San Francisco Beer Week is upon us again. Gone are the gonzo days when we participated almost every day, making a multitude of trips to the Bay Area from our home on the Monterey Peninsula. Now, Merideth and I pick a few events to attend. And the event I will always choose is the Bistro’s Double IPA Festival.
Merideth and I have always had a brilliant plan for the Double IPA Fest: show up right at the start when everyone else is still hung over from the opening night. We have the run of the festival for a few hours until mid-afternoon. However, as testament to the draw of SF Beer Week, we arrived at the Bistro a little bit before 11am to find the line already out the front door.
Adjusting to the fact that our plan no longer seemed valid, we joined the line. It moved fairly quickly and in no time I had in my taster glass my traditional DIPA Fest first beer, Pliny the Younger.
The cool morning transformed into a warm, sunny afternoon under brilliant blue skies. Hayward’s blocked off Main Street was soon packed with beer geeks, all enjoying the uber-hoppy brews.
Eighty-two hop monsters were available to sample, including 23 Triple IPAs. I managed to drink 15 of them. My highlight brews were:
Pliny the Younger, Russian River Brewing
Double Tap IPA, Berryessa Brewing
Hop JuJu, Fat Heads
Citra DIPA, Kern River
The Roustabout, Societe Brewing
As for awards, Societe’s The Roustabout took gold for Double IPA, followed by Firestone Walker Double Jack and Pliny the Elder. Triple IPA was won by Pliny the Younger with Boneyard’s Notorious and Knee Deep’s Simtra coming in place and show. Kern River’s very popular Citra DIPA was the people’s choice winner.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.