Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beers of our Fathers with The Beer Chicks

“I'm flying high in the sky with America's hottest band, and we're all about to die”. Anyone get that reference? Got a free tshirt for you if you do! Seriously though folks, I am actually writing this very special edition of Beer Hates Me from 30,000 miles up. I'm on my way home from an amazing wedding in North Carolina where I drank many wonderful beers both local and foreign. But that's another post for another day (maybe). This time I'm bringing something different to the table. I recently was fortunate enough to attend a Father's Day beer class with the wife and a friend where we picked up some deeper knowledge of craft brews and brewing processes. It was put on by "The Beer Chicks" at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica. While it was certainly informative, I don't really want to go too deeply into the scholastic aspects of the event, but rather do what I do best --- touch upon the brews, the buzz, and the hangover. How did it go mixing and matching 13 different varieties at noon on a Saturday? Read on to find out astute follower!

The Beer:
As I mentioned above, this installment included an astounding 13 beers in one sitting, but while split up into 3oz pours, the total amount (39oz) ironically equals the same amount I've allotted for this experiment (36-48oz). Our first beer was certainly the most recognizable, but equally the least appetizing.
PBR bitches!!! Yeah, so The Beer Chicks decided to start us off with something at the lowest end in terms of both quality and quantity of alcoholic content. There is nothing to write home about for the ol' Ribbon. It tasted, smelled, and looked as bland as I've always remembered. Perhaps it's fitting then that my loathing for a beer like this goes hand in hand with my loathing for the hipsters who've helped revitalize it.
Next up was Weihenstephaner Original. This is supposed to be the “good twin” to PBR. Same type of beer (a lager), but improved in every other way. It's considered a perfectly balanced beer, and perhaps it is. It's also perfectly forgettable as it's one of the few beers I drank that day that left no lasting impression whatsoever.
Batting third was Twilight Seasonal American Pale Ale. So this was our first ale of the day and also the first one that I took a note about. On my pad (they gave us pads, pens, a fact sheet, and beer packet. These ladies know how to teach a class!) I wrote: “crisp, dry, nice”. So that's simple enough. It reminded me of a good white wine. And by good, I mean that rare white wine that I actually like which is like 0.05% of all the wines ever made. Yeah, I'm not a wine guy. Also, Wine Hates Me sounds dumb.
Next came out the first beer on the list that I've actually had before (outside of PBR naturally). 1554 Enlightened Black Ale from New Belgium Brewing Co. was a beer I'd had before from a 22oz. bottle back in April. I remember liking it then, and little has changed in the 3 months since. It has a caramel, nutty taste to it which I really liked, and the wife even commented that she enjoyed it more than she expected to (and noted so on her pad).
We moved on to a beer from my nemesis Sierrra Nevada. Every beer I've ever had from them has caused me unmeasurable pain the next day. Whatever they're doing at that brewery, it's aimed at my displeasure. So when we tried their 30th Anniversary Ale – Charlie, Fred, and Ken's Bock, I wasn't expecting too much. But then again, this was just a 3oz. pour, how much harm could it do? Well, while I couldn't exactly meter the damage done, I can say that I found it to be a nice creamy ale with some clean spicey flavors. It packed in a respectable 8.3% abv, the highest of the day so far.
Coming in sixth, was the second craft beer on the list I'd previously had, Ranger IPA. I liked this beer as a hoppy IPA the last time I had it (about a month ago) and enjoyed it for the same reasons this go around. It is one for the hop heads out there and while I tasted a pine flavor and my wife wrote down “mint” on her pad (she may have been on her way to a great buzz by this point) we were actually told by our teachers that their are strong notes of pot in there. Yes, pot. Marijuana, weed, dope, grass, kush, purple explosion, Jamaican delight. I could go on and on and on, but let's continue. The Beer Chicks also passed around bags and bags of different hops at this point, a nice hands-on learning experience to go with the tasting, smelling, and listening to them speak --- covering all the senses in this class they were!
Then we moved on to Hop Henge Experimental IPA out of Deschutes Brewery. This took over as the leader in abv for the day with a very respectable 8.7%. I thought it was ok, but to be honest I can't really recall it all that much outside of noting that I could taste a heavy fruity flavor in it. The notes we had accompanying the beers labeled this one to have strong hints of grapefruit, pineapple, and citrus. So I guess I'm getting a little better at this whole craft beer lifestyle, tasting, palate thing.
Our eighth beer was Maharaja Imperial IPA. Not to be outdone by its predecessor, this brew kicked up the abv all the way to 10.2%. Yeah, class started to get a little raucous at this point. Everyone talking over each other, people passing around cheese, nuts, and figs to pair with. It was quite the rowdy group, let me tell you! What I noted about this beer was it's thick and sweet taste. The sweetness was likely due to the heavy amount of malt brewed to get that higher alcohol content. I liked this beer, but couldn't really see myself having more than one a night at a bar.
Next we had our first stout of the day with Mo'Tcho Risin' Imperial Chocolate Stout. I've already stated my enjoyment of stouts on this blog, but this one was a little extra special. It came from 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco and was brought to us in growlers taken directly from the brewery by one of the Beer Chicks herself. Its a beer that can only be had and purchased at the brewery and it was a nice change to the hoppy ales we'd been having for most of the day. It obviously tasted, smelled, and looked like a chocolate infused beer.
Our tenth beer was Terrible Belgian Strong Dark Ale. This was a big belgian ale that packed in a whopping 10.5% abv. Granted, at this point my palate was starting to overload, but I still remember not being particularly fond of this beer. I thought it was too spicey and smokey for its own good. I wrote down “holiday” on my pad, which can only mean that it reminded me of holiday flavors or that I should buy this as a gift for someone this holiday. Yeah, I was definitely well buzzed by this point.
The eleventh beer we tried was the overall champion in alcoholic content for the day. Pushing an impressive 11% abv, Allagash Curieux was also the last beer on the docket that I had previously tried. It had been quite a while though and was at the beginning of my exploration of craft beers and their different properties. This was a strong, complex beer and this was the first time I ever successfully noted the flavors from the barreling of the beer. Being stored in Jim Bean Bourbon Barrels made it pretty easy though. I will certainly have this beer again, exactly when however I can't say since everywhere I've ever seen it on a menu (including several times this past wedding weekend) it goes for a hefty price per glass.
Coming towards the end of our class we had Ola Dubh Reserve Ale from Harviestoun Brewery in Scotland. Ola Dubh actually means “black oil” and it made perfect sense for this dark, thick, complex beer. Its a collaboration between a brewery and a distiller and aged in skotch barrels. That absolutely comes across in taste and smell. Even moreso than the previous beer. I could see this beer working perfectly in combination with some amazing ice cream as a beer float. Should I come across this beer in a market, it's likely I will buy it just for that purpose.
Our last beer was probably the most interesting and unique. Quelque Chose is a Belgian Kriek (sour cherry ale) that was served to us on the rocks and instantly reminded me of a good Sangaria. I enjoyed it immensely but the wife did not. At all! Fortunately, that meant I got to drink hers, which I was more than happy to do. What also made this beer interesting was that while recommended to be severed chilled as we had it, it is also suggested to try it hot (122-158 degrees F). I can not at all imagine what that would taste like, yet I am eager to get my hands on a bottle and try it sometime this winter.

The Buzz:
Ahhh, the buzz. What can I say about drinking 13 beers with an average abv of over 7.5%? Well, I can say that by 2pm, this guy was feeling fine! But I suppose, even with a decent breakfast in me, mixing and matching that many different craft brews at noon on a weekend will get any guy a little fucked up. It was fun though to see this large group of people drinking beer out of wine glasses in a classy restaurant all getting rowdy and riled up. I confess that I did probably pour out a few last sips of every other beer or so. It's not that I didn't want to finish what I was given, it was that I had to be responsible and drive home afterwards. Even so, I'm glad I lived close to the event because there was no way I was about to get onto a highway and drive home. As for my companions, wife was probably the ONLY person in the entire place that drank every last drop of every beer given to her (with the exception of the Quelque Chose) and she got home and continued to drink until dinner time. She makes me so proud! As for my other friend who joined us, he claimed to be wobbling down the street afterwards when he realized he ought to dash into a nearby bar for a cheeseburger to help him sober up. What better place to sober up than a bar? Smart guy my friend!

The Hangover:
The hangover didn't really apply to this edition of Beer Hates Me. It's hard to be hungover when you finish drinking at 2:00pm and sober yourself up throughout the course of the day. A good walk of the dogs, some fresh ice tea, and a hefty serving of fresh Mexican food will certainly soak up and dry away all the alcohol that was once floating around inside me. But this post wasn't so much a part of the experiment proper, but rather a tangent to help me better understand beer and brewing methods; To get a chance to get a better scientific grip on what it is about certain beers that wrecks me; To, as Obi Wan said, choose wisely!

The Verdict:
Since I pretty much summed up this particular post above, I will say this as a verdict: if you happen to find a tasting class, go to one! It was a blast. For $45, we got the equivalent of 3 full beers, a heft of information both on paper and through lecture, and had a great time drinking in a way we normally wouldn't have. I highly recommend checking out The Beer Chicks website & their book "The Naked Pint". I picked up a copy for my Dad and had them sign it for him. I figured that was the right thing to do when attending a "Father's Day" beer tasting event without a father in tow. Perhaps next time he visits, we'll have to find something similar to do!
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