It’s been a whirlwind tour of the beer world lately. Having just opened up the brewery and working around the clock for the past several months, my travels have come to a standstill. The consumption of beers… well that’s a different story. I have a favorite beer of the week…. My Bloody Valentine by Alesmith is a great hoppy version of a red ale. The malt sweetness well balanced by a very healthy dose of hops. The slight floral and citrus in the hops and the sweet caramel maltiness in the beer make it dessert in a glass, but without being too sweet. This beer is only released once a year around Valentine’s Day and is definitely work seeking out. Despite all my misgivings about Valentine’s Day (VD) in general and how it’s over-rated, this beer will give me something to look forward to next year.
New Favorite Pairing! January 3, 2010
Eagle Rock Brewery Solidarity (black mild) paired with caramel brownies. The chocolate and slight roasty characteristic of the light bodied beer pairs so well with chewy brownies! The tingly carbonation of the beer helps to lighten up the richness of the brownies and convinced me that it was alright to have beer and brownies for dinner. It’s like having something sweet with my coffee. Who knew? Brownies and beer? But it’s delicious!
MIA, part 2 August 12, 2009
Some belated thoughts on my trip to Greece, Ukraine and Turkey… Guess I’ve just been too busy to get it all down, but I need to do so before it all gets lost in the abyss deep within my skull.
Upon leaving Athens, we set sail on a ship called the Silver Whisper. The problem with this was the fact that it’s a luxury cruiseliner where all the booze is included in the fare. So what’s the problem, you ask? The problem is that I’m trying hopelessly to document this after the fact and entire evenings may have been lost to that abyss in my skull prematurely because of alcohol-induced hazes. So I guess I’ll just write about what I remember…
Çanakkele, Turkey is near the ancient ruins of what is believed to be the city of Troy referred to in Homer’s Iliad. Now at the entrance there are several imitation Trojan horses for people to climb up into. In the hot, muggy weather where you step outside and are sticky within minutes of leaving any air-conditioned sanctuary, I could only imagine how pleasant it would have been inside these Trojan horses. Almost like a stripper hiding in a birthday cake that had been forgotten about for a couple of days in the swamps of south Florida during the summer… and probably smelling almost as bad. So instead of climbing up into the faux Trojan horse, we opted to walk around these ancient ruins that date back to the 5th century BC. The ruins are currently being excavated and do not have much structure left to them aside from stone walls, wells, and a large stone ramp which were all a part of a small city once upon a time. Beyond the walls of this city are currently miles of farmland, and the Aegean Sea beyond. If nothing else, the view from the top of the ruins was very peaceful.
From there, we set sail through the Bosporus Straight into the Black Sea for Ukraine, and stopped in Odessa, Sevastopol, and Yalta. The port city of Odessa is considered the metropolis of Ukraine, but unlike other metropoli, there is an obvious lack of high-rises and very few people in the morning. It seemed like later in the day, people started coming out of the woodwork and it began feeling more like a city. There is some beautiful architecture, particularly their opera house, but the some of the older historic buildings, like the former palace of Prince Pototsky, that now serves as the fine arts museum, were left to decay.
Sevastopol is a naval base for the Ukranian and Russian navies. Aside from this, the city was pretty unremarkable to visit. Besides being very hot and having a small shopping district, the highlight of this stop was watching a local dance group that performed some traditional local dances, including the Kozak dance. I remember watching culturally insensitive movies and cartoons as a kid, and wondering what this dance was all about; and then as I got older, wondering how one’s knees manage to stay intact throughout the dance. At any rate, it was quite a display of athleticism, but the show was so long that no amount of the performers’ clapping, singing, and wild dancing could keep me awake for the whole thing.
The claim to fame for much of this region of the world is their involvement in many wars. Among this history is the involvement in the World Wars. Yalta is the city where the Yalta conferences took place that determined the fate of much of Europe during World War II. The Livadia Palace where these conferences took place is a site to behold. It’s multitude of rooms and grandiose decor is a true reminder that things aren’t built the way they used to be. This stop in Ukraine seemed to be all about palaces, as evidently the trend during the Soviet era was to have one if you were anyone of importance. One interesting stop was “The Bird’s Nest” a castle that had been converted into… get this… and Italian restaurant. What?! Yes, and the food was nothing to write home about. Typically, I would stay away from such touristy things to do, but as it was a stop with the tour group from the cruise, we found ourselves dining there. The view was beautiful at least…
Ukraine… interesting country. Definitely not my favorite country that we visited on this trip. When people-watching, it seems like they primarily breed supermodels and prostitutes and sometimes, you can’t tell one from the other. There are a multitude of wafer-thin women who tower over 6 feet tall that still feel the need to wear 5-inch heels despite the cobblestone streets. The vibe is a bit cold and impersonal, and there are dicey dealers of black market caviar all over the place trying to sell you jars of their wares in broad daylight out of a plastic, obviously unrefrigerated, shopping bag.
Luckily after these stops, we were setting sail to Istanbul. More on that later…
M.I.A. July 28, 2009
Yes, I’ve been absent for months now. And it’s not so much that I haven’t been drinking any beer or going anywhere noteworthy…just a little hiatus. Just got back from traveling for a few weeks to Greece, Turkey, and Ukraine. Not necessarily places known for beers and, truth be told, I drank mostly wines, champagne, scotch, and raki during these travels. Raki? What’s that you ask? More on that later. The beers that were available there were primarily pilsners, and pretty unremarkable. They went down smoothly when served very cold though, which is just what we needed when walking in the sun through some serious heat. You noticing the similarity in the beers that predominate the warmer regions of the world?
Mythos seemed to be the brand of choice in Greece. And for a change, I wasn’t being picky. I needed something cold and wet, and a few rounds of the beer in 1/2 L servings was the perfect thing to wash down the kebabs and souvlaki sold at tavernas throughout Greece. Each taverna had their unique recipes for each of the traditional dishes and all paired very well with beer. I love Greek food, but the one dish that was most amazing was not one that I’d even heard of in the Americanized versions of Greek restaurants in the states. The dish was made with a block of manouri cheese, crusted with sesame seeds and fried and served with macerated cherries. It was decadent, and an amazing combination of crunchy and creamy textures and savory, sweet and tart flavors. And to boot, it was an amazing pairing with raki, the local distilled spirit in Crete made with grapes and various grains depending on the distillery. It is essentially ouzo without the anise added, so quite potent but with a very subtle sweetness and aroma and taste of raisins. This dish was served at Ouzeri in Fira, Santorini. All of the other dishes were quite nice as well. The local wines that we had with dinner left something to be desired, but sitting on a terrace in the midst of the pristine white buildings built into the cliffs of Santorini and drinking well-into the night was an amazing experience.
Mario #1 was another place that we visited on Santorini that was a great find. It was on Monolithos beach and the waiter just walks you up to the fish cart, with all the fresh seafood on ice, and you order up what you want so that they can prepare it fresh. The seafood is amazing! Super fresh and a meal that I can eat every day! Sitting in the warmth of summer on a beach in Santorini, eating fresh seafood and drinking a Mythos…. that’s a vacation.
In contrast, Chania, Crete has a more old world feel. A slightly darker port town with small cobblestone alleys filled with charming small shops and restaurants. It’s a treat to get lost in the maze of alleys exploring the hidden nooks and crannies that were just outside the more touristic shopping areas. There were several great restaurants, and one of my favorites was, Tamam. It’s located in an old bath house with an outdoor seatin area. The food was fantastic after a long travel day and like most other restaurants in Greece, they’re open late. I don’t think anyone eats dinner before 10pm there, and it suited me just fine. The local wines that they featured were nice and dry compared to the very young, and often too sweet, wines that are found locally. And of course dinner comes with a digestif of locally produced raki. The seafood was great at Tamam. In fact, all the food was fantastic. This place is definitely worth visiting again! I was tempted to go back the following night although we were only in town for 2 nights. I succumbed to curiosity though and ended up at Portes. Also with good food and a very cute atmosphere at the end of a charming little alley with outdoor seating being most popular. I have to admit that I enjoyed the food at Tamam more, but this place is also very cute and the owner of the restaurant even shared her son’s birthday cake with us. Her 9 year old son had actually made his own ice-cream cake and it wasn’t bad. The restaurant is owned and run by a married couple, the husband making the food and the wife waiting tables. It’s the type of place that you’ve gotta support!
The mainland of Greece was not as charming, but so rich in culture and history that it’s awe-inspiring just walking around the cities. The juxtoposition of modern and ancient worlds is fascinating! The perfect example of this is the new Acropolis Museum, a very modern piece of architecture, that is literally built right on top of the ancient ruins. The ancient ruins are preserved and worked into the exhibit via the thick glass panels that make up the floor so that you can see the ancient structures beneath you. It’s an interesting concept, almost as though you’re hovering in mid-air peeking in on a world that had long ago been abandoned. The museum is huge and leaves you with so many questions about the daily lives of past civilizations. This was a recurring theme on this trip, one that makes me truly appreciate how exposure to different cultures can make you feel more aware of the world around you, yet somehow less significant. More on this trip later…
The Bruery’s 1st Anniversary bash May 18, 2009
The Bruery celebrated the completion of their first year in existence this weekend and they did it up proper…. with a big ol’ party. Serving multiple beers from 2 bars set up in their brewhouse, Beechwood BBQ booth outside and an assortment of snacks beer-battered and fried. I didn’t get to try the BBQ (because I was too fixated on trying the beers) but I heard it was delicious. Jer and I did get out in time to try a deep fried twinkie, although the thought of it horrified me initially. To my astonishment, it was pretty good, particularly with the beer batter on it.
The crew at The Bruery were pouring what seemed to be their entire arsenal of unique beers. The beers featured varied, from light refreshing sour beers to very chewy strong ales. I have to admit it was difficult to drink much of the heavier beers that day because it was really hot and steamy in the brewhouse with so many warm bodies in there, but I managed to take some sips of some of the heavy hitting barrel aged beers. The Melange #3 which is a blend of bourbon barrel-barrel aged ales is very rich and malt dominated with distinct bourbon-like vanilla presence in it. It also had a strong presence of molasses on the palate making it very chewy. Papier, a brandy barrel-aged ale, which they had both on tap and were opening special release bottles of every hour was also very strong but with more of a hint of peaches. I thought that the high alcohol content was well-masked despite the massive 15% abv of the Melange #3 and the 14.5% abv of Papier.
I also really enjoyed the sour beers that was being poured that day. They had 4 very approachable sour beers that were are quite nice. I think that my favorite is still the Cuvee Jeune that I also had at LA CABAL’s craft beer fest, but the White Zin and the Gypsy Tart were also very refreshing and nice, considering the heat. I think the only draw-back to drinking so many sour beers that day was that I felt like I was starting to smell like vinegar… although that may have been in my head (Perhaps all this beer drinking at various fests and parties is actually pickling me!).
At the end of the day, I was tempted to try to take a growler of the Cuvee Jeune home, but talked myself out of it to get a growler of the Humulus Ambre instead. It’s a Belgian-style amber with nice hop characteristic to make it clean and a great session beer. I figured that a half-gallon of this would go down more easily and make me smell a bit better to friends and family. After all, I hardly think that self-preservation is meant to be taken that literally.
At any rate, I’m glad to see that The Bruery is doing so well, particularly during difficult economic times and since they make such unique beers that you would think that only beer geeks would enjoy them. However, it again shows how ready SoCal is for it’s very own craft beer culture. And their success definitely goes to show that good beer is truly still an affordable luxury. Cheers to many more anniversaries to come!
The Inaugural Craft Beer Fest LA! May 12, 2009
Yes, this post is a little late, but that’s what happens when I’m spending so many days in a beer induced haze from going to all these beer events. Beer season is in full swing! This past Saturday, LA CABAL (Los Angeles Craft and Artisanal Beer Appreciation League) hosted their first craft beer fest at the Echoplex. It was a huge success considering how many people showed up! There were great beers, all from California. Some of the featured breweries were Stone, Green Flash, Craftsman, Ballast Point, Telegraph, Port Brewing, Sierra Nevada, and The Bruery. The foods that were presented at the event were also good, but the beers definitely took center stage.
My favorite beer of the event? Surprisingly, it was the young lambic called Cuvee Jeune by The Bruery. Perhaps it was the heat trapped in the building but what seemed to be too many warm bodies packed into a windowless, indoor space. But, in my mind, this beer was really good! It had a nice earthy sourness, that was not overpowering, and a light body and clean finish. Cuvee Jeune proved to be a perfect refreshment for this event and also served to clean my palate between snacks. It paired great with a soft, creamy, super-sexy cheese brought by Hot Knives, called Cana de Oveja. Yum… I’ll be re-creating that pairing at home sometime for sure!
As far as the rest of the goings-on of the Craft Beer Fest, there are too many good beers to name and overall, the event was very well-thought out. I loved that sheer variety of the beers and foods! There were great local bands and even a “Craft Beer Roundtable” featuring some of the local beer scene’s heavy hitters discussing the finer points of cultivating the much needed beer community that has traditionally been missing from Los Angeles. The organizing snafus were relatively minor considering this was the first Craft Beer Fest put on by LA CABAL, and it was really the best case scenario for the beer community that there was this much un-anticipated support for this type of event. I would definitely recommend future LA CABAL beer events to anyone willing to listen, and hope to see a continually growing beer community there! It’s super-fantastic to see that Los Angeles is primed and ready for more good beer!