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.

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!

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.

Social Kitchen Brewery

A few months ago a new brewpub came to town.  Social Kitchen Brewery is located in the Inner Sunset district of San Francisco and it is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.  I finally made it here this past Tuesday night for the start of their Köln Night.  From their website:

“Throughout the evening, servers circulate through the dining room with trays of freshly-poured beers, depositing a full, cold glass each time a patron’s glass is nearly empty. Guests enjoy the conviviality of good company and good beer, with nary an empty glass, and no need to flag down a server to order another. They enjoy the continual hospitality of cold, fresh beer. The stanges are a moderate 250 ml (8 oz.), and the beer is less than 5% ABV, so the glasses don’t linger, and the sessionable beer stays refreshing, cold, and lively.”

Kölsch and pretzels

As the first person to arrive, I made my way upstairs to their mezzanine, grabbed a table for Andrei, Gene and I and waited.  Being their first time doing this, I think the waitresses were a bit confused but they figured out a system (marking your coaster to know how many beers you’ve had).  The Kölsch they tapped was very refreshing as a Kölsch should be.  The flavor was good and light enough to enjoy several glasses of it.  They passed out pretzels and some of their IPA mustard to each table which went really well with the beer.  There were also sausages, sauerkraut and other German noshes for people to share, although you had to be on top of your game if you wanted to grab something before it disappeared.  We stayed up in that area for a while but meandered downstairs so we could try the other beer.  They’ve got about 5 brews on tap and all were very tasty. My particular favorite was their L’Enfant Terrible belgian style dark ale. It sounds like they’ve tweaked the recipes a bit because both Andrei and Gene had gone there when it first opened and they thought the beer tasted better this time around.  We also shared some spicy hot wings and chili fries which were both good.

I’ll definitely head back here whether it be for one of their German drinking nights or to drink good beer and have great food.

More pics below.

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

North Coast Brewery

This past weekend Andrei, Terry, Marie and I headed to Mendocino to take in the amazing selection of beer and wine they have in the area.  One of our first stops was North Coast Brewery in Ft. Bragg.  I have tried several of North Coast’s beers before, but was looking forward to getting an “overview” of what they had to offer.

We arrived at 11:30 am and there were already six or seven people waiting for them to open! (Note to potential visitors: If you’re going on a weekend, getting there earlier is better.  When we left two hours later it was packed and there was quite a wait).  We chose to sit in the bar (which was open seating) rather than the restaurant.  The first thing we ordered was their sampler.  They had twelve beers on tap and were served in 4 ounce tastes (perfect for 2-4 people to share).  Out of the twelve beers on tap, I’d say about half were worth drinking again (remember, my opinion!).  The Blue Star Wheat and Scrimshaw Pilsner were too light for my taste.  However, the others seemed to like the pilsner enough.  The next ones were the Acme Pale Ale and IPA.  Again, passes for me but I don’t particularly like those styles either.  The first one I felt like I could drink more of was the Cask Conditioned Red Seal Ale.  Strangely enough, I preferred this style to the straight up Red Seal Ale.  Why I find it strange is that I rarely enjoy cask conditioned ales which tend to be flat to my taste buds.  Next up was the Old No. 38 Stout.  This was a solid stout and one I could definitely drink again, although I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it in a bar.  Very roasty with a strong coffee flavor.  From here on out, I really loved all of them (getting into the higher alcohol and belgian styles).  Brother Thelonious (named after Thelonious Monk) is similar to a belgian dark strong ale, with a high ABV of 9.3%.  I’ve found this in San Francisco a few times, most notably at The Page.  This beer is tasty, tasty, tasty… yes, that is a technical term. 😉  Pranqster is North Coast’s attempt at a Belgian Style Golden Ale.  I really enjoyed this and more to follow in a post just about this beer.  La Merle was up next on the list…I’ve had this at Kennedy’s here in San Francisco but I believe it’s easy enough to find in good beer bars and beer stores.  This is a very good saison style beer, tasty and light with hints of fruit.  Old Stock Ale was up next and I was most excited to try this beer.   At 12.5% ABV, this is one beer you should sip rather than gulp.  The style is listed as Old Ale which I’ve not done a lot of research on, but I know that every time I have one I usually like it!  This beer has a beautiful mahogany color and malty flavor.  I left with a four pack of this and plan on letting it age a bit.  I’ve never seen this at any store or bar around here so if you make it up to the brewery, make sure to try it.  Last but not least was Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.  Having tried this several times at The Monk’s Kettle, I already knew I would enjoy revisiting this one again.  This is a big, bold beer and worth delving into for a later blog post.  Needless to say, I left with an Old Rasputin XI and XII to take home.

Definitely look forward to my next trip up to North Coast.  They have a solid selection of great beers and at $4/glass, definitely worth spending a few hours here if you’re in the area.  Next time we’ll try to hit up the tour!

Pranqster, Acme IPA & La Merle

North Coast Brewery old kettle

Until next time, North Coast! Keep the great beers coming!

Mikkeller Single Hop Series

Last night Andrei, Gene and I headed over to The Monk’s Kettle for the first evening they had Mikkeller’s Single Hop Series on tap.  So what is a single hop beer exactly?  According to Beer Around Town,  “each release is the same IPA recipe, IBUs (International Bittering Units for my fellow novices!) kept the same, the only difference is variety of hop used.”  It seems like the point of these beers is really to feature the hop.

Having absolutely no idea of which hop was what (although Monk’s menu did provide a good sense of what to expect as well as which hops were often used in what types of beers).  We started with Nelson Sauvin, named clearly after my ancestors (no not really) and the sauvignon blanc grape (the hop has similar characteristics).   This is supposedly a fruity hop but I couldn’t really taste it…the taste was really hard to describe but I liked the most out of all of them.

The second one we tried was Simcoe.  This one was pretty earthy tasting to me.  Andrei described it as resin-y and when he said that, I definitely got that flavor (I’m still figuring out how to describe tastes!)  The last we tried was Chinook.  To me this one was the most bitter out of the three, with a slight citrus-y flavor.

Not much I can say about these beers.  It was interesting to taste the various hops in their “single” state but I didn’t really care for any of the beers…and this should come as no surprise considering I prefer more malty beers to hoppy beers (although I can enjoy a hop-filled Pliny The Elder with the best of them!  But that’s another blog post…).  For me this was definitely more of an educational experience than an enjoyable one.  But if you’re interested in beer, definitely check these out while they last at Monk’s Kettle!
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Eel River Old Ale

This past Saturday Andrei and I wandered over to the East Bay to visit our friends at Beer Revolution. For those of you who haven’t been there, definitely check it out as they have a constant flux of great beers on tap as well as a great selection of bottles.  One of the beers they had on tap this past Saturday was Eel River’s Old Ale.  I chose this mainly because I hadn’t heard of this brewery and of course I have a penchant for high alcohol brews. 😉  Naturally I liked it!  Sweet and malty with a slight spice to it and a bitter finish, this is a beer (like others I’ve written about) that should be imbibed in small quantities if you’re driving. (That’s my PSA for the day).  I really enjoyed this beer and would drink it again although after one glass, I was ready to move on.  Still, definitely worth checking out.  One thing I didn’t realize about this brewery is that they’re completely organic (according to their website they’re the first certified organic brewery).  So you know, if that floats your boat, definitely check out beers from Eel River.