Friday, February 29, 2008

2008 Anchor Trip: No Sleep 'Til Sonoma!

It's taken two weeks, but here's the very last 2008 Anchor Trip blog entry. Ever. Promise. I got waylaid by the stinking flu, hence the pause between reportage. Anywho...

(click on pics to make 'em BIG)

The bus picked up about 50 or so nicely hungover Falcons from our hotel in San Francisco at approximately 9:30 am. The plan -- haul our over-boozed hides 60 miles up the 101 to Healdsburg and start our beer-trip off right at Bear Republic. My kind of Sunday. Small side note -- Amy and I wasted money eating at Mel's (Bullshit) 50s Diner only because we had the room service the morning before. Both were massive mistakes.

We all get on the bus and there's Fletch and his Bus Kart! And yeah, I'll track down a picture of the Kart in action. The Brew Kart is a rolling apparatus that holds three 5-gallon corny kegs, a CO2 tank and a 3-tap tower. Bus riders had their choice of George Mahoney's Irish Red Ale, Kent and Nancy Gold's Racer 5 Clone or Falcons' President Steve Cook's Hefe. No offense to the others, but I had three mugs of that yummy-ass Hefe before we even got to Bear Republic. If any of you aren't Falcons but can make the Southern California Homebrewers Festival stop by and try Cook's Hefe. Thank me later. And then we got to Bear Republic...

Amy, circa 10:30 am:

John Aitchison licking his chops:

Why is this man smiling? (your first two guesses don't count)

Geoff looks stoked

Though not nearly as stoked as Rich!
(We can't believe they let him in, either)

Of course, there were these two...
(We returned them safely to Atascadero by supper)

Bear Republic very thoughtfully had about 20 pitchers of their various brews laid out and labeled for our gaggle. I was way too, uh, happy to take notes, but luckily Bruce Brode was there, he took notes, and then emailed them to me:

Wit: Bready, yeasty, spicy aroma features coriander. Nice hazy yellow-orange color (why don't MY Wits come out this hazy? Have I lost my wits?). Crisp, fairly dry flavor starts Wit-like and finishes with a drier flavor than many classic Belgian ones, perhaps the result of different base malt choices. Clean and pleasant.

El Oso Lager: Hoppy aroma also features acetaldehyde, the familiar "green apple" essence found in some pale lagers, and perhaps a feature of the Modelo yeast strain used. The smooth but hoppy palate, with a touch of hop phenols, is pilsner-like to a degree.

Winter Spice: A nice complex spicy aroma is inviting. Medium red color. The crisp flavor features spices on the back end of the palate which linger pleasantly into the aftertaste, with a touch of dry chocolate on the edges. At 5.5% ABV, it's an easygoing winter warmer of sorts.

Pete's Brown Ale: The rich malty aroma has healthy touches of hops and esters. There is enough hop bitterness to keep the rich, lingering malty flavor from becoming cloying. This one was a real favorite among many in the Falcons strike force.

Racer X Double IPA: The eagerly anticipated big version of Racer 5 (8.3% ABV) does not disappoint. A big, blasting hop aroma has elements of pine, pineapple and geranium, and the color is a lovely classic red. There are fruity, hoppy and estery elements to the smooth, creamy flavor and texture. Addicting! This one had the effect of softening up our troops just when we needed strength for the encounters ahead, but so goes the battle.

Hop Rod Rye: Clearly a trick, intending to masquerade as a Rye Ale when in reality it is a hop-laden bomb! Clever, these brewers. The unique bready-spicy aroma of rye leads the unsuspecting drinker in, as does a deep, beautiful red color. However, the full-bodied texture barely contains the rich, intense hop flavor and presence. Kinda like a hop grenade…at 7.5% ABV.

Super Freak: A unique blend of worts from Racer 5 and Red Rocket Ale, fermented with a Belgian ale yeast. The aroma features malt and esters atop a medium amber color. This is followed by a stimulating flavor mixing malt, hops, and a yeasty spiciness. This one is rich, complex, and very nice.

Heritage: Truly an offering intended to make peace, this Strong Scotch Ale presents a complex malty aroma with substantial elements of caramel and a touch of molasses. The color is a very dark red. The house character of smoothness and richness of flavor continues here, punctuated by a dry chocolatey edge. You don't even notice the 8% ABV. Beautiful beer.

Racer 5 IPA: A rich mixture of hops and malt exudes aromatically, with a touch of oxidation. This is yet another deep red-colored ale. The smooth and rich flavor melds malt and hops quite well in the expression of a classic hoppy red IPA.

Big Bear Stout: A roasty coffee aroma suggests this as an eye-opener for one of those "lost Sundays." One also gets a fruity, malty aroma with some hop contribution. The flavor similarly fuses fruity, hoppy and malty-roasty elements into a convincing whole, in what has become to some a definite "American Stout" profile.

So says Bruce. I says Racer X Roolz! As does Amy:

Really though, Racer X is phenomenal and hopefully will soon be in bottles now that BR has a new production facility. Racer X was every bit as good as Hop Rod Rye, and if you know me, that's high praise. Here's me getting a to-go cube of Racer X. My lone complaint against Bear Republic are those stupid plastic beer cubes. They really stink. And leak. And let all the gas out of your beer.

Aside from the big DIPA, Racer 5, Super Freak and Heritage all stood out. Though, disagreeing with Bruce a bit here, Heritage seemed to be more of a Double Red than a Wee Heavy. But who cares, really? Certainly not Fletch and George! For those who don't know, Mr. George Mahoney loves him some Mexican Lager. I suspect his serious face is a result of him intently studying the El Oso Lager and it's Modelo yeast strain:

Despite appearances, Jimmy does take time out from killing the ladies to drink as much beer as humanly possible at these type of functions. Ask his backpack (zing!).

Then this guy showed up, and well... 1,000 words each, right?

Sadly we had to get back on the bus (more of El Hefe's Hefe!) and leave Bear Republic... to go to Russian River! Life is really good sometimes. Sadly, again, the always affable Vinnie Cilurzo couldn't join us (Sunday is medal polishing day) but he left plenty of beer and pizza laying about. Did I mention the beer? Some of us were pretty excited:

While others took a more mature, contemplative approach to drinking some of the world's absolute best beer. I believe George was drinking a Younger:

And, from Bruce, here's what we drank:
What was first served to me as a Blonde Ale was most likely Pliny the Elder Double IPA. When I did finally encounter the Blonde, I was struck by its Kolsch-like character including a dry, herbaceous yet malty aroma, straw-into-gold color, and crisp dryish flavor with nice yeast and hop and grain contributions, providing a rather rich palate but clearing nicely, leaving a refreshing and complex impression. Other encounters:

Rejection: A beer for the broken-hearted on Valentine's Day, this one should NOT be rejected! A malty aroma presents elements of caramel and chocolate, as one might expect for the lover's holiday. The color is deep brown, nearly black, that is to say inconsolable? A rich, spicy-fruity flavor lingers nicely long into the aftertaste and will help you to forget your love troubles.

Pliny the Elder: Yes, the legendary Double IPA was laying in wait for us, and did its share of damage to our troops. The big, rich hop blast of an aroma, with elements of pineapple and mint, was mightily distracting. A citrus flavor married with malt, a touch of citrus-like acidity, a hoppy break and bit of hop bitterness provided a complex and intense experience. We soaked up a lot of bombardment from this one.

Damnation: There is a rich 'Belgian Ale' aroma, including esters, phenols, and malt. The rich, gold color is impressive. A spicy flavor is presented against a richly malty background, with significant fruity notes. Yet another landmine of a beer.

Compunction: In a surprise assault, this unusual ale attempted to disrupt our palates with a complex sour/cellar aroma with citrus/grapefruit, pineapple, and a touch of vinegar. Light orange color. The flavor is distinctly sour, led by vinegar essence with contribution from lactic acid, but no Brettanomyces detected. An effective palate restorative after the good wood-fired pizza.

While it wasn't part of our "deal," RR had Pliny the Younger on tap. I had a couple. Sadly, no Blind Pig (but Amy and I did get some the day before at the Barleywine Fest). Let me just say this -- Pliny the Elder is still the best DIPA around. And the Younger ain't too bad either. But Compunction, Vinnie's sour beer on pluots, is approaching his IPAs in terms of quality. Stellar, outstanding, another gold medal, world class, etc. Man I hope he gets this one in bottles. And soon. Oh, and if you haven't heard, Pliny the Elder will be in bottles. Soon. Younger, too. Woo Hoo!

My old roommate, dear friend and brewing partner from back in the early 90s -- Nathan Feileacan -- showed up with his wife Michelle (also a dirty hippie dear friend) and son Myer. The kid's about the cutest thing in the world. Last time the Falcons won the California Homebrew Club of the Year, we did a similar (fine, identical) bus trip. Nathan rode with us the entire time on that one:

And like that we were off again. Back on the bus. More Hefe. Everything started becoming a blur. Amy was pretty drunk. Actually, the entire crew was fairly gone by this point. But we were headed to Lagunitas, which... if you've had a few too many by 1:00 pm is a pretty righteous place to go. And get more wrecked:

I'm sure you've all heard of Lagunitas infamous Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale. But what might have first landed the brewery on the ABC's to bust list? This beer is now sold as "Censored," but that's the original label:

A bit blurry but fuck it:

More hijinks:

Speaking of Bruce, here's what he says we drank at Lagunitas:

Pilsner: A grainy-malty aroma also shows some hops. The palate is malty with some mild hop astringency, for overall smooth balance and a decent finish despite a bit of "yeast wash."

Maximus IPA: There is a nice piney hop aroma – very fresh! Rich copper color. Hop fruitiness and astringency dominate the flavor, with some malt support.

Hop Stoopid: A nice, rich and complex hop aroma, with elements of pineapple and mint, begin the process of convincing one that this beer will live up to its name. A solid copper color leads to a flavor featuring an IPA-style fusion of hops, malt and yeast esters, with good intensity. This one did some damage to the hopheads among our forces.

The Hairy Eyeball: Lots of caramel malt in the aroma. The color is a rich amber. A nice intense caramel malt flavor follows, with a balancing hop bitterness. This was another attempt to confuse us, as it comes across as a strapping ESB. Besides, what's a Hairy Eyeball, anyway?

Imperial Stout: The aroma is a nice balance of roasty, fruity, and malty essences. Yes, the color is black. The flavor has a slightly smoky approach with some creaminess in the middle and a fruity-hoppy periphery. Another pounding from the big guns.

We also had some Lumpy Gravy (it was OK, but not as good as the last two Zappa releases) and their new Pale Ale, which is in fact last year's Kill Ugly Radio, only dialed down from 7% to 6.4%. Super frigging yum. For real. Like, my new go to 6-pack.

At some point I wandered off (like Anchor, Lagunitas gave us the full run of the brewery) and checked out their new 80 barrel brew setup. Actually, it has a 120 barrel lauter tun, and they're keeping the old 30 barrel system so they can do real big batches. I also caught one of their brewers whipping up a batch of Maximus on the old system:

Then I found their new brewery switchboard, which is probably the coolest thing, well, ever. Be sure to click to make it BIG:

Well friends, that concludes not only this entry, but all of the 2008 Falcons Anchor Trip. Until we win it again... Oh, and below is Amy with three growlers of Pliny the Younger, two Pliny the Elders, a box of Racer X and a six-pack of Union Jack. Ta!


Todd said...

Looks a blast dude! I need to get back up that way sometime (it's been many moons since I hit Bear Republic, for example). And I hang my head in shame for having not been to Russian River yet!

michelle f said...

get your pork-loving ass up here and brew some beer with us.


not a god dammed dirty hippy