Friday, December 31, 2010

Wake Up Like Me

Left Hand Brewing has sent their new barrel-aged Imperial Stout down our way,and I think they named the beer in honor of the way I feel every morning. Wake Up Dead is the name of this 10.2%, 22 oz. Stout that retails for $8.99 at both Kelly Liquors and Jubilation. I tried this beer last night, and I have to say I didn't get a whole lot out of it. A little thin in the mouthfeel, not roasty at all, a lot of dark cherry taste. I wonder what kind of barrels this beer was aged in- after all, the bottle doesn't specify "Bourbon", "Cabernet", or "Pickle" barrel-aged. It may be more to your liking, so don't write this one off. I personally would go with their Fade to Black instead, this year's version a smoked Baltic Porter.

Also on shelves this week are Deschutes Hop Henge DIPA and The Abyss. I have written plenty about these beers in the past two years, so do a search if you want to read my past writeups. Not much has changed, and I'm feeling lazy on this New Year's Eve. I will tell you that The Abyss is always a must-buy. I will also tell you to please enjoy your New Year's Eve safely and with good beer. I'm not sure what I will be drinking tonight, though I know we will be toasting with the Sam Adams Infinum at midnight at some party. I don't know the people hosting the party or most of the people attending, so I may be huddled in a corner, chugging my stash of beer. If you see me, please say hi. And give me a ride home- I don't feel like paying for a cab.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rain: The San Francisco Treat

Sure, the rain and fog makes the bridge look cool, but I paid good money for this trip so I expected better weather. I wasn't expecting San Diego weather, but I was hoping to walk around San Francisco. Instead, we spent a good part of the second day of the vacation in a Whole Foods and mall in Santa Rosa.

It takes more than organic produce to get me excited, and this Whole Foods has a tap room with 16 beers on draft; eight were dedicated to a Lagunitas tasting happening later that afternoon. They also had a nice variety of beer in the coolers with great prices on the local Russian River beers. And this particular Whole Foods must have known I was coming- they had signs all around the hot food and soup bar that stated, "Please do not take samples. Ask a Team Member for sample assistance." Message not heeded.

The adjoining Coddington Mall was a much better fit to my level of class. This place had buckets all over tho catch the rain leaking in through the crappy ceiling. It was sad an laughable at the same time. I made eye contact with the poor employee in the empty hot tub store, his look imploring either, "Kill me, please!" or, "Bring me some of them Whole Foods samples!" We decided that the mall was not the best place to spend a vacation, and headed back south to San Francisco.

The plan for that night was a visit to the famous Toronado bar on Haight St. Since we had such good luck with the Travelodge in Santa Rosa, I figured that booking a room at another would be a great idea, at least for the reason that it was the closest hotel to Toronado. And it wasn't a bad walk to the bar, even though it was raining on us the whole time. I was too excited at the prospect of the Toronado, jumping around in puddles like I was Gene Kelly. The bar was fairly crowded when we arrived in our soggy state, but we grabbed a table across from the taps. The draft lineup was a bit disappointing for a hop head like myself, though the Drake's Jolly Roger Imperial Red on tap was excellent. Many of the other taps were dedicated to Winter Warmers, though I did get the rare opportunity to drink a draft Avec les Bons Voeux, and at the happy hour price of only $8.50 a glass! And the taps may not have been all I could have hoped for, but I would have been happier sleeping on a couch there then what awaited us...

The picture really tells you all you need to know about this shithole excuse for a hotel, but I'll tell you more anyway. It's cathartic. The TV had twenty channels, four of which were PBS, one C-Span, one public access, and one City College Educational Access channel. But who can watch TV when the power in your room has gone off NINE times in two hours??? And who needs TV to entertain them when you've got a downstairs neighbor guest outside her room screaming because her crackhead boyfriend overdosed or drowned in the toilet or whatever else brought the ambulance in the middle of the night. Apparently, he was ok at that time. Not sure what happened to him around dawn, when his girlfriend woke me up with her banging an yelling at her door because he wouldn't/was too dead to let her back in the room. For 40 minutes, all I could hear was, "Mike! BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM!" on her door. That went along well with the deluxe "Heat fan" in our room that really did wonders for my sore throat and cold. As in I wonders how I survived this night. We swore off cheap hotels forever, vowing to make entire meals out of Whole Foods samples if that is what it would take to stay in nicer places. But that was before day 3 of the trip...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to All

Except my friends eating at Chinese restaurants today. You know who you are. Hopefully everyone has the proper Christmas cheer picked out to drink today. I decided to go with Midnight Sun's CoHoHo! Imperial IPA, brewed with brown sugar, honey, and juniper berries. Sounds like a good choice. If it sucks, I'll just dump it and break out something else. Nothing like a holiday to give me an excuse to open beers I have been saving for no good reason. As always, I thank you for reading, and I hope you have/have had a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

San Fransicko, Day 1

Hello again, all you happy people. Sorry for the excessive absence. A combination of this trip to San Francisco and catching a minor bug had me feeling less than motivated. That's even less than my normal state of "less than motivated", which means I have been just about comatose this week. So. There's the Golden Gate Bridge, which means we were able to actually leave the San Fran airport. They don't make it easy on you. We had to the train and go allll the way around the airport to get to the rental car section, only to get fitted with a Kia Rio: Lawnmower engine, no power anything edition. Then we had to drive all the way through the actual city to reach the bridge, which wouldn't be a bad thing since it is such an interesting place, but the first day's destination couldn't wait: Russian River Brewery!

Long hailed as one of the greatest breweries in the country, Russian River sits about an hour north of San Fran in the city of Santa Rosa. It's a pretty drive between the two cities, one that even a Kia Rio couldn't ruin. Once we got into town, I was once again reminded why it is wrong to book travel accommodations while drunk. My careful planning involved booking the closest hotel in walking distance to the brewery, in this case the Travelodge, aka the Kia Rio of the hotel industry. Whatever, a motel where we were bound to use just to pass out that's less than a half-mile walk to Russian River seemed ideal. However, I accidentally booked us at the town's other Travelodge, which is a 1.8 mile walk. So off we trudged down Santa Rosa Avenue, passing scenic auto mechanic shops aplenty along the way.

The walk rewarded us in the end, though! We arrived at the bar during the busy happy hour but managed to grab a couple of front row bar seats anyway. I wasted no time in putting Omar the bartender to work, getting us a sampler of all 16 beers on tap that day. Those guys must get sick of constantly filling orders of samplers for beer tourists like us, evidenced by Omar's response when we ordered ours: "Nothing would give me more pleasure", he replied sarcastically. I liked him. The sampler included sours galore, aged in chardonnay, cabernet, and pinot barrels, and also one brewed with pluots, which I believe is the dog of Disney fame. Met some nice locals, and drank plenty of Pliny the Elder, Russian River's heralded DIPA. Picked up a growler of Pliny for good measure. Dropped over $100 at the bar, which makes that economy hotel choice look pretty smart after all. And we took a 1957 Chevy cab back to said hotel. Who knew that this budget motel would turn out to be one of the nicer ones we stayed in during the trip? It only gets worse from here! To be continued...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Marble's Got a Present For You

No, this picture is not a screencap of the new Laverne and Shirley show. What you see is a behind the scenes look at the bottling of this year's Marble Reserve, the brewery's most limited release. This highly anticipated beer is a blend where half of the beer spent months maturing in bourbon barrels. Creator and brewer Ted Rice says the 9% beer can't really be pegged into a certain style, but describes the finished product as an amber to brown-hued brew that captures and accentuates the vanilla and oak characteristics from the barrel aging. The proud papa is personally numbering and signing each of the (only!)1956 22 oz. bottles produced. The bottles will have wax around the cap and should be on local shelves (and for sale at Marble) any day now! Expect this extremely rare treat to retail for around $12, but don't expect it to be around long!

Monday, December 13, 2010

To Infinum and Beyond!

But with the price tag for this new beer, you may have to save up a little while before you can afford the beyond part. Samuel Adams and Weihenstephan, purportedly the world's oldest brewery, have teamed up to create a new beer, Infinum. An expensive beer. A 10.5% ABV beer that may be a good New Year's Eve replacement for those of you who don't want champagne (me). The beer is described as champagne-like. Hope that it tastes more like beer than Korbel, considering I spent $20 bucks on it. The beer has also been described (by the eager guy at the beer store) as, "You like Belgium style (sic) beers? It's kind of like that, but not really." Well, I'm sold!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's Like Portland, But With Sun

Ugh. What a night. First, there was Mel Pearson's annual Holiday Beer Tasting, which Ted Rice and Marble Brewery were gracious enough to host this year. Attendees brought Winter/Christmas/Rare/Whatever beers and shared the love. Ted tapped a fresh batch of Marble Reserve that had just come out of the wood. Only thing that was missing was mistletoe- though the only thing that would want to touch my lips is a breathalyzer.

Next, it was on to the pre-opening night at our city's newest brewery: La Cumbre. The fruition of former Chama River brewer Jeff Erway's dream is coming true as I write this, as the brewery is now open for business. Located at 3313 Girard (off of Candelaria), La Cumbre offers seven beers on tap (with cask beers in the future) in a two floor setting. I sampled all the beers last night, and then some. It was free, after all. I'm not just taking a dainty sip off a five ounce taster and calling it a night. Highlights for me were the Elevated IPA and the South Peak Pilsner.

Here's the brewer himself, begging me for a taste of my samplers. No way, La Cumbre! We as craft beer lovers are in a great position in Albuquerque, as breweries are opening up even as our economy sucks. Marble, Chama River,ABQ Brew Pub, Hallenbrick, Turtle Mountain, La Cumbre, soon the re-opening of Il Vicino; and future breweries Nexis, Bas Ass, Goat Head, with even more on the horizon. Please be sure to support your locals. While there is direct competition between all of them, they are all passionate about craft beer and proud of their products. Let's reward ALL the brewers' hard work. I think I will do my part by giving growlers of local beer as Christmas. Underage people will just get the empty glass.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How Much Land Does a Man Need?

I was in my local Smith's grocery store and gravitated over to the beer section. Nice selection for a grocery store, with Odell IPA, Ska Modus Hoperandi, Stone varieties, etc. But damn, looks like AmBev is now the "Official sponsor of Smith's beer section!" or something. Look at how much space that Bud Light is getting. I understand that it is America's number one selling beer, but save a little room for my Four Loko and Tequiza. How does Premier Distributing have the manpower to stock that much of their product in that many stores in town? I envision a 24 hour a day chain gang scenario where Premier has the entire population of Los Lunas as slaves in the freezing cold and snow, loading case after case of Bud Light into trucks.

Ok, this is just plain wrong. But they can't be stopped. Bud Light is now being sold as a "Micro brew". Whatever you say, masters! Any attempt to rebel will result in deportation to St. Louis to work at a bottle-washing facility. I'm nervous just writing this...and why is there a herd of Clydesdales coming down my street???

Friday, December 3, 2010

Colder But Warmers

I'm already sick of the cold weather. I don't understand my friends who welcome the season of numb extremities. Give me those summer nights when you can leisurely stroll around Nob Hill, not the winter nights where you have to mummify yourself and run from bar to bar. At least we get the Winter Warmer beers to counter the dreariness of these gray skies. And what's with the no sunshine? That's one thing I always liked about living here. It could be cold, but that constant sunshine allowed you to do things outdoors. From the looks of today, I may as well be in Buffalo, NY. Only thing that's missing is dirty slush. And a pro hockey team. I blame global warming and WikiLeaks. Pictured are just a sample of the Winter Warmers you can choose from this year. Let me think...I left out Hibernation from Great Divide, Jubelale from Deschutes, and Old Jubilation from Avery. I only got this picture because most were close to each other at Kelly Liquors. I'm not walking around the store grabbing beers and setting up a damn photoshoot, especially when my phone was the only photo equipment I had. I also left out the classic British import, Samuel Smith's Winter Warmer. Classic, but also bottled in clear glass. Get that one soon, before it starts tasting like blood pudding. Ew.