Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Steve-toberfest & SoPac Brewing

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Friday at work, some of my awesome coworkers’ put up some birthday decorations in my office… and you can probably sense the theme from the pictures below. They had Nat King Cole playing when I got there (because Jay-Z was too risqué for a work environment, but they know how a thug do), decorated my office in Craft Brew decorations, a bag’s worth of Reese’s PB Cups… and later in the afternoon, they made a German Chocolate Cake & Chocolate Stout Cupcakes. Five stars!!!

Saturday was the long anticipated STEVE-TOBERFEST!!! and it did not disappoint. My lovely ladyfriend Izzy made some great beer-marinated polish sausages to fry up with sauerkraut & all the usual condiments… as well as spaetzle (egg noodles) with a creamy sauce… and some dumplings with gravy… and triple fudge brownies… and there was also some great desserts & side dishes brought by guests… and of course, possibly the star of the show (besides me)… BIER!!! We also had a lot of great decorations set up… behold!!!


There were about a dozen visitors including J-Mo, Jackie D, Izzy’s Aunts & cousin, but just a great time of catching up & enjoying a few beers and great food. We didn’t even have to bust out the party games or movies… just good ol’ fashioned conversation & antics. I did get a few excellent gifts as well including an extra carboy & some hops from Clarissa & Andrew… a bacon floor mat from the Aunts… some clothes from Jackie D… and Izzy not only got me a book I’m excited to read (Nick Offerman’s “Paddle Your Own Canoe”) and a few cute knick-knacks… but she also bought me a portable basketball hoop. Though I’m not quite sure how it’ll work in our cul de sac, the thought is incredibly sweet & she’s the best gal a guy like me could ever hope to find. Thank you sweetie!!! Great party!!!
Sunday night, I went to Southern Pacific Brewing in the Mission to take part in a special Yeast Tasting with the SF Homebrewers Guild. The basis of the tasting was that they took the same base wort (Kolsch grain bill recipe) and separated into ten separate fermenters using a different yeast in each. By doing this, it’s a great way to show how the yeast can make some major differences in the flavors & characteristics produced in the beer, despite being almost nominal amounts when in the grand scheme of things (about an ounce for every five gallons of wort typically). I got there a little early & had a drink at the bar with the Vice President of the Guild… and basically just shot the sh*t until they were ready for us… and the tasting was VERY interesting. I recommend something like this for every craft beer enthusiast. You’ll learn a lot & it’s interesting what you’ll find out. We sampled just about everything from a standard ale yeast to hefeweizens to Belgian dark to saison… and each had their own distinct characteristics… even by my unrefined pallet. Also, may have to take Izzy out there another time to test their beer. I’ve only tried the tasting and their porter while there this time. Big thanks to Ian for putting this all together.

More fantastic learning experiences & adventures coming up this week… see ya next time! Have a great night everybody!!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

E66, Guild Leadership & GUY Movies

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Wednesday morning was again spent at Elevation 66 Brewing helping out with another batch… this one was their newly revamped Laurel Pale Ale which is a pale ale… but with the distinctive accent of Laurel Bay Leaf. Very refreshing. Also, about the time we started was when one of their brewers Black Jack snapped the tendon on his tricep… and thankfully he’s getting better now & starting to work his way back into helping as well. That kinda meant that there were five brewers helping for a two-man job… but yeah, it was good to help out… and it meant that after the initial start, Super Dave & Black Jack went home to get some rest while Big Ben, Izzy & I handled the rest… and then eventually just Big Ben when we had to duck out at 10 AM as per usual (day jobs, am I right?). I know in my descriptions these early morning adventures can often seem pretty routine & monotonous… but in actually, I find them incredibly fascinating. Everything from picking brains about how the business end of it works, to the specific details in the brewing process, to how these guys came to be in the industry, to stories of problems that came up along the way (and of course there are MANY of those stories), and everything in between has just been almost mesmerizing for me… and they’ve all been great guys to boot.
Wednesday night, we had our first SFHG Leadership Meeting at our Vice President’s (extremely nice) house in the Sunset… we all gathered to discuss upcoming topics for the year & the incredible growth plan of the Guild, of course over pizza & beer as would be expected… but I’m actually REALLY looking forward to working with these fine ladies & gentlemen. Heck, I feel like I’m basically the “weak link” in this group… and you know how highly I regard myself, my follow-through & my abilities. Everybody else has many years of homebrewing experience, dozens of contacts in the industry, won MANY awards for their work, have day jobs (sometimes multiple) that put my paycheck to shame, have lived in the Bay Area for many years, experience in their respective job titles or something very similar, and seem to have great abilities & follow-through as well… with the only drawback being their incredibly busy schedules. However, after our discussion last night, I’m really looking forward to this next year & the years after for the Guild and the direction that they are taking… and feel EXTREMELY confident about the Leadership behind it… especially considering that I’m guessing something like 80-90% of the guild members really don’t care about expansion, their presence in the community, or anything like that… they just want to meet like-minded individuals who share their love for homebrew, have a few drinks, learn how to make better beer, shoot the sh*t & feel like they’re getting something for their membership dues… which is exactly what we’re focused on doing first & foremost… but yeah, great ideas coming out. I’ll keep you posted on the big events… and there will probably be a LOT of them. Anyway, here are some movies that I’ve seen recently…
Last week, I watched “Wolf of Wall Street” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Rob Reiner, Matthew McConaughey (albeit briefly before he starred in a bunch of other Academy-award WINNING movies this year) and directed by the great Martin Scorsese (“Goodfellas”, “Casino”, “Hugo”, “Last Temptation of Christ”, etc). This movie was nominated for a LOT of Academy Awards… and is based on the exploits of scandalous Wall Street mogul Jordan Belfort and his rise to a super wealthy stock-broker… and then everything from cocaine addiction to the LAW catches up with him. It’s a pretty good flick… high octane… a lot of yelling by Leo… invigorating speeches for anybody with a penis… let’s face it, this is a complete guy movie. Through & through. I think I speak for everybody when the real star of the show isn’t Leonardo… though he does a great job being in every single frame… but the REAL star is Ms. Margot Robbie, the Australian blonde who plays his 2nd wife and somehow makes that annoying ass accent that I like to call “The Marisa Tomei” sexy. Oh… so yeah, there’s a lot of swearing, drugs, sex, debauchery in general… but yeah, if you like Scorsese movies but want the Italian-American accents toned down a bit, then this flick is for you. Go check it out! Spoiler alert: It’s three hours long.

Next up was “Escape Plan” starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger… and a fairly impressive & for some reason unmarketed ensemble cast featuring Jim Caviezel, Vincent D’Onofrio, Sam Neill, Vinnie Jones & 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson). The story is about the world’s foremost authority on structural security for prisons, Mr. Ray Breslin (Stallone). After breaking out of nearly every prison in the states, he’s given the opportunity to break out of… wait for it… a government prison in an undisclosed location with no means of contacting the outside world… but it’s at double his usual price. I think you know where this is going… he’s thrown in, they remove his tracker, he’s basically thrown in a floating Gitmo based on the bible of his works & ran by a ruthless warden (Caviezel) who doesn’t give a sh*t if he hasn’t don’t anything… he’s getting paid to keep him in his own masterpiece prison essentially. What’s a guy to do? Break out of course! Utilizing the help of a fellow inmate (Schwarzenegger), they devise a plan to escape… but is it even possible? Now, this is actually a pretty decent action movie. Yes, there are points for suspension of belief, as well as some other flaws with it… but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it. My one complaint… between Stallone, Schwarzenegger & 50 Cent combining for about 80% of the dialogue in this movie… subtitles might have been a good idea. All they needed was Vin Diesel & somebody like Billy Connelly… and it might’ve qualified for a foreign film with all the necessary subtitles. Seriously, it’s was rough… but you can kind of put it all together. Check it out… another guy movie.
Well, why not go with yet another guy movie… and that is the 2013 remake of “Oldboy” from director Spike Lee and starring Josh Brolin, Samuel L. Jackson & Sharlto Copley. Now… if you’ve seen the original 2003 Korean version… I’m going to stop you right now… and insist that you watch that version. Sigh… yes, there are subtitles for that one so you’re going to have to read… but honestly, just do it. Having seen them both, do yourself a favor & watch that version AT LEAST first… and if you insiste on watching this version as well, go ahead… but I’m afraid if you watch this version, you may pass on the original… and you’d be missing out. There! Now that THAT is out of the way… I’ll go on with the review of this movie. The story is about a man named Joe Doucett (Brolin) who is kidnapped & locked into an apartment cell without reason… and watches the world go by on television… including seeing that he’s been framed for the rape & murder of his wife… and his daughter raised by another family… and then suddenly released back into the world… TWENTY YEARS LATER!!! Why? Because the man who put him in that solitary confinement wants him to find out who he is… and why this was done to him. Well… driven by the greatest male emotion of them all (VENGEAAAANCE!!!) and something about finding his kidnapped daughter along the way, he sets out to find some answers… and get a little revenge. Now, from there, I’m not going to elaborate because… I REALLY want you to watch them & be a part of the experience of the twists & turns… but I will let you know a few things that I liked… and what I didn’t. For example, there’s one REALLY good fight scene involving Joe equipped with nothing but a hammer going against a few dozen enforcers. Now, in the original… this was done a little better for one small but important reason. In this version, Joe is basically invincible for the first 98% of the scene. He’s taking hits from baseball bats, knives, sticks, whatever… and barely even notices… just keeps on doing his rampage thing. In the original, the antagonist takes these hits… and is obviously affected by them to where by the end of the scene, he’s basically just running off adrenaline and VENGEANCE!!! before (spoiler alert) he’s stabbed in the back. Probably the best part of the movie… and the original did it better. Also, the ending… I didn’t care for in this version. I mean… seriously, watch the original… it’s gritty, it’s dark, it’s a fantastic little flick that almost makes you queasy at times it’s so good. Then maybe watch this version & see why the original is so much better. Overall, it’s not a bad film at all… I’d actually say that Spike did a decent job in staying true to the original but putting his own spin on it & making it for American studios at the same time… but yeah. Check them both out… but definitely the original. I can’t stress that enough. Then watch this one to see Sam Jackson play the usual Sam Jackson & Josh Brolin be a big brutal badass and the comic relief from A-Team (Copley) be the menacing figure and all that… but yeah, that’s my opinion… and that’s why you’re reading this, right?
Anyway, that should do it for this entry. I know they’re really all kind of dropping at the same time with others due to my laptop limitations but… thanks for reading… and Steve-toberfest is just around the corner!!! Have a great weekend everybody!!!

Easter, Tastings & ChocoNut Stout

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Thursday night, Izzy & I tried our two brews that we’ve entered into competitions, starting with our Honey Amber Ale. Now, I had the good idea of reading the BJCP rules after turning everything in… and this may be a “Specialty” category beer because of the use of honey, though it was entered as an “American Amber” but we shall see. It’s my first time. Anyway, they’d been bottled for about 10 days so still had a little time to get even better… and we tasted it… and it was pretty fantastic. A little flatter than I was expecting (again only about 10 days in bottle) but the flavor was definitely there. There was a kind of light honey sweetness on the front end, but a good solid hoppiness on the back end, which is exactly what we were going for… getting the whole tongue involved… and doubly so with the hops thanks to Izzy’s extra dashes of them. This will be an amazing addition to Steve-toberfest this weekend… and just look at the color… Honey Amber Ale...

Speaking of which, we also tried our Oktoberfest all-grain recipe… and again, a little flatter than expected… but again, some great flavors & smooth finish. You could easily drink this stuff all day. Now, it did taste a little watered down from other Maerzen styles that I’ve had in the past… and that may have been due to a poor sparge, but definitely still a decent beer & welcome addition to the celebrations. This is why you brew… to learn… and improve on the next batch. Again, very nice color…

Saturday, we got a few things for Steve-toberfest running all around the Bay Area & then we started our newest batch… the ChocoNut Stout, or Chocolate & Roasted Coconut Stout. Now that I have your interest, allow to explain it a little bit… this recipe came to us from our good buddy Super Dave of Elevation 66 Brewing a while back and he hasn’t been able to make it for a while… so he gave it to us to try out since it’s not available in his taproom. It’s essentially a good, solid stout recipe (our first such one) with the additions of some baker’s chocolate for that bitterness… and where his recipe calls for coconut extract, we’ve decided to use REAL coconut… and roast it for a bit of a smoky, sweet finish… similar to Kona Brewing’s Porter and/or our SFHG buddy Swany’s award-winning CoCo Nut Brown Ale. So after gathering all the grain bill & ingredients, we set off to brew…

Izzy also made some Portuguese Easter bread which was delicious… kinda like those Hawaiian sweetish rolls…

Easter Sunday, we went over to her aunt’s place to have a wonderful Easter dinner and enjoy their sunny deck making colorful Easter eggs… BEHOLD!!!

Anyway, that’ll do it for this entry. So much coming up the next few weeks… months… years perhaps. Due to my lack of technology at the moment, it may be a little late coming… but yeah, good times. Steve-toberfest (and my birthday in general) is Saturday, probably going to be brewing Wednesday morning, there’s a special tasting on Sunday with Southern Pacific that I’ll be attending on behalf of the Guild, maybe another meeting of leadership in the next few days, our beers are in competition, the new stout should be ready (and kegged) in about six weeks, arranging a brewday with Izzy’s aunts soon, probably going to purchase a larger pot since ours seems to be a little under 5 gallons when it was sold as a 7 gallon pot… but yeah, good times. Have a great week everybody!!!