Yosemite 2015

Just because my last post was 2 months ago, doesn’t mean I’ve taken a break from diligently drinking beer. I had a series of crazy work days, followed by a beautiful and much-needed trip to Yosemite. We spent the night in Mammoth on our way up, and pictured above, I am indulging in one of my favorite Stone beers while hanging out in The Village. Unfortunately, once we actually made it inside a bar (specifically, the Lakanuki) the beer selection wasn’t so expansive and satisfying.

In Yosemite, we had the chance to stop at the Ahwahnee Hotel after a short hike to lower Yosemite falls. This hotel has a seriously gorgeous view and a charming mountain resort ambiance (as long as you ignore the fact the style is vaguely reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining).

After enjoying some tea time with cookies in the Winter Room, we went to the bar and I ordered a Tuolumne Meadow IPA. I kept some notes on decent beers brewed by Mammoth brewing while I was there, but they were lost in the shuffle, or maybe on a hike. It’s OK; the beers were good, but none of the beers were as good as San Diego beers anyway. Yosemite is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, not brews:

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Oh, and as of recently, Yosemite is also known for the bubonic plague.

 

Barrel Republic Beer By The Ounce

My friend told me about this place a while back, but I just now got to check it out. This place has like 40 beers on tap and charges by ounce. You show your credit card and ID when you get in, they give you a bracelet with a sensor in it, and you scan the bracelet before every pour. They have a wide variety of glasses available for different types and quantities of beer.

They have a wide selection, including Belgians, IPAs, pale ales, lagers, you name it. There’s something for everyone; I suppose that’s the point. You can pour as little or as much as you want, so if you don’t like it, you can quickly move on. The catch is that it’s not a great deal. Most of the beers on tap end up being $7-$8 a pint which is what fancier joints charge for beers.

They even have a few wines. Although, there was some Adam Corolla-promoted wine called “Mangria” and I’d pretty much rather die than drink anything recommended by Adam fucking Corolla. Oh, I get it – MANgria.  YOU ARE SO FUCKING WITTY ADAM COROLLA. No thanks.

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After trying a whole host of delicious beers, none of the names of which I can recall currently, I ran into Thing 1 while waiting for the Coaster. Not sure where Thing 2 was. Speaking of the Coaster, it sucks now because they have banned alcohol. Because freedom and shit. ‘Murrica.

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Stone Farms

I drink Stone beers all the time, and have been to Stone’s restaurant/breweries in Point Loma (Liberty Station) and Escondido, but they’ve come up with something new recently. Stone Farms is a 19-acre farm where they purportedly grow some of the food for their restaurant (I think I read that somewhere). On Wednesday and Friday evenings, they have live music until 7:30. They have a small bar there, though beers aren’t cheap ($7). You can bring your own picnic, or they have pizza.

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I’d been wanting to come here for a while, because I saw a random post on Facebook, it sounded neat, and I wanted to come here before it became cool. The grounds featured various types of flowers, cacti, and vegetables. There were several rows of squash vines, though I have far from a green thumb, so don’t quote me on that. There were a few picnic tables placed in dark recesses under the vines, which could potentially be quite romantic if you had a picnic basket and some wine. There was a chicken coop, complete with chickens (duh), roosters, and a token peacock. There was also a pigeon coop. I don’t know if they serve pigeons at their restaurant; I’m not quite sure of the purpose of pigeons. Maybe the pigeons serve as messengers and deliver messages to the brewery/restaurants as to what will be the special du jour.

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They were all out of Cali-Belgique when I tried to order it, but it was for the better since I drink that frequently enough. I had a “Delicious” IPA or some shit like that. They said it was not their normal IPA, which I also drink too often. You can’t really go wrong with any Stone IPA in any event, and this one was no exception (yum).

There was a an area with a small stage for the music. The stage is framed by a bunch of bales of hay (seating), and an enormous oak tree that provides a great deal of shade for the multiple picnic tables underneath. The music wasn’t bad. The performer looked like a total hipster. Hipster hair and beard. Tight-fitting flannel shirt and skinny jeans. His music was unexpectedly hippie as opposed to hipster though (not that I would have minded either way). He played some old-timey country, folk songs, and even threw in Friend of the Devil by Grateful Dead; I was super stoked about that.

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The hot sauce has nothing to do with the farm, but while we’re on the topic of Stone, I thought I’d mention it. I got it at the grocery store the other day because it was on sale. I love spicy foods and was looking forward to it. It’s not bad, and is excellent on some scrambled eggs. However, as a person who enjoys spicy foods that make me cry, this sauce oversells itself a bit. It’s not terribly bastardy and it doesn’t really “double burn.” You can do a lot of burn with habanero, but this was on the sweet and mild side.

Biking To Local Breweries

After a hard week, a decision was made to bike to a couple of close by breweries to blow off some steam. The thing with biking to breweries is you can drink beer but feel like you deserve it because you are engaging in some kind of exercise. This was especially the case with some of the hills we encountered on our way.

First, we went to Latitude 33:

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I’d tried a few of their beers at various bars at some point or another. Their beers were not bad at all; however, they also weren’t really outstanding either. Each beer was a solid, well-balanced beer, but nothing that would blow you away.

American Wheat: It looks more filtered and clear than the usual wheat beer. It’s golden in color, and a little bitter at the end. It’s vaguely fruity. It’s almost got some lager tones, but enough to put me off (I don’t like lagers). It’s well-balanced, though not pungent or strong enough for my tastes. 5.0 ABV.

Belgian Witbier: Looks less filtered (more opaque), light yellow in color (think Hoegaarden color). It’s a little bitter on the end also. Some citrus and tartness in there. 4.9 ABV.

San Diego IPA: The pine smell is immediately apparent (a good thing). Citrusy, bright, with a very bitter finish. Fresn. 7.8 ABV.

Honey Hips Strong Blond: I have a friend who loves this. She specifically has said that it’s strong as hell, but doesn’t taste like it. However, I beg to differ. I can smell the alcohol before I even put it to my lips. It’s a deep golden color, with a slightly toasty/roasty flavor.

Vanilla Porter: Shit starts to get good around here. This one was far better than its predecessors. Creamy, but a bit tart on the end,

Breakfast Stout: I got preoccupied playing pool, because they have a pool table you can play for free. All I can say was I liked this a lot. Tasters were not cheap considering this is not a well-known brewery – $2 for the standard 4-ounce tasters. However, the pool made it worth it.

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Next, we made our way to Toolbox Brewing:

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This was probably a mistake, as we were unaware this place specializes in sour beers. Neither of us are sour beer fans. I hear it’s an acquired taste, but I’m not quite there yet. I tend to either like something immediately or dislike it. For instance, I immediately liked coffee and IPA’s, though for most people, these beverages are a matter of gradual liking. Anyway, I wasn’t in the mood for experimentation, and we ended up ordering Last Call IPA and the Mini Mudder Milk Stout. Last Call was a fresh and hoppy IPA (6.5 ABV), but quite standard. The milk stout on the other hand was quite exceptional. It was creamy, full, and had the familiar coffee taste. Beautiful milk stout.

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Lost Abbey

Lost Abbey‘s very close to me, but I hadn’t been in years. I took my brother when he was in town for a wedding, and we had a few tasters. I was up in Orange County for work all day, and made it back down to San Diego around 4:00 p.m. I had a long day and didn’t feel the need to go back into the office. I picked my brother up and we hit up Lost Abbey. I don’t usually drink on Tuesdays, but apparently everyone else does. At 4:00 p.m. on a Tuesday, the place was bumpin’. Don’t people work? I wondered what I am doing wrong. I need to be drankin’ at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesdays…

The menu was extensive, including their own beers and that of Port Brewing, their sister company.

Carnavale: This is a French country ale, with an ABV of 6.5 percent. It’s fruity, tropical, and very Belgian-trippel-ish.

Devotion: This is a dry-hopped blond ale. It’s 6.5 percent ABV, and does have a “crisp hop finish” as described on the beer menu.

Lost and Found: This was an Abbey-style dubbel. It was a bit tart, fruit, and was not as thick as some dubbels. It had a hint of caramel, and was a malty, roasty beer. A bit red. It has a sweet finish.

Serpent’s Stout: I’ve had this one a few times, and it’s a good stout. It’s a double mash imperial stout, with an ABV of 11 percent. It’s bitter like espresso grounds, and tastes of vanilla, bourbon, and spices. It’s got a bit of heat, but is smooth.

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I also had some Wipeout IPA by Port Brewing. That’s a fruity, fresh, hoppy west coast IPA, 7 percent ABV, dry hopped with amarillo and centennial hops. To be honest, this is more my type of beer, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a decent appreciation for Belgian styles.

 

Green Flash

I had the pleasure of hitting up Green Flash and tried a couple of new beers, as well as a couple of my old favorites.

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I started with the Jibe Session IPA (4.0% ABV), which I kind of feel is a West Coast IPA light. It’s hoppy, light, fresh, smooth, floral, with just an edge of bitterness. It’s really easy to drink, and is a pale golden color (but not as light as a lager). It would be easy to knock back three of these while sitting on a beach, if it weren’t illegal pretty much everywhere in Southern California. Green Flash’s tasting notes on this one: woodsy, oroblanco, pine, eucalyptus. I had to ask what oroblanco was – apparently, a seedless sweet citrus hybrid fruit similar to grapefruit.

Next, I had the Soul Style IPA (6.5 %ABV), which sounded familiar for a reason. I had it for the first time in New Hampshire several months ago. I described it already in the previous post, but I’ll just add that in comparison, it was a bit less well-rounded than the Jibe Session, and not as notable as their West Coast IPA. The session is pictured left, below, while the Soul Style is on the right:

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The Trippel was warm, fruity, and 9.7% ABV, though you would never know by the taste. This is probably a dangerous beer. Its smoothness and unassuming flavor belies its strength. I thought I tasted some plum, but the tasting notes report ripe banana, cane sugar, and pepper.

Hop Head Red (8.1% ABV) is one I particularly like. Tasting notes advertise luscious caramel malt and resinous hop. The caramel is obvious, and goes well with the hoppiness (though the pairing is somewhat unexpected). This is sort of an IPA/red ale combo. This beer is on the bitter and heavy side.  Beer Advocate considers it “very good,” and classifies it as an amber/red ale, though it probably has a lot more flavor and punch than 90% of the ambers/reds out there.  Interestingly, Beer Advocate notes, “In 2011 the recipe was altered to bump the IBU’s from 55 to 70; ABV also increased from 6.4% to 7.0%. In 2014 the ABV increased to 8.1%.” I used to order several of these when out at bars, but it’s getting to be a heavier beer (see below, beer on the right).

The West Coast IPA (8.1 ABV) is one of my all-time favorites. Green Flash declares it is extravagantly hopped (no doubt about that). It is also described as “pine, citrus, floral.” The beer really hits you in the face, in a good way. It’s vaguely nutty. It’s a beautiful beer that pairs well with happy times.  Similarly, Beer Advocate indicates this beer was 7.2% ABV before 2014, but has an 8.1%ABV beer after 2014 (beer on the right, below).

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Monkey Paw Beers

At the Bellows again last night. Tried a couple of beers by Monkey Paw.

The Lab Monkey IPA was well-balanced and hoppy. Fruity, but not particularly citrusy or floral. It was sort of a deep golden, almost orange-golden color. It’s 6.5% ABV. Decent IPA (on the left, in the pictures above and below). We had some pretty good flat breads, but the Lab Monkey paired particularly well with the Whiskey Burger done medium rare.

The Lup’d Up was a 4.5% ABV saison brewed with rhubarb. This was ok. I am not really familiar with rhubarb, and we decided to give it a go. This beer was sort of a Belgian white style, and kind of had the body of a wheat beer. The color was an opaque sunshine yellow. It was bitter and tart and a bit lacking in substance (on the right, in the pictures above and below).

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New Sculpins To Swig

Sculpin IPA is already delicious, crisp, powerful, and one of the greatest beers ever…but wait! There’s more! I finally tried Sculpin Grapefruit IPA. Drank it by the pool at a bachelorette party and it did not disappoint. In fact, I think I like it even better than the regular Sculpin IPA. It has the fresh, crisp, hoppiness of Sculpin but also comes with a lovely and well-balanced grapefruit flavor (pictured above), making it even fresher and more palatable on a hot day. I sat by the pool in the backyard of a mansion in Temecula’s wine country drinking this beer of the gods and texted a picture to my friend. She asked me if I’d died and gone to heaven. Seriously, very plausible at that moment.

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I also recently tried the Habanero Sculpin IPA. I’ve tried several spicy beers by now and I usually treat them like novelties; they are good as a one-time experience. After that, you get kind of tired of the way your throat burns and itches (even if you are a huge fan of spicy food like I am). As amazing as Ballast Point is, Habanero Sculpin fell into this category. Habanero Sculpin IPA definitely tasted like Sculpin IPA, but the masterful creation that is Sculpin IPA was somewhat muddled by the smoky, itchy habanero that grew more potent as the beer warmed in my hands (I wasn’t drinking slowly by any means, but by the time I got toward the bottom, quite spicy/itchy/weird). Sometimes you just gotta leave a good thing alone.

There is a Chinese idiom about not adding legs to the painting of a snake – meaning, if you’ve a got a good thing going, don’t add elements that don’t make sense or ruin what you have. Maybe not applicable to the Grapefruit, but probably a relevant idiom when it comes to the Habanero.

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A Tail Of Two Cats, And A Lot Of Beer Part II

Ophelia

It’s Friday night. It’s Friday night! Again! Friday nights are always like this. The strangers arrive in waves, and the incessant doorbell chime grieves me. I wish they would stop coming. The weekend always comes again so quickly, and the people appear and here it is again, loud noises, slurring speech, drunken mess in the living room and I can’t get Mum or Dad’s attention for hardly more than a minute the whole night. It’s frightening and crass, these weekend nights. Everyone makes me so nervous, though I don’t know about what. I just cannot relax on these weekend nights.

Mum and Dad forgot to give me the Buspar (anti-anxiety medication) today! That’s what drinking does; it causes rational people to forsake their sense of decency and responsibility, though to be completely fair, I don’t like the medication anyway. But the point stands, as I quite dislike drunkenness, and cannot stand the presence of so many people at such high volumes, so I sit upstairs and watch silently from behind the safety of the banister. I wish Mom or Dad would just come up briefly and say “hi.” It agitates me to no end – oh my, does Mum really need another IPA? Does Dad really need to have that Porter? My god, this is interminable!

When they stay at home, they raise hell all night and grate my nerves for hours until I wonder if I’m indeed an American house cat, or a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. When they go out to bars or clubs, they come home so late, at an ungodly hour, and follow me around the room trying to pet me with their grubby drunken hands. I cannot stand it. They make a big deal out of their variety of craft beers, but I do not believe this is a worthy or proper endeavor of any sort. Grown people voluntarily drinking this abominable stuff, and growing loud and silly. And they think I’m the one with the mental problems. It should not be permitted. Lord have mercy on the individual who invented this devil-juice.

Oh, my god! What was that? Oh, only the doorbell… again….  I just don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. My sister is not supportive at all. She is transparently obsequious, taking interest in the different types of their sinful drinks, making her way from one friend to the next, peering at everyone coyly, nuzzling up to the boys.

She’s disgusting. She’s a disgusting, cheap, little slut, and she’s cruel to me. Her antics have been a severe source of apprehension and even oppression for me. The humans don’t see through her sly charm, but oh but how she torments me heartlessly when they are not around! She’s claimed certain parts of the bed as “hers” and becomes aggressive if I approach, as if she owns the place! Dad originally came to the animal shelter for the sole purpose of adopting me. She was a mere afterthought. He happened upon her and she of course easily deceived him with her saccharine ploys, so he ended up coming home with two cats. Immediately after we arrived at our lovely new abode, she set to work claiming laps, chairs, spaces as “hers.” It’s almost painful to think about it… I know Mum suspects Sister is this way when no one is watching, but alas, it is hard for anyone to conceive of this, as she is so small and delicate, while I’m larger – a bit overweight (yet another source of constant angst for me!)

How they all clearly love my sister, as she moves from one lap to the next. Oh, I’m not at all bitter because that’s not my nature, but it hurts! She lingers in the lap of the boy she likes a lot. She conjures up quite a bit of her malicious charm for him. The blond one turns itchy and red near my sister, but one plaintive look from that brazen trickster and the blond one reaches out to gently scratch her wretched cheek. I don’t understand any of this. Aside from my vulgar sister, honestly, who likes being molested by strangers? Oh, I could die right now. When does it end? 

Blast the IPA’s, porters, and Belgians. I’m going to go hide in the bedroom for the rest of the night.

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A Tail Of Two Cats, And A Lot Of Beer Part I

Fiona

It’s Friday. Mum and Dad’s friends are coming to get drunk and I love it. Mum has an IPA in hand, and I watch her when she answers the door because I want to see which friends are coming. I love the men. They are strong and beautiful and I could watch them and brush by them gently, purposefully, all night. Mum always moves so quickly. She runs to the door sometimes like they haven’t had a visitor in years. I’m watching but it often looks like I’m staring or glaring; my eyes have that kind of intensity, like maybe I am trying to bore a hole into your dark soul with my gaze.

I don’t think she believes in reincarnation, but…well, I’m fairly certain she does not believe in reincarnation, though some people do. It could be that dead is dead, and my little bones and organs will be forgotten, decomposed matter in the ground, ashes floating in the wind. But if Mum did believe in reincarnation, I think she’d want to be me in her next life. I think she’d find herself rather happy being me.

She thinks she is happy now. She and Dad are always talking and laughing. They go out drinking with friends on the weekend and if they go out they come home late, just when I am starting to think they might not be back at all. Their friends start out at our place, drinking lots of craft beers (Coors and Bud are not permitted in this house, unless for beer pong or other drinking games). Sometimes Mum is talked into shots of tequila or whiskey. They go out downtown to clubs and bars, come home loud and inarticulate, and sometimes cook food at 2 in the morning. Their friends pass out on the couch, and everyone wakes up incredibly late.

The next morning they complain about headaches and watch internet videos and eat bacon. Usually, Mum and Dad will give me a small piece of bacon too, though they make me do tricks to earn it. I find this inordinately humiliating, as I don’t see why people should have bacon for breakfast as a matter of course, while my sister and I should be subjugated for that small morsel of heaven. It’s particularly difficult for me. My sister is such a sad creature she could not possibly be further degraded beyond her pathetic state in any event, so I doubt it’s any any skin off her back.

If Mum and Dad go out, she always wears small, tight dresses, and I’m not sure how all that beer fits. If drinking at home, she likes yoga pants and T-shirts. Her favorites are a shirt with the Beatles on it and another one featuring a George Orwell quote – “We have always been at war with Eastasia.” Her outfits can be simple, but her closet’s quite obscene. She has several suits for work, more dresses than any woman needs, and certainly more shoes than necessary. Her accessory collection spans an armoire and two large troves. She also has an entire trunk full of costume material. If she was reincarnated as me, she wouldn’t have to be so preoccupied over clothes. She thinks she enjoys it, but I think secretly, she’d be equally happy with just a black coat of fur, a red collar, never having to worry about outfits, color detail, and accessorizing for the rest of her life.

If she were a pretty black cat like me, life would be simple, like she likes it. She could sit and stare out the big glass windows all day without responsibility of any sort, cast her golden, crystal eyes on the lawn as birds dance up and down. She could throw tantrums and look cute doing it. She can’t do that now; no one appreciates a grown woman throwing a fit.

There are about 8 people here now, and Mum’s lighting up the hookah. She was sipping on Inversion IPA again. She’s been drinking that one a lot lately, though it’s one of many of her favorite beers. It was probably on sale at the grocery store. The beers come and go quickly with the conversation. Dad’s favorites are Belgians, but the only Belgian style beer in the beer fridge currently is a Trippel by New Belgium. The blond one loves IPA’s, but recently, she’s on a Porter and Stout kick. She’s having Black Butte Porter, brewed by Deschutes. I cause her to have allergic reactions and itch and sneeze, but she’s still nice to me, perhaps because I am simply that charming.

Dad’s brother also loves IPA’s, but he is currently drinking the Hoppy Lager by Sierra Nevada (from the “Beer Camp” series). The girl with Mum’s same name has brought a 22 ounce of Sculpin IPA by Ballast Point and is sharing it with Mum. Her husband doesn’t drink. He’s a dentist. Maybe he thinks beer rots your teeth. The boy I like a lot used to drink IPA’s along with the rest of them, but he only drinks scotch now. I like him a lot because when he used to live here, he spent a lot of time on the couch, and provided very reliable lap space for my naps. In general, I love all the boys. They have the biggest, warmest laps.

My sister is silently observing us from the second floor, staring down at us from behind the banister like a creeper. She has some certifiable mental problems, that one. She loves to cling to Mum and Dad, but as soon as people come, she hides away like a scared little mouse. She is terribly socially awkward and bores me to tears, so I don’t even pay her mind anymore if I can help it.

They’re all loud and happy now. I wonder if I could have some beer. It smells so delicious, and seems to be some magic elixir of contentment.

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Stay tuned for part II.