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.

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