Monday, March 25, 2013

New Style Beer Cans Have Lids

In my college days at good ol' SF State U, lids had a totally different meaning than what is being discussed in this article. I'll try this new container concept as soon as I run across it in my travels.
Meanwhile read all about it here:

A Hoptimum Day at Sierra Nevada

Very exciting and enlightening day last at Sierra Nevada Brewery. I'll be writing about my visit here very soon -  got to listen to my interview again and pull quotes, meanwhile, here's a pic of SN Brewmaster Steve Dresler and me having a sip of Hoptimum in its early stages. My prediction? Gonna be killer!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

IPAs Now Have Their Own Glass

Photo: Sierra Nevada website
Among the many things I learned during my visit today to Sierra Nevada's world headquarters (Chico, actually) was the explanation for this beer glass with a rather unusual shape. I first was served an IPA in it at the Tap Room at Whole Foods where it came filled with Rhizing Bines, a collaboration between SN and Dogfish Head. Well, as it turns out, the shape of the glass is also a collaboration between those two and Spiegelau glass works. It's official name is, wait for it, the IPA glass. Ok, sort of weak in the creativity department, but, hey, it's easy to remember (when was the last time you asked to be served a beer in a tulip stem glass?).

I found this video on the Sierra Nevada website and it explains this new glass shape in all its glory.
BTW, I will have the story about my visit and my interview with Brewmaster Steve Dresler, including my opportunity to taste some Hoptimum while still in the chilling tank, up here very soon.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Craft Beer is Now a $10 Billion Category

Whoa! I do love success stories, especially when it involves beer and increases my opportunities to enjoy it all.
Read this story this morning and I immediately wanted to share the good news, so read on:

Post Patrick's Day

I survived it... but for those who may need a wee bit more time to recover, here's a good exercise to get the brain cells operational again and is contructive, cause it gives you some motivation to get back out there.
I'm of course talking about Ratebeer's Top 250 beers list. Here's a chance to chart your progress as you make your way thru this amazing craft brew world. Increase your expertise; amaze your friends with your in-depth knowledge; confound your critics with appropriate crafting terminology and keep the bar tabs down by taking advantage of hoppy, er, happy hours! Read all about it here;

Friday, March 15, 2013

Girl Scout Cookies Beer: Only in SF!

Hard to believe but read all about it here:


Amazing Coincidence in NC April Beer Lore

The word may be slowly seeping out about our impending move. The plan at the moment is to relocate HFB World Headquarters to a new space, which coincidentally is very near North Carolina's craft beer epicenter, Ashville.
Well, while perusing today's beer news I found this story about April becoming the inaugural NC Beer Month. Music to my ears, so to speak, and since the end of April should see our new location in full operation, I foresee a lot of sipping, tasting and writing opportunities ahead. Read more here:

Recent sampling of Ashville, NC's craft beer offerings.
Photo was taken at Barley's Taproom, a beer lover's paradise, with over 60 beers on tap in downtown Ashville.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gluten-free Beers Keep Beer Lovers Smiling

Interesting and educational event happened chez nous this past Sunday at a dinner gathering with some friends. After finishing off the cedar-plank grilled wild Alaskan salmon, time came for dessert which was a delicious pie from Upper Crust bakery. They specialize in gluten-free pastries, which is a requirement for 3 of our guests. Good so far. Then I pull out a special bottle of beer that I have been saving for just such an event, a Ballast Point Victory At Sea Imperial Porter with vanilla. Poised to serve its black, malty goodness I was until reminded that it contained gluten, so it was not acceptable. Duh!

Fortunately, I could enjoy this pairing... other guests, not so lucky.

So, what to do. Decided to contact Judy Burgio who is not only a certified nutritionist and healthy living adocate but also was one of the guests who goes gluten-free. She gave me a heads up on the gluten problem with beer:

Judy Burgio, R. Ph., C.N, Coach, Speaker
"Gluten in beer comes from any gluten grain used to produce the beer. Generally beers are made with barley or wheat. However, gluten is contained in oats and rye as well."

"Celiac disease is the most severe gluten intolerance issue. It's an auto-immune disease and even the tiniest bit of gluten causes damage to the digestive system and immune system."

(You can read more of Judy's comments at her website,

Ok, so what does a beer lover do if that person is gluten intolerent? Fortunately, those good folks who produce so many fabulous craft beers (and you know who you are) have risen to the occasion, so to speak, and are producing more and more gluten-free (or near free) brews. 

Here's a representative sampling, thanks to Beercraft in Rohnert Park which always seems to have the beers I need.

Two beers by Omission (Widmer Brothers) and a Dogfish Head brew.

Omission beers are brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing, Portland. I found this statement by the  CEO:

“Beer really is a connector in our society,” explains Omission CEO Terry Michaelson, who was diagnosed with Celiac disease 12 years ago. Michaelson said the goal is “to allow people that have sensitivity to have a chance to sit down with friends, [with] a beer everyone can enjoy.”
So Omission brews with barley and removes gluten during the brewing process. While standards on what counts as gluten-free are often contested, Omission brings gluten content in its beer down below 0.002%, the FDA’s threshold for gluten-free classification.  Each batch is sent to an independent laboratory for testing before being shipped across the United States."

In the photo, the yellow label is the Omission Lager, a light-bodied smooth and approachable lager whose  aromatic hop profile offers a unique, easy-drinking beer for those looking for a lighter and approachable beer style. ABV: 4.6%; IBU: 20.

In the blue label is their Pale Ale, more full bodied with hops in the nose and brewed to showcase the use of Cascade and Citra hops. Nice amber color. ABV: 5.8%; IBU:33.

The Dogfish Tweasonal Ale is a totally gluten-free sorghum based ale brewed with strawberries, buckwheat and honey. ABV: 6%. It's described by their website as:
"our first new 12-ounce 4-packs in nearly half a decade, we replaced the classic barley foundation of beer with a mild sorghum base. The hints of molasses and pit-fruit are balanced by vibrant strawberry notes and a unique complexity that comes with the addition of a malty buckwheat honey."

So, I'm glad to see there are alternatives out there so that I can offer dinner guests good beers and maybe dream about someday having an Imperial Porter with vanilla that everyone can share.

There is another option for folks who enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage with friends and for us Sonoma County residents, two are local. I'm talking about hard ciders. I don't have a lot of experience with them so at this point I can't offer personal recommendations but I've been told by JT at Beercraft that these are very popular and big sellers.  With hot summer months approaching, a crisp, fruity cider with an alcohol tingle might just be the thing!.
Apple Sauced Cider is made from 100% Sonoma County organic gravenstein apples (my absolute favorite apple). Comes in 22oz bottles, ABV:6%.

Tilted Shed Ciderworks is located in Forestville, not for from Sebastopol, a family run operation specializing in handcrafted hard ciders, using Sonoma organic fresh-pressed apples. The bottle shown here is their smoked cider which I understand was made with apples that had been smoked in a back yard smoker. Quite an original flavor. This is definitely not your Granddads' cider! ABV: 8%.

 Hopefully this selection ( a small one to be sure) will help those looking to enjoy beer (and cider) again without the gluten creature hovering over their shoulder.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Beer in Wine Barrels, But Bottles?

Noting a new trend to increase craft beer bottle sizes from the bomber size of 22 oz to wine bottle size 750ml, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery offers his view in this article:

Dogfish Head Brewery photo.

Beer - It Could Be For Breakfast After All!!

Fun story from Scotland:

Photo: Black Isle Brewery website.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lagunitas Tour and Beer - Video!

Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time knows that I am a big fan (and neighbor) of Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma. And I've got the sampler pix to prove it!

And there is the music:

James McMurtry in the mini-amphitheaterette!

 I've even got a hat!
Beer garden has long tables, great way to make new beer-loving friends.

But so far I've not mentioned the tours that are offered (see website for schedule) 2-3 times a day. Weekdays include tasting in the employee break room, then the tour.... weekends, just the tour.

Btw, that last video stops on an array of fermentation tanks. Beer in the making.

However, there is a difference on weekend tours, or at least the one I went on recently. After going thru some history and touring the brewing section, Ryan herds the group to the bottling floor and offers a special treat! Here's the video showing what happens:


What Ryan is handing out are chilled bottles of IPA, fresh from the fillers and heading for packaging, after determining that all participants are of age. All beers are kept chilled in this process. The beer tastes noticeably fresher, or at least I thought it did. 

So, we left the bottling area, headed out into the parking lot where a recycling bin was waiting... with evidence of previous successful tours.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Doubling Up at TAPS Petaluma

Double the fun yesterday at TAPS in Petaluma: their Double IPA Festival with everyone invited to be a judge (see form below). Total of 15 entries, we could pick as few or as many as we wanted (being able to walk out the door later a big consideration). 

Choices were to be ranked 1-10, 1 being the favorite.
I made my choices partially on the policy of eliminating beers I have already had, plus the need to keep the alcohol down (goodbye, Simtra!) so I chose four, all with less than 9.9% ABV.

My choices (left to right in the photo):

Beltane's The Frog That Ate The World, 8.5% ABV. Beltane is a new, small producer from Novato. Taking a look at my notes, I see that I described it as having a good hoppy aroma, slight hazy color, light to medium body, good hops flavor evident but not overly aggressive (Nelson Sauvin hops used) contributing to a dry, bitter but balanced finish. Yep, I think the folks at Beltane are on to something here.

Next was the Knee Deep Hoptologist, 9% ABV.  Knee Deep is another small, CA brewery, up in Lincoln, near Sacto.
This one got me excited right away. Reddish-orange color, clear with off-white head, big rush of hops in the aroma and flavor, both citrus and pine evident, just enough malt sweetness to finish balanced and dry. Just the way I like them. I learned that among the hops blend is citra, which I now recognize as a hop that contributes to many of my favorites brews. I suspected that this would turn out to be my favorite.

Then came Stone's Enjoy By 4.01.2013, 9.4%. I had already heard about this latest version from Stone selling fast (Beercraft in Rohnert Park apparently went thru four cases in minutes) so I was eager to try it. Yowza! Can you say, "real fresh" boys and girls? The goal of these releases, according to Mitch Steele, Stone Brewmaster and author, is to get the freshest beer possible out to an eager public, something like two weeks from brewing to the bottle or keg. It all works; this was a true treat. Fresh hop aroma and taste, though understated, lively carbonation sent the creamy body back across the palate with a dry, long lasting finish. Hops are not as aggressive as a Double might suggest, but very satisfying to this hophead. I understand now how it became so popular. I recommend you try it while it is still available... as the label says, come April 1, it's history!

Lastly comes Victory Ranch, 9% ABV. Unfortunately, this one had an off, bleu-cheese flavor which I brought to Eric's (TAPS owner) attention.  He quickly checked the keg and lines to see what might be the cause. A fresh pour was better, but by then I had lost my enthusiasm. I was not the only one who noticed, more about that later.

As I mentioned, there were 15 choices available and, yes, someone actually ordered them all.

These adventurous souls are Scott Mize of Petaluma, and Kelly Reinhart, Rohnert Park, both self-described hopheads! There are only 4 oz. pours but remember, these are high gravity brews, so they are possibly risking life, limb and driver's licenses. But, they being intelligent, experienced fans know that it's taste and variety, not volume here.
Scott was the one who agreed with me about the off flavor in the Victory so Eric also 
conferred with him and brought a fresh pour to sample. We agreed that there was an improvement but the beer wasn't satisfying. I'll try it again another time under different circumstances and see what my impression is.

Eric LaFranchi confers with Scott, r, about the Victory Ranch, while Kelly enjoys her latest sample.

And my favorite choice of Double IPAs? Well, Kelly and I agreed on Knee Deep's Hoptologist and Scott chose the Knee Deep Simtra. And a good time was had by all!!

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