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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
Random Openings 004
Firestone Walker – Barrelworks
2015 La Piccola Virtuosa Dark Wild Saison
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.
Random Openings 003
2013 Sucaba Barley Wine
Color – Ruby/Brown
Aroma – Big chocolate with bourbon sweetness
Flavor – Bourbon infused chocolate. Vanilla and caramel.
More random thoughts – Yes, I’m a Firestone Walker fanboy, but for good reason. This beer was phenomenal. One of the best examples of a beer that ages perfectly, with flavors staying in proportion. I didn’t check the drinking temperature, but I shared it with two other people over about 30-minutes. When cooler the chocolate was huge. The bourbon and vanilla came in as the beer warmed.
Why you ask? Because I have many interests and I don’t just want to write about homebrewing.
So what are you going to write about? A little of everything, but beer, wine, spirits, food and travel. But a lot about beer.
How often are you going to post? That’s a good question. I guess we will see how it goes.
What makes you the expert? I’m not the expert, and I’m not pretending to be. But, I tend to get around and I want to be able to share my experiences.
So what about the name? It dates back to the beginning of my social media life, and it kinda of stuck. Just know that it represents my family and friends (which I consider family), so you just have to deal with it.
So I hope to take the time to read and hopefully enjoy.
First up, 2011 was the first year of brewing 100% All Grain homebrew. Every brew may not have come out exactly as I planned, I do have to say every batch came out very drinkable and a few way better than I expected.
- Drop of a Dime – DIPA
- SMaSH – Pale Ale Bootlegger’s version. Brewed on their pilot system and served to paying customers.
- Brown Eyed Squirrel – Nut Brown Ale
- Beliner Weisse
- But the Kitchen Sink – IPA
- American Wheat
- Iron Brewer” Red Cardamom Sweater
- Organic Red – Bison Brewing/New Brew Thursday homebrew competition
- Some People Call Me Maurice – Bourbon Cherry Chocolate Stout
- Ray’s American Wheat
- Funkified – Beliner Weisse
- Tipsy Melons – Watermelon Wheat
- Saison batch #1
- Shake Your Tree – Saison batch #2
- Yam-Tacu-Ale 2.0 – Belgian Porter
- Disorder in the House IPA – Soon to be brewed at Newport Beach Brewing Company.
- Scotch Ale
- One Tart Blond – Pomegranate Belgian Blond
- South of the Porter – Mexican Themed Porter
- Newport Beach Pale Ale – Newport Beach Brewing Company homebrew competition
The real highlights of 2011 were all the great people I met, new friends and spending time with some very cool “beer” people.
I have started to accumulate home brew gear for my “new” yet to be built system. My goal is to have the new system fully functional by the end of 2012. Twelve months does give my a long time to assemble, test and brew, but the real factor is money. The system will be a single tier system, with the brewing capacity of 10 to 12 gallon batches.
The first purchase I made was a hop filter from Brewers Hardware.
The fittings for this and the entire system will be Tri Clover Fittings. They are sanitary connections that are simple to clean and easy to use (once you get the hang of them) plus they Don’t Leak!!! It was also give the brew house a clean look.
Home cured – smoked bacon!!!
On the smoker.
Off the smoker.