Saturday, August 30, 2014

#BBC14 Pre-Conference Pub Crawl: Independent Style…

We already had travel arrangements to fly into San Diego when the Pre-Conference Excursion was announced.  Since another couple from NOLA, friends of ours, were in the same boat we decided to split cab fare and create our own pre-conference excursion in beautiful, temperate San Diego.

First stop?  For lunch and beverages of course at Blind Lady Ale House (BLAH).  The décor is welcoming.  The color scheme is a palette of browns but the place is well lit so it’s welcoming.  There are skateboard decks lining the walls (they could have used a Gnarly Barley deck) and nostalgic beer lighting (a turning Miller Genuine Draft Light was near our table).  The music was loud enough to hear but low enough to talk over.  These guys have a lot of things going right in this establishment.  Most tables seat six, so this is really a place to come and hang with a group of friends and share some food, drink, and fun.  Favorite beer?  The Golden Ticket, a Belgian golden strong infused with vanilla beans and oak with Dark Horse Coffee.  Think Coffee Stout has a stepchild with something gold and it ends up being blonde but having a delightful coffee kick.  BLAH also had St. Louis Geueze and Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Ale on tap, so I traded off Coffee and sour for the time we were there.  The Cheese and Charcuterie Plates were awesome!  I would definitely hang out here again if in San Diego again.  Once we were done here, it was time for an afternoon nap to cut the time zone confusion.

Then we were back out and about at Toranado.  The selection included several local beverages.  I had a New Belgium Love-Felix and a taste of Toby’s Chip Shot Coffee Porter.  The establishment was on the small side and not well lit.  Toby had the Smoked Mac and Cheese.  It was very cheesy and seasoned with smoked paprika.  It was good, but the serving size was huge.  I had a BLTA (the A is for avocado) with a cucumber salad.  It was all right, but the bacon was on the soggy side (I am a stickler for crispy bacon) and the cucumber salad was heavy on a white dressing.  We did have window side seating that allowed us to look out at what was going on outside on the street.  This is not a stop I would be inclined to repeat.

Our final stop was Waypoint Public.  I loved the campy décor, the bear logo, and the bar rail around the perimeter which allowed for rail seating facing the street to see what was going on outside.  I enjoyed a Berry Nice and Bacon & Eggs by Pizza Port and a Three Sheets by Ballast Point.  The beer was good, the lighting was good, the setting was good.  I loved that they accommodated couples with young children by providing a toddler play ground and a big screen that was playing Harry and the Henderson’s while we were there.  I wish I had waited on eating, because I think the menu would have delivered.  I would definitely make a return visit if I chance to visit San Diego again.  And then, it was time to turn in for the night to gear up for the conference day that was to come…

Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 Beer Bloggers Conference - San Diego

This conference was perfect for the way I like to schedule recreational travel: a four-day weekend with a pre-conference day for independent wandering and a full conference schedule.  We selected a direct flight from New Orleans International Airport to San Diego International Airport on Southwest Airlines.  We took a taxi from the airport to the conference hotel, the San Diego Mission Valley Marriott.  For our independent ground travel, we used UBER for the first time.  The trip went well, what follows are my thoughts on our lodging and transportation services for the duration of the trip.

Things I appreciate about Southwest:
1.  Select your own seat.  I prefer the exit row on the wing because you get extra legroom.  On the A/B/C side of the plane, you get more elbow room as well.  The extra space helps with the cooped up feeling on the long flight.
2.  Direct flights.  It's worth the drive to New Orleans.
3.  The planes are roomy.  No worries about hitting your head on the ceiling while entering the plane or walking down the aisle.
4.  The seat belts don't make me feel like I need to lose 25lbs to fly.
5.  The flight attendants are friendly and have a sense of humor about the long flights.
While my butt was hurting for half the flight, that is more about my butt than it is about Southwest.

Marriott properties are my favorite for travel.  There is a consistent quality at a good value that I've come to appreciate, and the San Diego Mission Valley Marriott was no exception to that expectation.
1.  The room rate was a great value for the site. 
2.  The staff were courteous and responsive to my requests.  I was able to get a feather free room with a king size bed for a small wait on check in.
3.  Strawberry enhanced water was available in the lobby 24/7.  This is quite refreshing and beats bottled water.
4.  The room was spacious.  There was a sitting area with a love seat and coffee table and a work space with a charging station.
5.  The dining area provided a variety of breakfast options.  We ate there every morning.  The fruit was fresh and the bacon was crispy.  The coffee was Starbucks, so it was decent.
6.  The conference center was connected to the hotel by covered walkways.  The weather was beautiful, but this was a great feature for a conference in the event of rain.
7.  There were beautiful outdoor seating areas.  Landscaping ranged from palm trees to rose bushes.  The sofas and chairs were oversized and comfortable.  There was an outdoor breakfast area and a lounging area with a fire pit.  The pool was inviting, and they played family movies on a big screen at the pool at night.

1.  The vehicles were clean.
2.  The drivers were well dressed and pleasant.  It was like being picked up by a friend for a ride because you were in town.
3.  We never waited more than 10 minutes for a ride (most waits were around 5 minutes).
4.  You don't need cash and your credit card information is shared with only one point of contact.
5.  The UBER app lets you confirm if your driver is on course to the destination you selected.  This is a great feature when you are traveling somewhere that is unfamiliar.

On a return trip to San Diego, I would definitely use all of these transportation and lodging services again.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mini-review: Rough Draft Weekday IPA

Aroma is grapefruit with a little cattiness.
Appearance is deep gold with a white head.
Flavor is grapefruit hops with a very low malt backbone.
Mouthfeel is light-bodied and crisp.
Overall Impression is a nice session IPA with a nice fruitiness.

Lost Abbey - Deliverance

Aromas of brandy and chocolate.  Reminiscent of carmalizerd fig.  Good mouthfeel, it's not thick, but there is substance to it.  Coats the palate and finishes with a cholate taste as the palate dries.  It can deliveru from a rough day.  Curl up with a blanket and a good book and don't plan to go anywhere for the night.

Mini-review: Lost Abbey Deliverance

Aroma is boozy with dark fruit (raisins and plums) with a hint of vanilla.
Appearance is dark brown with nice legs.
Flavor is warm alcohol and raisins and plums.
Mouthfeel is thick and viscous.
Overall Impression is decadence.

Fireside Walker - PIVO Hoppy Pils

Light blonde, lemony and spicy smell.   It literally makes the tongue tingle.  Definitely has a lemony tang to it.  Love the carbonation level!  Would go great with grilled fish or boiled shrimp.  Great gateway beer if you're not sure about trying craft beer.

Mini-review: Firestone Walker Pivo Pils

Aroma has a spicy noble quality with a little lemongrass.
Appearance is light straw gold and clear.
Flavor is a light lemony and spicy hop first with a very light malt backbone.
Mouthfeel is light-bodied and crisp.
Overall impression is a very good American interpretation of a hybrid Czech/German Pils.

Warsteiner - Pils SG

Light and sparklling.  Straight up crawfish boil goodness.  Has a rice/doughy smell.  If you are a light beer drinker, you should definitely give this baby a try.  It will put your regular favorite to shame.

Mini-review: Warsteiner Premium Verum

Aroma is spicy hops with a light malt backbone
Appearance is straw gold and clear.
Flavor is very light spicy hops with a very light backbone.
Mouthfeel is light-bodied and crisp.
Overall impression is classic German Pils.

Samuel Adams - Kosmic Mother Funk

Smell of dates and rasins.  Big Beer, slight sour taste, warm acidy feel on the back end.  I like that it's not boozy.  Could see chilling in my chair with my dogs in my lap sipping on this at the end of a long day to unwind.  

Mini-review: Sam Adams KMF Grand Cru

Aroma is of light sourness and vanilla
Appearance is dark copper almost brown
Flavor is of raisins and tart fruit.  Flanders brown.
Mouthfeel is dryly tart.
Overall impression is that of a traditional Flanders Brown.  Very tasty.

Boardwalk - Beer Bread

Lime - Original - it moist and tasty!  Could see adding cranberries or blueberries to it as a side at holiday meals.
Orange - Corn Bread  - Sweet but not too sweat.  Could see making Corn Bread Soufflet with it.  
Aqua - Rosemary Sea Salt - Delicious!  Could see making this with pasta dishes or barbeque.  Starts Rosemary, Finishes Sea Salt.
Pink - Lemon Poppy Seed  - Lemon comes through - spice from the poppy seed on the end.  This would be great with afternoon tea or a fish dish.

Green Flash - Citra Session India Pale Ale

The Citra and Simcoe punch you in the face with aroma.  It goes down smooth and leaves a little bit of a goaty feel in the back palate.  I am not an IPA drinker, but I would drink this beer.  I could see drinking  this with pizza, chips, and nuts at a ball game gathering.

Mini-review Green Flash Citra Session

Aroma is lemony with a little grapefruit.
Appearance is straw gold
Flavor is fruity with lemon and grapefruit.  Very light maltiness.  Not bitter at all.
Mouthfeel is light with a crisp finish.
Overall impression is a very enjoyable session beer.  Hop heads rejoice.

Bourbon Couty - Coffee

The coffee smell with the bourbon sweetness is heavy in the nose.  The warm sample goes down warm.  The bourbon overpowers the coffee.  The cold sample gives more of a caramel flavor and dampens the coffee tase.  I definitely prefer to drink hot.  This is a good late night poker game beer!

Mini Review: BCBS Coffee

Aroma is sweet cafe au lait
Appearance is black and opaque
Flavor is mocha cafe au lait. Beer flavor comes through as it warms.
Mouthfeel is thick and creamy.
Overall impression is awesomeness.  :)

Rogue Farms - Marionberry Braggot SG

Smells malty with a berry tinge.  Not as fruity as you would suspect from the name.  A very balanced beer.  You get an berry aftertaste. There is also a bit of a caramel taste.  This would be a good back porch grilling beer and would make a great marinade.

Mini review: Rogue Marionberry Braggot

Aroma is a little roasty malt and honey.  Very light berry aroma
Appearance is dark amber/copper.
Flavor is nice and roasty with a nice berry sweetness.  Warming alcohol is present.
Mouthfeel is smooth and medium-bodied.
Overall Impression is a nice beer and although sweet, very well-balanced for a fruit beer.

Chris Baker/Stone/Insurgenter Collaboration - Xocobeza

Smells like dessert in a class, the cinnamon really comes through.  Nice Roasty taste, like drinking Fireside Cocoa at Christmas time.  I could see pairiing this with pumpkin pie, pecan pie, or sweet potato pie at holiday gatherings.  

Mini Review: Stone/Chris Baker/Insurgente Xocoveza

Aroma of coffee, chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, roast malts.
Appearance is black as night and opaque.
Flavor is chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, and vanilla.
Mouthfeel is thick and rich.  Nice and creamy.
Overall impression as described is mexican hot chocolate.

Free Beer and Other Quandries for Beer Writing Ethics

What ethics should the average beer blogger be held to?  Listening to a panel discussion on the subject makes me consider what I would consider ethics in my blogging.  Since I am primarily an amateur blogger doing this for my enjoyment, it's not much of a quandary for me.  Nobody gives me free beer (although I am open to it ;) ) so I suppose it's less of an issue from my perspective.  My focus is also more from a judging and beer appreciation and learning perspective anyway.  I will generally only review beers from a stylistic standpoint, so what I get out of them is what I get out of them.  I also only tend to publish reviews of beer that I like.  Since brewers are not held to strict style guidelines in the first place, I'm not going to write up a review of a beer that doesn't fit into a style because it's counter-productive to the BJCP judging learning process.  I'll just leave those for hedonistic ratings on Untappd.
So, ultimately I'm left to define my own ethics.  Here are my rules for blogging:
1) Always be honest but polite.  When I review beers for 'Commercial Calibration' type reviews, I use the same standards I use when doing score sheets in a competition.  Always be constructive in criticism and try to emphasize the positives before launching into the flaws or suggestions for improvements.  Ultimately the brewer may never see my reviews, but somebody put a lot of work into making the product, so I should respect that, even if their work resulted in something I don't like.
2)  Write what you perceive.  The most simple but effective strategy for me is just that.  You cannot criticize what someone else perceives.  If they smell or taste something, it's not their or your fault if you perceive it differently.  Just like judging in a competition, I write it like I perceive first and foremost.  Overall impressions can get into more opinions, but what I get out of a beer is what I get out of a beer.
3)  Know your own limitations/tastes.  One of the biggest struggles for beer judges is to keep your own biases in check.  We all have preferences for what type of beers or ingredients are to our tastes.  The important thing is to know what those are and not to hold it against a style or beer if it's well made, but just not to our idea of what that style should be.
That's a pretty good summary of how I handle ethics in my case.  Will gladly still review free beer, though.  ;)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Beer Bloggers Conference Opening

Well, the  Trade Show and opening beverages are over and the conference is getting ready to kick off.  Had some great beer (highlights include Firestone Walker Double DBA), and we're about to kick off the real show.  Looking forward to hit up Karl Strauss Brewing, the Yard House, and Stone Liberty Station.  More to follow...