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