Black Tuesday 2015, 19.9% and NO WAX?

Having just zwickled 2015 Black Tuesday, carbed and cold, I’m excited to write this. I feel like I’m addressing the crop report to Wall Street in the movie Trading Places, where thousands will throw tiny pieces of paper in the air after hearing this news.

GNAG2731Two new things for Black Tuesday this year: This year’s version is the biggest yet, at 20% 19.9% ABV. It may have been the carbonation on the brite tank, but this BT is akin to a honey-bourbon, but instead of honey, caramel, toffee, vanilla and chocolate poke through, like BT. It’s delicious. It seems a bit thinner, but in my opinion this is a good thing. I didn’t really have time to break it down or do a side by side comparison. For my money, I’ll buy all I can this year. Also notable this is the last BT brewed on the old brewhouse.

bt_nowaxAnother big bit of news? Maybe no wax. That’s correct. New bottles may have this classy foil top. I’d rather have a reason to dig in my Black Tuesday without a knife, and to possibly break the beer community out of the gothic era with wax dips.

What’s your opinion on wax? Let us know.

 

 

 

Anchors, Oars, and a Green Flash | A&O’s First Beer Dinner

11713720_10207507331666231_4974723395755362688_oOf the many beer dinners I’ve attended and written about, there’s one thing I learned: Nobody likes to read about them. It’s sad really, with the amount of work put into the beer world colliding with a kitchen, and a staff that is on its toes for hours. I promise keep it brief, and show you pretty pictures, if you’re good.

Notable? The location. A&O Kitchen+Bar is nestled in the Balboa Bay Resort with a relaxing view of Newport Harbor and million dollar yachts parked a food-fight away. Location? Unbelievable. Also notable? The brewery phoned this one in.

Fullscreen capture 7222015 113644 AM.bmpIt’s smart to preview a beer dinner in advance; look up any specific beers, ingredients or preparations one hasn’t tried. A beer dinner can be a learning experience as much as it is fun. When four out of five beers on the menu are IPA, red flags, flare guns and tornado alarms go off in my head. Even as a hop-head, I will start out by saying 4/5 IPA’s at a beer dinner is horseshit baffling. I do think it is possible to execute such a dinner, preparing dishes that play off subtle hop notes and alcohol intensity. Lets just say I walked into this beer dinner looking for things to improve.

11731671_10207507330826210_5652225023129678161_oAs A&O’s first beer dinner (ever) and my first time there, I’m in media-mode, absorbing the ambiance and jotting down notes. A&O has a brilliant set of servers, smiling, prompt and thoughtful. My +1 for the evening is Chris Walowski, Smog City Brewing’s ex-brewer who recently took up a biomedical job in the area. It’s great to get second opinions on the pairings and always great to chat about beer things with a beer person.

11053051_10207507331506227_987788644536921173_oOyster Shooters, fried chicken skin, fried blue cheese balls (and a bread ball injection thing?) are passed as the sun sets and guests arrive. Chicken skin easily wins round one, but the beer served threw us for a loop. Normally, a beer rep should say “Hi, I’m from this brewery and you’re drinking this.” The guy with a Green Flash shirt sat with a glass twice the size of ours and said nothing during the reception. Although the menu said “Jibe Session IPA”, we had serious doubts surrounding it’s sessionability. With Belgian yeast esters on the nose and some alcohol warming on the finish, safe to say we were served Le Freak, Green Flash’s Belgian IPA (listed as “Le Freake” on the menu for the 3rd course). The beer is mildly oxidized and is not bursting with the usual hop flair Green Flash beers seem to have.

11053636_10207507329586179_3990557888106167181_oCourse two, however, saves the day. “It’s a deep fried Avo-Crab Hushpuppy,” mentions my seat-mate, Priscilla Willis of shescookin.com. Three components of the dish, Sriracha caviar, sweet dundeonous crab and the perfectly fried greenish ball of crab flash chef’s brilliance. Soul Style IPA brings just enough tropical panache to highlight the sweetness of the crab and offer a needed palate cleanse. IPA and Sriracha is always a win in my book.

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Course 2 – The most flavor ever squeezed into a 12 inch space.

Further courses, A&O’s chef Rachel put on a clinic; the beers, not so much.  With the second, it made the dish unbearable. Imperial IPA paired with the most flavor ever squeezed onto a plate? The uber-sweet booziness of the beer paired with intense braised rabbit and funky cheese fondue was too much to take. Looking at Green Flash’s portfolio, some of the beers they don’t sell any more (Rayon Vert or Saison Diego) could have paired perfectly. Not only is a beer dinner a chance for a chef to try fun stuff, it’s also a chance for the brewery to do the same. Why were there no Green Flash Cellar 3 beers? Natura Morta Plum for instance, might have had enough acidity to cut the richness of the next three dishes (which were all crazy delicious, but not enhanced by the beers paired).

I do hope A&O continues to get into beer, because wow, chef Rachel brings one hell of a lot of fun to a beer dinner. My only hope is they get a brewery that takes Orange County seriously.

The Fest Inside the Fest | GABF’s Farm to Table Pavilion (Now “PAIRED”)

With SAVOR behind us, let’s rewind to an unexpected pairing at the Farm to Table Pavilion inside the Great American Beer Festival – or – I can’t believe I typed 1700 words about what?

Photo credit Davis Tilly Photography http://www.davistilly.com/

The Kitchen Denver – Photo credit Davis Tilly Photography http://www.davistilly.com/

Within three hours of flying into Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, I witnessed someone nearly choke to death. “Don’t fucking give him the heimlich! He’s taking in air!” yells travel buddy/media compadre John Holzer at the bar. The hostess speed dials 9-1-1 as the poor bastard horks air, bent over like a jackknife. His buddy, jaw agape, starts lumberjack-pounding him on the back. “He’s choking worse than John Elway in the 1990 Super Bowl,” I say while looking around…wondering if I’d effectively trolled any locals.

Holding his curly hair under the bar, ‘Choke-man’ makes one last gasp as his buddy jabs at his back. He must have found the secret eject button, as a distinct splatter-noise on the ground preceded the sound of his lungs filling with air all at once.

The restaurant, now completely standing while watching, sighs and sits like they witnessed a healing at church.

“I’m okay…water just went down the wrong pipe,” Choke-man says, stroking moisture down his beard, purple-faced, dripping with sweat and embarrassment. His buddy plops down a fifty at the bar and they both leave in a hurry. “Thankfully I didn’t have to see a dude die right before GABF,” I say to the bartender. “Indeed,” she says, polishing a glass, nonchalantly, “who the hell chokes that bad on water?”


 

As with all great travel-stop traditions, I always stop in The Kitchen Denver for a lamb burger before the Great American Beer Festival. This practice started the year I sat next to Dave Chichura, the “HBIC” of Oskar Blues Brewery (now at Eddyline) at the time and split some littleneck clams over canned beers and fishing stories. The burger, dolloped with roasted red pepper relish and bitter greens, is a call to Denver, and more importantly, a great base to lay before drinking fifty-or-so 1oz beer samples in an afternoon.

The Kitchen Denver is sort of an odd duck with the beer crowd during GABF week. Nearby places like Freshcraft or Euclid Hall are packed to the gills with ninety-minute waits. At The Kitchen, there’s always an open spot at the bar and the food/beer situation always warms my post-flight gullet. Their beer selection and proper glassware is always on point.

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The Colorado Convention Center – Reverse trashbear juxtaposition

Back to the splatter at hand, my appetite has completely vanished. Good thing too. I scored a Farm to Table Pavilion ticket inside the GABF for tonight. Think for a second about the odds of getting a ticket to GABF that sells out in minutes, then nabbing an elusive Farm to Table ticket. It’s a fest inside the fest, except filled with award winning beers paired with James Beard nominated chef-driven food. It’s akin to finding the winning lottery numbers on Wonka’s Golden Ticket, then winning free beer for life, naked.

I leave half of my lamb burger uneaten, carefully chug the rest of my Blind Pig and walk straight to the Colorado Convention Center a few minutes walk away for press credentials. Denver’s gusty winds sweep me down the busy 16th street mall towards the giant blue bear on 14th and Stout.

This year, GABF’s Farm to Table is going to be farm…to table…to hand….to mouth…to….uh…hotel bed, to early morning jog. Badge around neck, I speed walk past the sick kilted ducks blowing bagpipes to get my appetite back. The fest starts in fifteen minutes.


P1060722The Great American Beer Festival is exactly how it sounds. Four sessions of the event sold in a measly thirty-two minutes (in 2014); 48,000 tickets in all. 3,500 beers are poured from over 700 breweries. The Farm to Table event inside is host to 450 and costs an additional $140  per person – 14 tables in all.

Denver itself buzzes during GABF. With beer events from 8AM til 2AM daily, the festival can almost seem like a side-show. Some show up to the city and get crazy at the many walkable breweries, taprooms and brewpubs.


P1080585Just like a kid running to the lunch line in junior high, I’m the first guy at the Farm to Table Pavilion. A brief memory of raspberry coconut zingers and fruit punch-stained lips flashes through my head. I was totally that dork years ago. Crazy to see thirty years later I’m still that kid, now entrenched in the beer world doing the same shit, except now it’s a tart Raspberry Berliner Weisse, or an earthy CoCoNut Porter.

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I do have to admit, I’m a cynic when it comes to big food pairing taste events like this. Out of the fourteen tables set out today, I bet seven will be some kind mediocre slider with way too much bun. Four will be some kind of poké/wagyu/whatever on a partially stale chip. The rest? A plastic salsa cup with pork belly, short rib or some other wild game some hip new chef shot in the wild, cleaned and rubbed with grannies famous ten-spice blend. Bonus points if there’s some duck confit, terrine, or foie. At basically $10 a table, anything is possible and I hope for the best.

P1080613In before the beer-soaked horde, it’s fun to watch chefs putting the final touches on food prep. Beer bottles at each station are poking their necks out of buckets looking like refreshed kids at a public pool…perhaps saying, “hey guys, what’s going on inside this GABF?”. The hall smells vaguely like bacon amid the voluminous high ceilings. I circle the hall quickly and see where to drop anchor first, then chuckle as my statement quickly turns into a stupid pun.

P1080588Two guys, possibly twin brothers in their forties unload a mesh bag of oysters on a bed of dark, moist seaweed right in front of me. I pause as they slice it open. The twin with the sideburns grabs an oyster from the pile, shucks it and slides it over to me on a cocktail napkin, grinning. Without saying a word, I sip the liquor off the top, tilt the shell back and chew it up…naked. My GOD. Do I whip out my phone to take a photo? Do I ask for another? What’s the fucking protocol here, man? Who knew my first sip of liquor inside the GABF would be a dash of briny oyster juice.

P1080589The table sign reads, “Terrapin Rye Cubed Triple Rye IPA 10.7% ABV paired with Marin Miyagi Oysters on the Half Shell.” I grin and nod, thinking the pairing is a joke. “Pairing contains shellfish,” hahaha!

“A 10.7% Triple Rye IPA paired with oy-oysters?” I stu-stutter like my car is being towed. Terrapin’s beer rep bats her lashes and grins, “I know, right?”

Is she implying that the pairing might possibly be terrible? Does she know it’s crazy good? As I witnessed the bag opening, I assume she doesn’t actually know…right?

I’ve had oysters with fresh Murphy’s off the coast of County Cork, Ireland. I’ve had oysters with an old fashioned cocktail in Los Angeles. In Georgia where Terrapin Beer Company makes beer, do they prefer 125 IBU palate-wreckers to wash down delicate bivalves?

P1080587Tom Montgomery, one of the guys behind Monterrey Fish Market in San Francisco, turns the key and unlocks my second Miyagi shell, scooting it my way for another spin. I’ve always found that eating oysters is like kissing someone for the first time. With beer? It’s like kissing someone for the first time while drinking beer, which makes it exponentially more titillating.

P1080611The first oyster a mere peck, my goal for number two is to get to second base. I lick my lips and bite the corner of my lower lip while lifting up the green marbled-patina shell, making eyes with it. Edging closer, I admire its plump-pearlescent body shining back at me, eyes now crossed as I sip the liquor off the top and swish it around my mouth. My salivary glands burst as I take the slightest sip of beer to chase: rye spice, sweet malts, juicy hops and salty oyster brine coat my mouth as I swallow…eyes rolling as I lick my teeth clean.

Making eye contact with the beer rep, I pour a little bit of her beer into the deep oyster shell and nod, replacing the brine now in my belly.

Flicking the raw beast around my mouth, I bite down, noting its firm body. The slick texture exudes a subtle melon-cucumber note with a slight metallic twang; similar to tasting a Moscow mule in a copper mug. Sea salt washes over my memory banks and causes a good three-second daydream of me duck-diving a wave while body surfing back home in Newport Beach. Before gulping it down, I add a sip of the triple rye IPA to the cement-mixer that is my mouth and pause with Denver’s sunset suddenly blinding me outside the thirty foot tall glass windows. Wow, I can see the Rockies from here.

The silky spa like flavors implode into a super salty umami bomb. Chewing slowly, I swallow every last drop. My phone vibrates in my pocket. I don’t bother.

“Spitters are quitters” I think to myself, tossing the shell in a trashcan and downing the rest of the beer. I exchange cards with Terrapin’s beer rep. “I had my doubts, but goddamn that was memorable.”

“I know, right?”

“What are the odds that two things fly from California to Denver, meet in a huge beer fest and one eats the other?” I ask, innocently trying to keep the conversation going.

“I’m not from California,” she says.

I choke-cough and move on to the other thirteen tables, then step out into the main festival, joining 11,999 of my closest friends. Damn. GABF is awesome. Farm to Table? Not to be missed.

The Beer Negroni | OC Celebrates Negroni Week

Crafting a good beer cocktail isn’t wizardry. Nor does it have to be gimmicky. As a true beer geek and homebrewer at heart who loves a good classic cocktail, I took it upon myself to put together a few cocktail classics with beer as a major component. The first one in my series is the Beergroni, because Negroni week is June 1-7!

IMG_0068The Negroni is a call to Florence, Italy. With a cigarette in one hand and a Negroni in the other, this bitter apéritif is usually sipped before a big meal. Traditionally equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, my first taste of this classic cocktail brought me back to my first time sipping a Stone Arrogant Bastard…the inspiration for this drink.

For the Beergroni, I broke down the flavor components and stripped out the ones that can be replaced by a particular beer. Instead of sweet vermouth and botanicals in gin, I chose the rich malt backbone and hoppy finish of an Imperial red ale. For the heat, I chose a clean lower ABV Acai spirit vodka made by Veev. It’s subtle fruity note balances out the drink without too much booze. Veev is also a carbon-neutral spirit producer, which is a good conversation starter while marrying a local beer with an earth-friendly booze.

The Beergroni Recipe

Chill a glass before starting. Combine ingredients in shaker over crushed ice. Shake openly with vigour to expel beer gas without explosions. Strain into chilled glass, add orange peel. Proper glassware: Lowball glass use cocktail ice. Martini glass or high stemware, ice optional.

Want to get involved in #NegroniWeek for charity? Try the Negroni at these local places!

 

Not All Shandies Are Evil | Q&A With Rob Widmer of Widmer Brothers Brewing Co.

Shandy: A spritzy summer sipper mostly consisting of wheat beer and fizzy lemonade. Although the style is much bigger in Europe and the east coast, popularity for the shandy style is slowly creeping west as hop-impaired Californians reach for lower ABV options. The problem is, most are disgustingly sweet and cover up any redeeming flavor of beer. I got a chance to sit down with Rob Widmer of Widmer Brothers Brewing and chat about their new summer seasonal over a few beers. Is Widmer’s new offering a lip-smacker? We’ll see.

Widmer Edited

Rob Widmer, photo @beerandbaking Jessica McNew

First things first, pronunciations. is it pronounced “Vidmer” or “Widmer”? I’m also curious how you pronounce “Hefeweizen”…

Widmer with a W. We pronounce Hefe it haif-uh-vites-sen or “Haif-uh” for short.

You’ve been brewing your Hefe for almost thirty years (since 1986), is this the first time you’ve done a variant? 

When we started in 1984, our very first beer was a German Alt Bier. It’s a little roasty, dry, and dark.. in the 80’s there was light beer and there was dark beer…Most people didn’t want anything to do with dark beer. My brother Kurt was over in Germany and got the yeast from a famous Dusseldorf Alt Brauerei and we were circling the drain with this dark beer, so we decided on a blonde wheat beer. I was in microbiology at the time and had no confidence that we could maintain two yeast strains. We brewed the weizen bier with the wrong yeast strain (Alt Bier) and people loved it. With the Hefe being cloudy, it really caught peoples attention…it blew peoples minds. So, yes, thirty years later, the Hefe Shandy is the first variant we’ve done with the Hefe.

Is the Hefe Shandy the same wort as your Hefe with different hops and lemon juice? 

It’s close, but it’s a separate brew with the same basic malt bill. It’s brewed to be a little over 4% with natural lemon flavoring with a new hop varietal called “Lemon Drop” that has a very nice lemon peel/zest character. We also carbonate it a little higher because it’s a summer seasonal, low alcohol and not sweet. We were going for a session-style beer lemonade…a dry and refreshing shandy.

When’s the last time you brewed at home?

Funny you ask! I’m kind of a gearhead and started geeking out on homebrewing, then I read about 1 gallon brew in a bag and it took me back to making beer. My original objective was to create a kit to give employees to go home and brew their own. I try to invite people in the brewery to brew one gallon batches to get the process down. No matter what you job is, I want everyone to brew. All the local sales guys do brew in a bag. Straub, Widmer’s OC Distributor, recently installed a three barrel brewhouse and they want us to come down and brew.

What made you want to make a shandy? 

We wanted to try something radically different. Obviously we’ve done a lot of radical things over the years for a big brewery. We get first crack at a lot of the new experimental hops. The Hefe Shandy is replacing my beer…the Citra Blonde Session Ale.

It definitely seems like there’s two beer markets in Orange County. Grocery store beer buyers vs. bottle shop beer geeks. I’m guessing that most of your volume is on the Grocery store side, so a Citra-hopped beer might not do as well as a shandy. 

I’m going to miss Citra, but I think the Hefe Shandy is going to do well in the summer months. I think the pendulum has swung back where a lot of people are reaching for refreshing German-style beers like a helles, pils or hefe. 

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photo @beerandbaking Jessica McNew

Tasting notes:

The shandy is exactly as described. If you’re familiar with Widmer’s Hefe, it still has that classic American wheat beer backbone, pouring cloudy with a fluffy white head that hangs out for a while. The carbonation drives some herbal and lemon zest aromas up through the glass rapidly. Being a light, dry beer, I found it to be highly chuggable. The hops are noticeable and add a pleasant bitterness to balance things out. My wife (who adores Widmer’s Hefe) gave Widmer’s Hefe Shandy her stamp of approval and said, “I would probably buy that.”  The beer is available throughout summer. After trying other shandy side by side, I noted Widmers as being the most dry, natural tasting and easy to drink version. Pair it with lighter fare such as salad, ceviche, or grilled fish.

 

 

All the Barrels Roll Out for Firestone Walker’s Micro-Fest

Event in San Luis Obispo County Has only barrel aged beer, wine and booze at historic ranch. – By Greg Nagel

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The Historic Santa Margarita Ranch Barn – courtesy their website

IMG_9215With an event like From the Barrel‘ by Firestone Walker, irony sets in quickly as I realize we’re all just a bunch of booze sitting inside wood. At the historic wooden-planked Santa Margarita barn (in San Luis Obisbo County), every beer, spirit and cocktail has spent time in a wooden barrel. The guests? Dressed to the nines in prohibition-era fashion and, well, also surrounded by staves of lumber.

Session beer drinking since noon, my suspender-hooked suit pants and bow tie are providing some gentle, yet pleasant asphyxiation, I feel like this thing could all burn down with one careless flick of a cigarette.

Twinkly lights strewn across the dusty floor guide my way to the first beers of the night. Societe and Russian River are sharing a table like nephew and uncle at a roadside farm stand. Societe’s The Highbinder (American wild ale) next to Russian River’s Beatifiation? As a man of constant sorrow, I take a sip and whistle dixie. It’s hard to see the color in the low lights, but it does appear to have blushed from touching my lips. What a tart! The Highbinder gives me subtle wood; French oak wine barrel I presume. I pucker. It’s wet and unscrupulous. I get to the bottom and go for thy neighbor. Temptation sets in as our eyes meet. Does The Highbinder stand up next to Russian River’s bottled seductions? Absolutely. Beatification nearly blows my wad, so grab a smoke outside to relax.

Credit - CA Brewmasters Book

Credit Nick Gingold – California Brewmasters Book

The walkways are tight as I politely move about the barn. Rock steps tunnel the side entrances and juxtapose the gams propped up by throwback stems. The gentle plucking of a stand-up bass rhythmically blum-blum-blums throughout the night causing a few bleary-eyed people to dance. Outside, a bonfire flickers light across the way, highlighting cloche hats, pearls, fur and sparkled gowns. I flick my smoke safely and head back in.

“There’s no better way to feel like you’re back in the 1920’s than when your phone has zero bars.” – Overheard near the bonfire

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Guy on the right did the ‘reelin’ you in’ move at least three times to random ladies before Billy Idoling it.

 

The little devil on my right shoulder whispers something about rye whiskey and I tell him, “just one.” Three Highspires and a Templeton Rye later, the angel on the left whispers something about “food.”  Thankfully, there’s an abundance. I’m not much of a fan of sliders, so I sure as hell heist four or five ahi-poki chips and some sort of seafood bruschetta near the back window (completely surrounded by cats, by the way).

P1080906Wanting desperately to avoid a hangover before a long weekend, bourbon barrel aged beers are being avoided at all costs. Why drink a beer that had sloppy seconds with a bourbon barrel? As I get older, my craving for bourbon instead of bourbon tea-bagged beers continues to grow. It’s all about the blend and this event has the best…but I’m still not biting.

As the night fiddles away, the crowd grows thin. Ladies get loose enough to smoke some robusto-sized cigars. Suspenders are snapped, violently. 10 P.M. comes, and so does my bus to Paso Robles. Where did the night go? Angel’s share, I suppose.

———————

From the Barrel is now in its fifth year. It’s a great event with some heady drinks – only way to conquer it is to divide, sip and dump what you’re not thrilled with. Firestone Walker puts on some seriously great events and this ads to their line up. I’ve long been a fan of niche-type events (hello, firkfest!) but this sets the bar pretty high. I’d guess 95% of the people here are dressed up! It was classy, tasty and unique! I will be back! Thanks Firestone Walker and LA Beer Bloggers!

Disclosure: This was part of the LA Beer Bloggers Trip, FW paid for a bus full of press to attend a weekend of educational experiences. From the Barrel kicked off the weekend.

How Sour is Your Sour Beer?

Total Acidity vs pH by Jeffers Richardson at Firestone Walker

by Greg Nagel @OCBeerBlog

Back on an old episode of Four Brewers, we sampled some Barrelworks beers and noted something we haven’t seen before on a beer label, “Total Acidity.” We cracked jokes at our ignorance, “how much more acidic can it get? Uhhh, like 7.”

Over twitter, we got some response from Firestone Walker, but we shrugged it off as Barrelworks seems to be the only people using this format in the beer world. (Here’s the show for reference! )

[Download here if player is flakey]

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Recently, Jeffers Richardson, director of brewing operations at Firestone Walker Barrelworks, tied me to a chair at 10am on a Saturday in their cannery dungeon and forced his acids in my mouth, 10cc’s at a time. With a cooler full of Barrelworks beer sitting nearby, I put on my trust underpants and went with the flow.

People often mistake aroma for taste. Acidity is just the measure of acid in a solution (or soil). There’s two ways to measure that, pH and tactile acidity. In terms of tactile-wise, it’s a sourness on the tongue. One reason we use TA instead of pH is pH can be affected by buffers, so you don’t get a true measure of taste of acids. Just think of our bodies, if we eat all acidic foods, we don’t become acidic as we have buffers to break that down. PH is literally the measurment of hydrogen ions. Every time a free hydrogen ion goes into solution, pH lowers.  – Jeffers Richardson of Firestone Walker

In front of me is a place mat with four taster glasses filled with clear liquid. “Don’t drink!” yells Jeffers, as I secretly sniff each one. “Taster glass one is lactic acid, taster two is acetic acid and number three is citric acid…we couldn’t get Malic acid so use that fourth for water,” he continued.

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Dropping Acid Breakdown

Lactic Acid – This is what gives most sour craft beers their sourness. It is created by lactic-acid creating bacteria such as lactobacillus and pediococcus. At low levels, it’s soft and not really harsh (no burning sensations). I noted aromas of wet sugar and raw baked goods prior to baking. On the sides of the tongue and back of the throat, it is perceived as tart and sour. Plug your nose while swishing it around your mouth to avoid aromas: you can taste the sour sensation. Some mentioned it tasted like Greek yogurt, which is interesting as lactic-acid bacteria is also responsible for creating yogurt. Someone else noted it tasted buttery.

Acetic Acid – More harsh and punchy when found in beer. This acid is caused by acetobacter, which needs oxygen to survive.  At any level, it smells like vinegar or pickle juice. It is quite rough on the palate with noticeable burning sensations while swishing it around and swallowing it. Breweries consider acetobacter a spoiling agent. Some Flanders-style beers, such as Duchesse de Borgogne have small amounts of acetic acid to perhaps mimic properties and complexities of wine.

Citric Acid – More of a wine or mead thing, but it has a Sweet-Tart candy character. In homebrew shops, you can typically buy an “Acid Blend” that contains Citric, Mallic and Tartaric acids which can adjust acidity in wines. Not harsh.

Tasting Three Total Acidity (TA) Levels of Lactic Acid

Measuring sourness with three T.A. Levels as reference points

tongue_mapLevel 4 TA Lactic Acid: Slight tinge of numbness to the gums and roughness to the cheeks and big sourness on the sides of the tongue.

Level 8 TA Lactic Acid: Felt like my tooth enamel was coming off. Rough cheeks, mouth wateringly sour.

Level 12 TA Lactic Acid: Instantly caused the inside of my mouth to feel dead, like rubber. So sour I couldn’t taste it due to its offensive nature.

Next: I was presented with three Barrelworks beers and tried to guess the Total Acidity of each (at gunpoint).

AgresticBeer 1: Agrestic Ale (2014): Starts out as DBA (minus the barrel union) and undergoes primary fermentation at Barrelworks in Buellton. Once complete, it undergoes secondary in 87% French oak / 13% Freedom oak with Brettanomyces and two strains of Lactobacillus. My perception was a nice tannic/oaky beer. I plugged my nose to taste the sour and focused on what it did to my cheeks, teeth and gums. I thought it was in the middle of 4-8 and I picked 6. Actual TA? 6.6. 

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 Beer 2: Lil Opal (2014): One thing I love about Barrelworks beers is the level of oak. It’s a definite calling card for their beers I’ve tried thus far. Lil Opal is a truly wild Saison with juicy notes of citrus and tropical fruit like pineapple. Are the flavors and aromas yeast or barrel driven? Regardless, It’s a refreshing beer with a sourness that cleans up your teeth nicely with a little bit of gum tingle. I picked 5. Actual TA? 4.01.

SLOambic

Beer 3: SLOambic (2014): Olallieberry jam and oak all up in your business. I find it hard to say Olallieberry, so I just call it LOL-Berry. The berry itself is blackberry in appearance and grows in Central CA. I’ve long-loved the Framboise style of Belgian beers (raspberries) but this may dethrone it! Tons of jammy berry character with an aggressive sourness that bites at my teeth enamel and roughs up my cheeks. I thought it was a little bit less than the TA 8 sample and I chose 7.8. Actual TA 8.7. LOL-Berry! 

After all that acid trippin, I was fed crackers as they untied me and forced me into the Firestone Walker barrel room. After fifteen minutes smelling boozy wood at 50 degrees, I was left to fulfill a life of religious consciousness.

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Thanks LA Beer Bloggers and Firestone Walker for this unique opportunity! Disclosure: FW provided food, beer and transportation to the event, but wasn’t required. Hotel and take-away items were all purchased at full price on my own.

The Bruery Plants Roots With New Beer

IMG_8403When sampling beer, the power of suggestion is infinite. Pour a black beer and your brain gets ready for chocolate, coffee or roast. With a steaming hot burrito from a taco truck wrapped in foil, your brain tells the senses to expect a pillowy hot tortilla, juicy meats, and creamy guacamole to balance things out. “Get that mouth watering”, you brain tells your glands, counting on that luscious first bite.

When news of the Bruery’s new Belgian pale ale, Jardinier (French for Gardener) hit, my brain quickly put together the flavor profile notes I should expect in a precise, beer advocate-ish annoying way.

“It should taste like a Belgian-style pilsner-malted ale”, my brain told my senses. “It should smell fruity and spicy with some wet hay notes; because I clearly know Bruery beer aroma profiles,” my brain continued in its best drunken Todd Alstöm Boston accent.

Then my arms and hands poured it. My brain shut off and let my senses take over as I smelled it.  Nose in the glass like a bee in a bush, my nose reports back confidently, “musty rose petals, peach nectar and over ripe mango.” My simple brain forces my face to make a knowing look, nodding dorkishly with my bottom lip sticking out as if to say, “I fucking knew it,” even though I was completely wrong.

The honey-hazed beer looking back at me, I take a few sips and wait for what my palate reports back. Perplexed, it repeats the sip several times. “Is the name of the beer literal?” my brain nags. My tongue reports confidently “cherry tomatoes” to my brain and my brain is saying, “you have the worst palate on the face of the fucking planet.”

“It’s like the acidity of a ripe juicy cherry tomato, with a retro-nasal aroma-flavor of a garden-fresh tomato, you asshole!” my tongue and nose report back. My emotions tell everyone to chill the fuck out at this point. “It’s a thinking beer that tastes good,” my emotions say, trying to chill the situation like a mental fire extinguisher.

Wrapping it up, my brain causes my shoulders to shrug and lungs to sigh as the beer is now sadly empty. It commands the laptop to be opened and type these words.

Jardinier is a fascinating beer for 4.9% ABV. At first I wondered why the Bruery would make a gardeners lawnmower beer (based on the name). After sipping, that’s not the intention at all. it lends itself toward a table beer pairing excellently with fresh vegetables, salad, bruschetta and other delicate tapas. It’s refreshing, palate cleansing and most of all…interesting.

Thanks to the Bruery for a preview bottle. This beer will probably be in your hand and brain soon. 

OCBeerBlog Favorite Beer Moments of 2014

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GABF Media Luncheon – credit John Holzer @FourBrewers

People often ask me, “What’s your favorite beer?” My reply is usually a stupid canned answer, “The one in my hand.” It’s much deeper than that though. Beer is a moment; a snapshot in time. It’s not always about the rarest or most costly of beers. Often it’s the time, the place or the people I’m surrounded with that make a beer truly memorable. Here’s ten of those favorite beer moments and snapshots from this past year in no particular order.

Fullscreen capture 12302014 103819 AM.bmp1) Hitting my 1000’th Untappd check in at Beachwood BBQ & Brewing with the Hops of Brixton, poured by my favorite gal, the Beer Bird herself Catelyn Willig. The beer is a bold ESB shining with British cracker-like malts clashing with East Kent Golding hops. It’s one of my favorites at Beachwood and get it first. Extraordinary!

10296261_10203874627050886_7166790387008297076_o2) Camping at the Firestone Winery and drinking one-off Barrelworks beers at Firestone Walker’s original brewhouse? This totally didn’t suck! One beer that stood out was a wine/beer blend called “Zin Skin” that poured with a huge fluffy three inch head; only to watch it disappear like a big bubble being popped. Pictured is galpal beer writer Erika Bolden snapping a shot of DBA while on the back of a flat bed in a grape field.

Fullscreen capture 12302014 103421 AM.bmp3) When you get invited into the Coolship room at Allagash Brewing in Portland, Maine, you go in. When you uncork a beer that was spontaneously fermented in there, that’s pretty damn spectacular. Arguably one of the most acidic beers I’ve had in recent memory, Coolship Cerise simultaneously melted my tooth enamel and caused “instaboner”. But was there sex in the coolship room? I’ll never tell.

Fullscreen capture 12302014 103210 AM.bmp4) Flying into Denver for GABF and resetting the palate with a familiar beer is always a great idea. When the beer is Blind Pig from Russian River, it’s even better. Joined by Four Brewers compadre John Holzer, we dined at the Kitchen in downtown Denver and nearly watched a guy choke to death on water. Truly memorable!

Fullscreen capture 12302014 103521 AM.bmp5) For some reason, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream thought, “hey, lets team up with OCBeerBlog for a special tour of OC breweries.” Challenge accepted! One highlight was having the B&J truck stop at Bottle Logic to hand out free samples of their Core Tour stuff. Bottle Logic put on a special cherry milk stout to make impromptu Cherry Garcia beer floats! Check out their blog post here. 

Fullscreen capture 12302014 103432 AM.bmp6) TØRST in Brooklyn is one bar you must visit on the east coast. It’s pretty much like one part Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco mixed with one part Beachwood BBQ; so much so that they even have a flux capacitor and dual draft temp zones. I drank some remarkable beers, but my favorite was I Love You With My Stout by Evil Twin.

temptation7) I never thought Russian River would have two spots in my top ten list as I’m not a huge fanboy. But hey, getting the second pour of Temptation from a 9 Liter bottle by Vinnie Cilurzo himself? Out-fucking-standing. Firestone Walker’s Invitational Beer Festival remains my favorite thing to do besides sex. FACT.

Fullscreen capture 12302014 103353 AM.bmp8) Taking an unreleased beer off of Golden Road’s new canning line, cracking it, snorting the can-hole, then chugging it is number eight on my list. Thanks to the Beer Blogger’s Conference for the exclusive access behind the scenes for this guy…and thanks to Meg, Tony, Laurel, Sara, Franny, Tim, Jesse and the rest of the team there I call friends. Victor? He wasn’t there yet, but thanks anyways, el hefe.

Fullscreen capture 12302014 103739 AM.bmp9) Of all the ways for a yet-to-be opened brewery to show off their skills, Three Weavers quickly won over my heart with this collaboration with Noble Ale Works. The Messenger was indeed a message in a bottle, saying “hey, I’m a citrusy IPA made with Buddha’s Hand fruit and other fun stuff.” I loved this beer, Noble, and Alex Nowell quite a bit.

1Fullscreen capture 12302014 103626 AM.bmp0) The Bruery makes some tantalizing big barrel aged beers. Their anniversary series has been one that I’ve dismissed in years past until I sipped Sucré. With any solera blended beer, there’s a sweet spot where the liquid can take on a fruity note. I guess year five was it for this beer! Layered with fruit, toffee, oak, vanilla, brown sugar and other confectionary adjectives, this beer is insane. Sampled at their anniversary event at the Phoenix Club among friends, brewers and great BBQ from Beachwood…this rounds out my list perfectly. If I had to pick another, #11 would be sipping Sour in the Rye from a barrel in the not-yet-opened Terreux. Shhhhh! Don’t tell anyone!

 

Hot ‘Buzz on Buzz’ Action – Portola Coffee Invades Iron Press Tap Takeover

6:42 PM on a Tuesday, The Iron Press, OC Mix, Costa Mesa, California, USA, Earth, Milky Way, dot on the back of a ladybug in an alternate universe.

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Much how a car runs on oil, The Iron Press runs on beer. Each tap handle a piston, each waffle sandwich an airbag punching you in the face and each beer the gasoline that pumps through our sparkplugged-veins. Tonight, we’re getting lubricated with high-octane turbo caffeinated beers; all Portola Coffee Lab infusions from (mostly) local breweries.

After a flight, I find myself clutching the bar tightly with one hand and curiously tapping the drum solo to Rush’s Tom Sawyer with the other. Curious, because DJ LexaKhan’s turntable is spinning Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get it Up.” “Can I get a Heyay! Can I get a Ho-oh!” he requests waving his hand in the air. The highly java-based beer buzz yields an immediate response from the tightly packed P-shaped restaurant; some found it proper to wave their shaky beers around in the air (like they just don’t care).

Portola lives and breathes just a few steps from The Iron Press in the OC Mix. Jeff Duggan, the owner/roaster is at this event; smiling, intense and looking like Rick Moranis in ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’. “What’s your favorite so far?” he asks, sliding his glasses up his nose fastidiously. “Smog City’s Fluffy Fuzz Buzz,” I reply, noting the Kongo beans blending well with the base beer. He nods, knowingly, “Hmmm, yes”.

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Sitting in the blind spot.

The beer menu at this event is ripe with seventeen varieties, laid out with ABV’s ranging 3.8% to 13.8%. As I was expecting all stouts, I’m astonished with the variety of styles. Graetzer, Flemish Red, Cream Ale, Stout, Amber, Tripel and Porter are here presenting the range of choices that work with Portola’s beans to varying success. Some beers are production versions, such as Noble’s Naughty Sauce and the Bruery’s Mash & Grind. Others are one-offs for the event.

After sipping Epic’s Big Bad Baptist with a shot of espresso tossed in at serving, I take my light jacket off and lean back. Sweat forming on my brow, this beer is a real leg-crosser. I’m somehow channeling my inner-Italian Spiderman, sipping my beer like a freshly-fired macchiato…pinkie out and making subtle slurping noises.

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My faves: Torrance’s Smog City and Monkish

The fruitiest beer of the bunch, Monkish’s Caffè della Vita melded dark fruit coffee notes, nutty pistachio, vanilla and Belgian yeast esthers behind a very well hidden 9.8% ABV. What’s with these Torrance guys killing it? Topping things off, I even got a shoulder massage from Monkish’s Brian White, claiming “you look tense.” You bet your ass I look tense. The Iron Press is tense with uppers and downers fighting for your soul like a tug-o-war. If terrorists were to attack the OC Mix, safe to say the people inside this restaurant would fucking roll their non-caffeinated sober asses like a pissed off beehive.

010ee09f55a15b4d2e799062a203623b143e9a8612The Iron Press roped off the patio creating an outdoor space for Beer Savage swag and casks from Cismontane and Coronado Brewing. Blue Bridge Coffee Stout, one of my favorite easy to get $5/22oz coffee stouts. Sadly, it lacks any tickling of carbonation. Cismontane’s Roja I used to be a fan of, however this version has a funky acetobacter type sourness and hints of mildewy wood on the finish.

Overall, I consider Portola Coffee Labs to be among the brewing community and this evening proves it. Great beers, DJ Lex is always a pro, and the Iron Press continues to be the best place to grab a beer in Costa Mesa.