As fate would have it, a half hour later I was randomly cruising the internet, using the search terms “Big Year” and “Beer”. I was checking if anyone had mentioned my blog out there in cyberspace. Many folks who read something shocking will claim they spit coffee all over their screen, or fell out of their chair. I did neither of these. But I was indeed stunned to stumble across the site www.everydaydrinking.com, a seemingly abandoned blog (I say “abandoned” because the last entry is from February 2014) where the author briefly described his pursuit of a beer-themed Big Year. Sounds familiar. Apparently this guy is participating with a large group of friends. Their rules are brief, but very similar to mine. And also like my beer quest, his guidelines are adapted from the annual Big Year birding competition.
Good ol’ fashioned piracy?
The blog’s author was a fella named Tyler. Judging by the beers noted on this site, I gathered they’re from the East Coast. I reached out to Tyler to see if he & his pals were still chasing their beer year, or if they gave up when the blog entries stopped six months ago. He wrote back & confirmed they are indeed still active with their respective Big Years. He asked how I heard about them, so I introduced myself and sent a link to my blog.
It’s been radio silence ever since.
With what little info I got out of him, he claimed their leading beer tasters were up to around 1,600 beers for the year. I’m past 1,700. While I’m supportive of all my fellow beer enthusiasts, I must admit for a fleeting second… OK, it was a good hour or two…. I felt a little cocky knowing at this moment in time I might possibly be the top beerer in the world. The Kenny Bostick of brau.
But just who are these mysterious beings lurking just beyond the horizon? Do I need to send out a five-note musical signal to establish contact?
After repeated efforts to reconnect, I have not heard a peep from this mystifying menagerie of malt mavens. I’m guessing one of the following is true:
1. He’s pissed because he thinks I stole his idea.
2. He’s pissed because he adapted my idea, and I finally found out about it.
3. He’s not pissed at all, and just doesn’t check his email very often.
Mostly I’m flat-out astonished there’s an entire group of people pursuing the exact same goal, and I had no idea they were out there until eight months into my own Big Year. It’s like bumping into your twin who you never knew was born. Until now, I was only aware of Chris Wilder and Steve Enders in Northern California and Randy Carncross in Japan as being the only folks in the world on board with this tumultuous journey. Now there’s an entirely new (well, new to me) Big Year beering faction on the East Coast.
We Are Not Alone.
|"We came to Earth to do two things: Probe Asses and Drink Beer. Looks like we're almost out of beer..."|
The beering continues…
Thurs 8/7 – New release tasting at Vendome on National IPA Day
1656 - BROUWERIJ HUYGHE DELIRIUM DELIRIA – Almost like a sparkling wine. A blond ale with a bitter, acidic finish, some mild cherry. Can’t say I love it.
1657 - WOLF CREEK BREWERY DESPERADO IPA – Good mix of hops and decent malt… they made a beer I actually like.
1658 - BLACK MARKET BREWING 5TH ANNIVERSARY KENTUCKY COMMON ALE – Dark amber beer with a roasty nose that actually tastes like a lighter sour ale. I’m confused.
|My cool hat makes up for the 15 min wait.|
1660 - KERN RIVER BREWING JUST OUTSTANDING IPA – I never see Kern River brews. One of my Facebook friends recommended this today, and a couple hours later, by chance, Vendome has a few bottles tucked away behind the counter. A lucky accident, especially considering today is National IPA Day (whatever). Great IPA, hoppy, rich, and balanced.
Fri 8/8 – Pismo Beach with the family
1661 - BLUE MOON BELGIAN WHITE – Surprisingly not bad. Then again, after 4 hours of driving, anything would taste good.
1662 - BARRELHOUSE BREWING TRIPLE DOUBLE SESSION IPA – Pretty nice, good session IPA.
1663 - HOAGIE'S SANDWICHES & GRILL HOAGIE'S IPA – A decent IPA with a thick, full mouthfeel, but was it worth waiting 15 minutes for? I’ll have to say “No”.
1664 - FIGUEROA MOUNTAIN BREWING WRANGLER WHEAT – Not bad, slightly sweet, a bit of wheat, nice accompaniment for the sunset.
|Games for the kids and whaaat? What a coincidence!|
1666 - FACTION BREWING SUMMER IPA – Wow, that’s bad ass.
1667 - KERN RIVER BREWING SIERRA SINGLETRACK SESSION IPA – I can’t find Kern River anywhere this year, and now twice in 2 days I find their beer. Mind = Blown. A great session IPA.
1668 - LAGUNITAS BREWING FUSION 23 IPA – Not sure what this is, but it tastes like a session IPA, and like a close relative of the Kern River session IPA above.
1669 - MAD RIVER BREWING STEELHEAD BOURBON BARREL AGED EXTRA STOUT – Oh, you already know how good this is by the name alone.
Sat 8/9 – Pismo Beach, a strangely low number for being out of town
1670 - HERETIC BREWING BLACK MARIA BLACK IPA – Menu says it’s Black Moriah, an imperial black IPA. I can’t find that online anywhere, even on the brewery’s website, so by default it’s gotta be Black Maria. Call it what you want. I call it goddamn tasty.
|This kid loves the Manrock brew dog.|
Sun 8/10 – Central Coast tasting on the way home
1672 - OSKAR BLUES BREWERY MAMA'S LITTLE YELLA PILS – A perfect way to start the day. Brunch beer.
1673 - HERETIC BREWING PETITE ROUGE – One of three tasters at Manrock. Nice, mellow hibiscus brew.
1674 - MANROCK BREWING REAPER-CUSSION DOUBLE IPA – Well done Imperial IPA from this family run operation. Mom & Dad are out for the day, but the kids are holding it down. Support this place, big time!
1675 - HERETIC BREWING CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT PORTER – Like cookie dough. Yum.
1676 - FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING BRAVO #217 – Praise Firestone for their extensive samplers. This one is a superior imperial brown ale aged in spirits barrels. Crazy delicious.
1677 - FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING PARABOLA (2013) - Thank you Barrelworks. Yes, this is true love.
1678 - FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING XVII ANNIVERSARY ALE – Oak aged strong ale, practically infallible.
1679 - FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING SOUR OPAL – Barrel aged sour Gueuze style ale. Loverly.
|Firestone Walker: Like Fantasy Island for beer nerds.|
1681 - FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING SUCABA (2014) – Bourbon and crème brulee, stupidly perfect.
1682 - FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING VELVET MERKIN (2013) – Barrel aged imperial oatmeal stout. A ridiculous treat from the Barrelworks room. Now I know what I’m sitting on with my bottle at home.
1683 - FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING BRETTA WEISSE – Refreshing and mildly sour, heavy pineapple.
1684 - FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING FOEDER #2 – Barrel aged red Flemish style ale, tart and fruity and evenly balanced.
1685 - FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING DOUBLE DBA (2014) – Barrel aged imperial bitter, superior.
1687 - PURE ORDER BREWING CROOKED NECK HEFEWEIZEN – Named after the famous deceased local celebrity giraffe with the crooked neck. The giraffe was weird. This beer is not. One of my favorites from Pure Order, along with their porter.
1688 - PURE ORDER BREWING RED EYE WHEAT – Good one, not super distinct, but nice.
1689 - PURE ORDER BREWING WILLIE WAUGHT – Good wee heavy.
1690 - PURE ORDER BREWING SANTA BARBARA COMMON ALE – Decent.
1691 - PURE ORDER BREWING SANTA BARBARA PALE ALE – Decent.
1692 - PURE ORDER BREWING BLACK GULL PORTER – One of the best of the seven in the sampler.
1693 - MISSION BREWERY HEFEWEIZEN – Very tart, not bad, don’t think I’d make it my house hefe though.
1694 - MISSION BREWERY IPA – Mellow hops, mildly acidic finish, and cookie dough yeast. OK.
Mon 8/11 - Home
1695 – RUHSTALLER GILT EDGE – Wheaty and grainy and golden and really good when it’s not super cold. There’s nothing to feel gilty about.
1696 – RUHSTALLER CAPT CALIFORNIA BLACK IPA – Delicious hops and chocolatey malt. Toni Tennille would be proud.
1697 - UNCOMMON BREWERS BACON BROWN ALE – Nut brown ale brewed with toasted buckwheat and bacon-cured pork. Really tasty, like a mildly smoky rauchbier. Not overly bacony or gross like a Rogue novelty shit beer.
1698 - DOGFISH HEAD PALO SANTO MARRON – Deeply rich, Paraguayan palo santo wood aged imperial brown. Dark, yeast-heavy, malt heavy. A real powerhouse.
Tues 8/12 – Flight at Tony’s and a few at home
1699 - SURF BREWERY BLACK IPA – Roasty and a lil’ hoppy, easy sippin’.
1700 - HANGAR 24 ESSENCE DOUBLE IPA – Tastes more citrusy than hoppy, hard to believe it’s a double IPA, it tastes like a fruity pale ale.
1701 - SMOG CITY BREWING WEIRD BEER SAISON – Herby, estery, heavy on the cloves, would make a good Hot Toddy in the winter time.
1702 - THE LOST ABBEY WITCHES WIT – Cloudy, wheaty, with a hint of herbal spiciness. Finishes clean, like it was never in your mouth… that must be the witchcraft part of it.
1703 - SCUTTLEBUTT BREWING AMBER ALE – Heavy roasted barley & hops, not bad.
1704 - OSKAR BLUES BREWERY DEVIANT DALE'S - Welcome back, old friend. Crazy over the top piney hops. An ol’ favorite. Hardcore.
Wed 8/13 - Home
1705 - SAM ADAMS DOUBLE AGENT IPL – Tastes like a buttery pale ale, not like an IPL at all. Not necessary.
1706 - KONA BREWING FIRE ROCK PALE ALE – Middle of the road pale ale. Perfect for the beach when you really don’t care about flavor, so much as you just want to consume anything cold and wet.
1707 - SAMUEL SMITH OATMEAL STOUT – One of the first beers I ever liked. It tastes weak compared to most stouts I’m into now, but I can’t really knock a legend, even if it does taste like an old popsicle.
1708 - STILLWATER ARTISINAL ALES CELLAR DOOR AMERICAN FARMHOUSE ALE - Another brilliant Stillwater brew. White ale with sage, I hate other sage beers but I love this. It’s evenly balanced, cloudy, herbal, and addictively drinkable.
Thurs 8/14 – Weekly new release tasting at Vendome and a few at home
1709 - SANTA CLARA VALLEY BREWING HEART'S DELIGHT – Summer ale aged in wine barrels with cherries added, low carbonation, almost like a tart wine. Vanilla. Not overbearingly acidic or sour.
1710 - MIKKELLER HUES – Vinegar, corn, big time pucker, sweet & sour pork on the nose. Supposed to be a gueuze.
1711 - MOTHER EARTH BOOKOO IPA WITH MOSAIC AND SIMCOE – Crisp, golden, with a wonderfully crunchy and skunky hop bite.
1712 - STONE BREWING 18TH ANNIVERSARY – Brown IPA with major sweet malt on the back end. Caramel and hop infused oatmeal cookies.
1713 - LOCAL OPTION / CENTRAL WATERS COLLABORATION LA PETITE MORT – Delicious upper-Midwestern collab. Weizenbock with Belgian yeast added. Dark caramel, syrupy sweet, but still drinkable. Pair this with ice cream.
1714 - BUTTE CREEK BREWING ORGANIC PALE ALE – Serious toffee, better than I hoped it would be.
|The "R" is for Raisin, not Redneck.|
1716 - SHMALTZ BREWING HE'BREW GENESIS DRY HOPPED SESSION ALE – Whoa, tastes a hell of a lot like the Bison Hop Cuvee. Well, they both have centennial & simcoe hops. This one’s just more kosher.
Friday 8/15 – Home
1717 - LAGUNITAS BREWING A LITTLE SUMPIN' EXTRA! ALE – Nice DIPA. Lagunitas doesn’t make a bad beer.
1718 - W BREWING 559 RFA – A Central Valley beer? Right on, something different! Raisin Farmer Ale, apparently brewed with raisins. Red ale that doesn’t taste like a red. Light, acidic, a tad malty.
1719 - BLACK DIAMOND BREWING GRAND CRU BOURBON BARREL AGED – An acidic, liquefied chocolate covered vanilla cherry. I was expecting something more “rounded”, with less bite. OK.
Saturday 8/16 – Family party in the afternoon, friend’s pre-wedding party at night
1720 - BLUE MOON BREWING HARVEST PUMPKIN ALE – Heavily spiced, not nearly as bad as anticipated for a Blue Moon.
1721 - TECATE LIGHT – Que malo.
1722 - SAM ADAMS LATITUDE 48 IPA – Is it more embarrassing to be seen drinking this, or to be the brewer that made this?
1723 - BRASSERIE DUPONT SAISON DUPONT – Wow. Just wow. The old standby.
|Finally, a beer for stinky ass hippies.|
1725 - PACIFICO CLARA – How do you say “liquid sadness” in Spanish?
1726 - UNITY VIBRATION BOURBON PEACH AMERICAN WILD ALE – It was inevitable… a kombucha beer. So, it’s good for me, right? Tastier than expected, perfect at the hot summer’s eve party where I popped it. I didn’t taste any bourbon barrel whatsoever. Not as sour as expected. Peachy, sweet, mildly tart, a bit like cider.
1727 - PIKE BREWING COMPANY OLD BAWDY BARLEY WINE STYLE ALE (2013) – Very drinkable, not as cloying as many barley wines can be. Sweet but not over-the-top rich. Think session barley wine, if there could be such a thing.
1728 - BREWERY OMMEGANG THREE PHILOSOPHERS QUADRUPEL ALE – Deep amber quad with 2% Liefman’s Kriek blended which adds just a hint of tartness to the thick, malty base. Easy to drink, even just shy of 10%.
Sunday 8/17 – Tasting at home, at the Vendome bottle share, at Eagle Rock Brewery, and Mohawk Bend
1729 - BLACK DIAMOND BREWING FREE STYLE BELGIAN BLONDE – I was expecting something completely average. I got a well-balanced blonde, infinitely better than what the average ale of this style typically delivers.
|Sooo, that's why you hold beer tastings?|
1731 - THE BRUERY OUDE TART (2013) – Flemish style red ale aged in red wine barrels, pomegranate, rich with dark fruit. Superior.
1732 - MILL VALLEY BEERWORKS ESPIRITU OSCURO – Wow! Musty, dank nutmeg, spicy Belgian style dark ale. Killer!
1733 - CLOWN SHOES RIDE THE LION – Decadent, sweet caramel with a boozy finish.
1734 - GREAT DIVIDE BREWING ESPRESSO OAK AGED YETI (2014) – Excellence! Oily and chocolately bean brew. Effing perfection. Dare I say abominable?
1735 - SIERRA NEVADA BEER CAMP ACROSS AMERICA WEST COAST DOUBLE IPA – Not oppressively hoppy, creamy with a back end bite, and a pleasantly malty aftertaste.
1736 - SUN KING BREWING RING OF DINGLE – Clean, roasty, a bit watery. Still nice to try considering it’s not readily available in Cali.
1737 - SANTE ADAIRIUS RUSTIC ALES PROFESSOR RON 22C WOOD-AGED BEER – Tart stout, heavy on the cherry finish. What a treat. Thanks Chris Wilder!
1738 - STONE BREWING 13TH ANNIVERSARY ALE – Like a malty barley wine, slightly funky on the nose, but resilient and drinkable. I like how the bottle clearly states: “Do not cellar. Enjoy in 2009.”
1739 - THE BRUERY BLACK TUESDAY (2012) – Bourbon barrel imperial stout, strange thing is it’s brown, not that inky blackness you would expect. But it’s thick & deliriously delicious. And 19%... whoo boy, it’s a powerhouse.
1740 - PIKE BREWING COMPANY NAUGHTY NELLIE – Standard golden ale. Not as distinct as the other Pike brews, but ya can’t always bat 1.000.
1741 - EAGLE ROCK BREWERY RED VELVET – Sleek imperial red with rye. At 10.8% it’s deceptive. Delicious, and capable of creeping up and incapacitating you quickly.
1742 - FACTION BREWING FACTION PILS – Really nice basic pils. Nicely done for such a straight forward, simple style.
|"To crush your enemies..."|
1744 – TAPS RIS: RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT – Loving this, it’s a flowing blanket of silky roasted, malted, creamy goodness. I want to make a nest out of this so I can curl up inside of it.
1745 - ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING HORSE TONGUE WHEAT – Easy to drink, a bit tart, very fruity, nice one.
1746 - NOBLE ALE WORKS TONGUE TICKLES – Hard to believe it’s a DIPA, tastes like a session beer, but damn tasty.
1747 - SIERRA NEVADA BIGFOOT (2014) - Mildly spicy, dang that’s good. Seasonal barley wine. Sasquatch would be proud.
1748 - MOTHER EARTH CALI' CREAMIN' VANILLA CREAM ALE – Tastes like the same says, more like a soda than a beer, if soda was 5.2% ABV.
1749 - GOLDEN ROAD RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT – Oh yeah baby, that’s a real treat!
Monday 8/18 - Home
1750 - SMUTTYNOSE BREWING SUMMER WEIZEN – I love Smuttynose, but this tastes like Bud.
1751 - NEW BELGIUM BREWING TRIPPEL – Belgian style tripel brewed with coriander. A solid brew, which is unexpected considering how mediocre a lot of their releases have been.
1752 - BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON BEER WORKS TELL TALE HEART IPA – Piney, buttery IPA, well done like all other B-W output.1753 - BOULDER BEER COMPANY SWEATY BETTY BLONDE – Not bad, slight banana taste, decent but wouldn’t willingly buy it again.
|"Look, Earthling... I saw you talking shit about Intergalactic in your last entry..."|