January 31, 2009

Fat, drunk, and broke. SF Beer Week is almost here.

Behold, the inaugural SF Beer Week. I've been eagerly anticipating this 10-day "week" for months.

Foreward. There are nearly 100 events scattered over all neighborhoods throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, from Carmel (a stretch even for the South Bay) to Petaluma in the North Bay, from Beach Chalet by the Pacific to Richmond out in the East Bay. It would be impossible to BART to hit them all.

The events range from "free"--you only pay for the beers and other incidentals like nibbles--to more than one $100 beer-pairing dinner. It would be impossible to afford to hit them all.

And let's not forget, though some Pilseners and lighter lagers will be poured, many barleywines, higher alcohol barrel-aged beers and other strong ales will be featured. It would be impossible to let your liver filter them all.

It is from this mind frame that, in my attempt to go, see, drink, eat, learn, and meet my full share of places, beers, foods, and people, respectively, that I devised this schedule. (Huge [p]regret: I'll be missing all the great-sounding events in Santa Cruz since it'd be impossible to return home safely.) I reserve the right to change any events based on opportunity, greatness, affordability, and downright whimsy.

SF=San Francisco
EB=East Bay
NB=North Bay

Day one eases me in, celebrating two of NorCal's biggest, best, and oldest breweries.
SF 11 a.m.-10 p.m. All things Anchor (beer, wine, whiskey, cheese) @ Murphy's Pub in SF's Union Square.
SF 6-8 p.m. Sierra Nevada tasting, including the new Torpedo Extra IPA @ The Jug Shop (in Russian Hill).

SF Noon+. AleSmith @ City Beer (in SOMA).
EB 6-8 p.m. Possibly heading out to the Trappist in Oakland for Allagash's Rob Tod. (Only problem is, he'll be in the City on Mon.)

Woah. HUGE day. Like Hansel in Zoolander, "I'm going monk."
SF 11 a.m.-3ish. Beer2Brakers bike ride around the entire city. We don't need no stinkin' Gatorade. $10
SF 3-7 p.m. Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione holds court @ The Alembic (in Upper Haight).
SF 6-9 p.m. Beer dinner with the Homebrew Chef, Sean Paxton @ 21st Amendment Brewing. $50.
SF 10-midnight. Unless I'm in a food-and-beer coma, I'd like to head over to the Toronado(in Lower Haight) to meet Lost Abbey/Port's Tomme Arthur... and buy a bottle of Cable Car.

NB 1-5 p.m. Moylan's Brewing event @ Noonan's. What's this beer event about? Whisky, cheese, and chocolate. You know I've never taken the ferry up to Marin? I will this night. $29.
SF: 6-midnight. In case I didn't catch him @ Trappist, here's my 2nd chance. Allagash's Rob Tod hits the Toronado. (Stay tuned for my upcoming Beer Session #24 post on their "Curieux.")

All day across the Bay.
EB 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Local beer and slow food pairings from Ground Zero. Not to mention, gotta try "Original Albion" beer @ Chez Panisse. A la carte (in the Gourmet Ghetto). This is going on the 9th-12th, lunch and dinner seatings.
EB 4 p.m. Barrel-aged beer tastings @ both Triple Rock & Jupiter brewpubs (in Berkeley). $10.
EB 6:30-9:30 p.m. "North County Cheese Off." Flights of North Bay brews @ The Bistro (in Hayward). $45

If I wasn't allergic to 2 dishes that contain seafood, my C-note could be no better spent than at Scala's for Beer + Nosh's beer-pairing dinner. Think 7 courses prepared by a local celebrity chef paired with 7 beers including some you're not likely to try again. I look forward to the pictures!
SF 6-8 p.m. Chillax with Sierra Nevada's ass't brewmaster Terry Sullivan @ The Page (in Duboce Park).
scheduled February 11, 2009 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
SF 8-midnight. Nightcap for the beer+cheese night featuring Ommegang, in hopes of finding some more "Obamagang," er, I mean "Inauguration Ale" as well as their anniversary Chocolate Indulgence. Where else? @ the Toronado.

To be sure, there are several awesome-sounding beer dinners in the City tonight, but I'll be heading over the Bay Bridge. Dig it:
EB 2-3 p.m. I'll probably pop back into Chez Panisse for another round of a la carte slow-grub and beer.
EB 6-8 p.m. Me. Yep, The Mad Zymurgists, the Tri-Valley's homebrew club and advocates of all manners of fermentation science, asked me to speak and sign books at the Hop Yard (in Pleasanton). Thanks to Brian of the Mad Zymurgists and Towne Center Books, the local indie bookstore for handling sales. (I'm not-so-secretly looking forward to trying some homebrew, too.)

SF noon-2 p.m. Bavarian Beer Brunch @ Gordon-Biersch (in SOMA). Mit oompa band! $30.
SF 4-8 p.m. (or, as their other site says, 6-9 p.m.) "Meet the Brewers" @ Speakeasy Brewing (in Bayview/Hunter's Point). They hold these every month, but Speakeasy is the one SF brewery I haven't been to yet.

SF Noon+. The only game in town! Barleywine Fest @ the Toronado.

Oh no. Last day.
EB 1-2:30 p.m. Beer judging 101 in San Leandro. $25.
EB 3-8 p.m. Celebrator shindig @ the Oakland Convention Center. $35.

Should be one helluva week.

January 22, 2009

Creekside Brewing, San Luis Obispo

Driving home up the 101 after Thanksgiving, I stopped in San Luis Obispo for gas. And a sandwich. And another bottle of Central Coast Brewing's Chai Cream Ale. (I swear they have improved it since those '07 ratings.) But what I found was much more exciting.

I parked in front of a space with construction going on. The sign hanging in front caught my eye: Creekside Brewing. I asked if it was going to be a brewery or, more likely, a brewpub and the guys didn't know. Mental note: check back in next time I pass through SLO. And that's just what I did when, after returning to LA. yet again (5 times in 4 months--ridiculous) for one of my oldest friend's wedding. (Best open bar selection ever including several single malts including my fave, Laphroaig. Yet typical crappy LA beer: Amstel Light, Corona, Bud.)

Half Pint has long told me about these great friends of hers, Jeanine and Johnnie, who live near SLO, and could we stop there to meet them for a drink? Cue lightbulb.

It turns out the brewpub just opened this week! Our waiter ran down all the things that delayed the opening, from a held-up brewing license to orders from the NSA to put the equipment behind special glass in case terrorists try to taint the brew. Because Al Qaida is more interested in a 10-bbl brewing system in SLO, pop. 44,147, than a large city's municipal water supply that has a chain link fence around it.

Anyhoo, the sad part about the pitfalls that befell Creekside Brewing is that they needed to open in a hurry yet only had enough time to offer one house beer on: Creekside Opening Pale Ale. It was perfectly good (think Cascade and Crystal). There's an IPA and an imperial stout in the fermenters as I blog. The selling point on this place is its namesake. It is situated above SLO Creek and if you get patio seating like we did, it makes for one of best vistas of any brewpub.The menu offers appetizers and small plates (the difference?) so it's great for sharing amongst friends. The sampler plate had bites of smoked brisket, brie, a goat cheese and fig concoction, cherry tomatoes with mozzarella, etc. No sooner had I commented that this was no jalapeno poppers place, they pointed out the menu offers "plant-ripened jalapenos" stuffed with cream cheese. I guess poppers are ripened off the vine. Anyway, that's what Johnnie ordered and they were amazing.

Lastly, as we were wrapping up our time together so Half Pint and I could return to the road for the remaining 3 1/2 hour drive, the owner, John Moule, came by our table to check in on us and ended up offering us a tour (unless you know there's a downstairs, touring the main floor doesn't take long). Downstairs is where the beer gets sent to ferment. It's also where the cellar-cum-bar is and when business picks up (fingers crossed) and you can't find a seat on the patio, head downstairs.

John poured us a taste of the IPA that wasn't nearly ready. Give 'em time. And there will be seasonals, too. But I suspect by the time I make it back, the four of us will have more good time and good beers to look forward to.

January 6, 2009

Brewing Network: PFC in the BN Army

A lot of the things I've been able to do by exploiting my status as a Beer Author were things I did as an ale enthusiast, only from the flipside. Listening to the Brewing Network is no different, meaning this time I did so from inside the "rat pad," and with headphones on, and a mic in front of my face (which is getting off easy compared to Schuman, star of the new feature, "What's in Schuman's mouth?" Let's just say it wasn't always beer.) Cheers to Jason, Chad, JP, Doc, Tasty, Bevo, and the whole gang.

Here is the recent podcast of the Sunday Show on the Brewing Network. Note that it's a full four hours long and I don't appear until roughly a pinky-fingernail's-length into the downloadable mp3, but if you hang in there, you'll hear me do some Journey and Sister Christian karaoke.

Test. look at that dogg.

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January 4, 2009


Behold: the Beeradise.

Every so often, I encounter fellow beer geeks who sadly have but one complaint about their significant others. "She just doesn't get it." These women, who are wonderful in countless ways, I'm sure, simply do not understand or share in their boyfriends' or husbands' ale enthusiasm. Not mine. Not Half Pint.

One perk of shacking up with someone who does interior design by trade is that she has a keen sense of space. Add to that she loves beer and I was given not simply the go-ahead, but some help in making our new love shack a place where any beer would happily call home.

The "cellar" armoir on the left contains beers worthy of aging (New Belgium's La Folie, Full Sail's bourbon-barrel aged Top Sail, Harviestoun's Ola Dubh 16, Hitachino's sake-barrel aged XH, Goose Island's bourbon-barrel aged Imperial Brown Goose, Upstream's oak-aged IPA, some Alaskan Smoked Porters...) and the chiller on the right is now set to exactly 41 degrees, where a bottle of Geary's Porter is calling my name.

Cheers to a happy 2009