OCBeerBlog Favorite Beer Moments of 2014


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!


Blind Taste: Easside vs Wesside Saison Shakedown

P1060991When a preview bottle of Stone Brewing Co’s Saison is sitting on my porch while carrying a preview bottle of Allagash Brewing Co’s Saison from the car…I knew what I had to do: dig through my old CD pack and bump some old West Coast Gansta RAP…that’s right, SUCKAS! Ice Cube’s ‘Today Was A Good Day’ bumpin’ and the 40’s craft beers in the fridge, it’s time to do an Easside vs Wesside Saison Shakedown. BLIND STYLE.

Almost identical in name, release dates (now), ABV (~6%), IBU (~43), this Rialto born and bred beer blogger is armed and ready, beers chilled and sweaty; which Saison came to drop bombs? This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo*.

My old lady pours them into the same glassware, one with a SN logo and one with a FW logo. Both glasses freshly rinsed and beer poured at 43 degrees. My initial suspicion just on looks alone is a dead giveaway on who is who. “Would Allagash release a caramel colored Saison?” I chuckle pointing at beer #1. My wife walks away as I jot down notes on my kid’s doodle pad.


Beer 1: Orange/caramel tint and clear as a bell. Aromas tinge on grassyness, slightly cheesy, peppery, salty, floral, herbal.

lemonheadsBeer 2: Light hay colored and cloudy, this beer smells like a fresh box of Lemonheads, citrus (lemon, orange) and a little hint of soap and cotton candy. Smells like spring.

(Calling it on the color/clearness alone, I think beer 1 is Stone.)


Beer 1: First drink is surprisingly tart, subsequent drinks not so much. Herbal notes poke through with rosemary, jasmine and wet hay. It’s a little bit on the chewy side for a Saison, then WHOA…the tip of my tongue numbs with a stripping bitterness that screams “Saisons are fizzy and yellow, that is why this beer is orange!”. The finish bites the tip of my tongue with bitterness, washing away the potential for flavors to develop. Ouch. There’s also a scoville pepper heat my wife detects, I am heat tolerant to the point of not detecting it, but it’s worth noting.

Beer 2: Flavors of fluffy light grain followed by pleasant yeast esters rule this beer. Fermentation induced fruit, pepper, citrus are blanketed with a kiss of barnyard. It’s a little bit thinner and dryer than beer 1. The finish cleans up nicely, lending itself to a nice refreshing sessionable beer. The hop is different for the style as well; Cascade, Bravo and Tettnang are actually surprisingly good in this beer and round out the bitterness/flavor nicely.

Now, before I go on, I want to state something about Saison’s in general. It’s such a broad term of a beer style that is interpreted thousands of different ways. If we were drinking real Saisons, we’d be working out in a field getting our gallon 3% beer ration to keep from getting dysentery from unpotable farm water. I’m stating the obvious based on my perceived bitterness: Beer 1 is clearly Stone’s Saison. My wife nods.


Beer 1 = Stone, Beer 2 = Allagash. Nailed it.

I can see why arrogant bastards would prefer the Stone interpretation with its unabashed bitter bite and Stone Organic Farms picked goodies tossed in. I just think it’s a little too much for what I prefer of the style. I tend to reach for a dry, grainy, slightly funky beer. In the end, I want my Saison to compliment my food, not be decorated in it. I’d be interested in trying it next to Saison Du Buff and my other fave of 2014, Matt’s Burning Rosids Imperial Saison.

Allagash on the other hand has a handful of Belgian style ales. The addition of Saison to their line up seems like a natural fit. It’s tamed, balanced and sessionable.

Sorry West Side, Biggy Smalls wins this rap battle.

*sucka mc’d some lyrics from emenem’s Lose Yourself