2012 National Homebrewers Conference: Day 2 Recap

The 34 Annual National Homebrewers Conference ended last Saturday. I wrote about Day 1 during the event. Although it’s now over and nothing but a hazy memory, I wanted to document my entire experience. So here’s a recap of Day 2.

Thank You, I’ll Have Another.  In the first seminar of the day, Jennifer Talley, Redhook Woodinville Brewery Operations Manager, talked about session beers. Low in alcohol, multiple beers can be consumed during a single session (hence the name). Jennifer honed her skills producing low alcohol beers while brewing in Salt Lake City, Utah. A good session beer is hard to brew because flaws are readily apparent. They’re essentially “naked” beers. In a high alcohol, heavily hopped beer, flaws can be easily masked. Jennifer walked us through the recipe for a Session Pale Ale as we sampled Redhook Pilsner and Redhook Long Hammer IPA. I think the pendulum is shifting from big beer to session beer. That’s a good thing.

Brewing on the Ones:  Have you every brewed a beer with a vast array of malts and many different hops?  I recently did, and spent a decent amount of time wondering if the single ounce of the 8th malt would really make a difference.  Drew Beechum talked about how using simple malt bills and minimal hop varieties in a beer forces brewers to think creatively. In addition, it builds skills by bringing homebrewers closer to the professional brewing world. Pro brewers are less likely to stock numerous varieties of malt and hops. Drew’s talk resonated with me as I tend to believe in simplicity and that less is more. Think about it, does your beer really need 5 different hop varieties? Can you tell the difference?

Going Pro Panel.  So, you want to start your own brewery? Count yourself among the 75% of audience that had the same idea. Four seasoned brewery owners (Dick Cantwell of Elysian, Jeff Althouse of Oakshire, Jamil Zainasheff of Heretic, and Beaux Bowman of Black Raven) shared their wisdom and experiences in making the jump to professional brewing.

Dick Cantwell kicked off the discussion by offering three things to consider if you plan to go pro:
  • Distribution: Old rules don’t apply as former enemies can be friends. Anheuser Busch’s distribution network enabled Elysian to distribute their beers broadly.
  • Sizing:  The type of equipment and the size of the brewery is a huge consideration. It may seem logical to start with a small brewhouse and slowly expand. However, due to the economics of brewing, you’ll likely struggle to cover your costs.
  • Cooperative Brewing:  You don’t have to buy your own brewhouse. Contract brewing and alternating proprietorships are now common. 

On their biggest mistakes….
  • Jeff Althouse: Launched Oakshire Brewing with $91K and was underfunded.
  • Jamil Zainasheff:  Started Heretic with a 30 barrel brewhouse (in an alternating proprietorship), underestimated demand, and outgrew it in 6 months.
  • Beaux Bowman:  Similarly, he started with a 15 barrel brewhouse and was undersized from the start.
  • Dick Cantwell: Pay attention to contracts—especially with fabricators. A lawyer can help to ensure your project stays on schedule.

The conversation moved on to funding. All raised funds using personal and family savings. Most also utilized private equity offerings. A few panelists recommended the Small Business Administration as an excellent resource. I’m intrigued by the business side of beer and thought it was a fascinating discussion.  However, I expect it brought most prospective brewers back to reality. While you may enjoy brewing beer, if you chose to go down the professional route, it’s a business.

Keynote AddressCharles Finkel:  I knew Charles Finkel was the founder and co-owner of Pike Brewing Co. in Seattle. However, I was not aware of his deep roots in the craft beer world. During the course of the hour, he told us his story. He started in the wine business in the 60s and went on to launch Merchant Du Vin, a wine importer. He then expanded by importing European craft beer in the 70s. He's responsible for bringing Orval, Lindemans, Westmalle, and Samuel Smith's to the United States. In the late 80’s, he founded Pike Place Brewing with his wife Roseanne. Along the way, in his temporary “retirement”, he started a graphics design firm. I was surprised to learn that he designs many of the labels for the beer he imports. Charles is a fascinating man and his impact on craft beer is profound.

After the keynote and the seminars, The Sasquatch Social Club reopened. After all, one should have some late afternoon beer, before the evening beer extravaganza begins. Right?  During this session, I tasted one of my most memorable beers. It was a Kriek brewed by Brendan Gramer of the Homebrewers Guild of Seattle Proper. Brendan told me about the 14 month process needed to create this divine elixir. He also shared the recipe with me and I plan to brew it later this summer. Thanks Brendan! 

After a long day of seminars and beer sampling, it was time for more beer! Club Night kicked off at 8pm. 50 homebrew clubs from across the country dazzled attendees with their homebrewed creations. Each club served between 5-12 beers. It was absolutely INSANE. The beers spanned all the styles and everything in between.

In addition, costumes are a highlight of Club Night, with each club dressing in a unique theme. Check out the pictures below! The beer was great and the costumes were very creative—and usually hilarious! Pro Brewers Night only served up one sour beer. The Clubs remedied that deficiency by serving up numerous sours. Most were incredible. I think I only dumped a handful of beers all night.

Day 2 of the 34th Annual Homebrewers Conference was epic! I could only imagine what Day 3 would bring...

Did you attend the Homebrewers Conference? What was your highlight of Day 2?

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2012 North American Organic Brewers Festival

Beer Festival season has arrived! The 8th Annual North American Organic Brewers Festival will be held this weekend. Among the plethora of Portland beer festivals, NAOBF is unique for three reasons.

You've probably figured out the first reasonthe beer is organic!  The second reason is NAOBF is a family-friendly event. Minors are allowed when accompanied by a parent. They even have a complimentary root beer garden for kids (and designated drivers), face painting, and a craft center. I took my kids last year, and they had a great time! The third reason is that the festival benefits the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and the Oregon Food Bank. Do you really need any more reasons to go?

Well, here's another... Of all the beer festivals in Portland, this one has a very relaxed, hippie-like vibe. I don't mean that in a bad way, it's just pleasantly different. To get a taste of what you can expect, check out my recap of last year's NAOBF.

For more details, check out the festival facts at the end of this post. To see the complete beer list with full descriptions, download the official program here. See you at the fest this weekend. Cheers to organic beer!

Have you attended the National Organic Brewers Festival? What did you think of it?

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8th Annual North American Brewers Festival

Overlook Park, Portland, Oregon
At the intersection of N Fremont Street & Interstate Ave.

June 29, 30 and July 1st, 2012

Noon to 9 p.m. Fri & Sat
Noon to 5 p.m. Sun

Admission into the event is free. The purchase of a $6 reusable, compostable cornstarch glass is required for tasting beer, as are tokens, which sell for $1 apiece. A full glass of beer costs four tokens (more for select beers), and a four-ounce taste costs one token. Patrons receive a $1 discount toward the tasting glass with a validated MAX ticket, a ticket from the onsite bike corral, or three cans of food for the Oregon Food Bank.

Designed to raise awareness about organic beer and sustainable living, the NAOBF serves up more than 50 organic beers from around the nation. From summery Saison and Kolsch styles to rich and hearty stouts, the festival offers beers to please every palate. There's also live music, organic food, sustainability-oriented vendors and non-profits, and a children's area.

The festival goes beyond beer tasting by striving to be the most earth-friendly beer festival in North America. Festival attendees sample beer from reusable and compostable cornstarch glasses made from domestically grown corn by a zero-waste, solar-powered company. Onsite composting and recycling stations are provided for festival waste, and food vendors are required to use compostable cutlery and plates. Electricity needs are met with a combination of biodiesel and solar generators. Volunteers wear organic cotton and hemp t-shirts, and all event signage is reusable.

The NAOBF was established and organized by Craig Nicholls in 2003 at Port Halling Brewing Company in Gresham, Oregon. The festival then took a two-year hiatus, during which Nicholls founded and opened Roots Organic Brewing Co., Oregon's first certified all organic brewery. In 2006, Nicholls resurrected the NAOBF, now in its sixth straight year.

The NAOBF is a family friendly event, and minors are welcome with parents. The festival benefits the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and the Oregon Food Bank.

Pedal and Park
Ride your bike and park it in the Hopworks Bike Corral, where volunteers will watch over your wheels while you savor some of the country's best organic brews. Bicycle parking is free, but donations are greatly appreciated.

Mass Transit
The Interstate MAX/Yellow Line "Overlook Park" Station is directly across from Overlook Park and is the second stop from the Rose Quarter transit mall, heading North. Use the Tri-Met website for directions from your door to Overlook Park (1301 N. Fremont St. Portland, OR 97227).

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2012 National Homebrewers Conference: Day 1 Recap

Day 1 of the 2012 Homebrewers Conference is a wrap and Day 2 two will get started in less than two hours.  I thought I’d jot down a quick recap of the first day. I expect to follow-up with a more detailed overview, but this should work for now. Please forgive poor grammar and low production value (as if it was so high before) since I don’t have much time.

After I signed in and received my fine welcome package, I headed upstairs for the conference's welcome toast. After the toast, we spent the rest of the afternoon in seminars.  I selected these sessions:

  • Brewing Techniques for Historical IPA.  Mitch Steele, Stone Brewmaster, gave us an overview of IPAs going back to 1750.  He separated it into four distinct periods and provided characteristics and brewing specs of the beers during each of these periods. Mitch did quite a bit of research into this as he just completed a book about IPAs that will be released this fall. Stone IPA and Ruination were served during the seminar, buy the way.
  • Exploring Attenuation.  Then it got hardcore. Greg Doss of Wyeast Labs share details of his still ongoing experiment to discover the factors that impact attenuation and develop a predictive model. I have a bit of a background in statistics, and I was blown away by his experiment. Much of it went over my head, so I guess I’ll wait for the Cliffe Notes version.
  • A Perspective of Brewing Berliner Weiss-Style Beer…with Beer!  Jess Gaudill of Wyeast Labs and Jason Kahler of newly launched Solera Brewing in Parkdale, OR talked about various methods to produce the style. I discovered this near-extinct style about year ago and love it. The challenge is that it takes a long time for the beer to develop its sour character. Jess and Jason conducted an experiment that explored the different ways to sour the beer using yeast and bacteria. Ultimately, they recommend pitching lactobacillus first and then pitching a lager yeast about seven days later.  I’ll provide the exact stain names later. They served two versions on the same beer.  One with just lacto, and the other with lacto and brett.  I liked both, but actually preferred the lacto-only version.  The latter had some sulfur in the aroma.

Then we took a break for dinner. We happened to visit a place with 130 beers on tap. I had one.

Pro-Brewers Night kicked off at 8pm. It’s a private beer fest where 45 breweries each served between 1 – 4 beers—and there are no tickets. According to my Untappd records, I sampled 19 beers (I stuck to small 2-3 ounce pours with plenty of water). As you might expect, it was a lot of fun! Many of the brewers were serving at their booths and were more than happy to talk about the beer. My only disappointment (and it was minor) was than only one sour beer was served—New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Tart Lychee. It was excellent, and the only beer that I had twice. At 11:30pm, PBN ended. They had to shut the lights off as people wouldn’t leave.

Worry not, because The Sasquatch Social Club commenced. The party moved to a smaller hall where a few homebrew clubs served about 50 different beers. I was happy to find a Sour Cherry Saison and a Flanders Red here. I left at about 12:30 pm. I expect the party rocked on its 2am closing time. 

It was a great opening day. On to Day 2….

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National Homebrewers Conference Starts Today!

Over the next three days, me and 1850 of my newest friends will immerse our days, evenings, and probably nights, in beer. We'll learn how to make better beerand I think we'll sample a few along the way. This is my first time at the National Homebrewers Conference and I expect it will be nothing short of amazing! Check out the full press release below for more details.

I drove up from Portland this morning, and just checked inat the conference. Look what they gave me! A tasting glass and three bottles ofbeer that were brewed exclusively for the conference! I'll treat the next threedays like a marathon instead of a race. I expect pacing, along with plenty ofwater, will be critical to maximize the experience.

Later this afternoon, the conference will officially kickoff with a welcome toast and the first round of seminars. I'll do my best toprovide some quick blog updates throughout the conference. If you're Twitter inclined, follow hashtag #NHC2012 for updates from conference attendees.

I think I'm going to like it here...

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Homebrewers Around the World Set Their Sights on Seattle

Boulder, CO • May 22, 2012—It was only a matter of timebefore the American Homebrewers Association's (AHA) National HomebrewersConference made a stop in the beer-friendly city of Seattle. The sold-outconference is projected to bring 1,850 participants to the Puget Sound region,June 21-23.

With over 30,000 AHA members and approximately 1 millionhomebrewers nationwide, it comes as no surprise that the conference filledcapacity in short order. For many serious homebrewers, the National HomebrewersConference is a must-attend event each year, thanks to its educationalseminars, social events and camaraderie.

Hobbyists will immerse themselves in three days ofconcentrated education to expand their homebrewing knowledge. Expert speakers,including well-known authors and professional brewers, will cover the gamut oftopics, ranging from ingredients to brewing techniques to advanced recipes.While attendees may have a difficult choice deciding which seminars toprioritize, all will be sure to hear the keynote address, given by CharlesFinkel, founder of Seattle's own Pike Brewery.

Perhaps the only thing harder than choosing between seminarsis deciding on which beers to sample during the evening social events.Attendees are treated to a host of special beers at Thursday's Pro-BrewersNight, an event that will see 40 breweries from Washington and beyond impressthe beer enthusiasts with their finest fermentables. Then, homebrew clubs takecenter stage for Friday's Club Night. Two parts homegrown beer festival, onepart costume party, Club Night always delivers with wacky fun and artfulhomebrew.

Finally, the conference winds down on Saturday, June 23 witha grand banquet and award ceremony featuring "The Homebrew Chef,"Sean Paxton. The 2012 National Homebrew Competition winners will be awarded atthis closing event. With over 7,800 entries in 28 different style categories,this year's competition has been the largest to date and is the largest beercompetition in the world!


The American Homebrewers Association has worked on behalf ofthe homebrewing community since 1978 and celebrates a membership of more than30,000 homebrewers. The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) organizes eventsincluding the National Homebrewers Conference and National Homebrew Competition.The AHA also publishes Zymurgy magazine. The AHA is part of the BrewersAssociation, whose Brewers Publications division is the largest publisher ofcontemporary and relevant brewing literature for today's craft brewers andhomebrewers.

Beer lovers are invited to learn more about the dynamicworld of craft beer at CraftBeer.com. Follow the AHA on Twitter, and join us on Facebook.

Not So Professional Homebrews Meet the Stone Brewing Tasting Panel

Randy Clemens (left) and Mitch Steele with my
Not So Professional Homebrews
Last year, I profiled the book The Craft of Stone Brewing: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance. Around the same time, I made the switch from extract to all-grain brewing. Being a newbie, I had a few questions about the recipes, so I wrote to Randy Clemens, co-author and PR Manager at Stone Brewing Co.

Randy kindly answered my rookie questions and I brewed Stone Levitation Ale and Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. Both turned out well, so I contacted Randy to tell him about my brews. Randy mentioned if I send him a few bottles, he'd give them to Mitch Steele, Stone Brewmaster, to sample. What an offer! As a homebrewer, I have a lot to learn and I value feedback from experienced brewers. It doesn't get much better than getting feedback from the Brewmaster!

Anyway, a few weeks ago, my family took a impromptu week-long vacation to San Diego, so I made a visit to Stone Brewing in Escondido and hand delivered my homebrews to Mitch and Randy. Mitch served both of my brews to his tasting panel and here's his feedback:

"Sanjay: Your beers were excellent! We didn’t get any off-flavors at all.  The Levitation clone we thought was pretty close, perhaps a little fuller, and a little less bitter than ours, but a great tasting beer.

The 12th Anniversary BCOS was a fantastic brew. We’re not sure how ‘close' it was to ours, since it’s been 4 years since we’ve tasted a fresh one, but the cocoa and roast malt characters were definitely there."   Mitch Steele

Wow!  That's great to hear. I enjoyed my brews, but it's really gratifying to get feedback like this!  Here are the detailed tasting notes from the Stone Tasting Panel:

Homebrew tasting notes: 6/4/12


Bottle Inspection
-          Amber
-          Hazy
-          Tan/brown
-          Black
-          Hoppy
-          Grassy
-          Tea – like
-          Clean aroma
-          No hop
-          Floral
-          Apple/ alcohol
-          Light hops
-          Deep roast
-          Cocoa, Kahlua
-          Chocolate malt
-          Esters: chocolate
Flavor and Mouthfeel
-          Hoppy
-          Slightly grainy
-          Slight tart
-          Not as bitter
-          Really close
-          Not real hop bitterness
-          yeasty
-          Cocoa
-          Coffee
-          Nice flavor
-          A bit sweet
-          Malty
-          Boozy
-          Malty chocolate
-          Slick feel

Brewing and drinking these beers was a lot of fun. Having them sampled by Stone and getting feedback from the crew that makes the beer was an incredibly special treat!  A huge thanks to Randy, Mitch, and the Stone Tasting Panel for their time and feedback! This homebrewer can't wait to brew the 16 other recipes in the book!

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Review: Berry Weiss, Leinenkugel

Berry Weiss
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. — Chippewa Falls, WI

  • Style:  Fruit Beer
  • Bitterness:  13.5 IBU
  • ABV:  4.7%  
  • Malts:  Pale, Munich, and Caramel
  • Hops:  Cluster
  • Calories:  207 per 12 oz.
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle 

Description:  "Brewed with Pale and Wheat malt and an enticing blend of blackberries, elderberries and loganberries that are all indigenous to Wisconsin, Berry Weiss is deliciously different." — Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  Yesterday, I profiled Leienkugel's Summer Shandy. Today I'm tasting their Berry Weiss. Wheat beers with berries are the perfect combination for summer. According to the label, this one is "beer brewed with honey and flavored with blackberry juice and other natural berry flavors". Based on this description, I expect the beer never comes in contact with whole fruit. Not a bad thing, just sayin'...

The tasting:  Pink in color, cloudy, with a light pink head that dissipates fairly quickly. Looks nice. Whoa! Sweet, syrupy blackberry dominates the aroma! It ain't subtle and smells like a flavored soda. That same syrupy sweetness overwhelms the flavor—to the extent that I can't taste anything else. It's just cloyingly sweet! Alcohol and hop bitterness are not noticeable among the berry sweetness. Berry Weiss is light to medium bodied, moderately carbonated and finishes with (care to guess??)—syrupy sweet berry! 

Rating:   2 star.  Drinkable, but not sure I want to.  Sometimes less is more. That's certainly the case with Berry Weiss. Dial down the berry juice in Chippewa Falls already! It's funny, I thought Summer Shandy needed more sweetness, and Berry Weiss has it in spades. If you like sweet (and I mean really sweet) beer, you'll love this one. I actually blended Berry Weiss with Summer Shandy and created my own Berry Shandy (last photo at the bottom). Although the combination actually tasted pretty decent, this is likely to be my last bottle of Berry Weiss.

Have you tasted Berry Weiss?  What do you think?

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Review: Summer Shandy, Leinenkugel

Summer Shandy
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. — Chippewa Falls, WI

  • Style:  Shandy (Beer with Lemonade)
  • Bitterness:  13.5 IBU
  • ABV:  4.2%  
  • Malts:  Pale and Wheat
  • Hops:  Cluster
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle 

Description:  "Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy® is our take on a traditional German radler. Crisp, refreshing and brewed with natural lemonade flavor, it's perfect for the sun-splashed summer months." — Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  According to Wikipedia a Shandy is "Beer mixed with citrus-flavored soda, carbonated lemonade, ginger beer, ginger ale, or cider. The proportions of the two ingredients are adjusted to taste, normally half-and-half."  I first tasted a Leinenkugel back in my undergrad days in Illinois. One of my fraternity brothers was from Chippewa Falls and introduced his home town brew. I didn't care much for it, nor any of the of the other macro brews my peers were drinking. This will be my first Leinie in a long time. I've never tasted a Shandy. It seems like an intriguing combination, so I thought it would be worth a try. I also picked up a bottle of Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss.

The tasting:  Pale yellow in color, cloudy, with a white head that dissipates fairly quickly. Aroma is dominated by juicy lemon and bright lemon zest.  f I was tasting this blind, I would definitely expect this to be lemonade. It starts with lemon flavor. It's quite prominent, but doesn't have any acidic tartness. In the middle, the tangy wheat comes through. Hop bitterness and alcohol are not noticeable in flavor. Since this beer is part lemonade, I was surprised to find that it has very little sweetness. Summer Shandy is light bodied, moderately carbonated, and finishes dry with light notes of lemon.

Rating:   3 star.  Good I would drink this again if someone gives it to me This beer is brewed with "natural lemonade flavor". Maybe someone can tell me what that means. Anyway, if you're looking for something different, Summer Shandy is worth a try. It's light, easy drinking and would serve you well on a hot summer day. Personally, I wish it had a bit more sweet and tart flavor. I'm now more intrigued by the concept of a Shandy. Maybe I'll make my own this summer with a good hefeweizen and my favorite lemonade.

Have you tasted Summer Shandy?  What do you think of beer and lemonade combined?

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Review: Tweason'ale, Dogfish Head

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery — Milton, DE

  • Style:  Gluten-free Fruit 
  • Bitterness:  Not specified
  • ABV:  6%  
  • Ingredients:  Water, sorghum syrup, strawberries, honey, hops, yeast
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle 

Description:  "Between the seasons, we have a special release - a gluten-free beer. But not just any gluten-free beer -- a gluten-free beer with gusto! For our first new 12-ounce 4-packs in nearly half a decade, we replaced the classic barley foundation of beer with a mild sorghum base. The hints of molasses and pit-fruit are balanced by vibrant strawberry notes and a unique complexity that comes with the addition of a malty buckwheat honey. We believe health-conscious beer drinkers and the millions of Americans who suffer from Celiac disease can cut back on gluten while relishing the distinction and drinkability of this very special brew." — Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Random thoughts:  I'm tasting this as part of my series on gluten-free beer. Dogfish Head will release this beer four times a year, in between seasons. Does the name now make more sense? Interesting idea. I'm not aware of other breweries that release a seasonal in this manner.

The tasting:  Golden in color with a light pink hue (some might call it blush), crystal clear, with a white head that dissipates fairly quickly. In aroma, the distinctive sorghum is present, but sweet over-ripe strawberry is also prominent. At the first sip, the sorghum and strawberry flavors dominate. The flavor combination doesn't work well together, in my humble opinion. The strawberry adds both sweet and tart elements—which help to mask the sorghum flavor. There are some light herbal notes and I didn't taste the honey. Hop bitterness is very low, and alcohol isn't noticeable. Tweason'ale is light bodied (almost watery), highly carbonated, and has a lively effervescent mouth feel. It finishes with the same notes of strawberry and sorghum.

Rating:  2 star.  Drinkablebut not sure I want to.  This is one of the better sorghum-based beers I've tasted. I think the strawberry was a smart addition because its flavor and aroma mask the sorghum—to some extent. I've now learned that sorghum-based beers aren't for me.

Rating (if I was Celiac):  3 star.  Good I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.  OK, if I was celiac, I expect I'd be more open to this beer. Great work by Dogfish Head in responding to this growing market segment. I'm sure those who must drink gluten-free appreciate it! I think DFH is on the right track by using fruit in the beer.

Have you tasted Tweason'ale? What's your favorite gluten-free beer?

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Father's Day Beer Gift Guide

The big day for Dads is next Sunday! Are you struggling to find the perfect Father's Day gift? As much as Dad loves the kids' watercolor paintings, Popsicle stick houses, and clay sculptures, he'd like something to complement the lovely artwork. He wants the gift of beer! It's a timeless gift that Dad will never tire of.

Are you the lazy type who doesn't like to go shopping? No worries, each of these gifts are just a few mouse clicks away!  Here are some ideas that your beer loving Dad is sure to enjoy. I personally own or have used all of these products (with one exception noted below), so they come with my recommendation. You decide what that's worth...

Beer Club:  A beer club is a convenient way for Dad to taste a variety of craft beer on a regular basis. Even better, it's delivered right to his doorstep! Beer of the Month Club offers several package options. I received this as a gift last year and you check out my review of here.

Beer Glasses:  If Dad drinks his beer straight from the bottle or can, show him a better way to imbibe by giving him a set of Spieglau beer glasses. My wife gave me this for Christmas a few years ago and I love it!

Beer Guides:  Dad won't go astray with these books as his guide.

Homebrewing:  Does Dad need a new hobby? This one tastes great and is more filling!

eReader:   Don't think Dad would like any of the beer gifts above?  Then how about a Kindle? I bought the cheapest model (6", wi-fi) a few months ago and absolutely love it! I bought an extra one for my wife a few weeks ago because she kept using mine! I find myself reading books more often because it's lightweight and easy to carry. You can even borrow e-books from your library for free! 

In full disclosure, please know that if you buy anything using the links on this page, I will receive a referral fee directly from the seller, at no added cost to you. Rest assured that any money I receive will NOT be used for my children's education funds, but will be used by me to buy something beer-related for myself! Thank you very much.

In closing, Dad will probably love whatever you get himexcept for ties. PLEASE, don't buy Dad a tie!  Cheers to all the good Dads out there!

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Review: Stone Smoked Porter w/ Chipotle, Stone Brewing

 Stone Smoked Porter w/ Chipotle Peppers
Stone Brewing Co. — Escondido, CA

  • Style:  Smoked Porter
  • Bitterness:  53 IBU
  • ABV:  5.9%  
  • Malts:  Two-row Pale, Crystal, Chocolate, and Peat-smoked.
  • Hops:  Columbus and Mt. Hood
  • Special Ingredient:  Chipotle peppers
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle (Full Disclosure: pre-release sample provided by brewery)

Description:  Stone's description for Smoked Porter w/ Chipotle Peppers is quite lengthy. Surprised? You can read it in the entirety of its arrogantness in the picture at the end of this post.

Random thoughts:   A few tidbits about this beer. First, Stone has never released Smoked Porter w/ Chipotle Peppers in bottles. That ends on June 18 when it (along with Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Bean) will be shipped and sold in single 12 oz. bottles.

Second, I'm sampling an extremely fresh beer. I was at Stone Brewing in Escondido on Monday and got a quick tour of the bottling line. It just so happened they were bottling this beer for the very first time as we walked by. Randy Clemens, Stone Media & Communications Linchpin, picked two cold bottles off the bottling line and handed them to me. Now, I'm not sure why a grown man would be absolutely giddy upon receiving a few beers, but I was. Please forgive my beer geekiness. I expect my two bottles of Smoked Porter w/ Chipotle were the first two bottles to ever enter the State of Oregon—in the history of the universe! That's deep. OK, on to the beer. 

The tasting:  Dark brown in color with a tan head that dissipates fairly slowly. Aroma of roasted malt, smoked malt, and chipotle. The pepper is prominent in aroma, and I didn't have to search for it. Flavor is very similar to aroma with the addition of light chocolate notes. The chipotle heat is a nice complement to the smoky malt and the level of the heat is moderate. The spicy pepper makes its presence known without being overwhelming. The hop bitterness doesn't stand out and alcohol isn't noticeable in aroma or flavor. Stone Smoked Chipotle w/ Chipotle Peppers is light to medium bodied, has a smooth mouth feel, and finishes with smoky malt and lightly lingering chipotle.

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!  In my humble opinion, when a brewery calls out the name of a specialty ingredient in the beer's name, I expect to taste it. Stone delivered in that aspect. The "right" level of pepper heat is subjective. I like heat, and wouldn't have minded a couple extra notches of capsaicin. In the end, I expect the level of heat will please those who are looking for a beer with a spicy kick.

If you're so inclined, you can make a homebrew version of Stone Smoked Porter (with or without Chipotle) using Stone's own recipe from their 2011 book. Check it out.

Have you tasted Stone Smoked Porter or the Chipotle or Vanilla incarnations?

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When Life Give You Lemons, Have a Beer

Last Tuesday, my wife and I readied our boys for a week-long getaway to sunny Cancun, Mexico. Fate had other plans and we were unable to fly in the morning. Since the details are too painful to recount, I won't. Let's just say two small children were reduced to tears.

In an attempt to look at the situation in a "glass is half-full" perspective, I realized we had a unique opportunity in our hands. We still had a week of vacation and a fairly wide open range of alternatives. So we began to scour the internet in a last minute attempt to create Plan B.

The Oregon Coast? The forecast was cloudy.  Besides, the water temperature at the coast is suitable only for dogs, small children, and penguins.

Las Vegas? Lots of sun, but probably NOT the best place for kids to spend a week. Besides, I can play poker games online from the convenience of my laptop.

San Diego? They have sun and warm beaches. They've also got plenty for kids to do at Sea World, San Diego Zoo, and Legoland.  Now this has possibilities... Oh, did I mention that San Diego is home to Pizza Port, Stone Brewing, The Lost Abbey, Port Brewing, and many other fine craft breweries?

We had our new destination! Do you think the beer played a factor into our decision making?

It was a good week. To be continued...

What are your favorite San Diego beer destinations?

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A Visit to The Bruery

I first learned about The Bruery when I tasted Hottenroth Berliner Weiss last winter. Located in Placentia, California, The Bruery specializes in Belgian-style ales with experimental twists and plenty of barrel-aging.

A few weeks ago, I visited Anaheim (home of Disneyland) to attend a work conference. Upon arriving, I was thrilled to learn
Placentia was less than 8 miles from my hotel! After a quick bus ride, I was there.

The Bruery's brewery (I had to do it) and taproom is tucked away in an unassuming industrial park. When I arrived, the small taproom has bustling with activity. For $8, they offer a flight that includes 5 two-ounce pours of your choice and you get to keep the tulip glass (pictured to the right)! Here's what I tasted, in the order I sampled. The Bruery's descriptions are in italics. My comments are in bold.

  • Fruet: “This study beer marks our fourth year, and we are grateful for the outpouring of community.  Together may our supporters, our brewery and this beer grow in complexity and refinement over the years."   Selling for $30 per 750 ml bottle in the taproom, this wasn't available in the flight. So I started my session with a full 6 oz. pour. Good news: It tasted great! Lots of layersplum, caramel, toffee, bourbon. Not so good news: This is a 15.5% ABV behemoth! I only realized that after reading the label (it's quite stealthy). Since I intended to taste the flavors of the other beers, I set Fruet aside.

  • Nottenroth:  “This 2.08% ABV brew was a batch of Hottenroth that took an unexpected turn and did not sour. Fortunately the result was a delicious low-ABV wheat beer brewed with kumquats." Lactobacillus can be maddening.  You dose a beer with it and sometimes nothing happens. Other times, it finds its own way into a beer and infects it (assuming you don't intend for sour). I liked the bright citrus flavor from the kumquats, but I missed the sour twang of Hottenroth. 

  • Saison de Lente: “Our Spring Saison is light blonde in color with a fresh hoppiness and a wild and rustic Brettanomyces character. Lighter in color and alcohol than our Saison Rue, yet equally complex in its own way. Perfect for warmer weather and Spring celebrations."  Mild barnyard, grassy hops, and citrus.

  • Sour in the Rye: “This American Wild Rye Ale was brewed with a substantial portion of rye malt, and the spicy character of the grain asserts itself with clove and pepper in the aroma and flavor. Add in sour cherry notes from our special blend of micro-organisms and vanilla from the red wine barrels and you’ve got a mouthful!"  Definitely sour—not tart! The spicy rye, cherry, and oak meld together seamlessly.  My favorite of the day!

  • Smoking Wood (Bourbon Barrel Aged version):  "Brewed with beachwood and cherrywood smoked malt, and aged in rye whiskey barrels, Smoking Wood is a delicious demonstration of what wood has to offer when it comes to beer. This imperial smoked porter is brewed with a hefty amount of rye malt, contributing to a full body and light spiciness. Toasty oak, caramel and vanilla flavors balance the smokiness, contributing to an intense yet refined flavor profile."  Easily one of the most unique beers I've tasted. I'm not a huge fan of heavy smoke in beers, but the wood flavor combined with bourbon, sweet caramel, and vanilla made this one memorable. 

  • Trade Winds:  "Our Summer seasonal, Trade Winds Tripel is a Belgian-style Golden Ale with a Southeast Asian twist. Instead of using candi sugar (typical for such a beer), we use rice in the mash to lighten the body and increase the gravity, and spice with Thai Basil. The result is an aromatic, digestible and complex beer made for a lazy summer evening. 
    Definitely lighter bodied than most tripels, which was nice. But I couldn't taste the basil. In fairness, it was getting late in the session. 

    • White Oak:  "W
      hite Oak is a blended beer-- 50% wheatwine aged in Bourbon barrels (we call it "White Oak Sap"), and 50% Mischief (our Golden Strong Ale). Vivid caramel, coconut and vanilla flavors blanketed in a crisp yet robust wheat ale, White Oak is an exercise of balance.
      "  Light bourbon flavor, and surprisingly drinkable for an 11.5% ABV beer. Again, note that it's the end of my session.

    Then I finished my Fruet...

    I was totally impressed by the wide variety and quality of The Bruery's beer. It's quite a credit to them considering they're only 4 years old! Their taproom is a beer geek's dream. With so many unique and limited releases, there's always something new to taste. If I lived in the Anaheim area, I would definitely join their Reserve Society.

    I expect I'll be bringing my kids to Disneyland next summer. When I do, I'll make a return trip to The Bruery. Until then, I'll be on the lookout for their uniquely shaped labels and 750 ml bottles when I return to Portland!

    Have you tasted anything from The Bruery? What are your favorites?

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    Review: Gravity Mountain, Terminal Gravity

    Gravity Mountain
    A Terminal Gravity Brewing (Enterprise, OR) and Double Mountain Brewery (Hood River, OR) Collaboration

    • Style:  India Pale Ale
    • Bitterness:  70 IBU
    • ABV:  7.2%
    • Malts:  Gambrinus Pilsner (Copeland variety), Maris Otter Pale, Biscuit and Munich malts
    • Hops:   Styrian Goldings, Chinook and Brewer’s Gold hops; dry-hopped with Styrians and Brewer’s Gold
    • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle 

    Description: "Gravity Mountain is a blend of our brewing approaches, our love for hoppy beers, our love for unfiltered beers. Each of our breweries is pretty unique; we each use signature base malts, yeast strains and hop varieties that blend well with the malt. For Gravity Mountain we’ve combined our yeasts, our Gambrinus Pilsner (DM) and Maris Otter (TG) base malts, and our favorite hops (Styrian Goldings, Chinooks, Brewers Gold) to make a strong, blond-colored IPA that’s aggressively hoppy and satisfying. We think you’ll agree that Gravity Mountain is a true marriage of our two identities." — Double Mountain Brewery 

    Random thoughts:  I'm in the middle of my Gluten-Free Beer series and, so far, it hasn't been pleasant. I heart gluten... So I figured an IPA would hit the spot (and rid my mouth of the flavor of sorghum)! I've heard a lot about this collaboration beer and have been looking forward to tasting it.

    The tasting:  Golden orange in color, hazy, with decent amount of particles in suspension. Most beer tends to be filtered, but I always appreciate the few that are unfiltered. It has a white head that dissipates fairly slowly. Aroma of caramel and bready malt along with some honey and citrus hops. Flavor is similar to the aroma, with the addition of piney hops. While it has solid hop bitterness, it's very nicely balanced by a solid malt backbone. Gravity Mountain is light to medium bodied, moderately carbonated, and has a dry finish. The alcohol is noticeable in flavor as the beer warms.

    Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!  For some reason, I expected this 70 IBU beer to be a hop bomb. It wasn't, and I'm glad. I don't know how long Gravity Mountain will be available, but I expect I'll pick up a few more before it disappears.

    Have you tried Gravity Mountain? How did you like it?

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