Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Don't worry about massive increases in hop prices...they could be a good thing

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released their year end National Hop Report. It's a rather technical document, full of facts and figures but one statistic jumps out. The average cost of US grown hops in 2016  jumped from last year's $4.38 per pound to $5.72, a whopping 30.6% increase. And the $4.38 per pound figure in 2015 was a 19.3% price increase over 2014.  Given these rather startling price increases in a critical beer making ingredient, does this mean we're going to start seeing dramatically higher pricing on beer shelves? Will brewers fall under increasing price pressures due to massive increases in hop pricing?

Probably not. For starters, most breweries invest in hop contracts so already have their pricing for next years brews locked in. It's one of the main reasons hop contracts are essential for breweries. They ensure a reliable delivery of hops without any price surprises. Then there is the matter that the cost of hops usually accounts for less than 5% of the overall cost to produce beer. So even a 30% increase in hop prices will have little effect on the final price of beer.

We can further investigate this with simple back of the envelope calculation. The most heavily hopped IPA's use four pounds of hops per barrel of beer.  One barrel of beer equates to 330 12-ounce servings.  If we take the $1.34 difference per pound between hop prices in 2015 and 2016, multiply that by four, and divide that over 330 servings, we get:  (4 x $1.34) / 330 = 0.016 or 1.6 cents per serving. Suffice to say, consumers will barely notice any overall price increase.

Of course, brewers use different varieties of hops in their beers, each with their own different pricing, so this analysis is a little simplistic. The USDA report made no distinction between the cost of different hop varieties so I went with the overall average. Some rare, hard to get hops are subject to wildly varying prices, and can cost as high as 20 dollars per pound. But since people are often willing to pay extra for these exotic beers, it's likely not going to affect the overall beer market.

What is the most encouraging news from the USDA's report is most certainly that hop farming is becoming more profitable.  The report made no mention of the cost side of hop farming, but it's hard to believe hop farmers are spending 20-30% more to produce the same amount of hops. That's good news from the consumer side, because when hop farmers make good money, they can justify investing in equipment to improve the quality of their product, or can take more risks such as planting more unique hop varieties brewers can use to create new and interesting flavors. So don't worry about the rising hop prices, at least not yet. You'll barely notice it in your wallet, and it allows hop growers to create better brewing ingredients.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rambling Reviews 12.21.2016: Review of Brews from Camino Beer Company, Lagunitas and Hangar 24

As we wrap up 2016, I've got one last rambling on three beers to close out this extraordinary year.

Let's start with a newcomer to San Jose's beer scene, Camino Beer Company and their Imperial Rye IPA they call "The James Starr".  It's the most malt forward Imperial IPA I can remember, and that's not a bad thing. The malt flavors really sing here, dominated by toffee and accented with a peppery spiciness from the rye. The hops are there, just barely. There's a little tea-like character on the finish, and if you concentrate hard, you'll detect a little pine and citrus. Few California breweries would brew an Imperial IPA this way, which is one of the reasons I can rally around The James Starr. But the strong malt flavors that really popped won the day, and while the style purists would likely declare this a Barleywine, I'd prefer not to enter into these debates. It's a damn good, eye-opening sipping beer, that's what it is.

Speaking of beers and breweries that defy neat and tidy definitions, our next brew is Aunt Sally from Lagunitas. According to the Lagunitas website, it was released in March of this year, but I haven't seen it around until recently. If you feared Lagunitas would start becoming more commercial and mainstream after Heineken took a 50% stake in the brewery last year, Aunt Sally should help put your mind to rest. Lagunitas describes Aunt Sally as a "dry-hopped sweet tart sour mash ale", and it's a weird and wonderful combination of sour, bitter, a little sweetness and some musty funkiness. Surprisingly drinkable and further proof that while Lagunitas remains a relentless capitalist machine, they continue to take daring risks. Like many of these moves, it pays off.

Finally, we come to Hangar 24's Chocolate Bomber, a Porter brewed with cocoa nibs and vanilla. Hardly anyone just brews a porter these days. They're usually adding something like coffee or chocolate or hazelnuts or bourbon into it. That's probably because these additions to a base Porter really amped up the flavors.  Like they do in this brew.  What can say, Chocolate Bomber is rich, slightly sweet and complex with lots of bitter chocolate flavors. 

That wraps up the rambling for the year.  All the best for the holidays!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Grilled Vegetables Are Easy

A recent plate of grilled veggies looming in the darkness
It's pretty damn difficult to screw up grilled vegetables. That's the only conclusion I can possibly reach after spending a few evenings mucking around on the grill and still serving up good plates of grilled vegetables. In fact, as we head into winter it's been getting so dark during the evening that I can barely see the vegetables I'm grilling and they still come out pretty good.

Grilling vegetables is pretty easy. Take some olive oil, add salt and pepper, throw in some other spices like oregano and hot pepper flakes, brush that on the sliced vegetables and throw them on the grill. Once you have nice grill marks on both sides they're done.

You can buy books on the subject, and they certainly help, but you don't need to. I consult my well worn copy of Steve Raichlen's "How to Grill", on of my earliest grilling inspirations from time to time. And you can get fancy with all sorts of more complicated marinades or rubs and extra ingredients, although it's not really necessary.  Just about whatever you do with grilled vegetables will taste good.

Grilled vegetables are as underrated as they are easy.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A quick take on Freewheel Brewing....and English Session Ales

Recently during during my day job, I finished up with a customer visit at nearly 6:00 pm in Redwood City. With no desire to brave the sluggish highway 101 rush hour traffic on the down the San Francisco Peninsula into the Silicon Valley, I ventured for the first time into Freewheel Brewing. Freewheel takes a decidedly different take on beer than most Bay Area breweries in that they specialize in English-style cask conditioned ales.  With their light, pillowy carbonation, subtle tastes, and generally low alcohol levels, Freewheel beers are diametrically opposed to most of the uber-hoppy, everything but the kitchen sink alcohol bombs served up all over the Bay Area.

I have to admit English-style session ales take a little getting used to in the Bay Area's craft beer environment. My previous experience with Freewheel's brews were at a couple beer festivals, probably the worst way to sample them. Beer festivals are basically beer beauty contests. Everyone wants to stare at the voluptuous supermodels, that plain looking girl sitting in the corner gets ignored. But as we all quietly realize, she's often a lot more fun to spend the evening with than some self-absorbed diva. English-style ales aren't all that sexy but, as I discovered at Freewheel, they make a great evening companion.

I have no idea whether Freewheel's beers are particularly authentic, having never been to England. But then, they don't have to be. As I worked through my tasting flight, it became apparent these beers had a different approach.  I've had plenty of English-style ales like Bitters, Milds, Stouts, and of course IPA's, mostly brewed by American breweries who felt the need to impose their own unique stamp on them. The Freewheel beers seems a bit more dialed down, and in some way, to the right volume. The brews seemed right at home with my plate of fish and chips, not competing for my attention. My surroundings were full of casual chatter in the tightly packed brewpub, the large groups suggesting this was a pretty popular neighborhood hangout.

I have to admit I still don't quite get why the English can be so fanatical about their cask conditioned ales. Freewheel gave me some insight as to why.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Rambling Reviews 12:06:2016 : A Turn to the Dark Side

It's that time of the year where the weather turns colder and the beers turn darker. So for this edition of rambling reviews, I'll take a turn to the dark side to ramble about three pitch- black winter brews.

Let's start with Drake's Brewing 2016 Release of Jolly Rodger, which the fine folks a Drake's Brewing sent over to sample. In a press release, Drake's Brewmaster John Gillooly describes the 2016 version of Jolly Rodger as a Transatlantic Winter Warmer, and he used "..a hearty concoction of specialty malts, candy sugar and an especially aromatic yeast strain to brew this big, tasty ale." How would I describe it? Very wintery. It's a little sweet, with plenty of clove-like aromatics, a hint of spruce, and lots of toffee.  At 10% abv, it'll warm you up, but the alcohol is well buried underneath all the savory flavors. A nifty winter sipping beer.

To my surprise, Drake's also slipped in a bottle of this year's Barrel Aged Jolly Rodger into the sample box. Drake's Barrel Aged Program Manager Travis Camacho took the 2015 version of Jolly Rodger, an Imperial Porter, and aged it in High West Rye Whiskey barrels. One taste of this, and all I could say was just "Wow!". It's just one big, thick, honkin' slab of flavor. The roasty coffee and bitter chocolate flavors really pop, with plenty of sturdy support from the wood-aging. Despite everything going on, it remains smooth with only the barest amount of sweetness. There's nothing really new about a barrel-aged Imperial Porters but this one is a real find.

We end with Dust Bowl Brewing's Black Blizzard Russian Imperial Stout. Dust Bowl Brewing arrived in the San Francisco Bay area just this year.  Located just down the road from Modesto, CA in Turlock, I've enjoyed a few stops at their brewpub a few years back when I had family living in Modesto. So I was glad to see a 22 ounce bottle of this at my local bottle shop in Campbell.  It hit's all the right notes: Bitter chocolate dominates with some lingering coffee, and while it's fairly smooth, there's some noticeable graininess but a pleasing alcohol burn enhances the whole decadent experience.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Session #118: Who's Coming to My Ultimate Fantasy Beer Dinner?

This month's Session topic from Stan Hieronymus is a fiendishly clever idea to get us to think about how beer relates to our personal lives through the simple question:

If you could invite four people dead or live to a beer dinner who would they be? What four beers would you serve?

Which four people would I invite to spend the evening over a beer dinner? Well, I could invite four very talented, accomplished brewers, but a couple hours into a wonkish evening devoted to the fine details brewing techniques, I'd start looking at my watch. Talking endlessly into the night with a bunch of beer writers and historians would be an evening well spent, but I could think of better ways. The four people who I'd  want to spend the evening mean a lot to me in some way, and all undeniably understood the power of beer. So without further ado, let me roll out the guest and beer list for my ultimate fantasy beer dinner.
Mike Royko
(AP Photo/Charles Knoblock)

1) Mike Royko, Writer (1932-1997)
Every morning growing up in suburban Chicago, I'd start my day reading Mike Royko's column on page 2 of the newspaper. Sadly, writers like Royko no longer exist. His crusty, hard-boiled prose covered politics, sports, food, culture, music, and whatever else might be on his mind, an unthinkable breadth in today's modern hyper-segmented media. Some of his best columns captured the hopeful futility of Cubs fans, and with all the retrospective Cubs lore surrounding their run to capture their first World Series in 108 years, surprisingly Royko has been left out of that conversation.

What few realize what that Royko was one of the earliest American crusaders for better beer. Writing for the Chicago Daily News in 1973, Royko declared "America's beer tastes as if it were brewed through a horse". Backing up his assertion, he organized what was quite possibly the first blind beer tasting competition in the United States between twenty-two National brands, imports, and a smattering of small Midwestern regional breweries that existed at the time. Despite taking a lot of heat for slamming America's national breweries, the results supported Royko, as no national brewery finished in the top five. The winner was an imported West German Pilsner followed by England's Bass Ale. The leading American beer was Point Special from Point Brewery, a small brewery in nearby Steven's Point Wisconsin which you can still purchase today.

Royko never lived to see his beloved Cubs win the World Series and American brewing hadn't yet shifted into overdrive when he passed away in 1997. I can only imagine what he'd think about Cubs finally winning the World Series or how America's brewers have transformed beer. I suspect he might not a fan of uber-hoppy IPA's and he'd have plenty of snarky and deadly accurate things to say about craft beer's hipsters and pretentiousness. It's too bad we'll never get to read them.

The Beer: 2016 Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.  The antithesis of beers Royko railed against, yet old school enough to warrant his approval.

2) My wife
No one has shaped my appreciation for beer greater than my wife. People talk about their personal craft beer epiphany. My wife had a big hand in mine. We had only been dating a few months when we took a trek to California's Mendocino County. I was already familiar with a few small breweries, but it wasn't until we stopped at Anderson Valley Brewing and North Coast Brewing that I began to really appreciate the real possibilities and dimensions of beer. She also introduced me to some fine wines in Anderson Valley, but I don't hold that against her.

Together we've shared and discussed the contents of so many 22 ounce bottles. She's not only been a great reality check on my taste buds ("Are you tasting apricot?"), but picks up certain characters from a brews that I didn't quite get the first time around. While we've had our share of passionate arguments over stuff other than beer, sharing a good beer is often the best way to diffuse our stresses at the end of a difficult day.

Of course, there's a whole lot more to her than being my best drinking buddy. She helped me turn around my life ten years ago when it nearly went off the rails, restored a sense of family with my kids I lost with my first wife, still laughs at jokes I've told over a thousand times, and does an unbelievable job of putting up with my crap. I love her.

The Beer: Her favorite beers are Belgian Ales and IPA's, so a good Belgian IPA like Stone's Cali-Belgique is the choice.

Ken Grossman (photo credit)
3) Ken Grossman, Founder and CEO of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
When new brewers these days call themselves pioneers, I just have to laugh. While there's nothing simple about building a brewery, today's brewers can order ready made equipment from any number of suppliers. Grossman had no such luxury back in the day. He literally built his first brewery from discarded junk. New brewers talk about educating themselves to understand the nuances of how beer pairs with food, or how to use new hop varietals. Grossman took welding classes just so he could build a functioning brewery.

Fast forward from those meager scratch beginnings to today and there's simply no one more experienced or knowledgeable about all thing brewing in America, period.  Whether building a brewery, understanding the business of beer, using barley and hops, or finding more environmentally sustainable ways to brew, Grossman's the expert. He also knows a lot about pairing beer with stuff like fois gras and using fancy schmancy hops varietals. Oh yeah, he's also a self-made billionaire.

What I find most impressive about Grossman is that he's handled his transformation from a humble brewer to a brewing mogul with far great humility and grace than many of his contemporaries. Jim Koch's still irrationally clings to struggling Sam Adam's Boston Lager as the savior to his Boston Beer Company, while the company he built pointlessly churns out a steady stream of alcopops. Greg Koch's edgy aggression deteriorated into clumsy corporate punk posing once Stone Brewing became an international brand. Lagunitas's Tony Magee has become just like the corporate bullies he's long railed against. Yet Grossman has remained Grossman: smart, industrious, generous, and knowledgeable. Just like his flagship Pale Ale, even though he hails from craft beers dark ages, Grossman's arguably more relevant than ever. He's still ahead of everyone else on the marketing curve with things like Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp. There's always a seat at my house for Grossman anytime he wants to talk about all things beer.

The Beer: What else? Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

4) Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States
If you've studied how our nation's Presidents related to beer over the past 100 years, and I have, it's clear no President has come anywhere close to Barack Obama at elevating the status of beer in our country. Beer was brewed for the first time in the White House under his Presidency. But home brewing in the White House is pretty minor compared to Obama's Beer Summit, where beer was used for its power as a social lubricant to ease racial tensions. Obama's done a great job serving two terms as our President and it would be my privilege to buy him a beer as a thank you for everything he's done for our country.

Yes, I'm one of those damn liberals and I do my best to avoid politics on my blog, but in these turbulent times as we contemplate a Trump Presidency, I'm finding that difficult. Of the many wonderful things about beer, it's a welcome escape from the critical economic, social, and environmental challenges we face. I'd rather have a hobby writing about something as inconsequential as beer than the stuff that really matters. But given the deep divisions the recent election exposed in our country, often along racial lines, I'm finding it hard to concentrate on beer. They say "Politics divides, beer unites". For that reason alone, we need "beer" more than ever.

The Beer: I would be honored to brew an all grain version of Ale to the Chief  Honey Brown Ale or Porter to serve our outgoing President.

President Barack Obama using the power of beer to heal racial divisions in the Beer Summit

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Giving Thanks After a Tough Running Year

When I was a was a twenty-something runner, I figured my knees would be totally shot by the time I reached age 40, and could no longer run. I was wrong on two counts. First, my knees weren't shot when I turned 40, and now at age 49, I've been running a lot since. But while my knees have been mostly fine in my 40's, it's my hips that have given me problems. The upshot from thinking long ago I'd be done by age 40 is that every race is now is a gift. That's still true, even though this year I've spent most of the time either battling hip injuries or recovering from them.

It was with this mindset that entered the Applied Materials Silicon Valley Turkey Trot this past Thanksgiving with a slightly bad wheel. My right hip which gave me problems in October's Healdsburg Wine Country Half-Marathon had recovered some, but was still sore. The goal was just to go out, find a good pace, hold on, stay competitive, and finish strong. I wore a watch to monitor pace, but went in with no time goal. A well run race, getting the most out of your fitness level, is it's own reward.

Even with a bad hip and reduced expectations, the morning reminded me about everything I still love about racing. The nervous anticipation building up to the start. Being a part of the surge of humanity released by the "Boom!" of the starting pistol. Running in the tightly packed herd, punctuated by foot strikes and heavy breathing, in the early miles. Finding ways to overcome the doubt as fatigue sets in around the halfway point. The battle towards the end and the fight all the way through to the finish line. The post-race comrade of strangers who all just experienced their own personal journeys through the course.  The feeling of accomplishment after giving just about everything I had. All of that happened one more time.

I figure I've run well over 350 races over 36 years in my life, and while a lot has changed over that time, a lot has also stayed the same. I've never grown tired of it. In fact, as I get older, I appreciate it even more. So this past Thanksgiving was time for giving thanks for a lot of things, and being able to race once again was a big part of that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Calicraft Brewing in Edible East Bay

Calicraft's Blaine Landberg
(Calicraft photon)
Calicraft's Buzzerkeley made me rethink beer when I first tried it three years ago. And Calicraft's Blaine Landberg has a far greater agenda than selling beer with his new taproom, showcasing local food, artists and environmental sustainability. So I feel a little privileged I got the chance to sit down with Blaine and tell his story. You can read it here at Edible East Bay:

Calicraft Creativity Bubbles up in Walnut Creek

This is the last you'll hear from my until the holidays, so I wish you all the best for Thanksgiving and see you next week!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Remember those grilling posts I said you'll be seeing...

A third and perhaps final attempt at grilled guacamole
You may recall my enthusiastic announcement last August about adding a grilling dimension to this blog. And yes, a couple posts on grilling followed.  But since then, it's been rather quiet on the grilling front. No doubt, you've been spending sleepless nights, tossing and turning in bed wondering what happened. Well, let me try to ease your mind: This grilling thing, like most everything else, is a little more complicated than it initially looks.

Take for example, my attempt at grilled guacamole. The idea is pretty simple. Instead of chopping and mashing fresh vegetables, I put some grill char on them and caramelized the onions a bit, to give the guacamole some extra depth and smokiness. My first attempt at this was pretty promising, but needed some refinement. However, a couple subsequent efforts foisted on my friends on college football weekends were steps backwards. At least my friends were polite enough to say "Well, it's good". There's also the small matter of the darkening char on the vegetables giving the final product the look of....well, guacamole barf.

I smoked some salmon on the grill for dinner a week ago and it tasted awesome. I'd love to show you pictures, but problem is, all you'd see is a night time photo of a faint pink monolith perched on the grill, looming in the darkness. As the days get shorter, I'm finding myself doing more and more grilling at night, and my camera either doesn't have a flash, or I haven't figured out how to activate it. There wasn't much to the smoked salmon, I just sprinkled salt and pepper on top and used apple wood, then spent the evening playing around with the heat controls all night controls until I got it done. A post that goes like "I didn't do a lot to prepare it, I don't remember exactly how I made it, and I can't even show it to you, but that smoked salmon really tasted awesome" is rather pointless.

And then there's something else I learned about gas grills: They're not as predictable as you might think. When the propane tank is full, the heat level is noticeably lower, too low to get good grill marks on the food. When roughly half the tank is full, there's plenty of good heat which I can control using the grill knobs. When the tank is nearly empty, the heat level starts to decline again. None of this is rather surprising, but of course, it's something I need to get a better handle on with more experience. It's led to a couple grilling efforts being moved to the stove top in order to get dinner on the table before everyone starved.

It has been said "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly".  So I'll be keeping at it. The good news for you is that I won't bore you with my grilling failures. Unless they're funny, like creating "guacamole barf".  I'll deal with the failures, you'll just read the good stuff.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Rambling Reviews 11.14.2016:Long Root Ale, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale, and El Camino (Un) Real

Well, we survived the election. Sort of.

I suspect you, like me, have had enough of Hillary's e-mails, building walls, groping accusations, Russian hackers and all the other nonsense of this year's election. There was plenty of twists, turns, salacious details and wild accusations but precious little actual policy discussion. I try to avoid getting political on this site and just stick to beer. But as one of those environmentalists alarmed at President Trump's plans to roll back environmental regulations, slash alternative energy funding, and opening up previously protected federal land for coal mining, oil drilling, and fracking, I decided this latest round of reviews would feature beers from breweries which support environmental sustainability as an integral part of their business.

We'll start with Long Root Ale from Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland. Long Root Ale is brewed using Kernza, a little known grain that was likely never used for human consumption until very recently. Kernza has long roots that grow deep into the ground, and unlike most grains, grows perennially rather than annually. That means it's a net sink of carbon from the atmosphere, as annually grown crop like barley or wheat create a net carbon increase due to the energy required for plowing the soil each year. As for the beer itself, it's comforting. The soft, light earthy character feels like an old jacket. It's a little light in the body, maybe from the 15% Kernza in the mix.  There's a light savory coriander spiciness to the brew, with grapefruit notes emerging at the finish. I just love beers that are effortlessly unique and complex like this.

Next, we come to Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale, a collaboration between New Belgium Brewing and Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. Now if you ask me, a chocolate chip cookie dough beer doesn't sound like such a good idea. But these guys pull it off. It's brewed with chocolate, vanilla and brown sugar with a Blonde Ale base. And yes, it does taste like a Blonde Ale with a barely noticeable cookie dough note, with the chocolate rather absent. Thankfully, there's not much sweetness, as I can imagine a beer like this could quickly deteriorate in a heavy syrupy monstrosity without the right balance. It's not a flavor explosion, but it does a good job of replicating cookie dough in liquid form in this light golden brown ale. New Belgium and Ben & Jerry's brewed it as part of a partnership with Protect our Winters, an outdoor sports organization devoted to raising awareness of climate change, which will receive a portion of the sales proceeds.

Finally, we'll end with El Camino (Un)Real, a collaboration release between 21st Amendment, Stone Brewing and Firestone Walker, three breweries that have long supported various environmental causes. It's a strong, dark ale brewed gobs of hops (75 ibu), dried mission figs, pink peppercorns, fennel, chia seeds and quite possibly the kitchen sink. I wasn't so sure about this one, there's always a risk with a long list of different ingredients that they don't play nice together. The idea behind this eclectic blend of ingredients is that they all grow along the El Camino Real, a historic mission trail that linked California's 21 Spanish Missions which became California's Highway 101.  But does it all work?  Mostly, yes.  It's a rich, dark complex beer, the figs complementing the dark malt nicely, with all those hops finding their voice under the heavy layers of malt to add their herbal earthiness, with peppery accent to the whole affair. Maybe they could've just stopped at the mission figs, but what's the fun of that?

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Session #117: That barley malt IPA with Pacific Northwest hops is so 21st Century.

It's another crystal ball gazing Session, this time Csasaba Babek at Beer Means Business asking us to predict the one thing we will see more of in beer's future.

I'm going to resist the temptation to write about industry consolidation coupled with the proliferation of very small, neighborhood breweries. I do expect to see more of that, but at this point in my not very humble opinion, that's not really a prediction but an observation. The economic wheels of beer are turning firmly turning in this direction for all to see.

But that more competitive landscape will be a driver for a lot more diversity of beer ingredients, where breweries strive for innovation and distinctiveness to separate themselves in a crowded industry.

I don't think I need to tell you that new hop varietals with unique and  unprecedented flavors are being cultivated each year.  But in my mind, a more interesting development are the nascent hop growing regions in places like Michigan, Wisconsin, California and Colorado taking root, establishing their own identities and quite possibly their own flavors and character. It's still an open question as to how successful these efforts will be, and if the average beer drinker will really tell the difference between Yakima Valley, Michigan, and New York Cascade hops. Will there be a day where bar patrons sip different IPAs from a series tiny glasses, comparing and contrasting the character of different regional hop varieties? This may be a dystopian future for certain people, but no longer seems far-fetched.

On the fermentables side, barley and wheat currently dominate in addition to corn and rice, which are viewed, rightly or wrongly, as cheap fillers. Rye and oats pop up here and there. Historically, it wasn't always that way. For centuries, beer has been brewed with fermentables like millet, sorghum, yams, buckwheat, grapes, apples, cranberries, molasses, honey and whatever else might be lying around. I've noticed breweries slowly re-discovering these other sources or starches and sugar, and the results have been unexpected pleasures. Brown rice added a light, nutty flavor to a light ale, while buckwheat imparted a rich heartiness to a brew roasted barley malt can't possibly replicate. Portland's Hopworks Urban Brewery is playing around with Kernza, a rare grain which most likely had never been cultivated for human consumption, which imparts a light spiciness to the brew. And is it just me, or are rye beers becoming more common, as brewers play around with the interplay of grain and hops. I'm just going more with my gut here, and say brewers moving forward are going to start throwing different stuff into their mash tuns.

Will our barley malt IPA's brewed with Pacific Northwest hops some day look as monochromatic as the industrial light lagers of the 20th Century?  Let's hope so!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cubs Win!

I hope you allow this brief diversion from our usual content....I've been a Cubs fan for forty years since the days of Manny Trillo, Rick Reuschel and Ivan DeJesus in the late 70's.  That means I've seen plenty of bad  baseball over long periods, interspersed with fleeting success, ultimately led to disappointment in a losing playoff series. As a Cub fan, you either learn to embrace the frustration and failure, or take the easy way out and follow the White Sox. The times during this World Series run when the Cubs were badly flailing away at pitches way outside the strike zone, stranding base runners in scoring position seemed oddly comforting, as if the universe was reverting to its natural order. But yet, the Cubs persevered and won Game Seven of the World Series last night, in a game that will undeniably go down as one of the greatest games in baseball history.  I still can't quite believe the Cubs are World Series Champions.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Healdsburg Wine Country Half-Marathon: (sigh)

This beer at Beer Republic's Brewpub was badly needed
after the Healdsburg Wine Country Half-Marathon
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Running is a cruel mistress. That opening line is probably all you need to know how the Healdsburg Wine Country Half-Marathon went yesterday. Things were looking up 10 weeks into my training. I was shaking things up a bit, trying some new workouts, going for more medium efforts 3-4 times a week rather than a couple of killer workouts twice a week. That seemed to be working, and I was staying healthy and really enjoying the new approach. Then, a week before the half-marathon, my right hip started acting up and despite a lot of rest, never fully recovered by race day.

Still, I thought I had a chance to run a decent race, and I have this runner's ethic thingy about finishing was I start, come hell, high water, or a sore right hip. Sometimes, that instinct has served me well as soreness sometimes mysteriously goes away on race day and I go on to run well. So with as much cautious optimism as I could muster, I took off with about 1,000 other runners on a cool, drizzly Saturday morning in Healdsburg.  A lot of thoughts went through my mind as I clicked through the miles during half-marathon, let me share some of them with you.

Mile 1: Hey, that first hill didn't seem so bad, and my hip feels OK.
Mile 2: Still feeling good, hey things might turn out well, just keep moving!
Mile 3: Um....right hip starting to tighten up, maybe back off a bit.
Mile 4: Things not going too well, just try to finish.
Mile 5: When is this damn race over?
Mile 6: When is this damn race over?
Mile 7: When is this damn race over?

I think you're getting the idea.

My goal evolved to just getting back to the finish line with enough energy left to taste some fine Sonoma wines at the finish line and enjoy a beer or two at Beer Republic's brewpub in Healdsburg. My more modest mission accomplished.

That's enough about that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Rambling Reviews 10.25.2016: Deschutes's Hopzeit, Mammoth Brewings Double Nut Brown Porter and Gordon-Biersch's Chum

Time again to ramble on about a three brews I've tried lately.

We'll start with Hopzeit from Deschutes, which they describe as an Autumn IPA as it's basically a cross between a Marzen and an IPA.  I first tried this at the original Deschutes brewpub in Bend, OR and was a bit underwhelmed. It came across more as an interesting and not entirely successful brewing experiment. The hops seemed a little harsh, overwhelming the restrained, underlying Marzen, with the flavors clashing more than harmonizing. But I decided to give this one a second chance when I saw a six-pack of it at my local grocery store and that turned out to be a wise decision. Maybe the extra time in the bottle allowed the hops to mellow down to the right level, as the light sweet caramel maltyness and the citrussy orange hops with a touch of resin were far better balanced and harmonizing than the brewpub version. Kudos to Deschutes for crafting an IPA which truly tastes like fall, at least when it's in the bottle.

Next up, Mammoth Brewing Company Double Nut Brown Porter. The annual family trip to Yosemite National Park is a time when we can all appreciate the surreal beauty John Muir popularized over a century ago and it's also the time to snag my annual fix of Mammoth brews. Porter is one of my favorite styles that's becoming an endangered species in the beer world. This one quickly jumped towards the top of my porter list with its complex coffee flavors which yield to more pecan nuttiness as the brew warms.  It's very roasty, almost but not quite to the point of near ashyness, with virtually no sweetness to let all its great complexity shine through.

Finally, we get a beer with one of the most unappetizing names ever.  I'm talking about CHUM Dry Hopped Red Ale from Gordon Biersch, a tribute of sorts to the San Jose Sharks with which Gordon-Biersch has maintained a long partnership. Thankfully, it tastes a lot better than its name. There's plenty of the toffee thing going on, with juicy, fruity esters suggesting apricot, and a soft earthy finish. It's really well done, one of those beers that's either very drinkable if that's all you want, or one to ponder deeply into all of it's flavor complexity if that's what you in the mood for. A lot more than you'd normally expect from a sports tie-in beer.

But be careful, chum has led people into perilous situations.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Session #116 Round-up

Despite only five participants in this month's Session on the Gose style, the discussion was lively. I led things off with a critique of sorts of what American brewers are doing to the Gose. While I've enjoyed a few modern examples of the style, I'm just not a fan of most of the untraditional fruit additions and extra hopping American brewers are injecting into their Goses.

It seems I've found a kindred spirit with Alan McCleod, who isn't a big fan of what brewers are doing with the Gose these days, either. With his typical biting wit, he decries the worst examples of the style as "Gatorade alcopop" or "salty SunnyD" and notes that what's called a "Gose" these days has little resemblance to the original examples of the style. But it's not all bad, as Alan states, "In the hands of a thoughtful brewer with a sense of tradition there is a memorable play of wheat, salt and herb that satisfies."

On the other side of the pond, Boak and Bailey largely disagree. While conceding "a few more straight Goses without fruit and other sprinkles would be nice", they prefer having a few non-traditional Goses to none at all. They particularly like "Salty Kiss" from UK Brewer Magic Rock, brewed with sea buckthorn, rosehips and English gooseberries.  Describing the contemporary Gose style, they declare, " general, what German Gose isn't in the 21st Century is a deeply profound, complex, challenging beer: it's a fun refresher, no more tangy than a can of Fanta, no saltier than a Jacob's cream cracker, and with coriander present but hardly obtrusive."

Josh Hubner over at Lost Lagers muses on the style's history and how modern brewers are experimenting with the Gose without taking any sides. He notes, "...there is something about a gose that makes it the perfect summer beer, and maybe that's why it's found a foothold here in the U.S. It is simultaneously tart, refreshing, light, and - hopefully - just a tad bit salty. Add some fruit to the mix, as is common among craft brewers, and also traditionally (mit schuss, as is also common with Berliner Weisse), and you have the perfect beer for a hot, sunny day."

Finally, the Beer Nut will have none of this debate.  He's just enjoying a "This Gose" brewed with lemongrass from Fyne Ales, which sent him a sample of along with a smoked salmon as a food pairing. The heavily smoked salad overpowered the Gose, so he found the pairing didn't work, though the Beer Nut seems to have enjoyed lemon grass addition, which created " out-of -character lemon flavour, like lemon meringue pie.....It sits rather oddly next to the other savoury elements of the flavour, but not at all unpleasantly."

That's a wrap. At this point, I'd normally direct everyone to the next host for the upcoming Session, but I don't find one listed. A year ago, Alan McCleod rescued the Session off life support, but with only five contributors this month and no host for next month, it looks like The Session is back in the emergency room. The Session's had great run, stimulating all sorts of great beer discussion and ideas for years from some of the best beer writers on the planet for years. If this is the end, it was a collective thing of beauty while it lasted.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Session #116: What happened to the Gose?

When I first discovered the Gose style three years ago, its sour/salty yin-yang balance was a refreshing antidote to the glut of so many IPAs. I knocked back quite a few Anderson Valley's  "The Kimmie, The Yink, & the Holy Gose" and also became a pretty big fan of the slightly soapy tasting Golden Gate Gose from Almanac Beer. From near extinction in the last century, this quirky sour, salty wheat beer brewed often spiced with coriander, traditionally brewed in and around the German city of Leipzig quickly became an unexpected American brewing success story.

But then, American brewers started doing what they do, fiddling around with other country's styles. Anderson Valley added blood orange to their Gose.  "It gives the beer a cool name!", enthused Anderson Valley Brewmaster Fal Allen when I interviewed him about it. Sure enough, blood orange gives Anderson Valley's Gose an extra dimension, but I'm not sure it was needed or improves upon the original version.  Anderson Valley tried a number of other spice and fruit additions to their Gose. They rejected tamerind, as sour on sour is just too much sour, but in the past year released Briny Melon Gose. I can't say I'm a fan of it. There's not much sour, there's not much salt, with the slightest hint of melon. It's basically a very light fruit wheat beer.

Sierra Nevada made a big splash this year adding Otra Vez Gose to their year around line-up. Sierra Nevada takes the sour salty mix and adds cactus and then grapefruit, and I taste.....confusion.

Recently, I was talking to Calicraft's Blaine Landberg about his Citra Gose, brewed with significant and highly untraditional Citra hop additions. Landberg explained his thought process this way: "I asked myself “How do you make a great Margarita?” rather than “How do you make a great Gose?"" As much as I'm a fan of most of Calicraft's beers, I wish Landberg had simply tried to brew a Gose rather than a Margarita. The Citra hops just clash with everything else in his version.

Now Saint Archer released a Blackberry Gose which I wanted to hate, but couldn't. Saint Archer always seemed more like a marketing construct than an actual brewery, with their acquisition by MillerCoors not particularly surprising. This unfortunately overshadows the fact that Saint Archer makes some first rate brews. Their Blackberry Gose is one of them, the tartness of the blackberry effortlessly harmonizing with the underlying Gose.

I could go on, but I think you're getting the idea. Breweries used to brew light wheat beers with fruit additions, often as "gateway" beers for those more comfortable with mass market lagers.  Now, they seem to be brewing the same beers with a whisper of salt, some sourness, a pinch of coriander and viola', a tired wheat fruit beer becomes a hip and happening Gose. Instead of embracing the sour-salty balance of the Gose, brewing seem to be running away from it. Dead German brewmasters have every right to be spinning in their graves.

Is it too much to ask for breweries to make a good Gose and stop right there?

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Running Lesson Relearned with the Milestone Pod

Twenty five years ago, I was running a 400 meter interval workout on the track, huffing and puffing through the one-lap intervals at 72-74 seconds. An older man watching me struggle through the work-out walked over and told me, "On this next interval, pretend there're iron bars attached to the insides of your ankles and if you don't lift your foot over them, you'll trip and fall."  Just concentrating on getting my foot over these imaginary bars implanted in my ankles, my next interval felt a lot easier. Looking down at my stop watch, I was shocked to see I completed this lap in 68 seconds. Turns out this stranger had once coached an Olympic hurdler, and this was a mental trick he used to improve knee lift. I never forgot that advice and how important getting good knee lift is to good running form. To this day, I still tell myself "Step over the bar" when I feel myself struggling at the latter stages of a race or workout.

I haven't stumbled upon an Olympic coach since, but in the past year, I started using the Milestone pod, a small accelerometer strapped to my shoe to capture stride metrics like stride length, foot impact, running cadence and ground contact time. It actually captures my running pace through the course and the run and Milestone phone app plots my running pace versus the various captured form metrics.

Graph from the Milestone Pod
App showing pace increasing
with Stride Length
Within minutes after finishing my morning runs, I find myself downloading the data from my Milestone pod to check out out how my run went. Stride length has turned out to be the best predictor of running pace. Stride length is a good function of knee lift and earlier this year when I was battling a hip issue, I could feel myself not getting good knee lift, and could see that problem in the Milestone pod data. Training for the Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon has been going well this fall, and the Milestone pod has definitely helped maintain the form I need to help meet my goals for this race at the end of the month.

If this sounds like an endorsement for the Milestone pod, that's because it is.  The Milestone folks approached me last year about testing out their device, and they've have been great to work with, being very patient and understanding with my feedback on the pod. Even if I had paid for both of the pods I've trialed for them, the $25 cost for the pods would amount to a few pennies per run, a bargain for all the great data the pod aqcquires from each run. So yeah, I'm glad to tell others about the Milestone pod because their little gadget has really helped my running and I hope they continue to be successful at it.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Scenes from Tuolumne Meadows

There's been a vacation induced lull in blogging due to my family's annual Yosemite trip. This time, we went to Tuolumne Meadows rather than the Yosemite Valley, which doesn't contain all the iconic views, but has it's own spectacular scenery none-the-less. Sorry, nothing about beer, grilling or running here, just some pictures from that great weekend. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Session #116 Announcement : Anything Gose

As the host for the 116th Beer Blogger Session, I'm asking everyone to write about the Gose style, mostly unknown for much of the The Session's nearly ten year history. In just the past 2-3 years, the Gose has become one of the fastest growing beer styles despite its unusual blend of sour and saltiness. Heady times for the Gose style that not all that long ago was nearly extinct.

Speaking of extinction, I notice there are no volunteers listed to host future Session topics. So if you want to keep this Session thing going, consider hosting one. You can find out how to host a future Session at the bottom of this link.

Back to this month's Session, I choose the Gose style in particular since it can be approached in so many different ways. Want to talk about the history of the Gose?  How about how American breweries are taking this style and running wild with it with different spice and fruit additions?  How else has the Gose manifested itself outside its German homeland?  Is the Gose here to stay or will it go the way of the Black IPA, once the hot style but slowly becoming a largely irrelevant curiosity?  (OK, that might not be your opinion of the Black IPA, but you get the idea.) Of course, we're all on the look-out for a good Gose, so if there are any you particularly like, we'd love to hear about them.

Just post you contribution the first Friday of October, the 7th and leave a link in this post's comments section. Or you can e-mail the link to me at photon.dpeterman[at]gmail(dot)com.  A few days later, I'll post the round-up of everyone's contribution.

And make sure you pronounce "Gose" correctly.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Rambling Reviews 8.19.2016: Dry Hopped Steam from Anchor, 10 Barrel's Cucumber Crush, and JC Flyer IPA from Iron Springs

Once again it's time to ramble about three notable beers I've tried over the past couple weeks.

We'll start out with Anchor's great twist on their iconic flagship. I'm talking about Anchor Dry Hopped Steam Beer. There's a little more to Dry Hopped Steam than just the dry hopping as Anchor Brewmaster Scott Ungermann also lightened the traditional Anchor Steam recipe for the dry hopped version. “We took our most popular, classic beer and gave it a contemporary twist by introducing a lighter body and an elevated, dynamic hop profile using new and classic hop varieties," states Ungermann in a press release. The dry hopped version is lighter and brighter than traditional Anchor Steam, with the floral hop aromas you'd expect from a dry hopped brew. It's still got the classic complex roasty and slightly woody character, it's just dialed down a bit to let the floral hops through. What's interesting is drinking the dry hopped version and the traditional one side by side to contrast the deeper, richer flavors of Achor's traditional Steam with the new, more contemporary version These days, a lot of the older craft breweries like Anchor struggle a bit to remain relevant in the fast moving brewing industry. Dry Hopped Steam shows Anchor has effortlessly overcome this challenge.

Next beer up is Cucumber Crush Sour from 10 Barrel Brewing. 10 Barrel takes a lot of flack from selling to corporate beer giant AB InBev , which reminds me of the time I was at an small coffee shop across the street from a Starbucks. On the coffee shop wall, there were all sorts of signs saying things like "Corporate coffee was evil", "Starbuck Sucks", and various other derision thrown at the Starbucks across the street. There was just one small problem: Their coffee was noticeably inferior to Starbucks. Say what you want about the evil diabolical plans of AB InBev, and while I likely agree with you, 10 Barrel is demonstrably one of America's better breweries, still going strong since the acquisition. Cucumber Crush is yet another example. There's light flavors of cucumber with a fruity, strawberry-like clean tartness. That's it.  Yet, this simple, straightforward uncluttered combination is just ridiculously refreshing.

Finally, we come to JC Flyer IPA from Iron Springs Brewing in Marin County's Fairfax. With family in Marin County, I drop by the Iron Springs Brewpub every so often and have enjoyed this West Coast style IPA. It's citrusy, with tangerine flavors dominating, with some piney notes and a little resiny stickiness. The malt basically stays out of the way. Just another in the long line of solid-to-great IPA's you find all over the place in California.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Smoked Pork Chops with Cherry Balsamic Sauce

The apple smoked pork chops are ready
Sometimes our family has a "Chopped" dinner. You know the show "Chopped" where the contestants have to make an appetizer, entree' or dessert from the ingredients in the mystery baskets? Well, my wife and kids pick four ingredients at the grocery store without telling me what they are in advance, bring them home and my challenge is to dinner must be made from these four ingredients. It's fun challenge and since everyone must actually eat whatever I cook, stuff  the normally befuddle the Chopped contestants like sea urchin roe or lamb brains never show up in the mystery basket.

One evening, the mystery ingredients were cherries, ham, okra, and pistachios. I figured a cherrird would taste good on the ham, so I whipped up a cherry sauce. As we ate dinner, I'm thinking, this sauce would taste even better on some smoked pork chops.

So the Cherry Balsamic Sauce recipe  below is based on that summer evening of improvising a sauce from a bag of fresh cherries on Chopped night. Use fresh cherries in season if you can get them, but frozen cherries work too. Feel free to play around a bit with the levels of sweetness, spiciness, and saltiness of the sauce and tweak it to your liking.

For smoking the pork chops, I use thicker chops and put them edge down on the grill, maximizing the surface area to capture the smoke flavors. Apple wood works for me here, but you could use also cherry, pecan or another lighter fruity wood.  In my opinion hickory or mesquite smoke would be a little too strong. Smoking the chops indirectly at 300-350 degrees on my Weber gas grill for roughly 45 minutes, I get a pretty juicy pork chop.

I'm a beer guy, but if you ask my, smoked pork chops with cherry balsamic sauce spooned on top scream out for a good glass of Pinot.  Enjoy!

Cherry Balsamic Sauce

1 cup pitted fresh cherries ( 1 1/4 cup frozen cherries)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper

Bring the ingredients to a simmer on a stove top reducing it to a syrup. Spoon over four 1/2 pound pork chops smoked with apple, cherry, or pecan wood at 300-500 degrees for approximately 45 minutes and serve.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Quick take on Loma Brewing

Loma Brewmaster Warren Billips
(Loma Facebook photo)
I finally got the chance to check out Loma Brewing, which opened a few weeks ago in downtown Los Gatos. It's at the site of the old Los Gatos Brewing Company (LGBC), and brothers Scott and Kevin Youkilis who purchased LGBC have totally changed the place. Gone is the traditional, dark wooden interior and in it's place is a more contemporary, industrial looking place, complete with bare wood and concrete. Scott is a culinary trained restaurateur, while Kevin recently retired from a ten-year Major LEague Baseball career, which including making three All-Star teams and playing on two World Series winning teams before turning his interests towards beer.  

The Youkillis brothers hired former Heretic Brewing's Warren Billips as their Brewmaster. There were five Loma beers on tap the night my wife and I dropped by and sampled all of them. We started with the lager, which was was fine, and the Berliner Weiss, which worked, though it lacked a little punch. It got a lot better from there. We both thought the roasty Dry Stout, the tropical Pale Ale and the flavorful IPA were all excellent. Sorry, no complex tasting notes. When I'm out with my wife, I put my notebook away. I asked our waitress what hops were used in the Pale Ale and IPA and she struggled to answer, promising she'd check with someone and get right back to us. To my astonishment, a few minutes later, none other than Brewmaster Warren Billips himself drops by our table and says, "I heard you had some questions"  So we got to chat with Warren for a few minutes about his beers.

Warren's a young guy with a long, blond beard that puts the band members of ZZ Top top to shame. His approach to brewing is rather unique in the Bay Area. With so many area brewers trying to one-up each other with big aggressive flavors, it's rather refreshing that Warren favors a lot of traditional styles, his favorite being Kolsch. How many West Coast Brewers would dare say "Kolsch" is their favorite style?    

But Warren uses newer, unique hops with plenty of flavor without hitting you over the head with a lot of bitterness. The Pale Ale tropical notes come from new hop varietals developed in Germany that rarely show up in the United States. His IPA uses El Dorado and Mosiac, hops that aren't unfamiliar to beer geeks, but still are rather recent developments.  (Magnum hop are used for bittering in both beers.)   And in a time where brewers are routinely putting out IPA's with 100+ international bitterness units (ibu), give Warren plenty of kudos for brewing an excellent IPA that checks in at only 50 ibus.  A brewer who's isn't trying hard to impress you with his creativity, executes well, and still creates a lot of new and interesting flavors anyway is a rare thing. It turned out the Lager and Berliner Weiss at Loma were Warren's first commercial attempts at these difficult to brew styles, so it's a safe bet those Loma brews will only get better.

We had dinner there and I'm not a restaurant critic, so I won't say too much. The food was good and I'd certainly recommend it to others. Loma seemed to specialize more in shareable small plates, salads, and flat breads than traditional dinners. There were only four dinner sized "large plates" on the menu so the menu seemed a bit limited to me, but then maybe I'm just out of touch. They seem to be positioning Loma as an after work or late evening hang out place.  At least that's my non-restaurant critic take on things

As for the beer, I'm looking forward more of what Loma's Warren Billips has to offer. Loma will be mixing up their line-up, with an Oatmeal Stout and Oktobestfest coming online in the near future. Loma Brewing, the new kid on the South Bay brewing block is off to a really good start.

The brews of Loma in soft candle light

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Session #115 : A brief ode to "Red, White and Brew" by Brian Yaeger

For this month's Beer Blogging Session, Joan Birraire asks us to write about influential beer books. While, I've read a fair number of books on beer, one of the most memorable was one of the first I encountered, Red, White and Brew by Brian Yaeger.  The book's premise is simple enough. Brian Yaeger goes on a road trip roughly tracking the perimeter of the United States visiting breweries, talking with the brewers, and sharing the history and stories behind each one. While most of his stops were at small craft breweries like Dogfish Head, Anchor Brewing, and Bell's Brewery, his travels also took him Yuengling, Leinenkugel and Spoetzl Brewing, which might not be considered craft but had long histories in the United States.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this book is that it was basically Brian's Master's thesis at the University of Southern California. That's right, while most people earn their Master's degree after long hours in the library or down in some basement lab, Brian got his Master's driving around and drinking beer. But as you read the book, you'll realize Brian is a skilled interviewer who writes with an effortless conversational style on beer that's both informative and entertaining.

I read his book in 2008 when I was beginning to discover craft beer. People talk about having their craft beer epiphany. I didn't have so much of an epiphany, but a fast moving mind expansion on beer over the course of two or three years. It started when I visited a couple breweries. Then I started sampling more and different beers, began posting reviews on RateBeer and it all sort of snowballed from there.It was about a year down that path when I read Brian's book in 2008 which helped solidify my new found brewing awareness.

I actually got to know Brian a couple years later organizing three "beer runs" during SF Beer Week from 2010-2012 where we'd regularly attract over a hundred runners who'd all go for a 3-5 mile run and then hang around for a beer or two afterwards at a San Francisco brewery. (Bryan Kolesar was also involved.) For the first beer run, Brian and I communicated totally by e-mail so I never met him until just a few minutes before the start. I was standing outside San Francisco's Magnolia Pub and Brewery in San Francisco's Upper Haight neighborhood looking around for him when I see this guy bounding down the street who looked a lot like Yaeger's photo on the jacket of his book. As he got closer, I noticed he was wearing a green T-shirt from some Japanese brewery, baggy shorts, and these enormous tube socks with "BEER" written on them. There was no doubt it was him.
Yaeger's Beer Socks
(Bryan Kolesar photo)

As for the beer runs, we made a unique partnership. Brian admitted to hating running, yet found running down the streets of San Francisco with over a hundred other beer runners exhilarating. I loved running, but was paranoid each year we were going to be arrested or sued for not having the required permits or insurance to hold such an event. It's amazing the thing lasted as long as three years.

Today Red White and Brew comes across as a product of a much earlier time. But how could it not? So much has happened with beer in America over the last eight years. The essential thing I first learned from Yaeger's book was that every brewery is tied to a place and has it's own unique story and people behind it. With roughly five times the number of breweries in the US compared to 2008, that's arguably even more true today than it was back then.  And it's this central feature of Yaeger's book that drives both my writing and appreciation of beer as I continue to seek out the places, people, and stories behind each brewery.