Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Shift in the Story, New Belgium Style

Fun night at Sprenger's last night, a special kickoff event for New Belgium's Shift Pale Lager, which as most people know comes only in cans... 
Most people are familiar with this version of Shift - but kegs are now an option.

...well, no more. As of last night, it will be available in kegs and Sprengers was one of the first to get one. Naturally, I had to try it. My first impression came from it's color... very dark for a lager. But the taste and mouth feel was all lager... crisp and clean. Aromas well blended from the Nelson Sauvin, Cascade and Liberty hops with the toasted bread quality from the malts, which also account for the color. A true session beer at 5% abv and only 29 IBUs, this could easily be a popular thirst quencher while engaged in sunny, outdoor work activities. Or poolside.

Darker than most lagers, and if I hadn't drunk so much of it, the photo would show that a little better.

And speaking of work, I had the good fortune of talking with Ryan Stokes, New Belgium Beer Ranger (official title!), who was shepherding the kickoff event at Sprenger's, who gave the back story on the beer's name.

Ryan Stokes, (right), Beer Ranger, explained the name, Shift, while I busily emptied my glass.

Seems that since New Belgium is the nation's third largest craft brewer, producing all that beer requires nearly a 24/7 operation which is conducted in shifts. So the practice is that each shift ends with everyone enjoying a idea of a great way to end the work day! New Belgium seems to want everyone, everywhere to celebrate the workday's end with a beer and this easy to drink pale lager, Shift would be a good choice.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Full Sail Brewing: Beer and Water Video

Long been a fan of Full Sail beers... some of the very first craft brews I ever drank came from them. In bottles at first, but more recently on tap, especially when traveling in Oregon; in California, not so much.
We all know beer is mostly water but most of our conversations are around hops, yeast, hops, barley and, oh yeah, hops. The good folks at Full Sail have a very respectful relationship with the water they use and made this video to explain it. Beautiful to watch and it inspired me to rush out and have a fresh draft! See if you have the same reaction.

Here's the link:

Photo: Full Sail website.

Spring Brings Flowers... and Beer!

Signs of Spring lurking around the edges of the hedges... took a couple photos yesterday of some early-arrivers in the garden:

Daffodils on the march thru the flower beds.

A magnolia tree, sometimes called a tulip magnolia.

And another sign of Spring: Beer releases!

The good folks at New Belgium Brewing just announced their latest seasonal release, Dig Pale Ale.

From their news release:

"For New Belgium Brewing, the unearthing of Dig Pale Ale signifies that warmer weather is just around the corner. New Belgium’s spring seasonal, Dig, offers a hearty list of hops, measured crispness and unpretentious appeal.
Dig begins with Sorachi Ace hops, which provides a zingy lemon aroma, followed by Nelson Sauvin hops with bursts of passion fruit, mango and peach. Also present in this pale ale are Cascade and Centennial hops. Dig is available in most New Belgium markets through April and ABV is 5.6 percent."

Looking forward to sampling some while getting the mulch ready for spreading... hard work requires lots of beer, you know.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kathie Lee Meets Lagunitas IPA

Found this fun little video clip demonstrating how great culinary accomplishments in the kitchen frequently are the result of choosing the right beer ( in this case, a Lagunitas IPA, but look closely, it happens fast)- - - to cook with and to sip. Kathie Lee shows us how it's done!

Smoked Beers: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes by Daniels, Ray/ La (Google Affiliate Ad)

Brown Ale: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes by Daniels, Ray/ Parke (Google Affiliate Ad)

The Homebrewers' Recipe Guide: More Than 175 Original Beer Recipes Inc (Google Affiliate Ad)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stout For Breakfast - Kentucky Style

Looks like Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, MI have come up with a tantalizing new  Imperial stout, which at 11.2% abv, seems a tad odd to relate it to breakfast, but whatever... Their description includes,
     "A bit of backwoods pleasure without the banjo. This strong stout is brewed with a hint of coffee and vanilla then aged in oak bourbon barrels." 

Another describes it thusly:
      "Aroma of dark roasted coffee, milk chocolate, oak, vanilla and a slight hint of alcohol."

So, coffee, milk chocolate, vanilla and a hint of alcohol... breakfast of champions?

Photo: Founders Brewing website.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hangin' With Hangar 24 - At the Tap Room

The Tap Room at the Whole Foods in Santa Rosa is not only a great place to try new beers (thanks to Tyler Smith) but it also turns out to be the meeting crossroads for some very talented Brewmasters who stop by to introduce their products. Case in point: last night the Frau and I visited the Tap Room to try Tyler's new line-up of Belgians, which I did. But an even greater opportunity arose, meeting Kevin Wright, Head Brewer at Hangar 24 Brewery in Redlands, CA.

Kevin Wright, Hangar 24 Head Brewer at the Tap Room.

Hangar 24 Double IPA was on tap so, being the hophead I am, I of course tried it. Instant new favorite!! Good color and persistent head, nose full of hops, some sweetness across the palate that seemed different from malty results, creamy mouth feel and even with the 9% ABV, a balanced and very satisfying finish. After being introduced to Kevin, I asked about the sweetness. He graciously explained that he uses local orange blossom honey adjunct (Redlands is SoCal, you know) to get that result and the use of Simcoe and Citra hops balances it all out.  A masterful brew, two pints of which Kay, the wife and I enjoyed before the keg emptied. Alas!
Hopefully, Tyler will be able to get another keg soon and other outlets (TAPS and Sprenger's come to mind) will offer it as well. Now that the excitement about RR's Pliney has cooled, it's very reassuring to know that there's another brew I can be equally excited about. And not have to wait a year to enjoy it again!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day Beer Choice

Today's the day, the final day of our beer-chocolate countdown, and here is my personal recommendation.

Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter, with a lot of vanilla thrown in. Yummy by itself, but add some smooth, dark chocolate and.... calories be damned! It's a special event.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Last Day for Valentine's Beer and Chocolate Shopping

Here's today's suggestion:

Photo: Marv Parker
Lost Abbey's Deliverance Ale. American Strong Ale, 12.5% abv. (like a dessert wine). 12 Oz. bottles cause of the high gravity.
A blend of Brandy Barrel Angel's Share and Bourbon Barrel Serpent's Stout.

Russian River's Pliney the Younger Visits Occidental

Barley and Hops Tavern in Occidental sent out an email blast early Monday, Feb. 11, letting us locals know that at 4pm, two kegs of Russian River's Pliney the Younger would be tapped. Since I had chosen not to wait in line at the brewery itself, this seemed the ideal way to try this year's version, which according to Natalie Cilurzo, had "the most hops ever." She is the wife of brewmaster Vinnie (and co-owner), so she should know.

Off I went, around 3:30, to see what the beer fates held for me. First picture below is what I found.

Talked to a few people in line, including Jeff Parker and his wife, Faith (pictured below) who live in Caszadero.  Jeff had tried the Younger the day before at Russian River's brewery in Santa Rosa, liked it and was not going to pass up an opportunity to have it again. He describes it as, "golden on the palate."

Faith owns a business just two doors down from here, so her trip was real short after deciding to join the line.

Promptly at 4pm, the doors were opened and the line moved quickly up the stairs. As I reached the porch to wait my turn, here was a lovely sight:

The "golden grail" so to speak!
Inside, the bar area, which is not very big to begin with, was filled to the max with anxious and eager Pliney lovers (the Elder was also on tap). Saw my bud, JT, from Beercraft down at the end and I suspect he may have used his close relationship with owner Noah Bolmer to circumvent the line... anyway, we all got in, had our glass (or three) of Vinnie's and Natalie's "nectar of the Gods," as one person put it, and a good time was had by all. And isn't that what it's all about.

Inside view of Tavern's tap room, JT last on the left.

JT Fenn, r, and friends Natalie and Gene Miller

Noah hands me my first serving (10ozs) of Pliney the Younger
And the moment of truth finally arrived. I can best sum up my reaction by saying it is truly one of the most drinkable beers I've ever had, the 10.8% abv not even noticeable. Medium bodied, some malty sweetness and a perfectly balanced finish. It has been touted as the best beer in the world. I don't feel qualified to make such a pronouncement, but I can say I think it's worth all the hype. Yum!

One hour later, still a bit of a line... but I'm sure they all eventually got their glass.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine Beer & Chocolate Countdown Continues

Today's offering: High Water Campfire Stout. It's basically like drinking S'Mores... so of course it will go with chocolate!

From the High Water Web Site:

Marv Parker Photo

"We put over 100 lbs of Graham crackers in the mash, we used chocolate malt and to top it off added a natural toasted marshmallow flavor."

Wilton W710622R Sprinkles 2.5 Ounces-Chocolate Hearts Mix (Google Affiliate Ad)

300 Best Chocolate Recipes by Hasson, Julie [Paperback] (Google Affiliate Ad)

Chocolate: A Love Story: 65 Chocolate Dessert Recipes from Max Brenner (Google Affiliate Ad)

Valentine's Day is for Beer Lovers

Yes, it's very true... surprised that you didn't know this already. Want an example? Look at this tantalizing photo:

Almanac provides the Biere de Chocolat (that's French, you know), you provide the cupcake.
This is how Almanac describes this beer:

Our aim was to create a beer bursting with cocoa flavors and aromas, balancing sweet and savory to create a complex but quaffable chocolate brew. To accomplish this we partnered with Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco to create this rich brew brimming with chocolate character. Working with the unique flavors of Dandelion’s single-source beans, we created this decadent beer by layering in smoked and dark-roasted malts with citrusy Ivanhoe hops from Clearlake, CA. Finally, we added a blend of hand-roasted cocoa beans sourced from Madagascar and Río Caribe, Venezuela. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Survived SF Beer Week Gala - Barely

As many of you know, last Friday, Feb. 8, kicked off SF Beer Week with a big tasting extravaganza at the SF Concourse. I was able to attend for the first time, thanks to the generosity of the SF Brewer's Guild and the experience was all I expected it to be.

Early, just as the doors opened. It's a block long, this room.
With 65+ breweries pouring, choosing the first one to taste is a challenge. And preparing to take notes is also a big challenge and one that failed me as the night went on... more about that later.
Passing by the Knee Deep Brewery's table (Concord's representative), I saw that their Simtra was on tap...
Now, I don't recommend that anyone attending a beer fest start off with a triple IPA,  and I usually don't either but fearing the growing crowd and lines, I decided to throw caution in the dump bucket and went for it. This is an amazing beer, in my estimation, big, big hoppy attitude from the Citra and Simcoe hops. Deep amber color, nicely balanced malt flavors and modest alcohol impact for such a high ABV (10.1%). I only took a small sample since the night was young and I moved on.

Staying in the East Bay section of the hall, I next found Oakland's own, Linden Street Brewing.  With a goal of keeping the alcohol down, I went for their Deep Roots Red Lager which, with the 5% ABV, is a real session beer and a great way to begin the next 3 hours of tasting (!). An interesting and delicious lager that had a malty front but then had a good hoppy finish.

The guys pouring for Linden Street were equally excited about their beers, or so it would appear. An early example of note-taking failure, I don't have their names at the moment. Sloppy, I admit.

The crowd grew:

Among the crowd I did run into a few familiar faces, including these two: Ken Weaver and Anneliese Schmidt, the two responsible for the definitive beer guide for Northern California (where I am fortunate to live) titled, "The Northern California Craft Beer Guide." This book is a must have if you are visiting the area and don't want to waste time looking or Googling for a nearby pub. And it's necessary for those who live here cause it's covers some places you might not even think of: Dunsmuir? Quincy? Tulare? Who knew! 


Written by Ken, a beer geek, but much more eloquent, and featuring  outstanding photos by Anneliese, this book travels with me (and has the beer stains to prove it!).

 Movin' on I next came to the El Toro Brewing/Brewpub booth where the name Poppy Jasper grabbed my attention. Talking to the brewmaster/owners Gino and Cindy Acevedo, I learned that the name comes from the indigenous quartz found only in Morgan Hill from which they fashioned a 45 foot long bar, highly polished bar surface in their brewpub.

The Amber Ale itself is a dark ale as a result of using caramel, dark crystal and chocolate malts. The hoppy and well balanced finish comes from the Galena, Cascade and Liberty hops, used generously. This ale won a Silver Medal at the GABF in 1996.

Some more samples that I tried included these, randomly chosen here.

Black Diamond Brewery

Grateful Dog


Triple Rock

Pouring the Daylight Amber

Pine Stree, SF, has a brewery? Who knew!

More Black Diamond
Down from Sacramento!
Also from Sacto, Sacramento Brewing exhibited their expertise.

And it grew even more crowded as befits a sold-out event. Here's some video I shot which only covers HALF of the hall!

And of course the usual suspects were also here, pouring their very popular brews (as evidenced by the longest lines). Here's a quick sampling (apologies to those I have left out):

Bear Republic had some of the longest lines.

I'm trying the Rye Pale Ale. Refreshing, crisp, good flavor.

Another Double IPA I had to insist on small samples of.

Late in the evening, my photography skills turn toward the blurry.

Time to announce my favorite... in this cases, favorites, cause there were two that really impressed me, both brand new and from small producers. So, wait for it.... they are:

 From Beltane Brewing in Novato, Marin County, their Sable Black IPA really made my taste buds stand up and take notice. It's described as having a malt smoothiness with a hop kick in the finish. I describe it one of the best Black IPAs I've had the pleasure of drinking.... and I will definitely drink it again. 6.5% ABV and IBUs way up there!! Thanks to Alan Atha, Brewmaster, and Assistant Mat McGee for the generous pour.

And the other favorite, and no less for being mentioned second, was the Double Tap IPA from Berryessa Brewing in Winters, CA. That's up along I-5 North of Sacramento for those without the benefit of a copy of "Craft Beer Guide" or who usually are asleep while passing thru on the way to Oregon.
It's described thusly on their website:
"Pours a hazy orange with a thick white head and a sticky mandarin-tropical aroma with a rich malt base a hop drenched mouth feel tastes of fruit and bitterness that will not linger.
8.5% ABV | 70+ IBU’s"

I noticed that my favorites were IPAs... well, what can I say? I'm an admitted Hophead! That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Special thanks to JT Fenn if Beercraft for organizing the bus trip to the Gala so we didn't have to worry about driving home. And a special thanks for breaking out those rare, library beers, Hopslam being one of them.
Hopslam Double IPA is from Bell's Brewery, Kalamazoo, MI

JT, back right rear, choosing our next treat!

So, that's a wrap for this year's SF Beer Week Kick-off. Just heard about a Russian River Pliney the Younger being tapped this afternoon, so I'm outta here!