SF Beer Week Day 2 – Beer Revolution & The Jug Shop

The Bruery's beer selection at Beer Revolution

And beer week continues. Saturday we headed to Beer Revolution, a relatively new beer establishment (they just had their one year anniversary!) near Jack London Square in Oakland. They were hosting The Bruery’s “Meet the Brewer” event all day so we made sure to stop by there for a few hours prior to our next event.

The Bruery's Oude Tart with Cherries & 7 Grain Saison

Andrei started out with the Oude Tart with Cherries while I opted for the 7 Grain Saison. Both of them we felt were at the lower end of the ABV spectrum (at 7.5% and 5.5% respectively) of the choices we were interested in, as well as not normally being available outside of the brewery. The Oude Tart (Flanders Red) was pretty damn impressive and a big hit showing in the fact that the keg was kicked about an hour after us arriving.  The 7 Grain Saison was refreshing as a saison should be, but with a bit more hop flavor to the finish. Both were very enjoyable.

Special Release - Too Limited To Have Its Own Sticker

We were lucky enough to snag seats at the bar which made getting service quite easy. Both outside and inside were packed with patrons, and Fraggle and Rebecca were working very hard but with so much patience. It was quite impressive. Luckily they had some help in getting everyone their beverages in a timely manner. We also had time to chat with Jonas from The Bruery. We chatted about Orange County being a bit of a lonely place for beer (I went to University down there) and he agreed with our next choices of beer, The Old Richland Barleywine and The Dark Agave Quad. I must admit we didn’t care for these two as much as the first two but they were both still drinkable. After that we moved on to a couple beers from Moylan’s: 2011 Apple Brandy Barrel-Aged Kiltlifter and their Heaven Hill Barleywine. Both of these were super impressive and even though they were not from The Bruery, needed a mention.

Later that evening we headed over to The Jug Shop for their, “It Came From the Wood” Barrel-Aged beer event. We had come here back in August for a Sour Beer tasting and really enjoyed the selection of beers. This night was no different with some stellar choices from Eric Cripe, the local Cicerone.

The 12 Barrel-Aged Beers lined up, ready to be tasted!

We arrived shortly before the event started, and a good thing too! I was shocked with how many people showed up for this event. I think by the end of the evening, there were at least 60 people, which is a lot for this shop to handle. But Eric did a fine job, somehow remembering where people had left off. The highlights of the event for me were North Coast’s Old Stock Reserve, Firestone Walker 14 and Port Brewing’s Barrel-Aged Santa’s Little Helper. We tried three different versions of Fifty Fifty’s Eclipse Imperial Stout, two from 2010 (Evan Williams and Four Roses) and one from 2009 (Heaven Hill). For as expensive as these guys are, I wasn’t too impressed. The Heaven Hill was the only one that I felt really had a good flavor to it and warranted the cost.

Post Mortem....a lot of beer was tasted.

This was a fun way to end our second day of SF Beer Week. Both events we went to today were well planned and had great brews.  For you locals, The Jug Shop and Beer Revolution do tastings/events pretty regularly, so check out their calendars for upcoming events.

Holiday Ale Tasting

A thought occurred to me a few weeks ago about how there are so many good holiday/winter beers out there and how I’d never tasted more than one of them at a time. Wouldn’t it be fun to incorporate a tasting into a holiday party for my friends? And so I did.

I wasn’t too particular on which kind of beer we would have because I knew most of my friends wouldn’t be serious about the tasting part, more about the drinking and celebrating part. but I wanted to get a few I knew and a few I didn’t.

Of course I had to provide some eats for my thirsty compatriots! Beer actually does pair well with several things (not just pizza!) and so I offered an array of meats, cheeses and chocolates (well, in this case, peppermint bark!) 😛

Others brought some goodies to share as well (thanks to those who did) and we ended up having quite a large amount of food!

We started off with a local beer, 21st Amendment’s Fireside Chat (Winter Warmer/7.9% ABV). I had this a few weeks back at a FoodBuzz event and I remember really liking it.

After trying it again, I think maybe I wasn’t quite as impressed as I was when I first drank it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent beer. Lots of spice but it’s a bit one dimensional and lacked some depth.

Our second beer was another local brew – Marin Brewing Comany’s Hoppy Holidaze (Winter Warmer/7% ABV). I was actually expecting this to be quite hoppy, what with a name like that. But it wasn’t overly hoppy. It had a very good balance and I really enjoyed it. I also felt like this was probably the most enjoyable beer of the night for the group as a whole. See below how Mr. Van Loan feels about it.

Our third beer ( Nøgne Ø’s Peculiar Yule/Spiced Beer, 6.5% ABV) was a bit of a wild card as I hadn’t tasted it prior to the event but it had decent ratings from what I could tell. I was intrigued because it said that it drew some inspiration from Norwegian drink “gløgg” which I had tried for the first time last Christmas. I think this was the most surprising beer for everyone, especially those who hadn’t had a spiced beer before. For most, the flavor and smell was overwhelmingly spicy. I didn’t get the gløgg taste I was expecting, but then again, it’s a beer and not gløgg! But it was definitely interesting and you should check it out if you are into trying different types of beers.

We ended the tasting with He’brew’s Jewbelation Fourteen (American Strong Ale, 14% ABV). I had tried this a few other times and really enjoyed it and was hopeful my guests were as well. This one packs a punch at 14% ABV which is why we waited for it. It’s a big beer but doesn’t have a strong taste of alcohol. Rich, malty and sweet, you get a lot of chocolate and mild spice notes. My favorite of the night although I think many people were beered out by this time. Suki shows us that she can only take a little of this monster of a beer!

All in all, a fun night was had with wonderful friends and lots of other tasty beers. Highlights were definitely Andrei’s Winter Saison and Scottish Ale that he brewed himself!

Thanks to all of my friends who made it out for this little event. I had a wonderful time and I hope you did as well.

PintMuse after a few...;-)

All photos from the party are here but the credit goes to all the party attendees as Andrei’s camera was being passed around. 🙂

Mikkeller Barrel-Aged Black Hole

At some point I will review beers that I find less than fabulous…but this is not one of them.

Last week I made it back over to The Trappist in Oakland after a hiatus of several months (shame on me!).  As always, there was an amazing selection of beers not only on tap, but also bottled. The Trappist is definitely one of the best beer bars in the bay area. But I digress as I’m here to speak specifically about a beer I had that evening, Mikkeller’s Barrel-Aged Black Hole.

I had tried Mikkeller’s Black Hole a few months back and found it to be a delicious example of an imperial stout. Add that to bourbon barrels and age it…it takes it up a notch!  The beer itself appeared very dark in color with a slight caramel colored head. The bottle states quite clearly, “brewed with coffee, honey and vanilla”.  I could definitely smell and taste the coffee and vanilla (oak barrels tend to give off a vanilla flavor and smell) but not so much of the honey.  The finish is creamy and smooth which makes it very drinkable, although I would say it isn’t quite as smooth as some other barrel-aged beers I’ve had…but that may be due to the age (better to age).

If you happen upon this beer, definitely worth trying. If you happen to see it in a store, buy it and age it for a while as it will only get better.

Four out of five pints!

He’Brew Bittersweet Lennys R.I.P.A on Rye

Not a great pic, I know...but the best I could do without a blinding flash!

A  little over a week ago Andrei and I stopped by one of our favorite beer bars in SF, Church Key.  Despite it being in one of the worst areas in San Francisco to find parking, it has a great selection of beer, a cool atmosphere and to top it off, a killer Foursquare deal.

While perusing the menu we came across Shmaltz Brewing Company’s Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A on Rye. Seeing that it was a “limited engagement” beer, we opted to go for that.  Church Key was selling the 22 ounce bottle for $25, but with their foursquare deal we got it for $12.50. SCORE!

This beer had a beautiful amber color to it with an off-white frothy head with a lot of lacing on the glass.  You can definitely smell the whiskey barrels that it was brewed in (to me it gives an almost vanilla-like aroma) as well as caramel.  It has a light carbonation to it and the taste is rich and delicious.

This beer is barrel-aged in Sazerac 6 year rye whiskey barrels and is 10% ABV.  I’m giving it 5 out of 5 pints although maybe I’m being a bit biased because a)I love barrel-aged beer and b)It’s the best I’ve had from Shmaltz so it was a wonderful surprise to find such a tasty brew from a brewery I wasn’t a huge fan to begin with.
Because they’ve limited the release on this I would have to say to buy it if you see it!  Yes, there are better beers out there but this is a sweet gem from Shmaltz that is worth tasting!

Oregon Brewer’s Fest 2010

Aaaaaaand….I’m back.

Sorry for the lack of posts lately.  Between traveling and craziness at work, I’ve had this saved in drafts for some time.

So the last weekend in July I headed up to Portland which just happened to coincide with the Oregon Brewer’s Fest.  I was pretty excited about this event as I had heard a lot of great things about it, and knowing how many great breweries were in Portland made it even more enticing!

We arrived in the afternoon and the event was already in full swing.  The location is idyllic, right along the Willamette River and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  They had tents all along the river with beer stations situated in the shade next to the tents.  There were definitely a lot of characters, including this band we saw below.

Here’s how the beers were set up.  You purchased a cup and tokens as you walked into the park and it was 1 token per taste.

The variety of breweries there was pretty impressive, although I felt that most of them brought their mediocre/well known beers.  Out of the more than 20 I tasted, only 3-4 were worth remembering. However I gather this is how most beer festivals work…and the best beer will always be tasted at breweries or beer bars.  My top two beers for the festival were Cascade Brewing’s Summer Gose/Summer Sour and Goose Island’s Sofie.

Above you can see Scott…likely double fisting the Summer Gose…he can’t resist the sour beers!

This guy’s “beer goggles” cracked me up so I asked him to pose.  He obliged.

To get a sense of what the tents were like, you can see below.  It was pretty crowded and I could only imagine what Saturday would be like.  They had some tables but most people ended up standing around in groups.

As you can see, PintMuse doesn’t particularly like getting her photo taken. 😉

Frank the Tank!  What you can’t really see in this photo was the kilt he was also wearing.  It was amusing to watch people walk past him.

Not having been to many beer festivals, I’m not sure how to rank this one.  I had a great time with my friends and checking out the scene, but realized that if I really wanted great beer, going to the actual breweries is the way to go.  Still, I would definitely head back to the Oregon Brewer’s Festival in a heart beat.  Clearly the love of beer is overwhelmingly felt there and Portland is a great city for any beer lover to visit.

Thank you Portland for being such a welcoming city for this beer lover.  Can’t wait to go back!

Port Brewing Hot Rocks Lager

Port Brewing's Hot Rocks Lager

Thanks to the genius that is Twitter, I found out that Monk’s Kettle had Port Brewing’s Hot Rocks Lager on tap a couple weeks ago.  Since I hadn’t been able to try it on my recent brewery trip down to San Diego, I made a point of heading over there to check it out.

I was fascinated with the idea of a “stoned” (adding hot stones to the wort during the brewing process) beer and having never tried one, was eager to check it out.  From what I’ve read, adding in hot stones caramelizes the sugars to give it a toffee flavor which sounded right up my alley as I generally love toffee and caramel flavors in beer.  As you can see, it has a beautiful ruby brown color with an off-white creamy head.  Definitely had a caramel-y smell and taste with quite a bit of lingering flavor.  I found this beer to be quite drinkable; not overwhelming in its taste and really enjoyable.  And at 6.2% ABV,  you can savor a few of these without too much punch.  Definitely worth checking out if you happen to come across it.

I love the sweat dripping down...it's the hot rocks!

What are your favorite characteristics in beer?  Caramel?  Toffee?  Sour?  Hops?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Allagash Interlude

Photo courtesy of http://blog.winemag.com

On my recent trip down to San Diego, I stopped by Downtown Johnny Brown’s to check out their Allagash night.  In the past I’ve had a few Allagash beers and really enjoyed them, so was intrigued to try out more.  The favorite of the night for me was Allagash’s Interlude.

Interlude is categorized a an American Wild Ale.  I’m sure most of you haven’t heard of this style and neither had I until a couple months ago!  To be honest, I think when beers become complex, they aren’t easy to categorize and thus styles like “American Wild Ale” come into use.  That being said, most of the beers that are categorized as American Wild Ale are beers that I like…so I guess I shouldn’t badmouth it. 😉

My initial thoughts on this beer: beautiful golden color; clear, champagne-style carbonation with an off-white head.  Smells of apples and light fruit.  You can definitely taste the brett, which most people characterize as being “funky”.  I enjoy that funky flavor!  I definitely tasted the apples as well as grapes.  The finish had a white pepper flavor to it.  Slightly sour as well, although I wouldn’t characterize it as a sour beer.   Interlude has an ABV of 9.5%, which means it packs a tasty and oh-so-delicious punch.  This beer has a lot going on flavor wise, so I would suggest savoring it…bask in the beauty and uniqueness of this beer.

Results: 4 out of 5 pints

Lindeman’s Framboise: A beer for non-beer lovers…

I think the cat adds a certain je ne sais quoi, non? Photo courtesy of http://beerathomejapan.wordpress.com

I think the cat adds a certain je ne sais quoi, n'est-ce pas? Photo courtesy of http://beerathomejapan.wordpress.com

I remember the first time I had Lindeman’s Framboise.  I was with the epic-ness that is Tim Van Loan and we were on our way to Dolores Park in San Francisco for a picnic of sorts.  We stopped by Bi-Rite Market to pick up food and drink and the conversation went something like this:

TVL: “Okay, I am going to introduce you to the most deliciously epic beer…see, it’s a beer that doesn’t taste like a beer, but it’s an explosion of flavors in your mouth!!  Have you ever heard of Framboise?!”

Me: “Uh, no….doesn’t that mean raspberry in French?”

TVL: “Who cares what it means in French, in Tim Van Loan language it means AWESOME!!!”

(at this point I must have backed up a bit because TVL was scaring me with the intensity of his words)

Me: “Uh, okay…I’ll give it a go.”

Now, I have to tell you, recommendations of “epic proportion” from TVL are a dime a dozen, so I didn’t really have high expectations (sorry, TVL! :-P) but as soon as I tasted it, I knew I was hooked.  Framboise is a fruit lambic beer, usually flavored with fruit or syrup, and has a sour finish.  However, Lindeman’s Framboise has quite a sweet flavor to it.  It has also got a lovely carbonation and is especially tasty on a warm afternoon.  If you don’t like sweet beers, stay far, far away from this one.  But if you like sweet cocktails, this beer is for you.  And at 2.5% ABV, you can drink this for a while before worrying about getting drunk.

Five out of Five pints!

Belgian Ales, Chapter One: Saison (Saison Du Buff)

On my recent trip down to San Diego, I stopped by Toronado to check out the selection of beers.  Similar to its sister location in San Francisco, they have a wide variety of draft and bottle beers.  As it was a warm afternoon, nothing seemed more fitting than a saison.  A saison is a style of beer from Belgium that is a delicious complement for a warm, sunny day.   Saison Du Buff is a collaboration of the guys behind Dogfish Head, Stone Brewing and Victory Brewing.  I was instantly drawn to this beer since it contains parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  And like that classic Simon and Garfunkel song, it didn’t disappoint.

As you can see, it’s a beautiful honey colored beer.  What you can’t see in this picture is that it had a lovely, meringue like head.  Despite having parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme in it, I couldn’t really distinguish these herbs in the smell or taste.  This really smelled and tasted like a traditional saison, citrus and cloves with a dry finish.  The thing I love about Saison Du Buff (and saisons in general) is that it’s simple and refreshing.  At 6.8% ABV,  this could be a session beer…especially on a warm, sunny, not a care in the world, San Diego afternoon.

Rating: 4 out of 5 pints

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse: My Session beer of choice…

Photo credit: http://snailstales.blogspot.com/

After reading Steph Weber’s post about session beer, I started to think about what beers I like that would qualify as “session”.  I blog a lot about my love of high ABV brews, but at the end of the day, these aren’t beers you can drink pints of without taste bud overkill or an extreme hangover the next day.  That’s where Franziskaner comes in.

There may be some people who discount Franziskaner as “good beer” based solely on the fact that it’s made by Spaten, a “macrobrewer” of sorts.  I may have even discounted some beers in the past because of this, but I’ve had an epiphany: not all macrobrewers make crap beer. :-)  So Spaten “Darth Vader” Daddy aside, here are my thoughts on Franziskaner and why it makes a good session beer.

Franziskaner is a hefeweizen or wheat beer that is brewed with a high proportion of (you guessed it!) wheat!  This German style of beer has been popular for as long as I’ve been legal to drink and is often served with a piece of citrus.  Whether it’s required or not, this beer is good even without a lemon or orange in it.  Its appearance is a beautiful honey color and is a bit cloudy (normal for hefeweizens) with a decent head that drops as you drink it.  It has a distinct smell of cloves and citrus and the taste is refreshing…with flavors of spices (there’s that clove!), fruit and wheat.   There is practically no flavor of hops in this beer, so for those of you who don’t like hoppy beers, Franziskaner (and most wheat beers) would be a good choice.

This is my perfect hot weather beer although I can drink it year round.  The carbonation is light and mild and it feels smooth going down.  And at only 5.0% ABV,  I can drink more than one and not worry about getting drunk after a couple.  Four pints out of five on Franziskaner.  With the weather warming up, why not have one!

Other good hefeweizen to consider – Weihenstephaner

Note to SF’ers:  Mollie Stones had it on sale this past weekend for $6.99/six-pack.

What’s your session beer of choice?