Beer Obsessed on the road: Redbones BBQ in Somerville, MA.

July 1st, 2010

Redbones BBQ

 I spent a week in Boston and the first place I hit was Redbones BBQ since I was on my way north of Boston proper. Redbones is in Somerville which is an easy drive from Boston and it is also accessable via the T (subway). This place first popped onto my radar after reading about it in the All About Beer magazine travel issue. This place made the top 150 world beer destinations. Works for me.
It was a warm and muggy June night and the place was crowded on a Sunday. Fortunately it was just me and I was able to get a spot at the bar after a few minutes.
While I knew I wanted ribs and some side dishes, I was a bit daunted by the beer board. Part of my mission in Boston was to stick with local/regional beers and I didn’t know where to start. I ended up grabbing a Chester Street Amber and I quite enjoyed it. First success.
Tip #1
I think next time I do a trip like this, I’m going to order a half pint of beer list for Redbones BBQa calibration beer. I think a Sierra Nevada Pale sitting there would have helped me quite a bit as I really didn’t have much to go on after being a bit dazed and hungry from traveling all afternoon.  
Sometime during the course of my meal, I also tried both the Harpoon IPA and the Ipswitch IPA. They definitely weren’t left coast IPAs but I expected that. This would take some getting used to. Maybe I was just tired. I hit the road about 10pm in order to get farther up north and I needed rest.
I would hit Redbones again later in the week and try the hushpuppies which were fantastic. A couple more beers….one IPA that was quite bitter. Don’t remember the name.
Regardless of the ramblings above. Redbones should be on your to do list if you are beer traveling around Boston. I even got the thumbs up on this place from Lew Bryson who commented back to me via facebook during the week. Screw me, if Lew likes it then you go!
Pics below…click for bigger versions:

cornbread at Redbones BBQThe cornbread was awesome. The beer is the Chester Street Amber. I enjoyed both.

ribs at Redbones BBQRibs were Memphis dry rub. Very very tasty and the sauce (mild) worked well.

Dave from Redbones BBQDave was the bartender for the night. I was tricked as I thought he had the classic Boston guy Irish look about him but he is an original west coaster who arrived in Boston via some time in Honolulu. Go figure.

How do you feed 1000 homebrewers a great meal? We go behind the scenes with Sean Paxton at the NHC awards dinner.

June 23rd, 2010

Sean Paxton in the kitchenAt the National Homebrewing Conference Awards dinner, I had the pleasure of shooting some pics of Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton in the kitchen preparing the dinner. The idea to do this all started with the question, “how do you feed 1000 people? and how do you do it as well as Sean Paxton?”. Technically it was 930ish people but if you look at the shot of the tables below, it doesn’t matter. This is a daunting task.
When I met Sean in the kitchen he was his relaxed, jovial self as usual. Much of the hard work was done and it was a matter of watching the staff, offering any sought after advice, and consults with Sheraton Executive Chef Chad and others. You can tell it takes a tight, well coordinated team to do this and it started with mutual respect for each other. Everyone definitely got along well in the kitchen.
Thank you to Sean for the opportunity to shot some photos of you in action!
Check the photos below and don’t forget to click on them for a higher res version:

tables for nhc awards dinner

A lot of work ahead of them but the staff at the Sheraton filled and emptied tables of food quite smoothly.

Sean Paxton

The one and only Sean Paxton.

Fresh walleye caught by John Maier
Fresh walleye caught by John Maier, Brewmaster for Rogue Brewing Co. He snagged the fish while he was out in Minnesota for the convention.

Sean and Chad discuss
Sheraton Executive Chef Chad has a quick discussion about one of the dishes.

veggie prep

contemplating temperature
Examining the temperature of one of the dishes.

plating the dinners
Executive Chef Chad overseeing some of the food plating

killer Sean
Probably a sign that I need to get out of the kitchen.

Sean Paxton and Marriot Executive Chef Chad

Sean Paxton and Sheraton Executive Chef Chad……the job is done. Time to eat. Nice work!

National Homebrew Conference club night: a few pics from the evening

June 21st, 2010

beer boardLast Friday night was club night at the NHC convention in Minnesota. The event featured over 40 different homebrew clubs that spanned the 48 states. The majority were clubs in and around the midwest and none of these people dissappointed. From the great themes, to the jovial crowd, the food that was available, and to the massive amount of homebrew. One club in particular, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it was the Iowa’s Hombrewers Union, brought over 60 kegs to this event. Even if you averaged 10 kegs per club, you are still talking hundreds of kegs. I would love to hear the actual final numbers on this as I’m sure they are impressive.
With all of that, club night is a bit daunting but his year I did multiple laps around the room, trying to pick up what I missed on the last lap. I was constantly entertained from start till finish. The photo above is a basic idea of what you are up against, a decent size list of brews cross quite a range of styles. Let’s check out the pics (click on them for bigger versions):

the crowd

The crowed near the beginning of the event. There usually a nice amount of room to move around.

pork sliders
Food options at one booth…making sure that your stomach stays topped off.

taps at club night, NHC
Most clubs had very professional taps, again showing the quality that everyone puts into the event.

chili dogs at nhc
More food. This time it was chili dogs.

BN broadcast
Of course the Brewing Network was there doing what they do best: entertaining, building community, and getting the word out.

jockey boxes at NHC

Self serve jockey boxes at the Iowa Brewers Union area.

cheese at NHC
More snacks….

Iowa Brewers Union
Iowa Homebrewers Union taking the prize (the urinal tap) for bringing the most kegs to the event….over 60 kegs. A new record I believe.

urinal tap trophy at NHC
The victory parade and of course you should hook it up and put a beer on! (below).

urinal tap pour

I’ve landed at the National Homebrew Conference. Oh baby!

June 18th, 2010

Bloomington, MN looking back towards the airportWith what was really quite a smooth trip from San Francisco to Minneapolis, I have now landed in the middle of the National Homebrew Conference.
I’ve hooked up with a few friends that I have met over time and I have tried some really tasty beers. The Brewing Network put on a show from the hospitality suite and I attended the meadmaker of the Year Seminar.
The one thing I was really looking forward to in a Homebrew Conference in this area is mead, and I have not been dissapointed. The mead panel had what is probably the 5 most knowledgable meadmakers on the planet. The meads poured during the seminar were great and the standouts have been the chipotle meads. I have tried a couple and being fruit meads (melomels) they have fruit on the top with a very gentle heat on the finish from the chipotle. Absolutely fantastic.
The seminar was very well attended which shows how much mead is appreciated in this area. The atmosphere was relaxed and light hearted as the panel pretty much just took questions from the audience. The entire time, delicious meads were being poured that the panel had produced earlier in the year.
I’m writing this up prior to club night which starts at 8pm tonight. Clubs from throughout the midwest and beyond will be represented. This is basically the largest homebrew party in the world.
I need a little rest before I go but please enjoy the photos (clicky for a higher res version)

Meadmaker of the year panel at NHC 2010
The meadmaker of the year panel.

got mead?
Mead being served thorughout the panel discussion

NHC 2010 mead panel
The panel was well attended showing the interest in mead in this part of the country.

The Brewing Network: Can you brew it?
The Brewing Network doing their thing up in the hospitality suite. The forum was “can you brew it” and it was basically an open mic for questions with plenty of entertaining stories between, Jamil and Tasty style.

Beer Obsessed hits the road for NHC and beyond

June 16th, 2010

MinneapolisThis Friday, early, I leave for the National Homebrewers Conference. The convention actually starts on Thursday but I’m happy I can get out there at all. I expect the Twin cities to host one heck of an event since many of the best homebrewers in the country come from this area. I’ll post (hopefully) compelling stories with pics and possibly audio to this blog, when I can. For more brief updates on current location and quick review/thoughts, I’ll post to facebook (Beer Obsessed).
After NHC, I’m off to Boston for a week of work. Of course Boston has plenty to check out beer-wise so I’ll have some posting to do there as well.

Here’s what I’m doing and posting on:

Minneapolis - 
National Homebrew Conference 
Happy Gnome gastropub (on Sunday before flying out).

Sam Adams Brewery Tour
Harpoon Brewery Tasting
Cambridge Alehouse
Redbones BBQ
Publick House
One of the Boston Beer Works locations
Bottleshop – Downtown Wines and Spirits

Stay tuned!

photo shoot: Odonata knocks it out of the park with their Saison

June 11th, 2010

Odonata Saison

Admittedly, I am biased towards Odonata. The reason why I even “beer blog” is because of Rick Sellers and his show/blog, Pacific Brew News. The other half of Odonata, brewmaster Peter Hoey, is widely known as a great brewer who has a particular love of Saison ales. Their beers so far have become local legend: Water Witch, Rorie’s Ale, and La Rosa. The partnership looks great: great brewer, great beer writer. How could any of this be bad? …none of it is.
By the time I picked up my couple of bottles of Saison, there was already great feedback on the beer over the web. I agree with them. From its stylistically correct color to a head of foam that isn’t over the top huge, you proceed to aromas of spice and juicy fruit. Not over the top but just right. The beer on first sip has a very smooth taste with the right amount of carbonation. The mouthfeel is rich and you are exposed to more spice and citrus fruit. The lingering spicey/fruity aftertaste trails off to an acidic bite.
Very well done Odonata and now one of my favorite Saisons. You hit this one out of the park.
Highly recommended.
Peter Hoey and Rick Sellers from Odonata

photo shoot: Russian River’s new 375ml Damnation

June 4th, 2010

Russian River Damnation

Shot way too early in the morning before work….please clicky the pic for a higher res version.
This is a fantastic example of a Belgian golden strong ale. It has a nice white pepper finish which lets it pair with a wide variety of foods.
The bottle is the new 375ml version that Russian River started putting out. I heard that they were going to stop producing 750ml bottles entirely. I hope that isn’t the case!
Cheers and have a good weekend. Perhaps enjoy a Damnation.

thoughts on craft beer drinking on the big island of Hawaii

June 2nd, 2010

While on vacation with the family this past week I had the opportunity to quickly hit the only two breweries on the big island: Kona Brewing Co. and Mehana Brewing co.

kona Brewing SignKona Brewing Co.

Located in Kailua, which is probably the main destination town for most who come to the big island. Kailua has the cheaper hotels and the cruise ship port so this is the place where you will find the cheesy gift  shops and  companies that can sign you up for a wide range of outdoor activities. Fortunately, Kona Brewing is located on the north side of town where it is quieter. You can come into town, do some grocery shopping (we were staying in a house up north island), and enjoy a lunch and beer at the brewery without any distractions.
There is no doubt Kona knows what they are doing with beer. Their bottled selections, which are prevalent in stores all over the island, are clean, easy drinking, and nicely balanced. The brewpub has a variety of specialty beers on tap throughout the year. They currently had a couple of barleywines and a coconut brown that was fantastic (great balance of coconut and roasted malt). kona beerAs you can see from the pic of the bottle (below), they also do Belgian style beers which they unfortunately didn’t have any on tap while we were there. The Castaway IPA is a regular on tap on the brewhouse and it hit the spot. Nice citrus hop notes that cut through the heat and quenched your thirst (generally speaking, malty does not work in the hot weather of the islands….why people brew porters in this climate is beyond me but I suppose if you live here you would need some variety after a while).
The one elephant out there about Kona is that they contract brew their bottled beer and then re-import it to Hawaii. I don’t have any problems with contract brewing in general but Hawaii (especially the big island) is a place that could use a few more jobs. With all of Kona brew’s efforts to “go green” and other things, wouldn’t it be a great story if they opened a small production brewery and canned their beer for the islands only. It seems like a reachable goal.oceanic organic ale Canning lines and lots of cans are more affordable these days and generally you can’t take glass to the beach anyway. As successful as Kona Brewing is, this could be the icing on the cake for them.
Since the brewery sees a lot of tourists come through, it seems to show on the staff. It took a while for our waitress to come back and ask if we wanted another beer to replace our long since empty glasses. We were more working on her schedule as opposed to where the beer line was in our glasses (a particular pet peeve of mine). I supposed you get a bit jaded dealing with tourists whom may have more laid back expectations in general or maybe our particular waitress was not about the beer. Anyway, moving on:


Mehana Brewing Co./Hawai’I Nui Brewing Co.

Located on the rainy side of the islandmehana brewing sign in the city of Hilo, a beautiful area that is extremely lush and tropical. It also happens to be the wettest city in the U.s. We were rained on (dumped on!) at least four times during our visit around town.
Mehana is located in a warehouse area of Hilo (as warehousy as this town can get anyway). Mehana is a much smaller operation than Kona but I like the laid back vibe as opposed to the masses of tourists that hit Kona Brewing. They have a small parking lot on the side of the warehouse with a little sign that said they were open for tastings and tours. The big rollup door exposed their operation inside. Many fermenters, a brew system, bottling line, stacks of bottled product. Lots of kegs stacked up outside. I figured out later that Mehana had “joined forces” with Hawai’I Nui Brewing Co. and as far as I can tell they share the space and the equipment together. mehana brewing co. warehouse
I made my way inside following the direction of the sign that pointed to a small room that had merchandise for sale and about six taps. The lady there was very pleasant and asked if I wanted to taste anything. I was on very limited time but of course I said yes. She was quite knowledgeable about the beers that they had and that is great to see!  I tried their Humpback Blue which was fermented with a Belgian yeast strain. A light and drinkable beer with a nice subtle Duvel like tone to it. My other favorite was their brown ale brewed by Hawai’I Nui Brewing. Nice level of roast that complemented the malt profile quite well. This beer also just won silver at the World Beer Cup.
Ideally, I would have hung out here longer and taken the tour (of which I may have been the only one) but alas the kids were stirring. I’m sure I would have been able to talk to a brewer and perhaps share a beer. Again, I like the vibe of the place and it is a worth it destination if you are a beer lover on the big island.Mehana brewing co. beers

Beer on the shelves.

For craft beer, all stores carry Kona Brewing beers and it was my main beer since they are so prevalent. I particularly enjoyed the Big Wave Golden Ale.  It has a nice level of malt balanced with subtle fruity esters and very drinkable in the heat. I love the Kona Fire Rock Pale as it is an extra malty beer, which is right up my alley. However, it isn’t that drinkable for me in the heat of Hawaii. I’ll still drink it at home though.
A couple of the more expensive/exlusive grocery stores, usually within the resort areas, carried the Mehana beer but it was quite pricey (up to 15 dollars a six pack!). It really is best to go to the brewery and buy it there for 9 a six pack…plus you can mix and match. These stores also have the Maui Brewing Company canned beers. Other than that, there was a little more variety to mainland beers you can buy (SN Torpedo, Newcastle, etc) but that’s it.

In the end, I really enjoyed experiencing the beers of Kona and Mehana/Hawai’I Nui. I was certainly happy to get back home a drink an uber hoppy beer that my palate had been missing. It is similar to vacation itself: there is a certain sweet spot of time for me where too much time there and you risk growing tired of the place.  Too little and you don’t fully get to enjoy what an area has to offer. I look forward to going back though for sure.

pic of the week: Sierra Nevada’s new Southern Hemisphere Ale

May 19th, 2010

Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale

Quality, clean beer and I love the label. I don’t get as much aroma as I do off of the oringinal versions of southern hemisphere. The taste exhibits some fresh hop chracter that goes right to bitterness. A nice beer but I think I prefer the last version. To cut Sierra Nevada some slack, they are flying in fresh hops from halfway around the world so they get huge props for their efforts and they have produced a beer that has maintained some fresh hop quality.

Other news:
Looking forward to spending time with homebrewers at the National Homebrew Conference in Minnesota next month. I will be arriving on the Friday so please come say hey to me if you can. From there, I fly to Boston for work and plan to hit some great brewpubs and will haul back as much beer as I can. Unfortunately, my work trip to Kiev has been cancelled. I was looking forward to it but Boston should be fun as well.
Tomorrow, the family and I leave for the big island of Hawaii for some much needed relaxation. I’ll get to the Kona brewpub and check it out but other than that, don’t intend on doing much besides drinking the local beer, sitting on the beach, and swimming with the kids.
Cheers and happy weekend.

photo shoot: St. Feuillien Belgian Farmhouse Ale – Saison

May 7th, 2010

St. Feuillion Belgian Framhouse Ale Saison

The initial plan was to take this beer outside with a picnic blanket and the basket. That’s what was in my head anyway. I came up short on the picnic blanket so back inside I went to create a similar yet different sort of a scene.
When I think of Saisons, I think of being outside on a warm day and quaffing one of these beauties in the sunshine with some friends and some food to go along. The quaffability of St. Feuillion is high. I love this beer. I wanted to do it justice by using CMOS photons to captured the beer via lots of 0101101101101…..well 12 megapixels worth. Clicky on the pic for a bigger version.

The Beer?
When held to the light, this Saison has a beatiful range of color fomr straw to amber. The beer pours with a big head of foam.
Dry pineapple, apple, and pears to the nose along with a compliment of spice. Slight malt in the background.
Fairly full mouthfeel with a high level of carbonation to keep everything dancing. Flavors of of fruit and spice eventually open up and crescendo off into the finish. Each flavor then bouncing in and out as the finish lingers.
Not bone dry but very drinkable and complex.
Highly recommended