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 www.thehophunter.blogspot.com

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!