Beer in Review

31 December 2009

Despite my deceptive cycling speed, I am but a humble beer powered machine. For that reason, my love of beer always has a prominent spot. Just in time for the end-of-the-year review season, I will put my iron in the fire. Get ready to be scalded.

I thought it fitting to recount five beers that especially blew me away this year (not to discount the consistent performers like Deschute’s Black Butte, Sierra’s Celebration, Rogue’s Dead Guy, almost anything from Ommegang, Allagash, or any Trappist Brewery). So on that note, the beers in review:

5. Deschutes Black Butte XXI

A Black Butte lover for so long, it’s natural that my first introduction to a Deschutes tribute brew was this one. Brewed with cocoa nibs, infused with tons of roasted coffee, and aged on whiskey barrels. A porter on steriods. Despite the “Best After” date of 10/2010, this beer tastes fantastic already. Just to be safe I also have a case aging right now. Did I mention they wax dip the caps. I love these guys.

4. Dogfish 120 Minute IPA

I used to be a hop-head, but at some point I over did it. Couldn’t handle the ridiculously IBUs microbrews were cranking out just for the sake of it. All I wanted was a well balanced hoppy beers with lots of great flavor and aroma. Dogfish revived my faith and took it to the next level. Somehow obtaining incomprehensible alcohol levels (18%? seriously?), the residual sweetness of this IPA desperately needs hops by the boat load for balance. Utilizing a continuous hopping device (engineering!) and generously dry hopping, this beer is feat that should not be missed. If only it was distributed in California.

3. Allagash Fluxus ’09

I found this beer in City Beer Store‘s amazing selection. Allagash’s anniversary selection described as having sweet potato and black pepper, I just had to try it. What a unique experience. Spicy, dry, all sorts of aroma and flavors I can’t even put my finger on. A very unique beer with the high quality you can always expect from Allagash. Fantastic.

2. 21st Amendment‘s Lower de Boom Barleywine

This was a tough one. 21st has produced so many great beers this year, and in fairness I shouldn’t pick more than one. What a challenge. Strong Beer Month in February and Belgian Beer Month in November did not help. With competition including their Baby Horse Quadrupel and the best canned beer ever, Monk’s Blood, it was their Barleywine that changed my beer drinking. Prior to this beer, every Barleywine completely turned me off to the point I avoided them. Well balanced, not over hopped and highly alcoholic, this stuff is delicious. It’s not just the Belgians that know what they’re doing with high alcohol brews, and 21st continues to do amazing things in San Francisco. I consider myself lucky.

1. Van der Dans California Common

Call me a sentimental sap. I am. I’m also biased. This beer was the first that I brewed with @the_danno, which has catapulted our homebrew efforts. Dubbel, Tripel, Scotch Ale, Marzen, Dunkelweiss, Bock, Belgian Wit, Porter, Kolsch all followed. Not a bad beer yet (knock on wood). With a barleywine and our 1st year anniversary brew (a quadrupel) on the horizon, things are looking as good as ever. So relax, have a homebrew.

Here’s to all the amazing beers 2010 will bring. Prost!

Crusades (part 2) – Oh the beer…

3 November 2009

During the course of our crusade in Oregon, alongside all the driving, there was quite a bit of beer to be had…

Initially we were hoping for lunch at Deschutes Brewery in Bend, but no food at the brewery, only at their Pub on Bond Street. Luckily we had a tip about Cascade Lakes Brewpub not too far away. Normally I’m not a big brown fan, but they had a nice one. A fresh hoped brew and a kolsch were also good. Brewery #1 down.

Onto Deschutes Brewery – let the pilgrimage begin. Jubelale and Hop Trip were my personal highlights out of the tasters I picked (I didn’t even bother tasting Black Butte since I drink too much of it anyway). For something considered a “craft” brewery, it was amazing to see the scale they are producing at these days. Their hop room was incredible. Bundles of whole hops everywhere. Definitely interesting to hear they dry-hop most of their beers. I left with a case of Black Butte XXI to age in the closet (best after 10/2010) and case of Hop Trip to split. So. Good.

After making the drive up to Portland, we made our way to the Raccoon Lodge (Cascade Brewing) for dinner. A mere week before the trip we went to a beer & cheese night that featured their Kriek, so we were excited to check out what they had. They had our 3rd fresh hop beer of the trip and our first series of lambic-style sours. The collection of aging casks was awesome. Very unique for an America brewery. It’s apparently the new microbrew revolution. We tried their taster and I can’t say I was impressed with the IPAs and sours on tap, but it could’ve just been that I was drunk by then…

Next stop – Cross Crusade. While not technically an official brewery stop, our effort was sponsored by Van der Dans Brewery

since we enjoyed plenty of Crosstoberfest as we yelled and cow-belled on the racers after we had raced. More to come on that later.

Post race was followed by a short rest at the hotel, and then onto the Astoria Rogue Public House. It’s no secret, I love Dead Guy Ale. Add on the fact that Rogue makes a huge selection of delicious beers and we’r

e golden. Dinner and drink involved their Sesquicentennial (commissioned by Oregon for their anniversary), Imperial Porter (I love porters), and Double Dead Guy were all great. We sat at the bar, which was luck since a Cross Crusade guy came in with cowbells worn as rings. Everyone sitting at the bar was gifted a free Cross Crusade Cowbell. Good luck part 1. Ro

gue was also has a “Garage Sale.” That meant the two of us each got a case of Double Dead Guy for super cheap. Good luck part 2.

After dinner we dropped off our beer at the hotel and headed to Fort George Brewery. If only we hadn’t woken up at 5am, then we would’ve been able to handle more than a beer here, but we were dead (and no that had nothing to do with a halloween costume). We just grabbed one mason jar and we were done. Complete exhaustion.

Enjoying the extra hour of daylight, our next beer adventure was to Mainstreet Homebrew Supply in Hillsboro, a personal favorite for homebrew supply, whether local or mail-order. Here we picked up whole hops (yes!) and wax for coating the caps on our longer aged brews. Our Scotch ale with be the first test subject.

Next, we needed lunch before the bike show, so we stopped at Laurelwood in NW Portland. Vinter Varmer was definitely the highlight. Then after the bike show, we stopped at MacTarnahan’s Taproom (a Pyramid partner) a block away. Their Hum Bug’r was my favorite. Then onto Yamhill County to grab dinner with Mom at Golden Valley Brewing. Yet another fresh hoped beer here. It’s quite a trend the in the NW apparently. At this point it is not even 8pm and we are ready to curl up in a ditch due to exhaustion.

Monday morning, all we had left was a long drive back to San Francisco. On our way south we attempted a stop in Eugene for an early lunch and beer, but the recommended Ninkasi Brewery had no food and our attempt at two other brewpubs fail because they weren’t open yet. Onward. For dinner we took a similar tack and decided to divert to Chico and stop by Sierra Nevada. No proper tours on Mondays, but we thought we’d manage the self-guided tour. The girl in the shop said we could walk around upstairs even though there was a function happening. We tried and were promptly sent back downstairs like the heathens we obviously are. In defeat, we grabbed some of Sierra’s Estate brew. I tried it the other night and it is fantastic. If you’re ever in Chico grab some, since that’s the only place you’ll probably find it.

Altogether 9 breweries later we were back to the bay, with all sorts of fantastic beer in tow and all sorts of crazy ideas about our future brewing plans.

Amazing things are happening

2 October 2009

I’m guessing that I’m not the only one out there that has decided bikes and beer go well together. Given our largely bike-based brewing operation, we are no exception at Van der Dans. Which is why when we had the chance to provide some homebrew for the greater good of cycling, we were all in. While I haven’t been able to get out on too many longer rides lately, my brewing partner had been making it out pretty frequently with the good folks from Mission Cycling. At a post ride event, he brought some of our Wit and Bock to share. During the conversation, Rapha’s Gentlemen’s Race and the case of beer entry fee came up. Wouldn’t it be cool to show up with some SF-made homebrew?

That night I get an email with subject “Van der Dans Wit Question” that described Rapha (just your friendly transcontinental ridiculously high-end cycling brand), the insanity that is the gentlemen’s ride, how Mission Cycling was invited, and could we donate a case of our recently brewed Wit to their cause. My response: “Do it.”

So all that was left was to make it presentable… Good thing, I’m not the marketing guru, because the beer would not have looked near as good: introducing the Mission Gentlemen’s Kristalwit

Our contribution can be found within the pre-race photos where the race start was staged in Otis, OR. The start of a 137 mile journey to Portland. Of course there’s lots more to marvel at with the write up from the Mission riders and the great photos from the event collected by Rapha. So anyway, amazing things have been happening on bike and beer front.

Nice work Mission riders.

“Cross” Promotion

13 September 2009

I cannot pass up a good pun… apologies all around.

Amazing things are happening:

Months ago, I was reunited with a friend from undergrad at a wedding. At that point, I realized he had been brewing, something that was a bit tricky for me since all my equipment was about 600 miles to the north. Anyway, we start brewing, getting our supplies from SF Brewcraft and biking them to our luxurious brewing facilities. At some point in there, we decided it would be a good idea to race cyclocross, drink homebrew, and watch the good riders after we raced. Hence the birth of the California Cross Carboys (feel free to join the team, just ask). Some cycling, lots of brewing and drinking, but really mostly good times.

Shortly after that we started labeling our bottled homebrew. With some collaboration, our brewery was eventually christened Van der Dans Brewery — poorly translated from Dutch to mean “From the Dans” (we are in fact both named Dan – convenient). For instance, some Belgian Style Dubbel:

We were supposed to brew a tasty porter this weekend, but instead i’ve been sitting on the couch all weekend sick, writing blog entries.

So now you understand my need for a cross bike, and if you live in the bay area, join our cyclocross team. But seriously, relax, have a homebrew.

So many bikes, so little time…

8 September 2009

So it’s all a big lie. When I said that the Gary Fisher necessitated the blog’s renaming, that’s not exactly true. For bikes that I’ve built, it will be my second, but it is actually the 4th bike in my current ownership… So the obvious question: why so many bikes? The truth is, they’re all quite necessary. Trust me…

Bike #1

It all came to be this past sunday of Labor Day weekend. Sunday was of course the semi-monthly SF Sunday Streets, an extravaganza/cluster of people wandering, biking erratically, and generally enjoying a complete lack of cars. This time around was Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway down to the SF Zoo. Normally half the park is shutdown on sunday’s anyway, so this just extended it to the ocean. So of course, this means it’s time to show off the G-star with a leisurely ride, at one point barely avoiding one kid and hearing the beautiful sound of delta brakes functioning to their fullest (i.e. banshee scream). Bike #1, complete.

Bike #2

I hadn’t eaten much of anything for breakfast and the barbecue that afternoon was too far off for my grumbling stomach. That meant it was time to hit Andronico’s to buy some fancy beers (brewed at Ommegang, Allagash, and Rogue) and then onto Arizmendi for a snack. For zipping around town, my single speed is the bike of choice. Introducing the Masi:

This bike came to fruition after riding the Green Monster (first mentioned here and to be featured in a future post, surely) for several months. Basically, the idea is a) ride a bike that constantly has issues, b) buy something fantastic and never ride the first bike again. Currently this bike is not quite stock anymore, but not too far from it. I’ll say more in a later post, but it is an awesome bike, Masi builds great ones, and I can highly recommend their stuff (also, I love their philosophy on steel, see the top of this page – fantastic). Anyway, in a quick mile jont around my neighborhood — Success:

Bike #2, complete.

Bike #3

This bike is my workhorse and has probably seen more miles in its lifetime than I have in mine. Purchased for pretty cheap (beer was part of the payment plan) from a friend who had just ridden it from Alaska to SF, this bike was originally a nice backup in case anything happened to the Masi (the origin story is a bit more complicated, but that’ll come later). Nothing too fancy, just your standard Bianchi road bike that’s seen a few years:

Truth be told, this bike was built for touring, and touring is just what it’ll do:

With a pair of awesome Ortlieb saddle bags on there, carrying ~30 pounds of beer, fish, bike locks and misc tools is no problem and it means I don’t have end up with a sore shoulder and covered in sweat. With all that to carry, this bike is it, even if the ride is only a short hop north of the park.

Bike #3, complete.

What a fantastic (bike-filled) day.