Category Archives: beer

Blogging and San Diego

I haven’t been blogging much here, but I’ve been doing a ton of blogging over at BeerNBikes.com Durango, CO (and the surrounding Four Corners area) is an awesome place for both craft beer fans and cyclists.

I still read up on things happening in San Diego every once in a while, especially all the wonderful beer being made.

I saw this post on Draft Mag’s blog about the SDCityBeat Festival Of Beer coming up in May, and their summary of San Diego pretty much sums things up for me:

Occasionally, we consider moving to San Diego. It’s warm. All the time. It’s beautiful. All the time. The people are attractive. All the time. Honestly, what’s not to like? Then you visit, however, and realize it’s essentially a city devoid of culture, unless you consider being a stop on the way to Tijuana an important cultural experience. We don’t.

They do have good things to say about the CityBeat Festival of Beers though.

Beernbikes.com

I started a new blog yesterday. Beernbikes.com

I’m hoping that it will be less of a personal blog than this one and more about news and things going on relating to beer and bikes. It’ll probably be focused on the Durango, CO area but I’m sure there will be a lot of info about San Diego and other beer and bike regions and news.

The other reason I set it up is because I recently bought some web hosting and wanted to get my feet wet with hosting my own stuff. It seemed too daunting of a task to move this blog (and something I might screw up the first time) so I decided to come up with a new blog. Craft beer and bicycles are two of my biggest hobbies so it’s a perfect fit. I’m hoping to play around with all sorts of things you can do when you host a blog yourself rather than host it with wordpress.com (like this blog is).

So go on over to beernbikes.com and check it out. I’ll be cross posting personal stuff relating to beer and bikes to both blogs every once in a while. But go check it out and tell me what you think.

Welcome to Colorado!

If you haven’t heard, Kinsee and I moved to Bayfield, Colorado! Kinsee grew up here and I’ve been anxious to get out of California for a while now. I don’t know when I fell in love with the Four Corners Region (probably around the time I discovered Edward Abbey) but Durango (the “big” city nearby) seems like the perfect place for me. Four breweries in Durango, one with a location in Bayfield, lots of cyclists and plenty of other outdoor enthusiasts, Durango seems like a good place.

I’m just getting settled in, but Kinsee’s already been blogging about what’s going on in Durango at her new blog, Durango Dirt.

The weather has been beautiful ever since we got here, I’ve heard that we’ll get more days of sun per year than San Diego (330 vs 300).

We went to Ska Brewing for the release of their new IPA Modus Hoperandi, not quite a West Coast IPA but not bad at all. Kinsee wrote about it here. One of my new favorite blogs, Beer at 6512 (the elevation in Durango) also was there. Turns out Durango has quite the blogger community because Hank at Songs From the Wood was there also.

I just got back from my first Colorado bike ride. I rode from our house in Bayfield to Ignacio and back. It was about 19 miles, mostly flat, but my sea-level-lungs need some adjustment to the altitude up here (we live at 6900 feet). When I left it was about 22F, I averaged 17.5mph and it had warmed up to almost 40F by the time I got back. And I did that on my fixed gear because my road bike is still in the shop getting assembled and tuned.

We’ve been here less than a week but so far so good. Once I get a little more settled in expect a lot more blog posts from me.

La Mesa Bar Bike Adventure

There are all sorts of bars in La Mesa, the city I grew up in, that I’ve never been to. Places that I wondered about when underage, but just didn’t seem cool enough once I could get into bars. Last night Kinsee, Derrik and I rode our bikes to five of those La Mesa watering holes.

First up was Centifonti’s, I’ve walked past it a few times before and always assumed it was a restaurant or bakery, I was shocked when I saw a coupon in the Citybeat advertising their “Boot of Beer”.  Why a place like this serves a boot of beer is beyond me, but we weren’t concerned with that, we just wanted our 112oz of cold, foamy Stella Artois. I felt a little out of place at first, most of the patrons were older than the three of us combined, but as we drank the boot I stopped worrying about La Mesa folks and started having a good time.

Pouring the Boot

Pouring the Boot

Drinking the Boot

Drinking the Boot

Finishing the Boot

Finishing the Boot

Next up was Pete’s Place. Pete’s used to be one of two dive bars on La Mesa Blvd, but they both recently closed. Pete’s Place opened back up after some remodeling, Joe and Andy’s, the other dive hasn’t reopened yet. When tearing down the old walls they apparently found nice brick walls behind them, so Pete’s Place looks nice these days. Even though they got remodeled the bar tender said they still have the same people hanging out there and drink prices didn’t go up. $3.25 for a decently stiff whiskey and 7up was pretty good.

img_76921

Brick Walls

Brick Walls

After Pete’s Place we rode down the street, passing such places as Hoffer’s Cigar Bar and the Turquoise Room at the Riviera Supper Club for the tried and true Falcon’s Lure. They only serve beer and wine but we found some good local brews. We played the jukebox (I resisted putting on Alice’s Restaurant, three times), met a local who showed us a magic trick, he originally wanted us to buy him a beer before showing us the magic behind it. When we showed no interest whatsoever he decided to tell us free of charge.

img_7704

Bikes in the Bar

Bikes in the Bar

We sprinted down University Ave to The Dragon Room at Wong’s Golden Palace. This was the most divey, and least fun bar of the night. We walked in and it was almost silent, no music was playing, and nearly dark. No one was behind the bar so I asked a guy sitting there if he’d seen a bartender around recently. He looked at me and laughed and said “nah”. Then he started yelling “MEATLOAF! MEATLOAF!”, shortly after that the bartender started walking over. We didn’t feel comfortable ordering drinks from someone that responds to the name Meatloaf so we went into the restaurant and order our Flaming Volcano drink. We downed the drink and got out as quickly as we could.

img_7719

img_7722

The Volcano

The Volcano

The Flaming Volcano

The Flaming Volcano

Last was Mr G’s Tavern. It was bright with loud but not too loud music and a decent crowd. One patron was apparently trying to make fun of us and our bikes but I didn’t let him get away with it.

Him: “So you guys ten-speeded in here huh?”

Me: “They’re single-speeds actually.”

We quickly became friends with him and another regular named Tim. By the time we left we’d earned his respect by riding around the hills of La Mesa with only one gear.

img_7737

A Few of the Regulars -- We met Tim

A Few of the Regulars -- We met Tim

A Couple of the Other Regulars

A Couple of the Other Regulars

Photos mostly by Derrik.

Dogfish Head Brewery

It seems like I’ve been blogging a lot about beer recently, not quite sure why that is, but there’s more to come…

I don’t read The New Yorker too often, when I do sit down to read it I find myself flipping through the pages, barely skimming the articles and unless an article really catches my eye I’m done about 20 minutes later. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy The New Yorker, its just really hit or miss for me. Every once in a while I come across an article that I really enjoy. Such is the case for the article, A Better Brew, The Rise of Extreme Beer by Burkhard Bilger in the November 24th 2008 issue.

The article talks mostly about the modern craft beer movement and focuses primarily on Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware. They do delve into beer history a little bit, explaining the Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law) and the differences between German beers and Belgian beers (and where American beers fit in). I was amazed to learn that before prohibition and the industrialization of the 1950’s American beers were actually good.

In 1878, Maureen Ogle notes in her recent book “Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer,” Busch’s St. Louis Lager took on more than a hundred European beers at a competition in Paris. The lager came home with the gold, causing an “immense sensation,”.

The history part of the article was fun to read about, but I got really excited reading about Dogfish Head. I’d heard of them before, seen their beers at the liquor store, but never paid them much attention. They’re pretty pricey and with all the good quality local beer for lower prices I never got around to trying anything they make. But this article portrayed them as wildly experimental, exciting and from the sounds of things, making great beers.

It told the story of their Palo Santo Marron, a 12% brown ale aged in Palo Santo wood containers. This wood is some of the hardest in the world and has been used to make wine before, but never beer. The brewery liked it so much they made the largest wooden brewing containers out of it in American since prohibition. They also talked about the Midas Touch Golden Elixir, made of barley, grapes, honey and saffron they claim it is the oldest known fermented beverage recipe in the world. The beer sounded so good I had to go out and try some.

I got lucky at the liquor store, they had both of the beers I just mentioned, what wasn’t so lucky was the price. A four-pack weighed in around $13, less than $4 a beer after tax and CRV, its cheaper than drinking at a bar, but still pricey for bottled beer. I decided to go with the Palo Santo Marron, they had less of it. I got home, chilled it and gave it a try. I poured it into a pint glass and immediately noticed how thick and dark it was. It poured slow and heavy like a viscous dirty motor oil. It left almost no head at all in the glass. Luckily when I tasted it the taste was anything but motor oil. It was still thick and heavy but good. It tasted like most brown ales, a little nutty, maybe a little vanilla, only stronger, much stronger. After one 12oz bottle I could feel a buzz, it was a good thing I wasn’t drinking this at a bar because I wouldn’t have been able to drive for a while.

As with most “extreme beers” this isn’t something I’m going to drink all the time. Even if I could afford to, I don’t think it would be as good if drank everyday, but every once in a while this beer is quite the treat. I’m looking forward to trying plenty of other beers from this brewery.

TJ Beer – Cerveza Tijuana: The Video

You already read the story, now you can watch the video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

TJ Beer – Cerveza Tijuana

It’s pretty obvious that Craft brewing is a big deal in San Diego, with plenty of microbreweries in town you can find quality non-mainstream beer at nearly every liquor and grocery store. Despite how close geographically San Diego and Tijuana are, the craft beer craze hasn’t caught on south of the border, Tecate still owns this town. When I got to a bar I’m happy if they have Bohemia Obscura. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a beer tap down here, everywhere you go its bottles or cans. But that’s not to say that Tijuana is totally devoid of craft breweries.

Yesterday we stopped by La Cervecería Tijuana, the only Microbrewery in the city. Located just a few miles south of the famous Avenida Revolucion, Cerveza Tijuana brews six lagers and has Tavern attached with views of the brewery. We went hoping to get a tour of the brewery and see a bit of the brewing process in addition to sampling beer, but were told that they were shut down for the holidays, so we grabbed a seat and got down to sampling.

We were immediately offered a sample platter of all six beers for $5 US. When they came out the server identified each for us and arranged them in lightest to darkest sampling order.

  • Tijuana Light
  • Bronca
  • Guera
  • Brava
  • Morena
  • Bufadora

I typically don’t like lagers as much as stronger more hoppy ales, but I was excited to give these a try. Tijuana Light was far too light for me, better than Tecate but nothing I’d drink again. Bronca is the unfiltered version of Guera. I liked the Bronca a bit better, but neither really impressed me. Brava was a bit better, but still lacking a lot of hops. It was very malty, almost like eating a slice of bread. Morena was the one TJ Beer I’d tasted before, I found a six pack at the grocery store and gave it a shot, it is a darker lager, but has a sweet aftertaste which I didn’t like too much. Bufadora the last, is the heaviest of the lot, it had an amber color with quite a bit of head. It is the newest beer, not even on their promo material yet. It was also my favorite. It had a bit more flavor to it.

To compare TJ Beer to all my favorites in San Diego is unfair. Sure I’ll take most SD beers over TJ Beer every time, but when compared to the rest of the beers I can buy down here, Tecate, Bohemia, Sol and imports such as Miller and Coors Lite, I’ll take Tijuana Brewery every time. And just because they’re not my favorite, doesn’t mean they’re not good, they’ve won some awards.

As for the Tavern, I loved it. The food was typical pub fare, with a bit of a Mexican twist, and the space itself was perfect. Wood paneling everywhere, dark but not too dark, loud but not too loud. It wasn’t crowded, in fact we were one of only three couples in the place, but it was early, too late for lunch too early for dinner and TJ isn’t attracting a lot of tourists these days.

According to their website, you can find TJ Beers at a lot of liquor stores in San Diego as well as some Costco stores.

The Union-Tribune did a story on Mexican beers mentioning TJ Beer a few years ago. And here is Beeradvocate’s page on TJ Beer, where you can read reviews by some real beer snobs.

UPDATE: We made a movie of our trip to the brewery! You can see it here.

Beer Cheese Soup

Being vegan for about 5 years, its only been recently that I’ve come to experience the awesomeness of beer cheese soup.

The first time I had some was at Hamilton’s Tavern a few months ago, my friends were raving about it, but I was still a little skittish about my lack of cheese for so long I didn’t appreciate it for what it was. I tried it again later and enjoyed it. Then we went to Stone World Bistro and Gardens one night and I had their Garlic Cheddar & Stone Ruination IPA Soup. Garlic and good beer are two of my favorite foods, and the Stone Ruination IPA is a good beer, so this soup was perfect. With extra sharp white cheddar it was good and flavorful and bitter and tasty.

Last night I set out to make my own Beer Cheese Soup with some lackluster results. So I’m turning to you dear readers to leave a comment below telling me how to spice up this soup and make it something to be proud of.

I started by sauteing half a white onion and about five cloves of garlic in butter, then adding two diced jalapenos. After they were cooked a bit I added about a pint of Stone IPA and about the same amount of vegetable broth. I let this cook for about 20 minutes and then threw it in the food processor to make it smooth.

Back on the stove I added about a cup of low-fat milk and 8oz of shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese. To thicken it up a bit I slowly added some flour while stirring. Then some salt and pepper.

I think I served it too hot and as it cooled down it just didn’t have the right taste to it, but I couldn’t figure out what went wrong. It had plenty of cheese and beer in it, but just lacked that delcious flavor of the soups I’ve had a restaurants.

Some things I’m thinking of trying next time:

  • No jalapenos, they made it spicy but overpowered it I think
  • Roasted garlic and more garlic
  • Some spices, maybe paprika
  • Less vegetable broth
  • Half and half or cream instead of milk
  • Less flour
  • A higher quality cheese, maybe more cheese

If anyone out there has any experience with homemade Beer Cheese Soup or any ideas on how to make it let me know.

Mediterranean Appetizers

After buying 4 liters of delicious olive oil in the Valle de Guadalupe last weekend, I figured it was time to start making some food that required good olive oil. So last night I made four small dishes all centered around olive oil (and garlic). I love garlic, when I cook I tell myself “the more garlic the better.” This means my cooking isn’t for everyone (although I try to tone it down at times). A lot of people hate chopping garlic, some even resort to buying minced garlic in a jar. I’m not one of those people. I don’t even use a garlic press, I just really love chopping garlic. Since moving I haven’t had a really good garlic chopping knife, I’ve been getting by with a small knife, that does the job, until recently. Kinsee’s parents recently came back from Alaska and brought her a few things, including this “knife”:

Alaskan Knife

Alaskan Knife

I can’t remember what it’s called. And I think the label said something about cutting caribou meat with it, but seeing as how we’re both vegetarians, I guess it won’t see it’s full potential with us. However it makes for a great garlic mincing utensil. It’s comfortable in your hand and you can just roll it back and forth, chopping as you go.

As for the food I made… I guess they could all be described as appetizers, or at least side dishes. I recently got a food processor and I’ve been wanted to make both hummus and pesto with it, so instead of deciding on one or the other, I made both.

For the hummus I chose to make Kalamata Olive Hummus and with the food processor it was incredibly simple.

  • 1 can cooked chickpeas, drained
  • 1 big spoonful of tahini
  • a couple cloves of minced garlic
  • a few generous dashes of cayenne pepper
  • about a 1/4 or 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • half a cup or so of kalamata olives
  • the juice of one lime
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in the food processor and turn it on. If it looks too chunky just add a little bit of water as it’s going and it’ll get smoother. Usually it’s made with lemon, but all I had was a lime which worked just as well. I would recommend rinsing the olives pretty well and trying to avoid getting much of their juice in there. The hummus is a bit on the vinegary side because I used some of the olive juice instead of water to make it creamier. But it turned out great and is a lot cheaper than buying prepared hummus at the store.

Pesto was the other thing I had really been wanting a food processor to make. It’s surprisingly simple, but this didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, and I’m not sure what I did wrong — however it could have been the way I was eating it… I just put some on toast, rather than using it as a sauce for pasta. Since I have plenty left we’ll see how well it does on some noodles. I was surprised at how good fresh parmesan cheese is, I guess I’m used to the powdered Kraft stuff.

  • basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • a handful of raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pulse the basil and pine nuts in the food processor a few times. Add the garlic and pulse again. With a rubber spatula clean the sides of the bowl and slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is on. Clean the sides again and then add the grated cheese. Pulse a few more times. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The thing I didn’t like about this was that it was sort of mushy, all the ingredients blended together. But on pasta it might be better than spread on toast.

Bruschetta is one of my favorite toppings for toast and so easy to make.

  • 6-8 basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 tomatoes
  • a splash of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh bread
  • another clove of garlic

Chop the basil by hand, then add the minced garlic. Dice the tomatoes and add to the mix. Pour in a splash of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Mix it all around. Toast the dry bread on a hot griddle for a few minutes. While the bread is hot rub the hot side of the bread with the whole clove of garlic and drizzle just a bit of olive oil on each slice of bread. Top with the tomato mixture and it’s ready to serve.

Last was White Asparagus with Olive Oil and Garlic. I had never heard of white asparagus before seeing it at the super market a few weeks ago. Just like the green stuff next to it, both were grown in Peru and both were the same price. I much prefer to grill asparagus, but this way works when there’s no grill around. And it was the first thing I was wondering when I saw it, yes, white asparagus also makes me pee smell funny.

  • white asparagus, rinsed with the bottoms cut off
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • olive oil for sauteing

Heat the oil in a pan to a lower medium heat and then add the asparagus, after a few minutes add the minced garlic. Saute until the asparagus is tender and the garlic is crispy but not burnt. I like to eat the crispy garlic as well. I was disappointed with the flavor of the white asparagus. It seemed to be more bland and dull than the regular green stuff.

I sampled everything and had a plate of appetizers for dinner. To top it all off, earlier at the store I had bought a bottle of Le Freak from Green Flash Brewing Company. The label said it was a combination San Diego Imperial Pale Ale and Belgian Trippel. The Trippel was definitely the dominant taste in the beer, and it was delicious. Below are pictures of the beer and the olive oil that started it all.

Green Flash Brewing Company Le Freak

Green Flash Brewing Company Le Freak

L.A. Cetto Olive Oil

L.A. Cetto Olive Oil

Holiday and Winter Beers

Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-Ø / Stone Special Holiday Ale

Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-Ø / Stone Special Holiday Ale

Most people reading this will probably know that I’m a big fan of good beer. I especially like darker beers which are usually a bit heavier and (sometimes but not always) have more alcohol, which tends to warm you up a bit, so beer companies brew and sell them in the colder winter months. I always look forward to these months when I can go to the liquor store and pick up some good dark seasonal beers. The fact that most of these beers are only available for a few months out of the year makes them that much more special.

Last night I picked up a bottle of the collaboration brew of Jolly Pumpkin, Nøgne-Ø and Stone Brewing Companies, the Special Holiday Ale. Although I’m not too familiar with the other two breweries, this is the first time I can remember stone making a special holiday ale, so I was excited to this. The label said that it was brewed with “Chestnuts, Juniper Berry, White Sage and Caraway Seed.” I wasn’t fooling myself into thinking that my palate is refined enough to notice all those spices, but I did feel like I could smell and taste the sage. The beer was nice and hoppy as I’ve come to expect from Stone. Good, not great, and while I did enjoy it, I probably won’t have it again because there are plenty more holiday brews I want to try.

I’m really hoping I’ll be able to find the Telegraph Brewing Co’s Winter Ale. I don’t think I’ve ever had any of their beers, but their Winter Ale is brewed with cinnamon and sweet ancho chilies among other things.

I’m also hoping to make it down to the PB Ale House to try their new St. Sideburn Holiday Ale, I met the brew master a few weeks ago and he’s a really great guy, and I tasted about a half dozen of their beers and they were all good.

One of my favorite winter beers has always been Butte Creek Brewing Company’s Winter Ale. I’ll admit, it was the label that drew it to me in the first place, but it’s a delicious beer in it’s own right that kept me drinking it. Many of their beers are organic, but I don’t think the Winter Ale was. I haven’t seen it in a few years, and their website is being redesigned, so hopefully this beer isn’t gone for good.

Another local brewery, Alesmith has been producing their Yulesmith Holiday Ale twice a year (once at Christmas and once at the Fourth of July). The winter version is an imperial red ale, which I’ve somehow never managed to try. I’ve had plenty other Alesmith beers and have liked everything I’ve tried, so I’m going to make it a point to try it this year.

When I heard about it a few weeks ago, I was really excited to try Alpine Beer Company‘s Ichabod Ale. It’s brewed with pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg, but since it’s from Alpine Beer Co. I’m sure it’s not too sweet, but a good quality beer. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to make it out to the brewery and it seems nearly impossible to find their beers in town. I’m still hoping to be able to find it before it’s all gone.

Sierra Nevada is a brewery that needs no introduction. At the liquor store yesterday I saw both of my favorites from them. Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale is a good strong barleywine. I like barleywine’s and this one is a little on the lower end of the alcohol content, which makes it a bit more enjoyable most of the time. The other Sierra Nevada brew I really like is their Celebration Ale. The last time I had it was a couple years ago and if I remember right it was brewed with cranberries and it was really good and not too sweet.

Alaskan Brewing Company makes two great dark beers in the winter time. Their Winter Ale is brewed with spruce tips which stand out. It’s a good, not too strong, not too dark beer. The Smoked Porter on the other hand is dark. Dark and smokey. It’s made with smoked malts and unpasteurized. The first taste is so smokey and so delicious, but doesn’t come on too strong at all.

As for my favorite beer (not just winter beer, although it happens to be one), it’s back to Stone Brewing Company. Their Imperial Russian Stout is top notch. It’s dark, heavy and full, bitter and too strong for some people, but I love it. Stone releases it every year around February for March, and you can usually find it for a month or two before it’s all gone. I was looking through the beers I’ve been storing for the last few years and found a 2006 and two 2007 bottles of this. I’m excited to do a little taste-test comparison between the two years. Sadly I didn’t manage to save any of the ’08 this year.

This Friday marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. In celebration is the 12th annual Strong Ale Festival at Pizza Port Carlsbad Friday and Saturday. Tasters of 75 beers will be available, it’s sure to be a good time. More info is on their website.