Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New Goodies

So although I just made the 45 mile trip to Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, apparently it wasn't enough as Timmins talked me into it again the following Saturday. We traveled down there to pick up some wine and beer before leaving for Pismo Beach. My main goal was to get the recently released Lost Abbey Devotion- a special, very limited release, Belgian style pale ale. According to the guy at Hi-Times, he received the entire Orange County allotment which amounted to 2 cases (24 beers for the entire OC!). While there I also happened to further dent my wallet as I picked up an Avery Collaboration Not Litigation, Avery Salvation, and Moylan's Hopsickle Triple IPA.

As an aside, the Avery Collaboration Not Litigation is a blend of Avery's Salvation and Russian River's Salvation. Both breweries produced a beer with the same name and instead of having problems over it, they came up with the clever name and idea to blend the beers. So while I will be able to specifically taste 1/2 of what went into the Collaboration (Avery Salvation), the other half is much harder to get a hold of.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Closer Taste of Firestone

In anticipation of our drive to Pismo Beach this past weekend I decided to see if there were any worthy beer stops along the way. The answer wasn't too hard to find- Yes - The Firestone Taproom in Buellton (the same city as the famous Hitching Post in the movie Sideways). Although already behind schedule to our destination, we decided to stop in to check it out Saturday night. The place was very lively. The restaurant area looked packed and the tables in the bar area were packed as well. Luckily we got the last table and ordered a sampler each. The sampler consisted of the Firestone Lager, Pale Ale, Double Barrel Ale, and Walker's Reserve. All were of very good quality if you ask me, with the Pale Ale being my favorite. The Walker's Reserve was the only one I hadn't tasted before, and the 3 or 4 ounce pour they gave really wasn't enough to even get a sense of what was really going on it. They also serve the Nectar Ales branch of beer that they own and brew. I ordered a pint of Nectar IPA, which turned out to be a fantastic IPA. I would say it almost felt like a mini Double IPA especially because of the huge hop character and somewhat slick but still fairly light mouthfeel. After those couple rounds and some purchasing of merchandise we had to hit the road.

On the way back Monday afternoon we decided to hit the Taproom again for lunch and some pints. I again went with the IPA, and then the Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale. The unfiltered version was solid, just like the regular Double Barrel, and had a bit of a nicer, smoother feel to it. The food wasn't half bad either. I got a big hot dog with shoestring fries, and friends ordered burgers, chili, salads, and Kobe beef hot dogs. Firestone served as a nice opening and closing act to our weekend in SLO, and I plan to stop by here anytime I'm passing though the area in the future.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hi-Times Beer Haul Review #1- Sam Adams Cherry Wheat

Sam Adams Cherry Wheat- Despite the many people who have said this beer tastes like cherry cough syrup, I actually liked it. I liked it a lot. The appearance is fantastic, a clear burnt orange, with a nice thick fluffy head contributed by the wheat. The smell and taste are sweet cherry with a sort of pale malty backing to it. I didn't pick up much tartness from the wheat, maybe it was overshadowed by the cherry- which is definitely present, but not overpoweringly so. This was a highly drinkable beer, one that I would have no problem keeping a 6-pack of stocked in the fridge at all times. I gave it a 4.45 on BA.

EDIT: This beer was much better out of the bottle than it was on tap at a local bar. They must have overpressurized their keg or whatever, because the mouthfeel was a little more carbonated and harsh. The bottled version was much smoother.

Trip to Hi-Time Wine Cellar

(click on picture for larger version)

Last Summer I got in the habit of driving about 40 minutes down to a place called Hi-Time Wine Cellar in Costa Mesa. All their beer is stored in beer fridges and a huge walk-in fridge that I have to wear a jacket in to be able to browse for more than 5 minutes. The greatest thing about this place is not the huge beer selection, but that they let you buy singles from 6-packs. I usually go down and buy 2 mixed six packs for around $20 total. That's 12 different beers for $20... not bad.

This last time I came home with the following:
1. The Lost Abbey Judgment Day
2. Ommegang Abbey Ale
3. Stoudts Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout
4. Wolaver's Oatmeal Stout
5. Victory HopDevil
6. Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA
7. Speakeasy Double Daddy Imperial IPA
8. North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout
9. Samuel Adams Cherry What
10. Lagunitas Pils
11. Green Flash Extra Pale Ale

A Few Recent Good-(or not so)-ies

The Lost Abbey Avant Guarde- The bourbon barrel aged version of this (En Guarde) was quite tasty. Unfortunately this bottle didn't please the senses as much. At first whiff the musty smell was almost pretty nasty. The taste wasn't as bad, and got a bit better even as it warmed considerably with some banana and sweetness peaking through more, but overall I wasn't too excited to finish my glass. Scored it a 3.4 on BA, but plan to revisit both in the bottle and on tap when I get a chance. (as I go back to edit this I must mention this was one of my first experiences with a beer that was suppose to have a funky smell. I have had Avant Guarde numerous times after this and have enjoyed it).

New Belgium Skinney Dip- A beautiful looking blonde ale, though it looks more like an amber. It also tastes more like an amber ale with lots of caramel. Not bad, though not too interesting either. Scored it a 3.65 on BA.

Delirium Nocturnum- A solid belgian strong dark ale. Very malty, belgian-y taste, with the alcohol very well hidden. Nice and smooth. Rated it 4.35 on BA.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Summer Nights

In Seinfeld, as Kramer is pitching his idea of the male bra- the "bro" to Mr. Farkus the bra salesman, Kramer is describing his strategy of using a velcro strap on the "bro" and not hooks because we've all had those intimate moments of struggle with unhooking the hooks on a bra. Mr. Farkus replies with the phrase "summer nights" as they all share a laugh. My Saturday evening hasn't, and likely wont involve any of the sort, but sipping a tulip filled with Russian River's Damnation I feel is best described with that very phrase. It's a pleasant 76 degrees outside here in Southern California's Inland Valley, the wind is blowing lightly, and I can't think of a better climate for a "summer night."

I've been waiting for a few weeks to open up the bottle of Damnation I purchased while taking a finals study break (aka procrastination). Somehow, my test results turned out ok, and the choice of this purchase even better. I popped the cork on this 750mL bottle and poured myself and my Dad a glass of it. Now I have had a few Belgian Strong Pale Ales, namely Duvel, Delirium Tremens, Lucifer, La Chouffe, and Kwak, but Damnation to me is by far my favorite, beating out Delirium for the top spot. What a great beer. A belgian yeasty, fruity nose, with a sweet fruity taste up front, some light earthy hops in the middle, and a lingering fruity sweetness in the finish. You can imagine with the 7% ABV on an empty stomach I'm in a happy place right now. I gave it a 4.7 on BA. The great thing is, this only marks the start of the night as we are having a French dip and BBQ chicken gathering for my friends. The cooler is stocked with Avery White Rascal, Sam Adams Summer Ale, and Green Flash West Coast IPA. More to come later.

Friday, May 11, 2007

TAPS Fish House

Scored some tickets to a 12:35pm Angels game the other night so me and Timmins headed down to the game. Angels won 8-0, now on to the beer. Afterwards we decided to stop by the TAPS Fish House & Brewery in Brea. Having been there before we were really looking forward to the top notch food and excellent beer. Thankfully the Angels game finished at 3:15 and we got through 10 miles of the Thursday afternoon rush hour on the way to Brea, making it there by 4pm and having two full hours left of happy hour. The pints were $3.25 (normal $5) and there is a happy hour appetizer menu with delicious food that could feed anyone.

We got a booth and I started with the California Ale, a dry hopped light hop monster, while Timmins got the Cream Ale which he liked, along with a plate of Sliders (3 mini hamburgers and garlic fries). At about that time Pat Nuno met us down there and we were ready for the 2nd round. Pat and I had the Biere De Guard, which tasted like liquefied banana nut bread. Along with that we ordered 4 more appetizers- A pepperoni pizza, mini fish tacos, babyback ribs, and more sliders. Pat then ordered pints of the Porter, German Pilsner, Irish Red, and Cream Ale. I finished my day off with their "Oscura" which they defined as a malty dark lager brewed by the Austrians when they immigrated to Mexico. It was ok, though not my favorite.

TAPS once again proves to be a quality establishment. The food is not just standard pub fare, it is actually high quality food prepared by great chefs. I have had their IPA and Oatmeal Stout before which were both very good. I don't think TAPS could ever disappoint.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Cinqo De Mayo at Port Brewing Company

Despite an increasingly sore throat, I decided Friday night that Port Brewing's 1st year anniversary only happens once and I should be there to celebrate it. At that point I didn't have a designated driver and a friend had just called me to tell me he couldn't go after all. I decided to call a buddy who lives in LA and SD and was going to be making the drive towards SD on Saturday, and he said he would meet me down there around noon. Early Saturday morning I also got a call from my sister Vicki who said she would drive if I wanted her to. Shortly after that, about an hour before leaving, my friend Steve Timmins calls and says a class of his was canceled and he could go too. Now it was starting to sound like a party. We loaded up the USC MOM Toyota Avalon (since my truck isn't big enough for 3 people when driving more than 10 minutes) just as we had to Vegas a year ago and Vicki, Timmins and I hit the 15 freeway to San Marcos.

We arrived at 12:15 and payed our $15 at the door in exchange for cards with 8 spots for taster signatures. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) they didn't have a designated driver free entry so we had to pay for Vick even though she wasn't planning on drinking. It worked out ok though as we had 8 extra tasters (4 oz each) and she got access to the open taco bar. We headed to the already 2-deep bar and ordered up a taster each of their Lost Abbey bourbon barrel aged Angel's Share - an American Strong Ale fairly similar to Arrogant Bastard and with a nice bourbon-y taste and warmth to it. Because Vick hadn't liked the Angel's Share, she insisted we get an IPA next so we ordered up Port's Hop 15, a double IPA made with 15 different hops. That was very good, and the next taster we moved on to was Lost Abbey En Guard- a barrel aged version of their year round release Avant Guard. That was also quite yummy, and after these 12 oz's of strong great beer coupled with empty stomachs, the buzz was slightly setting in.

At that point I had told Timmins about the special release bottles that they were selling and he decided he'd like to purchase some too. So we both ordered our allotted amount (4 bottles per person) of the Cuvee De Tomme, which is based on their year round release Judgment Day that they then age for a year in Bourbon and French oak wine barrels with sour cherries and a wild yeast strain. These ~12oz bottles were being sold for $15 a pop. We also bought a handful of their special 1st anniversary beer called Ten Commandments, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale brewed with raisins.

After those bottles had been purchased we made our way to the taco bar which contained a multitude of great mexican food. Once we got our food my friend Francesco met us there and began to catch up on the beer. Other beers that we tasted included High Tide IPA, Amazing Grace (barrel aged Lost Abbey Lost & Found), Judgment Day, Wipeout IPA, Old Viscosity, Santa's Little Helper, and Devotion- a Belgian Style Blonde ale that is going to be released later this month. Within this last couple hours of tasters there was lots of spillage, worst coming when Francesco accidently hit my entire taster of Old Viscosity out of my hand. Being the great citizen she is, Vicki actually got a bunch of napkins and cleaned it up.

We ended up leaving after buying some merchandise and called it a day. The only thing that could have made it better was a trip 2 miles down the road to the Stone Brewery, but we had to get back to Upland.

To see pictures, follow this link:

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Port Brewing 1st Year Anniversary

This Saturday is the 1st year anniversary for Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey. Yes Pizza Port has been brewing for a long time, but it has been one year since they formed the cumulative "Port Brewing" and moved into Stone's old brewery in San Marcos. The open house lasts from noon to 9pm and they are giving tasters of some pretty interesting beers. A few of them include:

1) Barrel-aged version of Avante Garde
2) Barrel-aged version of Lost & Found
3) Bourbon barrel-aged version of The Angel's Share (normally it is aged in brandy barrels)

They are also selling a couple Lost Abbey beers specifically at this event. The Cuvee De Tomme is a special Belgian Strong Dark Ale made with Cherries and Brettanomyces, among other things. The first year anniversary beer "Ten Commandments" is also being sold. In addition to all this great Lost Abbey stuff, the regular Port Brewing beers like Hop 15, Old Viscosity, Older Viscosity, High Tide IPA, etc are also going to be on tap.

Now my dilemma. I have one more final the Monday after this event. It's not too hard and there isn't really any studying to be done for it, so I have decided I can spend Saturday down in San Marcos. Unfortunately, as seems to be the status quo with me, I've started to get sick. This seems to happen EVERY time there is some beer event that I want to go to, or even just a weekend where I have some really good beers I want to get to. The lymph nodes in my cheek became swollen about a week ago, but no other signs of sickness were present- until yesterday afternoon when at work, I felt my throat starting to get scratchy, which eventually evolved into a mild sore throat (as it stands right now). I've been throwing back the Emergen-C like there's no tomorrow, so maybe it will clear up by Saturday morning, but I'm expecting the worst.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Ready to Kick Off the Summer

(Click thumbnail for a larger picture)

My finals are over Monday, May 8th, so I got some reinforcements to bring in the start of Summer.

1) Fuller's London Porter
2) Lost Abbey Red Barn Ale
3) Lost Abbey Avant Garde
4) Lost Abbey Lost & Found Abbey Ale
5) Russian River Damnation