December 31, 2009

Session #35: New Beer's Resolutions

Happy 2010 to one and ale. This month's session is hosted by Christina Perrozzi and Hallie Beaune, currently of Beer For Chicks (but soon to be at, ask us beer bloggers--chicks and dudes alike--

What was your best and worst of beer for 2009? What beer mistakes did you make? What beer resolutions do you have for 2010? What are your beer regrets and embarrassing moments? What are you hoping to change about your beer experience in 2010?

Starting with the best and worst beer, that's such a toughie. Namely because once again, I tried hundreds of new beers in 2009. And they weren't all during the 4 tasting sessions at the Great American Beer Fest, either. In fact, that leads to a beer regret that I'll get to later. But this is my blog and I don't have to use that old-standby answer about "I could never pick one favorite because so many are remarkable" if I don't want to. But in all truthfulness, it was a tie.

Founder's Canadian Breakfast Stout (Grand Rapids, MI): Generally, I find most beers with the word 'breakfast' right in the title to be delectable. This one tops them all. It's got all the velvety oatiness you want in a sweet stout, ameliorated by decadent chocolate and robust coffee notes and then pushed over the top by the maple barrel aging that gives it more of a pillowy softness than overt syrup accent.

Midnight Sun Oak-Aged Imperial Pumpkin Chocolate Stout (Anchorage, AK): As much of a mouthful as the name is, the beer itself is a gorgeous elixir that boasts equal parts silky milk chocolate and spices redolent of homemade pumpkin pie with the spiciness offset by the pumpkin's creaminess.

As for the worst beer of '09, that's also a tough call because I had some doozies, but two stand out the most:

The Stable Marzen (St. Louis, MO): I visited here during my beer odyssey and tooled around Greater St. Louis with Bryce Eddings. Having visited some great breweries such as Schlafly, O'Fallen, and Square One, it unfortunately ended on a sour note at this brewpub across from the historic ruins of the Lemp Brewery. Sour beers may be popular, but not when it's due to spoilage like at this place.

Sun Valley Brewing Co. (Hailey, ID): Spoilage is just about the worst offense ever. I'm aware it can affect an errant batch, but I had two different beers from two different locations while in Sun Valley for a wedding. Both were waaaay off. One bartender tried to wave it off by calling it "an acquired taste" that the locals dig. Is that so.

The most awesome part about my ex-beer-iences in '09 was that I joined the ranks of homebrewers. After years of insisting I needn't bother because the pros do it well enough for me, I realized that's far from the point. Of course, I have other incentives. Suffice it to say, my homebrew odyssey is exciting and will keep me busy straight through '10. My goal to finish my next book is right about this time next year.

Far and away the biggest development for me this past year is that, much like how I'd vowed to never homebrew and then changed my tune, Half Pint somehow tricked me into reversing my mission to stay a bachelor my whole life. One of my favorite things in the world is sitting at a brewery with a brewmaster we or she has never met and watching his eyes bug out when he hears her assess his beers and nail them. She's got a knack that far surpasses my own palate. I just hope she likes the homebrews I'm working on for our wedding and that it doesn't stop her from saying Yes.

We got engaged at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It was during our annual road trip to GABF in Denver. Despite my best intentions, it's so hard to pace myself there. I really thought I was doing all right--I blame that mid-day mead tasting event. Anyway, I was pretty useless most of the Saturday there and did not get to take advantage of the special session that day.

All in all, 2009 was an exciting year, personally and in the world of craft beer. My Beeradise literally overfloweth. It's how I gauge that my problem lies not in drinking too much beer, but buying too much. My resolution is to share more of my great bottles than I already do with friends, old and new. I think it's time to open the Goose Island Imperial Brown Goose that Half Pint bought for me in Chicago (at a great wine store called Lush with a small but impressive beer chiller) back in '08. And Mario Rubio and Jesse Friedman and I need to put our grand Old Stock tasting on the books (my bourbon-aged Cellar Reserve, Mario's brandy-aged C.R., and Jesse's 3-year vertical). To say nothing of the '05/'07/'09 Cantillon Blabaer Lambiks, though we'll see if I jump on the Sour bandwagon in '10 that picked up tremendous speed in '09. Brewmasters, please, more Lacto and less Brett in 2010. I still find the sour category very hit and miss. Though, for the most part, stuff I tried from Cascade (Portland, OR) and a lot of New Belgium's stuff not yet in bottles is winning me over.

As for resolutions for 2010, I resolve to take my homebrewing to a higher level (which hopefully entails kegging. I'm kinda over the bottling thing), maybe study and go from Cicerone Certified Beer Server to actual Certified Cicerone (TM), and, after the grandness of SF Beer Week '10 (which can't come soon enough and will be over too soon), figure out a way to keep from wearing my beer intake on my sleeve, er, waistline. At least long enough til Half Pint says I Do.

Cheers to the brotherhood/sisterhood of the beer community,


December 9, 2009

Beer dinners past and future

Beer is making me fat.

That's not exactly stop-the-presses news. But it's been something that's been on my mind, and gut, lately. It seems
 the more beer dinners I go to (most recently this kick-ass Dogfish Head dinner at Hopmonk. Left: Half Pint w/ chef Billy Reid; Right: Half Pint with Dogfish rep Bryant Goulding. Each shown actual height!) and the ones in the near-future as part of SF Beer Week 2010, the more out of shape I get. It's a trend I hope to reverse, which is why Half Pint and I registered for a half marathon.
 We have no delusions of slender. It's on Super Bowl Sunday. And at the start of SF Beer Week. And we're going to the Anchor beer lunch or dinner at Hopmonk Tavern that day.

We're doing this for our health and for other reasons. Seriously, check out said reason which you can read about in this post at Bryan Kolesar's Brew Lounge.

So, yes, I'm in training. But I'm not the most resolute runner. And with events like this recent Samuel Adams Utopias beer dinner at Monk's Kettle I didn't have the resolve to turn down, it's no wonder I'm still a far cry from being in tuxedo shape.

I know what my New Year's resolution is. What's yours?

Half Pint @ Trinity, Colorado Springs

Brief intro: I'm usually the one beer blogging from the road, but Half Pint's work has her going to points throughout K-radio territory. As such, she came up with the rather smashing idea of guest blogging when she's the one continuing the beer odyssey and I'm anchored at home. I like when couples do this. She's currently in Colo. Springs--a city I've never visited--and her last trip took her to Madison, which made me quite jealous, but doubt I could get her to blog retroactively. So without further ado...

This is Half Pint and I want you to all know that I'm a good fiancee. When I travel without my Growler (that's Brian for those of you who don't know), I always have beer on the brain - or rather where I can taste local beers - and make him jealous. Oh and I always bring some home to him.

I'm in Colorado for work and made the drive from Boulder to Colorado Springs today in the snow. I asked B to research brew pubs for me so I'd know what my dinner options where when I got to town. He suggested Trinity at the top of the list and when I browsed the Web site and saw words like "Artisanal," "Beer," "Slow Food," and "Conscious People" I knew I was in.

I showed up and sat at the bar. MJ, mother of two and super cool, helped me out immediately. Turns out she works a couple nights at Trinity more as a hobby - I thought, wow, if this place is her "get away," it must be awesome.

Being a girl who likes IPAs and Stouts the most, I was conflicted on what to order. They had Awaken Stout and Flo IPA on nitro and I was curious as I don't recall having an IPA on nitro. I asked her if I could taste it. MJ brought me all three - and said she likes her IPA a bit crisper. When I tasted the one on nitro, I completely agreed. I liked the Stout but opted for the regular Flo IPA which was super yummy. I also consulted MJ on food - the menu was long and tempting - another reason to wish B was with me. I opted for a salad and the Sweet Potato Mole Enchiladas which were AWESOME.

When I saw the medal, I remembered that they won a Gold at GABF in the experimental category. Unfortunately, this is the only beer they bottle and while I was tempted, B doesn't love all sour beers, so at $18.95 for the 750 ml, it wasn't really worth the risk.

They have lots of live music which I was bummed to miss and wish I was going to be in town on Christmas Eve for: 

"Drain the Kegs" Cherry Awaken Stout Tapping...we only brew 2 kegs of this beer each year. Last year they were both gone in 1 hour and 57 mins!!! Let's beat our record!

I won't be able to make it but definitely look forward to bringing B back here someday...


Half Pint