April 29, 2009

Session #27: Beer Cocktails

Joe & Jasmine of Beer at Joe' s ask us for this month's Session to pontificate on beer cocktails. Considering I am about to head to the great American cocktail city, New Orleans, this may be an apt topic. Having said that, aside from the one Joe pointed out, Black'n'Tan (Guinness floating on Harp or some such combo), I'm not a beer cocktail person. I don't even care for Snakebites (Guinness floating on hard cider). Hell, when drinking spirits, I usually opt for single-malt scotch or bourbon with a splash of water over something with fruity vodka mixed with fruit juice and/or soda and/or bitters. 

But there IS one beer concoction I can get into. Beer floats.

The funny thing is, I don't really go for root beer or vanilla ice cream, but gimme a root beer float and I'm in heaven. So since I like stout more than root beer, it only makes sense that a stout float is a thing of beauty. Someone once made me a float with Young's Double Chocolate Stout, a dash of raspberry liqueur, and vanilla bean ice cream, and it was tasty and refreshing. But I'm not in the habit of buying Young's. And while I do have a Beeradise full of various stouts--regular, coffee, imperial...all the way to Founder's Breakfast Stout (double chocolate coffee oatmeal stout) and Mikkeller's Beer Geek Brunch-Weasel (made with the world's most expensive coffee, kopi luwak).

I chose none of those. Instead, I opted to use my homebrewed Latte Stout (made with lactose and coffee). Tasty stuff, but believe me, it's not that carbonated, so it's not like I'm ruining the brew. I didn't have any straight up vanilla ice cream in the freezer, but Half Pint did kindly bring me a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Macadamia Nut, which is half choc/half vanilla, and I just ate all the chocolate-covered Macadamias before floating it.

The result? Not too shabby! I mean, it's no Bobby Flay, but as Half Pint said of it, "What's better than coffee, ice cream, and beer all rolled into one?"

So is it a beer cocktail or really just beer dessert? It's both! Drink up.

April 21, 2009

IBUs in San Diego...

...are like STDs in a college dorm.

As an antidote, when I finally completed my 1,800-mile tour del SoCal last week, I treated myself to a chilled bottle of Anchor Small Beer (it's 95 degrees in my pad) and for dessert, the first bottle of my and Half Pint's Latte Stout! (Though undercarbonated, I think it's ferly successful.)

What was supposed to be a 6-day trip turned into 11. I drove from SF down to the OC, up to LA, then back up to San Luis Obispo, then Santa Barbara (for book-signing events at Creekside Brewing and Hollister Brewing, respectively. Both must-sees/must-drinks if you're cruising through the Central Coast of Cali). In the worst example of poor scheduling ever, instead of attend the LA premier of Beer Wars, I dutifully attended my own book signing Thursday night. Drinking at Verdugo Bar in Glassell Park, what with their stellar bottle selection and some prized taps, helped assuage the hurt. Big thanks to Kyle, and Wes, glad you enjoyed the Old Rasputin XI.

After celebrating my grandma's 90th b-day on Saturday night (respect the gramma!), I woke up early (for me) and headed to the San Diego area. First stop on tap, Stone Brewery, where they kindly let me discuss my beer odyssey in just about the best setting I've done an event. Originally called for the biergarten, we moved our intimate crowd to a shaded area still in the warm outdoor patio. Just like a previous Stone Book & a Beer Club event had actor/blogger Wil Wheaton speaking in front of fellow sci-fi geeks, this one allowed me to congregate with my fellow beer geeks (I doubt I'd play well at a Trekkie convention). Here are some pictures. (Thanks, Matt.)
Purchased: Cali-Belgique, 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, and 2008 Imperial Russian Stout.

The next day, after waking up on Jessica Jellybean's air mattress, she took the day off so we could hit a bunch of local breweries. It was one of those great days that, like the Stone IRS, will only get better with age. Brief run-down:

Port/Lost Abbey: To Jessica's surprise, she lives within stumbling distance of this beauty. Most of all the brewers in town were gone in Boston for the Craft Brewers Conference, so we didn't get to meet Tomme Arthur, but we did sample several Lost Abbey beers while one of the brewers, Mike, and the house cat who I believe was named Centennial or some hop variety.
Purchased: Devotion (and later in the day I found Carnivale)

Ballast Point: They definitely made big fans out of us. We started with a full flight of their regular and limited release beers. While my favorite was the bourbon-barrel aged Sea Monster Stout, we were only to happy to purchase other favorites available in bottles (see below). We then were offered a tour of the small brewery, including some top-secret stuff. If you're interested in finding out what, email me, but realize I'll have to kill you. Cheers to Yusseff.
Purchased: Sculpin IPA, Tongue Buckler Imperial Red. (Oh, and a Black Marlin Porter, which is great, but I quite enjoyed the bourbon aged variety I had at Verdugo in LA and Churchill's in San Marcos)

AleSmith: There's a reason Peter Zien won Small Brewery/Brewer of the Year at last year's GABF. Not only did he show us around and pull samples to our hearts' content, but he allowed for a decadent privilege. 
Purchased: privileged information.

At this point, we opted for a late lunch (Japanese. Replete with a bottle of Kirin). The last brewery we hit was Green Flash. We basically hit up the lone brewer on hand for a sampler flight, I got a bottle of Le Freak (which, when Jessica asked how it compared to her cherished Stone Cali-Belgique, said lone brewer responded "It's like Cali-Belgique. But Awesome.").

From there, we popped into a great liquor store, Holiday Wine, staffed with the kind of knowledgeable beer geeks I've learned run rampant in San Diego metro. They really do put their SoCal brethren to the north to shame.
Purchased: Mission, Coronado, Lightning, Boulevard (all the way from Missouri) and possibly more.

Seriously, great beer sipping, touring, elbow-rubbing, and hunting. I get it.

April 12, 2009

Drinking in LA

Fortunately, some things in LA never change. See: The Apple Pan, 72-degree weather. Fortunately, some things do change.

On my whirlwind tour visiting friends and drinking with them, my first stop was a new place on E. 3rd St. downtown, past Little Tokyo, called Wurstkuche (with an umlaut over the 2nd U). Evidently, it's not pronounced "worst coochie." I've known Eric my entire life and he suggested this place because it specializes in Belgian beers--20 on tap and bottle--with an impressive German selection to boot. I opted for Houblan Chouffe, an esthery, not-too-bitter Belgian IPA ($8) and Eric's into Belgian wittes, so he tried Blanche du Bruxelles ($7.25). They also have 21 sausages! They range from standard brats to veggie options to nouveau offerings like mango jalapeno...to a selection of "exotics." I got the rattlesnake and rabbit with jalapenos ($7.75). Eric got the Austin Blues: hot & spicy, tri-peppers and hardwood smoked pork ($6.75). For the record, it wasn't the first time I've had rattlesnake, and yes, it tastes like chicken. (And get the while truffle oil glazed pomme frittes.)

The crowd is mostly hip Asian 20-somethings, the setting is chi-chi'ed up industrial, and I dig the communal picnic tables. 

From there, we went about a mile back west to the Bonaventure Hotel in the heart of downtown. On the 4th floor, past a circuitous food court and work out stations(!) is the Bonaventure Brewing Co. Opened in 1998, this very tiny brewpub, sister-pub to Belmont Brewing in Long Beach, offers 4 house beers (Blonde, Strawberry Blonde, Pale Ale, and Belgian White). Nothing to blow your socks off, but at session-able ABVs and $4.50 pints, it'd be easy to knock these back all night on the rooftop patio.* BTW, I opted for the Pale Ale (5.5%, making it the strongest) and Eric had the White (4.2%, the lowest).
*We weren't allowed to drink our beers on the rooftop patio. There was a private party taking place in the bar, yet we were allowed in to drink beers. The small brewing system is right on the patio, encased in a glass shed. I believe it is the only brewery in the City of Los Angeles.

The next day I drove to Silverlake to meet my college roommate Alex and his wife, Emilie. (They met at one of my parties.) We went to Good, which is just that. Not great, but good. The beer menu is fairly huge, but heavy on questionable selections featuring fruit extracts and other novelties. Then again, I selected a 750-ml bottle of The Bruery's Black Orchard for the table (to get them over their fear of dark beers). Brewed in the Belgian wit style but using dark roasted malts, the result is a Black-White ale, employing coriander and chamomile. At $20, it was a hit. The food is definitely conducive to a good meal, too. Alex got an IPA-pan fried chicken sandwich, Emilie got the burger, and b/c it's LA, I got a salad with froo-froo stuff in it.
Afterward, we drove (this is why I moved out of LA) to a place I'd heard about, but had to see to believe. Lamill Coffee, on Silver Lake Blvd, isn't a coffee shop, it's an experience. Forget about waitresses walking around with pots of drip-coffee pouring free refills. Our waitress handed us menus explaining their philosophy about how coffee should be considered and enjoyed like fine wine, and when I saw the table next to us with a fantastic contraption, I ordered one just like it for our table. The contraption, called the siphon, prepares the coffee in a way only a physicist could understand, but I'll try to simplify. Luckily, I have pictures to illustrate:

A Bunsen burner is ignited to heat the 20-oz bulb of water. The heated water goes up through a tube into a chamber containing the grounds. Once the burner is shut off, the coffee runs through a micro filter and returns to the original chamber.

The result? Aside from the cup of authentic Kona coffee I had in Maui, it is the best pot of coffee I've ever had (including the Kopi Luwak "civet shit" coffee I had in Indonesia). The catch? From the menu, I thought it was going to set me back $15! Long story short, it was actually $20!!! Twenty bucks. For coffee. Outrageous? Yeah. But did you flinch as much when I said the bottle of beer was $20? And if you ever saw a bottle of wine for that much/cheap on a restaurant menu, you'd think it was dreck. While I did it for the experience and will never order the siphon-prepared coffee again b/c of the price, I had to know. I will return there, though. I need to find out what jelly donut coffee (with strawberry essence and "donut-infused milk") is. That's a mere five-spot.

Alas, when I DROVE to Culver City to visit Kevin and Michele, who are expecting a new house in about 3 months and a baby in 7 weeks, the BottleRock was closed, either because it was Easter or just Sunday night.

April 6, 2009

Tom Robbins Is in the Beer Book Game

A high school English teacher, talking about similes and metaphors, once used Tom Robbins as an example. I believe the phrase was, "her expressionless face was as blank as a paraplegic's dance card." Everyone else in the class mirrored the analogy while I fell to the floor cackling. While I should've asked the teacher which book that came from, I just bought one and kept reading his books until I found that line. I started with Still Life with Woodpecker, which probably remains my favorite. The book I found the line in, of course, was his most famous, Skinny Legs and All, and it's worthy of being his most celebrated.

But now Robbins is following in MY footsteps. B Is for Beer. He's written a beer book! And it's an illustrated book for kids, no less.

It comes out April 21 and I intend to go see him and have him sign my copy at Book Passage in Corte Madera on May 15. Here's a Q&A from Amazon to whet your appetites:

Tom: Beer is so universally beloved that 36 billion gallons of it are sold each year worldwide. Moreover, it’s been popular for thousands of years, with origins dating back to ancient Egypt and Sumer. It has deep connections to the earth -- and possibly to outer space, as well (I explain this in the book). Bittersweet, like much of life itself, it’s exceptionally thirst-quenching and enormously refreshing; it’s cheerful, accessible, affordable, lovely in color, and somewhat nourishing, being one of our few neutral foods: perfectly balanced between acidic and alkaline, between yin and yang. Best of all perhaps, beer makes us tipsy. What’s not to ode?

Q: Okay, but what’s the angle with children?

Tom: Children see beer commercials every time they watch a sporting event on TV. In the supermarket, they pass shelves and coolers overflowing with the stuff. Neon beer signs wink at them as they’re driven to school, to church or the mall. And, if their own parents and older siblings aren’t enjoying beer, then the parents and siblings of their friends surely are.

Kids are constantly exposed to beer, it’s everywhere; yet, aside from wagging a warning finger and growling -- true enough as far as it goes -- “Beer is for grownups,” how many parents actually engage their youngsters on the subject? As a topic for detailed family discussion, it’s generally as taboo as sex.

April 2, 2009

Session #26: Smoke 'Em if Ya Got 'Em

This month's topic for The Session, as ordained by Lew Bryson and his blog Seen Through a Glass, is Smoked beers. What timing! My friend Chris and I recently embarked on our homebrewing odysseys, and this crazy mofo opts to brew a smoked golden ale for his second batch. (I employed lactose and coffee beans in mine, so I can't throw stones.) But he got the idea from a beer he found in my fridge while subletting my pad. It was Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen, my favorite smoked beer, and he enjoyed the smoky goodness, too, clearly. No beer pairs better with a bacon cheeseburger! That was the Rauchbier that got me started on my love of smoked beers, that led to this exchange of comments on Lew's blog:

Brian Yaeger said...
I think it's funny that I don't go gaga over DIPAs or sour beers, but I love 'em smoked. This is the style Session I've been waiting for, and will bust out a veritable parade so smokey, it'll make the Bandit, the Bear, and Cheech & Chong jealous.

Lew Bryson said...
There, you lazy boogers: Brian's going to do multiple smokers!

In honor of this Session and to warm us up for his brew, he invited a bunch of people over for tastings and anything related to bacon. Chris planned for the event a cornucopia of smokers, figuring our local bottle haven, City Beer, prob'ly stocked a ton. Try one. At least at the moment. He found another and I brought over 4. Let's just get to the list and I'll explain.

1. Einenbahn Defumada:  This is a smoked lager from Brazil (defumada means "smoke" in Portugese), which we enjoyed with some freshly made chicarones. I believe Jesse referred to them as "pork-flavored cotton candy," the way the spiced, fried rinds melted on your tongue. What I like about this rauchbier is that the light body provides a good platform for the smoke flavor and aroma.

2. Alaskan Smoked Porter-2008: I actually brought over 3 years worth to conduct a vertical tasting (2006-08)... and was advised to stow them away! What, what? Basically, between all the beers we had (some, gasp, unsmoked) and the fact that one was a DD and the other, who shall remain nameless, just isn't that big a fan OF THE MOST MEDALLED BEER IN ALL OF GABF HISTORY, 18 in all, including this beauty of a 2006 that I've been bogarting and took home Best Aged Beer at last year's GABF. (I was also advised to bring them to a beer dinner later this month.) Though we were still in the appetizer phase, we drank the '08 with Vosges bacon-chocolate bar. Truly the perfect pairing. The creamy porter and milk chocolate go hand in hand with Alaskan's alderwood smoked malts and the chocolate's applewood smoked bacon and alderwood smoked salt.

3. Stone Smoked Porter: We poured this with dinner of pork soup dumplings from Chris's favorite joint in his hood, Shanghai Dumplings. I like this porter, but it's mellower on the smoke and simply presents more roasted coffee than smoked salmon like Alaskan's. Having said that, I'm dying to try their Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans when I'm down in Escondido in a couple weeks!! That's my only problem with porters is that they are too heavy to highlight the added flavors. This is why my favorite bourbon barrel aged beers are paler ales rather than bass-heavy porters. (Because this is a blog post about rauchbiers, I won't get into the Bourbon County Stout we had for dessert.)

4. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock. Our 4th and final rauchbier. I had this in the chiller of my Beeradise. Because I always go for the Bamburger Marzen, I figured I'd try the Urbock. Mistake. I expected the massive bouquet of bacon that I love so much, but received a more reserved peaty, ashy odor and charcoal briquets in the flavor. Oddly, the very thing that makes Defumada work is what holds this smoked Urbock back, but I'm comparing it to a different beer. 

All in all, we were thoroughly smoked out. I can't wait to try Chris's smoky homebrew. I'd give anything for another bottle of O'Fallon Smoke like I found in Chicago. And I'd give double-anything to try New Glarus's Smoke on the Porter. But until then, I still have a small ASP vertical to look forward to. And that will be a blog post in and of itself.