coming up: Oktoberfestivus!

I’m drinking some good beers these days…of all things, a Raspberry Brown from Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, CA. Also a German Doppelbock from Weihenstephaner, a nice 7.4% Oktober-appropriate beer. I also had the Stone Smoked Porter. Damn, that was good. I normally hesistate with most Stone beers, mainly because most of what circulates–the Stone IPA, the Pale Ale, and the famous Arrogant Bastard–are all total hop-head beers. If you like lots of aggressive hops, Stone is your brewery. I usually don’t like porters, but the Stone Smoked Porter is the second one I’ve really really liked (along with Maui Brewing Co.’ CoCoNut Porter, the one that tastes like if Almond Joy was a beer…)

I’m in the process of collecting a good three or four beers for an Oktoberfest flight…’tis the season for such an endeavor, and when I’ve tracked down the ones I wanna drink–which may or may not include Paulaner’s Oktoberfest Märzen–I will write diligent notes and post them here. Suggestions for which ones I should try? Lemme know!

Til then,

mel.

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SeptAmber Flights!

Killian’s Red or Amber Bock? Both are considered the same type of beer-a red/amber lager. I happen to like a lot of amber/red beers, particularly of the Irish variety. But in the U.S., it turns out, “amber” or “red” beer are more about slick martketing techniques than actually denoting a distinct style of beer. One beer site (http://www.sallybernstein.com/beverages/beer/red_beer.htm) describes that the attributes that make a beer ‘amber’ or ‘red’ in hues have more to do with the malts used in the brewing process. Many a Scottish ale  or Vienna-style lager are naturally amber/red due to the particular malt and other roasted grains that comprise it. Amber beers are usually ales, but if they’re lagers, like the Killian’s or Amber Bock, it’s because the Big Beer Machine made them into lagers so that they appeal to the thirsty Bud- and Coors-swilling masses: Coors makes Killians and Bud/Michelob makes Amber Bock. (Nothing against Amber Bock. It’s like Sam Adams. I kinda like it. Amber Bock is the best beer they serve at Dodger Stadium, and I owe many a delightfully-buzzed top-deck Doyer game experience to my large Amber Bocks…) But I digress.

USAmerican style amber/red ales tend to range from light-bodied  (not to be confused with color) to heavy-medium in body and mouthfeel, which is why I like ambers as good transitional beers. They’re great for when you’re weaning yourself from all that cold light lager you pounded over the summer and want to move into the heavier, darker beers that generally arrive with fall and winter, my favorite beer seasons. Ambers beers are good autumn beers and much better to enjoy while watching football than Coors and Miller Lite (contrary to the NFL sponsors’ beliefs.) Hey, I’m slowly-but-surely coming out of my “I like NFL/College football” closet, and this season, I’m celebrating my coming-out by taking flight…a beer flight…an amber beer flight! (Real quick: flights of beer or wine are just multiple tastings, anywhere from 3-8 tastes, so as to get a sense of breadth/depth/range of flavor and style with whatever you’re tasting.)

My out-and-proud flight consisted of these 4 beers (in recommended tasting order)–Alaskan Amber (Alasking Brewing Co.), Redemption Red Ale (Reaper Ale, El Monte, CA), Albion Amber Ale (Marin Brewing Co.), and American Amber Ale (Rogue Brewing Co., Newport, OR). The Alaskan Amber is a quality beer and is pretty easily found in supermarkets and liquor stores. It’s probably the most easy to find out of the four here, so I wanted to start with that (plus, my parents went to Alaska this summer and I heard the beer there is really good). Alaskan amber pours a clear light copper with rust-colored hues. It’s on the lighter side of medium-bodied, but is easy to drink, clean, and no aftertaste. If you like Sam Adams, you’ll like Alaskan Amber.

Next was Redepmtion Red Ale from El Monte, güey. I enjoyed this one and was even happier that I was supporting a very local brewery in the mean time. This red ale is smooth-tasting with subtle toasty almond flavors that come through with every sip. It has a nice reddish/caramel hue, a little cloudy pointing to unfiltered beer goodness. It’s medium-bodied but easy to drink because it’s so flavorful. Check out the full line at http://www.reaperale.com.

Third beer was the Albion Amber Ale made up in Marin County. Mmmm…my cousin was tasting these beers with me, and we both agreed this one was special. This one pours with a bit more clarity, though more toastier and browner in color. It has a longer finish than the Reaper; my cousin described it as a “tart apple finish that melts away in your mouth.” It’s true! The flavor is a little drier than the previous two beers and definitely has more bitter hops flavor. I like to think of this as a hybrid beer, or what would happen if a California Pale Ale (say, like a light version of Sierra Nevada) had a baby with a British pub bitter ale. “We’ll name it…Albion!” I’m not surprised that this is one of Marin Brewing Co.’s most decorated, award-winning beers. Go getcha one!

Last but not least was the Rogue American Amber Ale from Oregon. This was the most full-bodied, complex, and stronger of the ambers we tasted. It pours an opaque copper with a medium head and strong nose. It’s the spiciest of the beer in the sense that it’s very hops-forward (compared to the Marin Albion), giving way to malty and caramel tones. This also reminded me of a strong Pale Ale-meets-malty-Irish-red-ale. If you like Stone beers, you’d like anything from Rogue, including this all-American Amber Ale. See? Perfect to hoist as you watch those all-American military jets fly over the stadium (your tax dollars hard at work!) as your favorite team is about to kick off.

[Go Cal Bears and Go Indianapolis Colts!]

cheers n beers.

mh.

Kirkland beer and Stuffed Sandwiches

I knew it! And the good folks at TheBeerinMe.com confirmed my suspicions. They write: “…indeed Hopfen und Malz is a marketing name used by Gordon Biersch. So that is who brews the Costco beers (they brew Trader Joe’s also).” Of course, they knew this way back in Dec. 2008…the other day, when I laughed at my cousin for having Kirkland Signature beer (i.e., from Costco) in his fridge, and then when he gave me the German Style Lager, Pale Ale, and Amber Ale to take home to try, I stopped laughing and was like ‘Dude. This totally reminds me of the beer that Trader Joe’s sells under their label.’ The taste was good quality and even the labeling/descriptions of the beer were similar. So now that we know it’s all brewed by the same company, Gordon Biersch (of Palo Alto, CA.) I knew it. I need to hit up my friends with Costco memberships now…good beer at a good price for your next backyard BBQ party.

I also finally went to the Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel for the first time. You can’t drink beer unless you buy something to eat, but there are plenty of good sandwiches and other eats, so that part is easy. The hard part is picking out the beer you want. They have it all! I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say they have well over 400 beers on their list, and that doesn’t include the monthly-draught picks. Every month, they rotate their taps and feature either 9 beers from 1 brewery, or they go with a different theme every month. I met Marlene, who explained that Oktober is always German beers, November is the month of strong ales, December is winter/seasonal brews. Next month will be all Stone Brewery ales on tap, and so forth. I wanted to try something I’ve never had before, so when I told her I liked the British style ales, she pulled out a dusty old bottle of Thunder Storm English wheat ale, bottle conditioned, and very tasty. For those of you who like the wheaty Belgians or German brews, this English weat ale is a nice variation. It pours almost a blonde unfiltered yellow with a good head and while it’s easily comparable to its Belgian or German brethren, this English wheat is unmistakably hopped with the British variety so the finish reminds you that you’re still drinking anEnglish ale, mate. I will look for Thunder Storm again at my favorite beer-nerd joints.

Okay. Back to the dissertation…Meantime, gonna pop open a Shiner Black Bohemian Lager to help with my, uh, writing process.

mh.

Mmmmaui Wowie!

I’ve never been to Maui, but if I ever make it there, I’m gonna make a beeline for the Maui Brewing Co. (www.MauiBrewingCo.com). When I was hanging out with my favorite beer nerds in Uptown Whittier (quick aside: that would be Whittier, California. Of course. Not Alaska. I recently found out there was actually a Whittier, Alaska…but alas, I digress…) So anyway, hangin out with my fellow beer geeks, there was significant buzz goin around about this one beer that apparently tasted like a beautiful roasted coconut that, well, got you buzzed. Turned out it was Maui Brewing Co.’s CoCoNut Porter.  The CoCoNut Porter is one of their 3 canned offerings that can be found here on the mainland. Over there on the island, they offer several more at their brewpub that I really wish came in cans out here. But for now, one can be very happy with the CoCoNut Porter. I poured it in my brand new pint glass my dad got me from the Denali Brewing Co. in Talkeetna, Alaska (woo! thanks, dad!) It pours a rich, chocolatey brown with a thin head that sticks around for most of the time. But for once, I can say, ‘who cares about the head?’ This beer is about the flavor. It’s beautiful, like if Almond-Joy was a beer. You gotta slow down for this one, though, but it’s worth sippin’ and taking in the layers of aromas and flavors. I taste coffee, roasted chocolate, and of course the hand-roasted coconut. Smooth with a toasty but tasty finish, the CoCoNut Porter is worth lookin for. I found my 4-pack at Vinatero in Uptown Whittier (CA!), though I’m sure you’d have a good chance of finding the fine offerings from Maui Brew Co. at any finer liquor store, or at least the ones owned/run by self-professed beer-geeks. I’ve seen it at BevMo. I would try the Liquorette in Walnut if you’re in the far 626 or 951, and Ramirez Liquor on Soto St. and Whittier Blvd. if you’re in/near East Los. I have yet to see it on tap, but when I find it, I’m gonna be so happy! This is a damn good beer. Not sure it tastes “Like Hot Chicks on the Beach,” as the tiny-bit-sexist tag line on the can claims. (Uh…I really don’t know what a hot chick on the beach would taste like…I’m up for a blind taste-test…*gasp!* Bad Mel! No naughty thoughts on the beer blog.) Back to the beer…it’s good. Go taste some.

–mh.

Christmas in July

Hey y’all. this is mel. it’s been awhile. i know. so does raqui. anyway, i figured in the midst of dissertation-writing, i can still kinda keep up with this beer blogging stuff as a side-project, a sort of hobby. i like beer. no, i love beer. it helps me write. it lubricates the wheels of my brain. and beer is my hobby. it’s what makes my dissertation-writing process a lot less painful. anyway, my homegurl, Mg., told me, ‘dude. you can still write about a beer a week…” and she’s right.

So I decided to start by opening up a beer that’s been in my fridge for months. I got it at the Liquorette in West Covina back in February, a 2006 Anchor Brewing Co. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Ale. So those of you who are fans and regular drinkers of Anchor Steam know that every year, they brew a Christmas ale and release a limited amounts of it, and the SF bay area, rightfully so, benefits from proximity of distribution. I think they make one of the best seasonal ales around. Anchor’s Xmas brew recipe differs every year, so no one “Merry Christmas” brew from Anchor will taste the same from the previous year’s, the next year’s, and so forth. Anchor’s Xmas ales are the reason why I love winter brews all year long.

I tried. I really did try to enjoy the so-called “summer brews” that most breweries trot out around now. Light, blonde, beach- and pool-friendly, with exotic-sounding names like “Corona Extra Light,” “Pete’s Wicked Summer Brew,” and “Hawai’ian Surfboard Wipeout Wave-a-licious  XXXtreme Triple IPA, Man.” Ugh. Pass! I do enjoy the occasional Primo and Pacifico, but they’re no reason to build a whole season around. I am happily enjoying a dark, spicy, heavier 2006 version of Anchor’s Merry Christmas brew, and it’s the best thing I’ve drank all summer. It deserves to live in a glass, so when you pour it into one, it’s a beautiful dark, molasses-y brown with an auburn tinge…a thin head but one that sticks around til the end. Every sip is a mouthful of joy, from the piney, burnt-caramel-y nose down to the just-sweet-enough brown sugar finish. MMMmmmm…forget summer, man. I can’t wait til November. Is it December yet?

updates from Beer Butchalandia

hello gente,

i know it’s been awhile. it seems as if we were on an unintentional hiatus. but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been drinking beer and doing our research on things beer-related. now, our own Raqui has been up and down Califas, and back-n-forth across the southwest doing things Butchlalis- and art- related. So props to her for continuing to spread the good Butcha word across the land. I have been busy in my, uh, more “career/academic” pursuits, and have been doing the kind of writing that I hope will give me the job that, in about 10 years from now, will make possible the bar I want to open up some day. Beer, books, butchas, babes, boobies, you name it…I will have it at Mel’s Beer Place. Meantime, I got some major funding, thanks for the Ford Foundation, and am committed to writing my dissertation for the next year or so. I do wanna graduate at some point.  The good news is that beer helps me in the writing process. So I will be drinking and doing the occasional reporting on the most fabulous and worthy beers to cross my palate. I am in the midst of researching a few things, but I want to give a shoutout first to Magnolia Brewery in SF. (www.magnoliapub.com) I had the time of my life there, beautiful memories made, and I will make it a must-beer destination whenever I’m in the Bahia. They have amazing site-brewed beers, specializing in British and Scottish style bitters, ambers, reds, and other special rarities I’ve never tasted anywhere else. The servers were generous in their pours and I was basically allowed to sample anything on their menu with no extra charge.  The guys have been brewin’ underground for over 10 years, they told me, and those beer guys know what they’re doing. Although I didn’t get to meet ‘those beer guys,’ otherwise known as Magnolia brewers Dave McLean (Brewmaster) and Ben Spencer (Head Brewer), I want to meet them next time. Their beer is my new personal standard and I would be proud to someday make beer that is this good. I was especially impressed with their cask ales (caske ales will be the subject of a future blog entry. they’re my favorite.) Any brewpub that offers a cask-pulled ale, let alone 3 or 4, knows what they’re doing with their beer. Magnolia offered other specialties, including Weekpaug Gruit, a non-beer beer. Here’s one of the best stories I’ve heard about beer. Our server tells us that the GRUIT beer actually derives from a style of beer brewed in England in the 1700s that did not include hops. There was a period of about 10 years when beer in England was brewed without hops because the puritanical kingdom thought that hops made people too crazy.  We now know hops to be the heart of beer (without grapes, can’t make wine, so without hops, can’t make beer…so we think…). Hops give us the bitter flavor and–the higher the hops, the higher the alcohol content of a beer (think IPAs)–hops is the cousin of CANNABIS (do your homework), so, yeah, I guess it makes sense that a bunch of puritanical uptight englishmen back in the day were afeared of hops in beer. So for awhile, during this period, breweries had to remove the hops from their beer recipes and substituted roots and other fermentable stuff that still produced a comparable alcohol content. Which makes sense, because when I first sipped this tiny bit o’heaven, I was like “this tastes like root beer!” Gruit, brewed with no hops but other root-like ingredients, has flavors of prune, Dr Pepper/Coke, dry but sweet, like candy beer. I think my sister and her friends would appreciate it. They’ve been known to spike their Diet Dr Peppers with rum. I say, drink a pint of Gruit! (But, to be fair, gruit is not available at your local 7-Eleven…) Anyway, this Weekpaug Gruit was so good and if you come across  a place that makes a Gruit as good as Magnolia, I say try youself a pint. Mmmm!

The other place I wanna give a shout-out to is right here in SoCal, a place called BoHo Gastropub. They deserve their own entry, which I will get to, but I do want to say that their beer list is among the best I’ve seen in LA, thanks to the same guy (Ryan Sweeney) who designed Verdugo Bar’s beer list. It’s worth a stop for sure. More to come…

meantime, keep drinkin your good beer and thanks for reading the butchas’ beer thoughts.

Mel’s birthday brew y mas

I have to hand it to my homie Raqui for helping make UC Irvine cool in the eyes of beer fans. Damn, what a brew list! I’m all excited about the nitrogen working now on that Irish stout and I’m actually inclined to head down there soon to try it out. I have downed many a beer at Pappy’s Pub at UC Berkeley and The Pub at UC San Diego, so it’s nice to know that UC Irvine isn’t so, well, dry.

Yes, my 35th beerthday was certainly not dry. It was all about beer! I enjoyed Taps in Brea and Belmont Brewing Co. in the LBC. I have to say that the beer is a’ight at BBC (their guest beers are better than their own house beers, I think, with the lone exception of their strawberry blonde beer, which is worth buying in growlers), but Taps is way better and, in my eyes, still a standard to emulate when it’s time for me to open my own beer place. But I digress…

My birthday also meant that I was ready to crack open that homebrew I started back in January. My “Mel’s Birthday Brew” was an amber ale, and it was the first time I experimented a little. I added brown sugar during the fermentation process, and while I don’t know what it would have tasted like had I not done that, or if it even made a difference, I’m kinda glad I did because this beer had a pretty rich flavor and I get to say, “maybe it’s the brown sugar?” I wish I had the capacity to brew more than 2 1/2 gallons because this is a beer I’m actually pretty proud of. It was way yummy and it looked so purdy in its nice pilsner glass. Checkitout:

It poured really nicely and had a great head on it. Toasty and smooth and like all bottle-conditioned beer, is unfiltered and so has a little bit of yeasty sediment on the bottom. But that’s okay! It’s supposed to be there. (It’s like next time you get a Hoegaarden beer, look closely and you’ll notice there are pouring instructions to pour about 3/4 of the bottle in a glass, swirl the bottle around a bit to get the yeast and then pour the rest of the beer in the glass. For sure, the best way to enjoy the full flavor of a bottle-conditioned beer.)

So the next step is to upgrade my equipment and start following some of the cool beer recipes I’ve been finding. I have clever names picked out for beers I haven’t even made yet, kinda like when people pick out baby names for kids they’re probably not gonna have for like 10 years. That’s me. Put on this earth to make books and beer. Certainly not babies!