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?
- 606 - ROUGH DRAFT BREWING HOP THERAPY DIPA - S'OK. Not great, but OK.
- 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.
- 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.
- 630 - ALOSTA BREWING SPADRA IPA - ...eh.
- 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.
- 642 - MONKISH BREWING FEMINIST BELGIAN STYLE TRIPEL - Excellent golden brau
- 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
- 653 - WOLF CREEK BREWERY DOGTOWN DUNKELWEIZEN -.... eh.
- 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.
- 656 - BOOTLEGGER'S BREWERY KNUCKLE SANDWICH DOUBLE IPA - Great imperial IPA
- 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.
- 661 - WOLF CREEK BREWERY YELLOWSTONE PALE ALE -.... bleh.
- 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.