Beer as Art

by Sean on August 29, 2014

Photography is great, as is video but sometimes art can better convey a thought or feeling.  And that extends to beer!

You should really check out the Real Art is Better! website and the Year of Beer series.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 7.08.46 PM

Artist Scott Clendaniel is posting a painting a day for 2014.  An ambitious undertaking for sure. Each painting has a bottle with a suitable backdrop related to the beer or brewery that brewed it.

My particular favorites are for two IPA’s.  Gigantic IPA and the Hop Crisis from 21st Amendment.  But I am sure that each person that peruses the digital wall of art will have their own favorites.



Peel the Label – Recognition

by Sean on August 29, 2014

There seems to be an almost natural rivalry between online and tactile. It was music that was, and still is, the flag bearer for that debate. There are as many camps as there are aspirants for the Iron Throne. Vinyl enthusiasts, streaming music channels or live at a club all vie for attention.

The same hold true for print versus online if you want to go for the adversarial paragraph opener. I was reading through some wine blogs (which beer bloggers should do to both hone their game and see a wider world) and I came across this:

My take on print vs. online media is that print’s business model screwed the pooch a long, long time ago. It has nothing to do with wine and is happening in every form of print media on any subject matter. People enjoy interactions and opinion, and are seeking to balance straight-ahead, mostly-objective, fact-based coverage (which for decades has been the bread-winner for print) with subjective, opinion-based, op-ed-style pieces that by-and-large center on the unique voice of the writer. In other words, nowadays people will take a human relationship and a sense of personal trust over a pronouncement of facts (or even opinion) as deigned from an expert.

It was from 1 Wine Dude and I found myself toggling back and forth as to whether I agree or not.

I believe the debate has been about what people want covered and how they want it covered. And I think a mixture of fact based journalism and opinion are what is needed. And as much as music, movies, TV and newspapers couldn’t straddle online and off, they are still uniquely positioned to deliver that content.

But I also think that blogs can deliver as well and that print and blogs could both do it without partisan rancor. It comes down to one word: recognition.

I am not talking about badges and ribbons for participation. There are two missed opportunities for recognition that I think mesh for this topic.

First, recognizing who the other person is. This happens to be something that print seems to miss with two hands and a flashlight. If I may stereotype an entire group of people, what I hear most about bloggers is that they are not journalistic enough. With the implication that, journalists are better and that you should all want to be them one day.

The point that is missed is that beer bloggers (again in general) are not journalists and don’t want to be. Most have a 9-5 and a life and blog on the side. They are not trained in writing or web design or want/ have an editor that is not a significant other. When journalists can accept that or at least recognize it, they will be more secure in their place and the role of bloggers.

Bloggers, on the other hand, could always do with a little added professionalism and a renewed focus on writing. I include myself because I hope to be learning and not stagnant. Journalists and print can help one grow as a blogger. If only for grammar reasons. And if bloggers can recognize that writing is more important than SEO, that would be cool too.

The other shade of recognition is what the strengths and weaknesses are for your chosen delivery method. Don’t blame the Sunday paper for being filled with news you saw hashtagged yesterday. And don’t blame a blog for being visual forward. Just two examples that I have heard recently.

Print and blogs are simply delivery methods. Both may not survive the next technological leap. Or both might. They are not a banner that you rally behind. Each individual needs to find out the best way to say what they want to say, in the way that the say it best. Then look at which way allows them to say that.

Or you can continue to snipe at each other like Lannisters and Starks.

Another 1 Wine Dude link that I think you might find enlightening is HERE.


The penultimate beer from the Variety Box – Beer Camp Across America.  There is but one lonely can remaining.  For this beer Sierra Nevada brewed with the infamous Russian River to produce Yvan the Great.  Named in honor of Yvan de Baets the famed Belgian brewer this is a hoppified version of a Belgian Blonde.  Something that Russian River does very, very well.


This is a blonde for sure!  This pours an extremely light and extremely clear yellow.  I can see very clearly through it.  I was expecting more hops in the aroma but I am not picking them up.  This drinks Belgian all the way.  Lots of spice.  Clove in the forefront.  I’m getting a ton of vanilla as well.  Ice cream vanilla to be more exact.  No head or lace at all here and not much in the way of bubbles either though it is crisp on the palate.  Towards the back there is a subtle note of orange but you have to reach for it.

I like it but I don’t know if this is what was envisioned if the label copy is to be truly believed.



BBC14 – Review & Photos

by Sean on August 28, 2014


Now that some time has passed since the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference finished it is time to post a full review of the event itself.  Some items you may gleaned from the daily recaps but I would be remiss if I didn’t both explain further and add my two cents on how to improve next year’s version in Asheville, North Carolina.

(To break the tedium, I will add some photos in between points.)

Above is a real Stone brewer and his photo. Which is which?

On to the conference review, Stone brought their game as did Lagunitas (to an even larger extent). I expected that. But for a conference placed in San Diego, I wonder why Lagunitas was featured. AleSmith. Ballast Point. Pick a brewery. And that is my largest complaint. Why have an event in a city if you don’t show off that city to the max? And this is no slight to the generosity of Lagunitas. It was the highlight of my trip. And it is no slight to Yard House which, in my mind, occupies an important part of the craft beer food chain. But, in my opinion, if the Asheville planning doesn’t include more North Carolina specific locales then I would hesitate to attend.

The only Vaping, I would ever do.

Also on the needs work tab is the scheduling. Too many events could have been improved by being in better time slots. The 8 blogger 5 minute presentations would have made a bigger impact earlier in the conference and not on Sunday morning when the majority of attendees were either hung or tired or both. Same for a couple of blogging technical seminars that were placed between big names like and dinner. I would seriously consider just having a breakfast with coffee beers on Sunday morning and nothing else. Also the Bottle Share HAS to be earlier in the evening. It would have drawn more people and been more appreciated if people weren’t (take a guess) hung or dead tired.

A new and soon to come beer with licorice from Goose Island

That being said. I enjoyed the conference tremendously. It is great to see old faces and meet new ones. The quality and amount of beer is beyond the pale and the hotel and pace of the conference is well done. And to have David Walker, Ken Grossman, Peter Zien, Tomme Arthur and Chuck Silva (who sat at our table for a bit) around is awesome. The generosity abounds and not enough thank you’s will suffice.  I wouldn’t go three out of five times if it was a poor.  I learned about the history of San Diego brewing.  I learned some new tricks and had old ones validated.  Most of all I saw the passion of other bloggers and that always energizes me.  I think that part of the reason why I needed a month off from beer blogging last year was due to not being at the conference for two years running.  That speaks volumes to the quality.


A Return to the Beer Advocate Forums

by Sean on August 27, 2014

When I first jumped into the craft beer pool, so to speak, I would go on the Beer Advocate website a few times a week to satiate my need for information and stimuli. Soon after I subscribed to the offline magazine as well.

What was at first illuminating became slowly, less interesting and more repetitive especially where the forums were concerned. It became a what IPA (insert style of your choice here) are you drinking call and response. Something that when Untappd came on the scene became less relevant due to real time data reloading every time a friend checked into a beer.

There was just so much stuff to wade through that did not pique my interest. And though the style guides and brewery information is still extremely helpful and I consult those sections of the site to this day, the need to check into the site on a regular basis stopped.

Lately though, I have been wondering about the wealth of information in the beer interwebs and how to navigate it and find the useful amidst the sea of ones and zeros. So I returned to Beer Advocate (the website) in 2014 to see if it has changed or not. Or if I have changed. Is there helpful advice to be found?

And I found an amazing lack of attitude.  Yeah, there was sarcasm (which always plays well on the interwebs, see what I did there?) and there were the usual topics like “What are the top 5 breweries in Pennsylvania?” and the large amount of IPA posts but I was pleasantly surprised that it was less offensive than I remembered.  Maybe, I have mellowed or the people who post have mellowed but it seemed much more in line with the type of back and forth you might have with a group of friends who didn’t really know each other and were sorta grasping for topics.  Not a bad night out but certainly not the depth of a debate on beer you would have with close friends and craft beer fans.

But the topics seemed all re-hash to the point where many questions start with “Sorry, if this has been asked” or a comment about it not being the first time the question was asked but give the newbie a break.  One typical post is Best By versus Bottled On.  Yes, it is an important question but asking a bunch of beer geeks that will yield a 50/50 split and opinion and that’s about it.  A better guide would be asking 5 brewers or QC managers at well established breweries for their answer.  That would yield knowledge you can use.  This type of post could be done in an online poll just as easily. I guess my innate dislike of random opinions from random people not being helpful to me is still  very much intact.  Iwould rather talk to someone that I know is an actual human.

And I don’t think that those new to craft beer are well served either.  Except if you are canvassing opinions to help you form your own., you would be better served to ask someone at a bar or beer shoppe questions.  Or get in touch with a local beer blogger to find out about the area.  I would like to see a variety of questions and maybe more ask a columnist from the magazine question and answer.  Maybe seed some bigger discussions with comments from brewers and publicans.

So BA is improved in tone but the forum content is not adding to my, personal, beer growth.


Just off the Turnip Truck…

by Sean on August 27, 2014

…or perhaps a better way to headline this post is Born Yesterday.  A new beer coming from Lagunitas that will be hitting shelves soon and will only travel 24 hours from the source.


I was treated to this news while at the Beer Bloggers Conference.  It will be around 6.2% and will have the now beloved Citra along with Mosaic and Willamette hops but the kicker is that the store will get it 24 hours after it is packaged.  This will be a beer that you MUST check the dates on.  Freshness will be key and I do not want to see reviews of stale Born Yesterday.  Lagunitas already makes one of my all time favorite beer in Sucks and a new favorite in Mandaraison (which damn well better come back) so you can expect goodness here.


BBC14 Extra-Curricular Highlights

by Sean on August 26, 2014

Where else did we go when in San Diego county when not attending the BBC14?

IMG_1445 Stopped at Pizza Port Bressi Ranch for Sharknado on cask and Draft Punk Biere de Table. Plus pizza. IMG_1547 Convict’s Voyage Australian IPA at the Little Italy Ballast Point location Visiting not one but TWO Bottlecraft locations. Visiting not one but TWO Bottlecraft locations.



Last review was ESB and now another iconic and oft ignored style, the Alt.  Widmer made their bones on this and an American Wheat.  So how does Sierra Nevada teamed with Victory of Pennsylvania see this style in 2014?  Let’s take the Alt Route and find out…..


The Alt Route pours a reddish to dark brown.  Lots of bubbles on this one.  This beer really pops.  I had imbibed two other dramatically different beers earlier this day but this one stands out.  That can be hard to do when palate fatigue sets in.  I am getting notes of cola and a little bit of spice here.  Maybe licorice as well. Light and refreshing are descriptors that pop into my mind and stay there.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this.  Maybe something heavier and Germanic but this is almost liquer-ish in flavor profile while not in alcohol. If you had told me that the Bell’s and Victory beers would be my top two, I would not have been shocked but certainly surprised.  This is most certainly my second most favorite beer in the pack.  With only two left!




This post covers the 2nd half of Saturday and part of Sunday in San Diego at the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference.

Two events that I think need to be tweaked at future conferences bookended a trip to Stone at Liberty Station. The first is the speed beer dating. I like the idea but the amount of beer and the speed could be dialed back. I think five beers and ten minutes to talk about them would work better. It is hard to go from coffee Bourbon County Stout to a session IPA to a strong ale. That being said the Citra a Session from Green Flash and the Weekday IPA from Rough Draft were my winners.

The other event that seemed under cooked was the beer social. It seemed more an excuse to re-gather and drink many beers that had already been poured before. It seemed more like killing time until the “unofficial” bottle share. Personally, I would have scheduled a beer break after returning from Stone and the segueing into the bottle share at an earlier time. It is perfectly OK to have down time at a conference.

Though the “Party Bus” and the bright lights inside were more Las Vegas than San Diego, the destination was the relaxing garden atmosphere of Stone. Liberty Station is a mini-replica of the Escondido Bistro and garden and is a great locale to really enjoy a beer. The landscaping and design really work. Beer wise, there was some specials on keg and cask to sample.

How about Cali-Belgique with cherry and marionberry? Or an imperial hefeweizen that mimics pubs colada? Single hop IPAs with Topaz in one or Amarillo in the other. There were a plethora of choices. My favorite was from the guest taps, Societe’s The Apprentice which is one of the best IPAs that I have had on the trip. And as usual, the food was unique and great. Bison meatballs, ribs that used Stone beer in the preparation.

The next day started with individual blogger presentations. Pints and Panels being my favorite. She discussed her method of beer reviews which I totally concur with plus I like her quirky artwork. I do wish that these presentations were done earlier in the conference. Two days of drinking is not conducive to waking up and paying attention in the morning.

Then it was on to the marketing panel with two radically different breweries and brands. Warsteiner from Germany and The Bruery from right here in California. There were some good nuggets in the session but my take-away came from Ben from The Bruery who states that Bloggers are both blessing and curse. They are the passionate advocates but that passion can cut both ways.

The final panel had Bierkast Kip talking about the LA Beer Bloggers in addition to two other panelists who talked about collaborating on posts with other blogs. This was a much better learning experience than other panels in the final analysis because it was primarily bloggers talking to bloggers about how they have has success. Which, to me, is more important than SEO and Twitterlytics.

In between the beers (which there was a lot of) there was a great camaraderie that makes this conference fun and that really is why I enjoy these yearly outings.

A future post will cover the structural changes that I would make in the conference plus more photos in yet another post.





Dead Ringer

by Sean on August 25, 2014


Now that is a label!  How do you meld the somewhat piratical/skeleton/seafaring motif of previous Ballast Point labels with Germany?  This is how.  Love the stein and pretzel.  And the hat is awesome.  Oh, and thank goodness that a Marzen is still cool enough to be brewed.  I will be looking for this when L.A.’s hot autumn arrives.