Wednesday, July 7, 2010

BBQ & Tasting @ Abel's

First off, big props to Abel the host and to all who shared great beer, good times, and a fantastic bbq on Friday, July 2, 2010. What better way to kick off the weekend that celebrated the birth of the nation?

Abel sent out an invite to come over and sample some of his east coast beers and to bbq some grub. At about 7 PM, four of us sat down and cracked open our first beer. Abel started things off with a beer called Flower Power. Flower Power is an excellent floral IPA with a great malt balance from upstate NY [insert witty Steamed Hams comment here, you know you want to].

At about 7:20, we were still waiting for more guests to arrive. Abel then popped open a bottle of Siberian Night while we were waiting. For a 9% beer, this was the most sessionable I've ever drank. Really chocolaty, rich, and smooth. The mouthfeel, texture, and silkiness were just incredible.

At about that time, Dan Scott and Wen came by to join the tasting. Next up was a saison from St. Somewhwere called Saison Athene. I had this beer stored under my sink next to the dishwasher. I really wanted to bring out the farmhouse esters in this beer. I succeeded to a good extent, maybe too much though. This brew also had notes of spearmint and ginger too. Not bad.

Dan and Wen shared a seasonal from Ninkasi in Eugene Oregon called Spring Reign. The Spring Reign was a very floral English Ale made the traditional Burton-on-Trent way. I really enjoyed it.

Adam brought out an Oyster Stout from Harpoon. This anniversary beer was an English stout made with real live oysters (well they were alive at some point). The dark chocolate stout also had flavors of minerals with a somewhat salty aftertaste. I thought it was pretty good, and decently sessionable.

I brought out the next beer, which was the last of a Dark Strong Belgian that I homebrewed and has aged for almost 2 years. It was full of dark fruits, some acetylaldehyde, and really sweet. This slight off-characteristic flavor tastes like green apple and commonly occurs in belgian styles from long periods of yeast cessation, though it also occurs in coffee as well. Despite the acetyl, it still drank well.

Adam brought out the next beer, which was the Alpha Kong from 3 Floyds. This was a monster sized Belgian Golden Strong that weighs in at 15%! Nectar like fruits, belgian candi sugars, caramel-like malts, and moderate alcohol warmth. While this beer was a bit big, it was still good.

Abel had another beer for us. This one was Oak Aged Yeti. This imperial stout is a top 100 on beer advocate and I was excited to try it. The Yeti had notes of mellow oakiness, soft milk chocolate and coffee. The beer finished with a medium to full body with some warming notes. It was refreshing to have an imperial stout made on the west coast that maintained a subtle hoppiness.

I had also brought, a couple of beers for a vertical tasting: A 2010 and 2008 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. The SN Bigfoot is a barleywine that is great for aging. I opened the 2008 version first as I figured the bittering hops would die faster. There was some good maltiness, but little in aroma hops with a finish of heavy bittering hops. The 2010 Bigfoot was just a wonderfully balanced brew. Good maltiness with a sticky pine aroma and subtle bittering hops. We all definitely enjoyed the 2010 more.

Adam brought a little treat for us: The Black Phoenix from Bootlegger's in Fullerton, CA. This is described as a chocolate chili porter, which was the same style behind the original conception of Sierra Nevada's first 30th Anniversary collaboration beer with Fritz and Ken. This beer never was bottled. Anyhow, the Black Phoenix had flavors of dark chocolate, espresso, and some chipotle chili. The aftertaste was pretty spicy, but the beer was good overall.

Wen was kind enough to share Russian River's 20th Anniversary Beer. I've been waiting a long time to taste this rare beer. A special blend consisting of 7 different worts and infused with wild yeast. The brew was created by Vinnie for the 20th Anniversary of Toronado. This complex beer tasted if it was aged in a burgundy oak barrel and had notes of sourness one can only get from bacteria and wild cherries. A bit light, but definitely drinkable and worth the wait to try.

Dan then brought out some Wild Devil Ale from Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania. The Wild Devil is a pale ale that is aged in a trough (not the kind you pee in smart-asses) and left exposed to passing air to be broken down by bacteria and wild yeast. While the concept is brilliant and enticing to try, the flavors didn't could have meshed better. It just seemed that there was a little bit of brett and pronounced hop bite.

For the next taste, I had brought a Speedway Stout from Alesmith. Speedway is an espresso imperial stout from San Diego. The nose and taste contained rich chocolate, espresso beans, and subtle bittering hops. Little to no burn from the alcohol and an excellent imperial stout.

Adam and Abel had a treat in store for us next. A vertical tasting of 2009 and 2010 Dark Lord from 3 Floyds Brewing in Indiana. In order to get this beer you must have a golden ticket, which allows you to purchase two beers on Dark Lord Day. We opted on the 2009 first and proceeded to extricate the white wax. No disappointment here. Very sweet, velvety, milk chocolate with raisins. Not a lot of smokiness, but a whole lot of deliciousness.

Next we shed the green wax and opened the 2010. This one had more notable bittering hops, some chocolate and a touch of acetylaldehyde. Despite the off-flavor, this beer was still very enjoyable.

I then decided to bring out It's Alive from Mikeller. This is a wild ale yeast beer that I have aged for almost a year. Aromas and flavors were comprised of minty hops, light brett, and a resemblance of ale malts. I was a bit disappointed that the characteristics of this quaff were not equal to a true sour beer.

Next to last beer, and boy did Abel save us a good one: Black Tuesday. Black Tuesday is from the Bruery, which is an award winning brewery that produces specialty beers. This imperial stout weighed in at an impressive 19.5% ABV! This was one of the richest beers I've had. Notes of coffee, rich dark chocolate, and very syrupy. Only light notes of alcohol that may belong in a good 9-10% beer. Definitely a highlight!

Since I was disappointed with the last sour, I brought out another one sure to wreck some palates: Cuvee Rene. This is a standard. You can find it anywhere like Bevmo, Cost Plus, and even your refrigerator. This beer isn't very rare, or special, well maybe it is special. Generally speaking, I've had a few bottles that were so mouth puckering, a group of us didn't dare finish them. With our buds and livers already warped, this would be slightly easier to finish. Rene came out sweet with a punch of sour brett and lacto. Great mouthfeel left us compromised to savor the sweet and sourness. Great overall.

Thanks again to Abel the host, Dan, Wen, Adam, and others for making this a fun event as always.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A comment on Sacramento Beer Week

The turnout for Sacramento Beer Week events has been tremendous. I have seen several events that were practically wall to wall with people enjoying their friends and Sacramento's finest pints (and schooners, and tulips, and litres, and samplers and chalices and...) and have been genuinely impressed by the quality of events and participation from Sacramento's beer community.

Independent of the great beer, food and fun, do you know what my favorite part has been?

No douchebags.

I have watched the douchebag trend grow at beer events over the past few years. They can be spotted waiting in line for an event holding an 18 pack of inexpensive ice beer, giving them the biggest buzz for the buck. By the time doors are opened, they have already drunk at least dozen beers and are ready to have unlimited craft beer for free. While at the event, they appear to experience fluctuations in their testosterone levels, resulting in communicating at unusually high volumes, mood swings, and occasional episodes of self-hypnosis. They often smell of gastro-intestinal distress, mistaking their aroma for an attractive musk. They often misplace their shirts.

Thankfully, Sacramento Beer Week seems to have slipped under their radar. The week is now half empty (or is it half full? Deep thoughts to consider over a beer with your friends.) and I look forward to hopefully enjoying the rest of the week in a douchebag-free environment.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June 2nd, 2009: Beer Dinner at BJs

BJs Restaurant in Roseville hosted their first of a series of beer dinners on Tuesday, June 2nd. The theme of the night featured "The Beers of Flanders." That's Flanders, Belgium, not to be confused with a friendly neighbor that lives on Evergreen Terrace.

As I walked into BJs, I noticed a huge line for general seating. Ironically, the hostesses directed my party to sit on the north side of the restaurant, where there were about 100 seats with about half of them empty. Sitting at each table was a menu and pairings consisting of seven beers and five courses. All this for about $30, why didn't this event sell out!?

We sat down and the waitress brought out an apertif beer named Brugse Zot from the Brouwerif de Halve Maan. A Belgian blonde, with a slight tartness, sour Belgian esters, and a welcome grassy bouquet (hence the name Zot?). This would be a great beer on a warm summer afternoon. We were also offered second helpings of the apertif, which I gladly consumed.

The wait staff brought out course 1: Thai Shrimp Lettuce Wraps paired with BJs Nit Wit. The lettuce wraps were a new item at BJs that they tested for this event. Very spicy, but well balanced. Really good. I was rather surprised about the Nit Wit. Lemony esters, coupled with a quaff of coriander and faint notes of mandarin. Really refreshing. It paired well with the wraps too.

Next up, was Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale (Brouwerij Van Steenberge) paired with a Sesame Chicken Salad. The chicken salad was refreshing and light, but rather plain. BJs may have aimed the salad for their clientele: Fairly simple and not overpowering. The sour brown ale had a light brett taste with sour apples. A good introduction into the world of sour ales.

Before the third course, we enjoyed a palate cleanser: Petrus Aged Pale (Brouwerij Bavik). The Petrus was aged for over 2 years, had tons of brett and masked most of the oak flavor. Fairly similar to Russian River's Sanctification and Ommegang's Ommegeddon.

Course 3 consisted of Popperings Hommel (Brouwerij Van Eecke) coupled with BJs new Southwestern Pizza. The pizza was delightful. It contained chicken, chiles, and southwestern spices. The Hommel is a Belgian hopped Ale with a bouquet of rose and flowers, and cloying breadiness and dark Belgian candi sugars on the palate. The hops were not as powerful in the taste, but the beer was still very satisfying.

Course 4 paired Gulden Draak (Brouwerij Van Steenberge) with BJs Old-Fashioned Pot Roast. The pot roast was served with steamed celery and carrots, and potatoes and gravy. The pot roast was good as it had enough fat to carry flavor throughout each bite. Gulden Draak is a favorite beer of mine. Loads of Belgian dark sugars, with a light taste of apple. The beer was slightly too tart to pair with the pot roast though. It paired much better with the dessert (you already knew I'd take second helpings of this beer, as the wait staff left us a bottle).

The last course combined Troubadour Obscura (Brouwerij de Musketiers) and a White-Chocolate Macadamia Nut Pizookie. The Troubadour is a very hearty stout with lots of smoke flavor and saaz (spicy) hops. This beer would have paired better with the pot roast, but was good none the less. The pizookie was delicious as well.

BJs Beer Dinner was a great experience, 5 courses and 7 beers was great. I also appreciated the service from the wait staff. They repoured beers upon request and were very happy to be serving us. Once word gets out about this dinner, I doubt seating will be half full in September.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

No such thing as stupid people...

This afternoon as I surfed a bulletin board I often browse, I saw the following message:

"I'm going to a BYOB party here in a few days and I have some friends who are BMC [Bud, Miller and Coors] fans, but like to drink everyone else's beer that they bring and not their own crap beer. Now I know it would be good advocacy to bring something that is still craft and tastes good and try and convert them. Then again I know they are mooches and they wouldn't appreciate it.

So would it be selfish of me to bring DIPA's [Double India Pale Ale] over? I would almost guarantee that nobody would drink my beer. Not that I hate sharing, I just not a fan of their mooching. What would you lot suggest?"
The author brings up quite a dilemma. This is the topic of one of my new year's resolutions: "Convert BMC fans into craft beer drinkers." This isn't nearly as difficult as the Spanish Inquisition, nor will it require me to be chaperoned by an elder. In fact, I won't even have to drug people like Mola Ram.
It could be as simple as buying a new friend a craft beer in your favorite bar or taking a co-worker out for happy hour to your favorite brewpub. In the question postulated above, just introducing someone to an affordable microbrew like Mirror Pond Ale or Racer 5, would be satisfactory enough. Your friends and coworkers will thank you for letting them know that the beer world exists beyond adjunct in a can.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Manderes 1st Anniversary Tasting

Two friends named Brent and Dave knew what Folsom missed: A beer bar. After getting the cash, paperwork, and finding a place to lease, Manderes, latin for "to eat," opened its doors for the first time on December 10th, 2007.

On December 10th, 2008, Manderes celebrated its first anniversary of opened its doors and the eyes of Folsom residents to "no crap on tap." About 15 hopheads attended, but didn't know what to expect beyond several tastings and some delicious appetizers. The restaurant was packed with the usual suspects, employees, and of course, beer lovers new and old to Manderes.

At 7 PM, Dave and Brent started the festivities by thanking their patrons, wait staff, and giving us a brief history of the beginning of Manderes. Quickly thereafter they broke out their first tasting: a 3 Liter (a jeroboam for you winos) of Duvel. Several of the hopheads describe this Strong Belgian Pale as having notes of dry grape, similar to a Muscat.

Shortly after finishing the sample of Duvel, Dave and Brent started drawing raffle tickets. Our fearless leader, the Chadd, won a Manderes t-shirt. Actually, the first Manderes t-shirt. Sheelagh also won another shirt as well. There were other hop heads who won prizes, we did pretty well at the raffle.

The next sample poured to the packed house was presented by the brewer himself, Matt, from Great Basin brewing in Sparks, Nevada. Matt seemed to be a familiar face to many. From the Sacramento area himself, Matt brewed as a member of the Gold Country Brewers Association and completed the zymurgy (fermentation aka brewing) program at UC Davis. Manderes purchased a keg of his Harvest Ale and decided to let the brewer present it himself. Matt spoke at length about the Harvest Ale: Freshly picked sage, juniper berries, pinenuts, and of course freshly picked hops. The hops lended notes of citrus and flowers, while the pinenuts rounded out the beer to a smooth balanced finish.

The third beer poured was Brasserie D'Achouffe's, McChouffe. This belgian strong dark ale uses American hops to provide a citrusy quaff backed by some dark candi sugar and belgian malts. The waitstaff brought the appetizers to our table. Two types of fried peppers (jalapeno and unsure of the other red one) and some bbq beef ribs. The peppers were spicy while the bbq beef ribs were excellent and glazed with a tasty, yet not overly sweet sauce.

After making pigs of ourselves, Brent's distributor presented the fourth sample, the Cuvee van de Keizer from Carolus. I have never heard of this beer, so this was new for me as well. Another belgian strong dark ale infused with maple syrupy sweetness and what I would describe as hazelnut liqueur. A really good selection by the Manderes crew.

The next beer brought out was one of my favorites: Ommegang. Brewed by Ommegang, this is a Belgian dubbel that has notes of caramel and belgian candi sugars. If stored properly, this abbey style ale ages very well and the living yeasts add new flavor to the brew over time.

Brent and Dave had a trick up their sleeve for us yet. They took the sixth sample off of a fork lift: A methuselah sized bottle, or 6 Liters, of St. Bernardus 12. The number 12 represents a certified, abbey brewed quadrupel, and an original gravity (fermentable sugars after boil) of about 1.120. This was the best bottle of St. Bernardus I have sampled: notes of sourdough bread with belgian candi sugar.

By now people were starting to really enjoy themselves. Most of these beers way in at over 8% ABV and the waitstaff was very generous with their pours. The grand finale of the night was an Austrian beer called Sammiclaus. Sammiclaus is brewed once a year on December 6th. Again, another great beer to cellar. This Sammiclaus resembles an Eisbock and was brewed on December 6, 2007. Fresh out of the tap, this was very sweet and bready, kind of lke a fruit or rum cake.
So for the big question, what was the favorite beer served tonight? There is an adage, that homebrews are generally better tasting than commercial beers. The least produced beer won. Congratulations to Matt @ Great Basin. The Harvest Ale had a beautiful presentation, excellent spices, and a very well-balanced mouthfeel.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Chadd and I woke up early thinking it was a good day for some exercise. What better way than to hike a mile to PGE park before we'd gorge and reward ourselves with some brunch. After about 20 minutes of hiking and about 5.13 wrong turns, we made it to our destination about 10 minutes before hearing play ball, er, help yourselves. Arriving with us were several of the usual suspects including the beergeeks, J. Mark, Jennifer, Lisa the Beer Queen, and a surprise cameo by a very exhausted Rick Sellers. For this was not just any event, but the Brewers Brunch and Parade.

Without further ado, Chadd and I headed over to the brunch buffet for some greasy eggs, fruit, and sausage. We also redeemed our beer tickets for a couple of Widmers. They had the standard Hefe and an IPA called Broken Halo. The Hefe was definitely the winner. Not a bad morning beer. During our schmoozing with local brewers and media, we ran across some interesting characters.

The first was Ron Gansberg, the Brew Master and Chief Imagineer (that's what his card said), from Cascade Brewing, aka the Raccoon Lodge. Now I was curious, how do you get a title of a Chief Imagineer? Ron's specialty is blending beers. Typically Belgians and Phlegms. Wait I misspelled that, Flems. They had a really interesting article on his craft in Beer Northwest. Chadd and I spoke with him about the Hop Heads, and what a great group of beer aficionados we had. Ron invited us out for a private tasting at his brewery on Friday night: He wanted us to sample his blended homebrews before deciding to make them for the public. I didn't know whether to feel honored or if this guy was an ancient Greek luring me with candy back to his house. Of course I was honored. Unfortunately, we had to decline his invitation as his brewery was on the other side of the city and most of our trip was already booked. We thanked him and schmoozed on. We also met a candidate for congress who had some great ideas, but we couldn't vote for him as we were not in his district, let alone state.

The brunch was winding down as the Widmer beer and lemon made their appearance. Several people dressed as monks were getting ready to carry the barrel through the streets of downtown Portland. Joining them were several people in wrestling outfits (sorry no singlets ladies) complete with masks. They were advertising for the newest Widmer creation, the Full Nelson IPA. The Nelson (ha, ha!) is an imperial IPA. They announced the march and off we went.

The parade itself was rather interesting. A procession of monks, several wrestlers, and a sea of about a million or maybe 200 people in black t-shirts that said Follow Me to the Oregon Brew Fest paraded down the streets of downtown Oregon without a police escort. Chadd asked me to hold him tightly cause he was scared to be hit by a car, but I told him to man up and he did.

After about a 20 minute parade the group descended upon Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the final destination of the empty barrel. While in line to enter the event we ran into Dan just shortly before asking the security guard with the rubber gloves to be gentle. After we were let in, we went to the ceremonial spot where the Mayor of Beertown, AKA Portland, tapped the replacement (a full) barrel of Full Nelson. Several hundred people stood in line to run their cup underneath the stream and get beer free flowing from the barrel. I felt like Charlie Bucket at the Willy Wonka factory. Chadd and I met up again and thought aw heck, since we're down here, we should probably drink some beer. So we purchased some tokens and sampled some beer.

We met some other interesting people as well as other writers, brewers, and aficionados like ourselves. In my opinion the better beers there were: Pliny the Elder from Russian River, Bell's Porter, a coffee flavored stout, and a Belgian from Goose Island. Aside from that, we ran into some interesting people who all had a story to share.

So, it was time to head back to the hotel for some R&R before heading out on a special occasion with the Beergeeks and the Beer Retard. The group was going to travel to Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) for Beergeek Chris' 400th brewery celebration. Wow, 400 breweries! We arrived there that evening and settled down for some beers. The architecture in the brewery was quite exquisite. Lots of finished wood in the buildng and about 30 bike frames welded over the bar. We had the sampler and Chadd enjoyed the IPA while I liked the Stout. We also had a delicious garlic and pepperoni pizza. Note to selves, never eat a garlic pizza before going on a date, not good.

We left HUB and decided to settle down at another bar within
crawling distance of the hotel called Bailey's. Bailey's has excellent beer on tap, which is generally not easy to come by. Surprisingly, it was light on the pocket too. I also chatted with the bartender and was surprised to find out he contributed to Beer Northwest along with some of the other people we hung out with on this trip. We sat outside and chatted with some other Oregonians and visitors who had stopped by. After a round or two we called it a night awaiting for what OBF 3 held in store.

It's not often that I say this about a city, but the people in Portland are world class. We had a brewer offer us a free, private tasting and met some very friendly people at Bailey's. On the other hand, talking to a stranger at a bar in California can sometimes be like trying to pull teeth. Not fun, unless you're into sadism. In Portland, everyone is friendly and respectful.

Stay tuned for OBF 3.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

OBF Day 1

The Roving Reporter is at it again, this time at the Oregon Brewers Festival in Portland, Oregon. This is the first of a five day blog entry and I apologize as you will have to read a little more than just pictures of the brewfest (see left).

But there will be stories of beer drinking, fighting, romance, chivalry, and comedy, but less the fighting, romance, chivalry, and comedy, unless you enjoy the torture of reading my blogs.

We landed in Portland shortly after 3 and took the Max to our hotel at the Benson. For those of you who have not been to Portland, it's public transit system is a far cry from that of Sacramento. It shows up on times and has regular routes, even on Sundays. After checking in and settling into our luxurious room, we left to find the Brewer's Dinner at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and managed not to get too many eager hunters of the dinner lost behind us either.

The Brewers Dinner consisted of a meal consisting of either pork or salmon. Since both of us are not superstitious and never paid attention to the warnings from the movie Airplane, we chose the fish. We expected a little more from the dinner as far as food, but the stout brownie was the highlight of the meal. Tastings consisted of six 8 oz. samples from a selection of 25 different beers. There were some excellent beers on here including Deschutes sour brown Dissident; Ninkasi's Tricerahops Double IPA; and a Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout from Old Market. And there were also a couple we tried for the first and last time too. We enjoyed the opportunity to try some of these harder to get beers, and meeting up with some familiar faces including the beergeeks, Chris (left) and Meredith, and Jay Brooks from Brookston Beer Bulletin.

The beergeeks and several other friends invited us to head out to the Green Dragon and continue our carousel. The Green Dragon was supposed to be the beer bar to be, before it closed down due to ownership changes. Although some people would argue otherwise. Not being teetotalers, they had to twist our arm to agree. As it turned out the Green Dragon was 1 mile from our location, so we decided it would be in our best interest to suck up and hoof it.

So Chadd and I left for a rendevouz at the Green Dragon, until somebody who will go nameless, convinced the Chadd to go into this place on the left. I saw they had only 4 taps, but a crapload of interesting beer in their refrigerator. By my count it was about 150 (not that I took time to count each bottle in the refrigerator, but you know I was right). So we stopped in and had a beer. I ordered a Golden Monkey from Victory and I can't recall what Chadd ordered even though the same question was on Jeopardy earlier tonight. In our opinion, the Golden Monkey was one of the better beers we drank there. It was a Tripel with a nice fruity nose and a hearty, bready, almost chewy finish. Delicious.

We met some nice folks at the Morrison Hotel, but unfortunately had to say goodbye as we were late for another unrelated drinking engagement completely unsimilar to the one we had at the Morrison.

So we continued our way to the Green Dragon. Unfortunately when we arrived, our buds had to say goodbye as they were on their way out the door. Chadd and I quickly learned for once, sometimes you can't show up to a party fashionably late, but this is not nearly as important in magnitude as never get involved with a Sicilian, if death is on the line (unless you built up an immunity to Iocane powder, which is fictional by the way. Now I am just rambling. Heh, heh, you read my rambling, which I typed instead
of spoke. Do people really do that? Ramble on in somewhat serious blogs? Oh yeah, the rambling, sorry)!
So after a pint each, we decided to stumble 1.5 miles back to the hotel to get some rest before the Brewer's Brunch and Million Beer Drinkers march the following morning. Scratch that, it was only 200 or 300 Beer Drinkers parading to the Oregon Brewers Festival.

Stay tuned for the next posting for OBF Day 2.