Friday, June 26, 2015

We are back!

Yep, after more than a week in California, south and the north, we are ready to roll! Started in San Diego with the Mission Brewery, Monkey Paw Brewery, the Beer Store, the USS Midway (aircraft carrier, not the bar), Petco Park to watch the A's vs. the Padres (which Oakland won!) and roll all up with the Golden State Warriors taking the World Championship. 

Then it was off to LA to visit my old friend Radical Rob and to take Interstate 5 north to visit Piedmont, Oakland, Emeryville and points around the Bay Area. We hit the Russian River Brewing Company for a treat of Pliny the Elder and got talked into an 18 flavor barrage of beer. But did we stop? No! I went to The Trappist for a night cap and found out why that place is as special as it is.

Then is was time for the Class Reunion of 1985 Piedmont High School which was everything I had planned and then some. The next day I took it a bit easy (so I thought) visiting friends in Mill Valley and completely forgetting my hill driving skills! Then is a more sober visit to my parents graves in the VA Sacramento Valley National Cemetery, a visit to the Jelly Belly Candy Company, the Raider Image, and then nice visit with my cousins.  Come Tuesday, I was ready to come home!

So, with all that background, lets get ready to roll!


Friday, June 12, 2015

Jolly Good Fellows: Catching Up: CALIFORNIA!

Jolly Good Fellows: Catching Up: CALIFORNIA!: California. Yep, of all the states, I have to travel to, for a week, is California. The Golden State, the Left Coast, the state that does no...

Catching Up: CALIFORNIA!

California. Yep, of all the states, I have to travel to, for a week, is California. The Golden State, the Left Coast, the state that does not care what anybody thinks because they have managed one of the largest economies in the world. Hell, we even elected the same governor again. That part of California.

And for what reason am I returning, you may inquire? Yep, it is class reunion time. I graduated from high school. The school and the year shall remain a secret, but I also went to university out there as well. Its been a mixed bag the last 10 years and I have not been out there for the last five, so its time I made the pilgrimage again.

Why am I telling you all of this? Its simple. We are going to have a mix of Californian topics to go along with our regular capital city fair. We have had a fair amount of good material for our Nation's Capital to go around and that should not put to the side for any reason. And of course, news from the Left Coast, is going to be interesting if not different.

So, hang on, as we introduce a bit of California (Uber Alles) to the mix. Go Bears!

Brian Smith

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Checking In: Cooking with Norse

You know, sometimes it is better to look backward rather than forward. The old ways are better than the new ways, even if it is just a consideration of how to do something. It is something so simple, so easy, and it just went right by you. Cooking with Norse, a camping and cookout website with a focus on craft beer, is one of these websites and worth of your consideration, and if you don't think so, tough shit!

Cooking with Norse is the brainchild of Andrew and Scott, and they have over 120 episodes and will be hosting a craft beer site. (They requested that their names be withheld, because, well, it just tuff nuggie!) These two Norseman (at least one is Norwegian, so he is forgiven), who came out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, had a simple idea - easy cooking ideas that go with hunting.  Now when a hunting trip goes astray, all is not lost. Just whip out one of these videos, available on YouTube or Younto, and you can rescue your lost day off!

But what about the supplies and cookery that go with those easy cooking ideas? Its great that you have a choice of cheese soup, but its not good when the soup requires oven.  Well, now they have branched out to include these as well.

So check the site Cooking with Norse and that me know what you think and we can post their videos from time to time. One thing for sure, the food is scrumptious - and if you don't think so - tough shit!



Friday, May 8, 2015

Getting Out of Town: Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company in Staunton

So, you wanted to get out of town and enjoy the Spring, but where do you go? Well, of course, in Virginia, you go to a brewery! The last time we had left our intrepid adventurer (me!) we had left one drinking establishment on a pretty good note and set sail for the next port of call. So let us return to our tale of yesteryear and explore the Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company.

OK, wait, Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company? Wasn't there also a Shenandoah Brewing Company in Old Town Alexandria some years ago? Wasn't their trick that they would brew the beer for you and they took a pinch of the funding for it? Well, yes, there was, but these folks are not them. (I asked.) No, they took the name, added a "valley" and are in business for themselves. Its a good thing too because they brew a way better beer and a much larger collection of them. Yep, that's right, their are at least two brewers worth their weight in Staunton!

Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company
One of the things that makes the Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company worth it is that they are directly across from the train station. This is one of the reasons that the regional trains are really important to the suburban population. The Amtrak comes right on through and stops there at least twice a day, so people getting off the train have beer on the brain.  So, get off the train, stop in for a beer, and then head for home. This type of repeat business, even though it is small, helps keep Shenandoah Valley stay busy.

Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company
So, after finishing up at Redbeard Brewing Company, I walked over to Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company, pulled up the off beat stools that they had, and placed an order for a Berliner Weisse. This beer had an interesting taste. It has a weiss flavor in its background which is a hard clear taste, but in this case, it doesn't want it to come out. Its almost hiding, slowly coming out after a nice amount of time. By the third drink, it is full mode and it is marvelous. This is a beer that seeks to take its time and you must let it. You are on the beer maker's time, not on yours.

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Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company: Berliner Weisse
After the Berliner Weisse we moved on to the next round, which was the Aus Dem Tal Alt Bier. Completely different that the Berliner Weisse, it took its flavor from rich ingredients within the glass. It had a dark smokey color, but when you tasted it, the flavor lifted to a light, almost grainy taste. It was like two flavors in one glass and they were both good. As a matter of fact, nothing short of excellent, but it is not clear who won the battle.  The Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company had a selection of about 15 different beers, all of them ranging from pale ale to dark stouts. This was easily one of the most accomplished brewery's in recent memory.

Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company: Aus Dem Tal Alt Bier
The Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company had a selection of 14 different beers, all of them ranging from pale ale to dark stouts. This was easily one of the most accomplished brewery's in recent memory.
Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company - Beers on Tap


By the time I had finished the second beer, it was time to leave. I had not even had time to attend a sitting at the Queen City Brewing Company, but I had the feeling I needed to go. So, I packed up my things and bid adieu to the Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company and to the city of Staunton, VA and made my way home by the declining light of a long evening.

Staunton was a real surprise, nestled their with the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, turning a once new look at the brewing industry. It will take some time, but we may be looking at one of the sister cities in a brewing revolution. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Getting Out of Town: Redbeard Brewing Company in Staunton

 Talking. Conversation. Having never been to a place yet saying to yourself, “wow, is that where that is.” For all of the hours we while away digitally searching for that one perfect spot, talking can often narrow it down in an instant. Talking is how I found not one, but two, spots for me to relax on a Saturday afternoon. Talking is how I founded my spots for the weekend.

The destination is the Redbeard Brewing Company in Staunton, VA. Now, a little background. While I don’t have a regular spot for writing, sometimes I do frequent a couple of place more than others. Peets, out of on Monument Drive in Fairfax, is one of those places. I could go on about  Peets, but it is the connection to Berkeley that really sets is apart. The photo is the upper right corner of the collage on the wall says it all.  So, there I am writing away and I spot a San Francisco Giants jersey on a guy, a little older than me. He sees that I have spotted it, we make conversation and I discover that he is also an Oakland Raiders fan and East Bay follower as well. This is getting good and though we don’t hit on all cylinders, I find out that he is moved back here with his wife and they are into skydiving. He asks if I have been to Staunton (pronounced Stanton for all of you non-local folks) and I say that I have not. He then fills me in on the Redbeard Brewing Company and on some of their brews. I am intrigued and make notes of it (yes, I am learning to make notes) and agree that I am going to make an effort to go there.

So, Saturday comes, my calendar is empty, and I am off to Staunton. The drive is about 2 1/4 hours and the town is cool. Really cool. Its an old industrial town and it has kept its original plan. The buildings are original and their are few, if any, new ones. If you have a couple of hours, it is well worth the drive down there. After doing a little prairie dogging, I found the brewery off of the main drag. (You will find it too, its not very big and its next to the place that does it own glass blowing - really nice glass blowing.)

Redbeard Brewing Company is in an original department store building and is slowly being torn down on the inside and replaced by a modern facade. It is best described as “under construction” by it will be nice and clean when it is finished. When I walked in, there was not much of a crowd, but the barkeep assured me this was not the case - it was their first nice day in a couple of weeks.  So, now it was on with the choice. I picked out a sampling of beverages from the six that they had, put it into 4 oz. glasses and proceeded to sample. Now, I have gone back to get accurate information on the sample sizes, only to find out that they vary their holdings. For some, I am able to get sample information, and others I am not.

America’s Pale Ale: Light in terms of taste, with a bit of hop. Still not much there. It was perfect for a warm afternoon like this one. Again, beer is what you make of it. 4 out of 5 stars.

Redbeard Brewery Company: America's Pale Ale  



American Brown Ale: This had more punch than the pale ale, but not a whole lot. It actually a little weak, but it does hold its own. Could stand a few more hops, but all in all, its good. 4 out of 5 stars.

Redbeard Brewing Company: American Brown Ale

Session IPA (4.25% ABV 55 IBU): Weakest of the three so far. It carries the flavor of a Session, but not of an IPA. However, gives a good account of itself. A little more time and then we will have something. 4 out of 5 stars.

Redbeard Brewing Company: Session IPA
Blueberry Wheat Ale: Blueberries by the snoutful. Light, but a pronounced set of blueberries. The beer is consistently light, perhaps a little too light. Otherwise, its good. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Redbeard Brewing Company: Blueberry Wheat Ale
AMOG Stout: Smokey foretaste based on the smell. Kind of a mix between coffee and beer, but it doesn’t quite work. The brewer is onto something though and should keep trying - he/she is onto something and should not let it go. The two flavors are separated now and they should be one in the future. 3 1/2 of out 5 stars.

Redbeard Brewing Company: AMOG Stout

Black Rye IPA: Where the last one needs some work, this one is alive! Wow! its a mix of hoppy and a smooth base which make a nice mixtures. It is really much more than a few Black IPA, it is really special. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Redbeard Brewing Company: Black Rye IPA
The venture to Redbeard Brewing Company really turned out well. The place is nice and quiet and moving forward without being forecast as dead. Staunton is a wonderful little town, but it is kind of on the downside. Walk around and the real estate market simply tell the story: houses for sale, buildings shuttered, places closed up. It is one of the places that our economic turn around has missed but Redbeard Brewing Company is turning that around, slowly but surely.

But wait, didn’t I say that there were two places in Staunton, not one? Yep, I did, and the next one will be in the next review.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Back to the Brewery: Old Ox Brewing Company

I said in the beginning of Corcoran Brewing Company that we also paid attention to another brewery that night and I would be reviewing that brewing establishment. Well, it is time to visit that brewery and I have to say that where Corcoran Brewing Company was a let down, this one was a winner.

The Old Ox Brewing was an outstanding finish to that week on the brewery tour. The brewery concentrates on a few key beers, serves them all is 3 oz glasses, and takes pride in what it does. Tucked away in an industrial park (it does take a little effort to find them), the Old Ox is perfectly situated to make its presence known.

As a matter of fact, one of our local watering holes has started carrying two of the Old Ox brands on its bar tab shortly after I visited it. It is a growing concern in the National Capital area and should be on your short list. Ask for it the next time you are out.

Now for the line up for the evening. The Old Ox does not disappoint. I have taken out the two that I have had before (Alpha Ox and the Black Ox) but the list is still pretty full. I have put their advertising blurb immediately thereafter and then my part of Untappd. Gives a full and well rounded view point. They came with a full two treys of their finest beer and those lined up as follows:

Golden Ox: "A crisp, medium-bodied ale with orchard fruit notes on the nose. Brewing with a blend o Pilsner, Vienna, and Munich Malts, this beer balances sweet, malty body with flowery Saaz, Columbus and Chinook hops. Brewed in a Belgian style, this beer is quaffable at any time of year. Color: Golden. ABV: 6.5%."

My review on Untappd: Nice flavor goes into this beer. The blend of hops really comes through in this batch, balanced with a malty taste. The way beer ought to be.

Old Ox Golden Ox
Oxplorer Batch #2: "Code name "Retro"! Retro because we're using hops that were popular inthe 90's but have lately been ignored. These old-school hops are well worth rediscovering. This batch features Williamette, Mt. Hood, and Cascade hops. Color: Burnt Orange. ABV: 7.5%"

My review on Untappd: Has a nice sweet after bite to it, which really compliments it. Rest of the beer hold up to it. It does not have a big hop bite.

Old Ox Oxplorer Batch #2

Saison d'Ox: "It's back! Our Gold Medal winner form the 2014 Virginia Craft Brewers Cup. An effervescent, straw colored ale brewed in the French Saison style. Crisp and dry with a nuanced flavors or orange peel and spice. This refreshing brew is perfect any time of year. Color: Straw. ABV: 5.7%."

My review on Untappd:  This is what awards are presented for. The orange peel and spice are present without being predominant. It's an easy drinking French saison.
Old Ox Saison d'Ox

B.S.:  "This complex Belgian brew feature lucsious caramel and dark fruit notes. Carefully crafted to provide warms on a cold winter night. Color: Deep Brown. ABV: 7.8%"

My review on Untappd:  This is my favorite, and it is not just the BS. The dark fruit really comes out, though the carmel is more restricted. I like this pour.
Old Ox B.S.
 
Kristin's Passion: "Brewed with cocoa nibs, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and red chillies, this beer is a liquid representation of Kristin's passionate side. Smooth chocolate give way to cinnamon spice and then finishes with low smoldering heat.  Color: Black with Ruby Highlights. ABV: 6.0%"

My review on Untappd: The flavor articulated in a news paper article. Mexican hot chocolate porter is nothing like the Red Bull. Full, crisp and light.

Old Ox Kristin's Passion
This beer actually was at the heart of a trade mark infringement case launched by Red Bull (can you imagine Red Bull saying that they had a tangle with a relatively local beer?) and it said that Kristin's Passion was so close to a drink that Red Bull had planned that they had violated Red Bull's patent. I think that you can judge by looking at it that Red Bull was clearly full of it, but it is a great example of how large beverage companies can try to steer small companies away from profitable centers of commerce. Fortunately, Old Ox held firm and opposed Red Bull. I still do not know how it came out.

So in summary, Old Ox Brewery Company is on its way to becoming one of the great brewery companies on the National Capital area.  Good quality products and attention to details are going to be its two great selling points. I look forward to their entry on the scene.