None More Black: It Goes To 11%
My first serious foray into homebrewing is complete. It all
started way back in mid-May with me and Ryan Harkins from Grill Em All in Eagle
Rock brewer Lee Bakofsky's garage. Ryan & I are the rookies, Lee is
the pro, graciously showing us the ropes. We set out to make a strong imperial
oatmeal stout, with roughly 11% ABV. A dark beer. And "it goes to 11”. A Spinal
Tap moment waiting to happen. I told my Wife about it, and her first question
was, “Are you going to call it ‘None More Black’?” We are now!
|As Dubya would say: Mission accomplished|
A couple weeks ago, we gathered to taste our creation after a month of fermenting. It was ice cold and not yet carbonated, but still damn good on its own. After letting it warm up to room temperature I was getting the subtleties of the oatmeal on the back end, with some minor roasty malt & grain goodness.
After a few more weeks for fermentation, it was ready for bottling. Again, Ryan & I are total brewing greenhorns, but Lee patiently guided us through the process. The bottle capper we were borrowing was left behind at Eagle Rock Brewery, so we not-so-reluctantly drove down there to pick it up, and not surprisingly enjoyed some quality pints while we were there. The Imperialist double IPA and Lou hoppy brown ale perfectly set the mood of gratitude.
Back to business, the bottling went by fairly quick, and somewhat accident free once we established our assembly line rhythm, occasionally switching between the "beer gun" bottle filler, and the capper. We confirmed Ryan is not the best bottle capper. Likewise, I proved my ineptitude after Lee mentioned we needed to apply a little more pressure to the capping, so I promptly applied too much pressure & snapped off the top of the next bottle. We chatted about the various methods of potential contamination during the bottling process, how Bootlegger’s Brewery allegedly used to fill all of their bottles this way with a homebrewers beer gun, the recent influx of homeless into Highland Park after being swept out of Downtown LA, and also tossed around hobo-related monikers for our three man brewing collaboration. Ultimately, we ended up with 36+ well filled bottles, and a handful of oddball rejects, ready for immediate consumption. The remaining 2/3 keg will be aged with wood and held for a few more months until our “aged” stout is ready for bottling. Bottom line, I’m proud of our maiden voyage and anticipate many more successful excursions beyond the barriers of brewing.
|Shit just got real.|
We celebrated with a quick evening jaunt to the Hermosillo, and enjoyed some brews from their new in-house Highland Park Brewery, who is showing incredible potential with these initial brewing forays. Their guest taps are even more impressive, almost none of which I had already tasted. The only surprising disappointment was the Almanac Ichibier sushi rice beer which tasted like a garden hose. Regardless, it was a perfect night all around.
While I’m confident there’s room for growth in our brau collaborations, this experience has been exponentially gratifying, and I’m thankful to my cohorts for allaying my brewing-related fears. Keep an eye out for Bakofsky, Harkins and Dodge. Cheers!
West Coast Big Year Tasting Summit – Summer 2014
West Coast Big Year Tasting Summit – Summer 2014
For those of you following along, you’re aware that my old friend and former bandmate Chris Wilder is also my nemesis and current closest competitor in the Big Year In Beer. Work brought him to SoCal, and for the first time this year, we were able to share an evening of hardcore beers and jeers in person. The evening kicked off with Wilder exclaiming, “You’re ruining my life!”, to which I repeatedly quipped, “No, you’re ruining your own.” He then described the manic pace with which he has been pursuing his beer count, how he has completely stopped eating breakfast because he’s gaining so much weight with all this beer, and how his wife Kate sadly has less than zero interest in sampling beer or visiting breweries with him. I’m lucky that my wife not only tolerates and supports my bizarre quest, but often accompanies me to so many remote brewpubs, bottle shops, and industrial parks… she has declared several times that she’s “over beer”, but continues as my companion nonetheless.
Tonight, The Mrs whipped up an incredible vegan Mexican dinner, and we stuffed ourselves silly before plunging into the deep end of our evening. Being the sporting chap he is, Wilder brought some thoroughly impressive Bay Area braus to share. While I don’t have the budget, nor the storage space for any sort of major “collection”, I do have a small handful of special bottles I’ve been squirreling away.
One group of bottles I’ve been saving for the apocalypse is a 5-year vertical of North Coast Old Stock Ale 2010-2014. This was the first time I’ve been able to sample a consecutive 5-year vertical of any beer, and while it was quite good, the consensus was this is more “fun” than it is “necessary”. Old Stock Ale is a great, malty, alcohol-heavy, full-bodied brew that can hold up for years, but there are also so many other far superior brews one could cellar, Old Stock is not exactly the pinnacle of a beer one would hold onto for a special occasion.
On the other hand, the output of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales are exactly the types of brews you would want to sit on for that special gathering. Courtesy of Wilder, we opened the Sante Adairius West Ashley barrel aged apricot saison. Sounded completely frou-frou in description, but drinks powerful like a man’s beer. Maybe it’s the “house microbes” that make this bottle so good. Even if it was terrible, I’d still love the idea of any brewery touting the inclusion of their “house microbes”. But it’s not terrible. It’s the opposite of terrible, much like everything on the roster from this fine beachside brewery.
|At least he's a good sport.|
Despite it being a work night, we stayed up until after midnight, catching up on the back patio, trading tales about friends and family and nerding out about our various beer experiences. Almanac Farmer’s Reserve Blackberry slayed me. Musically, we played roulette and happily winced at the awesomeness of everything from Gojira to House Of Lightning to Vital Tech Tones to Stripmines. The Wife went to bed, but the tasting continued to flow… Barrelhouse Stout and Smuttynose Barleywine were interesting, but the awe-inspiring Mammoth Brewing Lair Of The Bear Russian Imperial Stout finally laid us both out for the final count.
The following morning, Wilder left me with some brag-worthy bottles to enjoy on my own, including a Steve Enders homebrew, and some sure-to-be-incredible Sante Adairius efforts. I sent him off with some extras I had, consisting of several Sierra Nevadas, a Polish Warka lager, and a Natural Light.
Turns out I got the better end of that deal.
Good luck, my friend… well, as long as my luck is slightly more fortuitous than yours in 2014.
The beering continues…
Sunday 7/6 - Home
1312 - FLYING DOG BREWERY EASY IPA – An easy peasy, solid Session beer, nice crisp hop bite.
1313 - MISSION BREWERY AMBER ALE - Sweet cookie dough and caramel malt, thick and comforting, Mission is really stepping it up.
1314 - NEW BELGIUM 1554 BLACK LAGER - Nice black lager, one of the better New Belgium efforts... mild lager with a roasted dark chocolate & licorice finish.
1315 - GREAT DIVIDE BREWING HOSS RYE LAGER - Oooo, that's a good 'un. Even better than I remember. That rye spice gives it depth, but it's still nicely balanced malty lager.
Monday 7/7 - Home
1316 - DESCHUTES BREWERY DESCHUTES RIVER ALE – Deschutes? Gesundheit! Damn that's good, and even hoppier than expected.
1317 - DESCHUTES BREWERY INVERSION IPA - Thought this would be average but it's surprisingly great.
1318 - DESCHUTES BREWERY CHAINBREAKER WHITE IPA - Nice wheaty IPA.
|What the hell's this doing on the West Coast?|
Tuesday 7/8 - Home
1319 - THE DUDES' BREWING COMPANY DOUBLE TRUNK DOUBLE IPA - Holy shit, ridiculously better than I remember, full bodied and rich, I'd drink this every day.
1320 - GREAT DIVIDE BREWING NOMAD PILSNER - Let it warm up and taste the subtle depth of those crisp grains and malt, damn good.
1321 - BUTTERNUT’S BEER AND ALE MOO THUNDER STOUT - Can't believe I found this NY brewery in California, mildly creamy, slightly watery stout, tastes a bit like an iced roasted coffee with malt added.
Wednesday 7/9 - West Coast Big Year Summit with Chris Wilder
1322 - NAPA SMITH BREWERY COOL BREW HOP ALE - I keep avoiding this brewery for some reason, I keep thinking they’re some corporate brewer, but this is a decent IPA.
1323 - NORTH COAST OLD STOCK ALE (2010) – Well, this is pretty old, especially since I bought it 5 years ago & it’s the only beer I’ve held onto that long.
1324 - NORTH COAST OLD STOCK ALE (2011) – Well, I guess this is fairly old.
1325 - NORTH COAST OLD STOCK ALE (2012) – Well, I suppose 2 years is sort of old.
1326 - NORTH COAST OLD STOCK ALE (2013) – Well, it’s kinda old, even though it’s from last year.
|He loves me after all.|
1327 - NORTH COAST OLD STOCK ALE (2014) – Well, it’s 2014, so I wouldn’t exactly call it old.
1328 - SANTE ADAIRIUS RUSTIC ALES WEST ASHLEY - Apricot saison aged in Pinot barrels? Sign me up. Even more incredible than I was expecting. Must be the "house microbes" in there.
1329 - ALMANAC FARMER'S RESERVE BLACKBERRY - Sour blonde with blackberries, ridiculous how evenly balanced this is.
1330 - BARRELHOUSE BREWING STOUT - Smooth, slight hops, a bit on the watery side, but delicious roasted malt flavor.
1331 - SMUTTYNOSE BARLEYWINE STYLE ALE - Rich and estery, with barely a hint of smut.
1332 - MAMMOTH BREWING LAIR OF THE BEAR RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT – Shit rules.
Thursday 7/10 – New release tasting at Vendome, and a couple at home
1333 - SKA BREWING TRUE BLONDE ALE - Decent. And it's waxed, like any true blonde should be.
1334 - DOGFISH HEAD POSITIVE CONTACT - Cidery beer infused with the sweat of a famous underground hip hop beatmaker
|How did Harley know I've been waiting for this?|
1335 - NEW BELGIUM / BREWERIJ BOON COLLABORATION TRANSATLANTIQUE KRIEK (LIPS OF FAITH) - You like Hostess cherry pie filling? Me too. At least this one gives you a buzz.
1336 - SKA BREWING DECADENT IMPERIAL IPA - Ranking full stop.
1337 - LEINENKUGEL’S BIG EDDY IMPERIAL IPA - Hardcore thick DIPA, so viscous it's almost too much!
1338 - GOOSE ISLAND HONKER'S ALE - Melted popsicle water ale.
1339 - DOGFISH HEAD SIXTY-ONE IPA BREWED WITH SYRAH GRAPE MUST - IPA brewed with Syrah grape must. It's an interesting experiment, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a “must”.
Friday 7/11 – Payday flight at Tony’s, and a couple during date night with The Wife
1340 - TAPS IRISH RED - Irish I could drink this one more often. Mild hops & grain. Unlike most redheads, it's even slightly sweet.
1341 - HIGHLAND PARK BREWERY BEER SPACESHIP - Powerful hop presence, but lighter body like a session IPA. I love this! Who are these guys?
1342 - PORT BREWING OLDER VISCOSITY - As excellent as expected, a liquified chocolate licorice cigar
1343 - LOS ANGELES ALE WORKS LIEVRE SAISON - Floral & citrusy as one would expect, damn good, a lot of attention was paid in brewing this, you can taste the difference.
|Two saxes. One mouth.|
1344 - FLYING DOG BREWERY RAGING BITCH BELGIAN STYLE IPA - Who you callin' "bitch", Bitch?!
1345 - SAPPORO PREMIUM LIGHT BEER - Wasn't expecting this to be very good at all, especially a "light" beer, but surprisingly good. I have no complaints. Oishii.
1346 - ORION PREMIUM DRAFT BEER - Figured this might be a step up from Sapporo. Wrong! On par with cheap American lagers. Kuso!
1347 - GOLDEN ROAD JAX BLONDE ALE - Nice sipper to accompany the underrated live jazz bands at this dusty Glendale venue.
Saturday 7/12 – Starting at home, sampling at Newhall Refinery, finishing at Matt Becker’s 40th birthday
1348 - SUDWERK BREWING IMPERIAL PILS - 20th anniversary double hopped, double malted pils. Never had a pilsner like it. Excellent.
|Ms. Gearhart tolerates my obsession|
1349 - HERMITAGE BREWING MANDARINA BAVARIA SINGLE HOP SERIES - First Hermitage brew I've had in years, thought they were crummy before, but this one is top notch, heavy yeast and hop presence, tropical
1350 - BROUWERIJ HUYGHE DELIRIUM RED - Cherry flavor Vicks, minus the mentho-lyptus
1351 - UINTA BREWING TILTED SMILE IMPERIAL PILSNER - An hour after having an imperial pilsner at home, I'm having another one at Newhall Refinery. Really nice, full bodied.
1352 - MIKKELLER ORANGE YUZU GLAD I SAID PORTER - Hey Mikkeller, orange yuzu glad I just paid 5 bucks for a 4 oz pour?
1353 - CISMONTANE BREWING BELGIAN APPLE PIE - Sweet, alcohol-heavy, and weird overall.
1354 - WOLF CREEK BREWERY SURFIN' MONKS TRIPLE – Tragic.
1355 - THE BRUERY LOAKAL RED - Oak aged malty, hoppy, delicious red. Glad I got a taster, although it’s probably one of the only Bruery bombers that can be purchased for under $30 these days.
1356 - WIENS BREWING INSOMNIA IPA – Weed beer.
|Mad respect to The Brim.|
1357 - FULL SAIL BREWING SESSION BLACK LAGER - Much better than anticipated, great "bullet" bottle, too.
1358 - DOS EQUIS LAGER ESPECIAL - Que lastima!
1359 - FULL SAIL BREWING SESSION PREMIUM LAGER - I've been avoiding this forever, probably because I'm subconsciously thinking it's Red Stripe. Not bad for a party beer.
1360 - DOGFISH HEAD 60 MINUTE IPA - At a party rife with some of the most abysmal beers on the planet, seeing this in the cooler is like winning the lottery.
1361 - BITBURGER PREMIUM PILS - Now I REALLY want Germany to lose the World Cup.
1362 - BECK'S - The fermented urine of a billion Deutschlanders.
1363 - MODELO ESPECIAL - If this country does a major crack-down on the border crossings, this is the one thing I support keeping out of our country.
Sunday 7/13 – A couple at home, then a heck of a lot of tasting with my brewing cohorts
1364 - VICTORY BREWING GOLDEN MONKEY – This always makes me think of the Beastie Boys, even though the Beastie Boys don’t have a song called “Golden Monkey”. Awesome, golden Belgian style tripel... and it's triple good going in my mouth.
1365 - VICTORY BREWING HOP DEVIL - Praise Hop Satan!
1366 - EAGLE ROCK BREWERY IMPERIALIST DOUBLE IPA - Ridiculous. Total armageddon to your palette, death by hops. Love it.
1367 - EAGLE ROCK BREWERY LOU AMERICAN BROWN ALE - A tasty brown with serious hop bite, as a bonus this is brewed to help raise funds for ALS research and treatment.
1368 - BAKOFSKY, HARKINS & DODGE HOMEBREW NONE MORE BLACK IMPERIAL OATMEAL STOUT – Unparalleled excellence in brewing.
1369 - HIGHLAND PARK BREWERY REFRESH - Unfiltered and easy drinking pilsner. The name says it all.
1370 - HIGHLAND PARK BREWERY WAKE UP - Well done session coffee porter, sure beats Folgers in your cup
1371 - HIGHLAND PARK BREWERY COCO NOCHE - Mellow coconut stout, evenly balanced, subtle on the coconut, as it should be.
1372 - ALMANAC FARMER'S RESERVE CITRUS - Puckery but still a quick sipper.
1373 - ALMANAC ICHIBIER - Either something's wrong with the keg, or this is the only Almanac beer I don't like. Fish washed in soapy water & piped thru a garden hose.
1374 - SANTA CLARA VALLEY BREWING PERALTA PORTER - Not as cool as Powell-Peralta, but a decent porter, a bit watery, light mouthfeel, fair maltiness.
1375 - STONE BREWING REASON BE DAMNED BARREL AGED BELGIAN ALE - The name sums it up, delicious and even a bit sweet.
1376 - CRAFTSMAN BREWING HEAVENLY HEFE - Fantastic, very floral, rich, more like a Belgian golden. Call it what you want, I call it freakin' good.
1377 - STONE BREWING STONE FARKING WHEATON WOOTSTOUT - Imperial pecan? Phenomenal. Incredible, thick & oily, sweet & gooey, could easily be a dark barleywine.
1378 - BEACHWOOD BREWING CONTROL+MALT+DELETE - British ale, dark & decent but a bit thin on the mouthfeel.
Monday 7/14 – Ohana tasting room, samplers at 38 Degrees, and a few courtesy of Grill Em All
1379 - OHANA BREWING HOLLENBACK AMBER ALE - Caramel & malt heavy, solid, one of their better ones.
1380 - OHANA BREWING SAISON KAU WELA - Belgian style farmhouse ale, esters & the usual, pretty darn good.
|Hot wife and cold tasters.|
1381 - BEACHWOOD BREWING TABLE SAAZ - Bland & forgettable, sorry.
1382 - FACTION BREWING SPRING IPA - Holy cow that's good!
1383 - JOSEPH JAMES BREWING DESERT SNOW WHITE IPA - Drinks like a session IPA, great!
1384 - RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING DAMNATION - Heavy floral & estery, damn tasty.
1385 - RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING PLINY THE ELDER - After years of hype, after all this time, I forgot how truly great this is. Wonderfully hop-heavy but nice lingering subtle malt & barley. Can't believe it took me 6 1/2 months to finally get to my first Pliny.
1386 - NOBLE ALE WORKS NEW EDITION - Did Bobby Brown brew this? American brown on toasted oak. If Whitney was around, I'd slap her for a pint. Awesome.
1387 - CERVECERIA MEXICANA QUEEN OF THE NIGHT PALE ALE - For some reason, I love the idea of fancy beer coming out of Mexico. Heavy on the caramel, or is that dulce de leche. Que bueno!
1388 - PABST BREWING OLYMPIA BEER - Quintessential "old man beer". Not nearly as bad as I was expecting.
|Drink Em All!|
Tuesday 7/15 – Gordon Biersch samplers and two more so-so brews
1389 - GORDON BIERSCH GOLDEN EXPORT – Pointless.
1390 - GORDON BIERSCH HEFEWEIZEN – Not bad, as long as they don’t put a lemon in it.
1391 - GORDON BIERSCH MARZEN – Ecch.
1392 - GORDON BIERSCH SCHWARZBIER – Astoundingly not good, with a moldy aftertaste.
1393 - GORDON BIERSCH BLONDE BOCK – Crap.
1394 - ASAHI SUPER DRY – Fair, but forgettable.1395 - MENDOCINO BREWING WHITE HAWK IPA – A huge improvement over the previous six, but still not of any significance
Wednesday 7/16 - Home & band practice
1396 - ABITA BREWING AMBER - Welcome to Pointless Town - Population: This.
1397 - ABITA BREWING JOCKAMO IPA - Heavy caramel malts & nice hoppiness, most likely the best offering on the Abita roster.
1398 - ABITA BREWING ANDYGATOR - Not necessary, but a decent doppelbock.
1399 - MISSION BREWING SHIPWRECKED DOUBLE IPA - Heavy hops with a cookie dough yeast finish. Mission has finally dialed it in.
1400 - BAIRD BREWING KUROFUNE PORTER - Can't believe I found this bottle Stateside. Bitter chocolate, yeasty, malty and comforting. Really diggin' this. So glad I hit #1,400 with a good one. Kanpai!
|Life should be more like this.|