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.


  1. Wow, I've been a fan of (many of) your bands for about 15 years, and I'm only just now discovering that you're a fellow beer geek. Awesome!

    If you're ever in Boston, check out the Sunset Grill and Tap. Over a hundred beers on tap, and some really good food.

    Went there for dinner and enjoyed 4 flights of beer (well, really, all 4 of us ordered 4 different flights and shared every beer) before seeing Melvins play The Paradise last summer, best night out I've had in years!

    Also, I see you're into thick stouts. Have you tried Avery's "Mephistopheles" or Dogfish Head's "World Wide Stout"? Delicious, ultra high gravity imperial stouts. Fucking incredible.

    Well, now that I know you have a beer blog, I have a lot of reading to do!

  2. Thanks for the lead on Sunset Grill & Tap! Much appreciated. Yeah, those stouts are excellent. I'm a huge fan of the whole range of Avery stouts... Mephistopheles is awesome, but my favorite is their Uncle Jacob's stout. Really hard to find, but if you do, grab it while you can. Cheers!

  3. Oh, never even heard of Uncle Jacob's. I'll definitely keep my eye out. Thanks for the tip!