Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dick Dale Surfs into Auburn

Well.....the legendary Dick Dale actually flew his private plane into Auburn to perform a show Saturday night at the Auburn Event Center; But to hear Dick tell it he almost actually did fly into Auburn having made his initial decent without remembering to put his landing gear down. Apparently an alert passenger/instructor saved the day by ordering him around for another pass to correct the situation thus avoiding the possible disaster. At 72 years old the "King of the Surf Guitar" is still going strong....but I doubt a belly landing on a cold Auburn morning would have done much to enrich his current West Coast tour.
It was the fourth or fifth time I've seen Dick, so to speak, and once again he didn't fail to thoroughly entertain me and all the other Dick Heads in attendance. Having never been a truly rabid Grateful Dead fan I could never really call myself a Dead Head...but I will admit to gladly being know as one of Mr. Dale's legions of Dick Heads....a term he lovingly throws around accompanied by his patented smirky grin.
Dick's show, for those of you who are uninitiated, is a loud and intense eclectic layered mixture of original heavy metal surf style guitar tunes and patented original cover versions of songs....the likes of wish you will never hear done in an even remotely similar fashion. "House of the Rising Sun" , Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and a tribute to Ray Charles classic "Say What?" are a few that come to mind.
Dick's well oiled three piece band seldom even pauses between numbers...preferring to continue the upside down left handed Stratocaster onslaught in rapid fire order, save for the occasional personal story from Dick or to introduce the Drummer or bass player.
Dick's original instrument was the drums and he delves into that area a couple of times...assisting the drummer on one of his solos and also banging out a tune with drum sticks on the strings of the bass guitar...naturally as the bass player is playing it!
And of course he always remembers to play his signature tune Miserlou which never fails to turn the crowd into a frenzy bunch of pimply screaming adolescences for a couple of minutes. Dick even breaks out the trumpet for the occasion.
So ya....if you ever get a chance to see Dick in person I highly recommend it......he is an original...the likes of which we will likely never see again.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Home Sweat Home

Well....actually getting home WAS a bit of a sweat....between the over extended stay at Pizza Port San Clemente on Monday and the unfortunate conversation with the CHP on Tuesday it took us about a day and a half to return North from our Southern excursion.
Somehow, despite all the drinking, traveling, drinking, visiting, drinking, Football games, tail- gating, drinking, Thanksgiving meals, coffee roasting and brewery visiting we managed to make it home with about eight growlers and a case of beer in 22oz bottles.
Terri and I visited Sequoia Brewing in Fresno as well as Ballast Point and Alpine in San Diego and of course Pizza Port San Clemente on the day we were originally scheduled to return home. Fortunately we DID stop in San Clemente because there were some bottles of Hop 15 and Port 3rd Anniversary Ale that had our names on them.
Another highlight of the trip for me was the pint of Coronado Brewing Red Devil Imperial Red I had at PP.... which at 10% abv reminded me of the legendary LogSpliter that Sequoia Brew Master Kevin Cox has produced in years past. Had I know about that beer I would have surely taken that off-ramp to Coronado Island that I bypassed earlier in the day. Oh well...so much beer and so little time available.
Our Ballast Point stop provided us with a case of scrumptious Sculin IPA and a high priced growler of Dorado Double IPA. I also had a sample of their Imperial Porter Victory at Sea but like some overspending cheap ass fool I failed to secure any bottles to bring home. Despite the $7.99 price tag I highly recommend it should anyone actually find any in Nor-Cal .... or anywhere else for that matter.
Naturally the biggest and most anticipated brewery visit of the entire trip was Alpine Brewing. We filled 20 growlers of their finest offerings including Pure Hoppiness, Duet, Nelson and O'Brien's IPA. While we were basking in the glow of Alpine Hops my sons Cody and Zack along with their beautiful brides Breann and Oralia were visiting Green Flash Brewing in Vista. They filled up 8 or so growlers and were treated like royalty by Brewer Chuck Silva's friendly crew who hooked them all up with custom Green Flash Brewing T-shirts. Along with growlers of Hop Head Red, West Coast IPA and Imperial they managed to secure some of the elusive Palette Wrecker that I had been hoping to try. It did not disappoint.
Somehow we also managed to squeeze in a visit to the legendary Hamilton's and the new Toronado of San Diego. Both places lived up to the hype and I could have spent a lot more time in each establishment. Both highly recommended.
Our late and unexpected stop at Red Shoe Roasting in Rancho Oak Hills was also a highlight of the trip and filled our trunk with a really obscene amount of mega quality fresh roasted beans from all over the globe. Thanks to some large Sasquatch type man who shall remain nameless we also were able to share in the sampling of a couple of bottles of Double IPA from Utah.
Since it Tis the Xmas season I suspect that these eight or so growlers I have left will be history before long.....now all I need is a sponsor and I'm ready to go on another round of growler gathering. A hearty thanks to all who housed, helped and joined us in any part of our great turkey weekend adventure ..... you certainly know who you are.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Time to "Go South young man"

Yes it is once again that time of year, the leaves are turning, the air is gaining that crisp rine of early morning dewness and the trunk of my car is heavily weighted down with a couple of ice chests containing many ounces of quality Northern California Craft brew.
Yes of course that means it's time to head South for the annual Kansas City Chargers versus San Diego Chiefs football game. Hopefully you caught that name swapping there, just checking to see if you were awake or just skimming through...or maybe looking ahead to check out the inevitable growler and bottle list.
For convenience purposes we had the NFL once again schedule the game on the same weekend as Thanksgiving so we could just take a week off work and combine the two events into one giant family and friends free for all.
I know, I know... just list the beers and shut up.....OK here we go. listed in no particular order

6 - Pliny the Elder - Russian River
6 - Blind Pig - Russian River (oddly we filled up 16 growlers on our Santa Rosa visit but apparently only 12 are making the trip South)
4 - Gold Digger IPA - Auburn Ale House
2 - Fools Gold - Auburn Ale House
2 - Hop Rod Rye - Bear Republic (we hoped to find some Racer X on our visit to Healdsburg but were greeted with snarky laughter when asked if any was available)
1 - Hopsickle - Moylans
1 - General Sherman IPA - Sequoia Brewing

2 - Hop Stoopid - Lagunitas (one of the great bargains at a mere $3.79 for a 22oz bottle at Total Wine and More)
2 - A Little Sumpin Extra - Lagunitas
1 - Smoked Porter - Alaskin Brewing (OK ...not quite Nor Cal....but must have)
1 - Abyss - Deschutes
2 - Racer 5 - Bear Republic
1 - Rorie's Ale - Odonada Brewing
2 - Lost Continent - Grand Teton
2 - UberHoppy - Valley Brewing
1 - Harvest - Sierra Nevada Brewing
12 - Franziskaner - Spaten (well... hard to find a good Hefe down that way)

Seems like there might be a few more stashed in and among the growlers and ice.....but who's counting exactly anyway...... the main idea is to just share the good times with family and friends and it certainly doesn't suck if you can add a pint or four to the festivities right?

OK then... I'm off to bed to dream of rumours and promises of locally grown desert double IPA's saved and stashed away for the occasion.

This trip is dedicated to Dian Scammon....a very good friend who's sudden departure from this world on November 15th has left us all a bit shaken and feeling the void. We never did get to have those last Irish Car Bombs we talked about. Until Such Time my friend.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Iceland....the land of hops?

When I was a kid I used to dream of visiting the geographic extremes of Greenland and Iceland, home of historical Viking adventures shrouded in foggy winds of Northern Seas mystery and myth.

Although my childhood fantasy of visiting those far flung icy lands has never wavered, my practical knowledge of those extreme Northern locals, specifically Iceland, has increased with the years and the notion that I will one day roam those cold shores of volcanic upheaval. I will definitely be bringing along my half liter mug.

Iceland, for those who may not be aware, is basically a huge chunk of volcanic excrement squeezed up from battling tectonic plates just South of the Arctic Circle between Europe and North America. The beauty of the place is that it sits directly in the path of the temperate flow of the Gulf Stream. It is basically where the Gulf stream goes to chill out.

Due to the relative warmth of the Gulf Stream Iceland is much more inhabitable and vibrant than any lands of it's latitude (65N) around the globe... like for instance Antarctica.
And while to my knowledge there are no hop farms on the Ross Ice Shelf there are great Hops to be found growing on the Southern edges of Iceland.
Prohibition in Iceland began in 1918 and survived in varying degrees until it's final removal on March 1st 1989. A date now known, and vigorously celebrated every year, as Beer Day.
Since that time the three major Icelandic brewers, as well as the small contingent of craft brew enthusiasts have utilized the locally grown hops in all their Pilsners and Lagers.
The relatively short cool summer growing season is enhanced by the long summer sunlight hours. It is believed that the hops thrive due to the Basalt low silica soil that is virtually a match for the lava type found halfway across the planet in the Hawaiian Islands. The hops are irrigated from the pristine waters of the Vatnajokull Ice Cap. The largest glacier in all of Europe.
The most commonly grow and heartiest of the Icelandic Lupulins is the Norse which weighs in with nice earthy and floral characteristics and a decent 7.5 alpha rating. Viking gold at 6.8 and the less produced but highly coveted Arnarson Hekla typically top out in the 6-6.5 alpha range. The Arnarson Hekla is the favorite bittering hop used in the production of the traditional Spring Porters that are a big part of the March 1st Beer Day celebrations.
To date no exportation of Icelandic Hops exists but I plan to continue my quest to get some samples drop shipped to me from one of the Reykjavik home brew shops so I can try out my Great Uncle Halldo'rs "Erik the Red" Strong Ale recipe

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Oh!......here it is...I knew that pesky blog of mine was around here somewhere. And ya...I know I can hear all the predictable mumbling ..."What...the monthly Hop Hunter entry, how quaint". And really I agree, it's been way to long between entries.
I guess I just don't have all that much to say lately or can't find anything to report about. OR...I just haven't had time to write because of all my activities and traveling. I'm sure the answer is somewhere in between lazy and lame .... so hmm lets see...did I do anything interesting this summer to finally report about?

Mammoth Lakes California July 31st-August 1st
For the third year in a row we made my way over the Sierra's to hook up with my old friends Ralph and Penny from So-Cal to attend perhaps the best Beer /Musical event I have ever been to. Friday and Saturday music with an excellent beer fest in between. The setting is tremendous amongst the trees and the 7000+ altitude. This years musical headliner was Kenny Wayne Shepherd and the beer of the event was Sculpin from Ballast Point in San Diego. Seven musical acts over 2 days and 50+ breweries pretty much make this a yearly must go. It isn't officially an IPA event but there sure are a lot of hoppy beers to go around.
Discovery Park, Sacramento California Sept 19th.
66 Breweries listed on the program but it seemed that many didn't show up or cancelled late. Blue Frog Brewing from Fairfield stood out as did Sacramento Brewing and North Coast Brewing from Fort Bragg. All three breweries brought along half a dozen or more entries and made the lack of vendors seem like a trivial matter. Mad River also did well and poured late into the event. The 100 degree heat made for a lighter beer style drinking day for me. Blue Frog Hefeweizen and the North Coast Prankster provided me with memories that still linger. A few of my favorite beers won medals. Sac Brew IPA and Lagunitas Imperial Red both won won Gold in their categories while Blue Frog's excellent Coffee Porter garnered the top spot as well.
Parchers Resort
South Lake, Bishop California
While both our lovely brides remained at home to work.... Zack and I spent the better part of Labor Day weekend hanging out and drinking near South Lake at 9000' in the Easter Sierra. My sister Tina and her husband Darryl rented a cabin, brought their kayaks and fishing poles, invited my parents along and they all made a week of it.
Zack and I packed one of my mid-sized ice chests with Hefeweizens and IPA's from .........
OK...sorry......this report has been interrupted by a bottles of Affligm tripel.....Sierra Nevada Anniversary IPA, Shipyard XXXX, Pliny the Elder, Mad River double IPA, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Green Flash Imperial, Avery HogHead and ...........

Monday, September 21, 2009

A proper early-mid-week sham

Nothing like a birthday to bring out a sense of entitlement in people. Sooo ... since tomorrow is indeed a Hop Hunter day of counting the years long-gone-past ..... a quick trip to San Francisco seems in perfect harmony with a day not at work.
Terri and I will be getting out of Roseville by noon headed for the BART station in Dublin where we will hop onto the local mass transit luxury liner and head across the salty bay to The City. Speaking of the city our first stop will be the City Beer Store at 1168 Folsom St.
Since we will be meeting my son Zack and his brilliant Bride Oralia when we disembark at Civic Center station he suggested we stop in for a look around the shop before we head to the ultimate San Francisco Beer destination ....Toronado.
It is obvious that we will be doing a bit more than just looking around City Beer because a quick look a their web site reveals that they have Ballast Point Brewing Sculpin on tap. Last months trip to Mammoth Beer Festival was filled with many return trips to the BP booth for as much Sculpin as they'd let us get away with.
Since going to the Toronado on a Tuesday night is not the most advantageous plan for getting a lot of work related production done on Wednesday we just decided to go ahead and blow off work Wednesday too and do some midweek beer gettin. Hmmmm ... where is Santa Rosa?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Stoopid Racer

Tonight at the Owl club in Roseville I accidentally (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) mixed up my pint glasses and added some Lagunitas Hop Stoopid to my Bear Republic Racer 5. I soon realized that I had just created the first know version of Stoopid Racer. After further experimentation (one must follow the quest of pure science) I came to realize the proper ratio for my taste buds on this evening was about 60% Racer 5 to 40% Hop Stoopid.
But of course that's just me, and this was but one day....one day of many more hop mixing experiments surely to come. Hmmmm ......I wonder what a 90 minute Pliny would taste like.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hop drying

Thanks to my good buddy and neighbor Bob Silva I currently have six pounds of Cascade hops drying on screens in my garage. (I knew those screens on my windows were good for something) Drying should take about two and a half to three days in this almost 100 degree weather. After drying I figure I should still come away with 3/4 of a pound of usable hops.
Bob's plants are still producing cones and perhaps we'll get another bag full in a couple/few weeks. Hmmmm.....seems like a time to brew up a batch of Harvest ale doesn't it? Terri just got home from work and suggested we sit in the garage to enjoy a beer and the view. One thing is for sure my garage has never smelled better.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Faria's to Blame

Friday night July 24th 2009 the Southern California Speedway team beat the Northern squad 76 to 62 in the annual North vs South Civil War of Speedway at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn California.
And long time veteran Speedway icon "Flyin" Mike Faria is the reason why ....despite the fact that he never set foot on the track.
Faria, a former Richmond California and Reno Nevada resident who recently moved back down to the greater Los Angeles area, was a late no show prompting race promoter Dave Joiner to juggle the teams and insert "Bronco" Billy Janniro into the spot on the South team formerly occupied by Faria. Taking the place of Janniro on the Northern team was former junior rider Mark Carrillo.
The fact that Janniro is from Benicia and has never lived in Southern California seemed to make little difference to the Barnum and Bailey minded Speedway brain trust. Another Northern California rider...... Bryan Yarrow was already situated on the Southern team .....for the second straight year. Yarrow is from Vacaville and Citrus Heights!
What it boils down to is whichever team former British League rider Janniro was on was going to win the event. The evidence can be found in Janniro's predictable performance in his six heat rides and the Main Event. He won everyone of them for a combined score of 26 points. The South won by 14 points.
I have to admit it was a pretty fun evening watching old favorites like Janniro, Bart Bast, Tommy Hedden, Charlie Venegas and Jimmy Fishback compete...and I was even a little surprised at the emergence of former Junior riders Greg Hooton, Jason Ramirez, Bryce Starks and my friend Mark Carrillo.
My problem is with the decline of an event that has been one of the best Speedway nights since it's inception in 1991. Where was Faria? And where was Bobby Schwartz, who is still a successful Speedway rider in Southern California? How about Gary Hicks and Eddie Castro?
I know there are plenty of talented riders down South to return the annual North vs South battle to it's original glory....without robbing the North of it's best riders in the name of a predetermined Hollywood script. It deserves better.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Beer Python - Revisited

Some years ago, when the Hop hunter was merely a beer python and just starting to develop his hop legs (there were actually very few hops back then) he wrote a short story for an unnamed college newspaper describing one of his early beer related experiences. Having just recently found a copy of that story it became clear that perhaps a little look at that piece might be kinda fun and perhaps even shed some insight into the development of a full grown Hop Hunter. Beware...it's gonna be sloppy...in typical Hop hunter writing style... some things never change.

THE KERN RIVER BEER PYTHON - The Beaver Adventure (June 1984)

Once again I find myself cruising the Mighty Kern River in my quest for adventure and my search for beer. All that protrudes above the water are my eyes and forehead. I can move sly and slow picking off unguarded beer without rippling the water. Or I can boldly sweep in swift and fierce attacking cashes and be gone before a camper can mount any defensive action whatsoever. I am good at my task. I love my work. I am the #1 Kern River Beer Python.

This particular day was sunny, hot and dry; a perfect day for beer pilfering.As I headed down the trail from our camp to the Kern I told myself that this day would be different. Under my arm I carrier my black inner tube which I had named "Courage" years earlier. I often used courage to perform "soft reconnaissance" which consists of floating downriver a mile or two making mental notes on amounts, types and defense of beer. Up ahead the rapids loomed, once through I would start gathering information on the new crop of unsuspecting beer which year after year without fail was waiting for me cooling in the river. I did not want to disappoint them.
The rapids proved to be more than just an access to fortune. By the time I had finished battering my body on the rocks I was in no shape for even a look around. Courage was floating up ahead of me free from riders and glistening in the hot sun. The river was calm at this point so I swam over to my inner tube, corralled it, kicked up on top, then sat back to lick my wounds,
After studying the gash on my leg I noticed something floating in the little inlet that paralleled the shore and the rapids. It looked to me like a beaver. I paddled over near it and climbed onto a rock to get a better look. Sure enough it was a huge dead beaver. It was so puffed and flabulent it appeared to be without feet. At this time I had no idea how important this apparently useless beaver would turn out to be. I watched the beaver for a few moments before deciding it would be safe until I returned. The Kern River Beer Python was onto something big.
At camp I found both my good buddies doing mostly what I had expected them to be doing, nothing. I told them all about the beaver I found, and the plans I had for it. They remained mildly interested until I came to my intended plan, at which time they told me I was crazy as a loon. Beaver madness was shifting into first gear.
Although they thought I was crazed, they did indeed have every intention of helping me in this..my bicentennial salute. Never had a plan been conceived so quickly and completely by a Beer Python, or by mere humans for that matter. It would certainly be something to see.
We discussed the details at length and then unhesitatingly emptied our spare ice chest of its inhabitants. We carried the ice chest downstream until we came to the beaver which floated puffed and flabulent in the water, just where I had left it. We loaded the beaver into the ice chest and headed back to camp. There was great anticipation in the air and little talk. Everyone was occupied with his own ideas of what the reaction would be once the plan was carried out.
Night was approaching as we settle back into camp. The moon was glowing just above the trees. We did little more that evening aside from the initial actions that prelude a massive hangover.
The next morning we loaded the beaver laden ice chest into the back of our sputterford and headed towards the nearest large city. In this case it would be Bakersfield. Poor Bakersfield. Bakersfield, for those of you who might not realize, is a city of about a hundred thousand or so people located in the Southern part of California. Bakersfield is a typical hot desert town. Bakersfield is also a town soon to be invaded by crazed loons and a Beer Python with hideous bicentennial thought racing through their brains. In a year of bicentennial events no one would top the Beer Python and his buddies. We would see to that.
We arrived in Bakersfield at about 3:30 Pacific time and went looking for a Red Devil fireworks stand.
We found a fireworks stand on almost every other corner and had no trouble picking one that was just right for us. We bought up all the glitterers, exploders, gushers, geysers, flamers, smokers and whistlers that we could afford. We tied all of these onto one main fuse and stuffed them into the beaver.
If you can imagine what a three day old dead beaver smells like then you have some idea of what all of us smelled like. Another problem was starting to haunt us now. The beaver in all of its glory was becoming more puffed and flabulent and swollen than ever, due no doubt to the days high temperature. After loading the beaver back into the ice chest we went across the street to a service station to wash up. Obtaining the key from the attendant was a trial in itself. He gave me the key after some discussion and after that he muttered something about defecation, remaining all the while at a safe distance.
Driving down the street we were aided by a fifth of Black Velvet which was purchased by a fellow beaver explorer while the other two of us were washing the beaver germs off of us. He picked it up because of something he termed "Beaver Madness". From that point on the whiskey was know and referred to as 'serum'.
Soon we entered the parking lot that served a large department type store. We found a parking spot close to the entrance and got out to unload the beaver. We took the ice chest containing the beaver indoors getting only moderately inquisitive glances and no confrontations with store employees.
Upon reaching a suitable point near the middle of the store we hoisted the beaver out of the ice chest up onto a Desenex display stand that rose about seven feet above the floor. We lit the fuse.
Acting as inconspicuous as a python out of water I headed for the door with my cohorts right behind carrying the empty ice chest. By the time we reached the door the beaver had drawn a small gathering and was sputtering and oozing to some extent. We stood as the door majestically swaying back and forth singing the National anthem when all of a sudden the beaver exploded. Pieces of beaver flew all the way to the sporting goods section on the other side of the store. The crowd that had gathered around the beaver was dispersed, seeking cover wherever they might.
The whole store was ablaze with a fireworks display that would certainly have outdone even the LA Coliseum.
As we turned to go we saw what was left of the beaver stand up on it's side and explode. Finally sending it to that big dam in the sky, stopping off first in lady's lingerie. We left for the car at a trot, threw the ice chest into the back and headed straight out of town. By the time we reached our camp nightfall was approaching and drunkenness had been with us for some time. A Python requires water so I headed down to the mighty Kern to float, satisfied for awhile, and unaware of what lay ahead of me downstream in yet another unguarded inlet.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

2er de Frog

OK .... I know,I know that Bob Roll has educated us all the past few years that the real pronunciation is The Tour DAY France.... but I sorta like the whole frog thing...being as it is the French and all.

Or as I understand it this year it's returned as the Tour de Lance once again.

Damn you moron Americans (Oh ya that includes me) the Tour de France is much more than just a venue for America's favorite Texan (but only because Stevie Ray died) to shine and show the world that Americans are always ready to kick ass on the rest of the planet wanna-be's.

My problem stems from the American Press' tendency to all but ignore the rest of the tours teams and riders.....even other American riders!

I mean...I get it..Lance is the man...he's cool...he's newsworthy....his cause is trendy and legitimately relevant plus he's the second greatest American rider of all time...but come on....It's the Tour de France......something I consider the greatest single race on the planet. A great spectacle in it's own right.

And 'I Know' Lance is synonymous with the tour and has been for most of this decade...damn it..I get it..please....quite slashing my bike tires.........

But there are other very interesting riders leaving their hearts on the road this year in THE tour as well. Just like there is every year. A lot of people that I'm acquainted with.... that have only a passing interest in the event know that I follow it passionately....and will take the opportunity to catch up on what's happening whenever they encounter me......I just wish that once someone...one of them...would ask me something more than "How did Lance do today" or "Is Lance in the yellow Jersey yet?"

But of course I blame the American media and the short attention span of the American public....a short attention span that the press created. It isn't Lance's fault.

Perhaps I should just be happy that cycling is getting any attention at all?

Why am I whining about it?

Because it is a great sport.... unique...complicated....full of interesting history and something everyone of us can do on our own level. Ride that is...which is hopefully what will eventually occur more often all over America once Lance has retired for good in a year or two. Lance himself is promoting that message as well.

So ya...I guess I'll just get out there and do 20 miles or so and pretend that I'm Jens Voigt, Levi Leipheimer, Edde Merckx, Fabian Cancellara or Fausto Coppi. Because you can take the kid off the bike but you'll never get the joker out of his spokes, or the visions of the tour out of his head.

And don't even get me started on where the hell Chris Horner is!

Deschutes Black Butte XXI

Thursday is Owl Club day for us and today was certainly no exception. The beer of the day was the renowned Black Butte Porter XXI.
I gotta be frank (although I always think of Zappa when I say that) this beer is just the freakin bomb. When I finally ordered a pint (I had to try and dust the keg of Deschutes Cinder Cone Red first) I was just literally blown away and unprepared for the chocolate and coffee onslaught that I encountered. Oh my.
It's listed at 11% Abv and I suppose that's correct although the beers drink-ability (ha!) certainly hinted that it could be less which only increased my enjoyment and appreciation.
I'd like to say that I had examples of all the previous releases to compair but alas that would be a bold ass fabrication.
And as everyone knows...I would never fall to that level......
So.....I hope... for your own enjoyment that you find this beer in copious amounts.
And hey..speaking of copious amounts...Terri found Laugunita Hop Stoopid today for $3.29 a bottle........but no worries....we grabbed up 15 or so bottles....just in case......you come over and want some. Party on Garth.....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

If this was that ...I'd be King

My home was a long way off but a short ride ahead as I squinted through the haze of my long overdue windshield that bore little resemblance to the scene passing through the story of the ride that I was imagining.
Yes indeed...it was the unmistakable call of the retched jackrabbit virgin .... drunk on too much disco and wearing the night air like cascading crescendos of mocking Mojave River moonlight.
No time for even the thought of a breath as the headlights bobbed briefly on the asphalt moguls insidiously spaced in increasingly madding swaths across the desert tundra.
Faster I screamed at the driver I hoped was not me...faster I say...will this ride never end?
And so it did and did not .... simultaneously taking me and leaving me upon the far off doorstep of another bid to reach the beginning of my end.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pete's Brass Rail & Car Wash

Well...apparently the joke is pretty much on anyone and everyone that ever steps foot into Pete's Brass Rail and Car Wash located at 201 Hartz Avenue, Danville California. Pete's (there is no Pete) is a nice midsized neighborhood bar with 20 taps of all craft beer goodness and a full menu of typical and not so typical pub fare.

Terri and I stopped in at around noon on Sunday and found a couple seats at the bar. We pulled out our bar stools, she hung her purse on the conveniently placed hook under the bar top as I lifted my foot up to place it on the brass rail......nope....no brass rail either.....

The two bartenders were quick to throw us the food and beer menus claiming that "Looking at the tap handles won't tell you what's pouring".

They were right....The Stone IPA handle was actually hooked up to a Stone Pale Ale keg, The Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA was dispensing Speakeasy Untouchable Pale Ale and the Deschutes Mirror Pond handle filled a glass with Mirror Mirror Barleywine.

I stuck to reading the beer menu after that. Drakes IPA, Pliny the Elder, Red Rocket, Racer 5 stood out as did Pyramid's Imperial Hefeweizen, Russian River Damnation and surprisingly Rubicon's Purple Mia Bock. There were also tap handles for Tied House, Napa Smith, Widmer, Sierra Nevada and a couple more Drakes products.

I tried the Ale Smith Pale and Terri went straight for the Racer 5. As we sipped our first beers of the day we couldn't help notice how busy the place was becoming. The bartenders were trading jabs and insults between watching the A's and Giants games whilst simultaneously concocting some killer looking over-the-top spicy Bloody Marys. I asked if the place was always that busy and the bartender gave me a blank stare and said "It's slow so far".

We eventually had to nibble something and ordered a batch of garlic fries. The best part of those fries is that they're served with a little tub of Cayenne Mayonnaise which is apparently a house specialty. Creamy with a nice kick. Excellent.

After another couple of brews I finally found a little note on the bottom of the food menu that read "There is no Brass Rail, there is no car wash and who the hell is Pete?"

By then of course it seemed to all make at least as much sense as all the patron's names that were printed from top to bottom on the wall opposite our seats.

All the names represented customers that have tried at least 500 different pints of Pete's offerings over the years....... Deschutes Red Chair IPA was the latest beer to make the list...coming in at #1342. Only 496 more pints and I get my name on that wall. I wonder if there are any jobs and affordable housing available in the Danville area.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The lone Ranger

Or should I say the lone sentinel ......or actually Centennial since that's the variety of the small hop plant in the photo. This plant is the sole surviving plant of my original plantings. Or at least the only one I actually see so far. I don't have a lot of hope for the other nine but hopefully I'm just being impatient. It has been just 2 weeks since they were planted. Getting a bit late in the year to plant more but I do know of a nursery that has a half dozen they don't know what to do with...I may have to wander over that way before long and make them an offer I can't refuse.

My lone hop here is the only one showing because when Rick and I went to the Jordan Family Farms to cut some Rhizomes Scott was kind enough to include one whole plant that was growing double in his hop acre.
It is the test plant to some degree...see if I can even keep one plant alive that was already established.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Roots of the problem

This is a just an example of the roots that I have been pulling out of the hop beds. Notice the piles of roots next to the tree behind the wheel barrel. That pile would grow to about 2 cubic yards before I was done. I believe this root system from that shade tree would have prevented the hops roots from getting properly established.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Slow Hopping

A month since a blog entry? Well not exactly....I do have a thing or two on the Pacific Brew News blog. In the meantime I am still working on the miniature hop Farm in our postage stamp back yard ... which of course it's wrought with unforeseen obstacles and annoyances.
Would I have it any other way? Well...yes of course...sure I would.
For one I'd love to have some ground NOT riddled with roots from my favorite shade tree. The photo is from last Friday when we removed the sod to allow the hop roots to have a chance to establish themselves and not have to fight with all the other roots I'm busy trying to destroy.
Funny thing yesterday my local nursery tried to sell me several hop plants that they had in their back 40...I looked them over and read the tag...but with no information about what variety they were I had to pass...too bad too cause those suckers were almost 2 feet tall already....oh boy...I am sure late getting these things in the ground.......
I got a yard of 50/50 dirt compost mix in the back of my truck just waiting to be laid down ... now what did I do with that roto-tiller???

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Barleywine Show

Mark, Rick, Tracy and Jim the Brewer joined Terri and I on Friday the 13th to record the much overdue Pacific Brew News Barley Wine show.
The line-up....in order of consumption....... or somewhere close to it....I highly recommend listening to the show for better details.
22oz - Bitter - Jim's Homebrew we used for a starter...or...calibration beer
22oz - Lollihop IPA - Rick's IPA recipe brewed here last year....more calibration

12oz - UINTA BREWING CO - Salt Lake City Utah. XV Fifteenth Anniversary Barley Wine. 10.4%. 2009 Release.

12oz - HALES'S ALES LTD - Seattle Washington. Rudyard's Rare. 9.2%. 2008 Release

12oz - SPEAKEASY - San Francisco, CA. Old Godfather. 10.2%. 2006 Release

12oz - BREW IT UP - Sacramento CA. Sky Diver. 10.5%. 2007 Release

12oz - VALLEY BREWING - Stockton CA. Rye Based Barley wine. 2006 California Brewers Festival entry

22oz - STONE BREWING - Escondido CA. Old Guardian. 11.26%. Early 2006 Release.

22oz - LAGUNITAS BREWING - Petaluma CA. GnarlyWine. 9.7%. 2006 Release.

750ML - ROGUE BREWING - Newport OR. Old Crustacean. 11.5%. 2006 Release.

22oz - MIDNIGHT SUN BREWING - Anchorage AK. Arctic Devil. 10%. 2006 Release.

12oz - SIERRA NEVADA BREWING - Chico CA. Big Foot. 9.6%. 2006 Release.

22oz - PUBLICAN PUB & BREWERY - Pacific City OR. The Perfect Storm. 13.5%. 2008 Release

After the show choices.
22oz - TREE BREWING COMPANY - Kelowna BC. Hop Head. 8% Double IPA
Growler - RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING - Santa Rosa CA. Blind Pig IPA. 6%. 3 months in the growler and still delicious (Thanks Bob)
12oz - GREEN FLASH BREWING - Vista, CA. HopHead Red.

The Lagunitas GnarleyWine and the Midnight Sun Arctic Devil were pretty much the run away winners on the night. They were both just a pure joy to drink and what I believe we would all agree is the state of the art in West Coast style Barley Wines. Big bold sweet malt flavors backed by prodigious hops throughout. Smooth, balanced and big. Highly recommended.

The Publican Pub The Perfect Storm is bourbon barrel aged and was quite the overpowering treat as well, big time Bourbon presence. The only two entry's that I don't think really measured up to the group we sampled was the Hale's Rudyard's and the Rogue Old Crustacean.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hop Growing

The rain has finally backed off a bit here in early March and the Hop Hunter is busy preparing (or as Terri might say) destroying our back yard.
My plan is to put in some hops before the window of opportunity closes this Spring. Of course I have no idea what I'm doing .....but with a little luck and a few gallons of sweat perhaps later this summer we may even have a little harvest of those beautiful lupulin cones to call our own.
It just seems to me that brewing at home with one's personally grown hops is something worthy to aspire to.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bilco's Billiard's

If you find yourself in Napa and need a beer....I suggest Billco's at 1234 3rd Street. They have no less than 60 taps and the day we showed up they sported 15 IPA's as well as other assorted goodies like Chimay (White), Lagunitas Brown Shugga, Old Rasputin, Red Rocket, Three Philosophers, Affligem Noel Affligem Blond and even Babycham.
The IPA's included RR Bling Pig and Pliny the Elder, Racer 5, Firestone Walker Union Jack, Hopsickle, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Dogfish Head 90 minute and Stone IPA. The new Napa Smith brewery was also well represented with 4 tap handles.
Bilco's also have a decent assortment of bottled offerings including all three Chimay's, Duvel and Budvar. Interestingly I convinced the Bartender to recommend the Budvar to a customer that was somewhat pissed that they were out of American Budweiser. The guy eventually relented and decided to give the Budvar a shot. By the time we pulled out and headed home the guy was on his fourth one and recommending it to a late arriving buddy.
Beer education slowly but surely...man..it's a beautiful thing.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Downtown Joes

I've actually visited Downtown Joe's in Napa at least once per year for the past four cycling seasons (After the Cherry Pie event) and I must admit it is a destination worth pursuing.
The beer is more than adequate and the food has always been good.
This year we sampled the Ace High Pale Ale, the Tantric India Pale Ale, Golden Thistle Very Bitter Ale and the Double Secret Probation double IPA
The IPA is definitely the best beer I have tasted at DTJ's. The Pale is also well done but the Thistle, which is listed at 100+ IBU's just confuses me.
I have to admit we visited Joes just 26 hours or so after the Bistro's Double IPA fest (see the pacificbrewnewsblogspot) but still I just couldn't fathom even 50 IBU's in this beer despite the claim. Perhaps it's just me.
We also eventually sampled the Double Secret Probation IPA that claimed to have "An overwhelming balance of hops and malt" but in reality we felt an overwhelming urge to abandon our pints of that...concentrate on our very tasty burgers and Reuben and walk on down the road to Billco's. But then..that's another blog entry all together.
So in a nutshell I'd advise going to DTJ's for some food and decent beer and then walking three blocks to Bilco's billiards for some truly outstanding beer selections.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A long Sunday ride home

After spending the last four days of the year in San Ramon ... we left Zack's house just after 10am Sunday morning with the full intention of beating the end-of-a-long-holiday weekend traffic home to Roseville to perform some much needed chores around the Soberment household.
We made it about 15 miles out of there before taking a detour through the Delta area for a recon of possible cycling routes for the coming summers pedaling opportunities.
We figured we should stop in Concord for a quick visit to EJ Phair...or in Antioch for a much over due return to Schooners Grille & Brewery. The problem was the time.....it was just too damn early and neither establishment would be open yet.
So we wondered around the Delta area checking out Rio Vista, Isleton and highways 12 and 113. Once we were on 113 and pretty distressed about finding few cycling worthy roads I figured we'd just head north until we came to I-80. By the time we were in the Davis area it was virtually lunch time and so we decided to make a stop at the Davis Graduate....a place I had previously avoided because I figured it was just some noisy college town dive full of Bud Light and Miller products.
Well I was right about the Bud and Miller products...It seemed they had every version of those taps imaginable...But.... Luckily the place is just swamped in tap handles (they advertise 50 but by my count it was closer to 64) and we were able to find several beers to our liking.
The biggest surprise we found was Pliny the Elder. The giant black bartender's eyes lit up when we ordered one. He explained that they just got their first keg of Pliny in and he wanted to tell us just how great a beer it was.
We smiled and listened patiently as he preached to the choir. Fortunately we had started with Sierra Nevada's spectacular Torpedo and still had some in our glasses as his sermon continued on.
I asked about whether Blind Pig was also coming to town but he was unaware of that possibility. I figured once the Pig showed up he would have plenty of ammo for yet another great beer speech.
The facility itself is pretty vast, with a fairly long impressive wood bar and a lot of tables centered around a multitude of TVs, including one really huge screen in the middle.
This place is clearly a sports bar.
The food court looked pretty impressive as well with all the menu items listed across the top of the ordering windows for easy reading.
So easy in fact that we tried an appetiser (Jalapeno poppers) and a spicy Cajun hot dog. The poppers typically lacked any heat and the hot dog was less than spicy...but hey...it was all tasty enough and the beer was cold so we weren't really complaining.
After our second and final Pliny the bartender came back and tried to sell us on returning in a week to participate in 'Stone Brewing night'. He figured if we liked Pliny then we were bound to enjoy a new discovery like Stone IPA!
I really enjoyed his enthusiasm for beer, and so we thanked him for the great service and headed on out the door into the bright sunshine wondering.........should we stop at Rubicon or go straight to Sacramento Brewing?.....decisions...decisions....decisions.

A nice Barclay visit

Over the years I have been lucky enough to visit Barclay's in Oakland on several occasions. Their moniker "30 Beers on tap all the time" is very right on the money and frankly it even seems like more.
The place was jumpin on a Saturday Night, but we got lucky and a table was opening up as we entered the downstairs entrance. Not fully downstairs mind you, just kind of a half buried below street level that gives the place and interesting feel about it.
I settled down in the somewhat flimsy (for me anyway) chair and went straight for the beer menu as the rest of my cohorts scanned the food menu for some tasty treats. We both managed to come up with some nice choices. There was no less than eight IPA's on the menu including two doubles, Drakes Hopocalypse and the iconic Pliny the Elder.
I decided to start lighter and went straight to the Firestone Walker Union Jack. I know, I know...that's crazy talk but I just wasn't in the mood to start any lighter despite the presence of Racer 5, Lagunitas IPA, Rubicon IPA, and Green Flashes West Coast IPA. Anchor's Liberty Ale was the other
Curiously the menu does not mention the Brewers name...only the Beer name, the style and their Club ID designation. Naturally Guinness occupies the number 1 spot. Ballast Points Sea Monster Imperial Stout was the highest number on the list at 2031. All that means is that well over 2100 different beers have been offered at Barclay's since they opened in the mid 90's.
The kids reported that the Black Diamond Hefe was quite drinkable and rewarded their interest with proper Bavarian Hefeweizen characteristics. Good thing too since it was the only wheat beer on the menu. Not really sure why they ordered hot wings and quesadillas to go along with it but both appetizers were generous and tasty...at least with my Union Jack, Hop Rod Rye, Pliny the Elder and Hopocalypse.
I know I've said it here before .....but if you are in Oakland...or South Berkeley...stop in and check out Barclay's. I'm pretty sure they'll be something there for any beer palate. Never did get around to trying that Sea Monster though ....damn it.

Zappa plays Zappa

Oh my god!!! As Moon Unit might say. Dweezil Zappa and the band was just a pair of knickers this side of freakin nirvana. Well.....nothing similar to Kurt Cobain and the fellas....but just about as awesome a show as a Frank Zappa lovin HopHunter could hope to encounter.
The scene was the New Years Eve 8pm show at the impressively ornate War Memorial Opera House in downtown San Francisco..... but earlier that same day...........
Terri and I finished off our 2008 work year by toiling a couple of morning hours and then headed out of town to meet up with Zack at the 1st Street Ale House in Livermore for some lunch...and of course maybe a couple three hop libations. The excellent Blue Cheese burger I had was only outdone by the outstanding IPA's the 1st street people had available. I started with the IPA from Schooners in Antioch which just seems to get better every time I have it. Excellent West Coast IPA style representation ....great aroma, huge hop bite and a nice clean finish. Next, of course I HAD to have a Pliny the Elder right? I would have saved the Pliny for my last beer except the beer menu also offered the Hopocalypse Imperial IPA from Drakes Brewing in San Leandro. Oh my. What a big hop monster that sucker is......If not for the show that evening I could have just stayed on 1st street and tried to demolish that keg of 11% sweetness.
After finishing up lunch and switching my bike onto Zack's transport we rode BART from Dublin to the Civic Center station in SF and immediately grabbed a cab with instructions to proceed to 547 Haight Street. With nearly three hours to spare before showtime it seemed only prudent to use the opportunity to polish some bar stools at Toronado. The Marin brewing Cask IPA, Russian River Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder went nicely between excursions into the beauty that is Port Brewing Hop-15 .....
After cabbing back to the show we made our way to our seats.....2nd row....dead center. Yes it IS worth spending 40% more for these kinds of seats. After a forgettable and useless opening act Dweezil, Ray White and the rest of cast came out and just nailed some FZ classics like INCA ROADS, COSMIC DEBRIS, MAGIC FINGERS (a 200 Motels song? Amazing) CAROLINA HARDCORE ECSTASY which feature some killer solos by everyone in the band. The middle of the show they did BILLY the MOUNTAIN which realllly surprised me. Not one of my favorites but impressive that they could pull off that nearly 25 minute piece of FZ musical history. They also did two of my favorites from way back WILLIE the PIMP (No, no Captain Beefheart sightings) and The MUFFIN MAN.
Keyboard/Flute/Saxophone player Scheila Gonzalez was particularly impressive; but what I enjoyed the most about the show was the sheer joy that was just oozing off all the players. They obviously enjoyed the show nearly as much as I did and their performance radiated it.
Unfortunately for Les Claypool, who is an incredible bass player, he had to try to follow up the FZ crew. It couldn't be done. Somewhere Frank was grinning and enjoying being the proud Papa of such a wonderful kid. We are all the better for it.
Our train ride home was uneventful ..... fortunately......because an hour and a half after we left town there was a shooting homicide in the BART station where we departed from.