Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mini Beercation - Day #2

I had been really excited to try Pizza Port for some time.  They make some incredible beers
and their love of hopping their American Style ales with Simcoe and other high alpha acid hops is really after my own heart.  So, after some roughly 20 miles hiked, we headed off to Pizza Port Carlsbad for Day #2 of Beercation 2010.
Unfortunately, through some navigational errors we ended up at Pizza Port Solano Beach instead.  This turned out to be a very fortunate miscalculation.  Solano Beach is actually the original location for Pizza Port and it gave us a glimpse of "Pizza Port past" that we wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

Walking into this joint was a serious blast from the past.  This place has a real small town and, dare I say, Pacific Northwest feel about it.  The beer places I grew up with, and came to love, were essentially giant rooms with big german beer hall style tables, video games at one end, and a walk up counter at the other where you can order your beer and/or pizza from the plethora of college kids working the night shift.  It's certainly not fancy, and probably not entirely hygienic, but you can fill up your growler, watch the game, and enjoy some great west coast style pizza.  It's the kind of place that simply doesn't exist in LA and may cease to exist as beer bars become increasingly fancy establishments in urban areas.  Not that I'm against all the wonderful new places that are sprouting up, they offer their own value, but I do think there is still a place for the good old fashion beer and pizza joint, and I couldn't have been happier to walk into this throwback.

Once I saw the beer board I got even more excited.  Most of their own stuff on the board were not available in the bottle, at least that I've seen.  That always makes for great tasting.  We started off with the Swami IPA.  Swami was just a solid American style IPA with classic Port Brewing Simcoe style hopping. I was really enjoying the Swami until I tried The Road IPA.  This beer blew my mind.  It was just a wonderfully balanced, yet still strong hopped double IPA. There were strong hints of citrus and a cannabis type flavor and it really finished with a lot of bite.  We enjoyed these beers with a delicious vegetarian pizza.  It was hard to contain my excitement.

The next round was the Jules Winfield.  This was described as a Strong American Stout, but it was the hoppiest stout I've ever tasted: not that that's a bad thing.  This beer could have almost passed as a Black IPA if it were not for the rich chocolate flavors on the front end of its taste.

Finally, I went with a Mikkeller IPA, which they happened to have on tap there.  It might seem strange to order a Mikkeller at Port, but it's so rare to find a Mikkeller beer on tap that I felt like I had to give it a try.  It actually proved to be very interesting comparison to the very American styled IPAs.  After drinking the long list of Port beers, the Mikkeller IPA was really overpowering with caramel and was a bit too strong in this comparison.

We met our neighbors as one does in close quarters and long tables like this.  One of them may have actually been Casey Affleck...

I was kind enough to help them pick out some better beers to order, and they returned the favor by buying us some of their pitcher... with no glass.  I improvised with some pouring skills I learned in Cinque Terre.

Afterwards, I bought a couple of rare bottles they had by the register.  The anniversary ale made me giddy like a school boy.

Next week, the long awaited journey to Stone Brewery headquarters for a very different sort of beer experience...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mini Beercation - Day #1

Having my first real time off in many months, Megan and I decided to head down to San Diego for a little mini vacation.  The goal was two fold: do some great hiking and get a sneak a peek at San Diego's rapidly growing beer scene.

If you've never taken one, beer vacations probably sound like a lot of fun.  Well that's not altogether untrue, however, I have learned that day after day of tasting different styles and strengths of beers can really make you feel awful.  At the World Cup in 2006, I learned this the hard way in Munich; two weeks of drinking beer all day and watching soccer was an unparalleled experience, but so was the way I felt afterwards.  If you don't understand what I'm talking about, then here's a visual explanation.

Too much of this...


and this...

can make you feel like this...


and occasionally will have you looking like this...

Because of this lesson learned, I never plan my vacation exclusively around drinking beer and instead try to balance it out with plenty of walking and exercise so that the highlight of your vacationing doesn't actually become drinking.  That's just a little reasoning behind why I'm not declaring this as an all out "Beer Vacation." Now onto the good stuff.

We didn't do too much planning before we left and luckily, we didn't need to; right across from our hotel in La Jolla was a Karl Strauss pub house.  I'm not a huge Karl Strauss fan, but with the Laker game about to go on and being in walking distance, it was hard to pass up.

For food we ordered a beer battered sausage plate and a mac and cheese; neither were really worth mentioning.  However, let's talk beer.  As you probably know by now, I find it difficult to write full reviews when I'm out and about, so for this beercation, I simply jotted down a few notes here and there as I tried different brews.  I have to thank our really wonderful bartender.  She gave us free tasters of almost every single beer on the menu, which really is what made this possible.

First up was the Tower 10 IPA.  I believe you can actually find this beer in most Albertsons nowadays.  It's a decent IPA, but nothing to write home about.  It's about on par with New Belgium's Ranger Redhook's Long Hammer.  Next up was the Pintail pale ale, a very nice seasonal with good balance and that we both found to be very refreshing.  At 5.3% it was very drinkable and was probably the winner on the day.  After that we sampled the Minden Maibock, their May seasonal, which I found to be overpowered by apple flavor that really took away from the overall drinking experience.  I was pretty excited to try their Reef Break Red since it was a May and November seasonal.  This wasn't too bad a beer, but had a very high alcohol percentage, which, when mixed with the caramel flavor, scored very low on the drinkability chart.  Also, this big front end made the finish completely invisible, which just didn't work for me in an American red style ale.  The Belgian Stranger was perhaps a brew unique to that brewhouse since I couldn't find it anywhere on their site.  All I wrote is, "all the worst parts of a Saison with a hop finish."  Guess that sums that up.  Lastly, we had the Endless Summer Light.  This was a light pilsner that got much too fruity just before it finished with incredible crispness; it reminded me a lot of a champagne.

So rather than dump all these travels into one post, I've decided to break them up over three.  This should make for a bit of an easier reading experience, I know there's a lot of non-beer related news that you all have to get to as well.  Next week... Pizza Port Solano Beach!  Here's a preview,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Beer and Cheese Dinner

I had been waiting for quite a long time to put together my first ever beer and cheese pairing event.  I finally had an excuse to put one together a few weeks ago when my parents were in town.

Not being all that familiar with common pairings, I had to do some research.  My first stop was Sam Calagione's book, Extreme Brewing, which suggests some common pairings and some ideas on how to set yours up.  Next, I took a few notes from the Beer Advocate page.  Lastly, I got this great pairing guide, to help solidify my choices.

Part of the goal was to intertwine the cheeses into actual dishes, so that people weren't left hungry or stuffed after eating four courses of cheese and nothing else.  So after deciding pairing combos, the second challenge was to figure out how to use the cheese in a salad, soup, sandwich or pasta dish.

Ultimately, this is what I came up with, and as you can see, I couldn't resist making a menu.

Here are a few shots during the cooking process.

And the finished products.

This is the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, paired with the Dale's 1500 Pale Ale.

This is the Blue de Basques Sheep Cheese, paired with Avery's Hog Heaven Barleywine.  Those are toasted walnuts surrounding it.

This is the mixed green pear and prosciutto salad with Ciresa Mountain Gorgonzola, paired with the Stone IPA and Racer 5 IPA.

These are the goat cheese and balsamic caramelized onion crostinis, paired with my Brouwerij de Isser Saison, Enter the Tiger.

To finish off the meal, I took one of my Cossack Wisecrack's (russian imperial stout) and reduced it into a chocolate sauce to pour over vanilla ice cream.

Ultimately, the pairing went incredibly well and the dishes were liked by all.  The consensus was the Barleywine with the Blue de Basques was the best pairing, however, my Saison was the favorite beer and worked remarkably well to cut through the thick and creamy goat cheese on the crostinis.  Everyone really liked the salad too, however, the cheese seemed to get lost in the lettuce and was hard to define its particular flavor to pair with the IPAs.  The aged cheddar was incredible, but Dale's 1500 was probably too hoppy of a pale to pair it with.  Lastly, my stout reduction syrup was a big hit.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Blind beer tasting with Lee Chase

I recently made my first visit to Tony's Darts Away to have a beer with fellow Beer Blogger, Sean Inman.  Of course, it was just my luck that Tony had scheduled an event to kick off Craft Beer Week.

Hosted by Lee Chase, former head brewer for Stone, brewing consultant, and current head brewer for Blind Lady Alehouse, Tony's' had blind tasting of some of their beers selected by Lee.  Our job was to guess what beer it was we were drinking.

The theme of the night was "hybrid-styles challenge", in which each beer has a twist to it from the "traditional" style making it particularly hard to place the beer to the brand/ "style."  

I was hyped and ready for the challenge.  Even had my Blazers Rip City shirt on.

Here was the list of beers and order he chose:

  1. Ballast Point, Yellow Tail.  A Kolsch that tasted a lot like a lager.
  2. Anchor Steam.  A lager that tasted like an ale.
  3. Craftsman, .5 IPA.  The little IPA, brewed as a revolt to the double IPA craze
  4. Stone, Cali-Belgique.  IPA fermented with belgian yeast.  I thought I would have recognized this beer immediately having drank it a lot, but it when put to the blind taste test, I thought it was too floral to be the Belgique.
  5. Mate-Veza, Black Lager.  This was a really interesting mate infused schwarzbier.  You can totally taste the mate infusion, it really grew on me as I drank it.
  6. Alesmith, Speedway Stout. A coffee infused Russian Imperial Stout.  Dangerously drinkable at 12% alc.

And here's me, doing my best beer discerning to guess the correct answers.




smelling sideways...


and finally, doing this...

But for all my finely perfected beer discerning skills, I was a miserable 1 for 6.  The Stout was the one beer I actually guessed right; I guess I know my stouts.  But despite my miserable skills at beer identification, it was a great time and Lee taught us all a lot about identifying characteristics of different beers.

Good times had by all, Brian and Paige from Blue Palms along with Sean Inman and a girl I didn't get the name of.. sorry!

Fellow beer blogger, Norm from My Beer Quest.

An artsy shot of Lee where his head seems to be merging with the sign.

Tony enjoying the tasting.

And that's it.  Be sure to check out Tony's, they've got some great beers on tap and awesome meat and vegan sausages for eating.