August 22, 2008

A day at the office: Tommy's Joynt

12:46: Pint of Anchor Steam. I love Tommy’s Joynt for a wealth of reasons, but the wall of beers is chief among them. Around 110 bottled beers from around the world, but today I’m starting with a pint of the homegrown stuff.
I’m going to share a pastrami on rye and a turkey on sourdough roll with Half Pint. The ceramic jar of hot mustard—they’re so not kidding about the hot—is calling my name. Mara, the designated “pickle fetcher” ever since her star debut on (an upcoming episode of) the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” was filmed here, is heading toward the (secret) pickle jar.

The delicious carved meats. The tankards and steins adorning the walls. The chatchkes adorning the beams and ceiling. The barflies at the bar. It’s a good day.

1:28: “It was lip-smacking good,” says the white-haired man in the XL Hawaiin shirt to his wife on their way out. I wonder if they had my favorite, the buffalo stew.

Absolutely no one has left the long wooden bar. Jose in his Giants cap and TJ’s baseball 3/4s ringer is pouring mostly beer, but I see a guy with an orange juice based cocktail and another guy with a vodka rocks.

2:02: Looking over the list of wordly beers, for now I skip the offerings from Armenia and Australia and go for the Maredsous Triple from Belgium. I know that for my next round, I’ll at least skip over the beers from Brazil, Canada, and China (though it would be fitting for the final day of the Beijing Olympics). Thanks, Marissa (the new waitress).

2:09: Wonder how much Tommy’s collects from the condom vending machine mounted on the bathroom wall.

3:23: One guy at the bar asks Jose for another pint of Fat Tire, then asks where it’s from. Jose knows it’s from Colorado, thinks it’s from Golden. Another guy corrects him and says it’s from Boulder. I try not to chime in, but the 10% Belgian triple I’m still nursing makes me hand each dude one of my postcards as I say New Belgium’s from Ft. Collins. Mr. “Boulder” says he’s not talking about that, he’s talking about Fat Tire. This same person soon gave me shit for originally being from LA, when he’s actually from Aspen, the Beverly Hills of the Rockies. But pretty soon we’re happy compatriots at the bar until a tasty blond walks in and stands directly between us. Once she gets a book of matches, she’s off, and Boulder/Aspen and I have nothing left to say.

5:19: On second thought, I WILL try an Armenian beer. I ask to look at both bottles. The Erebuni appears to be a standard industrial lager, but the Kilikia Jubilee has a more captivating appearance. Both come in 500 ml green bottles, but the Jubilee label shows four gold medals including, and I only know this because I read Cyrillic (Russian), a medal from the 2002 Sochi (the Hawaii of Russia, not that they’re comparable) beer competition. Swan-kee.

Sam, Susie’s son and therefor representing Tommy’s Joynt’s third generation after Susie’s Uncle Tommy founded it in 1947, before her dad took over in ’55, told me a funny story. He was in Jerusalem trying to open a bottle of beer. Wait, I’m not at the funny part yet. So he’s looking around for a way to open it when this Orthodox Jew with the black hat and the sidelocks and the long beard walks by, grabs the beer, opens it with his teeth then hands it back and just keeps walking. I doubt if you hang out in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with a bottle of brew, no Amish dude would do that for you.

6:00: Mike Lattig shows up and joins me at the bar. He gets a Tusker from Kenya. I get a Spaten Oktoberfest. We enjoy the drunken banter from our neighbors.
7:15: Half Pint returns. Mike’s wife Jen shows up. Mike gets the corned beef platter. I get one of my favorites—the massive turkey leg. Yeah, a whole giant turkey leg, little stuffing, some gravy, period. I know I’ll barely have room for the pickles. Oh, and a slice of chocolate cake, which is rare, since I usually go for the carrot cake.

7:50: A barrage of foreign students or tourists show up and don’t quite get the concept of lining up for the cafeteria-style service. They organize themselves in a cluster. Works for me, since my primary means of organization at home is a strategy I like to call piles.

I ask for the special bottle I had another bartender put on ice for me since they didn’t have any chilled. I know it’s August 28, 2008, but oh my, they’ve got some bottles of the 2007 Anchor Christmas Ale left. It wasn’t as good as the ’06, but I love it and it goes with chocolate cake.

9:45: It’s been eight hours. I put in a full day’s work at my “office.” Time to punch out.

August 18, 2008

Beer Dinner II: Locavores

For the second installment of the Beer Dinner, we went with local beer (as opposed to la cerveza loco, the crazy beer). High-minded pairing be damned, I just filled the fridge with offerings from throughout Northern California, and one tipple only those present can smack their lips and reminisce fondly.
The opening round called for Butte Creek's Organic Revolution Imperial IPA (Chico) paired with crudite (I called a plate of veggies crudite), hummus, and three cheeses: raw, 16-month aged “San Juaquin Gold,” smoked gouda, and an awesome and stylish cheddar Irish porter, which I didn’t bust out my lone bottle of Anchor Porter, mainly because I was so digging the Imperial India Pale Ale, and that's not really like me. Everyone agreed it was a winner to wake up our taste buds.

Second bottle to be uncapped was MateVeza's Yerba Mate Ale (Chico) And to complete the Chico trifecta, I poured what Jesse called the farthest local beer possible: Sierra Nevada’s Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale. (But now how will the Kiwis hop their brews?)

For K’ro’s creation, she concocted a broccoli-riccota-chive dip (with beer) and we fashioned a recipe for sundried tomato, pimento-stuffed olives (and beer) bread into a thick crust for something akin to pizza using fresh mozzerela, roasted chicken, and a bottle of bbq sauce that we pilfered yesterday (scroll down for previous post!).

Jesse & Eliana arrived toting the pieces de resistance (or as Gavin is fond of saying, amuse bouche). Our intrepid homebrewer flaunted his bottle-conditioned Belgian Triple with Vanilla Bean, which astoundingly complemented the alumna of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) Eli’s empenadas. Two kinds: lentil veggie and North African spiced lamb. When it comes to beer and nosh, they rocked the Casbah.

Richard, who I think wasn’t quite prepared for the depth of a beer dinner, brought a cheese pizza pie and his conversational reparte, such as his analysis about his current reading selection, God Against the Gods.
I then busted out a bomber I guess I picked up down in Banana Slug country: Santa Cruz Ale Works’ Hefeweizen. Not exactly a show stopper/dinner topper. So sue me.

Lora, one of my oldest friends who is out visiting from NYC, is scratching and clawing and julienning her way into the culinary world. I won’t even get into all the tasty vittels she made in my “test kitchen,” but will simply say this for her offering: Chocolate bread pudding with a Pyramid Apricot Ale reduction topped with farm-fresh raspberries. Pouring: Chocolate Stout from Bison Brewing (Berkeley, ergo organic). Delicioso. (Lora’s special friend Dan poured the last of the Belgian Triple and along with it, the vanilla bean. Unlike the worm, it’s not recommended drinking.)

Two last libations were brought out: Eli’s homemade apple (and pear) cider and El Toro’s Oatmeal Stout that, were it not for the fact that it’s from Morgan Hill and pretty tasty, is hardly worth mentioning after that cider.

Now I need to figure out the theme for the next beer dinner; fortunately this feast should last me until then.

August 17, 2008

"Get a napkin": All-U-Can Beer & BBQ

If it's true that you are what you eat, I'm a huge, fat drunken pig. Slathered with sauce. Hooray for the Stumptown Brewery & Smokehouse's 6th Annual Revival.

30 breweries. 30 bbq pit crews.
Best beer of the day: New Belgium's Lips of Faith: Eric's Ale
Best bbq team name: The Masterbasters.

Most apt insult flung at me all day (when attempting to grab a sample from Moonlight Brewing Co."Dude, Get a napkin!" As if having a bbq-encrusted face didn't fit in with the motif for the fest.

To clean up afterward, I simply plunged into the Russian River, and I wasn't alone.

Brew Hope for LA, and beyond

As I like to point out why I moved from LA to SF last year--
Breweries in the 310: 0
Breweries in the 415: 8

But if there's any hope for the tide turning, it's Blue Palms Brew House. Founder Brian Lenzo has proven he can bring good beer to La La Land, now Angelenos have to step up to the mash tun to prove themselves worthy of choosing good beer. With two dozen stellar selections on tap and another handful of bottled beers, I hope this beer bar is the second step (proper respect must be paid to Father's Office, even if, in true LA fashion, residents didn't start respecting it until they started having to wait in line just to get in) to turning the second largest city in America into a beer town. The blogger duly notes that Pasadena supports a great beer scene in terms of production (ie: Craftsman) and sales (ie: Stuffed Sandwich, Lucky Baldwin's), but that's because they're Pasadenans. Back to Blue Palms.

I believe Lenzo to be a malthead like myself, which is why they stock so many great dark, malty beers including, and I can't promote this beer enough if you've never tried it, Ola Dubh 30... ON TAP. The symbiotic relationship between Scotland's Harviestoun Brewery and Highland Park single-malt scotch, over 20 years and 200 years old, respectively, this "Black Oil" beer aged in said famed whisky barrels is a snifter to behold. And as with all beers aged in spirit casks, it'll getya.
If you're in or heading to LA, check out. Or better yet, stop by around Nov 2 for my LA book signing party there, as the plan goes.

As for scoping out the beer scene "beyond," K'ro and I happened upon Central Coast Brewing, founded around 2003, in San Luis Obispo. For anyone who recalls SLO Brewing, home of the first blueberry ale I'd ever tried, this is no relation, as that brewery is now in the hands of Firestone-Walker.

We pulled into the parking lot in front of CCB after 4 p.m, which is to say less than an hour before they stop pouring samples. Nevertheless, Jim behind the bar helped us squeeze in the full gamut of their brews and we walked away with our two favorites, Chai Cream Ale (yes, it tastes like chai) and Drunkelweizen, so dubbed because it's dark (dunkle), wheaty (weizen), and'll get ya drunk. Beer people come up with the best names.
CCB is also a BOP (Brew on Premise) and they'll help you brew any of their 150ish recipes. Stop in to brew your own batch with your own custom-made labels. Or better yet, stop by around Dec 2 for my SLO book signing party there, as the plan goes.

August 5, 2008

OBF: Honorary Mayor of Beertown

It all started with the Brewers Brunch at Portland’s PGE Park, where local mavens Kurt and Rob Widmer (think Hefeweizen) perched incognito as the line for the sold-out event streamed in. The brunch is also where I met my new crew for the day, consisting of a benevolent bunch of locals, Aly, Jay, Christian, Sarah, Dean, Brit, Katie and not timid girl from Phoenix, Sara. The rep for Widmer Bros. showered us with schwag to hand out during the parade. Yes, a parade.

The route ended at McCall Waterfront Park where the inaugural cask (I heard it was Widmer’s new Half Nelson Imperial India Pale Ale, but it seemed to lack the kick of an IIPA and was more likely the regular Broken Halo IPA) was tapped by the mayor of Portland. Not only did I meet Mayor Tom Potter, and not only did he wear one of my new Red, White, and Brew stickers* on his shirt, he put his "Mayor of Beertown" sash on me when we posed for a picture. I felt like Charlie to Mayor Potter’s Willie Wonka. We talked for a while about the joys and merits of being the mayor of Beervana, and it seems that it’s always been in the family, in that he has long enjoyed German brews and sausages whenever he visits his wife’s family in the Rhineland.
I spent my first wooden chip (buck-a-piece) on the Surfer’s Summer Ale from the Pelican Brewery, located on the Oregon coast. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d only give in a 2. So I went in the opposite direction, both beer-wise and geography-wise, and went for a Bell’s Porter from Kalamazoo, MI. Paydirt! Other noteworthy concoctions included MacTarnahan’s Slingshot Extra Pale Ale (Originally Portland Brewing Co, Mac’s is now owned by Pyramid, which is now owned by Magic Hat in Vermont, so how come there wasn’t any Magic Hat at the fest?); kooky local brews like Caldera’s Ginger Ale (yes, ale with ginger) and Roots Organic Brewing’s Calypso Ale (unbeknownst to me, it was a spicy chili beer), and, from Idaho, Laughing Dog’s Rocketdog Red Rye, which had a surprisingly zingy bitter kick. It was good because sometimes, just sometimes, you don’t want ginger or peppers in your beer.

The day ended with a post-fest round at one of the McMenamin’s brewpubs, founded by Mike and Brian McMenamin . Which one? I don’t rightly recall, such was my wherewithall 12 hours after my first beer. That night, I attempted to sleep at my hostel, but the guy in another bunk had snored like a hibernating bear wrapped in a mauled wild boar’s last gasps for air being chased by an Unholy Thing.

I couldn’t spend four days in PDX and not hit one of my all-time favorite brewpubs, the Lucky Lab on Hawthorne. With The Manager finding her way to town to join me, we took a short leave of absence from the fest to walk over the Hawthorne Bridge and cool off. Irish Stout on the nitro tap for her, Black Lab Stout for me. Add several real live Labradors and other breeds out on the back porch and it made for a fine afternoon. Best part: for barely more than the price of a pint, they’ll hand fill a 22 oz bottle of your choice for take-home.

One unexpected highlight for me was running into Electric Dave from my official beer odyssey. (Seriously: click here.) As someone who could barely make his way from his home in Bisbee, AZ to nearby Tucson, I couldn't imagine what brought him to Portland. The next day, I met "The Other Dave," and I understood why they were in town. Bottom line: Electric Brewing has officially changed hands, but Electric Dave is staying on. It is a tale of two Daves. I wish them both good luck.

Finally, I met so many cool people, but will end with a political canvasser named Miles Greengard from Michigan. When I told him about my visit to Bell's there, he offered: “In Michigan there are two holidays that people celebrate: the opening of deer hunting season and the day Oberon drops. Nobody goes to class the next day.”