Listen To Your Beer

And you thought beer was just for drinking!

I am talking about podcasts. Do you listen to podcasts? On your commute, in the gym, on the toilet; just about every topic covered by podcasts. Whether it’s news and commentary, music, sports, religion, hobbies, entertainment, fiction and non-fiction, every topic is covered. And yes, BEER.

I will admit, I love podcasts.  And I will also admit that many are just not that good. Poor sound quality, way too long, self-absorbed hosts or just boring. But that doesn’t mean that all are bad. In fact, some are done so well and engaging, that you don’t want to turn them off.

So where does beer come in? Why would anyone want to talk about, let alone listen to other people talk about it? Beer is certainly a fine and tasty beverage, but it’s also a hobby. If you follow it close enough, you’ll find the beer community skirts closely to the Real Brewers of “insert your favorite City“. Trademark infringements, tap handle wars, sell-outs, venture capital, new releases, new breweries, homebrewing and just about anything else.

Beer podcasts fall into a few categories, but most blur the lines a bit between styles.

  • Beer Reviews and Tasting
  • Interviews and story-driven
  • News and education
  • Homebrewing

My favorite beer podcasts are ones that are having fun while trying to educate. After all, it’s still beer, and it should be fun. It’s nice to listen to a show that mixes it up a bit. I can only listen to somebody blather about what they think of a particular beer for so long. I try not to get too caught up in what other peoples opinions are. Taste is a personal thing.

Some of my favorite shows:

Four Brewers –  Beer reviews and tasting notes, social commentary, humor (sometimes a bit crude) and the occasional interview.  They even throw in some homebrew talk on occasion. A fun show that doesn’t take itself or beer too seriously.

The Full Pint – A long-standing beer blog that jumped into podcasting a while back. Beer news and interviews make up the bulk of the show.  They cover a wide array of beer topics, and the Full Pint crew has been reporting on craft beer news longer than most.

Good Beer Hunting – Deep Cuts! This show digs in on all aspects of beer from brewing to sales and distribution. They also cover all beer. From Nanos to macro, and stories from the entire brewing world. This show covers the business side of brewing really well, and not just craft.

Steal This Beer – A little loud and a little drunk. This is an interview show that includes blind tasting and analysis of beer drank out of blacked out glasses. This show also concentrates on the business side of beer but keeps it on the lighter side.  Best described as a conversation about beer in a bar after everyone has had a few. Oh wait, that’s exactly what this show is.

Beervana – This show is self-described as “about the art, culture, economics, and business of beer and brewing”. While a totally agree with their description, I would say this podcast keeps it a bit lighter and academic. This is a good show for someone not wanting to get caught up in too much hype, or beer business. This fits a really good middle ground.

Basic Brewing – Homebrewing! HOMEBREWING and Homebrewing? I would recommend this show to anyone who homebrews, is thinking about homebrewing or is just interested in how beer is made on the home level. Practical, informative, fun and a bit homey.  This show is a podcast classic that is still putting out great shows.

The Brewing Network (multiple shows) – I saved this for last, for a few of reasons.  First off, it’s a network. Many shows and topics to choose from. Highly produced and commercialized, but a wealth of great information to be had.  Check them out for yourselves.

If you’re a regular participant in the local beer scene, you might even know your local beer podcaster. I became friends with all of the Four Brewers at different times, years before they began their show.  The Full Pint crew are regulars at beer events in Southern California and are always happy to share in some solid beer conversation.

I know, there are way too many shows to listen to every week. A few I listen to every week. Some I read the description and only listen to the episodes that interest me. How you listen is up to you.  If these shows don’t work for you, search for your own favorites.

  • Protip – Speed up the playback just a bit. You’ll get more listening in and if something really peaks your interest, you can always go back and listen again.

So This Happened

Homebrewing has always been one of those things were I had to find space to do it. Kitchen, garage, backyard and maybe an unused bathtub. It was always about putting everything back in it’s place, but often misplacing that thing you need right now.

With the move to Sacramento, came the ability to start fresh with a new space. My space to configure how I wish to.

So this 10′ x 12′ shed will be my new brewing space. This is just the start. In the next few months, the plan will start coming together. Stay tuned.

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

Sidellis

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.

BA Inde