The Geeks Flock to Shelton Brothers ‘The Festival’

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Barrleworks SLO-Lambic

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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.

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

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(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

 

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. 

 

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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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:

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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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No Frills Blog Post for a No Frills Beer Festival | The Bruery Barrel Aged Beer Party

Hi, I'm Greg from OCBeerBlog, can I take your photo?

Hi, I’m Greg from OCBeerBlog, can I take your photo?

Mid November 2013, The Bruery Reserve Society members were treated to a dip into fifty or so barrel aged beers on a very Simpsonesque cloudy day on Center Street Promenade in Anaheim. Kind of a no-frills tentless beer festival with simple folding tables and a map/beer list. What else does one need? The event was put on by a local non-profit that supports growing the arts, Inspire Artistic Minds (same people that brought us Nepenthia Beer Garden earlier 2013). I puckered up to sours all day with the main goal to remain upright and chat with beautiful people that love great beer.

These guys should start a band and use this for the album cover.

These guys should start a band and use this for the album cover.

Highlights for me: the four Sour in the Rye variants; kumquat, peach, SITR 2011 and beach plum being my favorite with a cosmo hue and bright fruity effervesces. The Wanderer 2011 and 2013 were also stellar, the main difference being the punch of flavor in 2013, whereas 2011’s punch was expanded into a longer attenuated flavor. Overall the event had almost 800 checkins on Untappd as most people filled in beers they’ve missed over the years. An insane amount of cask and boozy beers insured glassware was dropped and shattered at regular intervals.

Hopscotch brought sous vide tri-tip. On a street. At a beerfest.

Hopscotch brought sous vide tri-tip. On a street. At a beerfest.

Food was catered by Hopscotch consisting of sous vide tri tip that was briefly seared and allowed to cook in its own inescapable juices at perfect temp. The cauliflower side dish and vegie option rocked the house with layers of umami and sweet. With the big beers, people needed an extra bite or two of something and were even offering money for extra food. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a pizza delivery to a beer festival! As with Nepenthia, bathrooms were a concern. I love you Bobby Navarro, but people need to eat and pee inside a beer festival. Add double what you think next time :) I was cool because I chowed my traditional Veggie Works burrito from Del Taco as I ceremoniously do before every beer festival.

What 5oz pours of Grey Monday will do to people

What 5oz pours of Grey Monday will do to people

Overall, I loved the no-frills atmosphere. I think in the future the standard huge beer festival idea will be widdled down into specialty festivals like this (cough cough Firkfest) catering to a tighter focus of the craft beer world. What do you think? Let me know in the comments or on social media! Not a Reserve Society member? I think a few spots are left for 2014, don’t miss out on great parties like this!

Anyone with a DEVO patch is okay in my book.

Anyone with a DEVO patch is okay in my book.

Cambria and Jenny get their grub on and sell stuff

Cambria and Jenny get their grub on and sell stuff

 

Showing people how my camera works. Yes, it's film.

Showing people how my camera works. Yes, it’s film.

 

Various pours of Coton

Various pours of Coton

 

Matt Olesh, Rob from BeerPaperLA and Katey

Matt Olesh, Rob from BeerPaperLA and Katey

 

Note to self, waste level picks are always a bad idea.

Note to self, waste level picks are always a bad idea.

 

Katelyn and Evelyn demanded a retake

Katelyn and Evelyn demanded a retake

 

Jeff Hood shows off his snappy jacket.

Jeff Hood shows off his snappy jacket.

 

Anaheim's newest brewery set to open late 2013, Bottle Logic Brewing

Anaheim’s newest brewery set to open late 2013, Bottle Logic Brewing

 

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.

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?
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  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! 
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Special thanks to Brew Beer Blog for letting me quickly grab his brewery logos. #i’m lazy