Shopping List: Fourth of July Weekend

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This is you trying to figure out what beers to buy this weekend

I don’t condone drinking to excess, but there’s something distinctly American about celebrating our independence from the British with a few combustibles and of course great American beer. Long lighter in one hand, tulip glass in the other, I like to chant “USA, USA” while watching safe & sane fountains spew fart-smelling smoke and sparks in the air. Before the shelves run empty, what beers should you pick up for the big weekend? Here’s my 2014 shopping list:

photo1. Stone Unapologetic IPA – When it comes to whipping British ass, don’t be sorry! Celebrate your freedom unapologetically with this brand new collab beer from Stone Brewing. I think we can all agree Mitch Steele, Julian Shrago and Jamil Zainasheff know how to make a hoppy beer, so I’m not going to waste your time describing this experimentally hopped DIPA. You were going to get it anyway, right? Right.

Ketland12) Growler of Noble Ale Works Pistol Whip’d Pils – In the revolutionary war, I’m sure some jaggy British teeth were knocked out by way of flintlock pistol. With misfires a problematic drawback of the weapon, it’s heavy barrel was probably used for more pistol whipping than anything. Noble’s Pils is a dry, hoppy and sessionable lager.

3babygotback) The Bruery Loakal Red – I literally just figured out the spelling with the word OAK in Loakal. Man I’m slow! I always thought Patrick Rue was a bad speller. I’ve had this beer hundreds of times over the years and I just got it! Wow! I also knew part of this beer sat on oak. Only distributed in Orange County, what better way to celebrate stomping red coats than with an oaked red ale? The color will remind you of the blood of those lost on the battlefields some 200+ years ago.

4) TAPS Cream Ale – When brewmaster Victor Novak first started brewing in Philly 20+ years ago, he cut his teeth on this light and bright beer The small amount of English fuggles in the beer are somewhat tea-like and will remind you of the Boston Tea Party that led to the American Revolution. A bit of a stretch? Maybe. Suggested food pairing: freedom fries and hot dogs. Bonus points if you pick up your growler during happy hour and eat all kinds of great stuff on the cheap. TAPS happy hour = my favorite in OC.

Can't believe Stephen Hawking photobombed a perfectly good beer pic

Can’t believe Stephen Hawking photobombed a perfectly good beer pic (credit Jessica McNew)

5) Bottle Logic She Shot First – Sure, Stephen Hawking is British, but you’d never know that without hearing him speak. As long as Bottle Logic is his favourite brewery, I’ll give him a pass. “She Shot”, as they say at the brewery, is a pale wheat ale with prominent bitterness and some nice fruity hop aroma.

Have fun and happy beer shopping!

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!

 

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.

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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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Scenes from the Sucreverse | The Bruery’s Sixth Anniversary Celebration

Seeing Patrick Rue upon entrance to their Sucreversary, I reach in my pocket to give him a piece of candy. Being warm and a little melted, I kept it there. I shook his hand firmly and asked, “six, is it?” “Yep.” he replied, “have fun”.

You see, as traditional anniversary gifts go, candy is what one would traditionally give on year six. I recall giving my bride of six years bonbons in a heart-shaped box (or was it a Baby Ruth bar in a brown bag?). The Bruery is nicer than I…they brewed an Anniversary beer called Sucré (Sugar) and chose to celebrate with some 3000-4000 of their closest friends at the Phoenix Club in Anaheim. I skip away whistling into the Festhalle tent like a kid headed out on halloween night.

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New to this year’s celebration is a healthy list of guest breweries, which upon entrance has lines fifty deep at a few breweries. I do what most people do: grab a line-beer from Societé and stand in line for The Rare Barrel. Twice. Just like halloween, I went to each table grabbing a little bit of ‘candy’.

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Standouts for the day: Noble Ale Works/Tustin Brewing Co. All Night Long: A session black IPA that I could drink with Lionel Richie all day long. Sadly, (and sarcastically) there’s no Tout Mais Le Coller to be found. Can they get collab do-overs? That beer gave me a rash.

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Henry Nguyen of Monkish Brewing bugs Evan Price for some Naughty Sauce.

Staying with the candy theme, Bottle Logic clearly got the memo with their watermelon jolly rancher randall and Nerds-soaked Berliner. “It’s like sucking on a nerd” says my friend/uber beer geek Anchaya. Great to see the such a long line and big smiles from the pourers. Also, Kyles beard.

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Brandon Buckner, Brewmaster Wes and Head Brewer Kyle Manns of Bottle Logic deliver a baby.

I’ve never been big on The Bruery’s anniversary beers until Sucré hits my lips. There’s more of a dark fruity component that draws me in instead of the usual toffee on wood thing from years past. Perhaps the oxidation from solera is ringing in the new fruity/cakeness?  As my last big beer of the day, I toast this sucreversary and savor, then moved on to the Hottenroth’s, Gosebusters and Golden Road Berliners available at my fingertips.

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BeerPaperLA on the left, Noble Ale Works Brad Kominek and wife Bridget with Aubrey Price. Thanks for smiling Bridget! Grumps!

Noteworthy are the abundance of cask beers: The Bruery brought six that look like a menu at 31 Flavors (Cookie Monster, Snickerdoodle Sour, Raspberry Coconut Macaroon etc). Many guest breweries had a few as well: Bottle Logic, Smog City, Monkish and a few others are spiled, tapped and pouring nicely. Monkish’s cask smells like a strawberry jelly donut.

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Cambria Griffith of the Bruery is enthralled with Austin of Hangar 24’s mad sunscreen skills.

FOOD: Blog favorite Beachwood BBQ brought some tasty BBQ action. The catered version is on par with the restaurant’s smokey, juicy meats. The pink potato salad and coleslaw does the job nicely, and the pretzel bun sopps up anything still clinging to the foam plate. I could have gone for seconds. Or thirds. The line was 30 minutes to get food.

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Michael Rue is in timeout for throwing dirt and not taking turns.

Overall: I’m sure some complained about lines, but I found them to be a good buffer with all the big beers and unlimited pours. Also, with basically 4.5 hours to drink, if you were smart you could have sampled all the rarer stuff. There were plenty of spots with no lines. Music would have been nice! The Phoenix club is adjacent to a horse stable and occasional wafts of warm horse shit/urine enhanced the smells of some of the bretty beers…these complaints are all micenuts. I thought this was one of the better run beer festivals I’ve been to, although you have to be or know someone in the Reserve Society to go. Really nice crowd, good glassware and a nice day. Cheers to The Bruery!

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The coolest spot at the fest was the back of this truck.

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Michael Rue and Jay Goodwin of the Rare Barrel

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His name is Jonas on the left and we all know Cambria behind the lens.

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Upon receiving his Naughty Sauce, Henry Nguyen gave thanks.

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Henry Nguyen of Monkish, Aaron Carroll of BeerPaperLA and my beer geek bud Anchaya.

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Writers opinions were discussed at this table, I hope this piece is filled with them, Evan.

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Walowski from Smog City and Jerrod from Tustin Brewing Co. #BFF

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Beer friends with OC Beer Blog facebook page contributor Chuck U. Farley!

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“Hey, Brocofly!” Dir. of Marketing and 2nd employee at the Bruery, Benjamin Weiss

 

Here are the full details:
The Boys and Girls Club!! of Santa Ana , in coordination with The Bruery, are proud to present this our 6th Anniversary celebration – Sucréversary! 

This event, which is exclusive to The Bruery’s Reserve and Hoarders Society members and their guests, will be one of the largest events of the year. Attendees will have the opportunity to taste a myriad of beer offerings from The Bruery as well as other favorite SoCal craft brewers, all while helping a great organization.// THE DETAILS \\
Date: May 10th
Time: 12-5pm
Venue: The Phoenix Club in Anaheim
Benefitting: The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana
Price: $60 (no discount)
Ticket Limits: Reserve Society – 2 Tickets // Hoarders Society – 4// THE BEER LIST \\ …with more to come
Cask #1 – Cookie Monster
Cask #2 – Six Forty Seven PM
Cask #3 – Snickerdoodle Sour
Cask #4 – Raspberry Coconut Macaroon
Cask #5 – Watermelon Sour
Cask #6 – Pure Oreo Black Tuesday
Sour in the Rye w/ Beach Plum
Bourbon Mrs. Stoutfire
Rum Mrs Stoutfire
Sour in the Rye w/ Nectarines
Griffon Bruxellois
Oui Oui
Premiere
Batch #50
Confession
Sucré Tawny Port
Grey Monday
Hottenroth// THE BREWERY LIST \\
Almanac Beer Co: Ichibier Batch #2, Farmer’s Reserve Blackberry Sour
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits: Sculpin, Sea Monster
Beachwood BBQ & Brewing: Tovarish, Laurel
Bootlegger’s Brewery
Bottle Logic Brewing
Cismontane Brewing
Eagle Rock Brewery: Dairy Tank, Populist
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.: Lil Opal, Wookey Jack
Golden Road Brewing: 329 Lager, Hudson Imperial Porter
Hangar 24 Craft Brewery: Chocolate Porter, Orange Wheat
Pugachev’s Cobra with cocoa nibs & toasted Coconut
Kern River Brewing Company
King Harbor Brewing Company: The Quest: El Dorado
Port Brewing / The Lost abbey
Modern Times Beer: Fortunate Islands, Funky Lomaland
Monkish Brewing Co.
Noblealeworks
Pizza Port San Clemente
Smog City Brewing
Societe Brewing Company: The Pupil, The Harlot
Saint Archer Brewing Company
Stone Brewing Co.: Saison, Enjoy By 5.16.2014
TAPS Fish House & Brewery: Mocha Stout, Nuestra Señora, Blanche de Conundrum
The Rare Barrel: Fields Forever, Egregious, Consigliere
Tustin Brewing Company: Jacksons Double IPA
Valiant Brewing: Stout-a-mel, Jolly Kratos

Pub Night at the Clay Oven

Duck Samosas

Duck Samosas/Uinta Hop Nosh IPA

I can’t say that I’ve ever seen an IPA at any Indian restaurant until tonight. The name aside, a nice fresh India Pale Ale works wonders with the cuisine; opening one’s palate, complimenting the creamy spiced food, and accentuating the heat. Vice versa, the food elevates the style by drawing some tropical-piney notes from the hops and some of the sweetness of the malt.

Behind the creaking door at Irvine’s Clay Oven Indian Cuisine, beer is winning. One of my predictions of 2014 was that local craft beer would soon start appearing in high end restaurants to compliment their line up of chef driven menus. Tonight? IPA’s, Belgian, German and local beers are being poured next to a custom menu.

Allagash's Hallie Beaune gets involved with a beer

Beer Chick and Allagash’s Hallie Beaune gets involved with a beer description

The Clay Oven is hosting ‘Pub Night’, which consists of small plate Bombay-style street food paired with five beer distributor reps pouring their best. I snap a few shots and dig into my first bite: duck samosas (above) topped with a fruity/earthy tamarind mole. Uinta’s Hop Nosh IPA gets the nod to wash down the mellow cumin flecked bite, stoking the tamarind sauce’s sweetness.

Chef Geeta Bansal

Chef Geeta Bansal

For over 25 years, Chef Geeta, Husband Praveen (and son Tarun) have been running around the matchbox-sized restaurant with warm smiles, keeping guests happy. I get the sense they love what they do and it shows through with not only the longevity of the eatery, but in the high quality of the food.

Being familiar with the beer offerings, I’m more excited to adventure into the heart of Tandoori cooking. Some menu items unfamiliar, yet approachable. Ordering the ‘Airbags’ dish, for example…I can’t say I’ve ever seen one much less eaten it. “Try it with the sour beer and pour it inside before you bite” says Chef Geeta. I feel like a kid again, scooping in the spiced veggie puree into a pinkie-punched hole, then pouring in some Petrus Aged Red into the thin crispy sack of deliciousness. “I can see why it’s called an airbag” I say as the flavors punch me in the face, saving me from certain hunger death.

Filling the Airbag with sour beer

Filling the Airbag with sour beer

Other wild dishes like Tandoor roasted bone marrow have us drooling for more. Intense garlic and fatty marrow melts like butter. Beers like Piraat Pale Ale and Allagash Tripel do their best to clean up the rich bite and have me licking the bone clean.I can’t say I’ve ever eaten goat, but it ended being my favorite of the night. Chucky bites sitting on a yogurt salad topped puffy pita? So perfectly foreign yet familiar, tasting somewhat like a beefy lamb, moderately spiced and delicious.

My heart and cheeks warm from the afterglow of the Clay Oven, I can’t help but dream about coming back. The Clay Oven is near Irvine Valley College on Jeffrey/Irvine Center Drive.

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Duck Samosas – Tandoor-roasted Mary’s Organic Duck Breast in cumin-flecked pastry, dash of tamarind mole

Bread Pakoras – Famous Indian Snack, minced lamb sandwich, chickpea-batter fried

Lamb-Stuffed Naan – Spicy lamb baked into a fresh naan bread

Airbags – pastry cups veggie stuff paired with sour beer

Mediterranean Naan – Feta cheese baked into a fresh naan bread

Tandoor-Roasted Bone Marrow with breat and accoutrements

Eggplant Pakoras – Ma-Zu eggplant fritters, batter-fried, pomegranate emulsion

Braised Goat Bites – Puffy pita topped with slow-braised goat and yogurt salad

Hopscotch Hosts Valiant Anniversary Beer Dinner

Valiant Brewing Co. Brews Custom Beers For Anniversary Beer Dinner at Hopscotch Tavern in Fullerton.

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Deep within Orange County’s vast culinary jungle, Hopscotch Tavern’s Executive Chef Cody Storts is war painted clutching a spear, a fish net and a double barrel shotgun. Spotting a flock of ducks overhead, he takes a shot in the sky Nintendo Duck Hunt style. “This will be perfect a perfect starter for our seven course Valiant Brewing beer dinner” he laughs like Rambo, wiping his brow across Swedish Chef tattoo’d bicep.

The Unexpected:

hopscotch_course1When the first dish of any multi-course dinner includes duck liver contraband paired with a 12% Belgian style Barleywine, it’s basically culinary punk rock. “Search and Destroy!!” I think crunching into a bite of the forbidden PB&J. Peppito butter? Strawberry jam? Foie Gras? It slam dances across my teeth and does the pogo down to the pit of my belly. Paired with Valiant’s “1” Anniversary Ale, my face melts down to Hopscotch’s outdoor patio boards, then reconstitutes as the sun sets over the nearby Fullerton train station. I’m not exaggerating. This actually happened.

Okay, that’s it! Review is over! Wait, what? Six more courses to go?

cheers2I can’t say I’ve ever had a Lager Barleywine, but it’s a thing here tonight with course two. The homebrewer in me squints, eyebrow raised at this potent bohemian concept coming from Valiant Brewing in Orange. “Who the hell would start a beer dinner with two Barleywines back to back?” I mutter to myself. As I’ve come to understand, the beers paired for tonight’s dinner are small batch brewed just for this event (aside from the bottle which each guest will take home). Normally, beer dinners are an ‘arranged marriage’ type of deal. Tonight’s dinner is more like ‘The Bachelor’ with both sides vying for my rose. Who will get sent home? Who will get jacuzzi sex?

chefstortsExecutive Chef Storts took over the reigns at Hopscotch less than a year ago, ushering out “slow food” and bringing in bold, adventurous gastropub cuisine.  Out with big racks of slathered ribs, in with a sous-vide, layered approach to freshness and presentation. Backing up his kitchen is a 120+ militia of whiskeys, cocktails, wine and 24 handles local craft beer (plus bottles to-go as well). Hopscotch is a gem as it staffs a Certified Beer Cicerone as well as a Sommelier. If you have any questions on beer, wine or cocktails, this band of culinary commandos has street cred as well as a the paperwork to back it up.

The Good

hopscotch_course3Moving to course three’s crispy pork belly dish plated with “pecan candy” and ultra crispy fried tripe, I feel like we crossed the border from San Diego to TJ. The tripe is like a salty honeycomb chicharrón with a super dense loufa-like crunch. Dipped in a herb demi glace and topped with a piece of pork? It’s a loaded bite that fires on all sides of the tongue, popping its pork candy nuttiness across my taste buds. The Bruce (Valiant’s Scotch Ale) doesn’t mess around either; coming in like ‘The Wolf” in Pulp Fiction; cleaning up the richness on my palate like a murder scene. “It’s some serious gourmet shit!” – Jules Winnfield.

hopscotch_course4Expecting the next course to be a tadpole tureen topped with actual deep fried Kermit the Frog, we are served the next best thing: Elk medallions with bourbon soaked bing cherries. The dish cuts deep with a rich velvety game. Who knew Elk had so much game? Valiant’s Lacto Cherry Stout is the last beer I thought they would bring to the table. Tart and roasty with funk on the nose, tasting somewhat like a sour Schwarzbier. It does a nice job drawing out a smokey component while complimenting the cherries in the dish. Who needs Kermit when a dish like this shows us the rainbow connection (for lovers and dreamers like me)?. Although the lacto-tart-roasty beer is an interesting contrast to the plate, it didn’t really stand up to the richness and depth of flavors in the elk. I’d like to think Pathos, Valiant’s Imperial Chocolate Porter, would have been the obvious pairing. Regardless, still fun to sample a one-off beer with so much character.

The Bad

Fair warning: This paragraph is a bit ‘yelpish’, but needs to be said. When the beer for course six came out and I didn’t get course five’s food, I quickly realize that I’ve been skipped. My table mates plates empty and my server laughing hysterically in conversation with a guest nearby, I suck it up. Despite smoke signals, drowning hand gestures and ESP sent his way, it’s clear I’m out on this round. Should I get up and walk to the kitchen? Should I sulk and write this paragraph?

Tired of hearing my friends say, “Greg, I went to Hopscotch because I read your last beer dinner review, but we’ve had better service at Dick’s Last Resort.” or “Greg, Hop’s bartender told me I lacked intelligence because I wanted a cocktail from last season’s cocktail menu” or “Greg, we walked in, waited for twenty minutes and walked out because nobody talked to us after we were seated” or even “Self, the waiter didn’t serve yourself a course in a hundred dollar beer dinner.” If you do eat there and have a bad experience, pull up this paragraph up on your phone and show it to the manager and say, “THIS.” The back of the house is only as good as the front, and stuff like this makes me sad.

The Best: Winner Winner Lengua Dinner!

IMG_3937Quickly forgiven and forgotten, (thanks chef for plating me a course five) irony plays a role with my plate-licking skills on course six. The kitchen must have called an audible on the menu-listed Braciola and went with a Lengua/Rabbit demi glace dish with brown butter gnocchi and broccoli rabe. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so entranced in a plate of food before. I consumed it with force, scraping every last microbe of the savory dish down. This dish can convert anyone with a cow-tongue phobia…seriously. Not caring for the cherry wheat beer (really sweet), much needed water (and a shot of Four Roses Bourbon) revives my senses.

OH MAI, Dessert!

hopscotch_dessertI dislike 99% of all dessert. My beer tooth is just that much bigger than my sweet tooth…with one exception: Anything that pastry chef Mai Phan creates. She has a way of balancing sweetness with tart and gooey with crunchy without going over the top. Her Strawberry Pavlova is all that. Tropical fruits topped with a green tea custard and a lemon crumble foam disk…simply marvelous. If you’re not in a drinking mood, Hopscotch is a great spot to go for just desserts.

Overall

Pretty much eating ‘all the animals’ and drinking ‘all the beers’ is a lot to take in for one mouth over the course of an evening. This epic beer dinner adventure at Hopscotch isn’t for the meek. $20 Uber cards provided for each guest, it’s easy to tell this is a professionally run event for professional eaters and drinkers. Worth a hundred bucks? Absolutely. The beer? Really cool concept to brew custom beers for the evening, but jacuzzi sex easily goes to the food. If you can still find the “1” Anniversary Ale from Valliant, I highly recommend picking it up. After a month, it’s aged into a delicious barleywine with big raspberry notes; it’s decadent!

I’ll see you at the next one!

First

  • Valiant’s First Anniversary, Belgian Barleywine — 8 ounce pour
  • Forbidden PB&J, strawberry guava jam, pepita butter, brioche, and complementary foie gras.

Second

  • Lager Barleywine, 8 ounce pour
  • Mussels, crispy pancetta, roasted pepper citrus coulis

Third

  • “The Bruce” Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, 5 ounce pour
  • Crispy pork belly, fried tripe, herb demi glace, blood orange frisee

Fourth

  • Lacto Cherry Stout, 8 ounce pour
  • Elk medallion, black garlic demi glace, bing cherry gastrique, bourbon soaked bing cherries

Fifth

  • Session IPA 5 ounce pour
  • Duck rillette, Dijon chips, blood orange apples, really really small cilantro

Sixth

  • Wheat Cherry Ale, 5 ounce pour
  • Medium Rare Braciola, san marzano tomato sauce, crispy asiago chip, micro basil

Seventh 

  • Guava Cream Ale, 6 ounce pour
  • Strawberry Pavlova, green tea custard, lemon crumble

 

Firkfest 2014 Press Roundup + What’s in the Pipe

What the press is saying about Firkfest 2014

credit Erika Bolden - LA Weekly

credit Erika Bolden – LA Weekly

What’s in the pipe, Nagel? 

After I catch up on my insane backlog of stuff to write about, I’ll write about Firkfest. In the next week, look for: A Victor Novak piece on BeerPaperLA, a Hopscotch/Valiant Beer dinner and a super fun night at a Beer vs. Wine event at the Surf & Sand, Laguna Beach w/ Dr. Bill Sysak.

PROST.

Noble is Nubile at Age Three

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Noble Brewer and master beer namer Brad Kominek getting proper respect

Noble Ale Works has two eras. Pre-Evonian and Evonian. In the “pre” phase, hearing people mispronounce the brewery was common. “Hey man, have you been to that No-bell beer place by the stadiums?”. “Indeed, I’ve been to noball ale works, friend.” At the Drink.Eat.Play OC Beer festival, they were listed as “Noble Brews” for crying out loud! What does a new brewery have to do to get some respect?

Since their 2nd anniversary, you could say that they’re now a ‘No Bull’ brewery; making some of the best and most unique beer in SoCal. From winning the mayors trophy for being awesome at the OC Fest of Ales and being featured on the TV show Beer Geeks, here’s a look at some of the highlights Noble Ale Works had over the last year:

naughty_sauce_credit-Aubrey-Dunham-Price

Naught Sauce credit – Aubrey Price

Naughty Sauce – a blonde coffee milk stout served on nitro made its appearance April-ish 2013. A beer best described as “The F Word in a glass”, instantly won my heart and became the West Coaster Socal’s 1st article. Since then, I’ve been to three Naughty Sauce release parties, had Don Pachi Sauce at the Playground, Naughty Sauce waffle cones, and even enjoyed smooching the roasty foam off my wife’s lips. Yum! You have no idea how tempted I am to install a nitro tap in my house for this beer.

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Nobles Milk Stout brings all the boys to the yard. (Noble’s Matt and Jenny)

Tongue Tickles Double IPAA few days before the Los Angeles IPA Fest, Noble dropped another bomb on the beer world. When beer-tender Jenny slid a glass of Tongue Tickles over the bar, I knew it was something special. Making awkward eye-contact with her while sniffing the beer, I’m pretty sure the song ‘Dream Weaver‘ played in my head. I quickly snapped back to reality after my first sip. “This is like whoa”, I quivered, taken aback by the intense juicy hopload still tickling my tongue. I blushed as she trotted off to clean glasses.

I heard people say, “Pliny killer”, “Knuckle killer” and even “Enjoy By who?”, insuring nobody would ever mutter the word “Nobility” again. I did my own blind taste test for a blog post, then two days later got a text from friend and LAIPA Fest judge Randy Clemens, stating the impact of the Tickles. “Your boy Evan is on cloud nine!”, coming in first place over some serious notable breweries is no small feat, especially for a beer that came out of nowhere.

Credit ImperialRussian on Untappd

Credit ImperialRussian on Untappd

It Burns – With Noble’s pepper beers such as Pistola (peppery pils) and Too Darn Hot (peppery IPA) a regular occurrence in the tasting room, it was only a matter of time until someone made a beer that was undrinkably hot. It Burns was born from a “friendly” pepper beer war with the Bruery just up the 57. This beer could could easily be crowned “the hottest thing in Anaheim, ever”. One sip had me gagging on hiccups while drooling over the bathroom sink. Even blending the beer was excruciating. My pee smelled like peppers for at least two days.

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solid 4’s on Untappd call for trade bait.

Single Hop Shower Series – Imagine a hopcone on a stage. Warrant ‘Cherry Pie‘ blasting, you toss your dollar bill out and the green, spiky flower lifts its skirt and exposes its lupulin glands and motorboats them on your nose. “Oh yeah girl!” You yell while taking a photo of her powdery yellow innards glistening inside. You rub your hands together, and just like that, the sticky resin is everywhere. That’s kind of what this beer is.

I’ve done a couple single hop series beers from other breweries without drawing any conclusions other than, “this beer is old”. Single hop beers need to be consumed in a timely manner and Noble’s respect in the biz allow them to get 30bbl’s of the juice out quickly to the local crowd. I can hardly wait for future Amarillo, Simcoe and whatever else their hop contract allows.

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Great to hang out with blog fans! Thanks again Noble!

Bonus: Nagel’s Number 2 – What else can I say about letting me collaborate on a beer for this blog’s 2nd anniversary? 7th Dip with hand toasted coconut and some bitter orange peel on nitro? YES. This was my absolute favorite Noble Ale Works beer ever. I get goose bumps thinking about it.

Noble’s Third Anniversary Party is Saturday Feb 8th 2014. For $40, you can sample some odd 34 beers they have on tap, cask and such. Food trucks, bands, raffles and fun! I will see you there! Raise a glass to Jerry, Evan, Brad, Matt, Jenny and the rest of their awesome, nice, knowledgable and good looking staff. Great job guys! (Flyer says 25 but was upped to 34). Portion of the proceeds go to benefit Inspire Artistic Minds! Click the link above for details.

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Good Beer Hunting While Shopping for the Holidays

This holiday season, instead of hitting the local caffeine dispensary for a frustrating day of speed-shopping, take it easy. Relax, enjoy the day. Sing to the annoying music. People watch. While you’re out at the local shopping mall, take a break in your day and grab a beer and bite at some of these great spots.

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1) Main Place Mall – Santa Ana. Chances are you’re here because either A) You like the Abercrombie & Crotch smell or B) a you enjoy a crooked owner that (allegedly) undervalues malls to pay less taxes (I personally think he’s dead on with Main Place). When you’re rumbly in the tumbly, head up Main street a block or so for a DIPA and appetizer that can cut through the festive mall stench and provide a bit of your own.

  • Eatery: Hollingshead’s Deli.
  • Dish: Pickled eggs!
  • Beer: Russian River Pliny the Elder. Usually on tap due to their long-time relationship with Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, the IBU’s are just high enough to dull your olfactory senses to survive the rest of your day. Bonus, buy some really great beer for gifts!
credit: facebook like page

credit: facebook like page

2) South Coast Plaza Oh you fancy huh? As this mall brings in more money than the state of Maine, don’t be surprised if you see kids in strollers talking to other kids in strollers via Bluetooth headsets. With no proper food court and the removal of Del Taco, I’d recommend crossing the bridge for necessary food and drink. Although this destination does have beer, this is one place where the brewed and bubbly takes a back seat. After mixologist James Wood won a Golden Foodie award, he immediately took over the bar master duties at Scotts.

  • Eatery: Scott’s Restaurant & Bar
  • Dish: Peruvian Ceviche
  • Drink: Blossom – any drink containing Templeton Rye is a friend of mine! Hell, even the bitters are whiskey barrel aged. I noted hints of cinnamon and honey with a great refreshing crisp mouthfeel. Alternately, a cocktail called Hops has Anchor Distillery Hophead Vodka if you’re so inclined for a nicely balanced libation.
  • Crystal Court/Metropointe?: Karl Strauss all the way for some Four Scowling Owls paired with Holiday Gravlax. Boom.
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Taco Asylum’s pretty tacos. credit: facebook (probably Anne Watson)

3) The Lab Anti Mall/The Camp When people watching makes you wonder why a certain breed of men like to dress like lesbian lumberjacks, it may be a time for a beverage and a bite. I recommend two here based on what side of the Bristol street you’re on:

  • The Camp Eatery: Taco Asylum: Ghost Chili Pork Taco as eating it makes you look super uncomfortable and pissed. Grab a can or two of 21st Amendment Bitter American: because hey, this isn’t distributed down here and also, you’re fucking bitter as hell. Scowl and enjoy.
  • The Lab Eatery: Seabirds Kitchen: Beer Battered Avocado Tacos because they’re insanely good, crisp and creamy all in the same bite. Beer? Go with a can of Uinta Brewing’s WYLD. It’s perfectly crisp and fizzy enough to wash your palate clean. Plus, it’s vegan and organic if you swing that way.
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photo – nagel, beer – nagel

4) Fascist Island – With outdoor temps in the mild 70’s near the beach, outdoor malls are a nice way to spend the day with oddly dressed rich people walking ugly dogs. Fortunately, Whole Paycheck opened with an actual pub with good food and craft beer taps. If that’s not enough, you’re welcome to bring anything in the store into the pub and consume it on premise!

  • Eatery: Back Bay Tavern
  • Dish: Stone IPA Battered Fish & Chips
  • Beer: Whatever the hell you want. With a dozen taps and one of the better selections of craft beer in a cooler, this is worth coming to this mall on its own.
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Credit Yelp User Jonathan Z.

5) Irvine Spectrum – You’re probably thinking “Yard House” right? Sadly, that’s where you’re wrong. With all the holiday debauchery, I like to treat my temple to a vegetable or two for some nice fiber and bonus vitamins.

  • Eatery: Tender Greens
  • Dish: Backyard Steak Salad with horseradish vinaigrette
  • Beer: Cismontane Dead Santa, because hey, drink to Santa’s health.

s-ipa-bttle226) The Block (or whatever it’s called now) – After Alcatraz went belly up after a much improved year, this might surprise you. Step one, get a Krispy Kreme sample. Step two, shop.

  • Eatery: Rubios Fish Tacos
  • Dish: Original Fish Tacos with copious amounts of their new Diablo sauce.
  • Beer: Stone IPA, because a nice San Diego food/beer pairing is a total win! Not a fan of hoppy beers? Grab a Hangar 24 Orange Wheat with the Habanero Mahi Mahi tacos.

P10607377) Brea Mall – The only reason you shop here is because you hate Main Place or live in the area. Regardless, Brea has a couple of great choices nearby.

  • Eatery: Lazy Dog Cafe
  • Dish: Hawaiian Ahi Poke
  • Beer: House Hefeweizen –  After Firestone Walker gave up contract brewing, Lazy Dog grabbed LA’s Golden Road to make their house beers. I’m not sure if the recipe is the same as GR’s Hef, but it’s still tasty and goes great with Poke.
  • Eatery #2: Taps Fishhouse & Brewery
  • Dish: Oyster bar!
  • Beer: TAPS Irish Red. Such a beautifully simple and delicious beer…the combo brings me back to my trip to County Clare Ireland, drinking fresh Smithwicks and scarfing seafood.

I honestly haven’t shopped anywhere else in the last ten years! What are your recommendations? 

$45 The Bruery Beer Dinner at Haven Gastropub +Brewery in Pasedena (Closed)

Haven15When two of my favorite things collide, I usually assume a Benjamin or two is at stake. Not this time! Haven Gastropub +Brewery in Pasadena is hosting a beer dinner with the Bruery with some pretty nice courses for a meager $45. Here’s the goods:

Tuesday, December 10th at 7 p.m.

Pre-Course – The Bruery Humulus Lager

First Course – Pan Seared Dayboat Scallops, Parsnip Puree, Pear Gel, Prosciutto, Brussels Sprouts, XO sauce with The Bruery Rueuze

Second Course Beer Grain Gnocchi, Duck Confit, Black Tuscan Kale, Roasted Squash, Crispy Duck Skin with The Bruery 6 Geese-a-Laying

Third Course Dry-aged New York Steak, Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes, Porcini Mushrooms, Smoked Bleu Cheese Saba The Bruery Melange 3

Dessert Course Brioche Bread Pudding, Poached Pear

Dinner is $45 per guest (plus tax and gratuity) Seating is limited

RSVP by calling: (626) 768-9555
Haven Gastropub +Brewery
42 S. De Lacey Ave, Pasadena, California 91105