New Beer Sunday – 2

by Sean on July 5, 2015

If you can’t wait until the 18th then you are in luck, “Flamberge” from Ladyface will emerge from Napa Cabernet barrels 4 days earlier.

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The beer is a “special Belgian Flemish Red-style ale is a long-anticipated release from Ladyface’s “Ingenuity Series”, an ale aged two years in Napa Cabernet barrels. Flamberge–meaning “flame blade”–is an undulating long sword; our red-hued, barrel-aged invention is a complex sour ale with strong alcohol, tannic and sharply tart sensations that ripple across the palette. A high carbonation level yields a dry champagne-like effervescence…”

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New Beer Sunday – 1

by Sean on July 5, 2015

The Firestone Walker anniversary beer components are becoming more and more readily available which may well lead to blending parties as people try to make an even better blend.

The next beer to buy for your blending or cellar or just to share with friends is the strange hybrid Helldorado—a blonde barley wine aged in retired spirits barrels.

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The beer will be released on the 18th and is a great way to see how a base beer, in this case a pale blonde, can be barrel-ized into something really intriguing.

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Nitro or Not

by Sean on July 4, 2015

So, when Left Hand Brewing came to L.A., I basically bought one of everything.  Intrigued by all the possibilities, was I. One of which is the topic for today.

Milk Stout.  Nitro or regular?

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I have only ever had the Nitro, so to be able to taste test the two was great.  Here are the results

Milk Stout – the label is certainly better with the cow and left hands and Van Gogh-ish font and swirls. Much less of a head than the nitro, which is to be expected but the difference is still stark. This beer is super chocolately to me. Almost pudding like with that level of sweetness. Some burnt edges to it as well.

Nitro Milk Stout – the mouthfeel is so different. Really soft and velvety.  The sweetness is cut a bit so there is less of a milk chocolate taste to it. More whipped cream with chocolate instead. Little more coffee bitterness coming through here as well. And much lighter with a touch of spice that lingers at the end.

It is hard to choose a winner. Both have positives in different arenas but I would settle on the Nitro due to the mouthfeel. It is just more unique and plays up the lactose in the beer.

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Portland Beer

by Sean on July 4, 2015

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I am looking forward to seeing how this history of Portland beer plays out and whether I agree with any suppositions made.  Kindle, here I come.

“Is it the water, or the quality hops? The deep-rooted appreciation of saloon culture? How did Portland, Oregon, become one of the nation’s leaders in craft beer cultivation and consumption with over 50 breweries in the city limits? Beer writer and historian Pete Dunlop traces the story of Rose City brewing from frontier saloons, through the uncomfortable yoke of temperance and prohibition, to the hard fought Brewpub Bill and the smashing success of the Oregon Brewers Festival. Meet the industry leaders in pursuit of great beer–Weinhard’s, McMenamins, Bridgeport, Portland Brewing, Widmer, and more–and top it off with a selection of trivia and local lore. Bringing together interviews and archival materials, Dunlop crafts a lively and engaging history of Portland’s climb to Beervana.”

Review to follow, maybe even in Oregon Beer Month.  Wait…that’s now!

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BrewLab

by Sean on July 3, 2015

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Whether you are a homebrewer, nanobrewer or a big brewer, you need to test your beer.  QC labs may not be sexy but they are probably the part of the tour that I expect to see at some point.

Now like hiring someone to social up your media, you can check out your ABV, IBU, Ph and color by shipping a sample of your beer to BrewLab.

Oh, and they have sensory and analysis classes too.

I certainly hope that the new batch of L.A. breweries avail themselves of the service.

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Our host for July is the Deep Beer blog / Jack Perdue.  To start the next 100 sessions off we have the topic “Bottles, Caps and Other Detritus.”

Since first discovering The Session, I knew one day I wanted to host a monthly edition. There are many great creative people involved in the beer industry: the brewers designing and creating the stuff of our attention, marketers bringing the product to market, graphic artists making the products attractive and informative and writers who tell the story of beer. The list goes on. And thus, many great products, that may or may not get your attention. The focus is on the liquid inside the bottle, can or keg, and rightly so. What about all the other products necessary to bring that beer to you? What about the things that are necessary but are easily overlooked and discarded. This months theme is, “Bottles, Caps and Other Beer Detritus”.

Detritus, according to one definition in the Merriam Webster Dictionary is “miscellaneous remnants : odds and ends”. While the number and quality of our beer choices has certainly improved over the recent decade, have you paid any attention to the rest of the package. Those things we normally glance over and throw away when we have poured and finished our beer. These are sometimes works of art in themselves. Bottle caps, labels, six-pack holders, even the curvature of the bottle. For this month’s The Session theme, I’m asking contributors to share their thoughts on these things, the tangential items to our obsession. Do you have any special fetish with bottle caps, know of someone that is doing creative things with packaging, have a beer bottle or coaster collection.”

For some time, I have collected the labels that I could get off (in one piece) of a bottle. But as the albums piled up and threatened to topple over onto my feet, I have kind of stopped with that fascination. There is also an old Halloween candy bucket filled with bottlecaps but though it threatened to overflow at one point, it still hasn’t.

The collection fever that led me to that brink has been dulled by the simple existence of the interwebs. Most label and bottlecap designs can be found in mere seconds with a Google search. I don’t need to remember which beers I had a few years back via a carefully collated album, it’s all on Untappd. I will still grab a coaster on occasion but for the far more utilitarian need for something to set a glass on.

But that desire is still there. Like a family that has moved but still in the same town. That proverbial new house for me is to “label approve” on my blog. At least once a month, there will be a snarky or celebratory post about why one label doesn’t work and/or why it does work.

That has led to a unwritten set of rules that I break out when a label catches my fancy one way or the other. That makes this Session the place where I can lay down the law of Label Design according to Sean. Three rules that you NEED to follow and three rules that are WANTED. None of which talk about the design per se, because that is so tremendously subjective.

NEED:
1. The name of the brewery, the beer and the style must be legible and easily found not some beer version of Where’s Waldo.
2. Each label should be part of a whole series and not so drastically different from the rest as to look from another brewery.
3. Where are you brewed? And when were you brewed? So the consumer can gauge freshness.

GOOD TO HAVE:

1. Best glass for the beer so that you can get the best experience possible
2. Food Pairing possiblities
3. A font bigger than microscopic

I have a lot of respect for label design because it has to convey technical information while standing out on a shelf while building the brand of the brewery while being a piece of art. Not the easiest job in the world to meld those competing interests and probably why you see labels change so often. Personally, I find the Eagle Rock Brewery brand one of the strongest (and that is not just because they are a local). They have been on point since day one and have added little pieces of flair as they have grown. They even managed to make it work in both cans and bottle format.

But to pick a more recent example to apply the “rules” to, let’s test out the California Craft Pack from Anchor Brewing which has three beers in it. The iconic Liberty Ale, California Lager and their newest beer Anchor IPA.

Except for Liberty, the name Anchor is prominent. On all three the beer name is prominent as is the beer style. When it comes to uniformity, again Liberty is the outlier from the other two but it is a special re-release so that is to be expected and is also branded more in line with their Double Liberty. Where brewed is there but the when is missing which is not good in my book. So a mixed bag on the NEED front.

On the WANT front, there is no glass or food pairing info, but the font strikes a good balance of size and design, so one out of three.

The overall design is stately though a touch cluttered on all three cans. The elephant on the IPA and the bear on the lager give an easy touchstone for beer buyers. The Liberty can is really well done and overcomes some of my rules by sheer force of the patriotic throwback design. Not to mention the positive feeling engendered by Anchor and their history in craft beer.

No matter my “rules” or yours, how a bottle or can looks can affect how it sells. So far, breweries seem to have taken the opportunity to be as bold in their art of labels as they do the art of beer.

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Book Review – Best Food Writing 2014

by Sean on July 2, 2015

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I am a big fan of the “Best of” [pick a year] series of books. Be it mystery, essay, sports or comics, I have read a bunch of them throughout the years. I could add a rant about the fact that there is no specific volume for drinks but you can’t have everything.

But this review is talking about the next closest thing, Food Writing. The parallels between food and beer are obvious. The trend to bigger flavors and smaller producers occurs in both so I eagerly dove into the Best Food Writing of 2014.

Almost right off the bat was a great piece from Kate Krader, Are Big Flavors Destroying the American Palate? You could easily substitute Sriaracha for hops other wild flavors for sour beers and the article would still hit home. Krader advocates forcefully for simpler eating while also reserving a place at the table for the spicy.

Dan Barber wrote about a remarkable carrot with a Brix rating of 16.9. Which makes for a tremendously sweet carrot. The tinkering with plant life reminded me of the cross-breeding of hops and the new varietals that spring up. The piece also was one of the few that really made me hungry and I am not a huge vegetable fan.

After that there were quite a few essays that just didn’t reach out to me from the pages. Nothing boring or off-putting but nothing that leapt from the pages. The book is laid out into categories such as “The Way We Eat Now”, “Personal Taste” and the chapter that broke the losing streak, “Extreme Eating”.

There was an excellent article about the final meals of death row inmates but maybe because I have been watching season 3 of Orange is the New Black, the essay by Kevin Pang, “Fixed Menu” about the food at the Westville Prison near Chicago drew me in and taught me at the same time.

My favorite writing was from former New York Times food writer, Frank Bruni. “Familiarity Breeds Content” housed my favorite quote in the book, “I was a paid philanderer. It was exhilarating. It was exhausting. And it wasn’t necessarily the best course” I was happy to see that the eternal struggle of the new, new versus the old familiar stand-by was not just a craft beer phenomenon. And like the article about big flavors, there seems to be a push for comforting foods and drinks. Not everything needs habanero added. A simple meal at a restaurant where the people know your name can be just as exciting.

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Ale Storm

by Sean on July 2, 2015

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Not only did the Kansas City Royals make the World Series last year, now one of their minor league teams, The Omaha Storm Chasers has a branded Ale Storm from Nebraska Brewing Company. Personally I think all baseball teams should have a local beer made for the team and community.  Maybe not canned in as large amounts as this beer is but it would certainly make 9 innings more fun.

Here is the beer description: “The perfect ‘baseball’ beer.  A smooth, thirst-quenching beer that balances the delicate sweetness of Pilsner malt and lemony/spicy notes of Sterling hops. It was specifically crafted to be an approachable but flavorful addition to everyone’s favorite pastime.”

 

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Jameson LA

by Sean on July 1, 2015

Supply and demand. Barrels are at a premium in craft beer land. Each new brewery dreams of a barrel aging program, which means that getting your hands on one is like getting your hands on enough hops.
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So landing a barrel or three from Jameson Irish Whiskey is a coup. And Angel City of DTLA came back from Ireland with barrels as part of the Jameson Drinking Buddies program.
Angel City Brewery in Los Angeles was one of five American breweries that also included Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in New York, Deep Ellum Brewing Company in Dallas, Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver, and Hilliard’s Beer in Seattle.

Each brewery got a ticket to the distillery in Ireland and was tasked with making a beer that reflected the barrel and their neighborhood where they brew.

Plus the whole thing was filmed and you can see what Angel City got involved with at JamesonNeighborhood.com. From there you can learn about the Angel City Imperial Irish Ale and the other four beers.

Obviously a tasting will be held at some point and you can either Social Media-ize the brewery to find out when it will happen.

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In the Tap Lines for July 2015

by Sean on July 1, 2015

header_attractionsNow that we are all recovered from L.A. Beer Week it is time to suss out what July will be like in the L.A. craft beer world Plus…..

~ e-visits to three breweries in Portland including Baerlic, Buckman Botanical & Culmination
~ special reviews of beers from new to L.A. Left Hand
~ Heads-Up on Los Angeles Beer Events
~ Three suggested beers to buy this month. One light, one medium and one dark
~ Beer-centric podcast review, 1 Beer, 1 Song
~ I will tap the Firkin and give my no holds barred opinion on the craft beer world
~ … and Session # 101 will converge bloggers onto a single topic, this month it is Bottles, Caps and other Detritus

Here are two events to get your June started in the Los Angeles craft beer world:
1) July 4th – 4th of July Backyard Boogie at Beer Belly
2) July 11th – Draft Day at Cismontane Brewing in Santa Ana

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