January Brings A New Challenge!

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January starts the new trek for attempting to hit a minimum of 100 different breweries or tasting rooms. This will be the 4th year of this personal challenge and if I’m going to make 100 different brewery stops, I’ve got to start strong. Math tells me I need to hit 8.4 breweries each month to meet my goal. So how did January go?  Well, a little bit of a slow start, but that’s what the rest of the year is for.

#001 – Monk Cellar I really don’t get out here enough.  They are brewing some classic styles beautifully and the food is spot on. My choices for lunch, their take on an American IPA and what might be my favorite, the London Porter. The IPA drank big for a 6.5% IPA. West Coast bitterness with some candy sweetness from the hops. The London Porter is an open-fermented gem that has a smooth chocolate finish while not drinking too heavy. The Scotch Eggs pair with life, don’t leave without trying them.

#002 – New Glory Brewery So, New Glory is an easy “Go-To” for me. Great staff, good vibe (keep the punk rock going) and I’m always impressed with the beer. This stop included Take 5, really superb Session IPA. Do you Even Simcoe, Broh? part of the single hop series. I try not to miss out on any of these.  Lastly, Greenergy, this 8.1% DIPA was drinking the best tonight. I’ve been going away from the higher ABV IPAs, but this one might bring me back in.

#003 – Track 7 Brewing (Curtis Park) is another favorite of mine, and today was no exception. The day started with Haze and Lupuline in Curtis Park, this 10.2% ABV triple IPA is dangerously smooth. Next up, Love and Hoppiness in Vermont. I drink this every time I see it. At 5.1% ABV, this could be a daily hazy for me. Then off to a new one for me, Darkness, Imprisoning Me. Holy hell, this 13.3% ABV Russin Imperial Stout is insanely good.  With an Untappd rating of 4.21, I don’t think I’m the only one who is loving this beer. Lastly, a palette cleanser with Left Eye, Right Eye. It’s just a 9.5% DIPA that is damn good.

#004 – Fieldwork Brewing (Sacramento Tasting Room) January’s stops ended here. I’m a big fan, but I left with mixed reviews today. My flight included Island Time, a fruited sour. Ill-Gotten Grains, a Gose was next up. Stream of Coffee, an English mild. Then to Coffee Town, a Brown Ale.  Finishing up with Sniff Test Bru 1, IPA. I really like Fieldwork, but I was disappointed. The coffee beers didn’t pop with coffee. The IPA didn’t taste up to par with Fieldwork’s IPAs I’m used to. My favorite today was the Gose.  Although it wasn’t a great day for me, I will be back (probably soon).

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February is off to a great start. More Sacramento area breweries, a trip to Vegas and followed up with a trip to Paso Robles. This month might get me back on track.

When Are There Too Many Breweries?

Is having a brewery in every neighborhood good, if they are just producing average beer?

I absolutely love the fact that it’s really easy to find a brewery just about anywhere in California. It’s also pretty damn easy to find one when traveling. But are they any good? Are they really needed?

Fine, I’m guilty! I love trying new breweries. In fact, I’ve had a running goal of visiting 100 individual breweries for each the last 3 years. The goal (mostly) accomplished. But how many were truly memorable? How many are worth a second visit? Sadly, too many are just fine. Not flawed, but not exciting either.

So, back to the question? Do we really need a bunch of average breweries for the sake of having a lot of breweries? I’m starting to think not. Now, if your idea of a brewery in every neighborhood is more about having a local place to meet, drink and make friends… or a bar, fine. But now you have a bar with a super limited selection. While a brewery can be a fairly decent bar, I think real bars do BARS better.

If you walk into a brewery, sample a few beers and think “they didn’t suck”, is that good enough. Is that good enough to not give those beer dollars to a brewery you really enjoy? Not to mention time and effort lost on ho hum beer.

I really feel 2018 is going to be the year we start to see morebreweries close. And unfortunately, not all the closures will be bad breweries. Just look at the Oregon brewery The Commons. A highly regarded brewery with an average Untappd rating of 3.8 closed. Modern Times is taking over the facility. Beer consumption is down, I know, it’s hard to believe. If that trend continues, along with adding new breweries, beer dollars are going to be spread pretty thin.

If you care about well crafted beer, you need to support the breweries that are producing it. And, stop worrying about who owns what and if they are a social media darling. If your favorite spot is not cutting it, maybe it’s time you need to drop a few hints.

This doesn’t mean, no new breweries. This means new breweries need to step up. High quality and innovative beers needs to be the normal right out of the gate.

Cheers to great beer and the fans that support it.

No Resolutions

No resolutions, but I do have goals. One of those is playing guitar. My mom played a little bit. I started learning electric guitar back in high school, but life got in the way. Too many years later, I decided to challenge myself to pick up where I left off. 2018 will be the year

What Have You Done?

I’ve been enjoying beer for some time now. In fact, it’s been a passion.

In my 30 years of legal drinking, I’ve gone from “whatever I can get my hands on” to “biggest and hard to get” to “I just want to enjoy my beer”.

I still remember finding those bars and restaurants that actually carried good beer. Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, Pete’s and Anchor Steam. Occasionally you would even find a Dead Guy or Red Seal Ale. The good old days, right?

And the boom! Microbreweries and nano breweries. Craft and artisanal breweries. Competition, innovation, and growth changed many of these companies from your local brewery to regional powerhouses. Trademark infringements and tap handle wars. Hop shortages, don’t forget about the hop shortages. Are they still a thing?

Buyouts and sellouts! Hazy IPAs and pastry stouts. Bombers and now cans. Giant IPAs in both ABV and bitterness to Session IPAs with huge fruit aromas.

So what does it matter? Now or in the future, it’s going to change. And then go back again. It will always be “what have you done…lately?” Breweries who want to stay relevant have to change. And continue to change.

Beer Travels – South Lake Tahoe

The last three year’s I’ve set a goal of hitting 100 different breweries. So to continue with that annual ritual, it was time to venture out again. What better than a weekend beer crawl through beautiful South Lake Tahoe! It’s been a bunch of years since I visited and it’s never been known as a beer destination. My wife took it upon herself to find the breweries and book the weekend getaway. She found a local blog that provided some excellent information.

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Not Sure What To Expect

While South Lake Tahoe has a lot to offer, I wasn’t sure beer was one of them. Sking, mountain biking, boating, and gambling. With a captive vacationing audience, why would the beer need to be a standout?

Food?

All but one of the breweries had some sort of food. Two being full on brewpubs and one offer food as a side thing. Maybe there’s a shortage of food trucks in the area.

First stop, breakfast in the town of El Dorado. We stopped at the aptly named Cafe El Dorado. A basic little cabin/house that is a true locals spot. Killer breakfast and a great place to stop before hitting the mountain breweries.

From my research, there are 5 active breweries and 1 in planning.  We picked 4 to hit. All but one was relatively new.  The Brewery at Lake Tahoe has been around since 1992.

South Lake Brewing Company

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First Impressions: Big, open tasting room that would a great spot to meet up with some friends.

Staff: Friendly staff, although I thought it was interesting that they didn’t ask me if  I wanted to keep my tab open.

Beer List: I didn’t count the beers on the list, but they had about 10 to choose from.  They covered the key styles from IPA, Pale, Stouts and even a Berliner Weisse.

Brewery Highlights: The two beers that really stood out for me were their 3.3 ABV English Mild “Land Otter”. You are hard-pressed to find an English Mild on a tap list, and this one was very well made.  My favorite from the stop Burnside Stout. This beer had a nice bittersweet chocolate flavor with a good level of roast.  I didn’t get much coffee on it, but that might be a good addition to this 7% Stout.

Overall Impression: Great space (no food).  I think with a little more time, they have the capability of being a local favorite.

Cold Water Brewing

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First Impressions: A restaurant, a busy restaurant! There was a bar, but the setup was a traditional restaurant.  Not sure how comfortable this place would be if you weren’t eating.  We ate.

Staff: Hectic pace, but very friendly.

Beer List: I tried them all! Seven, and they were all really good.  Lager, Rye Ale, two IPAs, pale, Stout and even an Alt beer (which was my favorite).

Brewery Highlights: This place is good. The chicken wings were excellent and the beer is solid.

Overall Impressions: Not sure this is the place I would really want to hang and have a few beers with friends. However, this place might just be perfect for the vacationing masses.

Sidellis Lake Tahoe

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First Impressions: A nice bar area, and wide open.  Even though this is a restaurant, It didn’t seem that formal of a place.  Basically, walk in a grab a seat.

Staff: Really friendly staff and that transferred to the customers who we shared the bar with.  We had a great time talking at the bar.

Beer List: Ten of their own beers on tap, plus a couple of guest taps.  Three IPAs, a Porter, Brown, Amber, two Whites (one with Habaneros), Saison and ever a Kettle Sour.

Brewery Highlights: More than anywhere else we tried, these guys are brewing up some more adventurous beers.  Not everyone was for me, but I really like the directing they are going.

Overall Impression: I think this a great stop to grab some solid beers and a little food. Although not to crowed when we were there, this the place people are talking about.

The Brewery at Lake Tahoe

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First Impressions: Bar…restaurant…bar. Old school brewpub (literally, established in 1992). Beer might an afterthought.

Staff: A friendly bartender that knew how to work a busy bar.

Beer List: They run the full spectrum of beers, Pilsner, Wit, Pale, IPA, Amber, Porter, and a few seasonals. Being the last stop on the day and seeing the bar was packed, I opted for a pint of their Needle Peak Pale Ale. A good beer, and I’m sure it works perfectly with the crowd.

Brewery Highlights: There weren’t any lowlights, but also nothing too memorable. This is actually a brewery  I visited many years ago.  I really good place to grab lunch and a beer.

Overall Impressions: While sitting at the bar, I saw more cocktails, shots, and wine get served than beer. The beer is good.

So, South Lake Tahoe

This place is awesome. One of the most beautiful areas in the State of California. As for beer, not quite a destination…yet. Give these new breweries a little more time and I think you might see beer added to the local tourist guides. Just like Vegas, this place is a vacation resort that needs the tourist dollars. The clientele will be ever-changing, so it’s going to be difficult to appeal to the masses while also branching out.

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And on the way home, we stopped at Jack Russell Brewing in Placerville for a pint of their All American Ale. A solid lightly hopped pale ale. We also found a new brewery, Solid Ground. Very impressed. More about them in a future post.

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Back on the Blog

2017 has been a crazy, weird, exciting and killer busy year so far…. With it not slowing down anytime soon.
Unfortunately my brewing, traveling and blog have all suffered a bit. Now but it’s time to make up some lost ground. Going forward look for posts on:

  • Breweries
  • Travels
  • Building a brand new brewing space
  • Homebrew recipes
  • and whatever else seems fit to post.

My next post will be South Lake Tahoe breweries. We are heading there is weekend and I will let you know what I find.

-Cheers!

Random Openings 004

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Random Openings 004

Firestone Walker – Barrelworks
2015 La Piccola Virtuosa Dark Wild Saison
Bottled 3/5/15
6.2 ABV

Color – Deep ruby with brown highlights.
Aroma – Fruity sweet with some cherry, orange, oak, and funk.
Flavor – Tart with some stonefruit & cherry, lots of oak and as it warmed a bit of orange started to come in.

More Random Thoughts – Had this beer upon completion of my final homebrew for 2016. First off, the head dissipated really quite fast, but there was still a good amount of carbonation. I started drinking it right out of the fridge, which I liked the best.  Very refreshing at that temp. I also let the last few ounces come to room temperature. When warmed a bit, the fruit character was gone, the flavors were a bit muddled and it was not as enjoyable for me. The bottle description states cinnamon, clove, tangerine, and vanilla on the aroma. I got none of those, but the bottle is almost two years old.

All in all, this beer was very good. I think I should have drunk it a little sooner to enjoy more of the aromas, but no complaints.

Side Note – This beer was a collaboration with Agostino Arioli, owner/brewer of Birrificio Italiano and was released at the Firestone Walker Invitational in 2015.

Cheers!