John's Beer Blog

Originally named the 30 beers of November blog the Better Beer blog is the new and improved version. Which you can find Here.

Originally inspired by the documentary "Beer Wars" I set out to learn about the craft beer movement and blog about it here. These are the results.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Narwhal on Bourbon

A recent road trip to Ashland, Oregon took us conveniently near the vicinity of the famed Sierra Nevada Brewing.  After recently reading "Beyond the Pale" I felt that it would be rude not to stop in for a bite and a beer at the Taproom.  After a sampler of a few IPAs I noticed the Barrel Aged Narwhal Imperial Stout on the board and simply couldn't resist ordering it.  This is one of Sierra Nevada.s specialty beers and it is only served as a ten ounce pour(at the Taproom anyhow).  It is available in limited quantities in stores.

The Beer itself is huge with an ABV of 12.9% and IBU:62.  It is aged in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels which impart flavors such as chocolate, espresso, honey and vanilla.  As you can see the color is BLACK.  The mouth feel is impressive and the finish lingers. This would pair well with a flour-less chocolate torte that we found earlier in the day at Bloomsbury Coffee House in Ashland.

Sierra Nevada describes the beer as being "inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish."

If you are ever in Chico I would insist that you stop by the Taproom for lunch or dinner.  It is well worth the adventure. If you have extra time I suggest taking the free Brewery Tour as well.  The tour ends with a complimentary tasting(so free beer).

P.S.  After lunch we walked right passed Ken Grossman as he was leaving his office.  Probably the most humble Billionaire I've ever had the chance to meet.  After I sold and installed the phone system for SNB he signed my copy of his book with a special thanks for all of the help.  Class act. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Death and Taxes by Moonlight Brewing

The famous statesman and historical brewer Ben Franklin once stated that "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes".  I'm pretty certain that you can count on at least one other thing and that is that any beer produced by Moonlight Brewing is worth going out of your way to find.  Which leads us to this post about Moonlight's "Death and Taxes Black Beer".

During our last trip up what I like to call "Beer Valley" we had hoped to stop by Moonlight Brewing but soon discovered that it wasn't quite as easy as visiting Lagunitas, Bear Republic, Russian River or any of the other great ale purveyors in the area.  According to their website "We are too small to be open for tours or tasting". So without personally knowing the brewer Brian Hunt or having a press pass you probably are going to have to do a little searching to find and taste their beers.

Piaci Pub & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Luckily we were able to track down Moonlight's most popular beer Death and Taxes on tap at a Ft. Bragg  local pizzeria, Piaci's. This quaint little pizzeria tucked away at the northwestern end of town boasts one of the better tap lists I have ever come across in a place of this size.  Since I am quoting historical figures in this post; Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and columnist Dave Barry once said  “Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”  Piaci's marries their extensive and high quality beer menu with some of the best pizza on the north coast.

Death and Taxes is a black beer with a sturdy and creamy head. The beer has notes of coffee and chocolate but isn't overly sweet.  The color is as black as a moonless night but the beer has a light finish and is easy to drink.  It's the kind of beer that would make a light beer drinker say "Wow that's a lot better than I thought it would be".

Where ever you are able to find Death and Taxes or any of Moonlight's other brews I highly suggest taking the opportunity to enjoy them. Moonlight's additional labels include: Homegrown Fresh Hop Ale, Lunatic Lager, Bony Finger Black Lager, 20 to Life Tart Ale, Twist of Fate Bitter Ale, Reality Czeck Style Pils, Toast (slightly burnt) Toasted Lager, Moonlight Special Beer.  I was lucky enough to stumble across Toast in Ukiah at another great pizza joint named Saucy. I will be keeping my eyes peeled as I search for the rest of the brews which rarely make it more that 60 miles from the brewery.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

BROTHER THELONIOUS at North Coast Brewing

Our final brewery stop on our trip brings us to the home of such greats as Brother Thelonious and Old Rasputin.  North Coast Brewing sits along the main street in Fort Bragg just north of town.  The tasting room and restaurant are situated across the street from the brewery itself.  We were lucky enough to chat with one of the brewmeisters.  She had just finished her shift and stopped in for a pint and some camaraderie amongst the locals.

It is fitting that this turned out to the last brewery on our trip as it boast the most "over the top" beers that I have had a chance to taste.  The brewmeister told us that she had recently left a brewing job on the east coast to try her hand out in California.  I have to say she is doing a fine job.

The taproom was quaint and warm if not a little crowded, but this was Holiday weekend and folks were getting an early start on the festivities.  We held off of the appetizers since dinner was waiting for us at home but the garlic fries looked and smelled delicious.  Visit when you have enough time to enjoy a few brews and some food.

As for the beer, I chose Brother Thelonious, a belgian style strong dark, named after jazz great Thelonious Monk. The Brewery makes a donation to the Thelonious Monk Institute for every bottle of Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale sold.  This beer is rich and robust with an ABV of 9.3%.  It was the most outstanding beer of the week but I couldn’t have more than one.  With a Bitterness of only 32 IBUs this one is just a little too malty for me.  Yet a tasty treat to finalize the brewery trip.

My lovely wife Amber opted for her old standby Blue Star Wheat Beer.  There is a reason this beer has been around and popular for some time now.  It’s delicious, crisp and satisfying.  Blue Star is unfiltered, the yeast adding a complex note to the flavor profile.  Although this was quite difficult to find back when she was in college it can now be picked up at most Northern California supermarkets.  

This post wraps up the brewery portion of the trip (which was my Christmas gift from Amber) but there is one more beer to come.  As it turns out we couldn't visit the brewery because it was actually at the brewer's house.  More to come....
North Coast Brewing CO on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Anderson Valley Brewing Company

What do Frisbee golf and beer have in common?  I have no idea but you can find both of them at Anderson Valley brewing Company. Our fourth brewery stop brings us to AVBC just outside of Boonville, California.  Besides the amazing variety of craft beers the brewery is also home to a sanctioned 18 hole disc golf course.

Anderson Valley brewing company was established in 1987 by David Norfleet and Kim and Ken ,Allen.  The original 10-barrel brew house which is now used for research and development, was designed and installed by owner and original brewer.

Since 1997, the brewery has hosted the Boonville Beer Fest. Details on this year's Boonville Beer Fest can be found here.

During our visit we tasted both the Hop Ottin IPA and the Mowkeef Saison.  The Hop Ottin is true to it's name with the bitter hop style synonymous with this region and the Saison is French style which 
I prefer to drink in the summer.  Both were great solid beers and would have stood out in a normal crowd.  This journey however has not been filled with normal beers.  

Besides the amazing variety of craft beers the brewery is also home to a DPA recognized 18 hole disc golf course.   Course fees are $5.00 per player, per day, and fees include a coupon that can be redeemed immediately for $5.00 OFF of any Anderson Valley Brewing Company retail purchase of $10.00 or more. The course is open from 11:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.  All holes are par 3 with distances ranging from about 200–350 ft. 

The patio outside is both dog and kid friendly so you don't have to leave either at home.  On a warm sunny day I can't think of a better place to sit outside and enjoy an Anderson Valley beer.  To compliment the beautiful surrounding and tasty beers the staff is both friendly and knowledgeable about the local folklore and the town's own American dialect called Boontling.  You can read more about bootling in my previous blog post about Anderson Valley. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Cafe Racer 15 from Bear Republic Brewing in Healdsburg

The town of Healdsburg has been synonymous with wine for a lot longer than it has with beer.  That began to change when the Norgrove family founded Bear Republic Brewing in 1995.  

The first stop on our second day brings us to a brewpub on the corner of Healdsburg's historic downtown square where we found a lively atmosphere and outstanding food choices.  The intense flavors of Bear Republics beers are well paired with dishes like the vegetarian Roasted Garlic Plate and the Hummm Baby Crab Sandwich(Garlic and butter sautéed Dungeness crab from The Tides Wharf, fresh tomatoes on garlic-buttered, grilled sliced sourdough.Go Giants).

To complement such delicacies we had to find just the right beer.  Anticipating the overbearing flavor of the roasted garlic I chose the 100+ IBU Cafe Racer 15 Double IPA. This beer was originally  brewed to celebrate the 15th year of innovative brewing at Bear Republic.  The name also pays homage to the counterculture streetracer motorcyle.  I would not suggest riding a motorcycle the same day you drink one of these hefty brews though because it packs a punch at almost 9%.  

Even the high ABV can not hide the hoppiness so be ready for a wallop when you take your first sip. 

I suggest that you visit the brewpub and sit on the patio to enjoy the sunshine while you dine on their amazing food.  Cheers.

Bear Republic Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Russian River; Perdition, Biere De Sonoma

The second stop on our "Northern California Better Beer Tour" brought us to Russian River Brewing where we attempted to have dinner.  (Note to all: do not try to go to Russian River Brewing for dinner on a holiday Friday night and expect to be able to eat within 90 Minutes.   It will not happen).  The place was packed solid.  A friendly patron was nice enough to share his table and some dining advice.  We sat down long enough to have a beer and talked with him about the local cuisine.

While I couldn't pass up the chance to have a Pliny the Elder at the source, my ever increasingly daring wife took a shot at the Perdition.  (Note* Pliny the Younger will be pouring mid-February.)  

The Stats:
Original Gravity:1.058
Alcohol by Volume:6.1%
Color:Reddish brown

Perdition is called a Biere De Sonoma in the tradition of the great  Biere de Garde’s of Belgium and is available as a pub draft only.  Perdition is usually available year round in limited distribution only in California.  

Additional Beers on Tap included:

O.V.L. Stout, Happy Hops, Row 2, Hill 56, Blind Pig, Janet’s Brown Ale, Pliny the Elder, Erudition, Supplication, Damnation, Temptation, Consecration and Mortification.
Russian River Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Around The World at Lagunitas Brewing

Inspired by an article in Sunset Magazine my lovely wife planned a 4 day road trip to visit breweries from Petaluma to Fort Bragg.  Starting in Petaluma of course means a visit Lagunitas Brewing.  With so many wonderful beers on tap we couldn't decide where to start so we ordered them all.  The "Around the World" includes one taste of every beer on tap or in the cask that day.  As our waitress informed us today was a great day to be at the brewery.  Not only was there live music provided by the "crunchy rock" sounds of the Smokehouse Gamblers but also there happened to be 23 beers on tap.  As a bonus Brothers Comatose sat in for a few songs on the way to a gig at the Sebastopol Hopmonk Tavern.

Although we underestimated the time needed to sample all 23 brews and missed the free brewery tour we were treated to lively music and great conversations.  The outdoor beer garden style of the Lagunitas taproom makes it easy to meet new friends who casually sit beside you and share beers, peanuts and pretzels while joyfully discussing where they are from and why they are there.

Our "Around the World" tasting included; IPA with Nelson Sauvin, Doppelomyces, Fusion II, Bourbon BA stout, So Co Stout, Fillmore Fusion, 3B Bnarly,  Wet Dog, Imp. Stout, Gnarly Wine, Cappuccino Stout,   Shugga, FreshKronik, Farmhaux, Sebasto-pale, Pilsner, Pale, IPA, Maximus, Hop stoopid, Censored, Sumpin and Sucks.  Amber picked Shugga as her favorite while I was leaning towards the Maximus by the end of the 2 1/2 hours it took to finish.

I have to say that this is one of my new favorite places to enjoy beer.  The staff is friendly and efficient.  The beer is amazing,  The music was lively and entertaining.  As it turned out all three groups that joined us at the picnic bench were fun to talk with and told great stories.  If you are in Petaluma and find yourself in need of a place to grab a beer I highly recommend stopping in the Lagunitas Brewery.