Monday, December 31, 2012

Year's End Summary... Of Sorts

Here it is New Year's Eve and I'm still trying to get caught up! So much happening this past week, homewise (still on the market) and beerwise (new brewery visit). Fumigation of the house forced us to take refuge in a 4-star hotel in Berkeley for two nights (rough, I know). Fortunately, the Claremont's location put us close to Catos Ale House in Oakland's Piedmont neighborhood (see beer menu below) and a visit to Freight and Salvage coffee house to hear David Grisman put us near Jupiter Brewpub (their menu is below as well) which is owned by Drakes Brewing of San Leandro and required a visit as well. Triple Rock Brewing, also owned by Drakes, is in the same neighborhood on Shattuck. Busy, busy, busy.
I have wanted to visit Drakes for a long time, since their IPA is one of my faves and shows up often here in Sonoma county. So, last Friday was the day! 

Drakes produces a lot of beers!
 For tasting, Kay and I chose 5 ($8 fee) from the long list, trying for beers that were new to us. In the sampler photo, starting clockwise from the left, we have their Amber (5.9% abv), Winter Oasis, a strong amber (7.1%), Red Eye red ale (6.5%) which was our hands down favorite, Black Robusto Porter (6.3%) and Drakonic, an imperial stout (8.7%).
Tasting lineup

We were disappointed to learn that Drakes does not bottle the Red Eye red ale... growlers only at the brewery or find it at a knowledgeable pub!

Other part of the menu

Good size samplers; difficult decisions to be made.

The "after" photo. The Drakonic was not as popular as the others.

Bourbon barrels contain some upcoming releases.

Jupiter had some really interesting choices that night.

Cato's Ale House menu for the day.

Linden Brewing's Black Lager with pork sandwich; good pairing

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Russia River Christmas Eve

Time to get caught up, before the Holidays get away from me... too much activity.
Christmas Eve was spend with Kay and friend Shelley at RR, which was busy early on but began to thin out by the time we had finished out pizzas. Beers of choice? Well, Blind Pig could not be poured due to some carbonation problem so I had the Row 2, Hill 56 Pale Ale, a new release and new for me as well. Made with 100% Simcoe Hops, and low abv of 5.8%, this was a very drinkable, hoppy centric but well balanced ale, which rested nicely on the tongue. Paired with the spicy pizza and held it's own, even with the pepperoni and pepper flakes I added.
Followed that with another new one, their O.V.L. Stout which is a dry Irish stout on nitro. This was a flavor bomb augmented by the creamy mouth feel. A modes 4.4% abv meant I could have had another but I approached carb over-load so I backed off.

A pic of their current selection from their website;

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Enjoying the Fire with Firestone Walker

Settling in last evening in front of the fire after a spicy dinner, I chose to forgo the usual brandy aperitif I am prone to enjoy and instead opened a Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin. Perhaps my all-time favorite Oatmeal stout, the roasted coffee flavor with hints of dark chocolate and its creamy mouth feel was like having dessert. But any sweetness was perfectly balanced with hop (Fuggle) bitterness, leading to a dry and lingering finish. In a word, Yum!
Photo: Firestone Walker website

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Brewing in Brevard!

You might recall (or do a search here in the archives) that back in October, Kay and I paid a visit to Brevard, NC, while staying in Greenville, SC. Not a long drive and the mountain scenery is great. Anyway, the news then was that Oskar Blues Brewing was opening a second brewery (the first is in Colorado) in Brevard, part of the growing craft beer industry in the Ashville, NC area. Well, the brewery just announced that their first brew is in the fermenters at their new facility. Congrats and good news for those beer-loving neighbors in Brevard and up the road in Ashville.
 Read more about it here:
Hobnob Cafe in Brevard, NC

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lagunitas SoCo Stout Background

In a previous post about Lagunitas, I mentioned the SoCo Stout, which Kay and I both responded to with puckered lips: very sour and unlike any previous stouts we had drunk. So, I contacted Lagunitas for an explanation. This is how they responded:

Lagunitas Brewing Co wrote: "Here's the word on SoCo Stout (as in Sonoma County), straight from head brewer, Jeremy Marshall: The barrels are Dirty Pinots & Chards (means not rinsed, freshly emptied barrels, lots of lees---looks like purple pudding) We purge & rack 'em full. Any Brettanomyces or bacterial action comes from the barrel. A lot of oak left from "neutral" barrels will become evident. Aged 2 years then all blended together. Cheers!"

Will certainly be trying it again and I'll post the new tasting notes here.

SoCo is second from right.

Is That A True Craft Beer In Your Hand?

Good question. In a recent editorial, executives from the Brewers Association, the trade association representing America’s small, independent brewers, brought the issue forward. Not many people know that breweries which dominate our domestic market are owned by large international conglomerates. A-B InBev, headquartered in Belgium, and SABMiller, headquartered in London, now control 75 percent of the U.S. beer market between them. 
We've all seen the Blue Moon Belgian Wheat beer logos on tap (especially in airports these days) but do you know who owns it? (Hint: it ain't a mom and pop operation). Marketed as a craft beer, the problem for the consumer who wants to support the growing craft beer industry ( which grew by 11% in 2011 and will do even better in 2012) becomes one of education: Am I drinking a small production, locally made, independent brew made by community-focused entrepreneurs? That's the kind of business I want to support with my limited amount of disposable income; on a small American company with American employees over corporations that are often based overseas.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Love Me Some Lagunitas!

Last night was a prime example of why living close to Lagunitas' Taproom and Beer Sanctuary is such a wonderful thing.
First, here's the menu for the evening:

All photos by Marv Parker

Here is our first sampling:

L - R: 
Wet Dog Pale Ale, Fresh Kronik, SoCo Stout, Fillmore Fusion. In the back, hidden by the Wet Dog is another seasonal, Sebastopale Ale, which uses hops grown here in Sebastopol. The peanuts and pretzels come gratis with every brew purchase.

Here's the second sampling, which include some old favorites, back once again.

L-R: Farmhouse Ale, Mochaccino Stout from a firkin, Lagunitas Sucks, and Brown Shugga.

Our favorite new brew was the Mochaccino Stout... almost dessert-like, great creamy mouthfeel, from a firkin tapped last evening, it was room temp, had a lingering head and finish. There was also a firkin of fresh-hopped IPA, tasty as well, but I didn't make notes about the taste so I can only recall that it had the fresh, green-like hop aroma and taste, very dry finish. I will try it again and make more complete notes.

And of course, no visit to Lagunitas is complete without some good music to accompany the festive imbibing and last night was no different. The trio Jimbo Trout entertained with a rousing variety of upbeat tunes, perfect for the tone of the evening's enjoyment:

Photo: Marv Parker via iPhone.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Beer That Bows To You?

Dogfish Head Brewery has quite a variety of (and reputation for) unusual brews. One of those is called Namaste, which is also the Hindi greeting among individuals when meeting or parting, mostly on the Indian Subcontinent. The literal translation (according to Wikipedia) is "I bow to you."
How Dogfish came to produce this beer is best left to them to explain, which they do here.

Dogfish's website describes the beer as
     "A witbier bursting with good karma. Made with dried organic orange slices, fresh-cut lemongrass and a bit of coriander, this Belgian-style white beer is a great thirst quencher."
Since Dogfish can be hard to come by here on the left coast, even in Sonoma County, the beer haven of the Bay Area, I have not had the opportunity to sample Namaste, but I will put it on my list of beers to try and as soon as I do, I will report back.


Photo: Dogfish Head Website.

Exciting Evening with Tyler at the Tap Room

Never fails, whenever we go visit the Tap Room located in the Santa Rosa Coddingtown Whole Foods, we get exposed to fabulous new beers and last night was no exception. Tyler Smith, a Certified Cicerone, has put together yet another amazing assortment of hard to come by beers on tap.
Look closely to see Tyler's hand!

Notice the Victory Yakima Glory there in the middle? Well, that turned out to be one of two favorites of the night. A dark IPA from Victory Brewing, this had the hoppy aroma I like, plus the roasted notes of the barley, a creamy mouthfeel and a well balanced finish. I could see myself drinking a lot of this one!

The other favorite was this one: 
Allagash glass is easier to get than one from Copenhagen, I imagine.
It's a Wild Ale, called, It's Alive, from Mikkeller Brewing in Copenhagen, it was a treat to discover. I also enjoyed the tulip glass, which helps keep the beer chilled. 
I will need to do some more research on this, since I wasn't able to take notes, but it was complex, well balanced and had some flavor notes that were new to me, thus the need to do more research. Regardless, if you run across it anywhere I recommend trying it. Very refreshing and a fitting way to end the evening. 

Small World, Beer Wise Dept.

Doing some research on Mikkeller Brewery in Copenhagen, after having their Hoppy Christmas (see Valencia St post) I ran across this amazing bit of "small world" info: One of their brewery bar menus featured Mill Valley Beerworks' Porcelain IPA.
Here's a pic from their website:
Now I gotta find out how that IPA made it's way from Mill Valley, CA all the way to Copenhagen! Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A $90 Six Pack? WTH?

Well, it's true... San Franciscans were lining up to buy this special beer. Read about it here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

More Valencia St. Adventures: Monk's Kettle

 Continuing our exploration of beer drinking opportunities on SF's Valencia St, we found Monk's Kettle which is actually  on 16th St., just west of Valencia. We found an extensive beer menu with some very interesting new brews (menu below) and while several people at the bar were trying the pretzel house specialty (Old school pretzel knot, cheddar fondue), we went for the mussels and paired them with Bourbon Barrel Stout from Anderson Valley Brewing and a seasonal Golden Ale, the Gift of the Magi (10.0% abv) from Lost Abbey, San Marcos. Can you say, "sensory overload?" Loved all of the flavors, including the Allagash White (Belgian Style Witbier) which was added to the mussel's broth. Yum, big time!  

We finished with Hoppy Lovin' Christmas, an Imperial IPA with ginger from the Mikkeller Brewery in Copenhagen, Denmark, which was served in the traditional tulip glass, a 10 oz. pour (see photo). We both liked it and felt the ginger flavor was nicely balanced and not overpowering.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Visit to Speakeasy Brewing

Last week's visit to San Francisco also included a visit (my first) to Speakeasy, which is located out in the hinterlands of SE SF (see map). We lucked out and arrived at 4pm, just as the brewery opened to the public (Fridays and Saturdays only). A quick stop to buy "beer chips" (no money at the bar) and after perusing the day's Tap List (see photo), the sampling began.

Opens to the public at 4 pm, Fri and Sat.

Daily Tap List.

One half of the beers available

Enjoying a Scarlett Red Rye.

Good timing: Brewmaster Kushal Hall led a tour for us.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Streets of San Francisco

Thanks to the November issue of San Francisco magazine, last Friday found us walking the streets of our favorite city to find those breweries, gastro/brew pubs and dive bars mentioned in that issue. First  we were in the Valencia neighborhood, 16th to 24th streets, which has a surprising number of establishments offering a variety of good beers (and eats to go with them) on tap. Passing the bakeries and chocolate shops that have sprung up in recent years, our first destination was St. Vincents, 1270 Valencia. Let the tasting begin!

 L - R: 
Sawed-Off Saison, Twist of Fate, Urban People's Common Lager and  1903 Pre Prohibition-Style Lager. With the exception of Twist of Fate, all were new to me. The food special of the day was an Irish Stew with lamb and fingerling potatoes so we paired that. The Twist of Fate was the winner in the food pairing, the lagers, tho good, didn't hold up. The Saison 's spice did not complement, so we're not sure what food would work well with it. Good reason to try it again!

For more beer info, read the menu below:

Beers offered as of December 7. They change often.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Accepting the Inevitable: Winter's Here

Well, the news doesn't have to be all bad... winter has it's rewards, one of which is my first winter ale of the season, Anderson Valley Brewing's Winter Solstice Ale. Called a Winter Warmer by the brewery, I enjoyed the creaminess, dry finish, and the light touch of vanilla in the finish.  ABV 6.9%.
I had it as a sipper but would be very interested to do some food pairing. The Brewery's website states that turkey and yams are called for, among other holiday treats.  So, throw another log or two on the fire, toss a couple bottles into the snow to chill and get ready for a sensational holiday season!

Photo: Anderson Valley Brewing Website.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Three's the Charm!

Yep, three new beers discovered last night at Heritage Public House where that seems to happen often. As seen in the photo, l to r,  Squid Ink Black IPA from Pac Brew Labs in SF; CAPT California Blk IPA from Ruhstaller, Sacto;  Rye'd Piper Rye Ale from Ale Industries, Concord.

Our fave of the evening was the Rye'd Piper. Just one of those nights I guess when hops weren't as important as the roasty, rye malt flavors were.  ABV 5.8%

The Captain Black had great hop nose and taste with a smooth chocolate malt finish. Would like to have it again. ABV 7.3%  Their website describes it as :

"Our California Black IPA embodies Captain Frank Ruhstaller’s legacy, boldly balancing the bright citrus aroma and profile of an IPA with a surprisingly smooth, lightly-roasted chocolate malt body."

The Squid Ink was much less hopped, thinner bodied but with a distinctly creamy finish, which I always like in an IPA. ABV 7.0%.

Heritage Menu last night

Just in time for Big Football Days

This sounds like a good idea: beer bread to accompany those tailgate snacks. Found it on the Rogue Brewery website

Going Rogue at Beercraft

Catching up on the news after dodging all the rain puddles, here's what has happened in last couple days: Stopped at Beercraft in Rohnert Park to take advantage of the sale of the day, Rogue Dad's Little Helper, a Black IPA. Very tasty with good hops but not overpowering the toasted malt finish. Refreshing light body but long finish. Here's how the brewery describes it:

"Dad’s Little Helper Black IPA is deep mahogany in color with roasted malt and hop aromas and dense creamy head. It enters the palate with intense hop flavor and coats the tongue with a rich maltiness."  

They also note that it's made with Free Range Coastal Water (!).

Photo: Marv Parker