Posts Tagged ‘Oakland’

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…..

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 thebrewingnetwork.com 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: sfbeerweek.com 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.

Barclay’s revisited

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Valley Stout at BarclaysI moved to Oakland’s Rockridge district back in 1991. While wandering the streets at night looking for something to do, I noticed a new bar that had a whole bunch of beer taps. It looked unique and interesting and I loved different kinds beer at this point in my life, so I checked it out. Barclay’s had a focus on microbrews or what we now of course call craft beer. This place soon became my local joint and stayed that way through most of my 10 year stay in the Rockridge. During the first five years, I lived in a studio apartment and couldn’t stand to stay in there too long. So the term pub had a very traditional meaning for me back then.
Besides having a wide variety of beers (for the time), Barclays  was also numbering each and every beer. They were seeking out more and more new beers to add to their catalog and that told me they meant business. Back in 1991, if you drank 25 different beers (you keep count on your card at the pub) you got a shirt, 50 beers got you free dinner for two, 75 and a tour of Anchor Brewing, and finally 100 got your name on the wall. I crossed the 100 beer line but wasn’t interested in having my name put up there. What a shame as that would be something interesting to see 19 years later. I suppose at the time I just wanted to enjoy my anonymity and not have any reminder of the 100 beer milestone. Knowing my job status at the time another couple of free dinners would have suited me more!daughter
So flash forward 19 years and here I am with my daughter for a quick bite and a beer. Turns out Barclays evolved into a beer hub over time. A number of beer industry folk came out of the customers and it continues to be the spot in the East Bay for some of the “must have” beers to try. Pro Brewers and Enthusiasts alike mingle here on any given day. On this day, Beer chef Bruce Patton walks in for a drink. I remember when he used to talk about the idea of pairing food and beer. It didn’t seem realistic back then but now it is. I run into Morgan, brewer for Drake’s who just brewed the latest incarnation of Jolly Roger. I tell him and his significant that “they don’t look like they are from around here and if they want a really good beer, they should get the Jolly Roger”. He tells me proudly that he brewed the beer. I let him know that he has been had…..in a good way.barclays beer chip
Just like I never expected someone to pair beer and food for a living, I never would have guessed that I would be coming in here after so many years and splitting a burger and fries with my daughter. At some point, I stopped visiting Barclays for a period of time and then I moved out of the Rockridge. I have so many memories from this place and now I am technically a “middle aged” guy. I used to watch that clique of middle aged guys huddled around the corner of the bar years ago. The is still a group huddled around there now. I’m glad to have visited and look forward to coming back again soon.
Cheers.

Oakland’s latest beer bar: Cafe Biere….check it out, it’s a good one

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

cafe-biere-storefrontThis week, a friend asked me to join him at Cafe Biere in Oakland. I had never heard of the place but my fellow beer loving friend seemed pretty jazzed about. I met him on Adeline St. in Oakland just below 40th. For those not familiar with the area, you would get off at the Ikea exit on the eastshore freeway and continue to drive past Ikea until you are one block past San Pablo Ave…at Adeline St. Take a right and park it.
While most areas of Adeline seem a bit sketchy, this little bubble seemed relatively clean and safe. There was a modern condo complex across the street from the cafe had no discernable riff raff running around. I immediately noticed that this place was serious: a front patio eating/drinking area. Appropriate beer signage. When I got inside, I found a low lit place that is no bigger that the Trappist (minus their new space). My friends were waiting and they handed me the menu. I was pretty impressed by what I saw both on tap and in bottles. The food menu was short but well done….including mussels prepped a couple different ways. I would recommend checking out the website (linked above) and getting to know your way around before going there. Frankly, I was a bit dumfounded by what I stumbled upon and it took me a few minutes to come up with a beer to order.

I’ll keep it short because my visit was short. I was very impressed by Cafe Biere and I want to go back. The staff was knowledgable and friendly. The place had the “atmosphere” that you would expect in a good beer joint and the food was great.
Please click on the photos below for a higher res gallery to get a quick tour yourselves. Also check out their website and plan a visit to this area of Oakland for what my hometown is again showing how they are quickly becoming a beer destination.
Cheers.

2 minutes with Gary Glass, Director of the AHA

Monday, June 22nd, 2009
Gary Glass Director of the AHA

Gary standing over the beers you received in your registration bag. A Saison by Port Brewing and an IPA by Alpine brewing. Both were fantastic.

The numbers this year for the National Homebrewers Conference were impressive. The event was sold out for the second year in a row…there were 1100 attendees. Pro Brewers night had 52 brewers. Yes, that is 21 attendees for every brewery there. Club night had over 30 clubs in attendance.
Oakland and the west coast showed their pride in their land (and there beer) and came up with the goods. I caught up with Gary last Friday and asked him a bit about this. Check out the audio below:

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or download here

Thank you to the AHA, the volunteers, and everyone I met or didn’t meet. NHC 2009 was a great time. I’m looking forward already to Minnesota in 2010…and I better start talking with the family now.



Nate Smith brings his Double IPA to the GABF Pro-Am

Monday, October 6th, 2008

North Oakland Double IPA

As an Oakland native, I felt a bit of pride when I heard Nate Smith named his award winning Double IPA: North Oakland Double IPA. It speaks to his love of the area and perhaps how he feels it is home. Much like I do.

His beer is currently on tap at Triple Rock brewing in Berkeley and I suggest you try it while it is still there. Go out and feel the East Bay love presented in all of its hoppy glory.

Nate will take this beer to the Great Amerian Beer Festival this week in hopes of placing in the Pro-Am contest. I wanted to speak with Nate about this beer, how he became the DIPA mad scientist, and how he hooked up with Rodger Davis, Brewmaster of Triple Rock, for the GABF Pro-Am. Not everyone can get into the Pro-Am competition….you need an actual award winning beer and you need the Pro Brewer to help you brew it.

Nate was kind enough to answer my questions before he headed out to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival.

Nate Smith's DIPA on the board at Triple Rock

Tell me about your backgound…how long have you been brewing and how did you evolve into brewing Double IPAs?

I started brewing in spring of 1998 shortly after I moved to Santa Clara County, CA from the east coast. A curiosity for the world of beer and a lack of money drove me to find my first extract and plastic-bucket kit. I was immediately hooked even though my first batch turned out like crap. I brewed nearly every weekend back then, mostly so my friends and I would have something to drink. Plastic buckets as mash-tuns, all bottle conditioned, no kegs, no temperature controlled fermentation. I keep an old webpage up that I put online back then about that first 9 months or so of brewing: http://destroy.net/brewing/1417. It’s funny to look back at that and remember barley and hop cultivars/strains that are now gone and to look at my old OG/FG statistics.

I brewed as many ale styles as I could, with as many yeast strains as I could, it was quite a revelation in those first few months of brewing to learn that “brewers make the wort, yeast makes the beer”. Phil Montalbano at the Fermentation Frenzy homebrew shop in Los Altos was really instrumental in helping me along in the beginning. Most respect to him for encouraging me to go all grain and to make yeast starters. I think Phil planted the seeds that would eventually make me a IPA brewer later on; back in 1999 I remember he gave me sample of Amarillo hops as a “super cascade” that I used in dry-hopping a few pale ales. That fresh, citrusy aromatic hop quality that you can only get from a really fresh, clean dry-hopped beer always stuck with me even during 2001-2004 when I was spending a lot more free time playing music than brewing.

By 2004 I moved to a small house in North Oakland where I could resume some of the things that I’d missed for a while: cooking, gardening and home brewing. I met Nicole around the same time and she was just beginning to explore the world of beer. Sooner or later we were on brewery tours and at the Toronado and Barclays – and that really re-inspired me to really taste, understand, enjoy and start home-brewing again with new ideas and passion. At the same time all of these wonderful, interesting new-interpretations of IPAs were appearing from Russian River, Bear Republic, Stone, Moylans, etc.. All of these interesting complex resiny, citrusy, dank, piney flavors really struck a chord. That was a turning point for my understanding
of beer. This wasn’t just another brewing fad, these hop forward flavored beers had really matured from American Pale ale into a unique, world-class regional style. From there I had to try my hand at brewing a fresh, home-brewed example. So I started brewing a lot of IPAs and Double IPAs in addition to the Pale Ales and Belgian styles I was doing already.

Nate with his Best of Show RibbonWhat awards have you won with this beer…which one got you the “in” for the pro-am?

For the North Oakland Double IPA:
* 1st Place, 2008 BAM World Cup of Beer – Category 14, India Pale Ale
* Best of Show, BAM World Cup of Beer 2008
* 2nd Place, 2008 Mayfaire Regional Homebrew competition – Class 7, India Pale Ale
* 2nd Place, 2008 National Homebrew Competition, 1st Round, IPA Category – Western Region
* 1st Place, IPA, 2008 Bay Area Brew Off – Alameda County Fair
* Best of Show, 2008 Alameda County Fair Bay Area Brew Off

I had to pick just one – It was the World Cup beer that lead to the Pro-Am.

How did you hook up with Rodger Davis, Brewmaster of Triple Rock?

Rodger and I talked about doing a Pro-Am beer at the Trappist the night after the World Cup in March 2008. I’d known Rodger a bit a few years prior as an acquaintance that I’d see from time to time at beer
festivals and bars. He was between breweries at the time, so I wasn’t quite sure if we’d find a place to do this beer as a Pro-Am beer, but we talked about it again a few times over the days and months. Finally he wound up at Triple Rock when Christian left for Iron Springs. Great timing really, because the new assistant brewer at Triple Rock, George Kumparak has been a friend for many years and we were already talking about trying to do some brewing collaborations before Rodger started there. Perfect situation all around.

Your DIPA is called North Oakland DIPA. I’m an Oakland native myself, are you going to bring it on and make the 510 proud?

Absolutely! The 510 and especially North Oakland feel like home more than anywhere else I’ve lived in my adult life. The last 3 years of trial batches were definitely a product of the environment in which they were created. Everyone from Nicole (Trappist) to my hophead neighbor Scott (Barclays), to the pizza delivery guy to the folks in Stormcrow and Beercraft – I tried to serve this beer to anyone who was interested and get their feedback for future changes. Part of it is a bit absurd, tongue-in-cheek, as if this beer was brewed in the “North Oakland Double IPA” style, as if such a a category exists! Brian Hunt is one of my brewing heroes, and I like how he talks about beer and food being highly regional, so the name is a nod of respect to that idea.

Is this your first time to GABF or have you been before, what are your expectations of the event?

No, I’ve never been to the GABF before. I expect to be overwhelmed and under the constant urge to try way too many beers that are unavailable to us in Northern California such as the hoppy beer from Alpine Brewing and Three Floyds to the fruit beers from New Glarus, the unfiltered beers of Furthermore to the Belgian and French ales from Southampton. I’m also really looking forward to meeting up with the handful of people I know in the brewing world and enjoy an extended time away from my day job to sit down and seriously discuss brewing and beer with some friends over some fine beverages.

I don’t know the number but I’m sure there are quite a few entries in the pro-am…..is it more then to just savor the experience of being in the pro-am or is it really going after the medal?

There are approximately 60 entries in the Pro-Am category. I just love being able to savor the experience. Any medals would just be icing on the cake. Being able to take a day out of my normal routine to be invited to make a 7 barrel batch based on my homebrew recipe is just amazing. It’s a great feeling just to walk in Triple Rock and order this beer for myself and my friends. And then at the same time notice that other people around the bar are ordering and enjoying the beer (with no encouragement or input from me!) is a really cool experience. Thanks to Rodger, George, the Martin brothers and the Triple Rock staff for going out of their way to help pull this off. They tracked down special types and quantities of grain, adjuncts and
hops for this beer that they normally don’t stock, which was so kind of them. This beer was very expensive to begin with, and to take on extra expense and chance of using special ingredients for a one-off beer is very respectful.

Nate Smith guitarist in StormcrowYou are also in a couple of bands, one of them being Stormcrow. Is metal and brewing a great mix or what?

Metal/punk/hardcore and brewing go hand in hand. This is one case in which stereotypes are true, and for good reason. Great music and
great drink go back with humans as far as time, and for me the perfect combination is heavy music and beer. Beer and music pairing anyone? We hear a lot about food and beer pairing, but what about music and beer pairing? I used to jokingly pair music with the recipes as a suggestion for consumption and on brew day. Let’s try a more updated version:

Full Sail Session Lager or PBR with Amebix, Dystopia or Bolt Thrower
Boont Amber or Red Seal with At The Gates
St. Bernardus Abt 12 or Konigshoven Quad with Asunder, Sunn or Laudanum
Pliny the Elder or Port Brewing Wipeout IPA with Sleep or Kyuss
Old Rasputin or Shakespeare Stout with Darkthrone, Emperor or Ludicra
Duvel or Damnation with Slayer or Morbid Angel
St. Feuillien or Witkap Tripel with Carcass or Napalm Death
Cantillon Iris or Drie Foaintainen Oude Gueuze with The Fucking Champs or Tarantula Hawk

Hahaha.. It could go on forever.. this is ridiculous. If I ever work in a production brewery I’m going to lobby for music and beer pairing suggestions on the bottle labels, just to be confusing and obnoxious if nothing else.

If the economy keeps going south and you had to sell either your triple rectifier amp head or your brew system what would you pick?

I’d go to the soup lines and try to keep both. But, if push comes to shove, I suppose it would have to be the Triple Rectifier, since that’s easier to quantify for someone else. My brewing system is a cobbled together mess that wouldn’t be very well understood by anyone else, so I’ll probably take that one to the grave.

Mike McDole of Clayton teamed up with Sean of 21st Ammendment for the Pro-Am. Do you know Mike?

Tasty McDole is one of the best brewers around and just an awesome guy. Generous and friendly doesn’t even begin to cover it. I’m happy I do know him a bit, and thankful for this hobby that I do, otherwise
I probably wouldn’t have much of an opportunity to meet folks like him. We did a cross-bay “release party tour” one evening when his Pro-Am beer was on at the 21A and mine was on tap at Triple Rock. That was pretty awesome.

You vs. McDole, could this be a classic battle of the 925 vs the 510?

Yes, you’re right! Well, Tasty loses points because he didn’t have a 925 brewery produce his beer. Nah, just kidding. If either of these entries places in the Pro-Am entry, I’ll be thrilled. The 21A “Tasty” is an awesome beer, I encourage everyone to go down to 21A and enjoy a pint when it’s back on again soon. The nose and hop flavor of an IPA with the drinkability of a Pale Ale. Just absolutely wonderful.

Best of luck to you Nate and enjoy GABF!

Jon / Beer Obsessed, thanks for inviting me to do the interview! Cheers!!!
-Nate

*photos of Nate are courtesy of Nate. The photo of him with the BOS ribbon was taken by Peter and Sam at the betterbeerblog.com