Tuesday, May 22, 2012

North Park Craft Beer Block

Last Sunday we went to the Craft Beer Block at the North Park Festival of the Arts. I really like this festival and always have a good time when we go. There were some bad things to go with the good, so let's get to it, shall we?

The Good:

This is one of the more budget-friendly beer fests. Our tickets were $31 each and it got us a free T-shirt (more on this in the "bad" section), a keeper cup (plastic not glass, but I forgive them), 12 tastes of craft beer including a taste of the special Automatic Brewing limited beer.

This fest is 2 blocks from our apartment so we just walked right over - no searching for parking, no DUI issues to worry about.

They have good cheap eats from local restaurants with a $3 price point. We ate from the Jersey Joe's booth and I now have a new pizza place to add to my list of local favorites. Sadly I didn't get around to trying the homemade potato chips from the Range but maybe they will be back next year.

Lots of new beers to try! My favorites included the Monkey Paw/Stone collaboration Monkey Stones, Fezziwig's Brewing Cream Ale, Automatic Brewing 94/9 Insider Belgian Wheat, and Latitude 33 Vanilla's Porter. Nice to see (and taste) Aztec Brewing, Rough Draft, and Hess too - breweries that were not on the block last year.

I saw more San Diego breweries this year than last - the ratio of SD to other areas seemed higher than before. Although I love all craft beer it is just nice to see a focus on the local brewing scene since that is what I feel this street fair is all about.

The homebrewers guild had some great non-alcoholic ginger ale they were pouring for free. So tasty, in fact, that it's making me consider joining just to learn how to homebrew soda.

By going early we were able to see everything and get the beers we wanted before kegs started blowing!

The festival wasn't nearly as crowded as the Pizza Port fests. When we left there was still room to move aroud and it did not feel like a mosh pit. (Of course the space was much bigger than the Port fests, naybe they just need a larger venue)

Big thank you to the woman from Sea Rocket Bistro who helped me out (see the "ugly" section).

The Bad:

Lots of breweries just brought the same old beers they serve everywhere. Now I get that they are courting new customers and that it's only us die hard beer geeks that will complain... but kudos to Ballast Point for bringing both a seasonal and their standard fare.

Tailgate brought a hefeweizen that Warren grabbed a taste of and I don't know what it was but it sure wasn't a hefe... it was crystal clear - not cloudy at all, and had no discernable wheat flavor or aroma.

There was a bit of a snafu with the t-shirts. The online ordering had 3 different kinds of tickets: regular $30 admission, 94/9 Insider for $31 (with the special Automatic beer), regular admission with free t-shirt for $30. We chose the $31 to get the Automatic tasting and then went to a link no the site to send in out t-shirt sizes, but when we got to the fest the ticket person said we didn't have the right tickets for the free shirts. After a bit of discussion someone else with more info came along and we were able to get our shirts. Other bummer was that the largest shirt was XL, there were no XXL, so my shirt won't fit me.

Not as much swag as last year. Last year I picked up a ton of keychains and other geegaws, but this year Mother Earth was the only brewery I saw giving out anything more than stickers.

Not enough shade. We ended up sitting at a table next to one of the few umbrellas and taking turns running off to grab beer while the others watched the seat, but we still got sunburned.

The Ugly:

So I go to use the porta-potty about 15 minutes after the fest opens and the damn thing is out of toilet paper. And it's not just run out, there are not even empty rolls on the holder, this thing had not been stocked. End up having to poke my head out of the door to try to get some help and I see a woman from Sea Rocket Bistro who is asking the Elite Security where the handwashing sinks are. After a couple of minutes of the Elite guy telling her that this wasn't his problen the woman grabs me some paper out of one of the other porta potties and brings it to me. And I am left thinking - whoever was responsible, couldn't you check these things before you opened? And why is it such a big deal to the Elite guy that getting a roll of toilet paper isn't his job, and he has to tell me and the woman from Sea Rocket this?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

There is no good use for bad beer

So over on Gizmodo there's an article on trying to change crap beer to good beer*. Someone commented that cheap beer is only good for cooking. I say it's not even good for that. My reply: "Don't even cook with the crap beer. Stone Arrogant Bastard or Rogue Chipotle Ale are excellent for beer brats. Fruity beer like Sea Dog Wild Blueberry and Pyramid Apricot Ale make delicious marinade for pork chops. Steaks are best with dark coffee beers like Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout."

I have been marinading meat with these beers for years now and always get compliments from people who have tasted them. Of course, credit must also out to Greg for doing a fabulous job on the grill, and he has also helped with choosing the beers to use as marinade.

Quickie Chops recipe:

Get some nice thick pork chops (the ones from Costco are my favorite).

Marinade overnight in blueberry beer (Wild Blue is my fave for this), and use one of those flavor injectors that look like a huge hypodermic to get the beer all the way in the meat.

Grill until there is no pink at the center (this is Greg's job so I can't say how long it will take).

Serve with a slice of  Blueberry Wensleydale cheese on top. 

Pair with a Shipyard Smashed Blueberry!

*The Gizmodo article is about the Randall Jr. from Dogfish Head. I know I am nuts, but I want one of these damn things. I so want to try using some coffee beans or star anise on a good stout...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Don't Barrel Age Me, Bro!

The other day we were down at Bottlecraft for Greg's birthday and Brian was talking about some of the new beers they had recently received. He mentioned that they had some new barrel aged selections and I said that I was over the whole barrel aged beer trend. Greg commented to me that  I should've explained why as I ended up just sounding negative for no good reason so I figure I'll write about it here.

I am bored with barrel aged beers. If I wanted a drink that tasted like bourbon I would just go pour myself a shot of bourbon and not be grabbing a beer. I know that there are a lot of people who do enjoy the added flavor that barrel aging brings to a beer but I am finding that I am not really one of them. This surprises some of my friends as I regularly drink Imperials, Doubles and other high alcohol beer styles but it is specifically the "burn" that is often times present in the barrel aged beers that turns me off.  For me, the beer loses something when the other flavors get drowned out by that hard alcohol burn amd I'd rather be drinking most any other beer style.

All that said I am not a huge fan of most "extreme" beers - overly bitter hoppier-than-thou IPAs, Saisons that smell like a barnyard, and Sours that are tarter than sucking on a lemon are on my shit list as well. It's strange then that the style I have been ordering a lot of lately has been sour beer, I just don't like the super sour ones. Because really, if I wanted a beer that tasted like a Sweet Tart I could just throw a pack of them in a can of Pabst and be done with it.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

OMG WTF dinner

So sometimes I have no clue what to make for dinner and will end up just throwing random things in a dish and calling it food. Here's one I made earlier this week that the family enjoyed:

OMG WTF Dinner

half a bag of frozen cubed hash browns (not the shredded ones)
half a bag of frozen IKEA meatballs
about a cup and a half of frozen mixed veggies
two cans of cream of mushroom soup (straight outta the can, do not dilute)

Throw all the stuff in a 8x8 cassarole dish, mix, cover and bake at 450 for about 45 min

Add a bit of salt, pepper, or whatever floats your boat to spice things up a bit

Sunday, March 25, 2012

April Fools?

From the West Coaster event calendar: Pliny the Younger CASK @ O'Brien's
Sunday, April 1st we will tap the only cask of Pliny the Younger that has ever been made at noon. Russian River loves making cask beer and they have made this very special cask just for this special day. If it is ready in time, we will also be serving Russian River Procrastination as soon as the cask blows.

So, real or fake? A bit of Googling has shown me that PtY has been on cask before, back in 2006 or so. I'm finding contradictory info as to whether or not Procrastination is a real beer - I found a couple of ratings for it, but the Russian River website just lists it as "coming soon" and it looks like Procratioation is RR's little inside joke. O'Brien's website doesn't mention this event at all, so maybe West Coaster is pulling a fast one on O'Brien's? At this point I'm really not sure...

I am so hoping this is a prank - I have made it pretty well known that I am not hip on the whole ultra-limited release and crazy beer hype that surrounds PtY (and other beers that fall into this category). Part of me wants to show up at O'Brien's on the 1st and just sit back and watch... of course I used to get my kicks working at the Mann movie theatre box office the Sunday after a time change (back in the '80s when people didn't have cell phones that updated the time via satellite). Now if it's real, well, let's just say I'd rather be at any other beer bar.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Growling About Growlers, Part Deux

Change California Growler Laws is trying to tackle the current CA laws so we won't need to have growlers from each individual brewery. If you want to show support then you can sign the petition here. Now that San Diego has over 40 breweries this law change would really come in handy - I don't have room for that many growlers in my garage!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Exponential Insanity

I now mourn the limited availability of a beer I have never had: Exponential Hoppiness by Alpine Beer Company. Brewer Pat McIlhenney has stated in an e-mail that he will never sell this beer in growlers or bottles again because of the eBay secondary market for it. I have some mixed feelings about this as it will make it harder, if not impossible, to get to taste this beer since it is a fairly long drive for me to get out to Alpine just to have a glass on tap. If I'm gonna drive out there I want to make it worth the trip and be able to pick up some bottles or a growler for myself & ny beer family (Greg and Warren). I do see Pat's point, that all this crazy hype has got to stop with folks waiting in line for hours to buy beer that they are just going to turn around and sell for a profit.

Excerpt from ABC's e-mail on the subject: “Since I previously stated if I ever saw a growler of “Exponential Hoppiness” for sale on ebay there would never be another growler sold again. Don’t blame me, but you can see who to blame on the above link. As for bottles of “Expo” on ebay, I’m seriously considering never bottling it again. This is not just a personal issue, it’s illegal. The fact that people drove down from LA to make a quick buck and denying the locals the chance to buy some is also just plain wrong.”

Now, Pat sounds a bit extreme in his "locals only" vibe, but I think a lot of people are forgetting that he has always been this way. I can't remember the exact year Greg and I got introduced to ABC's beer, but it was probably about 2004 or so and we only heard of it because Greg's son was living out in Alpine. At that time you had only a few ways to get their beer - either at one the few San Diego beer bars that was getting it (Liar's Club in Mission Beach was one) or you could drive out to Alpine and get bottles from the local liquor stores or growlers direct from the brewery. Hell, half the time you couldn't buy bottles at the brewery as Pat wanted to support the stores selling his beer and refused to sell some stuff direct. At that time it seemed he didn't give a damn if anyone outside of Alpine was drinking his beer - forget about LA and OC! Thankfully I can now find Alpine beers in shops like Bottlecraft, and at many of my local haunts such as Ritual Tavern, Toronado, and Small Bar as we don't drive out to Alpine on a weekly basis anymore.

I do see how this sort of limiting can make demand go up and will freely admit that we got the royal treatment at the San Francisco branch of the Rogue Public House by giving the bartender a bottle of Pure Hoppiness - this was back in 2007 and we just happened to strike up a conversation with a patron who had been to San Diego and had some Alpine beer. He started telling the bartender what great beer it was and we had some in our car so we went and grabbed a bottle and gave it to the bartender (who had never had it before).  But, in my defense, I'm not selling it on eBay or even trading with other beer collectors online.

Bottom line: Pat brews the beer and can sell it however he wants to (within the confines of the law). And if you think you are having a hard time getting Alpine Beer now, well, it could be a LOT worse.

More info at: West Coaster, San Diego Beer Blog, Brewery Rowe

Edited to add - check out Charlie Blevins' comment on Alpine's Facebook page as he sums it up pretty well for the Alpine residents who have supported Pat from the beginning.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hooray for Brewbies!

On Saturday February 11th the Epic Hijinks crew* went to the Pizza Port Brewbies festival in Carlsbad. Overall it was a positive experience, but I am learning that I have some sort of mild agoraphobia and can't stand being in overly crowded places which made the festival an uncomfortable place for me to be.


Good things: it was a fundraiser for Keep A Breast,  an organization I prefer to support over Susan G. Komen for the Cure as the Komen folks are too white bread middle America for me with their whole anti-Planned Parenthood crap.

We rode the Coaster up from Old Town to Carlsbad instead of driving which was great as we could just relax and talk instead of being stuck in the car. We got to check out some great scenery and had a nice short walk over to Pizza Port from the station.

There were a lot of friendly people at the event, we ended up talking with a couple who were at the same table as us and passed around our glasses to share samples of the different beers. It was great to get beer recommendations and discuss tasting notes with them.

Great beer selection with quite a few special beers, including Pliny the Younger which I probably wouldn't have gotten to taste if it wasn't for this festival.

I was lucky enough to win a "goodie bag" in the raffle and got some cool swag from the Blair bars (Hamilton's, Eleven, Small Bar) along with other assorted stuff.

Inside the bottle shop there were free chocolates that were quite delicious, and Alecakes that were frosted to look like boobs.

Bad: as the festival got crowded I started feeling ill, but when I left and walked around the block I felt OK. Guess I just couldn't deal with the crowds - at times it felt like being in a polite mosh pit.

Since it was so hard to move around we missed out on the food which made me extra sad when I realized it was Nate from Toronado doing the cooking.

Motorboat was the ugliest beer I have ever drank, my pour was cloudy brownish-pink and looked like stomach bile. It tasted just fine, but I had to wrap my hand around the glass to avoid looking at the beer.

I had gone to the NCTD site to get Coaster times but there was no mention of the fact that they were having a special "Love Train" promotion for folks to ride 2 for 1 so we ended up all buying tickets for the train when we could've just bought two.

Coaster times sort of suck on Saturday, we had to leave Old Town before 10am to make sure we were at Pizza Port before noon. We ended up there about 11, so we had an hour wait to get into the festival - but then we turned it into a good thing by having pizza for lunch. We also didn't have a lot of choices for return times, we just lucked out that about the time we were ready to leave there was a train coming soon.

Pizza Port's bottle shop wasn't selling beer so we couldn't grab something to drink on our train ride back to San Diego - because being able to drink on the train is just too cool!


All in all I am glad I went, but may rethink going to some of Pizza Port's other festivals as they have just gotten so damn crowded. Maybe my memory has just gotten hazy but I don't recall the festivals being as packed back in 1999 when I went to the Real Ale festival.

*Epic Hijinks is the name of our drinking "guild" that currently has 3 members - me, Greg and Warren. We are actively recruiting more members as we could always use more fun people to go on drinking runs with us. We run DrinkAbout every third Wednesday of the month and generally start at Ritual Tavern and end at Toronado. We also regularly attend Friday Afternoon Club at Hess Brewing, and any Beer for Breakfast events at Small Bar. Oh, and keep the glass events - your cabinets will end up full of glassware if you raid with us.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Know your job

I have been out a couple of times this week and was stunned and amazed by working people who, to my way of thinking, did not know their jobs very well.

Thursday night we go out for a special beer promotion at Toronado. Brasserie d'Achouffe has a representative there to promote their beers. She looks really cute in her gnome hat and is great at handing out keychains to everyone... but she can't tell me a damn thing about the different beers they are promoting. The most descriptive she gets is saying that the Mc Chouffe is a "dark beer" and that she likes dark beers. She can't tell me that it's a Scotch ale (which I was able to surmise from the name) or anything else about it. Greg overhears someone asking her about the beers later and all she tells them is that they are listed up on the board. Now if I worked for a brewery, I would KNOW what the beers were that we were selling in case someone asked me about them. Hell, even if I just had a cheat sheet with name, style, ABV and IBU on it... I would damn well have some info about the beer in case someone asks me! Now, I know that this girl might have just been hired from a temp agency or something, so this may be the brewery's blow it for not getting her more informed on the beers, but it is bad form either way.

Next we went for Beer for Breakfast this morning at Small Bar for another glass giveaway, this time for Brewery Ommegang. First we have one bartender tell us it's keep the glass - one glass per Ommegang beer purchased, then another bartender takes Greg's empty glass from him. The bartender that took the glass asks Warren and I if we want another round and she tries to take away our glasses. I ask her "isn't it keep the glass on these?" and so she verifies it with the first bartender. She comes back and takes our glasses, fills them WITHOUT RINSING THEM, spills a beer while setting it down and does not top it off, and gives Warren my glass and vice versa. None of these things are real big mistakes, but it is not the usual level of service that we receive at Small Bar. I am used to having the bartenders give me a fresh glass for each pour, or at least rinsing the glass before refilling it. Things did get all sorted out at the end and we each got 2 glasses to keep (since we had each ordered 2 Ommegang beers) but I am still a bit peeved. Even if Greg, Warren and I always taste each other's beers it still doesn't make it OK to bring my beer back in Warren's glass. You are probably thinking, "why didn't you guys just swap the glasses when she gave you the wrong one?" and the reason is that I didn't notice until we started drinking that Warren's glass had my lip prints all over it. I know this may all sound like we made a big deal over nothing - but if I am paying for something I expect to get what I paid for, and I expect that my beer will not be polluted by the flavor of the last beer that was in the glass.

Bottom line: know your job. Try to be ready for the questions people might ask you, and know before coming on shift what is happening in your establishment. Commitment to quality is what will keep customers coming back. ( And glass giveaways. I'm a sucker for "keep the glass" events.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bad Dog!

First, my disclaimer: I'm a cat person. For years I thought all that dog person/cat person stuff was a crock of shit... but now I get it. I used to own a dog, but I am no longer a dog fan.

What is it with all the bars/restaurants that allow you to bring your dog? And WHY do people bring their dogs to them? Seems every place I go in South Park people bring their dogs. Really? Does your dog need to come to the Stone store with you while you taste beer? Does your dog need to go to Station Tavern with you while you are munching on tater tots? Does your dog really need a night out at Hamilton's just so I can trip over him on my way to the bar?

I want to start bringing my cats with me to bars. I will teach them to drink beer and sing along with Cherry Bomb on the jukebox over at Toronado. I want to see business start advertising themselves as "cat friendly" and give out free tuna and saucers of milk for my feline friends. Viva le chat!