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.

SF Beer Week – Opening Gala

San Francisco Beer Week is finally upon us! I remember going last year to a few events and being in awe of how many beer lovers there were in the bay area. This year it expanded even more and I was there to witness it firsthand at the Opening Night Gala.

The craziness of the photo above gives just a hint at how many people were at this event. Once again it took place at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, but it seemed as if there were twice as many people as last year. This event was sadly oversold and in my opinion, poorly planned by the SF Beer Week folks. They had a VIP entrance time of 3:30-5:00 pm and at 5:00 pm, opened up to the plebeian folk, such as myself. I arrived at 5:20 pm and saw the queue wrap around the building. As I was walking by the entrance to the end of the queue, I heard them say that they were at capacity and would have to hold the line. At capacity?! 20 minutes after you’ve “officially” opened?! Absolutely ridiculous. I met a friend who was about 50 people back from the front and was able to stand with him, but we still waited about 35 minutes to actually get into the event. One thing the organizers did decide to do was to allow refunds to people who did not want to wait. While I thought this generous of them, it seemed like if they hadn’t oversold the event, they would’ve been okay. I later found out that they had upped the amount of tickets 3 times to a total of 1600 tickets. C’mon guys, if you’re going to sell that many, get a bigger venue. My suggestion for next year is to do it somewhere like Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Then you can open it up to even more folks! *hops off soapbox*

Once inside, the event was enjoyable. There was a great show of breweries, some local and some from other areas of California; all the SF Breweries such as 21st Amendment, Social Kitchen and Brewery,  Speakeasy, Magnolia, Thirsty Bear as well as other “local breweries” such as Linden Street, Iron Springs, Moylan’s, Marin, Russian River, Lost Coast, Eel River, Lost Coast, etc….the list goes on and you can check out their website to see who was there.

Eel River's Set up

One of SF's newest breweries, Social Kitchen

As is the case with most beer galas/festivals, the actual selection of beer ranged from great to horrible with a median of “just okay”. The highlight for me was probably Bunny’s Toe from Triple Rock Brewery over in Berkeley. It’s an American Style Barleywine that had a really lovely toffee smell/flavor and a well balanced hops characteristic to the malt. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve actually never been over to Triple Rock Brewery, although that will change later today when I go over for their Sour Beer Event.

Highlights of the event for me? Mostly just hanging out with awesome people, which included meeting Sean Paxton (pictured below with Andrei) as well as the guys from Mission Gastroclub (who strangely seem to be following us from event to event…hehe). I also got to meet a few folks from my Bay Area Beer Bloggers group – so nice to put faces to names (also pictured below).

Sean Paxton and Andrei

Joey, Jen, and John

Overall, the gala was a lot of fun and I look forward to the event next year….hopefully in a bigger venue!

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. 🙂

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!

BreastFest: Good beers, good times, good cause!

This past Saturday I attended the 10th annual BreastFest at Herbst Pavillion at Fort Mason in San Francisco. This was the first year this event has made it across the bay to San Francisco, having previously taken place in Marin Brewing Company’s parking lot up in Larkspur.  This event was a combination of two of my favorite things…beers and breasts!  This event supported the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic dedicated to holistic healing for women suffering from breast cancer.  A good cause no doubt, and a great reason to bring together so many great breweries.

Many great breweries there, some of which I’d heard of and others that were new to me.  I’d have to say the highlights for me were Firestone Walker’s 13th Anniversary Ale and Nectar Ale’s Black Xantus, neither of which were being tasted, but lone bottles were opened at Firestone Walker’s table and I was lucky enough to try them.  Many mediocre beers but also some surprises like Anderson Valley’s Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema (a surprise to me as I have feelings of mundanity associated with this brewery) as well as Iron Spring’s The Crippla.

This event was a great opportunity to try many beers and for some of my friends, to be amazed at how many breweries there are out there just in Northern California.  I really hope this event comes back to Fort Mason next year, although I had such a good time I’d be willing to cross the bridge to attend!

Pictures below.

Tried Brenda and Jessica’s Bridal Ale – light, crisp and refreshing

Boys from Stone share their pale ale

Tried all of the above from local brewery, Triple Rock

One of the highlights from the day: Firestone Walker 13th Anniversary Ale

Joined by friends in partaking of the festivities

Another highlight: Black XantusRandom hair band rockin’ 80’s and 90’s music

Oddity of the day: Blanco Basura aka White Trash which was decent!

Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo pours 2008 Temptation aged in Chardonnay barrels

This photo about sums up the day

An Evening At La Trappe

Tuesday night was the first “Pint Sized Musings” sponsored event at La Trappe in San Francisco and there was a decent turn out.  It all started with my friend Suki mentioning to me that she had never been to La Trappe.  After I got over the shock of it, I immediately started looking at the calendar to see what dates would work for the both of us.  Then it turned into a “who else can we invite” which then turned into a “let’s make it an event!”  And so it went and I invited some good friends to come out to La Trappe for an evening of tasty Belgian beers.

I got there right at 6:00 pm to secure the back lounge area which would allow a larger group to sit together.  After my eyes adjusted to the low lighting, I decided to start with a Maredsous 8 dubbel (served in a Malheur glass).  I’ll save that for another review but I will say it was very good.  As people started to arrive, I took them up to the bar to try a few beers before settling on what they wanted.  Most people are not familiar with Belgian styles so luckily Mike (bartender at La Trappe) was kind enough to give tasters (he does this regularly so if you visit, don’t be afraid to ask if you’re not sure!).  People got settled with their first drink and there was a lot of conversation and merriment.  La Trappe offers Belgian fries and so a few people ordered those to share….they go so well with beer!

Next I started ordering bottles of various styles for people to try.  We started out with a saison, Sason D’Epeautre.  This was a perfect farmhouse ale, light and dry.  Everyone thought it was very tasty and refreshing as well (perfect for those monks working out in the fields…LoL).  Next up was Chimay White.  The name Chimay is familiar to most people although not everyone has had the white.  This is a wonderful example of the tripel style, fruity and well balanced.  For the last bottle I had wanted everyone to try Three Philosophers because of its unique flavor (thanks to the kriek that is added).  Sadly, La Trappe were out of it and so I opted to go with two other quadrupels, Allagash Four Ale and Koningshoeven.  Out of the two, Koningshoeven definitely won the favorite of the night from the vast majority of the people in attendance.   We also ended up trying a couple others, thanks to Andrei and Neha – Malheur Dark Brut (think champagne style beer) and Zoetzuur, a Flemish red.

Zoetzuur (Flanders Red ale), Koningshoeven Quadrupel, Malheur Dark Brut (Bière de Champagne), Allagash Four (Quadrupel), Saison d'Epeautre, Chimay White (Tripel)

Amazing selection or beer and I think everyone left feeling content and maybe a bit buzzed.  All in all, a wonderful evening spent with great friends, great beer, and a great locale.

Thanks to all who attended and I’m looking forward to planning the next one!

All photos courtesy of Andrei Zmievski

Pint Size Musing’s First Event!

So I was talking with my friend Tinna and she mentioned to me she had never been to La Trappe!  After I got over my initial shock I suggested we make an evening of it.  And then I had the idea to make it my first PSM event.  So if you’re in the area on June 8th, we’ll be meeting at La Trappe for some tasty Belgian beers around 6:00 pm.  Find the event on Facebook here.