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.

P1080576

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.

P1080601

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.

0107f3262ed3968709db11d781a7a51df8491aaddc

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.

 

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

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

rancho2

The Historic Santa Margarita Ranch Barn – courtesy their website

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

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

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

Credit - CA Brewmasters Book

Credit Nick Gingold – California Brewmasters Book

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

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

IMG_9182

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

 

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

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

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

———————

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

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

The Little Things | Firkfest 15 Recap/Braindump

firkfest15

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!

 

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

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

0148f300c59358d3e50abf0f563a47f229140e7971

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

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

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

017c541e964bfc3e5e31f36ec1b744b25a4e5db41a

Sitting in the blind spot.

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

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

01b36cba1b7bfc54c64dd5dcf7a1d21b716674fa99

My faves: Torrance’s Smog City and Monkish

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

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

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

The Geeks Flock to Shelton Brothers ‘The Festival’

P1080756

super normal photobomb by average beer drinker

Out of all the beer fests I’ve attended throughout my life, I thought I’d seen it all. I’ve witnessed  a bj in the bushes at a fest in Irvine, mouth pours of rare beer in Paso Robles and even watched a guy projectile barf on his girlfriend while sharing a moment on a kid’s teeter-totter in Indianapolis…seriously. At The Festival hosted by the Shelton Brothers in Los Angeles, I’m seeing something I hope to see more of: an extraordinarily normal crowd of festival goers among the best line up of beer, really…ever.

P1080764

Nicole Dreier, in rare form, does the booty bump in the blinding light.

At The Festival, there are no pretzel necklaces, dirndl-hos or Where’s Waldos. The only German fashion to be seen are lederhosen worn by a guy pouring funky beers from Cologne, Germany. The closest thing to a ‘Where’s Waldo’ is the lovely Nicole Dreier from Mission Viejo, complete with a stand-out red-striped dress and tan ankle boots. This a different set of fest goers amongst a wild set of beers.

“It’s not about the beers that you will drink, it’s about all the beers that you won’t drink at this festival,” says Jay Price of Orange County. “I feel bad about leaving without trying them all…I may come back tomorrow!” he added.

I’m giddy with my first beer of the day: 3 Fonteinen’s (pronounced dree font-an-in) Oude Gueuze (pronounced yum) sipped next to their blender Armand De Belder of Brussels. The fact that Armand is here at all is somewhat of a phenomenon. In 2002, a warehouse full of his aging beer shattered when a thermostat broke. “It was what I call ze catastroff,” Armand says in his Flemmish accent.

P1080738

Westy on ice. Isn’t it nice?

Back with a new brewery with bi-level coolships, Armand is able to create two different beers from each brewday by boiling the second batch longer before allowing to cool. “With a longer boil, I can get a more concentrated sugar for a higher alcohol lambic,” he adds. The gueuze he brought to the Festival today is 100% his creation, adding that he used to blend different lambics from the region with the old smaller brewery set up.

A few steps away from Armand is a short line for a private tasting of a beer brewed in 2004 from Brasserie Cantillon with blender Jean van Roy. I’m shocked to hear that there’s “a freshness” with a thirty-year old gueuze (see vid below). After trying the ten year version, I’m in agreement. It’s shocking that a 5% ABV beer can be this light, bright, bubbly and full of flavor.

P1080760

Barrleworks SLO-Lambic

P1080761

No mas lambic

At this point I’m a fat kid lost in an ice cream factory. Beer from Italy, Switzerland, Holland and Germany call for my attention. Even the local breweries manage to pull me in for a sample. Firestone Walker blew the lid off their table by accidentally bringing a keg of unreleased SLOambic that is due to be “liberated” on 11/15. In true festival fashion, word gets out quick and the funky plastic bladder keg is dusted. Beachwood BBQ & Brewing’s Sadie even crossed my tongue, despite self-hypnosis to not drink any Bourbon Barrel anything. It’s also great to see two Orange County breweries amongst the abundance of whales. The Bruery and Bottle Logic pouring unreleased or hoarder only beer gave a reason to visit other than to cuddle/crotch grab like other festivals.

The Festival’s location is another highlight. Situated near San Pedro’s docks at CRAFTED, some 25,000 square feet of tasting room space is bright and airy. Although hot at times, the geek sweat wasn’t too awkward.

The Gripes, there were gripes.

  • Lack of food. At 2pm, there were two food trucks with 50+ people per line and a pizza vendor that “ran out of dough”. “Can you throw toppings in my mouth?” one hangry person yelled. That person was me.
  • One water station. Look, I realize there’s a drought, but some brewers were embarrassed pouring their light beer on top of whatever beer is still lingering in your glass. Were we supposed to get a pour, sip it, run to the water thing, then run back to the next table? After tasting the water, I skipped it altogether…it tasted like it was dry hopped with sun-dried plastic shards. Clean water should be available for glass rinsing/drinking at every other table.
  • I managed to pay for parking whereas others didn’t. “Take this ticket to somewhere and spend $5 at the CRAFTED thing then give this ticket to some random drink table to get reimbursed,” I was told. I’m usually game for a fun side-quest at a festival, but I felt this was unnecessary and I felt ripped off of $5.
  • I heard major complaints on how slow the line was to get in. I’ve seen more check in booths at smaller scale beer festivals.
  • Raffle style drink tickets. I had the sudden urge to play skee ball with Taylor Hanson! I seriously haven’t seen raffle tickets at a beer fest since I was a child. Isn’t the new standard wrist bands with tickets attached? Lanyard with hole punches? Retinal scan with a database in the cloud?

Aside from the gripes, I still give this festival an A. It’s all about the beer, the brewers and a great crowd. I hope they work out the kinks to make it an A+ next year.

Note, I attended the first session.

P1080752 P1080751 P1080748

 

 

The Best Brewjob Ever (with Nøgne Ø) | Shelton Brothers ‘The Festival’ This Weekend

Fullscreen capture 1142014 12358 PM.bmp

(credit Shelton Brothers Website)

I’m not an ordinary beer drinker. While the vast majority of you reading this are mopping up the latest DIPA with your Gene Simmonsesque tongues, I’m dressed in black, creeping around the bushes in search of the new, old and different. See, the Shelton Brothers are beer importers. They travel, taste, buy and sell beer. Once a year, they have a Festival like no other. While the suckers will be in the Westy line, I’ll be slurping on a Freigeist Geisterzug Gose with Rhubarb. I may even try to drink a beer from every country, just to exclaim, “I’M THE KING OF DRINKING” before hopping into my Uber.

This year, The Festival is in Los Angeles and I pounced on tickets faster than laser kitty high on catnip.

The complete list of beer/cider/mead is here. Although I thought silly beer names were mainly a US thing, I can’t wait to try a Kentucky Sausage Party or perhaps a Marky Ramone’s Natural Brown (with Marky Ramone of course). I hope Allagash’s Nancy will give the Best Brewjob Ever while listening to Punkrauch. “Fuck art, this is architecture!” I’ll scream after much Liquid Confidence. Hopefully the Bruery doesn’t give us all Blue Balls with their latest creation.You get the jist, now get the tickets.

x

 

Blog Hard – BBC14 Wrap up

P1080495

This dump bucket contains Kosmic Mother Funk.

Blogging about blogging is probably the dumbest snazziest thing I’ve ever done. Why would I attend a conference devoted to blogging about beer? Because you read this stuff, that’s why. Get up and grab a towel because a healthy dose of amaze-juice is about to be doused all over your computer/phone screen (ewww).

<cracks knuckles> Going back to 2011 when I started this dumb awesome website, I wrote silly stuff about beer with no fucks given. When I saw there was an actual conference for like-minded people, I registered and went. My mind was blown. After BBC12, I networked, set goals and promised myself to still write with no fucks given (for this site at least). I also travelled to Boston for BBC13. Since that conference a year ago, here’s some crazy shit I did that was pretty awesome:

I don’t think I would have done any of that had it not been for the Beer Blogger’s Conference. By going, it helped me understand that anything is possible. So here I am, typing on my couch with my cat curled up next to me in the wee hours of the night, thinking back on BBC14, with some fucks given. Here’s a brief look at some photos and fun stuff we did. It really was a blast and can’t wait for next year in Asheville, NC. Highlights:

Stop 1: Golden Road previewed here. 

Stop 2: Taking the freight elevator to Angel City Brewery’s roof, only to be greeted by hop vines and a spectacular LA Sunset. My beercamp 94 brew-bro Keith McEly manages the tasting room there, which is rad. Their IPA, Angelino was fun on cask (dubbed Dirty Angelino) as was their Avocado beer, which tasted like a pils with a slick mouthfeel.

P1080435

Stop 3: Bruery Terreux. Lets just say I got a mouthpour from a Sour in the Rye barrel; squirted in my mouth like a cat on a farm while the cow is getting milked. It tasted like Pinocchio’s pee; slightly woody and acidic, yet still somehow delicious. The Bruery is classy as fuck, putting out a table of all the cheeses and charcuteries with all the super rare beers. I went nuts on the Oude Tart w/ Cherries, stopping mid-sip to order my maximum allocation via the Reserve Society.

P1080452

P1080454

*sound of barrel peeing*

Stop 3 and 4: Smog City and Monkish Brewing in Torrance. Arriving at 11 PM or so, someone quipped, “Smog City is like the Motel 6 of breweries, they’ll leave the light on.” Indeed. One car in the parking lot and the lights on inside, 45 bloggers were treated to Smog City’s Coffee Porter and other delicious treats. From there we walked a few minutes to Monkish Brewing and was treated to even more awesomness. If you haven’t been to these breweries, make plans to go this weekend. Both are doing some really great beer.

P1080465

Late night Trousdale chinrest action.

P1080460

Laurie Porter and Chris Walowski talk about Smog City’s history at 11PM.

P1080466

I watched Henry Nguyen of Monkish Brewing crawl in here and go to sleep. It was after midnight, after all.

Friday morning, the actual conference started with a keynote from Julia Herz of the Brewers Association. The first panel of “San Diego Craft Brewers” couldn’t have been better! From left to right is Tomme Arthur, Chuck Silva and Peter Zien, arguably three of the worlds top brewers and pioneers for craft beer.

P1080473

For dinner, we went to Karl Strauss‘ original brewery for street tacos and super fresh Tower 10, Red Trolley and Wreck Alley Stout. Every time I rediscover a Karl beer I’m more and more impressed. I think Karl Strauss is one of California’s most underrated breweries.

P1080477

P1080481

Co Founder of Karl: Chris Cramer explains in detail the difficulty of opening SD’s 1st brewery.

Day two: Breakout Sessions. Shit got real when people read this quote from Modern Times’ Jacob McKean. Being in a room of pros, nobody’s feather’s got ruffled. It was an informative panel and happy to hear this blog doing things the right way: legit as fuck.

P1080486

We ate at Yard House for lunch and got a slathering of various food bites. I had to beg some guy to get a half yard of Firestone Walker Easy Jack with all of my drink tickets. Most out of towners picked The Bruery’s Oude Tart instead of the hundred taps of San Diego beer which was awesome. Their house beers were a thing as well, the Belgo Tripel being my favorite of the bunch.

beer bloggers conference bus tour through san diego

credit Cambria Griffith @thebruery

We picked up Ken Grossman along the way. He gave the keynote speech; highlighting their summer Beer Camp tour and new brewery in NC. I could listen to him speak all day. He was cool enough to sign my Beyond the Pale book and my last bottle of beercamp 94. I want to try and get all the brewers to sign it at some point.P1080490

Beer Speed Dating is a thing at the Beer Bloggers Conference. Brewers have five minutes per table to sell their wares. Highlights were Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru from Samuel Adams and Deliverance from the Lost Abbey. Rogue brought a Pepto Bismol Braggot, which aided everyone’s hangovers .

P1080492

I sat at the blonde table.

P1080494

I pictured Jim Koch dancing to funk while sipping this, which made me smile.

Meanwhile, at Stone Brewing World Gardens & Bistro – Liberty Station: More small bites and super delicious beer was served. I chatted with Head Brewer Mitch Steele while inhaling fried olives, ribs and various flatbreads. Not only did the BBC get treated to a special roped off area, we also had dibs on guest taps. I drank a Black Wit. I had a Board Meeting from Port Brewing. I had fresh Ruination. I also got a private tour of the “hot-chicks room” above the dining area. Wooden abbey-doors open up to this view:

P1080503

Kip Barnes, Brandon Hernandez, Jemma Wilson, me and mister Zephyr Adventures himself!

Various bottles in the ‘hot chicks room’.

P1080502

Photo roll!

OCBeerBlog Tips for Surviving the OC Brew Ha Ha (Just the tip)

Bootleggers Brewery

Beer poured passionately from Bootleggers at a beer festival somewhere.

After attending hundreds of beer festivals all around the country, I can safely say I have some good tips on how to survive a craft beer festival. Now, these are not your average “wear comfy shoes” type of suggestions. This is some serious punk rock boy scout shit right here. Pay attention, folks.

wahlStep one: Manscape (or get your Wax on). You’re at a festival with buzzed people who like beer. The odds of you having something in common with the opposite/preferred sex is HUGE. Don’t just get the digits, seal the deal with an after plan and make some craft beer babies. Hook it up, people. It’s a fact that beer tastes better with a properly trimmed situation and a mound just ain’t cool. Don’t forget your nose, ears, eyebrows and pits as well. (If you need some work: My haircut guy, my lady’s wax lady).

New-Logo-Vertical-DarkStep two: (Pre-fest) Drive to a closeby restaurant and Uber/Cab it to the festival from there. Around the Brew Ha Ha, I’d suggest Tustin Marketplace on Jamboree/Irvine Blvd. We all know drinking and driving is horrible, but doing so on Santiago Canyon Road is even worse. There’s only one way in and one way out. After the fest, cab/uber it back to your ride and catch a movie, grab a burger or snooze in your car. Bonus points if you hit Totes Wine for some continued debauch with your Step 1 friend. Extra bonus points if you leave yourself a pack of gum and a water in your car!

8layerveggieburritoStep three: and this is a OCBeerBlog exclusive: Eat a Del Taco 8-Layer Veggie burrito before any beer festival. No fries, no extra taco…just the burrito. This fest has some whalez this year. If you get in the VIP session and have to eat first, I bet you’ll miss all the delicious Cascade beers. The Veggie Works burrito has just enough beans, rice and deliciousness to provide you with a layer of nutrition that will last until the cheap-ass non VIP hoard comes in. Once they get in, grab some actual festival food.

Anne Hathaway getting hydrated

Anne Hathaway getting hydrated

Step four: Do the ALS Ice bucket challenge down your throat (hydrate like a bowse). See your festival glass? Isn’t it cute? How many ounces is it? A few? Yay. Every hour, find a water source and drink at least twenty ounces. “You mean I have to fill the tiny fucker up seven times?” Yes, mister math wizard.

Step five: Bring a portable phone charger. There is nothing worse than a drunk slut with a dead phone. Between Untappd check-ins, snapchat (manscaped) dick picks, Instagrams, texts, sexts, facebooks, Tinders, Vines, Tweets, LinkedIn’s, TasteMade’s, Swarms or whatever battery sucking app it is you use, your shit will be dead as fuck after a beer fest. I bought a charger thing for twelve bucks that fully charges my dead iPhone in 30 minutes! $12!!! Damn suckas. Get two, one for you and one for your slutty step 1 friend.

Also: Sunscreen, condoms, cash, comfy shoes, sunglasses, dirndl, pretzel necklace, etc.

I hope this helps. See you at the Fifth OC Brew Ha Ha! Use our Four Brewers Show Discount code that knocks $10 off VIP before it sells out. 

 

Blog Hard Part 1 | Beer Bloggers Conference 2014 – Precon at Golden Road

IMG_6880Glendale, 1:02 PM in the home of Randy Clemens (blog sponsor —->)

A dripping wet Randy “Sir RachaClemens is probably the best way to kick off the 2014’s Beer Blogger’s Conference. “Here, try one of these and shoot the other”, he says handing me a small plastic foil-topped cup reading “K+ probiotic drink” and a glass of (fully legal) B-Vitamin dietary supplement. “Do I get a colonic too? You fucking LA dudes are hippies,” I reply, swinging my Pabst-glasses to the top of my head and swallowing it all down in one nervous gulp.

“I find it ironic we’re doing shots of health food made with lactobacillus and a fermentation process similar to beer.” I say, burping loudly. “Can I get you a beer Mr. Nagel?” “Nah, I’m waiting to see if these shots explode my butt.”

P1080379

first beer of BBC14: 329 Lager and a Carry On Taster

The conference pre-excursion that kicks off at Golden Road is a short walk from Casa de Clemens, but my baggage has ‘UBER’ written all over it. Just on the other side of the train tracks, we arrive at a packed ‘Pub at Golden Road’; many people dining al fresco under the blue summer sky. Beer happens quickly as two cold 329 Lagers arrive frothy, yet head-scraped. I admire its clarity, take two whiffs and get my mustache frothed. This beer is effortless to drink, lightly floral with a wisp of grass and LA sunshine.

photo (5)

credit Anne Marie who texted me this pic from LAX

I order the messiest BBQ Chicken sandwich ever and a new beer called Carry On – Citrus Ale; a beer made and sold for Airport terminals. The bitterness seems surprisingly arrogant and the orange flavor brings me back to my childhood when I actually enjoyed Flintstone Vitamins. “Is this infused with Airborne®? That would actually be quite handy pre-flight,” I mutter while using every napkin on the table to clean my sauce-covered digits. I seriously look like I bathed in a vat of BBQ sauce. Thankfully LA has no bears.

P1080381

@brewdad and I are admired by the bartenders at Golden Road

After lunch, I identify the first blogger speed-walking up the ramp to the pub. A busload of beer bloggers is possibly the easiest thing in the world to observe in their natural habitat. Their plumage includes cargo shorts, brewery shirts, glowing smiles and cameras held up past their heads as they snap photos of whatever. Someone should compile all of the bloggers shots and make a David Hockney-style photo mosaic. I greet a few familiar faces and join the gang on the side patio near the defunct Aunt Sally court; taken down thanks to subsequent baby seal clubbings, or perhaps bad parenting.

P1080384P1080389Co-owner/President of Golden Road Meg Gill steps out to greet the gang with her curly blonde hair pulled back, snappy black dress and flats. “Welcome to Los Angeles! We’re really excited to have you guys come from all over the county to be here!” she says as I sip beer three: Berliner Weisse with raspberry syrup. After the speech, I chat with Meg and compliment her dress. “Thanks, it’s easy,” she says, blinking her deep grey-blue eyes grinning a surfer-girl smile. “We’ve got a new beer on the canning line right now I’m excited for you to try, it’s our new seasonal India Pale Lager called Might As Well IPL,” she says smiling bigger, batting lashes a few more times. I opt for the first tour while the other half works through a tasting flight of the core beers, 329 Lager, Hef, Get Up Offa That Brown and Point the Way IPA.

P1080394The tour starts off in Chloe’s, a clean yet divey-type speakeasy in back of the pub. “Is this where Boogie Nights was filmed?” I ask. “This is the pub, behind the pub, behind the pub,” someone replies in their best Vince Vaughn voice. Laurel Brooks, coolest chick ever (and Marketing Coordinator), smiles and takes the group through the history of how Meg met Tony Yanow, owner of several LA beer bars including Tony’s Darts Away; a pub serving only California-brewed craft beer and many vegan delights.

P1080396Golden Road has three brightly colored buildings; yellow, red and blue. Yellow is where you eat, drink and pee, red is for the office-types and cold storage, blue is where the sausage is made. I spy several interesting things in the cold box, one of which nobody can comment on, even though it’s been printed in the LA Times.

P1080397The brewery has changed vastly since my last visit only five months ago. The first thing I notice is the pilot brewhouse sitting deconstructed outside between buildings. “If anyone knows someone looking for a 15 bbl brewhouse, let us know!” says Laurel. Outside we’re greeted by brewer Tim Harbage, recent recipient of the Matt Courtright Memorial Brewing Scholarship. Pink laces flopping about on his brew-boots, Tim escorts us in past a 200 bbl fermenter named Phil as the smell of beer being brewed fills the nearly Yuma-hot air on the brewdeck.

P1080401

P1080407The new canning line is the pièce de résistance. Before: one can at a time was filled, sealed and hand-packaged. Now: a modern canning line zooms through a pallet of cans in minutes. As production is up from 15,000 to an expected 30,000 barrels this year, it’s only a matter of time until this new system will need a friend.

P1080398Taking a can of the new IPL off the line had me singing the theme to Laverne & Shirley, and the ultra bright hoppyness of the beer had me sniffing the can-hole like a weirdo. With all the beers we are about to embark on throughout the day, one more surely won’t hurt. “Should I drink the whole thing?” Might as well, motherfucker…Might as well.

Thanks for the hospitality, hugs and awesome beer, Golden Road. See you soon.

————

This post is part of Greg Nagel’s Beer Blogger Conference coverage. Check back for more posts! #bbc14