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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The Firkin for June 2015

by Sean on June 30, 2015

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If your mind can picture it despite the drought that looms large, Los Angeles used to be flooded by the LA River. Then the flow was boxed up and channeled into a concrete canyon. DWP and Mullholland and Chinatown with Jack Nicholson later, it became a bit of a joke. You could say the same about the L.A. craft beer scene. It was tidied up into bottles and cans of German lager early on and that was pretty much it until Craftsman came onto the scene.

Even then the river of beer was still tame, 1903 lager was fancy back then and really in demand. But now, the craft beer is booming like LA riverfront property and the flood of beer is enormous almost like the Mississippi.

L.A. has become a year-round beer town. I should know, I collate the Food GPS Beer Blast and I see the events that happen each and every week. Tap-takeovers happen with regularity. New beer releases are happening almost every week too. The growth of beer happenings has had the deleterious effect of making the recently concluded L.A. Beer Week just a super-sized version of what occurs the other 357 days of the year. (in a good way!)

Which meant that I missed quite a few events. Granted, I had other reasons not to attend some events. My day job keeps me in Burbank until 6pm, so getting to the South Bay or even Van Nuys for a weekday event is a traffic fight. Also my wine loving Mom was in town for ½ the week which blocked off a chunk of the schedule.

That meant not attending the Battle of the Guilds but the idea of SF-SD-LA in one venue sounds better than it plays out. Last year at Mohawk Bend the place was just jam packed and Naja’s Place is no better capacity wise which makes for lots of standing and waiting and less opportunity to really compare the three cities beer output. Next door King Harbor and their satellite taproom held more appeal to me.

Other “misses” for me were comparing and contrasting the Cascade collaborations with El Segundo and Phantom Carriage. Walker’s Wild Ride is always fun and the Metro Red Line idea was a nice touch. MacLeod’s cask event would have been nice to attend but I expect the crowd was healthy enough even without my presence.

This is no indictment of those creating events, the breweries or the L.A. Beer Week organizers. To the contrary. Taking Smog City as an example, I did not attend the many tap-takeovers they were featured in nor did I go to their Rarities and Barrel Aged party. Not due to any anitpathy towards them but primarily because I had driven to Torrance twice in May for their Anniversary and the bottle release of Cuddlebug. And they were pouring in Exposition Park so I got my fix. And I wanted to try a wide-ranging assortment of beers.

We have had invasions from Bell’s, Boulevard, Ninkasi and the like plus new local breweries ready to pop at any moment now. We don’t need a week to drum up support or beer, that support is here. The question that remains for me is what is next for beer in LA and how do we celebrate the origin story while moving forward.

Does that make me a tired old grump or someone who has already had his fill is up for your interpretation. Personally, I think it is a great problem to have a full river of beers fed by streams of L.A. interpretations of cask, Belgian and wild ales running through my backyard.

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Our final beer from 21st Amendment, their IPA Rushmore, Brew Free or Die!

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This pours out of the can pretty piney smelling.  Very enticing to start.  The orange color and cool lacing are also positives.  And the taste follows suit for a bit.  But then the flavors start to wear on the tongue.  There is some tropical in the mix but I get a lot of woody notes up front that is barrel-esque but finishes with more of a sawdusty taste.  It is bitter but not overtly so but the hops do start to make their presence felt which is what causes the weariness.

Maybe I appreciate the lighter 21a beers.

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FWIBF15 Brewery # 3 – Sun King

by Sean on June 29, 2015

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Our final stop in June is with Sun King Brewery in Indiana.  Like Half Acre and Three Floyds, they have a very distinctive look to their brand.

All you have to do is Google Image their can design to see they have a quirky sensibility.  And that extends to their beer recipes too.  So let’s take a look at what I would want in my pick six can collection….

1 – “Popcorn Pilsner puts a local spin on brewing tradition with the addition of Indiana-grown Riehle’s Select popcorn, popped by our friends at Just Pop In, to our German-Style pilsner recipe. The result is a crisp, balanced, andrefreshing beer with a dry finish and just enough hop character to keep things interesting.”

2- “Ring of Dingle is a rich and roasty Irish-Style Dry Stout with a clean, dry finish. The beer is named after a scenic road network in Ireland that starts and ends in the city of Dingle.”

3 – “Fistful of Hops is our quarterly series of four IPAs, each with the same malt base. We balance that base against a seasonal “fistful of hops” – each time a different variety. For our 2014 “Red” release, we continue the process of rotating hops by featuring Citra, El Dorado, and Galaxy, which combine to create a pronounced tropical fruit flavor.”

4- “Java Mac is the coffee infused version of our Wee Mac Scottish-Style Ale. Locally roasted coffee from Bee Roasters harmonizes with the base beer’s hazelnut character and toffee undertones to create a vibrant symphony of rich coffee flavor.”

5 – “Sun King and 3 Floyds have come together again to bring you Slacktivist, a Doppelkolsch brewed to help bring awareness to our efforts to raise the barrelage cap on Indiana breweries. Slacktivist steps up the smooth malt flavors of a traditional Kolsch-style beers with more pronounced flavor and a crisp hop bite. We hope you’ll step up your support for our efforts at supportindianabrewers.com.”

6 – “The road between Rhinegeist and Sun King traverses 110 miles – a long way to go without a beer. Whichever end of the road you find yourself at, you’ll be happy to find Emergency Hop Kit, a beer that combines the powers of Truth IPA with Osiris Pale Ale.?

 

 

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Pump the IPA

by Sean on June 29, 2015

So, first I tell you about a vanilla IPA and now in the pipeline is…..

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Yup, Flying Dog has added Pumpkin to IPA for some reason.  Again I say, hurrah to experimentation and please stop now.  The world needs more Helles, ordinary bitters and the like.

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Carlsberg in the Bathroom?

by Sean on June 28, 2015

…and not in the ‘fridge?

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So, you freeze dry Carlsberg lager into a powder and then add it into a skin care line? Or as it is marketed in many more words, The Beer Beauty by Carlsberg limited edition men’s skincare line. This new line-up is a collaboration of sorts between Carlsberg Laboratories (the R&D division of the brewery) and cosmetics producer Urtegaarden.

There is a shampoo, conditioner and body lotion with the “beautifying properties of lager” to choose from.

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Guinness IPA?

by Sean on June 28, 2015

…and in Nitro cans?
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I have a couple bones to pick with this new Irish beer….

This label looks awfully close to the font and style of Noble Ale Works to me. Which was OK when it was variants of stout or a pale lager but now that Guinness has thrown their hat into the IPA ring, it seems to close for comfort right now.

Secondly, why would Guinness make an IPA anyway? Do they have leftover nitro widget cans that needed filling? And someone at Diageo HQ read an article about IPA’s being the “it” style?

I’m not some purist who can’t see IPA’s getting the nitro treatment but this seems tilted toward marketing and not toward making great beer.

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