September 13, 2010

Bell's Brewery coming to California...

Well, okay, I can only hope. But my wishful drinking, to borrow a phrase from Carrie Fisher, didn't come out of thin air. Michigan Live reported that Bell's, makers of my and a million other people's favorite wheat beer Oberon, is embarking on a $52 million expansion. They're in 18 states now including almost the entire eastern US and of course the upper Midwest since they're from Kalamazoo, Mich. But they entered a western-ish state this past year--Arizona--which I know is just testing the waters for manifest destiny--California!

When I visited Larry Bell in 2006, he was preparing for a major expansion, one that would see brewing capacity climb to 120,000 barrels. Such production seemed way off. After all, he opened in 1985 using a 15-gallon pot. By 1991, he'd actually surpassed the 1,000-barrel mark. But just last year, Bell's produced an impressive 115,000 barrels. This new expansion will start by bringing in more fermentation tanks and keep 'em on track for planned 20% growth--annually.

So like I said, is it possible that by 2012 we'll be drinking HopSlam IPA or Expedition Stout here in the Golden State? If I were a betting man, I'd say Yes. Of course, that does nothing to get the bottle of Batch 5000 back that I brought into my friends' apartment to chill and share over four years ago after I drove from K'zoo to Chicago but they just stuck it in the back of the fridge. No beer-o-philes they, I fear it was casually gulped as an after-work beer for one of them. Having a fresh supply of Oberon would go a long way to assuage that hurt.

September 1, 2010

The week in heavy drinking. Day 4: Cherry Voodoo chiefs at Alembic Bar

Far from complain-ing, I have a lot of stories on my plate of late. And in this line of work, that means a lot of "meetings over pints." One that's right up my alley is for Draft Magazine's Beer Me column. Without giving it all away, there's a new brewery on the horizon here in SF called Cherry Voodoo Brewing. One of the founding fathers' name is Yuri and he has a big mouth as far as his claims about their guaranteed success, but at the same time, he's not the type to write a check his mouth can't cash. He's had phenomenal success in the tech world, the elite athletic world, and, fingers crossed, the beer world next.

Six months ago when I first met him to hear about his brewery plans, he and Bryan over at Clara Street Brewing brewed up a crazy idea for a beer I had. Chocolate Kumquat Porter. They called it Truffle Pig. I've heard wavering reports of its tastiness. Alas, I haven't tried it yet, but I BELIEVE Bryan has a bottle stashed away. Please, please, please. In any event, part of Cherry Voodoo's mission is to brew crazy-out-there beers. Having said that, the other part of their mission is to convert the masses. Impossible dichotomy? Probably, but is that crazier than a 410 lb. man becoming a winning triathlete within a year? Because that's part of Yuri's story. And it's the one I heard all about over some Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye, some Moonlight Death & Taxes, and some Orval at Alembic Monday night. At some point, life story time ended and we just shot the shit. We also killed an entire pizza at Escape from New York next door. Like I said, I'm far from complaining.

The following night: Blind Oktoberfest tasting panel for my monthly SF Weekly feature.