March 30, 2009

Welcome to 1979, Utah

The Brewers Association issued a press release announcing Utah legalized homebrewing. A mere 30 years after Pres. Jimmy Carter legalized it federally, kick starting the craft brewing craze launched by homebrewers such as Jack McAullife (New Albion), Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), David Hummer & Stick Ware (Boulder Brewery).

Hopefully this action will catch Utah up with the rest of the gang, especially their neighbors in Colorado. This calls for a toast with the only Utah-brewed beer I've got--Polygamy Porter.

March 26, 2009

Laissez la bonne biere verser. Beer in New Orleans!

Laissez la bonne biere verser (let the good beer pour) is a fitting motto for the newest brewery in NOLA, whose motto is Laissez les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll).

When I was in N'awlins last October on my book 
tour, I met Kirk Coco, president of NOLA (New Orleans Lagers & Ales) Brewing. They are going to market with two beers, a Blonde and an Brown, and I know they have some tasty-sounding tricks up their sleeves. For Coco's part, he returned home to NOLA after Katrina and saw a need for economic recovery and knew that a brewery was just the thing. His brewmaster is Peter Caddoo, who has enjoyed a long, storied role in Dixieland brewing (including, yes, the Dixie Brewery, which has yet to return to post-K NOLA).

While I will be there for Jazz Fest beginning the end of April, I wish I could be there a month earlier for their launch party including a secondline jazz band and parade. No one makes a party like the Big Easy.

March 25, 2009

America, F**k Yeah. (Same for SLO)

I know I was one of the first customers at San Luis Obispo's new brewpub, Creekside Brewing, because I'd past through SLO on my drive from Santa Barbara to San Fran in December and saw a new brewery under construction, then, when heading from San Fran to L.A. in January, dined and drank there. Well, I might add. The highlight, beyond the fresh beer and the "plant-ripened jalapeno" poppers, was being given a tour by co-owner John Moule.

The blog I posted about that experience, according to my metrics, was one of the most trafficked.

So I got a kick out of seeing a post on Jay Brooks's blog about their anti-terrorism efforts, itself a response to Colin Rigley's story in the SLO New Times about thwarting those freedom-loving terrorists who train in Afghani camps for the sole purpose of tainting our beloved brews. Liberty Ale, indeed! The gist of the brew-ha-ha is that before Creekside was allowed to open, they had to install protective walls around their brew system, which exists in two parts--upstairs in the dining room and downstairs in the pub.

I, for one, am relieved they undertook these measures even if no bureaucratic governmental agency will cop to being the one that implemented these keep-safe measures levied against no other single breweries in the land of amber (waves of grain). Now, when I do my booksigning event there on April 14, I shall feel much safer.

March 20, 2009


Here's the deal. I drove 13,000 miles around the United States and into Canada (and back, by the skin of my teeth) last autumn. Along the way, I put myself on a "bomber a day" diet. I was only allowed to pick up one bottle of beer in each town, ideally a 22-oz bomber, and when I got home, I'd crack 'em open all at once. The photos below reflect this mission, which I more or less achieved.
I invited a dozen friends, each required to BYO shot glass, which would serve as their taster for each beer (since some bottles were only 12-oz and I didn't want the samples to look paltry). It was also a potluck dinner. Hence: Shotluck.

Here's a list of what we cracked open, in an attempt to go from light to dark:
Brewery, brand, (style), Alcohol by volume (ABV) - state brewed; (state picked up if different), overall rating on scale of 10.
1. Dixie Beer (Lager), 4.5% - LA/WI (LA), 3
2. Wasatch "The Devastator" (Double Bock) 8% - UT, 5
3. Tommyknocker "Butt Head" (Dopplebock) 8.2% - CO, 6
4. Bell's "Third Coast Beer" (golden beer) 4.8% - MI, 8
5. Goose Island "Harvest Ale" (ESB) 5.7% - IL, 4
6. Jesse's homebrew (Cali-Belgian) ?% - CA (The only non-road beer poured), 9
7. Four Peaks "8th Street" (Pale Ale) 4.5% - AZ, 7
8. Laughing Buddha "Ginger Pale" (spiced ale) 5% - WA, 8
9. Bell's "Oberon" (wheat ale) 5.8% - MI (NC), 10
10. Phillips "Blackberry Hefeweizen" (fruit beer) 5% - BC, 4
11. Sprecher "Mama Mia Pizza Beer" (nutso spiced ale, c/o Tom Seefurth) 4.5% -  WI (PA), ?
12. Renegade "Siletz Spruce" (herbed ale/Gruit) 6.5% - OR, 7
13. Four Peaks "Kiltlifter" (Scotch Ale) 6% - AZ, 7
14. French Broad "Dunkel-Witte" (black'n'wit) 7.5% - NC, 8
15. Real Ale "Brewhouse Brown" (Brown Ale) 5.4% - TX, 7
16. Southern Tier "Pumking" (Imperial Pumpkin Ale) 9% - NY, 9
17. Wasatch "Polygamy Porter" (Porter) 4% - UT, 3
18. Bell's "Porter" (Porter) 5.6% - MI, 8
19. Duck Rabbit "Porter" (Porter) 5.7% - NC, 7
20. O'Fallon "Smoke" (Smoked Porter) 6% - MO (IL), 9
21. Duck Rabbit "Milk Stout" (milk stout) 5.7% - NC, 7
22. Three Floyds "Moloko" (milk stout) 7% - IN, 8
23. America's Brewing Co/Walter Payton's Roundhouse "Imperial Stout" (bourbon-aged imperial stout) ?% - IL, 7
PS. Don't ask about the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.

Food-wise, there were meat and vegetarian homemade lasagnas, salads, intriguing appetizers, three pies, and more, to help soak up all the interesting flavors (and oh yeah, alcohol). I can't wait 'til I collect a couple dozen more.

March 17, 2009


The morning after putting my second-ever batch in primary. Considering the first one didn't even gurgle, not sure if this is a step in the right or wrong direction.

Beer dinner III: All ESB Dinner? Bob's Your Uncle.

The exploits of my foray into the world of homebrewing were chronicled earlier. Last night was time to enjoy the fruits, or rather, beers, of my labor. Because my Crossroads ESB is quite a British-style ale, Half Pint & I decided it was time for another of our Beer Dinners and we'd basically only feature one style of beer! For our all-ESB dinner ("You can't do an entire pairing dinner only pouring one type of beer!" you say? I'll pick up that gauntlet) we went overboard with the Limey theme. Here's the menu for the 3-course, 7-ESB dinner:

Fuller's Extra Special Bitter (5.9% ABV, England) & AleSmith Anvil ESB (5.5%, San Diego, CA)
With finger or tea sand-wiches. I literally bought a loaf of white bread, cut the crusts off, and made the weirdest sandwiches that seemed English (shredded carrot and mayo, water chestnuts [since I couldn't find watercress] and butter w/ some garlic paste, English(!) cucumber and a sweet'n'sour carrot spread). I had to pour the Fuller's first--the benchmark of this style--to showcase what the brew is all about--a deceptively named middle-of-the-road mild, easy-drinking beer. I bought the Anvil at an AleSmith event during SF Beer Week and the owner, Peter Zien, signed my bottle. I hope it's not heresy to say I like the Yank version much better.

Sierra Nevada Early Spring Beer (5.9%, Chico, CA) and Elysian "The Wise" ESB (5.9%, Seattle, WA)
Cheese and biscuits. OK, crackers. But all the cheeses were imported from England including stilton and a 12-month cave-aged cheddar. Both the beers and cheeses were tip-top.

Anderson Valley Boont Extra Special Beer (6.5%, Boonville, CA) and Grand Teton Bitch Creek XX ESB (7.5%, Victor, ID)
Bangers & mash, shep-herd's pie, "salad," and crumpets. We whipped up a huge pot of mashed potatoes, which Half Pint made using a pale ale (yes, it's British) and it came out great. I grilled up some banger sausages with a bit of grilled onions and a brown gravy (from a packet, for extra authenticity). Our friends Chris and Carson brought the shepherd's pie. The salad consisted of just tomato and cucumber (English cucumber at that!) with olive oil and sea salt. And the crumpets, in lieu of a more traditional bread, were bought at the British import shop, "You Say Tomato."

While the AVBC beer was the strongest ESB I found, and it's a winner, mate, the Grand Teton bottle was the crowd favorite for the night. Bitch Creek is one of my favorite ESBs of all time, but it stopped showing up here, even at BevMo. But a few months ago, one trip there yielded an incredible find. To celebrate Grand Teton's 20th anniversary, they made a series of XX beers including this "Double ESB." It's the same ingredients of the regular ESB, but doubled. To me, doubling a mild beer and calling it a Double ESB is like doubling pink and calling it Double Pink, when it's clearly red. Once I opened the wax-dipped 750-ml bottle, the beer poured a dark brown compared to an ESB's clear coppery color. By kicking up the malt bill, it tasted like a strong, nutty ale with blasts of toffee and rich caramel. It could be paired with any bold, meaty dish. Too bad I'll never see this beer again.

Our friends Joe and Alexia (just engaged!) brought shortbread cookies and some other British sweets that were basically Mallomars (my fave) with a spot of raspberry jam. And, unable to resist, I prepared a tin of spotted dick. Yeah, that's a real thing and it's actually quite nice--a sort of warm and buttery spice cake with currants and raisins, served with homemade whipped cream. And to drink? Why, my homebrewed ESB of course. No clue what the ABV is. I was just plum-relieved, dare I say delighted, that it came out well. Don't just take my word for it; everyone agreed. (Though the color was a bit paler than I'd hoped.) Chris brought over his first homebrew as well, a great Amber Ale. We each bought our kits at the same time and discovered at the same time we have a knack for...following directions.And there we have it. Bob's our uncle.

March 13, 2009

Open Bar at the Booksmith

The Booksmith is a bookstore, not a bar. So it may have baffled some people who checked out SF-My Open Bar yesterday and saw a book signing event listed there. No wonder the place was packed. More on that in a sec.

During the time between when I finished writing Red, White, and Brew and the time it came out, I realized I'd have to overcome my debilitating fear of public speaking if I was going to carry out the national promo tour I'd put together. So I did two things: I attended a few Toastmasters events (not helpful, but I DID win a chocolate bar for an impromptu speech once), and I went on to find all the local author events just to see what they were like. That was my introduction to the creative, personable, indie bookseller on Haight St.

It really is a treat for me to hold book signings with my local bookstores. But I rarely do events AT the stores themselves. I tend to do them at beer bars and brewpubs. That's how the Magnolia Pub got involved. The proprietor and brewmaster, Dave McLean, generously offered up five growlers of beer. So Half Pint, our friend Jen, and I left the store at 7:15 p.m., made the short three-block walk down to Magnolia, picked up growlers of their Kalifornia Kolsch lager and Blue Bell Bitter ale (like my first batch of homebrewed ESB, but, uh, better), and returned at 7:32 to a packed house.

Though it was a thirsty crowd, everyone graciously stuck around for my presentation--the first time I ever employed a slide show--and had lots of great questions. It was a beer-worthy crowd full of knowledgeable enthusiasts and several homebrewers. Once I was finished, the rest of the beer disappeared.

As did I. After returning the lent growlers to Magnolia, we enjoyed a great meal. A new app on the menu is the buttermilk-fried spring onions. So much more than onion rings! I also took advantage of Thursday Fried Chicken night (until they run out). And since you can't dine there and not drink beer, I baffled my tastebuds with their bourbon-barrel aged gruit. What's a gruit? It's a traditional ale brewed with spices other than hops, since beer sans hops predates hopped beer by at least three millennia. This particular gruit, as Jen pointed out, is reminiscent of Pimm's No. 1 Cup.

The best part of doing a book event near my neighborhood then feasting at the brewpub down the block? Getting to walk home.

March 11, 2009

Equally brilliant. Yet affordable.

Is it the holidays yet?


Dig it: The fully functional, ridable Electric cruzin' cooler

March 5, 2009

Session #25: Love Lager

For this month's Beer Blogging Session, the Beer Nut asks us for a labor of lager. I am one of many who avoid watered-down mainstream lagers at all costs, but that's the thing, unless you wanna be a real pain in the ass, there are times when they are unavoidable.

The Beer Nut poses, "I'm sure I'm not the only one whose early drinking career featured pale lager in abundance, so consider this a return to our roots as beer drinkers...leave your doppelbocks and schwarzbiers out of this one...(W)hat's so great about them, and what's awful?"

To begin, it's true. No beer aficionado started on Dogfish Head 90 Minute or Russian River Pliny the Elder. Hell, the most recent beer I bought was Mikkeler's Beer Geek Brunch - Weasel, not just an Imperial Stout, but one brewed with Kopi Luwak, a.k.a. Monkey Poo Coffee or Crappuccino, a coffee bean so rare, farmers have to pluck it from the droppings of tree-dwelling, overly-caffeinated civet cats. At $18, it better be damn rare and delicious.

If my friend Colin knew I dropped as much on a single bomber of beer as he could get OVER a case of any cheap-ass "beer," well, he'd shit himself. And since he's currently crashing on my pull-out, I'm gonna keep quiet about this because I really don't want that to happen. More on Colin in a second.

As I started to say above, it's true. I used to drink "fizzy, yellow beer" by the buttload. In my college, Natty Light was the brand of choice. $9.99/case. One story I always come back to is when I dressed as Papa Smurf for Halloween and in order to keep drinking through my fluffy, white beard, I had to suck it down through a straw. Classy.

Obviously, the cheapo choice of lager beer today is PBR. From the swamps of Florida to Beervana (Portland, OR), it's a staple among, if I may, a less discerning set, especially hipsters. Truth be told, I personally think it's one of the worst mainstream beers out there even next to Budweiser and Coors Banquet, but when you're uber thirsty and strapped for cash, at a typical two-bucks a pop, it does the trick. During a recent dining experience at Patxi's Pizza in San Francisco's Hayes Valley, they had it for $1! While I opted for a $5 Sierra Nevada Celebration, it occurs to me now that next time I'm there, it may behoove me to go for, essentially, the FIVE-FOR-ONE special.

Now back to Colin. He just turned 24 this week and his favorite food is Cheez-Its. No foodie nor ale enthusiast is he. During SF Beer Week, on another night he was calling my sofa home, I dragged him to the Toronado for Ommegang night, to which he responded by escorting me across the street (OK, a 45-degree angle) to his home-away-from-my-pullout, Molotov's. In true dive-bar fashion, they offer $2 PBR. But get this. Unlisted on the beer menu, known to regulars like him, you can score a buck-fitty can of Hamm's. This is the one shite beer offering at City Beer just so they can offer something at the $0.89 range and it's Craig's attempt to replace PBR as the hipster beer of choice. (Keep in mind, if you drink it there, with their corkage fee, it becomes $1.89!) Colin generously bought me one and we enjoyed it as any two people should enjoy beer no matter what's in the glass. Or bottle. Or in this case, can. Like any mass-produced beer--this one hailing from Miller Valley in Milwaukee--it's decent when ice cold. It's dry, crisp, refreshes without the sweetness of soda pop, and it has alcohol in it.

Tell ya what, if I didn't have some bottles of my first batch of homebrew now at the ready, I'd rather stock my friend Mike's cooler with Hamm's than the PBR I know he'll have in it when we go play some disc golf this weekend.