Two Beers One Cup Update^2

posted on January 29, 2009 in random beer thoughts

Actually, this post is updating my update of this post (OMG, I love meta-levels!).  I pointed out in that update some of the more inappropriate-sounding names for beer mixes, including “The Black Hoe”.  Well, I just thought it was worth noting on BMAB that someone actually ordered one at my restaurant this Tuesday.  Here’s what happened:

Guy: “What are you getting?  Oh no, I know what you’re getting [looking at friend]; I’m ordering for him.  Here’s what you’re gonna do, li’l lady*: fill the glass half full with Hoegaarden, then fill the top half with Guinness.”

I look at Dude Man.

Dude Man: “OK, sure.”

Me [still debating whether I should say anything to them about the name of this drink]: “Alright, and what can I get for you?”

Guy: “A Diet Coke.”

Me: [WTF?!  You were so excited about beer!  But good on you if you're DD.] “Sure.”

I go over to the bartender, who I had a conversation about the various beer mixes before, in which I told her about the Black Hoe.  Gittily, I tell her a guy just ordered one.  She makes it.  I take it over to Dude Man and Guy.

Me: One Diet Coke and one….half-Hoegaarden, half-Guinness.  [I start to walk away...then I gather some courage.]  So, do you know what another name for that drink is?

Guy: A Black-and-Blue?  No, that’d be Blue Moon.  No, what is it?

Me [trying to figure out the best way to not sound like a racist douche-bag]: Well I was reading about beer mixes on Wikipedia and it said the name for it was…”Black Hoe”…but I can’t imagine anyone would feel comfortable ordering that at a bar.”

Laughter ensues.

Guy: Good for you for doing beer research on Wikipedia.  So, you know, if you really want to serve it right, you’d also bring a straw with it to mix it…[realizes he has a straw in Diet Coke, takes it out, and swirls Dude Man's beverage]…like that.  And it should create a nice foamy head.  There, that way you maximize…[Guy stalls, struggling to find words]”

Me: Deliciousness?

Guy: Flavor.

Dude Man: It’s the best hoe I’ve ever had.

I laugh, but walk away thinking two things: 1) indeed, that drink was awkward to talk about; and 2) it would be a lot cooler if they called that drink the Black Gaarden.  Let’s change that, beer world.

I do wonder, though, if Guy was right that we should serve a straw with mixed beers.  I wonder so much, in fact, that I may have to do a side-by-side taste test.  I’ll keep you posted…via a post: Update of an update of an update

*Note: He may not have actually said “li’l lady”, but it felt right.

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The Stone in the Grad

posted on January 26, 2009 in beer review, beerventure

You mean The Grad is having a Stone tasting?  What are we doing here?

"You mean The Grad is having a Stone tasting? What are we doing here?"

Last Thursday (1/15), Stone Brewery (or, at least, two regional sales reps and their round, steely, beer-filled friends) saw it fit to pay Davis a little visit.  It may come as no surpise the host happens to be the only place in Davis that also pours the eighth-best rated beer in the world.  I would say the two hit it off quite well.

I headed over in a small group including John and his mentor*-friend, Shane but we ended up meeting a group of “Sacramento Hopheads” via the site www.meetup.com.  Technology is really good at uniting beer lovers (as Twitter very well shows).  And, really, if you’re going to meet a bunch of random people from the internet, it helps if your common interest happens to also be a social lubricant.

On to the beer.  Here was the line-up:

Old Guardian Barleywine
Smoked Porter
Pale Ale
Levitation Ale
Ruination IPA
Arrogant Bastard
Double Bastard Ale
Russian Imperial Stout
12th Anniversary Ale

AND RARE ARCHIVED ANNIVERSARY KEGS:
Stone 10th Anniversary Ale
Stone 11th Anniversary Ale

To me, the Best in Show that night was Levitation and Ruination - indicating to me that I really am developing a palate for hoppy beers (hooray!  Californians won’t shun me.).  Levitation is Stone’s version of an Amber Ale, so, not surprisingly, it’s more hoppy than most ambers.  The BJCP guidelines for an Amber suggest the IBUs should be in the range of  25-40, but Stone takes pride in sticking it to the man, giving this beer 45 IBUs.  Modest for Stone to be sure, but definitely not what you’d expect from an Amber.  While I’m a fan of traditional ambers, and they have a special place in my heart for being the first style I brewed, I loved this one.  To me, Levitation is the gateway brew to hoppy beers.  Malty and citrusy, but not too bitter and very drinkable.  This beer is full of flavor and refreshing; it may well become a go-to for me for my new habit of rehydrating after a long-run with a beer, in the style of Beer Runner.

I guess once the floodgates open to hoppy beers, there’s no going back.  So the second beer I dug that night was their Ruination IPA.  I think this hop-kick was also driven by a slight overdose on very malty beers like Oskar Blues’ Old Chub (a Scotch Ale), Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout (”a punch in the face”**), and Old Rasputin from North Coast - an RIS.  Hops were a welcome, refreshing change; plus, hops are what gave Stone its name.  So, naturally their hoppy beers are very enjoyable.  When in Rome…or the Grad…which is serving Stone…well, you know.  (BTW, I neglected their superstars (Arrogant Bastard and Double Bastard) because we serve those on tap at our restuarant, but if you’re new to Stone, you’ll want to try those…especially the Double - hoppy as a mother but smoother than the original.)

Don't judge me for my big gargoyle muscles and enormous IBUs.  I'm actually very sensitive inside.

I'm actually very sensitive inside.

Lastly, I want to try to give some constructive feedback regarding the event itself.  Thankfully, we got to the Grad a little before they started serving, so we staked out our territory near the bar early on.  Still, once they started pouring, it was a bit of mayhem by the bar - people could easily cut in front, there was a lack of papers and pencils on which to write your tasting choices, there was a miscommunication as to what beers they actually had…etc., etc.  The main problem was the system of going up to the far end of the bar to order drinks.  This resulted in a huge, slow-moving line, making me ever-more thankful that I was actually early to something for once.

It’s easy to complain about these kind of operations, not so easy to come up with solutions.  But what I would suggest for events like these is just bringing in some extra waitstaff who will hand out the tasting papers and bring the beer to the people at tables.  Yes, it may take a while for these people to get their beer but it’s better than everyone rushing the bar and that way people can actually sit down and enjoy themselves - maybe buy a pint of something else (at the uncrowded part of the bar) while they wait for their tasters.  Sure, it will cost extra for the labor but it will reduce the daunting line of people that had to wait forever - many of whom I’m sure just went home.  I don’t think the Grad ever really has people wait tables but for a special event like this, it would not be too difficult to train them (they do have people running counter-service for food).  Also, it would reduce the problem of the customer having to trasport his or her drinks from the bar to their table (sans a serving tray).  When you have 8 glasses this can take several trips, causing all the more mayhem at the bar.

When events are run more smoothly, people are more likely to come back to future ones.  This one was still a very positive experience, but there’s always room for improvement (plus, I came early).  Other suggestions are highly welcome.

Sorry bout the tardiness of this post.  Just started school back up; little rusty getting my head wrapped around titration calculations and the like but once routine kicks in, normal posting regimen will resume.

*If beer mentors were Jedis, then I’d be the bitchy little Aniken, John the fun-lovin’ Obi-Wan, and Shane the wise Qui-Gon Jinn.

**(Ashley, 1/11/09)

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El Bulli of Breweries

posted on January 18, 2009 in beer & food

Yesterday, I watched the apparently “infamous” documentary-turned-episode-of-No Reservations which takes Anthony Bourdain to Ferran Adria’s El Bulli restaurant in Spain.  This bit of foodie-lore was heretofore unbeknownst to me until I read this great post from the my life as a foodie blog (also a good beer blog in its own right) — thanks for the episode link and post, Phil!  Had it not been several years since the original aired and I hadn’t been already exposed to similar techniques on Top Chef (mostly by Marcel - the other Pope of Foam (in a less cool way), Richard (my fave) and now Fabio with his “spherical kalamata olives” (sweet how-to video in this link)) and other shows, I would have been totally blown away.  As it stands, I managed to keep a few toes on the ground.  Bourdain did a stand-up job hyping the shit out of this place though.  Seriously — if you haven’t seen it, watch it.  I can’t really do the episode justice by merely writing about it.  I can sprinkle sweet El Bulli pics from About.com throughout this post to further entice you though.*

Told you I'd sprinkle "sweet" pics: mango and vanilla ice cream roll

Told you I'd sprinkle "sweet" pics: mango and vanilla ice cream roll

Bourdain’s conclusion is that Adria, and his work at El Bulli, have ushered in a new era of food — one that embraces molecular level science and chemicals like calcium chloride and sodium alginate, and combines them with food in creative and surprising ways.  This acknowledgment partially scares Bourdain and partially excites him.  Mostly, he seems pretty damn pleased.

Oh hi.  Don't mind me.  I'm just here to look amazing.

Oh hi. Don't mind me. I'm just here to look amazing.

Unsurprisingly, there are those who are not so happy about this movement.  Unsurprising, because, as Bourdain says, “what he does is a direct challenge to perceived wisdom of centuries of classic cooking”.  Most famously, another Michelin 3-starred but traditionalist Spanish chef, Santi Santamaria has publicly denounced Adria’s cuisine multiple times, calling it unhealthy and declaring, “Ferran [Adrià] and I have an ethical and conceptual divorce over what we put on the plate”.

Now the culinary world, especially where Spanish chefs are concerned, has essentially divided itself into pro-and-anti-Adria camps.  These events, combined with watching Bourdain’s own trepidation at dining at El Bulli, force me to ask myself two questions (and really, you should ask yourself too, they’re pretty important):

1.  Where do I stand on this debate?  and;

2.  Who is the Ferran Adria of the brewing industry?

Since I want to start talking about beer, I’ll begin with the second question.  If the question had read, who is the Ferran Adria of the fictional chocolate industry, that’d be easy; hands down, Willy Wonka.  How can this guy not remind you of Willy Wonka?  El Bulli does not have a kitchen but a “laboratory” in which he creates dishes that constantly try to surprise (even trick) and, in turn, delight the diner.

Oh, you think that's caviar?  Wrong.  It's fruit.

Oh, you think that's caviar? Wrong. It's fruit.

Oh you think that's regular-flavored wall-paper?  Wrong.  It's shnozzberry-flavored wall paper.

Oh you think that's regular-flavored wall-paper? Wrong. It's shnozzberry-flavored wall paper.

Same difference.  And, for a while, Adria’s secrets were coveted almost as much as Wonka’s everlasting gobstopper; that is, until he released these.  And they both get that crazed look in their eye.

So, to rephrase the original question, who is the Willy Wonka of the brewing industry?  Unfortunately, I feel a bit unqualified to answer that question with my still fledgling, but happily growing, knowledge of the beer industry.  However, from what I have learned, one candidate for this analogy might well be Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head.

Now, this isn’t exactly me jumping on the Sam Calagione bandwagon.  Remember, I haven’t taken sides yet as to the first question posed so merely comparing the personalities is not an endorsement.  And while Calagione’s bandwagon is large (though nowhere near the size of Adria’s - or the one Dahl imagined for Wonka for that matter), he too has his detractors.  Which is precisely the point: these three men are each controversial figures in their respective industry to some degree.  Some hail Calagione as a genius; others consider him overrated.  But their common traits run deeper than merely being controversial personalities in their fields.

Like Wonka, Adria and Caligione are often characterized as being whimsical and inventive.  The late Michael Jackson (Beer Hunter, not Smooth Criminal) wrote an article on Caligione back in 1999 (before Dogfish Head was one of the 25 biggest craft breweries in the US) that demonstrates Caligione’s fondness for wordplay; mirroring Wonka’s mysteriousness, Calagione responds to Jackson’s inquiries by almost cryptically quoting Emerson, Thoreau and Warhol.  Jackson also notes the wordplay in nearly all Calagione’s beers (trademarked as “Off-Centered Ales for Off-Centered People”): beers like Raison D’Etra/Extra (brewed with raisons) and Verdi Verdi Good (a lager given a natural green tint by the addition of spirulina, a blue-green algae).

Possibly the most intriguing, and most Adria-like of Calagione’s beers though is his Midas Touch brew.  I first drank Midas Touch after I heard about it at the Davis Coop, where a fellow Super-Worker told me the story behind the beer.  If you watched the Beer episode of How Stuff Works, you saw the research and scientific collaboration effort

The carrot foam of beers

The carrot foam of beers

that went into the Midas Touch recipe, a beer that Dogfish describes as, “the actual oldest-known fermented beverage in the world! Our recipe showcases the known ingredients of barley, white Muscat grapes, honey & saffron found in the drinking vessels in King Midas’ tomb!”.  To some, this type of effort undertaken all for the sake of a single beer recipe might be ludicrous, but I’ll bet Adria, who painstakingly records his lab’s successes and failures all to make something like “carrot foam”, would appreciate it…and he wouldn’t be alone.

Also, like Adria, Calagione seems to go to great lengths to take a subject that most thought had reached its limits, and push it a little bit further, and make the lines a little more blurry.  For Adria, he throws the very meaning of food into question; as John noted while we were watching the How Stuff Works episode, Calagione does the same with beer styles - inventing his own and using non-traditional ingredients - to the chagrin of many a beer connoisseur.

While I’m (still**) going on about the second question, I might as well throw this tid-bit in: to me, Adria’s combined rigorously scientific and playful approach to food is the very essence of beer.  One cannot produce good beer without adhering to precise, calculated methods.  Beer is a more industrial, technology-driven beverage to make than, say, wine.  At the same time, beer, as a foodstuff, retains a playful image, and don’t think this is entirely due to its marketing/advertising.  As Bamforth notes in Grape vs. Grain, there is more room for creativity in beer - more ingredients to choose from and far more ways to incorporate them.  Given these comparisons, I’m tempted to conclude that beer itself is the Adria of the brewing industry, which doesn’t make sense.  Perhaps, though, it at least can be viewed as the Adria of the beverage world.

I guess the last paragraph sort of gives away the answer to the first question.  If I declare Adria’s approach to food shares characteristics with the production of beer, I damn well better appreciate him.  And I do, but cautiously.  I love innovation and I think it’s what drives people - and there’s no doubt in my mind that many of Adria’s contributions are extremely innovative.  But I also understand Santamaria’s point; what Adria does isn’t really the same as what most chefs do, and thankfully so.  Could you imagine eating nothing but El Bulli’s food for a week?  Would that be satisfying?  That’s why the comparison to Wonka is so apparent - Adria’s food is a delight, but one does not want to consume it for every meal.  For me though, that makes the contribution all the more important; it is these detours from the traditional foods and drinks that makes us want to return to them.  And then we want to be surprised again.  It’s your basic yin and yang.  Adria and Santamaria may not like each other, but the rest of us get to like them both.

P.S.  Happily, my alma mater seems to agree with me when it comes to their stance on Adria’s food.  Adria recently visited Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to give a lecture and sign what is definitely the most interesting MOU I have ever read.  Between this event and JK Rowling’s awesome commencement speech, I’m thinking it would’ve been smart to fail a few classes so I could’ve stuck around a couple more years.

*Warning: “Decoding Ferran Adria” has been known to induce feelings of food envy.  Viewer discretion advised.

**Yeah, I got a little long-winded in this post.  The malignant side-effect of becoming inspired.  Next few postings should be shorter.

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Best piece about the financial crisis I’ve read yet

posted on January 8, 2009 in random beer thoughts

Bruce MacKenzie from The Flatlander (Davis Community Newspaper) wrote* the best piece of investment advice I’ve read.  Since I’m guessing this paper doesn’t get a lot of circulation - I can’t even find a legitimate website for this newspaper - I’m reproducing it verbatim for you here.  Good work, Bruce - fair play to ya!

A No-Fail Investment Plan

ONE YEAR AGO……

  • If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Delta Airlines one year ago, you would have $49.00 today.
  • If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in AIG one year ago, you would have $33.00 today.
  • If you had purchased $1,000 of shares at Lehman Brothers one year ago, you would have $0.00 today.
  • But, if you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the aluminum cans for a recycling refund, you would have received a $214.00.
  • Based on the above, the best current investment plan is to drink heavily & recycle.  It is called the 401-Keg.

I love it.  And considering my investments from a year ago (Google, Ford, Goldman Sachs…ugh), I would have done better to have invested in the 401-Keg.  Also, if I were to go the can-recycle route, I’d choose Oskar Blues or 21 Amendment.  Other suggestions?

*Update: Bruce, you made me feel a fool!  Turns out Mr. MacKenzie was only taking credit for “finding” the apparently ubiquitous internet “401-Keg” joke; not being in an office job at the moment I’m a little out of loop with these things.  In other news, I have heard great things about this company called “Apple” that makes a very cool phone called the “iPhone”; I’ve also discovered that peanut butter goes surprisingly well with jelly.

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Lookin’ for some hot break baby this evening

posted on in beer review, homebrewing

Last night was my first attempt at brewing all by myself.  In fact, it was only my second attempt brewing at home.  It was also the first time I tried to use my new wort chiller and refractometer.  And I chose to brew a lager (which I previously wrote were more difficult than ales).  Probably the easiest type of lager to brew, but a lager, nonetheless.

And, I tried to make guacamole in the meantime.

Guess how it turned out?*  No, not the guac, the guac was actually pretty good.

Center-left: My foil - the guac that undid the best laid plans

Center-left: My foil - the guac that undid the best laid plans

The beer on the other hand, well…that’s a bit of another story.  Of course, I don’t actually know how it turned out; I’ll have to wait an entire month to see if my mistakes actually hurt my beer, but let’s just say I’m less looking forward to trying this batch than MinR Ale.  OK, well I’m quite curious, but in a curious-about-what’s-in-your-tissue-after-you-blew-your-nose sort of way, not a what’s-inside-Willy-Wonka’s-Factory sort of way (I’m watching that movie right now; it’s all I could think to write).

Things started out well enough.  I bought 3 gallons of reverse osmosis water from the Davis Co-op and steeped my crystal malt grains.  I steeped them for half an hour though I am not sure if my water ever reached the suggested 170 degrees F.  Last time I brewed, John commented that my thermometer didn’t seem to be working properly so I didn’t trust it at first.  So, there was problem one, though a minor one.

After removing the steeped grains, I heated the wort to a boil and added the Ultralight malt extract from my MoreBeer kit (Palmer recommends pale malt for steam beers, and I think I would have preferred this, but am sure Ultralight will do just fine), turning the heat down so it didn’t scald the pot.  When I turned the heat back up I added the 2oz of Glacier (bittering) hops and waited for the lovely hot break.  It’s not true a watched pot never boils, but it is true that it can be a bit long boring (especially 3 gallons) - so I entertained myself thus.  I apologize for not sparing you my singing voice but you can at least be thankful I edited out the portion where I spontaneously donned a horrible Sarah Palin impression voice.  I am no Tina Fey.  Though I do have sweet black glasses.

After the hot done broke (ha), I turned the heat down, made sure it was still steadily boiling but wouldn’t boil over, set my timer for 50 minutes, and…ran out to get some tomatoes for my guacamole.  In How to Brew, Palmer lists the “Murphy’s Laws of Brewing” (in the online version, he only lists one, but includes the cool story of how “Murphy’s Law” became famous).  Well, in his next edition, he should include the law “if one is still new to brewing, don’t try to make guacamole while you should be preparing for the next steps”.  I know, I know, guacamole is so easy to make, and the store was just minutes away and all I had to get was the tomatoes (that’s what I thought!) - but trust me: bad idea.  Though I had 50 minutes, I still had to wash my wort chiller and figure it out, and finish sanitizinig everything.  Meanwhile, I was so distracted by the guac I didn’t remember that at 20 minutes left of the boil (not 10 like I had set my timer for), I was supposed to insert my wort chiller and the whirfloc tablet.  Instead, I added the Willamette (flavoring) hops on time (10 minutes left) and hastily added the forgotten whirfloc tablet with only about 4 minutes left.  If my beer’s too hazy, I can probably blame it on that.

I also totally flailed on the wort chiller situations.  In several ways.  First, I inserted it with only a few minutes left in the boil and mistakenly (stupidly) thought that “insert wort chiller” meant to also turn it on.  Only in hindsight did I realize that I was only supposed to insert it to sanitize it, and turn it on after the boil was done.  I know - this is where you’re supposed to sarcastically ask where I went to school.  Sorry, like I said, I had a lot on my mind.  I think this combination of adding the whirlfloc tablet too late and turning on the wort chiller too soon could have pretty catastrophic effects on my beer - making it both hazy and contaminated.  Maybe that’s what I’ll call it.  More than that though, while I was away fussing with my fermentation bucket, the hose from my wort chiller let loose from the sink and sprayed all over my floor.**

There were other problems too, but I am certain I am boring you at this point.  There is, however, one thing I did right: Oskar Blues’ Old Chub Scottish Ale is a great brewing beer - the fact that it comes from a can just makes you feel like you’re that much more blue collar.

Lookin' Good Old Chub.

Lookin' Good Old Chub.

I’ve heard a lot about these beers and had been dying to try them; thankfully, the good beer buyer at the Co-op, Tom, recently started carrying Oskar Blues’ beers.  I plan to do a post about the canned craft beer movement soon enough.  For now though, let’s just say they please me :)

*I know I’m not supposed to technically use a question mark there but I did want the “going up at the end” inflection a question mark confers.  I apologize for those of you reading this that aren’t as easily perturbed by grammatical errors as I (or is it me?).  Ugh, that’ll kill me.

**I read a piece in Brew Your Own about green homebrewing (Oct. ‘08) and they had some good tips about trying to save water used by your wort chillers.  As suggested, I tried to save as much water as I could to do things like water plants and run a load of laundry, but it is really astonishing how much water those things can use.  Email me (beermaster@beermeabeer.com)  if you’d like more of the tips.

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Two beers, one cup*

posted on January 7, 2009 in random beer thoughts

After the microbrew golden age in the 90’s, where older, underappreciated styles like the pale ale and IPA were reimagined and revitalized, the 2000’s has seen an emergence of two main trends: bigger beers (like Belgians, imperial stouts and barleywines) and new, experimental beers (like wine barrel-aged beers) - and especially the combination of these trends (like Double IPAs).  So, I couldn’t help but wonder, where does beer go from here?

And with that line, I officially became the Carrie Bradshaw of beer-writing.  Still, it’s an interesting question, and one possibility is the emergence of yet another trend: beer mixing.  I wouldn’t doubt that most beer geeks would shudder at the thought, thinking each beer is best in its pure, unadulterated form.

Is my life hard?  Could I afford Manolos with my salary?  Do beer mixes taste good?

Is my life hard? Could I afford Manolos with my salary? Do beer mixes taste good?

John, my beer mentor hates it when he gets fruit in his beer (maybe that’s just a guy thing).  However, is it such a problem if one beer complements another well?  Perhaps this is the next step for the still-surging beer movement, and one that virtually opens the door to unlimited possibilities.

The most popular form of beer blending, or “coupling” as it may be known, is the Black and Tan.  Wikipedia gives a nice account of the history and controversy for this beverage, as well as an impressive list of variations on the traditional stout/pale ale mix.  Obviously some beer geeks have been all up on Wikipedia and I loves it.  Also, apparently this guy wrote a book (and blog) about beer mixes.

Beer mixes aren’t anything new - Wikipedia dates them back to 1889 (and I trust Wikipedia with my life), and they’ve evolved, but, in my estimate, they haven’t really hit it big.  At my restaurant someone orders a Black in Tan or a Black and Blue (Guinness and Blue Moon), well, and I’m going to go here, once in a blue moon.  I also enjoy pouring and drinking what we call the “Snake Bite” but what Wikipedia refers to as the “Smoothie” - our draft cider (Woodchuck Pear) and Guinness; Wiki cites the Snake Bite as being cider and lager.  Either way, few people outside those that work at our restaurant ever order it.  With the growth of beerati and the upsurge of beergeeks, I sense this will change as people try to get ever more creative with their drink purchase.  I also foresee some backlash if this prediction does come to fruition.  As for me, I’m pretty intrigued by beer blends and look forward to trying more of them - but I still have so many beers to try in their own right that I think the latter mission takes precedence.

2 beers, one cup.

2 beers, one cup.

*I gladly give credit to my brother for the name of this post.  He apparently is twisted enough to come up with it while I am only perverse enough to find it hilarious.  If you have no idea what it refers to, trust me, you are not the type of person that wants to know.

Update: Some stand-out/questionable names from the Wiki Beer Blend list (but who am I to judge, considering this post’s title):

Black Dead Guy: Half Guinness, half Rogue Dead Guy Ale; Black Bastard: Guinness and Arrogant Bastard, and Black Hoe: Guinness and Hoegaarden — Really?  Beer already has enough image problems, does it need to add racist?  I would feel so uncomfortable ordering a “Black Hoe”.

Black on Blonde: >half Guinness and <half Stella, and; Blacks on Blondes: Half Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and half Pete’s Wicked Strawberry Blonde — One Seal and Heidi Klum, please.

The Greatness: Half Guinness, Half Great White (Lost Coast) — just like the name.

Dirty Bush: Half Guinness, half Busch Light — I cannot think of a single reason why anyone would order this drink, ever.

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Beer, Beer & something…oh yeah, More Beer.

posted on January 3, 2009 in beerventure, homebrewing

I made my pilgrammage to MoreBeer today.  Again, like RRBC, MoreBeer is sort of a beerlover’s mecca - with a face only a homebrewer could love.  That’s because B3 is tucked in a remote corner at the end of “Detroit Ave” in Concord, CA, amonst a bunch of warehouses.  I don’t think I could come up with a more ghetto sounding location if I tried.  However, once you walk in, you’re greeted by a bunch of happy beer geeks, which is about the friendliest atmosphere in the world.  MoreBeer isn’t much bigger than the Home Brew Outlet I went to in Sac, but it was staffed with four times the amount of people, who were each about 10 times more helpful.

Beyond the knowledgeable, friendly staff, B3 also purports a variety of goods beer enthusiasts are into, such a rotating list of several different craft brews (which I wish I had written down - still a little new at this whole blog-reporting thing) you can buy by the keg.  Call them to ask.  As you can tell by the website, their equipment and ingredient inventory is about as extensive as you’ll find anywhere - they boast that they are “The World’s largest single-source provider” of anything you need to make your own beer, wine or coffee…a pretty remarkable accomplishment considering they were started from a garage in 1995 (according to the first ever Sunday Session podcast on the Brewing Network, from 2005, OMG so long ago).

My mission to B3 held 4 main objectives:

1. Purchase a refractometer

2.  Purchase a wort chiller

3.  Purchase a California Common beer kit

4.  Have a general looksee (1.), and get an idea of what I’ll be spending more money on in the upcoming years.

accessorizer1

The Ultimate Accessorizer

As for the first two objectives, it’s a bit ambitious for a second-time brewer, and one who still uses a 6 gallon kettle on her stove in her small apartment kitchen to brew, to buy what some might consider more advanced toys such as a refractometer and a wort chiller.  And in fact, it did cross my mind that I might be in danger of becoming what my brother, Seth, describes as an “accessorizer”, i.e. one who gets into a hobby more for the accessories than for the actual activity.  Still, seeing as how I am on a path to get my masters in brewing sciences, I figured it was safe to invest in this hobby.  And unlike when I tried to lock myself into the law school path by signing up for the LSAT, I feel much better about taking a plunge in this direction.

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Your faucet is pretty standard, really.

I ended up purchasing the cheapest refractometer - they range from about $60 to $115, so I guess I could have gotten even more committed (a true accessorizer would have gone for the $115 USA-made Fender of refractometers).  I felt the wort chiller was a useful purchase for any brewer - or at least, Palmer made me think so; I also had to buy a faucet adaptor because my apartment doesn’t have a hose.  I didn’t even think about this before I left so I had to hope I bought the right kind of adapter and wouldn’t you know it, it actually fit.

As for the beer kit, I’ve decided my next homebrew will be a California Common, in the style of the ever popular Anchor Steam.  I chose this style for a few reasons: by the time it’s ready it will be February, too late for holiday ales, too early for wheat or lighter color ales, I’m still not ready for real lagers but this beer, because it uses a lager yeast is unique, and it still is a warm enough beer for colder temperatures.  I could’ve gone with an IPA, but I sort of felt that that was a little cliche given their ridiculous popularity out here.  But honoring my move to California by brewing the type of beer the state was first known for somehow seemed less cliche.  I’ve also decided I’m going to attempt to brew this guy all on my own, without the help of my mentor.  Again: plunge.  Things could get interesting.  Stay tuned.

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