Darkstar Dinner Done Right

gnag3876It’s tough to write about beer dinners as the numbers show: people don’t like to read about them. As you’ve probably already nodded off to sleep, I’ll get to the nitty-gritty. The 2016 Darkstar November beer dinner was probably one of the best beer dinners I’ve been to. Why? It was relaxed. It was paced. It had hospitality. It didn’t have a billion calories. There wasn’t a nasty slab of pork belly. The dishes were portioned well. The beer pairings actually worked. It wasn’t overly gluttonous. It seems like Bottle Logic is getting incredibly comfortable pulling these dinners off. Crazy, huh?

The plates, for your scrolling pleasure…


Course one: Foie Gras, pickled mustard seeds, rhubarb, strawberry paired with Berlinier Equation with strawberry and rhubarb. Although pretty, mustard and foie was pretty funky, but a great place to start.


Course two: Autumn Salad – seasonal veggies, ricotta solata, brown butter vinaigrette paired with Dark Harvest. The beer had a nice vintage root beer vibe that filled in the flavor gaps of the seasonal salad. Quite beautiful and a nice step in the dinner progression. Lovely fall colors as well.


The best thing ever plated in an Anaheim alley, course three.


Course three is when the tables got loud cutting into little Gnudi balls. Butternut squash puree was licked out of bowls. Sour Prince, the two-year-old experiment finally paid off. It tasted vinous, woody, tart, finished, polished. I’m really looking forward to A) more sour beer from Bottle Logic and B) more food from chef Patrick. This pairing was incredible.


Course four - light and fluffy red snapper plopped on squash with a groovy onion, potato and asparagus to floss with. Love this almost intermezzo main before the main. Although Tattered Prince paired well, we all yearned for something hoppy.

Course four – light and fluffy red snapper plopped on squash with a groovy onion, potato, and asparagus to floss with. Love this almost intermezzo main before the main. Although Tattered Prince paired well, we all yearned for something hoppy. IPA intermezzo?


Five: The best thing I’ve ever had at a beer dinner. Braised lamb belly that had a mutton jerky vibe on a grits-based tamal and mole drizzle…holy hell. Inventive, layered, textured, colorful, and, oh yeah, paired well with Darkstar November 2016 that is easily the best year yet. Blown. Away.


Cheers to the team!


Dessert: Textures of Chocolate. Who knew persimmon would go well with chocolate and BBA stout?


Jam the Radar, Mostra Darkstar, and Darkstar November 2016. Incredible! Jam the Radar should be called Pornstar November. Sees candies, booze, decadent.

Logical Menu Programming | FO Beer Dinner 2016

Tripping over my cat at 12:05 A.M. with two bags of glassware and four bottles of Fundamental Observation wasn’t the burglar-like entrance I had hoped, especially with a belly full of six courses of food and all the beers. The dogs came out to investigate the situation, one growling and kicking her back legs like a bull. The other, sniffs my leg and wags, obviously knowing what kind of shenanigans I had just endured. If this dog were human, she would be a foodie.


Cooking in an alley, alley, alley – Patrick Whittaker, our chef of the evening.

Three hours prior, we were ushered into the back brewery of Bottle Logic Brewing. Big ass fan blowing DDB’s man-musk out of the room from the first seating, I’m guided to my table, delighted to see who I’m sitting next to: chef Cody Storts, Brandon Buckner (of Bottle Logic), main squeeze Christina, and Sean and Jessica McNew. A rowdy table, no doubt. I can ask chef questions about the food, and hit Brandon up about the beers.

You, light up my life, you give me hope...

You, light up my life, you give me hope… Haze Flux Vermont Style DIPA

Having been to the Darkstar November beer dinner earlier this year, I knew what chef Patrick Whittaker and the Bottle Logic team were capable of. What’s truly impressive is a brewery that has skilled staff to pull this thing off. There’s a million ways a dinner like this could go awry, especially if not done with regularity. The first improvement is Bottle Logic borrowed a food truck to use as a kitchen instead of cooking in the cramped brewery.


Course one: Hamachi

My favorite moments of the night were many, but to name a few, the stone fruit salad paired with Berlinear Equation w/apricot & peaches was stellar. Refreshing on the warm night, the bready/stonefruity beer finishes clean and tart. The stonefruit vs. stonefruit beer seemed a bit obvious, but the real star of the show was a nip of basil that was like a ten-pin kicker when bowling a strike. Fantastic pairing.


Getting stoned on stonefruit and Berlinear Observation with apricot and peach

One lobster tail and beef cheek later, the buzz hits. Haze Flux, Bottle Logic’s hazy Vermont style IPA was bursting with mango and pineapple notes. It didn’t take me long to blend the Bourbon Barrel aged and plain Cobaltic Porter pours into a cuvee to soften the blow of what was to come: Three versions of Fundamental Observation…holy shit, you guys!


Fundamental Observation, sweating like me.

The first version, FO 2016 with Mostra Coffee gave the beer an ice cream-like smoothness. I pinched myself to stop myself from incessantly huffing the beer, like a man possessed. I saved the last half of the glass for my buddy Natalie DeNicholas, who helped the chef team prep and plate the dinner. She blew me a kiss. This beer is what makes me fall in love with beer all over again. Putting lipstick on a whale. Still a whale, but more attractive, for sure.


Hospitality (and grammar) maestro, Lindsay Langton, w/ Patrick

Vanilla-vanilla Fundamental Observation is as good as 2015, albeit slightly different. It’s not as sweet, seems a tad lighter in body, and is backed with a poof of heat. The vanilla is way more punchy in the profile, which may fade with age. It’s a world class beer, I think the changes are more to my liking.


Back alley Fundamental Observation purchases at 11:42 P.M.

Lastly, Fundamental Forces, a straight up vanilla booze jam and cheese plate closes out the night. “We keep feeding the yeast with more and more sugar until it gives up,” says Dylan Mobley, their brewer. Is it like 20% ABV? I’d like to try this beer on its own, not after the bellygasm that just took place.

My only complaint of the evening was the heat. Drinking big beers and multiple courses requires a certain temperature as to not get a sheen of glistening meat sweats. All in all, a hell of a lot of fun, and damn if I don’t feel like a 1%’er getting a seat. Keep up the fun, awesome releases like you do, Bottle Logic!

More pics:


Lobster and Brexity pea vichyssoise (pronounced vishy swaz), whose kumquat paired well with the hazy DIPA.


“HHHMMMBEEF…CHEEEKS!” Is what I yelled with this landed in front of me. Paired with all the Cobaltic Porters. So meaty, Bottle Logic. So meaty.


The richest thing I’ve ever eaten. Inside the See’s candy looking chocolate puck is foie gras, which made me sweat with the Mostra Coffee FO. Super rich. YOOJ richness. Also I love me some chantilly cream and fucking Rainier cherries.


“this is a fundamental beer dinner!” “you hit it right on the nose, bob!”


Chef Cody Storts of Grits Fullerton and Chef Craig Brady of Haven Gastropub, both here to check out the dinner.


my tablemates





Stars Align for 2015 Darkstar November

Sometime around 11:30 P.M, two days before Thanksgiving:

“You smell like a brewery,” whines my thirty-something stocking cap wearing uber driver. “Your car smells like Old Spice Bearglove.” I reply, rushing to twitter to check @ubersmellslike on my bumpy ride home from the Darkstar November beer dinner.


Darkstar Glassporn

How is this year’s Darkstar, you ask? Comparing it to last year, I got a chance to blind taste 2014 among some strong competition on the Four Brewers show. 2014’s Darkstar seemed thin, hot and disjointed (it did outrank the Goose!). Bottle Logic must have heard the show and worked out the kinks, because 2015 Darkstar November is rich, spicy, full bodied, and super delicious. The rye barrel places a large part in the flavor profile, offering up big cinnamon notes that compliment the big chocolaty stout. If you can grab a bottle or two, I highly recommend it.

The beer dinner? Chef Patrick Whittaker looked calm and collected, whipping up six magical courses. My favorite pairing of the night was rabbit, ironically prepped with carrot puree next to Tripel Point, the OC Fest of Ales winning homebrew that was re-brewed with Bottle Logic. Other dishes included scallops, pork belly, New York strip, and panna cotta paired with Darkstar November. The absolute winner of the evening was Darkstar November with Coldbot coffee. I hope this gets packaged!

Just a Fella That Builds Breweries: Jim Mellem of The Bruery

Piece originally appeared in the Sept. 2015 BeerPaperLA.

Ten weeks ago, Jim Mellem walked through The Bruery’s doors. A/C blowing his almost Lyle Lovett-like hair to the side, he punched the clock on a new job with a million things to do. Ten weeks later, the old brewhouse is out, a shiny-new GEA system is installed, and the Bruery Terreux sits a pellicle away from going full force. Leaving a 12-year position at one of America’s most-respected breweries to work in Orange County couldn’t have been easy. I got a chance to check in with him late August and chat about his transition.


Sharing Black Tuesday 2015 out of the brite tank, Jim Mellem

Everyone always remembers their first Bruery beer, what was yours? Tradewinds Tripel. Beautiful beer.

How different are things at The Bruery compared to Sierra Nevada?

The resources here are a little bit different, in a lot of ways it’s a lot more fun. We get to roll up our sleeves. Patrick is really big on the people aspect of brewing, which is nice.  It’s a lot more manual at the Bruery. One similarity is the pilot system at Sierra Nevada is similar to our production brewhouse. At Sierra, it’s more for fun, over here, it’s what pays the bills.

How much are you going to miss dry hopping?

I was in charge of the cellar in Chico and that was like 60% of my job! I’d be organizing torpedos, dry hops, and managing the guys. I can safely move on from brewing IPA’s in my life. I love drinking them though. Now I’m getting more into ‘what kind of spices can we add to the whirlpool’. With our recent collab with Jester King, I had to organize the guys to get zest off of 400 pounds of limes; every week is something totally different.

With the unique operational requirements behind some of The Bruery’s beers, are there any techniques you’ve changed or plan on changing?

With Autumn Maple, we’ve moved to yam purée instead of hand processing them. We also bought a pump to add them directly into the kettle (ed: they previously used a forklift).  Anyway, it’s a lot easier than hand-roasting yams.  We still split vanilla beans individually and have to get the ingredients sack together for whirlpool, so it’s still a major operation in some respects.

You mentioned you came from the cellar side of things at Sierra Nevada, is there any knowledge to impart coming from years of bottle/can conditioning Pale Ale and other beers?

Sierra is probably one of the few breweries in the world that has the ability to take beer that’s 32 degrees and warm it back up to 60 at packaging/filtration. At Terreux, we’re pushing everything to be bottle conditioned as we find that it adds that je ne sais quoi. Right now, we take the bottles and stick them in a warm warehouse for a month plus, but if you can give that a bit of a jump start by getting the beer warm, then bottling, we’d be ahead of the game.  The question is how can we do that from an energy standpoint, using existing equipment and not trying to sink the Bismarck in cost.

Maybe convert the Jazzersize building a few doors down into a Bikram Yoga/Bottle Conditioning room?

I definitely have some cool ideas…it’s really interesting at Sierra though, as we will bottle condition with house yeast, with Cal Ale yeast, and we’d also do it with Brett. So there’s a lot more variation on bottle conditioning speed, what types of esters you’re producing, and what you’re trying to get in the bottle. It might be something that will help mop up the rougher flavors after barrel aging, diacetyl, making sure you’re getting a really great product out to the consumer, so we’re definitely trying to employ some of these options. Terreux is still very much a work in progress, in regards to how we’re going to finish those beers.

Sierra Nevada is built with efficiency and environment in mind. Will you be looking into any projects to do the same at the Bruery?

I think it’s a greater awareness, but the new brewhouse offers some benefit. The mash tun has rakes now, so we can get more water out which means we’re sparging less and using less water per barrel. We want to have a knowledge of how to count and quantify things first, then we can figure out how to improve. We’ve reset the bar with the new brewhouse. We’ll have to get smarter with transporting wort between buildings. We’ve also done some things different how we clean the bottle filler to save water. We’re doing a lot of risky beers here, and with that, there’s always going to be a lot more water use because you’re always going to have to clean, then clean again, and again.

Is manpower shared between Terreux and Bruery?

It’s really interesting. There’s two different teams within the different wort stream. Myself and Andrew Bell are the only two guys that bounce back and forth between locations. We do have pilot fermenters over there, so we’ll funk stuff up and see how it goes. It’s cool that it gives people more ownership of the projects.

The split brewhouse with The Bruery and Terreux was meant to primarily address quality concerns, is there anything else The Bruery is doing to enhance beer quality?

We have a nice quality department here. For a brewery of this size to have three people that are 100% devoted to quality is pretty damned good. Not too many breweries of this size can say that. Our next frontier will be dialing in package quality.

Were you ever part of the Ovila Belgian-style beers Sierra Nevada brewed, and if so, did it drive some of your interest down here?

It’s weird, when I interviewed, I asked, “you’re a Belgian-style brewery right?”, and they were like…nah, no not really…we sort of identify with that; but we more identify with the individuality of that. That’s ultimately what drove me to be here. I worked on the first five Ovilas; that was cool because we got to figure out what yeast strains to use and how to bottle condition. It was still very experimental at such a large phase. I think what really drove me here was that I have always been a fan of The Bruery’s beers, and being impressed that something this small can produce beers this high in quality, keep it interesting and keep it exciting. They take huge risks, which I kind of like.

Do you appreciate any other local breweries?

I go to Noble Ale Works a lot. I describe them more as my neighborhood pub. You look at the stuff they’re doing with hops with the single hop variety beers. It’s great! I can go there and get an idea of what 100% Mosaic tastes like. I’m like, thanks man, I appreciate that.

SN does two beers in open fermenters: Kellerweiss and Bigfoot. Would you ever try to convince Patrick to install something like that?

The cool thing about this place is nothing is off the table. If you look at the beers they’ve made over the years, truly nothing is off the table. We’re looking at a 2017 expansion project. I know with Wicked Weed, they’ve installed a nice 30 or 60 barrel open fermenter. The bigger question is ‘what are you getting off of it?’ You’re getting a nice non-pressurized fermentation. For the Kellerweiss yeast, I can definitely say it does make a difference. For Bigfoot, do you really pick up that up in the ester profile?  Maybe not so much. As long as I don’t have to clean it, I’d be happy installing one. I actually twisted my knee getting in and out of one, so my days getting in and out of open fermenters might be a job for the younger guys.

How is Orange County treating you thus far?

I still get lost going to the grocery store! Haha! I’m still GPS dependent getting around here.

Chico’s beer scene is run by Sierra Nevada. Asheville not so much. What was it like for SN to move into a thriving beer community?

It’s really weird, one gripe about Chico was trying to hire people, there’s no big beer culture there. Living in Asheville was that we have people making different beers down the road and so we’d be able to try new beers and be able to chat with the brewers, asking how they made it, then we’d get ideas of our own, and it would foster and grow.  And for me, seeing what Wicked Weed was doing, I was like, why don’t I go work for a brewery that does this? The cool thing is about those guys is, people see what they’re doing and think, “I should be raising the bar too.” There’s this step-ladder affect.


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.




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.


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.


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 Bruery Turns Seven | Copperversary Ensues

01ecf2acede3a19993b9e36219646093ef5e65137cWith petrichor still looming from the tall eucalyptus trees surrounding the Phoenix Club, a snotty rooster crows from the other side of the fence. “Is this the hoarders line?” asks a girl in a rainbow-banged unicorn wig. I nod, contemplating my sweater situation as dark clouds swirl around this chilly May morning. A horse whinnies nearby as the line snakes three-feet closer to check-in. Next thing you know, a German-style SheGoat will jump out of a bush and get into some Mischief with an Atomic Kangarue.

I’m not even in The Bruery’s 7th Copperversary and the day is already surreal.

Fullscreen capture 5182015 105131 AM.bmp

Hoarders be like

0173d0c107b5ba234228800109511e791090d1a747Der Phoenix Club is beer festival ground zero these days and it’s easy to see why. 37 breweries plus ample stockpiles of The Bruery’s beers are free flowing around the perimeter; and it doesn’t seem crowded, despite 1,700 guests. There’s ample shade, nice bathrooms and even a playground for the Black Tuesday drinkers.

The Bruery and I must have similar taste in local beer, as most of the 37 breweries representing are personal favorites. The first beer to wet my glass is MacLeod’s 3.5% English Bitter, Session Gap; gravity poured from cask and has miraculously dropped bright. They should teach classes on fest-cask to the rest of the breweries here, although I’m pretty sure the secret is simply wearing overalls, like every day, to everything.


Smog City Prom Pose!

Walking the perimeter, seeing friends, getting hugs, snapping pics, eating. Tripping out on some of the guest breweries without lines. Tripping out on some of the guest breweries with big lines. Monkish, with batch two Selah and Rare Beer Club exclusive Rara Avis? No line. Noble Ale Works with a brewery walking distance from the Phoenix Club? Medium line. Rare Barrel creating a huge line by not pouring until 2pm? Genius. The Bruery truck’s line that extended into the festhalle tent instead of having multiple pouring stations as in years past? Baffling. Terreux with almost no line? Concerning. Colored balloons to note where things are? Festive.

017d14138c6a15854235094754068d9e94f40329b8Three favorites of the day: Smog City Steamfunk Brett IPA, Monkish Selah 2.0, Sour in the Rye w/Peach, and holy hell…way too many good beers. This fest could have gone on for days.

Overall, The Bruery knows how to party. A very fun beer festival and put together well! Beachwood BBQ’s food is always on point. The Reserve/Hoarders Society guests are always well behaved and courteous. The venue is made for drinking beer. Coffee and tea inside? Holy hell yes.I heard estimates that they raised over 40K for the Boys and Girls Club.

Thinking out loud: Now that The Bruery is 7, I look forward to seeing what Terreux will bring. Increased production and quality? I’m curious what Terreux’s Jeremy will bring to the “beer’s gone wild” game. As a beer-flavored beer enthusiast, I’m also curious if the beer development will start to cross from innovative to gimmick (cola, plastic margarita and old fashioned beers, anyone?). I’m interested to see how the lack of Tyler King will impact things. One thing is for sure: The Bruery seems to evolve at the same rate as beer geeks willingness to reach for something new…and with that, I can’t wait to see their next seven years.


The Little Things | Firkfest 15 Recap/Braindump


photo John Holzer, @fourbrewersshow


Theres a million people to thank after hosting a sold out beer festival. The obvious ones: Brewers who slave over mash tuns; using artistry to concoct flavors for a cask that may or may not work out. Restaurants, who took the time to do something different, wake up early on a Saturday and make some really tasty chili. All of that stuff…is donated, which is crazy if you think about it.

Then there’s the little things.

Bloggers, who typically cover the event with photos and brief recap, also chipped in by volunteering to help pour for the first two hours. BeerPaperLA (Guillermo & gal), Beers in Paradise (Japeth), Stick a Fork in It OCWeekly, Beer Guy LA, Worst Beer Blog, JanteZiarra, Brew Beer Blog, BeerQwest, LABeerBlog. I hope being on the other side of the table was a fun experience! I love pouring.

Some bloggers, brewery reps and volunteers loaned their homebrew stands for the restaurants to use during the event. Japeth from Beers in Paradise, Dallas from Ballast Point, Kevin Margulieux and John Ryti. Thanks Iron Fire Brewing for loaning us the canopy John Ryti brought. We’ll invite you next year!

Brewers showed up as early as 8 AM to let their beer settle while we set up the park for the event. Brandon Fender from the Good Beer Company helped put the arrows on the signage.

One of Orange County’s Gayot food critics was on water duty all day. With my idea of using a homebrew filter to refill the water instead of using a billion water bottles, he was critical at keeping everything full. Thanks Rich Manning!

Speaking of water, brewers donated kegs of water as well! Barley Forge brought their rad military looking water jugs, Noble Ale Works, Bottle Logic with a half-barrel…and others I may have missed. The H2OPS guy donated water bottles as well. I was skeptical about having him as a vendor before trying his product, but damn…it was delicious.

David Walker of Firestone Walker hand-delivered some 2015 Parabola which was released that day. I gave him the most awkward bro-hug ever! He then drove to LAX to catch a flight to the UK, because he’s cool like that. How funny to go from a cask beer fest in sunny California to the UK. I take great inspiration from his team’s beer festival, Firestone Walker Invitational which happens in May and sells out instantly because it’s the best fest in the west.

Brewers brought extra canopies for the restaurants to use. I realize this caused confusion for the guests, as many people were trying to vote for Ballast Point, which I believe was Pie Dog (we had them drop tokens correctly). Matt Olesh of the Bruery was kind enough to drive back to work to grab two more, which turned out to be just enough.

Dave Lieberman, from OCWeekly, bought me a sandwich because my nervous gut couldn’t handle chili. He also did the same at Noble’s 4th anniversary party while my wife and I poured the cask beers inside.

The volunteers themselves were comprised of friends, family, neighbors, ex-girlfriends I’m still friends with, my best man, high school friends, some of which drove down from Sacramento and flew in from Chicago to pour. I get a little misty-eyed thinking about how rad that support is. We did have quite a bit of no-shows on the volunteers, and those that showed really stepped it up to hold their pee until it hurt, skipped eating until they almost dropped and stood in wet beer to get the job done. Next year I think I’ll make random people on the internet pay a deposit if they want to volunteer because they’re flaky as fuck. Why would someone take the time to offer to volunteer and not show? That’s just silly. The volunteers worked extra hard to cover pouring and they don’t get to drink. Thanks volunteers! You guys are rad. Truly unsung.

My neighbor helped bring a load of stuff with his truck and stayed to help set up the fence with Brad Daniels, Jon Mabe and Ron Nelson. Ron picked up extra zip ties at 8am to finish the job. Who knew 100 zip ties would not be enough?

The signs were all donated by Victor LaFontaine. You probably know him as an epic beer trader that shows up with random bottles of awesomeness wherever he goes.

My wife Erin handled all the vendor check-in and volunteers simultaneously. She is insanely such a huge support in my life and a battle axe at this event. She also took time to go to Main Place Mall to get the Chili Cook Off glasses etched.

Bobby Navarro took over the non-profit side of things last year after the group I went with first pulled out. His knowledge and expertise of running events is unmatched. He’s more than a pleasure to deal with and it’s fun to see people in the culinary/brewing world get inspired artistically by travel and education. Noble’s English Pale Ale they brought is a result of the the non profit, Inspire Artistic Minds. Check out their page, donate, attend events volunteer or even apply for a grant!

Thanks to the guests who believe that groupon beer fests are the worst. You all paid full price, which was more than fair considering unlimited tastes of chili and beer. I was going to do taster tickets, but figured that is antiquated and just one more thing to deal with. I figured if anyone could get through a dozen 2oz tastes of chili, they should get an award.

The vendors don’t necessarily need to be thanked because they got paid, but I will say I got excellent service from those that I ordered from. Empire Ice forgot to include the cold box, so they threw in an extra 20 bags to our order for free. They were cheaper than everyone by 20% as well. Eagle Portables restrooms were ON POINT. Dead-on delivery, super clean set up and take down and on time (also 20% cheaper than other bids). James Event Services which is ran by Cameron Collins (OC Brew HaHa) father in-law gave an unbeatable bid on table rentals. Their delivery and pick up was timely, fast and had great tables. The Packing House site reps were rock solid from set up to take down. The security team was also insanely professional.

The press, thanks for helping sell the event out. John Verive of BeerPaperLA and LA Times was the driving force behind my marketing. There was a LOT of LA people that did in fact drive (or train) down for the event. Erika Bolden of LA Weekly, Vivian from OCRegister and of course Cleo from OC Weekly. Hell, even YelpOC promoted the event, which was hella rad. I spent $300 on marketing, that’s insane!

The Four Brewers Show went into new territory again; doing a show from the event with Tomm Carroll of Celebrator Beer News.

I’m looking for a nice outdoor spot for next year that can hold 1000. If you have a location that you think would be rad, let me know! See you next year!


Noble Revs Up Beer Engine For Real British-Style Ale

2014 has been the year of the cask in Orange County. With events like Firkfest (held by yours truly), many local breweries bought cask hardware to participate. Noble Ale Works is taking it a step further by taking the party back to its pale British nubs: nerdy British-style real ale served at proper cellar temp in the Anaheim tasting room. A refresher:

  • Real Ale = Beer served from the vessel it finished fermenting in. Carbonation is provided naturally from the yeast (bottle, can, keg or cask conditioned).
  • Not Real Ale = Force carbonated beer in a brite tank with carbon dioxide gas, then packaged fully carbonated.

Brewery Brad Kominek pouring The River Thames at 52F through an Ingram Beer Engine gooseneck with sparkler attachment. He is happy.

Several local beer festivals in 2014 (including Firkfest and Nobles 3rd anniversary party) partnered with Inspire Artistic Minds; a non-profit aimed at helping professionals grow in the culinary world. Brewers Evan Price and Brad Kominek applied for scholarships with IAM and got their artistic minds INSPIRED, like SO HARD. They travelled all over England and Belgium and all bloody hell broke loose – they brewed pub ales that don’t make it across the pond; using UK ingredients and serving techniques.

Our efforts to make the perfect English pint go a step further with this set of three beers. We brewed a Strong British Pale Ale utilizing Simpsons Golden Promise Barley, added UK East Kent Golding Hops and split the batch between three small tanks. Each batch was fermented with a different English yeast strain and then dry hopped differently as well. All three will be served on nitro with each one spending some time on cask. – Evan Price, Head Brewer

The beers are closely related, but totally different: 

  • The Knowle Spring – Fermented with the Timothy Taylor house yeast and given a medium dry hop with UK EKG.
  • The River Thames – Fullers yeast and a light Fuggles dry hop.
  • The South Down Wells – Gales Brewery yeast and heavy UK Progress hops.
  • English 201British Mild and Irish Red are on top and on deck.

IMG_7624Simpsons Golden Promise malt lays the groundwork for these three strong pale ales. Lemon zest and crackers dominate these dangerously gulpable beers, as do the yeast and hop nuances of each. I had the pleasure of comparing The River Thames cask and nitrogen versions side-by-side, the latter being a relaxed memory-foam mattress version of the cask pull. The cask version is notably brighter and layered with yeast, malt and hops like neapolitan ice cream. On nitro the experience seems a bit squished together, but is still very satisfying if not compared.

IMG_7626Drinking pint over pint of each, The South Down Wells wins my vote with a balanced fruity hop flavor and aroma I expect from a traditional pint in England. At 4.6%, these are notably stronger than the average British Bitter Ales. Will American tastes know the difference? Probably not. A true British pub ale is in the 3.2-3.8% range, but as Evan noted, “people don’t buy the low alcohol versions,” hence the bump with these.

These beers are sessionable, authentic and served at proper cellar temp. Every so often, you’ll see a bartender measure the temp coming from the cask to ensure its drinkability.

Soon, Noble will unleash a Mild and an Irish-style Red. Stop in and check out a few pints!

Blizzcon Guide to Beer & Food in Anaheim | OMG ZERGRUSH KeKeKe

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credit @AnnBarwig (untappd annbarwig) at Bottle Logic Brewing in Anaheim

Before the fam and two jobs, I was an avid gamer. Some of the best times with friends online were spent in a squeaky office chair, cooler full of beer next to me followed by a headset belching contest with guild/clanmates. I miss those days!

When Blizzcon comes to town, it’s a chance for gamers to break free from their dimly-lit rooms, crack their knuckles and join like-minded people for a weekend of revelry, cosplay and maybe even a bit of loud, rough elf-sex.

As a conventioneer, leaving the compound can be daunting, here’s some ideas to get you fed, buzzed and have some bottles to take back to the hotel for further face melting shadow priest debauchery; all within a few miles via uber/taxi!

Nearby Breweries & Food

  • Noble Ale Works (2.4 miles)
    • Hoppy IPA’s, English Style Ales
    • Growler fills, 22oz bottles to go.
    • Food Truck: Hobo Pizza Co (Fri) and the Flip Truck (Sat)
    • Nearby restaurants: The Catch (seafood/chop), Calivino Wine Pub (small gastropub with good beer/food/wine), Frescas Mexican Grill (legit socal style mexican food)
  • The Bruery Tasting Room (6.7 miles)
    • Barrel aged beer, Saison, sour, wild ales
    • Growler fills, bottles to go
    • Food Truck: Bacon Mania on Sat.
    • Nearby bottle shop
    • Food Just up the 57N Meatup BBQ
  • Bottle Logic Brewing (7.4 miles)
    • IPA, Saison, Stout, Lagers
    • Growler fills, bottles to go
    • Food Trucks: Soho Taco Truck (Fri), Craftsman Pizza does BBQ (Sat) Ninjas with an Appetite (Sun)
    • Food Just up the 57N Meatup BBQ
  • Anaheim Packing District (2.4 miles)
    • One stop shop with beer and food in the Packinghouse. The Iron Press has 24 taps.
    • Umami Burger
    • Anaheim Brewery

Any other recommendations? Hit me up on Twitter.