Archive for the ‘places’ Category

bend, OR

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Picture 163

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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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.

the mighty 50               2

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firestone walker journey to the center of the barrel

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

FW_SimonFord_8_barrel room2

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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FW_SimonFord_5_table2                          FW_SimonFord_15_david talking

FW_SimonFord_16_tractor thanks

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FW_SimonFord_18_brewery2               FW_SimonFord_21_lab

FW_SimonFord_9_kingsley fill up2                                  FW_SimonFord_25_winery_fillup

FW_SimonFord_12_winery             FW_SimonFord_13_winery

FW_SimonFord_27_barrelworks outside2                 FW_SimonFord_32_blending at barrelworks

FW_SimonFord_28_sampling the wild barrels

FW_SimonFord_31_dba at barrelworks               FW_SimonFord_30_logo

FW_SimonFord_4_hosts

 

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.

great divide hops               great divide fermentor

great divide hardware

hops & pie               crooked stave

cheeky monk

hosing down great divide               tiny glass at avery

stills at stranahans

stranahans conicals               white dog from the source

barrel room at stranahans

 

shaking out a few at stranahans               crooked stave

lineup at river north

ready to go

persimmon harvest, bierkast article

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

last weekend AP and I headed to lomita to stock up on some persimmons.

  • 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.

               

 

all brett blonde, LACBB summit at beachwood

Friday, November 9th, 2012

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.

after hosing down my brewstand, ML and I headed for beachwood BBQ long beach to meet up with the LACBB crew for our monthly summit.

  • 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!

               

 

 

hop storage, pacific brewers cup, LA beer week

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

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!

              

LA craft beer bloggers summit, hop harvest

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

last weekend I headed over to sunset beer co. in echo park for the second LA craft beer bloggers summit.

  • 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).

                        

              

 

carmel, monterey, sand city; highway 1

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

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!

              

              

              

              

 

monkish brewing tour, brett amber kegging, white tasting notes

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

last weekend AP and I headed over to torrance to check out monkish brewing co’s tasting room and facility.

  • after sampling a few beers we toured the facility with none other than henry nguyen, who runs the place with his wife adriana.  henry also sourced and assembled every piece of the fifteen barrel brewery himself, and indulged me with some some details about his regular brewing practices.  the beers were great, the tour was fantastic, and the hospitality was unmatched.  thanks again!

I also finally got around to kegging the secondary-brett and all-brett versions of my amber ale after a couple months of exposure.

  • I dry-hopped each of the 5 gallons of secondary-brett and the 2.5 gallons of all-brett with 1 oz. of fuggles for five days, then racked them into 5 and 2.5 gallon corny kegs, respectively.  both beers finished at 1.009, which was the same FG for the non-brett control beer I kegged a month earlier (which may mean the brett needs more time in secondary, or just that the WLP575 is unusually attenuative, since according to my notes I mashed at 156F!).  the fuggles added a great earthy spiciness to the beer’s aroma, and samples of both were promising.  I’m planning on serving the all-brett version soon and giving the secondary-brett version a little more time to work its magic.

additionally, I cracked a bottle of white (blanc) last night for review (and to test for carbonation):

  • appearance: dark brown with reddish hue when held to light, bubbly white head that quickly fades to lacing, great carbonation
  • aroma: fantastic assertive brett, slight fruit
  • taste: intense but satisfying acidity, light oak and stone fruit elements that increase as beer warms, good body with lingering sourness
  • overall: I’m very satisfied with this beer’s interplay between brett and acidity.  the light oak and fruit from racking onto cabrillo’s dregs and cake could be increased for greater effect, especially the cherries, which could really shine here.  I’m thinking about racking onto a bunch of sour cherries during the next batch or serve this batch through a randall stuffed with cherries…