Friday, December 28, 2007

The Berkeley tour

On the Sunday prior to Xmas Terri and I made a quick trip in the Mini to visit a couple of hop places in Berkeley that we have somehow previously missed. Our first stop was Triple Rock which boasts of being the 5th oldest brewery in the US. It is housed in a typical old Berkeley style building with high ceilings and cool old ornate wood works. We tried a pint of the organic Pale Ale called 'Bug Juice' and a couple pints of the Ipax IPA. I thought the Bug Juice was a bit hoppier than a standard Pale but Terri found it mildly offensive and so I finished most of it. The Ipax was much more to both our liking and we enjoyed it's pleasant west coast IPA qualities that included a great floral aroma and a nice clean dry drinkabilitity. The server was a bit annoying and they didn't offer beer in growlers so we moved on down the road to look for Jupiter Brewing.
Since we needed the exercise and parking spots seemed to be a somewhat rare commodity in Berkeley we opted to walk the four blocks to Jupiter.
The sign on the wall looked a bit too trendy but once we entered the building we felt immediately at home in yet another high ceilinged Berkeley establishment. Jupiter Brewing also doesn't offer growlers, which is really too bad because their 'Quasar' double IPA is quite excellent. At 8.5 abv it just reeks of tomahawk and williamette hops (or so the menu told us). The building, staff and whole ambiance of the place is great. 12' ceilings, copper bar, heavy baroque Wall panels, outside beer garden, a dozen quest taps and 4 nitro stations make it a must visit in this part of the world. I even sampled an 'Old Speckled Hen' on nitro. Not bad for an otherwise boring English brew. We really didn't want to leave Jupiter but I was on a mission to find Bison Brewing which was only a couple miles away.
We found the sign on the building where it used to be but learned from the new Asian food establishment that now occupies the building that Bison moved to Chico a month ago. Hmmm...that actually sounds familiar somehow.
Since we were now on Telegraph Avenue there was only one thing to do...skip going to the Bears Lair and jump over to College avenue and visit Barclays Pub.
I learned one interesting fact at Jupiter that Triple Rock, Jupiter and The Bears Lair (which is on the grounds of the UC Berkeley campus) are all owned by the same group.
Amazingly we found a parking spot right across the street from Barclays and quickly went in for a pint of Russian River Pliny the Elder. Barclays is below street level just inside the Oakland City Limits and after a four year absence and I was glad to be back. Terri and I had a great conversation with the beer serving wench about uber hoppy beers and she rewarded our excellent conversation by only charging us for one pint.
Soon we were off again to meet Zack and Oralia for dinner at the Englander in San Leandro. The Englander seems to have about 10,000 taps of top quality beers from around the world in all the finest styles. We had a Pliny and a RR IPA with dinner while Zack and Oralia enjoyed a Franzenkaner or two.
The food and service were excellent but we were soon off to the Bev-mo in Pleasanton to do some last minute Xmas beer shopping. A hop hunter and his families work is just never done......

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sunday 12-16-07 XMas Cookies

We started the day with a nice French Toast breakfast that soon morphed into a cookie baking marathon. We made numerous dozens of sugar cookie cutouts (which Terri decorated on Monday) peanut butter kiss cookies and finally some double chocolate chip monsters.
The junk food construction took all day so naturally we needed libations that could get us through all the mixing, measuring, cutting, squeezing, dolloping, cleaning, baking and arranging.
At about 11am we started off with a bottle of Affligem Tripel that I had somehow avoided consuming the previous two weeks as it sat in my winter cooler garage. The Tripel, despite it's big beer reputation, seemed appropriate considering The Chiefs football day was rapidly heading down the tubes in yet another home defeat. Besides the Belgian's 8.5% abv promised to keep us warm on the chilly December morning. Terri insisted on a red after the "Belgian Burgundy" so we headed in that direction with a couple of North Coast Red Seals. After the Seals we naturally gravitated to the hop realm where we sample a couple of new brews that I'd just picked up. One was Mt Shasta Brewing's "Mountain High" IPA from Weed CA and the other was Butte Creek Brewing's Organic India Pale Ale. Both IPA's were excellent examples of what I might term early session IPA's. Pleasant hoppy nose, especially in the Shasta, nice medium body with just enough malt to carry the hops through to a pleasing finish. The Butte Creak also offered a nice hint of caramel going down.
Naturally as the day wore on the cookies were flowing from dollops to cooling board and the IPA's were flowing as well. Racer 5, Green Flash Imperial and a couple of 2007 Sierra Nevada Big Foots rounded out the day. Hopefully everyone will enjoy the cookie plates as much as we did making them. Well...I guess that's not really possible.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Just Thursday

Sometimes you almost just stay home and watch some TV or do whatever crap you might do....but sometimes you just know you gotta go...get something...go somewhere and be...well....kinda be somebody....perhaps just yourself.
Well Thursday is just that sort of a night and so...after work..we did.
Off to BJ's to enjoy the Sierra Nevada Celebration before it goes away for another year. Where lo and behold (I know I know that's a song from the Basement Tapes, but kinda fit) we run into our good buddies Rick and Tracy.
We had some dinner and it was a grand time, very pleasant and interesting people to hang out should be so lucky maynard.
Afterwards we bid ado and headed over to Vino's because...well...just because. Hell..because they still have Lagunitas Hop Stoopid and Avery Brewing Hog Heaven.
The only other peoples in the place was our good buddy Mike, the manager of Pyramid brewing in downtown Sacramento who happens to live in nearby Lincoln.
We shared a couple hoppy beers and then we were on our way. On our way with a couple of 22oz bottles of Thunderhead IPA and the promise of growlers of the morrow...thanks to Mike.
And tomorrow it's the annual company XMas party..and an opportunity to introduce some co-workers to extravagant and interesting beer indulgent behavior.....I can't wait. And yes indeed..they have no idea.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Redwood Ride

To Ride bicycles from Brookings Oregon to San Francisco California, following the coastal route as much as possible. Camping and sampling the local beers from the breweries scattered along the way. Approximately 450 miles in 6 days of riding.
WHEN: The last week of May or the first week of June 2008.
WHO: 5 to 6 relatives and/or friends of The Hop Hunter. Including at least one person in support... driving and pulling a 25' travel trailer. Riders to include a LLLab Electrical Engineer/CAT2 racer, a NASCAR/SONOCO Fuel executive, one Terminix Regional Manager/Triathlete, a True Value Hardware Store Owner, a Ford master Mechanic and the Hop Hunter himself.
WHY: Because we can. Because it's epic. Because it is worthy and fun. It is also the 25th anniversary of The Hop Hunter and James initial cycling adventure that started in Crescent City and ended in Bodega Bay in 1983.
Stay tuned for updates on date revisions, rider changes and optional routes and climbs.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Early Sunday afternoon it quickly became obvious that our football team was in for yet another long day (and No it isn't the SF 40whiners or Oakland Faders) so we decided to take the short drive to Folsom to check out some new Beer place that was opening up. I recalled from one of Ricks email's earlier in the week that it was on East Bidwell so we showered up after our ride and headed that way in the Mini Cooper.
After driving up and down the area of Bidwell looking for where I thought Manderes was I received a very timely phone call from Mark The Beer Geek who was wondering where I might be on that nice Sunday Afternoon. I explained that I was having trouble finding the new beer place so he accessed his vast beer information network hooked me up with the address and we immediately u-turned right back to it. Turns out the Beer Geek was headed to the Auburn Ale House for some of Brian's tasty treats. If we weren't on the mission to find the new place we may well have joined him in Auburn.
On our drive to Manderes I told Terri "I sure wouldn't be surprised to see Rick and Tracy here today" and as we walked in the door Tracy's huge smile indicated that indeed they were in the house.
I spent the first 10 minutes or so trying to observe, ingest and catalogue all the beer taps and bottles on the shelves behind the bar but the task was fairly overwhelming. My first thought was that somebody affiliated with this place sure does have some clues about beer. It seemed that there were beers of most every type and generally speaking the selection that they stocked was typically a very good example of that style. I mean...they had Old Rasputin on tap for crying out loud. The last time I saw that I was in Fort Bragg at the North Coast brewery.
There were also a lot of Belgians as well as selections from quite a few countries including Italy, France, England , Germany and of course Ireland, Scotland and Canada. The beer menu is impressive. I highly recommend going to the Pacific Brew News Blog to see Rick's photo's and for a more in depth report. He and Tracy also tried a couple of their menu items.
I did manage to reset my trip meter before I left that house and discovered that Manderes is less than 15 miles from my home. This might be too dangerously close...too close indeed. I'm afraid some return trips will be in order fairly soon.
Afterwards, on the trip home, we made a stop at the Sacramento Brewings Oasis off Madison Avenue for some of their revamped IPA and Barleywine. Just a couple more beers that just don't suck.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

AleSmith IPA/Ballast Point Dorado Double

On December 1st (the day of the Seasonal Tasting event) Brian Ford donated a couple of 22oz beers that he'd picked up on a trip South for his annual Thanksgiving weekend dirt-bike get away. We never came close to getting to them that day so Terri and I decided to heed the Beer Geeks ways and do our own little head-to-head tasting comparison.
The beers were Alesmith IPA and Ballast Point Dorado Double IPA. Typically we wouldn't necessarily match up a double against (against doesn't really seem the correct word either) a single IPA but in this case we wanted to try them both so we went for it. I have had the Dorado on one previous occasion, that being the Mammoth Mountain Bluesapalooza in August, and I wasn't that impressed. I also realize that that was a day literally over flowing with hoppy beers and it may have suffered my undeniable palate fatigue.
I have also read accounts of the Alesmith and it sounded like it could hold it's own.
Upon open opening the Alesmith IPA it's obvious grand hop-ness came roaring out with a flourish that only a great West Coast, or San Diego style as some prefer, IPA can offer. This IPA met all the style guidelines and then some, the pale gold appearance, solid mouth feel, big citrus flavor backed by a tongue teasing hop bitterness that we all love so well. Terri was smitten as well and compared it to the Green Flash West Coast IPA because of it's pepperiness and drinkability. The Alesmith showed big signs of it's bottle conditioning with major bottom floaters obvious even in the stark dark bottle packaging.
Initially the Ballast Point Dorado satisfied with it's typical double IPA sweetness but by the time we'd finished the bottle we were both looking at each other and pondering several oddities. For me the aroma had slight vegetal notes that distracted me while the grain bills overwhelming caramel aftertaste left me less than thrilled. Terri reported no detectable aroma and a touch of Cinnamon in the aftertaste. She also said "Both these beers are great" so her objections were very minor.
I overwhelmingly preferred the Alesmith in this comparison, which is not to say I disliked the Ballast Point offering. Given the opportunity to try the Dorado again I would most likely do so and if I found it in my local beer store I buy a bottle. As a double it doesn't really measure up to the standard of the industry Pliny the Elder....but then...what does?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Pair this

As I mentioned in my previous entry I'm not real knowledgeable about all the possibilities when it comes to food and beer pairings...which is not to say I'm completely in the dark and lack any experience in that theatre. I have a couple or actually three items that might be of interest that I have come up with and really enjoy at certain times.
I actually like nothing better than to season up some nice chicken breasts with some chipotle and BBQ them. I usually cut the trimmed up fowl into midsized manageable finger food sizes and literally drench them in chipotle. The easiest way is to just put them in a bag shake-n-bake style to get a really nice caked over solid coating. After you pull them off the grill arrange them on a platter and then liberally grade extra sharp cheddar cheese all over them and then cover them for about 5 minutes. Just enough time to let them rest slightly and for the cheese to melt. After that you'll need at least a big hoppy San Diego Style IPA , Imperial IPA or an Imperial Red to wash the down with. The hops, heat and the sharp cheese are like heaven together. For those that don't quite like that level of heat I suggest keeping some sour cream or sugar handy for quelling that fire. The IPA just isn't going to do that for you.
Another great pairing is more of a brunch or early afternoon treat. I often like to start any drinking day with a good authentic Bavarian Hefeweizen like Franzenkaner, Hof, Weihenstephaner or even the locally brewed Sacramento Hefeweizen and freshly baked soft oatmeal cookies. With or without raisins. I know, I know...sounds crazy, but I suggest you try it might be pleasantly surprised. final beer/desert of the night can quite top an Imperial Stout float. Just make the traditional Root Beer float and substitute a nice stout for the Root Beer and enjoy. Sweet, dry or milk stouts work fine too but naturally I like the big bold flavors of the motor oil monsters.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Seasonal tasting

The S.O.B.E.R Groups 3rd annual Seasonal Beer tasting event is now in the books. As usual a splendid time was had by all. If you want to see a detailed account of all the beers that were sampled and the voting for the years "Best of Show" and the winning brew I suggest going to pacific brew news for Ricks report. I know it will be more accurate and inclusive an account than I can deliver.
We were missing a couple of group members, although there is no actual list of people in the group, any sign up mumbo-jumbo or fees, we did have a couple new participants that enhanced the proceedings. Brian Ford, owner/brewer extraordinaire of Auburn Ale House , my new neighbor "Bob" as well as another one of Lisa's friends "Amy" who was also at the Thanksgiving gathering the Saturday prior. Amy did a good job helping Mark, The Beer Geek, with the blind pour and cellering duties. Jay Page, a highly decorated home wine maker and significant friend of Beermann's was also in the house.
Wild West Radio's owner/creator, general manager, on-air personality and chief bottle washer Jeff Scammon also participated as did Jose Alverado who as usual brightened the event with his warmth and beer enthusiasm. My son Cody and Breann, his wife of seven months, also made a late appearance as did Jay's wife Linda. And naturally Rick, Tracy, Mark the Beer Geek, Myself and Terri were also present.
I made a pot of chili the week prior to Thanksgiving and froze a portion of it to specifically save for this event. It wasn't a particularly spicy/hot version but I think it, along with breads and cheeses (thanks Jose), blended pretty well to the spiciness and complex natures of most of the winter brews that were on the menu. My knowledge in the nationwide growing interest in beer/food parings is woefully under developed but is something that will hopefully be expanded upon in the years to come.