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.