Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Beer of the Month: Ale of the 2 Tun from Hermitage Brewing

Having moved last month from the San Francisco's Peninsula to the South Bay, I'm eager to try the best beers the South Bay has to offer.  A lot has happened, beer-wise, in the 2 1/2 years since I left and I'm looking forward to catching up.  Of course, if you're one of the few remaining loud-mouthed beer geeks from San Francisco (or elsewhere) constantly sneering at the South Bay Beer scene, you'll dismiss this whole enterprise.  But then, that crowd proves nothing more than they like to talk a lot about stuff they know nothing about and need to get out more.

But these days even the most jaded San Francisco-phile (Is that a word?) will grudgingly admit plenty of good beer can be found from South Bay breweries.  And Exhibit A is our Beer of the Month for November, Ale of the 2 Tun Imperial Stout from Hermitage Brewing.

It's a real roast bomb.  There's lots of bitter chocolate and some coffee flavors, and just a slight grassy hop finish.  It's very dry with hardly any sweetness at all, giving it a rather sophisticated taste.  But this isn't one of those beers that's "an acquired taste" as it goes down smooth despite all that roasted bitterness with almost a creamy consistency, and its 9.0% abv is virtually undetectable.  

Just who is Hermitage Brewing anyway? Hermitage started in San Jose in 2009 when the Tied House brewpub closed down its downtown San Jose location and move the brewing equipment to its current location just south of downtown. In addition to its own beer line up, it produces beer for the remaining Tied House location in Mountain View and contracts out its capacity for other firms in the soda and beer industry. The current brewing team includes Brewmaster Ron Manabe, Brewmaster Peter Licht, Brewer Greg Filippi. They recently picked up brewing free agent and four-time consecutive GABF winner Brewer Steve Donohue who recently left Firehouse.  

Next week, we'll discuss why Rice-A-Roni is the San Francisco treat.  Or should we say the 'Frisco Treat?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks, Albeit in a Rambling Sort of Way

I took this incredibly dramatic picture of runners waiting around for traffic
to clear before putting away the camera to get serious for the
Silicon Valley Turkey Trot
When we think of Thanksgiving traditions, most of us think of turkey dinner with family and friends.  And while I think of that too, I always also associate Thanksgiving with running.  Thanksgiving morning has usually meant a running a race ever since my high school days in Oak Park, IL, which I'd trek a few miles up to Chicago's Riis Park for their annual Thanksgiving cross-country race, a tradition that I'm glad to see still exists today.

Thanksgiving races are always fun, since everyone's in a good mood for the holidays and late November usually brings great running weather.  That tradition continued yesterday at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, a huge running extravaganza held in downtown San Jose.  So my wife and I joined nearly 25,000 runners, and then met up with a couple of friends for Thanksgiving dinner at the retirement home one of them manages.  And yes, a great Thanksgiving Day made me reflect on just what I'm thankful for.  And at the risk adding another insipid holiday "things I am thankful for" post into the blog-o-sphere, I'd like to share these things with you.

  • I'm thankful that on race day, I still remain excited, tense and focused on the upcoming effort, such that I spend little time snapping a bunch of pictures to post on my blog.  (That's why most of my race pictures on this blog are pretty crappy, by the way.)
  • I'm thankful for finding an empty porta-potty just 15 minutes before the start of a race of 25,000 people without having to even wait in line.  If there is any testament to the incredible organization of the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, it is this.
  • I'm thankful for my Garmin watch, which told me that "easy pace" early in the race, was about a minute faster than goal pace, so I should slow down before it was too late.
  • I'm thankful I still have the energy to get out there in a 10k, having fun competing and pushing myself, and after over 33 years of running since starting at age twelve, I'm not too old for this shit.
  • I'm thankful my wife has found joy and fullfillment in running, too.
  • I'm also thankful that when my wife rolls her eyes at another one of my stupid jokes, she does it with such dramatic flare.
  • I'm thankful the standard turkey with stuffing and mashed potatoes served at a retirement home, when enjoyed with the company of good friends, is elevated to a sublime eating experience.
  •  I'm thankful for sharing the deliciousness of Great Divide's Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout with friends who also appreciate its rich, intense complex nature.
  • And finally, I'm thankful for you, because I write things so others gain by reading them, and there's a satisfying feeling whenever I discover someone actually reads something here.
All the best to you for the holidays!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Scenes from a Beer Walk

Give credit San Jose's Willow Glen Business Association for coming up with a bright idea, the Downtown Willow Glen Beer Walk.  For thirty-five bucks, they give you a tasting glass and map of downtown Willow Glen indicating where no fewer than 26 business were pouring various beers to taste between 2 and 6 pm last Saturday afternoon.  The idea of course, is to get new customers to walk into stores they might not otherwise go into in search of beer.   And just maybe as each beer walker contemplates the malt-hop balance of the latest California IPA amidst shelves of, say beauty products, they might see something they like and buy it.

And I have to say it worked.  My wife and I ventured into plenty of new stores during the Beer Walk and let's just say we bought a few things.   And while each pouring location is indicated and the entire brewery list is provided, the actual location were each brewery is pouring is cleverly left to be discovered by each participant on the beer walk.  So it was with great suspense as we entered a Hair Salon or Clothing Boutique, looking to see what beer awaited us. I often exclaimed things like "Cool!  They're pouring Firestone-Walker here!" as we walked into realty office once the mystery beer became apparent.  We found this unlikely beer festival to be a blast, arguably the most fun we've ever had at a tasting event due to its off-beat and unpredictable nature.

And while this may have been a good marketing idea for Downtown Willow Glen, I suspect a number of proprietors hadn't figured on a bunch of very tipsy beer walkers clogging their stores during the last hour of the beer walk, stumbling around with little interest in buying merchandise to the chagrin of the non-beer walking customers who probably wished they had chosen a different time to do their shopping.   As you can see from the photos, I had plenty of goofy fun with my iPhone taking pictures of my tasting glass in unlikely locations.  Hope you enjoy my photographic artistry!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Cooking with Beer for the Holidays with Chef Ian Knauer of the TakePart Tastemakers

Smoked IPA_Braised Duck Legs with Cherry Gravey
(Image provided by TakePart Tastemakers)
Looking for a good beer recipe for your holiday dinner?  Even if you aren't, you might be intrigued by a recent video of the TakePart Tastemakers series.  It's devoted to spotlighting leading local businesses committed to bringing their communities food produced in more environmentally sustainable ways.  As part of this campaign, TakePart is also launching key social initiatives designed to help people make better food choices and improve America’s food system as a whole.

On an recently released episode, the intrepid Tastemaker's Chef Ian Knauer visits Golden Road Brewing in Los Angeles to find ingredients to add to his Thanksgiving meal.  It's a solid, well produced video serving as a reminder how craft beer is at the forefront of a new consciousness of how food can be better delivered to our tables. You can view the episode at www.takepart.com/tastemakers/video and check out a couple of Chef Knauer's recipes below.  If you'd like .pdf copies of these recipes, drop me an e-mail you'll using the e-mail form you'll find at this link and I'll send them to you.  Enjoy!
Smoked IPA-Braised Duck Legs with Cherry Gravy

Serves 6


2 carrots
2 celery sticks
1 onion, halved
1 head garlic, halved
6 parsley sprigs
6 fresh duck legs
1 cup smoked IPA
2 cups duck or chicken stock
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1⁄2 cup cherry preserves


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and parsley in a deep roasting pan. Season duck with salt and pepper, then place on top of vegetables in pan. Add stock and beer to pan and cover with foil. Braise duck until very tender, about 21⁄2 hours. Transfer duck to a broiler pan, skin side up. Strain braising liquid and separate fat. Save fat for another use.

Bring 3 cups of braising liquid to a boil in a medium heavy pot and boil until reduced by about half, about 10 minutes. Stir together water and cornstarch, then stir into braising liquid. Boil until thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in preserves and transfer to a serving boat.

Preheat broiler. Broil duck about 3 inches from heat until skin is browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer duck to a serving platter and serve with cherry gravy.
Crispy Beer-Roasted Duck


1 (6-lb) duck
1 small orange, quartered
5 or 6 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
1 sage sprig
2 cups boiling Smoked IPA
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.

If necessary, cut off wing tips with poultry shears or a sharp knife. Remove and discard excess fat from body cavity and neck, then rinse duck inside and out. Season cavity with salt and pepper, then fill cavity with orange, thyme, rosemary, and sage. Tie legs together with kitchen string. Fold neck skin under body, then put duck, breast side up, on a rack in a 13- by 9- by 3-inch roasting pan and pour hot beer over duck (to tighten skin). Pour out any beer from cavity into pan. Pat duck dry inside and out, reserving water in pan, then rub duck inside and out with kosher salt and pepper.

Roast duck, breast side up, 45 minutes, then remove from oven. Turn duck over and roast 45 minutes more. Turn duck over again (breast side up), tilting duck to drain any liquid from cavity into pan. Continue to roast duck until skin is brown and crisp, about 45 minutes more (total roasting time: about 21⁄4 hours). Tilt duck to drain any more liquid from cavity into pan. Transfer duck to a cutting board and let stand 15 minutes before carving.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

This is not a review of Campbell's Liquid Bread...but you're damn right I'll be back!

I shamelessly stole this photo of Liquid Bread from
their Facebook page.  Hope they don't mind.
As I've said many times, when it comes to culinary insight and criticism, I basically just wing it.  So if you've come looking for a insightful review of Liquid Bread, Campbell's new gastropub, you're going to have to look elsewhere.  But I know what I like, and can demonstrably write about things I like, and Friday night my wife and I checked out Liquid Bread for the first time.  And we really, really liked it.

So exactly what did we like about it?  Well, a smokey grilled kale salad with goat cheese and jicama was a unique, lively way to start a meal.  My wife had their monkfish entree, and while everything about it was good, she could have eaten luscious black bean puree on her plate from a bucket like ice cream if they'd let her.  I enjoyed something called "38 Chicken" or whatever, which was a playful riff on chicken and waffles comfort food enjoying a minor resurgence.  I was too busy enjoying all the different tastes on my plate to take any notes. 

Did I mention they serve beer at Liquid Bread?  For a newcomer to the Bay Area Beer Scene, they had a pretty impressive tap list, as well as an extensive assortment of bottled brews.  I thoroughly enjoyed a Sierra Nevada Scotch on the Rocks, a Scotch Ale brewed with caraway seeds, a project of Sierra Nevada's prestigious Beer Camp.   For "dessert", we split a smooth sipping Anniversary Barlywine from Uinta Brewing, one of my favorite breweries from the underrated brewing state of Utah.

I suppose part of me really wants a gastropub within walking distance of my home to succeed big time, so maybe I'm guilty of being a rather biased in their favor.  But you know what?  I don't care.  I'll be back at Liquid Bread, and hope to see you there.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Get your South Bay Beer Vibe this Saturday at the San Jose Beer Walk

Having just moved back to the South Bay after living 2 1/2 years on the San Francisco Peninsula, the San Jose Beer Walk this Saturday seems like the perform way to get my South Bay Beer grove back.  Looks like a great line-up of breweries pouring tastings throughout cozy Downtown Willow  Glen.  More details here and below.    Can't wait to reconnect with the South Bay, and some of its underrated breweries.  Hope to see you there!

SJ Beerwalk returns to San Jose, hitting the streets of Downtown Willow Glen on Saturday, November 17th!

Stroll the streets of Downtown Willow Glen while visiting retailers & restaurants
and enjoying 25 beer tastings with friends and neighbors.

Tickets are only $30
and include a tasting glass

Purchase online at:

or at any check-in location the day of the event for $35.

The Walk runs for 4 hours from 2pm to 6pm. Check-in starting at 1pm and ending at 5pm. Check-in locations listed below.

Don't miss this one of a kind event!

Proceeds Benefit the Willow Glen Business Association
Follow them at https://www.facebook.com/DowntownWillowGlen
or on twitter @dwtnwillowglen

The Breweries:
Sierra Nevada
Santa Cruz Ale Works
Firestone Walker
New Belgium
North Coast
Fox Barrel
Gordon Biersch
Lost Coast
21st Amendment
El Toro
Karl Strauss
Devil's Canyon

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Session #69: Beer Fix?

For this month's Session, Jorge of Brew Beer and Drink It asks "What would you change to lead us into the Perfect Beer World?".  You know, the beer world isn't perfect, but if you ask me, it's darn near close.  And if I tried to do something to make the beer world a better place, I'd probably just totally screw it up. 

That's my answer.