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


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.


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


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......

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


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.