28 June 2011

Mission From God 2011

Twelve days, nine Border Patrol Checkpoints in four states, 2514 miles, and a headache ago, Satan and I left for San Diego and the National Homebrewers Conference.

>We left Midland on Saturday, stopping at Jaxon's in El Paso for lunch. Our waiter, when he found out our itinerary, suggested we stop at Pecan Grill in Las Cruces because High Desert is too hard to find.

We decided we would visit High Desert Brewing anyway. And our waiter didn't lie, it was hard to find. There is a brown house at1201 Hadley Avenue with a tall brown wall. The only indication that the place is a restaurant is a small parking lot to the left of the house, and a steady stream of people in and out the front gate.

We settled on a couple of beers. Satan had a peach wheat that tasted like peach fuzz! I settled on a crisp American wheat beer, the base of the peach wheat. Both were good, but Satan's was better!

Realizing that we had to keep moving, we reluctantly climbed back into the car and headed for Bisbee, Arizona to spend the night.

We turned south off the Interstate and headed for the Mexican border. To our right was a range of mountains, the Huachucas. Behind that was a thick column of white smoke rising into the air. Once we got south of the fire and into clear air, the Huachucas looked eerily like a smoldering volcano. Even though the fire was relatively young, there were already two fire camps full of tents already set up. As I write this, there are 1,176 people assigned to the fire, including 26 crews, 86 engines, 7 helicopters, 1 single-engine air tanker, 2 heavy air tankers, and 2 dozers fighting 30,000 acres of fire, which is only 59% contained.>

Bisbee is an old mining town that clings precariously to the mountains above a huge open mine pit. As we rolled into town, Satan was reminded of the Bosnian villages, and I was reminded of some small Japanese towns, as the small, winding streets led us downtown to Bisbee Brewing Company.

The mine in Bisbee closed in 1976, and the mayor lead a successful campaign to make the mine a tourist attraction and museum. Today, you can ride into the mine, just as the did forty years ago.

We tried to find a hotel room, but apparently, Bisbee is a popular Saturday night destination. There were no rooms. So we stopped into the Old Bisbee Brewing tasting room, a two story shed across the small street from the garage sized brewery. We agreed that the Whitbier [sic] was excellent, but the Copper City Ale was nothing but butterscotch. I hate butterscotch. I left half of the Copper City Ale on the table, and we headed for Tombstone. We checked into our room at 9:30 pm, and, after a quick check of the map, decided that we could get to San Diego tomorrow.

The next day, we encountered our first Border Patrol Checkpoint and, perhaps, the stupidest question of the entire trip. The Department of Homeland Security officer was wearing black fatigues and he leaned into the open driverside window. “What were you doing in Tombstone?”

Instead of answering with a more existential question, “Why does anyone go to Tombstone?” Satan said, “Just looking around. We're on the way to San Diego for the National Homebrewers Conference.”

“You guys brew?” the officer asked.

“Yes, sir,” we said in unison as a blond female Border Patrol agent pulled on her black leather gloves on the right side of the car.

“Should I confiscate some of your beer?”

“I've got a few extra bottles,” Satan began.

Suddenly the officer waved us through the checkpoint past a banner urging us to go to work for the Border Patrol. Interesting recruiting technique. I wonder how many people go to the website and apply after having stopped at a checkpoint?

We blew through Tucson too early for any brewpubs to be open, stopped for lunch at a Burgers and Beer restaurant in Yuma, 321 West 20th Street, before jumping back into the car and stopping at our hotel in San Diego.

At Pizza Port Ocean Beach, 1956 Bacon Street, we were eating with our old NHC friends, Aaron and Johnna Slocum Illinois and Steve Wassoch from Seattle. We were enjoying the Jetty IPA and a couple of nice pizzas when Manny showed up! (Manny used to be in Satan's Home Brew club, The Basin Brewers.) Manny shared some stories, telling us that it is hard for him to keep brewing in San Diego since there are so many breweries with good beers around. After dinner, we headed out to the beach and watched the waves come in before returning to our hotel.

On Monday, Satan, Steve and I headed out to the Maritime Museum and climbed through a few old ships, including a Soviet Submarine. Feeling a lot like Pooh stuck in the door of Rabbit's house after a big meal, Satan and Steve managed to push and pull me through the tiny doors of the submarine. My hat's off to any submariner. By the time we got off that boat, I knew I was going to freak out! After that, it was time to resume the beer tour.

Our first stop was Ballast point Brewery, where we sampled their nine beers. We met up with out old friend Peter Symons, who was travelling with Jamil Zanishef. Satan, Peter and Jamil took a tour with the brewmaster while Steve and I continued drinking.

Our next stop, after picking up Tom Schmedlin, was Stone Brewing's immense home in Escondido. Besides a state of the art brewery, this hilltop building also includes an excellent restaurant and the best gift shop of the whole trip!

After lunch, we drove over to Lost Abbey/Port Brewing, who were open only because NHC was in town. Some folks from Austin were there, along with the Slocums, and Gordon Strong and Chris England. Tom and Steve joined Gordon and Chris drinking beer straight from the barrels with Tomme Arthur, head brewer, while Satan and I sat at the bar getting beer from Molly, the feisty red-headed bartender, and Dawn, a self proclaimed Beer Fairy who blended beers for us. I suspect she was trying to get us drunk, and she came dangerously close to succeeding.

We got back to the car and we drove down to Toronado, 4026 30th Street, San Diego, where we crammed into the narrow bar, along with a hundred and fifty other folks, and sampled the West Coast's best beers. We spent a couple of hours there, before, the long day hit us, and we returned to the hotel.

On Tuesday, Satan and I were able to check into the Town and Country Resort, site of this year's NHC, at 11 am. After unloading the car, Satan and I fell asleep and didn't wake up until 4 pm. At that point we headed off to O'Brien's, another small bar, packed to overflowing with an NHC bus tour. After the third bus unloaded, making the line for beer reach into the parking lot, Satan and I decided that we had beer in the hotel room.

While there, Deale and his wife Alisa, from, arrived and we let them sample Texas beers until late in the night.

The highlight of Wednesday, besides Gil's arrival (another Basin Brewer), was the Brewing Network's 6th anniversary party. We were bused over to White Lab's new office at 5:30, where we started drinking beer from Jamil's Heretic Brewery, and other regional breweries. There was live music, great food, and 800 people crammed into a space better suited for 400. At 10, the party ended, and Satan and I boarded one of the buses back to the hotel. We pushed through the curtains to find ourselves in the Disco Bus: red lights shone down on the seats, a green laser reflected off a disco ball, and pounded rhythms pounded out of the speakers. That's the way to end a party!

I wish I could better describe NHC to you in just a few sentences. Club Night alone would take an entire blog! We spent the next three days listening to various beer experts as they taught us about beer. We drank a lot, and I mean a lot of beer. And it was capped off by the Grand Banquet.

Home Brew Chef Sean Paxton created a Mexican inspired three course meal. The salad had jicama, Mexican mangoes, crumbled goat cheese and a lime, oregano and Rogue American Amber Ale vinaigrette, paired with Chateau Rogue ORGasmic Ale. The main course was a chipotle ale brined chicken, covered with a Oaxacan chocolate stout mole, served on a rice pilaf infused with Rogue Dead Guy ale paired with a Rogue Mocha Porter. And dessert, oh dessert, was a Cascade hop infused flan with a mashed 2-row caramel sauce that smelled exactly like your beer before it goes into the fermenter—earthy and bitter. Our Australian friends, Deale and Alisa, had never encountered jicama before, and Manny told them what it was, and when he described how his grandmother used it, I could see his eyes roll back in their sockets in delight. Johnna didn't care for the mole, being a good Chicago girl, but everyone loved the flan!

On Sunday, in no particular hurry to get home, we picked up my friend Keith. We drove him home to Phoenix where he lives in a desert subdivision with awesome views. We spotted two javalina in the neighborhood. He put us up in his family's guest house.

The next morning, we explored Phoenix, including a stop at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West. Did you know he invented surround sound? We had a very passionate, but disorganized tour guide who kept repeating herself and telling us that Frank Lloyd Wright pretty much invented everything and never took out a patent. And Frank Lloyd Wright's daughter is still alive and in a nursing home! I've seen Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, and the Pope-Lehigh House in Washington, DC. I was expecting something grand, but quickly realized that Taliesin West is basically just a camp house. And some of the original apprentices are still there! Well, except when they go to Madison, Wisconsin in the spring. Did you know Frank Lloyd Wright invented air conditioning and path lighting? But he didn't like paying his bills!

After lunch at Alice Cooperstown, a great restaurant with a disappointing gift shop, we drove back to Deming, New Mexico for a night cap at Mimbres Brewing, 200 South Gold Avenue. I had a simple three cheese panini while Satan gorged on a Hangover Burger—made with a fried egg and bacon. We had planned on spending the night in Deming, but a navigational error and poor interstate exit configurations caused us to drive all the way to Las Cruces before stopping for the night. I'm sure if Frank Lloyd Wright had been in charge, there would have been an exit between Deming and Las Cruces made with redwood and Taliesin quartzite.

By Wednesday, we were ready to get home.

Naturally we hit a Border Patrol checkpoint. Except for the one outside of Tombstone, all the other check points the Homeland Security officers spotted our pasty white faces and waved us through. At the checkpoint on the way out of El Paso apparently it was “Stop Everyone for Five Questions” day, and a Border Patrol officer glared at us through his sunglasses, and asked, “Only two?”

Satan and I counted and said, “Yessir!”

“American Citizens?”

“Yessir!”

“On Vacation?”

“Yessir!”

“Um, sir? Did you know Frank lloyd Wright used his apprentices as slave labor to build his camp in Scottsdale?” I asked. (Not really. But I wanted to.)

Satisfied that we had been delayed long enough, he let us pass through the checkpoint.

We got to Satan's house where he had a tearful reunion with Bonnie, his Scottish terrier, and as we sipped a couple of beers we brought home, we started naming places we should visit on the the way to Seattle in 2012.

And the best part of the 2012 trip? No Border Patrol checkpoints until we hit Washington!  There are bound to be dozens up there to keep an eye on those sneaky Canadians.

And did you know Frank Lloyd Wright invented track lighting?

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posted by Jeff Holt at 10:26

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