Posts Tagged ‘nicole erny’

Beer and Cheese from the British Isles at the Commonwealth in Oakland

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Commonwealth Pub sign
Last Sunday at the Commmonwealth Cafe and Pub in Oakland, Cicerone Nicole Erny held her British Isles beer and cheese pairing event. After a day at Triple Rock sampling sour beers amongst the crowds I was quite happy to get to this event. Seating was limited here and the ambiance was terrific, a great way to relax and get some focus towards pairings. Outside of this, it was also great to see some Bay Area Mashers there (AJ, Lee Shepard, and others) along with Nate Smith (part time masher!) and Chaz Lakip (traveled down Beer and Cheese with Nicole Erny at the Commonwealth Pubfrom Juneau, AK).
After settling up on cost and enjoying some conversation with a pint of 21st Amendment’s very excellent Bitter American (way better than I imagined, can’t wait till it comes out in cans). We were promptly seated and the event began. I won’t go into too much detail but Nicole really does her homework for her events. Along with some history of both the beers and cheese we were tasting, she presented pairings that I wouldn’t have thought doable. You would think some of these cheeses would just overpower the beer but they didn’t. Amazing what the odiferous washed rind cheese brought out in the milk stout or how the stilton treated the Scotch Ale. None of the beers (and one cider) I’ve had before, certainly not the cheese. While I came to learn something, I also had a door opened up in terms of possibilities of what you can come up with. There is a lot going on with pairing beer and cheese, more so than I imagined. Thanks for the head start.
Trust me, you are doing a disservice by missing a Nicole event. Check out the few shots below and clicky on them for a bigger version.
Cheers and don’t forget the cheese with your next beer.

Cicerone Nicole ErnyNicole holding court. She keeps her events on track and gets your attention for every course so you will learn something.

Great cheese and Cider at the Commonwealth Cafe and PubI’m going to take a shot and say that this one was the raw milk cave aged cheese paired with a naturally fermented cider. Makes my mouth water just looking at it again.

Stilton in front of Meantime Scotch AleI’m not much for Meantime but this was an exception. Went very well with the out of focus piece of stilton in front of it.

The lone pint Commonwealth Cafe and Pub in OaklandTill next time…..

Blending sour beers at The Trappist with Belgain Brewmaster, Sam Quartier

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Brewmaster Sam Quartier addressing crowd

Yesterday in Oakland, The Trappist saw a visit from Belgain Brewmaster Sam Quartier from Brouwerij Bockor. Sam gave a seminar on blending Flemish sour beers and The Trappist once again provided the venue for a great event.warm up beer: Allagash Curieux The event started at 6pm on St. Patrick’s Day and for a day where ordinaries come out of the closet to swim in Irish beer (or otherwise), I thought it was nice to celebrate the beer portion in an environment with beer lovers who gathered to learn a few things about sours.
Since I was traveling solo, it was good to run into some friends and acquaintances. Present were Justin and Chad from the Brewing Network, Randy and Jessie from, Lee Shephard from the Bay Area Mashers, Beer Chef Bruce Paton, and of course Nicole Erny who was working the event that night. Some of us exchanged buying a coupleunblended lambic from Brouwerij Bockor rounds before the event and I tried Duvel Green for the first time (6.5% non-refermented version of regular Duvel…I like it) and enjoyed an Allagash Curieux, a long time favorite.  I pulled up a stool with a few folks and the seminar got underway with a brief introduction from the Artisanal Imports folks, the carriers for Bockor beers. Then Brewmaster Charles Quartier got started with a history of Belgian beers, his brewery, and other brewery/beer information. The beers we tasted were blends of two beers: a “young beer” (a non-soured wheat beer basically) and a sour version created by cooling the wort on the breweries rooftop….where it gets its wild yeasts. We tried the new beer first (folks who were Cantillon fans said this one was on the sweet side). Then we sampled a blend of that with 25%of the sour beer. Then a 50 50 blend. Then 75 25. With just the sour unblended in the end. During this time Sam was discussing the blends with us and folks asked questions as well. We also talked about the blends amongst ourselves at our table. Great stuff and my idea of fun. The last beer we tried was the sour with a dose malt extract blended in. I enjoyed that one as it had a bit more mouthfeel and maybe some residual sweetness back to a sour that was quite dry (as it should be). The presentation and tastings were worth every bit of the nine bucks I paid at the door.blending new and sour lambic
When the seminar ended and the crowd applauded, we were given the opportunity to try an 85% blend and socialize around.  Got the opportunity to finally meet Brian Hunt from Moonlight Brewing and thank him for all the fine beers he’s produced and I’ve enjoyed. I asked him about “old combine” and he said he has a batch in fermentation right now. Old Combine is a nice grainy lager that has a range of base malts in the mash. Great warmer weather sipper with that nice Moonlight twist to it. I decided to finish off with a Moonlight Bombay by Boat IPA, a little more conversation, and off a few of us went to BART to call it a fairly early night.
Another great event by The Trappist and I look forward to the next one. Like other great events, The Trappist only has to worry about accommodating the bigger and bigger crowds at this point.

Brian Hunt Nicole Erny and Sam Quartier

The Brewing Network’s Winterfest a resounding success

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

note: pics were taken well after Winterfest at the Trappist in Oakland. Pretty much the only pics that I got that day. OK, back to it:
Justin Crossley and BadrockLast Saturday, the Brewing Network held their first beer festival at Linden Street Brewing Company in Oakland. I predicted that the BN would firmly establish themselves as a beer fest and they did. Frankly, that was an easy bet. You would understand why by walking around the festival itself. The volunteers were a whos who of Bay Area beer writers/bloggers, homebrewers, and BN faithful. The event promotion didn’t hurt either. Justin Crossley and co., including Nicole Erny headed over to UC Berkeley’s KALX to talk about the Winterfest and SF Beer Week. What was the effect? After I got off at West Oakland BART to walk to the festival I noticed a stream of college age students headed in that Adam Lamoreauxdirection.
The organization of the event was spot on for a first effort as well. Most impressive was walking down the closed side street and seeing a sign that read “if you want beer, start here”. You couldn’t make it any easier. The event featured over 40 beers on tap and had food venders including Sean Paxton who roasted two whole pigs on site. While the crowds were huge, it never took long to get a beer or food. The lines for Sean Paxtons food were long but on the far side was a falafel stand with no line. Quick and easy way to fill the stomach. The Bay Area Mashers had a homebrew stand and the beers there were terrific. There were bands all day and other stands including a custom bicycle company and Oaklandish folks selling their clothing (yes, this native Oaklander was finally able to pick up an Oaklandish shirt).
Adam LamoreauxThe event lasted from 1pm to 8pm, fortunately I stuck it out and was able to grab one of the pig sandwiches in the end and I wasn’t dissapointed. Seeing how I didn’t get the clue to volunteer prior to the event, I was able to lend a hand breaking down the event in the end. The crowds cleared out easily and the running out of beer timing couldn’t have been better. By about 7-ish there were probably one or two beers on tap and the crowd was tapped out anyway. A few gentle yells of “time to go” and the place was empty.
I had the pleasure of catching an after event round of drinks at the Trappist with Justin,  BNer and volunteer extroidinare Adam “badrock” Petramala, Adam of Linden Street, and several others including Adam’s partner (although we had a long great converstion I apologetically can’t remember his name….)and Paul from Bay Area Mashers. I was able to catch a couple shots and my job was done. An all day beer fest and now I had to run to the last BART train. I can only imagine how tired that crew felt.
So was there anything bad about the event? No, but they may need to go to a different venue next year to have room for the even bigger crowds.

Storms over the Bay Area means cozy pubs. Plus other news & events

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

bay area stormWe have been getting our version of winter in the Bay Area lately. Meaning, one rainstorm after another. Outside of some flooding, trees falling, and apartment buildings dropping into the ocean, we actually do  need the water. I think we are still only about 80% of normal. But we can’t suffer anymore because, as you may know, we don’t deal well with “weather” here.

It does make your local pub more cozy and I did want to get a couple of shots up. Bitter Birthday at Triple RockPrior to the storms, Rodger Davis the Brewmaster for Triple Rock celebrated the 20th anniversary of his 20th Birthday. On tap was “Bitter Birthday”, a recipe that originally came from 21st Amendment (Bitter American). I do like this beer but it took some getting used to. Now I feel there should be more beers like it. I suppose you could call it a “session-able west coast IPA”. It is a point or so under 5% ABV and has beautiful hop aroma and flavor. The getting used to part is that you don’t get the body you normally associate with IPA, which actually isn’t a problem and you could drink several as opposed to maybe two full strength IPAs. More session beers please.
Another beer that is wonderful on tap is Blind Pig. Pretty much a Bay Area IPA tradition, I tend to gravitate towards it whenever I see it on the menu. While it is called a DIPA by some the ABV is lighter for that style at about 6.x ABV. I am happy that it is available in bottle as well so I can have it at home.

Other NewsBlind Pig at barclays in Oakland
This Saturday is the Brewing Network’s Winterfest at Linden Street Brewing Company in Oakland. It is their first beer festival but I do expect a couple things to come out of it: This will become an established event right up there with the other big west coast beer events and it will raise the bar on what a beer festival could/should be. Food will be preapared on site by Beer Chef Sean Paxton. The menu is amazing. The event itself is 25 bucks for entrance, a glass, and five drink tokens (more tokens can be purchased). Just remember that that the pours will be 9 ounces and most beers will be high octane. You will get your money’s worth. I would pack up to 50 dollars just in case since Sean’s food I believe will run you 10 dollars for the plate. Visit for more info.
I look forward to meeting new faces and old. Please hit me up for a taste of my mead as I plan on packing some, low key style.

The day before the festival, Cicerone Nicole Erny will debut with her first beer dinner. Cicerone Nicole ErnyThe location is the Lafayette Hotel in Lafayette, CA. Please call the hotel for reservations.
The menu is first class and I believe is five courses total. The beers are all Belgian, culminating with St. Bernardus 12 being served with the main course. I know Nicole worked hard on the menu and if you have ever been to one of her beer schools, you know the depth of her knowledge. It kills me that I won’t be able to make the event but I wish her well and to a very successful event. Mark my words, Nicole is a name to watch in the industry.

SF Beer Week is Feb. 5 – 14
Reminder that SF Beer Week is coming. There are two many events to list. Please go their website: to see the list. I will be at the Opening event on Friday at the Yerba Buena Gardens plus I will also be checking out sour monday at Triple Rock. Hoping to meet folks at both events. I may be at others but have no strong commitments yet.

Beer School at The Trappist was sold out both days….for good reason.

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

nate and nicole: beer schoolBefore I talk about Nathan Smith and Nicole Erny’s excellent beer school, let me talk about what the students brought to the table. Oakland is the quiet, un-pretentious melting pot that is usually over shadowed by SF, San Jose, or its own crime stats. What people miss in Oakland, and what could be found in the crowd at Beer School, were people of all ages, races, genders, and walks of life. They were there to learn and enjoy beer. There were old and young, people who knew beer already and those that didn’t. There were homebrewers and non-homebrewers. White collar and blue collar. Everyone shared an open mind and some of that wonderful Oakland non-pretentious nature. Needless to say, I enjoyed the crowd and it is what I always have envisioned as a great environment for getting to know a few things about beer.

beer school menuThis was the third Beer School event but the first to happen in the new back area of the Trappist. While I missed the first two Beer Schools, this new location seemed to be a relief to Nicole and others as there is more room. The space worked well for the upwards of 35 folks in attendance. Tables were prepped with bread, water, sheets on the two styles of beers, and a menu of what was being sampled that day (please click on the menu photo for a bigger shot). The class itself on the Belgian Dubbel and Tripel styles of beer. As a nice touch, there happened to be three folks that have gone to all three Beer Schools, so they received a Trappist goblet and a gold star for their perfect attendance.

So what is it about Nate and Nicole’s class? First off, they have an engaging style and obvious love of beer. They are certified BJCP judges and have a great depth of knowledge. Nicole, as a long time beer server at The Trappist, specializes in beer tasting, beer styles, flavors, proper storage and serving. Nate, a homebrewer who has medaled many times for his beer, has a lot of knowledge about ingredients, brewing process, beer history, along with the prerequisite beer tasting and beer styles. beer school triple pouringThey had done research on the breweries and the beer we sampled. During the class, they were both at ease speaking in front of an audience. They had a good flow in presenting information in that while one was speaking the other would pick up to fill in some blanks and then back again. They always opened the floor for questions and they provided the answers. Something to note : during any beer class (or wine class for that matter) there seems to be a spot about ¾’s of the way through were people have had just enough alcohol that the crowd starts swaying towards small talk. Nicole wasn’t having it and she reeled the class back in to finish the discussion, hats off to that. I have been to more than one class where the instructor just lets it go. Both Nate and Nicole made a point to get through all of the material to make sure that folks got the education they came for.
some beer school beersAll through the class, beers were being poured into fresh glassware and getting served promptly pretty much in sync with the lectures. Finished glassware were being cleared and water glasses were being filled, all by an excellent Trappist staff supporting the event. There were a couple times that we were asked to hold on to a sample to compare/contrast with the next one. This was not difficult as the staff were on beat (with support by Nicole) with their deliveries of the samples.
At the end of class, everyone received a full pour of any beer that the Trappist offered that day along with some plates of great cheese, meat, and bread. Folks hung out a socialized for a bit and both Nate and Nicole were available to answer any questions.

Needles to say, I am excited to attend the next Beer School so I’m going to make sure to get my reservation in early assuming that demand will continue to grow. See you there!