30 June 2011

"How to Taste Beer" - the Salon way

One of the most difficult things I encounter is evaluating beer. I hear people using these descriptors that I would never have come up with, even though they make perfect sense. So when I ran across this Salon.com article titled "How To Taste Beer" I knew I would have to share it.

First, get the beer out of the bottle or can. You can't smell it in there! A few years ago I had a Dale's Pale Ale and poured it up in a glass. It was lovely! In a can? Not so lovely.

Second, think about the aroma and appearance.

Third, do more than decide whether or not you like the beer. Describe what you taste.

Fourth, taste and talk about a lot of different beers.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 06:52 0 comments links to this post

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 0 comments links to this post

24 June 2011

Not Cool! Not Cool at All!

As the state legislature is trying to cut billions in education funds and dropping Texas Education from #48 to #49, Texas's unofficial state motto is "Thank Goodness for Alabama!"

And then I find this:  Ala. Legislature expands brew pubs, breweries A new law, if signed by the Governor, will allow brew pubs to sell their beers to wholesalers for retail sales and allow breweries to serve their products at their plants.

I guess Alabama can say about beer, "Thank Goodness for Texas!"

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posted by Jeff Holt at 11:30 0 comments links to this post

22 June 2011

MFG2011: Epilog

I'm driving home from Midland today.  I'll be back to the regular posting schedule, every other day.  Thanks for tagging along!

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posted by Jeff Holt at 05:43 0 comments links to this post

21 June 2011

MFG2011: Day Ten - Las Cruces (?) to Midland

Finally!  I'll spend the night in Midland, then we'll divide our booty.  Tomorrow, I'll be on the road home.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 06:41 0 comments links to this post

20 June 2011

MFG2011: Day Nine - Taliesin to Las Cruces(?)

After the Taliesin tour (a birthday present to myself), we'll be heading home.  Since neither Satan nor myself are terribly thrilled about going back to work, so we may meander a bit.  Of course, Satan is missing his Scottish Terrier, Bonnie.  In fact, everytime he sees a dog, he cries, "I miss my BonBon!"  So he may want to drive through the night and get home.  We'll see.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 08:36 0 comments links to this post

19 June 2011

MFG2011: Day Eight - San Diego to Phoenix

Early in the planning process, my BNArmy buddy, Mylo Fiore, aka Keith, asked if we could catch a ride home with us.  Since I wanted to see Taliesin, and this gave us a perfect opportunity to spend the night and hit the tour tomorrow.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 08:27 0 comments links to this post

18 June 2011

MFG2011: Day Seven - Grand Banquet

Today is the last session.  We'll hook up with our friends and share a table at the Grand Banquet.  Here are the sessions I'm interested in today.

Saturday June 18
9:00 - 10:00 - Brewing Bavarian Hefewiezens
10:15- 11:15 - High Gravity Brewing - Patrick Rue
3:00 - 4:00 - The Art of Hobby

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posted by Jeff Holt at 07:24 0 comments links to this post

17 June 2011

MFG2011: Day Six - Club Night

Club night is the reason you should come to NHC.  A wide variety of beer, costumes and tomfoolery.  Here are the sessions I'm interested in today.  I don't think my mind will be on the topics.  Except for Sean Paxton's session.

Friday June 17
9:00 - 10:00 - Cooking With Beer (Sean Paxton)
10:15 - 11:15 - Historic Extreme Beers
2:15 - 3:15 - How NOT to Brew (Justin Crossley)
3:30 - 4:30 - Doing it the German Way (Dan Gordon)

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posted by Jeff Holt at 06:19 0 comments links to this post

16 June 2011

MFG2011: Day Five - NHC

Hopefully we'll get to see some of San Diego today.  I'm interested in these sessions at the conference, and tonight if Pro Night.

Thursday June 16
3:00 - 4:00 - Homebrew Planet
4:15- 5:15 - Going Pro Panel

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posted by Jeff Holt at 05:16 0 comments links to this post

15 June 2011

MFG2011: Day Four - BNA6

The Plan: Tour some breweries, check into the conference hotel, then attend BNA6. Which brings me to a rant. Tickets went on sale on May 17 at 4 pm my time. The Brewing Network tweeted this at 9 am, 11 am and 1 pm Pacific time. Two hundred VIP tickets sold out in an hour. Almost instantly on the BN forums people started complaining. One guy even cancelled his whole trip because he couldn't get a ticket to get in an hour early and have a sausage on a bun cooked by Sean Paxton! I tried to tell him that he would get a much better meal on Saturday, but it was too late. He was mad that the BNArmy hadn't had an exclusive chance to buy the tickets, even though there had been four tweets about the sale. Some one is in need of a beer, and something to untangle panties.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 10:17 0 comments links to this post

13 June 2011

MFG2011: Day Three - Tuscon (?) to San Diego

The Plan:  Hook up with our friends in San Diego, Captain and Mrs. Carrot, Deale and his wife, Angelo and his girl, and Manny (formerly of the Basin Brewers) and commence with beer drinking!

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posted by Jeff Holt at 10:11 0 comments links to this post

12 June 2011

MFG2011: Day Two - Las Cruces to Tuscon (?)

Our plan:  Las Cruces to somewhere in Arizona.

We will be stopping to visit with our cousin Dela in Deming, New Mexico, then over to Tombstone, and wind up somewhere around (or past) Tuscon.  If you see us in a brew pub, say hello.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 09:29 0 comments links to this post

11 June 2011

Change in plans. Our relatives aren't available to entertain us us today, so we're moving on to Bisbee, Arizona.

posted by Jeff Holt at 14:58 0 comments links to this post

MFG2011: Day One - Midland to Las Cruces

The Plan:  Depart Midland at 8 am or so, and drive to The Wellhead in Artesia for lunch, then across through Alamagordo to Las Cruces where we hope to hook up with Satan's Other Brother Darrell.  We'll hit one Las Cruces pub on the way out, and one on the way back.

If you see us, wave!

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posted by Jeff Holt at 06:05 0 comments links to this post

10 June 2011

MFG2011 - Day Zero - Bright Brewing

I am on the road today, heading for Midland.  And as is my custom each time I head to Midland, I will stop by Eola for a beer or two, and after a severe arm twisting from Mark, a growler of whatever he has on tap.  Early tomorrow we will leave for Las Cruces.  So here's my blog post about the Eola School brew pub from a couple of years ago.

Legend has it that Eola, Texas was named after Aeolas, the Greek god of the winds.
On a steamy hot Friday in August 2007, with much of the flat landscape still green from recent record rains, Eola’s namesake was blessing the small West Texas town (population 200) with a nice breeze, respite from the sweltering upper 90 degree temperatures. I turn into a a gravel drive, between two red brick columns that were the only break in a low fieldstone wall. A sign bears the legend, "Eola School Restaurant". I park in front of the front doors of what looked to be an abandoned building. A small blue car is the only sign of life at this little town at the crossing of two farm to market roads.
The school was built in the 1920s, when the population hovered around 400. At its height, five teachers taught the children of Eola from elementary to high school. It was abandoned in the 80s and sat vacant until 2004 when James “Mark” Cannon bought the property to open as a restaurant/lodge/brewery/warehouse.
The first grade classroom is the dining room, the chalkboard serving as the menu. Today’s special, the chalkboard reads, is a barbecue brisket sandwich with fries. The room next door is the kitchen. Across the long, central hall is another classroom decked out as a banquet room. He brews his Windmill Pale Ale and Warlock Wheat in the science lab, and ferments it in the old boiler room. He’s converted some classrooms at the other end of the building into a warehouse, where he stores items for local businesses. He’s made some rooms into lodging for folks to spend the night.
Mark is about 5′5″ dark haired with sleepy eyes and a slow way of talking that makes you feel instantly at ease. He poured me some of his Windmill Pale Ale in a white styrofoam cup. I take a sip and taste, well, I taste something wet. It’s a pretty mild beer, Mark explains, because most of his customers prefer Bud Light or Coors Light. “It doesn’t have much flavor,” he confides. Then he pours me a cup of Warlock Wheat. The wheat beer starts with a hint of pepper, then finishes slightly sour. “It’s Belgian wheat beer,” Mark says.
A couple of county workers come in and order burgers. I take advantage of the sole employee of Eola School, and order the day’s special. He brings out a sandwich overflowing with beef, onions and pickles, along with a side of wonderful handmade fries. Delicious. After the county workers leave, he invites me out to see the site of the upcoming Labor Day Weekend festival. He mentions that it was also the site of a homebrew contest on Easter weekend, but a cold front forced everyone inside. (There were 12 entries, and the winner was a Air Force sergeant stationed at Goodfellow AFB.)
We walk out the end of the building, under a huge, spreading oak where Aeolas continues to bless us with a breeze. It’s comfortable there in the shade and the last thing I wanted to do is get out in the sun. On the edge of what used to be the school’s tennis court, a large asphalt square, a flatbed trailer sits forlornly in the sun, goats grazing in the neighbor’s yard behind it. “That’s the stage,” Mark says. “And I have to finish mowing tonight, when it’s cooler.” We have another cup of Warlock Wheat and talk about beer, regional beer styles and history.
Mark hopes to expand the brewery soon, maybe over the winter. And he’s eager to move beyond pale ale and wheat ale, hopefully dragging along the palettes of the locals. First, he’s got to teach them that there’s more to beer than pale, fizzy, yellow stuff. He wants to make a porter or a stout. He also hopes that the folks in San Angelo won’t mind making the trip out to visit his brewery.
The Eola School Restaurant isn’t the fanciest place in the world. Parts of the building need work—parts of the men’s room ceiling had collapsed, exposing the structure; the flat bed trailer could use a roof; and the whole place could use a coat of paint. It is, however, a great small town Texas restaurant: a little, out of the way place with personality and good food.
The Bright Brewery doesn’t make the best beer in the world. But it’s fresh, crisp, and only $2 a glass--well, a styrofoam cup. And it’s the only craft beer between Fredericksburg, Texas and Artesia, New Mexico. And the world, especially small town Texas, needs more craft beer.
I hope Mark makes it. It’s a perfect place for me to stop on my frequent trips to Midland. And, more importantly, his success would prove that small, local breweries can still find a place in a world dominated by megabrewers. And we should all stop at these little breweries, and soak up the charm, make new friends, and drink new beers.
The Eola School Restaurant is at 12119 FM 381 in Eola, Texas and is open 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Give Mark a call at (325) 469-3314.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 08:20 0 comments links to this post

08 June 2011

MFG2011: Packing

Basin Brewers bowling shirt?  Check.
HB660 t-shirt? Check.
Utilikilt? Check
Drunk of the Week medal? Check
Spare Liver?

Crap.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 13:55 0 comments links to this post

06 June 2011

Mission From God 2011: Prologue

Back in 2007, Satan and I were en route to the National Homebrewers conference and we had stopped into Phantom Canyon Brewery in Colorado Springs to slake our thirst before heading on to Denver.

Phantom Canyon is in a 1900s two story building on a corner in downtown Colorado Springs. Plate glass windows wrap around the bar area, giving you a great view of Pike's Peak and downtown, as well as the hot blond in the short black skirt that worked for a local radio station who was doing a spot before coming into the pub.

We had two pints here. I had John's Mild Bitter and a blonde ale. Satan had two pints of Blueberry Ale. He offered me a sip. I shoulda had the blueberry!

Lyle, the bartender, was from Chicago, and we shared jokes with him.  When he asked what we were doing in Colorado Springs, I replied, “We're on the way to Denver for the National home brewers Conference.”

Satan added, “We're on a mission from God,” in his West Texas accent.

Lyle then taught us how to say it like were from Chicago.  Then Lyle carded the hot blonde from the radio station, and said, handing her ID back, "I think I got all the information I need to stalk you."

I don't know when we came up with the "Mission From God" as the name of our annual trips to NHC, but it's a good name.

This year, we're off to San Diego.  Pray for us.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 09:40 0 comments links to this post

04 June 2011

2011 Belgian Bombshell

I gotta give credit to Drew Beechum.  This is his recipe.  I have never, ever changed it (except for my crappy efficiency).  Every time I brew it, it stays the same.  Damn fine beer!

However, if I ever go pro, I will claim it is my recipe.  It's that good.

I brewed this on May 24. On June 5, before watching the season premier of Ice Road Truckers, I will keg it. It will be the last beer brewed before NHC.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 18:54 0 comments links to this post

02 June 2011

ALERT!

I am heading to San Diego to share Texas beer with my friends from around the world.  If any Texas brewery that does not already distribute out of state (I'm looking at you Southern Star) has bottles in package stores, please let me know.  I want to share the Texas love.

posted by Jeff Holt at 18:39 0 comments links to this post