Party in a Parking Lot

30 Mar

 This past weekend I attended the Mission Valley Beer Festival at the Handlery Resort in San Diego, benefiting Fresh Start Surgical Gifts. The festival started and noon, and I got there with my friends shortly after 1 PM. By the time we arrived, there was already a pretty substantial crowd inside. We were all holding pre-purchased tickets, so entrance was a breeze. Wristbands on, a quick ID flash at security, and we were in. Geezer was playing on the stage at the far end of the festival area, and was nice to listen to while we grabbed our first beer and tried to figure out how everything was set up. This was a festival with good intentions, but not the best execution. Apparently the organizers were preparing for a crowd of roughly half the size that showed up, which of course means the food and beer ran out. Early. One real boon to this festival was the inclusion of taster food as well as taster beer, and the chefs really brought their A game. We were able to get our mitts on a bacon wrapped hot dog, a few Pubcakes, some carnitas, a street taco, a grilled on the shell clam, and spiced shrimp before they were out. Unfortunately by the time I digested a bit and was ready for round two, most places were out. Getting beer was a bit of a challenge. The area of the parking lot where the booths were set up wasn’t very conducive to the lines that were forming, breweries ran out of cups, and just plain ran out of beer a while before the festival was scheduled to end. But again, it’s to be expected when a crowd twice the size of expected shows up. That’s not to say people were in any way going thirsty. The tastes being poured were generous and there were plenty of breweries in attendance. I especially enjoyed the Jazz Man from Manzanita, it’s their newest beer made with jasmine. Funny, I believe it was Manzanita that I was most impressed with after the SDBW fest in November too. Good job, guys!

I think with getting through the organizational snags of this festival, it has a lot of potential. There is obviously a demand for this kind of event in that area, and with a little tweaking in the preparation; the next Mission Valley Craft Beer Festival can be very successful.

As you can see, I really took a lot of pictures on the day. So, if you want to see some great shots and a great post on the festival, please head over to

Coffee Rain

29 Mar

Last week following Automatic Brewing Company at Blind Lady Ale House really paid off. I’ve been hearing and reading about their Coffee Rain for a bit, and had yet to make it to the pub to actually try it. I guess I was just waiting for the invitation on Facebook to reserve a growler for me to get my butt in gear. I reserved it online, and ambled into Blind Lady on Sunday morning to pick up my new growler full of this coffee oatmeal stout befor heading to the Mission Valley Craft Beer Festival. This beer lived up to the hype. Damn, it was good. Everything about it reminded me of a really well brewed cup of coffee. The color poured a really pretty dark black brown, and I could smell it as it was pouring. It has a really tempting roasted malt and coffee aroma, with just a little of the nutty smell oatmeal gives off. The taste was exactly what the aroma told me to expect. Very roasty coffee, not bitter, even a little sweet. I want to say I picked up a little of a vanilla in the sweet and a fruit that I can’t quite put my finger on. The 5.9% ABV made it a beer that I was able to drink over the evening last night without getting loopy, and tasted great after dinner.

Another interesting piece on the beer is the coffee that was used. The release information on Brown Paper Tickets from Blind Lady said, “Coffee Rain is a coffee oatmeal stout brewed with single origin organic coffee beans roasted by Cafe Moto and grown on Las Hermanas Coffee Cooperative in Nicaragua.” Interested in getting a little deeper on that, Café Moto’s website said this about Las Hermanas, ” This is a unique story. 140 women owned, Las Hermanas, coffee farms in upper Nicaragua, joined together to form a micro cooperative to produce the best coffees of the region…Las Hermanas Fair Traded coffees have given back to the community with 700+ new school uniforms and numerous health and civil projects. The Organic Fair Trade Las Hermanas coffee with it’s smooth, thick, chocolaty cup, and hints of apricot has become a Cafe Moto favorite and the foundation for several of the blends. This coffee delivers in the cup and in the heart.” Very cool. And, hey, look at that. Apricot. I think I just identified the fruit I couldn’t quite put a name to. All in all, this was a really good beer. If you have opportunity, head over to Blind Lady Ale House and try it.

This Week’s Beer Style Wars is…

28 Mar

Double IPA!

Talk to me, people! What should I drink?

Beer People are Good People

24 Mar

If you’re active in the craft beer world on Twitter, you’ll have noticed that the hashtag #craftbeerpeoplearegoodpeople thrown around quite often. In the last week, the beer activities that I’ve taken part in have shown me that craft beer people really are great people. Own Wednesday I went to Sea Rocket Bistro for their DrinkAbout special on Manzanita Brewing beers. I was parked in the bar area where I got to meet David from Calbrand and some of the fellas from Manzanita. Great beer people. I ordered their flight and spent the next hour or so chatting about beer, a-hole beer snobs, what’s coming up from Manzanita, and the horrible Midwest weather. My notes on the beer were pretty awful; the time spent getting to know some new beer industry people made the time fly by. I will recommend trying their Double Dry Hopped IPA if you get a chance. I was expecting something really hoppy bitter but instead got a little bite with lots of flavor. 

Saturday morning, I was invited to and awesome event hosted by Taphunter: Beer for Breakfast. Genius. The idea of the event is basically a bottle share with waffles. I had met the Taphunter team before, but Saturday, I was given a chance to put faces to names I’d interacted with in the virtual beer world along with some brand new folks. The great thing about everyone being there for the same reason was that we never ran out of stuff to talk about. Beer chitchat flowed as easily as the beer lined up on the counter, and I was surrounded by some really great beer people. Are we starting to see a trend here? Also, if I met you there and haven’t liked, followed or friended you yet, call me out. I probably couldn’t find you.

The cherry on the top of my Craft Beer People are Good People sundae this week, stems from an upcoming piece I’m working on for Ladies of Craft Beer. Doing some research on organic beer and brewing, I reached out to five organic breweries asking for a minute of time to answer some questions. Not only did each brewery get back to me within two days, they were all more than willing to answer questions and gave great answers. I was truly impressed when the representative from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing offered to do a phone interview during a break at The Craft Brewers Conference. I can’t think of many other industries in which people would jump at the chance to help a blogger out so quickly. Great beer people.

So, to all of you that make the craft beer industry and community what it is, good job! You’re great!

Beer Style Wars: Belgian Golden Ales

23 Mar

Last night I sat down with a pile of laundry and two Belgian style Golden Ales: Golden Age by Iron Fist Brewing and Damnation from Russian River Brewing Company. That sounds an awful lot like a Beer Style War! Lets get started!

 Appearance: The Damnation came out a dark wheat color, with a little bit of a haze the head was light and didn’t stick around for very long. There were also a lot of bubbles continuing to rise for most of the time it was in the glass. The Golden Age had a darker amber color and was quite a bit hazier. It had a much foamier head, and at first I wondered if it had a bit of over carbonation as there was foam coming out of the bottle while I was pouring the Damnation, it settled down relatively quickly and I got a nice pour out of it. The BJCP guidelines say they should be “Yellow to medium gold in color. Good clarity. Effervescent. Massive, long-lasting, rocky, often beady, white head resulting in characteristic “Belgian lace” on the glass as it fades.” Damnation hit it in color and effervescence, and Golden Age took it home with the head.

 Aroma: I started with the Damnation and it has a very mild aroma, at first it was a little on the perfumy and I picked up some of the booze. It did have a bit of a peppery hop aroma as well. The Golden Age could not have been more different. It was very sweet at first; the initial thought I had was, “Cotton Candy!” and then got to sweet fruity aromas. I picked out a citrusy lemony aroma, but not bitter, more like a lemon candy smell.

 Taste: Going off of the aromas I was really intrigued on what I would taste. Again, Damnation was first. I got some earthy and spicy hop flavor; it also had a lemony and orange taste in there. After going to Golden Age and coming back to Damnation, I got a bit more of the malt character; it came out a little biscuit like but very soft. Golden Age had a lot going on, as the aroma would suggest. My first sip I got a big spice taste- I want to say oregano. Then the flavor mellowed out a bit and got a little bitter and lemony, at the end I was most surprised by the really sweet strawberry taste that came through. BJCP guidelines say, “Marriage of fruity, spicy and alcohol flavors supported by a soft malt character. Esters are reminiscent of pears, oranges or apples. Low to moderate phenols are peppery in character. A low to moderate spicy hop character is often present. Alcohols are soft, spicy, and often a bit sweet and are low-to-moderate in intensity. Bitterness is typically medium to high.” I’d say they both fit right in there.

 Overall: These were two very different representations of one style, the Golden Age was much sweeter and had a lot of taste complexities going on while the Damnation was what I call more savory with the spices and earthiness of the hops. I’d recommend either to anyone, although personally I think I preferred the drinkability of the Damnation, and I always like the feel of bubbles on my tongue.

Watch this! The at home DrinkAbout experience

21 Mar

This morning I opened my mailbox with a request from David Mora, and aspiring filmmaker, asking me to take a look at a video he made on DrinkAbout.  I thought it was great, and want to share it with all of you. If you’re a San Diego local and have yet to take part in a DrinkAbout maybe this will help sway you. DrinkAbout is a free monthly shuttle that loops to all of the great beer bars in the North Park, South Park, and Normal Heights areas and accompanied by beer and food specials at most of the stops. A great time to be had. Check out the video:

This Week’s Style is…

14 Mar


Belgian Golden Ale! What should I drink?

Beer Style Wars: Stout

11 Mar

The very first Beer Style Wars has gone down. After getting votes for some great stouts (thanks everyone!) I made a visit to Pacific Liquor. I knew that I was going in looking for Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merlin and Guinness, but the mystery third beer was yet to be determined. Turns out finding a “regular” stout was more difficult than anticipated. Imperial, double, and barrel aged all abounded so I was pleased when I was able to get a bottle of Voo Doo from Left Coast Brewing.

Here are the contenders. Guinness Extra Stout, Left Coast Voo Doo American Stout and Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout.  

Round one: Appearance. Beer Judge Certification guidelines say these three should be brown to black in color. Check. They were all very dark, but there were noticeable color variations. The Guinness was the lightest and truest brown, Velvet Merlin was in the middle as a dark brown, and Voo Doo was black. Head and retention could not have been more different on these beers. The Guinness had a big fluffy tan head that stayed around forever, kind of like a root beer float. Velvet Merlin had a really creamy texture to the head and a was a pretty caffè au lait color, and Voo Doo had a brown head with retention right in the middle of the other two.

Right after the pour

Round 2: Aroma. Getting to the smelling and tasting part of this BSW was surprising to me. I went in assuming that there would be similar tastes and aromas with slight variations, once again I was proven wrong. The Voo Doo had a really roasted aroma, and a bit of a bitter coffee smell, and I could pick up on the aroma of alcohol coming off of it. The Guinness Extra was a sweet malty aroma, with a tart fruitiness in there as well. The Velvet Merlin smelled more roasted than the Voo Doo, like a fresh brewed coffee. The BJCP descriptions say they should all have levels of roasted character, and the only one I didn’t pick that up in was the Guinness Extra.

 Round 3: Flavor. There was a lot going on with these three beers. The first one I sipped was Voo Doo, right off the bat I thought “burnt coffee” and then after I swallowed it turned to a bitter chocolate taste, like bakers chocolate. Next, I tried the Guinness Extra, and it was a complete 180. It had a very sharp taste like a green grape and then moved to a very malty caramel taste. The Velvet Merlin was next, and I can see why this one came so highly recommended. It has a really nice roasted taste, like a fresh cup of coffee with milk. It also has a bit of a nutty sweetness come through; it reminded me of an oatmeal cookie. Looking over the BJCP guidelines, they’re all right on.

 There. First Beer Style War down. So far, it was a great learning experience. Sitting down to three beers at once was a bit of a challenge, but I think comparing them each side-by-side was really beneficial. I was really able to pick out the differences and similarities in each. Was there a winner? Well, my personal preference lent towards the Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin, it was the one I really look forward to drinking again. The Voo Doo, not so much. Although it’s right where it should be as far as the style, the burnt taste really wasn’t working for me, I do want to revisit it with a sweet food and see if the s’mores equation works in the beer world as well.

Stay tuned for the reveal of next week’s beer, and get ready to make some suggestions!

Announcing: Beer Style Wars

2 Mar

I hinted at this in the last post before getting my tonsils hacked out, so here’s the rest of the scoop:

A little while back I read a great post on Billy Brew about improving your tasting palate. The first suggestion was to put styles head to head and compare them. Well, that’s pretty much exactly what I’m going to do. Once a week I’ll be doing Beer Style Wars. I have a nifty little heart-shaped box of the styles, and one will be randomly selected each Monday with the beer showdown happening on Friday. Why the lapse in time? That’s where you come in! I’ll announce the style, then you, my faithful readers will throw your favorites at me. The three with the most votes will enter the arena and be subject to my nose and taste buds.

Lets get started! This week’s style is:


Ready? GO!

Aaaaaaand We’re Back!

2 Mar

Well hello there! Welcome back! I am now tonsil free, and ready to get back in the swing of all things beer. So let’s get started with some housekeeping.

In the world of homebrewing, I’m moving along nicely. Just before going under the knife I brewed a batch of IPA. This time around I swung by the homebrew store that’s right in my neighborhood, Home Brews and Gardens, to get my ingredients.  This is a great shop! The guys there are exceptionally nice, and helpful. This may turn into my Cheers of homebrew stores. On top of selling grains, yeast and hops, they’re also a hydroponics shop. I might end up getting my indoor gardening on at some point, but that’s a tangent for another day. After my stop there, beer was brewed, fermented, and then bottled by my mother and myself. She’d come to be my nurse after tonsil surgery and ended up being a bottling line worker. It was fun to have her help and be involved. I even let her take a few bottles home, and got this picture a few weeks later:

My parents, aunts and uncles had a She Likes Beer tasting. They all seemed to really like it. It makes me really thankful to have such a rad support system on my ventures.

After lying around my apartment on various narcotics for three weeks, it had become time to get my life back to some semblance of normalcy, and the best way to do that is making more beer. On my last day of disability leave, off I went to HB&G. I picked up grains, malt extract and yeast to make a chocolate stout. This time around I wanted to try a full boil, and miraculously I was able to accomplish it on my stove. I’ve heard boiling the full batch and using a yeast starter will make an even better beer, in a few weeks I’ll know if angels fly out of the carboys. One more little experiment here was the addition of cayenne pepper to the mash, I’m going for a Mexican Hot Chocolate thing here. Fingers crossed!

There, that basically brings us up to date. Hang on a few minutes for an exciting announcement of my next fun beer project!