Monday, December 29, 2008

Downtown Roseville

Well...nothing like a stroll around the downtown area of one's own home town to reveal the obvious. I've always knew there was life beyond The Owl Club and The Main Street brewery- Bar-Dirty-Place but apparently I really had little or no idea of what all my downtown area had to offer in the way of alcoholic diversion.
Today was, and IS a Monday, a totally useless and beautiful work week day stranded between two big time holidays that generally have people totally distracted and oh-so-off their usual modes and intentions. Just my kind of a time.
So obviously it was time to explore.
First off we went to some newish Irish Pub called "The Boxing Donkey". WTF? OK I get the whole Irish pub kind of deal but what's with the bizarre name. Oh wait..that's right...I kinda like bizarre names so hey...ya I'm in.
Well... we went in and all I really see to order is a black and tan. (OK ya I pondered an Irish Car Bomb naturally) They have Guinness and Harp and little else that tells me it's an Irish Pub. I was really hoping for maybe some BelHaven or Beamish.
Bud Light, Newcastle and PBR do not a Irish Pub make.
So on to the next stop...the recently remodeled and seemingly improved Trocadero.....we walked in the door and I saw only two taps...Miller light and Budweiser. As I turned on my heel to flee in utter disgust I noticed on the wall next to the exit two Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale posters. I tentatively turned back and asked the bartender "Do you actually have some Celebration?" He assured me that he did and so we grabbed a nearby stool and ordered one. Turns out he had an entire 6-pack in stock!
The giant Bar keep tried to pour our beers for us but Terri literally ripped the bottle out of his hands when she realized he had tipped the glass and intended to present her with a perfect headless urine sample pour. Gotta love that girl. She made sure we enjoyed some head...er I mean crown.
Next we made our way to the always lovely and hop friendly Corner Bar, Main Street Brewery, Dirty Place ...I don't know what the hell to call it.
The owner/Barkeep informed us it was happy hour until we departed so we helped ourselves to $3 pints of Dale's Pale Ale, Celebration Ale and Racer 5. Sorta in that order. The Dale's from Oskar Blues in Lyon's Colorado is a rare find in these parts and was well received.
Well...I guess that was it....The previous week we stopped in to the new trendy 'BASIC' bar and had several pints of Lagunita IPA and a semi -strange paper thin East coast wanna-be pizza that was just weird enough to be interesting.
Apparently the only old town bar we haven't hit lately is the biggest kid on the block THE ONYX CLUB. But we've been thrown out of there before so it was no big deal omitting it. I go there when I need a boilermaker...which strangely I haven't really been craving lately..... maybe next year. That's next week right?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008's IPA's of distinction

The following is a list of some of the IPA's I found during 2008 that really stood out and were basically new to me. I plan to do a more in depth description of some of these beers on the Pacific Brew News blog sometime before the end of the year. But for now here are the ones I can remember without doing too much research. I would need more Hoppy beers to do that.

21st Amendment - San Francisco CA - Hop Crisis
Alpine Brewing - Alpine CA - Nelson IPA
Auburn Ale House - Auburn CA - Isotope, Weapons Grade Double IPA
Bear Republic - Healdsburg CA - Apex IPA
Big Dog Brewing - Las Vegas NV - Dirty Dog IPA
Blackfoot Brewing - Helena MT - Single Malt IPA
Firestone Walker - Paso Robles CA - Union Jack IPA
Flat Head Lake Brewing - Woods Bay MT - Roy's Imperial India Pale Ale
Kettlehouse Brewing - Missoula MT - Double Haul IPA
Rubicon Brewing - Sacramento CA - Hop Sauce
Sacramento Brewing - Sacramento CA - Independence IPA
Schooners Grill - Antioch CA - Alpha Avalanche
Sierra Nevada - Chico CA - Torpedo
Valley Brewing - Stockton CA - Uber Hoppiness

I should also do an honorable mention to Sierra Nevada for their wet and fresh hop Harvest series that start in the spring with the Southern Harvest. In late summer they came out with the Estate Harvest and finally ended with the traditional 12th release. Great beers all.



CHILI LASAGNA

After cooking no less than 4 turkeys over the holiday season I just couldn't face another fowl day; so I decided to create my own variation on this classic holiday dish to serve at the Official Sober Family Xmas gathering.
OK, so maybe lasagna isn't really a traditional holiday dish but since when was The Hop Hunter ever accused of being very traditional. An American Barbarian perhaps...but rarely traditional in any sense of the word.
I'm going to list the ingredients here in the opposite order that I layered them into my official sized non-stick 11"x14" lasagna pan.
The Chili I used was my own recipe but you could use whatever chili you happen to like. The fact that I had a large bowl of chili left over in my freezer from last month weighed heavy on my decision to create this new dish. New to me anyway. That and my continuing love of green Chile's, cilantro and all things cheesy.

TOP
Parmesan Cheese - covering the entire top, essentially sealing in all the other ingredients.
Chili and Mozzarella cheese
Lasagna noodles - solid across the entire pan, tight together
Chili and Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Lasagna noodles
The white layer - A mixture of ricotta/cream cheese/sour cream seasoned with Chipotle
Lasagna noodles
Chili, Mozzarella Cheese and Cilantro
Lasagna noodles
Green Chile's and Pepper jack Cheese
Lasagna noodles
Chili and Mozzarella Cheese
BOTTOM

That's it, five layers of noodles, or go six if they'll fit. Six types of cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or so...until you can see sauce bubbling up
or the top Parmesan cheese is starting to brown.
Let it rest a minimum of 40 minutes. Do NOT cheat on the resting time....have another beer or three and wait........it'll be worth it. You won't burn off the roof of your mouth and the layers will form back together and present properly on the plate. Serve it too soon and you'll have lasagna sliding soup.

As Alton Brown would say "It's just good Eats"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wednesday night at the OWL CLUB

Although the Deschutes 'Abyss' keg was a thing of the past... Terri and I showed up at the Owl tonight prompted by the "Help Kill the Keg" email that Bianca and Ellia sent out midday. The keg they wanted to kill was the great Mexican beer 'Tecate' .....but the important part was the 2 free tacos that came with that pint of swill...er..I mean Tecate.
So...ya...we showed up ...and got our taco's....sucked down a urine sample pint of Tecate and fielded a few text messages from Rick who was at Manderas.
So ya life was good. Especially good when we downed 4 pints of Racer 5 to clear that god awful stench of a bitch roast that the Tecate left in it's wake.
OK ya..maybe it isn't THAT bad ....but not nearly the beer that I'm swilling at the moment.......

What?......I gotta tell you what it is?....OK OK....2008 Big Foot from...well you know where it's from ..and if you don't you truly have no business reading this lame blog.
Party on Garth........

Monday, December 1, 2008

Another fine Thanksgiving

Saturday November 29th we staged our fifth annual 'Turkey Saturday' Soberment Friends and family holiday gathering. As usual Jeff BBQ'd a 16 pound turkey (as well as a ham) and per tradition we also oven baked a 22 pound monster bird. My Mom Lola did her usual impeccable co-ordination of all the side dishes with considerable help from Terri, Trish and Oralia.

On the rear veranda Rick, Jim and assorted other folk constructed what appears to be a fine batch of Barleywine. Thanks to Rory, Jimbo, Todd for lending a hand there. Todd was especially instrumental in keeping Tracy occupied answering his questions. Or maybe I made that part up just now ......I dunno... because I was merely an innocent (or was that insolent?) bystander sneaking off to refill my seemingly always empty pint glass with that fine Auburn Ale House IPA that Brian Ford hooked us up with. And thanks to Lisa for the worlds greatest salsa and the always entertaining Beer Geek for keeping everyone tasting three more beer varieties than they ever imagined they could.

Thanks to all that showed up and contributed...once again it was one of those days where I just know it sucked to be anywhere else.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Time wounds all heals

Well...I just seen it and heard it...and I gotta tell ya....it rocks. Thanks John....We always loved ya. And Happy Birthday Ralphie.
Oh...OK...ya...tonight Deschutes Hop Trip was the pint night offering at the Owl Club and that just didn't suck at all. Fun times with Terri, Tracy, Dan Rae, The Beer Geek, The Frosts, Porno Brian, Bianca, Megaphone, Hoppy Brewing Terri, The Deschutes dude, the taco tart, Jeff Scammon and all those that shall remain unexposed.
No idea why we didn't end up going to the Toronado.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

FIRESTONE WALKER IPA DOESN'T SUCK

Sitting around the campfire this evening at the Soberment....OK....well.... more accurately on the stools around the central dining and beer business structure next to the kitchen proper.... Terri and I delved into a few bottles of Firestone Walker IPA that Rick thoughtfully brought over last weekend. Or was it the weekend before?
I have been aware that FW has won several awards the past year or so with this Union Jack IPA but this is really the first time that I've sat down and hammered a few and really got into appreciating just how good this beer is.
For the record this is the beer that took home the gold metal at the 2008 GABF in the IPA category. A category that included no less than 104 bloody entries!
Or should I say the first time WE have fully enjoyed this beer. Terri really prompted this blog entry with her glowing account of this beer. Basically she says that the hop taste is really nice and hoppy and the dryness is exceptional in it's great hoppiness. Did she mention that she liked the hop in this beer?
I have heard vague comparative references to Vinnies Blind Pig with the FW IPA; and although I can relate to the similarities considering the unmistakable presence of my beloved Simco hops, but this is a beer that stands alone in it's greatness. So yes....go buy a case of it....buy it now...and ya ... bring some over...I still need another one.
And Terri?...well I hear her giggling in the living room so I'd say ya......she'd be up for another.
I'm already planning a trip to Paso Robles as we sip. Or in Terri's case...guzzle.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why oh why.....

.....Do I go day to day, week to week and now seemingly month to month without writing about my great hop hunting adventures. Sadly the economy has somewhat stranded this hop slut and left him without much to report lately.
Although...yesterday we PacificBrewNews types got together and braved the furthest back reaches of my fridge and managed to unearth a few interesting nuggets.
We started out with a couple of brews Mark The Beer Geek brought over, a can of IPA from 21st Amendment and a bottle of Irish Red from Sam Adams.
After that Terri insisted on un-screwing the top to a growler of Auburn Ale House IPA AND a growler of Sac Brewing IPA. Now we were talking.
I also brought forth an old growler of Beermann's 'Green Acres' IPA...but I'd waited too long on that one and it was without much carbonation or pleasant features.

After awhile Rick went digging through the fridge and came up with a 2005 bottle of Moylan's Hopsickle that he'd given me a few months prior. It was still in pretty good shape..typically gaining sweetness and losing a lot of the hop character.

Mark went in again and came out with a bottle each of Mad River Double IPA and El Toro Deuce. I had no idea I had a couple of those in there.

Not to be outdone I rummaged through the rutabagas (well not really but it was fun to type) and found the first bottle of Blue Frog double IPA I ever purchased. I believe it was from their original batch a couple years ago. It's a corked beer and Tracy noticed that the cork was barely in the bottle. But no worries ...the beer was fine..as fine as that Double ever is.

Suddenly I noticed that it was getting tougher and tougher to come up with many more hop monsters so I did what any honest beer drinker would do under the circumstances......I drug out some Sierra Nevada Big Foots from the drawer archives.

Fortunately there were still some bottles from 2001, 2003 and 2005 that Brewer Steve had given us back in 2006 (or was it 2005?) when we took the tour at the Chico plant.
All the samples were well received and enjoyed..... but the consensus was that the 2003 was in the best drinking shape. Or was it the 2005? The 2001 showed signs of it's age...it was obvious from it's great mellowness.
This led us to grab out a bottle of the 2008....just for historic comparisons mind you. It had to be done..... Frankly all the Big Foot samples aged like you would expect them too...picking up smoothness and sweet character with ever passing year while surrendering some of it's bountiful hop backbone in the process.
I'm already looking forward to the 2009 batch, which Rick tells me is due out in late January this year. Indeed I am ready, although first I must hustle on down to one of the local beer marts and grab me some of the 2008 Celebration which hit town recently.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A couple of Vegas Breweries

If you are forced to go to Vegas for a wedding (although I'm told no one ever doesn't want to go to Vegas for any reason) it is a really nice to discover some decent hops in places that you least expect.

Having family members in the Vegas area means that I visit the town typically once a year or so. In years past I have made the effort to visit as many Breweries I could in the greater Las Vegas area, but with the exception of Triple 777 at the train depot downtown near Fremont Street I have been pretty disappointed with the generally mild offerings.

My latest trip in mid September happily changed all that. Traveling South into town on Interstate 95 we opted to stop at one of Big Dog Brewing Company's locations on Rancho Drive in North Western Las Vegas. With fermentors visible from the street I immediately experienced a minor wave of excitement at perhaps finding a hop beverage worthy of washing away the 550 mile road dust I had accumulated that day. Turns out my instincts were pretty good.....their Dirty Dog IPA was infused with a bit of Simco hops and was simply outstanding. A session IPA in the Blind Pig tradition. They also serve an outstandingly refreshing Bavarian style Hefeweizen just bursting with banana and clove. I bought a growler full of the IPA but by the time we left town it was already empty. Big Dog has three locations in town. I highly recommend checking them out.
Our second night in town we found Chicago
Brewing Company near our hotel and made a
point to try it out for dinner. We were not disappointed. We sat in their outdoor beer garden
that's next to Fort Apache Road but doesn't really suffer from the big roads proximity.
Once again pleased to see that they offered a very nice and hoppy west coast style IPA. Light in body and straw colored the Hardway IPA was very drinkable and well balanced. The menu was full of other styles as well....several wheat beers, a brown Ale and an amber. Our very friendly and knowledgeable server brought us out an interesting sample of a seasonal beer that wasn't quite ready for prime time. He claimed it was 12% or more and was eventually going to be served in 8 oz glasses. It appeared to be a Belgian style honey flavored beer with huge sweetness and an undeniable alcohol warmth. Very huge beer.
Nice to see that some of the Vegas brewers are ramping up their styles. I look forward to my next trip to that desert oasis... I might even find time to visit some relatives.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

PICKIN on HOPS


Saturday August 30th I was fortunate enough to join a few beer enthusiast friends in picking the first annual Hop Harvest at the Jordan Family Farms in Penryn California. Here are a few photos of what took place.....







Friday, August 8, 2008

The Owl Club was Torpedoed


We regular patrons of the Owl Clubs Thursday Pint Night in Old Town Roseville were grandly rewarded for our loyalty this week when new Owl owner Bianca brought us in a keg of Sierra Nevada's seasonal IPA 'Torpedo'. The Torpedo is named after the device used in brewing that infuses additional hop flavor and aroma into the beer at it travels from the fermentor to the bright tank. A torpedo shaped unit filled with hops? What could possibly be more cool than that I ask you.

I would like to say I had a bit of a hand in lighting the fire that started the simmering blaze that got the Torpedo rolling....and certainly my good buddy and Pacific Brew News partner Rick truly DID get the deal signed off on.......but I still want to recognise that the proper credit should go to Bianca who has been listening to all our beer blather these last few months and has done a real good job resurrecting the great tradition of the Owl Club Thursday Pint night.

After a summer of hit and miss offerings that included several big brewers like Sapporo, Amstel Light and Moosehead it finally felt like the Owl Club of old, filled virtually to capacity with all the happy Pint Nighters consuming copious amounts of Sierra Nevada's fresh seasonal nectar.

It was the third time this summer I was lucky enough to encounter this nicely hopped IPA that occasionally sends reminders through my palate that one of the worlds greatest beers ...the SD Celebration Ale is just around the corner. This IPA is not quite as big as the Celebration but just really hits the spot as a nice summer hop head delight. This is definitely an IPA session beer...which was proven last night by a number of people. (Really good to see you Pierre!)

In fact even before the Celebration Ale hits the stores later this year there should be a batch of the Harvest Ale available...and if I'm not mistaken this years batch will be brewed with hops grown on Sierra Nevada's grounds in Chico.

Hopefully our Thursday Nights the rest of the year will be dotted with these outstanding Sierra Nevada offerings. I can't wait.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Day Three - The Rhino Deck

Day three dawned perfect with a high Montana sky as blue as Paul Newman's eyes; Who's birthday is oddly the same as my father-in-laws . . . William A. Bohn . . . or as he would become know on the Ramp project as "Inspector Detector".

THE OUTSIDE DECK PRIOR TO THE RAMP.

We managed to get a good nights sleep, a nice breakfast from my mother-in-law Maude and a fairly early start digging holes for the post footing piers. That's her in the background pulling weeds on Rhino's 'Front Yard'. I also had to spend a bit of time in the early morning at Rhino's laptop trying to create a simple yet effective ramp design. Seeing as how I'd never built one and really hadn't built much of anything in the past few years aside from a nice closet full of XXX-Beer Fest T-shirts.

As you can see from the photo I'm finally figuring out that these boards are just not going to cut themselves. Once I got my mind wrapped around that obvious reality the project took off like a drunk turtle with arthritis. I sighted the treated 2x8's, broke out a few tools, mumbled to no one in particular and checked my cell phone for word of lunch. By the time lunch finally did roll around I'd already consumed so many 'preventative' Advil's that when I shuffled around the ground digging holes for the piers I sounded like a box of Hot Tamales and my liver was silently screaming to be laid to rest with alcohol instead of America's finest cheap pharmaceuticals.
Fortunately I was able to find a flat piece of uncluttered garage floor to layout the 5x5 ramp landing on. Rhino came out in his wheel chair and after I cut a piece of plywood and attached it to his furniture dolly he moved onto that and finished fastening the landing pieces together whilst I wandered around the ramp site looking at my pencil and tape measure pretending that I was putting together my next plan of attack. Is it lunch time yet?
Once I got the basic landing screwed together my outstanding wife/helper Terri and Inspector detector assisted me in moving the frame to a position in front of the existing porch. It was at about this time in the proceedings that I noticed a shadow lurking over my shoulder at almost every turn. Although he rarely voiced an opinion either way the inspector continuing to monitor my progress as apparently he had done since the beginning.

I was just now becoming acutely aware of it. Although my pace was fairly slow and undoubtedly inspired very little confidence he seemed content to stay just out of way....yet offering any help that I might require along the way.
On we rolled through the afternoon, cutting board three times and still they ended up too short. In reality we did OK as the day changed from morning to afternoon although I was trying not to run the Skil-saw too much because it was disturbing Rhino and Maude's naps. That loud ass tool also panicked a doe that had wandered into the thicket next to the driveway. Although somewhat spooked the bitch appeared so relatively tame that she only jumped and moved maybe 20 feet before she resumed her previous munching posture. I reminded myself that this was indeed Montana and I took a little Advil break to enjoy the local Fauna.
I suppose by now the photos of the inspector have clued you into what I was enjoying all day. At one time I'd wished I'd remembered my official looking 3 compartment aluminum clip board to give him to carry around...but then WAIT...I did remember to bring it.......but no way I'm taking all my brewery notes out of it at this point in the journey. After all he was doing a great job of making me check my work over and over and over.
The inspectors daughter...my esteemed bride Terri is enjoying the ramp progress in the next shot...or perhaps just out in the yard wondering why I have the camera in my hand instead of my hammer or the screw gun.
After awhile I eventualy got up the nerve to cut the 48" long scarf cuts on the joists and amazingly they were "good enough for who it's for" right off the bat
so I cleaned up the pattern and cut all five of them.
After working most of the day we decided we'd made enough progress for the day and retired to the porch and a nicely chilled six pack of Missoula's own Big Sky Brewing IPA. It was very welcomed and soon gave way to one of the Flat Head Lake growlers of Roy's Imperial. We wrestled with the notion of burning one of the Roy's earmarked for a return to Roseville but figured it was just too important to sample some at that moment. Of course we could always fill it up again..Hell..it was only about 35 miles away after all. After a nearly 1200 mile drive just to get here it didn't really seem that far away at all. Nope...not that far at all. Terri and I slept in Rhino's office on the floor on our new airbeds and it was a welcome sight after a day in perfect Montana weather.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What a weekend

I know I have yet to finish up all my Montana reports but in the meantime we had us one hell of a long weekend here and around the area.
THURSDAY - My good buddy Ralph decided to accept my invitation to make the short drive up (ya, only 430 miles) from Southern Cal for some good brews, Speedway racing, concert and BBQ.
Things started out on Thursday just an hour or so after Ralph and his sidekick Chris finally survived the greater Sacramento traffic and landed in Roseville. I got off work at about the same time so we met at the house and started the evenings proceedings with a couple of Hoegaarden's before driving the 20 minute trip up to the Auburn Ale House.
Every so often when any of my beer buddies or I have gathered sufficient growlers of beers to share we all like to gather on the VIP deck of Brian Fords Auburn Ale House and make a grand attempt to consume them. Aside from being a truly fine Brewer Brian is, like most of my friends, most happy when pouring, consuming, observing or talking about all things beer. The occasion arose when it was discovered by Brian that I'd been to Idaho, Montana and Oregon and collected several interesting samples along the way. I also had in my fridge growlers of Sacramento Brewing's new 2IPA Independence as well as a jug of Rubicon's 2IPA seasonal 'Hop Sauce'.
Brian threw in a very nice red (Woody's hop head Red Ale) from Elk Grove Brewing, a couple bottle of Rubicon IPA (along with all his fine house brews) and we were off to the races. Thanks for the endless appetiser's Brian...that was impressive.
FRIDAY - Well...Friday wasn't a very long work day for me....Thursday nights ordeal continued after we came home. After sitting in the garage drinking Green Flash 'Imperial', Moylans 'Hopsickle' and some Speakeasy 'Double Daddy' we finally decided to get some sleep at nearly 3am. Nope....I wasn't much good at work and so decided to cut my losses and come home for a nap instead. After all we had tickets to round two of the US National AMA speedway Championship series in Auburn and we didn't want to be anything but at our best for that event.
Naturally we began our night back at the AAH for some Pilsners and IPA's. We also made a stop at old favorite Auburn watering hole Pistol Pete's, for some Anderson Valley double IPA. The Fast Fridays races were all-in-all some pretty good examples of competitive Speedway motorcycle championship format competition. 'Bronco' Billy Janniro, who came home from his usual duties of riding in England for a top professional team, dominated the proceedings and will likely win his first National Championship come September. Unfortunately for us hop hunter types the Sierra Nevada Pale ale was the only drinkable and worthy beer available but after all the IPA's came up a little short.
SATURDAY - Could it be Saturday already? Indeed it was and since we had 8:30pm tickets to see James McMurtry at the Palms Playhouse in Winters California we figured we better get an early start and headed out to Rubicon Brewing on Capitol Avenue in downtown Sacramento. Well....most everyone drove down...Zack and I braved the 106 degree heat and rode the 20 miles down on our bikes. We were planing on riding the full 50 miles to Winters but the heat was playing havoc with my old lard ass Heart rate so we called it good and loaded the bikes on Ralph's Bus-sized hand me down SUV.
The Rube had their usual stellar lineup of Pilsner/Hefewiezen/Pale Ale/IPA and stout along with the 'Hop Sauce' and guest taps of Sierra Nevada's Southern Harvest, Moylans 'Hopsickle' and Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA.
After sampling most all of brewer Scott's' beer varieties the 8 of us (including Ralph, Chris, Terri, Zack, Oralia, Rory, Carlee and myself) decided we really had enough time to make a stop at Sac Brewing prior to making the final 20+ mile push to Winters. Brewer Peter Hoey's IPA is simply marvelous but his new 'Independence' became an instant favorite of Oralia's in particular and she tried to horde all the glasses for herself. Naturally she soon relented to our begging, we finished off glasses and we off to the show.
McMurtry never ceases to amaze and entertain me and the nights show was no exception. We also met my good Wild West Radio buddy Jeff and his beautiful bride-to-be Dian at the show (Thanks for the ticket securing Jeff) and managed to hold on to some choice 7th row seats.
The ride home? Well of course I don't remember much of it except my bike didn't fall off the back so I was happy.
SUNDAY - Sunday of course was for BBQing and we did it up right. Tri-tip, chipotle chicken and Lemon Pepper Chicken and some awesome baked Salmon. Cody and Breann, the entire Zahn family and everyone from the previous nights McMurtry gig showed up and we had us a time.
Chris showed up on Thursday spouting some crap about not being a beer drinker...but by the time he left he was singing the praises of the hop.
It was actually a good thing that Monday came along when it did.....I needed to get to work so I could rest. Whoa.......because of course at the end of the week we were due in Mammoth for the Bluesapalooza Festival of Beers.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 2...In Montana

THE RAVEN - WOODS BAY - MONTANA

Initially we planned to drive non stop to West Glacier but found ourselves in need of a bed by the time we made Butte. We did just that and continued North in the morning. By mid day we were in need of lunch...and as Todd Snyder would say "pretty thirsty too" so we just happened to find ourselves on the East shore of Flathead Lake on route 35 in the vicinity of Flathead Lake Brewing Company. Coincidence? Perhaps. The tasting room at FLB didn't open till noon and it was barely 11:30 so we quickly moved our stop across the street to The Raven Bar and Grill. The sign out front said it was a brewery but that was old news as explained to us by David the excellent, friendly and knowledgeable local barkeep. The exceedingly inviting interior of the bar sported spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding shoreline. What an awesome place to sit and have a beer; which is exactly what we did of course....along with some lunch as we waited for the FLB tasting room to unlock their doors. The first truly excellent beer of the trip was on tap in the Raven. It was from Blackfoot Brewing in Helena and simply called 'Single Malt IPA'. I noted the Simco hop aroma right off and from my grin Terri knew we were on to something good. If I hadn't known better I would have thought I was in San Diego instead of an outpost in Western Montana. After having one more Blackfoot than I probably should have we ventured across the way to the Brewery.

FLATHEAD LAKE BREWING COMPANY

I was a bit surprised when we walked into the tasting room and found ourselves nearly alone in the place. It was a nice tidy little area with about a dozen bar stools and a really impressive chunk of driftwood serving as the bar top. Our beer server Kayla explained to us that it was pulled out of the lake nearby and fashioned specifically for the purpose it was serving. I must admit that I had done some research on Flathead Brewing and knew going in that their signature big -time go-to beer was a double IPA named 'Roy's Imperial'. It was the only double IPA I could find in the state of Montana on any website and I'm here to tell you it was worth the effort. This my friends is what being the hop hunter is all about. The Roy's was very well balanced, with a pretty hefty aroma and not overly sweet. This is what I'd call a session Imperial. We had an hour or so to kill before rhino returned home from the doctor so naturally we spent it talking with Kayla (pictured), sampling their other fine beers andwatching the place fill up. Naturally we also filled three growlers to take back to California with us. We figured the S.O.B.E.R. Group was never gonna believe what we found unless they had some to sample. Highly recommended stop for those just traveling along North through Western Montana. I had a feeling we were not done with the place before we left town.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

THE RHINO RAMP JOURNEY BREWERY REPORT

TRAIL CREEK BREWING COMPANY - TWIN FALLS IDAHO
We began our trip from Roseville California to West Glacier Montana on July 9th at 4:20am and stopped for an early afternoon lunch at Trail Creek Brewing in Twin Falls Idaho. New restaurateur Kurt Handley explained to us that up until two years ago the site was occupied by Twin Falls Brewing. We stopped in specifically to try the Spin Drift IPA but were a bit disappointed to discover that, although it was a decent beer, the Spin Drift was merely a Pale Ale moonlighting as an IPA. I kinda stuck my foot in my mouth (imagine that) and suggested that perhaps we had been mistakenly poured the False Peak Pale Ale by mistake but was informed that the Pale Ale was not on tap at the moment. Oops. We also tried their Uncle Dunkle (Munich Style lager), The Alchemy Amber and the Dry Irish Stout. Although I thought the Amber was pretty solid the Stout was clearly their best beer by my account....far far better than their Lavender Beer ...which reportedly was the Pale Ale infused with Lavender essence. We did a growler trade with Kurt, shared a calzone and then jumped back on the Highway (thanks for the excellent local short cut tip Kurt) North towards......

BROWNSTONE BREWING COMPANY - IDAHO FALLS IDAHO
Our stop at Brownstone was brief..we did a sampler, filled a growler of their IPA, skipped across the street to view the impressively extensive falls, fueled up the Crown Vic and resumed our trip North on Interstate 84. Brownstone Brewing is housed in an impressive building of brick, wood and glass. The sampler platter was fairly typical with a wheat beer that they called a Hefeweizen, a nut Brown (I kinda liked that one), a Czech Pils, Pale Ale, an Amber Bock and a Raspberry lager. A regionally solid beer place that appeared to have decent food from what we could ascertain from the plates being carried by. It turns out that the growler of IPA we procured went bad on us (listen to pacificbrewnews show number 69) which I'm not that surprised by considering the beer wench didn't rinse out the growler before filled it. I must learn to insist upon that in the future.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Montana Update

Well....it's Sunday and we're still here in the Big Sky Country and to tell the truth....if there is better weather, and a more scenic locale than this in all of the world I would like to know where it is. Simply outstanding and pleasant.
We just wrapped up construction on the Rhino Ramp. Lots of photo's were taken during the building phase as well after completion. Rhino himself was able to get out and helped greatly in securing all the plywood to the joists.
He is doing better now and has a hard case cover for the end of his 'stump' as he calls it. Considering he lost his entire foot and lower calf to a diabetes caused amputation he is in pretty good spirits and is already working with the prosthesis doctors.
Considering it is only early afternoon Terri and I decided we will let Padre, Maude and Rhino take their afternoon naps in peace. We're heading off to check out Tamarack Brewing Company and Moose's Tavern. Several people in the area have clued us into Moose's and it's 24 or so taps. We might even get back to Flat Head Lake Brewing to refill the growler of Roy's Imperial IPA we drained last night.
In building this ramp I have re-found several muscle's groups that I obviously don't use much when I cycle. Oh ya, I'm also reminded about how much I miss my Bianchi. Man I hope that smoke clears out of Roseville before we get back.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Headed North

Yesterday morning Terri and I left Roseville (and all the smoke from the hundreds of California wildfires) at 4:20am and started our journey North to West Glacier Montana. We're on a family mission to help out a loved one that has ran into some poor luck and needs some help around the farm. On the way up we made quick stops in three breweries and managed to collect five growlers.
We will be up here in the Big Sky country over the weekend completing the construction project and hopefully return home by midweek. Our journey home will be on an alternate route and we will be sure to optimise our growler collecting on that leg of the trip as well..........stay tuned for that report.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

ROLL ME SOME DOUBLES




In less than a weeks time both Rubicon Brewing on Capitol Street in downtown Sacramento AND Sacramento Brewing (2 locations in the greater Sacramento metropolis area) have released their seasonal double IPA's.
This is of course, for us folks that enjoy the occasional hoppy beer, the best beer news that we could hope to receive.
I believe it was just five or so days ago on Friday last that Terri and I made our way down to the Rube to sample Scott's "Hop Sauce"; which by the way is reportedly the 3000th batch of beer brewed at that location. The propaganda on the menu says that he uses no less than 10 varieties of the green plants in his nectar and it sure tastes like it. Plus Scott verified that fact in person, something that he has done on many occasions during our visits. Probably because the dude is one hard working brewer and seems to always be around the brewery and as far as I know never actually leaves the place. Nicely done Scott.......pitchers of the flagship IPA and 10 oz glasses of the Hop Sauce in front of me? Hell...I'm surprised I ever left the place.

A couple of days later Rick informs me that another one of my favorite brewers, Peter Hoey from Sacramento Brewing, also brewed a double and it was going to released the week of July 4th. Oh my...this is clearly not the time to save money or lose weight.
On Monday Rick, Tracy, Terri and I got our workouts done early and hustled over to the Sac Brewing 'Oasis' location in Citrus Heights to line up at the hop trough.
In my opinion what Peter has done with the Sac Brew IPA is virtual genius. It has quickly grown into one of my favorites and seems to get better with every batch. As for his new double...or Imperial....or as the chalk board calls it "The Independence IPA"......oh my oh my.
Frankly it has got to be one of the three or four best beers I've had this year. It is that good....smooth...bursting with Hop aroma and deep balanced hop flavor. I'm a real slut for Simco hops anyway and they are just bursting at the seams in this seemingly flawless beverage.
And today I hear that there was still some dry hopping to do before this bad boy was done. Unbelievable.
The Oasis sight also has Dog Fish Head 90 minute IPA on as a guest tap. I'm really happy to see that but as long as the Independence is pouring I'll probably stick pretty close to that. As good as the 90 minute is Peter's double is just that much better. Dare I say it's a Vinnie quality beer?

So it looks as if the road between The Rube and The SacBrewing locations are gonna be getting quite the work out in the next few weeks.
So...well done boys....the brewing scene in Sacramento is in good hands indeed . . . . . a Hop Hunters dream. Thanks.




Saturday, June 28, 2008

BUTTE CREEK REVOLUTION XI

Tonight, for the third time in as many weeks, I have purchased and opened a bottle of Butte Creek Brewing Company's Imperial India Pale Ale Revolution XI. Genuinely certified Organic this is one fine easy drinking Hop Colossus.
Typically, in previous years anyway, I have steered clear of organic beers but this is the best of it's kind that I have ever tasted.
According to the propaganda on the bottle Butte Creek uses New Zealand Hallertau Hops as well as Magnum, Chinook, Amarillo and Simcoe Hops in this brew that celebrates the 11th Anniversary of the Brewery.
I have seen the XI available in a few places around Nor-Cal and if you can get it I highly recommend you pick some up. It's claim to 8.6 abv seems believable, but only because you know it's an Imperial IPA and that goes with the territory.
It isn't overly sweet, just enough to hold it's own against the onslaught of all those high alpha hops it's lugging around. So ya...go get it...the Hop Hunter insists.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

NASCAR Saturday

In the true spirit of the phrase "It's not WHAT you know...but WHO you know".... Rick, Tracy, Terri and I had an interesting time taking in the sights, sounds and flavors of Infinion Raceway SaveMart 300; as well as that of Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa.
All on one long and hot Saturday in June.
Our day started out at 7am in Roseville when Terri and I wheeled the Crown Vic into Rick and Tracy's cul-de-sac to pick them up. The previous evening I dutifully loaded up my #2 ice chest with 11 empty Russian River Brewing growlers and a little bit of ice to keep them chilly.
After a quick and uneventful ride west on Highway's 80 and 37 the "WHO you know" part of the day began when we arrived at Gate Number One and spotted my dear old friend James Daniels walking towards us carrying 4 very seriously official looking all-access pass packets affixed to Infinion Raceway neck straps.
James, or JD as he is referred to as everywhere in the world besides my house, is in charge of the race day fueling station management and crews for Sunoco and absolutely hooked us up with the aforementioned passes that even included a VIP parking pass.
We spent the morning and early afternoon walking through the garage, watching practice, happy hour and the beginning of the Legends car race (There was an extensive Red flag stoppage for a nasty three car pileup in the front straight). We were also able to spend a bit of time near the Sunoco Fueling area hanging out with old friends James, Butch, John, and Rick, as well as my Son Zack who also works occasional race weekends throughout the NASCAR season.
After leaving the track we made our way to "Ernie's Tin Bar" which is on the way North to the hotel rooms in Rohnert Park.
A favorite yearly hangout of the Sunoco crew, I have personally driven past the little rundown out of the way establishment on no less than 2 dozen occasions but never gave the corner Tin building a second look. Like Rick said...we always thought the name there was 'COLD Beer' and suspected it was likely frequented by local farmers with missing digits and teeth .... swilling Budweiser from dusty long neck bottles. Once again of course we were dead wrong and learned another lesson....... Ernie it turns out is a pleasant chap who is actual the third generation of Ernie's to run the place. He knows his beers too and served us up fresh pints of Speakeasy 'Big Daddy' IPA.
It was difficult to pry ourselves away from Ernie's but the beckoning siren calls of Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder from Santa Rosa were just too strong and we hit the road in search of supreme Hop satisfaction.
Russian River was not quite as busy as I'd expected it to be and we were lucky enough to secure and area near the stage to accommodate all of us including the entire Sonoco Fuel crew of 8.
Vinnie had an interesting new light brew on the board that is based on the Aud Blond but with more hops (imagine that) called Happy Hops. The name is in honor of a beer once produced by the original Sonoma brewery know as New Albion Brewery.
After downing countless pitches of Blind Pig, a beer sampler for the curious out of town Fuel guys and at least 6 pizzas the guys retired to the hotel for a game of cards whilst Rick and I enjoyed the opening tunes of the nights musical guest "Lansville Station".
The card game was still in progress when Rick and I finally arrived and the call went out to us for a growler of Blind Pig which we quickly supplied. Among the card players was the gas can dude for the 28 car... Bobby Grant. Not only did Bobby luck out and take home all the card game money he also managed to fill Rick and I with enough genuine Southern good ole boy Charlotte NC livin, Dale Earnhardt knowin rhetoric to persuade ourselves into offering up not one...but two growlers of Pliny the Elder for him to take back to Dale Juniors hauler for eventual transport to Dale's all things beer interested lips.
Actually Bobby was quite the interesting and genuine fellow and of course having supplied him with plenty of email info for pacificbrewnews and the hophunter we still hope for some sort of indication about what the NASCAR community, and Dale Jr. in particular, think about Vinnie's wunderkind double IPA.
The next morning Rick, Tracy, Oralia, Terri and I returned to Russian River Brewing and managed to burn up a few midday hours consuming breakfast Pizza's, sour beers and several pints of all things hoppy.
All in all it was a fabulous weekend which was only dampened by the extremely poor air quality from the hundreds of wild fires burning in Northern California that weekend. I would have loved to be able to send a few growlers to those firefighters up on the line fighting those wars.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Post Ride line-up

It has been nearly a week since the conclusion of the Epic Redwood Ride but before I get into the massive reporting chore of trying to document that nearly indescribably adventure I wanted to share the line-up of brews that Terri and I shared the night after my return.
It started innocently enough with a bottle of Racer 5 (actually two) and soon escalated as these sessions sometimes have a way of doing. The Racer 5 was Terri's idea so once the second bottle was nearly evaporated I ventured towards the garage to see what else was available. I was surprised to see that beers had actually been added in the time I was gone and there were several that I'd previously never laid eyes upon. Naturally I grabbed the one that said DOUBLE IPA on it. Aptly named Tricerahops it was a exceedingly smooth and drinkable offering from Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene Oregon. I was pretty sure that the only way that sucker made it to my fridge was by way of fellow SOBER Group member Rick Sellers. To say I liked the Tricerahops was an understatement. I found it very balanced and not overly sweet for an 8.8% beer. I'd definitely like to see our local beer outlets start stocking it.
The bottle of Hop Stoopid that we consumed was purchased during the ERR and has been documented several times here prior and is well known as a HopHunter favorite. I found 22oz bottles of Hop Stoopid all along the Northern California coastline during our ride, tucked away in the back corners of every little Mom and Pop grocery that I steeped into.
We were on a roll now and my next visit to the fridge I couldn't resist the temptation of Avery's Hog Heaven Barley Wine style ale. I consider it an Imperial IPA but it has also been entered into judging as a red. Suffice to say it is just one of the hoppist and satisfying beers that I know of.
By this time in the evening there was really only one beer in my ice box that was going to measure up to this line-up so I cut straight to the Moylans Hopsickle. A perfect name for a perfect wrap up beer. I resisted the urge to grab one last Sierra Nevada Big Foot just for dessert....that would have to wait for another day. It was good to be home.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Brew Fest reports

Although I did indeed attend the West Coast Brew Fest AND the Raley Field Beer Fest on consecutive weekends I have failed to report it properly here on the hop hunter sight. Oh...you noticed...ya me too. All I can do is blame the ERR and my Bianchi for distracting me.
I rode to both events which was definitely the preferred mode of transportation to any brew fest, although the 100+ degree temperature at Miller Park the first Saturday were ridiculous and totally in conflict with the 60 miles we were barely able to finish in time.
I suggest reading S.O.B.E.R. Group charter member Jeff Barbers report on the Pacific Brew News site for the full WCBF rundown.
The highlight at Raley Field (even better than Vinnie sending some Pliny the Elder) was our good buddy Brian Ford and Auburn Ale House winning the peoples choice award for his absolutely stellar IPA.
I also have to take my hat off to Rubicon's head brewer Scott Cramlet for plying us with untold back room treats at the after gathering downtown. I surely wish I could even remember more of that episode. Oh my.
Amazingly we had Buzzcutt as our designated driver........an occurance that is as unlikely as the Pistons winning the NBA Championship in 2008.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Epic Redwood Ride commences June 1st

It has been nine months in planning, preparation, scheming, scheduling and countless BS emails (thanks Jimbo) but the great Epic Redwood Ride from Brooking's to San Francisco is finally within sight.
I will be keeping as much information as possible in my head (so ya, don't count on much) so that I don't ruin my great time with tedious note taking. But I do actually hope to make some Hophunter entries throughout the week and will endeavor to join up with Zack to do one of our combined ride reports that have proved to be somewhat popular in the past.
So Saturday we drive to Brookings and Sunday morning we pedal South in search of fun, adventure and Northern California Coast breweries.
And of course, yes...there's a 60% probability of scattered showers. Perfect.
Would we have it any other way?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Bike/The Heat/The Beer


The annual West Coast Brew Fest was scheduled to kick off at 1pm at Miller Park on Saturday May 17th so naturally it seemed like a good time to schedule the classic ole 'Bike Ride to a Brewery destination'.

The past three years I have shown up at the Miller Park site, which is along the river just South of Old Town Sacramento, parked my car near the entrance and then ridden my bike on the American River Bike Trail out and back towards Folsom with the intent to ride 50-60 miles and arrive back at my car just in time to enter the festival.

This year I finally talked Darek into doing the pre-beer-fest ride with me. Having all but destroyed another of his Scott frames (don't ask) he had just taken possession of a shiny new Giant all carbon frame Shimano Ulterga SL the day before and it very much needed an extended experimental ride to test the set up and overall feel.

It all seemed to be just another great day of cycling and beer drinking and I looked forward to it all week long. There was just one little glitch...that actually wasn't so little...by 11pm the temperature had seemingly already soared to over 100 degrees.

Rick Sellers joined us for the first 12 or so miles out but then wisely turned around and headed back to the fest. Only just recently picking back up on biking he was doing excellent to go that far, especially since I was ignorantly setting a pace that was a bit on the rapid side. Sorry Rick.

Darek and I managed to make it to the 30 mile turnaround point alright but the return trip, which also sported a nice little headwind, eventually took it's toll on us.

We actually seemed to doing alright until we finally arrived back at the car just after the event had started. Once off the bike we realized that the heat had really done a job on us.

No amount of water, Gatorade, fresh clothes and eventually beer and food seemed to be able to snap us out of it.

Once in the fest we soon discovered that the opressively heat was indeed a huge conversation piece for everyone in attendance, complaints that frankly we had little sympathy for. Rick did everything he could to make things go easier for us including getting us checked into the event without having to wait in the ridiculously long line and even fetching us beers from inside the pouring tents.

And there were some really good beers to be had including the Blue Frog Hefeweizen, The Trumer Pilsner and a couple surprise kegs of Celebration Ale that Sierra Nevada Brewing was kind enough to include in their lineup.

It was the kind of a day when the hop hunter was looking for hops in all the light places. Pilsners, Pale Ales and only the occasional IPA's. In fact the best IPA's of the day were to be found at The Auburn Ale House pouring station and at Sequoia Brewing who brought four beers including Brewer master Kevin Cox's excellent 'General Sherman IPA'. Kevin was even on hand pouring his beers himself and showing off all the medals his beer won in this years competition.

Somehow Hoppy Brewing won the Gold Medal in the IPA category but for the life of me I will never understand how or why that happened. Vague rumours of judging snafus or perhaps sample mis-identification and/or beer mis-handling circulated among the knowingly curious.

So ya..overall it was a good day off the couch and out doing something worthy. Bringing to mind that old over used adage of "What doesn't kill ya, makes you stronger". So now my cycling, sweating and beer skills are somehow a little better? Well maybe....I'm just hopping that the Raley Field event next weekend is not quite so hot. Because...ya..I'll be biking there.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Tour de Lincoln

Yep...another post about another pretty cool bike ride. This time it was the Tour de Lincoln. 100k and 3700' of climbing in the foothills between Auburn and Lincoln.
It was a great day to ride and except for the pathetic fare at the first rest stop the day was a true gem.
Springtime in the foothills is just about as beautiful as it gets...even when you're sweating bullets on some of the 10-15% pitches that punctuate the days 63 miles.
The only real negative aspects were Derek's three flats, the first of which pitched him onto the pavement at the top of one of the early climbs, and the lack of proper food at he aforementioned rest stop. Oddly the final rest stop was a mere 6 miles from the finish (with a decent BBQ'd meal) and sported all manner of nourishing supplements.
Next Saturday it is the self guided "West Coast Brew Fest Double". That's the one where we drive to the fest site in Miller Park approximately 4 hours prior to the start; ride out to Folsom on the American River Trail (60 miles) and try to make it back to the car just prior to the event's noon starting time.
Truly there is no better way to rehydrate after a long ride than Hop Hunting at a local beer fest, Stay tuned for that report next week.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

It was a century day


OK...ya I know.....man....I've been badly lagging on my duties here on the blog but perhaps today entry will shed some rays on how I've been spending my time of late.
Today, in my quest to be as ready as possible for the June 1st Epic Redwood Ride, I actually completed my first full Century ride. Ya...not another wimpy metric Century but a full fledged 100 frickin mile ride. The Stockton Bicycle Club supported DELTA CENTURY that starts and ends at Jessies Grove Winery on Turner Road in Lodi CA.
Darek and I completed the 101 miles in a time of roughly 6:31:00. But now I'm spent and we just drained a growler of Alpine Brewing Pure Hoppiness to commemorate the event. Terri and I are now on to some Ale Smith IPA and I've been eyeing that bottle of 2003 Sierra Nevada Big Foot that been lying around the garage fridge since.....well for 5 years now. Ya...it feels just like that kind of a day.
It is a rare day in the neighborhood when I can a actually say that I feel like I did all that I could. A hundred miles is just a long damn way my friends........I'm hoping someday to look back on this as just the stepping stone to some truly Epic rolling adventures. Party on Garth!
Next Saturday we're signed up for the Tour of Lincoln.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Blend Me


For a couple years now I have been blending beers together and have generally really enjoyed what has been produced. For me it all kinda started with the Speakeasy beers Big Daddy IPA and the now readily available Double Daddy.

Tonight I decided to introduce a Double Daddy into a glass already half filled with Avery Brewing's India Pale Ale. It was really a no brainer and I would have been shocked if it wasn't really good. Of course I wasn't shocked and I'm currently on my second one.

I really like the mix of a double IPA with a suitable single IPA for the balance it creates. Typically the doubles have that added sweetness that can be a bit overbearing at times and the mix always seems to smooth all of that out. Plus (naturally) the added BU's from the double mesh so well with the single it just all good. An IPA and a half if you will. Or IPA+ ..or sure it even really needs a handle.....and despite the photo.....just a proper glass will do.
I'm usually careful to blend beers of a very similar style but in the future who knows...maybe a little adventure is in store and I'll go for a blend that may not seem such a natural on the first look.
Anyway... I believe that experimentation is almost always a worthy adventure...it may not always work out but it's usually pretty entertaining to give er a go and see what develops.
It seems more and more brewers are on to blending as well.

Oh ya...I recently read that Bear Republic is has developed a Racer 5/Red Rocket Ale blend called 'SuperFreak'. That is definitely on my list of things to hopefully try soon.

And like one of my friends noted yesterday during one of the quieter moments in our 60 mile bike ride....wines have been blended forever...so why not beer? I agree and I personally think it is the wave of the future. I just love those Surf metaphors.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

And he's off...


Well....Rick is anyway...that dapper Pacific Brew News/DRAFT magazine Beer director stopped by my humble abode this evening to get fitted up with a few growlers for his greatly over due trip to the Beer paradise that is San Diego. It was all I could do to watch him drive away with some of my favorite growlers..... but without me! Man... working for a living just sucks. And yes,,,that's Rick checking out the hatch of my Mini Cooper at the 2006 Oregon Brewers Festival

He'll be all set for visits to Alpine Brewing, San Diego Brewing ,Green Flash, and Pizza Port. I know he has several other stops in mind as well as some other sorta official duties that will also take him to the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo.

I fully suspect he'll also find his way to Obriens which refers to itself as the hoppiest place on earth. And now that the Liars club has moved to Alpine I could imagine him stopping in there to check out the new facility. Wait a minute.....how long is gonna be down there? Oh ya...just a few days...until Saturday I think. I guess he'll need to travel down there again soon to even scratch the surface of all the great beer places to visit.

If I know Rick he's got his own list of other stops that will likely include Ale Houses, Pubs, Eateries as well as bottle shops and liquor outlets. He is a man that will seek out and find different and interesting beers where ever they might be.

And I see San Diego Brewing has the Hopnotic IPA featured on their web site as their beer of the month. Hmmmmm.

But of course the new Kriek and Exponential Hoppiness coming out at Alpine on the 16th is cause for major celebration.

So ya....looking forward to Rick returning with some Hoppy Southern Cal treats...and stories of all his good times. Check out the blog on the Pacific Brew News site for his reports...they never fail to include lots of interesting facts, observations, news and good beer information.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ya sure..I'm here..sorta

Obviously I have little to say lately. Just bikin along getting ready for the Epic Redwood Ride and pondering some drives down South to visit my Dad. He's pretty much the nitro man now and just hanging on to life for us all.
This whole death thing hangs kinda heavy on me and I don't really deal with it all that well. It just seems so final and done. I know CP and Ralph have a much different perspective of it all but the reality of it all is ....well...I just don't.
Ever since my Grandfather unexpectedly died in 1965 (he was younger than I am now) the whole death deal has been unfathomable, mysterious and epically painful for me.
So ya.. I guess I gotta get with the reality program and take it like a man and all that BS...but still it's just not coming easy. Face up to it I weakly remind myself.
After all these many years of hardly getting along we're finally kinda on the same page and dammed if he ain't about to cash it all in. But then I know that has also been a motivating factor to our samepageness.
The finality of it all just reeks. Wish I coulda...woulda...things to say....blah blah fuckin blah
Oh well...that's just humans for ya.....Finally once in a while they (me) might miraculously figure something out when it's virtually too late.
Like the Frank Zappa song 'Dumb all Over'
or Canned Heats 'Human Condition'
I guess life is just a song....or just a beast...or as I prefer to think of it as....it is what it is and it's all it ever shall be.
Man.....I hope there's a beer in my fridge strong enough to offset this BS.......
Although obviously at this point all these friggin beers I've already consummed haven't been enough to offset my usual writing, and life......deficiencies.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

IN HESPERIA THE WIND DOESN'T BLOW.....IT SUCKS


No trip down to our old Hesperia stomping grounds in the Mojave Desert is complete without at least one completely windblown day; and this last trip we got a couple of them. But first a little traveling explanation.

Terri and I picked up Oralia in San Ramon at about noon:30 Thursday March 27th and arrived in Hesperia at approximately 11pm. Zack, Dan and Kevin had to work and were delayed getting out of town until nearly 5pm. They all were scheduled to open up the San Dimas Stage Race on Friday with a Time Trial that rolled out Cat3's and Cat2's mid-day.

The bike racers were driving hard straight through down Interstate 5 while the three of us were meandeering across California on several highways because of a required stop in Fresno at Sequoia brewing. Due to several of Zack's races in the area recently Oralia is becoming quite a regular in the Tower District wateringhole and I think she may even be thinking of joining the Pint Club! We filled a couple growlers with IPA and their wonderful pale Ale.
We had all our bikes mounted to Darek's deluxe bike rack which was itself securely attached to Terri's cop car Crown Vic 's receiver hitch. We planned to ride during our four day stay in the cultural wasteland.
Our plan was to ride early in the day and get done in time to attend Zack and Kevins CAT2 races as well as Dan's CAT3 heats; most of which were scheduled at roughly 1pm each day.

Friday morning Terri, Oralia and I made it out by 9am and did a nice 15 mile loop that included nearly 600' of climbing. The girls were cussing me at the time on the hills but by the time we were done they really enjoyed the fact that they pulled through it all pretty well. After eating lunch I went out again and rode to Oggies Brewery in Apple Valley. What a nice day.

Saturday we made it out on time again despite the fact that the Oggies Brewing, Sequoia Brewing and Russian River Brewing products were flowing freely in nice accompaniment to my Moms Friday night gringo taco feed.
This time virtual family member and great friend Ralph joined us on his "Too small for his beer proportioned 6'6" body" Raleigh aluminum framed road bike. To be fair Ralph hasn't ridden in some time and so the plan was to take it as easy on him as his ample ego would allow. But despite our well intentioned plans the local winds had other ideas. By 9am the winds out of the South were all wickin along at what seemed to be in the 15-20mph range.
We all managed to clock 10+ miles that included a brutal slog home into a beast of a head wind on an exposed 1% grade for 3 miles. It wouldn't seem like too much to the seasoned racers we had in the house but to Terri, Oralia and especially Ralph it was a daunting task. They all pushed on through it without so much as a single complaint and frankly I was quite proud of them.

On Sunday it was a whole new ball game. The winds continued to grow in intensity with gusts that the news reported as being in the 40mph range. Terri and Oralia were not interested in riding in those severe wind conditions and frankly I didn't blame them. Ralph and I on the other hand are just a couple old fools dumb enough to give her a go. Especially since Oggies Brewing in Apple Valley is located almost purely downhill and downwind from our starting spot. Mercy.

The very first challenge Ralph and I faced was a 20+% downhill that I went 40+mph on at the start of my solo Friday afternoon ride. I figured there would be a big cross wind about half way down so I kept my speed in check and all the paramedics in Hesperia were glad I did. A gust nearly cleaned me off the bike completely and blew me four feet across the road. Ralph took quick note of it and slowed his speed as well. After that sphincter testing jolt we more carefully picked our way across the old potato lands of the mesa and decided to cross the Mojave river on Rock Springs Road. The generous looking riding shoulder turned out to a hellishly grooved tire shredding mess so we were forced to ride the edge of the well traveled road instead. Just about that time we noticed that the wind was picking up the grit off of the river bed and sandblasting everything that passed that way. Ralph had it in his ears and I swear I was still noticing granules 2 days later sifting around the inside of my helmet. Yes indeed...this was the life...livin the dream. Ultimately of course we made into the Jess Ranch area where we met Terri, loaded the bikes onto the car rack and might have slipped into Oggies for a pitcher or three of Green Flash Imperial.
So ya...it's one of my old favorite sayings but it's so spot on. The wind doesn't blow....it sucks!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

BREWBAKERS

On our return trip from the desert on Monday April Fools Day Eve we made our way East off Highway 99 a few miles and found Brewbakers in downtown Visalia.
The brewery is housed in a really cool old building that used to have ridiculously high ceilings that have wisely been turned into space for fermentors and a beer garden/patio. As you walk in the front door you are warmly greeted by the copper and stainless steel brewing equipment that immediately lets you know you are in the right place.
It was early in the afternoon when we arrived so the bar was uncrowded and we found a nice spot at the bar nearest the bronze tap handles. Having already visited their website I knew they didn't have their IPA on..... but the Pale Ale was a fresh batch and I really wanted to try their Sequoia Red which they refer to as their flagship beer.
The Pale Ale was quite drinkable and so we ordered a pitcher. Very clean, reasonably hoppy and just a fine session beer. The Red on the other hand was quite annoying...since they ran out of it an hour before we arrived. Yep..that's right....I missed it by an hour.
Steve the bartender felt my pain and fed me a couple of samples of their Schwarzbier to try to keep me from crying. The Black German Lager was solid but I really yearned for the subtle hoppiness and roasted malt backbone that I figured their Red likely possessed. A couple of the regulars wandered through while we were eating our Reuben and French dip lunch and they all groaned at the loss of their favorite local libation.
The rest of their beer menu was filled with Apple, Apple Raspberry and a Honey Wheat. I guess I should have sampled them but just didn't. Not really typical Hop Hunter fare although considering the top quality of their Pale Ale and Schwartz it wouldn't surprise me if they were highly drinkable for those that enjoy those sort of .......a......light summer beers.
We took a growler of the Pale Ale home.
Glad we stopped...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I feel so special

And no it's not because sometimes I feel like I could qualify for the special Olympics...it's just that crazy things seems to be happening to me some days when I ride my bike. I won't go to into endless details like I seem to do at times...... because I have a lot to do to get ready for our trip down to the High Desert tomorrow.
Yesterday was another one of those days though. The wind was blowing in the 20mph range out of the South and after slogging South about five miles or so I finally hit my Southern turn around point and was pegging along at +30mph with a cross/tailwind. I was in a particularly trafficy area on a sweeping turn trapped between a stream of 50mph cars and a grass covered 4 foot deep drainage ditch.
You like how I'm avoiding the details so far?
And so don't ya know right then was the perfect time to get a quick leaking flat rear tire. My rear rim was immediately on the asphalt and the back of the bike was starting to swap out towards the traffic side of the 12" wide bike lane. I really didn't want to jam on the brakes, especially the rear brake...so I applied some pressure to the front brake and tried to keep the bike from following it's natural momentum (and the wind) into the expressway. Once I got some of the speed scruffed off I decided I'd rather end up in the ditch that under a car so I forced my body right and rode the sucker into the ditch. Fortunately it was a fairly friendly ditch..as far as ditches go..pretty soft wetish material covered with a thick layer of spring grass. I stayed upright the whole time and going down the 4 foot bank seemed to slow me considerably. The cars seemed unfazed. All except one motorist that is..... she stopped her car at the earliest safe spot ahead, which had to be almost a quarter mile down the road or so, and started back to see if I was OK.
I checked things out and saw that all I really had to do was change the tube and I think I could just carry on with my ride. Despite the rude treatment my almost new tire seemed to be OK. (Later on I would find that actually it was cut in a couple places)
I indicated to her that I was OK but she walked the entire distance just to make sure. Something that impressed me no end. Glad to see people like this still exist I thought.
So I continued on my ride and three miles later an old couple in the Del Webb senior community decided to fake me out by aiming left before turning right into their driveway and I had to grab a piece of sidewalk and part of their driveway to avoid their bumper. Whew.....I wonder if they had a heart attack.
A couple miles later I witnessed a 7 year old Evil Knievel wannabe do a face plant on a bike trail. I stopped and checked him out while his panicked parents caught up to the scene and frantically made sure he was OK.
Knievel's Mother told me as I started to leave "Thanks for stopping, good to know some decent people still exist". The rest of my ride I hardly noticed the gale force winds at all.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Stumptown





This past weekend Terri and I did our second annual Healdsburg Dry Creek loop bicycle ride on Easter day. We actually headed out of Roseville Saturday afternoon and spent the evening at Russian River Brewing. We had 10 growlers to fill for our expedition South this coming weekend so we decided to get a room within walking distance (good heads up Rick) and get those puppies re energized with Blind Pig IPA and Pliny the Elder. It was a typical Russian River experience, which is to say exceptional...it's just a place we enjoy being at. The next day we headed North to Healdsburg and parked in the free public lot directly behind Bear Republic Brewing. Typically we would do the 22 mile loop and then crash the brewery for some good eats, Racer 5, Hop Rod Rye and hopefully some tasty Racer X.


The sign on the door was somewhat unbelievable and really disappointing. Closed on Easter Sunday. So we went on our ride and decided that since BRB was closed it was time to make the trek out to Stumptown Brewery & Smokehouse on River Road in Guerneville.

We got a call from Tracy, who was out on a day tour enjoying the spring wildflowers, during our ride and she agreed to meet us at Stumps for a beer. I really liked the look and feel of the Stumptown tavern as we walked through the front double doors...I call it a tavern because that's the term that popped into my head as I strolled below the low heavy beamed wooden ceiling and made my way to the bar stools in the back. The bar was also accessible from the large rear patio that over looked Russian River and the forest surrounding it. What a great spot, the smell of the smokehouse was in the air and Terri was already eyeing a platter of ribs that was being carried out the back door to some lucky patron on the patio.

There were three house beers on the menu, a surprisingly good raspberry Red, a very light American style wheat and their flag ship the 'Rat Bastard' Pale Ale. I tasted all three and eventually requested a pint of the Bastard. They advertise it as a 'session pale' and I guess I could see that, although it was a bit grassy for my tastes upon my initial tasting. I opted for the Russian River IPA for my next beer and kicked myself for not starting with a pint of Beamish that I failed to notice before ordering the Pale Ale. Somehow Beamish Stout and myself have not been in the same location all year long and I was definitely in the mood for one.

We eventually made our way to the patio once Tracy arrived and enjoyed some sun and a Stumptown burger with Cheddar and bleu cheese. It was quite tasty and I would recommend it...although if you don't prefer your burgers on the rare side I'd remind them to cook it medium or more.

I was glad we finally made to Stumptown for a visit, if you're ever off the beaten path you should stop. The food, beer and service was excellent.

So where did we go from there on a Sunday afternoon?......we'll back to Vinnie's Russian River Brewing of course....that fresh Pliny and Blind Pig wasn't gonna drink itself. And oh ya...the Compunction...which I believe is a sour Belgian style golden ale.....didn't suck either. Tracy bought a growler of it.....lucky Rick.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

BAXTER GRADE

Yesterday the powers that be at work decided that it would be a fine and honorable gesture to let all their minions off at noon to observe Good Friday. When I heard the news I naturally started thinking what I might do with the extra daylight hours of freedom and predictably started scheming on where I might go on an extended ride. The first thing that jumped into my head was that nasty little 1.5 mile climb just out of Auburn called Baxter Grade. The fact that after five days without a fermented beverage I was starting into some noticeable hop deprivation may have factored in as well considering Auburn is home to one of my favorite breweries and IPA's.
I called up my good buddy Darek who lives in Auburn and we devised a plan to meet half way and then climb Baxter together. As soon as I started North out of my garage on the boulevard I realized that I had seriously underestimated the winds on this 60 degree late March day. The ride to Lincoln would be a total slog for 12 or so miles against a 12-15mph (estimated) headwind.
The previous day the winds were from the South and would have made for a much better warm up before reaching the foothills. Fewer matches burned anyway. This section of the ride took me nearly an hour instead of the usual 40-45 minutes.
Meanwhile Darek was flying off the mountain and nearly got hit by a clueless hillbilly pick-up truck driver whilst riding DOWN Baxter Grade. Darek's near miss, and my lateness in arriving at our designated meeting point apparently discombobulated him a bit and he just kept traveling West on Wise Road until he was five miles past the rendezvous spot. Moments after I turned that corner my cell phone rang. "Where are you" He says. "I'm already crossed over HWY 65 and still I don't see you". "Uhhhh....I'm five miles behind you my friend". Or ahead..which is how Darek now had to view the situation.
He turned around and just hammered it to the tune of 150 Average HR/20+mph and finally caught me two thirds of the way up Baxter. He had a long way to come but considering I was able to set a new low speed record on some of the 15% pitches I was easy prey for someone who rides as well as he does. Somehow I managed to stay upright despite a one time reading 2.8mph and several 2.9's. During the climb I even got a call from long time friend CP who has this amazing knack for calling me at the most perplexing and compromised moments.
But I made it and I was pretty happy about it...knowing that Darek's wife Carrie was at their house with Terri cooking spaghetti and sipping on one of their 3 growlers full of AAH's fine IPA.
My overall stats were.......... another day of preparation for June 1st and especially June 4th when the Redwood Ride goes over Leggett Pass.
2:41:02
30.3 miles
144 ave HR
168 max HR
1621' Ascent
Sitting in the spa afterwards didn't suck either......a special thanks to the Borba's for a fine evening in Auburn.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A great 35th Anniversary

Well.....just so ya know...my wife is pretty awesome. Today was our 35th wedding anniversary and all she wanted was to hang out with me and drink some hoppy beers. We gathered Rick up just shy of 2pm and headed to Manderas in Folsom. Brent Whited the Owner/Manager of the place treated us like royalty and brought us some beers from his private reserve. To top off the festivities Rick paid for the whole affair and told us "Happy Anniversary".
And it was a happy one indeed...after leaving Manderas we made a quick stop at the Bev-mo in Citrus Heights and bought some Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA, Green Flash West Coast IPA and Alaskan Brewing Smoked Porter. Rick also grabbed a few items and called them "Things that were cold and I haven't tried". Fair enough...and we jumped back into the car in time to make dinner at Cody and Breann's house.
The Corned beef and fixings were just excellent. A great evening was had by all ...including Foxy the cat who can chase a beam of red light like no other.
Thanks one and all for the great evening...and like Terri said...."I'm hoping for 35 more!!!"

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Odd Saturday ride

The day dawned rather chilly with a breeze out of the South and since typically I prefer to go against the wind in the first half of my ride I decided to head South towards Sacramento County. That route takes me through some neighborhoods before I get to the bigger boulevards and Highways. My intent was to take it kinda easy since I had a pretty good week on the bike and I'm only just now feeling like my bout with Bronchial-Pneumonia is truly behind me.
So there I was pushing the wind along at about 16 mph and noticed there was a person sitting in the parked truck just ahead of me, instinctively I veered slightly towards the center of the street in case he opened his truck door and boom...sure enough the door flung open and the dude jumped out without even looking around. I was still on a line that would take me rather close to him but I held my line as he slammed the door and rather purposefully made his way towards the rear of his truck. As I passed him I realized "Oh, I know this guy"..It was my good Buddy Jeff Scammon....creator of Wild West Radio and former owner of the Owl Club in old town Roseville out working his Real Estate gig. So I said "Hey there" as I rolled past him. No response. I hit the brakes a bit and circled back to say hi. As I approached Jeff was already into his Salesman BS mode with the bespectacled woman standing in the front doorway of a house he was apparently involved with. This time I slowed in front of the house and half yelled "Hey Jeff". Still no response although the woman of the house was now looking at me. Once again I did a 180 degree turn and this time rolled slowely past the house on the sidewalk and called his name again. The woman kinda half-waved at me and looked at Jeff who was apparently just INTO some seriously heavy spiel. Obviously, despite all that, he never knew I was there. After that last attempt I just got back on the hoods and continued trudging in a Southerly direction.
After making my way around and past the decommissioned McClellan Air Force Base I got a call from Zack about whether or not he should run the disk wheel in the 10+mph winds during his time Trial in Exetor. Soon after hanging up I turned West on Elkhorn road and noticed that there were a few local bicyclists clogging the bike lane ahead of me. I managed to get around a couple of the rude bastards but was now gaining on one that was towing a trailer. The funky ill-designed trailer was bobbing and weaving up and down as well as side to side. I looked behind me to check on traffic because I knew I was gonna need to go out into the traffic lane to get around him. Unfortunately there were a dozen or so cars rapidly approaching on the four lane boulevard. Even more unfortunately as I turned back around I watched in amazement as the guys trailer came loose from his bike and was now rolling diagonally across the road into the path of the oncoming vehicles.
I immediately slowed and turned back to the traffic and started quickly waving my arm to help alert them to the hazard in their path. Luckily the two cars leading the way were on top of it and were already slowing down. As I rolled up to the now panicked man that was frantically trying to remove his garbage from the middle of the highway I asked "Do you need any help".....which prompted him to scream at me "Fuck You...leave me alone Asshole". So once again I put my hands back on the hoods and went back to my pedaling. I must report that one of the cars did roll past me kinda slow and the driver gave me thumbs up sign...apparently appreciating my efforts to warn my fellow travelers about the moron at work zone.
The next 18 or so miles of my 37 mile jaunt were thankfully uneventful and I started thinking of lunch which was now less than a half hour away. As I approached within a mile of my home I passed the final traffic light of the day and noticed a rather large human walking in the middle of the bike lane directly towards me. As we drew closer to each other I noticed that the traffic off my left shoulder was very heavy and there was no room to move over.
By now we were 20 feet apart and I could see that he was completely drunk/stoned and intently talking on a cell phone. Just as I thought we were about to collide I yelled at him and he suddenly lunged to the side just enough for me to slide past him as a truck was flying past by what seemed inches to my left. As I regained a line to the right side of the bike lane I heard him yell back at me that sounded like "You Moron biker WTF?".
And that my friends is what I call The Saturday Tri-fecta.........if true weirdness, oddities and mishaps come in threes....well I'm just glad those are over.