Archive for the ‘beers’ Category

kauai

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


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great beer can surface in the unlikeliest of places.  take kauai, for example.

  • AP and I visit family friends out on the garden isle on a somewhat regular basis, and each time we head over I resign myself to the fact that the craft offering in my fridge will probably be a sixer of longboard lager (which is honestly a pretty great option to have).  my luck didn’t improve when I found out that the last decent brewery I visited on the island closed a while back.
  • however, while scouring beeradvocate during my packing session I came across a promising newcomer – kauai beer company.  I penciled the name into our itinerary and we stopped by for a pint about halfway though our trip.
  • to say I was surprised by kauai beer co’s offerings would be an understatement – their comprehensive selection of sessionable offerings were well-made and were complemented by great atmosphere and service.  standout beers for me included the sub-4% abv black limo and their fresh IPA2, and a house made spent grain pretzel was the icing on the cake.
  • we came back a few days later for their truck stop thursday session, which included a few local food trucks slinging great eats to complement the beer lineup.  the place was packed with locals and the taps were flowing nonstop from the time we stepped in until we left.  I was happy to see such strong community support for what is really the only legit brewery on the island, and kauai beer co. is definitely on my short list for all future trips way out west.

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firestone walker: rough cuts & remixes trip

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

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last weekend I accompanied my fellow LA beer bloggers up to los olivos, buellton, and paso robles for another unforgettable blogger’s weekend held by firestone walker.

  • 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!

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brett pale ale variations

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

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as you may have guessed from my earlier posts, I have a thing for pale ales that have brettanomyces added in secondary.

  • as a result, I was motivated to create something in the same vein as beers like orval, rayon vert, brux, etc.
    – beers that are somewhat sessionable yet earthy and spicy, with a rocky head and a funk that grows over time in the bottle/keg.
  • I was also intrigued by beers such as the historic ballantine IPA that was supposedly aged for a year in oak and aroma hopped with hop extract, and wanted to incorporate some of those unique characteristics as well to create a unique “wood aged brett pale.”
  • I ended up going with a grain bill of maris otter, vienna, crystal 80 and 40, and wheat for a solid malt backbone, with a starting gravity of 1.062.  I bittered with columbus and added late aroma additions of chinook and simcoe for layered pine notes and a smooth bitterness (~55 IBU).
  • for fermentation purposes, I split the batch between ECY17 burton union and WLP510 bastogne.  I had originally planned to go with ECY10 old newark (one of the original ballantine strains) but my starter was so violently active (after less than six hours) the majority of top cropping yeast blew out of my erlenmeyer flask and my leftover pitch didn’t go anywhere.  east coast yeast is the only provider whose vials I will directly pitch into wort without stepping up (the ECY17 vial took off in only an hour or two after pitching).
  • after two weeks in primary at a controlled 65F, the WLP510 fermentor was at 1.01 and the ECY17 fermentor was at 1.013.  I racked both into corny kegs, primed with 2.5oz. sugar, and pitched orval bottle dregs into each.  I was planning on adding an american oak cube to each keg as well, but didn’t have any lying around.  I am also tossing around the idea of dry hopping them before serving (which might be challenging now that I primed the kegs).
  • I’m planning on tapping the kegs after three months and seeing which version works better with brett.  the base beers both tasted great during kegging, so hopefully they’ll keep improving!

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bend, OR

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

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a couple weeks ago AP and I flew to portland, rented a truck, and road tripped it out to bend.

  • bend is a great riverside community that touts mountain biking, skiing, kayaking, and hiking as some of its main offerings.  AP and I managed to do none of those activities, opting instead for beach cruising, eating, and beer drinking (although I did get a decent round of disc golf in on mt bachelor).
  • the coolest thing about bend is how the city fosters all sorts of fermentation projects.  we visited breweries ranging in size from behemoths like deschutes (who had some great food and one-offs on tap), to local heavies like bend brewing (who had a killer IPL), to one of the tiniest tap rooms I’ve ever squeezed into over at boneyard (who had beers ranging from a (suprisingly good) chili beer a tasty sour for on-premises sampling).
  • the highlight of our trip was a VIP tour of the nectar of the gods meadery by none other than its founder, wesley.  he hooked us in with samples of his bourbon barrel-aged mead at the nearby platypus pub (which is part of an amazing bar, homebrew store, and bottle shop combination) and treated us to a variety of other creations made with various fruits and herbs.  it was inspiring to see someone who was not only into mead production but was killing it with unique variations.  he also tipped us to some unique (but expensive) wild bottles from ale apothecary.  thanks again, wesley!

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bkyeast experiment update

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

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it’s hard to believe that it has been over eight months since I first pitched bkyeast’s isolates into some neutral blonde wort to experiment with.

  •  the initial tasting was a little underwhelming, likely due to the fact that I hadn’t given each strain enough time (only about a month) to work its magic.  therefore, I stashed some bottles aside and promptly forgot about them until a few weeks back, when I popped them into the fridge to chill.  here are the results.
  • Picture 153WY3191 brett isolate
    • appearance: fluffy white head that lasts, good clarity
    • aroma: citrus, lemon, earth
    • taste: dry, lemony, slight mustiness, great prickly carbonation, slight acidity
    • overall: very tasty, great end product, good option for a long-term saison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • cantillon iris isolate C2
    • appearance: bubbles rush to top of bottle when opened, fluffy, fine head
    • aroma: complex dirty funk with slight medicinal edge, unique, almost floral
    • taste: creamy, coating mouthfeel, slight perceived sweetness
    • overall: interesting aroma, lacks the dry effervescent brettiness that I prefer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Picture 164cantillon iris isolate C3
    • appearance: vigorous, fluffy, long-lasting head
    • aroma: chalky, fruity hard candy, medicinal finish
    • taste: creamy, sweet, floral
    • overall: another interesting result with good carbonation, just not as exciting or dramatic as WY3191

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • in the end, I preferred the carbonation, finish, and acidity of the WY3191 isolate.  who knows, maybe it will make another appearance in the future…

firestone walker invitational

Friday, June 7th, 2013

the flood gates

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.

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firestone walker journey to the center of the barrel

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

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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.

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colorado – denver, boulder, longmont

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

clock tower in denver

a couple of weeks ago AP and I headed out to colorado to see what this hyped up beer state had to offer.

  • highlights in denver included freshcraft (great beers and service – hi Dan!), great divide (comfortable but remarkably small when compared to their level of distribution), cheeky monk (fantastic non-local draft selection), crooked stave (great wild beers, inspiring), bull & bush (a must-visit classic),  hops & pie (great food, good beer selection, great atmosphere), and small batch liquors (outstanding local and rarities selection, fantastic service).  to top it off, stranahan’s distillery hosted an unreal tasting tour, and their adjacent restaurant, the rackhouse pub, had great food and all the booze any hound could wish for.
  • boulder was a little different – spots like twisted pine and avery (surprisingly) left me disappointed with the beers, food, and service.  luckily, upslope brewing saved the day with a great tasting room, beers, and conversation, and the local whole foods wine & spirits blew my mind with a comprehensive local selection.  nearby oskar blues in longmont came through with a fantastic draft list and some good eats as well.
  • it may be a while until I head back to the rockies (GABF, anyone?), but I can definitely say I enjoyed my visit.  warm hospitality, great food, and a notable beer selection make colorado a worthwhile stop for a beer geek jonesing for a weekend trip.

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stills at stranahans

stranahans conicals               white dog from the source

barrel room at stranahans

 

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lineup at river north

ready to go

dark house II bottling/kegging/racking

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

slurry and friends

seven months had passed since I pitched my house slurry into my dark saison wort, so I broke out my autosiphon, a keg, and some bottles and got busy.

  • the beer finished at 1.005 (6.5 brix) for a final ABV reading of 7.07%.  my gravity sample had an assertive, rich fruit aroma and a smoother sourness than what I remembered from my first dark saison batch.
  • in addition to kegging five gallons and bottling close to five more, I also racked around 2.5 gallons onto 2lb., 2 oz of frozen persimmons from my earlier harvest in celebration of my last last “sour” saison for the forseeable future (although I did save the slurry, so you never know…).  after six months the fruited batch will be bottled, and we’ll see how the delicate persimmon notes add to the total package here (or if they can stand up to the already prominent fruit presence in the beer).

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lambic solera update

Monday, January 21st, 2013

sweet nectar

ten months have passed since I brewed and racked over sixty gallons of lambic into a neutral french oak barrel.  this weekend curiosity got the better of me and I decided to sneak a sample.

  • after contemplating multiple sampling techniques, I decided to avoid unnecessary oxygenation by pulling a my sample from a small hole drilled into the barrel head.  from what I have read, vinnie cilurzo of russian river pioneered this method, and his advice proved to be right on the money.  you can check out funk factory’s tutorial as well (however, I would drill the hole about halfway up to reduce the force of the sample stream).  also, be sure to be ready with a glass and stainless nail at hand before drilling (mise en place!).
  • my sample came in at a gravity of 1.005 (5.45% abv).  I took the following notes:
    • lambic solera
    • appearance: pale gold with sediment in suspension
    • aroma: assertive barnyard with lots of funk
    • taste: tannic with a complex funk up front and a lemony, acidic finish
    • overall: I’m very happy where this is headed at 10 months, and am excited to see further development (increased intensity in flavors/aroma?)
  •   It’s going to be hard to hold out for another couple of months with this one, but I have a good feeling it will be worth the wait… 

drilling

retrieving

plugging

tightening

ready for the next sample