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