Let’s start with Great Change Brewery in Bakersfield, California. My wife Kathy had arrived in Bakersfield a few days earlier to care for her mother. The evening of the 14th of November we met up with an old friend and his wife at the brewery. Kathy and I had arrived a bit early so I started on a flight and Kathy had a pint of Poncherello Pale Ale.
The Idaho Fresh Squeeze IPA was up first. Day Ride – a nice 7% American IPA with cascade and Simcoe hops…. I really enjoyed it. The Spotted Pony Session IPA was easy drinking at 5%. The Yo Mr. White is a double IPA that is smooooth. The malt bill is like a Belgian Wit beer and nicely hopped with Amarillo, Idaho 7 and Simcoe.
Sassy Red Ale, 5.2% ABV – not overly hoppy but very nice.
This is a post that got lost in the editing process. Several of the beers I had that night are not in production now but looking through the current list of beer available it seems to be very well rounded.
I want to report out on the 2020 best beers according to Zymurgy magazine. Not familiar with Zymurgy? Zymurgy is the publication of the American Homebrewers Association. The 20 best beers are the opinions of American Hombrewers Association, AHA, members and may not reflect the opinions of drinkers of swill. Swill may be a harsh term but there really is a flavor, aroma, mouthfeel and quality difference for the beers in this list.
I am pleased to report that a handful of my go to beers, including 3 at the top of my list are in the top twenty.
Number 1…. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, from Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, MI. I was introduced to this beer on one of my many work trips to North Dakota and it is now being distributed in Texas…..yes, it is in my fridge. Two Hearted is brewed year round.
Number 2….. Pliny the Elder, from Russian River Brewing Co. It is a double IPA coming in at 8% but….. drinks very smooth with an incredible mix of aromas and broad but smooth bitterness. I have only been able to have this beer on three occasions and can probably give you date, time and location when I was able to enjoy this beer! It really is that good. Drawback, very hard to find……gotta know somebody! Available year round but…..only in limited quantities.
Number 3…… Pale Ale by Sierra Nevada. This was probably my first exposure to real beer nudging me away from my usual swill….the beer came out in 1980, it probably was late 1980’s before I was treated to the wonderful, bottle conditioned ale featuring, new at the time, Cascade hops. Confession, I did experiment with non swill in the late 70’s, Anchor Steam beer after it was reintroduced in 1971.
Number 4……..Heady Topper by the Alchemist in Stowe, VT. This beer has not blessed my lips, but…….I am on the hunt now. This is a double IPA and according to the recommendation printed on the can…..it is best consumed from the can. According to the review in Zymurgy that is to “allow your senses to enjoy the maximum hop experience.”
Number 5……. Hopslam Ale from Bell’s Brewery….. my go to Double IPA. It is best consumed fresh……..but I have hoarded it far into the year, hidden away from the local beer gnomes that raid my stash. Very high on my list. Mark your calendar, this beer is distributed in January and February……then the dearth sets in. Dearth, a beekeepers term when nectar is not available for the bees and also appropriate for this nectar of the gods hoppy beer. At 8% it will help make you toasty….nice!
Number 6 …….. Zombie Dust by Three Floyd’s Brewing Company, Munster, IN. Three Floyd’s describes it as “intensely hopped”. That description places it on my list of beers to hunt down. The Zymurgy review calls it “Insanely drinkable”….. sounds like a gotta have beer. Only 6.2%…..yum.
Number T 7……. Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, by Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, MO. Very nice beer coming in at 8% …..very good hoppy aroma and and hop flavors. I have been able to track this one down, although not in my top list I would never turn it down.
Number 7 T……. Kentucky Breakfast Stout, barrel aged, by Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI. It is a strong Imperial Stout that I find Rivals my favorite Imperial Stout, the barrel aged Parabola from Firestone Walker. It is 12.3 % and best shared in 4-5 ounce glasses with good friends. Complex flavors and aromas and really warms going down. Patting myself on the back, my home brewed Imperial Stout, also aged on toasted and bourbon soaked oak, is on par with this beer.
Number 9………Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR. This is a beer that almost always graces my fridge. Two of favorite hops are used for this beer, Citra and Mosaic, both during the boil and during fermentation. It is a very fresh and clean drinking beer.
Number 10…….Old Rasputin, North Coast Brewing Company, Fort Bragg, CA. I have had an opportunity to sample this beer and it is treat for the palate with wide variety of flavors and complex set of pleasant aromas. At 9% ABV it will warm you up nicely.
The remainder of the top twenty; Treehouse Julius, sounds delicious, Founders All Day IPA …..a go to session ale loved by me and my beer drinking partner, Focal Banger by Alchemist….I know nothing of this beer but need to hunt it down, Jai Lai by Cigar City….I have had it a couple of times and it is a very pleasant beer, Celebration Ale by Sierra Nevada…..damn good beer, I really like it! Pseudo Sue by Toppling Goliath, the reviewers were very complimentary of this beer – yep another one to chase down, White by Allagash Brewing, apparently a real nice example of the classic Wit Bier style, Sip of Sunshine by Lawson’s Finest Liquids, this is a NEIPA this is an 8% beer, Odell IPA, , been there, done that beer many times and bought the shirt, the Odell IPA knocked my socks off the first time I tried it! Very yummy! Hazy Little Thing by Sierra Nevada Brewing……I love this beer, great aromas and flavors…yum
Yes, there really is such a thing. I decided to look into it and I think the event is a great way for “we” beer drinkers to help inject some $$$$ into breweries and associated businesses that may be having a tough time during this Covid-19 pandemic. There is a button to Commit to Give Craft Beer…..to go beers where available, gift cards, delivery or merchandise. https://www.craftbeer.com/news/american-craft-beer-week. Check out the link and be generous if you can!
Commit to Give
American Craft Beer Week (May 11-17) is the annual nationwide celebration of small and independent U.S. craft breweries. Join the celebration and support independent brewery businesses by giving the gift of craft beer through delivery of beer, beer-to-go, gift cards or merchandise. Use our nationwide list of to-go beer options by breweries to find craft breweries that are offering to-go or delivery options near you
I hope by copying and pasting I am not committing a faux pas. Prior to this craft beer week I have been filling at least a 64 oz. growler once a week or more in addition to purchasing a gift certificate from my nearby taproom…….something I encourage all y’all to do!
Shout out to my two local taprooms, The Cove on Hamblen in Forest Cove, TX and The Hop Stop in Humble, TX…..FYI the H is silent in Humble!
Being a Texas transplant, arrived in 1996 and wish I hadn’t waited that long, I have become a fan of Beaver Nuggets. I have also become a fan of Buc-ee’s……cleanest restrooms that you could possibly imagine, not that I am that picky…….but my wife certainly is. “ Happy wife – Happy Life”….. wisdom and truth in one phrase!
Ok, so why Beaver Nuggets in a beer blog? Panther Island Brewing in Fort Worth has a beer aptly named, “ Road Trip Snacks” made with Beaver Nuggets! I don’t suggest you drink and drive but I do recommend driving and snacking on Beaver Nuggets and once you arrive……drink some – “ Road Trip Snacks”!
What’s next on my Brew list you might ask? My SMaSH IPA made with 12 pounds of Marris Otter malt and 6 ounces of Mosaic hops, 5 gallon batch and generously dry hopped. I just need to check with Preston down at the “Grain Cellar” ding, ding, ding……..just had to use them again, to see if his Friday delivery included Mosaic hops.
Thanks The Beer Thrillers for the fun read……buy some damn Beaver Nuggets and satisfy your curiosity…..finger lickin’ good.
It seems that I fly through Denver most often to get anywhere I need to go. Once in a great while it is Houston direct to some big city , but more often than not it is Williston, ND, Midland, TX, Bakersfield CA or other locations best served by regional jets. Thank goodness it is rarely on an old turbo prop that makes the ears protest madly. My buddy Gary Carnduff an$ I flew the Toronto to Sarnia bone shaker turbo prop several times!
Today’s flight is Houston – Denver- Bakersfield. Once in Denver the regional jets fly out out the east end and damn……that is where the New Belgium Hub is located. It is Wednesday and apparently a quiet night so it was seat yourself. The bar seats were full but I did find a table for two. Me in one seat, my brief case and big camera bag in the other……I say big, but also heavy. Two Nikon cameras, a D600, a 35mm Nikon F5 with full battery pack and only bringing 4 lenses on the trip but two weigh a ton. The 80-200 f2.8, the 80-400 f4.5, a 50mm f1.4 prime and a wide angle zoom.
Now let’s talk beer…..yum. I started off with a New Belgium Citradelic Tangerine IPA – 6% ABV and a low 50 IBU’s in a bottle. Pleasant, crisp clean and easy to drink.
Then the Smoked Salmon Caesar Salad arrived an I need another beer. On drat was New Belgium’s Hop Avenger. Yum, great head, a bit hazy, great head and deliciously good. ABV comes in at 7.7% and a mild 45 IBU’s. Loaded with some of my favorite hops including; Mosaic, Chinook, Citra and a few more.
Time to kill before my next flight but am pretty well sated, for food and beverage……😜.
Over the past several years I have conducting training classes in Williston, North Dakota and have been miserable due to the lack of Breweries in the area. I am in North Dakota during this last week of September and I am thirsty……I am also anxious to spend my free time down in Medora to shoot photos in the Teddy Roosevelt National Park and of the scenery along the backroads of North Dakota and Montana.
My wife, she certainly loves me…..how do I know? She sent me a text message on my drive from Williston to Medora. The text came in shortly after I passed the turn off to Watford City, home of a good brewery that has excellent pizza baked in a wood fired oven……I pulled over and stopped in order to reply…..I told her that maybe, on the way back I would stop at that brewery. I then headed south to the park.
I drove through the North Unit of the Teddy Roosevelt Park and was rewarded with an abundance of Bison…..and too many tourists….I now know why I like the end of October or into November for my fall trips!!!!!! It also seems as if more wildlife is out….Bighorn sheep, Mule deer, whitetail deer, coyotes and those cute little prairie dogs. After my pass through the North Unit, it was on down to the town of Medora.
I was up early to see the sunrise the next day and …… well much too overcast to be treated to a great sunrise.. I did see my first wild Mustang horses in the park as well as my fist sightings of Pronghorn Antelope. I also ran into a guy while hiking a trail, quizzed him on his home base and it turned out to be Dickinson ND….I was guessing it was more than an hour away but no….33 miles from Medora. Hmmmmmmm, now the beer-wheels are turning!
It was now a bit after lunch time and I have eaten at every place in Medora several times – I also yearned for a good beer. I remembered my wife’s text message from the day before and I mentally mouthed the words, “Yes Dear!” – I googled Dickinson and breweries and Phat Fish Brewery came up….35 minutes away…..how fortuitous! (that means lucky).
I have done training classes in Dickinson several times a few years back and no mention of a brewery by any of the attendees. They were either ignorant, hiding the truth from me or……maybe Dickinson was quaint enough to be barren when it comes to craft breweries. It turned out to be the latter.
I hustled east on I-94 and found the brewery at 1031 West Willard….obviously on the west end of town. I walked in and was impressed with the size, the layout and the crisp cleanliness of the place. The lunch crowd had pretty well thinned out and the crew was busy prepping for a special event that night, they planned on being busy as they were also expecting the regular crowd for Thursday Night football. Two young ladies one chair down from me were sharing a pizza and drinking a beer that looked a little anemic…..I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask. It was Miller Lite, Miller Lite for the both of them. That should tell you that they do have some guest taps at Phat Fish until they can further educate to town.
Gotta love the Phat Fish logo
I went with a pint of the Pipelayer IPA…an easy drinking and satisfying IPA – ABV 6.8% and 44 IBUs. I hope I wasn’t too pushy but I did encourage the young ladies to branch out and dip their toes into the beers on tap other than the domestic lagers. They admitted to being a bit less adventurous. While we chatted and ate, I had a thick crust Spicy Righand pizza with a decent dose of Jalapenos! I went reverse style and then ordered a 4 beer flight after my pint of the IPA. Blue Hawk Belgian – Belgian Wit, Nodak Sunrise- Oatmeal Porter, Roughrider Razz- Raspberry Wheat and the Hazy Honey. I think I had the Nurses convinced to try the Hazy Honey on their next visit.
The Belgian Wit was very nice. The coriander was not overwhelming and the citrus zest was perfect. I really liked the Raspberry Wheat, not over the top on raspberry! …. the girls had tried a taste of the Raspberry Wheat previously and enjoyed it….so there is hope for them.The Oatmeal Porter was my favorite of the 4 beer flight. Very good coffee flavors, smooth and robust! The Hazy Honey was light, smooth and refreshing.
Next week they will have a sour beer on tap…..I have to admit……sours are not in my wheelhouse but more and more people are finding them to be very drinkable. More power to them and it just adds a bit more variety to the Craft Beer world.
After the nurses left I damaged to spend a good 10 minutes talking with Melissa Scharf, one of the four principals of the business….10 barrel brewhouse, two – 10 barrel fermenters and two – 20 barrel fermenters. They found a great deal from a brewery that was upsizing and made a smart purchase…..the equipment was so clean it looked as if was set new when they opened 3 months ago…..I find that adherence to cleanliness a great attribute. I am impressed with her knowledge, energy and commitment.
Wow, is that a beautiful and clean image or what?
My four beer flight
Now I just gotta find a way to get back up here…..sooooooon!
I have included links to their website and their Facebook page.
I was out inspecting my bees today and had the good fortune of visiting my apiary two blocks south of the Megaton Brewery in Kingwood. I took a quick look at the activity and made plans to open the two top bar hives to harvest a bit Sunday morning before the Women’s World Cup Final. I intend to leave them with enough honey to get into the fall. I had not broke much of a sweat, my deodorant seemed to be in place, so I decided to pop into the brewery.
I am normally an IPA guy but I still had one more apiary to visit. I chose a 9 oz pour of the Blueberry Lemon Heimdall Farmhouse Ale. Surprisingly good! Next up was a pint of the Cranberry Kolsch. Easy to drink but not what I expected….little or no noticeable cranberry flavor nor aroma. Now a 9 oz pour of the Wildberry Kolsch. The berry flavor came through nicely and a pleasant aroma. Of the 3 I really enjoyed the Blueberry Lemon Heindall. As I was waiting to order a 32 oz growler can to go of my favorite of the day, the board flashed and it was no longer available! Damn! I needed to bring some beer home to my wife and daughter.
It was suggested that I try the Heimdall Farmhouse Ale, sans the Blueberry an Lemon additions. I tried a taster, and although a pleasant beer, I didn’t think the girls would go for it. I asked them to can up the Wildberry Kolsch………and guess what? The keg went dry. What’s a guy to do?
Scratch the Wild and add Cran for the Cranberry Kolsch. Hope the girls like it!
I had intended to go to the Santa Barbara Brewing Company on State Street as my wife shopped, hopefully for something on sale! My destination no longer exists. So, plan B.
Gotta love it! Blue sky, trees in bloom and a horrible 66 degrees…..sans humidity. I was dealing with bees in Houston the past week @ 92 degrees and humidity that sucked big time!
Even better, the beers are very nice.
I went big on my first beer with the Vacancy IPA. Poured with a perfect head and the aroma was very pleasant. Kathy went with the Mango Day Dreamin and she enjoyed it.
Next up for me was the Mosaic – Pale Ale. I love Mosaic hops! Very nice….crisp and clean. As I ordered the young lady forced, twisted my arm and shamed me into sampling the 2019 Spring Seasonal-100% Mosaic hops. Wow!!!! I am sure glad I have no will power.
The beautiful clean Mosaic Pale Ale.
Institution Ale Company is based in Camarillo, I need to talk to my son-in-law about hiding this brewery from me for nearly 6 years!
Every beer poured was perfect! Why do I say that? They use a tall pint glass, clearly marking the pint line with very sufficient space for head on the beer. Much of the aroma of the beer is from the head. As those bubbles burst your senses are treated to Hop and malt aromas, my opinion!!!! It also looks great, the aesthetics of the presentation!
We didn’t try the food here but the items passing by our table heading to the lunch crowd visitors looked and smelled amazing. This place is high on my recommended breweries list!!!!
Just an FYI, our go to list in the area includes; Rincon, Island Brewing, and Brew Lab in Carpinteria. We have visited all 3 this week. Santa Barbara choices include Figueroa Mountain, the newly added Institution Ale Company and the Brewhouse.
More to come as we wander north on Highway 101 next week.