MyFaves 5 - but for BEER.

posted on March 30, 2009 in random beer thoughts

I try to be pretty choosy about what apps I allow on my facebook profile because I want to keep things classy - this isn’t goddamn MySpace, people* - so the ones that make the cut have to meet certain standards.

Twitter, you're cool too.

Twitter, you're cool too.

One such new app is the simple, yet brilliant “Pick Your 5″ app which allows users to pick their favorite five of whatever they want (you can create your own categories or use previously made others), and upload or use previously uploaded photos as nifty icons.  I happily noticed one of the most popular categories on my newsfeed was: BEER! If you’re a fan of John Cusack’s character from High Fidelity, this is the app for you!

Ranking things makes me happy.

Ranking things makes me happy.

Clearly, I needed to publish my opinions on the matter to my friends, all 555 of whom I am very close with, and who all follow my facebook activity with great anticipation.  But the thought of choosing only five beers as my favorite, or, as I like to think of it: as the only five beers I would choose to call on for free for the rest of my life (I am a tried and true T-Mobile customer), made my feet sweat.  My first thought was that I am still rather a novice beer drinker, and that there is such a bigger, better beer world for me out there that I have yet to try; picking my favorite 5 now seemed premature.  Even premature things can be appreciated - at least for their effort - however, so I decided to move forward and take a bookmark of sorts on my beer palate as of now.

I wanted my fave 5 to include beers that I loved, but also to be somewhat balanced.  I think I accomplished that in that it contains a few somewhat extreme styles and a couple everyday beers.  I would like it to contain a little more diversity though - three are from California and two from Belgium, and one is a Belgian style Californian.  So I guess I have my preferences.  I also probably could have chosen another from Russian River but was careful to at least have five different breweries represented.  Without further ado, here are MyFave 5 Beers:

1.  Pliny the Elder - I’ve talked a lot about Vinnie’s beers so this one’s not surprising (see RRBC post).  Why Pliny and not Consecration since that was the beer I was most enamored by on that visit?  I could only choose one RRBC beer (self-imposed rule) and I wanted an IPA in there since I’m growing to love them.  Pliny, though a DIPA, is clearly the winner in that category.  And it’s just a damn good beer.

2.  Boont Amber Ale - Boonville has a rich history in food and beverages and it shines no more than in their Amber Ale.  I have a warm place in my heart for ambers; they’re so perfectly balanced and so, dare I say it, drinkable.  My restaurant has this one on tap and it’s definitely my go-to for almost any mood.

3.  Delirium Tremens - I like my Belgians (as evidenced by my next three choices).  It was tough to narrow it down, but Delirium was one of the first beers that made me realize the depth and variety of flavors beer is capable of producing.  I’ve tried and enjoyed other Belgian pales and strong pale ales like Duvel (the champion of the style), Leffe, Damnation, Orval and La Chouffe** but if I had each of those lined up in front of me, I think I’d choose Delirium (I do need to try Orval again though; this is one spot that may change).  But maybe that’s just because I find that pink elephant so garsh durn cute.

4.  Brother Thelonious - Another Belgian style, yes, but Dubbel’s are vastly different from the pales so I don’t feel bad about including it in leiu of, say, a porter or stout.  It’s the darkest beer in my bunch and probably my favorite dark style.  Nice caramel flavors, but not too sweet; I can’t get enough of the stuff.  North Coast is a very intriguing brewery to me because I love their beers and I’m fascinated by the fact that they use all extract.  Gives me hope for my own brewing capabilities.  Bro T was another beer that warped my mind as to how good beer could be and like Delirium, holds a special place in my heart.

5.  Hoegaarden - Some people are shy to admit they like wheat beers, but I do so proudly - under two conditions.  First, it must be a good wheat beer, and second, I must be in the right mood.  Hoegaarden satisfies the first condition better than any other wit or weizen I’ve tried, including Pyramid, Blue Moon, Paulaner and Moylan’s Pomegranate wheat (though none of those are bad).  It also pleases beer snobs to know that while my restaurant serves Blue Moon and Paulaner with a slice of fruit, Hoegaarden stands alone - in its ectoplasma-colored glory.  As for the second condition, that usually means it’s a warm day and I’m looking for something light and fruity.  As I happen to live in California, those conditions are often enough, so I felt justified in including a wheat beer in my top five.

Again, I suspect - nay, I hope this list changes as I gain experience with beer.  I’ll wager the list will one day include a sour beer but I have yet to try enough of those enough times to make a firm decision.  I also hope to diversify my regions but I think the fact that 3 of my five come from California and that I live in California illustrates the importance of freshness of beer.  I challenge you to Pick Your Five, as torturous as that may be.  In the meantime, here are my runners-up:

First Runner-Up: Sam Adams’ Utopias - this is a special beer.  At 27% ABV, it tastes more like a Port than a beer - which is maybe why I didn’t include it in my top five.  When I think of beers, Utopias is so out in left field that it almost doesn’t even fit the picture.  I had the pleasure of tasting this brew on a tour of the Sam Adams brewery and was absolutely blown away.  I savored every sip.  So, this one probably would have made the cut - but I was thinking of more “beery” beers.

Second Runner-Up: Guinness on tap in Ireland - no, it is not a myth: Guinness in Ireland really does taste better than the Guinness you can get over here for the same reason all beers taste better in their own country - freshness***.  Guinness is so smooth and so flavorful over there, you would think the Irish would have problems with alcoholism.  Oh wait.

Love the Guinness marketing.

Love the Guinness marketing.

Third Runner-Up: Sierra Nevada’s Celebration - a great holiday ale.  I very much enjoy holiday ales and I think SN does it right - just the right amount of maltiness and spiciness, which is, to say a lot…but in balance with each other.  SN is just solid.  But I don’t think a seasonal really belongs in my Top 5.

*I am pretty sure that clean profile layouts repel pedophiles.

**I do realize that strong Belgians and Belgian pale ales are quite different styles but when forced to choose only 5 beers, categories become broader in my mind.

***The author of the beer myths post does cite freshness as a reason but seems to dismiss it’s importance which just doesn’t make sense to me.  They also mention that Fosters is brewed in Canada while failing to mention that a contract brewery in Canada also brews the Guinness for the US, which, also, just doesn’t make sense to me.  (Other than that though, great post :)) Digg Facebook Google reddit StumbleUpon

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. Digg Facebook Google reddit StumbleUpon

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


  • 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. Digg Facebook Google reddit StumbleUpon

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. Digg Facebook Google reddit StumbleUpon

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. Digg Facebook Google reddit StumbleUpon