November 27, 2008


Yesterday (Wed, Nov 26) on NPR, if you tuned into "Marketplace", instead of hearing about mouthwatering Schweddy Balls, you heard about mouthwatering craft beer. I recorded the interview with host Kai Ryssdal at the Library Bar in downtown LA (around the corner from the library.) As a devoted NPR listener for years (to say nothing of remembering listening to "All Things Considered" when driving around town with my mom in our old, family, wood-paneled stationwagon), it was a huge honor to find myself on the other side of the mic/radio.

Kai asked me to pick four beers--something hoppy, dark, middle of the road, and I believe his words were something like "piss water." Perusing their beer menu, I selected North Coast's Old Rasputin imperial Russian stout (Ft. Bragg, CA), Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA (Healdsburg, CA), Craftsman's 1903 Lager (Pasadena, CA), and Amstel Light (apologies to the Netherlands). All on American Public Radio's dime.
We sat, sipped, and discussed the state of the American brewing industry, both on a craft and industrial level. I'd say it lasted half an hour. The result? Four minutes and twenty seconds. Overall, I'm ecstatic with the finished piece, save for one tiny thing no one would catch:

"RYSSDAL: Uh, clearly the economy's having some problems. Disposable income is at a premium. What's that going to do to the craft brew sector when these good beers that we've been drinking cost $3, $4, $5 more than a six-pack of Bud Light?

Yaeger: I could tell you that, just for the numbers of 2007, the craft beer segment actually climbed 12 percent. And that is actually an improvement from a decline a couple years ago. Even though people may have less money to spend, it's just a luxury in a bottle and it's not going to set you back a whole lot."

What they snipped was that I said craft beer sales climbed 12 percent, as they have for the past four years, but the Big Boys take of the $100 billion Americans spent on beer last year grew less than 2 percent, which is actually an improvement from a decline a couple years ago. Truly, no biggie, but just wanted to be clear here.

Anyway, it worked! "Worked?" Yes, worked. Before the story aired, Red, White, and Brew was somewhere around Amazon #30,000, and #31 on the Beer list. Already it's #2,000-something and set a new record at #2 on the Beer list. (It's also #15 on the US Travel list, #1 on Kindle's Beer list, #5 on Kindle's US Travel list (after only heroes William Least Heat-Moon and Bill Bryson), and a new list to me, #71 on the "Lifestyle" list, meaning I'm right after Paula Deen's x-mas book. (Having said that, I still encourage those who drink local, independent brews to buy the book at local, independent bookstores.) Happy holidays, indeed. Bonus for airing right before Black Friday. This is just all so cool and exciting.


November 24, 2008

Whenever one tour closes, many bottles open

I'm about to head off to the Mac Store downtown (SF), which means that my next round of events begins now. That also means my week of R'n'R is over, which is why I haven't blogged since then. As I gear up for a couple NorCal events and several SoCal ones since I'll be down that-a-way for Thanksgiving (mental note: pick up some bottles of The Bruery's Autumn Maple beer with yams), here's a look back on what I have to show for the big, international tour, bottle-wise.

Initially, I put myself on a “bomber a day” diet. The goal: buy just one 22 oz. bottle of beer from wherever I found myself that day. Miraculously, and tragically, I stuck to it more or less:
15 bombers.
6 750-ml bottles or larger
23 12-oz bottles.

Very few duplicates (a six-pack of Bell’s Oberon b/c some friends made me, and a whole case of the infamous Mama Mia Pizza Beer, meaning 1 to try, 3 as a gift and 20 bottles to trade.) But for the sake of argument, 44 different beers altogether. I was on the road 41 days.

To save lots of time, I am not hyperlinking to the breweries, but you know quite well how to Google. If you have any questions about anything below, just ask.

In road trip order:
Wasatch (Salt Lake City, UT), The Devastator double bock
Tommyknocker (Idaho Springs, CO) Imperial Nut Brown Ale & a Butthead doppelbock
Ska (Durango, CO) Nefarious Ten Pin imperial porter
New Belgium (Ft. Collins) La Folie wood-aged Belgian ale
Upstream (Omaha, NE) Oak-Aged IPA (hand labeled #533 of 621)
Goose Island (Chicago, IL) Imperial Brown Goose bourbon-barrel-aged brown ale & Bourbon County Stout & Harvest Ale
America’s Brewing Co/Walter Payton’s Roundhouse brewpub (Aurora, IL) Imperial Stout Bourbon Barrel
O’Fallon Brewing (O’Fallon, MO) Smoke smoked porter
Three Floyds (Munster, IN) Moloko milk stout
Bell’s (Kalamazoo, MI) sampler: Cherry Stout, Third Coast Beer, Porter, Double Cream Stout, Imperial Stout, Oberon wheat
Founder’s (Grand Rapids, MI) Breakfast Stout double chocolate coffee oatmeal stout
Church Brew Works (Pittsburgh, PA) Trippel (2000)
Harpoon (Boston, MA) 100 Barrel Series Glacier Harvest ’08 wet hop beer
Southern Tier (Lakewood, NY) Pumking imperial pumpkin ale
French Broad (Ashville, NC) Dunkel-Witte dark-white ale
Highland (Ashville, NC) Black Mocha Stout
Duck Rabbit (Farmville, NC) Milk Stout & Porter
Sweetwater (Atlanta, GA) 420 pale ale
Terrapin Beer Co (Athens, GA) Imperial Coffee Stout
Dixie (New Orleans, LA) Blackened Voodoo black lager
Abita (Abita Sprints, LA) Restoration Ale
Real Ale Brewing (Blanco, TX)
Orf (Austin, TX, opening eventually) Rhum Porter
Four Peaks (Tempe, AZ) Kiltlifter Scotch ale & 8th Ave pale ale
Renegade (Siletz, OR) Spruce Ale
Caldera (Ashland, OR) Pale Ale
Elysian (Seattle, WA) Dragonstoth Stoud & Night Owl pumpkin ale
Laughing Buddha (Seattle, WA) Ginger Pale Ale
Phillips (Victoria, BC) Blackberry Hefeweizen & Dirty Squirrel hazelnut brown
Howe Sound (Squamish, BC) Father John’s Winter Ale (1 litre. Made with “four different malts, Nugget & Hallertau hops, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, treacle, honey, and yellow sugar.)

Breweries visited & therefore sampled amply:

Rockslide (Grand Junction, CO)
Tommyknockers (Idaho Springs, CO)
New Belgium (Ft. Collins, CO
Great Divide (Denver, CO)
Upstream (Omaha, NE)
Three Floyds (Munster, IN)
Bell’s (Kalamazoo, MI)
Church Brew Works (Pittsburgh, PA)
Legend (Richmond, VA)
Montgomery (Montgomery, AL)
NOLA (coming soon, New Orleans, LA)
Two Rows (Houston, TX)
512 (Austin, TX)
Orf (coming soon, Austin, TX)
Four Peaks (Tempe, AZ)
Telegraph (Santa Barbara, CA)
Lucky Lab (Portland, OR)
Hopworks Urban Brewery (Portland, OR)
Elysian Fields (Seattle, WA)
Hale’s Ales (Seattle, WA)

Rough estimate of how many other beers I tried not listed above: only 50 at Great American Beer Fest in Denver, and only around 40 elsewhere.


November 18, 2008

Mac Man

If you scroll down a li'l and look on the right side, under "Latest In Store," I'm right on the Apple page! I'm just a small time Mac geek, but that's pretty fun. This should be up through 11/24 so if you're in the Bay Area, swing on by.

November 17, 2008

Homeboy, Playboy

For now, all I can say is, it's good to be home. You know I'm not a numbers guy, but here are some fun ones:

10,000: miles driven.
42: days on the road
38: different beers bootlegged home (less than you'd imagine)
20: events.
13: friends stayed with around the country
4: pounds I tacked on (less than you'd imagine)
1: Playboy book review! "Yaeger’s book is something to immerse yourself in and savor...Here’s hoping that Yaeger has a sequel in him—he’s a great drinkin’ buddy."

Looking forward to 10 whole days before I have to drive anywhere. Who wants to get a beer?

November 15, 2008

Seattle, at last

Greetings from Ashland, OR (again), where we are staying for the night after the very last stint on my INTERNATIONAL book tour, which was at Elysian Fields brewpub up in Seattle. And thanks to Elliott Bay Books (and Casey) for handling sales. It was a great event to have as my last event. The beer (especially Dragonstooth Stout and Night Owl pumpkin ale) were great, Michael the bartender couldn't have been cooler, I briefly got to talk to the head brewer and co-owner Dick Cantwell, and saw a bunch of friends from the Emerald City (shout out to the Chaplins, the Kassoffs, the Greeks, and "Jack.") (PS: Notice on the menu of Elysian Fields beers, that one of the "guest beers" is Bud Light. Kudos to the expert beerista, Michael, for handling that with grace.)

Our first night, Half Pint and I stayed with Jay and Pauline. Jay is my new favorite person. Why's that? Turn to page 114 in your copy of the book and if you find the subtle pun that he caught, then you're my co-favorite person. But Pauline's my favorite person, too, for she took us on a gastronomic tour of Seattle beginning with breakfast at the Five Spot, then beer tasting at Hale's Ales, where we got to talk shop with their brewer since 1985, Phil, though alack, they did not have their rare Coconut Porter on tap. Finally, she took us on the tour of Theo, a local chocolatier and one of only 14 fair trade ones in the US.

The next morning, we had the biggest b-fast I've ever seen at a place called the Brown Bag. No joke--after Half Pint ate her heart out, it looked like she hadn't made a dent in her scramble. My biscuits were topped by a growler's worth of sausage gravy.

On our way south, she let me pick up some salumi from Salumi for the ride down (which odorized the car, to my delight and Half Pint's chagrin). Back in Brewtopia, I finally got to take her to my favorite brewpub--which is saying something-- the Lucky Lab(rador). There were great beers and cute pooches aplenty. (If our dog Patsy is reading this, which would be on the miraculous side, please know that we can't wait to take you to the Lucky Lab and I'll let some of my beer go flat so you can try it. I think you'd like Super Dog Ale the best.)

B-fast in Beervana consisted of two faves: Voodoo Donuts (Half Pint and I shared a Memphis Mafia. Think banana fritter loaded with peanut butter and chocolate!) and Stumptown Coffee (HP's best latte of the trip). We barely made it into Ashland before dark, where our host (again) Susan, had a homecooked meal waiting for us!!! We're about to get wild'n'crazy over a few rounds of Boggle, and then, and I type this with a hint of a tear in my eye, tomorrow it's back to a mystical place called home.

November 12, 2008

C, eh, N, eh, D, eh

Greetings from the USA. Those fools at border patrol let Half Pint and I back into the country despite not having our passports. Um, next time I'll know I need my passport even when driving, and so will she.

So truth be told, I only booked an event in Vancouver, BC to say I did an "international" book tour. CANADA is officially a foreign country, eh. So we used the trip wisely to explore the city I call the San Francisco of Canada, which was Half Pint's first time in the Great White North. We rode the Sky Train, which is essentially a monorail that works. We drove around Stanley Park, where I had a 100% touristy lunch of a burger (with Alberta beef) with Canadian back bacon, poutine (if you like cheese fries, you'll loooove fries with cheese curds and gravy) and washed it down with a Molson Canadian. Molson IS Canada's oldest brewery, afterall, though this beer tastes no better than Coors, which they own. Oh, and for dessert: maple nut ice cream. Mmmapley.

The event was in the Shebeen Whisk(e)y Room behind the Irish Heather, a BC gastropub in the Gastown district. Because the back of the book says I can, I charged $17 Canadian instead of $15 American, which meant my books sold that night covered our entire beer and food bill. What was on that tab? A pint of the Nut Brown ale from Howe Sound Brewing in Squamish, BC (who also makes the Father John X-mas ale in liter bottles, which I'll be bootlegging back home) a bottle of Black Cat black lager and the BĂȘte Noire (oatmeal) stout, both from an awesome brewery located in an even awesomer place, Paddock Wood Brewing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and a Belgian-style Wit Beer from the Mill St. Brewery in Toronto, which I liked but found a bit heavy on the orange peel. I know my party--including my friend Canadian Dave and his friend Boris--shared a bottle of Crooked Tooth pumpkin ale from another local brewery, Phillips, which Boris graciously put on his tab. If I had another beer, I don't recall, because, this being primarily a whiskey bar, Randy the bartender poured me something that resembled Laphraig, my favorite single-malt scotch from the Islay region. I love those scotches that I describe as tasting like a bonfire in a peat bog. Incidentally, whereas Half Pint opted for the Belgian frites and muscles, I had the house pot pie, which was steak and Guinness! Bon jour and bon appetite!

To complete our Canadian experience, we bought complimentary toques the next morning, which, had we been wearing them when we attempted to cross the border, would have truly foiled our plans to convince border patrol that we were not Canadian or any form of illegal immigrants, but good ol' Americans who stand for the Red, White, and Brew.

November 9, 2008

T'ales from Brewtopia

Greetings from Vancouver, eh. I'll get to my tales from the Great White North in a bit, but first, I had to drive through Oregon to get here (and Washington, but I'm not there yet).

Just as Half Pint started my tour with me by driving from Cali to Chitown, she's doing the last leg with me, too. Friday we piled into my car (made lighter by several cases-worth of beer picked up along the odyssey that I'll be drinking/blogging in due time) and cruised up I-5, barely making Oregon by the new dark. We stayed in Ashland with Susan, who's like a second mom. For dinner, we hit the Standing Stone Brewing Co., my second trip to the brewpub after first going years ago, which makes a cameo in Red, White, and Brew. I gotta say, it's a top-notch brewpub from both the food and beer perspective. Half Pint's Oatmeal Stout on nitro and my wet-hopped Hoptoberfest were impeccable. Susan's actual half pint of the Hefe wasn't bad. As for the food, it's hard to get excited about tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, but not when it's an heirloom tomato bisque and a grilled Rogue Stout cheddar on grilled sourdough! And if you go, and there's at least 4 in your party, get the chickpea fries with curry dip.

The next morning, we completed our drive to Portland, aka Beervana, aka Brewtopia. First I checked in at the author sign-in at the Oregon Convention Center, as I was in town to speak at Wordstock, Portland's literary festival and was "escorted" to the "VIP" room. Ooh, I'm so fancy. I basically grabbed a cup of coffee and talked to the audio/visual guy about the PowerPoint Presentation I'd put together. Yes, I taught myself the basics of PPT just for this gig. But my speaking time was at 5 and it was only 3, so I headed off for a live on-air interview on KXL's "The Libation Station," (which seems like you could download here, but it's long). My hosts were "Dr. BBQ" Bruce Bjorkman & the "Beer Goddess" Lisa Morrison. Not only did I have fun, but I got to try the previous guests' homebrewed pumpkin beer.

Then it was back to the Oregon Convention Center for Wordstock. Half Pint had several friends show up and they actually were not the only seats filled for my presentation on the McMenamin Stage, though no McMenamin Bros. beers were being poured, sadly. The festival organizer, Greg, kindly introduced me and though I'm no fan of public speaking, I thought I was off to a decent start and my slides were proving to be a hit... until I looked behind me and noticed a giant blank screen. See, unlike another litfest speaker that day, John Hodgman, better known as the "PC" from the Mac computers, I'm a Mac person. Woe that PPT on a Mac doesn't jibe well with A/V intended for PCs, so the visual portion of my 50-minute presentation was nixed. I could be heard throughout the talk uttering "if you could see the great picture I have of..." Other than that one gaffe, it was a great thrill and honor, the audience lobbed some great questions my way (including one young woman who asked if I gained weight during my "research," thanksalot) and I got to sign a bunch of books. (I popped back in the next morning to see how many they had left and it was down to 3.)

Afterward, I went to Hopworks Urban Brewery, the eco-friendliest of all of Portland's thirty-ish breweries. I enjoyed a pint of their British session style ESB and then some "DOA," or Deluxe Organic Ale, which I can only describe as being hoppier yet smoother than your average pale ale. Organic AND tasty--now that's a treat. FYI, the pizzas ain't cheap, but they are good and big. I was there with Half Pint and a slew of friends of hers who have all moved to Portland who all gave us the hard sell on moving there. If the beer scene factored into my move from LA to SF, then it could come into play here, too.

After dinner, us old fogies tried to rally for Kat's kid brother's friend's b-day party, his Dirty 30, but the over-30 crowd only had one more drink in us, and once back to Stephanie's and Drew's pad, I crashed. Hard.

November 8, 2008

I (Beer) L.A.

Despite a recent article in the LA Times, L.A. is NOT a beer town. It'll take some time before it ever becomes one, but for now it's a Corona/Heinie/Amstel Light town. Which is where bars like Blue Palm Brew House comes in. It's where I had my hometown book signing, and where 50 friends and family came out last Sunday to ask me which crazy beers they should try, since they were unfamiliar with all of them. I loved it. As for me, since I always drink beers from the region I'm in, but I also like finding beers I haven't had before, I decided anything California sufficed. Starting light, tried Green Flash's Summer Saison even though I'm not usually a farmhouse style kinda guy, but the pleasant ginger zing worked well. By night's end, I found myself quaffing Sac Brew's High & Rye, a red rye ale on a nitro tap. It's amazing how smooth nitrogen makes even a red ale.

While it wasn't the last event on my tour, it sort of had that feel, since I was surrounded by familiar faces and didn't have to drive 500 miles to see them. (However, I had driven 400 miles just two days earlier, and would be driving over 400 miles starting the next morning.) Thanks a ton to Julia from Book Soup hanging out all night and selling lotsa books! Signed copies are available in Hollywood. Respect to the Gaucho-and-wives crew, the UJ minion, the Punk Rock Bowling gang, Half Pint's peeps, the smattering of LA folks from here and there, the sole USC-MPW rep, Lisa, and of course the fam.

(Above: me and BPBH owner, Brian Lenzo)

November 2, 2008

Tempe Love

Not that Tempe, AZ was my last event on my tour, but it was the last one before my hometown crowd in LA, and from here, I only have 3 remaining events all in the Pac NW. So in some sense, though I've been denying being fatigued, part of me just wanted to get it over with, but that was until I showed up at the Four Peaks Brewing Co. where a huge crowd of thirsty (and hungry) supporters were waiting to meet me. Holy moly.

Huge, massive, ginormous thanks to Holly at Changing Hands Books for setting up the event, garnering lots of local press and interest, and selling out of copies at the brewpub! Though if you live in the Tempe/Phoenix area, there should be a few signed copies left. Four Peaks was the most crowded brewpub I think I've ever seen, and crazier still is that it was a Wednesday night. Is it because many brewpubs are places where people can get decent local brew and decent grub but 4P pours and serves stellar selections? That's my guess. Steve the GM brought me a flight of their brews and because I'm a fan of a great session beer, my vote is the 8th St. Pale Ale, which is actually more of an ESB. Smooth and mellow and a great quencher for the AZ sun. It was 93 degrees that day.

But back to the event. Not only were all the seats full and I had a blast table-hopping and really getting to talk to book buyers, but there was a VIP table for the extended family of Electric Beer, subject of a chapter in the book. I was SHOCKED to see Electric Dave all the way in Tempe, when he rarely makes his way from Bisbee to his neighboring Tucson. Also on hand were New Dave and the brewery's new owners including friends and family. Best news of the night: Plans for an Electric brewpub in Tempe! Finally, a city trying to put the Southwest on the beer map.

(Above: Erika and her mom Paula, who kindly offered me a crash pad somewhere west of Phoenix that night.)

The next day, I stopped back into Four Peaks for a tour with brewmaster Andy and one of the owners, Jim. Steve once again hooked me up, this time with lunch: a jalapeno popper burger. What's that? A massive, tasty burger with a veritable brick of cream cheese and spicy sliced jalapenos. Hoo-wa. Needless to say I didn't eat until the next morning after sleeping in a $29 roach motel just across from the AZ/CA border in Blythe. But it was totally worth it since I discovered the Courtesy Coffee Shop in town, where it's always 1961. Let me just say this: Farmer's Breakfast, consisting of scrambled eggs, chopped sausage, bell peppers and onions on a bed of hash browns smothered in both gravy and cheese, with hotcakes on the side.

From Blythe, I sped clear across the last of the barren desert in time to catch my 4 year old niece's Halloween pageant (she's the princess in the middle of the back row). I also got to catch up on the goings-on of my 6 year old niece (a wigless Hanna Montana)

November 1, 2008

Studs Terkel, 96, R.I.P.

Louis "Studs" Terkel--author, radio host, activist--passed away at age 96 just 4 days before the election he'd been hanging on to witness. The Chicagoan spent his entire career, and life, championing community activists, so it's no secret he supported the only Chicago-bred community activist running for president. Still, Studs saw much change during his lifetime, even though people have been saying things like, "What's the point? What can I do about it?" for the past 96 years.

I first heard of Studs Terkel less than a decade ago when someone compared a story I'd written (but never sold, so I self-published it) to Studs's writing. It was about a donut baker, who happened to be born to Russian Jewish parents, just like Studs. The story was less about the wonderfulness of donuts and more about what a fasinating life this man who had been making donuts for 40 years after being drafted into the Korean War where the Marines made him a baker. Whereas one high school teacher compared my short fiction writing to Raymond Carver, who I discovered I'm no huge fan of, the Studs Terkel comparison is now one of the greatest compliments of my life.

He wrote over a dozen books and I've yet to make my way through most of them, but his titles include "Chicago," "Working," "Race," a memoir called "Touch and Go," and his first book in 1957, "Giants of Jazz." My first read was "Chicago," and page after page, all I could do was marvel how the author turned banal people into fascinating characters, intriguing people into commonplace ones, and above all, anthropomorphized Chicago into a living, breathing person, one with a great many faults but at the end of the day, someone you pulled for, someone you'd want to get a beer with.

"Giants of Jazz" isn't about how to listen to Duke Ellington or Billie Holiday, it's about what makes Satchmo, Bird, and Trane who they are. It's staggeringly great and makes it impossible to listen to Dave Koz or Kenny G over Louis Armstrong, even though the music is what should do that anyway. Kinda like, say, maybe, choosing Sierra Nevada Pale Ale over Bud Lager.

In my own writing, I did not set out to be the next Michael Jackson, the world's preeminent beer writer who sadly passed away last year. Nor did I set out to be the next Studs Terkel. That my first book, in my greatest grab for pride, somehow melds the inspiration I draw from these two great men who lived lives richer than the Rockerfellers, is what I hope said book will be remembered as.

I don't know if living another 60 years or writing another 12 books is in the cards for me, but if I do, every book and year lived will be spent drawing inspiration from Studs Terkel.

(If you haven't read him, I advise going into your local, independent bookstore to find any of his works. Otherwise, you can find them here on Amazon.)