Brooklyn Brewery (in pics)

When in Brooklyn, you must tour Brooklyn Brewery. There’s two brewsystems on site in Brooklyn and a contract brewery in upstate NY. I sampled several interesting beers, namely Ridgy-Didge, a spiced beer tasting somewhat like a beer with ginger and a session Saison with all Sorachi Ace hops coming in at 3.5%. Having brewed a session Saison with all Sorachi ace I took home from Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, this beer brought back some memories! I also fully welcome session Saison over thin session IPA. And now…get your Garrett Olivered with these pics (I’d write more, but I’m on a ferry to Staton Island.)

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Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival – In Romance Novel Form

Every year, I strive to up my game covering events that I love. Last year I did the “Beer and Loathing in Paso Robles” piece which was a lot of fun. I recently hung out with New York Times best selling historical romance Author Tessa Dare and was inspired to write a short-form romance novella surrounding the 2014 FWIBF. Why not? 

I will warn you, the story is trashy with flashes of BDSM. It’s harmless though, if anything goes past your threshhold, just yell “PANCAKES” and I’ll stop. I promise. The story is fictional, but the beer and festival info is non-fiction. enjoy!

 

Love Buzzed up the Central Coast With Firestone Walker Page 2

…Continued (page 1)

Breakfast at 8: “Are there any egg bagels?” says I, Greg Nagels. I’ve been waiting my entire life to unleash that line of hilarity on a water/sleep deprived crowd. “You should start a youtube channel called ‘Egg Bagels with Greg Nagels like ‘Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis'” says Kip Barnes . Ten minutes later I find myself next to David Walker as I chomp down on a lightly toasted blueberry bagel with moderate schmear. “So, you like bagels?” I ask awkwardly. “Not really”, he says walking away, arms folded. Best first episode ever. I slurp my hot coffee and act cool.

credit Kelly Erickson - Girls Who Like Beer

Firestone Walker’s Sensory Man: Norm Stokes – credit Kelly Erickson – Girls Who Like Beer

10:30 A.M. we arrive at Firestone Walker’s production brewery in Paso Robles. It’s bright and sunny as birds chirp near the bus. Hop steam bellows out of the brewery tower sending all the hoppy grape nutty smells to my nose. Despite the early morning beer sweats, I feel revived.

“Welcome to sensory analysis” says Norm Stokes from their quality team. Analyzing my beer senses after a heavy night? I’d say my blistered tongue and histamines from debauchery twelve hours prior will have their way with any real analysis. My palate is shot to the point I can’t make out what the first beer is. “Is this DBA? It’s either got a woody note from barrels or repeatedly smacking my tongue with a barrel stave last night” I moan to my table. I’ve done blind tasting before but never with a blindfold on my tongue (well, maybe there was that one time in UCI’s dorms).

Sensory Analysis

P1070223A flight of five beers and a flavor wheel before me. Beer one opens up like a lid of Parkay margarine and says “butter”. You’ve probably heard a neckbearded beer geek say the word “diacetyl” while snapping their fingers and head from side to side; but until you’ve had a beer spiked with it, you haven’t lived. It reminds me of making out in a movie theatre with a drunk chick in the worst way possible. Subsequent samples are just as gross; DMS being the worst.  Dimethyl sulfide in this beer tastes somewhat like sour milk aged in a urine-soaked diaper, in a black car, in a parking lot, without trees, on a hot day, in Bakersfield, outside Wal-Mart. Fuck.

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The second panel of oxidized Union Jack is not much better. Beer served at 3, 30 and 300 days at room temp and refrigerated. The oldest/warmest sample tastes like cardboard that once carried asparagus, then a gene-positive asparagus pee odor vagrant ate some asparagus and then peed on the remaining box. All of the essential hop aromas and flavors drop out like a teenage pregnancy. The old one even has a haze like a pregnancy test; two lines of fog = abort down drain, pronto.

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same beer, 300 days apart

Although we all should know by now IPA’s are best served fresh, Firestone Walker’s beers are date stamped and good for 120 days, and best by 30 in my sampling. Moral of the story: Don’t hate, Check the date…Refrigerate, sucka. 

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This is part two of four from a recent beer-junket up to visit Firestone Walker Brewing Co. with the @LABeerBloggers group. Bus/Food and some beer was provided courtesy FW.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (at GABF)

Article originally published Winter 2013 West Coaster Socal – changed slightly

Congratulations! You’re giving birth to your first GABF! What’s that? You’re not pregnant? That’s just your natural beer belly? Ermagerd…so embersed. . Here’s a look at what to expect in the delivery room, as you will surely look pregnant after a week in Denver.

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Session 1, Thursday Evening: Like a Virgin

Nerves fire on all cylinders as bagpipers squeeze their sacks and blow. Their quack-like drone ushers in some 12,000 thirsty people checking maps and apps one last time. The piper’s six minute march around the vast hall comes to a halt under an IMAX sized Michael Jackson poster. “Let’s do it for Johnny!” I say to a chuck-taylor wearing stranger next to me with my best Matt Dillon impersonation. Muscle memory takes over and I look for my first dance partner. I nab a 1oz sample of Damn it Feels Good to Be a Gangsta, a delicious sour dark ale from Trinity Brewing in Colorado. It gets a twirl and swirl down my throat…twice.

P1060736The Thursday session is all about fresh faces; first time brewers can be seen in their natural festicular habitat anxiously wiping down tables and straightening signs one last time. I take a moment to watch GABF 1st timer Brian Schroepfer from Valiant Brewing in action wiping sweat from his brow, dealing with draft issues and delivering pitchers to his table like the 80’s arcade game ‘Tapper’. “I’m pretty proud and honored to be here” he says after describing his lineup of beers to eager fest goers.

On the other side of the table, session one is a great mix of freshly traveled bodies; 50% of which are from out of state. Myself included, nothing is better than a post flight beerfest with a bunch of silly Americans ready to party; one ounce at a time.

Go to session one if you like: Excitement of the first session of the year. Large amount of brewery representation at each booth. A fresh haul of beer and ample quantities of rarities. Not walking into the worst cropdusted gas bombs of your life. Guy/Gal ratio ~3:1. Costumed fest goer ratio ~1:100. Glass droppage level: one every 10-20 minutes.

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Session Two: It’s Friday, I’m in Love

Friday night at the GABF is electric. Brewers trust the volunteers to booth-sit for a few hours and go out for a night on the town inside the festival. The silent disco is alive with booty bumpin’, Charlie Papazian is fist bumpin’, and even two strangers in the bathroom looked at each other and smiled. Session two is all about drinking great beer and getting weird in a busy party atmosphere. Don’t be surprised if you find waldo, cross paths with an actual beer wench, or see the second coming of beer Jesus…complete with a spirit-gum beard and those creepy vibram toe shoes.

Go to session two if you like: A great beerfest party atmosphere with lots of costumed fest goers. Groups of beer savvy ladies…not just designated drivers or the dirndl hoes…actual hop loving, sour loving, funky beer loving women out in force. Weather report: mid to high levels of ass-fog moving in over the Pacific Northwest with green clouds forming above the Great Lakes. Tasting glass droppage upwards of every 5-10 minutes. Rare beers kegs running out within an hour. Plan your attack.

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Bruer Tyler King pours White Chocolate at the Farm to Table Pavillion

Session Three, Saturday Afternoon: Rocky Mountain High – Members Only, Brah.

American Homebrewers Association and Brewers Association members need only apply for the Saturday afternoon session. Aside from actual glassware, this session is great to witness the ‘parade of brewers’ flooding in after the awards ceremony. It’s sort of like the running of the bulls in Spain as some Medal winning brewers are riding the highest of highs trying to get to their booth to put up medal stickers and snap photos. The GABF mobile app updates with the winners making it easy to navigate the hall and sample America’s best beer right on the spot. Of the many benefits being a member of the AHA or BA, attending this session is one of my favorites. Seeing a local California brewer take home more medals than the state of Maine is impressive and fills my heart with pride. Protip: go get a membership now, the included subscription to Zymurgy magazine is worth the price alone.

Go to session three if you like: actual glassware instead of a plastic sampling glass. Volunteers that will go over the 1oz line if you ask nicely. Floods of beer geeks rating their beer on printed spreadsheets. Day drinking. Sampling award winning beer without travelling all over the United States. Having your Saturday night free to roam around Denver’s bustling craft beer scene.

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Special moment: Sampling my Beer Camp 94 Belgian Black IPA on the floor of GABF

Session Four, Saturday Night: Ohhhhhhhhhh Face

The final GABF session gets a bad rep among the press corps, which is probably why we weren’t invited to attend 2013’s session. Speaking only on my opinion of 2012, I witnessed human beer pong. I filmed a guy desperately trying to remain upright. I saw urinalbarf. But hey, someone has to finish the rest of the beer right? Some notable breweries ran out of beer and boarded up shop with handwritten “see you next year” signs. A buzzed sea of volunteers is left to deal with the onslaught of tipsy beer bros. My coverage focus quickly changed to capture the beer blight and anything-goes atmosphere. “The 1oz line is for the other sessions” a pourer mentioned while filling my glass to the rim.

farts

Go to the final session if you like: A college beerfest atmosphere. All-you-can-drink Hefeweizen, pale ale, BMC, browns…speaking of browns, the gas being unleashed at every angle can be geeked out on. “Why, I think that gentleman had a brussels sprout and chorizo burrito for lunch!” “No no no you silly fool! It smells like a goat that ate Chicken McNuggets out of an overnight diaper!”, “Ahhh, yes yes, you are correct sir.” Go to session four if you like to watch old people nap. Go if you like to avoid brewers. Go if you like to hear a constant 300 person choir of glass dropping Ohhhhhhhhhhh’s. Did I mention the uncontrollable gas and loose pours?

Overall, the Great American Beer Festival is the best in the world. You really can’t go wrong with any session, just make sure and target the session that is best for you. Be sure to upgrade your internet connection prior to ticket sale day and work on your glass holding skills. Didn’t get tickets? I still highly recommend visiting Denver during GABF week. With overlapping events all over town from brunch to close, you really can’t go wrong. See you at 2014! If you see Old Rasputin, say hi!

Visit greatamericanbeerfestival.com for more info.

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Love Buzzed up the Central Coast With Firestone Walker

Untitled-30If you have a vintage Firestone Walker Anniversary barrel-aged beer, take a look at the number, then think back to when it was zero. Back? Okay. I’m currently swinging my legs off the back of a truck in wine county; happy like a kid licking an ice cream cone. Destination? Firestone Walker’s original brewhouse. The warm springtime sun projects long-lashed shadows from the vines across the dusty dirt road behind us. A nearby field of llamas watches us pass, perhaps doing their best “Paris Hilton on a red carpet” look. “Como se llama!” I yell as they continue to stare blankly. “Those are Alpacas,” says John Verive.

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Andrew Murray Vineyards, previously Firestone Walker’s brewhouse.

10296261_10203874627050886_7166790387008297076_o“Just when you feel like you’re about to get murdered, turn left” quips my seat mate, gingerly. The best part about keeping company with fellow writers is the constant unfiltered witty banter. She snaps a shot of Union Jack IPA using the moving greenery as a backdrop. As we squeak to a stop, our driver honks twice next to a white two-story building.  We’re engulfed by lush rows of grapes, a scarecrow staring off into the distance and a couple feral black cats licking themselves nonchalantly in the dirt. “That must be feral one and feral two,” I say chuckling to myself, poking fun at a recent beer release from Barrelworks.

Untitled-3“This is where it all began” says Jeffers, one of Firestone Walker’s original brewers and director at Barrelworks. “This is our original brewhouse.” There is something romantic and movie-like about brewing beer in the middle of such rich viticulture. Being here, breathing the air and sipping freshly bottled beer has me hypnotized. Andrew Murray, the current tenant, greets us with a glass of his soft and minerally white wine that seemingly cuts through six hours of bingy bus-drinking…all in one sip.Subsequent sips revive my palate and make me hungry for more.

“The beer we made here was terrible for years” confides co-owner David Walker. “There were quality issues as we had trouble sustaining a boil for any amount of time,” he continued. Inside, the brewhouse is now filled with dimpled wine fermentation vessels, an industrial sink and an upstairs office. It’s functional, industrial, open air, and clean.

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Back at the ranch, our tents are pitched and the tri-tip is sizzling on an open flame. Corks fly and Belgian bottles meet tipped logo’d Teku stemware. “Meet Bretta Rosé, a blend of fresh raspberries with our Barrelworks Bretta Weiss beer.” Expecting Framboise, this is more like squishing a bag of ripe raspberries in your mouth and washing it down with a refreshing wild beer.

Our location is somewhat of a fugue…although I know we’re deep in wine country passed Buellton, they picked the name “Area 51”, heightening the mystique. I attempt to check into a beer on Untappd and see Michael Jackson’s ‘Neverland Ranch’ as a location option. “I hope I don’t get molested in my tent tonight” I mumble and sip. “Does this beer give me Kool-Aid lips?” I ask my table with a dorky side-smirk.

Untitled-4Over dinner, an experimental beer is poured that breaks all classification. It shows up table-side with a thick two-fingered meringue head. The best description is that it’s somewhat of a beer/wine hybrid that drinks like neither. “Sour Jim” Crooks attempts to explain the pilot beer, and ends up breaking down FW’s past, present and future. The correlation between our location and what we’re drinking sums it up beautifully: Barrelworks is more than just a playground for bacteria and wild yeasts. It’s a return to the fields for Firestone Walker.

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The nearby fire pit lit from a gasoline can off of David Walker’s Land Rover calls us over with a bon-fire roar. Bellies are full. Bottles are shared from back home. Various items are smoked. Not knowing our secret itinerary, I give the old “Irish goodbye” back to my tent just past midnight. I hear a howl, not knowing if it’s one of us or a coyote…I twirl a fresh earplug in my ear just as the konk hits.

Page 2 /3/4

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This is part one of three from a recent beer-junket up to visit Firestone Walker Brewing Co. with the @LABeerBloggers group. Bus/Food and some beer was provided courtesy FW.

Photos from my LOMO LC-A camera, Expired Fuji 400 Sensia film cross-processed.

Leveling the Playing Field // A Look Back at the San Diego Beer Week Guild Fests

I’m not sure why, but the first things I do after checking in a hotel:

  1. Open the Window
  2. Check the drawer for a bible
  3. Hose off
  4. Wait for my wife to get ready in the hotel bar

First off, my window view from the 11th floor of the Sheraton:

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Then, the Sheraton bar beer menu:

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deliciousJust when I thought the view couldn’t get any better, I did the Patrick Stewart triple-take on the bar menu. Expecting the standard macros (which are there), I’m happy to get the pre-game started with my first taste of a Stone Brewing Liberty Station brewed beer. Stone’s Delicious IPA is exactly what it sounds like: a busty hop delivery system. The sunset across the bay puts me at ease, only to be shaken by my wife’s hand landing on my shoulder. “Shall we get a cab?” she says as I toss back the lower third of this fresh, hoppy beer. “Heels? At a beer fest?” I think to myself, knowing full well if I say anything it will mean at least twenty more minutes before we leave. IMG_2529

Here for both San Diego Brewer’s Guild festivals and general San Diego debauchery, my only real expectation is to sample beer from fifty or so SD breweries next to the water in a really cool looking building. Instead of traversing the entire county, a proper Cliff’s Notes version should do the trick. The Friday night session is the “VIP brewer takeover” session (a term that confuses the hell out of me…are the brewers VIP’s? Do I physically get to take over a brewer?) and a bigger general admission beerfest on Saturday afternoon. Both festivals are held on the Broadway Pier which is generally purposed for cruise ship boarding.

Friday Night Brewer Take Over Session // Dia De Los Muertos Hígado

PBCupPorterInside only, breweries are ez-upped and situated alphabetically. Although odd, it does make my day fairly navigable. Skipping the initial clusterfuck near A-F, I land at Green Flash and nab a Lil’ Freak, a pleasant wild yeast beer with crisp, fluffy carbonation and notes of tropical fruit. The whole reason my wife is here is to drink Karl Strauss’ Peanut Butter Cup Porter, a beer she texted me about weeks prior to this event. We both agree this should be a regular offering from ol’ Karl.

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As this event includes food in the price, we opt to scarf next and are somewhat underwhelmed. Of the ~20 or so eateries, 75% brought sliders, 20% trays of various pasta and 5% interesting food. For out-of-towners like us, this is a missed opportunity for craft beer friendly eateries to give a reason to come back and check them out. The one stand-out for me is Stone Catering’s crispy fried risotto followed by their tropical cream cake. The problem is, we eat there regularly and discovered nothing new. Nonetheless, we eat like we are stuck on a deserted island out of necessity, knowing full well an empty stomach and the worlds best beer = chumming off the end of the pier, projectile style.

IMG_2540Beer-wise, imagine for a quick second that I’ve never been to San Diego and have never heard of any of these breweries. My overall impression walking out at the end of the night is San Diego is a “Barrel Aged Beer” city. By 8 o’clock, my tongue feels like my belt. The problem is, if you started at A and worked your way down, you started with Alesmith’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Speedway Stout and the beer only degraded from that point on. Many came close, including Ballast Point’s Rum Barrel Victory at Sea and Stone’s 2010 Double Bastard aged in bourbon barrels. Others were good, but failed to match the balance an intensity of the big guys. Perhaps blending vs. cuvee is the issue? Maybe good base beers don’t fare well in bourbon? I hate to sound like a complainer, it’s just that I expect big things if I intend to defend San Diego as a beer mecca. Thus far, I’m confused why carbonation issues are a thing at a SD beer festival. I would be embarrassed to serve undercarbed beer as a homebrewer to friends, much less a VIP session kicking of SDBW.

Of the non-barrel aged goodies, Iron Fist’s Roots of Wrath and On the Tracks Real Ginger Beer blows me away. With loads of palate fatigue and a four ounce pour, I’d be lying if I tried to break them down for you. Put them in your beer spank bank and order them at once if on tap. But were there hops? Not much. A few breweries have double and triple IPA’s. St. Archer wins me over with balance and freshness. I’m shocked there is no fresh/wet hop beers being 11/1. San Diego, you’ve failed me.

Saturday Afternoon Brewer’s Guild Fest // the brewer’s gave it back for the non-VIP’s (or something)

Compare/contrast from Friday night: Same great location plus more breweries inside and out, plastic tasting glasses instead of glass, sunshine, food vendors, easier to move about, less carbonation issues, bands, not as much barrel aged goodies, more hops.

Saturday’s session is where it’s at. A bright and cheery festival with a great mix of food, friends and mix of San Diego’s best beer at a gorgeous location. Next year, I plan on skipping the Friday session and hitting a few more events around town. Until then, I’ll keep wandering around the huge county in search of the best beer.

(Friday/Saturday glassware below and random pics)

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Freshly shorn Greg Koch, me in the middle and my Beercamp brother (#94) Sean Laidlaw (brewer at Mission)

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My sleeve of craftbeer temporary tattoos

 

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Saturday session setup with the USS Midway.

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no dumping – drains to ocean

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Thanks San Diego! I’ll see you soon.

Autumn at the Brewhouse – New Belgium Beercation Station

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New Belgium uses freaky-deaky Dutch name tags.

P1060501The only company I have on this tour bus is a young couple a few rows back and a cooler packed solid with canned craft beer to my right.  “How long is the trip?” I ask Dave, the eco-bus driver while mentally solving complex bladder-math. With no crapper on board, I’m good for roughly 2.5 BPH without rupturing various body parts. “About an hour and a half” he yells into the rear-view. I side-smirk and crack a can of Sunshine Wheat with one hand and adjust my roadboner situation with the other. I’m not sure if the chub is pure excitement for where we’re headed or this relentless ‘pothole highway’ devastated by Colorado floods weeks ago. My beer froths and bubbles from the good vibrations. Eco-Bus = Sybian.

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credit – new belgium

Speaking of random erections, I feel like a kid on the first day of school…although the school in this case is New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, CO. Crushing my second beer, I inhale the crisp-moist air and belch out hop infused steam. Nearby rooftops and fall foliage are still dripping rain from a fresh shower that stopped minutes before our arrival. Above the brewhouse, smoke stacks gush beery scents that meet the low lying black clouds. Such a beautiful scene.

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Here for a VIP event, this is basically a chance for small touristy brewers and media here for GABF to get a proper look at America’s third largest craft brewery. Having been to #1 and #2 in the past year, I’m more than intrigued to see New Belgium’s operation. Walking around, I huff the air even deeper; I can’t recall the last time I took in a fresh lungload of fresh air. I could get used to this!

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I love lauter tun. photo – nagel

P1060502New Belgium’s brewery is what I imagine the Lego factory to look like when I was a kid. It’s woodsy and shapely like a Frank Lloyd Wright house and is surrounded by lush flowers and trees. Light pours through movie-screen sized windows into the brewhouse. Fat-Tired bicycles literally litter the landscape, both inside and out.

P1060514For this event and tour, there’s a white tent in the front parking lot with a few food trucks, a great selection of free beer and festive folk and bluegrass music. I get a full pour of New Belgium’s Kriek, a ruby colored beer with cherry pie notes chased with subtle hints of vinegar. Jeff, our tour guide, is a relaxed version of Jeff Bridges; “Welcome to the tour” he says with a smile almost meeting his lengthy sideburns.

Arse over tit, we start the tour with the infamous spiral slide. Normally the last stop on the tour, we opt to start with it because we’re nutty.  My playground instincts kick in and I run to be first.  On a rainy day, it’s somewhat of a carpet-burn endeavor, but I’m still happy to be birthed down its curly plume. Every employer should have a slide and copious amount of beer on hand.

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Expansion. photo – nagel

Every brewhouse tells a unique story and New Belgium is no different. The most common theme is that of expansion. New Belgium is segmented into two main brewhouses. Brewhouse one (BH1), the original brewery, reached capacity and was doubled by adding BH2 in 2002. The 200 barrel brewhouse is cooking around the clock by a small team of plaid-wearing brewers of various beard lengths.

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Tap-it Brewing took the tour with me. Lovely people! photo – nagel

The other story is environment. The employee-owned company voted to pay a higher premium for wind-power in 2008 and hasn’t looked back. Wind, along with solar and reclaimed gasses make up most of the power needed for all operations at the fifty acre property in Fort Collins, CO. The culture seems infectious as many employees commute to work via bicycles.

P1060517The beer samples offered on the tour thus far take the brewhouse story a step further: proof. Their full line up of beautiful and interesting Lips of Faith Series beers, solid ‘pays the bills’ beers, interesting throwback ‘Folly’ beers and hopped up ‘Hop Kitchen” beers. At every stop on the tour, glasses are kept fresh with whatever strikes your interest.

P1060551Midway through the tour among a foeder farm, we sample the un-soured base beer of La Folie next to the two year old sour version. Not only has the flavor and aroma changed considerably, the color went from Michael Jackson ‘Off the Wall’ skin tone to Michael Jackson ‘Bad’ skin tone.  I never thought aging beer would affect the color so much! This is fascinating stuff…and tasty too. La Folie hits the nose like a freshly opened bag of sweet tarts; notes of cherry, green apple and hint of oak. The flavor forces a smile and an eye-roll for good measure. Goosebumps? Yep.Pretty much. Beautiful beer.

P1060570Along the tour, I’m happy to see New Belgium doesn’t stop the fun with the spiral slide. Among the foeder farm? A rock climbing wall. In the bustling bottling/canning line? Shuffle board. Outdoors? Sand volleyball court. What a great culture of beer and fun. The tour is concluded with pulling a fresh Shift off the canning line. Nothing is more fun than that! ~Cheers

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bottles whiz by. photo – nagel

Great American Beer Festival – OC Preview

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 8.58.37 PMSad as it is, a few of my favorite breweries won’t be at GABF this year. My hometown homies at Noble Ale Works, south county’s Cismontane Brewing Co. as well as Societe Brewing Co. down in SD didn’t make the registration cut. Their world-class beers won’t be touching the lips of craft beer desperados like a county fair kissing booth. While ‘merkans are stumbling around GABF’s halls and barfing on John Elway’s tassel loafers, Societe, Cismontane and Noble will be back at home, plotting their next attack while getting stronger than ever. I’ll miss ya boos.

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Don and Dave Larsen (Cismontane/Good Beer Co), Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Co mix it up with Patrick Rue in the Bruery’s 2012 GABF Booth. Photo – Nagel

Of those lucky enough to make the big dance, I asked each a few questions for 2013:

  1. How many GABF’s is this for your brewery?SAISON_RUE_v01
  2. What are you bringing?
  3. What categories did you enter?
  4. Doing any events or excited about attending any?

“This is the Bruery’s fifth GABF, fourth will a full force of beer.” says their director of marketing Ben Weiss. Tart of Darkness, Saison Tonnellerie, Oude Tart with Cherries, Sour in the Rye with Peaches, and Chocolate Rain will be poured throughout the fest.

Bruery events! Go here, see the Bruery. Taste their beer. 

Valiant-Brewing

This is Valiant’s first GABF!
“We’re bringing Mounds of Grounds, Pathos, Fields Ablaze, Axiom, Stentorian and First Flight. We entered a few categories:
8- Coffee beer, 13b-Imperial Porter, 69-French & Belgian Saison, 43b-Belgian Style Dark Strong, 84a-Barleywine
newport-beach-brewing-companyThis is Newport Beach Brewing Co‘s tenth GABF, but brewer Derek Bougie’s fifth.
Pouring and submitted Newport Beach Blonde (44 Golden or Blonde Ale), Newport Coast Steam (37B American Style Amber Lager), Bisbee’s ESB (58B Extra Special Bitter), Funky Monkey (24A wood barrel aged sour beer – 3 bottles per session) and JDs Reserve #2 (23 Wood barrel aged strong stout). Derek says, “I don’t have any events planned but that doesn’t mean I wont get around. I will be driving over with the New BrewThursday guys so I know we will get around to some breweries. Which ones I don’t know yet. Most likely ones we haven’t been to yet. Im hoping to bring some hardware home for the OC.”
Bootlegger’s-BreweryThis is Bootleggers Brewery’s sixth GABF.
“We’re pouring Pumpkin Ale, Black Phoenix Stout, Dr. Tongue, Far Out IPA and Old World Hefe” says Patricia. They entered seven categories:Bootlegger Pumpkin Ale- Category 05B; Pumpkin Beer; Black Phoenix Stout- Category 08 Coffee Beer; Dr. Tongue- Category 13A Other Strong Beer; Far Out IPA- Category 52 American-Style India Pale Ale; Old World Hefeweizen- Category 66 South German-Style Hefeweizen; Lupulin Thrill IPA- Category 52 American-Style India Pale Ale; English ESB- Category 58A Extra Special BitterBootlegger’s crew along with Tustin Brewing crew will be boarding our own beer bus and touring Colorado Breweries all day Friday.  Stops includes New Belgium, Odell’s, Funkwerks, Left Hand Brewing and more!
Left-Coast-Brewing-CompanyLeft Coast Brewing Co – 9 years.
Oggis Pizza & Brewing Co – 13 years. They’re bringing:
Left Coast- Hop Juice, Trestles IPA, Tommy Session Pale Ale, Una Mas Amber Lager, Barrel Age Voo Doo.
Oggis – Double Up IIPA, Black Magic Stout, McGarveys Scottish, Paradise Pale Ale,  California Gold.
“We have really high hopes for winning medals for both companies. We are excited about releasing our Barrel Age Voo Doo on draft. We have only released it in bottles in our tasting room.”, Tommy Hadjis, General Manager.
Tustin-Brewing-Co
Jerrod from Tustin Brewing Co. says, “We are pouring Golden Spike Blonde Ale, Blimp hangar porter, and Old Town IPA…two of which are GABF medal winners in the past. I entered ten categories. Not sure how many Gabf’s this us for Tustin.” Look out for the Bootleggers/Tustin Brewing Co. party bus!
Stay Tuned as I stalk Victor Novak around Denver! 
Taps-Fish-House-Brewery
Special thanks to Brew Beer Blog for letting me quickly grab his brewery logos. #i’m lazy

 

Beer and Loathing in Paso Robles | Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival

P1050620This post originally appeared on the website  West Coaster, a new Southern California beer magazine.

We were somewhere around the edge of wine country in Paso Robles when the craft beer began to take hold(1). Baked and dripping with sweat, I dump the remnants of my tasting plate on the ground and use it as a makeshift fan. The air is thick, hot and pointless, laying on us like a sleeping bag you can’t escape. Black bugs have somehow managed to attach themselves to odd parts of my body and pinch every so often. “Holy Jesus! what are these goddamn bugs?”(2) One clings to my armpit as I smack it and smack it again, making it bite harder. “SHIT! Shitfucker!” I yell as spectators laugh wildly. I duck in the bathroom and dunk my head under the bathroom sink, then sling on my hat to grab a beer…the only cold thing in this dusty, arid place called Paso Robles.

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Two seconds after this picture was taken, purple girl trust-fell into they guy behind her.

Flash backward a few hours as this ‘Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival starts and I’m in ‘kid on Halloween’ mode. Media check in and pre-fest starts early and I’m not taking any chances. It’s peaceful. Nearby cows moo. It’s time to drink.
P1050609Standing near Russian River Brewing I hear brewer/owner Vinnie Cilurzo say the words “five-day old Pliny and two-year old Temptation.” These words fish-hook multiple members of the press. We walk like we’re in a Broadway musical, jazz hands fluttering. A pretentious voice behind me mutters, “I’ve had two-day old Pliny once” while clearing his throat nervously. Five day old must taste like piss to this this guy. I toss it back, note the fresh Simcoe, Amarillo, Centennial and CTZ hops and move on quickly for a glass rinse and something dark before it gets too hot. The forecast is dialed in at 104 degrees.
agostino from birrificio italiano and terrance sullivan of SN
At this festival, beers like Pliny the Elder are ‘just beers’. Not to discount the highly baited Double IPA from Santa Rosa, but there’s some serious beverages to be consumed today. Brandy Barrel Aged Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout from Cigar City (won the People’s Choice award), Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Lord Three Floyds Brewing and other barrel-aged treats that elude the west coast. Lambics, framboise and collaborations are being unleashed from MikkellerThe Lost Abbey and Firestone Walker.  Orange County’s sole contingent, The Bruery, is leaking several rarities on the crowd every hour. Tyler King, The Bruery’s senior director of brewing operations  quotes, “It’s an honor no matter where we’re from, we love so many of these breweries and to pour beer next to them is pretty amazing.”
P1050650As much as the public loves this festival, brewers also gush at the prospect of getting an invite.  Tony Yanow of Golden Road/Tony’s Darts Away quips, “We are a very young brewery and to present our beer along side our heroes is an honor.” Meg Gill, also of Golden Road reminisces, “I cried in a department head meeting about it today…I have the fondest memories of pouring beer with Tony the last hour and fans gushing over our Berlinerweiss. It was the first festival I brought my parents to..their first beer fest ever.”
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Fascinated with the thought of sampling fresh beer from Europe, my associate Daniel Fernandez and I make a trip to the fest’s ‘little Germany’. “I had no idea Germans were so tall” says Daniel with his sub-sombrero sized hat. The guys at Mahr’s Brau Bamburg put David Hasselhoff to shame, and the girl at BraufactuM is at least three inches taller than me in flats. Birrificio Italiano sent Tipo Pils, a beer that inspired Firestone Walker’s brewmaster Matt Brynaldson to brew Pivo Pils which should be arriving in the southland soon.
P1050662Of the many, many beers sampled, three are standouts:
  1. Mikkeller’s Spotancherry Lambic gives me repeatable goosebumps. Juicy tart cherries burst in my mouth with the tiniest sip.Tastes like fresh tart cherry pie.
  2. Lagunitas is shocked to hear my love for Sonoma County Sour Stout. “It’s pretty shocking considering we aimed to break every rule when making it…a stout on a hot day that goes down easy? Shocking!” says the biker-looking guy pouring. Layered flavors and aromas hit me, then hit me in waves with each sip. Tart roastyness, oak, tart fruit, some pleasant funk. The sign aimed to debunk it’s tastiness, only made me want it more.
  3. The Lost Abbey’s Framboise de Amorosa is also among my standouts. Very bright and clean raspberry tart without any metallic notes. Finishes dry with tons of flavor. Shocker, I know.
P1050624Food at the festival is dotted potluck-style amongst breweries. 25 local restaurants brought small-plate tastes to serve throughout the day. I really enjoyed the Bloody Mary Granita from Luna Red and Ancho Duck & Cheese Quesadilla from McPhee’s Grill. Near the end, most food was gone.
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The Music from Hot Buttered Rum fit the mood of the festival – hyperactive progressive bluegrass is something I could very well be a fan of without  knowing it. The White Buffalo also performed later in the day but I was blissfully altered by craft beer at that point in time (see top paragraph).
P1050623The Gripes – None! If you go to one festival a year in California, this is it. It’s like a GABF greatest hits mixtape in a small venue with really good food and music. This is the gold standard of beer festivals! Despite the hot temps, there was no problem finding shade, misters, water or an NFL sideline cooler.
Title,(1),(2) – quotes inspired by “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, copyright 1971 by Hunter S. Thompson
Bonus – I found out who signed this girl’s breasts…none other than Agostino from Birrificio Italiano.
P1050693Birrificio-Italiano_smal

Brewers Gone WILD! Firestone Walker Barrelworks

credit Beer of Tomorrow

It’s no Pea Soup Andersons! (credit Beer of Tomorrow)

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11:35 A.M – Buellton, CA Two and half hours up the coast from Orange County, the bus door snaps open like a UFO in a corn field. I jump out, apply a fresh coat of lip-balm, and crack my bones like I’m in a home run derby. A seagull flies over my head, lands atop a nearby flagpole flapping a British flag, craps, and flies away.

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I’m outside Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks, which I understand pours my style of drink: wild, sour and funky beers. After sitting on the road for a couple hours, I could easily drink a beer out of a hobo’s shoe! Stepping inside the warehouse, I’m sucked into a booming craft beer vortex. Nipples slowly erect with the temp, retinas dilate to the dark…I slide my fingers across a barrel and knock on it for good luck. “There’s creatures living in there” I whisper to myself like the creepy little lady in Poltergeist. The lights kick on, revealing an aging beer mothership of deliciousness. I feel like we’re here for a beer séance. Lets join hands!

Audio: Jim Crooks explains some history and philosophy behind Barrelworks

 

Inside, QC manager/Master Blender Jim Crooks (aka Sour Jim) gives the rundown on Barrelworks. Teamed up with OG brewer Jeff Richardson (originator of the Firestone Walker barrel union) started this “padded room for brewers” to create wild beers away from the production brewery. Micro-organisms like Lactobacillus, Pediococcus and wild yeast can wreak havoc in a brewhouse like an infected cruise ship, hence the need to “infect” these beers well away from home base. At the production brewery, bugs “can be the end all, the be all…We test for these bugs every single day, if any show up anything, be it in the DBA union, the entire union will get cancelled…get thrown out” says Jim. In a controlled environment such as Barrelworks, brewers can go nuts.

Starting with only 28 barrels last year, Brewmaster Matt Brynaldson secured 400+ two-year old Opus One barrels (pictured above with colored stripe) to use at Barrelworks. Using base beers brewed at the production brewery in Paso Robles, fermented beer is racked into barrels and transported to Barrelworks for inoculation and/or aging.

As of early 2013, the barrels are being used for:

  • Aggrestic Ale = DBA + Brettanomyces in secondary + Lactobacillus. Takes on a Belgian style Flanders quality.
  • Sour Opal = Lil’ Opal + Bugs
  • Reginald Brett = Double DBA, Aged in Bourbon + re-racked and inoculated with Brett.
  • Brettaweisse = Hefeweizen + Brett (Described in this post)
  • Raw Barrel aging with no bugs/brett is also done to see the character a raw barrel will impose on a base beer.
  • Collaboration with Mikkeller – Brewed saison, hit with bugs and locally sourced wine grapes. Will be available at the Firestone Walker Invitational beer festival in June.

Blending Session!

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After a beautiful Taphouse lunch, Jim puts my sour beer protégé Simon Ford and I to work blending a batch of Sour Opal.  With samples from three barrels, paperwork and a Ph meter, we get to work making notes of each and what works best. With souring, beers don’t really start to get interesting until the Ph gets less than 3.8, but we opt to use our palates instead of a meter. In the end, our zippy blend makes our palates do the Harlem Shake. “I think I’ve got a winner here” I say to David Walker. He samples it silently and slides the glass back on the table without saying a word. Ah well, we enjoyed it. Must be a British thing.

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Stealing Bugs - Credit Simon Ford

Stealing Bugs – Credit Simon Ford

Using my best guilt tactics, I ask Sour Jim if I can take some bugs home to further my own sour beer program. “Is there any way you can pay it forward like Vinnie Cilurzo did for you?” “(laughing) We used to steal bugs on coasters, let me get you some baggies” says Jim. Simon and I are giddy at the thought of dumping bugs from this roller coaster day into our homebrews.

P1050307The fun doesn’t stop there, as the unimaginable happens: Jim sneaks Simon and I deep into the barrelhouse for an impromptu tasting. Pulling a nail out of a few special barrels, Jim shows us the nuances of a few favorites. The same base beers with the exact amount of inoculent in similar barrels can have vastly different character. Each barrel is its own microclimate, its own universe. I have goosebumps. What a day!

P1050336Barrelworks in Buellton is not only a place for the brewers to go wild, it’s a place where the craft beer curious can learn more about barrel aged beers. It’s a beer geek’s classroom! Barrelworks has a full Taproom restaurant, gift shop, brewery fresh and cellared beer store, funky tasting room and a climate controlled barrel warehouse. Self guided tours are available. With a beautiful 2.5 hour coastal drive up, this is the perfect weekend getaway!