Saturday, March 22, 2014

Beer #444-462 / Day #77-80: Zen And The Art Of Beering

"Treat a disaster as you would a triumph."
That's a quote The Wife sent to me today.
Very zen.
I thought about it for a few seconds, and realized... hey, I already do that!
Whether it's a disaster or a triumph, my reaction is the same... I drink good beer!
I'm a good Buddhist after all!
Except I drink alcohol and they don't.
I never looked good in orange anyway....

Many praises to Jon Emery for the video link above.

The tally continues:

Tuesday 3/18 - INFEST practice night
  • GRAND TETON BREWING PURSUIT OF HOPPINESS IMPERIAL RED - Beer #444, good one, next to barrel-aged, I'm a sucker for anything imperial
  • GOOSE ISLAND 312 URBAN PALE ALE - Beer #445, not to be confused with the 312 Urban Wheat Ale. Which one was Obama's favorite beer?  I've had corn whisky, and it blows.  This tastes like corn beer.  I need to hang out with Obama and turn him on to some good shit. Well, I am going to DC in 4 weeks.
  • GROLSCH PREMIUM PILSENER - Beer #446, run of the mill, but not bad for a beer you can find everywhere; it gets the job done, and it's not as watery and bland as most American mass consumption beers.
  • SUDWERK BREWING DOPPELBOCK ULTIMATOR - Beer #447, I remember going to this Davis, CA based brewery waaaay back in the mid-90s, when I really wasn't a beer person. Chris W. was just talking about this place, and out of the blue, I found this 12 ozer.  Yum!  Looks like a trip to NorCal is in order after all.
Wednesday 3/19:
  • PIKE BREWING TANDEM DOUBLE ALE - Beer #448, I absolutely fell into a serious man-crush with the Pike IPA and Extra Stout; this one... eh.... not so much. As Mr. Loaf says, two outta three ain't bad.
  • ANGEL CITY SPECIAL WINTER VANILLA PORTER 2013 - Beer #449, Love this brewery and 98% of what they do; this fell into the 2%. Blech. Bottle didn't hold up well.  I've had this on tap and enjoyed it.  This 2013 bottle was past its prime and tasted like novelty soda.
  • THE LOST ABBEY INFERNO ALE - Beer #450, they cork it, so you know they're serious.
  • LEFT COAST HOP JUICE DOUBLE IPA - Beer #451, good, but I've had it even better on draught.
  • UNCOMMON BREWERS BALTIC PORTER - Beer #452, Heavy on the anise, which works perfectly with this style; I need to find out more about this Santa Cruz based outfit.  Both Uncommon brews I've had so far have been top notch. Not to mention both were in cans

Big Swell + Tina Yothers = Swell Yothers
Thursday 3/20:
  • BOULEVARD BREWING TANK 7 FARMHOUSE ALE - Beer #454, Way yummier.
  • MAUI BREWING BIG SWELL IPA - Beer #455, decent IPA, nondescript, but if I was on a beach in Hawaii I wouldn't turn this down.
  • SIX RIVERS BREWERY MOONSTONE PORTER - Beer #456, worst porter I've had since Pismo Beach Brewing. Doesn't taste like a porter.  Tastes like a bad batch that could be pawned off to hipsters as a sour.  I don't like to hate on breweries, but I strongly dislike this beer.
  • BOULEVARD BREWING BOURBON BARREL QUAD - Beer #457, Bourbon?  I'm listening.  Barrel?  I'm listening more attentively.  Brewed with cherries? Doesn't sound like the best idea, but turns out it's the best idea.  I love it. The Wife says she would drink this everyday.  Thanks to Eric King for the hook up.

Friday 3/21:
  • EVIL TWIN HOP FLOOD AMBER ALE - Beer #458, sounds like the billionth IPA, but it's actually a hop bomb amber. Killer.
  • GOOSE ISLAND THE ILLINOIS IMPERIAL IPA - Beer #460, my favorite Goose Island output by far, and the high price reflects the quality. 
  • FLYING DOG DOGGIE STYLE PALE ALE - Beer #461, Another good Flying Dog, Steadman or no.
  • THE LOST ABBEY SAINT'S DEVOTION - Beer #462, mildly sour & floral Belgian style blonde-wit-golden; friggin' perfect

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Beer #397-443 / Day 70-76: Quality Vs. Quantity

St. Patty's Day marks the arrival of the only fake holiday that makes both Hallmark and bar owners happy.  More importantly it's a beer drinking holiday, that ironically as a beer drinker, I avoid like a potato famine.  It is not a day based on quality, or the genuine love of the beer tasting experience. It's an exercise in excess.  But considering I'm well into my own quest based on hitting numbers, do I really have any right to criticize the patron saint of fratboys, groped women, and DUI checkpoints? 

It boils down to the equation of Quality Vs. Quantity.  I'm constantly straddling this fence, as even now I rest my laurels on having tasted 443 beers in 76 days.  And while I can confidently brag that this number is quite a feat for any human, there are two Big Year participants who have informed me they're well into the 500s... Randy Carncross, and Chris W.  Does my lower number mean that I'm enjoying what I'm tasting more than them?  Are they more savvy in their consumption? Or is it just a reflection of not dedicating every waking second in pursuit of this ridiculous quest?
The Monday Morning Quarterback in me assesses the following comparisons:

Randy Carncross
*Pro – Runs The Hangover Craft Beer Bar.  This man works in the beer industry, spends his day surrounded by beer, a constant rotation of taps and bottles, has distributors providing samples, and customers bringing in bottles to share... all day long. How could you not rack up crazy numbers in this environment? As far as I'm concerned, someone in his position can't be beat.
*Con – His beer bar is in Japan.  I’m not sure this is a disadvantage, but Randy claims it is every time I'm in touch with him.  He says Japan is extremely limited in the beer he can access.  In the same breath, he’s ahead of me by a good 100+ in his Big Year count.  And I constantly see him post pics of U.S. beer that I can’t even get in California unless someone smuggles it to me, or I bring it back myself during my travels... Surly, Three Floyds, Elysian, Sound Brewery, et al.  This Con is more of a con as far as I'm concerned.

Chris W
*Pro – Lifelong, hardcore drinker. While we were both still in our 20s, I remember this man drinking an entire case of beer in one sitting.  His tastes have changed, and he no longer indulges in cases of cheap swill, but his ability to put away mass quantities has not diminished.  Additionally, this man earns an astounding income and spares no expense in buying alcohol. I'm sure he has no shame walking in to a place with 50 taps and ordering samplers of all 50.  Plus he’s determined to beat me. While the competition is friendly, I know he has his mind set on being the winner at all costs, and proving my Big Year isn’t going to be Big enough.
*Con – Big time wine fan, who may eventually step off the beer wagon when he realizes how much he misses really great vino.

*Pro – The Big Year was my idea, so I’m driven to obliterate my tally from last year, and hopefully set a record tally for this year.  Additionally, I travel every couple months to different parts of the U.S., and have accessibility, albeit brief, to many regionally distributed beers I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to taste. This will be an advantage later in the year, as it becomes increasingly more difficult to find non-duplicate, unique beers locally.
*Con – Finances & Time.  My money is really tight.  Fortunately, I have a lot of generous beer friends, and I’ve scouted out some affordable options for multiple tasters in one sitting.  And I have a full time job.  I don’t set my own hours, and can’t exactly take off to go tasting any day on a whim. On weekends, I incorporate beer into our family activities when possible, but I try to remain conscious of not derailing our other plans in favor of brew-related outings.  
My Wife gave me a hard time recently about finishing full pints or bottles, and not always going for tasters. She points to this as a reason why I'm not in the 500s, and I'm sure she's correct. But the whole point of this is spelled out in my rules, under "Mandate #3":
ENJOY what you are tasting. This friendly, rewardless competition means even less if you're not fully enjoying each taste. Focus on the journey, not the destination.

Quality Vs. Quantity?  I like to think both apply equally during the Big Year.


The tally continues....

Tuesday 3/11 - INFEST practice and then relaxin' at home:
  • ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING BARNEY FLATS OATMEAL STOUT - Beer #397, Nice, easy drinking, uncomplicated, and $3.99 for a bomber? Cheap!
  • GREAT DIVIDE BREWING COLETTE FARMHOUSE ALE - Beer #398, always loved this one, straight forward saison style.
  • FLYING DOG BREWERY DOUBLE DOG DOUBLE IPA - Beer #399, more powerful than expected, flavor-wise and buzz-wise, good thing I was already home.
Wednesday 3/12 - Home
  • AVERY / RUSSIAN RIVER COLLABORATION NOT LITIGATION (BATCH #7) - Beer #400, been wanting to try this collab for a few years, good but not astounding
  • EVIL TWIN BREWING YIN IMPERIAL TAIJI STOUT - Beer #401, a thing of beauty, that's what I'm talking about when I say I love stouts.
  • FLYING DOG BREWERY PEARL NECKLACE OYSTER STOUT - Beer #402, OK, not stellar, not bad.
Thursday 3/13 - Home
  • WEIHENSTEPHANER VITUS WEIZENBOCK - Beer #403, Whoa!  Ist der bad ass!  So fuggin' tasty, so much better than expected.
  • BROUWERIJ VAN STEENBERGE GULDEN DRAAK ALE - Beer #404, had this before & really liked it; this bottle tasted musty and green, like a "corked" (spoiled) bottle of wine.
  • PIKE BREWING COMPANY EXTRA STOUT - Beer #405, This is what loving a stout is all about.  I have a crush on this brewery now.
Friday 3/14 - Evening at home with the family; pizza and beer:
  • JOSEPH JAMES BREWING  J.J. PRO AM 2013 FOREIGN EXPORT STOUT - Beer #408, Darn good, love this brewery outside of Vegas, didn't even know about it til this year.
Saturday 3/15 - Four at home with The Wife and The Beckers, then wrapping up the evening sampling at the awesome Newhall Refinery:
  • RUHSTALLER CALIFORNIA TRIPEL - Beer #409, nice, at least there's one good thing in Sacramento.
  • MORLAND OLD SPECKLED HEN - Beer #411, eh...
  • OMMEGANG GAME OF THRONES TAKE THE BLACK STOUT - Beer #412, Very, very impressive, complex but not super heavy
  • STONE BREWING GO TO IPA - Beer #413, I love the idea of session IPAs because I don't always want to get blasted, especially if I'm starting early
  • CISMONTANE BREWING THE MESA - Beer #414, Beer and Wine collab, much better on tap than I remember it from the lackluster bottle I bought last year; This keg was likely fresher, and they got the blend dialed in better this year.
  • SMOG CITY BREWING AMARILLA GORILLA IPA - Beer #415, a SoCal favorite; I have yet to visit their brewery, but it's on the list... soon!
  • THE BRUERY SAISON DE LENTE - Beer #416, Bruery can't brew anything bad
  • AVERY BREWING COMPANY MAHARAJA IMPERIAL IPA - Beer #418, Much better on tap at Newhall Refinery than I remember from the Boneyard in Studio City last year.
  • ALESMITH BREWING OLD ALE - Beer #419, smooth, ye olde toothsome ale
  • PORT BREWING SANTA'S LITTLE HELPER - Beer #420, OK, I love Port Brewing, but this one is my least favorite.
  • FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING COMPANY PRIVATE LABEL BROWN - Beer #421, See above, I'm a huge fan of Firestone, they're nearly infallible, this is good but not great.
Sunday 3/16 - Tasting at Vendome, then chillin' at home: 
  • ALLAGASH WHITE - Beer #423, reliable
  • ALLAGASH TRIPEL RESERVE - BATCH 204 - Beer #424, very good
  • ALLAGASH CONFLUENCE 2013 - Beer #426, clean like a Saltine... no kidding!  Taste it and I dare you not to compare it to a cracker.
  • ALLAGASH INTERLUDE 2013 - Beer #427, limited yearly release, aged in red wine barrels, mildly acidic and tannic
  • ALLAGASH FOUR ALE - Beer #429, shit, that's a winner, soooo good, not heavy at all, but so much happening in that glass you won't know where to start or where to finish, so keep going.
  • ALLAGASH DUBBEL RESERVE BATCH 107 - Beer #430, Mmm hmmm.
  • ALLAGASH FLUXUS 2013 - BREWED WITH BLOOD ORANGE- Beer #431, smooth, with a bready, yeasty aftertaste like cookie dough
  • ALLAGASH ODYSSEY 2014 - AGED IN OAK BARRELS- Beer # 432, aged in oak barrels, similar to Four Ale... in other words, I'd drink this any day, any time, as much as possible
  • SCHOFFERHOFER GRAPEFRUIT HEFEWEIZEN - Beer #433, sounds like the world's most horrific idea, but I brought home some lengua tacos with very spicy hot sauce.... I thought about the fruity and sweet Jarritos sodas at all of the taco joints around LA, and sure enough this was the perfect pairing.  I may have hated it on its own, but with these tacos, it's the best invention.
  • ABITA BREWING PURPLE HAZE - Beer #434, I had this last year and hated it.  I had it this year and hated it.
  • BARD'S ORIGINAL SORGHUM MALT BEER - Beer #435, gluten free, also free of everything I love about beer.
  • AVERY BREWING COMPANY INDIA PALE ALE - Beer #436, good one, I heart Avery
  • COLD SPRING BREWING JOHN HENRY 3 LICK SPIKER ALE AGED IN BOURBON OAK CHIPS - Beer #437, Minnesota brewery, sounds great, but surprisingly ordinary. 
Monday 3/17 - St. Patrick's Day, at Home, avoiding large crowds, frat brats, and projectile vomiting:
  • UINTA BREWING DETOUR DOUBLE IPA - Beer #438, oh Baby, so much better than I remember from the 22 ouncer; this was a 12 ouncer, very fresh, crazy hoppiness, love it.
  • NECTAR ALES NECTAR IPA - Beer #440, excellent, deep, rich IPA
  • RESIGNATION BREWERY / RED HOOK COLLABORATION KCCO BLACK LAGER - Beer #441, alright, not bad, but not memorable
  • BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON BEER WORKS THE CASK DOPPELBOCK - Beer #442, I keep trying to write this off as a novelty brewery with the whole Poe theme, but this is the second beer I've tried from them in the past year, and the second one that has really impressed me, rich and complex.
  • EVIL TWIN BREWING FALCO IPA - Beer #443, What a way to cap off the evening, one of the best IPAs in recent memory, there's a reason I'm in love with Evil Twin.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Beer #359-396 / Day 62-69: The Extreme Foodism Of An Outspokenly Anti-Foodie, Yet Secretly Foodie Non-Foodie

My sis-in-law, Lori Jonasson, sent me a link last month about pairing beer with Girl Scout cookies.  I try to avoid posing as a food expert, like the billions of wannabe Foodies out there (I spend enough time as a wannabe beer nerd), because I know my palate is far from perfect.  But the allure of something so silly was undeniable.  And by chance, I had ordered some Girl Scout cookies recently.  Plus I had a few of the noted beers in my stockpile.
For as much of a novelty as the article is, there is one pairing I found particularly appealing, and well played:  Tagalongs, a chocolate covered peanut butter mound, with Wells & Young Banana Bread Beer.  Sheer genius.  Fat Elvis would undoubtedly approve.
The article also recommended Trefoils, a very plain shortbready cookie, with a couple different stouts.  I had a few Trefoils with the Fifty Fifty B.A.R.T. and it was damn pleasing.  Then again a shortbread cookie is like a plain canvas.  Something slightly sweet with minimal character can pair with freakin' anything!  I had Trefoils with several other non-heavy beers, and it was equally as great.  I even tried one with the Evil Twin Hipster Ale, which just a well-rounded pale ale, and it paired well...
... All of which leads me to believe most food and alcohol pairings are a crock of shit.  Think about it.  Would you ever pair chocolate and ketchup?  Hell no!  That sounds disgusting.  But would you ever order a burger and a chocolate shake?  Aha!  Given the context, you can make most things work.  I'd have no problem making a BBQ sauce with a ketchup base, and adding a bit of chocolate to it.  Makes sense, along with other seemingly adverse ingredients like cinnamon, molasses, or sugar.
Take my earlier post about my revelation of spicy food and IPAs.  How many spicy food joints (think Asian or Indian) offer IPAs on their menus?  Not a whole hell of a lot.  They all offer super bland Asian lagers, that are fun to drink only because you get to read a weird label and get to brag about drinking this oddball beer.  I ordered a super hoppy Anderson Valley Hop Ottin' IPA with my super spicy bowl of ramen, and it was a match made in heaven.  The hop bomb cut through the heat of the dish, but the heat of the dish didn't nullify the hops.  The oddball combo happened to be the best one yet.
I continued my quest for a multitude of unique brews this past week, and even improvised cooking with beer  in a semi-inebriated state, and everything came out delicious. My Wife will confirm.  No cookbooks:  just intuition, and a desire to attempt something new.
Piggybacking on the idea of pairing IPA with spicy food, I made a ghost pepper salsa with dehydrated peppers courtesy of my pal Marvelous Marvin Harris.  Some grape tomatoes, minced garlic, cilantro, cumin, coriander, salt, and ghost peppers, with a couple pulses in a food processor.  Done.  At the same time I opened a Pike Brewing IPA, a beer I didn't get to enjoy in Seattle last weekend, but strangely enough, stumbled across at Total Wine & More in Northridge this past week.  The ghost peppers weren't burn-your-face-off hot, I'm guessing because they were dehydrated, and hence, not super oily, as it's the chili oil that sticks with you.  Good flavor, and good match-up of brew & eats.
I've already claimed the Ballast Point Sea Monster Imperial Stout in my Big Year, and had an extra bottle, so I used a good amount of it to marinate a rack of ribs, with a dash of soy sauce and a hint of hot sauce for complexity.  50 min on the grill with some mesquite smoke, wrapped in foil for 20 min, and slathered with homemade BBQ sauce. Even tastier than expected.  The stout gave it an unexpected deep cocoa aftertaste which was different, but totally worked with the infused smoke and mild heat of the barbecue sauce.
The next evening, I dug out a few Hangar 24 bottles, leftover from my BDay Beer Party, and made Alt-Bier Ale Chicken Wings.  I usually use a stout for slow cooking chicken wings, but I went for a well-rounded ale, and they came out just as awesome.  Coat the wings with some salt, pepper, garlic power, and paprika, brown them in a pan with olive oil, then add to a baking dish with the beer, fresh minced garlic, and sriracha. Pop in in the oven at medium-low heat for 2 hours or more.  Done! And crazy delicious.
 You don't have to watch a million Food Network "challenge" shows, or follow any recipe to a T.  Just have a general understanding of what you enjoy, and throw it together.  It won't always work, but if you have half a brain, it will come out tasty more than half the time. 
As far as I'm concerned, Foodie Snobs can eat it.  So to speak.

The tally continues:

Monday 3/3 - Back home from Seattle:
  • ABITA BREWING MARDI GRAS BOCK - Beer #359, not amazing
  • EPIC BREWING BRAINLESS BELGIAN STYLE GOLDEN ALE - Beer #360, one of the very few unopened bottles from my BDay, courtesy of Matt Domino.  Good one!
Tuesday 3/4 - One of the only Tuesday nights that Infest didn't practice, otherwise my count would have been twice as much:
  • FULLER, SMITH & TURNER 1845 ENGLISH STRONG ALE - Beer #363, pretty good
Wednesday 3/5 - Home again with the lovely Mrs.:
  • BROUWERIJ VAN STEENBERGE PIRAAT - Beer #364, a classic
  • EINSTOK OLGERD ICELANDIC WHITE ALE - Beer #365, better than I remember
  • BROUWERIJ VAN STEENBERGE MONK'S CAFE FLEMISH SOUR ALE - Beer #366, not crazy sour, actually more sweet and sour, fun to sip, and would double as a great salad dressing
Thursday 3/6 - Home yet again... am I setting an new record?:
  • ANDERSON VALLEY BOONT AMBER ALE - Beer #367, Holy Christ, I've been wrapped up in beer snobbery for so long I've neglected some truly great everyday beers like this one.  Seen this at every major grocery store since I can remember, but goddamn, what a great beer!  An amber with powerful hops.
  • EVIL TWIN BREWING HIPSTER ALE - Beer #368, excellent pale ale, I'm nuts about Evil Twin, one of the only times I'll ever say I'm proud to be a hipster.
Friday 3/7 - Home again?  What am I, a loser?  Naw, just enjoying rare moments not being on-the-go.  Pizza and beer night:
  • CISCO BREWERS THE GREY LADY - Beer #369, a top of the line witbier, so much more going on than your average wheat beer, spicy and complex, I've quickly become a fan of this brewery.
  • SPEAKEASY SCARLETT RED RYE - Beer #370, I haven't been much a Speakeasy supporter until now.  This is a truly great beer.  Lots going on.  Not the cheap, knock-off label I wrote it off as, up until this moment.
  • AVERY BREWING NEW WORLD PORTER - Beer #371, a limited porter from this standout label, although not my favorite effort from them.
Saturday 3/8 - All bets are off... tasting 16 new beers at Vendome (plus a few repeats), then drinkin' back home:
  • INNSTADT BRAUEREI EXTRA SCHWARZE - Beer #372, schwarzbier with major anise, good and surprisingly light
  • STILLWATER SENSORY SERIES V2 SMALL BLACK - Beer #373, a schwarzbier / saison mash-up, I'd expect nothing less adventurous from Stillwater
  • NORTH COAST OLD NO. 38 STOUT - Beer #374, damn good, when it comes to North Coast, I always avoid this in favor of Old Rasputin. This is a solid beer.  An easy drinking stout with depth.  Sure as hell doesn't taste like 5.6%.
  • ALMANAC BIERE DE CHOCOLAT - Beer #375, I love all things Almanac, but this was a bit heavy handed on the cocoa, even for a true groupie.
  • BROUWERIJ HET ANKER LUCIFER - Beer #376, yeasty, unique, caramelly, nice but glad I had a taster instead of a full glass.
  • BIERE DU BOUCANIER GOLDEN ALE - Beer #377, a buttery bale of hay in a glass
  • EPIC BREWING ELDER BRETT SAISON BRET GOLDEN ALE - Beer #378, you can taste that wild yeast, a real heavyweight.
  • UINTA CROOKED LINE TINDER RAUCHBIER - Beer #379, liquid campfire, where's the marshmallows?
  • ALESMITH HORNY DEVIL - Beer #380, sugary, yeasty, friggin' delish!
  • GREEN FLASH LE FREAK - Beer #381, Belgian Trippel / Imperial IPA hybrid.  Love it.
  • VICTORY V12 - Beer #382, Whoa! Heavy like a barleywine, intense, slightly sweet, kinda hoppy. 
  • TELEGRAPH RHINOCEROS - Beer #383, A barleywine style ale with rye malt, delicious and not cloying at all.
  • UNIBROUE TERRIBLE - Beer #384, a classic
  • SPEAKEASY SYNDICATE SERIES 01 VINTAGE ALE AGED IN BOURBON BARRELS - Beer #385, good gravy... just as toothsome as it sounds.
  • BROUWERIJ DE MOLEN HEL & VEDOEMENIS ALE AGED IN BOURBON BARRELS - Beer #386, A five-star beer if there ever was one.  Not heavy, but incredibly complex, mildly sweet, barrelly goodness, mild cocoa and malt depth.  The label says "Enjoy within 25 years". Not a problem.
  • RJ ROCKERS BREWING BELL RINGER - Beer #387, maybe the Vendome tasting spoiled me, but this beer was so unimpressive, most of it went down the sink. Sorry, I never do that, but it seemed fitting.
  • UNCOMMON BREWERS SIAMESE TWIN ALE - Beer #388, exemplary brew from a mysterious Santa Cruz outfit.  I need to team up with South Bay local Chris W. and track these guys down.
 Sunday 3/9 - Perfect Sunday afternoon to sit outside, read, snack, grill, and drink:
  • FLYING FISH BREWING EXIT 4 AMERICAN TRIPPEL - Beer #389, exceptionally good tripel style from this NJ brewer.  Haven't had a bad Flying Fish brew yet.
  • PIKE BREWING IPA - Beer #390, strangely I was in Seattle the week before and never got to try a Pike Brewing beer, but back home this week, I found a few Pike bottles for the first time in SoCal. Good timing. Great beer.  Paired well with my ghost pepper salsa.
  • BAYHAWK ALES ZAPPA BREWS NELSON IPA - Beer #391, I had this on tap last Dec and it was incredible; this time out of the bottle, not as staggering. A good one, but much MUCH better if there's a fresh keg around.
  • CLOWN SHOES HOPPY FEET BLACK IPA - Beer #392, Consistently great brewer. This is no exception.  The Hoppy Feet 1.5 is even better, from what I recall.
  • MENDOCINO BREWING IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #393, Overall very good, would make a terrific everyday stout
  • FLYING DOG GONZO IMPERIAL PORTER - Beer #394, the whole Ralph Steadman thing jumped the shark in the '80s as far as I'm concerned, but this beer and this brewer are consistently reliable
Monday 3/10 - Blogging tonight, at this very moment:
  • CORONADO / CIGAR CITY COLLABORATION JURATA BALTIC PORTER - Beer #395, the first glass is great, the second glass is perfection.
  • CISCO BREWERS WHALE'S TALE PALE ALE - Beer #396, Really unique pale, as the label says "fruity hops", hard to describe, but crazy good like all other Ciscos I've tried.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Beer #302-358 / Day #53-61: Sleepless Sampling In Seattle

Last week progressed like most weeks, with the exception of it being my birthday on Thursday.  Since Camille already threw me a huge beer birthday bash the previous weekend, I felt like my birthday had already happened, so Thursday mostly felt like just another day.  In spite of the anti-climactic nature of the day, The Wife and The Boy set up a perfect evening at home enjoying take-out sushi, and watching “The Big Year”.  Do they know me or what?  To treat myself, I popped the cap on one of the special bottles I had squirreled away from the unwashed masses during my beer party.  Courtesy of the generous Mr. Larry McQuaide, I enjoyed my very first tasting of a Fifty Fifty beer.  This brewery is based in Truckee, a town the size of a postage stamp, which could be considered “the middle of nowhere” were it not a through point for travelers to Lake Tahoe.  On the rare occasions when I see their bottles, they’re on the expensive side, averaging $20-$30 minimum, but very highly regarded in beer nerd circles.  Those nerds knew what they were doing when they got their mustaches in a wax over this joint.  I have yet to sample their Eclipse Series, but this B.A.R.T. (Barrel Aged Really Tasty) brew is exactly what the name implies.  A rich, viscous, and deeply satisfying ale, brewed with honey, aged in barrels, and destined for my stomach as often as possible.

The Most Interesting Cut-Out In The World
The next day my real adventure began, when Infest headed to Seattle for the weekend.  After the driest winter in memory, our flight to Seattle coincided with the arrival of a massive storm, the biggest, they say, in the last four years.  Our flight out of Bob Hope Airport was late, so I passed the time with some average airport brews, Widmer Hopside Down IPL and Red Hook Long Hammer, which actually helped me relax and not lose my patience with constant delays. Considering the high powered storm, I was surprised our eventual departure wasn’t more violent.  Regardless, I was cool as a cucumber thanks to a shot of bourbon, and a few Alaskan Amber ales aboard the flight.  Kudos to Alaska Airlines for deviating outside of the Busch camp, and offering something regional.  Domino and I ensured the short flight was a toasty one, and we cracked up about everything possible, including a few glimpses of the brillo-haired gal in front of us reading “Fifty Shades Of Grey” on her Nook.
For once, Seattle weather was nicer than SoCal.  Brisk, beautiful, musty with history.  I love this city, for much more than just the simple reason that the greater Sea-Tac area is my birthplace, in addition to the multitude of relatives who have never left.  In the interest of full disclosure, I cannot claim Seattle proper as my hometown, but rather Tacoma, which is a city that forever remains the butt of every joke (“Tacoma? Oh, you mean Aroma? Heh heh…”).
Shorty's: No, it's not a brothel
Despite the late arrival, show promoter Mike Crow, Iron Lung bandmates Jensen Ward and Jon Kortland, old friend Lauren Garaventa, and Japanese visitor and Far East beer geek Kemmy Dreadeye met up with us.  We all checked out Shorty’s, a bar with an old school pinball theme, and a few decent local taps to properly christen my Pacific Northwest adventure.  Crowded, but a decent place to hang thanks to multiple booths; the tables at each booth are formerly-enjoyed, lit-up pinball machines. Loud, trippy, and thanks to Mr. Crow, the drinks kept flowing.  And thanks to Mr. Fireball and several regional pints - Hale's Ales, Maritime Pacific, Georgetown Brewing - I was spinning, in need of nourishment.  I stumbled next door to Rocco’s for the most superior BBQ chicken pizza slice I’ve had in my life.  Is it the greatest slice because it IS the greatest, or is it the greatest slice because when you’re hammered at 1:30am, just about anything that goes in your mouth tastes like the world’s greatest invention?  All I know is I was on the verge of tearful rapture in my drunken, ravenous state. Before I knew it they were flashing the flights at Rocco's and Shorty's, sending the inebriated masses into the streets.  I found my friends and capped off the night with more food at 13 Coins, a bizarrely awesome "fancy" restaurant trapped in 1966.  It was 4am when my head hit the pillow.
This is what 13 Coins, 6 beers, and 3AM look like.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t wake up until Noon on Saturday.  Show day.  I couldn’t go too overboard because I needed to play that evening.  But it was still early enough to get a taste, and still sober up before hitting the stage.  I’m not one of those guys who performs well drunk, so I time my pre-show drinking far enough in advance to allow ample normalization time.  I followed my bandmates to the central hub of tourism, Pike Place Market.  On the way over, we took a pit stop at Top Pot Doughnuts, a fancy newfangled donut shop.  I was fully expecting an array of overly frou-frou, hipster specialty donuts, but I was wrong.  There were no maple bacon chorizo donuts, and no amber rosepedal dusted truffle donuts.  Just the classic styles created with perfection.  I grabbed a triple shot of espresso and a chocolate old fashioned.  Unlike my drunken, hazy, “world’s greatest” revelation from the evening before, I was perfectly sober, and fully aware that this WAS one of the greatest donut places I’ve patronized.  The simple chocolate old fashioned was in no way oily or greasy, and the chocolate was delicious, actual chocolate, and not the cheap, dark brown colored, sugar glaze that I’m used to.   We made it to Pike Place, and fought our way down the main thoroughfare, shoulder to shoulder with our fellow, chilly, mouth-breathing tourists.  We darted in and out of side tables, tasting endless free samples, but there is only so much pepper jelly and chili coated almonds one person can consume.  I was antsy to find the Pike Brewery and start tasting.  
Brewery where I couldn't get a brew
After mentioning the brewery for a third and fourth time, Domino recognized my jonesing, and suggested I find it, and they meet us later.  I obliged, but sadly it was not meant to be.  Pike Brewery looked like a funky, multi-leveled, less contrived version of TGIFridays.  I bypassed the tables, and bee-lined for the bar.  There were no seats and a line five-deep at the front of the bar to order a beer.  I waited impatiently for 10 minutes, making no progress, then reluctantly left.  I wanted a beer, but the idea of combat tasting didn’t appeal to me.  Unfamiliar with the area, and unsure which direction to head next, I roamed the street anxious, and agitated.  Like, REALLY agitated.  What was my problem?  I experienced a brief moment of fear.  Am I just now officially an alcoholic?  Have I become that haggard, Bukowskian stereotype who gets the shakes every morning unless he tips the bottle?  Then I realized, it was 1pm, and I hadn’t eaten anything but a small doughnut and a couple spicy jelly samples off toothpicks....
No food, triple espresso, agitated… bingo. 
Equally possible that espresso shakes are a thin veil for symptoms of my true alcoholism.  Regardless, I trudged forward.
I remembered from my trip to Seattle last year that Elysian had a pub location somewhere downtown, and I was determined to reward myself with a visit this time.  I looked up the address on my user-unfriendly BlackBerry. 1221 Pike.
I was at the 100 block of Pike.  Only 12 blocks.
No problem. 
Elysian + Me = TLF
No problem until I finished hiking the 12 blocks in 40 degree weather only to realize Elysian was at 1221 EAST Pike.  I was on West Pike.  DAMMIT!  No choice but to keep walking.  I passed Victrola Coffee Roasters which 9 out of 10 times I would have stopped at, had it not been for the fact I was hungry and pissed off, mostly because of my current coffee buzz.  No need to stoke the fire.  I forged on until finally, like Mecca, the Elysian brewery appeared.  Neighborhoody, comfortable, inviting.  That was the immediate in-the-door vibe of Elysian.  I bellied up to the bar to indulge myself, only to be met by a disappointingly unpersonable, unwaveringly unsmiling bartender.  He gave me zero information on any of the taps, and appeared to be doing me a favor by eventually taking my order.  I ordered a deliciously Dagwood-esque French dip sandwich, and a few flights.  30 seconds after ordering my second flight, I heard the bartender crack to his co-worker it was “Sampler Hell Day”.  Thanks, brother.  Funny thing is it happens to coincide with “No Fucking Tip Day”.  I didn't realize I’m such a jerk by actually ordering what you're serving.  I knew he wasn’t the brewer, and as such, resigned myself to not penalize the beer for the actions of one aloof hipster.   The superior beers and outstanding food made it worth sticking around.  Every pour was a winner, my favorites being the Serenity Now Saison, Smoke And Awe, Doom Golden Treacle Pale Ale, and the knockout punch was delivered by one of my favorite stouts in recent memory, the Bourbon Barrel Aged Dragonstooth Stout.
I headed back to the room and split a couple pre-show bottles with Denunzio and Barfield, the Ninkasi Sleigh’r and Elysian Savant IPA.  Then it was off to the club, El Corazon.  This was the first time INFEST has played Seattle, and the overall line-up was beefier than a Pike’s Market jerky stand - Infest, Iron Lung, Gehenna, Warcry, and Gag – so the turnout was solid, and every band played to a packed house.  Some old friends like Mike from Capitalist Casualties came out, as well as my cousins Jeff & Scott  Wilson.  After a Lucille IPA, and a double tequila shot courtesy of formerly-Fresno Krystina and her entourage of gents, I was good to go.  I don’t play drunk, so I cut myself off for the duration of the gig.  Every band was energetic, powerful, loud, crushing, and inspiring.  Infest hit the stage last, and the room came unglued.  I was expecting a so-so response, maybe some excitement, but mostly a lot of standing around.  In my opinion, this was one of the most chaotic, and thus, most fun shows we’ve done.  A ridiculous amount of stagediving and overall excitement propelled the evening along quickly.  The amps were so loud on stage, I couldn’t hear any drums or vocals to ground me, so I relied on intuition and watched Bob the drummer for obvious change cues.  Somehow it all worked out, and before I knew it, it was all over.

Post show we loitered and I tried a tasty Deschutes Red Chair, plus some underwhelming Pyramid Hefe & Mac And Jack’s African Amber.  It was 12:30am, but I was ready to go.  We cruised across town to catch the last few songs of Defiance from Portland, catch up with a few more friends, and try a few more brews… the excellent Ninkasi Oatis Stout and the decidedly non-excellent Rainier Beer.  Many regions of the country have their own local crappy beer.  Rainier is it.  It’s the Natty Bo, the Lone Star, or Old Style of the Pacific Northwest.  All too soon, we were given the bum's rush, and we followed with yet another early morning trip to 13 Coins, and this time it was packed to the gills with ousted club goers.  We smashed into a booth, enjoyed our spoils, and I crashed at 4am yet again.

On Sunday, our flight home was in the evening, so I had plenty of time, provided I woke up at a decent hour.  So, I set my alarm and met up with some of my family, the Wilson Family... my Aunt Julie & Uncle Brad, and their sons Jeff & Scott who were at the show on Saturday nite.  They were kind enough to shuttle me back to their home at Alki Beach, where we enjoyed brunch, and got caught up. Brad had afternoon obligations, so Julie and the boys were kind enough to indulge my beer tooth, and agreed to tote me around to a couple classic locations in West Seattle.  First stop, Beveridge Place Pub. The best part is the cross street is actually called Beveridge Place. It was meant to be.  This place is sprawling and comfortable, and the bartender was upbeat, knowledgeable, and accommodating.  If I lived up here, I'd be a regular.  They were just kicking off their annual Barleywine Bacchanal fest, with roughly 30 taps dedicated to barleywine, including many rarities and a few vertical tastings as well.  I grabbed a sampler of six, and as expected, they were small but mighty.  In addition to my Bainbridge Island, Hale's Ales, and Sound Brewery selections, I opted for the rare chance to try a vertical of Alaskan Barley Wine Ale from 2009, 2010, and 2011.  Collectively they all covered that toothsome spectrum of flavors one would hope for.... the sweetness, mustiness, mild pucker, and full-bodied punch. And after only six samplers, I was already feeling a tad light in the loafers, so I suggested we move along. 
Don't know this guy, but we're united by beer
Next stop was a favorite from last year's visit, Beer Junction, another West Seattle staple.  Not only do they have the best taps in the area, but they have an adjoining bottle shop which is arguably also the best around.  I considered packing a mixed case and checking it on the plane, but they only had boxes, not packing material, and rather than running around to drug stores finding bubble wrap and packing tape, I accepted the fact that it wasn't practical, and simply enjoyed what I could on the spot.  I went for an 8 glass flight of PNW greatness... Stoup, Boneyard, 10 Barrel, Maritime Pacific, 7 Seas, Laurelwood, Naked City... Wow.  This wasn't going to happen again anytime soon, so I relished every second.  All too soon, it was time to head to the airport, so my Aunt gave my soggy ass the heave ho, and after a last minute Fremont IPA at Sea-Tac, I was bouncing my way home, ready for a decent night's sleep, to dream frothy dreams of this drizzly beer mecca of the North.

 The tally continues....

Sunday 2/23 - The Morning After the big beer birthday bash
  • STILLWATER ARTISINAL ALES WHY CAN'T IBU? BELGIAN IPA - Beer #302, post party recovery pint

Monday 2/24 
  • BRASSRIE D'ORVAL ORVAL - Beer #303, the classic 
  • DC BRAU BREWING COMPANY THE PUBLIC PALE ALE - Beer #304, East Coast contraband from Dave Witte
  • FRANZISKANER HEFE-WEISSBIER NATURTRUB - Beer #305, I see this everywhere & mistake it for something average, not true, this is a great hefe!
  • FEMSA CERVEJA BRASIL XINGU BLACK BEER - Beer #306, A Brazilian beer that tastes more like Coca Cola than anything, probably refreshing with spicy food.

Tuesday 2/25 - INFEST practice night in North Hollywood
  • SAINT ARCHER BREWING BLONDE ALE - Beer #307, it's blonde
  • ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING HEELCH O' HOPS IMPERIAL IPA - Beer #308, tasty Double hop bomb
  • SPEAKEASY PROHIBITION AMBER ALE - Beer #309, One of a recent crop of impressive ambers I've discovered
  • EPIC BREWING CO. BIG BAD BAPTIST IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #310, way more heavy on the coffee and chocolate dessertiness than I was prepared for.
  • BEAR REPUBLIC BREWING XP PALE ALE - Beer #311, inexpensive, easy to find, yet high quality, delicious, well-rounded, addictive

Wednesday 2/26 
  • PALM SPECIALE - Beer #312, good beer, old as time itself
  • HOEGAARDEN WIT 57 - Beer #313, purty good
  • MAMMOTH BREWING DOUBLE NUT BROWN PORTER - Beer #314, Thanks to Linda & Jordy Mitchell for toting this back from the Eastern Sierras.... Mammoth rules!

Thursday 2/27 - My birthday, showing restraint, sippin' and enjoying 
  • FIFTY FIFTY BREWING B.A.R.T. (BARREL AGED REALLY TASTY) - Beer #315, a five star beer if there ever was one, glad I hoarded this one.

Friday 2/28 - Seattle bound
  • WIDMER BROTHERS HOPSIDE DOWN INDIA PALE LAGER – Beer #316, at the Bob Hope Burbank Airport bar, decent for passing the time
  • REDHOOK LONG HAMMER IPA – Beer #317, another airport beer, not awesome, but does the trick when waiting through multiple flight delays
  • ALASKAN BREWING AMBER – Beer #318, thanks Alaska Air for carrying an above average beer on board
  • LAGUNITAS PILS CZECH STYLE – Beer #319, sipped from Mike Thorn’s bottle, walking between our motel and Shorty’s
  • HALE’S ALES SUPERGOOSE IPA – Beer #320, first tap of three at Shorty’s, pretty good local starters
  • GEORGETOWN BREWING MANNY’S PALE ALE – Beer #322, I remember enjoying it, but don't remember much else for the evening

Saturday 3/1 - A real taste of Seattle
  • ELYSIAN BREWING SPLIT SHOT ESPRESSO MILK STOUT – Beer #324, creamy nitro stout
  • ELYSIAN BREWING ODDLAND SPICED PEAR ALE – Beer #325, best fruit beer I remember having
  • ELYSIAN BREWING BETE BLANCHE BELGIAN STYLE TRIPEL – Beer #326, a classic on their roster
  • ELYSIAN BREWING SMOKE AND AWE – Beer #327, awesome, easy drinking, accessible rauch
  • ELYSIAN BREWING BOURBON BARREL AGED DRAGONSTOOTH STOUT – Beer #329, another in my ever-growing list of "favorite stouts"
  • ELYSIAN BREWING THE WISE ESB – Beer #330, one of the better ESBs overall
  • ELYSIAN BREWING ZEPHYRUS PILSNER – Beer #331, sessionable
  • ELYSIAN BREWING PERSEUS PORTER – Beer #333, really impressive
  • ELYSIAN BREWING DOOM GOLDEN TREACLE PALE ALE – Beer #334, best way to cap off the visit to this brewery... excellent!
  • NINKASI BREWING SLEIGH’R DARK DOUBLE ALT ALE – Beer #335, in-room, pre-show treat, thanks to Mike Crow
  • ELYSIAN BREWING SAVANT IPA – Beer #336, see above
  • GEORGETOWN BREWING LUCILLE IPA – Beer #337, On tap at El Corazon, decent IPA
  • DESCHUTES BREWERY RED CHAIR NWPA – Beer #338, Post-show at El Corazon, perfect beer for "hangin' out"
  • PYRAMID BREWERIES HEFEWEIZEN – Beer #339, Tried a sip from Jack Barfield, what I expected from Pyramid.
  • MAC AND JACK’S BREWING AFRICAN AMBER – Beer #340, OK amber from the area
  • NINKASI BREWING OATIS OATMEAL STOUT – Beer #341, Post show outing to some other bar, a post birthday brew as a treat from Ms. Loredi Violanta. Cheers!
  • PABST BREWING RAINIER BEER – Beer #342, When in Seattle....

Sunday 3/2 - Wrapping up Seattle with family
  • BAINBRIDGE ISLAND BREWING OAKED CHERRY TOE JAM BARLEYWINE (2013) – Beer #343, First of six barleywine samplers at Beveridge Place Pub.
  • SOUND BREWERY BARREL AGED OLD SCOUNDREL BARLEYWINE (2013) – Beer #345, Love this brewery, sad I didn't enjoy more when I had the chance
  • ALASKAN BREWING BARLEY WINE ALE (2009) – Beer #346,slightly sour, most unique of the Alaskan Barley Wine vertical tasting
  • ALASKAN BREWING BARLEY WINE ALE (2010) – Beer #347, great
  • ALASKAN BREWING BARLEY WINE ALE (2011) – Beer #348, my fave of the three
  • TWO BEERS BREWING IMMERSION AMBER – Beer #349, got a quick sip of my cousin Jeff's brew, not bad.
  • STOUP BREWING T2R HAYMAKER III IPA – Beer #350, total yum, the first of eight samplers at Beer Junction
  • BONEYARD BEER COMPANY RPM IPA – Beer #351, mmm hmm
  • 10 BARREL BREWING PROJECT: FAILED RED ALE – Beer #352, good one
  • 7 SEAS BREWING IMPERIAL OATMEAL RAISIN STOUT – Beer #354, big fan of 7 Seas, but thought I'd enjoy this more
  • 7 SEAS BREWING MAKER’S MARK BARREL AGED WHEELCHAIR BARLEYWINE – Beer #355, my favorite of all Beer Junction tasters
  • LAURELWOOD BREWING GOSE WHEAT ALE WITH SALT – Beer #356, not nearly as sour as your standard gose, more well-balanced
  • NAKED CITY BREWERY SCARLET STREET DOUBLE RED ALE – Beer #357, highly recommended imperial red
  • FREMONT BREWING INTERURBAN IPA – Beer #358, average IPA, what I'd expect at the airport