Top 8 Blog Posts of 08

posted on December 31, 2008 in random beer thoughts

It was inevitable.  Any blogger worth their weight in widgets (disregard the nonsensicalness of that metaphor and appreciate the alliteration) needs to do a “Best of” list before New Years Day arrives…and I still have a few minutes, so here goes.

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading other beer bloggers’ blogs lately so figured I’d share my favorite 8 posts of ‘08, plus one more to ring in ‘09 (so, yeah, top 9).  In no particular order:

1. 15 Famous Beers You’ll Probably Never Drink: Very original, well-crafted, entertaining post.  These guys actually could have had a few on this list.  Mad props.

2.  Discovery Gives us Another Reason to Miss Michael Jackson: I enjoyed Discovery Channel’s “How Stuff Works” about Beer but I may have enjoyed this pretty hilarious take on it from Appelation Beer even more.  The part about the poor use of stock footage=so true.

3.  Brewvana’s explanation of Bi-Polar Brewer Syndrome: I enjoy this guy’s writing, would love to visit his restaurant if I ever find myself in Iowa, and wanted to give him a shout-out.  No post really stood out in particular but this one highlights a pretty funny aspect of homebrewing.

4. Great 6 part series for people just starting to get into better beer from “the funnest beer blog on the interwebs”.  A really solid site.  All six parts of this series are worth reading, especially to beer n00bs.

5.  Young Experimenting Perfection Seekers: this girl flat-out speaks to me.  None more so than this post.  I’ll be frequenting this site often.

6.  Ground Control to Major Tom: Another awesome beer chick.  After hearing about this blog from a DraftMag tweet, I’ve pretty much thought she and I should be friends (check my tweet history, it’s true).  Anyways, this post reminded me of my bro, who works for NASA.  Space is almost as awesome as beer (and actually was my first love).

7.  Yuletide 2008 Photo Contest Grand Prize Winners!!!: Had to honor this post if not just for the sheer amount of work these guys put into it.  Well done.

8.  Stone…Again!: This blog was introduced to me by my other bro who appreciates its vegan-friendliness.  Great site - this post was cool because their fun little video me want to go to Stone - maybe one of my ‘09 resolutions?

9.  The 11 Most Radical Beer Commercials of the 80s: Thanks Ashley for showing me this one.  The last one (the PBR ad) is AMAZING.  The guys behind the first post in my list commented on this one and linked to their own post about the best beer commercials.  Also worth a look.

Happy ‘09 all.

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Study finds scientists like to study beer

posted on in beerdemia

Well, it’s not a real study per se but, rather, an observation derived from having received the following two tweets within 24 hours of each other:

draftmag: Beer goes academic http://tinyurl.com/wjv5

and;

2326: Dance monkeys dance! http://tinyurl.com/3w4mzg

These two fortuitous tweets made me realize with no uncertainty that scientists quite like to study beer.  The link within the second tweet from my brother (2326) takes you to an outline of the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.  What do “The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” have to do with beer?  Sure, beer shapes many of my decisions but I wouldn’t necessarily call the force that is beer “hidden”.  In fact, it’s usually quite apparent when a decision has been beer-influenced.  But I digress.  If you scroll (or, as I first wrote that word, “scrool”) down to the last section of the outline, you will see the title “Beer and Free Lunches” which in part describes an experiment that studies people’s beer choices and their happiness with them.  The study apparently found (if you’re too lazy to read for yourself, and I don’t blame you - I’m too lazy to read the actual study) that a largely significant variable in people ordering beers is what the people ahead of them ordered.  Americans, shockingly, want to be unique.  This reminds me of certain family altercations wherein my brother bogarted the most appetizing dish on a menu…an exchange that might go something like this:
Adam: What are you getting?
Me: The unagi roll
Adam: What?  No, I’m getting that.
Me: Nerds!
Ok, well I hadn’t started saying Tina Fey’s catchphrase “nerds” back in the day but the thought was the same.   The result was always the same too: I was forced to order another dish, inevitably producing feelings of plate envy.  Little did I know my decision-making was so predictably irrational - thank you, Mr. Ariely.  This little analogy simply illustrates that the study could very well have been done about people ordering food but the scientists apparently found it more illuminating to study people’s beer preference. The good people of the world find a way to sneak beer into whatever it is they’re passionate about.
And then there are those who are passionate enough about beer that they don’t have to sneak it in at all.  Like Monique Haakensen (from the DraftMag tweet/article), who recently got her PhD in beer from the University of Saskatchewan.  More specifically, she “helped discover three new methods of detecting beer-spoiling bacteria, including a DNA-based technique” - this is cool because instead of holding the batches for months to make sure they don’t spoil, breweries can now detect whether beer will be prone to spoilage in a matter of days, translating into fresher beer for all and decreased chance of ever getting a, to use a Californian term, gnarly bottle.
Perhaps the coolest thing about the article though was the author pointed out that beer research has led to and continues to lead to important discoveries in biofuels.  Who knows, maybe it will take a beer scientist to finally figure out how to make biofuels an efficient technology.  (See, studying beer can have valuable impacts on humanity!  Hi Dad.)
The only mildly disheartening part of the Haakensen article to me was the end, reading, “beyond her PhD in beer, Haakensen says there’s not much opportunity for her to have a career doing beer research.

Microscopes are neato.

Microscopes are neato.

She recently landed a job with the university’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization to study how other types of bacteria effect humans.”  However, I’m guessing Haakensen’s passion isn’t really beer - she probably could have easily landed a job at a brewing company - but rather, academic research - specifically, bacteria research.  Well…yeast are way cooler (except in those beers where certain strains of bacteria are most welcome).  Jk, obvs — good work, good luck, and cheers for your contribution!

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Beer, actually, is all around us.

posted on December 28, 2008 in beer review, beerventure

The movie Love Actually was inspired by witnessing loved ones reunite at the airport.  And where there is love, there is also beer.

However, the beer selections at most airports aren’t all too inspiring, apparently unless you happen to be at one of these airports.  Unfortunately, the Southwest terminal at the Houston airport is not on that list.  Still, because I was at an airport, it seemed appropriate I should drink.  What do I mean?  Well, airports are like movie theaters in that all normal social rules don’t apply.  Ellen Degeneres talks about our behavior in movie theaters - our free pass to shovel popcorn into our mouths - and I am reminded of how it seems once you enter an airport, whether it be 6 AM or 3:30 in the afternoon, it is perfectly appropriate to start drinking.  Who knows what your actual timezone is?  Cheers!

So, naturally, I dropped into “Pappas Burgers” for a pint and some tortilla soup.  The soup was OK, though it was dominated by a block of cheese and a mound of tortilla strips while the “with avocado” apparently meant one measly slice.

Kyle Perfect10Model's lunch

Kyle Perfect10Model's lunch

Aside from Bud, BudLight, etc. on tap, Pappas also pours Fat Tire (which I almost went for) and ZiegenBock (which I ended up selecting because I had never heard of it).  Probably should have stuck with the Fat Tire.

I actually have nothing against lagers and generally can appreciate most styles of beer.  In fact, doppelbocks, marzens and pilsners are among my favorites; since I hadn’t had a bock in a while I was quite excited to spend some time with this one and get to know him.  Unfortunately, “Ziegenbock” is a bit of a misnomer; if I were to call myself KylePerfect10Model, you have certain expectations, no?  Well, Ziegenbock isn’t even described as a bock on its pseudo-website (part of the ICS website, owned by Anheuser-Busch, owned by AB-InBev) but rather as an American Style Amber Lager.  Well, OK, so how was it?

So glad you asked!

Name: ZiegenBock Amber

Style: Amber Lager

Brewery: Anheuser-Busch

Region: Houston, Texas

Pairings: Wasn’t bad with my tortilla soup.  In fact, amber lagers like this are rather tasty with Mexican.

Color:  Brown (on the darker side) with definite reddish tint; very transparent.

Carbonation: Almost no foam or lacing but tastes quite carbonated - but perhaps this was just the acidity.

Aroma: Very light, sour fruit and caramel.

Mouthfeel: Thin, does not linger, pleasant.

Flavor:  Not a lot to it other than soury-sweetness though this is somewhat balanced by a crispness lent by the hops and clean lager yeast finish.

Finish: Clean, sour and caramel are all that mildly linger.

Comments: Anheuser-Busch, now AB-InBev, only brews and offers this beer in Houston, Texas which is an interesting attempt to reach out to a local beer crowd.  I’d like to try some truly local craft brews to compare.  Maybe I’ll get to venture beyond the George Bush Airport next time.

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Great American Beer Quest: RRBC

posted on December 24, 2008 in beerventure

Putting the words “Great American” in front of anything lends it instant epicness.  Add the word “quest” into the mix and you’ve crossed over into full-on epic territory.  Few journeys may be worthy of such high-flyin’ superlatives, but I’ve learned that a trip to the Russian River Brewing Company is one of them.

The funny thing about RRBC though is that, walking in, you would have no idea you just stepped into one of the most highly respected, award-winning brewpubs in the world; it’s like the scene from

RRBC=Holy Grail?

RRBC=Holy Grail?

The Last Crusade when Indy picks the most trifflin’ looking cup in the place and, lo and behold,  it belonged to Jesus Christ.  Indy: 1, Nazis: 0.  Yup, exactly like that.  To illustrate the point, I merely need to point you to their website, which, clicking on the link you’ll think you’ve warped backed in time circa 1997.  Of course, this only adds to RRBC’s charm, and is all the more reason why I love beer.  It’s obvious this place cares about one thing and one thing only: tasty beer.  Just so happens the food is pretty good too.

I’ve been wanting to journey to RRBC for some time now, ever since hearing tales of how Pliny the Elder slays armies of single-IPAs in the night, first luring them into a false confidence with his inviting hop aroma, then easily overpowering them with his mighty BUs.  Or I think that’s how John first described it to me.  Anyways, let’s just say Vinnie and his brews had been hyped up for me for a while and having tasted a bottle of Pliny, Damnation, and I think Beatification (can’t quite recall - nearly all Vinnie’s Belgians end in “tion” making us fans work harder to get them straight) at John and Ashley’s (his girlfriend), I had no reason to doubt RRBC wouldn’t live up to its hype.

The two things one must get on one’s first RRBC visit (so I was told, and so am passing onto you) are Drew Bites and the sampler.  D.B.’s, as I shall call them, are strips of pizza dough minus the sauce, plus gooey mozz, pepperoni and peppercinis.

mmm...Drew Bites.

mmm...Drew Bites.

They’re served with a side of bright red, zangy marinara dipping sauce.  John and I were quite hungry and the saying goes that “hunger is the best sauce” but if that’s the case, this sauce was a damn close second.*†

Onto the sampler.  It’s difficult to start with Aud Blonde, RRBC’S lightest beer (though don’t you dare call it light to its face) when Pliny’s staring you straight in the face.  Still, I did my best.  And since I’m a fan of pilsner malt, I was not displeased.  I think it’d be a little overkill to go into detail on every beer in the sampler but my progression was thus:

Aud Blonde -> Belgians, lightest to dark (Sanctification -> Damnation -> Perdition -> Salvation ->) IPA trio (Russian River IPA, Blind Pig, Pliny the Elder) -> Consecration (a Belgian in its own category, will discuss further) -> OVL Stout -> Porter

Sampler.  Sorry hard to read; dem bottle caps is shiny!

Sampler. Sorry hard to read; dem bottle caps is shiny!

I did try the unlabeled (black bottle cap in the picture) one which John told me was Happy Hops but found it to be my least favorite.  Standing next to many other beers I would have quite enjoyed it but standing up to these, I let John finish it after his pint of Pliny.

Since this won’t be my last post about RRBC, I’ll finish by writing about my favorite for this go around: Consecration.  This beer is the lovechild between Cabernet Sauvignon and a Belgian strong dark, two components that by themselves can be quite remarkable.  We all know that sometimes when two attractive people get together, the result isn’t always, well, pretty.  But, like it seems to have for Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, it occasionally works out.  Consecration is the Shiloh Jolie-Pitt of beers.

If I were a beer...I'd totally be RRBC's Consecration.

If I were a beer...I'd totally be RRBC's Consecration.

The nose and finish are Cab-driven but the middle is a malty-sweet, yet complex dark flavor.  I think there has been one luke-warm review in BeerAdvocate – the rest are resoundingly positive.  This is a beer that I cannot wait for to be bottled.  Well done Vinnie and keep ‘em coming.  I’ll be back.

*Now, potentially, one could substitute Drew Bites with the similar Beer Bites but you’d be missing out on some tangy, straight-up delicious peppercinis; alternatively, you could venture into unknown territory and go for the Travis Bites (Beer bites with white cheddar and jalapenos), which I will be trying on my next visit.

† “Hunger is the best sauce” is a Cha-ism; “Cha” is the nickname of my college roommate/teammate/BFF.

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MinR Ale Tasting Notes

posted on in beer review

I’m going to revert to a little trick I used as a writer for Let’s Go - whenever I was feeling particularly uncreative but wanted to somehow not be entirely bland in my description of a place, I would use a cheesy, over-reaching metaphor. I am pretty sure none of those made it into the book. Since I’m my only editor, I can feel free to use them here. Perhaps when I’m feeling more creative I’ll change this post to something wittier. Right now though, BMAB is calling for a cheesy stretched metaphor, so I must oblige.

If this blog were a mixed six-pack, it’d contain:

- a bottle of beer reviews/tasting notes (sophisticated, yet enjoyable, like a Belgian trippel)
- a bottle of “beerventures” - i.e. general reviews of bars, breweries, beer stores, etc. (fun, new and exciting, perhaps like a double oak barreled IPA)
- a bottle of homebrewing notes, reports and recipes (maybe not always the most exciting, but useful, well-intentioned, and still generally amusing, like an organic brown ale)
- a bottle of general beer news (something any good beer blog/mixed six pack needs, like a clean, crisp, refreshing lager)
- a bottle of beer research - the more academic side of beer (something not everybody has a taste for, but those who do seem to really appreciate it, like a smoked porter)
- a bottle of random musings, hopefully somehow beer related (risky, potentially disastrous, but potentially a winner, basically like anything from Dogfish Head)

Today when we reach into our six-pack, we pulled out the trippel. That’s the beer reviews one. Stay with me. I figured what better way to kick-off my beer-reviewing career than to review my own beer - something only about 12 other people have tasted, therefore limiting the people who can disagree with me to the fewest number possible. Just kidding, I love confrontation. Still, I am egotistical enough to review my own beer first, so here are my tasting notes for Mercury in Retrograde Amber Ale. BTW, I “borrowed” this review format from The Beer Wench, but I doubt she’d mind because she got it from the iPhone app: Beer Pad.

Name: Mercury in Retrograde

Style: Amber Ale

Brewery: LessThanThree Beers (aka my homebrews)

Region: Northern California

Pairings: Goes with large variety of foods; takes on grilled foods quite nicely and refreshes a palate fired up by spicy foods.

Color: Coppery brown, closer to brown ale but definite reddish tint.

Carbonation: Quite low in most bottles; thin, fleeting cream-colored head.

Aroma: Not very strong nose; mild hop and alcohol aroma.

Mouthfeel: Rather strong alcohol presence for an amber wakes up taste buds and lingers on tongue; hops lend medium crisp bitterness

Flavor: Sort of a caramely-alcohol dominated beverage; somewhat complex and lingering. Fairly estery flavor for an amber, probably due to slightly longer time in fermentation bucket.

Finish: Lingering taste dominated by alcohol, yet inoffensive.

Comments: Despite an overly strong alcoholic presence, rather disappointing carbonation, and only mild hop and malty character, not a bad first brew ‘t all. At least it doesn’t taste like soap.

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Mercury in Retrograde Amber Ale

posted on in homebrewing

Ambers are a great first-time brewer’s beer. Not too complicated, pretty forgiving, and just plain tasty.

When I went to buy my beerkit at the HomeBrew Outlet in Sacramento, I was so excited to start my homebrewing I wasn’t thinking straight and bought an Oktoberfest ingredient kit. Oktoberfests are not first-time brewer friendly beers; in fact, even many experienced homebrewers are wary of lagers due mainly to their temperature control demands. But it was early October, I was a bit overwhelmed, and all I could think was Oktoberfest. I would have appreciated it if the lone HBO employee gave me some sort of heads up about lagers not being novice-brewer friendly, but sans such advice, I came home with the Oktoberfest kit.

Enter my beer mentor, John. John’s been brewing for a few years and I think has brewed only one lager (a super-tasty pilsner) - not just because he is partial to ales. Lagers are about as temperature-sensitive as a menopausal woman (I’m a chick, I can say that). Without the high-tech machinery of industrial breweries, precise temperature control can be, well, challenging. As Palmer notes in How To Brew (AKA basic homebrewing bible), ales also tend to be a lot more forgiving if off-flavors do occur. So John wisely ordered me ingredients from MoreBeer for an amber recipe he concocted using his nifty BeerTools software when I told him how much I like the Boont Amber Ale we have on tap at the restaurant I serve at.

The recipe for what I later dubbed “Mercury in Retrograde Amber Ale” is the following:

7.75 lb Ultralight Extract
.75 lb Caramel Malt
.5 lb Victory Malt
.5 lb Caramel Malt 120L
.75 oz Horizon (12.0%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
.25 oz Centennial (10.0%) - added during boil, boiled 10min
.25 oz Amarillo (8.5%) - added during boil, boiled 10 min
1.0 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 10 min
0.25 oz Centennial (10.0% - added during boil, boiled 0.0 min
1.0 ea Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05

We brewed on November 2 and seeing as how we were getting to know my new system and John was teaching me everything along the way, it took about 5 hours to complete everything and get everything clean and sanitized again. Thanks to John, there were no real problems to report.

I let the ale sit in the fermenting bucket (John advised I forgo the glass carboy, especially since it didn’t hold nearly the 5 gallons it was supposed to) until the 25th - a little over 3 weeks. After bottling, I waited until December 10th (two weeks and a day post bottling) to crack open my first one. My next post will give a thorough review of MinR. As a preview, I disclose my first and second draft of the front MinR label and the back label I made using photoshop (also a total noob at that), giving a brief description of the story behind the name and the beer itself.

First Draft
First Draft
Second Draft
Second Draft

Back labels
Back labels
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Beer me a beer

posted on in Uncategorized

If you watch The Office, you get it. Good on you.

I’m definitely not the first person to write a blog about beer. In fact, this isn’t even my first attempt to write a blog about beer. I have confidence (completely unfounded) that this one will stick though. If only because I like the name. Anyways, point is, I’m not doing this for originality points; I’m doing it for all the fame and money that comes with writing a beer blog.

Here’s my deal:

I circuitously made my way to UC Davis (read: bailed on the idea of law school the summer before my 1L, deciding to pursue my passion for food/beverages instead), currently taking the classes I need to get into the illustrious “Pope of Foam”’s (i.e., Charlie Bamforth, also the Chair of the Food Science and Technology Dept. at UC Davis, but the fact he knows a shitload about beer foam is more pertinent here) Masters program. I think writing a masters thesis about beer is about one of the coolest things I could possibly do…and really, being cool is all I’ve ever cared about.

Admittedly, I’m a far cry from a beer geek yet - and my first culinary love was plain old good food, but nothing excites me more than the challenge of knowing and making good beer. I like the personality of beer - unlike wine, it beckons “hey, come play with me, I’m really fun and approachable”, but the more you get to know it, the more you realize how complex and surprising it can be. I hope you’ll follow me as I play with and get to know beer even more.

My next post will be about my first batch of beer I homebrewed: Mercury in Retrograde Amber Ale (see pic below). If you’re not too familiar with astrology (i.e., most people outside California), “Mercury in retrograde” is basically the reason you might be having a shitty day (for a detailed account). The story behind the name will be revealed on the label.

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