Sunday, August 31, 2008

Follow-up on the Jordan Family Farm Hops

Yesterday I was on hand to help finish the first-ever hop harvest on Jordan Family Farms, and I am happy I was there. The farm is truly a family operation that mostly sells mandarins, but also has various fruit trees spattered around their property. Scott is the owner and is passionate about his farm, his family and his community - people like this you can't help but hope for the best. Joining us yesterday was Brian from Auburn Alehouse, Steve from Placerville Brewing Co., Brian from River City Brewing, Mike and Mark from Pacific Brew News, members of AAH's Mug Club and a few homebrewers from the region hoping to get some fresh hops of their own to take home. It was a good day.

In all there were 13 varieties of hops pulled off the field yesterday, the most productive plants being the Cascades and Clusters. Several varieties did very poorly in their first year, some looked good but didn't offer much to pick from, but overall the brewers agreed it was a good first year for the farm. One brewer was fresh off his trip up to Yakima for Hop School and was able to offer some very interesting commentary and tips for the volunteers.

Below are a few pictures from the day. If you'd like to see the entire album from yesterday's harvest, click here.Brian Ford of Auburn Alehouse
Harvesting Cluster Hops
After harvest, drinks were in order
An appropriate image: AAH's IPA in a bed of hops.
Glass by River City, beer by AAH. River City did bring a keg up as well that was greatly appreciated, a harvest wheat beer.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Happy Labor Day America

We at Pacific Brew News hope you all have a great holiday weekend, hopefully you're able to get a three-day weekend out of Labor Day. For those who are driving and partying, remember the cops are all out in force to make a point, so be smart about the driving to drinking ratios.

For those living in the Northern California, the cops have come out and said they're increasing their patrols around Folsom Lake this weekend, as well as the major freeways (80, 5, 50). In fact, here's the statement from California AVOID's website (which I found shockingly informative).

The following is a partial list of specialized DUI enforcement:

Friday August 29:
  • DUI / Drivers License checkpoint to be held in the City of Davis at Richards and Olive Drive.
  • Lodi Police Department to conduct Saturation Patrol, from 7 pm – 3 am
  • Escalon Police Department to conduct Saturation Patrol, from 7 pm – 3 am
  • Sobriety Checkpoint to take place in Ripon, from 7 pm – 3 am
  • The CHP will place all available officers on the road to assist AVOID allied agencies in removing intoxicated drivers from County roadways.

Saturday August 30:
  • Saturation Patrols to take place in the Cities of Livingston, and Los Banos.
  • DUI Checkpoint hosted by the UC Davis Police Department
  • Multi-Agency Saturation patrol to be held from 6 pm – 2 am. Participating agencies include Lathrop Police Department, Tracy Police Department, Ripon Police Department, and Stockton Police Department.
  • The CHP will place all available officers on the road to assist AVOID allied agencies in removing intoxicated drivers from County roadways
There will also be an increased presence in Placer County and I'd expect Yolo as well.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sacramento Summerfest

In Sacramento the options for beer festivals are astounding, especially this time of year. With that in mind I'd like to throw this out there, the Sacramento Summerfest that benefits the Alzheimer’s Association’s Sacramento Memory Walk. No, this isn't just a beer festival, you'll also be able to sample wine and sample food from area restaurants, browse local art and listen to live music.

It's Sept. 6th at Sacramento's Miller Park, from 1-5PM and admission is $25 in advance, $30 the day of the event.

If you're in the area and are looking for something to do, check this out. Not only is it a good cause, you'll also find some good beer judging from the list of participating brewers I was given.
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
  • Hoppy Brewing Co.
  • Anderson Valley Brewing Co.
  • River City Brewing Co.
  • Binding Brauere USA
  • Blue Frog Grog & Grill
  • Brew It Up
  • Sudwerk
  • Elk Grove Brewing Co.
  • Czechvar Lager
For more information please check out their website,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Drunken Driving Fatalities Down in 32 States

Some more good news that seems to follow suit with a survey released a couple of weeks ago. According to the AP drunken driving fatalities are down in 32 states! California saw the most dramatic drop, followed by Texas and Arizona. North and South Carolina experienced the largest increase in the country.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mayor's Marzen

Often it seems that whenever a politician is associated in a story about beer it's of them taking a stand against the beer industry, or just saying something stupid about alcohol in general - sometimes it's nothing more than a politician getting caught with his pants down. Today's story, however, is not the case.

I first made my way to Auburn Alehouse a few months before they had opened (along with Mike and Mark of PBN, of course). On that first trip it was hard to not notice the proximity of the brewery to Auburn's city buildings, the heart of all things local in the city. We'd asked about how that was, if the city was giving Brian a hard time with permits and licenses. Well, it turns out the folks that work for the city were making a fuss over AAH, but it was mostly them stopping in to interrupt construction to find out when they could get a cold beer with lunch! Yes, it goes without saying that the city of Auburn (which includes the City of Auburn) has embraced their new brewery, not a chore when someone like Brian is on the brewdeck.

All this leads me to the point of the post. A couple weeks ago Brian had a special guest brewer to lend a hand in the making of Auburn's Octoberfest. This guest was none other than the Mayor of Auburn - Keith Nesbitt! According to Brian this wasn't just a photo opportunity for the Mayor, in fact I don't even think there was a press presence during the brew. No, it seems that Nesbitt helped with hauling ingredients and even mashing out - and apparently he enjoyed the work too!

Given that Octoberfests and Marzens are essentially the same beer (German amber lagers) Brian decided to call the beer Mayor's Marzen - “mayorzen” (unofficial at this point, I believe). I hope that the Mayor will return to pour the first pint, it seems like the right thing to do after all.

So, here's to a good collaboration between brewing and politics. Personally, this is story I'd love to see played out around the country.

Hop Harvest Pics and More

Today I was in attendance as the first crop of hops were harvested from Penryn's (California) Jordan Family Farms. I was invited by owner Scott Jordan as well as Auburn Alehouse owner/brewer Brian Ford to take pictures, lend a hand and hang out for this special occasion. It is believed that Jordan has the third largest hop farm in California, but before you get too excited know that there is only a little more than an acre of hops here.

To read my DRAFT story from the day, check it out on the official website.

To view pictures of the day, just click here.

In Pictures: Sacramento Brewing Summer Dinner

Last night was the Sacramento Brewing Company's Brewmaster's Dinner and it was outstanding. This was the third dinner we've been to and my personal favorite, the portions were spot on and the beer pairings were exceptional. I think my favorite food/beer pairing was the first dish of seared ahi tuna on a mustard sauce, paired with Independence double IPA. That said, there wasn't a stinker in the meal. Enjoy the pictures below taken from the dinner, August 26th.

Chef Rodriguez put on an awesome show for those in attendance.

Chef talking with Oasis head brewer, Peter Salmond

Dessert: Banana's Foster with Hefeweizen

Soup with fresh oyster

The crowd

Left: Peter Salmond Right: Peter Hoey

SBC Owner, George

Filet Mignon with Sac-Squatch

Seared Tuna

A happy couple, enjoying their meal

Peter Salmond caught with his mouth full

Brewmaster Peter Hoey addressing the crowd

Peter and Peter - two great brewers, great people

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Collaboration Stories

I received this from Todd Ashman, head brewer at FiftyFifty Brewing Co., a few weeks back and have wanted to provide more of a commentary with it. Realizing now that I won't have the time, I figured it was better to share it was is - it's pretty cool.
Three Craft Brewers Spread Collaboration
In the Brewing Community

For a number of years, Todd Ashman had the idea to formulate an interesting and unusual beer, share that recipe, and conduct tastings of the various interpretations. This collaboration would serve to demonstrate that just as each brewer has a distinctive brewing style, each brewery also has attributes that make it unique; the local water supply, brewing equipment and ingredient sources all contribute to the distinctive character of a beer. Todd found that special beer in Concentrated Evil: a strong, dark, Belgian-style ale that was originally brewed at Todd's home base, FiftyFifty Brewing Company in Truckee, California. Concentrated Evil is made with a variety of unusual ingredients including raisins, exotic sugars and aromatic spices. The complex array of flavors and moderately high level of alcohol make this an enjoyable beer. Todd chose fellow brewers Zac Triemert and Matt Van Wyk to participate as he has worked with both gentlemen in various capacities.

Zac Triemert, Co-President and Co-Founder of the newly established Lucky Bucket Brewing Company, holds a bachelors degree in microbiology and a masters degree in brewing & distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Zac is the winner of numerous national and international brewing awards. Zac is also a member of various committees for the Brewers Association and a member of their Board of Directors. Zac’s newest venture is opening Nebraska’s first craft distillery. Operations for The Sòlas Distillery begin next spring. When asked about this project, Zac stated: “Concocting this collaboration beer with two brewing friends continues to be a terrific amount of fun. We all plan to put our own unique spin on what is already a great beer. After these beers have sufficient time maturing in wood, the tasting events will be a kick.”

Matt Van Wyk is Head Brewer for Flossmoor Station Brewing Company in Flossmoor, Illinois (Todd Ashman's alma mater). He attended the renowned Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois in 2001. Matt was formerly a science teacher and previously worked at three other Chicago area breweries. Matt is the recipient of several regional, national, and international brewing awards. In 2006 he was awarded the Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year and Flossmoor Station was named Small Brewpub of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver, Colorado. “It is an honor to be asked to participate with these two great brewers in this collaboration project. It just shows what a great industry we work in where cooperation is often more valued than competition. Crafting a beer with Todd and Zac has been a great experience,” said Matt.

Todd Ashman began his long brewing career in 1987 as a homebrewer. After completing a craft brewers apprenticeship program, Todd brewed professionally in New Mexico, Illinois and Wisconsin. In 2004 Todd joined the Brewers Supply Group division of Rahr Malting as Staff Brewmaster. In 2007 Todd returned to brewing and his native California as Brewmaster for FiftyFifty Brewing Company. He has received numerous regional, national and international brewing awards. Many of those awards have been for beers that utilized unusual and unique ingredients and/or processes. Todd's thoughts: "I’ve been thinking about working on a Collaboration for sometime now. I really wanted to work with a couple of brewers that knew each other and I’m really glad that Matt and Zac signed on to try this out. These guys have amazing brewing talent and the end result of our Collaboration will not only be fun for our customers at our respective breweries but especially fun for folks at the 2008 GABF. The chance to try our respective beers under one roof will be great!”

Told you it was cool.

Results: Cal. Brewers Festival

The California Brewers Festival has been around for a number of years and is put on by the local Rotary club. In fact the judging for this event features many Rotary members, mingled in among beer judges (mostly members of the Gold Country Brewers Assn, a local homebrew club) and whatnot. It's a fun enough place to judge, it's laid back and the food is always good. The results are incredibly varied from year to year - last year's Best of Show was Sac-Squatch by SacBrew, a strong Scotch ale, this year is Blue Moon... slightly different.

Below are the results of the judging portion of the event. The actual beer festival will be Sept. 20th at Discovery Park, but I unfortunately won't be in attendance as I'll be at the Northern California Homebrewers Festival, having just finished a legendary Sean Paxton dinner.


Best of Show
Blue Moon, a Belgian White Ale

Juniper Ale by Rogue, entered as a Pale Ale

Third Place
Peligroso 07 by Blue Frog, entered as a Wood-Aged Ale

Amber Ales
  1. Red Horse, Sacramento Brewing Co.
  2. Red Head, Brew Brothers
  3. Sac-squatch, Sacramento Brewing Co.
Light Ales
  1. Honey Beer, Beermanns Beerwerks
  2. Big But Blond, Elk Grove Brewing Co.
  3. Pale Ale, Napa Smith
  1. Peligroso 07, Blue Frog
  2. Bourbon Barrel Stout, Beermanns Beerwerks
  3. Oud Bruin, River City
American Pale Ale
  1. Juniper Ale, Rogue Ales
  2. Tipperary, Moylans
  3. XP Pale Ale, Bear Republic
English Pale Ale
  1. Bachelor ESB, Deschutes
  2. Double Barrel Pale ale, Firestone-Walker
  3. Youngers Special Bitter, Rogue Ales
  1. Mountain High, Mt. Shasta
  2. Racer 5, Bear Republic
  3. India Pale Ale, Blue Frog
  1. Obsidian, Deschutes
  2. Steelhead Export Stout, Mad River
  3. Cream Stout, Sam Adams
  1. Black Butte Porter, Deschutes
  2. Holiday Porter, Sam Adams
  3. Mocha Porter, Rogue Ales
  1. Boston Lager, Sam Adams
  2. Doppelbock, Sam Adams
  3. Noddy Black Lager, Buck Bean
  1. Blue Moon White, Blue Moon
  2. Hefewiezen, Blue Frog
  3. Wheat Beer, Napa Smith
Brown Ale
  1. Hazelnut Brown Ale, Rogue Ales
  2. Hemp Ale, Humbolt
  3. Brown Ale, Sam Adams
Fruit Beer
  1. Apricot Wheat Ale, Pyramid Ales
  2. Cherry Wheat Ale, Sam Adams
  3. Kriek Ale (Cherry Ale), Mt Shasta
Strong Ale
  1. Imperial Red Ale, Rogue Ales
  2. Abyss, ,Deschutes
  3. Steelhead Double IPA , Mad River
Top Brewery
Sam Adams - 6 awards

Sacramento: Vote for SNR's Best Of 2008

Sorry I didn't get this up sooner, but the Sacramento News and Review's annual "best of" voting is underway now. This is a pretty big deal in the region and to get awarded from this means a bit more than some other local honors. If you've got a few minutes please cast your votes for your favorite places and people. In particular (related to this site) vote for your best place to have a beer, best brewpub and best place for a drink after work. Voting closes 8/27.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

California State Fair: The Beer Report

I've been to the California State Fair twice this year in a tradition Tracy and I have had going for eight years. We like the fair, mostly we like spending time in the livestock area and milling around the the farm stuff, but we also like the exhibits and even indulge in the fair food annually. Of course there's the beer too.

One of my first-ever beer festivals was at the California State Fair. Each year they'd award the craft brewers of the state and immediately following there would be a small, unadvertised beer event that was cheaper to enter than it was to buy a large Bud. It was good fun, but so under-achieving. Well, they're trying to fix that and this year they moved the beer fest out by the horse racing track, advertised it in one of our local papers and tried to make it a big thing. It sort of worked too.

The Brewfest was under a large tent and admission was an additional ten dollars (above the fair admission fee), which bought revelers ten three-ounce beers and an itty bitty souvenir glass. There wasn't much in the way of organization under the tent, just a bunch of tables around the outside and a few picnic tables in the middle. I wasn't a big fan of the ticket system they had for folks to get their beer, a bracelet with ten little squares that were to be ripped off by the pourers each time a beer was handed out. These little bracelets must have seemed like a good idea on paper, but in practice they were a nightmare that most stands had little patience for.

The beer at the fest, however, was top-notch. Green Flash was there with a couple taps and the rest of their lineup in bottles. Auburn Alehouse continued to impress the locals with Brian's new batch of IPA and a baleywine. Valley Brewing was even in attendance with a couple of bottled products, a sour stout and their grand cru. Obviously there were more brewers represented, but these are the few that come to mind. (Note: I'd be remiss not to mention FiftyFifty's beers - Todd Ashman's products are always a treat).

In all the event was good with a lot of room for improvement, and the improvements should begin long before the main event. Each year it seems the competition for the State Fair gets messier - the results take too long to get to the brewers and the political rift in the local beer judging scene is an embarrassment to the region. If this is to be a great event the judging and communication must improve, otherwise I'm just not sure why brewers would continue to send in their beers and pay the fees. Given that it is the State Fair I do hope the organizers figure this out sooner than later - I think this should be one of the best competitions in the country, it just isn't right now (not even the best in the region).


If you plan on making the fair in its last week, don't be too disappointed that you missed the event. This year, for the first time I remember, there are a number of better-beer options for those so inclined. Behind the California Dept of Forestry's forest fire area is the Craft Brew booth where you can buy glasses of Dogfish Head 90 Minute, Racer 5, Red Rocket, Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere, Anderson Valley and several other craft beers. The cost is a buck more than a glass (albeit a bigger glass) of Miller or Miller Lite served next door, but if you're at the Fair I assume you plan on some price gouging. There's also a nice English pub area where you can get Guinness, Boddingtons and other European imports - again, a buck more than Miller, but these seemed to have large glasses.

Other Attractions

I admit, I have been going to the fair for years primarily to see the livestock shows. Most of the judging for the livestock has wrapped up for the year, but that's always a good thing to see - especially for those who judge beer (I have a whole rant about this). In all it's a good event that my wife and I enjoy attending. Maybe next year you can plan a trip that coincides with the Brewfest.

Friday, August 22, 2008

L Wine Lounge Inaugural Brewmaster's Dinner

First, thanks to Dan Scott for pointing me to this event. Sunday (8/24) the L Wine Lounge Urban Kitchen will host its first-ever Brewmaster's Dinner, featuring Chuck Silva of Green Flash Brewing Company who will be up for the State Fair. If you're in Sacramento and have any interest, please find the details below.

Sunday, August 24th
6PM Arrival; 6:30 Seating

L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen
1801 L Street Suite 50
Sacramento, CA 95814


~ Amuse Bouche ~
'Fish Tacos'
Prawn & Pepper Salpicon Petitaco
Beer: West Coast IPA

~ First Course ~
Braised Pork Belly, Fried Evergreen Tomato,
Cheesy Potato & Pan Jus
Beer: Hop Head Red

~ Second ~
Trippel Battered Halibut, Crispy Pommes Anna,
Preserved Lemon Butter, Fennel Frisee Salad
Beer: Trippel

~ Intermezzo ~
Honeydew Sorbet, Prosciutto, Orange Zest
Beer: Le Freak

~ Third ~
Grilled Marguez Sausage, Toasted Couscous,
Leeks, Peach & Harissa Oil
Beer: Imperial IPA

~ Dessert ~
'Ice Cream Float'
Ginger Ale, Mango & Green Flash Stout Sabayon

Beer: Stout

Reservations call (916) 443-6970

Thursday, August 21, 2008

California State Fair Brewfest

Tomorrow (Friday) is the Brewfest at the California State Fair. This year's a bit different than years past in many ways, most notably that it's by the horse track and actually advertised a little, they're hoping for about 1,000 people. I just received the list of brewers who are slotted to be there tomorrow, so check it out.

Cost: $10 - all you can drink, on top of State Fair entry fee (also $10).

  • Anderson Valley Brewing
  • Auburn Alehouse
  • Bear Republic
  • Beermanns Beerworks
  • BJ's Restaurant & Brewery
  • Black Diamond Brewing
  • Blue Frog Grog & Grill
  • Brew It Up!
  • Drakes Brewing Co
  • Eel River Brewing Co
  • Fifty Fifty Brewing Co
  • Firestone Walker Brewery
  • Fox Barrel Cider Co
  • Green Flash Brewing Co
  • Hoppy Brewing Co
  • Jack Russell Brewing
  • Lost Coast Brewery
  • Marin Brewing Co
  • Mendocino Brewing Co
  • Moylans Brewing Co
  • River City Brewing Co
  • Sacramento Brewing Co/Oasis
  • Schooners Grille & Brewery
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co
  • Stone Brewing Co
  • Sudwerk P. Hubsch
  • Trumer Brauerei Berkeley
  • Valley Brewing Co.
Hope to see you there.

Drinking in a Down Economy

There's a rule made popular by Modern Drunkard that says "if you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to drink in a bar. Go to a liquor store." This is a rule I generally believe in and try to live by. But events over the past several weeks have me asking questions about this.

On my way back from New York I was in a bar wasting time. The server was an outspoken man, in his mid-twenties, and while I was there enjoying my beer and burger he started chatting. In what was a horrific moment he began to complain about customers over the past several months who weren't tipping the amount he was used to. I was mortified, this sort of conversation is so completely inappropriate I finished my one drink and food, left a not-so-generous tip and left, certain I'd just be another point of evidence that people today are cheap because of gas prices and the economy in general.

Then there's been the other bars since then, the empty ones. I think most people understand Rule 28 and don't want to be the dick that orders his or her drinks, at happy hour price, and leaves with little tip left. I was curious enough at this that I've spoken with some bar owners to get some feedback, opinions, and right about now I admit I'm a bit befuddled.

Is it cool to cheap on a tip? Hell no. But is it so bad that we stay at home to drink bottled beer bought at places with shitty service and marginal quality? I guess I'm thinking about the owners of the bars more than I am about the servers, and maybe that's where my argument goes south, but I just can't help but think it's better to drink and be "cheap" (or economical) than it is to stop patronizing your local watering hole - be it a bar, brewery or pub. Is it cool to just order drinks, cut the food (eat at home), and call it a night?

I know where you're sitting this must just seem like an absurd post, but I'm really trying to wrap my head around things. I don't claim to have the answer and don't want to be used as an excuse for being cheaper than you need to be. If you can spare the buck, leave the buck... but then it all goes to pot for me.

I'll be thinking about this topic for some time, it's just the way my brain works. If you have thoughts or different perspectives, I'd love to hear them. For now I am leaning to supporting the bar to the extent possible (reasonable), especially if it's a small place that provides good beer and good service - it's a shame every time one of these closes because people stopped coming in.

I have to close with the reality check. If you're counting pennies to make rent or pay bills, then hopefully the answer is clear - it's only beer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beer Podcasts

It seems like every month a new conversation is struck on the most popular beer forums where people are looking for the best beer podcasts. As a semi-podcaster that's been around for a few years, I feel like I can help a bit with the quest.

Your first stop (perhaps your only) would be to check out Here you'll find a collection of some of the best beer podcasts all under one feed. Who's there? To begin there is the pioneer in beer podcasting, the Good Beer Show, along with popular shows like Craft Beer Radio. Heck, there's even a great food/beer show called My Life as a Foodie. These podcasts and many more are delivered to your computer and you only need to subscribe to one feed. How cool is that?

Notable shows not on Beer Safari include Basic Brewing Radio (and Video) and The Brewing Network. Both of these shows are great, informative and entertaining - be sure to check them out as well.

Roseville (Calif.) DUI Crackdown

The city I live in is not the City of Angels, but it ain't a bad town. The streets are generally safe,drug use is about the same as any other city in America and crime isn't much of an issue - mainly idiots being idiots. That said the city of Roseville has seen an increase in the number of alcohol related accidents over the past few years, even as general traffic incidents have declined. I for one don't exactly buy into the numbers they tout, seems like any time there's a fender bender and the driver has had a drink in the past few hours it become 'alcohol related' - maybe I'm just seeing things funny though.

Regardless, Roseville has built up a pretty good case for needing to crack down on drunk driving... well, driving by those with a BAC of 0.08% or more anyway. Their grand idea? DUI Checkpoints, and lots of them. For some time now the local news outlets get press releases from the Roseville Police Dept. announcing a checkpoint coming up - so be careful. Most recently (Saturday) the RPD teamed up with law enforcement officials from FOUR other agencies (other local Police Dept. and County Sheriff's Office) to do one of these high profile stops. The results?

Cars Stopped: 2,500
DUI Arrests: 11

Forgive my ignorance for a few moments, but this seems absolutely ridiculous! I don't know exactly how many law enforcement officers were involved in this spectacle, but I suspect it was too many. Is this what we've come to expect from our law enforcement, a group of uniformed officers who set up camp and wait for the bad guys to come to them?

Oh, if you've not seen a DUI Checkpoint before, or been through one, they're pretty hard to miss and can often be seen many many blocks before you are confronted by a cop. Lights, more lights, with a bit of light added to make it safe. It's no wonder the arrest count was low.

Maybe the cops just don't know. As someone who goes to many bars around the country I've figured out that if there's heavy law enforcement in an area near the bar in question, the early-out folks are very quick to text a buddy in the bar pointing out just where a checkpoint is located. Within a few minutes, word gets to the barkeep and most patrons. It may sound bad for the dry folks, but it's just the way it works.

Don't get me wrong, I don't like drunken fools behind a wheel of a big metal moving object, but I also don't think the folks nabbed at checkpoints are the people I'm most worried about. No, instead I worry about the people who can't drive straight and have troubles remembering where that damned brake pedal is. Ironically, I've seen quite a few of these in my city with nary a cop to see it. These people may be sopped in alcohol, but they know it. They see cars stopping ahead, they get off the road... at least that road.

So, what to do? We can't encourage cops to come into bars and pull folks out who've been enjoying the juke box and beers all night - although they're trying to. We can't throw out our liberties to catch people that may or may not need to be caught (I do have issue with the 0.08 BAC limit, by the way) - what about the 1489 sober drivers this weekend? There simply isn't a cut and dry fix for the solution, but I do think we need to have a national conversation about this - along with the drinking age - and figure something out.

Quick story. I had a boss once from Norway. Apparently there the rules are rigid and the penalties swift. That said, there's also a touch of common sense. As it was told to me if you blow over the country's quite low BAC limit, but maybe just by a bit, you're allowed to sit for 30 minutes and blow again. If you're still over that limit, then you're in trouble - the thought being if you can be under 30 minutes later you weren't all that drunk to begin with. Now what if we kept the nation's .08 limit and instituted such a ruling? After all, my breathalyzer (yes, I own and use one) tells me in the instructions that I need to stop drinking 20 minutes before using to get an accurate test.

I don't want to seem to be disrespecting police, I honestly admire the work they do and am happy someone is there in those rare instances I need them. If anything I would like to see them allowed to police my city, not stand guard on a busy corner to administer a breath test for motorists that just want to get home.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

US Roads a Bit Safer

Just a quick note you might find interesting, something newsy I haven't seen too much mention of this week. Roads in the United States are safer today than they have been in a decade. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the number of traffic fatalities is down by a noticeable percentage. What about alcohol related accidents?
Fatalities in crashes that involved a driver or motorcycle rider with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent, the legal limit, declined to just under 13,000 deaths in 2007, a 3.7 percent decrease.
According to the same report overall fatalities are also down about 3.9%.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sacramento Brewing Summer Beer Dinner

Tracy and I have been to a couple of Sacramento Brewing Company's beer dinners and have been impressed each time. For one, there's just no getting around the fact that Peter Hoey makes great beer. Add to that these dinners start with the beer and you have a good thing going. Peter works with SacBrew's head chef Rodriguez and together they develop a menu that perfectly complements the theme of the dinner (summer in this case) and the beers served. It's worked well in the past and this menu looks just as good. Check it out.

When: August 26, 6:30 PM
Where: Town and Country location (Fulton and Marconi)
Cost: $60 per person


Seared Ahi Tuna
Sashimi grade ahi with a mustard curry sauce and asparagus tips
Independence Ale

Squash & Sweet Pea Soup with Fresh Oysters
Puree of yellow squash and fresh sweet peas garnished with a fresh oyster
India Pale Ale

Hearts of Artichoke Salad
Artichoke with baby spring mix, fresh mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes

Filet Mignon Marinated in Scotch Ale
Garnished with foie gras and swiss chard served aside potato ravioli
Scotch Ale

Bananas Royal
Caramelized bananas served with mango ice cream and chocolate

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Things that Annoy Me - 2nd Installment

  1. Beer Goggles. Man I hate that name and today they're in the news again (not they, I suppose, it's not a noun). Yes, to everyone's shock it has been scientifically proven that people become more attractive after a few drinks. I put this in the same category as testing how slow ketchup pours, common sense topics that are fun to discuss over a beer, but not something I really want money spent on to research.
    Anyway, my annoyance. Beer still has this frat-boy image that is often deserved. The party crowd with funnels and kegs and half-naked co-eds makes for a good image for a lot of people in the media I suppose, but it irks me to no end. Why can't we call this booze blinders or something less about beer.
  2. Statistics. In the news today it was revealed that traffic fatalities in the US were down 3.9% from last year (and at a ten-year low). Buried in the news was a bit about alcohol related traffic fatalities, turns out they were also down 3.7% compared to last year. It certainly doesn't annoy me that fatalities are down in the US, but I didn't see anything in there about talking on cell phones, texting, eating or sleeping. I think we all know that driving when we're numb is a dumb idea, that's been drilled into our brains.
  3. The "turn-key" brewery. I've written about it before, but damn if these aren't still popping (pooping) up in my area. A disgrace to the word beer and the craft of making beer, these are the systems that allow bar owners to just dump powder into a vessel and add water - in a week you can call it beer and sell it for dirt cheap. Disgusting.
  4. Brewery T-Shirts. No, not the shirts themselves, but the ones people where for breweries they've never been to. It's not even that so much, but when I ask about the brewery I get looks from these people like I'm the idiot, it's just a shirt. If you wear a shirt for a brewery you haven't been to, that's fine, but if someone asks if you've been to the brewery don't treat them like idiots for being curious and trying to strike up a conversation.
  5. Myself. The other day I found a beer video on YouTube, a how-to-homebrew series by a guy who likes his homemade beer. I was quick to judge it, pointing out to nobody in particular the flaws in the guy's thinking. It didn't take too long for it to dawn on me that I was being a dick, I'm good at that. Instead of just being happy that the guy was happy with his beer and willing to share his passion with others, I was that douche that wanted to criticize. I became, for a moment, the guy that annoys me. I've seen others do it in bars, criticize someone for ordering the wrong craft beer (no, not just macros) or for taking notes (somehow we have gotten to a point where we distrust people who appreciate a drink enough to want to keep notes). It's not a healthy thing to do and I hope I can get to a place (and stay there) where I can just appreciate others enthusiasm for beer and life in general. Who am I, after all, to tell them the thing they are enjoying isn't right enough?

Just a few things on my mind. In general, life is great and I could not complain even if I wanted to.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hometown Love

This has been an exciting year for beer lovers in the Sacramento area. Among the statewide woes that seem to settle in our region (the state's capital), a few regional brewers have made life here a bit more fun. First there was the 2007 GABF when both Sacramento and Rubicon Brewing companies took home some hardware, a feat that we're still proud of in the area. Then there was this year's World Beer Cup when Sacramento Brewing added to its medal collection with a good showing in the amber ale category (in case you don't know, that's a huge category). Next came the Raley Field Beer Festival where the newish brewpub, Auburn Alehouse, won the people's choice award over several brewers that have a greater reputation. Finally, at last weekend's Bistro IPA Festival, Auburn Alehouse followed things up with a top-three finish for it's Gold Digger IPA (a beer we at PBN have enjoyed since before AAH was even opened!).

I know sometimes it seems like I'm just pimping my hometown brewers here and on our show, but I can't be more proud of the guys in the region who are working their asses off to make damn good beer - beers that are recognized in some of the biggest competitions. To be near breweries like Rubicon, Sacramento and Auburn is an absolute joy. If ever you find your way to the region, make sure you stop and enjoy the world-class beers brewed right here. Sure, they don't have an international following quite like other NorCal brewers, but I have a feeling that could change if folks like Scott Cramlet (Rubicon), Peter Hoey (SacBrew) and Brian Ford (Auburn) keep brewing around here. Guys - thanks for all you do.

Sponsored By...

By now you're likely aware the "trinkets" bill has passed in California, the bill sponsored by A-B that will allow them to provide gifts to patrons in bars and stores that value up to $5. I still don't understand how so many beer enthusiasts didn't see the big deal in this, but we're sort of a laid-back bunch overall so maybe I shouldn't question that too much. I won't dwell on the subject, it's done. Now we just get to wait and see how it all plays out.

That said, tonight I took Tracy out for a pint of Racer 5 at our local bar, Owl Club, in Old Roseville. This area of town is home of many bars with beers on tap, I think there are five within a couple blocks. The bars aren't great, admittedly, mostly dives and new hipster joints with Owl Club standing out as the place that has both character and good beer. While enjoying the pint and the Olympics I picked up a flyer on the bar promoting a pub-crawl this weekend. It starts at 7:30PM at another iconic Roseville bar, the West House, then moves to Owl and four other bars. I didn't see that there was any purpose for the crawl and nothing appeared to entice people to join in - it just was. Then I noticed something at the bottom of the flier, the pub-crawl was sponsored by Bud Light.

Now this requires a bit more legwork on my part before I can say anything definitive, but my guess is that all bars involved in this weekend's crawl will be pouring Bud Light at a discounted price, maybe with some schwag for beer guzzlers to take home with them. I want to be completely opposed to this whole notion, but part of me thinks it's absolute genius. Think about it (remembering I don't have all the facts) - you're a rep that wants to get your beer into a number of bars. Your margins are tight and there isn't a lot you can offer for freebies. What if you could convince five or six bars in close proximity to pick up your product for no other reason than to have a weekend pub-crawl, sponsored by your company. Now bare in mind I won't be the guy that likely attends such an event, but I could see this being a good model.

In my mind I see a scenario like this: Company A works with five local bars to "sponsor" such an event. Bar one may carry your flagship beer, perhaps a light summer seasonal. Bar two could perhaps carry something different from Company A's portfolio. This continues for a night of fun by people who appreciate a cold beer, even if they don't quite understand that cold isn't a flavor.

My second scenario sees a regional brewers guild putting something like this on. Stop one features a beer from Brewer One, stop two pouring something from Brewer Two - and on and on. Hell, if it works, why not make it a monthly crawl that allows brewers to switch up the taps and sample more brews? Who knows, I'm just a dreamer.

In short, the "trinkets" result sucks, but for years now large brewers have perfected the art of attracting people within the same rules we now long for. The new ruling certainly places California brewers at a disadvantage, but I don't believe the ruling is any sort of death nail for anyone in the state - no more than the hop crisis of nearly a year ago was. Like brewing, it may just be that our local brewers get a bit more creative about their marketing - if you're a beer fan, I suggest you embrace it (I know that "marketing" seems like a dirty word for many, but in a market like this it's imperative).

Closing Note

I enjoyed a pint of fresh Racer 5 at Owl Club and am still impressed with the beer's drinkability and overall quality. Tomorrow (Thursday) night they'll be featuring Moose Drool. For $10 you can get your first pint and take home the glass and a t-shirt! If you're in the area, stop in and don't leave empty-handed.


One thing the Olympics has driven home is how great it is to have commentator who know the sport they're covering. In many cases the folks behind the mic have experience in the sport and they don't seem to feel the need to be funny and say stupid things (I'm mainly talking about USA's coverage - not prime time). In fact I think the major networks could really learn something by watching and listening to the events covered by the other channel.


Sorry, so much to say! If you're a coffee fan and ever considered roasting your own coffee at home, check out the latest episode (8/14/08) of Basic Brewing Radio. The show is all about roasting coffee at home. It's not the most in-depth coverage, but is a pretty good introduction for those thinking about home-roasting.


Thank you all for the wonderful and kind emails the past couple of weeks that I've been on the road. I miss this blog and am saddened to see it so neglected. I think I'll be home for a good number of days in a row now, hopefully I can make up for lost time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rick on CW 11 Morning Show

Last week I was privileged to make a quick trip to New York to represent DRAFT for a quick spot on CW 11's Morning Show. In case you have not seen it, the segment was posted online and I've embedded the code here for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hello Blog

It's been a whirlwind of beer, travel and people these past three weeks and I still don't have a proper baring on all things, but know that life is good. Where have I been? Well, there was a family gig in Oregon a few weeks back, a memorial service for a cousin that was actually a great farewell. Then a trip to Phoenix where work was done and memories were made - turns out there's some really great people in Phoenix. Next was a trip to the Oregon Brewers Festival in Portland, and I just know I don't have the words or time to express just how great that was. In a couple of days I'll be seated on a plane flying to New York, where I'll have a brush with as much celebrity as I'd ever hope for - a TV appearance where I get to talk about beer, one of life's greatest passions for me. I clearly don't have the space here to provide adequate information on all things beer in the places I've been, but do hope to provide Cliff Notes for the weeks past.

Southern Oregon

While the circumstances for my visit weren't good or beery, I learned that my big brother has a knack for beer - good beer - and I was happy to learn from him for a bit. Several months ago he told me about Medford's newest beer shop (bottles) called Bear Creek Beers. It's right next to the creek and across the street from Chip Wright's (iconic karate gym in the city where I actually took lessons once upon a time). The store isn't huge, but what is there is worth finding. In fact, this newish shop may just be the best beer bottle shop in Southern Oregon these days, right up there with Ashland's "Market of Choice". I picked up some Aprihop from Dogfish Head, a six-pack of Victory brews and a collection of beers from Oregon (Ninkasi, Caldera, Deschutes). If you're in the region, you'll be happy to check the place out and drop a few bucks on beers you won't find anywhere else.

In an attempt to show the little brother up, my big bro brought bottles of Deschutes' BBXX beer to a family gathering. As beers go it wasn't all that much to write about, but sitting there with family and friends in the rural parts of the state - it may have been the most perfect beer imaginable. Funny how that works, isn't it? Jason also brought with him bottles of Twilight and together the family made a night of Deschutes brews while sharing stories and catching up. For this I feel obliged to put a word of thanks out in the interwebs to the folks in Bend - seems your product and my family are somewhat inseparable when it matters most.


The trip was hot, but the people and beer made it all tolerable. I know I've written about the place before, but if you find yourself in Phoenix you'll certainly want to check out Papago Brewing (in Scottsdale). I made my obligatory trips to the bar while visiting and walked away even more impressed than ever. To begin, sitting at a bar alone isn't always a fun experience, but the staff on hand at Papago seem skilled at making the best of it all. Their jobs are made a bit easier, I suppose, by the selection of beers available for patrons, with a load of taps and hundreds of bottled products to choose from you'll be sure to find something to meet your beer needs. While there I was sure to enjoy some sour ales, a few "American" IPAs brewed in Europe and a selection of IPAs from Arizona - not a stinker in the bunch! I was also happy to make new friends at the bar, folks who loved a good beer as much as they enjoyed making new friends. Seriously, for a friendly and beer-happy experience, Papago is a good choice.


Really, what more can be said about the Rose City? The weather was perfect on the last full weekend of July. The people of the city were more than friendly, genuinely happy that their town hosted the Oregon Brewers Festival. Hell, even the cabbies were into the beer scene! On our way to Hair of the Dog for Alan's open house the cabby says (about Hair of the Dog beers), "I love that you can have one beer and take a nap", summing up perfectly the way a full bottle of one of the big beers makes you feel.

I think I've learned that OBF, for as great as it really is, is really a great excuse to see one of the best beer drinking cities in the world. Outside the event there were side parties put on by brewers, beer geeks and even strangers newly acquainted at the Fest. Popular hangouts were close to the event, Kells and McCormick & Schmick's were packed. If you didn't mind walking a few more blocks good times were also found at Higgins for great food and great beer, Dan and Louis' for fresh oysters and Black Butte Porter and pretty much anywhere where food and beer were available.

In all the past few weeks have reinforced the notion that beer people are good people, I am genuinely honored to call so many people in this industry my friend.