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.
If you're living within driving distance of Lake Tahoe in California, mark your calendar for September 3, 2016. It's the 27th annual Squaw Valley Foam Fest. With over 40 craft breweries offering unlimited samples of more than 120 ice cold beers, this is a steal at $35 ($30 if you buy your tickets in advance.
They won't release a list of participating breweries, but all of the California, Colorado and Washington mainstays are expected to be there: Lost Coast, Anderson Valley, Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, 50/50, New Belgium, Tahoe Mountain, Golden Road, North Coast, The Bruery, Anchor, and more.
If you can, make this a long weekend and stay in Lake Tahoe for a few days. Rent a boat or paddleboard, do some hiking in the Sierra Nevadas, and enjoy swimming in the clear, icy water. You can easily take the local bus routes to and from Foam Fest, or simply call an Uber (please don't drive).
If you start looking now you'll find great places to stay at a decent price; rustic ski cabins on AirBnB, ski lodges and hotels on Priceline, Kayak and similar sites. But don't wait too long, Foam Fest takes place Labor Day Weekend, and prices will go up fast.
Squaw Valley is one of the largest ski resorts in the United States. It was home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, although few signs of these games remain besides the faded intersecting rings. After you've had your fill of beer, stop by Fireside Pizza, 22 Bistro, or one of the other Squaw Valley restaurants to clear your head before catching the bus back to your lodging. You'll also be able to buy food during the event at food trucks.
Prebuy your tickets for Foam Fest 2016 and save $5 by clicking here.
One of my friends is already posting Facebook pictures of snow in his backyard. Meanwhile, I'm like Ron Swanson over here in my thick sweater. It's definitely going to be a booties and gloves surf day.
Winter means a fresh collection of seasonals. Usually, these are dark, heavy beers with plenty of spices. The kind perfectly suited for sticking into a snowbank to chill, and where "too cold" never applies. When you crack the lid on one of these icy winter lagers and take your first sip, the warmth stretches all the way to your toes and sub zero temperatures are forgotten.
New Belgium's Accumulation is an outlier in this group. As a White IPA, it's a wheat beer seasoned with Belgian yeast and just the right amount of hops. Pouring it into your glass, it looks like champagne.
When you take your first sniff, it's like slicing open a sweet ruby red grapefruit. There's very little of the bitter, sharp citrus some of the stronger IPAs have. Accumulation reminds me of Peak Organic's softer, refreshing IPA style.
Sipping Accumulation is like crushing the pulpy sweet fibers of a fresh ruby red in your mouth. It is thirst quenching, and then some. The hops are softened and balanced by the wheat, leaving me both satisfied and wanting more as I reach the bottom of the glass.
Accumulation White India Pale Ale is yet another reason New Belgium is one of my favorite breweries. Even if you don't like IPAs, it's worth a try this holiday season. I'm guessing it won't be around past December. That leaves a two month window to get your fill. If I can brave these sub-70 temperatures and make it to the store, I'll be huddled up under a blanket sipping some here in L.A. I suggest you do the same.
Tasting Notes: Nose: Sweet ruby red grapefruit, hops. Taste: Sweet ruby red grapefruit, hops softened by wheat and Belgian yeast.
It's Fall, and this year, that means it's time to jump on the pumpkin bandwagon with some pumpkin infused beer tastings. As time goes on, I hope to add to this list, but let's begin with two solid brews: Mendocino's Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale and Anderson Valley's Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale. Both are solidly pumpkin and have a similar lineup of the usual suspects when it comes to spices: Nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. The main difference between these two is body and coloring. Fall Hornin is much darker and a little heavier, while Engine 45 is on the lighter side.
Mendocino Brewing Company Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale Nose: Nutmeg, pumpkin and cinnamon over a buttery nose. Taste: Just like it smells, but the emphasis is on the nutmeg. Fairly well balanced, this beer makes me crave a pumpkin pie. Still, it's easy to see why pumpkin flavored drinks are only popular for a season.
Anderson Valley Fall Hornin Nose: Nutmeg, sour ale nose. Taste: Darker, sour, caramel, with more pumpkin and more nutmeg than Engine 45. I find this one to be a little more balanced as well.
About the Breweries Both breweries are located in Northern California. Mendocino Brewing Company was founded in 1983 in Mendocino County California. They are easily recognizable for their use of birds of prey on their labels (Engine 45 would be an exception). They distribute from coast to coast, also brewing at the Old Saratoga brewery in New York state.
Valley Brewing Company has been in existence since 1987, and with Mendocino, was one of the first 20 craft breweries in the country. Today, they are known for their high quality brews, including their Barl series of bourbon aged beers created in partnership with Wild Turkey Bourbon.
Give both of these beers a shot, and then let us know: What do you think? Should these breweries bring them back next year, or abandon the whole "pumpkin beer" project altogether? Or do you have a pumpkin beeer that you can't stop raving about? Review it below, so we can give it a try as well.
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
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.