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
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 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.
A beer and bee story, bittersweet, poignant yet ends on a comforting note!
I went off to one of my bee yards to add a couple of supers as the nectar flow is on. One hive is swollen up and really needed some room so adding the super was the perfect thing to do. The bees immediately crawled up into the new space – Yee Haw!
Unfortunately the hive next to it…very active two weeks ago, was void of activity…..no need to add a super to it. Pulled the top off and no signs of bee life. As I dug in deeper I was amazed at how clean the girls left the house. I got there just in time, no small hive beetle larva present and no evidence of wax moths!
Here is the, glass half full, view. I now have 20 deep frames, fully drawn out and 10 medium frames, also fully drawn out! I now have some deep frames to help accelerate the growth of the swarms I have been catching and some medium frames to add to supers, ready to be filled with liquid gold. All 30 frames are in the freezer to kill any eggs and/or critters lingering. My smile is beginning!
Loaded the truck feeling a bit let down but knowing I still have some great opportunities for growing my apiary. I decided to swing by the beer store on the way to my “Goo” friend John’s house. They usually have a great selection and I scored big time!
It is a double IPA so I need to be both selfish and careful😜. This beer is so smooth. I bought 3 – 4 packs, one 4 pack left at John’s house, minus the two beers as we consumed to help sooth my wounds over the loss of a hive!
So now this gray bearded old man is a bit happier and now making plans on where to use these nicely drawn out frames! FYI- this is what a drawn frame looks like.
It really helps the bees. It takes 8 pounds of honey to make 1 pound of wax.
PS, I have two 4- packs of Alpha Hive in my fridge if you are interested and I may be willing to share. Yes, 9.7% ABV beer warms the soul and makes me smile.
I made a bee run this morning, feed a few and finish setting boxes for the 6 NUC’s I will pick up on Thursday. Now it’s time for a brew. Next last stop on my route;
I added a third Langstroth box at the end of the stand. It is now ready to receive it’s NUC on Thursday.
Now, enjoying my SMaSH IPA! So, any guesses where I might be? City, county, state or state of mind? Search the photo for a hint!
Another beer note, my Amber ale should be ready to bottle this weekend. Yee Haw, at the Crawfish boil On May 12th I will have my Russian Imperial Stout, my SMaSH IPA and my Sugar T—s Amber Ale. Could be an excellent day!
Yesterday, February 18th was bottling day for the SMaSH IPA. I wanted to bottle it at the end of day 4 of the dry hopping….2 ounce of whole Mosaic hops…..didn’t happen until day 5th day. I did pull a small sample while bottling and saved it until the task was done.
Priming Bucket set and ready for bottling.
Sanitized and cleaned bottles ready for the elixir of the Gods!!!!!
Painfully slow but such a rewarding process. Clean, fill, cap, rinse and store until properly conditioned.
A bunch of mutt sized 12 ounce bottles and one 22 ounce bomber.
12 lbs. Maris Otter Pale Malt
1 ounce Mosaic hops 60 minutes
1.5 ounce Mosaic hops10 minutes
1.5 ounce Mosaic hops at flame out
2.0 ounces of Mosaic hops – dry hopped 5 days
1/2 tsp Irish Moss at 10 minutes
1 pkg. White Labs #WLP-051 California Ale V
Single Infusion, Medium body, batch sparge.
4 Gallons into the fermenter….
Dry hopped in the secondary fermenter.
First impressions – daughter Lisa who is my IPA drinking buddy gave the sample a thumbs up, great aroma and a nice pleasant citrus like flavor. I agreed. Now to condition for 10 days or so and it should be more than ready for my birth day on or around the 12th of March.
I’m in the backyard on a very pleasant day! Wearing short pants, T-shirt and the usual Crocs on my feet. The freezing weather is hopefully far behind us. Fingers crossed, I just planted sugar snap peas again – grrrr, freeze took care of my early planting, Blue Lake green beans and more beets. Yes, those comments belong in my garden blog but I couldn’t resist!
Started with 12 pounds of Marris Otter malt. It is a single infusion, batch sparged recipe with whole Mosaic hops and also dry hopped with 2 full ounces of the Mosaic hops! Fermented with White Labs WLP # WLP051 California Ale yeast. Yum! Tasters in about 30 days, just in time for my 67th Birthday.
Mash tun sitting full of grain waiting on the water to heat up. Looking to start with 15 qts of 164.8 degree F water. Now, sit back and wait!!!!! Just looked at the clock and Yee Haw, it is 12:10 PM. Beer time, a session IPA should go well with the wait!
One of my favorite session beers. The “Great Carnac” sees a clone of this beer on the horizon! Now an update on my Russian Imperial Stout.
It won’t be quite so Imperial nor stout, 7% or a little more ABV. The error is in my brewing technique! I won’t embarrass myself and give the details but it was something about my sparging that caused the problem. Taste is very good…..more like a Porter. I have added medium dark toasted oak spirals that had been soaked in bourbon for a bit of a more exotic flavor( intended for a Russian Imperial Stout). I will give it a few weeks and then bottle and age it for a few months.
My neighbors, Doug and Cindy, will be my taster’s panel. They love the Southern Star Brewery’s Buried Hatchet Stout! I also suspect they will be honest in their feedback.
Brewing process is on track. I will soon be boiling the wort and dropping in the hops and Irish Moss. Now, while the wort chills and before I pitch the yeast, I’ll make a bee run, feed and inspect my hives. A minor gardening chore along the way, at one of the apiary locations I help maintain a vegetable garden and I have some sugar snap peas and green beans that have been soaked and ready to plant! No, not in bourbon!