Maybe it was the garlic that I had just finished chopping, or the parsley in the delicious quinoa salad my wife had just made, but my first whiff of New Belgium’s Pumpkick was an instant flash forward to the fourth Thursday in November. This feels a little early to be thinking about Thanksgiving, but who am I to argue with one of my favorite Colorado breweries? This is the first Pumpkin beer on the shelf at the local Trader Joe's, so maybe they're just getting a jump on the competition.
Every Fall, my wife and I make our way up from the crowded streets of Los Angeles to the rustic mountain region known as Oak Glen. Only about an hour and a half directly east of downtown, the change in scenery is drastic as you drive up to Oak Glen's 4,700 foot elevation from the flat plain of San Bernardino County. Palm trees, scrub brush and desert give way to oak and pine on the windy mountain road, and you know you have arrived when you begin to see signs for apple orchards, cider mills, and seasonal harvest festivals.
If I could make one bourbon related wish come true, it would be to taste all the different blends and varieties side-by-side. While I'm waiting for that to happen... I did manage to do a double tasting of Bulleit and Four Roses. These are widely available bourbons that you can usually find in the $15-25 range (for the lower price, you'll have to wait for a sale), and both are quite drinkable. I'll write up my tasting notes at the end of this post, but first, a little about each bourbon:
There's no such thing as a bad tripel, that's just a fact of life. So when I saw Left Coast Brewing Company's Asylum Tripel at P.F. Chang's on an outing with some of my fellow MBA students, there was no question as to what I would order. It didn't matter that I had never heard of this brewery before. A tripel, if you don't already know, refers to a strong pale ale, typically made with a yeast that originates in Belgium, and up to three times the normal amount of malt. For those more familiar with the darker Belgian dubbel's or quad's, you may be in for a surprise when you see the light colored liquid pouring into your glass. The tripel is in a family all its own.
Left Coast Brewing Company produces six regular brews, including Asylum, and four seasonals. They began brewing in 2004, and seem to be growing at a steady pace (not surprising after tasting this delicious tripel). If you ever happen to be in San Clemente on a Tuesday or Sunday, be sure to check out their Bend and Brew Yoga series in the park.
Left Coast Brewing Asylum Tripel Asylum Tripel is an explosion of fruits and spices with a thirst-quenching creamy head that I can't recommend enough. Nose: Whoa! Banana, tropical fruits Taste: Banana nut bread, spices
"How can a $10 whiskey be this good?" That was my first thought upon taking a sip of this golden nectar, which was quickly followed by a second: "Why have I never tried this before?" Dipping below $17 with any liquor is always a little questionable, whether it's whiskey, vodka, tequila or something else, but occasionally you find a gem. And Rebel Yell bourbon is in that category.
When I first saw a stack of Not Your Father's Root Beer boxes in the beer aisle I thought, "That's clever... marketing craft root beer to craft beer lovers." Then I got a phone call from a friend in Indianapolis. "I just came back from Boston. They were selling this alcoholic root beer, and you HAVE to try it!" He was raving about Not Your Father's Root Beer, and said this is the first beer in a long time that he liked so much that he had trouble sharing it with his friends (when you run into this problem, the solution is simple: buy another six pack).
The next day, I hopped on my red dyno-glide beach cruiser and pedaled back to the store to try some for myself.
Watermelon beer? Er... yes? Maybe? No? It was right there on the shelf, and I wasn't quite sure how to respond. Was this another gimmicky hipster beer, designed for the trendy kids on cool bicycles? Or could this actually be something worth sipping on the back porch while waiting for the corn to reach it's state of charcoal perfection on the grill?
Seeing my confusion, a helpful Trader Joe's employee in a Hawaiian print shirt skipped over to my side. "Watermelon beer. It's delicious. I tried some last time it was in. Better get it now, this stuff goes so fast." With a twirl, she was gone.
After a few cloudy, rainy, and especially humid days here in L.A., summer is officially back in session with blue skies and an invigorating new beer from one of my favorite breweries. The New Belgium Long Table Farmhouse Ale was originally slated to be released on August 10, but it is currently available at my local Trader Joe's. New Belgium is marketing this as a Fall beer, and I can see why. The Long Table Farmhouse Ale packs a walloping fruity, spicy, herbal punch, with Belgian overtones that are impossible to miss in both the smell and taste.
Farmhouse ales (also called "saisons") like Long Table originate in Wallonia, the French speaking region of Belgium. They were brewed in the cooler off season on the farm, then served to farmhands during the hot summer months. For more on farmhouse ales, click here. And for more on New Belgium Brewing Company (where, if I lived in Colorado, I would be applying for a job), click here.
Long Table Farmhouse Ale:
Nose: Fruity, spicy, coriander. Taste: Just like it smells! Recommendation: Get out there and buy a six pack before this seasonal brew goes out of stock.
The town of Napa sits as a quiet guardian at the southern end of Napa valley. Like many other small towns that suddenly came into money, it retains its quaint turn-of-the-century charm on Main Street, and among the quiet neighborhoods that stretch a few blocks back on either side. Revitalization is most evident along the riverfront, where newly constructed buildings and a grassy green park boldly confront the eye.
After three hours of wine tasting in Napa on Saturday night, we were ready for a full day's adventure on Sunday. The goal was to get out of town and drive further into the valley to see more rural scenery among the vineyards. After some googling, we download the Winery Finder onto our phones. This free app offers coupons for many of the wineries in both Napa and Sonoma (mostly 2 for 1 passes, but occasionally you'll see a complimentary tasting). Wine tastings and tours at Napa vineyards are not cheap. $25 seems to be the average starting price, and it goes up from there. Granted, many of the wines available for tasting cost upwards of $100 per bottle, so a $25 tasting here and there isn't a bad deal if you can afford it. Still, the Winery Finder is the way to go.