First brought to my attention on Tim Cigelske’s Beer Runner, is this study showing that those who drink actually tend to exercise more than those who don’t. Given that plenty of runners drink, not to mention football players, cyclists, and even bowlers regularly knock back a few pints, the study seems a little like proving the sun rises in the east. But it shows what many people have known all along. Responsible drinking and exercise easily co-exist.
This month’s Session, Summer Beers, is a great topic, since I have little interest in jumping on another bandwagon of beer geeks raving about the latest hyper-malty, barrel aged, hop bomb where the brewer actually did throw in the kitchen sink. The lighter beer styles we normally associate with summer require much skill and talent to brew, with no places to hide off flavors. Having had so many great summer beers, it’s hard to pick a favorite. For me, a “favorite beer” is largely determined in the context of which it is consumed, as well as how and where the beer is produced. That’s why my favorite beer this summer is from a brewer you never heard of, and I haven’t even swallowed a drop of it yet. I’ll get to my favorite summer beer at the end of this post, so allow me to celebrate a number of my summer favorites before then.
Favorite Summer Beer with Lime In It
Summer beers with lime in them are typically some hideous product from big industrial breweries that are barely recognizable as beer. That wasn’t the case with Coronado Brewing’s Lime Wit that I enjoyed this summer at my favorite beer bar in San Diego, Downtown Johnny Brown’s. Sour lime dominates the slight yeasty flavors of this Wit beer, and there’s a bitter lime peel finish to it. I’ve enjoyed other wits more than this one, but this unique San Diego-inspired beer deserves a mention.
Favorite Summer Beer to Drink After a Summer Run
It’s only natural to expect the writer of blog called Bay Area Beer Runner to cite a favorite summer beer for drinking after a run. The problem is that during summer, my runs are exclusively in the early morning when the air is coolest, which is when many runners train. Knocking down a couple pints of beer after a morning run before heading off to work is a pretty risky career strategy. Not being a fan of those foul-tasting, over priced sports drinks, I just have water after a run.
Favorite Summer Beer to Witness Another Disappointing Chicago Cubs Baseball Season
I’ve been a Cub fan for thirty years, and each year, the Cubs find a new and creative way to build up expectations and then deflate them over the course of a baseball season. The other constant over that time is that Heileman’s Old Style has been strongly associated with Cubs’ baseball. If you’ve ever had this light lager, you’ll begin to understand why Cub fans have such a high tolerance for pain and misery.
Favorite Summer Beer to Get Ready for The Ohio State University’s Football Season
Keeping on the topic of sports, as a graduate of The Ohio State University, I’ve spent many a summer chatting away with other Buckeye fans in anticipation of the upcoming fall football season. And there’s no better beer for this than Buckeye Beer from Maumee Bay Brewing in Toledo, OH. It’s a beer with a long history that ceased production in 1972, only to be recently revived with a retro-marketing campaign. But it’s no weak, gimmicky pilsner. This refreshing beer’s malt is a little biscuit-like, and the hops crisp and grassy. It’s also good in winter time for Buckeye fans recovering from a crushing Bowl game defeat.
Favorite Summer Beer to Experience a 60’s Flashback
Last month, my girlfriend and I checked out Magnolia Pub and Brewery, merely a block away from the storied Haight-Ashbury intersection in San Francisco. We were both really impressed with their Kalifornia Kolsch. It’s a hazy yellow brew, with a strong peppery flavor and we also noted some notes of lemon. Despite the strong flavors, there was a feathery lightness to it. It’s so good, it actually caused me to admit The Grateful Dead had some redeeming qualities.
Favorite Summer Beer That I Couldn’t Come Up with a Category For, But Wanted to Mention Anyway
I’ve long been a fan of Victory Brewing in Downing, PA, but it’s hard to find their beers in the Bay Area. In San Diego last month, I found Victory Brewing’s Prima Pils on tap. Like any good pilsner, it’s got a crisp grassy hops finish, but I also picked up some savory herbal character with all that hoppy goodness, giving it a rare complexity and dimension for a pilsner.
Before revealing my Favorite Beer of the Summer, I should start by saying why I think running is a great activity and for those of a competitive nature, a great sport. All you need is a good pair of shoes, lace ’em up, and go out the front door. The equipment is very affordable, and the best places to run are public areas available to all. There are road races held all over the United States where for a reasonable fee, anyone can enter to run with the best runners in the nation, or even the world. The stop watch does not discriminate on the basis of race, income, sex, religion, origin, good looks, or anything else.
The same egalitarian qualities that makes running great, makes beer great. It is most commonly consumed in informal public gatherings. Even the finest beers are affordable to most. And with a small investment, anyone can start brewing beer for themselves. That now includes me, as I’ve home brewed up my first batch of beer of what I expect to be the first of many home brews. Perhaps someday, my brewing skills will progress to the point where I’ll compete in home brewing competitions, but for now, I’ll settle for brewing up something that just tastes good.
I didn’t muck around in the kitchen that badly brewing it up, so fingers crossed, it will taste OK. Since it was bottled a week ago and needs two weeks of bottle conditioning, I haven’t even tasted the final product. But sampling the brew as it went into the bottles didn’t reveal any obvious off-flavors, and it tasted like a decent beer to me. Having only the slightest idea of how to brew beer, but with plans to keep at it, I call it Blind Ambition Amber Ale, and it’s my favorite summer beer.
The Eat Real Festival is the place you might expect to see things like a large, red beet tattooed on some guy’s muscular arm. I’d describe it as a street festival trying to get you to think locally about your street food. And while you might quibble if that includes a stand selling creme’ brulee, they seemed to do a pretty good job pulling off the concept. And for pictures of the weekend festivities in better focus than the one on the right, head on over to Beer and Nosh.
Of course, it’s one thing to meet the brewer, it’s another to have an actual conversation with him in this set-up. One brewer, who possibly was as buzzed as I was, glided back and forth behind the table, talking in a volume barely above a whisper about his beer. When I asked “Would you be willing to share what hops you used in this?”, he replied “Sure”, and then there was a long pause. Then he said, “I need to help this couple over here”, and then he moved a few feet sideways, poured them a beer, and started chatting with them. Figuring he wouldn’t answer my question, my attention turned elsewhere, and all of a sudden, he glided over and rattled off a couple names of hops I wasn’t familiar with, and almost instantly forgot. And with that, he was back over with the other couple. Note to self: Learn your all your hop varieties, and be alert when trying to gather more insight from the brewer about how he made the beer. And being a little more clear headed wouldn’t hurt, either.
There was no such problem speaking learning about how Triple Rock made their Bill Brand Brown. They use cocoa nibs in a process similar to dry hopping to give the brew extra roasty, chocolaty dimensions. The Bill Brand Brown was one of many excellent beers Linda and I tried last Saturday, and here are the notes of those I was paying close enough attention to write something down about.
Triple Rock Bill Brand Brown
We enjoyed this rich, highly roasted brown session ale, with bitter chocolate flavors imparted from the cocoa nibs. Lots of chocolate aromas going on.
Magnolia Best Bitter
Linden Street Brewing’s People’s Common
I took off last week from work to spend it with my kids on a so called “stay-cation” about Northern California. One of our destinations was the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, CA and wouldn’t you know, Blue Frog Grog and Grill is only about a five minute drive for the factory. Anyone with small kids will tell you well fed kids tend to function on these sort of outings a lot better than unfed ones. The same goes for parents. So it seemed like a win-win situation to stop off at Blue Frog for lunch prior to the factory tour.
We already had some familiarity with Blue Frog, as Linda and I had enjoyed Blue Frog’s Red Ale we picked up at our nearby BevMo! about a month prior. I’m not a big fan of red ales, but we both enjoyed its citrus and tangy flavors, its strong malt character, and slightly grassy hop finish, and it was one of the better Red Ales I’ve had. So we figured we’d each have a different pint to sample during with lunch with the kids.
Blue Frog Grog and Grill is located in one of those sun drenched retail areas that seem to dominate the Fairfield – Vacaville area, where shade seems to be a precious luxury. Linda and I choose the place mostly for the beer, but we also found the food was every bit as good as the beer. And of course, family outings are great opportunities to take slightly out of focus family pictures in bad lighting, where at least person has a funny look on their face.
Linda had a flavorful portobello mushroom sandwich, and I was pretty happy with my smoked salmon fish and chips. Linda and I also appreciated the slightly tangy, crunchy red cabbage slaw included with both of our lunch entrees. My six year old daughter Verona proclaimed cheese pizza on the kids menu as “really good”. Brandon, my eight year old son, has autism and so is a man a few words, but when asked if his grilled cheese sandwich was “yummy” or “yucky”, responded with “yummy” in his high pitched voice. Looks like Blue Frog gets Brandon’s thumbs up as well.
But you’re probably reading this about their beer, not the kids menu, so here’s what Linda and I thought about the beers we tried.
Blue Frog IPA
This dark yellow, fresh tasting IPA had plenty of piney hop goodness, with some floral character in there for good measure, and just a little malt to balance it. A good example of West Coast IPA style done well.
Blue Frog Pub Ale (Seasonal)
This was our favorite beer of those we tried. It’s got a little caramel taste to it, a little sweetness, a little piney hops, and a little dry finish and all these little things add up to a lively little session ale.
Blue Frog Hefeweizen
Linda and I split a 12 once glass of their hazy yellow, unfiltered hefe, and found it to be a rather light and wheaty with some aromatic clove-like notes.
Blue Frog Double IPA
We purchased a 22 once bottle of this before we left, and Linda and I split it a couple days later. A strong citrus aroma greeted us immediately upon pouring. As one might expect from the aroma, this one had a very strong grapefruity hop character to it, as well as a little sweetness. There’s a good amount of malt in there, which gave this a slightly creamy mouth feel, and this brew really went down smooth despite the strong hop flavors. We really liked the well controlled strong flavors here.
The Jelly Belly factory turned out to be a blast for everyone. I’m always proud of my children, but special mention should go to Brandon, since the large chattering crowds, sudden loud noises, and large spinning and repetitive motions of the factory equipment during the tour pose all sorts of challenges to an eight year old with autism. He handled it really well, and has won yet another small battle to overcome his autistic behaviors.
Does anyone have any ideas of what to do with the bag of jalapeno Jelly Bellies I purchased?
Wanted to pass along I message received from Jesse Friedman over at Beer & Nosh about the upcoming NOToberfest event he’s hosting this October 10. From the looks of things so far, looks pretty unique, interesting and of course, delicious. Here’s what’s in the works.
Beer & Nosh Notoberfest
– An epic feast prepared by Ryan Farr & the 4505 Meats Team
– Custom beer-infused ice creams & treats from Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream
– Reinheitsgebot-breaking beers from Valley Brewing Co.
Valley Brewing Tap Menu:
Luna Blanca – Central Valley Golden Ale
“Notoberfest” Bourbon Barrel Maibock Lager
Brandy Barrel Aged “Collaborative Evil” Belgian Strong Golden Ale
India Pale Ale
Bourbon Barrel Russian Imperial Stout
Valley Brew Skullsplitter Root Beer
Saturday, October 10th 2009, 1-5pm
Mars Bar, 798 Brannan St, San Francisco, CA
$50 prepurchase / $60 at the door – All inclusive for beer, food and commemorative tasting glass.
All of the details and RSVP information can be found at beerandnosh.com/notoberfest
A blog post detailing visiting Valley Brew with the chefs to plan the event can be found here at beerandnosh.com/2009/08/notoberfest-planning/
I’m pleased to tell you all about the Eat Real Festival that’s being held in Jack London Square in Oakland the weekend of August 28-30.
What is it about? Well, from the festival website, the Eat Real Festival was “founded in 2008, as a social venture created to inspire eaters to choose tasty, healthy, good food. Through a vibrant, local festival in Oakland, CA, and a focus on delicious and sustainable “street food,” Eat Real puts eaters in contact with the real people — the farmers, chefs, and producers — who make our food. Eat Real Festival will donate a percentage of its profit to several California organizations promoting access to healthy and affordable food, entrepreneurship and economic development.”
And since beer goes well with most street food, they’ve included a Beer Shed with a great list of over 15 local breweries already scheduled to participate, and the website promises more.
To me, this is what food is all about. It’s about eating something good, simple, and accessible produced in a sustainable way. Anything that puts the producers of what we eat and drink closer to the consumers is definitely something I support. If you agree, I look foreword to seeing you there.
Time to go home. The convention is over, I’ve packed every thing up, and catch the first available cab to the airport. I have a couple hours before my flight, so head over the the San Diego Tap room located by Gates 3-10 in San Diego’s airport.
This place is a typical airport bar, and for the most part, has stuff like Bud Light, Bud, Stella Artois, and Guinness on tap. But they also have a couple taps devoted to local brewpub chain Karl Strauss. I’ve enjoyed their beers in the past, but didn’t get a chance to stop at their location near downtown this time, so figure I’ll try a couple of their beers here while I wait for my plane to board.
It’s so crowded, I don’t walk in, but rather sort of wedge myself into a spot at the extreme end of the bar. The place is littered with empty glasses the harried staff has no time to collect and clean. I get one of the bartenders attention and she pours a Karl Strauss Amber Lager, which does its best to keep its dignity in the Bud Light glass it was poured into. I’ve always like this Vienna Style lager, with its light nutty flavor in that lingers long after beer is down the throat. It’s light drinkable, and there’s a slight grassy hop crispness to it. I’ve always found this rather refreshing.
Finishing that, I then try Karl Strauss’s flagship Red Trolley Ale, a red ale named for the red trolleys that roll around the city. It’s got a little complexity to it, being a little sweet and fruity, with a little roasted malt, with a little astringency to its finish. It’s a solid red ale.
They board my plane, I find my seat, and fly home.