Sunday, December 19, 2010

Terri's Holidaze cookies

Although I once heard from a fool (although he was not on a hill at the time) that it never rains in sunny California. Today and this week would certainly make that... uh... well... idiot seem even a bit more silly than usual. It's Nor-Cal monsoon... with no let up in sight.
Which of course is perfection in the making when it comes to baking. ( channel lyrics); or at least a great excuse for having the oven on all day in your kitchen.
Seasonal cookie master Terri choose a prime day to whip up her yearly doughy offerings.
Peanut Blossoms led off the show and when the dust finally settled there were in excess of 22 dozen (Top photo obviously).
A couple of Sierra Nevada Celebrations later the chocolate/butterscotch chip cookies started popping out of the oven at breakneck speeds followed by a healthy dose of something called Noodle Clusters At this point our focus has switched to a growler of Idiot double IPA from Coronado Brewing (How did that thing end up in my fridge?) But the damage is done. 300 cookies and who will sample them? Mine!!!! ha ha all mine!! In reality I'm sure my in house cookie monster will have more than a little to say about that distribution. Go Chiefs!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Epic II HopSoberFest gathering Part 1

Once again the Gods of beer gathering summoned me from a restless night of sleeping and commanded me to travel about the lands and gather the finest hoppy nectars to be found and share them with the faithful.
Well....actually it was Terri that woke me up one morning and said "Screw all this working....lets go to San Diego and do some brewery hopping" and so we did.
Hopping was the key word and catalyst. Well....that and driving.
With 4 days to spend in San Diego prior to Thanksgiving we waisted no time getting out of Roseville on a Sunday morning....packed and on the road by 5am. First stop was Fullerton and Bootleggers Brewing. After hours of mindless due South driving on I-5 (and a bunch of Joni Mitchell CD's) we finally arrived at Bootleggers front door 10 minutes prior to opening and were the first customers of the day. They had one of their seasonal doubles on called Knuckle Sandwich which was very growler worthy but they refused to sell us any of it. Apparently supplies were low. We grabbed a couple of samples and a growler of their Rye IPA to share on Thanksgiving and jumped back on the road. It was a very frustrating yet efficient stop ....18 minutes.
Our next stop was The Bruery in Placenta just about 5 miles South of Bootleggers. The Bruery is another interesting gem, in a little tucked away commercial zone they had almost a dozen Belgian style beers but only one hoppy beer to sell. It was lite pale called Humulus and was actually quite tasty...but at less than 5% abv wasn't going to hold up to the beers we were looking for. It became another Thanksgiving day treat.
After sharing a pint of the Humulus we were getting hungry and so immediately got back on I-5 and set our sights on San Clemente Pizza Port.
That particular PP (there are 4) is home to the GABF medal winning (or so the sign said) Pseudo IPA which we really enjoyed so we helped ourselves to three growlers of it. The pizza was excellent and we wanted more pints but we were on a mission and tore ourselves away and resumed our Southern traveling in search of the thriving community of Vista.
Vista is home to one of our favorite breweries ...Green Flash...makers of West Coast IPA, Imperial and hopefully a batch of their seasonal Pallete Wrecker. Boy were we disappointed.....they were out of all three. Three empty GF growlers destined to return North with no more than dust in them. Well two anyway....ever aware of Thanksgiving consumption we filled up one growler with their excellent Hop Head Red.
Our mood was a little shaken but our resolve was merely stirred as we made our way East just a few miles to Port Brewing in San Marcos. Now then ...this was more like it....a bustling place (it's housed in the old Stone Brewing facility) full off numerous legends such as Hop 15 and Wipe Out IPA as well as lots of Hoppy and Belgian style seasonals. We grabbed a couple of stools and ordered pints of High Tide and Mongo 2IPA. We could have left with 6 growlers but decided to be a bit more conservative (room in the trunk was limited) and only left with two growlers of the Mongo Double IPA.
Finally our long day was starting to wear on our old bones but we still had one stop to go before heading to our sleeping quarters. That stop is the Disneyland of beer....Stone Brewing in Escondido. The place lived up to it's name and was packed with tourists...well beer we fit right in. We sampled a couple of pints including Ruination and a beer from Temecula Brewing called Black Market Rye IPA. Very tasty.
We finally had to surf the crowd in the gift shop to get a couple of growlers of Ruination filled.
Back on the road South to Chula Vista and our home in a little log cabin at the Metro KOA.
Twas a bit chillier than usual for San Diego but the weather was fine for November so we set out on our long awaited bicycle ride around San Diego Bay after a breakfast of swine and chicken products. The ride was very interesting with Salt flats, ocean views and all manner of riding surfaces to keep our interest and maintain our motivation. Coronado was particularly interesting to ride through although half the time we just ignored the directions and more or less just aimed for the Coronado Bridge which we knew was near where the 'ferry boat docked'....sorry... all those Joni Mitchell lyrics are still bouncing around in my head. We made it to the Ferry launch just in time to wait for the next one an hour away. So we did just what beer cyclists would do in that situation...we rode off in search of Coronado Brewing to see if they were stocking their double not you...the beer.
Our hop radar did not let us down and we rode straight to it and verified that indeed they did have the beer we require in stock.
The final 10 miles of the 32 mile ride was the most hair raising...traveling the busy Harbor Blvd just as all the dock workers were getting off work and heading home. But luckily we rode over more of them than they ran into us and we ended the ride with a nice tailwind that had come up late in the day. Riding East when you are near The Specific Ocean is always good.
All that cycling is just what is needed to work up a proper beer thirst and that's just what I had as we headed North towards Ocean Beach. We found the Pizza Port and got lucky to nab a parking spot on the side street right near the entrance.
The Ocean Beach PP is typical of all the other PP's I've been in...lost of surf and ocean motif and a plethora of proper hoppy beers.
Although they didn't have their famed Cho Saiko Double IPA they did have copious amounts of their Jetty IPA which we put the screws to while watching the home town Chargers win their Monday Night NFL game. We walked out carrying 2 growlers of The Jetty IPA for our coffers.
One the way back to the cabin we took the Coronado Bridge exit and made our way to Coronado Brewing. The place was uber busy in the bar so we grabbed a table and ordered a pint of IPA and one pint of Idiot their tasty 2IPA. After sampling the Idiot I gave the beautiful wench my empty growler to fill and also ordered another. Epics require more than one growler.
After sharing a nice apple Cinnamon dessert thing we packed it in and headed 'back to the Cabin' (David Crosby lyrics this time) and found our bunks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Taking a day off work to go trolling for hoppy beers up the gut of Highway 101 is always a good thing but definitely not for the weak livered.
Farmer Bob, Rick, Sheila and myself decided that it would be a good idea to kick Friday work to the Curb and meet that Highway 101 challenge head on. We started in Healdsburg at Bear Republic Brewing Company (home of Racer 5) and found the beer that was in the process of winning a Gold Medal at the GABF. It's name is Ryevalry and it's officially an American-Belgo style double IPA. It drinks lighter than 8.2% abv and seems every bit full of the listed 70 IBU's. We grabbed a growler of it. They also had a single Hop beer called Rebellion that featured all glacier hops...very tasty.
We knew we had a long day ahead of us so we finished off our couple of pints and headed for lunch in Santa Rosa.
Our first stop in Santa Rosa was at the upscale, well upscale for me anyway, looking place called FLAVOR. We stopped in because we heard they served Moonlight Brewing Beers. They did, and we did and then we moved on. If you are looking for Moonlight beers that is definitely the destination for you. Looks like a great place for lunch but we had other aspirations....destinations and expectations .
We were quite hungry so we headed over to this one place in Santa Rosa that has this great pizza...and my favorite one there is even sorta named like's a Mikey and with added jalapeƱo's it's quite a thin crust delight. Although I am there primarily for the pizza I can never quite pass up a few pints of their pretty decent beers. If I remember right the place is called Russian River Brewing or something like that. Oh ya...we filled 11 growlers there of something called 'Blind Pig IPA' and Pliny the something or other. Anyway...hope that stuff is good....we sure seemed to need a lot of that medicine.
After a fairly lengthy lunch stay in Santa Rosa we finally got back on the road and headed South straight down the gut of 101 until we found the Petaluma offramp where Lagunitas brewing can be found.
One of the most interesting brewing companies in America, Lagunitas also boasts a really cool beer garden and an even cooler sorta private upstairs employee lounge/living room/bar kinda place that we were lucky enough to stumble into and not be thrown out of.
The bar was manned by none other than "Mr Nice Guy" himself Don Chartier a longtime Lagunitas employee who we quickly learned lives up to his nickname and then some. Don welcomed us and offered us spots at the nearly empty bar and asked us what we wanted to drink. We settled on some Hop Stoopid and Maximus and soon noticed that there wasn't even a cash register in the place. Don and his boss (I so wish I could remember the guy's name who was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and referred to himself as one of the 'suits') regaled us with stories of undercover Government types and rumors of lame never to be forgotten pot busts. Mr Nice Guy even sent us home with a 6-pack of assorted goodies. I've added Lagunitas to my Xmas list.
By now we were really happy to have our sorta designated driver, a noted beer phiosopher who shall remain nameless and blameless. That driver took us immediately to Novato where we were quick to grab stools at the Moylans Brewing Bar where we naturally ordered copious amounts of Hopsickle...because of course we needed more really big beers at that point in our evening and Hopsickle is one of the biggest. Two more growlers filled, a plate of their excellent spicy chicken appetizer and we were off down the road again with visions of hop cones dancing in our heads..... was that U2 I heard in my dream? At least one of us can remember the chicken and Hopsickle.....right Bob?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hanger 24 Craft Brewery

On a trip down to my old stomping grounds over the Labor Day weekend I had the good fortune to hear about (Thanks CP)and visit a little gem of a brewery tucked away at the Redlands Municipal Airport.... not once but twice.
A mere 45 minute drive down the hill from the heart of the Cultural Wasteland this 2+year old brewery already boosts which could quite possibly be the entire Inland Empire's finest collection of craft brews.
It may be only a small, little, tiny coincidence that our visit coincided with the presence of one of their latest 2010 creations. The nearly 9% double IPA produced for this years American Craft Brew Week.
I suggest a visit to their website to see their full line of offerings for I can only tell you here about the Orange Wheat, The Pale Ale, IPA, Double IPA, Chocolate Porter. Oh wait... apparently I did try a few of their standards besides the Double IPA after all.
The Orange Wheat was as refreshing as anyone could dare expect with a big orange nostril bite and a clean unfiltered thirst quenching quality. The Pale Ale boasted a palate full of Amarillo hops and out did the IPA which was a bit too balanced for our weird tastes. Ours being myself and my old buddy Ralph who oddly was later in the weekend destined to embark on an unexpected sojourn into the murky realm of mixed gender martial arts body mass superiority demonstrations.'re right....don't ask.
But that's another story for some other blog because here we're all about the hops.....or in the case of the Porter.... chocolate.... and lots of it. A great beer for chicks if they'd get over the color of it....beautiful medium mouth feel with coffee and a slight vanilla presence.
So ya... a bunch of great beers.....uh..oh ya....and that West Coast style hop brute Double IPA that makes any trip to that airport well worth the occasional bumpy roads. All my favorite hops are in this baby...Columbus, Amarillo, Simco and Citra which just unleashes serious citrus and tropical fruit aromas. There is a lot going on in this beer.... apparently including some local honey.
The Hanger 24 growlers are unfortunately the expensive dumb kind that are difficult to haul and store but we bit the bullet and ended up walking out of there with four of them.
That was Saturday and on Monday we revisited with more of the Hop Hunter clan and refilled the empties with more excellent goodness for the long road home to Nor-Cal. A full growler rests quietly in my fridge at this very moment......
Now there is good reason to go to Redlands aside from the famous bicycle race.

Friday, August 20, 2010


The most prolific of the three plants. Cascade. The other two plants are Centennial.

Not sure what the Red in photo 2 is all about...maybe the Cascades are cross breeding with the roses.

Expecting to harvest some cones in a week or so.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rye IPA's

Lately I've noticed a trend of more and more brewers experimenting with Rye in their ales and particularly in their IPA's. I find this trend most enjoyable and tasty.

Within the past year or so I have had the good fortune to stumble across a nice list of Rye's in bottles and in breweries I've visited.

Bear Republic - Hop Rod Rye......OK, OK I know.... this workhorse has been around a while and fortunately has become really easy to find. Available now in 4-packs as well as in the traditional 22oz bombers. A great 18% rye/80 IBU hop monster that is an all-time favorite in the garage fridge.

Alpine - Nelson .... This gem is yet another masterpiece from Pat McIlhenney's little mountain brewery East of San Diego. Brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand it appears impossibly light in color and equally as impossibly hoppy and smooth. I prefer the tap and growlered versions but the bottled version can be pretty darn good as well although perhaps a bit heavier if not fresh. An almost too delicate a beer for bottling.

Auburn Ale House - Rye Not? ..... This Remarkably refreshing Pale Ale has it's roots in an old recipe that I remember traveling to obtain for several years before Elk Grove Brewing closed it's doors. Brewmaster Brian Ford and Brewer Bill came up with another fantastically drinkable ale that frankly I hope will be a yearly seasonal in their lineup.

AAH also just released another Rye called Rye-Nocerous to mark their Third Anniversary. A bigger beer than the Rye Not it reportedly boasts a grain bill of over 30% rye....more than I've ever heard of in a rye recipe. It also has a huge hop flavor that meshes with the smooth crisp characteristics of the Rye perfectly. Slightly sweet with just mild carbonation. I believe it is still currently on tap in Auburn and I hope to get some more before it runs dry.

Bootleggers Brewing - Rustic Rye IPA .... this little Fullerton brewery brews and bottle one of the best of the bunch. I visited this hole in the wall Industrial Park location last year and was blown away by all their beers but predictably fell in love with their Rustic. They claim it's 85 IBU's...which seems a bit high considering the great balance of Rye and hops. I also just found it in Orange CA at Hollingshead Deli in 22oz bottles. If you are in Southern LA Basin and Orange County you should be able to find it

Ale Industries - Ryed Piper..... I found this inspirational rye beauty at the West Coast Brew Fest in early May. The brewer was himself pouring, and with a smirk, told me that there was merely 5.6% rye in the beer..... After I expressed my amazement he explained that they pulverized the rye which they felt extracted every bit of rye flavor without the inevitable gumming clean-up factor that most rye brews leave in their wake. I actually know very little about this brewery in Concord CA...but of course I plan to rectify that situation in the very near future.
Sequoia Brewing - Rye IPA..... I completely stumbled upon this beer like I always do.....stopping in Fresno on one of our trips down South to visit the parents in the Mojave Desert Cultural Wasteland. I always look forward to brewer Kevin Cox's seasonal creations and this year I was just so stoked I think my grin may have tripped Terri on her way in the door. I was really glad that I remembered a growler so I could bring a sample for my good buddies to try down that way. I'm sure they will comment here so you can see how great and drinkable this hoppy crisp Rye truly is.

OK...well...I guess that's all the rye I can think of at the moment. Kinda makes me feel like going to get a Reuben sandwich or some Pastrami or something. Maybe I can get Rick to drive me to Fresno for lunch's only 3 hours away and the rye bread sandwiches must be as good as the beer right? Ya.....dream on.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Traveling to Livermore California last weekend I looked forward to making my usual appearance at The First Street Ale House located at 2106 First Street in downtown. My last visit was in February so it was my first look since they finished their move into the more spacious building right next door. I was a little worried that the new place wouldn't have the great pub feel of the original but I needn't have worried.
Despite the fact that the place seemed to have quadrupled in size I still felt immediately comfortable...and of course thirsty. The bigger building also brought with it more tap handles...24 in all now I believe.
The Ale House has always had a nice eclectic mix of local and regional craft brew favorites along with excellent imports like Paulaner Hefewizen and Spaten Franziskaner. The day's line up when I was there included the Paulaner... two wheat beers from Pyramid, North Coast Skrimshaw Pilsner, Alaskan Amber, Stone Brewing IPA, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Snowshoe Grizzley Brown, Snowshoe Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Lagunitas Hop Stoopid and Port Brewings Wipeout IPA. If memory serves me well, which it rarely does anymore, I believe they also had an Anchor Brewing Beer, PBR and Woodchuck Pear Cider among others.
The beautiful thing is FSAH is on the 'A' list of pubs and always brings in the finest seasonals from all around Northern California and beyond. It's always a good time to check out the taps on First never know what you might find. Last year I just missed the tapping of one of their Russian River Pliny the Younger kegs.
The extensive pug menu is stellar as well and will keep your stomach happy after your fourth or fifth pint makes you I mean...your second pint.... and remember always drink responsibly....give some to me for safe keeping.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

West Coast Brew Fest

I noticed in my beer notes that last Saturday marked the 6th consecutive year that I have attended the West Coast Brew Fest in Miller Park. I believe I read that the now iconic yearly event made it's start back at the turn of the century. The tree lined setting along the Sacramento River is one of the reasons I always come back...well....that and of course the beers.
This year was no exception. Although the number of breweries seemed to decline a bit from years previous (I would blame the recession and the fact that the Raley Field Beer Fest was held the evening prior) the quality of the beer was just as stellar as ever. I'm not going to list them all here...they have a website for that purpose. I will merely focus on the beers that stood out for no particular order.
Rye'd Piper - Ale Industries is a new brewery out of Concord that just blew me away with their 5.8% hoppy Rye beer. Reminiscent of a lighter version of Bear Republic's Hop Rod Stephen Lopas explained to me that they only 5.7% Rye but virtually pulverized it to get that big rye flavor.
Scarlet Harlot - Auburn Ale House. I've had this brew in Auburn at the source but when I seen it at the AAH booth I had to have some more. A very interesting and unusual red that is dominated by roasted malt, Simco hops and a beautiful dry finish.
Old Wire - Dust Bowl Brewing Company is another new California brewery. Located in Turlock CA they have only been in business since 2009. I was originally drawn over for their Hops of Wrath IPA but left with a better opinion of their Old Wire Pale Ale. Very fruity, light and perfect for this day out in the sun. Interestingly Brewmaster Don Oliver won the 2006 Samuel Adams Long Shot Award for his Old Ale.
Southern Harvest - Sierra Nevada's now yearly fresh hop ale made exclusively from New Zealand Hops. A spring favorite that seems to have raised the standard again this year. Very drinkable SN classic, balanced with a nice snappy hop spiciness.
Maibock - Primator. This genuine Czech Republic Maibock just hit the spot perfectly after a few hours of hoppy beers. That unique Maibock Grain profile was like the desert following a long lingering meal.

Anyway...that was few of the beers that stood out for me. Of course there were plenty of others like the AAH Gold Digger IPA and Deschutes Hop Henge...but mainly the hot late spring day was an occasion for the lighter beers. Long Board Lager and Sudwerks Pilsner were nice finds as well. Thanks to Dwight and the boys for once again putting on a great event. I suspect next year I will be making it a lucky seven in a row.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mothers Day is for Killing Budweiser

What better way to spend Mothers Day than taking your mother out to shoot the new 20 gauge shotgun she got for Christmas? Which is exactly what my kids did on Sunday May 9th. In fact the new Mossberg was merely one of the firearms that we used to kill off a 30-pack of The King of I mean beer. In the mix was also a .22 semi-auto, a couple of 9mm's, a .38 special, one .357 magnum and one Super BlackHawk hog leg....or as Dirty Harry liked to call it " a .44 Magnum that can blow your head clean off.
Fortunately on this day we were safe in the woods of Foresthill and there was nary a bad guy to be found. We were happy with three paper targets and the ooh's and aah's of the nicely exploding yellow fizzy beer can geysers.
Not only was it Terri's first go around with the shotgun that my Dad gave to her just a couple weeks before he passed on; it was Oralia's first time every discharging a firearm. As you can see both ladies were eager to put some lead downrange. Here are a few of the great photos that Rick took that day.
Maybe if he's feeling generous he might add the link to the more than 100 photos he took.
And Just in case anyone is beer was consumed prior to...or during the firing of the weapons despite the fact that the target area reeked of a college frat party. Oh I see Terri's photo made the line-up twice....well...she deserves is mothers day after all..... I must also give many thanks to Breann's Mom Cina as well... after the shooting and all the rain that stopped it she and Jim still let us in the house and fed us a nice dinner and put up with our antics. Definitely one of the better Mothers Day's I've had this year.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Odonata Brewing

I learned recently that Odonata Beer Co. was set to unleash it's long awaited Saison on the thirsty Northern California Beer Community.
Sacramento's newest brewery unveiled their Belgian Farm House Style Saison at The Shack at 5201 Folsom Blvd (near 52nd street) last night... Friday April 30th.
Opening night pints were going for $3.50.
They also had T-shirts, work shirts and cool Odonata glasses for sale.
And how about the beer? My word it was excellent. Classic Belgian Farm House style, unfiltered goodness with the complexity of three beers poured into one.
Destined to become a food pairing favorite with discriminating chefs everywhere.
Soon you will be finding this beer in everyone's refrigerators and in proper beer establishments from Sacramento to the Bay Area.

Additional release parties are also in the works and include....

5-06-10 - Pangaea - 2743 Franklin Blvd, Sacramento CA
5-07-10 - Samuel Horne - 719 Sutter St, Folsom CA
5-13-10 - The New Owl Club - 111 Church St, Roseville CA
5-14-10 - Raley Field Beer festival - West Sacramento

Highly recommended.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Alpine Duet out-duels IPA Legends

Saturday night March 6th my hop world seemed to stand still for a moment when 'beer cellar boy for a day' Rick Sellers (no relation) announced the final Best of Show results for the first annual S.O.B.E.R.* Group Epic IPA tasting. Alpine Brewing's Duet stood alone above all the rest of the field. A field that included the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of beer legend... Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger of Russian River fame .
To be honest and fair I must admit that any one of a half dozen of the beers collected could have been the winner, the offerings gathered for this event were that awe inspiring......and in reality the true winners were the folks that answered the call to attend.
Due to the number of beers involved Mark 'The Beer Geek' Zahn and I decided to split them up into single IPA and Double/Triple IPA categories. We utilized Marks modified 50 point judging system that only included four factors....Aroma, flavor, mouth feel and overall impression.
The Beers are listed in their finishing order: (The finishing order was revised a bit after a review of the data in a less blurry environment a couple days after the evening in question. But like I said....we're splinting hairs on a lot of these beers......the scoring was close and the top five or six in each category could have been a medal winner)

Single IPA
1. Duet - Alpine Brewing Company (Alpine CA)
2. Blind Pig - Russian River Brewing (Santa Rosa, CA)
3. Gold Digger IPA - Auburn Ale House (Auburn CA)
4. Sculpin - Ballast Point (San Diego CA)
5. Derek's IPA - Darek Smith (Home Brew)
6. Ichthyosaur IPA - Great Basin (Sparks NV)
7. RR IPA - Russian River
8. O'brien's IPA - Alpine Brewing
9. Nelson - Alpine Brewing
10. Rockslide IPA - Fifty/Fifty Brewing (Truckee, CA)

1. Pliny The Younger - Russian River
2. Hop Sauce - Rubicon Brewing (Sacramento CA)
3. Bad Boy - Alpine
4. Uber Hoppy - Valley Brewing (Stockton CA)
5. Pliny The Elder - Russian River
6. Exponential Hoppiness - Alpine
7. PU240 - Auburn Ale House
8. Imperial - Green Flash (Vista CA). (An older growler sample, should have been excluded)

1. Duet
2. Bad Boy
3. Pliny the Younger

The beers we choose were all personal favorites but still had everything to do with their seasonal availability. I was lucky enough to have a friend gather me 2 growlers of Pliny the Younger on that mad day in Santa Rosa (See previous blog entry). A few days later I learned from the Alpine Brewing Newsletter that their double IPA Bad Boy was coming out and going to be available just a week prior to the release their triple IPA Exponential Hoppiness.
An email to Alpine Brewer Pat McIlhenney confirmed my suspicions that both those beers would be available for a couple of overlapping days in mid February. In addition their Duet, O'Brien's IPA and Nelson were all also in stock at the brewery for growler fills.
Spurred on by a drunken evening at our local Owl Club with good buddy Bob Silva a plan was loosely hatched. We just HAD to have these beers for scientific testing purposes.
The wheels and deals were set in motion.

The Alpine growlers were going to be the key to the entire operation so naturally I immediately called up my old buddy Ralph...who fortunately lives a mere 2.5 hour drive from the Alpine Brewery and has 12 empty Alpine growers just sitting patiently on his garage shelves. Not enough for a proper growler expedition but a good start none the less.
After some quick math I figured we needed 20 full Alpine growlers in Roseville for the event.
Ralph set out two days later and secured 23 growlers of Alpine goodness (as well as some Sculpin from a quick Ballast Point stop)and now we were truly committed to the event both mentally and financially.
While Ralph kept the growlers on ice in So-Cal we went to work gathering the remaining items.
We begged a gallon of the Hop Sauce from brewer Scott Cramlet at Rubicon Brewing. Sponsored a ten growler weekday run to Russian River for their IPA's and used a going away party excuse to fill four growlers of Auburn Ale House Gold Digger IPA on a Tuesday evening.
The Uber Hoppy amazingly became available from our favorite local Beach Hut Deli in the 11th hour (thanks Nick). And kudos to the Frosts for making the trip across the mountains for the Great Basin and Fifty/Fifty growlers. New friend Derek Smith secretly supplied his home brew twenty minutes before the blind tasting began and also made the weekday RR run for us.

Of course there is a great many other big hoppy beers from San Diego and Northern California that we could have, should have and would have added to the mix but we gladly saved those for the next Epic event. There are always more comparisons and evaluations that must be done....In the name of science of course.
Seasonal availability and travel scenarios will likely dictate the next round as well. I would love to include another out of town brewery into the mix.....a little place called Walking Man from Stevenson Washington....another long time hoppy favorite of mine that I never get nearly enough of.
Special thanks must go out to my Mom for her great company and automobile that brought the Alpine and Ballast Point products North. To Ralph for making it all all a possible and remembering to add the Nelson to the list. To Rick and Bob for manning the cellar. And to Pat McIlhenney at Alpine who always responded to my emails so that we could finally include the Alpine beers in a head to head event with Russian River. And to Vinnie at RR for his state of the art hop legends. And of course Scott at Rubicon for allowing some Hop Sauce to leave Sacramento, and to Brian Ford for all that he always does for us and our local beer scene.
A big tip of the hop cap has to go out to foodies Tracy, Lisa, Jose and Todd for keeping our hunger at bay. Those jalapeno creations were particularly outstanding. And especially to all my friends (or people that somehow manage to put up with me) for attending and making it all great times.

So ya... I'm extremely fortunate that I have 30+ interested and beer knowledgeable friends to gather up and put on such a fun event. Friends that include commercial and home brewers, BJCP beer judges/writers and dedicated beer enthusiasts. I recommend that you make the effort to pick a beer style..... or a particular regions or breweries or whatever criteria that appeals to you and create your own Saturday night showdown. Because in the end with or without all the fancy names and titles all you really need are beer enthusiasts, a rough plan and of course good craft beers to evaluate and enjoy. The road trips for beer collecting should never be underestimated either and can easily be as much fun as the event itself.
Personally I can't wait to do it all again.
(*Sierra Organization of Beer Enthusiast Recruiters)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pliny the Younger

Considering the amount of time that Russian River's Pliny the Younger spends on tap I believe it to be aptly named. Nobody is getting old waiting for any keg of "The Younger" to become an empty casualty of thirsty hop heads dreams. This years batch proved that theory in the extreme.
I had entertained ideas of taking a day off of work on Friday February 6th to be present for the release of Vinnie's greatest Hop creation at the brewery/pub in Santa Rosa but after hearing the reports of people who were there I was happy to instead be slaving away in my fishbowl cubicle in Roseville.
The past few years the Younger's first appearance was always at The Bistro Double IPA Fest in Hayward. For some reason Vinnie and Natalie decided to mix things up and do a release party the day prior. My assumption was that the $36 price tag to fill a growler was to discourage a massive exodus of Younger from the Pub thus keeping the popular beer available on site for as long as possible.
It didn't work. The line of people and growlers twisted halfway down the block and the pub ran out of Younger that same day. I know several people that were eyewitnesses to the madness and they all told the same stories of over crowding, long waits for a beer and standing in lines.
Fortunately for me a thoughtful friend offered to take my growlers along with him that day and I scored two growlers without having to battle the thirsty hordes.
I wish I had a dozen.
The following weekend I was back in the East Bay and hoping that I would get lucky enough to find some Younger still on tap somewhere. (admittedly I did manage a three ounce sample at the Bistro 2IPA fest)
The first story I heard was The Dublin Sports Pub tapped a keg that lasted the last 4 business hours of one day and was drained the next day before closing.
My next clue came from a text message ....a keg at Toronado barely lasted a half and hour.
We stopped by 1st Street Ale House in Livermore. They had a keg but it didn't make it throught two business days.
Oh my this beer is popular. Not a bad problem to have if your in business to sell beer....and Vinnie has this problem big time. He can't make enough beer to satisfy the demand.
We finally did track some Younger down at the HopYard in San Ramon.
I got to do a head to head tasting with Blind Pig, Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger. What a treat. And we returned the next day to repeat the dream line up.
I know by the time I write this the Younger is long gone from most everywhere.
Obviously it's a fabulous creation and I highly recommend I don't want it.... avoid it at all's too hoppy and expensive for you.
Please leavve the heavy lifting to me.....I'm a professional. Do not try this at home....images in your mirror are larger than they appear.......

Monday, February 15, 2010

Finally a really Super Bowl/Dublin Sports Pub

Like most Americans I've been watching the Super Bowl for a great many years and frankly the game is more often than not anything but Super. This year was a welcomed exception. Both teams went deep into the regular season undefeated and were worthy franchises with exceptional and likable quarterbacks bent on carrying their respective teams to that elusive and highly coveted Super Bowl Title. You all know the story's....including the New Orleans Katrina angle and Peyton Manning growing up with a father struggling thru a frustrating career with one of the leagues sorriest teams in N'olins. OK ya....all that was cool ....and The Saints winning was just even more icing on the Cake.

Scheduling The Bistro's Double IPA festival on Super Bowl weekend was in on one hand brilliant and on another just freakin insane. I really have to give a shout out to my liver for carrying me through the entire affair....including a weekend that actually started on Friday with an afternoon spent on the back patio of Livermore's First Street Ale House drinking Paulaner Hefeweizen, Pliny the Elder and Old Rasputin.

Still recovering from the epic Imperial IPA event on Saturday we started a bit slowly on Sunday. We actually waited until nearly 2pm to have our first brew. We planned to watch the event from the friendly confines of The Dublin Sports Pub so we figured since we couldn't seem to get a proper reservation we better just show up early and see what we could get. Good thing we did because that place was rockin.

With something in the neighborhood of 50 taps, a full menu and too many to count flat screen TV's the PSP seemed like just the spot for the 12 of us. Did I mention they had 7 IPA's on tap?

We started off a bit slow but soon Rick was got hip to the beer bongs...ordering several of Russian River Blind Pig and Green Flash West Coast IPA. The bongs hold 11 pints of beer but they weren't lasting too long at our thirsty table.
I also squeezed in a blackened cajun chicken sandwich that was outstanding. My Mom had a French Dip sandwich that looked very tasty and when she offered me half of it I really had to dig deep into my resolve to decline it. After all there were plenty more pints on my schedule that were just not going to drink themselves.
My beverage of the weekend was the North Coast Old Rasputin on the nitro tap. Remarkable smooth, tasty, easy drinking and utterly dangerous in the 10% abv range.
The whole Dublin/Pleasanton/San Ramon/Livermore area has several excellent craft Brew pubs and the Dublin Sports Pub is certainly near the top of the list. Highly recommended.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

10th Annual Double IPA Fest

For the 10th year in a row The Bistro owner Vic Kralj closed the streets of Hayward California to bring thirsty Northern California Hop Heads a powerful collection of the elixirs they crave. Well, OK actually it's only one street but if you were there you know what an unparalleled and astonishing street it can be.

No less than 58 Imperial IPA's from across the land kicking off the second annual San Francisco Beer Week.

The announced winners, from the so called 'Professional Judging' (who are these guys anyway?)

Gold Medal - Pizza Port - Welcome Back Wipeout
Silver Medal - Rubicon - Hop Sauce
Bronze Medal - Triple Rock - IIMAXX Imperial IPA
Peoples choice Award - Russian River - Pliny the Younger

The three winners scored high marks on my sip card and all finished in my top ten. I must admit to being especially happy to see Scott from Rubicon get some recognition for his excellent revamped Hop Sauce recipe. We've been making regular pilgrimages lately down to Capital and 20th Street in Sacramento ever since it was released.

Reviewing my own abused judging sheet from the event I find that I have notes from everything I tried and of course my own list of favorites.
The Hop Hunters Bistro Imperial IPA winners list if you will. (I know it's a time of the Winter Olympics and all but I will dispense with the Medal ceremony and just list them alphabetically and roughly as I scored them).

Top Group
21st Amendment - Hop Crisis - I look forward to this beer every year. Clean..perfectly unbalanced with excellent Hop flavors and aroma.
Bear Republic - 11 - A favorite brewery of mine... I didn't get around to sampling the 11 until my 21st sample and still it earned the star of superior recognition.
Breakwater Brewing - Mavericks DIPA - All I know is that BWB is from Oceanside, undoubtedly on my list to visit on my next San Diego trip.
Green Flash - Pallet Wrecker - Another yearly favorite of mine. Properly named and even stands out in this group.
Kern River - Kern River Double - I like their 'Just Outstanding IPA' and their Double carries on that tradition. Excellent....I actually sampled it three separate occasions.
Port Brewing - Mongo IPA - My only comment was my star of excellence and 'nice' ...but I went back twice so that's a clue. I preferred it slightly to it's gold medal winning brother.
Rubicon - Hop Sauce - Once again ... just excellent.... a Sacramento treasure.

Group Two
Drakes - Hopocalypse
Fat Heads - Hop Juju - One of the best from our Eastern friends (Cleveland).
Moylans - Hopsickle Imperial XXX IPA - Always a favorite
Pizza Port - Welcome Back Wipeout - Very to have this at my local pub.
Speakeasy - Speakeasy IIIPA - Solid offering
Triple Rock - IIMAXX Imperial IPA - Could be in the first group. Another yearly favorite.

Honorable Mentions:
Auburn AleHouse - PU240 - I list this because I know this to be a great beer from a gifted local brewer despite the fact that the keg at the Bistro seemed to be possibly mishandled and poured uncharacteristically cloudy and just weird.
Bear Republic - Five Zero
Deschutes - Hop Henge - Always recommended
Firestone Walker - Double Jack - Ditto
Lagunitas - Hop Stupid - Another staple in my fridge
Mad River Brewing - Steelhead Double
Russian River - Pliny the Elder - Truly the Elder in every sense

Strange and/or not favored:
Anderson Valley - 20th Anniversary Imp IPA - No
Blue Frog - The Big DIPA #3 - Good brewery generally just never been a fan of the DIPA
Flying Dog - Double Dog - Prefer the bottle version
Glacier Brewhouse - Double IPA - Unremarkable
Grand Teton - Lost Continent - More malt but where's the hops?
Lagunitas - Hop Porno - Love the name ... but too sweet.
Magnolia - Promised Land IPA - Not the correct name
Marin - White Knuckle - Unremarkable ... bottle version superior
New Belgium - Ranger IPA - No business being in this event.
Ninkasi - Tricerahops Double - Weird
Seabright - Double Wipe - Single Wide?
ShipYard - XXXXIPA - No Way.
Sierra Nevada - Hoptimum - Love the brewery...too much malt in this offering
Valley - Uberhoppy - Usually a favorite ... not this year
Widmer - Dead Lift - Just wrong.....My comment was censored.

Of course there were other beers I failed to mention, and I'm sure opinions will vary greatly from mine but that's half the fun. Of course a lot of the fun for me this year was being at the event with family and friends, including the new faces of my Mom Lola and her driver Hoke, er uh ... I mean Ralph (an over due returnee to the event) and my sister J.D. and her husband Dan. Of course Zack, Oralia and Kevin made their yearly appearance as did Rick and Tracy who got put to work pouring. The price they paid for being special and world famous beer folks.
At an event of this magnitude there just isn't a bad seat in the house.

Thanks to my sons

Although I know all four of my regular readers are used to annoyingly long pauses in my postings......this time I have a legitimate reason for it. My computer has been down and out. Fortunately for me I have a couple of whiz kids that have helped me get back up and running again. Cody helped with some RAM increase and a much overdue cleaning. Zack wiped the hard drive, upgraded the video card and installed Windows 7.
So now once again I can charge along in my usual inconsistently and haphazardly way forgetting to report on interesting beer events and botching others with my weird, confusing and brief descriptions and tales. Ahhhhh......the good old days.
Kidding never aside I do have a few new events to report. So look for them as time goes on... maybe geologic time....but time none the less.
There is the Bistro Double IPA Event, Mom's Superbowl party, and the Pliny the Younger release. Not to mention Sacramento Beer week and Odonata Brewing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bootleggers Brewery

Far far South of our home in Northern California there is a land widely known as the OC...and neatly tucked away in this land is a brewery with the obvious yet clever name of Bootleggers Brewery. Despite it's location smack dab in the middle of this massive swath of humanity BB is a bit off the well beaten path behind some old neighborhoods in a small industrial park backed up against the metro tracks.
Finding it wasn't that difficult.... it's just one of those breweries that you can barely believe really exists where you are nonetheless expecting to find it.
It's also one of those little gems of a place you are just happy as hell you spent the time and made the effort to seek out. Brewer/Owner Aaron Barkenhagen was on hand when we arrived and patiently answered all of my typical beer geek questions while patiently supplying us with an endless supply of tasty 2oz samples. My first sample from their extensive lineup was their Old World Hefeweizen which utilized traditional Bavarian yeast strains and just oozed clove and banana attributes. I immediately started my shopping by setting aside three 22oz bottles for the trip home. Next up was Golden Chaos a Belgian style Golden Ale ..... a nice crisp representation of the style and I couldn't stop with one sample.
I tried the Palomino American Pale Ale next. Once again...very well done version of a standard style .....and like all their beers I tried...very well crafted...fresh crisp and tasty.
I was already growing tired of the 2oz sample limitation but Aaron explained to me that in a couple of weeks their licence was scheduled to be adapted to allow full pint pours.
Due to the Brewery rapidly filling up with happy local patrons and their empty growlers I was unable to learn the name of the Plum beer they were all of a sudden sharing from their cold storage..but I did manage a taste and it was excellent. Obviously another Belgian style...most likely a double.....big and hearty with perfect Plum undertones and a controlled sweetness.
Perhaps the most interesting beer on the menu was the Black Phoenix.... a coffee and Chipotle Stout! The chipotle came through late in the finish and added a delightful little smokey kick.
Of course the entire time I was running through the house samples my beautiful wife Terri was jumping back and forth between their two Ipa's on tap.....trying to figure out which one to put in growlers for the trip home.
Her eventual favorite, as well as mine and daughter in law Oralia's, was a contract brew they did called Director's Cut IPA. I never learned who they brewed it for but I soon just humorously assumed it was for our visit and had them fill us up three growlers. The aroma told tales of Simco and Amarillo and Brewer Aaron assured me there was also some Columbus hops in there somewhere as well. Light in color and body it had a bit of a grassy finish but was just what the doctor ordered.
The other IPA was the one I'd read about and eventually got me radared in on Bootleggers in the first place... Rustic Rye IPA. The Rustic offered a more balanced and maltier profile than the Director's Cut .... finishing clean with a very pleasing hop and rye interplay. I added some bottles to my growing shopping cart.
Bootleggers also offers an German Alt style beer called Amber that I somehow failed to try. As well as a few other seasonals that you'll just have to show up to sample.
If you happen to live in Orange County, Fullerton, or the greater LA/So-Cal area you owe yourself a visit to 401 S. Richmond Avenue, Fullerton CA 92832. They even offer a growler club deal. Fill five growlers and the sixth one comes for just a buck.
Be there....or just go thirsty.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A fun tribute

The evening of my fathers Memorial Service I decided that we really needed to do some kind of tribute to the old man. One befitting the ole gun slingers love of all things guns. A tribute aside from our consistent daily attempts at filling an entire recycle trash can with green and brown 12 oz containers.

The first couple of nights in town I slept in his gun room and every morning the first thing I'd see when I woke up (well, besides my beautiful bride of course) was an old can of black powder sitting on his book shelf next to one of his quick draw trophies and an old bayonet that he must have picked up at some gun show or found out in the desert.

At dusk I grabbed that can off the shelf...found his stash of other reloading powder to use for a fuse and set out to make a mushroom cloud in the street in front of the house. The fuse material proved to be a bit slower burning than I'd anticipated but that turned out to be a good thing as camera operators and the saluting toasts of the bystanders weren't quite as ready as they thought they were. We also burned up a few boxes of some old sparklers I found whilst looking for his powder supply. Judging by the age of the sparklers I think the old man must have gotten them from Poncho Villa.
After much anticipation the half pound conical tower of black powder did it's thing, mildly surprised a few skeptics and bringing a smile to everyone's face.

"That's gonna leave a mark" which just like my Dad ..... was an understatement.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Here's to you Dad

On the first day of the year 2010 my Father, Chuck Lybarger, passed away in his own home ... in his own bed. He succeeded in his ardent desire to die at home and not in some hospital bed. He was 138 days shy of his 79th birthday.
Technically speaking Chuck was my step-father and I only mention that to explain the difference in our last names. Other wise it was never an issue. Considering that he became my Dad when I was just five days past my fourth birthday it's easy to understand why.

That's not to say we always saw eye to eye and got along well .... in my teenage years and early adult life we were always at odds and tended to avoid each other. Despite our animosity and feuds I'm proud to say neither of us ever brought up our lack of matching DNA, not once ... ever. Sometimes it seemed it was the only thing we got right between us.

In my Little League years we actually got along famously..... he always made sure I had the best glove on the team and despite his lack of history playing sports always had time to play some catch with me, especially if I had a game to warm up for.

As I related during his memorial service on January 6th the only thing he ever held against me (and supposedly wouldn't forgive me for) was the fact that I hit my first Little League home run in the one and only game he ever missed. He joked and chided me about that until his last days.

I was also the first kid in my neighborhood to get a 10-speed bike that possessed some contraption called a derailleur that made the gears change. He spent nearly a half weeks wages putting that French bicycle under the Christmas tree for me.

So ya...he was a very generous and giving soul that truly enjoyed surprising his loved ones, going above and beyond the expected and making them happy. His yearly Christmas gifts to my Mother are legendary.

I realize now how unfortunate it was that he was never quite as generous with himself throughout his life. He had episodes of drinking and violence that he would later deeply regret. Yet despite these grey and turbulent times he never faltered in his mission of providing first and foremost for his family.

I used to joke that I learned from him a great many things NOT to do, but the fact of the matter he provided much of the framework that I live by and have passed to my own children. His absolute refusal in taking any unwarranted crap from anyone was instilled in me early on and has generally served me well over the years.

One of my favorite things he left with me is my understanding and appreciation of firearms. From and early age he set down some carved-in-stone safety and handling procedures that are as spot on and pertinent today as they were in 1958 when he started teaching them to me. I passed these learning's onto my own kids as well and fully expect they will do the same for their own offsprings when the time comes.

Over the years I have also come to realize the simple fact that kids need their parents to love each other no matter what happens between them. This was always the case with my parents despite the envelopes that we all pushed from time to time. I've always been grateful for that.

I suppose I could go on and on about my old man, especially about his 9 lives and all of his amazing array of health problems, family drama's and totalled vehicles but I will leave that for the spoken word stories and the retelling of his life....which I suspect will be going on for a long time to come.
Thanks Dad...... I miss you already.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Rick ... Pub Crawl

It was Rick's birthday on December 27th (amazingly like it seems to be most years) and so naturally all he wanted for turning 33 years old was a local Pub Crawl. With his Mom visiting from Oregon and willing to be the designated Driver it seemed like a natural excuse for some excessive drinking on a Holiday Sunday.
Rick, Tracy, Dave and Mom were joined for the opening 1pm salvo's at CONSTABLE JACK'S in Newcastle by Jeff Scammon and a few of the Sober's....MS, Terri, Zack and Oralia. After a quick couple of Chimay's and Schneiderweisse Dunkels we were off to Auburn to the newly opened WORLD PUB at the corner of HWY 49 and Bell Road. Once ensconced in the friendly confines of the WP the group grew ever larger as Cody and Breann Sober, Brewmaster Peter Hoey and beer guru Martin Loudall all joined in the celebration. Video Bowling, Darts and take-out Mexican food helped to enhance the festivities even further. The WP has a nice 20 tap selection as well as an impressive array of bottled beer to choose from. The Birthday Boy seemed to be doing pretty well at that point...still drinking from a pint glass and hardly spilling much beer on his shirt at all.
After a couple of enjoyable hours we had to finally bid WP owner Eric adieu and traveled the short distance to our next stop......PISTOL PETE'S BREW and CUE on Harrison Street near the Liquor Outlet.
At Pete's the Beer du jour turned out to be some very fresh Racer 5 which Rick decided tasted much better straight from the Pitcher. A few more of the the expanded S.O.B.E.R. group regulars showed up as well and the party continued on. Pizza, Pool and bad to marginal DJ music was the backdrop of the evening at Pete's and a splendid time was had by all.
Pete's was the end of the line for many of the crawlers ....but not for the Birthday lad who took the opportunity to hoof it from downtown to Old Town where we met up again for some final PU-240 double IPA's at the AUBURN ALE HOUSE.
I don't remember too much after that......and I'm not sure Rick does either. But one thing is was good times to remember...and maybe to be forgetting portions of...depending upon your perspective. I'm just glad I was there....and I doubt I am alone in that sentiment.
Happy Birthday Porno Boy.... Oh .... and sorry about the Rose Bowl.