My Tongue Survived an IPA Tasting

One thing I’ve learned from running is that the human body is capable of remarkable adaptation from repeated stress. While an IPA tasting of this hop heavy beer style normally results in my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth and my lips left paralyzed in a permanent pucker, it looks like all those California hop monsters I’ve withstood over the years have conditioned my taste buds so that I can actually taste the subtle flavor components of beers that once upon a time tasted like chewing on an old bicycle tire.

The best beer bar in the South Bay is ironically called Wine Affairs, and they put on beer tasting events once a month. This month, it was an IPA tasting event consisting of no fewer than ten different examples of the IPA style, and with my wife Linda being a closet hop head, it seemed like I could talk her into going with me and putting off doing the laundry another day. Thankfully, she took me up on it.

My usual “brilliant” comments on an IPA typically consist of “this tastes pretty bitter” or “it’s rather hoppy” but once you begin to taste them in series, even I could start tasting the differences. We started out with Meantime IPA (“fruity and citrus like, biscuity malt”) progressing to Deschutes Hop Henge (“sweet, piney and grapefruity”), Ballast Point Sculpin (“light body, strong floral bitterness”), and then Duvel Triple Hop (“aromatic, coriander flavors with grassy and herbal hops”) before my taste buds gave out after about the sixth beer, and all I could say “Yeah, that’s bitter all right”. Linda, on the other hand, had no problem getting through the whole flight.

Maybe I should ramp up my training by sucking on hop pellets to keep up with her.

Pliny the Elder Comes to the South Bay

I suppose if you wanted to make a case that the South Bay is a beer wasteland, Exhibit A would be that arguably, the best South Bay Beer Bar is called Wine Affairs. But Wine Affairs is the first bar to find a way to bring the Russian River’s rare and highly coveted Pliny the Elder on tap to the South Bay. And trust me, it took a lot of tenacity and effort by Wine Affairs to make this happen.

So the first night they had Pliny on tap, I rewarded Wine Affairs’s investment of their hard earned money by spending some of my hard earned money by ordering a couple. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. And the good news is that the Pliny was pouring fast and furious the first night. Maybe the South Bay isn’t such a craft beer wasteland after all.

New Year’s Eve Wine and Beer Pairing at Wine Affairs

You can spend New Year’s Eve at Wine Affairs pairing some excellent beers with tasty food, or can instead pair the tasty food with a somewhat one-dimensional beverage. Either way, looks like a good time will be had by all. Here are the details as they rolled into my e-mail a few days ago.

Ring in the New Year at Wine Affairs
Join us for a four-course dinner with optional wine or beer pairing

New this year – two seatings
6:00pm and 8:00pm
Live music begins at 9:00pm performed by Kristina Sablan with Darren


Baked Ricotta and Goat Cheese with Toast
Wine Pairing: 2008 Pierre Andre, St Veran, Burgundy, France
Beer Pairing: Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, Germany

Crab Salad in Endive Leaves
Wine Pairing: NV Zonin, Prosecco NL,Vino Spumante di qualità, Italy
Beer Pairing: Schneider Aventinus Doppelbock, Germany

Catalan Bean and Sausage Stew with Mint
Wine Pairing: 2006 Frescobaldi, Remole, Toscana, Italy
Beer Pairing: Duchesse De Bourgogne, Verhaeghe, Belgium

New York Style Cheese Cake
Wine Pairing: 2008 Marcarini, Moscato D’Asti, Italy
Beer Pairing: Smoked Beer – Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Maerzen, Germany

Price: Dinner only – $55.00 per person
With Wine Pairing add $25.00 per person; With Beer Pairing add $20 per
Wine Club members: 10% discount applied

Tax and gratuity not included

Call now for reservations. Space is limited. 408-977-0111

Peter Estaniel: Better Beer Blogging Biker

Peter Estaniel made good impression with me when I first met him, since he was handing me a beer. He was serving up some of his homebrew to start off a beer and dessert pairing event he was hosting at Wine Affairs that Linda and I attended. Peter writes the Better Beer Blog, his effort to “raise the status of beer” and I was looking forward to what he had in store for us. Peter looked a little uncomfortable in front of roughly thirty people attending that night explaining what he had in store for us. Beer and dessert are not obvious pairings, and Peter raised the degree of difficulty for himself by serving up unlikely pairings like pineapple flan with the aggressively bitter Green Flash West Coast IPA. It was pretty impressive that with all the risks he took that night, every beer and dessert pairing worked quite well.

One pairing that didn’t work out that night was the couple sharing a table with us who were quietly feuding all night. Linda and I never quite figured out what the problem was, but it appeared that it was early in the couple’s relationship, and things were burning up on the launch pad. They tried gamely to explain their points of view on things, but the “when you do X, I feel Y” statements didn’t seem to be getting the points across. I considered providing this young couple helpful pointers on how to more effectively argue in public learned from my divorce, but Linda firmly quashed this idea, and politely suggested I pay attention to Peter instead. As intrigued as I was with beer and dessert pairings, with this tense psychological drama playing out right in front of me, I didn’t think a discussion of the harmonizing elements of a wheat beer paired with fruit filled crepe’s would hold my interest. But the fact that Peter held most of my attention that night is a credit to his considerable skills and enthusiasm as a beer ambassador.

Four months later, there’s a smaller tasting event at Wine Affairs and have a chance to strike up a conversation with him. I reach for an organic Hefeweizen, and Peter quickly rattles off the flavor profile of this beer and how it contrasts with another Hefeweizen on the tasting list before I even realize what he just said. The whole evening, I’m struggling to find words to describe each beer, and Peter quickly comes up with a succinct and accessible description. There are plenty of people with a suspicious talent of describing any beer, even warm Budweiser, with eleven different flavor components of odd fruits and spices, but thankfully, Peter isn’t one of them. But if you read his Better Beer Blog or have met him at a beer event, you probably know all this.

What you may not know is that Peter recently started biking. He’ll ride routes around his neighborhood each day, and aims to find a way to bike to his job about thirty miles away. For Peter, biking is “…a disconnect. I don’t feel my legs on fire, I don’t feel my lungs straining or the dryness in my mouth and throat. It’s like the world goes quiet and I can hear all the little things going on around me, like the wind rustling through the trees, the cows mooing and my wheels on the pavement.” Interesting for a guy who is pretty plugged in, he enjoys an outlet to unplug.

Peter cites a lot of good memories growing up with family and friends growing up associated with bike riding. In high school, he would race the school bus to see if he could beat it to school. I find a lot of people’s choice of recreation is often shaped by early childhood memories burned into our brains that we carry around for the rest of our lives, and it looks like Peter may be another example of that.

Almost as soon as Peter told me he was starting biking, he told me he hated running. I’ve met plenty of people who hate running, and usually it’s because it’s something like it hurts their knees, or they find the activity boring and tedious. Peter gave me a reason I’ve never heard before. He doesn’t like running because when he runs, he doesn’t think he is running fast enough. That actually makes sense. You do not attend an exhaustive schedule of beer events, become a certified beer judge, post articles almost daily on a blog, and regularly homebrew by leisurely going from point A to point B.

Does Peter find biking to be like homebrewing or beer judging? Not really. For Peter, homebrewing “..while very peaceful and relaxing, doesn’t give me that disconnect. I am very much in the moment because if you don’t pay attention to certain things, you’ll miss key things in the process” while beer judging is “…a very cerebral endeavor, it’s mentally tiring at times.”