pour, not knowing when I’d get another chance… most notably the BOTTLE LOGIC LECHE BORRACHO and the NOBLE PISTOLA.
In every way, this does NOT suck.
All of this was achieved without my stomach exploding.  Did the yeast trick work?  Possibly.  I should have consumed even more yeast to really see if I could even keep the mild buzz at bay.  But being a cautious first-timer, it still seemed to help, although it could have equally been attributed to my mass agua consumption, eating well, and sampling small amounts albeit from a large number of taps.
Either way, it was a prosperous, brau-filled day, and I'm looking forward to attending the affiliated annual OC Brew Ha Ha event for the first time this September. 
In the meantime... Viva Sabroso!!

The tally continues....

Sippin' at home with The Mrs.:

Thurs nite partying at GRILL EM ALL and 38 DEGREES:
669 - THE BRUERY HUMULUS INDIA PALE LAGER - Legendary, at least in my book
670 - ROBINSONS TROOPER - On tap @ Grill Em All, I don't remember it being this good. Maybe I'm High On Fries?
671 - ALPINE BEER COMPANY NELSON IPA - The hard to find classic, now more readily available thanks to a partnership with Green Flash. First time I've had it on tap, @ 38 Degrees.
672 - BAIRD BREWING DARK SKY IMPERIAL STOUT - I see my handful of Japanese beer buddies posting about Baird, now I finally get to try it. Sweeter than most American stouts.  Different.  And different is good.
World's worst cell phone pic of cool peeps
673 - CRAFTSMAN BREWING 1903 LAGER - Easy drinkin' local. Will Craftsman ever expand? I'm seriously doubting it.
674 - THE BRUERY BOIS BOURBON BARREL AGED - Incredible old ale / barleywine. Not sure 100% what style it's considered but it's crazy heavy, complex, thick... like a decadent dessert.
675 - BIG SKY BREWING OLDE BLUEHAIR BARLEYWINE - Rich, like any barleywine worth its weight, served in a freakin' goblet! 
676 - SAINT SOMEWHERE BREWING E'TE' SANS FIN SAISON - Tasty Florida brew, thanks to Ryan for the taste.
677 - SMUTTYNOSE IMPERIAL STOUT - Goddamn solid, like all Smuttynose.  Lucky to have a few Smuttys on the east coast last month, but I didn't have this one.
679 - NORTH COAST BREWING COMPANY GRAND CRU - Bourbon barrel aged Belgian style golden strong ale, slightly tart, all delicious, better than I remember from last year.

Friday nite at home, the calm before the storm:
680 - FLYING DOG BREWERY WOODY CREEK BELGIAN STYLE WHITE - Basic Americanized Belgian-style white, but a winner.
681 - ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING EL STEINBER DARK LAGER - Tasty black lager in a tallboy can, I heart Anderson Valley overall
682 - LAGUNITAS CENSORED RICH COPPER ALE - Great amber, Lagunitas rules, didn't realize until this time that the censored name is actually THE KRONIK

Sabroso Saturday... 44 tastings in one afternoon session... que bueno!
683 - RITUAL BREWING HOP-O-MATIC IPA - The name says it all
Wrestlin' honky hangin' out in pink tights
685 - CISMONTANE BREWING SMOKIN' SANTIAGO SCOTCH ALE - Smoked scotch ale. Had it last year and found it to be OK. Same reaction this year. I'm a huge fan of Cismontane, but this isn't my fave on their roster.
687 - HANGAR 24 SMALL STOUT - An unexpected, but most-welcome entry from this brewery. Smooth American style with heavy roasted barley, not as dense as I like, but still flavorful
688 - HANGAR 24 BELGIAN SUMMER ALE - Crisp and mildly tart, possibly my favorite Hanger 24 output
689 - TAPS NUESTRA SENORA - medium bodied, deep amber colored Mexican style lager
690 - GREAT DIVIDE BREWING 20TH ANNIVERSARY BELGIAN-STYLE ALE - Poured by the Haven booth at Sabroso, brewed with grape juice, like a less-sweet shandy, light & fruity, paired well with Haven pork tacos.
691 - TAP IT BREWING I PI A BELGIAN IPA - They use the "pi" symbol on their tap, brewed with Belgian yeast but it's not discernible because this is one crunchy-as-hell hop attack, excellent but nothing Belgian about it.
692 - TUSTIN BREWING RED HILL RED - This Red Hill Red is red. Some mild hops. Would definitely order this again.
693 - TUSTIN BREWING JACKSON'S IMPERIAL IPA - Excellent hop crunch
694 - BOTTLE LOGIC / TUSTIN COLLABORATION AGED OAK CHIP IPA - Walked up to the Tustin tent right when they were tapping this keg... Mildly woody, all good, lucky I got to try this rarity, one of the few Sabroso pours where I drank the whole thing
Black Market. They'll put you to shame.
695 - BELCHING BEAVER EASY BEAVER SESSION IPA - Jumping in on the Session IPA craze of 2014, and coming in strong
696 - BEACH CITY BREWERY SWEET CRUDE STOUT - Tastes like a liquid cookie, brewery grand opening is next weekend in Huntington Beach, glad I got to check em out early
697 - BEACH CITY BREWERY PCH PALE ALE - Solid pale, looking forward to checking out more from this new brewery
698 - TAPS MOCHA STOUT - Total mocha bomb, but a thick, oily stout... just how I like em
699 - BOOTLEGGER'S BREWERY CHANGO LAGER - Crisp, clean, grapefruity goodness
700 - LEFT COAST BREWING DEL MAR ST. LAGER - Dortmunder style export lager.... not sure what that means, but I like pretending that I do. Clean, simple, OK but I'd go for Bootleggers first
702 - CLOWN SHOES SPACE CAKE IMPERIAL IPA - Everybody does an IPA, yet true to form, Clown Shoes rises above mediocrity... caramelly malts and strong hops
703 - VALIANT BREWING HOT & KOLSCH - Masterful, spicy kolsch infused with chiles, one of my favorites of the day
704 - FIRESTONE WALKER EASY JACK SESSION IPA - Session IPA with mild crunch, wouldn't expect less from the Masters
705 - SAINT ARCHER BREWING WHITE ALE - Yeast, major citrus, perfect hot day beer
706 - NOBLE ALE WORKS PISTOLA CHILE PILSNER - Their Pistol Whip'd Pilsner infused with serrano chiles, my new favorite! Plus the Noble guys were the only ones who knew what my Surly hat was... bonus points!
Ironfire: Killed it!
707 - NOBLE ALE WORKS ROSALITA HIBISCUS PILSNER - Pistol Whip'd Pilsner infused with hibiscus, pink in color, looks like a rose wine. I'm sure the Brewbies would support this one!
708 - PIZZA PORT (SAN CLEMENTE) ORDER IN THE PORT STOUT - Commanding imperial stout... excellent as expected. I love all Pizza Port beers, but this is their best stout, hands down.
709 - I & I BREWING HIBISCUS XPA - Not bad, not particularly distinct, curious what else they have that might be more impressive
710 - PIZZA PORT (SAN CLEMENTE) EL CAMINO IPA - Crunchy crunchy crunchy IPA, like healthy cereal... in a good way
711 - IRONFIRE BREWING HABANERO PALE - Another great chile beer at Sabroso, nice kick, slow burn on the finish, but still easily drinkable, so good!
712 - BLACK MARKET BREWING 1945 SOUR WHEAT ALE - Not too sour, puckery with a hint of sweetness... an aperitif beer?
713 - TAP IT BREWING SNAFU DOUBLE IPA - 11.1% ABV, thick like an imperial but totally drinkable, not overwhelming, just right
714 - BLACK MARKET BREWING EMBARGO IMPERIAL BROWN - Best brown I've ever tasted. Have I ever had an imperial brown? Is this the world's best kept secret? So rich it could be a nutty stout.
715 - BOTTLE LOGIC BREWING LECHE BORRACHO STOUT - Best beer of the day @ Sabroso, Leche Mole with tequila oak chips, freakin' unique, can't be compared to anything I've ever had. Innovative!
716 - BACKSTREET BREWERY SANTO MOLE CHILE STOUT - Imperial coffee stout with habanero, major chocolate, an unexpected favorite, super sweet with a major kick.
718 - J.T. SCHMID'S HEFEWEIZEN - I thought this would be a cheezy brewer like BJ's, but this hefe is a treat, I'd order this anyday.
Food photos are dumb. So here's one.
719 - RITUAL BREWING MONK'S LUNCH BELGIAN GOLDEN - Belgian single / blonde - low ABV, estery, mildly floral, a goodie.
721 - IRONFIRE BREWING THE DEVIL WITHIN DIPA - Really damn potent, what a DIPA!
722 - MISSION BREWERY ZYTHOS IPA - Rye IPA, I'm a sucker for anything rye
724 - BOTTLE LOGIC BREWING RECURSION IPA - I'm burnt out on IPAs but Bottle Logic gave me renewed hope. This one is superior.
725 - BOTTLE LOGIC BREWING ANAHEIM, CA - Pale wheat chile beer, an unexpected but welcome surprise, top of the line!

Bottle Logic will always be better than you
Enjoying brews at home with my Wife, Sat nite thru Wed nite:
727 - LAGUNITAS BREWING CAPPUCCINO STOUT - Finally get to share one with The Wife after tasting 44 straight @ Sabroso
728 - THE LOST ABBEY RED BARN ALE SAISON - Saisony, taste that faint hint of tart farmhouse wildness
729 - OMMEGANG HOP HOUSE BELGIAN PALE ALE - S'OK, least favorite Ommegang output
730 - ALASKAN BREWING FREERIDE APA - S'OK, least favorite Alaskan output
731 - DRAKE'S BREWING AMBER - Really really good, roasty, malty, caramelly
733 - BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON BEER WORKS THE RAVEN SPECIAL LAGER - I've said it before... always prepared to write this off as a novelty brewer, but I truly enjoy EVERY beer I've had from Baltimore-Washington Beer Works.
Action photo of bottles on a table
734 - DRAKE'S BREWING HEFEWEIZEN - Drake's is pretty much flawless. Accept it.
735 - BIG SKY BREWING IPA - Good, solid hop crunch
736 - CLOWN SHOES CLEMENTINE WHITE ALE - Belgiany goodness, heavy on the orange
737 - BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON BEER WORKS PENDULUM PILSNER - Band practice beer, enjoyed during the first TO THE POINT rehearsal in nearly a year, trying not to hurt myself yelling like a madman. Nice beer... wheaty, barleyey
738 - MAUI BREWING MANA WHEAT - What you'd expect from a wheat beer... went quite well with our oniony salsa tonite.
739 - PORT BREWING OLD VISCOSITY ALE - Old Reliable stout.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Beer #596-666 / Day #108-119: Brewfest, Black Sabbath, and Beer 666

About six months ago, my pal Jack Kahn solicited a large group of old friends to attend Black Sabbath at the Hollywood Bowl.  Legendary longhair John Scharpen, myself, and Mrs. Dodge were in.  Everyone else chickened out.  And thus, it’s April 25th and Jack & John made the trek from out of town, from the San Diego and San Jose areas respectively, to spend the weekend at my place in LA.  John brought his 13 year old stepdaughter Eva to join us.  Turns out she’s a Sabbath fan.  And for someone who is at an age where she’s supposed to be snotty, confrontational, and clueless, Eva seemed unphased hanging out with middle-aged, punk/metal ex-scenesters who spent hours trading stories about the ‘80s. 
Jack brought an impressive selection of brews from the SD area, heavy on the Belching Beaver which were all tasty, all of which were new to my Big Year.  He also brought one of his old friends Bob Schriner to hang out.  Bob is a comedian and restaurant/hotel blogger who knows all the angles to getting freebies.  I could learn a few tricks of the trade from this fella.  The problem is I want to support any brewery that is truly great, so I have no issues giving them money.  In fact, I prefer it. 
John doesn’t drink, so it was me, Jack, Bob, and the Mrs. popping open bottle after bottle… starting with three from my stash, then digging into Jack’s stack.  Snacking and yakking, we jumped from IPA to porter to stout (Jester King Black Metal Stout, appropriate for Sabbath Eve) and back to IPAs for days.  It was a late nite spent blabbing about the old days, playing serious catch up with a group of fellas who haven’t all shared the same room more than once over the past 20+ years.

Saturday.  Sabbath.  We kicked off the morning with brunch in Downtown LA at Little Bear, an accessible Belgian-themed spot with all Belgian-style taps, and toothsome but not-necessarily-Belgian food options, even more delicious if you’re not a vegetarian.  Braised short rib benedict?  Yes, my friends, I’m home.  I kicked off the morning with an Ommegang Glimmerglass saison.  Delicious, even if drinking something floral out of a tulip glass isn’t necessarily the most manly of moments a fella could experience.  Knowing a long eve was ahead of us, we opted to chill at my house for the afternoon, sharing a few more SD County offerings.  We polished off the Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Stout, and split the Belching Beaver Dammed Double IPA.  Refreshing, although it may have not been the best of ideas since early drinking makes me sleepy, and I didn’t want to be the one guy yawning during “Behind The Wall Of Sleep”.
In an instant the afternoon was over & it was time to regroup, cram into my Wife’s tiny Honda Fit …picture the stereotypical ‘60s college prank, smashing as many students as possible into a phone booth.  After wrestling with traffic, and snagging one of the last three spots in our favorite stack parking lot (yes, “favorite stack parking” is an oxymoron), we joined the steady stream of black-clad, pot-smoking, brain surgeons, while deftly avoiding bootleg T-shirt vendors hawking their substandard tees for $20.  20 bucks?!  Those bootleggers have got major balls swangin’ to shake us down for that much.

We told Jack to get the cheapest seats, as far back as possible.  He succeeded.  The Bowl is massive and sprawling, and if you’re not in the box seats up front it’s just a matter of whether your seat is a mile from the stage or two miles from the stage.  In other words, it doesn’t matter where you sit.  The band will always be a tiny, blurred speck on the stage.  Out of the eight million rows at this venue, our seats were in the very last row, all the way at the top of The Bowl, cozy and surrounded by hedges.  And being in the last row, Murphy’s Law determined the largest leviathan of man, out of all the attendees in this venue of six hundred trillion people, was assigned the seat in the second-to-last row, directly in front of my Wife & I.  Thankfully, being in the very last row with no one behind us to complain, we were able to stand for the whole show.  I conceded to one $10 Heineken at the beginning of the show, but after that determined overpriced everyday beer was unnecessary.  Although some other form of heavy mind-alteration clearly would have been to my advantage during this concert.
After a lengthy set by the unfortunately-named Reignwolf (hours of comedic mileage on the name alone), nighttime descended on cue. 
Sabbath Freakin’ Sabbath.  Ozzy.  Tony Iommi. Geezer Butler.  Some guy who isn’t Bill Ward.
The set was even better than expected, with several deep cuts dusted off, albeit with a few strange choices… “Dirty Women”, but no “Hole In The Sky” or “Sweet Leaf” or “Symptom Of The Universe”?  Another friend later put it into perspective by reminding me that the missing songs I wanted to hear were probably all way out of Ozzy’s range.  And I think that’s absolutely true.  Ozzy struggled a bit to stay on key, but it really didn’t matter… it’s freakin’ Ozzy!  There was untold bellyaching about Bill Ward’s exclusion from this tour.  It would have been awesome to see him play, but I also heard from someone who saw Ward in recent years that he was taking hits off an oxygen tank between songs.  The fill-in drummer was spot on, and crushed his set like a Cro-Magnon.  Geezer’s bass riffing was awe-inspiring, and made me ashamed of what a lazy bassist I’ve become.  I was slightly discouraged that no tracks were played from my favorite album, but then Tony Iommi teased with the opening riff to “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, only to stop suddenly and launch into the predictable (and unnecessary for me) “Paranoid”.  Although I sound like I’m being critical, I’m just nit-picking because that’s what self-absorbed bloggers are supposed to do.  In Reality, the Masters leveled The Bowl, and this was one of my favorite shows of the year. 
Post-Bowl.  One hour wait for our “favorite” stacked parking lot to clear out, but being entertained by the drunken, and even bloody shenanigans of fellow B.S. fans.  Late night.  Serious stop ‘n’ go traffic.  Midnight burritos.  Black Market Aftermath Pale Ale.  No expensive official merch to gloat about, but no expensive bootleg merch to regret either.

Sunday morning, the party’s over.  Well, for our guests at least.  They all had long drives ahead of them.  For Camille & I the party was continuing full swing.  We hit the first-ever Brewfest OfThe Foothills hosted in the parking lot of Congregation Ale House in Pasadena.  Admittedly, I’ve previously sworn off patronage of this location… great taps, best burgers ever, but service that never failed to piss me off… however, I made an exception for this fest, mostly because I wouldn’t be reliant on the house staff for anything, not to mention it was a great deal.  $25 for unlimited pours, including food, plus a portion of proceeds went to the Ronald McDonald House charity (although doesn’t McDonald’s have infinite billions more than Congregation Ale House… just sayin’).  What’s to complain about?  In this case, nothing!  We had a great time!  
We met our BFFs Linda and Jordy Mitchell.  Jordy is a willing accomplice when it comes to mass consumption of beer, and happily keeps pace with me.  The cream of the crop of SoCal breweries were in attendance.    And in many cases folks from the actual breweries were there to discuss what they were pouring.  Nothing bugs me more at a beer event than trying to nerd out about a beer with a Volunteer who has no idea what they have on tap.  Thankfully I got my nerd on, especially during an extended conversation with Los Angeles Ale Works brewmaster Kris "Kip" Barnes, an energetic and savvy guy who is enthusiastic about all things beer.  He also wrote "Beer Lover's Southern California", a solid guide book on breweries & beer bars worthy of patronage.
Standout new breweries (meaning new to me) were Pacific Plate Brewing, Los Angeles Ale Works, and Claremont Craft Ales. Local favorites who continued to prove how outstanding they were included Strand, Smog City, Noble, El Segundo, Bootleggers, and Beachwood.
A huge plus to this fest, as opposed to the last fest I attended a few weeks ago in DC, there was water everywhere!  I ate early, drank a tanker truck of water, asked for half-pours, and managed to make my way through 33 tasters in 3 hours.  And I wasn’t drunk when I left. 
Well done, Congregation!  Now, ditch the fake Catholic schoolgirls who know less than zero about beer and I’ll really be a fan….

It struck me a couple days later that the comedic timing of my Big Year was way off. 
Saturday 4/26 I saw Black Sabbath. 
Tuesday 4/29 I hit Beer #666.  
Think how much more impact Beer #666 would have had if I enjoyed it at the same time as Sabbath.  Instead I sipped it while watching the chick flick version of reality TV with my Wife.  Then again, perhaps this was Satan’s ultimate ruse…  sipping my Undead Party Crasher Imperial Stout to Tori Spelling instead of Ozzy.  Curse you, Dark Lord! 

Which serves as a painful reminder I also missed Dark Lord Day out at 3 Floyds Brewery, but that’s another story to complain about another day….

The tally continues:
Pre-Easter Saturday with the Wife’s family

  • 596 - PORT BREWING SHARK ATTACK DOUBLE RED ALE – Great beer, one of the better reds out there, hoppy with some depth

Easter Sunday 4/20 tasting at Vendome, still can’t believe they were open:

  • 597 - DAVE'S HOME BREW PALE ALE – bottle share, brewed by a Vendome regular, very tasty, malty & citrusy
  • 598 - SURF BREWERY SHAKA MOSAIC SESSION IPA –2014 is the year of session IPAs, and this is a great one. Single hop. Delicious. Best output from Surf Brewery to date.
  • 599 - BARRELHOUSE BREWING PALE RYDER – mellow goodness, slight mango, great Central Coast Cali brewer
  • 600 - DESCHUTES BREWERY FRESH SQUEEZED IPA – Excellent, heavy hops
  • 601 - WIENS BREWING TYPE 3 IPA – Malt heavy, and caramel heavy, interesting for an IPA
  • 602 - BARRELHOUSE BREWING IPA – A deep, dank, herbal IPA
  • 603 - SPEAKEASY VENDETTA IPA – Bitter aftertaste, but not in a good way
  • 604 - WIENS BREWING BIG COG DIPA – Intense and skunky... And yes, today was 4/20!
  • 605 - VALIANT BREWING COMPANY ALPHA DRIVE DIPA – I'm a huge fan of Valiant, but this one didn't sit well with me. Maybe the bottling?
  • 607 - STONE BREWING ENJOY BY 05.16.14 IPA – My favorite IPA series. Last round was Enjoy By 4.20.14.  Today was 4.20.14, so it's appropriate we sampled the next in the series.
  • 608 - BOULEVARD BREWING GRAINSTORM BLACK RYE IPA – Heavy oaty, ryey happiness in a glass
  • 609 - MIDNIGHT SUN BREWING XXX BLACK DOUBLE IPA – Malty, thick coat wrapped around hops.
  • 610 - KNEE DEEP SIMTRA TRIPLE IPA – That just happened!
  • 611 - GOLDEN ROAD BACK HOME GINGERBREAD STOUT – Growler share, courtesy of a fellow Vendome regular. Excellent, bready, yeasty, and not an awful novelty beer like I was expecting. Gingerbread is extremely subtle and not a gimmick. Highly recommended.

All enjoyed throughout the work week at home:
  • 612 - CISCO BREWERS SANKATY LIGHT LAGER - Capped off the evening at home after the big Vendome 4-20 Easter IPA tasting. Cisco is a great brewery.  All of the simplest styles are given a spin to make them seem brand new.  Can't compliment them enough.
  • 613 - SUDWERK BREWING MARZEN AMBER LAGER – Das ist goot, yah?
  • 614 - BLACK MARKET BREWING RYE IPA - Rye not?  I love it.
  • 615 - PIKE BREWING COMPANY MONK'S UNCLE TRIPEL – Split with the Mrs. and her sis Sarah, great Belgian style sipper
  • 616 - DOGFISH HEAD CRAFT BREWERY INDIAN BROWN ALE – I’m finding more & more browns I actually like. Add this to the list.
  • 617 - VICTORY DIRTWOLF DOUBLE IPA – Imperial goodness.  Shouldn’t Dirtwolf be a band name?
  • 618 - PIKE BREWING COMPANY SPACE NEEDLE GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY 2012 VINTAGE IPA – Never figured out if this just a super old bottle or a new brew based on a 2012 recipe.  I think it was the former.  Not great.  IPAs are like Kathleen Turner, they don’t age well.
  • 619 - PIKE BREWING COMPANY SPACE NEEDLE GOLDEN IPA – Delicious redemption for the failure of Beer #618.

Old friends visiting from out of town, drinking on a rainy Friday night, getting psyched for Sabbath tomorrow… Black Sabbath, that is:

  • 620 - ALASKAN BREWING JALAPENO IMPERIAL IPA – The kick from the pepper is a subtle burn that finishes clean thanks to the hops.  Que bueno!
  • 621 - PIKE BREWING COMPANY POST ALLEY PORTER – Pike has been batting around .800 on the year.  This puts ‘em up to .825
  • 622 - JESTER KING BREWERY BLACK METAL FARMHOUSE IMPERIAL STOUT – Appropriate pre-Sabbath warm up.  Oh Jester King, why must thou brew in jest?
  • 623 - OCEANSIDE ALE WORKS DUDE DOUBLE IPA – Jack thought the scruffy dude on the label looked like me, until he got to my house & realized it didn’t look like me at all.  Is the Dude a Lebowski nod?  I’m one of the few who doesn’t care for the movie, but this DIPA is worth investing the time
  • 624 - BELCHING BEAVER PEANUT BUTTER FLAVORED MILK STOUT – I claim not to enjoy novelty beers, then I have one like this that I love.  I’m a goddamned hypocrite.  But at least I’m a goddamned hypocrite who got to drink this.
  • 625 - BELCHING BEAVER HOP HIGHWAY IPA – Everyone does an IPA, but somehow this still stands out, even after drinking for a whole evening.

Sabbath Day:

  • 626 – OMMEGANG GLIMMERGLASS SAISON – Great way to start the day.
  • 627 - BELCHING BEAVER DAMMED DOUBLE IPA - Insert pun about this being dam good… get it?  Dam? Heh heh…. Well, actually it is.
  • 628 - BLACK MARKET BREWING AFTERMATH PALE ALE – Refreshing post-Sabbath, midnite burrito accompaniment. Black Market does not disappoint.

Brewfest Of The Foothills tasters, followed by a saison chaser at home:

  • 629 - BEACHWOOD BREWING HOP NINJA DOUBLE IPA - Beachwood is flawless. Their IPA roster is endless, and all are benchmarks of what IPAs should be.
  • 631 - THE DUDES' BREWING COMPANY KOLSCHTAL EDDY - Beer Name Of The Month, and one of the better kolsches I've had in recent memory.
  • 632 - STRAND BREWING BATCH 100 STOUT - Awesome, malty with a bite. Haircut 100? Thumbs down. Batch 100? Thumbs up.
  • 633 - STRAND BREWING 24TH STREET PALE ALE - Had this for years on tap down in the South Bay area of LA. Old reliable.
  • 634 - PACIFIC PLATE BREWING COPA DE ORO BELGIAN GOLDEN - Most pleasant surprise of the Brewfest was finding these guys outta Monrovia. They take some classic styles and own them! Fresh, flavorful, it's about time someone shook up the beer scene.
  • 635 - PACIFIC PLATE BREWING DUNKELWEIZEN - See above. Great dunkel. Rich. Impressive.
  • 636 - SMOG CITY BREWING MAKE OUT SESSION PALE ALE - Woo, that's got a hoppy bite, the beer that bites back!
  • 637 - NOBLE ALE WORKS PART OF A BALANCED BREAKFAST OATMEAL STOUT - Love this one. Not to mention I love any excuse to claim that a "breakfast beer" is an acceptable option for starting the day.
  • 638 - CLAREMONT CRAFT ALES JACARANDA RYE IPA - First time trying this brewery, they know what's up
  • 639 - CLAREMONT CRAFT ALES DOUBLE DUDE DIPA - Double goes for what I said above
  • 640 - CONGREGATION ALE HOUSE DARK OF THE COVENANT STRONG ALE - Not bad. Malty, mildly fruity.
  • 641 - CONGREGATION ALE HOUSE IPA - Everyone on the planet brews an IPA, so yours needs to stand out. Didn't make a love connection with this one.
  • 643 - MONKISH BREWING ROSA'S HIPS BELGIAN STYLE DUBBEL - Good one, but their Tripel wins, hands down
  • 644 - GOLDEN ROAD 329 LAGER - I heart Golden Road, but I don't heart this. I know they're trying to appeal to everyday Bud drinkers with a light, easy-drinking lager, and I completely get it.  But that doesn't mean I have to like it.
  • 645 - EL SEGUNDO BREWING BLUE HOUSE CITRA PALE ALE - El Segundo has been blowing it up for a few years now.  Consistent, and truly great.
  • 646 - OHANA BREWING SURF SHACK SAISON - The best Ohana brew I've ever had. They had a reputation for constantly changing styles, and jumping from brew to brew without focusing on one to perfect it.  This one is damn good.  And I need to check out the tasting room they just opened in downtown Alhambra.
  • 647 - NOBLE ALE WORKS GOSEBUSTERS - Nice pucker. Tart. Linda Mitchell says "sparkly". Jordy Mitchell says "effervescent".
  • 648 - SMOG CITY BREWING GROUNDWORK COFFEE PORTER -Exactly what it says it is. A carbonated coffee depth charge.
  • 649 - LOS ANGELES ALE WORKS GAMS-BART ROGGENBIER - Like a hefe, but brewed with rye. One of the most unique beers of the day. Really impressed by this brewer.
  • 650 - OHANA BREWING ACORN AMBITION AMBER - A coffee amber. I've had acorn soup before. It was horrific. I'm glad this beer didn't follow in its footsteps. Delish!
  • 651 - THE BRUERY TRIPEL TONNELLERIE - The Bruery has raised the bar ridiculously high. At least they make it easier for me to limbo.
  • 652 - STONE BREWING SAISON - Straight forward, I'd make this the house saison, no problem
  • 654 - BEACHWOOD BREWING ALPHA GALACTIC WEST COAST PALE ALE - The alpha male of pale ales.
  • 655 - EL SEGUNDO BREWING TWO 5 LEFT DOUBLE IPA - Hard to pick a favorite from El Segundo, but this might be it.
  • 657 - LOS ANGELES ALE WORKS DAMPFMASCHINE CALIFORNIA COMMON - A seemingly simple style, but a boatload of complexity goin' on here. All hail LAAW!
  • 658 - GOLDEN ROAD 2020 IPA - New in the Golden Road IPA wheelhouse. Great one, as expected. This wasn't "officially" being poured at their table, but I won a game of "rock, paper, scissors" to get a sample.
  • 659 - ALOSTA BREWING SALLY BLONDE -.... meh.
  • 660 - BOOTLEGGER'S BREWERY GOLDEN CHAOS - I consider Golden Chaos the classic for this brewery.  Always good. Consistent. Dependable.
  • 662 - ALLAGASH BREWING SAISON - In spite of the massive Allagash tasting I attended recently, I still found one I haven't previously tried. Delicious farmhousey goodness.

Chillin’ at home Monday & Tuesday, hittin’ #666 three days too late.  Sorry Ozzy….

  • 663 - LAGUNITAS NEW DOGTOWN PALE ALE - Lagunitas always comes through, Dawg!
  • 664 - NIMBUS BREWING PALE ALE - Love this AZ brewery. Their yeast makes this taste like an oatmeal cookie.
  • 665 - BOULEVARD BREWING DOUBLE-WIDE DOUBLE IPA - Not as strong as I remember. Old bottle? Single wide?
  • 666 - CLOWN SHOES UNDEAD PARTY CRASHER IMPERIAL STOUT – Appropriately enough “holy water” is listed among the ingredients. Holy mackerel, what a stout!  One of my favorites in recent memory.