Category Archives: USA

Speed Dating in San Diego

We’ve been meaning to get back to San Diego. Really. Since our last visit in the fall of 2008, the already vibrant beer scene has exploded. With the vast county now boasting over 60 breweries, Merideth and I focused on quantity during our recent weekend visit to San Diego, kind of like a speed dating version of beer travel.

White Labs

On a glorious Saturday, we began our San Diego beer adventure focused on yeast at White Labs. To much fanfare last year, they opened a tasting room, with in-house brews highlighting their different yeast strains. The beers are dispensed from the 32 taps in the very modern, stainless and stone clad tap room.

An IPA and three Pale Ales at White Labs

Available are multiple versions of the same beer style, each using a different type of yeast. Ideally, each of these brews come from the same batch, easily discernible from the batch number on the electronic tap list. Merideth ordered three versions of Hefeweizen, all from the same batch. She complimented her four beer flight with a Brown Ale. I went with an IPA and three Pale Ales.

I’ll admit that tasting beer at White Labs took a bit of adjustment. Our first reaction was “Wow, these beers are kind of plain…” Then we remembered that they were brewed to highlight the yeast, so no big malt or hop flavors. From overhearing other conversations, we quickly learned the proper vocabulary, declaring all our samples “very clean.”

Hess Brewing, San Diego’s original nano-brewery

It was only a short distance to our next stop Hess Brewing. Famous for being San Diego’s first licensed nano-brewery, Hess will soon be graduating to the world of the big boys, opening a 30-bbl production brewery in the San Diego neighborhood of Northpark. But that is the future. We visited Hess at their small industrial space near Miramar.

Get a flight, keep the glass

Setting up at one of the upright barrels, Merideth was very happy to see some German-style beer represented in hop/IPA mad San Diego. The friendly beer-tender started our five beer flight with Claritas, their version of a Kölsh-style brew. It’s clean, light and refreshing body was perfect for a January San Diego day that was already pushing 80° F. The two stars were Helicon, a 5.3% ABV Rye Pale Ale and Deceptio, a 8.5% ABV, 85 IBU Cascadian IPA. More of a brown IPA than black, Deceptio had a huge hop presence. And Helicon, with its spicy rye bite, would be in the running for beer of the day.

Stumblefoot Brewing in San Marcos

From Hess, Merideth and I headed to the northern part of San Diego County. Already home to the likes of Stone and Port/Lost Abbey, much of the growth in the beer scene was happening up that way. First stop was Stumblefoot Brewing in San Marcos. Mid afternoon, we had the small tasting room almost all to ourselves.

From the dozen beers on tap, we chose a flight of five. Easy choices were the San Diego International Beer Festival medal winners Schwarz Be With You, a Black Lager and Vixen Dunkelweizen. Rounding out our quintet was Creekside Pale Lager, GrassYass IPA and Flakey Robin’s Belgian Style Sour

Five beer flight at Stumblefoot

Merideth’s spirits were again buoyed by the Pale and Black lagers. Expecting a day of IPAs and Double IPAs, she was in German-style heaven at each of our stops so far. The Gold medal medal winning Dunkelweizen had a really nice balance between malty and yeasty. It would have been really good had it been a bit more carbonated. My somewhat unexpected star was the sour. Unexpected because I really wasn’t planning on seeing any sours on our days travels. Flakey Robin’s was medium tart and refreshing on the warm day.

One of the newest kids on the block…

Up to this point, it had been a relatively quiet day. The calm ended at our next stop in San Marcos, Rip Current Brewing. We heard, from several people that this a bit over a month old brewery was a must stop. Given the number of people in their tasting room, everyone else had received the same information.

Merideth admiring her beer at Rip Current

With its hop-centric brews, Rip Current was the first stop I really felt we were in San Diego. Paddling Out Pale Ale and Raked Over Red were excellent hop-forward beers. My favorite was the 9.1% ABV Red Flag Double IPA, a  big and bold brew. I would have pegged Merideth liking the chocolate or coffee Milkstache the best. But she found them a bit too roasty for her taste. Instead, it was Barrier Reef Nut Brown that tickled her fancy.

On familiar ground at Latitude 33

The craft beer movement is known for being very green. And that eco-consciousness includes recycling brewery locations. Latitude 33 Brewing in Vista was the old Green Flash facility which we visited in November 2008 (chronicled in Teachings from the Tap). Walking into the crowded tasting room, we immediately noticed some major upgrades including an actual bar with taps.

Flight at Latitude 33

Squeezing in amongst the two beer tour groups at the bar, Merideth ordered us a flight of their brews. Of the six beers we sampled, Merideth proclaimed the spicy The Pasha’s Rye Brown as her beer of the flight. Given my penchant lately for light-bodied, boldly hopped brews, GB’s Pale Ale was my favorite from Latitude 33. It paired very well with the street tacos from the vendor out front.

Busy Saturday evening at Iron Fist

Saturday night was in full swing when we arrived at Iron Fist Brewing, just up the road from Latitude 33 in Vista. Two more beer two groups boisterously intermingled with other beer geeks, filling every table in the industrial space. Luckily, a couple stepped away from the bar and we quickly filled the void.

Flight at Iron Fist

The four beer flight included three Belgian-style brews. Merideth and I both agreed that Hired Hand, a dry, spicy Saison, was the best of the bunch. With its big citrus flavors, the Gauntlet, a 9.5% ABV Double IPA, was also very tasty. Jumping as it was, Iron Fist looked like a fun place to hang out, grab some food from the truck out front  and enjoy a pint. But we were pretty exhausted from our long day of beer travel and sample flights. We left the revelry to others.

Collapsing into our hotel bed early that evening, we remarked that it felt like we had visited EVERY industrial park in San Diego. But we had accomplished what we had set out to do… experience as much as what was new in San Diego as possible. One day down and one more to go.

View all the San Diego images

 

Scoring a Century

After completing our trip to Canada this past July, I did some math in my head. I quickly realized that we had the chance to add 100 breweries to the List, something we had never done before. Even in our intensive Year in Beer, chronicled in Merideth’s book Teachings from the Tap, we only added 90. Scoring a century seemed like a worthy goal for 2012.

December rolled around and we were at 96. A planned trip to Los Angeles, where we would reach 100, fell through. We resigned ourselves to coming up just short. In telling friends our tale of woe, they disagreed with us giving up so we decided to give it one more try. Doing some research, we chose Sacramento, home to a number of new breweries, to accomplish our goal.

Black Dragon in Woodland

Piling Porter, Stout and their favorite blankie into the car on Saturday morning, we began the three hour drive to the State Capitol. Our first stop, Black Dragon Brewing, wasn’t in Sacramento but just to the west in historic Woodland.

Black Dragon was in the not-so-historic section of town set off the street behind a pizza parlor. Its nondescript exterior didn’t do justice to its roomy, bright interior. The bar and dining area were flanked on each side by the brewery  and the homebrew shop.

Merideth at Black Dragon in Woodland

Joining a few other customers, we sat down to sample the four beer flight. Merideth really enjoyed the light and refreshing Gypsy Blonde, done with what we assumed was a Belgian yeast. The Araya IPA was solid example of the West Coast style. The star for me was Dragon’s Eye Porter, a 6.5% ABV roasty dark brew with nice notes of chocolate. It was the perfect beer for a chilly December day.

Sample flight at Roseville Brewing

After the first long stretch in the car from our house, it seemed like a short drive to our second stop, Roseville Brewing, in a town of the same name. Located in the last business park in a stretch of business parks, we made a slightly-embarrassing mistake that did not do justice to our reputations as seasoned beer travelers.

Merideth at Roseville Brewing

Walking in the front door, we stood in the tiny front room waiting for someone to help us. Not seeing any taps or beer, I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to taste beer at Roseville. After what seemed like a minute, a man came out front and asked if we needed help. Somewhat meekly I inquired was it possible to try the beers. Surprised by the question, he led us down a very short hallway into the tasting room.

We had seven beers to sample at Roseville ranging from two American-style wheats to a seasonal Stout. Another solid lineup of the beers with the two hoppy offerings, Iron Mule IPA and Spike Driver Double IPA, being the two shining lights for me. Merideth’s favorite was the seasonal Cinnamon Coffee Stout. At 8% ABV, this brew was big on chocolate flavor with a hint of the spice on the finish.

Loomis Basin Brewing in Loomis

One of the benefits of beer travel is that the journey brings us to places we probably would have never visited. Despite having driven the I-80 corridor northeast of Sacramento on a number of occasions, we had never stopped or probably even noticed the city of Loomis. But this tiny town on the way to the Sierras now had a brewery, Loomis Basin Brewing.

Arriving a few minutes before opening time, the industrial park lot was full of cars, occupants still inside. We thought that this was somewhat odd given it was Saturday afternoon. Turns out all those people were waiting for the tasting room to open. We must have stumbled on to something good.

Sample flight at Loomis Basin is on its way…

The small tasting room bustled as Merideth and I went through the six beer sampler. The seasonal 8.4% ABV Recession Ale, a robust Porter, was a big on the coffee and chocolate notes. If there was a beer that I would take home, it would have been the Vindicator IPA, a fine example of the West Coast style. Unfortunately, it was being bottled a few days later. Merideth liked the Swetzer Pale Ale, a light-bodied, easy-drinking brew.

The offerings at Track 7 Brewing

The fourth stop of the day finally brought us to our capitol city. Track 7 Brewing, in an rough-looking industrial part of Sacramento, was very Portland with its large roll up doors and picnic table-filled, dog-friendly tasting room. It was quite crowded on a chilly Sacramento evening attesting to Track 7’s popularity in the community.

Celebrating the 100th brewery with Stout

Ordering a five beer sample flight, Merideth and I joined a few friends who were already there. Focusing on chatting with them, I have to admit I don’t remember too much about the beers. The presence of another wiener dog didn’t help either with our beer concentration. However, I do recall really enjoying their Panic IPA.

That was it! We both hit 100 breweries for the year. Actually, Merideth hit 101, as she went to an extra brewery in Portland in order to catch up on the List count. Congratulations to us!

 View all the images from our day…

Thanks to all our friends who not only met up with us in the Sacramento area but those of you who made beer travel in 2012 a special year. We finished 2012 with 773 breweries… on to 800!

Here are the 101 breweries we added to the List in 2012…

1 Fearless Brewing Estacada OR USA
2 Sandy River Brewing Sandy OR USA
3 Surf Brewery Ventura CA USA
4 Enegren Brewing Moorpark CA USA
5 The Lab Brewing Co Agoura Hills CA USA
6 Holgate Brewing Woodend Vic Australia
7 Otway Winery and Brewery Barongarook Vic Australia
8 Hix Beer Dromona Vic Australia
9 Mornington Peninsula Brewery Mornington Vic Australia
10 Last Drop Brewery Canning Vale WA Australia
11 Cowaramup Brewing Cowaramup WA Australia
12 The Grove Vineyard Wilyabrup WA Australia
13 Bush Shack Brewery Yallingup WA Australia
14 Eagle Bay Brewing Eagle Bay WA Australia
15 Colonial Brewing Margaret River WA Australia
16 Occy’s Brewery Vasse WA Australia
17 Bootleg Brewery Wilyabrup WA Australia
18 Duckstein Brewery Wilyabrup WA Australia
19 Moody Cow Brewery Dardanup WA Australia
20 Wild Bull Brewery Ferguson WA Australia
21 Old Coast Road Brewery Myalup WA Australia
22 The Old Brewery Perth WA Australia
23 Monk Brew Cafe Fremantle WA Australia
24 Little Creatures Fremantle WA Australia
25 Blackwater Brewery Fremantle WA Australia
26 Feral Brewing Baskerville WA Australia
27 Swan Brewery Canning Vale WA Australia
28 Indian Ocean Brewing Mindarie WA Australia
29 Ironbark Brewery Caversham WA Australia
30 Elmar’s in the Valley Henley Brook WA Australia
31 Mash Brewing Henley Brook WA Australia
32 Southern Pacific Brewing San Francisco CA USA
33 Yards Brewing Philadelphia PA USA
34 Manayunk Brewery Philadelphia PA USA
35 Victory Brewing Downingtown PA USA
36 Dogfish Head Milton DE USA
37 16 Mile Brewing Georgetown DE USA
38 Evolution Craft Brewing Salisbury MD USA
39 Burley Oak Brewing Berlin MD USA
40 Stewart Brewing Bear DE USA
41 Argilla Brewing Newark DE USA
42 Dock Street Brewing Philadelphia PA USA
43 Boxcar Brewing West Chester PA USA
44 Stoudts Brewing Adamstown PA USA
45 Lancaster Brewing Lancaster PA USA
46 Mckenzie Brewhouse Chadds Ford PA USA
47 Twin Lakes Brewing Greenville DE USA
48 Sante Adairius Rustic Ales Capitola CA USA
49 Dust Bowl Brewing Turlock CA USA
50 Gigantic Brewing Portland OR USA
51 Moon Under Water Victoria BC Canada
52 Hoyne Brewing Victoria BC Canada
53 Phillips Brewing Victoria BC Canada
54 Craig Street Brew Pub Duncan BC Canada
55 Longwood Brewpub Nanaimo BC Canada
56 High Mountain Brewing Whistler BC Canada
57 Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Co. Squamish BC Canada
58 R and B Brewing Vancouver BC Canada
59 Storm Brewing Vancouver BC Canada
60 Coal Harbour Brewing Vancouver BC Canada
61 Parallel 49 Brewing Vancouver BC Canada
62 Dockside Brewing Vancouver BC Canada
63 Big River Brewpub Richmond BC Canada
64 Central City Brewing Surrey BC Canada
65 Big Ridge Brewing Surrey BC Canada
66 Marine Pub & Brewhouse Burnaby BC Canada
67 Kulshan Brewery Bellingham WA USA
68 Fire on the Mountain Portland OR USA
69 Lucky Bucket Brewing La Vista NE USA
70 Nebraska Brewing Papillion NE USA
71 Granite City Brewing Omaha NE USA
72 Soaring Wings Springfield NE USA
73 Upstream Brewing Omaha NE USA
74 Mosbacher Brauhaus Mosbach Germany
75 Weldebrau Plankstadt Germany
76 Brauhaus Weisses Haus’l Ludwigshafen Germany
77 Wormser Hagenbrau Worms Germany
78 Eichbaum Mannheim Germany
79 Brauhaus Neustadt Neustadt Germany
80 Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe Weissenohe Germany
81 Brauerei Friedmann Grafenberg Germany
82 Brauerei Hoffman Grafenberg Germany
83 Lindenbrau Grafenberg Germany
84 Brauerei Spezial Bamberg Germany
85 Brauerei Kundmuller Viereth-Trunstadt Germany
86 Familienbrauerei Beck Brau Trabelsdorf Germany
87 Kaiserdom Bamberg Germany
88 Tolzer Muhlfeldbrau Bad Tolz Germany
89 Maxbrau Oberammergau Germany
90 Stadl-brau Berwang Austria
91 Mariahilfer Sudhaus Eisenberg Germany
92 Brauerei Mittenwald Mittenwald Germany
93 Klosterbrauerei Reutberg Sachsenkam Germany
94 Cambria Brewing Cambria CA USA
95 Molly Pitcher Brewing Atascadero CA USA
96 Hollister Hills Taproom & Brewery Hollister CA USA
97 Black Dragon Brewing Woodland CA USA
98 Roseville Brewing Roseville CA USA
99 Loomis Basin Brewing Loomis CA USA
100 Track 7 Brewing Sacramento CA USA
101 New Helvetia Brewing Sacramento CA USA

Beer Geeks in the Heartland

Our trip to the Great Nebraska Beer Festival gave us the opportunity to explore the Omaha beer scene. Not generally a city associated with the craft beer revolution, good beer can definitely be found in America’s heartland.

Our very first brewery in Nebraska

We previously visited Omaha in 1992. At that time, I half-jokingly told a friend who played baseball for Cal, that if the team made the College World Series, we would go. Long story short, Cal made the CWS. In the infancy of our beer travels, I vaguely remember checking to see if there were any breweries in the area. There were not.

The sample flight at Lucky Bucket

This trip was going to be different, though, and there was an air of excitement as we parked our rental car in an industrial park in the Omaha suburb of La Vista. The first stop, our 741st brewery, would be our very first in Nebraska. It had been along day of travel and our excitement might have been compounded by Merideth and I craving our first beers of the day. The honor went to Lucky Bucket Brewing.

Enjoying a pint of Cunningham Kriek at Lucky Bucket

The tasting room was already busy when we arrived late Friday afternoon. We grabbed the only available table next to the distillery and quickly ordered the sample flight.

There were six beers in the flight. While based on our history you might assume that the Lucky Bucket Lager and IPA would be each of our favorite beers, neither were. In one of those rare occasions, we agreed that the Cunningham Kriek was the star. From their Single Batch Series, the red-brown Kriek had a really pleasant, dry, fruit character. While not as tart as I like my Krieks, it was a great introduction to the diversity of the Nebraska beer scene.

Nebraska Brewing

Nebraska Brewing, host of the festival, was our next stop. Located at the end of Shadow Lake Towne Center’s faux main street shopping area, the cookie-cutter mall exterior contrasted sharply with the cozy, pub feel of the interior.

Merideth and I only experienced Nebraska Brewing in the context of the festival. Despite the frenetic air with festival goers coming and going, I got a strong sense of a neighborhood, family-friendly establishment.

Enjoying an IPA on the patio at Nebraska Brewing

They were popular at the Firestone Walker Invitational this past June and since then, I have had a number of “you HAVE to try their beer” recommendations from friends. However, unlike most every other brewery stop, we never did order a sample flight.

While Merideth pin-balled between the Infinite Wit and EOS Hefeweizen, I stuck with their IPA. With 2010 World Beer Championship Silver medal to its credit, the 6.5% ABV and 65 IBU IPA had a wonderful floral nose and a ‘did-I-just-finish-another-one’ drinkability. It could easily hold its own in the lineup of IPAs on the West Coast.

Obviously, we need to return to Nebraska Brewing in the future to try its full lineup.

The second largest labor monument in the United States

In our schedule, we had one free day, Sunday, to explore Omaha. Despite the midday heat and humidity, the draw of a Lewis and Clark landing site had Merideth and I strolling along the scenic river front walk located downtown. While boats cruised up and down the Missouri River, we tried to take in all the scenery.

Lewis and Clark were just one of the draws in the 23 acre park. For me, its most impressive feature was the labor monument, the second largest of its kind in the United States.

Upstream Brewing in the Old Market.

We could only survive about an hour under the blazing sun. Luckily, I planned our walk to finish up in the cobbled streets of Omaha’s Old Market. The city’s arts and entertainment district, the Old Market was home to our last brewery stop of the trip, Upstream Brewing.

Housed in the district’s 1904 firehouse, the blast of air conditioning was a most welcome feeling as we passed through Upstream’s front doors. After enjoying the cool air for a moment, we settled down at the dark wood bar to drink some beer.

The sample flight at Upstream

The ten brew flight was the largest and most diverse of the trip. Three fruit beers and a chocolate Saison rounded out the more familiar Pale Ale, Red Ale, and IPA selections. Merideth’s favorites, the crisp Groll Bohemian Pilsner and the refreshing I Don’t Know Tropical Saison (flavored with hibiscus flowers and passion fruit) paired perfectly with the hot and humid weather.

A pleasant Omaha evening…

I quickly identified Capitol Pale Ale as a favorite until I tried Flagship IPA. The copper-colored brew had delicious citrus and pine hop flavors. If I learned one thing on the trip, it is that the West Coast-style IPA is alive and well in Nebraska!

As the afternoon heat of the day broke, Merideth and I were able to finish our heartland beer adventure on Upstream’s expansive patio. Enjoying a few brews on a pleasant Midwest summer evening, it was a relaxing way to end our whirlwind trip.

View all the Omaha images

Great Nebraska Beer Festival

Thanks to our friends at The Roaming Pint, Merideth and I had the opportunity to beer travel to Omaha, Nebraska for the first time. The Great Nebraska Beer Festival was looking for someone to talk about beer travel in one of their seminars. When Brian and Maria couldn’t do it, they suggested us. It was an opportunity to not only introduce ourselves to a new audience and sell Merideth’s book but more important, to try a bunch of Midwest brews. The whole thing was just too good to turn down.

The Shadow Lake Towne Center parking lot transformed

Shadow Lake Towne Center in Papillion (pronounced pa-PILL-yun) was the home of the Great Nebraska Beer Festival. Overnight, the empty parking lot in front of the Dick’s Sporting Goods transformed into a small tent city for the beer festival. The eighty or so breweries were grouped in six tents throughout the fenced in area.

Before the festival opened, Merideth and I wandered around trying to get the lay of the land. As I noticed all the brewers greet each other warmly via a handshake or hug, an odd feeling came over me. We didn’t know ANYONE. Most of the beer fests we attend are on the West Coast, where we do know everyone. We’re some of those people giving each other hand shakes and hugs. Not so in Papillion, Nebraska. We were definitely going to need all of our anti-wallflower powers.

Rain, rain, won’t go away…

The week prior our journey to Nebraska, we checked the weather regularly. As the week progressed, the chance of rain went from a paltry 10% to 80% the day of the festival. Sure enough, once the festival kicked off at noon, a steady rain began to fall.

We quickly learned a new lesson in our lives as book purveyors. It is very difficult to sell books at an outdoor beer festival in the rain. Despite the realization that book sales were going to be slow at best, all was not lost. There were all those new beer to try…

Best of show came from Cigar City

One of the hidden gems for us was Cigar City, not available in California. At the festival, a hand scrawled ‘CIGAR’ and a soggy program opened to its beers was the only designation for one of the biggest cult breweries in the country.

Cigar City Cucumber Saison won my best of show brew. I’ve had a cucumber beer and soda before but both were so subtle that my taste buds had to search for the flavor. Cigar City’s Saison, on the other hand, had a VERY pronounced cucumber taste. If they had added a bit of brine, I would have professed it the best beer ever made.

Peace Tree Brewing from Knoxville, IA

Given our friend and thebeergeek.com contributor, Renee is from Iowa, we made sure we tried some brews from her home state. Pom Pom Shaker, a Pomegranate Sour from homebrew club Iowa Brewers Union made my list of top 3 brews of the festival.

Peace Tree Brewing from Knoxville, IA had me won over before I tried any of their beers with their Partridge Family-esque bus. Their beers were pretty good as well, with the Red Rambler Red Ale and Hop Wrangler IPA tickling our fancy.

Throughout the afternoon, while Merideth (wo)manned the covered book table, I wandered out into the festival’s intermittent showers in search of beer. While some of the brewery names sounded familiar (Boulevard, Free State, Tallgrass), others like Ploughshare, Morgan Street and Beaver View, I had never heard of.  On each journey, I would bring back two beers for us to try.

On our list of notable brews…

Other notable brews we tasted…

  • Cask Mango Watch Man IPA – Empyrean Brewing, Lincoln, NE
  • Zesting the Cone IPA – Nebraska Brewing, Papillion, NE
  • 8-Bit Pale Ale – Tallgrass Brewing, Manhattan, KS
  • Schwarzbier – Morgan Street Brewery, St. Louis, MO
  • Powerhouse Pilsner – Gottberg, Columbus, NE
  • Saison – Funkwerks, Fort Collins, CO
  • Ethan’s Stout – Blue Blood Brewing, Lincoln, NE
  • The Griffin (Hefeweizen) – Grimm Bros. Brewhouse, Loveland, CO
  • Kölsch – Schlafly Brewing, St. Louis, MO
Blind Tiger’s beer dispensing back pack

Topeka’s Blind Tiger opened our eyes to a beer festival first to us, a beer dispensing back pack. I never saw it loaded but I assume it held a five gallon keg. All during the day, one of the brewers wandered around with a keg strapped to his back filling empty taster glasses to appreciative festival goers. I availed myself of this great service on several occasions when I found myself with an empty taster glass.

Obviously, Merideth and I were disappointed that the weather didn’t go our way. But in the end, we met some great people and drank some wonderful beer at the Great Nebraska Beer Festival.

View all the images from the Great Nebraska Beer Festival

My Day at Rogue Farms

Chris and I rarely beer travel separately. We enjoy traveling together and it feels weird to do otherwise. However, when I was presented with an opportunity to spend the day out at Rogue Farms celebrating women, beer and agriculture, I had to do it. And, leave Chris behind.

Rogue farms in Independence, OR

Beer Goddess Lisa Morrison and I started the morning out with an hour and a half drive from Portland down to Independence, a small pastoral town with lots of character. After a few missed turns due to chatting, we arrived at Rogue Farms. I was first struck with the size of the farm. I expected the hop yard (which was as impressive as any I’ve seen in Germany), but I didn’t realize all the other wonderful things going on there.

Acres and acres of hop bine walls on my left were matched on my right with a hazelnut orchard, rye field and beehives as we drove in. Shortly after arriving, the group of mostly media folks (and mostly women) gathered in the James and Franny Coleman Conference Center. Barley’s Angels Director Christine Jump organized the day’s schedule with fun and informative activities that started out with a taco lunch made with Chicken cooked in Rogue’s Chipotle Ale. It was very tasty, but admittedly it was odd that we were only offered water and pink lemonade for beverages (no beer).

During our lunch, we were treated to an entertaining talk about “beer vacations” from the famous Teri Fahrendorf. She offered great tips for organizing a well-planned, beer-packed adventure, as well as talked about her famous Pink Boots Tour, the cross-country journey that gave rise to the Pink Boots Society.

oh beautiful hops…

The next activity was a hopyard tour led by Farm Manager Natascha Cronin. While surrounded by Independent hop bines, she admitted to being a bit nervous talking to a bunch of well-versed beer people. Natascha performed brilliantly, however, as she led us through the life of a hop on Rogue Farms—from growing and harvesting to kilning and baling.

We then gathered outside on the lawn for Lisa’s seminar on proper glassware. She led us in an extremely effective exercise with spiced gumdrops that demonstrated the importance of aroma (I don’t want to give away Lisa’s party trick, so all I’ll say is that it was amazing!) and guided us through a taste test using various glassware, including one that fully cups around your nose and mouth. Her talk also gave us the first opportunity to drink some beer! Drinking Rogue Chocolate Stout out of a pilsner glass was an interesting experience to say the least. So was sharing the outdoor area with a handful of chickens who weaved in and around our tables. One especially vocal rooster even gave Lisa several crows of approval towards the end of her talk.

The Farmstead brewery…

More beer was to come as we took a “tour” of the Farmstead Brewery. The tour consisted of hanging out in a barn with a woodworking shop on one end and a 1.5 bbl system on the other. Head Brewer Josh Cronin is a down-to-earth guy who laughed at his job title. He is, after all, the only brewer. We mingled and tried out the patio furniture made from old barrels as we sipped our samples of a not yet finished Nut Brown Ale. It needed a bit more time, but the flavor was definitely there and it was good! I also appreciated Josh’s casual approach to brewing. His perspective as a brewer is very similar to my perspective as a beer drinker: Do you like the beer? Is it good? Then it’s a keeper. If not, try something else. No need to over analyze things.

Beer and food pairing…

By this time, we were running a bit behind on our agenda, so Julia Herz took us on a whirlwind adventure in food pairing. She provided a fast-paced, authoritative presentation on how flavors contrast and complement each other. All of the beers were fantastic and our selection of food items was fun. Here’s some of our table’s findings:

Chatoe Rogue’s Good Chit Pils was a perfect match with feta. Ellie’s Brown from Avery definitely did NOT go with the feta! Breckenridge’s Oatmeal Stout went very well with the dark chocolate and blue cheese was exceptional with Rogue’s Imperial IPA. The hand’s down favorite pairing at our table was also the most surprising: Crabtree Brewing’s Berliner Weiss with dill pickles! I’ll eat pickles regardless of what I’m drinking. Doesn’t matter if the flavors conflict. But now I know at least one option I can go to when chowing down on a jar of pickles. One pairing that will come as no surprise to anyone was that the caramel corn went great with everything!

Perhaps my favorite part of the day was the soap making and foot balm demonstrations by Tammy Taggart of Farmland Soap Company. Apparently my interest in this was obvious, as Lisa later told me that I looked absolutely riveted. Among her other products, Tammy talked about her methods of using craft beer in soap (a bar of which we each got to take home) and hop oil in foot balm (we got one of those, too). It was very cool to watch and even the talk of rigorous safety precautions when using lye (an extremely caustic ingredient in soap) didn’t deter me from thinking I may have found my newest hobby.

Note: In the process of making soap, the lye is neutralized when it reacts with other ingredients. So just to be clear, Tammy’s soaps are absolutely safe.

The last part of day at the farm was time at the tap room. It was also the least structured and gave us an opportunity to socialize. Our participation in the day’s events included tastes of the beer, spirits, and rootbeer. I, however, stuck with beer. I especially enjoyed the Dirtoir Black Lager while talking beer with fellow girl beer geeks Corrie and Megan.

Here with Brian Yaeger and Lisa Morrison. The end to a great day…

The crowning glory of our amazing day was a farm to table feast of roast pig, salmon, and shrimp ceviche made with lime and pilsner. The cornbread topped with garlic butter and the coleslaw were equally tasty. Unfortunately, after all that, I was too full to get my rootbeer float.

The sun was setting and Lisa began to feel the effects of being the most popular girl at the mosquito party, both signals that it was our time to leave. It had been a long and remarkable day of celebrating women, beer, and agriculture. And one I will definitely mark up there with some of my best beer adventures.

Thank you to everyone at Rogue Farms (go to http://www.rogue.com/almanac/chatoe.php to see what to expect from a visit to the farm) and to Christine Jump with Barley’s Angels for organizing such a wonderful day!

View all the images from my day at the hop farm…