2/15: Off to Frisco for Long Weekending. Into Oakland early Friday. Off, off and away on our hybrid magic carpet. Lunch at La Note in Berkeley and a quick jar up at the Triple Rock. (Red Rock Ale and an Ipax, respectively). Up to Santa Rosa for a run by Russian River Brewing. Half orders of a couple things; Pliny the Younger (Triple IPA; big body, firm expansive hop character, warming and way drinkable), the Pale Ale with Brett (medium bitterness, great hop flavor and intense pineapple from the Brettanomyces; so good), the Pinot Barrel aged Dark Strong (medium-ish for a Dark Strong with pleasant tartness) and a Czech-style Pilsner (for a brewery noted for such huge hoppy beers and strong flavors a great glass of beer). I heart Sonoma. Back to drop the car off and make our way into the City. Dinner at Ramblas; delicious tapas-style food. Great fruity sangria. Saturday morning and across town to the Toronado for the Barley Wine festivation. Tried for an early-ish start in order to get a table. Learned a very important lesson. Getting down at the Toronado for the Barley Wine thing is like playing Frogger. To get ahead you gotta hop at just the right moment. In the past we've managed to hop in late enough in the day to score a table just as the first wave is beginning to retire. This year we didn't hop early enough and got pasted. The lads showed up early and managed a few courses of 3 oz. tastes hunkered over the end of a table of attractive young urbanite fuckheads. The lasses showed up later and were less than impressed with the accomodations we'd managed. So we bailed. Into the Upper Haight to some Irish Bar for lunch and a few Guinness waiting for the rest of our party. Walked back down to the Toronado to check in on some Barley Wine. Out of all of them the Bear Republic "Old Scoutter" stood out the best; good example of the West Coast style, not just a Double IPA but bigger malt character, firm alcohol and well moderated hop character. Quite a few vintage selections. An 11 year old "Old Boardhead" from Fullsail and a 13 year old Devil Mountain (?, closed in 1995), both quite vinous yet very, very tasty. Exactly what I would hope for in a well kept up "Old Ale". Interesting that most of the comments I heard really put them down for being "sour and nasty". Fucking Philistines. Somewhere between this point, beers at the Pilsner Inn, dinner at Chow and back to the apartment; I lost my tasting notes. Not the end of the world but a fitting end to the whole beer festival shitteree. We'll see how the Hard Liver and the Cask Fest fall apart. I may be off the beer festival thing altogether. Anyway. Sunday; lunch at the excellent Monks Kettle, Chinatown, North Beach, stayed in with pizzas. Monday; goofed around at Golden Gate Park and dinner at Suppenkuche. Great German-style restaurant; German biers on draft, tasty pickled herring starter and awesome meat-potatoes-and-brown-gravy entrees. Tuesday; Home!
2/24: Brewed my Robust Porter. Six glorious gallons of 21P palatatious potable. Pretty much my homage to Anchor Porter. Love that Anchor Porter. Mine is a bit bigger and with a fair bit of residual sweetness like drinking rich chocolate truffle. Fermented with the Wyeast California Lager strain, which I like for its malt accenting properties and the wee bit of residual sulfur that I like. Like I'd said before, I like beers with an edge. There's something that I find quite appetizing about lager beer with just a faint hint of sulfur. Yum.
2/10: Brewing the '08 Dry Stout. Hmmm... Dry Stout. The usual deal; 7# Marris Otter, 1 1/2# Roast Barley and a pound of flaked barley. Going for bitter this year with 45 or so IBU. Fermented with the Wyeast Irish Ale strain. Good solid Guinness-like brew. Goes down well with the corned beef and mashers. I'll skip the corned beef from the Egg this year, gonna roast it off in a low oven for 10 or so hours. I liked grinding up the spice pack and using that as a rub, so I'll do that again. I'd like to get back on the Egg. It needs some new felts and a bit of a cleanup, no big deal.
Off to Frisco at the end of the week for the Toronado Barley Wine Festival. Going to spend the day Friday off to Santa Rosa to visit Russian River. Looking forward to Pliny the Younger and bringing some bottled stuff back. Saturday is at the BW Fest. Sunday, laid out hating life swearing that I'll never drink again. Monday, toodling around town. Tuesday, back to the house. Whee!
2/3: Brewed the fourth batch for the Wheat Beer Competition. British-style Summer ale. Hugh Baird Marris Otter, Belgian Pils malt & malted wheat for 12.5P. Tangy, moderate bitterness from Columbus (I know, hardly tradtional, but I've got 'em on hand) and a touch of Gypsum in the kettle , finished with Goldings, fermented by the Safale S-04. Should dry out pretty well and with an effervescent condition be light and refreshing.
Kegged both the WIt and the Smoked Wheat. The Wit needs to drop a bit more yeast and clean up a bit. Should be pretty nice; good citrus peel flavor with faint pithy bitterness at the finish and very light coriander flavor. A bit too light. The Smoked Wheat on the other hand is a bit "not so much". Near spot on German Style Hefe yet smoke flavor and aroma just isn't there. Hm. We'll see what the club thinks about it as a competition entry. I really enjoy that heavy Schlenkerla Beech Smoke character, but to get that intensity I'll need to smoke my own malt.
1/26, Water Street Brewing' s Strange Brewfest 2008: Rolled up to Port Townsend on Friday night and checked into the Palace. Great old Victorian building. Bite to eat and over to the Water Street for a quick one before an early bedtime. Hassled the dude at the door and got in with paying just one cover. Thank you. Recognized a few folks on the way in, some familiar East Sound faces in town for the Festival too. Jar of the Imperial IPA for me and a fresh lime Margarita for J. I like beer with a bit of an edge to it; the IPA is firm bodied, pleasant tea biscuit malt sweetness, slightly coarse bitterness, grapefruit pith and resinous spruce hop flavors with ethanol apparent. Reminds me a bit of the first iterations of the Pike IPA; firm biscuity sweet Marris Otter, moderate bitterness accented by judicious addition of brewing salts, huge sweet fresh cut grass and herbal tea East Kent Golding aroma and flavor with a strong ethanol character. Almost fusel. Dryhopped in the Cask and served off a handpump. Excellent glass of beer. Oh, and the Margaritas are fantastic at the Water Street; fresh fruit squeezed at the bar is the best. Offered another round and I got a Barley Wine. Way deep mahogany with bright ruby highlights, very aromatic; lots of dark dried fruit, hops and sweet alcohol, rasiny dark toffee malt flavor, firm bitterness with lemon peel/black pepper flavors, medium-full body with a long warming finish. Perfect nightcap.
Up at the crack of 11. Off to breakfast and over to the Water Street for the starting gun promply at 1. Good crowd this year. Our usual beerfest cronies; some folks from the clubs, people we know in the Industry, well respected beer dorks and about 150 Elkheads (like the whole town of Buckley showed up to support the brewer). Wide range of beers; many regular offerings, some wood finished beers, some perennial Strange Brew offerings and a few that appeared to be regular offerings tarted up to show well at the festival. Silver City Basil infused Pilsner. Egad! Dr. Johns Spearmint Vanilla Porter anyone? Actually not bad at all, like a chocolatey sasparilla soda. I Liked the Baron Barrel Aged Liberator Dopplebock; deep ruby brown, rich and elegant malt flavors with maple notes from the wood, lightly warming. Excellent example of using wood finishing to add depth and complexity instead of just "wood flavoring". The Maker's Mark Barrel Aged Sleigher from the Ram Northgate on Nitro, was fantastic; toffee malt flavors, forward bitterness, rich vanilla bourbon flavors accented by the creamy Nitro service. Whiskey Barrel Aged Bigfoot from Sierra Nevada; another great glass of beer, my favorite Barley Wine given greater depth and character by wood aging. Got sips of most of the rest of the field. Wasn't really feeling most of the beers on tap. Settled for a few rounds of the above beers, the Boundry Bay Imperial IPA, the Rogue Issaquah Imperial Red and the Big Time Maine Thing East Coast-Style Pale Ale. Cut out for a dinner break. And back to the Water Street for some music. Same great funk band as last year. Stood in line for service for their first set (an hour). Hooked down our drinks facing an empty stage and called it a night.