So… it’s been awhile dear blog, this year I promise to pay more attention to you! I’m going to kick-off 2013 with a look back on my 10 favorite beer related moments and revelations of 2012 (in no particular order!). If anyone reads this, please let me know what your favorite beer moments were last year and what you’re most looking forward to for the year to come.
1. Brewing my own beer: …gonna be cracking open the bottles of my first brew (a Dunkelweizen) later today for The Canadian‘s birthday celebrations. Even more excitingly, look what I got for Christmas/my birthday! More posting on this to come.
2. Fresh, wet-hopped beer: one thing that has become whole-heartedly apparent to me is that Americans, particularly on the West coast, absolutely lurve hops… they can not get enough of them! American IPA is a less malty, hoppier and stronger version of an English IPA but if that is not enough for you, try a double IPA! While you’re at it, why not go for a Black IPA, a Red IPA, a Wheaten IPA or even a Belgian IPA? After a year and change here, The Canadian is even grudgingly starting to accept the citrusy-piney American hops that get in the way of her love of malty goodness. One thing that I have really enjoyed here is the phenomenon of the wet-hopped beer, where brewers rush to bring the first fresh-hops of the harvest straight to their beer. Chucking in the hops without drying and pelleting them appears to impart an earthy, musky, vegetal overtone with less overt bitterness than the dried stuff and really celebrates a pivotal ingredient in modern beer.
3. San Francisco beer week: This is an exciting idea – last year we ended up in Beer Revolution in Oakland, a fantastic pub, drinking some English style beer at a release party for Dying Vines Brewing. Can’t wait to see what we’ll do this year!
4. Drinking back in England: I had a real fear that after a year here, I would return to Blighty and find that the beers were too warm, flat and not hoppy enough. To allay this fear I decided to take a tour of some of London’s small, back-street pubs and have a half in each. Yes, the beer was a little warmer and flatter and not hop forward but it was a masterclass in quaffability, with a simple balance and restraint that I have not yet found in a US beer. ABV was under 5% and more often than not hovered around 4%, delivering eminently sessionable pints (proper 20 oz ones!). After a while though, I found myself looking forward to getting back to the US as I’m convinced that here is the most exciting place to be drinking beer at the moment, with brewers constantly innovating and challenging established traditions… if only they’d start doing this more often with low ABV beers that could actually be drunk in a session or quietly after work, that would be awesome!
5. Saisons: these hard-to-define but refreshing beers were a joy to find in the summer here and something I’d never encountered before. I’m looking forward to more this summer to come as apparently SF is one of the best areas to find them.
6. Supping from the local source: After my first 5k and The Canadian’s PB half marathon in San Leandro, we relaxed at Drake’s Barrel House; for New Year’s Eve, we sat in the restaurant/bar of 21st Amendment Brewery. Both great experiences. This year we need to track down more local breweries and drink there – simple really 🙂
7. US beer festivals: are a very different beast from British ones but still fun so bring on some more in 2013!
8. Finding ‘Real Ale’ in the States: Real Ale as defined by CAMRA (the CAMpaign for Real Ale in the UK) is unpasteurized, naturally carbonated by secondary fermentation in the container it’s dispensed from and in a pub, makes it’s way directly to you, the drinker, from the cask. After lots of cold, fizzy beer we actually managed to find cask beer in a couple of local pubs and it went down sooooo easily! “Please sir, can I have some more?”
9. Beer education at Ol: Ol is a fantastic little “Beercafe & Bottle Shop” in downtown Walnut Creek that is best visited on a quiet afternoon or evening where you can sit at the bar and sample an exotic beer or two from exciting brewers both near and far (e.g. Denmark and Norway). The overall emphasis is towards Belgian beer styles but the diversity is high, the beer quality always excellent and the staff hugely knowledgeable about the products. They also have a great bottle shop full of exotic beauties (e.g. from Mikkeller and Nogne O). pricey (not an everyday indulgence) but worth it. In 2012, we attended a “Meet the brewer” and learnt how Calicraft Brewing used oak chips to impart flavor to their Oaktown Brown. Great stuff.
10. Writing this blog! Although I’ve been a bit slack, choosing to write a blog has really made me think more about beer and enjoy it on a whole new level – let’s hope I write more this year and perhaps others can share my excitement too 😉