Saturday, May 31, 2008

So It Begins

I am driving today to Brookings, Oregon, and will be back before Monday. The trip is around 445 miles, one way, and on the way up I'll not be alone. However, the drive is only part (a small part) of the story.

My very good friend (and PBN co-host), Mike Sober, will be making a trip in the next seven days that can only be described as "epic", beginning in Brookings and finishing in San Francisco (around 400 miles) - on a bicycle. He won't be alone either, as friends and family will join Mike on this second running of this very trip. You see, Mike and a few of his friends traveled these roads on their bikes when they were much younger (25 years younger). As their hair lines (and colors) changed, so too did the very roads and cities - not to mention bikes - they'll be traveling on. I just left the Sober home and gawked over the bikes - lightweight, equipped with the latest gadgetry and oh-so-sexy. In the next week this will be the only transportation this team knows, and their excitement now is palpable (I doubt anyone will sleep a wink tonight). Being around them you almost think you too could join the fun, but for me I know that I lack the conditioning for such a fanciful exercise.

So, for my small part in this, I'll drive these men to Brookings in the early morning, hopefully having dinner at Wild River Brewing in Brookings - perhaps even finding time to stop at Mad River in Blue Lake on the way. I am proud of these guys, slightly envious of their journey and the years of stories they'll have to tell of their week-long adventure. On Saturday (June 7), when all is said and done, we'll celebrate the best way we know how - drinking beer at the world-famous Toronado. If you happen to be in town that night, stop in and buy these guys a beer - or simply shake their hand. They will have accomplished something that most of us wouldn't dream of dreaming.

The Riders
Darek Borba
James Daniels*
Butch Meyer
Mike Sober*
Zack Sober
Jim Troutman

* 25th Anniversary of this very ride.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Kelowna Beer Festival - This Weekend

I am really sorry for this getting up so late, but I only heard about it tonight. This weekend is the first annual (I believe) Kelowna Beer Fest, in Kelowna, BC (May 30 & 31). Tracy's family, the in-laws, are from Kelowna and I visit there frequently - I can attest to the high quality of the province's beers. What's great, some of the best brewers in the province seem to be signed up to attend this event. I suspect a good turnout will coax even more next year.

If you live in Washington and want something to do this weekend, take highway 97 north to Kelowna, enjoy the beer fest and take in a few of the beautiful wineries of the Okanagan Valley (they rival Napa in both quality and beauty), maybe bring back a six-pack of Tree Brewing's Hop Head IPA and a bottle of Okanagan Ice Wine. Did I mention it's at the Curling Club? Ha! You can't get much more Canadian than that - beer at the curling rink! Nice place, I've curled there and had my share of Canadian brew while doing so.

More information can be found online at

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Deschutes' Chocolate Beer Pairing Dinner

Ah, if only I lived closer to Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. I was invited to attend this weekend's dinner and had I the time and means of getting there, you can bet your ass I'd be there enjoying the following menu items.
Passed appetizer – Cocoa and Ancho Dusted Scallops on a Plantain Chip
Paired with St Abe Belgian Artisanal Ale

Plated Appetizer – Duck Enchilada with Mole Sauce
Paired with Chocolate Pale Ale

Salad – Blueberry and Micro Green Salad with White Chocolate and Lavender Vinaigrette
Paired with Black Butte XX

EntrĂ©e – Misty Isle Filet Mignon with Seville Orange and Chocolate Demi Glace
Paired with Chocolate Irish Export Extra Stout

Dessert – White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries
Paired with Double Black the Black Butte XX
If any of you make this dinner, can you take some pictures and report back to me?

If you're in the area and would like to go, the dinner is May 31 (Saturday) beginning at 6:30 PM, you can call for price and reservation information.

Comic Relief: Rogue Cans

Some things just strike me as funny when I'm not sure they were supposed to. I just received an email from Rogue, a press release announcing their Yellow Snow IPA will be sold in "cans" this year... a five-liter can! I'm sorry, before canning was cool, didn't we call these mini-kegs?

Good news is, I like Yellow Snow (the kind you get from Rogue), and can see how five-liters wouldn't be too big a chore with friends and family.

Bad news is, you have to wait till Winter to get it. Also on the bad news front, you'd need to buy a freaking huge chicken to made beer-can-chicken on this bad boy. Beer-can Ostrich anyone?

Playing Nice

To A-B's credit, all of these quotes have been removed from their site, with sincere (I do believe them) apologies.

The brewing community is a nice community, 99% asshole free is how I believe one brewer puts it. You can ask most brewers their opinions on industrial beer in America and most will have some admiration for these brewers' ability to craft such a consistent and clean product - even if it's not one they drink a lot of. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I went to Budweiser's website to check out their new commercials (as a TiVo user I skip ads). On their commercials page, next to the ad that is playing, they have a small text box that seemingly supports the ad you're watching. Here are two quotes from their website (sorry, it's a flash site and can't provide a specific URL).
Second rate brewers may age their beer with wood from old railroad ties or recycled furniture. We use only premium grade select beachwood to deliver Budweiser's unmistakably crisp clean taste.
Now, I know that this is likely written as hyperbole, a statement to some brewers overpowering wood character in their barrel aged beers. That said, I wouldn't expect most of the site's visitors (fans, I presume) to understand this. "Railroad ties", "recycled furniture"? This is shockingly uncool.
Other brewers may use only one or two steps to create their beer. We use a total of seven scientifically proven mindblowing steps to create ours.
Do you know any brewer that uses one or two steps to make their beer? I can't. It's almost as if they're claiming "other brewers" are lazy or taking shortcuts. Odd really, given that industrial brewers can achieve most (if not all) of these steps with a push of a button, whereas the craft brewers I know leave work sweaty and dirty after moving hoses, cleaning tanks and filters, or just lugging bags of grain up to the brew-deck to add to their mash. Oh, wait - that's at least four steps there alone! Heck, even my homebrewing requires more than a couple steps to make.

I don't think this is a reflection on A-B's brewers, or their team overall, but it is simply mind-blowing (not scientifically proven though) that a company of their stature would stoop so low in their online ads.

Toronado & The Chosen Beers

Tonight at San Francisco's legendary bar, the Toronado, the Schmaltz (He'Brew) crew will be pouring a lineup that is sure to impress. If you can possibly get there, this will certainly be a treat.

What's On:
  • Rejewvenator (their new doppelbock/dubble infused with fig)
  • Origin
  • RIPA
  • Messiah
  • Genesis
  • Coney Island Lager
  • Vertical tasting of all four years of Jewbelation (8, 9 and 10 in 22's, 11 on draft)
  • Jewbelation 11 aged in Rye Whyskey barrels
Haight & Filmore - San Francisco
Cash Only Bar

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Deschutes 20th Birthday Party: A Black & White Affair

If you've listened to our show or read this on a regular basis, you'll know that we love Deschutes. This Eastern Oregon craft brewery is celebrating 20 freaking years in business this year, and to show they know how to party, they're going Black & White.

The White? 20th Anniversary Wit. I tried this beer back in March, in Portland, on live TV - man, it was good and refreshing. Like a good wit should, this had essence of orange, coriander and cracked pepper. Look for this in 22-ounce bottles next month.
The Black? OK, I've been hearing about this for over a year and I really can't tell you how excited I am to see it, smell it, taste it, savor it. Black Butte XX! Chances are, if you know one beer from the guys at Deschutes, it's Black Butte Porter. It's the beer I reach for when I am with family, seriously. The XX is an Imperial version of Deschutes' flagship porter - with additions of Theo Chocolate cocoa nibs, Bellatazza coffee and some time on Stranahan's whiskey barrels! This will also be in 22-ounce bottles, but these bottles will be dipped in wax and should be a visually stunning tribute to the beer inside.

So, who among us will be planning a Black and White Affair to honor 20 years of great beer? You can bet I am.

Why Not?

I enjoy my TiVo immensely. That said, it may take a while to watch time sensitive shows, like last week's Colbert Report. I finally got to it last night, and Steven opened up with a little goofy skit about American Craft Beer Week. Did he do it justice? No, not really, it lacked his trademarked truthiness, but it was fun nonetheless - I think you'll agree. Maybe someday someone among us will help with the education of late night TV hosts.
Watch the video below.

Monday, May 26, 2008

One Year Later: Fifty Fifty Brewing

At this weekend's Raley Field Brewfest I ran into Fifty Fifty's brewmaster, Todd Ashman, once again, as he was pouring his goods at the event (the trippel simply works!). Todd was with the Barr's, the owners, and the booth seemed to be pretty stinking busy, so there wasn't a whole lot of time for chit-chat. That said, I did learn that the very day they were there pouring Fifty Fifty beers the crew was quietly celebrating their first year in business - their first year open to the public, I should say.

Fifty Fifty is a brewery in Truckee, California, and Todd brings to them a whole hell of a lot of clout - coming from a distinguished career at Flossmoor Station. If you find yourself vacationing in the Tahoe area (where I'll be in a few weeks) you owe yourself a stop in at this place, where you can expect good food and great beer.

Happy Anniversary to the Fifty Fifty team!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Raley Field Standout: Auburn Alehouse

This is just a quick shout-out to Brian Ford and the crew at Auburn Alehouse. They've been open for less than a year, but this weekend at the Raley Field Brewfest they were named "People's Choice"! To put a tiny bit of perspective on this, AAH received more votes from the festival goers than Bear Republic, Moylans, Russian River, Marin, Anchor, Sacramento Brewing and a list of very notable names from the Northern California region. Brian certainly deserves the honor, his beers always amaze and never seem to last. His Gold Digger IPA, for instance, was in very high demand at Raley Field and WCBF - I don't recall there not being a lineup at the festivals for Ford's hopped-up IPA.

Auburn Alehouse
289 Washington St.
Auburn, Calif.
(530) 885-2537

Summer Beer Price Check

This is not anything more than an observation made today when I was making a trip to Costco for some household supplies. What follows are case prices (24-packs) for the beers sold at this Northern California location, in case you have graduation party of last minute beer needs for Memorial Day.

Corona: $22.99
Mexican Variety Pack (Tecate, XX, etc.): $20.99
Pacifico: $21.99
Kona Variety Pack: $20.99
Heineken (Light and Regular): $21.99
Becks: $21.99
Spaten: $21.99
Newcastle: $21.99
Fat Tire: $22.99
Bud (and Light): $19.99
Miller Light: $19.99
Coors Light: $19.99
Sierra Nevada Pale: $21.99
Sam Adams Summer Pack: $19.99
Sierra Nevada Summerfest: $22.99

For my money, and for my friends, I'd choose the Kona mixed pack. Odd that Corona is the same price as Summerfest and Fat Tire! For a case of beer, it is also shocking that there is only a three dollar difference in Bud/Coors/Miller and Sierra Nevada's seasonal beer offering - that's 12.5 cents per bottle difference. At these prices, is it really a question if the price increases will see craft beer enthusiasts buying down for a Bud? Sure, I can see budget constraints at home limiting the amount of DFH consumed, but for 12 and a half cents, you can bet I'd choose a number of craft options listed above over their industrial product counterparts.

Friday, May 23, 2008

West Coast Beer Fest Review

By Jeff Barber
Miller Park-Sacramento

First of all, let me say I had been looking forward to this event for some time. Unlimited tasting in a beautiful setting by the river-it doesn’t get much better than that. After judging the event two weeks earlier, we knew there were some new breweries and some great returning ones that were making some excellent beers.

Unfortunately, the weather gods decided to make it 100-plus degrees that day. Added to this was an unprecedented turnout - 3,000 beer-starved fans braved the heat to seek liquid refreshment at this year's event. We arrived at about 12:40 for the 1:00 start and were faced with a huge line to get in even though we had tickets already. However, thanks to the Beer Geek’s connections, we were able to bypass most of the line and get in right away.

Once in, the tasting began. Due to the heat, we decided to start with lighter beers and save the IPAs, etc. for later. So why not start with one of our favorites? We went directly to the Blue Frog tent to get some of their outstanding Hefeweizen. A true German Hefe with definite spicy and banana notes. Very refreshing. Always a favorite of the Pacific Brew News team, this beer came in 2nd place after winning last year.

Next was the Sacramento Brewing Hefe which actually beat out the Blue Frog for gold this year. Clearly this is another example of how Peter Hoey has improved the beers at Sac Brewing since arriving there last year. This was more citrusy than the Blue Frog with some banana/clove in the aftertaste. Another excellent Hefe and deserving of the being right up there with the Blue Frog.

The next beer was the Radeberger Pils. Normally available in bottles, the opportunity to try it on draft was too good to pass up. It was very smooth with a noticeable spicy hop finish. Another very good beer.

Next up was the Placerville Brewing Wheat & Rye. I remember other unique beers from Placerville at past brewfests (whiskey barrel aged pale ale) and this was another great example. This was very drinkable with a clean finish and some noticeable spice from the rye. A great summer beer.

After Placerville came the Sequoia Brewing's Half Dome. This is combination of hefe and a pale ale resulting in an unfiltered slightly hoppy ale. This was probably more pale ale than hefe but it was good, refreshing, and the 2nd favorite of my son in law, Ray. Sequioa took the most medals at this year’s brewfest for good reason. Historically, the PBN team always enjoys their beers - this year was no different.

Next up was our visit to a new brewery, Klamath Basin Brewing. We started with their bock (a traditional bock) which was excellent and won 2nd place in the dark lager category. We also enjoyed their Cabin Fever Stout, a gold medal winner, which was brewed as foreign extra stout. Chocolate up front and not over the top with the coffee or roastiness. Very drinkable although probably even better when it wasn’t 100 degrees out. We also very much enjoyed talking with Justin, their brewer, who although he looks like he is about 18 obviously knows his beer. If you’re ever on your way through south-eastern Oregon, a stop at Justin's brewery would be well worth your time.

From Klamath Basin, we moved to River City and tried their Maibock. This was ok with some caramel malt in the aftertaste but overall was a little weak in the taste department.

Finally, we made through the crowd to see our friends at Beermann’s. With five medals this year, they showed they can still compete with the others - and I will say had one of the more unique beers at the fest, with their Ginger Wheat beer. This beer had a definite aroma of ginger and the noticeable ginger in the taste. In the heat, this beer went down very well and I actually got seconds on this one.

After wolfing down a pulled pork sandwich and some chips and trying to spend some time in the shade, we decided to move on to Lost Coast Brewing’s Saison. This was very good example of the style with the required tartness/sourness and the esthers coming from higher fermentation temps. Another excellent hot weather beer.

We then had the Sudwerks Maibock, which is known to our German friends as a very traditional maibock. It was quite good, a little on the light side, but well balanced between the sweet malt and the hops.

At this point, the heat and the crowd just started to become unbearable. There clearly were a lot of good beers left to try but I had lost my interest-not even making it to the Auburn Alehouse tent to have my favorite IPA. I had a Blue Frog Maibock on the way out which was very good and a little sweeter than the Sudwerks version but still well balanced.

My top 3 beers this time (in no particular order) were the Blue Frog Hefeweizen, Beermann’s Ginger Wheat, and the Placerville Wheat & Rye.

Obviously the organizers cannot control the heat, but clearly there is more space at the park that they could consider spreading into. This would alleviate some of the crowd as well as offer more opportunities for shade. They also could then have more entry lanes into the fest, shortening the lines. All in all, this is a great event, not as much fun as in the past because of the heat (how the hell our friend the HopHunter did a 60 mile bike ride right before coming to the fest is beyond me) but still a great place to try some really excellent beers.

Jeff Barber is an award winning homebrewer, Nationally ranked beer judge and frequent contributor to Pacific Brew News.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Beer on NPR

NPR devoted 48 minutes to beer today, specifically "The Science of Making Great Beer". The show was Milwaukee based, had guest speakers from Lakefront Brewery, Siebel Institute, Capital Brewery and Miller. Show was recorded live, included questions from audience and generally was interesting, providing beginner education as well as some more advanced science for the geeks out there.

The Guests:

Russ Klisch, president and founder of the Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, Wis.

Lyn Kruger, president and COO of the Siebel Institute of Technology

Kirby Nelson, brewmaster at the Capital Brewery in Middletown, Wis.

David Ryder, vice president of brewing, research and quality assurance at Miller Brewing Co.

Robin Shepard, interim vice chancellor for University of Wisconsin Extension; associate professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; author of Wisconsin's Best Breweries and Brewpubs

You can listen to this online by clicking here.

Rest in Peace Robert Mondavi

Robert Mondavi, a man I've met on several occasions, a pioneer in Napa Valley wine, has passed away today at his home in Yountville, California. Mondavi was instrumental in putting California wines on the global map. It may be a good time to uncork a bottle of Mondavi's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, lift a glass up and say thanks.

I can't say for certain, but I suspect he also had a small part in the world's acceptance of America's crafted beers. After all, once they realized we could make world-class wine, I'd assume some barriers were broken down for those early adopters across the pond.

In case you didn't know, I had thought I'd be more involved in the wine industry when I was younger - it was quite a passion of mine before beer. I certainly have a soft spot for Mondavi's products.

Mondavi was 94.

Read More: SacBee

Thursday, May 15, 2008

45 Reasons to Attend Raley Field Brewfest

Can I go on record to say this will be THE beer festival of the year in Sacramento? Yes, I think I will. Here are 45 reasons I believe that.

Before I get to the fun stuff, let's get business out of the way. The price for admission does not get you unlimited tastings, I've had a few folks email me about this. Your admission will get you 10 five-ounce tastings in the event, along with a glass. You can purchase more tickets for tasting for a buck inside the event. So, keep that in mind as you plan your trip out.

First and foremost, this supports our local brewers. The money made here will go toward the purchase of high-end (expensive) equipment that will make Northern California beer even better than it already is. Not only that, the Northern California Brewers Guild will make sure the money stays with the brewers, and you know we (the consumers) are the ones who will benefit most in the end.

Second, the setting. Last year I wasn't sure how it would all look on the field concourse, but it worked. It was shaded, the view of the field was great and getting in and out was a breeze.

Reasons three through 45? Well, check out the list of attending brewers. I don't mean to call out favorites, but there are a few brewers on this list that you won't find in Sacramento any other time of year: Russian River, Triple Rock, Valley, Drakes to name a few.
  • Anchor Brewing
  • Auburn Ale House
  • Bear Republic Brewing
  • Beermans
  • Bison Brewing
  • BJ's Brewing
  • Black Diamond Brewing
  • Blue Frog and Grog
  • Brew It Up
  • Brewman's Group
  • Butte Creek Brewing
  • Drakes Brewing
  • Eel River
  • Elk Grove Brewing
  • Fifty Fifty Brewing
  • Fox Barrel Cider
  • Gordon Biersch
  • Hoppy Brewing
  • Iron Springs Pub
  • Jack Russel Brewing
  • Lagunitas Brewing
  • Lodi Beer Brewing
  • Lost Coast Brewery
  • Marin Brewing
  • Mendocino Brewing
  • Moylans Brewing
  • Mt. Shasta Brewing
  • North Coast
  • Placerville Brewing
  • River City Brewing
  • Rubicon Brewing
  • Russian River Brewing
  • Sacramento Brewing
  • Santa Cruz Ale
  • Schooners
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing
  • Speakeasy Brewking
  • Sudwerks
  • Sutter Buttes Brewing
  • Third Street Ale Work
  • Triple Rock
  • Two Rivers Cider
  • Valley Brewing

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2nd Annual Raley Field Brew Fest - Reminder

I've already mentioned that the West Coast Beer Festival is days away, but also wanted to remind you that next weekend is the Raley Field Brewfest.

Here's the scoop on the event, in case you missed it the first time.

Here's the report from last year's event.

Remember, all proceeds (*all) go to support the Northern California Brewers Guild. Hope to see you there - it's going to be a great time.

When: May 24, 1:00-4:30 PM
Where: Raley Field, Sacramento Ca (just off the I-5)
Price: $25 in Advance, $30 at the Door
Buy Now!

Skinny Dipping in Old Roseville

I'm pretty proud of where I live, like most of you are, but things have been a bit rocky in my town's beer scene lately. Yes, we have Beermann's, but they're only open on Friday evenings. Yes, we have Mary's now, but they're never going to be a regular spot. BJ's? Well, they suffer the same as Mary, just not a place I am attracted to on a regular basis - not a knock on the beer, mind you. Luckily, however, things appear to be looking up in Old Town Roseville, as Bianca has things moving in the right direction at The Owl Club.

Last week she offered Racer 5 Pint Night, to welcome the new Speed Racer movie. From all reports, this was a big success! I mean, 3 bucks for a pint of Racer 5, what more can you ask for?

This week's special sees another good craft beer on tap and on special, New Belgium's Skinny Dip. Admittedly, this isn't a go-to beer for me, but as I see the forecast creeping toward triple-digits by the end of the week, you really can't ask for a better time to enjoy Skinny Dip. Here's what you can get if you hit Owl Club tomorrow:
  • $10 buys you a Skinny Dip shirt, pint glass and your first pint of beer.
  • $5 buys you a Skinny Dip pint glass and your first pint of beer.
  • Refills of Skinny Dip are only $3
If you're looking for an escape from the Sacramento heat, or are in the market for pint glasses and t-shirts, you won't be sorry to hit up Owl Club. Remember though, no shirt, no shoes, no service.

Owl Club
111 Church St
Roseville, CA 95678
(916) 782-5222

Also On Tap
  • Sacramento Brewing has their award winning Vienna Lager on tap now, Luna de Miel. This is served with a lime, to be warned, but with or without, this is a very refreshing beer you can enjoy a few pints of. Also check out their new Hefeweizen, using a yeast that I find to be more palatable, with more of that Bavarian yeast character you hope to find. Odd move I found, I really liked their Hefeweizen to begin with, but with the new yeast the beer actually beat my favorite hefeweizen in the state - Blue Frog! I'm telling you, Peter won't be happy till every beer he makes brings home a medal.
  • Auburn Alehouse is about to release its newest batch of IPA, which is reformulated (to be fair, they've all be reformulated) with promises that the hops will be plentiful! Brian may be one of the bigger hop heads in the region, his IPAs only get more flavorful and fuller in aroma as he moves forward. If you're there, however, the Pilsner is simply unbeatable as an afternoon refresher. Man, I love his pils.
  • Rubicon's Purple (maibock) was on last time I was there, and it's better than I remember - and I've always been a fan. This isn't a hot weather beer, per se, but if you're there in the evening as it begins to cool off, I think you're gonna be happy to have found it.

Detecting a Theme

Have you seen the news, read stories online or just stuck your head outside lately? If so, you'll certainly know that the nation's economy isn't growing as fast as it once was. In fact, some say the economy is going in the wrong direction. With this we're seeing a lot of states finding themselves in a shortfall, fiscally. In California a few weeks back a state legislator, Jim Beall, figured a sure-fire way to help the budget would be an astronomical tax increase on beer. (Funny thing about Jim, I heard him recently on the news, he was shocked that he had such a negative response - apparently one constituent threatened to beat him up. I wouldn't suggest violence as a protest, but it was clear he was getting the word.)

Today there's a new guy making the news with his supposed tax fix. Gov. Mike Easely, of North Carolina, wants to raise funds for teacher pay increases and a boost to the state's mental health program. To do this he is proposing an increase on the state's "sin taxes" for cigarettes and alcohol. The cigarette tax revenue would go toward the teachers funds and the alcohol revenue to the mental health program. Here's his breakdown:
  • 4 Cents more per bottle of beer
  • 3 Cents more per bottle of wine
  • 4 Cents more per bottle of liquor
  • 20 Cents more per pack of cigarettes
One thing jumps out, a penny less for a bottle of wine compared to a bottle of beer. Beer is mostly sold in 12-ounce bottles, whereas wine is sold mostly in 750ml. Wine typically has a much higher ABV than beer, too. There is no way you can convince me this is a proportionate burden, in fact I'd suggest that the beer drinker is having it stuck to him pretty good on this.

The other thing that jumps out is the whole notion that only those who enjoy alcohol or tobacco are being asked to help with the state's teachers and mental health system. I guess I'll never really get this, punishing adults who legally enjoy a drink or smoke, making them shoulder the load as a quick fix for a state's budget. If there are programs that will benefit the entire state, why not suggest we all pay for them? I mean, I know why not, but really, how does this even make sense to anyone? You want your kids' teachers to have a pay raise, pay for it. You want the state's mental health division to be better? Pay for that too. It isn't as though teachers are making less because there are smokers in the state, and the mental heath workers aren't understaffed because the people of North Carolina enjoy a drink or two.

I assume we'll see a lot more of this in the coming year. Even this morning's Brew Blog (by Miller) warns of a national excise tax war that will be waged in 2009, something that came out of the National Wholesalers convention in DC. I've stated before that my concerns are two-fold. First, I worry that we'll say nothing, assuming the taxes won't increase, or that their increase is simply inevitable. Second, I worry that legislators will propose astronomical tax increases in hopes that there will be a 'compromise', where we'll give up more than we ought to because it just sounds better than the original idea.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Brew Dog vs. Portman Group

Clearly I am not intimately familiar with the issues here, but I have run across some of Brew Dog's beers lately and found them interesting, in that good kind of way. Apparently they're in a bit of trouble over their offensive labels, which is I guess where the Portman Group comes in. Below is the list of offenses Portman Group has listed with Brew Dog over these labels.
PIPC considered Rip Tide to be in potential breach of Code rule 3.2b for the following reason:“The product is described as a “twisted merciless stout” associating its consumption with anti-social behaviour”

PIPC considered Hop Rocker to be in potential breach of Code rule 3.2j for the following reason“Description of the product includes ‘nourishing foodstuff’ and ‘magic is still there to be extracted from this drink’ implying it could enhance mental or physical capabilities”

PIPC considered Punk IPA to be in potential breach of Code rule 3.2b for the following reason:“This product is described as an “aggressive beer” thus associating its consumption with anti-social behaviour”
Anti-social? Man, these guys are picky, seems more picky than our own label approving body. I gather that the Portman Group will also be advising retailers to not sell Brew Dog products because of these label offenses. I have each of these beers here in my house right now, not one of them appears offensive in the least. I'll need to do some homework on these guys and figure out what Portman's is up to, and why they seem to have it out for Brew Dog and their fun marketing.

According to their own website, Portman Group is:
"concerned solely with the social responsibility issues surrounding alcohol. Our role is:

- to encourage and challenge the industry to promote its products responsibly, which we do mainly through operating our Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks;
- to show leadership on best practice in the area of alcohol social responsibility through the actions of our member companies; and
- to speak on behalf of our members on these issues to inform public opinion and policy.
I don't know, these guys seem a bit fishy. I don't see how anything listed in the complaints against Brew Dog really violates these stated goals they have. Again, more research into these guys in necessary.

WCBF Attendees

I just got an email from one of the West Coast Beer Fest organizers (thanks Dwight) listing the brewers who will be pouring their beer (or their volunteers) at this weekend's event. I must say, I think this list grows longer every year - and that's a good thing. I've also asked a few PBN friends to help with coverage this weekend, so hopefully we can have another good report from Jeff and some interviews from Mark. Me? Well, I think I'll try to take pictures.

Anyway, here's the list:
  • Alaskan Brewing Co.
  • Allagash Brewing Co.
  • Anderson Valley Brewing Co.
  • Auburn Alehouse
  • Bear Republic Brewing Co.
  • Beermanns Beerwerks
  • Black Diamond Brewing Co.
  • Blue Frog Grog and Grill
  • Blue Moon
  • Brew It Up!
  • Chau Tien USA/Beer Guy of America
  • Clausthaler
  • Deschutes Brewing Co.
  • Duvel, Brouwerij Moortgat
  • Eel River Brewing Co.
  • Elk Grove Brewing Co.
  • Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
  • Fox Barrel Cider
  • Full Sail Brewing Co.
  • Gordon Biersch Brewing Co.
  • Green Flash Brewing Co.
  • Hoppy Brewing Co.
  • Klamath Basin Brewing Co.
  • Kona Brewing Co.
  • Kralovsky Pivovar Krusovice
  • Lodi Beer Co.
  • Lost Coast Brewing Co.
  • Newcastle
  • North Coast Brewing Co.
  • Placerville Brewing Co.
  • Radeberger
  • RedhookBrewing Co.
  • River City Brewing Co.
  • Rogue Ales Brewing Co.
  • Sac Brewing Co.
  • Sam Adams, Boston Brewing Co.
  • Sequoia Brewing Co.
  • Shipyard Brewing Co.
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
  • Sudwerk Brauerei
  • Trumer Brauerei
  • Widmer Brothers Brewing Co.
  • Woodchuck Cider, Green Mountain Beverage
Now, that doesn't suck, does it?

Final side note. After riding a bit in the warmer weather of the evening, I gotta say I am thoroughly enjoying Coney Island Lager, by Schmaltz Brewing Company (makers of He'Brew). Refreshing, a bright hop presence and full-bodied to boot! I think this may be my first exposure to this beer, wondering why it took so long.

Rick on Radio: Saturday

It seems I'll be a phone-in guest on Portland's KXL radio station's "Libation Station", hosted by none other than Lisa Morrison (AKA, the Beer Goddess) and Bruce Bjorkman (I'm sure he has a cool nickname too). It'll only be a short interview, 8 minutes or so, and it'll be by phone, but it should be fun - chatting with Lisa always is.

Really, the only reason to post this is here is to encourage you all to tune in and support beer radio. I can't speak for Bruce, but Lisa is as knowledgeable as they come, a well-traveled woman with a great beer sense and trustworthy palate (and you can see her in this month's BA Magazine). The show appears to be on every Saturday - you can tune in at AM 750, or online here - and seems to also have some sort of podcast format (I assume the shows are converted to mp3 and loaded online).

West Coast Beer Fest Winners Announced

While the West Coast Beer Festival isn't until Saturday, the judging is now complete and the winners have been announced. If you're in Northern California and haven't already gotten your tickets, there's still a few left online. Remember, it's Saturday May 17 at Miller Park - in Sacramento.

This is one of our local favorite events every year. Because of the location, ticket sales are limited, which means it's never too crowded. Also, it's outdoors, almost always a beautiful event with weather that cooperates and rich, rolling lawn to walk on from beer booth to beer booth. We'll have another post event wrap up for you next week.

The Winners

There were a couple of brewers that deserve some honorable mention here, those who brought home the most hardware.
  • Beermann's Beerwerks in Roseville took home 5 ribbons (two gold, two silver, one bronze).
  • Klamath Basin Brewing, of Klamath Falls Oregon, also took home five awards (two gold, one silver, two bronze).
  • Sequoia Brewing, of Fresno, was the big winner for the day, bringing home SIX awards! (two gold, one silver, three bronze).
Light Lagers
  1. River City Maibock
  2. Blue Frog Maibock
  3. Beermanns Lincoln Lager
Dark Lagers
  1. Sacramento Brewing Luna de Miel
  2. Klamath Basin Doppelbock
  3. New Belgian 1554
Amber Ale
  1. Klamath Basin Crater Lake
  2. Sacramento Brewing Red Horse
  3. New Belgian Fat Tire
Light Ales
  1. Beermanns American Hefe
  2. Beermanns Honey Blonde
  3. Klamath Basin 8 Second
American Pale
  1. Bear Republic XP Pale
  2. Rogue Summer Place
  3. Auburn Alehouse American River
English Pale
  1. Shipyard Chamberlain
  2. Shipyard Old Thumper
  3. Sequoia SOB Bitter
  1. Hoppy Brewing Hoppy Face
  2. Auburn Alehouse Gold Digger
  3. Brew it Up Captain Ron
Brown ale
  1. Sequoia American Brown
  2. Rogue Hazelnut Brown
  3. Bear Republic Pete's Brown
  1. Sequoia Black Oak
  2. Deschutes Black Butte
  3. Blue Frog Taddy Coffee
  1. Klamath Basin BC Cabin Fever
  2. Brew it Up Oatmeal Stout
  3. Blue Frog No Green Beer
  1. Sacramento Brewing Hefewiezen
  2. Blue Frog Hefeweizen
  3. Sequoia Hefeweizen
Fruit Beer
  1. Rogue Black Morimota
  2. Seadog Blueberry Wheat
  3. Seadog Apricot Wheat
Strong Ale
  1. Beermanns Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine
  2. Rogue Russian Imperial Stout
  3. Deschutes Abyss
  1. Alaskan Summer
  2. Alaskan Amber
  3. Sequoia Kolsch
Belgian Ales
  1. New Belgium Mother Ship Wit
  2. Sequoia Dubbel
  3. New Belgian Abby
  1. Woodchuck Raspberry
  2. Woodchuck Amber Apple
  3. Fox Barrel Brandy Barrel
  1. Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye
  2. Beermanns Bourbon Barrel Stout
  3. Klamath Basin BC Drink Up Johnny
  1. Radeberger Pilsner
  2. Krusovice Czech Imperial Lager
  3. Krusovice Czeck Black Lager

Elder Update

If you receive Russian River's newsletters you'll already know this, but Vinnie has brewed the first batch of Pliny the Elder on his new brewery. By my understanding, through various conversations with Vinnie in the past, this puts many people's dreams of seeing Elder in a bottle one step closer to reality. How cool is that?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ninkasi: Bottled Treat for Oregonians

While in Oregon last week I stumbled across a new-to-me beer in the bottle, Ninkasi Believer Double Red, and their Double IPA. I gotta say, I wish (oh how I wish) these beers were both available in California. Moreover, I wish I'd brought some home with me.

If you live in Oregon and haven't yet sampled these brews, check out your better beer shop and pick up a few. Their bottles have a stand-out label with varying shades of green juxtaposed against black.

I first sampled Believer at Oregon Brewers Festival, either last year or the year before, and was immediately impressed with the balance it held while putting out a massive flavor. I found the had been approved for labels a few months back, but only just saw bottles on the shelf last week. Next time in Oregon, I'll likely stock up and bring them home for friends here who'd certainly appreciate the goods.

719 Dollar Bottle of Beer

The Liquid Solutions/ Fred Fest auction is complete. Hair of the Dog Dave was clearly the most sought after beer, one bottle fetching a whopping 719 dollars! Luckily, it's all for a good cause.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Auction Prices Impress

Just checked out the Liquid Solutions vintage auction, this one for Fred Fest. Hair of the Dog Dave is currently at 200 bucks for a bottle (1994). Ironically, Westvleteren 12 (the world's top rated beer on RateBeer), this particular bottle from 1997, is right at 45 bucks. I suppose the logic is there's more Westy out there, Dave... that's another story.

If you've got the money and love collecting rare beer, this is the auction for you. Bidding closes Sunday (mother's day), starting at 3:00 PM Pacific Time.

Remember: All proceeds to benefit National Parkinson Foundation.

Friday, May 9, 2008

We've Asked For It

For years there's been a debate about what would happen if "the big guys" decided to throw their hat into the craft market. We've beat them mercilessly for introducing half-assed attempts at the market, especially when it came to "craft done light" most recently. But now it seems that A-B "might" actually be doing craft, done right. I can't help but wonder what would happen if that's true.

First off, this is in regard to their newly approved label for Budweiser American Ale (thanks Brew Blog). At first blush I didn't think much about it, but then I looked at the application for a few more details. This beer will weigh in at 5.3% ABV, which certainly departs from the 'light' brands. Next, the label boasts the use of Cascade hops - they're clearly pushing the American nature of the brew. Finally, there's only one thing I am curious to find out, will this be an all-malt beer? There's no mention of rice or corn anywhere that I've seen, but that doesn't always mean a whole lot. I will say this about adjuncts, not sure it's been said here before, I love a proper cream ale - and these beers frequently use corn. Done correctly, I don't have an issue with adjuncts. Sadly, A-B has a history of overdoing the rice use for my taste.

Again, I just wonder what would happen in the upper-class of the beer enthusiast world if A-B came out with a beer that boasted a full flavor experience? First off, would it have an impact on the craft beer market? My gut says no. Next, will we - the beer enthusiasts - give it a fair shake? Again, my gut says no, but we'll see. For my curiosities, this whole thing has a great appeal. I would personally love to see A-B come out with a product that offers the flavors and body I look for in a beer. I don't imagine this will be my beer of choice, I simply don't see them adding the late hop additions I like for flavor and taste - but wouldn't it be great to be proven wrong on this?

Now, making a good beer won't make A-B a better company (not saying they're necessarily bad). I still have issue with their marketing, distribution and stuff - but hey, they're a publicly traded company and these things happen, the folks there aren't evil, just having goals that are more financially motivated than anything else (and, by the way, these goals are appropriate for companies with investors). It would certainly be a good thing for them, in my eyes, to do craft beer justice. So, count me among the interested.

You would be right, at this point, to remind me that they'll never be a "craft" brewery, as defined by BA. I know that, but I would ask if it is possible for a non-craft brewery to create a craft beer? If not, why not?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Drinking with Satan

I've got a backlog of things to discuss, many will fall off the plate, but this had to be posted. This is a stand-up comic, Mikey Mason, singing a great beer drinking song, "Drinking with Satan". This guy's clearly been around some good beer - not surprising, he's a friend of JeffreyT at The Good Beer Show.

Drinking with Satan from Jeffrey Meyer on Vimeo.

Saying Goodbye, My Open Letter to the World

This is going to be more than a little personal, but something I hope you can indulge me on for a few minutes.

I am writing this in Oregon, stealing away a few moments from my own grieving family after losing a young man over the weekend to suicide - my young cousin, Danny. Though he was only 19, he had been struggling with depression for some time, but most of his friends, and even his family, were unaware to what extent he was suffering. Many of us knew he had been diagnosed and was being treated for depression, but we clearly had no inclination how deep this ran. In the days before his death, Dan made honor role in college for the first time in his life, had completed another great piece of art and was spending time with friends. In my last conversation with him days before his death, he was excited - genuinely excited - at the prospects of his summer jobs and perhaps a bit of travel. I've heard again and again this week the same stories of happiness from Dan's closest friends. All seemed well, and then he was gone.

This isn't an obituary, but more of an open letter. People, if you're suffering from depression, if this disease has any sort of hold on you, please don't be ashamed to tell someone. When I was younger I thought long and hard about taking my own life, it was a miracle I didn't come to think of it. It took years, but eventually I told someone about this, and shortly thereafter I found myself in counseling for the first time in my life. I won't go on to claim I'm the most mentally fit person in the world, but I feel miles away from where I was.

If you need help, don't be ashamed to ask, there are a number of affordable services available to you. If you need medication, don't be embarrassed or angry, our bodies are more complicated than we'll ever fully understand.

Finally, if you have been through this yourself, losing a loved one to suicide, know that if you did everything you possibly could, if you were with someone every day... sometimes that isn't enough. Our family has been reading up on this a lot lately, the theories surrounding suicide are varied as can be. We really don't understand. I figure it's best for us, our family that is, if we don't dig so deep to find answers - there simply may not be one. Also, the more we ask, the more we probe internally, the more we think of things we might have said or done, things we might have been able to hear differently given the final outcome. Asking, probing our minds, is natural I suppose - I am still doing that today - but ultimately I know that the "what if" game doesn't have an ending, there simply aren't any answers.

On a more practical level, if we're here on this earth for any amount of time, we know that we'll come face-to-face with death at some point, and too often that includes an untimely death. There is nothing right to say to the grieving, nothing that will comfort or make any sense. That said, the comfort comes in your being there. We've had a lot of calls and visits this week and while each carried a new wave of sorrow, each also provided a level of comfort that may seem so minute it hardly seems worth it. Trust me though, it is worth it. If you don't have the words, don't have any idea how to behave (should I hug, shake hands, stand there) do not let that stop you.

Oh, tell those you love that you love them today. Tomorrow too.

Also, on that practical level, there are two items that seem appropriate to bring to the grieving: bottled water and Kleenex.

I appreciate the kind thoughts you have. I am disabling the comments on this post, I really don't want this to be more than an open letter, a baring of my soul to my beer drinking friends. Many of you have been such a big part of my life the past several years, and I count you among my friends. Really. Thank you.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Are You a Beerdo?

Are you a beerdo (pronounced 'beer-doe')? Today's thought comes from Robbie Fulks' song, "Roots Rock Weirdos":
Well, they looked the band gear over and they noted with delight
The guitar amp was a Bassman, and the bass man played upright
Then they looked 'round at each other, and they cried, "We Are The Best!
For we like unpopular music, and just look at the way we're dressed!"
Does this not sum us up when we walk into a bar, noticing with delight, that the bar taps have [insert good beer here]? Not only that, the sentiment of "we are the best" is one too many of us who like craft beer carry, we may not say the words, but we'll certainly challenge the tastes of those around us - especially when they choose a mega-beer over a craft version we enjoy.

The song is full of references to the music weirdos, and I swear we could just replace 'roots rock' with 'beer' and it would be equally appropriate. In fact, Fulks kills me when he says the weirdos are "dressed up like it's 1951". How many caricatures have we seen about beer geeks in flannel with beards? Sure, may not be a '51 style, but we have a look to us, don't we? And it ain't the most up-to-date fashion now, is it?

I only thought of this after hearing the song again, thinking back to Lew's pondering of the proper way to address ourselves - geeks, enthusiasts... beer-dos!

Finally, if you haven't listened to this song or heard of the artist, you really ought to. He's a great song writer, his tunes very easy to listen to time and time again. I'd start with "The Very Best Of", good mix of songs.

Patrick Adds a Note

Patrick, owner and brewer at The Bruery, was kind enough to drop me a quick note in order to get you all some information. I had asked him to look things over and make sure I didn't screw anything up on the previous post - he was kind and quick to reply.
The only addition I can think of is we're focusing on Belgian-style beers. We have three year-round beers: Orchard White (witbier); Black Orchard (black witbier); Saison Rue (saison with rye & bottled with brett). There will be four seasonals, and three to four one-off / limited-releases year-round as well.
Saison with rye and bottled with brett? Witbier and a black witbier? Oh dear, he's got my attention. After reading his blog too, about Batch One, it seems this guy's got it going on. You can safely bet my next SoCal trip will include a stop in at The Bruery for a tour and tasting.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Orange County's Newest Brewery

At last year's Sam Adams Longshot judging in San Francisco I met a young and energetic couple named Patrick and Rachel. Over the course of that weekend I learned they had driven up from Orange County, I believe they were picking up brewing equipment, and he told me he was working on opening a new brewery down there. In the midst of life swirling by I had forgotten about Patrick and his lovely wife, that is until I ran across them again in San Diego for the Craft Brewers Conference. Patrick looked a bit more intense down there than when I saw him last, but though his eyes were more focused he still couldn't wipe away the grin - I assume that must be his signature look.

Good news for the people of Orange County, Patrick has beer! The Bruery had at least one beer down in San Diego I got to try, and I appear to not have any notes on it, other than it was on the trade floor. In going through my notes, however, I figured I'd check them out online and see if there was any good information about the place and the beer. Turns out Patrick has a blog and he's got several posts of the process and several great pictures of the brewery - and a bunch of barrels! According to their blog, folks down south should start seeing his beers around town, at least in local bars.
We'll be kicking off our first releases at Hollingshead Deli, currently scheduled for either Monday, April 28th or Tuesday, April 29th. In early May, we'll be going to beer bars, beer friendly restaurants, and good beer stores in Orange County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County letting people know we're around and open!
By my understanding of that quote, this is right about the time you all in Southern California should be looking to find Bruery's beer.Here's a picture I borrowed from Patrick's blog, he's the one in the green shirt. That, my beer loving friends, is a happy group of brewers. We wish these guys all the best, in a county longing for better beer options, I can't imagine how they can't be a smashing success. Cheers guys!

The Bruery
Phone: 714-996-6258

Thursday, May 1, 2008

KCRA A-List Winners

Back in March I lamented how lame last year's winners for Best Brewpub and Best Beer Bar were in the KCRA (local TV) viewer review contest. This year, I'm happy to say, things have improved. Thanks to the readers of PBN for getting the word out, as well as the vote, seems every day our region's beer-senses are improving.

Winner, Best Brewpub: Sacramento Brewing Company

I've blogged quite a bit about this place, it certainly deserved the votes. SacBrew has had a good year, winning Best of Show honors at California Brewers Festival, along with GABF and World Beer Cup medals... now this! Peter and the gang there certainly earned these honors.

Winner, Best Beer Selection: Manderes

This is a place I've been excited about since before they were open, and man I am happy to see they won this award. Brent and Dave, the owners, have put in a lot of hours and sweat into this place, and to win this award after only being open for FOUR months is a tribute to their work and overall quality.

Congratulations to both establishments. If you have travel plans that involve Sacramento, you'll definitely want to check these places out.