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 ......off 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.