Friday, December 21, 2012

Potato Chip Pop-Up Visit: A Slideshow

Here's a slideshow of mine and Dante's visit to the Potato Chip Pop-Up at Iam8bit Gallery, 2147 W. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026. We went on December 21, 2012. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nutty Brewnette at BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse

I went out with a couple of my old co-workers just to get together and celebrate a few things at once. I've always had really good experiences at BJ's and obviously like brewhouses, so, despite the fact that the particular location they wanted to go to was in a mall, and this is the holiday season, I was excited to go and see these folks. Plus, I remembered that this BJ's had an outside entrance so I didn't have to actually go into the mall. Yay!
Jeremiah Red and Nutty Brewnette
 I normally order their house-made Hefeweizen, which is where I discovered that Hef is actually really great by itself, sans the added squeeze of citrus.  But, I felt like I should try something new and different. I couldn't decide and the server was too busy to help, so I ordered a sample of BJ's Jeremiah Red Irish-Style Ale and the Nutty Brewnette American-Style Brown Ale. If they failed, I'd just get a pint of Hef and call it a night. But the server proved to be so busy he forgot my order. First he brought me a strawberry lemonade. Then, he brought me a full pint of the Brewnette and said he'd be right back with a sample of Hef. I took a quick sip, and told him to forget the Hef. The Brewnette seemed to be fine.
Nutty Brewnette: Not a blonde!

I took a minute to taste it and it was actually really nice. It was flat and mouthcoating. It had a very distinct and strong flavor of caramel, but it wasn't salty or too sweet. There was also hints of sweet spices such as cloves and cinammon, as well as a pecans. It had elements that can be sweet, but the ale itself was not sugary in any way. 

My experience with darker beers is that their flavor is usually lost or severely distorted by most food, but I must've chosen a good pairing in the Mediterranean Pizza, because the beer and the pie were delicious together.  

A fun night with people I miss seeing on a daily, a yummy pizza and a great dark beer.  

Learning How To Taste Beer

The Beer Flavor Wheel
As I've mentioned before, I wish I had a better vocabulary about tasting things. Luckily, my friend, Aram, showed me a tasting wheel. I'd never seen such a thing, but was happy that someone had fashioned one particularly for tasting beer. 

There are a few different beer tasting wheels that I've found after searching the internet. It turns out that all of these show basically the same thing, they're just organized differently. The Beer Flavor Wheel is the one Aram found and showed me on his phone while we sat at the bar. I like this one because there are more descriptions to choose from. I found that the Beer Aroma Wheel was the easiest to look at, but I would use as an initial tasting wheel. If I needed a further description I'd turn to the more inclusive Beer Flavor Wheel.

Beer Aroma Wheel
I was originally confused about the terms "odor" and "aroma," because in my mind they refer to the sense of smell. I didn't know you were supposed to smell beer! Well you are. Check out this guide on how to taste beer. Very informative. I always smell everything anyway, but I never thought to really sniff it like when wine tasting. My other problem with aromas, or the tasting wheels, rather, was that the wheels were really focused on the aromas and had very little about taste. Like I said, as I'm going through these wheels I'm thinking of the last beer I drank, which was very caramely, but according to the wheel, that's just supposed to be aroma and not taste. So, again, I turn to the guide

 Taste: Raise the glass to the lips and swallow enough of the beer to allow it to wash the entire tongue. Try to separate the hop taste and the malt taste. Are they well balanced for the style? Balance is the blending of all of a beer's properties - bitterness, acidity, esteriness, hoppiness, etc. The more malted barley used (in relation to the water), the more full and powerful the taste. Is the body full or thin? Beer can be dry, (lacking sugar) and with a usually strong bitter hop character, or fruity (the presence of sugar), or rich (a full taste of malt and fruit). How is the aftertaste? The aftertaste should confirm the taste. Is it clean and pleasant? You want to experience a slight degree of aftertaste... 
Flavor: By far the most important and enjoyed element of drinking a beer is its flavor. To best taste all the flavors of a beer, make sure the liquid visits all four areas of your tongue: bitter, sour, sweet and salt. Take special notice of the orchestration of the balance between the hop bitterness and malt sweetness.
Flavor as "Maltiness": Malt provides the yeast the food to make much of the beer flavor. This can be described as a sweetish or dryish "earthy" flavor. A heavier roasted malt will also contribute a degree of "roasted" taste to the beer. What grapes are to wine, malt is to beer.
Flavor as "Hoppiness": Hops provide an "herbal, crisp, bitter, palate cleansing" effect to beer. Aromatic hops provide the herbal "grassy" nose, while bittering hops provide the gentle bitterness or "bite" in beer.
That's very helpful and makes me want to go out and get a sampler and some beer glasses. To beer tasting, my friends! 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Last Night the Music Killed My Taste Test

This evening, Dante and I stopped at Mendocino Farms for dinner before I dropped him off at work for the graveyard shift. They have really interesting and delicious sandwiches there, if you've never gone, I highly recommend ordering a familiar sounding sandwich because more than likely, there will be some ingredient that gives you a little pleasant kick in the tongue, as has been my experience. And their spicy dijon potato salad is truly divine.

Mendocino Farms also has baskets full of chip varieties you just don't find too many other places if at all. Well, Dante and I got our sanwiches, sides and chips and sat down to enjoy them. We were going to start by recording a chip tasting of the Sour Cream N Chive and Barbeque flavors of Route 11 Potato Chips, but almost right before we started, this mind-scrambling music started playing overhead and it totally threw me off my chip-tasting-game. My crazy response to the music influenced Dante and there we have the perfect storm of bad taste tests. It is funny nonetheless. Enjoy.

Oh, the music festival I refer to is the Moogfest, and if you go to the Live In Concert from All Songs Considered site, you will see some Moogfest concerts available so you can experience them for yourself. That's just not my kind of music.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Beer & Pizza in Jingletown: An Audio Tasting

Watch/listen to this, another audio tasting, done with my friend, Aram, while we were in Jingletown, an arts district in the Bay Area, for its biannual artwalk.

The beer you see in the slide show that we refer to as Steelhead, isn't one of the Steelhead Fine Ales, but made by a former Steelhead brewmaster named Larry Lesterud. So we should have probably called it Lesterud's Suds, at least that is what I'm going to call it from now on! Lesterud is also a fantastic photographer. That's how we came to meet him. While perusing the galleries and workspaces that were participating in the artwalk, I found an awesome print of some graffiti that spelled out my name (Crazy serendipity!). I bought it and we got to talking with the photographer. I asked him for a card or something and he gave me one of his old brewmaster business cards, which got Aram to asking questions. Turns out he brewed a special beer just for the occasion and well, we just couldn't keep ourselves from trying it.

The pizza you see in the pictures is from Fist of Flour Pizza Company. Owned and operation by a really awesome master of pizzas named James Whitehead. Other artwalk goers, Aram and I stood around and talked with him and his assistant in front of his mobile wood-fired pizza oven for a while. The pizza, by the way was Freakin' Delicious. I had 3 slices of veggie and 1 slice of Margherita. All the slices as you might be able to tell from the slide show, were a quarter size of the whole pie. Whitehead uses a distinct sauce that set all other toppings off beautifully. It was the perfect combination of spicy, sweet and tangy tomato. The veggie had arugula and some type of mushroom on it from what I could tell. And the crust was like a soft cracker, a bit lavash-like,  charred at the edges. It wasn't like any thin crust I've tried, but I'm no pizza expert.

I would highly recommend attending the Jingletown Artwalk, if not to experience great original works, but to at least sample Lesterud's Suds and grab a slice.