Thursday, September 27, 2007

Martin Lodahl to Toast Michael Jackson

This Sunday, at Sacramento Brewing's "Oasis" Martin Lodahl will be presenting the official toast to Michael Jackson. Martin has many stories about his journeys and time with Michael - I've been lucky enough to hear several over lunch with Martin. If you're in the area, the Oasis is the place to be for a toast this Sunday. The official toast takes place at 6PM.

I need to say, great job bringing in a man who knew Michael first hand, a man who shared a mutual respect. Props to Sacramento Brewing.

Sacramento Brewing's Oasis is located on Madison Ave, at the Sunrise Blvd intersection.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Octoberfest @ Brew It Up! (Sacramento)

Not much to say on my part, just needed to share this list with you, provided by Mike at Brew It Up, all in hopes you can find your way to Brew It Up in Sacramento, on October 6th.

The following beers will be on tap at Brew It Up, all made right there in their brewery.
- VOLKS WEIZEN (Golden German Hefeweizen)
- NORDENDORF LAGER (Morthern German Pils)
- OLD DUSSEL (alt)
- LADDER #2 (Helles)
- MUNOZ NEGRA (Dunkels)

Thank you to Mike Costello for the heads up on this. As he says
I'm not sure where or when you'll find this many Authentic German beer styles on tap under one roof, from one brewery. Best part about it - I think you'd find all of them to be good, to very good, representations of the styles.
Knowing BIU, I imagine he's right.

Brew It Up!
Personal Brewery & Grill
801 14th Street, @ 14th & H
Sacramento, CA 95814
phone: 916-441-3000
fax: 916-325-1235

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

GABF 2007: Are You Ready?

Tickets are still on sale. Plane tickets are still somewhat affordable. Hotels still have room. If you haven't already made plans to visit, why not?
Here are just a few reasons you need to attend:
  1. 408 Breweries will be under one very large roof.
  2. 1,884 Beers will be poured by these brewers under this same very large roof.
  3. The promise of new and exciting beers made by brewers you've only ever read about, from regions of the country you likely haven't been to.
I am looking forward to this years event, with plans on attending Thursday and Friday sessions. I'll be in Denver on Weds before the event too, so if you plan on being out there this year, shoot me an email and I will do what I can to say hello. In the next few days I suspect I'll have my schedule for the week finalized as well.

Sacramento's Bad Idea

Let's talk politics a bit, shall we? The City of Sacramento is considering a new fee required for anyone who sells alcohol within their city limits - $1,000 per year, regardless of size or permit type. This is over and above all other State licenses and permits, including the $800 ABC fees that are supposed to be used for things like education and what-not. $1,000 dollars a year! Think about that for a few seconds, does it make sense to you? It doesn't for me. Here's a few reasons why.

First, I don't understand why. The ABC fees business owners pay the state already help fund programs designed to educate kids on the 'dangers of alcohol' - oh, if only they'd learn about the dangers of the crap they eat and drink everyday at school. And, more than doubling the ABC fee is nothing short of excessive for small business owners and I really can't see how a City of Sacramento's size and makeup can justify it.

The Sacramento Bee has this wonderful quote too:
Councilman Steve Cohn said the city has a growing problem with establishments serving minors or becoming an eyesore in their neighborhood. He said a new permit would that make it easier for city investigators to put nuisance establishments out of business.
Uh... hold on a minute. How, exactly, will charging business owners help improve run down liquor stores? Should we charge more taxes to old churches who don't care for their buildings or grounds? What about that old, run-down Mexican restaurant I love so much - the one that doesn't sell beer? That sentiment from a Councilman is nothing short of absurd.

Here's the gist of the story:

The city of Sacramento is considering requiring all 925 businesses that sell alcohol in town -- bars, liquor stores, neighborhood marts and supermarkets -- to obtain a special license. The city would use fees from the permit -- $1,000 for each establishment, regardless of size -- to fund annual inspections and an educational outreach program targeting underage drinking and drunken driving.

Details about how the ordinance would work and what it would do remain sketchy. City staffers are drafting the measure with input from business owners, although some say the city has been slow in asking their opinion. A proposal is expected to go before the City Council's law and legislation committee in the next couple of months. The full council must approve the measure for it to take effect.

"If it's revenue that helps kids stay out of trouble and helps reduce injuries because of drunken driving or doing something stupid, then it's definitely a good thing," said police spokesman Matt Young.

Now, I read this and see one of two things. First, I wonder if there's a prohibitionist mentality here, a city council and police department who look at the troubles of a community and blindly say alcohol is the problem. I think of this and push it out of my mind for a more likely scenario, option two. I can't help but think there is ONE group this law will benefit: mega-stores and grocery chains, those who sell nothing but national brands of questionable quality.
"Over the years, everything goes up -- whether it's workman's comp or utilities, all the insurance. But politicians don't look at big picture," he said. "For the mom and pop stores, fees like this are making it a tough go."
I don't know. I just know I think this is nothing short of a bad idea. Again from the Bee:
Joe Robillard, an administrator in the Sacramento office of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control unit, said Oakland, Los Angeles and other cities have passed similar alcohol ordinances with "mixed results."
I'd sure like to know more about these 'mixed' results. I don't like the idea of City or other governments imposing what is essentially a new tax, but calling it a "fee" instead. That just seems wrong.

Other items of concern here are some of the comments made by locals about the issue

Well, if they don't want to pay an alcohol fee then STOP SELLING THE CRAP IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Either way we look at it, alcohol is a problem and how is this society going to prevent more deaths, more people getting thrown in jail for alcohol related accidents, and more deaths/illnesses due to alcohol consumption.

People need to wake up and understand that alcohol is considered by MANY experts to be the absolute worst drug available. Partly because it is widely sold and socially acceptable.

We all know that Prohibition didn't work the first time, partly because society at the time wasn't weaned off of it.

I think they should limit the number of places that alcohol is sold to only liquor stores where one HAS to be 21 just to walk into the store and only have so many stores allowed. Then you tax it and have the taxes go to various programs to help people get off of it. Also, raise fines/sentencing for DUIs.

We need more activities that don't promote alcohol and advertising needs to stop. (Out of sight, out of mind.)

And then there's this...
Who cares? Raising money for alcohol education for todays youth is priceless in itself. Ask the store owners who have children as opposed to the ones who do not and you will probably get a very different answer on the topic. Selling a potentially dangerous substance comes with financial responsibilities as well.
And this guy...
it's a constant bombardment of alcohol consumption; directing us to imagine the wonderful life we can have if you drink this or that. Truth is that going out is a pain becasue of all the drunks. I am not talking about the transients in the streets, but rather the 3 piece suits(male and female) sitting at the next booh, counter, seats in most venues throughout Sacramento. I went to a function at Fairy Tale Town once and they were serving wine! A childrens amuzement park and they were serving alcohol....geez!
for those that think that alcohol is OK to have in this society, go read about alcoholism, go to AA meetings and listen to other people's stories. What about the rights of the people that DON'T want to be exposed to alcohol, alcoholics, and drunken drivers? What about the children that DON'T have a say so in this matter?

Here is a little test. for those that drink, go on a vacation somewhere where there is no alcohol, no advertising and no one drinking. Kind of a like a retreat into the mountains. then when your done with that month long retreat, then notice how much bombardment of alcohol advertising, alcoholics, drunken drivers, etc. etc. then see if that doesn't change your mind.

I would LOVE to be able to walk into a nice restaurant where there aren't any alcohol beverage signs, no bottles in sight and no one in the place drinking so I can enjoy my meal without listening to drunks.
Again, hard to believe the Capital City of our Nation's biggest economy seems hell-bent on hurting small businesses and creating pseudo taxes, selling it to the public out of nothing but fear. If you live in Sacramento, I'd suggest picking up the phone now and calling your city reps, let them know what you think.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mirror Pond: New Look, Same Beer

As many of you know, I have a pretty big soft spot in my beer-loving-heart for all things Deschutes. As an Oregon boy, through and through, it seemed I was practically raised on Black Butte Porter and, of course, Mirror Pond. In fact, before moving to California I was pretty sure Mirror Pond invented the Pale Ale.

The bottle to the left here is the 'old' bottle they've used for years, showing the iconic Three Sisters mountains, which are located West of Bend, where Deschutes crafts their world-famous beers. I love this region of the state I grew up in, have wonderful memories of vacations there when I was in college: camping near Tumalo Falls, swimming at Klein Falls, climbing Smith Rock and rafting down the Deschutes River - not to mention the hikes around the area. All this means something to an Oregon boy, and seeing the picturesque mountains on the bottle of Mirror Pond was pretty cool.

So imagine my surprise when I read they'd be changing their label. My first impressions were not good, as I'd imagined some hostile takeover in Bend and these new labels would be some modern funk with neon-greens and varying shades of hot-pink. Oh, the thoughts were bad and I remember saying something under my breathe about 'chage for change sake' and some other cold thoughts.

Ah, the good news. Deschutes wasn't taken over by mad marketers and a corporate strategy gone awry. I received my package from Deschutes a few days back, along with their marketing material, and was genuinely impressed, not only with their new logo, but the rationale behind it. You see, the "Mirror Pond", pictured to the right, is actually in the city of Bend, at Drake Park. The artistic rendition seen on the old label isn't a picture any of you could go out and snap. Notice, the clear lack of moutains in this picture. (oh, if you click on the picture you should see the full size image I borrowed)
"Mirror Pond is in our front yard," said Deschutes founder, Gary Fish, "and we wanted to show our customers just how beautiful it really is."
The new bottle is consistant with the artwork on all of Deschutes year-round beers (their Reserve and Bond Street lines have a different look altogether), as you can see on the bottle to the left. It seems to capture the artistic rendition of a clear day in early fall, with trees in the process of dropping their leaves. You'll also notice the label's dominate color scheme has gone from a cold-blue to a warm reddish-brown. Yes, Deschutes did good on this new look, and we can all be happy that they didn't see any need to change what is on the inside.

I did learn a couple cool facts about the beer in my press kit.

- "First brewed in 1997, it's the only Oregon craft beer made exclusively with locally grown, whole flower Cascade hops..." I admit, I really don't know how much any of us should be impressed, in case they're 'overstating' something fairly benign, or if this is as cool as it sounds. I love the idea that they're using local hops, just not sure how 'local' local is, if you know what I'm saying.

- "Named one of America's ten best beers by Playboy" - who knew?

- "Mirror Pond also won a gold medal at the Brewing Industry International Awards in 2002." - Industry recognition means a lot, in just about any industry.

So, yeah, this is my mix of "new label announcement" and a stroll down memory lane. If any of you are from the region, please remind me of the name of the hot springs up there. That was a fun stop while in college too, a quick lesson that not all people should be naked. Also, if any of you can convince someone in the brewery to send me a few bottles of all three of their fresh-hopped beers, I'd be very appreciative.

2007 Beer Harvest - News from Around the World

So, it seems that as the internets are focused on the hop harvest and what that might mean for our favorite beers and brewers, there is a much bigger and more real problem facing the brewers today: Barley. Before getting to that, however, let's get a few hop related questions out of the way. Vinnie at Russian River has good news for his beers.
"I’m already contracted for my 2008 hops and have been since early in 2007, so, I am ok for now. Additionally, when I saw this coming earlier in the year, I purchased additional hops. Next year will be interesting though, I’m curious if the hop prices will come back down or if they will stay at their current (high) level."
And how about Tomme, how is Port Brewing fairing in all this?
"We won't really know until we start the new production year. Our contract looks good on most of the hops that we need for Wipeout IPA and Hop 15. The rest of the beers are pretty hop neutral so seemingly good."
See, that ain't so bad now, is it? However, these next quotes are a bit sobering.
"The consumer can expect very real price increases. I'm guessing at least a $1 per bottle or 6 pack. I also should point out that hops while the price went through the roof, it is the barley crop that is worse. You can do all kinds of things to sub on a hop level. Good luck if we run out of barley? We just got hit with a 40% increase in our 2 Row price and that was a "good and fair" increase. Other brewers saw 50%. The Cost of Goods part of the business just got a whole bunch tougher." - Tomme Arthur, Port Brewing/Lost Abbey
Vinnie at Russian River seems to have a similar story.
"The bigger concern from a cost of goods stand point is the price of malt as it is up from 30%-100%. We just did a price increase recently anticipating the rise in ingredient cost, but, it may not have been enough as the malt are much higher than anticipated. We’ll see if we have to do another increase."
Add to this this info I got from Larry over at Deschutes, and it is clear we'll see price hikes across the board in 2008. "There is a three to four-fold price increase on hops... Consumer should expect to pay an additional 25 to 50 cents per six pack of craft beer."

Then, there's the news from farmers around the world. Below are several clippings from around the world, speaking to this years barley crops. Beer lovers, this isn't pretty.

From the Farm and Ranch Guide (USA)
"Barley producers are wrapping up an early harvest, with USDA estimating that harvest is 96 percent complete. This is well ahead of the five year average of 83 percent, and largely aided by the early planting. While acres of barley were higher this year due to rallying feed prices during harvest, there is some disappointment over yields in areas of ND, particularly into the middle to eastern reaches of the state. Additionally, quality is a concern for many with harvest weather at time wet.

For this reason, we expect a tremendous amount of feed grade barley that will struggle to compete with a tremendous corn crop. On the other hand, producers holding malt grade or borderline malt grade are advised to hold on, as premiums should rise sharply in the coming months."
For those who don't know, "Feed Grade" barley isn't what we're looking for as beer enthusiasts, where "Malt Grade" is king. Good news for malt-grade growers, not-so-good news for consumers.

This is out of Finland
"Sharp increases are expected in the price of food already at the beginning of next year. Domestic meat products are likely to go up by ten per cent. Dairy products, especially cheese, could go up by as much as 20 per cent, and bread could rise by about as much. In Central Europe, bread prices have risen by about ten per cent. The trend is attributed to the sharp increase in market prices of grain. In Finland, grain prices already surged in August. A tonne of Finnish malt barley is now going for EUR 110 more than at the beginning of the year, while the price of a tonne of wheat has increased by nearly EUR 90 and rye by more than EUR 60."
From Australia
Prices for wheat and barley are breaking records, fuelling concerns customers could be paying even more for staple foods. Bread, baked goods, beef, chicken, eggs, beer, and a range of other products are all exposed to grain prices. The AWB has this week increased its estimated pool return for its harvest by $30 a ton, making it $300 a ton for the first time. The coming barley harvest is in a similar situation, rising to $325 a ton for feed barley and $336 for malt barley– a jump of nearly $20 in a week, or $70 in three weeks.

This has been blamed on problems in the Ukraine, one of the bigger suppliers to Saudi Arabia, the biggest feed barley imported in the world.

“We have never seen prices like this,” said WA-based grain group CBH’s acting senior trading manager Jason Craig. “This is unknown territory.”
So, clearly something gonna have to give and I suspect we'll see global increases in price for beer, whisky, cereals and breads. There's a lot more out there, seemingly all saying the same thing. Some people are quick to point fingers at the alternative fuel push, but it appears there's a lot more to this story. Bad crops around the world, for more than one year, and this is just where we are.

Who is going to hurt most? Clearly, the smaller and younger brewers, those who haven't established contracts with hop dealers and who aren't able to procure bulk grain (for those picturesque silos we see in front of our favorite breweries). It seems that even the bigger guys will have to adjust pricing with their contracts in place - so I'll just assume now that small/new guys will need to have a higher percentage increase.

What about your favorite double IPA? Relax, I imagine you'll still find it, but you should just expect to pay a bit more.

Will this lead to a nationwide adoption of session beers? I really don't think so. For one, I don't think this will avoid a price increase, and in a 'bang for your buck' market like the US, who really wants a more expensive low ABV beer? Yeah, I suppose if you're STILL reading this, you might, but the vast majority of beer drinkers have other ideas.

Who will fair the best? Big companies, sadly. I'm not just talking about beer either. These large companies are best suited to weather a rough year, it is just the way it is.

Now, of course, I don't want to come across as shallow. If this trend continues, there could be global consequences for poorer countries. I can only hope, as you should, that this is a hiccup and not something that we'll see continue into the extended future. But know that as you're griping about the extra buck for a six pack, there are many facing much harsher realities. If anything, be more thankful you can afford the pleasure of a good beer or whiskey after work and make an effort to waste less - less beer, bread and grains.

Friday, September 21, 2007

September 30th - A Toast To Michael Jackson

As has been reported on beer sites around the world wide web, there will be an official "toast" to Michael Jackson, the Beer Hunter, on Sunday, September 30th. I've just downloaded the latest list of places who are signed up to participate in this event, and what is seen below is ONLY for the west coast (you know, the Pacific). If you're looking for more info, please make sure you check out the official site. I am taking off for three days, so I wanted to make sure I got this up a week in advance - please check out the official site, if you're a publican or brewer you can download all the material there and learn how to get involved. There simply isn't an excuse for the good brewers and publicans of the country to not be involved.

Also, if you don't see your favorite watering hole on this list, please call them or email them asking them why they're not on here. Seriously. There are some glaring omissions on this list for my region, and I hope they correct this soon.

Here's the list, as of posting time, for where you can join in the toast.

The Pike Pub
Seattle, Washington

Bier Stein Bottleshop and Pub
Eugene, Oregon

Oaks Bottom Public House
Portland, Oregon

Lompoc Brewery
Portland, Oregon

New Old Lompoc - The 5th Quadrant Brewpub
Portland, Oregon

Horse Brass
Portland, Oregon

Pike Pub and Brewery
Seattle, Washington

The Bistro
Hayward, California

Issaquah Brewhouse
Issaquah, Washington

Columbia Bar & Grill
Portland, Oregon

Rogue Ale's Public Brew House
San Francisco, California

Rogue Ales Distillery & Public House
Portland, Oregon

Rogue ales public house
Astoria, Oregon

Rogue Cafe at the Oregon Coast Aquarium
Newport, Oregon

Rogue House of Spirits
Newport, Oregon

Brewer's on the Bay
Newport, Oregon

Rogue Ales Public House
Newport, Oregon

Eugene City Brewery
Eugene, Oregon

Huntington Beach, California

Brouwer's Cafe
Seattle, Washington

The Front Door
Boise, Idaho

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Craft Beer Highlighted in Playboy

The current issue of Playboy has hit mailboxes and stores around the country, and this month they feature a pretty large piece on American craft beer, apparently written by Stephen Beaumont and Todd Alstrom. The magazine features:

Head of the Class -
This is a short list of noteworthy American Craft Brewers. I don't believe they were ranked in any particular order, just listed. In all, I can't say I have any problem at all with this list, happy to see Stealhead and Port Brewing listed, as they're among my favorites.

Some of the brewers listed include:
  • Avery - Colorado
  • Capital - Wisconsin
  • Live Oak - Texas
  • Port - California
  • Steelhead - Oregon
Beer 101 -
This is basically a brief intro to beer styles, including Malt Liquor. The most glaring mishap is when they describe IPA without ever using the word "hops" - how is that even possible? In all though, a good beginners guide for those who believe Bud is king and, that "cold" is a flavor and that Miller ushers in the high life.

Finally, there's a pretty cool piece highlighting premier beer gear, for those loaded with more money than they know what to do with.

Hopefully we can see more good stuff about the beer we love in more mainstream publications with broad appeal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Update: 2007 Hop Harvest

My, how things change quickly in the world. I just got off the phone with Larry Sidor, brewermaster at Deschutes Brewery, who just returned from his Yakima hop trip. He put a few things in perspective. First off, this is NOT a doomsday scene for beer enthusiasts. There is good news and bad news, but even the bad news isn't devastating.

First, the bad news, let's just get this out of the way.
  • High Alpha Acid hops don't look good. Larry says there's issue with mildew and pests that look to result in a lower than predicted harvest for these monster hops. He says there should be enough for the brewers needs, but that brewers may need to get creative.
  • Aroma hops are great though! Larry mentioned this more than a couple times, that the aroma hops we all love are in great shape.
  • Europe and China are not having good years. For Europe, this this is the second year in a row of bad harvest. This is a problem for Saaz lovers. There is a bright side in this news though - it only takes one good year to put the hop supply back in good order.
  • Brewer consolidation is bad news for hop procurement, as this results in less extra inventory on a global level. InBev, of course, is a major contributor in this problem. There simply is no flexibility anymore, as it used to be that small brewers would often have excess and this would become available as the year progressed. This is no longer the case.
  • There is apparently a three to four-fold price increase on hops. What does this mean? Larry thinks you, the consumer, may have to shell out an additional 25 to 50 cents per six pack of craft beer.
  • Let's make this clear: There will be a price increase in your beer. Larry can't see a way around it.
  • Good news for the bigger craft brewers, like Deschutes, is that they contract their hops out years in advance, allowing them to better 'weather the storm', so to speak.
  • Homebrewers: prepare for massive case of sticker shock this year.
So, yeah, it isn't all good this year, but it certainly isn't a doom and gloom scenario either. I can manage a slight increase on my crafted beer, and suspect you can too. And, like I already said, if China or Europe have a good year in 2008, much of this will be a thing of the past - until the next time. That's just the way it is in farmed commodities - some years are bumper crops, others are not.

Larry also mention that Deschutes brewed the 2007 Hop Trip on 9/4/07, with wet Crystal hops. They'll be bottling it this week (they made 600bbls) and will begin shipping it to distributors next week. If you're fortunate enough to live near their pub, Deschutes has two more fresh-hop beers that will be on tap soon, one using Cascades and the other made with Liberty.

I hope this sort of clears a few things up for you, as well as calms your beer-nerves a bit. Larry seemed pretty sure the good brewers of the country would find ways to make it work, and his confidence was reassuring to say the least. Thanks, Larry.

2007 Hop Harvest

While hop harvest is only half over now, there are reports of poor yields that are discouraging many beer lovers. I've looked around a bit and think I've learned things aren't as bad as some are saying. Yes, it is still early and there are certainly some farms that have suffered a tough year, as is the nature of farming.

Through all the reading I've been able to do, I'm left a little mystified. On one hand, this season's harvest appears to be decent. On the other had, there's some major concern on behalf of brewers out there. I suspect this comes down to a supply and demand issue, as it is clear our brewer population is growing faster than the hop farm acreage.

On the plus side, there's a heart warming story of a harvest in the UK.
As the harvest draws to a close and summer drifts towards autumn, Mr Redsell thinks that it has generally been a good crop. He said the pungent flowers enjoyed the mild weather which has been a feature of 2007.

The hop gardens are being quickly stripped of the thick green vines that have come to symbolise Kent as much as our oast houses or white cliffs. The wooden poles will stand in stark rows through the winter, before the young plants are strung up again in the spring and the whole process restarts.
The Prague Daily Monitor isn't so hopeful.
Czech hop growers expect a yield of 0.94-0.98 tonnes per hectare this year, down from 1.01 tonnes in 2006, Bohumil Pazler from the Czech Hop Growers Union told reporters Friday.

Hop harvest should drop to 5,100-5,300 tonnes in 2007 from 5,453 tonnes a year earlier. This year's harvest was affected by weather extremes, above all irregular rainfall, Pazler said.

The USDA's report suggests a very slight increase in American hop yields over last year's harvest:
Hops: Area Harvested, Yield, and Production by State and
United States, 2005-2006 and Forecasted August 1, 2007
: Area Harvested : Yield : Production
: 2006 : 2007 : 2006 : 2007 : 2005 : 2006 : 2007
: ----- Acres ----- ---- Pounds --- -------- 1,000 Pounds --------
ID : 2,797 3,106 1,613 1,400 5,390.9 4,510.4 4,348.4
OR : 5,036 5,177 1,757 1,720 8,054.0 8,848.5 8,904.4
WA : 21,532 22,749 2,058 2,080 39,469.6 44,312.9 47,317.9
US : 29,365 31,032
1,964 1,952 52,914.5 57,671.8 60,570.7

In all, I think a lot of the concern may be specific to Europe, but I have been wrong before. Add to these decent yield expectations by the USDA the fact that a percentage of 2006 went up in smoke, and I think we should be OK here in the US.

Supporting this thought is the letter made public by Hopsteiner late in August. In fact, Hopsteiner's 2007 Global Hop crop estimate suggest an increase in production over last year.

Then, to finish off the day, Probrewer has a thread that's a bit disheartening. This is what Ralph Olson has to say:
"The hop world is upside down. In the future we see the possibility of brewers shutting down for lack of hops."

For US hops 2007 is looking like an average crop, but not a bumper crop.

Slovenia (grower of Styrians) lost at least 1/3 and possibly as much as 1/2 of their crop to a hailstorm.

The Czech crop is down 25% this year. Estimated alphas on Czech Saaz from the 2007 crop are 2.7 2.9.

The German crop is average at best with earlier aroma hops coming in below normal (such as Hallertau Mittelfruh).

New Zealand and Australia crops this year (which arrived in the US in June and July) were normal.

England is almost out of the hop business. Their acreage of 2,400 in 2006 (down from 17,000 in 1976) represents 2 percent of the worldwide acreage.

World acreage:
1986: 215,600
1992: 236,000
2006: 123,000
Sure, not all is good, but the more I look into things the less discouraged I think we all need to be in the short term. For those looking forward a year to two, it is clear there is cause for concern.

This is a horrible, horrible video someone posted on YouTube, looking a an entire field of hops basically destroyed in Europe. Looks like the weather got the the better of them.

New Belgium Honored for Business Practices is a great resource for those who think and try to live green, more sustainable lives, a site I'm not afraid to suggest you visit. In yesterday's email I caught their Top 15 Green Business Founders, and there comfortably sitting at #6 are Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan of New Belgium Brewing. The articles has this to say about the green duo:
We're only too happy to drink to this craft brewer, whose green cred overrunneth. The first beer maker to power all of its electrical operations with wind, New Belgium also runs its trucks on biodiesel, treats its wastewater on site, and has dramatically cut its water use. The Colorado-based company -- started by husband-and-wife team Lebesch and Jordan in their basement in 1991 -- just released its first organic beer. New Belgium not only gives employees free bikes, but also promotes cycling in the broader community with its Tour de Fat festival, named after its popular Fat Tire ale.
Join me in lifting a cold one in celebration for these guys' commitment to their community, the global community.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

2007 California Brewers Festival

The 2007 California Brewers Festival, celebrating its 13th year, took place at Sacramento's picturesque Discovery Park, in a bit of a savanna-like setting of rolling green grass and mature oaks. My wife, Tracy, and I arrived at Discovery Park an hour before the gates opened, allowing us to talk with a few brewers, reps and volunteers, as well as take a few non-crazy pictures.

This years event feature more than 50 brewers, well sort of, and more than 150 beers poured from tap and bottle. I say 'sort of' because there were quite a few breweries that essentially donated a few cases of beer to be poured, brewers like: Modelo, Pacifico, Newcastle and more. As an aside, how wrong is it to pour Pacifico from bottles at a seemingly 'premier' beer fest? Sorry CBF organizers, that is just irresponsible when charging 25 bucks a head, plus one dollar a sample. Luckily, these less than premier beers were tucked away in the shadows.

In all the event was spectacular; the weather was near perfect, warm without a cloud in the sky and with a crowd that was well behaved, while still clearly having a good time. Then of course, there was the beer. With the west coast's biggest and most celebrated brewers making their way there and the smaller, harder to find brewers in between, revelers were sure to find something to satisfy their palate.

For major brands: Sam Adams was there with the Boston Lager and Oktoberfest (which, by the way, is my favorite US Oktoberfest year to year); Sierra Nevada had their Torpedo, Pale, IPA and Kolsch; Deschutes had the 19th Anniversary and Mirror Pond; Stone was there with Arrogant Bastard and Pale Ale; Lagunitas provided IPA and something else; New Belgium showed up with the Fat Tire and Skinny Dip. Heck, Avery was even in attendance, pouring several offerings from bottles, the IPA, Brown and Wit. These guys are always good to see at events like this, even if I didn't necessarily find my way to their beer, because their brands really do bring in the casual beer fan, in some way lending credibility to the event.

Of course, my heart was with the smaller guys and their wonderfully crafted beer. I can tell you right now, the hit of the event for me had to be the Sacramento Brewing Company's Peterson's Pride, an uber-hopped English IPA that was like, as Craft Beer Radio says, "Man Candy". With a massive aroma of flowers and spice, and a strength of flavor uncommon for the style, this beer just had it all. I suspect if Peter (left) were to present this to the average beer geek, we'd guess it was an American hopped beer - only because of the intensity of aroma and flavor. No, there were no grapefruit notes common in American hops, its just that powerful. SBC also did a good job on their Imperial Red; clearly, Peter Hoey is doing great things in Sacramento, which is great to see.

Runner-up for the best of show goes to Great Basin, who brought three fantastic beers: the Icky IPA, a Jalepeno Pale and the out-of-this-world-good Rauchbier. The Jalepeno beer was created with 30 pounds of fresh jalepeno, 20 pounds added to the boil and 10 pounds used to create a tea used in the fermentation. This resulted in a beer with a wonderful fresh jalepeno aroma and taste, but with no heat. Brilliant. Then there was the rauchbier, created using malts smoked by a local homebrewer with apple, mahagony and alder wood. This beer wasn't overpowering, like many smoked beers in the US, but wonderfully toasted sweet up front with a smoked malt finish that was better than you'd imagine it could be. Absolutely incredible.

There were other wonderful stops along the way.

Nick at Blue Frog (right) is always a great sight, because I absolutely adore his European inspired beers. He mentioned to me that his Maibock and Pilsner are brewed using a decoction mash, which blew me away. Folks, that is just a hell of a lot of work he's doing out of a sheer commitment to quality and tradition. The guy's a genius.

Kevin Cox (right) of of Sequoia brewing was on hand to field questions and soak in the event as well. Kevin has been, over the years, one of the most successful brewers at this event, and it is no secret why. His beers are always clean, without fault, and often with intense flavors and remarkable consistency. He was mentioning new bottled products to keep an eye out for and his hopes to continue expanding his operation. In fact, we have an extensive interview with Kevin that is currently being edited for the next episode of PBN Radio.

A new-to-me brewery was discovered as well, Brew Brothers of Reno's El Dorado casino. Now, if you're like me that last part scared you, but don't be fooled. This casino-based brewery has been around for more than a decade and the two beers they had to offer were of high quality. Greg (left), the head brewer, was there and his enthusiasm was contagious - I was embarrassed to admit I'd never been to his place, let alone heard of their existence. You see, I can be a bit slow sometimes.

There is plenty I am missing, but with time running shorter each day I figure its time to wrap up. In closing, let me just say this event was a great way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I had a great time with my friends, Mark, Joerge, Lothar, Jose, Todd, Mike, Jim and others, and was appreciative of the time spent with my lovely wife, Tracy. Clearly, life is good. Thanks everyone for helping make the day what it was, I look forward to the next beer fest in the not-to-distant future.

Great beer and wonderful people, how can you ask for more?

See more images on our Picasa page

Sunday, September 16, 2007

2007 California Brewers Festival - In Pictures

I'll work on getting more up on this soon, but for now here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Arriving a bit early, this is what it looks like before crowds. Nice, isn't it?

Stone and Lagunitas, side by side - that didn't suck.

David Mathis and two of BJ's finest barkeeps

Vincent of Two Rivers Cider Co - the guy is brilliant. He had a barrel aged still cider that was out of this world good.

More pictures at
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 13, 2007

This Saturday: California Brewers Festival

This Saturday (Sept 15th) from 1PM to 5PM, join the PBN guys as we celebrate the 13th Annual California Brewers Festival, in Sacramento's Discovery Park. This is a premier beer event for the region, with more than 65 brewers slated to pour more than 150 beers.

Tickets are still available, 25 bucks in advance or 30 at the gate, and the weather report looks AWESOME - we're talking 85 degrees and not a cloud forecasted! Folks, it doesn't get any better than that.

If you're planning on attending, let us know. Mark, Mike and I will be there with mic in hand, recording the sounds of this wonderful event that benefits local children's charities (how cool is that?).

Fore more info, check out the Cal Brewer Fest website.

Some of the brewers pouring:
  • Alaskan Brewing
  • Anchor Brewing
  • Anderson Valley Brewing Company
  • Beermans
  • Bison Brewing Company
  • Blue Frog
  • Butte Creek
  • Deschutes Brewery
  • El Toro Brewing
  • Elk Grove Brewing
  • Etna Brewing
  • Firestone Walker
  • Fox Barrel Cider Company
  • Full Sail
  • Great Sex Brewing
  • Hoppy Brewery
  • Kelley Brothers
  • Klaster Brewery
  • Lagunitas Brewing
  • Lockdown Brewing Company
  • Lost Coast Brewery
  • Mad River Brewing
  • Mendocino
  • Mountain Meadows Mead
  • Moylans
  • New Belgium Brewing
  • Rogue
  • Sacramento Brewing
  • Sequoia Brewing Company
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing
  • Valley Brewing Company

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pyramid Broken Rake

A few weeks back, Mike and I were invited to Pyramid to sample some of their seasonal beers, specifically the much discussed Imperial Hefe. This is the second time I've been out to Pyramid and the second time I've walked away impressed. You see, I don't drink a lot of Pyramid products and, at one time, I'd convinced myself they were less-than-good. My first trip there, when I sampled every beer on their menu, I realized that these guys make a solid lineup, miles ahead of what I think of the beers of Wydmer. Anyway, the Broken Rake.

This beer was once a regular seasonal, as we were told, but a few years back was taken out of the lineup, for reasons we weren't told. This year the big-wigs of Pyramid evidently have rededicated themselves to seasonal and reserve beers (the Imp Hefe is considered a reserve), a move we should all applaud. Broken Rake, I gathered, was their late Summer offering and is described on the 12oz bottle as a beer that is "full bodied with a malty sweet finish" and that pretty much sums it up. I just have nothing bad to say about this beer. Starts sweet, with a slight burnt sugar note, is nicely balanced with a mild hop bittering and with a sweet finish that lingers into the aftertaste. It seems to be a shade lighter in color than the Fat Tire, not that I have them side by side at this time, but the flavor and finish seems designed for those who like New Belgium's flagship beer.

I am reminded of point seven of the post below. Often we talk about those who have complaints about Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, but rarely do we discuss Pyramid - clearly a major player in the national beer scene. I have met several of their brewers and can tell you straight that they know their stuff. Not only that, Pyramid is one of the few breweries in the country who assists their brewers further their brewing education. Their beers are highly drinkable, often without flaw, but are too often overlooked by beer enthusiasts seeking something different. I fall into this trap myself, mind you. I just don't rush out to buy a Pyramid and seldom seem happy if this is all a restaurant has on tap. I realize, when drinking a beer like the Broken Rake, that I've been wrong every time I roll my eyes at the Pyramid taps in bars saturated in Bud and Coors handles. Even on that recent trip we took, trying the Hefeweizen they make drove home the point these guys simply make good beer. Is it the best out there? No, not in my mind. However, I just can't find a complaint with beers like this one next to me.

Score: 3.2/5

Post Script
  • Keep an eye out for that Imperial Hefe I mentioned, you won't be sorry. I simply couldn't believe that beer was more than 8% ABV.
  • Also look for their Double IPA that is due out very soon. Mike, the GM in Sacramento, is too excited about this beer for it to be bad.
  • About Mike, Sacto's GM: This guy is one of the most passionate, friendly, engaging beer people I know. I met him at a good beer bar locally, he was there off shift and happened to take a seat next to mine. My passion for beer along with his made for loud and enthusiastic conversation and a good time. I've seen him several times since and am always delighted when he sits with us. Pyramid, I don't know where you found this guy, but he is a great face for your company - I hope you know that already.
  • About Sacto's location: They are nearly complete with their new brewery installation. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't have a few reservations about this - I just don't know what they're doing. However, whatever reservation I have is nothing much compared to the excitement I have with the prospects of enjoying hand crafted beers you won't find in stores.
  • Did you know: Pyramid has label approval for something like 100 beers in California? Yeah, I was blown away.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ten Things That Bug Me - 9/07 Edition

I'm in a good mood, sitting here enjoying the Niners and Carndinals open up Monday Night Football for the season. However, I have realized there are things in my life that bug me, things that are beer related, things I figured I'd share. Feel free to add your complaints, even if to say you hate when people complain online.
  1. Wheat Beer vs Hefeweizen - I'm not an authority on this, but Hefeweizens and Wheat Beers aren't the same. Hefeweizens are beers with banana and clove presence, cloudy appearance, not just unfiltered, but cloudy from the low flocculating yeast - the yeast in this come from Bavaria. Wheat Beers are generally clear, often with an American twang. Oh, and if you have a clear beer from Bavaria, its called a Crystal-weizen.
  2. Stouts are not strong, heavy beers. Too many times I've been with friends or bar-friends who tell me they don't like Guinness because it is too heavy. Too heavy? This is one of the lightest import beers you'll find on the market, and in no way strong. Yes, if you order a Russian Imperial Stout or a Foreign Stout, then this all doesn't matter. I just don't know a lot of people who know what those beers are.
  3. More alcohol doesn't make a better beer. If you're reading this, you probably agree (I have certain assumption about my audience, forgive me). Oh, big beers are almost always fun in some way, but often seem disjointed, messy, hastily put together and with one thing in mind - getting the drinker schnockered. Sadly, some of the most well regarded craft beers on the market fall into this category, but I don't like dragging anyone in the mud. Afterall, these are my gripes, not yours.
  4. More hops doesn't make a better beer. Yes, I love a good IPA. In fact, I probably love them more than I convey in our show or site. However, too often it seems that lots of hops are added to marginal beers to distract my senses from realizing just how marginal the beer is.
  5. Imperials... oh God I hate Imperials. Not the beer, but the name itself. An Imperial American IPA should embarrass anyone. [OK, this one could get rocky, as this is one of my most major gripes. You ready?]
    We all know that the Russian Imperial Stout was originally made in England for shipment to Russia, for the Imperial Court. I appreciate wanting to pay homage to styles of historical importance, but an Imperial IPA has absolutely NOTHING in common with the RIS. It just seems lazy. Oh, and I also hate the word Double in front of our American beer styles. Folks, lets face it now, the Imperial IPA is in no way related to the IPA - the one brewed in England for transport to India. I challenge you, the good brewers of this country, to begin paying some homage to your own creativity, our own ingredients and a taste that is truly all-American (and don't even get me started on the BJCP styles in this regard).
    Seriously, calling our decidedly American high hopped beers 'IPAs' is just odd. I've thought (and griped) about this for years, and even have a few examples for what the style can be called.
    - Cascade Pale Ale, not because of the Cascade hop, but because of the region our hops come from - the Cascades.
    - California Pale Ale, mainly because all we know about the American IPA began with Sierra Nevada, Anchor and New Albion - and yes, I know Bridgeport belongs up here too.
    - Pacific Pale Ale, basically intended to capture the whole west coast.
    - West Coast Pale, same logic as above
  6. Labels can be funny, or cute, but if they are they must have an equal level of detail about the beer itself. I like reading the marketing stuff, really, but am most interested in the OG, Hops and Malts used, Final Gravity, ABV, etc.
  7. Big Craft Brewers aren't inferior craft brewers. I don't want to hear you gripe to me, or anyone else, that Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams or New Belgium "aren't that good". Give me a break. You think Fat Tire, SN Pale, SA Boston Lager are 'bad beers'? Then you're a beer snob, not a beer geek. Snobs know more than anyone else, geeks are eager to learn. Don't be a snob.
  8. Support your local brewers, please. I know a handful of local beer enthusiasts that pride themselves on their procurement abilities, showing off their newest shipments from far away, or their latest scores from the beer store. Strangely though, I don't ever see them proud of our local, wonderful brewers. Of course, the people who are good at procuring are likely the same people who like the hoppiest, biggest and most powerful beers out there.
  9. Share your beer. You don't have to share it with me, but you should share your spoils with those who you think might appreciate it. No, don't go out and give your beer to the closest Bud fan in effort of conversion (the verse about pearls before swine comes to mind), but also understand that everything in life is better shared. I don't know 'what' Jesus would drink, but I'm pretty sure he'd share.
  10. Respect your brewers. This is specifically geared to the homebrewers of the world. Don't walk into a brewery and tell any brewer what is 'wrong' with their beer. It isn't your place and you don't know that much, I promise. You don't have to kiss ass or lie, but if you don't like a beer, change the subject, thank them the beer or just shut up. Now, I talk amongst my friends quite often about the beers I drink, and often discuss my own feelings about a beer with these friends. But to tell a pro brewer that they should have added more hops, more alcohol, Pilsner Malt over American 2-Row... that just ain't my place - or yours.
With that last one there is some hesitation. Afterall, I rate beers here numerically and respect many others who do as well. But I don't do this to "judge", and I don't think you'll find a lot of overt 'fault finding' in my writings. Additionally, I hope you understand that I have no delusions of grandeur, I know I'm not the authority for all things beer.

Well, that's ten things that bug me tonight. I'll have to work on balancing this post with a top ten list of things that I like about beer and beer enthusiasts.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Alaskan Brewing: Helping the Ocean One Beer at a Time

Brewers are just cool. I received this email from Alaskan Brewing Co, and love the whole idea of it - protect the ocean, have a beer (or, vice versa).
In doing their part to keep the Pacific coastline beautiful, Alaskan Brewing Company has decided to donate 1% of the proceeds from their new, surf-inspired IPA to the Coastal CODE, a non-profit initiative formed in partnership with the Ocean Foundation that supports clean, healthy oceans ( With additional support from the S.U.R.F. Club and Coastal Society at the University of Washington, Coastal CODE has already begun to make waves. From their grant to Tom Jones, an extreme sports enthusiast who is paddle surfing down the coast of California to raise awareness for a plastic-free ocean, to local beach clean-ups in the Pacific Northwest, Coastal CODE is making a difference in ocean conservation. For more information on the Coastal CODE and their current projects, please refer to the following press release or feel free to contact me at the numbers listed below.
With this in mind, I think I'll pick up an Alaskan IPA on the way home. As fate would have it, my wife, Tracy, is at the Alaskan brewery today passing off their award for our 2007 Winter Beer Festival, they took first with their Alaskan Winter Ale. Great brewery, great cause.

Their Press Release follows:

Helping the Ocean One Beer at a Time

JUNEAU, ALASKA (August 13, 2007) In 2006, poor water quality led to more than 25,000 beach closures or advisories throughout the country, 28 percent more than the previous year. Alaskan Brewing Co. wants to help reverse this alarming trend and is committing 1 percent of proceeds from its newly released Alaskan IPA to improve the health of the Pacific Ocean and coastlines in an initiative called the Coastal CODE (Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone).

This unique initiative has launched, which provides insights on ocean preservation; information on volunteer opportunities; ways to donate to the fund; and information about how to apply for Coastal CODE grants for such activities as beach cleanups, water quality improvement and ocean conservation education.

“Big problems like ocean pollution can feel overwhelming, but if each of us does something small, together we can make a big difference,” said Marcy Larson, co-founder of Alaskan Brewing Co. in Juneau, Alaska. “We’re happy to do our part through the Coastal CODE and participating in beach cleanups. We chose ocean preservation because the ocean is such an important resource to us all.”

The small craft brewery is involving others, calling on ocean-minded organizations to help create the Coastal CODE, which began by surveying more than 500 Pacific Northwesterners about the Pacific Ocean. Nearly 100 percent of respondents said they are concerned about the health of the world’s oceans and more than 50 percent think the condition of the Pacific Ocean and western coastline is poor or at-risk.

The encouraging news is that 98.4 percent said they are willing to make at least one change to help improve the ocean. The resulting CODE of conduct was written from this unmistakable pattern of survey answers. It reads:

Walk, bike or sail to reduce emissions
Advocate for our ocean and coastlines
Eat sustainable seafood
Share your knowledge

In support of the Coastal CODE, Portland artist Spencer Reynolds donated his time and talent to illustrate the CODE’s message. His artwork was printed onto surfboards made from eco-friendly material called “Biofoam.” These limited-edition surfboards will be auctioned to raise money for the Coastal CODE Fund.

“This CODE has the potential to spread awareness of our ocean’s needs to people who care about this precious resource,” said Mark J. Spalding, president of The Ocean Foundation, a nonprofit group housing and advising the Coastal CODE Fund. “It’s refreshing to see a company take responsibility for the environment. The fact that the Coastal CODE initiative is so creative, fun and engaging is very exciting. This kind of leadership can help turn the tide in ocean conservation.”

The Avery Experience

Written by Mark Zahn, Jeff Barber and Rick Sellers

This week was pretty busy for the PBN crew, with a couple of great beer tastings locally. I started my Tuesday night with Mark and Jeff over at Vino's, along with Jose and Jim (all have been on our show). We were there for Adam Avery, who was in town for a couple of days to push his lineup upon us willing to try it, and this night saw 15 of his beers being poured for our enjoyment. I didn't stay long, sadly, I had to head to BJ's for their first Brewers Dinner, but Jeff and Mark were there for the long run and did a good job summing things up.

Mark, being known in our parts as the Beer Geek, brought along his pen and paper to aid his ever-failing memory for future reference, purchases. He shared his notes with me, and I thought they were good enough to pass on, thinking they make a pretty decent Avery Buying Guide. Sorry we didn't get all the Avery names here, by the way, but we got the styles listed.

The Avery tasting at Vino's was quite interesting. Here were my impressions about the beers with a very basic 1-5 point scale:

American Brown: light and mild; easy drinking - 3
Wit: very light; refreshing, but a bit weak - 3
IPA: nice hop flavor, fruity; a bit dry but a solid American IPA - 3
American Porter: smokey flavor; a bit grainy and fizzy (not in the Old Grind class) - 2
Weizen Doppelbock: a bit Belgian Dubbel-like with some cherry notes. Very enjoyable; a solid brew - 4
Belgian Dubbel IPA: nice hops with a Belgian twist; smooth and packed with flavor; well balanced; a solid 4, but I'll give it a 5 because of Adam's adventurism in trying this - 5
Belgian Strong Golden Ale: pretty light and refreshing (is this really 9%?); a bit more malty than the Deschutes 19th; tasty - 3
Belgian Quad Dark Strong Ale: a really mellow Quadrupel; nicely balanced; I lean slightly to the Urthel Quad, but this was good - 3
Hog Heaven American Barleywine: 100% Columbus hops - spicy in aroma and flavor (peppery!); nice balance, very good - 4
Maharaja Imperial IPA: unfortunately, this bottle seemed to be off; - no score
Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest Strong Lager: basically a strong Munich Helles (not a Marzen beer); interesting beer - most people liked it, I found it a bit too fruity which overshadowed the biscuit malt - 2
Russian Imperial Stout: not an imperial stout in the Rasputin class; thin body; very nice flavors; a solid stout - 3
Grand Cru Belgian Dark Strong Ale: a very enjoyable strong Belgian ale; sweet, but balanced - 4
English Oak-Aged Barleywine: very sweet! Strong vanilla notes; a bit too sweet for me, but a good desert beer - 3
Belgian Imperial Stout: very fruity; sweet stout with cherry and plumb notes; this is definitely an imperial; another solid 4, but I'll give Adam a 5 on this one too because of his adventurism - 5

Well, that's what my taste buds discovered during the Avery tour. Very interesting - good beers, I hope he does well in Cal.

Jeff, having checked out Mark's notes as well, had a few additional thoughts.

I didn't bring my scores home, but I know I bought the Hog Heaven and the Belgina Dubbel IPA, which I thought we're excellent. I also remember I scored the IPA high, as well as the Maharaja. The Maharaja wasn't as good as I remember it. I also thought the Belgian Imperial Stout was quite good, but balked at the price (8.99 for 12oz bottle). I agree with Mark on the Imperial Oktoberfest, I thought it was way too fruity for an Oktoberfest and thought the Belgian Wit had a weird, off-finish for me. Overall a great night though, with some very unique beers.

I've heard from several people that the night kicked ass there at Vino's, and I was a bit sorry I'd left the party. However, I had a great time at BJ's and hope to get you some notes on that soon.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Day in the Valley

I had planned on taking advantage of the three-day Labor Day holiday weekend by making my quarterly trek to Bear Republic, Russian River and Moylan's, the best way 40 miles in brewing I can think of. In fact, once I heard from Chris Devlin that he'd be in Santa Rosa, my plans were all but solidified. Then something strange happened, something I'm not used to. I woke up that morning and realized that I was stuck in a rut with my brewery visits. As first I wanted to ignore this revelation, but the nagging voices in my head weren't going away, it was clear a change of plans was in order.

Upon realizing I wouldn't be doing the 101 corridor trip, I logged on to to chart my course. Bear Republic is about two hours from my home, so my rule was to find a brewery within two hours in another direction. I first looked east, thinking a trip to Tahoe might be a good escape, but realized I'd been to Fifty Fifty, Auburn Alehouse, Silver Peak and Great Basin. With this in mind I looked north, only to realize quickly I had no desire to drive north. Finally, I looked south and found my my route: start in Stockton for a visit at Valley Brewing, then on to Manteca to sample the Kelly Brothers Brewery, finally stopping in at Sacramento Brewing Company for good measure.

Valley Brewing

I love old buildings, especially old brick buildings, and Valley Brewing is found in a building that is a remnant of years forgotten, apparently built in the late 19th century (according to the server who was eager to share). The exterior of the building included a well used patio and old styled paintings dating back to who-knows-when. With high ceilings, old glass and beer memrobelia spanning the last 50 years, the inside of the brewery certainly feels like a fixture in the community. This is further evidenced by the kindred service provided to patrons, often by first name with a smile that isn't forced.

I ordered the 10 beer sampler, for six bucks, and a prime rib sandwich. The beer sampler included a guest Pomegranite Cider, made by Vince at Two Rivers in Sacramento, and a Root Beer that is apparently made on location. The rest of the sampler included: Black Cat Stout, Hitman Gold Ale, Indian Red Ale, Cobra Hood India Pale Ale, Valley Brew Pale Wheat, Port's Pale Ale, Apricot Ale, Valley Berry Wheat.

The fruit beers just didn't do it for me, sorry. I just don't understand the need to add fruit extract to a decent base beer, but seeing pint after pint of these leave the bar I understood, yet again, that not everyone agrees with me. The Berry Wheat wasn't bad, mind you, if you're so inclined. The apricot beer, well, one sip was enough. Again though, popular beers with the ladies.

The Black Cat Stout was a deceiving beer. At around 6% ABV I didn't expect much in the way of body and warmth, but there it was. I suppose this is a technical flaw, the fusel alochol, and the cherry-like flavor, but I found the beer very easy to enjoy.

Easily, the big hitter in this lineup is the Indian Red Ale, which also boasted the coolest looking logo for my taste. I've taken a liking to good red ales in the last few years, and this satisfied my beer requirements and complimented well the prime rib sandwich I ordered off the specials menu. The beer was deep golden in color, displayed a nice American hop character in the aroma and was just easy to enjoy.

Valley Brewing seems to pride their "Family" friendly focus, and it was easy to see why. While there weren't a lot of families downing beer and eating lunch, the place certainly had the friendly staff, quality food and family restaurant ambiance you'd find at Applebee's. When the food was gone and my visit complete, I was happy to have made the trip, you'll be happy as well I suspect.

From Valley Brewing I made my way to Manteca, a city I have only associated with waterslides before this day, to stop at Kelley Bros Brewing. The two breweries are maybe thirty minutes apart by freeway, making this an easy trip right up until I turned Right when I needed to turn Left, thus adding fifteen minutes in the car.

Kelley Bros is one of the more beautiful breweries I have been to in the region, high ceilings, well lit, fantastic rustic wood bar with tall mirrors and bottles of liquor stacked three deep. For all its beauty, the decor in this place seemed disjointed at best, sort of like everything was a bit out of place. I did enjoy their old memorabilia, which included some old beer stuff, as well as vintage collectables for candy, nuts and whatever. I also appreciated their collection of growlers from various breweries that lined the top of their bar, as it reminded me a bit of Big Mike's house - I wonder who has more growlers?

Overall, I think the beers at KB's were more drinkable, had richer flavor and just seemed to appeal to my tastes more than Valley Brew. Like Valley Brew, Kelley Bros offered 10 samples in their sampler platter, only this time all ten beers were brewed by Kelley's. Not surprisingly, my favorite of the extensive lineup was the IPA, with an assertive hop character that didn't overwhelm or overpower the palate.

I'd be remiss in my duties if I failed to mention the food here. I was not all that hungry, but knew I was only buying the sampler platter and didn't want to feel cheap (or something), so I ordered their potato wrapped prawns, which was recommended by the barkeep. Oh man, these kicked ass! Thin laces of potato, wrapped like thin shoelaces around prawns and fried to crispy perfection. I wasn't sure how much I'd like it, but wow.

In all, the day trip was a great idea and if you're looking for a different kind of trip through the valley, I suggest you give these guys a try. If you do, make sure you let us know what you thought.

An Evening with Marin Brewing Company: Brew Master Arne Johnson

I got this in my email today, and figured it post-worthy. Why? Because I've met Arne and think he's simply a fantastic guy, and on top of that, their beer rocks. This sounds like a great time and I hope to make it there myself. If you're in the area, you should too.
An Evening with Marin Brewing Company: Brew Master Arne Johnson

When: Thursday, October 18 at 7 p.m.
Where: Noonan’s Bar and Grill, 2233 Larkspur Landing Circle Larkspur, CA

What: Spend an evening with Marin Brew Master Arne Johnson in the luxurious surroundings of Noonan’s Bar and Grill. Enjoy a reception and chance to meet the Brew Master, a full dinner created to pair with Marin Brewing Company’s finest offerings. Join other beer lovers for an evening of tasting, talking and enjoying some of the finest brews in Northern California.

Public Info:
Tickets are $49.00 and can be purchased by calling 415.461.8677. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

2007 NFL Predictions

In case you didn't know, I am a pretty big Football fan, and for the past four years or so I have made pre-season predictions that rarely come true. It is safe to say I know more about beer than I do about the NFL. With all this in mind, I figured I'd share in my embarrassment and post my 2007 predictions.

AFC Division Champs
  • NE Patriots
  • Baltimore Ravens
  • SD Chargers
  • Indianapolis Colts
AFC Wild Cards
  • Denver Broncos
  • Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC Championship Game
  • Patriots over Chargers
NFC Division Champs
  • Chicago Bears
  • NO Saints
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • Philadelphia Eagles
NFC Wild Cards
  • GB Packers
  • SL Rams
NFC Championship Game
  • Saints over Rams
The Big Game
  • Patriots over Saints
Yeah, I know, pretty safe picks. I can't help but think that the Patriots will just run over the AFC, winning 13 games - about half of them with their balanced and aggressive offense. Moss won't lead the league in any area, but his threat will just open too many targets for Brady to miss. The Saints, too, are just too balanced not to do well in the NFC, with Drew Brees building on his stellar 2006 season. I think the biggest sleepers of the league are the Detroit Lions, SF 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals - these are the teams that could screw up a few things in my predictions. I also think Atlanta will spoil someone's playoff hopes later in the season, proving they are more than a Mike Vick team - personally, I expect Joey Harrington to have a breakout season of sorts. Biggest flops of the year include the Cowboys and Dolphins, I think their seasons will be full of frustration. Tony Romo will not last through week 10, and the Dolphins defense will finally begin to fail them.

So, there you have it. Take notes and feel free to remind me how little I know about the sport.