Archive for March, 2009

Washington Cask Beer Fest Preview

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2009 by thebeerretard

Tomorrow is the Washington Cask Beer Fest. It may be the Seattle beer fest that the beer geeks look forward to the most. I like it, but I don’t wet my pants in anticipation like some. One thing I have done is make myself a cheat sheet to guide my drinking:

Must Try:
Any Herbert’s I don’t get to at Brouwer’s tonight
Big Time Double Decade (this is the WABL beer)

Might Try But Will Probably Suck Horribly:
Diamond Knot Apple Cinnamon ESB
Mac & Jack’s Yerba Maté IPA

Mildly Curious But Won’t Cry If I Don’t Try:
Ram Biere De Marz
Harmon One Hop Wonder
Port Townsend Grey Sky Winter Rye
Laughing Dog Alpha Dog

Sessionable Sobriety Savers:
Big Al Local Hero #2 Frauenbier’s Special Bitter
Hale’s Dry Hopped Pale Ale
Ice Harbor Irish Red

Safe Bets:
Anacortes IPA
Boundary Bay IPA
Pike IPA

De Proef Lousberg Ale & Het Hinkelspel Cheese Make U.S. Debut

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2009 by thebeerretard
(photo by Jay Brooks)

(photo by Jay Brooks)

I’m out of my element pairing beer and food. Sure, I’ve made half-assed attempts–like the time I asked a bartender friend at Brouwer’s which dipping sauce would pair with Russian River Damnation (a move that earned me Beer Douche of the Week honors). Sure, I’ve read Garrett Oliver’s The Brewmaster’s Table, but honestly, I can’t say I’ve ever had a religious experience when I tasted a certain beer with a certain food. But, yesterday I had a beer and cheese together that helped me understand why people rave about this whole pairing thing.

The beer I had was Lousberg, a Belgian golden ale brewed by De Proef Brewery in Lochristi, Belgium. Lousberg is the brainchild of De Proef Brewmaster Dirk Naudts and his friend Alexander Claeys of the Het Hinkelspel Cheese Cooperative in Gent, Belgium. According to Alan Shapiro of SBS Imports, the two wanted to create a beer that’s a hybrid of the Westmalle Tripel, Duvel and Delirium Tremens. The goal was to craft a beer that complements Het Hinkelspel’s cheeses. Both the beer and the cheeses are making their U.S. debut this month.

Last night, Director of Specialty Cheese Kim Iannotti from Peterson Cheese brought the Het Hinkelspel cheeses Pas de Rouge and Pas de Bleu to Über Tavern to pair with the beer. The Rouge is a washed rind cow’s milk cheese with a soft, creamy texture. The red bacteria that works its way through the rind creates a pretty stinky cheese. I think I overheard someone say something about a German girl’s underpants—although my girlfriend knows that of course I would never make a remark so offensive to both women and Germans.

The Bleu, also a cow’s milk cheese, has the trademark marbled look from the pencillium roqueforti mold that’s added to it. The texture of the blue cheese is much harder than the Rouge and it has a very sharp flavor. The two cheeses are very different and I enjoyed both, but the Pas de Bleu was the one that complemented the Lousberg the best.

I tried the beer with each of the cheeses. To my unsophisticated taste buds, both seemed to go well with the beer. Iannotti suggested that I try to have the beer and cheese in my mouth at the same time. When I did that with the Pas de Bleu, I was pretty blown away. The flavors of the two worked together to create something even better than each element by itself. For the first time, I felt like I really “got” a pairing–maybe not on an intellectual level, but on the level of “holy shit, this tastes amazing!” When I tried the same thing with the Pas de Rouge, the effect wasn’t nearly the same.

If you’re interested in trying Lousberg or the Het Hinkelspel cheeses, Whole Foods stores in Washington and Oregon are the only places that have them right now. 750 ml bottles of Lousberg are currently available for only $8.99 and both Pas de Bleu and Pas de Rouge are $21.99/lb. The beer by itself is worth your time, but I really recommend trying it with the Pas de Bleu. If saying that means I’m becoming a member of the doucheoisie, so be it.

Drinking Beer in Tacoma: The Red Hot

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2009 by thebeerretard

redhot1

My procrastination knows no bounds. I spent part of a day in Tacoma in early February and am just now writing about it. Despite the short-term memory loss caused by all the drinking since then, I do remember making two Tacoma beer stops.

The first stop was Harmon Brewing and it was alright–a standard brewpub with the usual food (burgers, fish & chips, hummus plate) and a full lineup of beers. Porters are their specialty. They had a regular porter, a vanilla porter and a double porter, all of which were good. Their IPA, which I’d liked in the past, tasted much different from how I remembered. It had a weird, floral thing going on.

Beer destination number two was The Red Hot. Owner Chris Miller (that’s him manning the bar in the photo) keeps things simple–beer, hot dogs and pinball. His garage punk roots (he used to sing in the Mexican Blackbirds) and Tacoma pride are evident in the memorabilia on the bar’s walls. It’s a small place, borderline dive bar-ish (I mean that in a good way) and has what a lot of beer bars lack: an atmosphere that makes you want to settle in and spend a few hours. The tap list on this day was solidly West Coast and included Port Townsend Hop Diggidy, Stone IPA, Hale’s Kolsch, Boundary Bay Amber and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. They also had Rainier (Vitamin R is always on tap here) and a bottle list that included Pliny the Elder, one of the Chimays and a few from New Belgium and Deschutes.

Hot dog-wise, The Red Hot caters to vegetarians, with a couple veggie selections (I recommend the Nisqually Not Brat), but the Gauntlet is the main attraction. Ten carnivorous selections make up the Gauntlet and people who eat all ten get their name on a plaque on the wall and a significant price cut on the cost of what they ate.

Miller told me that 90 people have tried to run the Gauntlet and only seven have succeeded, one of which was a woman. A few people have had to go outside and purge mid-Gauntlet. After witnessing some of the attempts, Miller is working on a waiver for challengers to sign exempting The Red Hot from liability for the dangerously high blood pressure that may result from massive sodium intake.

I say the Gauntlet would be the perfect challenge for the Man v. Food guy. I’m sure Tacoma has a few other worthy eating spots they could use on the show. I know I’ll be back to drink more beer at the Red Hot and visit other Tacoma beer spots like the Parkway Tavern and the Swiss.

When I’m 60, I Hope Someone Calls Me An Old Ruffian

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2009 by thebeerretard

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Whatever I’m doing to try and get this blog going again isn’t working. I haven’t written a word since I left DC for Philly. Been back in Seattle for 4 days and still nothing. The way I work is that if I don’t write daily, the slacking begins and I start digging a deep hole. The only way out is to force myself to sit down and write every day. Whenever I get home, I need to crack open a beer and spew out thoughts. So that’s what I’ll do…starting now.

Drinking a Great Divide Old Ruffian. I’m not a big barleywine guy, but I’m judging one of the early rounds at Brouwer’s Hard Liver Barleywine Festival on Saturday and I feel the need to prepare. This will be the first time I’ve judged at an event like this and, yeah, I’m a little nervous. I know how a barleywine’s supposed to taste, the difference between the English and American versions of the style, what aging can do to the flavors, etc. I haven’t taken the BJCP exam, but I’m sure I’ll do fine. Still…I’m nervous.

About the beer I’m drinking: Old Ruffian falls squarely on the American side of the barleywine fence. There’s malt there…it’s not completely lacking in sweetness (a review of this I just read mentioned creme brulee…which puts the needle on my doucheometer in the red), but Old Ruffian is about hops and, to a lesser degree, alcohol. I have a taste for the sharp, dry and bitter…so it’s much more up my alley than barleywines that come at you from the malt bomb end of the spectrum. I’ll be trying one of those tomorrow night. And yes, I will be writing about Philly eventually. For now, I’ll leave you with this thought: It was fucking great.

DC Beer: Dogfish Head Alehouse, Marvin & RFD

Posted in Uncategorized on March 10, 2009 by thebeerretard
(photo by Kristina Hunken)

(photo by Kristina Hunken)

One more day till I head to Philly Beer Week. Here’s a quick update on some places I’ve been to in and near DC over the last few days:

Dogfish Head Alehouse, Falls Church – This brewpub is in a strip mall parking lot in suburban VA and the atmosphere is more like a Chili’s/TGI Friday’s than a neighborhood bar. The only reason to go is the chance to try DFH beers that you can’t find elsewhere. There were two on tap I’ve never had. The Shelter Pale Ale was a decent pale ale that I had no problem putting down. The Alehouse 75 was more interesting, a blend of the 60 and 90 Minute IPAs. I like the crisp hoppiness of the 60 but find the 90 a little too sweet, so this was a good compromise between the two.

Marvin – Named after Marvin Gaye and owned by the guys from Thievery Corporation, Marvin balances Belgian beer and food (mussels and frites) with Southern comfort food (shrimp and grits, fried chicken and collard greens). Everything we ate was tasty as hell. The beer was okay, all Belgians and American Belgian-style beers with a handful on tap: Affligem (what I had), Corsendonk, DeKoninck and the usual suspects Stella and Hoegaarden. There’s also a decent bottle list. While this isn’t really a beer destination, it is a place where you can get an excellent meal and a good beer. Just watch out for the annoying hipster customers.

RFD – Along with Paradiso, RFD might be the best place in DC to drink beer on tap. I went at 2 pm on a Monday and the place was absolutely dead, a plus after previous visits during busier times had the feel of a douchebag fratboy sports bar. Again, I was blown away by the East Coast prices (all pints were $6-9 and were served in those crappy shaker pint glasses). I started with the Weyerbacher Hops Infusion, an IPA that had a good hop aroma, but had flavors that were all over the place. Next up was Bell’s Cherry Stout. Wow, this one took me by surprise. The sour cherry taste was really in-your-face and made it unlike any stout I’ve ever had. At first, I didn’t think the tartness of the cherry and roast of the stout went well together, but it won me over in the end…another interesting beer from Bell’s. My last beer at RFD was the New Holland Mad Hatter (in the bottle). It was a solid IPA, with a good balance to it. I need to seek out more from New Holland.

Before I head to Philly in the morning, I have one DC-area beer thing to look forward to—Rustico in Alexandria is having a cask event tonight featuring Bell’s Hopslam, Troeg’s Nugget Nectar, Stone Ruination and two others I can’t remember. Hopslam has been really hyped up and I’m looking forward to trying it.

DC Beer: Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Rustico and Paradiso

Posted in Uncategorized on March 8, 2009 by thebeerretard

beerhaul

Before I head to Philly Beer Week on Wednesday, I’m spending four days in DC visiting my sister and 4 month old niece. This time is about family, but I always find a way to sneak in beer stuff. Yesterday, I hit three places:

Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits – As far as I know, this is the only place in DC that lets you buy singles of 12 oz. beers. They have a good selection of American craft beer and imports, but it’s crammed into a tiny area, with wine and booze dominating the shelf space. Not sure if there are any knowledgeable beer guys on the staff. I saw beers that had bottled on dates from over a year ago, so I don’t know how vigilant they are about rotating stock. Overall, though, this is probably the best place to buy beer in DC. I grabbed singles from Bell’s, Weyerbacher, Arcadia, Blue Point, Clay Pipe, Clipper City and Baltimore-Washington Beer Works (beer porn portrait above). When I got back to my sister’s house, I cracked open the Baltimore-Washington beer, a lager called The Raven. The Edgar Allan Poe thing was cool, the beer wasn’t bad. I also had a Smuttynose Robust Porter that was hanging out in my sister’s fridge and it was tasty as hell.

Rustico – Found out about this Alexandria, Virginia restaurant the day before I flew East. They have 30 taps and an extensive bottle list, but they were out of a lot of things on the draft list. I ordered a New Holland The Poet Oatmeal Stout and the server brought me the Peak Organic Nut Brown instead (maybe the New Holland was gone and he decided to substitute). I said screw it and just drank the beer. It was alright, kinda on the watery side like a few other organic beers I’ve had. I also had a Stoudt’s Pilsner, which I’ve had before and is a solid pils. Food (pizza, burgers, etc) was okay, but nothing special. The atmosphere was annoyingly suburban. Even though they have good beer, if I lived in DC I’m not sure how often I’d drink there. Actually, DC fans of Rustico won’t need to go to the Commonwealth for long. The Rustico website says they’re targeting spring for the opening of a new place in DC called Birch and Barley. 50 taps and 500 bottles—should be worth checking out.

Paradiso – After dinner at Rustico, I met some friends who were having pizza here. Located in Georgetown, Paradiso is a crazy place to go on a weekend night. You end up waiting forever to sit down and it’s loud and insanely packed–not exactly a comfortable spot to enjoy a few beers. But they do have good pizza (better than Rustico) and one of the best beer selections in DC. I’d already had several beers earlier in the day, so I stayed with sessionable selections: the Wye Valley Dorothy Goody Winter Tipple (a strongly spiced brown ale on cask) and the Arcadia ESB (a decent and very drinkable mix of malt sweetness and hoppy bitterness). Both were good, but I couldn’t get over the East Coast prices. $7.25 for a pint? Hope those prices don’t make it out West anytime soon.

Three more days to explore DC before I head to Philly. Plenty more beer to be found here. I’m on it…

Catching Up…

Posted in Uncategorized on March 3, 2009 by thebeerretard

I’ve been drinking a lot of great beer lately, but I’ve neglected this blog. I’m gonna get back on track, but maybe not until I get to the East Coast on Friday. I’ll be in DC and Philly for 8 days and will have reports on DC beer spots, Philly Beer Week and wherever else I end up (Baltimore, hopefully).

The last couple weeks have been pretty amazing for Seattle beer enthusiasts. Bottleworks had an insane 10th Anniversary celebration, Beveridge Place kicked off their Barleywine Bacchanal and Collins Pub had their Strong Beer Fest. Russian River’s Pliny the Younger has been tapped at Collins, Brouwer’s, Uber and Naked City. Russian River’s Consecration arrived in bottles at Bottleworks and will be tapped tonight at Naked City. Last night, Elysian and New Belgium unveiled their first official collaboration: a trippel IPA called The Trip.

While I’ve been at most of these events, I’ve completely sucked at documenting them. On the other hand, the Washington Beer Blog has been kicking ass, posting on every event and piece of local beer news. Geoff Kaiser’s also doing his part at Seattle Beer News. Finally…the Seattle Beer Collective are still hard at work on Seattle Beer Week. There are around 50 events planned already and they’ve told me they hope to have over 100 when all is said and done.

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