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Monday, February 28, 2011

Guinness: For When I'm Not a Beer Snob

I’ve recently spent the past year and a half traveling the world to 9 different countries. Despite the fine amenities of the hotels I was staying in, I was unable to drink craft beer without making special trips to beer bars such as Kaiba in Shanghai and the Belgian Beer Cafe in Dubai. So I had to eschew my beer snobbery and work with what I was offered.  Guinness Draught became my go-to beer during my travels because of it’s wide availability and predictably smooth taste that rarely had the offensive metallic or skunked flavors of Kronenbourg and Heineken.  Additionally, I’m always mesmerized by the Guinness Cascade when the beer is freshly pulled. Guinness doesn’t have the bold roastiness that I prefer in stouts such as The Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout (which isn’t yet available in my home state of California). However it does have a smooth, creamy texture and the dry bitter notes that makes it more interesting than my other wide-distributed beers available.

A few years back, I had the pleasure to attend one of Guinness’ tastings put on by their marketing group.  You gotta love a presentation that starts with a Bodhran drum. It got me pumped to taste beer and I finally got to pour my first proper Black and Tan.   I must say this marketing event was effective. I didn’t become a Guinness fanatic that night, but I did start to appreciate the smooth flavor and lower-than-average calorie count. When I have to make the tough decision to order a mass-produced beer, I’m reminded of that event and order a Guinness.

I'd like to thank Stan at Appellation Beer for inspiring this blog post by hosting the March 2011 installment of The Session, which asked beer bloggers to write about a "regular" beer.

Note: The photo above was taken by Daniele Faieta,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Anchor Brewing’s 140th Anniversary Party and Brekle's Brown

Tonight, I attended Anchor Brewing’s 140th Anniversary Party. This was an invitation-only launch party catered by Fork & Spoon Productions and featured Brekle's Brown, a smooth hoppy brown ale.

I've visited breweries in Japan, China, Belgium, Russia, and the US.  Anchor Brewing is one of the most beautiful facilities I've visited because of the Art Deco architecture, the shiny copper kettles surrounded by blue tiles, and the view of the SF skyline and Bay Bridge from the kettle room.

Also, this was the first time I had seen shallow fermentors in production.  The aroma of barley and hops wafted down the corridor as the real VIP's were led in and out of this room on a private tour.

The food was themed with beer ingredients:

  • water (steamed char siu baos) 
  • yeast (pretzels made with beer yeast and a Gruyere fondue)
  • barley (seared scallops on a potato slice -  unfortunately, I can't remember the barley in this one) 
  • hops (hops-infused mini cupcake with a browned butter cream). 
Overall, this was a well-organized party that marked the half-way point of SF Beer Week 2011.

Monday, February 14, 2011

SF Beer Week Opening Gala Organizers Acknowledge Capacity Problems

On February 11, 2011, the SF Beer Week Opening Gala kicked off SF Beer Week.  Hosted in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, this ticketed event featured over 35 Northern California Breweries. This was a successful event that highlighted outstanding craft breweries and demonstrated extraordinary enthusiasm for craft beer. Unfortunately, there were miscommunication about the capacity of the venue among the event planners, the venue, and the SF fire marshall.  Furthermore, I have a few suggestions for what could have made this event more comfortable for people who attended the event.

This morning, I received this email from the Gala organizers briefly explaining  the misunderstanding and that they will refund ticketed individuals who were not admitted to the event.

I commend the organizers for acknowledging the capacity issues and rectifying the situation for people with tickets who were turned away.  Events like these are a lot of work to organize and even if they achieve the difficult task of breaking-even, they make very little profit.  These events celebrate craft beer for the sake of celebrating craft beer.

I was happy to discover at least three new breweries: Almanac Beer Co., Cherry Voodoo, and High Water Brewing.  Talking with the brewers offers fascinating insight into their passion and the beer-making process.  The two beers that stood out on my palate were Almanac Summer 2010 and Social Kitchen's White Thai Affair stood out on my palate as beers that used unique and unexpected ingredients to make well-crafted beers.  I learned from Jesse Friedman at Almanac that he had to make several small-batch iterations of Summer 2010 to understand that he had to use over 250 pounds of blackberries. Since blackberries have such a short season, he had to work quickly.  Jesse captures beer as a labor of love.

Unfortunately, I was incredibly hung over the next day; so much that I was almost afraid to attend another SF Beer Event.  As I met more people on Sunday who were still recovering, I think the event that could have added a few more details that could have made this a more enjoyable experience.

1. More Water in More Places
This was my first Opening Gala, however, everyone I met who had previously attended this event complained that there was not enough water available at previous gala's.  Being hydrated would have helped mitigate over-consumption and my hangover.

2. Smaller Glasses
I suggest having glasses that accomodate a one ounce serving.  This may be controversial since most people want more beer.  However, with over 35 brewers offering and average of 3 beers each, a  1-ounce serving is plenty of beer to get a tasting.  If you get just one sampling from every brewery, that's over 35 ounces of beer, many of which had over 7% ABV.

3. More Food
The food choices were delicious and having food available on the back patio was a nice touch on such a clear day.  Early in the evening, I had a few sausages and (melt-in-your-mouth) chicharonnes from 4505 meats.  However, I would have appreciated more food choices so that I would be more encouraged to eat and less turned-off by the long lines for food.

While everyone attending these events are adults who should be able to take care of themselves and self-regulate, it becomes more complicated with that much free-flowing beer.  Event organizers need to design the event so that things such water, food, and portion-control are no-brainers.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Welcome to Bottle Chasers!

This is the inaugural post for Bottle Chasers.  The vision of this website is to offer craft beer drinkers a place to rate and discover beer. We’ve found that some of our best life memories included beer: enjoying a meal and great conversation with friends, toasting a friend’s wedding or job promotion,  or hanging out at the pub with classmates. We are creating this site not only to help people talk about beer, but to also capture memories of good times throughout their lives. There will be a place in this site for beer geeks, casual drinkers, and newbies so stop by often and share your beer experiences.  Cheers!

This is just the beginning.  Big things are coming.....