Sunday, June 1, 2014

Beer #816-883 / Day #138-150: Floor, Fermenting, Flights, Food, Friends, Fine Folks, and Fullerton

Yep, I'm totally into grind.
As mentioned previously, I’ve spent years hemming and hawing about homebrewing.  I was determined to do it, but always found an excuse not to follow through.  A piece of equipment was missing.  Or I was too skittish about everything being properly sanitized.  Or the weather was too hot year round in SoCal for anything to ferment properly in my garage.  Or flat-out I was just too much of a goddamn scaredy cat.
The day arrived for me to finally Man Up, thanks to an agreed-upon collaboration with Ryan Harkins from Grill Em All and Eagle Rock brewmaster Lee Bakofsky.  Hell, if it wasn’t for Lee offering to show us the ropes I’d still be making weak excuses.  And we’re using all of his gear.  And he supplied the ingredients.  And he created the recipe.  So, when I say “collaboration” I actually mean I’m dead weight, but Lee has been gracious enough to drag my carcass along through the process, for which I’m thankful.
My cohorts in action.
As much as I’ve attempted to comprehend the brewing process by reading about it, taking a homebrewing class many years ago, and tagging along with multiple brewery tours, a lot of it never really sank in.  Nothing like hands-on experience with an expert to bring it all home.  I ground nearly all of the malt and barley by hand.  Measured the hops.  Stirred the mash.  The tactile experience, and the sights and smells of all of the source ingredients lead me to a greater understanding of just what the hell I’m smelling and tasting in other beers.  I thought I knew, and know I’m aware I’ve only been partially correct on some of my assessments.  Frankly, next to the beer itself, that’s my favorite thing about being so dorky about beer… there’s always something new to learn.  There will never be a finite number of beers to try.  There will always be something new, and brewers will always find ways to push the boundaries, good or otherwise.
Bottom line, we brewed an oatmeal imperial stout.  I prefer not to go into too much detail, only because I’m not sure what to expect.  I don’t have a solid concept of what the combination on the front end will produce on the back end.  For now, I’m generically expecting some semblance of a stout.  This rookie will post more once our fermentation is done.
More important than brewing: What toppings do we want on our pizzas?
The Wife and I hit a Cajun & Blues Festival in Simi Valley over Memorial Day weekend.  I’ve only stopped in Simi Valley maybe three times since I’ve lived in SoCal.  The name of this town alone maintains a negative association in my psyche thanks to the Rodney King verdict.  Despite my preconceived notions, I conceded to attending this Fest on Saturday and it was definitely worth the trip.  The entrance fee was reasonable.  Parking was free.  Plenty of room to spread out.  We could bring our own chairs and an ice chest.  Music was top notch… and when Guitar Shorty walked thru the crowd in the middle of a song, I even managed to snap an awkward selfie with him.  Gator On A Stick could have been chicken, but it was toothsome either way.  The beer selection was just a half-notch above abysmal.  I wasn’t expecting much, but I thought a Cajun fest with an abundance of jambalaya, gumbo, and gator parts would at least sell Abita beer.  We were stuck with the array of offerings from the Anheuser-Busch family.  Drinkable, but not memorable, of course.  At least it was an excuse to check a few more off my Big Year list.
Selfie with Guitar Shorty mid-song
The following day I headed down behind The Orange Curtain for a nephew’s birthday party.  Considering LA area traffic, the drive was smooth sailing, aside from a carsick dog.  Donnie puked everywhere in the backseat.  Do we have the world’s first dog with motion sickness?  Anyhow, my nephew was turning 1.  Early afternoon parties for babies tend not to have beer.  The party was over by 3:30pm, and when the rest of the family headed home, I stayed in The OC to conduct my own mini beer tour.  Aside from serious beering, I also stayed in the area to meet up with some friends from the band FLOOR, from Florida, in Fullerton…. That sounds like the beginning of a limerick, or a really easy tongue-twister.
Completely Logical.
Beer “tour” is synonymous with bizarre routes through non-descript industrial parks, but once found, these breweries appear like tiny, bustling oases in a mirage of tan-colored, shoebox uniformity.  First stop, BOTTLE LOGIC in Anaheim.  This brewer has only been open since January, but they were doing business out the door.  And the hype is justified.  I first sampled their beers at the Sabroso Festival, and they made such a solid impression, I had to make this the first stop on my field trip.  Despite the long line (I don’t do long lines), I waited semi-patiently and ordered my sampler of 7 new selections.  While there is no set “rule” that beer needs to be tasted in a particular order, Bottle Logic was smart to put the EMP: Extremely Mellow Porter and the Mother Heifer Milk Stout first, because once I hit their IPAs, I realized what true palate wreckers they can be (apologies Green Flash), especially the Alpha White IPA.  All selections were excellent, the service was helpful & patient despite the impatient long lines of thirsty Anaheimians.  I can’t say enough good things about this place.
Cali Gold: Huell Howser would be proud
Next, I cruised slightly North to the TAPS BREWERY AND FISHHOUSE.  To my knowledge, they’ve never bottled any of their beers.  They have an impressive roster that occasionally makes its way to SoCal beer bars.  I’ve always liked them, and was chomping at the bit to visit ground zero.  I planted myself at the bar, and while I was thankful for the mercifully small patronage, I was saddened that their tap selection wasn’t the endless conga line of beers listed on their website.  I thought for sure I could keep the conveyor belt of samplers going, but I ended up only ordering one flight.  No worries.  They rotate beers through on a regular basis, so that’s the perfect excuse to return often.  I had already claimed their Mocha Stout this year, but I had to order it and sample again because it was so freakin’ great.  All pours were tasty, the Cali Gold IPA and Helles being my favorites.  I was feeling frugal so I resisted the temptation to pig out on everything from their menu, but fortunately I did treat myself to the awe-inspiring Dragon Eggrolls. I’ll be back.
I headed back South to NOBLE ALE WORKS, hoping to stumble across some unique small batch, oddball brews, which is one of the many things they excel at.  Then the kind-hearted gal behind the counter informed me they close at 6pm on Sunday.  It was 6:11pm.  I forgot… even on holiday weekends, places close earlier on Sunday.  Shit.  But she took pity on me, sold me a bottle of their newest release, Rakau Showers Imperial IPA, and mercifully poured me a 16 ouncer of their mighty Man’s Milk Stout.  Indeed, I felt like a comforted man-baby suckling on this.
Portrait of a Man and his Milk. Diaper optional.
There was still an hour before my buds would be arriving, so I hit PROVISIONS in the heart of Orange.  This bottle store / taproom was originally run by The Bruery, then closed, then reopened under new ownership by HAVEN, one of my favorite brewpubs in the lower half of this great state.  The concept is still the same, however, the bottle selection has dwindled considerably, and half of the beer has been replaced by wine.  Regardless, it’s still a solid spot for a brau & a snack for the throngs who have endured a grueling, laborious day of antique shopping in Old Town.  Provisions still carries a wide variety of styles on tap, and are savvy enough to offer samplers.  As much as I wanted to keep pushing my own boundaries, I still had a long night ahead of me, and decided to limit myself to only four tasters… two fine selections from Pasadena’s mysterious Craftsman Brewing, the more elusive Lagunitas Waldo’s Special Ale, and the liquid Christmas tree overload of the Brouwerij Lupus Wolf 7.
Gettin' FLOORed!
While I still had my wits about me, I high-tailed it to downtown Fullerton to meet up with my pals:  Unabashed music geek, hardcore screenprinter, and graphic designer extraordinaire Jack Barfield, and Steve Brooks, guitarist / vocalist for Floor.  Floor is currently touring to support their new album “Oblation”.  This part of town is geared primarily towards the college crowd, boasting rows upon rows of restaurants and bars for the frat folks to exchange phone numbers, fluids, and fisticuffs.  Floor was booked at the Slidebar, which joined the ranks of the other non-descript hangouts in town.  A huge plus is the Slidebar is located directly next door to one of my favorite newer brewpubs in the area, HOPSCOTCH, so our trio patronized it for our pre-show indulgences.  Mr. Brooks is “known” (read:  “somewhat infamous”) for his antics when he drinks and refuses to stop drinking.  Were we in for the genuine Steve Brooks tonight or the reincarnation of Darby Crash?  Jack and I ordered beer.  Steve ordered iced tea.  He was keepin’ it real tonight.  I started with an 8 oz Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.  I’m such a nerd, I was actually excited when I saw this on the taplist.  This beer has always been elusive to me.  It’s release is always limited, and highly sought after.  I don’t wait in lines, and I don’t race all over town to collect rare beer, so having this fall in my lap was like Charlie unwrapping the golden ticket.  It was as dense, inky, and complex as I had hoped, but I should have had it for dessert, not as an appetizer.  I ordered the burger for dinner, and nearly doubled over from overstuffing myself, but I couldn’t help it… this is one of my favorite burgers since Grill Em All, and I couldn’t justify NOT eating the whole damn thing, no matter how high it was stacked.  Additionally, I ordered a sampler flight, the highlights being the Green Flash Hop Odyssey Black IPA and the 6th Anniversary Wheat Wine from Fullerton’s own Bootlegger’s Brewery.  Well satiated, we headed back next door just in time for Floor to set up.  This three-piece unit absolutely crushed the room.  Their sludgy, down-tuned anthems are thick as molasses… the musical equivalent of that Bourbon County Stout.  Doomy, monolithic, powerful beyond belief.  I would have headbanged and whipped my hair around if I had any.  This was the pinnacle of an already great day.
All told, a top notch weekend, but how would it hold up compared to the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival a week later?  Stay tuned to find out.

The tally continues...
Well, it wasn't. Thanks to Total Wine.

5/18 – Chillin’ poolside
816 - SUDWERK BREWING MAIBOCK SPRING LAGER – Floral, well-rounded, refreshing
817 - MARIN BREWING TRIPEL DIPSEA BELGIAN STYLE ALE - Mandarin orange esters, golden yeasty goodness
818 - SANTAN BREWING DEVIL'S ALE - Musty malts, very tasty
819 - MARIN BREWING SAN QUENTIN'S BREAKOUT STOUT - Not an oatmeal stout but tastes like one, Delish!

5/19 – Homebrew Day
820 - NEW BELGIUM BLUE PADDLE PILSENER – Crisp pils, OK, but not much depth
821 - EAGLE ROCK BREWERY BOTANY BAY ESB – Killer!  Enjoyed from brewer Lee Bakofsky’s secret stash in an unlabeled bottle, awesome malt character.  Freakin’ yum!
Lee's homemade sour: Perfection!
822 - GENESEE BREWING GENESEE BEER – A midwestern regional shit lager I’ve never had.  Kinda like Natty Bo.  What you’d expect.
823 - LEE BAKOFSKY HOMEBREW OLD PROCRASTINATOR BARREL AGED SOUR – Treat of the evening… Barrel-aged in a Highland Park garage, room temp with no carbonation yet, and seriously phenomenal.

5/20 - home
824 - NEW BELGIUM SKINNY DIP - Forgettable , in fact I don't remember drinking it
826 - NECTAR ALES RED NECTAR - Reds often disappoint, but Nectar Ales does not disappoint. Ever.

5/21 - home
827 - FIRESTONE WALKER OPAL DRY HOPPED SAISON - Major tart citrus bomb, grapefruity, dang tasty
828 - MAD RIVER BREWING STEELHEAD PORTER - Excellent chocolatey malt attack

Donnie approved.
5/22 – A quick after-work flight at Tony’s Darts Away, then home
829 - GOLDEN ROAD / THREE WEAVERS COLLABORATION CROSS THE POND IPA - Finally get to try something from Three Weavers (well, partially). Smooth, mild caramelly, almost buttery session ale
830 - CISMONTANE BREWING COFFEE CITIZEN – This beer and the next three are from a Cismontane tap takeover at Tony’s.  I got in on the tail end of the leftovers.  Cali Common infused with roasty coffee goodness, golden amber, doesn't look like it tastes, total breakfast beer
831 - CISMONTANE BREWING SCHWARZHOP AMERICAN BLACK ALE - Nice black ale, served @ room temp @ Tony's Darts Away, if it was too cold the subtle malts would be hidden, mild & bitter mouthfeel
United Colors of Cismontane 
832 - CISMONTANE BREWING DOUBLE RAINBOW DIPA - Double Rainbow? What does it mean? It means an all out superior hop assault, a delicious, deep amber, incredibly rich brew
833 - CISMONTANE BREWING 4TH ANNIVERSARY DOPPELBOCK - Decent doppelbock, heavily grain-like and wheaty on the palate, mild
834 - GOOSE ISLAND TEN HILLS PALE ALE - Has a good story behind it for these unique hops they source. Didn't do much for me taste-wise though. Sorry.
835 - CALDERA BREWING IPA - Potent, pungent hoppiness. Good stuff.

5/23 – A brief BevMo Burbank tasting, then home
836 - GOLDEN ROAD HEFEWEIZEN - Orangey deliciousness, way better than yer average Hef
837 - GOLDEN ROAD WOLF AMONG WEEDS - Slightly skunkified, danky goodness, a classic
838 - SIERRA NEVADA OVILA SAISON - Subtle citrus goin' on, didn't love it as much as I expected, but it was probably too cold
839 - BEAR REPUBLIC HOP ROD RYE - Crazy good marriage of rye and heavy hops
Real Cubans. Time for jail.
840 - ALASKAN BREWING ESB – I haven’t encountered many ESBs I love overall, but I heart this one. Deep caramelly malts. So damn tasty!
841 - MENDOCINO BREWING IMPERIAL BARLEY WINE ALE - Crazy rich, deep caramel flavors, semi sweet, all good.

5/24 – Two crappy beers at the Cajun & Blues Fest, then two great beers at the house
843 - SHOCK TOP BELGIAN WHITE - What you'd expect
844 - CORONADO BREWING SOCK KNOCKER IMPERIAL IPA - 20 megaton hop explosion
845 - STRAND BREWING BEACH HOUSE AMBER - Roasty malts, easy sippin

5/25 – Beering behind The Orange Curtain
846 - BOTTLE LOGIC BREWING EMP: EXTREMELY MELLOW PORTER - Extremely Mellow Porter, maybe considered an English style, light roasted caramel malts, easy drinking
847 - BOTTLE LOGIC BREWING MOTHER HEIFER MILK STOUT - They describe it as "velvety smooth"... that's an understatement. Ridiculously good.
848 - BOTTLE LOGIC BREWING JOULE THIEF KRYSTALWEIZEN - Light but complex wheat beer, glad I had this before their IPAs got to my palette.
849 - BOTTLE LOGIC BREWING RECURSION 2.0 IPA - Tart cantaloupe hoppiness. Yum.
850 - BOTTLE LOGIC BREWING PREQUEL ALPHA WHITE IPA - Excellent Citra hopped IPA... got that skunky, armpitty eucalyptus funk that we love
851 - BOTTLE LOGIC BREWING DOUBLE ACTUATOR DOUBLE IPA - Creamy imperial IPA, I'm tasting everything from subdued caramel to flowers to a veggie eggroll. It's a romantic dinner in one glass.
The many taps of TAPS
852 - BOTTLE LOGIC BREWING TATTERED PRINCE SAISON - Wild yeastiness and a good amount of spice
853 – TAPS CALI GOLD IPA - The Columbus & Amarillo hops give it a major crunch, serious hop bite. California's Gold.. Huell Howser would be proud.
854 – TAPS SEAWARD PALE ALE - Cascade hops, kinda piney
855 - TAPS POSEIDON 2.0 DOUBLE IPA - Nelson Sauvin & Cascade hops give it a deep citrus, slightly acidic hop bite, but nicely balanced as well.
856 - TAPS HELLES - Mild malts, golden goodness, great everyday beer. Everyone should replace Bud with this. Perfect with the TAPS Dragon Rolls as well.
857 - NOBLE ALE WORKS MAN'S MILK STOUT ON NITRO - Creamy, chocolatey, the name says it all. Bad ass. Finally a stout that does NOT taste like coffee. Thank you!
858 - CRAFTSMAN BREWING BAY LAUREL SOUR - Noted as a sour, but not cloyingly tart.  Liquefied tropical fruit trail mix (sans raisins).
859 - CRAFTSMAN BREWING POINT FIVE IPA - Tastes more like a pale ale, not distinctly hoppy, not like that’s a bad thing as this is mellow, easy sippin’.
860 - LAGUNITAS WALDO'S SPECIAL ALE DIPA - Excellent, hop-forward DIPA, Love it!
861 - BROUWERIJ LUPUS - WOLF 7 BELGIAN STRONG PALE ALE - Crazy Xmas potpourri spice, heavy cinnamon, clove, slightly cough syrupy, a good "winter warmer"
862 - GOOSE ISLAND BOURBON COUNTY STOUT - America, fuck yeah!  I finally get to taste this bad boy. 
864 - HOPSCOTCH TAVERN HEFEWEIZEN - Brewed for Hopscotch Tavern by Golden Road, citrusy goodness
865 - ROUGH DRAFT BREWING AMBER - Malt & caramel, good stuff
866 - BOOTLEGGER'S BREWERY 6TH ANNIVERSARY WHEAT WINE - Like a barley wine, a little less sweet, full bodied and damn good. One of their best.

5/26 - Home
868 - AVERY BREWING COMPANY ELLIE'S BROWN ALE - Nutty, tasty, and nutty

5/27 – Home, and a few at The Office, Burbank before Infest practice
869 - NOBLE ALE WORKS RAKAU SHOWERS IMPERIAL IPA - Nice oily hops, and it really opens up at room temp.  I wouldn’t drink it so cold next time.
870 - DUVEL MOORTGAT DUVEL - Heavy citrus esters, slight musk of a "corked" white wine, in a good way
872 - WIDMER BROTHERS HEFEWEIZEN - Like Brach's butterscotch, ech

5/28 - Home
873 - BIG SKY BREWING MONTANA TROUT SLAYER ALE - Didn't love it, tasted sweet for some reason, the description sounds like a beer I'd want though
874 - BIG SKY BREWING MOOSE DROOL BROWN ALE - Spittle never tasted so delish

The Dodges never met a tasting they didn't like
5/29 – Small tasting at Vendome and a couple at home
875 - BALLAST POINT PIPER DOWN SCOTTISH ALE - Low hopped but the hop subtleties are still present, roasty and malty, this piper should be down my gullet
876 - NEW BELGIUM GRUIT: LIPS OF FAITH - Wormwood? Thankfully I didn't turn into a lunatic and cut off my ear. But I did finally cut some slack to the LOF series. Floral golden yum
877 - NEW BELGIUM RYEPA - Hoppy, rye-ey, rustic, with a creamy mouthfeel. I'm a sucker for rye.
878 - STRUBBE'S FLEMISH RED - Tangy, heavy pomegranate, a bit too sweet, slightly funky, interesting, aged in Bordeaux barrels
879 - BRASSERIE DE BRUNEHAUT THE CLOAK OF ST. MARTIN BELGIAN QUADRUPEL - What a trip! Crazily complex. Heavy musky and musty barrel presence, highly raisiny, dank like an ancient old world stone dungeon
880 - EEL RIVER BREWING RAVEN'S EYE IMPERIAL STOUT - Excellent oily chocolate bomb, like any great imperial stout should be
881 - BRAUEREI SCHLENKERLA AECHT SCHLENKERLA EICHE DOPPELBOCK - Liquid smoke, like the charred remains of hobos from an apartment fire
RODRIGUEZ: Live at The Greek on the big screen. Sounds great. Looks like The Cryptkeeper.
5/30 - A few before heading to The Greek to see Rodriguez live:
882 - BALLAST POINT PALE ALE - Formerly known as the Yellowtail Pale Ale, now it's simply "Pale Ale". Still the ol' standby. Got to sample it at BevMo Burbank on the way home from work.  Ballast Point never disappoints.
883 - INNIS & GUNN ORIGINAL BARREL AGED BEER - Smooth and sweet, like a pimp rollin' in a Cadillac Brougham

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