- the event was a follow up to last year’s journey to the center of the barrel, a whirlwind of barrel-aging, winemaking, beer blending, and local-focused fine dining that left me humble and grateful for the opportunity to participate. honestly, I felt that last year’s experience was too over-the-top to be matched, much less bested, by any subsequent event.
- I couldn’t have been more wrong – FW doubled down and pulled out all the stops to create an experience unlike any other. upon our arrival david walker ushered us to FW’s original grassroots brewing facility, which is now the home of andrew murray vineyards. andrew himself poured us a glass of his recent harvest and ran through some winemaking 101 before we all headed back to a luxe campsite for some amazing santa maria-style barbeque and some breaking news.
- the news had to do with my favorite topic – wild beer. DW and AM were joined by jeffers richardson and “sour jim” crooks from their barrelworks program, who poured samples of their upcoming (and very impressive) bretta rose and let it slip that many future wild projects were in the works. I was stoked to hear that these projects involved collaborating with andrew murray and aging on both grape juice and pomace – we tried samples of both techniques and I was excited to see the potential for pomace aging (it imparted a vivid strawberry character that was very unique). later that night I was able to share some bottles of cabrillo, vizcaino, and my kriek while talking shop with the whole crew.
- the next morning we cruised up to the paso robles facility where head brewer dustin kral gave us a comprehensive tour of FW’s latest developments, including massive fermentation space increases as well as intricate kegging and canning(!) lines, which should help streamline production and make it even easier to get fresh beer in your hands (I’m pumped for the possibility of some canned pivo pils in the future)! speaking of fresh beer, we also participated in a quality control tasting session, where we saw firsthand how age and warm temps warp fresh, hoppy beer into something less than desirable. I’ll have to bring the whole QC thing up the next time AP questions the three beer fridges humming along in the basement.
- the trip ended with a bang over at villicana winery, home to RE:FIND distillery. alex and monica villicana treated us like family, walking us through their four-run distillation process on their alembic still and talking us through a gin blending session that resulted in one-off custom gin and tonics. we finished the night with an amazing outdoor dinner provided by FW’s chef that was accompanied by outstanding custom cocktails and FW beers. before leaving, alex and monica presented us with bottles of writer’s blanc, a white whiskey commemorating the LABB weekend that was made by distilling a massive quantity of FW’s 805 blonde ale. I was humbled not only by the thoughtfulness and generosity of FW and RE:FIND, but also by the spirit itself – like their brandy, the whisky has wonderful character and body, especially when compared to many white/neutral spirits. the fact that they re-purpose an otherwise disposable juice cut to make their brandy is icing on the cake. I cannot overstate how cool this place was to visit.
- on the ride back to LA my head was spinning (and not because of the parabola JV cracked open to share on the blogger bus). collaboration, innovation, community pride/support, and local sourcing of high-quality ingredients to create a great product with a local identity are all ideas that FW champions, and those ideas make it easy to stand behind a brewery, regardless of whether they make a world-class product (which FW undoubtedly does). the weekend left me inspired and motivated to not only continuously strive to improve my own brewing/business processes, but to also appreciate and support an area for what makes it unique. thanks again for a great weekend!
Archive for the ‘events’ Category
last weekend’s firestone walker invitational was incredible.
- after reviewing my photos of the event, it became clear to me that the focus of the invitational was on relationships – friendships between brewers, media, and industry representatives, valued business and social ties between producers and consumers, and the intertwining of a brewery and its community. the majority of my shots were portraits of those involved with and passionate about beer and its associated culture, local to international in scope. as the day progressed I discussed current events with south bay media, caught up on the latest releases from northern california, the midwest, and the east coast, and swapped beers and stories with brewers from as far away as germany and japan.
- oh, and then there was the beer. the available selection at the festival was over-the-top, and included dozens of world-class beers of all styles and gravities, from the palate-assaulting three floyds barrel aged dark lord and cigar city’s brandy barrel hunahpu to the sessionable birrifico italiano tipopils and refreshing barrelworks/mikkeler lil’ mikkel. those examples were just the tip of the iceberg – the selection was really comprehensive and unique, and was likely the best I’ve ever encountered at an event.
- my unforgettable barrel journey to paso robles was my first exposure to the passion and generosity of firestone walker, and the fw invitational picked up right where the former left off. both satisfying and inspiring, this event is one I can’t wait to revisit for many years to come.
last weekend I met up with other members of the la beer bloggers to embark on what would turn out to be an unforgettable beer expedition.
- as guests of firestone walker, we were given an all-access pass to the brewery, barrel houses, and environs in an attempt to experience what sets FW apart from other craft breweries. after a quick trip up north on a chartered bus (made quicker by a bottle share and a steady supply of 12 oz firestone staples provided by our gracious host), we arrived not at the brewery but windrose farm, a local family farm that provides produce to FW’s restaurant. bill and barbara, who live on and run the farm, kept everyone educated and entertained with discussions of biodynamic practices and responsible agriculture while we feasted on freshly picked greens and house-raised lamb expertly prepared by FW’s head chef and paired with an intense lineup of FW specialties ranging from bretta weiss to parabola.
- after hitching a tractor ride back to the bus, we headed over to the brewery, where matt brynildson and dustin kral gave us the VIP tour. beers in hand, we went from the brewhouse to the lab to the roof of the facility, finally ending up in the barrel house, where dustin grabbed a thief and proceeded to pour everyone a three-barrel flight of a one-off beer aged in straight oak, bourbon, and tequila barrels. minds already blown, we were then whisked away to herman story wines, where winemaker russell had a full spread and barrel sampling lineup at the ready. after a few more hours of debauchery we ended the night at FW’s taproom restaurant with some great eats and a homebrew share (punctuated by some on-the-spot homebrew/food pairing suggestions by FW’s head chef).
- the next morning, having shook the cobwebs out of our heads and limbered up, we headed down to buellton to check out FW’s new barrelworks facility. “sour jim,” the resident master blender, gave us a tour of the growing barrel stacks and set us up with a wild beer blending session after a fantastic lunch. after the session, GN sweet-talked jim into supplying us with some sample bags to take home some barrel bugs, and after talking shop for a while (over a full flight of FW one-offs and wild beers) jim snuck us back to the barrel room, where he started pulling nails and let us in on some of his long-term projects. the trip finished off with a drive down the coast and yet another bottle share.
- oh, and the kicker? the whole even was hosted by david walker, the co-founder himself. david was a generous, receptive, and intelligent host who made everyone feel at home in paso robles. the event left me with not only a great admiration for the care, passion, and innovation FW brings to the craft brew game, but also with a profound respect for all parties involved with the beer scene in paso robles and the surrounding areas. that sixer of DBA in my fridge never looked so good.
- to celebrate, I grabbed some raincoast crisps and humboldt fog and headed over to PP and DP’s house, where I had picked the apricots nineteen months earlier. I also chilled a bottle of ’08 fou’ foune from cantillon for the sake of comparison (and to see where my version might be headed in a few years). here are my thoughts on each:
- cantillon fou’ foune 2008
- appearance: great carbonation, turbid, white head that quickly fades to lacing
- aroma: intense, complex, dirty barnyard funk
- taste: bracing acidity, slight sticky stone fruit evident on finish
- overall: enjoyable, but the high acid level made this beer far from sessionable.
- house apricot lambic
- appearance: light straw color, crystal clear, solid carbonation, quickly vanishing head
- aroma: sweet ripe apricot, lingering funk
- taste: assertive complex funk with tart apricot and a tangy, dry finish with a fresh, complex acidity. very drinkable.
- overall: I can’t think of a tastier beer I’ve made to date, really happy with this one. I’m excited to take my first solera barrel pull soon to experiment with other local fruit.
- a few weeks back our friend JB mentioned that she had a sizable fuyu persimmon tree in her backyard and that this year’s yield was more than she could handle. what an understatement – behind her house was the largest persimmon tree I had ever seen, loaded to the hilt with ripe fruit. AP and I spent a couple hours up in the leaves, relieving the sagging branches of their pesticide-free bounty while JB’s dogs darted around, investigating our growing piles of fruit.
- I then spent a few more hours destemming, washing, and organizing the fuyus. after all was said and done, we ended up with close to one hundred pounds of fruit, and barely made a dent in the tree. prepping that volume of fruit is no joke for one person – so far I’ve only managed to cut, vacuum seal, and freeze half of our haul, and am not looking forward to finishing the other half. it will all be worth it in the future though – how does one hundred pounds of persimmons in a barrel of lambic sound? not that it hasn’t been done before, of course…
on another note, last week kip from bierkast headed over to overcarbed HQ to check out my setup.
- over the course of a few hours we toured my fermentation room/beer cellar and checked out my homebrew rig, while sampling some of my current lineup. I tossed some of my neighbor’s fresh caught chucklehead on the grill while we talked shop, covering a variety of topics from lambic brewing to sourcing local ingredients. his well-written writeup can be found HERE.
last weekend I kept rolling with the funk and put together an all-brett blonde split three ways.
- I based my grain bill on various recipes for brett blondes (which all seemed pretty homogeneous), but kept to a 60 minute boil and mashed at 151F (in hindsight, I could have kicked it up to around 154 or 155F, since all-brett beers tend to finish a little thin). my starting gravity was 1.055 and I kept the IBUs to around 27.
- after cooling the wort to the mid-70s, I divided it up into three fermentors (two 5gal and on 2.5gal), aerated, and pitched a different isolated brett strain into each fermentor. a vial of WLP653 went into five gallons, my ramped-up starter of WLP644 went into another five, and a vial of WLP650 was pitched into the smaller 2.5 gal better bottle.
- the 644 took off vigorously within hours, while the slightly underpitched WLP650 took a day or so to get going. I had read that the 653 was a notoriously slow starter, which rang true – it took three days to see visible activity, but by that time the airlock was churning and there was a healthy krausen.
- julian shrago (brewer), gabe gordon (owner), and daniel drennon (writer) all spoke at the event, although I arrived late and was admittedly distracted by a killer brisket sandwich and tasty house IPA. kip’s article over at bierkast summarizes the event nicely (and includes a pretty unflattering profile shot of me at the bar). not a bad way to spend a sunday!
last saturday I headed over to santa monica for the annual beer, art, and music (BAM) fest.
- a comprehensive beer selection accompanied a friendly crowd and a great music lineup at the 18th street arts center parking lot. standout taps included a fresh hop beer from pizza port and a barrel aged imperial stout from smog city. I got caught up talking shop with a bunch of brewers at the event and only managed to get a couple shots off, but bernie over at friends of local beer took a great set you can check out HERE.
the next morning I found some time to keg and bottle my homegrown saison.
- the beer finished at 6.5 brix (1.006) for an abv of 6.63%. since it finished so low I decided to skip the brett b addition and just keg up ten gallons straight. initially, a loose-fitting siphon hose introduced some oxygen into the beer line and eliminated suction when racking the beer, but after a quick fix with some zip ties and CO2 pressure the kegs were topped off for carbonating. the gravity sample had diverse and intense spice and fruit notes – it seems the yeast really liked the high fermentation temps. I’m definitely looking forward to the finished product in a few weeks!
last weekend I weighed out and bagged this year’s hop harvest.
- I ended up with 2.5 oz. of vojvodina, 2 oz. of cascade, and a paltry 0.5 oz of chinook. my goal next year is to mulch with compost, maintain a regular fertilization schedule, and let all runners have at it up the vine. hopefully that will increase yields, especially with my in-ground rhizomes.
I also received some good news from the pacific brewer’s cup, a local homebrew competition hosted by three homebrew clubs.
- I was stoked to hear that my turbid mash lambic took second place in the cat. 17 sour ale category under straight (unblended) lambic. a bunch of homebrewer buddies also cleaned house, which helped to cement an overall competition club win by my homebrew club, pacific gravity. great job everybody!
I’ve also been busy participating in some festivities for LA beer week, which is going on all this week and weekend (check it out if you’re local!).
- I kicked off beer week in style by heading over to the monthly pacific gravity meeting, and helped out during the weekend by pouring some of my homebrew (white and light house saison) over at monkish during a bus tour of four local breweries.
I also finally got around to taking a decent shot of my fermentation room for those who are curious (see below). big things are in the works, so stay tuned for updates!
- a while back, kip barnes of bierkast blogging and LA aleworks fame took it upon himself to unite and network local LA area beer bloggers (similar to what jay brooks has done up north with the BABB). I missed the first summit, but heard about the impressive turnout and was interested in checking out the next gathering.
- sunset beer co. turned out to be an ideal venue for the meetup, with plenty of space and a great selection both on tap and in the coolers. the staff were very friendly and accommodating despite the fact that they were likely nursing hangovers from their anniversary party the night before. as for the LA craft beer bloggers, everyone at the meeting was both passionate and knowledgeable about the beer scene and was a pleasure to talk to. check out more info at the LACBB facebook page.
- the main event of the summit was a talk held by dieter foerstner, head brewer of angel city brewery in downtown LA. he briefed everyone on the status of the brewery (distributing imminently, opening their doors in a few months) and went through some details on a hoppy wheat and IPA that were being passed around. dieter definitely knows his way around a mash tun and I was pleasantly surprised by his wheat beer, which had great balance and exhibited a unique blend of complementary malt flavors and hop aromas. during a later conversation, I was flattered to find out that he was a fan of my bottles of white and house saison that I brought to the meetup. angel city is getting a lot of great press and I’m excited to see where they go from here.
after heading back home from the summit I finally got around to harvesting this year’s hop crop from my backyard.
- although this year’s chinook yield was paltry compared to previous years’, my vojvodinas and cascades put out enough cones to easily support a 12 gal. batch, despite an irregular fertilizing schedule. I’m currently drying the hops and am excited to see how the late-hopped vjovodinas turn out in my latest saison (last year’s cascades and chinooks contributed a nice smooth bitterness to my imperial stout).
last week AP and I hopped in the truck and headed north to carmel for JVG’s wedding.
- a close to seven hour drive got us into town late, so after sleeping in we headed out to explore the area. our first stop (after an early lunch) was acme coffee roasting, which really blew my mind. I usually don’t stray from beer writing on this blog, but as a long-time amateur coffee roaster/espresso geek I was really stunned by the passion and care exuded by the owner and the resulting extremely high quality of their hand-pumped espresso and other coffees. I spent a good ten minutes nursing a killer double shot and watching their monster drum roaster crank out a fresh batch of beans. this place was the highlight of my visit and is definitely on my short list of places to visit if you are anywhere nearby.
- our next stop after our morning wake-up call was post no bills in nearby sand city, where a thorough bottle selection compensated for a middle-of-the-road tap list. after finishing a round with the local lagunitas rep we headed to bottoms up homebrew, where very friendly service accompanied bags of fresh locally grown cascade hops. bottles n bins rounded out the afternoon with an impressive beer selection (probably the best in the area).
- the next day AP and I cleaned ourselves up and headed out to a spectacular wedding, replete with great people, food, and beer of both the homebrewed and commercial varieties. specifically, AH and NM brought along kegs of belgian single, bohemian pils, and berliner weiss to pour out of AH’s custom jockey box, which accompanied kegs of lagunitas’ IPA and anderson valley’s boont amber behind the bar. I also brought along a keg of my imperial stout to which I had added ECY’s brett blend many months back, which was initially massively overcarbed but worth the effort it took to degas (review to come).
- after a weekend of great times with great friends, AP and I headed south, taking the scenic route. highway 1 added several hours to our trip but also provided unique destinations like a remote hermitage where we picked up some monk-made “holy granola” and an under-construction bar and beer garden with a surprisingly comprehensive tap list. when we finally made it back (with an extra 850 miles on the odometer) we were beat from the trip but happy to have been able to take part in such a momentous occasion. congrats again VG!