Monday, June 15, 2009

Site Update

Well, we've done it now... we've migrated Pacific Brew News to Wordpress. That means we're soon going to stop blogging here and put all of our content on our own site. We've migrated all the content on this blog and in a few months - after folks have gotten used to the new site - we're likely going to delete this blog. To see the updated site, which is still a work in progress, simply check out

Thanks for your patience,
- The PBN Crew

Happy 2nd Anniversary Auburn Alehouse

One of Pacific Brew News' favorite establishments is turning two in June - Auburn Alehouse. Longtime followers of PBN may remember us imbibing fine IPAs in the brewery whilst it was still under construction. We also recorded a podcast on the patio and talked extensively with owner/brewmaster Brian Ford. Now, we've been invited back by Brian to sit with him and celebrate his two amazing years in business.

Just how amazing? If you haven't yet been there, it may be hard to put into words. The place is busy night after night. Food there rocks and the beers - oh my - the beers are top-notch! In 2008, just months after opening, Auburn Alehouse won the People's Choice Award at the Raley Field Beer Fest - beating out 47 other NorCal brewers! The mayor of Auburn has brewed a batch of beer. The long-time brewmaster of the now-closed Elk Grove Brewing Company, Bill Woods, is now brewing there (and his Dead Man Red was brilliant!). In every way measurable, Auburn Alehouse has succeeded beyond anyone's expectations.

So, clearly, there's a lot to celebrate. We hope you'll join us and the AAH crew as we enjoy the second annivsary brew - Unobtainium (a big, west coast double IPA) - along with all the other festivities of the weekend. We hope to see you there.

When: June 21st
Where: Auburn Alehouse | 289 Washington St, Auburn Ca

More Info

Saturday, June 13, 2009

SacBrew's "IPA Palooza"

This is a quick update to let you know that Sacramento is going to be THE place for hop heads to be on July 22nd when Sacramento Brewing Co. hosts the first-ever IPA festival - IPA Palooza. Talking with Peter Hoey, SBC's Brewmaster, we've been assured you can expect to find beers not previously available in Sacramento. For certain all 24 guest taps will feature an IPA or Double IPA, on top of SBC's own Half Pint DIPA, Independence DIPA, Belgian IPA and house IPA! That's AT LEAST 28 high-hopped beers that will be flowing under one roof, right here in Sacramento.

As we learn more about the beers that will be available, we'll let you know.

When: July 22nd
Where: Sacramento Brewing Co.
Price: Pay per drink | Samplers also available

More info
Sacramento Brewing Co.

Friday, June 12, 2009

UPDATE: Bruery Night at SacBrew

Peter Hoey at SacBrew has confirmed The Bruery beers that will be on tap for Monday's event, along with a few more details.

First, Patrick Rue (owner/brewer) will be on hand at 6:00pm for the Meet the Brewer aspect of the show. If you want to say hello, get there around that time.

Second, the first THIRTY customers to order the complete sampler set can claim a Bruery class to take home - as shown in the image above. This is a wow glass to be certain.

Finally, the beers! Below are The Bruery beers that will be on tap on Monday.
  • Black Orchard (Belgian black wheat beer, or black wit)
  • White Zin (Cuvee Juene with our Zinbier, a Belgian blonde fermented with almost 1000 lbs of zinfandel grapes)
  • Virgin Papier (non-barrel aged version of their forthcoming anniversary ale)
  • Batch #1 Levud's (Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale)
  • Hottenroth Berliner Weisse (German-style Berliner Weisse with lactobacillus and brettanomyces to sour this very unusual, low alcohol wheat beer)
There will also be some bottles available for purchase to enjoy at SBC.

More Info
Original Post

The Bruery Comes to Sacramento

The Bruery just celebrated its first year in business, which is based in Orange County, California. In that year the brewers have been praised roundly for making stunning Belgian-inspired brews like Orchard White and Saison Rue. To bring in the brewery's second year in business they're expanding the distribution of beers to include the Sacramento area!

An official release party is scheduled for this Monday (June 15th) at Sacramento Brewing Company, on the corner of Fulton and Marconi. The Bruery's owner and brewmaster, Patrick Rue, will be on hand with some special beers. If you're in the region, you're gonna wanna join the party and try some truly amazing beers. Now, here's the details.

When: Monday, June 15th 2:00pm-10:00pm
Where: Sacramento Brewing Co. (2713 El Paseo Ln.)
Cost: Variable, depending on what you buy. No fixed menu.

More Info
Sacramento Brewing Co.
The Bruery

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Well...apparently the joke is pretty much on anyone and everyone that ever steps foot into Pete's Brass Rail and Car Wash located at 201 Hartz Avenue, Danville California. Pete's (there is no Pete) is a nice midsized neighborhood bar with 20 taps of all craft beer goodness and a full menu of typical and not so typical pub fare.
Terri and I stopped in at around noon on Sunday and found a couple seats at the bar. We pulled out our bar stools, she hung her purse on the conveniently placed hook under the bar top as I lifted my foot up to place it on the brass brass rail either.....
The two bartenders were quick to throw us the food and beer menus claiming that "Looking at the tap handles won't tell you what's pouring".
They were right....The Stone IPA handle was actually hooked up to a Stone Pale Ale keg, The Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA was dispensing Speakeasy Untouchable Pale Ale and the Deschutes Mirror Pond handle filled a glass with Mirror Mirror Barleywine.
I stuck to reading the beer menu after that. Drakes IPA, Pliny the Elder, Red Rocket, Racer 5 stood out as did Pyramid's Imperial Hefeweizen, Russian River Damnation and surprisingly Rubicon's Purple Mia Bock. There were also tap handles for Tied House, Napa Smith, Widmer, Sierra Nevada and a couple more Drakes products.
I tried the Ale Smith Pale and Terri went straight for the Racer 5. As we sipped our first beers of the day we couldn't help notice how busy the place was becoming. The bartenders were trading jabs and insults between watching the A's and Giants games whilst simultaneously concocting some killer looking over-the-top spicy Bloody Marys. I asked if the place was always that busy and the bartender gave me a blank stare and said "It's slow so far".
We eventually had to nibble something and ordered a batch of garlic fries. The best part of those fries is that they're served with a little tub of Cayenne Mayonnaise which is apparently a house specialty. Creamy with a nice kick. Excellent.
After another couple of brews I finally found a little note on the bottom of the food menu that read "There is no Brass Rail, there is no car wash and who the hell is Pete?"
By then of course it seemed to all make at least as much sense as all the patron's names that were printed from top to bottom on the wall opposite our seats.
All the names represented customers that have tried at least 500 different pints of Pete's offerings over the years....... Deschutes Red Chair IPA was the latest beer to make the list...coming in at #1342. Only 496 more pints and I get my name on that wall. I wonder if there are any jobs and affordable housing available in the Danville area.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gueneville/Santa Rosa Beer Tasting

Our PBN friend and fellow judge, Todd, was in Guerneville and Santa Rosa a few days ago and sent back this update from his fact-finding mission – if anyone will be traveling in that area, looks like there are some great beers on tap as always:

The Beer Geek

Hello PBN:

I was lucky enough to squeeze in a 2 hour tasting at Stumptown Brewery in Guerneville and lunch on the way home at Russian River. Check out

Stumptown was very unique and interesting. I met the brewer Peter and got a chance to sample a few of his beers. Here’s what they had:

1) Black Lager – Black color. Persistent tan head. Very smoky and roasty. Light body. Low hop bitterness, finishing a little wet. Interesting having such a strong aroma and flavor while still light and easy drinking.

2) Pale Ale – Made like a steam ale. Very creamy and smooth. Floral/citrus hop aroma. Won at CA State Fair in 2004.

3) Blackberry Wheat – Nice tart flavor with all the esters of a good wheat beer. Banana, spices, blackberry go well together. Refreshing beer while we sat in the sun.

4) XPort Ale – Made with a so-called “Strain 108” yeast from some Cal Poly professors. It was a Scottish Ale. Very sweet and malty. Yeast added banana and spices. Floral/citrus hops in there too. Very complex and very enjoyable.

They also had Racer 5 and a couple guest taps, but I stuck with the house brews.

At Russian River they currently had 12 beers on tap and I sampled them all:

1) Pliny the Elder
2) Blind Pig
3) Damnation
4) Salvation
5) Perdition
6) Little White Lie
7) Russian River IPA
8) Aud Blonde
9) Hop 2 It
10) Consecration
11) OVL Stout
12) Redemption

I brought home growlers of Pliny and Blind Pig. Need to get together for a pint since these are in high demand!


Monday, June 1, 2009

Chef's Table opens in Roseville

Written by Jeff Barber

There's now more hope for good beer in Roseville. The Chef's Table (, located at 6843 Lonetree Blvd in Rocklin (right on the edge of Roseville) in the strip mall where Fitness 19 is located., opened last week. While created as a wine bar with small plate type food, it is owned and operated by David Hill, the former chef who provided the appetizer menu at Vino's. This is going to be a great place. As mentioned, food is served in small plates and currently covers a range of tastes such as scallops, calamari, spring rolls, and a charcuterie plate. Plans are for the menu to change as seasonal ingredients change. Wines are served by the taste, full glass, or bottle. And he has good beer! Currently on tap are Bear Republic Racer 5, Auburn Alehouse Scarlet Harlot, Deschutes Red Chair IPA, Anderson Valley Boont Amber, and Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat. The large refrigerator, still on the way to being fully stocked, is off to a good start with Russian River Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig IPA.

When I was there last Friday, I was able to enjoy a few beers with Sean, the original owner of Vino's, a good friend of David's, and current owner of Kona Café next door. Plans are starting to be talked about again for a pub crawl (Sean allways wanted to get one going), possibly pint nights, and other events.

It's been awhile since the closure of local favorite, Vino's, created a hole in the Roseville beer scene. The Chef's Table is off to a great start towards filling that hole. It will be great to know the Owl Club isn’t our only option for a small local "pub" with good beer. If you are looking for a place to have good beer while wine enthusisasts in your group enjoy good wine, uou have to check this place out!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Rubicon Brewing's Maibock Festival 5/23

Written by Jeff Barber

I had the opportunity to join the Beer Geek last Saturday for a visit to Rubicon Brewing in Sacramento for their annual Maibock Festival. Although not as many choices were available as last fall's IPA Festival and there were some bocks and doppelbocks mixed in, there were some very good beers to enjoy. The Beer Geek, having lived in Germany for several years, is very familiar with how a true Maibock should taste so tasting these beers with him made it even more enjoyable.

5 oz tastes of each beer could be tasted for $1.25 each and there were 8 beers available to try. After organizing our plan of attack, we moved quickly on to our Maibock adventure!

First off, was the Sierra Nevada Pale Bock. Not truly a Maibock, this beer had a lingering hop taste as well as sweetness and a slight alcohol burn. Thin for a bock, it was enjoyable but not a favorite. Next we tried the Mendocino Bock. Again not a Maibock but this beer had sweetness up front with some noticeable hop presence that didn’t linger. We also noticed a slight fruitiness as well. Very tasty.

Our third beer was also our first Maibock. Schooner Maibock, out of Antioch, CA, had a peppery character to it and was a little hoppier and had a little too much alcohol taste for a classic Maibock. Decent but not great. Following this was the Sudwerks Maibock from Davis, CA. Sudwerks has a reputation of doing German beer styles very well and their Maibock was no exception. Sweetness up front, only moderately hopped to balance the sweetness, this was a very good Maibock. True to style. Following Sudwerks, we tried the Great Basin Rock Maibock from Reno, NV. This was a little on the thin side but still tasty. It had a little less sweetness than the others and was slightly bitter in the finish. A little on the dry side too. After the Great Basin we moved on to Rubicon's Purple Maibock.This was sweet up front and slightly bitter in the finish. It was very creamy and the 6.8% ABV was well hidden. A fruity note was tasted as well. This was very good.

That was it for the Maibocks but two beers remained. The next beer we tried was the Anchor Brewing Bock. Dark in color with a burnt caramel aroma and a strong caramel taste, this was an excellent beer. Very enjoyable. Our final beer was the Weihenstephaner Doppelbock from Germany. This had a great caramel malt aroma and a tangy, tart taste from the yeast. Slightly bitter in the finish, there was some great lacing that lingered on the glass as we savored this classic beer.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed this event and look forward to it again next year. Rating the Maibocks only, by top beers were Rubicon and Sudwerks. If I rated all the beers together, I'd have to go with Weihenstephaner, Anchor, Rubicon, Sudwerks, and Mendocino.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rick Rocks

OK dammit....sure I know I might be a bit inebriated ....but that's not really the point here ...The point of these words is my good buddy Rick. As a number of you already know he brewed a beer in Chico at Sierra Nevada Brewing several many weeks ago ...not just any old beer...but a brew worthy of all us beer types. (He wrote a beautiful piece on the process for Draft Magazine)
This evening at the ever-lovin Owl Club Rick's brew was offered up for the Pint Nite special under the very interesting and somewhat thought provoking name of IDEA!!
Rick (and perhaps others) will be somewhat annoyed that in a nut shell I would refer to this concoction as basically a very hopped up Porter; BUT... honestly it is much more than that... with IPA, Stout AND Porter characteristics it came on as a beer that defies categorisation.... which ultimately may be the coolest thing of all........
So ya...I'll shut up now.....or almost ....just go seek it out (I hear they have it in Virginia!) and let us know what you think ....because as you all must be expecting at this point....It doesn't suck.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Belgian Beer Tasting & Dinner at BJ's in Roseville June 2nd

Written by Jeff Barber

Don’t think there are enough special beer events in Roseville? Well on June 2nd, BJ's Brewhouse will be holding a Belgian Beer Tasting & Dinner. If this is anything like the Winter Beer Dinner, they had it will be an event worth attending. For only $30, you get a 5 course dinner paired with the following beers.

Brugse Zot (Brouwerij de Halve Maan)
Nit Wit (BJ's)
Monk's Café Flemish Sour (Brouwerij Van Steenberge)
Petrus Aged Pale (Brouwerij Bavik)
Popperings Homel (Brouwerij Van Eecke)
Gulden Draak (Brouwerij Van Steenberge)
Troubador Obscura (Brouwerij de Musketiers)

Should be a good event. Let's get out and support this effort!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

West Coast Brewfest (review #2)

Posted by the Beer Geek

Well folks, here’s my quick review of this year’s West Coast Brewfest… the bottom line: a fun brewfest with lots of great beer. Yup, it was hot again (pushing 100 - we always seem to get a hot day for this event), but Sacramento’s Miller Park has plenty of shade, so it was doable. Seemed to be a few less breweries this year and another big crowd, so some of the lines were a bit long – but the folks pouring worked as quickly as they could and did a good job.

The great thing about beer festivals is being able to roam around and try beer you might not find in your area or might find only occasionally. So roam around I did… the BOS beer for me was Red Chair IPA from Deschutes… truly a delicious beer. Seemed like a ramped up Hop Trip – great aroma, full bodied, superbly balanced – a wonderfully “soft” IPA. This beer turned a lot of people - who thought they weren’t IPA drinkers - into IPA drinkers!

North Coast had their Le Merle Saison and Old Rasputin (on nitro) – both were superb; the Rasputin was very smooth and creamy – hard to believe it’s an imperial stout with such a high ABV.

Jever made its first appearance – a crisp, dry, hoppy pilsner that IPA drinkers might enjoy when they need something light and refreshing. Nice bitterness – typical northern German pils.

I also enjoyed Sudwerk’s Maibock (dang, I missed Great Basin’s Maibock – I hope they’ll be at the Rubicon Maibock festival next weekend), and when I needed to cool down with something light, Pyramid Curveball, Kona Longboard, and Lost Coast Great White all hit the spot nicely.

As Jeff mentioned, Sac Brew had a unique Belgian Quad (aged in port barrels) which was quite interesting indeed… we’ll have to keep an eye out to see if any becomes available at the brewery anytime soon.

As always, there were styles to make everyone’s palate happy. As usual, I’d concentrate on a particular style and go from tent to tent for head-to-head comparisons. I started with wit beer, then started climbing the ladder of hops and malt until I arrived at the strong ales. Every comparison was interesting. By the end of the day, I do have to admit going back to the Red Chair IPA a few times… this brew was recommended by The Hop Hunter, Big Mike, himself, after one of his recent fact-finding missions to Oregon – great recommendation - what a beer!

Finally, I also had a chance to chat with some of the other festival-goers and was surprised to hear that people were visiting from other parts of California as well as from out-of-State. I spoke with beer lovers from as far away as Oklahoma and Minnesota – comparing notes with them was a lot of fun.

Hope to see everyone at the next brewfest!


The Beer Geek

Monday, May 18, 2009

West Coast Brewfest

Written by Jeff Barber

West Coast Brewfest – Miller Park – May 16

Last Saturday was the West Coast Brewfest at Miller Park in Sacramento and I felt like I was having some sort of déjà vu experience compared to last year. Great beer but way too hot and way too crowded to be truly enjoyable. They’ve had truly bad luck with the weather the last two years as both days have been over 100 degrees but the organizers need to do something with the layout, or limit the number of people, to make this an enjoyable event. Lines, even for some of the lesser known breweries were often 6-8 people long, or longer.

Heat and crowds aside though, on to the beer. Given the high temperature I planned to focus on some the the lighter, summer weather beers so I never tried any of the stouts, etc., that were being poured. I did taste some excellent beers however. I truly didn’t have a bad beer all day. Some were better than others but none were bad. I also was limited to about two hours as my other responsibility as a dad required me to be at home for my daughter’s 12th birthday party later in the afternoon.

My BOS for the day had to be the Whoop Ass Wit from Great Basin Brewing. Matt, the brewer at Great Basin, said they were trying for a classic wit and didn’t add any additional spices like seeds of paradise, etc. He did a great job with this wit though as you could clearly taste the spice from the coriander as well as the citrusy orange taste. He also said that the most difficult job in making this beer was zesting all the oranges they used since they went with fresh orange rather than dried orange peel, etc. It was worth it Matt. Great job!

Honorable mention went to Sam Adams for their Imperial White, a beer that had both a Belgian dubble or tripel character to it, as well as the spicy wit character. At 10.3% ABV, definitely not a session beer.

My other honorable mentions had to go to Blue Frog (Fairfield) for their Frog in the Rye which had an excellent spiciness and full body from the rye, and Deschutes (Bend, Ore) for their Red Chair IPA, which had lots of hops in the aroma and initial taste but carried enough malt to make it well balance and drinkable.

Other beers I tried were as follows:

Alaskan White-very refreshing and clean but not much spice

Lost Coast Great White-again very refreshing but not much expected spice notes

North Coast LeMerle-very tart and an excellent example of a saison. Great summer beer.

Coney Island Albino Python-a spiced white lager, this had noticeable spice but a very dry finish

Great Basin Rock MaiBock-sweet maltiness with a definite hoppy finish. Very good.

One regret was that I missed Peter Hoey from Sacramento Brewing’s Belgian Quad. It was poured during the early VIP hour and I missed it. I heard it was outstanding however. Another regret was that by all time favorite Hefeweizen, from Blue Frog, wasn;t being poured. Typically a medal winner, it didn’t win this time. I’ll have to go to BevMo to stock up.

Again this has the possibility of being a great event. With less people or a more spread out layout, and less heat, this event could be memorable.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Posted by The Hop Hunter

Just in - the 2009 West Coast Beer Fest results. The event is next Saturday, 5/16 at Miller Park in Sacramento.

1. Light Lager
1st - Blue Paddle, New Belgium
2nd - Longboard, Kona
3rd - Double Aught, Bear Republic

2. Dark Lager
1st - Oktoberfest, Sam Adams
2nd - Longshot Bock, Sam Adams
3rd - Double Bock, Sam Adams

3. Amber Ale
1st - Irish Red, Sam Adams
2nd - Red Rocket, Bear Republic
3rd - Green Lakes, Deschutes

4. Light Ale
1st - Cascade, Deschutes
2nd - Hefeweizen, Widmer
3rd - Curveball, Pyramid

5. American Pale Ale
1st - California Pale, Firestone Walker
2nd - Mighty Arrow, New Belgium
3rd - XP Pale, Bear Republic

6. English Pale Ale
1st - Double Barrel, Firestone Walker
2nd - Best Bitter, River City
3rd - English Pale, Sam Adams

7. India Pale Ale
1st - Racer X, Bear Republic
2nd - Racer 5, Bear Republic
3rd - Union Jack, Firestone Walker

8. Brown Ale
1st - Downtown Brown, Lost Coast
2nd - Brown Ale, Sam Adams
3rd - Peters Tribute Brown, Bear Republic

9. Porter
1st - Smoked Porter, Alaskan
2nd - Pugsley’s Imperial, Shipyard
3rd - Black Butte, Deschutes

10. Stout
1st - Obsidian, Deschutes
2nd - Double Chocolate, Wells & Young
3rd - Big Bear, Bear Republic

11. Wheat
1st - White, Allagash
2nd - Mothership Wit, New Belgium
3rd - White, Alaskan

12. Fruit Beer
1st - Raspberry Brown, Lost Coast
2nd - Orange Blossom, Buck Bean
3rd - Cranberry Wit, Sam Adams

13. Strong Ale
1st - Abyss, Deschutes
2nd - Barley Wine, Alaskan
3rd - Scotch Ale, Sam Adams

14. Mixed
1st - Summer Ale, Alaskan
2nd - Boston Ale, Sam Adams
3rd - Alaskan Amber, Alaskan

15. Belgian Ales
1st - Dissident, Deschutes
2nd - Abby, New Belgium
3rd - Tripel, New Belgium

16. Cider
1st - Pear Cider, Fox Barrel
2nd - Mulled, Fox Barrel
3rd - Gravenstein, Two Rivers

17. Other
1st - Albino Python, Shmaltz
2nd - Green Citrus, Sam Adams
3rd - Backyard Batch, Sam Adams

18. Imports
1st - Wee Heavy, Belhaven
2nd - Barbar, Lefebvre
3rd - Mahleur 12, De Landtsheer

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sad Day

The rumors in my part of the world have been swirling for some time. Weeks ago I heard they stopped brewing. Then I was told by the brewer to come by to make sure I tried a special beer. A few days back I was there and saw a line of empty fermentation tanks and a brewery that looked more like a stage that had gone dark. Tonight the inevitable news came that my local brewery, Beermann's Beerwerks, was closing at the end of the week.

I must admit the news hit me pretty hard, not because it's surprising or unwarranted, but because this is the place I cut my teeth on with craft beer. It was at Beermann's where I met some of my closest friends. People at Beermann's taught me to homebrew, introduced me to the BJCP and in general opened the doors of the beer world to me. In a life where I now work full time around craft beer, you can say I owe a lot to this local brewery.

Add to that some of my favorite folks spent time working at Beermann's, people like my BJCP teacher and friend David Teckam, owner and brewer at Auburn Alehouse Brian Ford and two of the coolest cats I know - Andy Armstrong and Tim Spinelli. The place oozed with character, some good and some questionable. The beers were always good, albeit inconsistent. The people were always fun and you couldn't help but love seeing birthday boys and girls drinking a yard of beer on Besty, the brewery cow. There were nights of debauchery, evidenced by the panties still hanging on the antlers of the stuff dear head on the wall (as well as scandelous photos pasted on the wall). I also spent several nights that turned into early mornings with the brew crew, playing dice and drinking a month's supply in one sitting. God, those were great times.

The place was bigger than the building, too. When I worked for a major computer manufacturer they came by several times a year to pour beers for us cubical workers. They were at fund raisers, fairs and just about anywhere the community gathered - this was OUR brewery in Roseville. Man, just thinking about the gaping holes here makes me need another sip.

I don't know. The whole thing stinks! Andy and Tim are both stand-up individuals, passionate and personable. I sincerely hope they find work at another brewery sooner than later - closer than further. They've done the dirty work for years, have proven to be capable - they belong in the beer industry.

On a bigger scale, the local brewing scene seems even worse. The BJ's Brewery in Roseville has, for lack of a better word, shipped out the brewery operations to Reno and beyond. Citrus Height's Oasis closed. Roseville's Greenhouse organic brewery closed. Now we lose the one brewery that seemed most appropriate for Roseville, Beermann's. Hopefully the closures stop here and I'm happy we still have Mary's Pizza Shack and apparently Basic in the coming weeks.

To the folks at Beermann's - thank you! From all of us here at Pacific Brew News, thank you! You've been so kind to us all these years, kept us in good supply whenever we needed and always made us feel at home. Your loss is our loss, and when you close your doors on Friday there will be a whole mess of people that will miss everything you represent, everything you gave to us over the past decade. We wish you the best.

Some Stuff:

Brewery Tour | Beermann's Beerwerks from Rick on Vimeo.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mirror Mirror at Pint Night at the Owl Club

Written by Jeff Barber

How good is Mirror Mirror, a barley wine from the Reserve Series at Deschutes Brewing? Judging by the comments, as well as my own opinion, I heard at the Owl Club on Thursday night, it’s outstanding.

Given a chance to taste Mirror Mirror from the only keg in Northern California prior to the official release date of April 27, beer lovers were out in force for the Owl Club’s pint night. Last bottled in 2006, Mirror Mirror, aged for 10 months in oak barrels, is really a 1st class barley wine. The aroma is defintely malt forward although there are some citrusy notes as well. With a slightly sweet taste up front followed more malt and finishing with a blast of hops, this beer is extremely well balanced. The 11.5% ABV is very well hidden (and dangerous). I didn’t really start noticing the alcoholic warmth until my second beer but by the end of that beer, I could feel the effects. One of the patrons was on his fifth Mirror Mirror and it was hard to believe he was still lucid and standing.

I only heard glowing comments all night about this beer and consider it to be one of my top five favorite beers of the past year. The Reserve Series at Deschutes, with Abyss, XX Porter, and Dissident leading off, sets a very high bar for beer quality. Mirror Mirror clearly continues with the tradition.

I also wanted to compliment Bianca at the Owl Club for continuing to bring in excellent beers for us to try. Pint Night on Thursdays has become a local favorite as she continues to get early releases and rare kegs for us. Pliny the Elder, Abyss, and now Mirror Mirror are just a few examples. If you’re near Roseville on a Thursday night, check out the Owl Club. The pint night special, and her dozen or so other taps, won’t disappoint you.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Merely a skirmish

Written by; Mike Sober (The Hop Hunter)

Thursday night I found my way to the local Bijou to watch the premier of Anat Baron's documentary Beer Wars.

The basic premise of her movie is to reveal the goings-on behind the beers that occupy the shelves of American Supermarkets and the tap handles of your favorite local pub or bar.
The movie delves into the big Macro Brewers efforts to continue to dominate those spaces verses the more localized Craft brewers struggles to bring their products to the ever more curious and educated beer drinking public.

Another version of David vs Goliath..... and dare I say Good vs Evil?

Well it isn't really that clear....depending upon one's taste BUDs I assume ...pun nervously intended.

I'm uncertain when this movie will be available again for public consumption or if it's bound to go straight to the Discovery channel or DVD but when it does it will certainly be worth a look.

I found it educational and interesting throughout despite it's strange and somewhat creepy tendency to dwell too long into the everyday lives of a couple of the main characters.....Dogfish Head Brewer Sam Calagione and beer/caffeine entrepreneur and former Boston Brewing executive Rhonda Kallman.
I could go on and on about the film but considering I'm inherently lazy and I was in the theatre sitting next to DRAFT Magazine Beer Director and good buddy Rick Sellers (who was of course taking copious notes throughout the feature in his usual hard working manner)....I would rather direct you to the DRAFT Magazines News area for Rick's far superior and much more detailed account of the movie.
Really.... check it out you go now......

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Portland Spring Beer and Wine Fest

Written by Jeff Barber

Portland Spring Beer and Wine Fest

While visiting Portland last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the Spring beer and Wine Fest at the Portland Convention Center. This event, as it says in the title, is more than just a beer fest. With 44 breweries, 22 wineries and numerous seminars and cheese stands, there was something for everyone.

Kudos also go to the organizers as even though the line to get in looked daunting, it moved quickly and we were soon tasting beer. Costs were reasonable as I paid $5 for a tasting mug and $15 for 15 tasting tokens. This turned out to be more than enough as we were only there two hours and the tastes were poured generously.

Anyway, on to the beer. Having scoped out the map and list of beers being poured, my brother Mike, a beer enthusiast but first time brew fest attendee, started out with a couple of fruit beers.

First off, was the Lost Coast (Eureka, CA) Tangerine Wheat. This beer had a noticeable orange aroma, as well as a good citrusy wheat beer taste and a definite orange (but not too sweet) finish. This beer was enjoyable and would be great on a hot summer day.

Our second beer was New Belgium Mighty Arrow. A pale ale with honey malt and Amarillo and Cascade hops, this beer was kind of ho hum. Not bad but it didn’t stand out in either flavor or aroma.

Our third beer was supposed to be Lang Creek Brewing (Marion, MT) Mandarin Hefeweizen but they had all ready run out of this beer. Since they were pouring their Huckleberry and Honey Ale we decided to try it. This was a great tasting beer as the honey helped round out the flavor of the huckleberries. A little on the sweet side with a noticeable berry aroma, this beer finished dry and is only 3.2% ABV so several could be enjoyed in one sitting.

Next we moved on to Widmer’s Nelson O’Rye’lly. Since I am a fan of rye beers, I had high expectations for this one and we weren’t disappointed. This beer was billed as an IPA with rye. There was noticeable grapefruit from the hops but the spicy dry finish of a rye beer. Very good.

Next up was Calapooia rIPArian IPA-Albany, Or. I found this to be closer to a pale ale than an IPA. Again, another beer that was good but not great.

We moved on from there to the Ft. George-Astoria, OR., Quick Wit. The wit beer is one of my favorite styles and I found this to be a good example of the style with noticeable coriander in both the aroma and flavor. A little more bitter orange would have made this a truly memorable beer but it was quite refreshing.

Next was the Laurelwood Saison. After really enjoying the Laurelwood Workhorse IPA the night before, I looked forward to trying this beer. Saisons can be great beers with lots of tartness, earthiness and noble hops. Unfortunately, I found this beer to unexciting with little of the character I’ve had with other saisons.

Following the saison however, we had probably the most unique beer of the day. Duchese de Bourgogne is a Flemish Red Ale. My brother didn’t care for this beer which can be an acquired taste, but I found it to be quite good. Noticeable vinegar and sour apple followed by some sweetness, this was truly a complex beer with an excellent full mouthfeel.

Coming down the homestretch of our visit, we decided to search out a beer from a brewery I had always heard of but never tried anything from. Big Black Homo from Walking Man Brewing in Stevens, WA., turned out to be my best of show. A black Imperial IPA this beer was truly outstanding and one that made me think of the great hop hunter, Big Mike from PBN. At 100 IBUs, this beer had plenty of hoppy bitterness to it but was also combined with chocolaty malt. Unique but outstanding.

From Walking Man, we moved on to Bridgeport, one of Portland’s original breweries, for their Fallen Friar. This beer is a Belgian triple but combines pilsner and Pacific NW malt with Belgian yeast for a great version of the triple. Aged in bourbon and red wine barrels, and 8.2% ABV, this beer would be great on a chilly Portland night.

Our final beer was Astoria Brewing’s Bitter Bitch. This beer is an Imperial IPA and at 99 IBU, the hops didn’t disappoint. There was very little sweetness that can sometimes be found in lesser Imp IPAs but lots of citrusy flavor from the hops (mostly orange and grapefruit). Some pine notes were also noticeable.

My top beers of the day in order were Walking Man’s Big Black Homo, Bridgeport’s Fallen Friar, and Widmer’s Nelson O’Rye’lly. My brother Mike’s favorites were the Fallen Friar, the Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat and the Lang Creek Huckleberry and Honey.

All in all, this was a great event. It was well organized and in a venue large enough for the number of people attending. After last year’s heat and crowds at the California Brew fest, it was truly a welcome change. It was an event worthy of Portland's beer reputation!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Shack

Typically traveling the freeways of Sacramento during weekday rush hours is a slow and painful proposition and last Thursday was certainly no exception. So naturally I did what any responsible beer enthusiast would do in that situation.....I found a good watering hole and waited out the gridlock.
Following a marvelous text tip from PBN founder and good buddy Rick my lucky destination turned out the be THE SHACK; which is located at 5201 Folsom Blvd in a vintage area of Sacramento just East of where the Business 80 and Highway 50 cross. According to Owner/Beer host Gary Sleppy this 193o's era building is the second oldest continuously running restaurant in all of Sacramento. Despite the somewhat garish Reggae inspired motif I immediately felt comfortable and at home in what is obviously a very popular destination for the local inhabitants.
The Shack's menu offerings includes the usual solid pub comfort food as well as gourmet dinner offerings that range from Rib eye steak to mussels, squash Ravioli, several salads and a very interesting and popular dish called Porky Pear. A sage and bacon wrapped pork w/Asian Pear pan sauce.
But of course it is the beer selection that impressed me most about the place....that along with Owner Gary's infectious enthusiasm, obvious beer appreciation and overall knowledge of his extensive inventory.
The Shack has 8 tap handles for draft beer and a walk in 'beer fridge' full of dozens of other styles from across the beer spectrum. The taps included...
Speakeasy Prohibition
Rubicon Brewing IPA
Oskar Blues Gordon
Grimergen Belgian Abbey
Green Flash West Coast IPA
Sudwerks Pilsner
Pabst Blue Ribbon
The bottle selection is far to extensive to list here..but some of the notables for me were
Russian River Pliny The Elder
Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin
Alaskan Brewing Smoked Porter
Fire Stone Walker Union Jack IPA
Sierra Nevada Brewing Torpedo and Celebration
As well as the huge list of Belgians, German Hefeweisens, Doppelbocks and Octoberfests.
By the time I decided I'd better go check on the traffic situation and make my way home there was no more traffic....or sunlight left in the day.
I soon realized I'd spent over three hours on that bar stool, trading beers with Gary, talking to at least a dozen friendly patrons and enjoying the beer board above the entrance to the bustling kitchen area.
To say I recommend a visit to The Shack would be a gross understatement...I personally can't wait to take my wife Terri for a visit to soak up some local Sacramento neighborhood hospitality and suffer the beauty that is trying to figure out which beer I want next.
Of course.... like a lot of The Shacks customers......I could always just ask Gary.....he's sure to have some helpful recommendations.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Beer Tasting at WineStyles?

Written by Jeff Barber

On Thursday, March 26th, WineStyles in Rocklin held their first beer tasting event. While attendance can be improved, it was well-received, good beers were poured, and it hopefully was the start of something new for the WineStyles monthly calendar.

Originally planned as a spring/summer beer event, the final lineup of beers was changed slightly based on distributor availability. A good variety of beers were still offered however.

The first beer we poured was Boulder Brewing Buffalo Gold. A lightly carbonated, easy drinking, golden ale, this was a good beer for those making the transition from macros to microbrews or maybe while mowing the lawn on a hot summer day.

Next up was the world-renowned Double Trouble Hefeweizen. Actually, this was my homebrewed hefeweizen, brewed in the German style with noticeable notes of clove and banana. As a home brewer, it was good to see people enjoying my beer.

Third was Sierra Nevada’s ESB. This was another solid entry from Sierra Nevada, meant to simulate the British extra special bitter style, it is brewed with both US and British hops and is unfiltered resulting in an enhanced aroma of malt and mouthfeel.

Next in line was Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale. This beer has always been a personal favorite and is brewed in the German Maibock style. Although an ale, instead of a lager, as true maibocks are, this beer has a prominent malty aroma and hearty flavor. A good mix of malt and hops with a slightly increased level of alcohol at 6.5% ABV.

Our fifth beer was our first entry from Mendocino Brewing, Red Tail Ale. This is an excellent example of an American amber. Full bodied with Cascade and Cluster hops, a slight citrus flavor is noticed. Personally, I prefer this amber over the more well-known, Fat Tire, as it has more flavor.

We then moved on to a unique version of an amber ale, Hazed and Infused by Boulder Brewing. This amber is both unfiltered and dry hopped. I really enjoyed this beer, especially the aroma, but heard some comments from some of the tasters that this beer was too bitter or hoppy. Hoppiness is an acquired taste.

Our next to last beer was Mirror Pond Pale Ale by Dechutes Brewing. One of the classic pale ales with lots of grapefruit and pine from the NW hops, this is a great beer for hop lovers. At 5% ABV, it’s also one that can be enjoyed almost as a session beer.

Our final beer was our only selection approaching a big beer. Eye of the Hawk from Mendocino Brewing is 8% ABV with a strong caramel malt flavor, a big mouthfeel, and enough hops to balance. It also is bottle conditioned resulting in natural carbonation and some richer flavors. This beer was the favorite of most of the people I asked.

This was a very enjoyable event that according to Francis, owner of Winestyles, will be repeated. It’s a good example of WineStyles efforts to expand their beer offerings. Their regular lineup is small but good with offerings such Sierra Nevada Celebration (almost gone), Bear Republic Racer 5, and Lost Coast Great White. When you get a chance, make sure and stop by and make sure you tell Francis you appreciate his efforts to make good beer available.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Airport Beer Guide

Although it is proving extremely difficult... I sorta promise I will attempt to refrain from making any poor taste stereotypical cracks about airline pilots despite the following information.
For people that spend anytime at all in airports or flying about the country there is now a guide to help you endure all those delayed flights and boorish tourists.
Cheapflights has created the free Airport Beer Guide to help you locate a decent brew in some of the larger U.S. airports. And of course new meaning to Twelve O'clock High.....oh damn.....sorry.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Big Beer Fest" at Beermann's in Roseville

Written by Jeff Barber

On Saturday, February 28, a truly outstanding beer event was put on by Beermann’s in Roseville. Years in the planning and now commemorating the exit of Beermann’s head brewer, Mike Sutherland, a lineup of aged barley wines and other big beers were put out for everyone’s enjoyment, some aged since 2002, and they were enjoyed by all. In some cases, previous brewers at Beermann’s who had moved on, came back to enjoy barley wines that were brewed before they left such as with Brian Ford, now with the Auburn Alehouse.

Beermann’s is a small brewery that opens on Thursday and Friday afternoons for informal happy hours. The atmosphere is casual and often feels like you’re enjoying beer over at someone’s house. Saturday was no exception.

Where to start? Where we started was with the 2002 barley wines made with fruit. The first was brewed with raspberries. What was most surprising about this beer was that after 7 years, the aroma still had a noticeable smell of the berries. There was also tartness still present in the flavor and I thought I picked up some sherry character as well. This was a great beer and started the adventure off right

Up second was what turned out to be my favorite of a bunch of truly great beers. The 2002 Bourbon Barrel barley wine was brewed with cherries. The fruit provided some sourness and dryness to the beer but the malt provided great balance. While the cherries and barrel aging provided a great flavor, the lack of sweetness was unique to this offering. I found later that I was comparing the other beers I tried to this as my gold medal.

Following the 2002, we moved to the 2003 Strong Blonde aged in oak. This beer was dominated by the oak aging in both aroma and flavor. It was thinner than most of the others with noticeable alcohol but I enjoyed the variety, and in fact liked this beer quite a lot.

In order to be able to remain standing at the end, I chose to skip their 1000th brew, a double IPA, and their 2004 triple IPA. According to others I talked to, the Triple was outstanding but the double was still young (brewed a couple of months ago).

We then moved on to the 2006 version of their Bourbon Barrel Barley wine. This beer had a noticeable sweetness to it with some notes of vanilla from the bourbon barrels and a possibility of hazelnuts. A very good version of their barley wine,

After the 2006 Bourbon Barrel, we had the 2005 version. Heavier, with more vanilla from the barrels than the 2006, I preferred this version. There was a slight citrus note as well. Not a beer to drink several of but an outstanding barley wine!

Next up was the 2004 barley wine, Mr. Big. The version was never put into wood barrels and as a result, didn’t have the vanilla notes and wasn’t as sweet as the other two. Roasted malt was more noticeable in this version as well. This was another great example, especially for those who favor un-oaked barley wines.

We soldiered on and moved to the 2002 Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine. This beer was proof that the right beer can be aged for multiple years. Right up there in enjoyment with cherry version, this beer was more subdued than the others but still complex, as a good barley wine should be. Still sweet but more caramel-like than vanilla, this beer was exceptional.

This was great event enjoyed by all and well worth the $30 entry. People truly enjoy a lot of small breweries around the states and events like this are why. Rumors have it that Beermann’s is being sold. Here’s hoping the new owners keep up the good work done by Mike and his staff.

Monday, February 9, 2009

9th Annual Bistro Double IPA Fest

By Mike Sober (AKA The HopHunter)

For the better part of the last decade The Bistro in Old Town Hayward California has been THE place for hop lovers to congregate on the first Saturday of every February. This years 9th Annual Double IPA Festival was the biggest and best ever and one can only imagine how next years version can hope to top it. But I'm getting ahead of myself......something very easy to do at an epic event of this scale.

The inaugural Double IPA fest in 2001 featured barely a dozen total entries and was held indoors in the Bistro's everyday bar area. This years extravaganza completely shut down the street South of the bar and included no less than 46 double IPA's.

As per tradition at this world class kickoff to San Francisco Beer Week all the beers are judged prior to the noon start and the winners announced half way through at 4:00pm or so.

When you sign up and pay for your taster glass and drink coupons you also get a double sided 8-1/2"x11" printout with every Brewery/Beer/Location/Brewer/ABV and IBU's listed in alphabetical order.

Every year I take notes, chart and evaluate all the beers I tried and in what order I drank them.....and every year I look back on it and marvel at how selective I had to be in my choices and how small a dent I put in the total.

This year I sampled 24 brews, a couple of them twice....which barely covers half of the field. These my friends are just some big ass beers.

I had my own favorites of course but ...... The official winners for 2009 were

GOLD - Pizza Port "Poormans IPA" - Carlsbad CA
SILVER - Triple Rock "IIMAXX Imperial IPA" - Berkeley CA
BRONZE - Bear Republic "Apex" - Healdsburg CA (A repeat medalist)
PEOPLES CHOICE - Russian River "Pliny the Younger" - Santa Rosa CA (For the second consecutive year)

My personal favorites included (in alphabetical order)
Auburn Ale House "Isotope PU240" - Auburn CA
Beach Chalet "The Baron" - San Francisco CA
Big Dogs "Hop Harvest Ale" - Las Vegas NV
Fifty/Fifty "Landslide" - Truckee, CA
Lagunitas "Hop Stoopid" - Petaluma CA
Pizza Port "Lou P Lin" - Solano Beach CA
Rogue "XSIPA" - Newport OR
Rubicon "REX IPA" - Sacramento CA
Seabright "Hopnoxious" - Santa Cruz CA
Sierra Nevada "Hop Secret 393" - Chico CA
Stone "Sublimely Self Righteous Ale" - Escondido CA

I suppose not mentioning Hopsickle, Hop 15, Torpedo,White Knuckle, Pliny the Elder,Double Daddy, Ruination, Double Trouble, Pure Hoppiness, Mach 10, 90 & 120 minute IPA, Denogginizer, Double Dog, Imperial IPA, Casey Jones Double, Quasar, Promised Land, Ale to the Chief,The Big DIPA, Steelhead Double, Moylander, Gordon, Hop Henge Experimental,Jersey Giant, Firkin Chico, and Bittersweet Lanny's RIPA would seem a bit of an oversight.....but nothing could be further from the truth........well maybe something could be further from the telling you I could drive home after all those beers. They tell me I had a good time and I know they're correct. I absolutely cannot wait for the first weekend of February in 2010.
Check out a few photos and judge for yourself......

Friday, February 6, 2009

Beer at Wine Styles?

Written by Jeff Barber

Last night, my wife Becky and I visited one of her favorite places in Roseville, Wine Styles. Located out of the way, in back of the parking lot near Cabo’s on Lonetree Boulevard, wine is clearly their focus. They seem to do a great job with wine knowledge, variety, and price. This being a beer web site however, I’ll focus on their efforts with beer.

Although they still have room to grow and don’t have any draft beer, Francis at Wine Styles is clearly interested in expanding their bottled offerings. What was a pretty basic set of 5 offerings previously, now has evolved to Racer 5, Sierra Nevada Celebration, Lost Coast Great White and Downtown Brown, Smithwick’s, and Peroni’s, all at $4 each. I have had several conversations about beer with Francis and he is very interested in continuing to improve his offerings, with Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot possibly next. He also is planning on hosting his first beer tasting in March.

So if you are like me and have a wife who prefers wine and want to avail yourself of a place that has a very comfortable atmosphere, including and outside patio, a very nice wine selection, and the opportunity to enjoy a few very good beers, give Wine Styles a try. Let Francis know you’d like to see him continue to expand his beers.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Greenhouse in Roseville

Written by Jeff Barber

Recently my wife, Becky, and I visited the Greenhouse in Roseville, a still relatively new organic restaurant and brewery. Since Rick’s post about the Greenhouse was soon after it opened almost a year ago, I thought an update was due. Becky and I are always on the lookout for places that have outside seating and we were frequent customers of the Greenhouse, two generations ago as the still missed River Rock.

I have to say I was very impressed. Scaled down from its previous high-end existence as the Town Lounge, it still is a very comfortable place with a lot of dark wood, and the fore-mentioned out door patio.

The day we were there, they had eight beers on tap, all made on premises by Kevin Pratt, Brewmaster. The most impressive was their Belgian Golden Ale, a very tart, complex 8% ABV ale. I love Belgian strong ales and this was an excellent example. The alcohol is well hidden as well. Becky likes only very mild beers and she loved the Kolsch. Although a little too mild for me, it was very true to style. I also tasted their English Pale Ale, Summer Wheat (more like Belgian Wit), Bock, and Irish Red. All the beers were quite good with the Irish Red being the other standout (lots of bready and caramel malts with some good finishing hop bitterness).

The food also was excellent. Becky had the calamari and I had the shrimp tacos. The calamari was huge (enough for 3-4 people to share), crisp and delicious. The tacos were just a little on the spicy side with some very meaty shrimp.

Service also was good so if anyone is looking for a place to sit outside and sip a beer, or have a meal, in the most of the time beautiful Roseville weather, give The Greenhouse a try!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

More Than Extreme Pizza

-written by Mike Sober (AKA The HopHunter)

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of sharing a pizza and a couple of beers with Extreme Pizza owner Fred Munday. As soon as I walked in the place I could immediately see the thing that makes his location (1140 Exposition Blvd in Sacramento) differ from other Extreme Pizza locations I've been to ...... namely the tap handles and 22oz bottles for take home.

There was eight taps in all with no AB, Miller or Coors products in sight. Fred and his wife Margot opened up the place in October of 2007 with the idea of serving top notch pizza along with fresh local craft brews.

The offerings, which Fred explained usually lasted about a week on average before they rotated out, were Rubicon Pilsner, Beermann's Oatmeal Stout, Sudwerks Marzen, Rubicon IPA, Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA, Maylan's Kiltlifter, Stone Arrogant Bastard and Fox Apple Cider.

According to Fred's beer rotation spreadsheet the next round of beers would include Lagunitas Pils, Sudwerks Hefeweisen, Rubicon Irish Red (a PBN favorite) and Lake Tahoe Brewing's Nut Brown.

Although the selection of beers is impressive and worth every effort one could make to visit the this particular Extreme Pizza site; it is Fred himself that impressed me the most about my visit. Born in England and brought up in the old family ways of life that revolved around the local neighborhood pub he possesses an appreciation and knowledge of beer that is most refreshing to behold.

He is meticulous about the beer line and pint glass cleanliness (no sanitizer or soap residue) and the constant rotation of fresh brews with an eye towards setting his customers up with just the right beer for them.

As I sipped on my Big Daddy IPA and enjoyed a slice of the excellent "Kickin Chicken" pizza Fred excused himself and attended to two lady's that had tentatively approached the ordering counter. They inquired about a pitcher of Marzen but seemed unsure if it was the same beer they had enjoyed a few days prior. After asking them about their usual beer preference he offered them several samples including the Marzen, the Rubicon Pilsner and IPA to help insure that they invested in exactly the pitcher of beer that they came in for. It was indeed the Marzen.

I kinda cheated and looked ahead on the beer rotation sheet and found a number of gems that I plan to be back for ... including Stone Smoked Porter, Eel River Triple Exultrations and Anchor Porter. I also see Rubicon's ever popular Monkey Knife Fight, Beermann's Rip Roaring Red and Weed Brewings Lemurian Lager listing in the coming months.

So ya, if you are in Sacramento hungry for a great pizza (they make their own fresh dough and toppings daily) and a fresh local craft brew to go with it I recommend checking out whatever Fred has on that week.

It really does my heart good to see people breaking away from the old tired and stale approach to commerce and truly invest themselves with passion into providing excellent local products at reasonable prices.

Extreme Pizza
1140 Exposition Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95815

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

BJ's Imported Winter Warmer beer dinner

- Written by Jeff Barber

On Tuesday, January 20th, BJ’s Brewery Restaurant in Roseville held their Imported Winter Warmer Beer Dinner. Not having attended a beer dinner previously (and always wanting to), I rounded up my friend and beer aficionado, Jose, and drove over to BJ’s for what promised to be a night of good beer and good food.

What I noticed first upon arrival was the beer lineup. It was outstanding but more on that later. The size of the event created some difficulties (100-125 people) with the main shortcoming being was that it was very difficult to hear the brewer’s description of the beers. A microphone would have been very helpful. Kudos for trying but I just couldn’t hear. Also although it was difficult to have good conversations because of the noise at least we had Nick Walker, GM of BJ’s Natomas and his girlfriend Tina at our table. They are friendly people that Jose and I enjoyed talking to and getting their opinions about the beer. The other negative was that the beers were kept in ice until served from the bottle (except BJ’s own excellent Grand Cru). As the night wore on, the later beers were colder than they should be for optimal tasting.

Negatives aside, there were some positives as well. The servers at the event did a great job in general, getting the food to the tables while hot and pouring the beers. Extra praise goes to one of our servers, Claire, who did a great job as well as putting a bottle of each beer away for me for the picture above. The food also was good. Although BJ’s food isn’t fancy, it is typically consistently good and tonight was no exception. The beers stole the show though and now on to the beers.

Our first “course” was the aperitif, Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome. While not the type of drink you would expect as an aperitif, this beer was a good starter for the evening. Very malty with caramel and biscuity tastes, it had very little hop and not much spice noticeable. 6% ABV. Not bad but not great either.

The first beer/food pairing was BJ’s chicken pot stickers with Fuller’s Vintage Ale. While I’m not sure this pairing made the most sense, the pot stickers were excellent (although we each only got one) and the beer, superb. I had never had this beer previously and found it to be sweeter than the Winter Welcome, slightly smoky, with notes of fruit and a nutty finish. Jose noted some taste of oak or something similar that made him wonder what this beer was aged in. This beer, since it wasn’t in ice as long, was the perfect temperature for enjoying. At 8.5% ABV, the alcohol was well hidden. Very enjoyable,

Next up was another beer I hadn’t tried, Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux. It was paired a garden salad with a balsamic dressing and was a great match for this beer. Being a big fan of Belgian beers, I had high hopes for this beer and wasn’t disappointed. It had an aroma of clove and fruity esters, creamy head with lots of lacing, flavors of banana, clove, and spice, and high carbonation. At 9.5% ABV, the alcohol was noticeable but not overwhelming. Another excellent beer.

Following the salad, came the pizza. This was BJ’s Sweet Pig pizza with ham, pineapple, and tomatoes. The pizza was deep dish style and was paired with Affligem Noel, another Belgian holiday beer. Both were very good. The beer was very malty with low hops and notes of clove, dried fruits, and nutmeg. I’ve enjoyed this beer before and enjoyed it here but would rate it behind the Fuller’s and Dupont offerings.

Next in line was what turned out to be my favorite beer of the night. BJ’s own Grand Cru (just released) was paired a Balsamic Glazed Chicken with fried onions and mashed potatoes. Both were quite good and the tartness/spiciness of the Grand Cru went well with the balsamic glaze on the chicken. The Grand Cru is almost orange in color with notes of banana, spice, and orange, and very complex. This was a great beer that I look forward to having more of.

The final beer/food pairing was the BJ’s big chocolate chip cookie served warm with chocolate ice cream and Ghirardelli chocolate, and the Ayinger Dopplebock. Again this was a beer I had enjoyed before and was a perfect match with the chocolate in the food. A little lower in alcohol than most of the others at 6.7%, this dopplebock’s aroma is of caramel malt and some maple syrup. The taste is raisiny in the beginning with notes of cherry and chocolate, and some roastiness in the finish. A very good beer for the winter.

So what did we finish with? Nothing other than Samichlaus, the world’s highest alcohol lager at 14% ABV. Reddish orange in color, this beer is very sweet and sherry-like. The head quickly dissipated and the aroma was of dried fruity, brandy, and alcohol. Flavors were molasses and dark fruit but the alcohol was pretty well balanced. A great way to end the night but a beer that even in a 12 oz bottle is meant to be sipped and shared.

Thanks to BJ’s for a very enjoyable evening, to Claire for her great service, and to Nick and Tina for the conversation. Final voting at our table for best beer was a tie with two votes for the Affligem Noel and two votes for the BJ’s Grand Cru,

Let’s have more of these events!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Beer Geek's 2008 Quaff Notes

- Written by Mark "The Beer Geek" Zahn

The past year really provided some fantastic brews. In the following few lines, I'd like to share with you some of the more interesting beers my palate enjoyed.

The Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse is a superb brew. Basically, it's a light-colored Weissbock with some big-time strength - something like 8%. Awesome banana-clove aromas and nice 'n hoppy too, with plenty of noble hops. This beer is a collaboration between Schneider-Weisse of Germany and the Brooklyn Brewery (New York).

The Black Butte XX Twentieth Anniversary Porter from Deschutes (Oregon) was absolutely delicious. This beer is a jacked-up version of the Black Butte Porter with massive amounts of roasted coffee and chocolate malts - aged in whiskey barrels, if I remember correctly. Extremely smooth with very little alcoholic warmth for such a high-octane brew (over 10% ABV).

Next on my list is Ommegang's Hennepin Farmhouse Saison (New York). A very refreshing beer perfectly suited for the summer months. Light, spicy yet sweet, fruity, citrusy... and on and on. There's so much going on in this Saison, I recommend you try it for yourself.

The Hop Trip fresh-hopped pale ale from Deschutes (Oregon) was once again fabulous. This brew is packed with fresh whole flower hops - the bittering is piney, citrusy, yet soft. A very enjoyable sweetness in the malt backbone. Truly a nicely balanced beer that is low in alcohol. Nice and rich with a beautiful crown when poured properly.

The next beer that was thoroughly pleasing in every respect, is Sierra Nevada's Torpedo (California). We enjoyed this IPA on tap at the Owl Club in Roseville - wow - went down like cotton candy. This beer is very smooth with a quite delicate balance of wonderful aroma hops and mild malt sweetness. The whole hops they put in that Torpedo contraption also give this beer a fresh piney/citrusy floral aroma & flavor. Extremely smooth for a 7% IPA.

Finally, I'd like to recommend the Allagash Four (Maine). This bottle-conditioned Belgian Quad is brewed with four different malts and four types of hops. It's very rich and complex with lot's of dark fruit flavors, some sherry notes, and some brown sugar flavors as well. The hop bitterness is mild with the flavors definitely leaning towards the malts. Remarkably smooth body for such a big beer. At 10%, the alcoholic warmth is there, but not overpowering.

If you get a chance to try these beers, let us know what you think. Cheers!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pacific Coast Brewing Company

- Written by Mike Sober (AKA The Hop Hunter)

During the Holiday season I spent a few days in the East Bay area and had the opportunity to finally visit Pacific Coast Brewing in downtown Oakland. As is somewhat evident in the photo, the Brewery is housed in a historic Oakland building dating from 1876 that is partially furnished with artifacts obtained from the Oakland Museum.

Despite the fact that we were drawn to the site strictly as a beer destination I found myself studying my surroundings for several minutes before I even looked for the beer menu. The Bar itself looks to be well over 100 years old and was reportedly an original piece from someplace called the Cox Saloon from Old Town Oakland. When I finally got to the beer menu I found it to be pretty impressive in it's own right. The PC brewery offered seven of their own beers as well as no less than sixteen guest taps, including Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special 30 Reserve from Scotland. A treat I would save until just prior to last call.

The house offerings included a Pale Ale, a couple of IPA's as well as a killer (Killer Whale they call it) Stout, Holiday Belgian Double and a Barleywine. Our group of seven ordered a couple of full samplers and found the beers to be solid with perhaps a slight bit of sameness to them that I suspected was a result of the pale malt extract that brewer Don Gortemiller uses as a base in all his beers. I particularly enjoyed the Blue Whale Ale which drinks like an Imperial IPA and according to the menu won a Silver Medal at the GABF way back in 1989. I have to assume that to have been in the strong Ale category. The Gray Whale Pale Ale seemed to be the most popular house beer at the table as I noticed several were being ordered after the sampler was dissected and turned back into mere glassware .

The Guest Menu was where I found a couple of gems that I just couldn't resist at all. Luckily since we rode BART to downtown Oakland ... resisting was just not something I was concerning myself with at that time. I obviously didn't try them all but I did my best to dent the list.....

Anchor Christmas Ale
Bear Republic Racer 5
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Full Sail Wreck the Halls
Pizza Port Belgian Style Quadruppel
Pyramid Apricot Ale
Russian River Blind Pig
Schmaltz Jewbelation Twelve
Sierra Nevada Chico Estate Harvest
Sierra Nevada Ruthless Weiss
Stone 12th Anniversary Biter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
Trumer Pils

The lineup also included Stella Artois, Lindeman's Framboise, Samichlaus Helles Bier 2007 and Houblon Chouffe.

At 14% alcohol the Samichlaus is reportedly the strongest Lager in the world and I would like to say I got around to trying some....but that would be stretching the truth a bit much.

However, it wouldn't be expanding the truth at all to say I'm putting PCBCo on my list of return destinations for 2009.

Perhaps I should mention that they also have a pool table, Internet access and a couple of dart boards for entertainment. Dart boards that were in little danger of being worn out by us late in the evening. I learned that one should never combine Belgian Style Quads and darts after midnight. Nope...don't recommend it at all.

What I do whole-heartedly recommend is making the effort to visit and hoist a few pints at Pacific Coast Brewing in Oakland.

Check out Mike's blog at

Monday, January 12, 2009

A New Column: Cheese! St. Andre

Yes, this is Pacific BREW News, but given that many of us who like a good brew also have the capacity to take a moment to enjoy better food, I figured you wouldn't mind a diversion now and then. With that in mind we'll start doing some foodie items from time to time, with cheese reviews based on items sold by our local cheese monger - the thought is to cover one cheese a week until they've all been covered. Hopefully we'll be able to tie in a beer suggestion with each cheese and if you like the sounds of something, please try it and let us know what you think. Onto the cheese!

Saint-AndréThis is not a new cheese to us, having been introduced to it a while back with good friends of ours. The cheese has a pale, buttery appearance that is wrapped with a papery, grayish-white rind.The first taste is as sensuous as it is pungent, with grassy and mossy flavors that complement the tangy, bright tastes on the sides of the mouth. You cannot escape the buttery qualities of this cheese, from the look to the flavors and even the texture - this is fantastic smothered on crusty bread. Allowing this cheese to warm to room temperature changes the cheese substantially. As it softens the acidic and zesty notes become more pronounced. I'd go as far as to say the cheese vastly improves as it softens and warms, the aromas becoming more obvious.Now, we all know that pairing a good cheese with a good beer is divine, but choosing the right beer to go with the right cheese is challenging. Trying this made me long for a Belgian dubbel or even an aged barleywine. Oh, and I doubt you'd be unhappy with a bier de garde.
Finally, I just have to put this somewhere. In our tasting tonight Tracy mentioned that this cheese was the "duck of cheeses". She was talking about the fatty texture and overall richness of flavors and the more I thought about it, the more I agreed.

About the Cheese
Made in France
Uses cows milk with 75% butter fat

BJ's Winter Warmer Beer Dinner

I made a quick stop in this past weekend to our local BJs brewery and restaurant for dinner and drinks with Tracy. While there I saw adverts for a Winter Welcome Beer Dinner coming up soon and I wanted to pass along the details for you.

Date: January 20, 2009
Cost: $30
Location: BJs in Roseville (Galleria/E. Roseville Pkwy)
What is it: Dinner with winter beers from Germany, England and the US.
Reservations: 916.580.2100

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sacramento's Newest Beer Joint?

It's been just over a year since Manderes in Folsom opened with an impressive selection of taps, bottles and grub to satisfy an eager beer-loving population. Brent and David have, since then, won many honors and awards in the region. Given they were the only game in town for good beer, it wasn't a surprise. On Tuesday, however, they're going to get some serious competition from one of the region's old players - Sacrament Brewing Company.

Spear-headed by it's brewmaster Peter Hoey, SacBrew is starting a new program that involves doubling the taps and bringing in fantastic brews from around the world. To give you an idea of what you can expect, check out the list of brews you can find on Tuesday when their 12 new taps start pouring.
  • Anchor Brewing - Christmas Ale
  • Bear Republic - Racer 5 IPA
  • Bear Republic - Jack London ESB
  • Brasserie d' Achouffe - Houblon Doubbelen IPA Tripel
  • Deschutes - The Dissident
  • Green Flash - Tripple Belgian Style Ale
  • Rubicon Brewing Company - Monkey Knife Fight
  • Russian River Brewing Company - Pliny the Elder
  • Sierra Nevada - Celebration Ale
  • Unibroue - Maudite
Keep in mind, this is in ADDITION TO the award-winning lineup of SBC brews:
  • IPA (7%)
  • Red Horse Amber
  • 2006 Babylon Barleywine (10.8%)
  • Abbey Extra (5.0%)
  • Barristers Bitter (4.0%)
  • Bock (6.5%)
  • Brewhouse Lager (4.5%)
  • Hefeweizen (4.5%)
  • Old Pappy Bourbon Barrel-aged Wheat Wine (13.0%)
  • Russian Imperial Stout (8.0%)
  • Smokey's Imperial Red Ale (8.6%)
As if this weren't enough, Peter is also diligently working on a killer series of Pint Nights and Brewer Specials, the first will kick off on January 21st with Firestone Walker night where SBC will pour:
  • Double Barrel Ale
  • Pale 31
  • Union Jack IPA
  • Walker's Reserve
  • Nectar IPA - Cask
Following Firestone Walker Night will be evenings that feature 21st Amendment, Deschutes, Rubicon and some others that will likely be mentioned as they're announced.

With SacBrew's new face-lift to complement the great lineup at Manderes, we're certain to see a whole lot of great beer in 2009.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sacramento: Oasis Closed

I won't make this a very long post, but yesterday (Jan. 4, 2009) was the last day The Oasis was open to the public. They are working now on transferring beer and equipment to Sacramento Brewing's primary location in Sacramento, on the corner of Fulton and Marconi. While the writing has been on the walls for some time (it didn't take a genius to see there just weren't a lot of seats filled recently) it is still a sad day for me, due to the fact I'd made this a favorite local brewery over the last couple years.

So long Oasis, you served us well for some time.

To the locals: This is a warning shot for us I figure, time now to support our local brewers a bit more (remember, we just lost Elk Grove Brewing, too). Fill a growler, buy a pint, do what you can to get the freshest, high-quality beers you can. Of course, we have more than SacBrew to support, with breweries like Rubicon, Hoppy, Auburn Alehouse, Beermann's and more. We've got great beer in the region, easily worth our support.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

It was a fast-paced 2008 for us at PBN - and in the second half of the year that really impacted our ability to blog, record shows and update our website. I'm actually pretty bummed about the neglect I've shown you all, and this sight that I have been awfully partial to. I'm not the biggest fan of New Year's resolutions, but I do have a few goals for 2009 that I figured I'd share with everyone.
  1. A weekly blog post worth reading: Often when short on time I've been known to throw up a press release or something pretty lame. This year I'm hoping that we at PBN can pool our collective mental resources to post one good, meaty blog a week. That would allow us to still put up the silly and off-hand posts we like to do while also giving you something worth following.
  2. Increased homebrew coverage: I have a whole lot of homebrew ideas that I'd like to pass on - tips for equipment, ingredients and whatever else comes to mind. Realistically I think I could put one homebrew post a month up that would be of interest to you.
  3. More Podcasts: Mark and Mike are pushing for it, so are many of you. I think I'll have to work with them to plot out the next few months worth of shows. I may even have to get The Beer Geek set up to record shows without me - in case I find myself overly busy.
  4. More Regional Beer News & Spotlights: Between the three of us we go to a whole lot of bars, breweries and events. We have a whole lot of stories to share and I think I'll have to make sure to share some of these with you.
  5. More Videos: Yes, I have a backlog of videos from brewery tours, events and homebrew adventures. It's long past due for me to put some of these up - likely in their raw, unedited form.
Feel free to keep us on our toes on this. I hope you all had a great 2008 and we all hope for the best for all of you in this new year. Cheers!