Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Beer #1091-1227 / Day #170-176: Good, Good, Good, Good Libations

For years my friends Jim & Lily GasThai have been telling me to go to the SAN DIEGO INTERNATIONAL BEER FESTIVAL, part of the SD County Fair in Del Mar, CA.  And for years I’ve avoided it, as well as most other beer fests.  Obviously I love beer, so what’s the issue?  Well, I used to envision beer fests as a gathering of frat types who show up to chug as much as they can, eventually transforming themselves from being annoying pricks into being annoying pricks who are starting fights and puking everywhere.  Over recent years, I’ve gradually attended more and more beer fests, and the majority of the time the crowd is at least semi-respectful.  Considering this is my biggest Big Year yet, I felt like I had no choice but to attend.  The power couple of Jack Kahn and Jackie Denmon sweetened the deal by graciously opening their home to us, and more importantly, providing a home for our dog while we performed our excessive beering.
I left work early on Friday, picked up Camille the wife and Donnie the dog, and hit the road by Noon Our session started at 5pm in Del Mar.  No problem.  The drive to SD even with traffic shouldn’t be more than 3 hours…. The plan is we get to Jack & Jackie’s pad, drop off the dog, all four of us take a leisurely train ride to Del Mar, arriving with an easy 90 min to spare before the beer session even starts.  That was the plan.

We found out recently Donnie gets carsick. I figured it was because he stares out the window at the road instead of the sky and makes himself nauseous.  So Camille had to ride in the back seat to keep him calm and distracted so he wouldn’t lose his lunch on her cloth seats.
The traffic was some of the worst I’ve encountered trying to reach San Diego.  Endless stop & go driving.  So much so that Camille was the one who started feeling carsick.  Lurching forward and quickly stopping.  For hours.  Bumper to bumper traffic, South on the 5 freeway.
It’s 3:30pm, 3 ½ hours into our drive, and we’ve reached Del Mar.  Unfortunately, we can’t stop.  Our friends live another 20 miles south of Del Mar, and the County Fair is not dog-friendly.  So close, yet so far. We inched our way to North Park, finally arrived at Jack & Jackie’s four hours (!) after leaving LA.  We were already behind schedule, and high tailed it to the train station in Old Town.  
4:40pm, we hopped on the Coaster headed north to Del Mar. Our destination was only two stops away.  The train sloooowly wound its way through the coastal hills.  First stop was reached at 5pm.  Meanwhile, far away, our beer session was starting now.  I’d already resigned myself to the fact we would be late and attempted to keep my cool.  Then the train conductor informed us of a medical emergency, so we would be holding at the station.  I’m compassionate towards any tragic situation, but that selfish, self-centered devil on my shoulder nervously checked the time on my phone every 30 seconds.  I fidgeted like a hungry 4 year old.
5:15pm, we were on our way.  At last Del Mar was in sight, within spitting distance of the train.  But alas, we travelled PAST our destination for the second time today… our stop was north of Del Mar in Solana Beach, where we had to take a shuttle back to the Fairgrounds. 
It starts out innocently enough.
5:25pm, we’re off the train and we find the bus stop for our Fair shuttle.  The sign says it comes every 30 minutes, with no indication of when the next one will arrive.  Times a-wastin’.  Do we cab it?  I wandered around and found a cab driver a block away, only to see the shuttle pull up at that moment… a brief “Sorry!” to the cab, and I sprinted back just in time to board with the rest of my party.  Whew.
5:45pm, the third time I’ve seen Del Mar today, and this time I’m finally entering the Fairgrounds.  Where’s the beer fest?  I dodge the sweaty, midway goers with corn dog breath, and jockey past throngs of older couples waving Smokey Robinson VIP Dinner Package tickets.  A helpful, but painfully long winded Fair worker informs us our beer event is at the furthest possible opposite corner of the Fairgrounds.  Followed by more throngs of shoulder to shoulder Fair-goers, all of them walking in different directions, impeding our progress. 
What other obstacles will we encounter? 
Do we have to take a hovercraft to get our wristbands? 
Or ride a Shetland pony 5 miles offsite to get our tasting glass?
6pm, six hours after leaving the house, and one hour after our session had already started, at long last, our tasting begins.  There is much rejoicing.

Then it gets a bit silly.
This event is held in an open air, covered arena the size of a convention center.  Despite endless obstacles reaching it, pure nirvana was achieved once we arrived.  Although we only had 3 hours on the clock, without even feeling rushed, I managed to make my way through an astonishing 75 beer samples (actually it was 77, but later I found out I had already claimed 2 of them).  I was focused on beer and the enjoyment thereof… I didn’t bother with half-crocked tasting notes because I figure anyone reading this blog already knows that an IPA will be “Hoppy” and a stout will be “Malty”.  I limited my on-the-spot notes solely to a chronological list of all beers sampled.  After the fact, I was surprised to have retained my impressions of a good majority of what was tasted.

We met up with the GasThai’s and some other friends along with way.  Nothing but good vibes, free flowing braus, and surprisingly good concession food.  There were many pluses to this outing:
#1: No lines.  This was the only way I was able to make it through 75 samples in 3 hours.  The arena was large, very spread out, and thus the crowd seemed close to non-existent.  Many offerings were side by side on expansive tables, so it was easy to make my way down the line.  Even so, I buzzed freely from table to table like a honeybee.  I didn’t want to stick to a particular area for too long, worrying that I would miss out on something really special being unveiled elsewhere. 
Then it's completely silly.
#2: Short pours.  The glass was tall, but nearly everyone pouring adhered to the rule of the 1 oz pour.  As a result, I poured out very few samples after the first sip…. Only the truly bad, pointless, or nondescript ones went into the dump bucket.
#3: Tons of international beers.  While I always want to try something new, 95% of the time I gravitate towards US beers, mainly due to low finances as well as easier accessibility.  I appreciated the opportunity to sample offerings from Germany (SUNNER), Belgium (ST. FEUILLIEN), Netherlands (ROOIE DOP), Australia (COOPERS), Norway (NOGNE O), Denmark (TO OL), UK (MEANTIME), and points in between.  While many of the international choices could be considered “common”, they represented a decent variety of “gateway” braus, hopefully leading to additional exploration of each region by interested beerers.
#4: Tons of bottled beers.  A good number of these I would have purchased to drink at home, but thanks to this event I was able to check off some pricey bottles (i.e. Beer Geek BreAKfast, and many of the overseas choices). 
Then you have no idea who's in your photo.
#5: The 5-9pm session actually ended at 9pm.  At nearly every beer fest I’ve ever attended, the organizers cut off the pours 15 minutes before the posted time… I’m assuming they all think that’s ample time for attendees to “sober up” before they leave.  I watched the clock anticipating I’d be cut off at 8:45, but the pouring continued until 9pm sharp.  Seems like it’s not a big deal, but it is to me.  I was able to log in a solid 3 hour session without complaint.

Overall, I enjoyed most of the selections offered.  The best “discoveries” for me were Sacramento’s TRACK 7 BREWING, Temecula’s AFTERSHOCK BREWING, The Netherlands’ ROOIE DOP, and Ramona, CA’s CHUCKALEK INDEPENDENT BREWERS.
By the end of the fest, I was pleasantly buzzed, but not even close to being all-out drunk.  I can’t say the same for many of my fellow attendees.  We encountered a seemingly non-stop cavalcade of plastered partiers… some spewing offensive drunken slurs and gibberish, some spewing the contents of the entire session.  Folks like this are the exact reason I’ve avoided beerfests for most of my life, but they didn’t ruin this evening for me.
Then you're taking selfies with inanimate objects

Kudos to the organizers of this event.
Kudos to the GasThai’s who finally talked me into attending.
Kudos to JK&JD for partying with us, being incredible hosts, and jockeying us around SD.
Kudos to Camille for dealing with the endless on-the-go pace of the day, just so her husband could be happy.
Kudos to Donnie the dog for not puking in our car!

The following morning I awoke fresh as a daisy (well, maybe a mildly soggy daisy), and I was ready for more beering… well, as much as my Wife and friends were willing to subject themselves to.  The best part about this day was all of our destinations were within walking distance of J&J’s home, so at least I could pretend I was doing something good for my health.

One of everything, Round One.
First stop, THORN ST. BREWERY.  Never heard of this place, but what a lucky accident to stumble upon their brewery.  Between their downstairs and upstairs rooms, they offered an impressive 23 unique brews on tap.  I was ready to start with a flight of eight, when our awesome & accommodating tapper Adrienne chimed in with the suggestion, “Or I could just pour you tasters of everything if you want to try them all?”  Oh hell yes!!  Is she psychic or what? 
The room is rustic and comfortable, the staff is friendly and helpful, and the beer is outstanding across the board.  So many breweries have multiple styles and end up being hit-and-miss.  Thorn St. knows what the hell they’re doing, and what the hell they’re brewing.  Every goddamn beer of the 23 was either good or great!  This destination is a must, even moreso considering it’s not in a “hip” area, so there’s plenty of neighborhood parking, and I’m assuming crowds wouldn’t be too overwhelming.
Next, we strolled over to MODERN TIMES, with their funky, modern tasting room.  The environment is bright and open, almost European.  I’ve only had their beer packaged in cans, so it was a treat to try some new ones on tap.  Super tasty, with the Blazing World hoppy amber standing out as my favorite.
A bat eating a banana for no apparent reason.
After a quick perusal of the offerings at the BOTTLECRAFT bottle shop, and a quick deli sandwich, we looped back to HESS BREWING.  The Hess compound is a super cool, albeit super bizarre layout, with the actual brewery below street level.  You actually walk over an indoor bridge to reach the tasting room… you have to see it to believe it.  Hess started releasing several of their brews in cans recently, so distribution has increased.  Strangely enough, after visiting the tasting room, I realized the canned beers are the least of their offerings.  Their tap-only offerings are vastly superior, the Umbrix Rye Imperial Stout being my favorite.

Some quality time with quality friends (and quality dogs), drinking quality brews… this is what weekends should be about.  Good vibrations.  Good libations.  I’m pretty lucky.

My ever-patient co-horts.
The beering continues:

Thursday 6/19 – Tasting at Vendome, a few at home, and a Belgian treat from Lee Bakofsky:
1091 - OLD ORANGE BREWING THUMB MASTER DOUBLE IPA - Heard a lot of hype about this one. It's OK, but nothing to blog about.
Lee breaks out The Good Stuff
1092 - AVERY BREWING COMPANY TWENTY ONE IMPERIAL BROWN - Deeply malty, hoppy, even mildly peppery.
1093 - WEIHENSTEPHANER KORBINIAN - Deep and complex doppelbock, strangely enough it's great with Mexican food
1094 - SAM ADAMS PORCH ROCKER - Ok Summer shandy, lemonade beer, ehh...
1095 - SAM ADAMS SUMMER ALE - Peppery wheat ale, one of the least bad Sam Adams
1096 - BRASSERIE CANTILLON CUVEE SAINT-GILLOISE LAMBIC - Brief sour bite, acidic, well balanced and beautifully floral ... Thanks Lee!

Friday 6/20 – Absolutely KILLING IT at the San Diego International Beer Festival. No tasting notes (below are some recollections, after the fact); just powering through tasters. Plus a random late night Dos Equis just to make it more absurd:
1101 - MONKEY PAW BREWING LOW AND SLOW RAUCHBIER – Loved this one towards the end of my 2013 Big Year.  A winner.
1104 - TO OL NORDIC BY NATURE – Best name of any beer at the fest.
Lily GasThai, I finally made it!
1106 - JOLLY PUMPKIN MADRUGADA OBSCURA DARK DAWN – One of my fest favorites.
1109 - PRETTY THINGS JACK D'OR SAISON – A favorite of some of my East Coast friends. I’m a fan of Pretty Things.
1110 - MAZAMA BREWING HOP ERUPTION IPA – OK.  Not familiar with this brewer.  Doubt I’ll seek them out.
1112 - PORT BREWING MONGO DOUBLE IPA – Old reliable.
1113 - BEAR REPUBLIC BREWING ROCKET RED ALE – I always wrote this off as a boring red ale.  It’s not.  It’s goddamn tasty, and I’d have no problem drinking this everyday as a house beer.  Hoppy and full bodied.
1114 - BOCKOR VANDERGHINSTE OUD BRUIN – An excellent, well rounded sour.
1115 - HELM' S BREWING WICKED AS SIN IPA – Didn’t realize Helm’s was this good.  All of their offerings this day were impressive.
1118 - REFUGE BREWERY ILLUSION IPA – Don’t remember this one.
1119 - HELM' S BREWING BEERUCCINO COFFEE PORTER – One of my favorites of the day.
1121 - BENCHMARK BREWING OATMEAL STOUT – Good, if I’m remembering correctly.
1122 - GREEN FLASH 30TH STREET PALE ALE – Good one… can’t find this in LA.
1123 - VALLEY CENTER BREWERY SMOKED VESPER VANILLA PORTER – All I remember is it didn’t take anything like a porter, nor anything smoked.
Don't know him, but he's pumped.
1125 - PIZZA PORT (OCEAN BEACH) BACON & EGGS DOUBLE PORTER – Haven’t had this since GABF 2012.  Welcome back, old friend.
1126 - TRACK 7 BREWING BIG 4 STRONG ALE – Never heard of this brewer, but now I’m going to seek them out.  A pleasant surprise.  Sacto is blowing it up!
1127 - TRACK 7 BREWING PANIC IPA – See above.
1130 - ROUGH DRAFT BREWING EMBOOZLEMENT TRIPEL – Had some Rough Draft in the past & they were decent.  This was quite good.
1131 - CHUCKALEK ARCHIVES 1912 SSS TRIPLE STOUT – One of my fest faves.  The biggest powerhouse of a stout of the whole event.  I need to visit this brewery.
1132 - AFTERSHOCK BREWING JESS Y JAMES IMPERIAL STOUT – Aftershock was another new one to me, but I thoroughly enjoyed all of their beers. 
1134 - AFTERSHOCK BREWING DUBBEL VISION – See above the above.
1136 - TAP IT BREWING ALE CAMINO – Least fave Tap It.
1137 - ROOIE DOP DAILY GRIND COFFEE PORTER – One of the best of the fest.  Dutch supremacy.
1138 - MARIN BREWING STINSON BEACH PEACH – I still avoid fruit beers in general, but this was surprisingly refreshing, not cloyingly sweet.
Well, only if they're TOTALLY fried
1140 - FIGUEROA MOUNTAIN BREWING DANISH STYLE RED LAGER – One of the few Fig Mtns I haven’t had, and it turns out it’s one of my favorites.
1143 - LATITUDE 33 BIERE DE MARS – Pretty good.
1144 - AZTEC BREWERY NOCHE DE LOS MUERTOS IMPERIAL STOUT – I support Aztec 100%. They bring both high quality and innovation to the table.  This spiced stout is top notch.
1145 - AZTEC BREWERY AZTEC AMBER – I dig it, but it was too cold.
1146 - GREAT DIVIDE BREWING CHOCOLATE OAK AGED YETI – My favorite in the line-up of all Yetis.
1147 - NORTH COAST BREWING COMPANY LE MERLE – The old fave, still great.
1148 - NORTH COAST BREWING COMPANY PRANQSTER – The old fave, still great.
1149 - ANTWERPSE BROUW COMPAGNIE SEEF BIER – New one for me, OK.  Best part is the label art.
1151 - COOPER'S BREWERY ORIGINAL PALE ALE – From Australia.  They can keep it there.
1152 - MISSION BREWERY EL CONQUISTADOR EXTRA PALE ALE – Decent beer, but I think I was more impressed by the massive 32 oz can
1153 - CISMONTANE BREWING RED-X – Best Cismontane I haven’t had yet (my favorite was Dos Cone Es, but I already enjoyed it earlier this year).
1156 - OCEANSIDE ALE WORKS OXYMORON BLACK IPA – I seem to recall this brewer starting out a big hit and miss.  Everything I’ve tried from them this year is a hit!
1158 - WELLS & YOUNG'S BREWING YOUNG'S DOUBLE CHOCOLATE STOUT – Very much like a Tootsie Roll beer.
Ummm... Ready to go!
1160 - NORTH PEAK BREWING ARCHANGEL SUMMER WHEAT – I was excited to try this regional Michigan beer I’ve never seen.  Sadly nondescript, aside from the appealing can design.
1161 - MEANTIME BREWING OLD SMOKED BOCK – Not super smoky, but super good.
1163 - BRASSERIE ST. FEUILLIEN SAISON – I don’t see these high quality Belgian beers packaged in cans too often, but here ya go.
1167 - EPIC BREWING CO. HOP SYNDROME LAGER – Good.  Tastes like an IPA.  Is it officially an IPL?
1169 - CHUCKALEK DOWSER – One of my new favorite breweries.
1171 - LA QUINTA BREWING HEATWAVE RED ALE – Last beer of the fest, and quite a surprise.  Truly good!  I’ve got family in La Quinta… guess it’s time for a visit!
1172 - DOS EQUIS AMBER – As lame as I remember it. It’s a bad sign when putting a lime in your beer makes it way better.

Saturday 6/21 – Serious beering with Jack & Jackie, wandering somewhere between North Park and South Park. Again, didn’t take notes, but not necessary because everything was good:
Action shot of beer on a table.
1196 - MODERN TIMES BLAZING WORLD - Great hoppy amber
1197 - MODERN TIMES BOOMING ROLLERS - Three hop combo that's mellow and less hoppy than the amber
1198 - MODERN TIMES ONEIDA - Pale ale, heavy on the tropical fruit
Say "Yes" to the Hess
1199 - HESS BREWING DRYADALIS BELGIAN PALE ALE – Killer, why isn’t this in cans?
1200 - HESS BREWING CITY PARK STRONG ALE – Full and robust, just how I like ‘em
1201 - HESS BREWING ORDEUM REX BARLEYWINE – Not overly sweet, but still a rich appertif
1202 - HESS BREWING GRIM AVE SESSION IPA – 2014 is The Year Of Session IPAs.
1203 - HESS BREWING DECEPTIO BLACK IPA – Hoppy and dark perfection.
1204 - HESS BREWING UMBRIX RYE IMPERIAL STOUT – As awesome as it sounds.
1205 - HESS BREWING COFFEE GRAZIAS – Their cream ale with coffee added. There were clouds in my coffee … Clouds in my coffee…
1206 - ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING BOONT BARL BOURBON BARREL AMBER ALE – Surprisingly subtle, almost like a “light” barleywine, but still with some good bourbony sweetness and depth.

Sunday 6/22 – Belgian sampling at Vendome, and a mixed bag at home:
1207 - BRASSERIE DUPONT AVRIL SAISON - Watery, light, with a nose like buttered popcorn
1208 - BRASSERIE DUPONT SAISON DUPONT CUVEE DRY HOPPING 2014 - Floral and a bit yeasty
1209 - BROUWERIJ VAN STEENBERGE WITCHES BREW GOLDEN ALE - Golden, sweet, doughy, with a hint of corn cob
1210 - HALEN BREWERIES MARIENRODE TRIPPLE - Rich and heavy on the honey
1211 - BRASSERIE LES 3 FOURQUETS LUPULUS TRIPEL -Bitter & dry like a non-sparkling champagne.
The real brew dogs.
1212 - BROUWERIJ VAN STEENBERGE GULDEN DRAAK BREWMASTER'S EDITION WHISKEY BARREL - slightly sweet, not overpowering with the barrel like most American beers
1214 - BRASSERIE ST. FEUILLIEN CUVEE DE NOEL SPECIALE - Continued Belgian goodness.
1215 - OCEANSIDE ALE WORKS DALIESQUE LAMBIC - Barrel aged lambic style sour, easy drinking with some peach and mild pucker goin' on
1216 - STONE BREWING DOUBLE DRY HOPPED OAK AGED RUINATION – Do I really need to explain what level of perfection has been achieved here?
1217 - EPIC BREWING WIT BEER – Soapy and weird, with a hint of sage.  Instead of drinking it, I used it to marinate chicken. Much better that way.
1218 - MARIN BREWING POINT REYES PORTER – Full bodied, almost desserty porter.
1219 - DESCHUTES BREWERY TWILIGHT SUMMER ALE – Whatever.  Then again, I shouldn’t have had this after that bomber of thick porter.

Monday 6/23 – A few treats at home:
1220 - STILLWATER ARTISINAL ALES CLASSIQUE – Delicious, I could have mistaken it for a saison. Tart and wheaty. The perfection I’ve come to expect from Stillwater.
1221 - SANTAN BREWING HOPSHOCK IPA – Finding a lot more from this AZ brewery lately. Slightly piney, malty, and totally comforting.
Can is the new keg.
1222 - SAMUEL SMITH IMPERIAL STOUT -  Major molasses, wow!

Tuesday 6/24 - Bottles at home and practice:
1223 - FLYING FISH BREWING COMPANY FARMHOUSE SUMMER ALE - Wheaty, refreshing & loverly
1224 - ANGEL CITY BREWERY SUMMER WEST COAST WHEAT ALE - Finally, an Angel City brew I haven't had. So good! Creamy, grainy, golden ale.
1225 - CALEDONIAN BREWING COMPANY NEWCASTLE BOMBSHELL - More wheaty than your standard Newcastle... I actually like it better than the standard Newcastle. It's actually drinkable. 

Wed 6/25 - Chillin with Wifey:
1226 - LAUGHING DOG DOGZILLA BLACK IPA - More roasty than IPAey, still nice.
1227 - ROGUE AMERICAN AMBER ALE - I have an aversion to Rogue, but this one is decent.

Mullet-shaped toupees are real.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Beer #1002-1090 / Day #158-169: Innovation and Aggravation

Part 1: Innovation
If you’re a hermit who just recently integrated yourself back into society, then you’re the only remaining person on the planet who is not aware San Diego County is Ground Zero for microbrewing (I refuse to call it “craft” anything).  Not only is it birthplace to many of the most respected and revered names in the beer scene, but it continues to lead the pack in trend-setting and innovation.  A couple weekends back, I picked a few breweries at random to visit, and I didn’t pick all obscure destinations either, which is what I’m prone to do.  It was Father’s Day, and as a proud Father, I treated myself to my own gift.

First stop was a new one for me: White Labs.  This company has been supplying yeast to the brewing community since the mid-90s.  Only in recent years did they start their own brewing program, and open it to the public.  Their tasting room is comfortable, and their list is impressive.  What makes White Labs so pioneering & unique is their flights:  Four samplers of four of the same beer, but each one is fermented with a different strain of yeast.  Tasting them all side by side, you understand how much impact each different yeast culture has on your beer.  I had the IPA flight, and all four were distinct.  Most notable was the WLP 4000 Vermont Double IPA Yeast, which I was told comes from a “famous Vermont brewer”.  Was I tasting the cousin of HEADY TOPPER?  It could be neither confirmed nor denied, but suspicions were well founded.  Also highly notable were the “Franken” brews, all containing a mixture of 96 combined yeast strains; Tastiest of all of them was the FRANKENSTOUT.  Proof that science can be both fun and tasty. Double props go to White Labs for handing out free growlers to all of the Dads who showed up on Father's Day!

Next stop:  Ballast Point, Old Grove Location. Mid-afternoon on Sunday and this joint was packed to the gills. It took some patience and creative jockeying to catch the eye of a server, but well worth the combat-tasting experience.  If you’re in SoCal, you can find Ballast Point anywhere.  If you’re a beer snob, you might consider it a bit of a “ho hum” choice, but I’m telling you the tasting room is a completely different beast worthy of being tamed.  20 taps, plus a cask or two.  In addition to the usual suspects, there’s a ton of experimentation resulting in new one-off brews, and oddball varieties of the tried & true beers.  Like the hoppy BLACK MARLIN PORTER WITH ROASTED PEANUTS AND COCOA NIBS ON CASK.  Or the CHIPOTLE BLACK MARLIN PORTER.  Or the WINTER SAN SALVADOR BLACK LAGER WITH OYSTERS.  Or the GRAPEFRUIT SCULPIN IPA.  I love breweries that constantly push the envelope, and despite their size, Ballast Point maintains that D.I.Y. grassroots vibe.  Not to mention their beer is consistently excellent across the board.

Next, a hop, skip, and jump over to AleSmith Brewing Company.  And I did indeed feel like hopping, skipping, and jumping for joy after finally visiting this mecca of brewing perfection.  They were pouring a few items exclusive to their tasting room, so I went for the 394 SAN DIEGO PALE ALE, the OLDE ALE MMXIV, BALTIC PORTER, and the SPEEDWAY STOUT WITH ETHIOPIAN SUPERNATURAL COFFEE.  All world class beers, and I love the continuing variations being introduced into the Speedway Stout.  I’m going to visit this place more often, and take advantage of these Local’s-only innovations.

It was finally time to make my way Northward towards home.  After making a bit of progress on the road, I went for one final pit stop at Pizza Port San Clemente. I’m a huge fan of this franchise.  Each Pizza Port location brews their own proprietary beers, and in my experience 95% of them are outstanding.  All styles, always something new, interesting, and sometimes challenging. 
The perfect capper to this day was coming home to incredible homemade gnocchi from my Wife.  She ended the day with her own brand of innovation.  Damn, now I wish every day was Father’s Day.

Part 2: Aggravation
Tuesday night is band practice night.  Often I’ll meet up with Matt Domino and Joe Denunzio prior to practice at a local dive bar, but occasionally we’ll hit a spot that actually carries beers I want to try.  The other week we chose Story Tavern in Burbank.  I’ve been there before, but it’s been a year or so.  Last time I had a flight of excellent Stone rarities at a Tap Takeover night.

Domino sporting the Tuesday shirt
This time I asked about ordering tasters of a few different beers.  The waitress checked with the management, and informed me they couldn’t sell me any tasters because of their Kinetic Brewing tap takeover. Even though half of their board was non-Kinetic brews, the rule still applied.
OK, I have no problem with an establishment who simply doesn’t sell samplers.  And I have no problem if there’s a special event, and they want you to buy a full pour on that night.  I get it.  But I was already aware of the Kinetic taps, and I was also aware that the official Kinetic Tap Takeover event took place on the Thursday before!  It was now Tuesday... five days later!  The actual event of a Tap Takeover is traditionally on one evening.  After that, sometimes there’s leftovers, as was the case here.  To add insult to injury, half of the fucking Kinetic beers on the board were crossed out because they ran out of them.  Not cool.  At all.  As for full pours, nothing on the board was under $8.
Don’t make an excuse that there’s a tap takeover when it’s five days after the fact and half of the goddamn featured beers aren’t even available.  I felt like I was being fleeced.  Regardless, we stuck around and had a few pints (or tulip glasses, depending on the beer).  In spite of my ruffled feathers, the Kinetic brews were outstanding, especially the KINETIC FUSION PORTER.  
Thumbs down to Story Tavern.
Thumbs up to Kinetic. 

The beering continues...

Sat 6/7 – A few flights at Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena, and a few pints in various spots around Downtown LA
1002 - PORT BREWING ANNIVERSARY ALE – Rich ‘n hoppy excellence.
Patiently dealing with my beering
1003 - GREAT DIVIDE BREWING HERCULES DOUBLE IPA – Hefty, caramelly, malty DIPA. Flex those pecs!
1004 - MOTHER EARTH BOOKOO IPA – Light, crisp, crunch hops, tastes like one of the many session IPAs out there, and that’s a good thing. Very tasty.
1005 - RITUAL BREWING EXTRA RED – Decent red, I think I got it too cold on tap. Last sip was the best when it started to warm up.
1006 - IRONFIRE BREWING NUHELL IPL – Loved this one, following in the sizeable footsteps of Bruery Humulus. From one of my new favorites straight outta Temecula.
1007 - THE BRUERY MISCHIEF – Their flagship Belgian style. Golden, refreshing goodness.
1008 - SANTAN BREWING MR. PINEAPPLE WHEAT – Different spin on wheat beer, not syrupy as I’d expect. Really tasty, wish I was on a beach in Maui sippin’ this.
1009 - VICTORY BREWING SUMMER LOVE – Mild lager, good mild hoppiness and hints of barley. Victory never disappoints.
Slater's 50/50: Great food & flight friendly
1010 - NINKASI DAWN OF THE RED – Hoppy red, with a slight acidic bite like pink grapefruit.
1011 - LADYFACE ALEHOUSE LA GRISETTE – Majorly lemony saison.
1012 – CHIMAY CINQ CENTS TRIPEL – Mild, golden, yeasty, floral esters. More comforting than Christopher Cross on a sailboat.
1013 – SPEAKEASY THE INFORMANT SAISON – Decent, tart saison, not incredible, but OK.
1014 - SMOG CITY BREWING SABER TOOTHED SQUIRREL AMBER – Very nice, rich, full bodied.
1015 - UNITED BREWERIES KINGFISHER PREMIUM LAGER – What I expected, maybe a little better. Lite lager that goes will with our incredible Indian food at Badmaash, downtown LA
1016 – OMMEGANG HENNEPIN FARMHOUSE SAISON – Citrusy farmhouse brew, it’s got the Yum Factor.
Sun 6/8 – Chillin’ at home
1017 - BAYHAWK ALES CHOCOLATE PORTER – Roasty & chocolatey, could have been more dense for my tastes, but still a good sipper.
1018 - THE LOST ABBEY GIFT OF THE MAGI BIERE DE GARDE – Cloudy amber beer with mild spice, faint hops, light carbonation.  Decent.
1019 - EEL RIVER BREWING IPA – Nondescript, but OK.
1020 - VICTORY BREWING STORM KING IMPERIAL STOUT – Awesome hop-packed stout.

Mon 6/9 - Home
1021 - EPIC BREWING BRAINLESS IPA – Yeasty and IPAey, best of both worlds
1022 - ROGUE ALES MOCHA PORTER – First Rogue brew I’ve had in many years, I’ve been avoiding them.  Pleasantly surprised that I actually like this one quite a bit.
1023 - ANDERSON VALLEY BROTHER DAVID'S TRIPLE ABBEY STYLE ALE – Trippin’ balls about this triple. Good one.

Tues 6/10 – A few at Story Tavern, Burbank and a couple at home
1024 - DOUBLE MOUNTAIN IRA – Heavy, hop forward red ale.  Awesome, best Double Mtn to date.
1025 - KINETIC BREWING RUSTED COFFEE AMBER ALE – Coffee overload, like I’m having my morning coffee with a shot of booze.
1026 - KINETIC BREWING FUSION PORTER – Best Kinetic brew yet, super roasty, rich, freakin’ delicious. Cheers to the high desert’s finest.
1027 - KINETIC BREWING IGNITION PALE ALE – Fookin’ great, citrusy, crushingly hoppy. Love it.
1028 - BRASSERIE DIEU DU CIEL SOLSTICE D'HIVER BARLEY WINE – Delicious barleywine, heavy on the caramel, perfect nitecap, comforting, should be served with vanilla gelato.
The Morrison: Who knew Glendale doesn't have to be lame?
Wed 6/11 – Starting at home, watching the Kings blow it at Beer Belly, nitecap at The Morrison
1029 - DOUBLE MOUNTAIN SACRE BLEU – That just sounds like a nasty double entendre, doesn’t it?  Double mount’n? Very Beavis & Butthead. Anyhow, this is a decent Belgian style double, amber, malty goodness.
1030 - CRAFTSMAN BREWING O' STOUT – Drinks more like a black lager, low carbonation, decent.
1031 - CRAFTSMAN BREWING SAISON – Excellent, rich, fruity farmhouse ale with a deep orange color.  It just looks satisfying.
1032 - CRAFTSMAN BREWING MAIBOCK – Real tasty, malty, wheaty, creamy ale. My Wife says it would go well with cookies.
1033 - THE LOST ABBEY CARNEVALE – Tart and wild, very good. I liked the Craftsman Saison much better though.
1035 - BELHAVEN BREWERY WEE HEAVY – Super sweet, rich, delicious, a liquefied powerhouse dessert in a glass
1036 - BELHAVEN BREWERY BELHAVEN BLACK – On nitro, excellent roasted malts, lighter mouthfeel, but full of flavor

Thurs 6/12 – Home
1037 – SAM ADAMS LONGSHOT GRATZER – Smells smoky, tastes like melted Popsicle in a used ashtray. Recipe is from the winner of a homebrew competition.  Gratzer is a traditional Polish smoke wheat beer.  There’s a joke in there somewhere…
1038 – UINTA BABA BLACK LAGER – Solid, roasty, easy drinking, and organic if you’re worried about such things.
1039 – GOOSE ISLAND ENDLESS IPA – Lite but sharp hop bite, very tasty session IPA, bottled 6 weeks ago, so still nice, fresh, and crunchy.
1040 – FIRESTONE WALKER VELVET MERLIN OATMEAL STOUT – Ol’ Reliable, a mighty brew that’s oaty and stouty, of course, but also very affordable. Firestone Walker is bringin’ high quality brew to The People!

Fri 6/13 – Opening a couple bottles with family, and a few late night samplers at Boneyard Bistro
1042 - CLOWN SHOES BROWN ANGEL – Hoppy imperial brown ale, even a honky like me knows how freakin’ bad ass it is
1043 - BRASSERIE CARACOLE SAXO – Super wheaty and crisp, decent golden ale
1044 - BROUWERIJ VERHAEGHE DUCHESSE DE BOURGOGNE – Tasty, both sweet and sour, I could marinate some pork in this & make Chinese food
1045 - SMUTTYNOSE FINESTKIND IPA – Aggressive hoppy IPA. Great stuff, Maynard.
1046 - SMUTTYNOSE ROBUST PORTER – Excellent, deep roasted malts. Maybe some mild hops lurking in there, too?

Sat 6/14 – Barely even starting in San Diego
1047 - BELL'S KALAMAZOO STOUT – So-so stout.
1048 - IRONFIRE BREWING SIX KILLER STOUT – Emphasis on “killer”, strong coffee and roasty cocoa. Great!
1049 - HUMBOLDT BREWING BLACK XANTUS – Barrel aged brilliance. Mouthfeel is smooth as silk, flavors are thick as a brick, absolute perfection.
1050 - ACOUSTIC ALES WESTBOUND AND DOWN BELGIAN QUAD – Thick and spicy Belgian Quad, two thumbs up.
1051 - ACOUSTIC ALES RUN FOR THE HILLS DIPA – Fuggin’ fantastic nuclear hop detonation.
1052 - BALLAST POINT CALICO AMBER ALE – Classic amber, rich and tasty.
Blackmail material.
1053 - CORONADO BREWING ISLANDER IPA – This is the semi-secret gem of West Coast IPAs, always a favorite, but never touted as the incredible IPA that it is. Not as easy to find as the Idiot IPA, but worth the extra legwork to track down.
1054 - BALLAST POINT BLACK MARLIN PORTER – A hop heavy porter that’s so damn good, it’s a revelation.
1055 - BRECKENRIDGE BREWERY OATMEAL STOUT – I was excited to find this Colorado brewery in California for the first time. That said, the stout itself is less than exciting. Decent, good cereally barley nose. Granted, after the excellent stouts I had earlier in the day, they’re a tough act to follow.

Sun 6/15 – San Diego contributes to the best Father’s Day ever
1056 - WHITE LABS FRANKEN STOUT – The “Franken” refers to a combination of 96 yeast strains used for fermentation. A beautiful freak of nature.
1057 - WHITE LABS TABBERER IPA WLP 001 CALIFORNIA ALE YEAST – Well balanced West Coast style IPA.
1058 - WHITE LABS TABBERER IPA WLP 090 SAN DIEGO SUPER YEAST – Citrusy with a creamy mouthfeel.
1059 - WHITE LABS TABBERER IPA WLP 4000 VERMONT DOUBLE IPA YEAST – Wheaty, clean, rural, yeast tastes like undercooked bread or cookie dough. The fella running the taps said they got this yeast strain from a “famous Vermont brewer”.  He would neither confirm nor deny that this is Alchemist yeast, but it seems likely. Is it the cousin of Heady Topper?  If he told you the answer, he would have to kill you?
1060 - WHITE LABS TABBERER IPA WLP 550 BELGIAN ALE YEAST – Heavy citrus nose and taste
1061 - WHITE LABS FRANKEN SMOKED MILD – Heavy fruit and a little bacon, not only Mild in style, but mildly smoked. Not a smoke bomb like Schlenkerla. Mellow and easy drinking.
1062 - WHITE LABS BIER DE GARDE WITH CHERRIES ON CASK – Very rural, cherries are subtle, hints of sour apple
1063 - WHITE LABS FRANKEN LAGER WITH MOSAIC – Clean, crisp, with a hint of pear
1064 - WHITE LABS FRANKEN LAGER WITH SORACHI ACE – Lemony and bready… again, all of these aforementioned “Franken” beers contain a combo of 96 yeast strains.
1065 - BALLAST POINT GRUNION PALE ALE – Crisp, solid, hoppy ale, heavy orange and kiwi.
1066 - BALLAST POINT WINTER SAN SALVADOR BLACK LAGER WITH OYSTERS – Killer spiced oyster black lager, maybe even some sage in there?
1067 - BALLAST POINT EVEN KEEL SESSION IPA – On par with all others in the recent wave of high-quality Session IPAs.
1068 - BALLAST POINT GRAPEFRUIT SCULPIN IPA – Wow, heavy acidic grapefruit overwhelms the hops. I could probably mix this in a margarita or a greyhound.
1069 - BALLAST POINT REEF RYE BROWN ALE – Rye forward and great.
1070 - BALLAST POINT CHIPOTLE BLACK MARLIN – A godsend. This already brilliant beer is taken to the next level with chipotle pepper; even superior to Habanero Sculpin in my book.
1071 - BALLAST POINT BLACK MARLIN WITH ROASTED PEANUTS AND COCOA NIBS ON CASK – Completely different beer than the Black Marlin above. The peanut flavor is overwhelming, I was expecting a PB & Chocolate bomb, but it’s mainly a peanut bomb. I don’t taste the Marlin hops, and the cocoa is extremely subtle.  Innovate and simultaneously weird.
1072 - ALESMITH BREWING 394 SAN DIEGO PALE ALE – Named for SD Padres local legend Tony Gwynn, in reference to the Hall Of Famers batting average, this drinks like a clean session IPA. Hop prominent, and delicious.
1073 - ALESMITH BREWING OLDE ALE MMXIV – Crazy sweet malts, almost a barley wine.
1074 - ALESMITH BREWING SPEEDWAY STOUT WITH ETHIOPIAN SUPERNATURAL COFFEE – Really smooth mouthfeel, rich and oily, mild espresso and cocoa presence. As superior as expected.
1075 - ALESMITH BREWING BALTIC PORTER – A bready and malty treat.
1076 - PIZZA PORT (SAN CLEMENTE) PIER RAT PORTER – A damn solid roasty Porter.
1077 - PIZZA PORT (SAN CLEMENTE) BLACK SEA BASS SCHWARTZBIER – On nitro, smooth but kinda watered down, one of the only Pizza Port brews I didn’t love.
1078 - PIZZA PORT (SAN CLEMENTE) DANGER ZONE DOUBLE IPA – Big time cannabis weed ale with those skunky hops… they should ditch their Chronic Ale, and replace it with this.
1079 - PIZZA PORT (SAN CLEMENTE) CITRA-R-RAMA -  Hoppy and light, a total yum fest.

Mon 6/16 – Home with the parents visiting from Chico
1080 – BLACK SHEEP BREWERY MONTY PYTHON’S HOLY GRAIL ALE – Tastes like a malty, melted Popsicle. In a word: Semprini.
1082 – SIERRA NEVADA BLINDFOLD BLACK IPA – If I’m going to be blindfolded, I think I need a “safe word”.  How about “Cacao”?  Anyhow, freakin’ great beer, powerful hop bite, love it. 
Even the sign has a bend.

Tues 6/17 – A couple at Whiskey Bend, a couple at home
1083 – SIERRA NEVADA NOONER SESSION IPA – Quite toothsome, as expected. I’ve been Nooned.
1084 – MICHELOB ULTRA – Shit beer sent through a time warp from 1986.
1085 – NEW BELGIUM FAT TIRE – Your best bet if it’s offered in a dive bar tap line-up.
1086 – GRAND TETON BREWING BITCH CREEK ESB EXTRA SPECIAL BROWN – Slight caramel malt and mildly bready. Yeah, you heard me, Biatch!

Wed 6/18 – Chillin’ at home with the family
1087 – SAM ADAMS ESCAPE ROUTE – Most Sam Adams make we wish I had an escape route. This one’s an OK kolsch, some light malts and lemony overtones (no, I didn’t say “notes”).
1088 – SIERRA NEVADA SNOW WIT WHITE IPA – Clever name, given the 7 experimental dwarf hops they used.  Awesome white IPA.
1089 – KNEE DEEP BREWING RYEDENTITY CRISIS – Not what I was expecting. Like a rye infused sour with a hint of handsoap.
1090 – GREEN FLASH DOUBLE STOUT – 5 years ago this was my favorite stout. I haven’t had it in a couple years, and it turns out this bad boy still holds its own. Deep licorice, chocolate, roasty tobacco.  I never hear anyone rave about this beer, and I have a feeling this is overlooked by the general populous in the beer community. Still awesome!
Party time.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Beer #959-1,001 / Day #153-157: Rarefied Air - The Quest For Beer #1000

"They’re men, dear. If they stop competing, then they die.” – JoBeth Williams in “The Big Year”

Upon the conclusion of my original 2013 Big Year In Beer, I publicly laid out the ground rules for the Big Year which I would again be pursuing in 2014.  At least two of my friends, that I’m aware of, accepted it as a challenge and successfully kept pace ahead of me for the first five months of this year.  I blogged my frustrations about trailing behind two men who I considered to have substantial advantages over me:  1. Randy Carncross for working at a brew pub and attaining endless access to new beer all day every day.   2. Chris W. who quite honestly can afford to purchase every beer in the Western Hemisphere, and has the temperament to stow them all away in his stomach in mass quantities... kinda like a Conehead except he’s not as pointy. 
The original Three. Too bad there's no breweries on Attu.
After this past weekend in Paso at the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival, and a few additional tastings along the way, I greatly increased my numbers.  I was sure that I had finally pulled into the lead ahead of both Randy and Chris, and before I knew it I was 42 beers short of the magical milestone of 1,000. 

1,000 different beers. It’s an arbitrary number, and there’s no prize, so why does hitting 1,000 seem like such a big deal?  I have no idea.  It just does.  
Another selfie? I thought you'd never ask!
Being the first to reach quadruple digits is like Neil Armstrong stepping onto the lunar surface.  It’s uncharted territory, and many will follow, but there is a certain satisfaction knowing you’re the first. 
With this milestone in mind, I pushed myself this week to sample more than I ordinarily would on an average week.  The last thing I need is some pesky pal sneaking up and hitting 1,000 before me.  Each day I was focused on my goal, with the eye of the tiger, and the belly of a hobo.  Establishments serving affordable flights and tasters were my only chance to barrel through 42 different beers during the week. 

I launched my attack:
*Tony’s Darts Away, Burbank – Two visits, some of the best beer around and one of my favorite spots which constantly rotates their selection.
*Infest practice – My weekly band practice. I asked Matt Domino to bring a couple singles of what he brands “American Shit Lager”. He brought some shit, that’s for sure, but I still sampled it, and it was new to my list.
BJ's: Turns out the name is false advertising
*BJ’s, Burbank – They serve a long list of proprietary brews.  I dropped in at 10:45pm on a Tuesday evening for a nitecap after practice, thinking it would be a quiet place for a couple flights. The place was packed, for no reason.  Apparently this is where Burbankeans go to party.  Bleached blonde whores, dumpy geeks, muscular bros in Affliction gear, old Armenian families, you name it… maybe everyone doesn’t need a beer as much as I do, but clearly everyone needs a Pazookie.
*Boneyard Bistro, Studio City – When the boss says he wants to take you out after work, you say “Yes”, but the deal is even sweeter when it’s at a place with constantly changing primo taps & incredible BBQ, and you’re watching your home team in the Stanley Cup. All of the planets were aligned in my favor.
*Vendome Liquors, North Hollywood – Harley the Cicerone is a saint for organizing multiple beer tastings that are both varied and affordable. He recently started a program of New Release tastings every Thursday.  Perfect timing for me.
With focus and determination, despite my woes and self-pity, halfway into the year I’ve now pulled into the lead.  I’m the first to reach Beer #1,000 in 2014

Am I the new Mozart?
Or Sandy Komito?
Or Sir Edmund Hillary? 
Maybe not. But the 1,000s are rarefied air, especially this early in the year.
Follow me if you must, but be sure to hire a Sherpa.

The beering continues....

6/2 – Tony’s Darts Away samplers, and one at home
959 – LAGUNITAS SF FUSION DOUBLE IPA – Full bodied with a lingering hoppy finish.
Tony's is No baloney
960 – CORONADO HOPPY DAZE IPA – After SF Fusion this one almost tastes rural, like a hoppy wheat field.  Great stuff.
961 – GOLDEN ROAD GET UP OFFA THAT BROWN WITH COFFEE ON CASK – Cask conditioning seems to take the acidic bite away from the coffee, resulting in a cleaner coffee beer. Dangerously easy to drink. I could chug this all day.
962 – MODERN TIMES BLACK HOUSE BOURBON OATMEAL COFFEE STOUT – First off, a Modern Times beer not from a can?  Cool.  Second, Tony’s Darts Away serves this at the perfect temp… not too cold, and not as warm as the cask beer above. I’m tasting the subtleties of everything in the name of this beer, and I’m guessing they would be buried if it was served too cold. Truly an outstanding beer.
963 – GOLDEN ROAD DART’S AWAY IPA – Nice one! Crisp hop bite, heavy dense orangey citrusness
964 – HAVEN BREWING UNFILTERED IPA – Mellow mouthfeel, sharp hop presence. I haven’t had any of Haven’s proprietary beers in over a year, and clearly they’ve stepped up their game. The best Haven beer to date.
From the sublime to the ridiculous
965 - STRAND BREWING HARVEST BALL ORANGE WITBEER – Deep orange color, refreshing, I had this while swimming on a hot summer’s eve.

6/3 – A good one at home, two bad ones at Infest practice, eight decent tasters at BJ’s
966 - HUMBOLDT BREWING 500 B.C. DOUBLE IPA – As majestic as an ancient redwood, this is a mighty imperial that towers over the rest
967 - KING COBRA MALT LIQUOR – I feel like I should be wearing baggy shorts and spray painting graffiti
968 - MILLER BREWING STEEL RESERVE 211 – Unparalleled excellence in brewing… but enough talk about Three Floyds…
969 - BJ'S JEREMIAH RED – Mildly fruity for a red.  So-so.
970 - BJ'S HOPSTORM IPA – Maybe more of a light sprinkle, but mildly hoppy and better than expected.
971 - BJ'S HAPPY SCOTSMAN – Limited release, served too cold, but it’s a much better beer when it warms up. A mild Scottish ale with barely detectable hops.
972 - BJ'S TATONKA STOUT – Again, decent when it warms up a bit, chocolatey smooth maltiness, would make a nice ice cream float
Boneyard frivolity
973 - BJ'S GOLIATH IMPERIAL RED ALE – Their best offering, hop forward and wonderfully dense mouthfeel
974 - BJ'S PIRANHA PALE ALE – moderate hop definition, pretty good
975 - BJ'S NUTTY BREWNETTE – heavy roasted malts, perty good
976 - BJ'S PM PORTER – on nitro, smooth and roasty, as nutty as the brown

6/4 – First Kings/Rangers Stanley Cup game, happy co-workers, many samplers at Boneyard Bistro
977 - HESS BREWING JUCUNDUS WHEAT ALE – Decent wit, nice & orangey
978 - MONKISH BREWING GALAXY DEFENDER PALE ALE – Tasty Belgian style pale ale
979 - EL SEGUNDO BREWING HOP TANKER DOUBLE IPA – El Segundo just keeps crankin’ out the superior IPAs. This one is a Double. Keep that conveyor belt rollin’, guys…
980 - DOUBLE MOUNTAIN MOLTEN LAVA DOUBLE IPA – Didn’t really dig their standard IPA, but this Imperial wins some Brownie points.
981 - NOBLE ALE WORKS ENGLISH 101 – Solid, nutty English strong ale
Boneyard samplers in front of actual bones
982 - EL SEGUNDO BREWING STATION NO. 1 AMBER – Shit, they just keep releasing all good stuff. I need to get off my ass & visit El Segundo already.
983 - BROUWERIJ ST. BERNARDUS ABT 12 BELGIAN QUAD -  Sweet, fruity, malty powerhouse of a Belgian quad.  Too good.
984 - ALESMITH RAMBLIN' RYE – Superior, rich, malty, deep brown rye beer.
985 - THE BRUERY HOTTENROTH – Supposed to be a Berliner Weisse, but I’m not getting the typical sourness. There’s some pucker from the heavy lemon, but it’s more like a summer shandy.
986 - ALESMITH SUMMER YULESMITH – The mother effin’ bomb of Double IPAs.
987 - HESS BREWING HABITUS RYE BEER – Very grain-forward, if that makes any sense. Tastes like a field of rye being stone ground for the bread maker. Very good.
988 - CUVEE DE JACOBINS ROUGE – Whoa, good and SOUR, mildly funky like an old red wine.
989 - SCALDIS NOEL – A nice, muscular Belgian Strong.  Super sweet malts, anise, chocolate.
990 - REISSDORF KOLSCH – Excellent! Damn rich for a kolsch. This is what beer should be.
God bless you Harley the Cicerone
991 - ST. LOUIS GUEUZE FOND TRADITION – Horrifically weird.  Major pucker with a blender full of green beans. Super odd. Can’t shake the funk and the spicy green veggie aftertaste.

6/5 – Vendome, Harley the Cicerone’s excellent new release beer tasting, and a so-so bottle at home
992 – BELCHING BEAVER RABID BEAVER BITE RYE IPA – Great bite, creamy mouthfeel, evenly balanced hops and rye, love it!
993 – STONE ENJOY BY 7-04-14 DOUBLE IPA – As perfect as all others in the series.  Enjoy NOW!
994 – BOULDER BREWING 35TH ANNIVERSARY BLACK IPA– Big, roasted malt and hop collision.  Excellent!
995 – STONE STOCHASTICITY QUADROTRITICALE – Slightly sweet, slightly fruity, rich quad that isn’t too heavy or syrupy, just right
996 - OMMEGANG GAME OF THRONES FIRE AND BLOOD RED ALE - I dunno, I don't really dig it. The previous G.O.T. beers were solid, but this one has some wobbly legs on it.
#999 - A pint of Alpiney perfection

6/6 - A few more at Tony's and a big finale at home with the family on a Friday night. This is how it should be:
997 - BEAR REPUBLIC CUVEE DE BUBBA - A sour that lies somewhere between a Sweet Tart and bubble bath soap. I don't love it.
998 - SIERRA NEVADA HOPTIMUM - Their seasonal Double IPA that I look forward to every year. One of the best.
999 - ALPINE HOPPY BIRTHDAY - Never had this one, and never seen it on tap until two days ago. Thanks to Green Flash helping them boost production their Southland distribution is much wider. That said, who knows if this one will end up as limited as most of their other famous IPAs, so instead of a sampler glass, I ordered a full pint at Tony's.  It's on par with their other A-List IPAs. 
1000 - ALPINE PURE HOPPINESS - Complete & utter hop supremacy from SoCal's most sought after brewery.
1001 - INLAND EMPIRE BREWING PEPIN THE SHORT PORTER - Never heard of this brewer before, and I bought this on a whim because it was something new, and it was inexpensive.  I wasn't expecting much, but thankfully I was proven wrong.  Like, really wrong. Big time.  This is a fantastic, well-rounded, full-bodied, deliciously roasty, chocolatey, portly porter.  Now I'm determined to seek out their other releases.
You mean someone beat 732?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Beer #884-958 / Day #151-152: The Single Greatest Goddamn Beer Event In The Western Hemisphere

Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival. 

Just read that again and ponder it for a moment.  

Now that I’ve attended FWIBF, that’s how much reverence I’ve attached to FWIBF.  The name of FWIBF can only be spoken or read with a brief pause in order to reflect on the fact that it’s The Single Greatest Goddamn Beer Event In The Western Hemisphere.

I’ve never attended this gathering, and I didn’t do much research on it.  I briefly scanned the list of brewers, knew it would be awesome, and put it out of my mind.  What didn’t occur to me until I got there was this cross-section of breweries represented The Best Of The Best.   The recent LA area brewfests I’ve attended we’re most likely just free rein to whoever wanted to pay for a booth.  And as unmatched as Denver’s annual Great American Beer Festival is, and as competitive as it is for breweries to even get a table at GABF, there is still a lacking element of meticulous quality control.  This is the upper hand of the FWIBF.  It’s not just an open casting call.  It’s like GABF, pared down to manageable size, with the riff raff weeded out.  Participating breweries have been invited by Firestone Walker.  They are the upper echelon of not only Domestic, but International brewers as well.  
When geeks get extra geeky about their beer, who do they name drop?  Fifty/FiftyThree FloydsSurlyMikkellerCigar City?  They’re all here!  And not until I arrived did I get the full impact of what a treasure trove of geekdom this was.  
Sure, you guys are cute and all, but wine? WTF?
At this tent was a plethora of beers I’ve never heard of, but each one was better than the previous.  At that tent was a beer I had only heard about from friends or read about online, and here it was, freely flowing on tap for unlimited pours.  I’m never going to make it to Tampa, FL for Cigar City’s annual release party for the highly sought after Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout.  But here it was in my home state. In arm's reach, to enjoy without restriction until the keg runs dry.

The wife & I ventured North through the featureless Central Valley of California, turning West on Hwy 46, past Brown Material Road, past the death site of James Dean, to the uppity booze mecca of Paso Robles.  We convinced our wine-addicted friends The Beckers to trek to Paso the same weekend.  The Mrs. would have enjoyed FWIBF for about two hours, then would have tugged at my shirt tails for the next four hours begging to leave.  There was no way I was leaving this event until they kicked me out (which is what ultimately happened), so I pawned her off on The Beckers for a day of wine tasting adventures, while I indulged in my hobby/passion/obsession for the day.
My pal Barnaby Struve, VP of Three Floyds Brewing, was kind enough to comp my entry, so I was allowed to partake in the Brewer’s VIP early entrance privileges.  This gathering was tightly organized, with every detail given attention.  Not only was each beer geek issued a tasting glass, but also a small tray for food samples, as well as a booklet listing all breweries alphabetically and noting what they were pouring… even calling out specific kegs as “Rare Beer”.  They even gave us miniature golf pencils to take notes. There was plenty of elbow room, plenty of free water for hydration, multiple vendors plating up free food samples.  And center stage, a generous sampling of the finest beer on the planet, many of which are not otherwise available in Califonia. 
Sockeye fans are dumb.
True to form, and determined not to conform, Barnaby from Three Floyds sported a Bastard Noise T-shirt while pouring at their booth.  Since he got me in, I repayed him with a super shitty CDR copy the Sockeye “Barf On A Globe” collection of songs from compilations and split records.  Nobody knows who Sockeye is (including you), and out of the few people who do know Sockeye, even fewer are actually fans of Sockeye.  But Barnaby is that rare off-kilter type of gentleman who actually is a fan, and was genuinely happy to receive it.  I got in early on 3F’s stellar Yum Yum Pale Ale (which they describe as “pale ale-ish”), their Barrel Aged Blot Out The Sun Imperial Stout which nearly made me weep at its perfection, and I was lucky enough to be present when they opened their only two available bottles of the Ol Leghorn Barleywine, a collaboration brew with Firestone Walker that I have yet to find on a shelf, even at Firestone.
Rubbin elbows with this Surly couple
I schmoozed by way across the event center to greet a few more old pals, most notably Todd & Linda Haug, the power couple in charge of the mighty Surly Brewing out of Minnesota.  Thanks to US Air, the Haug’s luggage was lost, and therefore, they had to buy clean clothes for the day at a nearby Target.  Also out there somewhere in their missing bags were the Surly banner, and accompanying Surly tchotchkes like stickers and beer can koozies.  In spite of the setbacks and frustrations, they commandeered their tent with some of the finest brews known to mankind, and I happily sampled their legendary Darkness Stout and the long-awaited Pentagram dark sour.
I met up with Dustin Durrance, a friend of Dave Witte’s from Richmond, VA (then again, isn’t everyone a friend of Dave Witte’s?), and beer nerd who follows this stuff way more than I do.  He’s a super cool dude and clued me in to some of the “must haves” I wasn’t even focused on, such as the Kern River Citra Double IPA.  Then I ran into some old cohorts from the San Jose hardcore/grind/punk scene, the group of which are all mega beer nerds, and at several points throughout the day we connected and bonded over our mutual love of high quality brews and high speed bands. 
This is how they say "Cheers" in Richmond
Bottom line, it was a mass of pleased humanity.  We were all simultaneously tipsy, ecstatic, euphoric. 
Unlike most other Fests I attend, on this day very few of my samples were poured out midway to make room for something different.  The glass was small, and most pours were a third to half full, so I managed to make my way through an astounding 55 samples.  A nice lead on trying this many beers was unexpectedly gaining access about 40 minutes before the main gates opened (Thank you again FFF!).  Out of 55 total beers this day, maybe only 4-5 were “pretty good”, but even that description is likely reliant upon the fact that the bar had been raised to its highest point across the board.  On a day when every brewer was exceptional, and bringing their A-Game, anything considered “decent” was still exceptionally better than any day-to-day brau out there.  Within the confines of this compound, the extravagance of high quality sudsery felt debaucherous.  With unlimited access to many of the greatest beers on the planet, I felt like Caligula, violating every keg within arm’s reach. Off the cuff I would have described each of these beers as “one of the best”, on a day when EVERYTHING was The Best.
Exclusive Geek's-eye View!
For now, I'm breathing deeply, relishing the memory, but keeping focused on my next conquest.  Did someone say "quadruple digits"?  Stay tuned!

The tally continues…

5/31 – The Single Greatest Goddamn Beer Event In The Western Hemisphere, plus a few nitecaps at the diviest bar in Morro Bay:
884 - THREE FLOYDS YUM YUM PALE ALE - Self-described "Pale Ale-ish", but “Yum Yum” describes it perfectly.  Yum.
885 - FIRESTONE WALKER / THREE FLOYDS COLLABORATION OL LEGHORN BARLEY WINE - Hopped, barrel aged barley wine. As unreal as expected.
886 - THREE FLOYDS BLOT OUT THE SUN STOUT BARREL AGED - Holy. Eff. One of my favorites. Of all time. You're not allowed to try this. Don't even look at it. In fact, don't even read this.
887 - CIGAR CITY HUNAHPU'S IMPERIAL STOUT 2014 - Was beginning to think I'd never get to try this elusive behemoth. Massive, heavy cinnamon & cocoa, unique compared to other imperial stouts
889 – SURLY PENTAGRAM - Heavy cherry and "barnyard funk", dark, dank, tart, brilliant, and somewhat evil
890 – BOULEVARD GINGER LEMON RADLER - Melted frozen popsicle, lemon & ginger overload, I should be floating in an inner tube
891 - DOGFISH HEAD WINE BARREL AGED BLACK AND BLUE - A one-off? Damn, I got lucky. Major dark berry jammy powerhouse, mildly sour, mmhmmm
892 - MIKKELLER ORANGE YUZU GLAD I SAID PORTER GRAND MARNIER BARREL AGED - Aged in Grand Marnier barrels, subtle flavors, still can't rightfully say I know what yuzu tastes like
893 - MIKKELLER TENDERLOIN APA - Usually only available at their SF taproom, but sampled at FWIBF, love it, not overly hoppy, enough hop kick but still well balanced
894 - BRAUFACTUM ROOG RAUCHWEIZEN - Smoked beer that is thankfully mild on the smoke, fruity, floral, really unique, excellent
895 - BEAR REPUBLIC TARTARE ROUGE RED SOUR - Serious funk like a "corked" bottle of wine or a pungent bleu cheese, mildly & wonderfully moldy and weird sour. Great!
896 - BEACHWOOD DENVER JACKHAMMER – Creamy with a bite, listed at 100+ IBU. As Bon Scott would say, I’ve got The Jack.
897 - FIFTY FIFTY COFFEE-VANILLA ECLIPSE – Considering how crazy expensive all of their beers are, sampling their wares here was a golden opportunity. I avoided the mile long Russian River line and opted for the ¼ mile long Fifty Fifty line instead.  This beer puts all other beer to shame. Aged in oak bourbon barrels, espresso, vanilla, coffee.  Brought me to the verge of tears.  Thank you Baby Jesus.
898 - PIZZA PORT SOUR BEER HUNTER 2013 – Heavy on the Rainier Cherries, not overly pucker, delicious, like a liquified Hostess Cherry Fruit Pie with a sh*t-ton of alcohol
899 - ODELL BREWING DR. ACULA BARREL AGED BLACK ALE – This makes me even more depressed that Odell isn’t distributed in California.  This “coffin aged” ale is one of the finest on a day filled with exceptional beers. 
900 - REVOLUTION BREWING STRAIGHT JACKET BOURBON BARREL AGED BARLEY WINE - Fruit, coconut, bourbon... in two words:  Fucking insane!
901 - RAHR & SONS STORMCLOUD BRITISH STYLE IPA – Clearly not a West Coast style IPA, mild bitter bite almost like the world’s most mellow but still noticeable chile pepper, clean and tasty.
902 - RAHR & SONS BUCKING BOCK – They were supposed to be pouring a barrel aged version at the FWIBF, but received the wrong keg. No matter, this straight forward Helles Bock is still awesome.  Solid.  Floral without being flowery.  You can still drink it like a man.
903 - ODELL BREWING 59ER OAK AGED GOLDEN ALE – One of my favorite sours to date. So drinkable I could go through a growler solo.
904 - KERN RIVER CITRA DIPA – Grapefruity, not too bitter but it has a ridiculous hop bite, in a good way. World class. Worth the wait in line.
905 - THE BRUERY HUMULUS LAGER WITH COCONUT – My favorite IPL from one of my favorite IPLs, given a brand new twist. Tastes like coconut weed.
906 - GOLDEN ROAD EL HEFE ANEJO – Hefeweizen aged in Anejo Tequila barrels. One of my previous favorites from Golden Road. This year’s batch is extra tequila-ey.  Whoa!  Serious.
907 - JESTER KING NOCTURN CHRYSALIS – Sour, barrel aged blackberry beer. Interesting.  I like it, but I’m OK with just a taste.
908 - NEBRASKA BREWING ROMANCING THE CONE IPA - Nice sharp IPA with a grease slick of hop oils.
909 - BEACHWOOD SYSTEM OF A STOUT – Intensely concentrated Imperial Stout with Armenian coffee. One of the best beer names. Super duper good. And you don’t have to live in Glendale to enjoy it.
910 - FUNKWERKS SAISON – Refreshing saison, not super memorable, but I dug it
911 - FUNKWERKS RASPBERRY PROVINCIAL – Too wine-cooler-esque for me.
ANOTHER selfie?  Give it a rest, Bub!
912 – BONEYARD NOTORIOUS TRIPLE IPA – Possibly the crunchiest mouthfeel of any IPA ever produced.  Whoa!  Pungent and delicious.
913 – LAGUNITAS NIGHT TIME BLACK IPA – Farckin’ stellar even in the daytime. I love hop-forward dark brews.
914 - SUN KING LONESOME DOVE BELGIAN TRIPEL AGED IN PAPPY VAN WINKLE BOURBON BARRELS - Vanilla-ey, creamy, fruity, rich... just kill me now.
915 - OMMEGANG GNOMEGANG – smooooth malt mouthfeel, fruity, yeasty. Your ceramic lawn decorations will approve.
916 - BELL'S OARSMAN – Decent, light, citrusy session beer
917 - REVOLUTION BREWING DOS OSOS IPA – So hoppy but not crunchy, one of my favorite IPAs of the year
918 - BEAVERTOWN HEAVY WATER IMPERIAL STOUT – Effin’ solid! Tastes like and American Imperial Stout. Black chocolate motor oil. Love it!  9 outta 10.
919 – TAPS REMY OOH LA LA RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT – Yet another 5 star beer today… too many to keep track of.  Stout aged in Rittenhouse Rye barrels.  I’m home.
920 - ODELL BREWING LOOSE LEAF – Floral, light, sessionable, great everyday beer
921 - TRIPLE ROCK CELLARMAN SAISON BARREL AGED – Sour, aged in red wine barrels, distinct. Killer!
922 - ALPINE BEER COMPANY SAN DIEGO SURPRISE PALE ALE - Carries as much hop weight as any of their IPAs.
923 - FIRESTONE WALKER UDBA UNFILTERED BRITISH PALE ALE – floral, easy to drink, sessionable
924 - FIRESTONE WALKER DOUBLE JACK DOUBLE IPA – Great hop powerhouse, I’d have no issues drinking this 365 days a year.
925 - FIRESTONE WALKER PIVO HOPPY PILS – Loved it last year.  Love it this year.  Can it still fall in the Pils category with this much hoppiness?  Don’t care.  Gonna drink it regardless.
926 - FIFTY FIFTY OLD CONUNDRUM AGED ON PAPPY BARLEY WINE – Read the name and you already know this is incredible. Bourbon barrel barley wine that is beyond 5 stars.  The only conundrum is whether or not I’ll ever enjoy this again.
927 - ALESMITH SPEEDWAY STOUT BARREL AGED WITH VIETNAMESE COFFEE – Proof there is a God in Heaven who made it possible for me to sample this beer again in my lifetime.
928 - TRIPLE ROCK CELLARMAN SAISON – Big citrus, but not tart.  Really different.  Really goddamn good! 4.5 stars.
929 - MOONLIGHT DEATH & TAXES BLACK ALE - Aggressively malt-forward, refreshing as hell
930 - DOGFISH HEAD NAMASTE WITBIER – spicey lighter beer, really nice
931 - ALESMITH GINGER LIL' DEVIL – So gingery it burns!
San Ho, represent, Yo!
932 - YO-HO TOKYO BLACK PORTER – One of the few rare Japanese beers I’ve had. A light porter compared to most American ones. Unfortunately my least fave of the day at FWIBF.
933 - PIZZA PORT AVA'S PALE ALE – Crazy hoppy, might as well be an IPA.  Flawless like 99.9% of Pizza Port brews.
934 - SURLY OVERRATED WEST COAST STYLE IPA – Best name for an IPA ever.  Best brewery as well.
935 - SURLY BITTER BREWER – Lovin’ it.
936 - SURLY HELL LAGER – Helles yes.
937 - BIRRIFICIO ITALIANO SPARROW PIT BARLEY WINE – Hoppy Italian barley wine, shared a bottle inside the fest with San Jose punx after The Man cut off the taps.  Wow.  Bad arse.
938 - SURLY FURIOUS IPA – The classic.
939 - MURPHY'S IRISH STOUT – Watered down, forgettable.  At the divey Fuel Dock, Morro Bay, CA.
940 - NEW BELGIUM RANGER IPA – Also at the Fuel Dock.  Not bad, but silly to even try after 55 world class beers at the FWIBF.

6/1 – Tasting at Firestone Walker Barrelworks, Buellton, then a tasting at the Telegraph tasting room in Santa Barbara:
Barrelworks: The Promised Land
941 - FIRESTONE WALKER ZIN SKIN – Experimental Barrelworks concoction using techniques from both beer and wine making. Bretta Weisse aged in oak with Zinfandel grape skins added. Like an acidic, mildly carbonated rose wine.

942 - FIRESTONE WALKER BCZAR BEANS – Russian Imperial Stout infused with coffee and aged in a single bourbon barrel for seven years!  What?  Who can wait that long?  I’m glad they did.  Unparalleled greatness.
943 - FIRESTONE WALKER STICKEE MONKEE (2014) – Belgian quad aged in spirits barrels with Mexican brown sugar added. As rich and complex as it sounds. A modern day classic beverage.
944 - FIRESTONE WALKER BRAVO BARREL AGED IMPERIAL BROWN ALE – Aged in spirits barrels, a real crusher.  In a flight of four perfect Barrelworks beers, this one was my favorite.
945 - FIRESTONE WALKER TAPROOM BROWN – Lighter and roasty, hard act to follow after tasting in the Barrelworks room, but still damn good.
947 - FIRESTONE WALKER WOOKEY JACK BLACK RYE IPA – A favorite of mine, real bite and wheat field goodness mixed with a hop attack
948 - TELEGRAPH BREWING LOS PADRES SAISON – I tasted cookie dough yeast. My wife didn’t. I’m probably wrong. We both loved it though.
Telegraph: Best brewery hangs in SB
949 - TELEGRAPH BREWING PRIME MERIDIAN ALE – Mildly hoppy, mildly tropical
950 - TELEGRAPH BREWING RAVENA STOUT – Roasty, lighter dark beer, more like a porter in my book. Don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoyed it though. I’m unfairly comparing to the Firestone Walker Barrelworks stouts which are too dense to see any light source through.
951 - TELEGRAPH BREWING CALIFORNIA ALE – Mild esters, floral hints, their flagship Belgian style ale is a good ‘un.
952 - TELEGRAPH BREWING CIPHER KEY SESSION ALE – Mild, rye extra pale ale, s’good
954 - TELEGRAPH BREWING WHITE ALE – Belgian wit, definitely getting some chamomile out of this.
955 - TELEGRAPH BREWING PACIFIC STANDARD TIME BELGIAN STYLE ALE – My fave of all 10 tasters. Very malty Belgian style with the fainted bit o’ pineapple, which isn’t very Belgian whatsoever.
956 - TELEGRAPH BREWING 1927 EXTRA PALE ALE – Heavy orange extra pale ale, really opens up at room temp.
958 - BUTTE CREEK ORGANIC PORTER – Capping of this amazing weekend at home. Even though “organic” scares me, this beer did not. Roasted & comforting.
Insect Porn is real.