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Beer

07 Jun 2018
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Craft beer tends to be very communal. Fans get together for tastings and “bottle shares.” We often trade with people across the country for beers we might not be able to acquire otherwise. We also love our beer festivals. A well-conceived and well-executed craft-beer festival is a beautiful thing—even if you leave wishing you had been able to try yet more beers that you missed. I love the Coachella Valley. I moved here in 1988, although it took a little getting used to. (We got here in August when it was 100-plus degrees.) I grew up hiking around the cove and enjoying its gorgeous views—and met many friends I still know to this day. That said … our local beer festivals can’t quite match the exemplary festivals found in other parts of Southern California. I recently attended, for the fifth straight time, the Firestone Walker Invitational, at the Paso Robles…
10 May 2018
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I dislike IBUs. Allow me to explain. Approximately a decade ago, hops were king in the craft-beer world. People could not get enough, and breweries were finding ways to jam more hops into beer (double dry-hopping, for example). This led to all sorts of excesses. This is where IBUs enter into the more mainstream picture. IBUs (International Bittering Units—it sounds ridiculously over-important, but it’s indeed a thing), as you might have guessed, measure how bitter a beer is ... kind of. Hops contain compounds called alpha acids that make beer bitter during the boil through a process called isomerization. The longer the beer is boiled, the more bitter the beer is, given the same hop strain. (Some strains contain more alpha acids than others.) Hops are vitally important, as this bitterness can counterbalance the otherwise sweet wort that is to become beer later on. Hops also contribute flavors and aromas…
25 Apr 2018
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I am a craft-beer lover who doesn’t just like hazy IPAs or pastry-inspired stouts, so I revel in being introduced to new flavors and flavor combinations when I can. However, this has both good and bad consequences. Every so often, I try a beer that transcends all of its flavors and becomes a kind of liquid symphony. Then there are times when I can’t believe the brewery allowed the beer I’m tasting to ever leave its doors. I need to be careful here and state the obvious: If you love a beer, that’s great. Continue doing so, and don’t let anything I say—or anything anyone says—rob you of that love. You might like it because of its flaws, or perhaps you didn’t perceive them as such. However, if you would like to train your palate to be a more-reliable detector of off-flavors in beer, follow me, and see what you…
05 Mar 2018
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Picture it: North Park. San Diego. 2018. (Sorry, I’ve been watching The Golden Girls lately. Actually, I’m not sorry; that show is brilliant.) The Coachella Valley, while a wonderful place, is a little short on craft-beer experiences—although some of us are working to make that less true. In the meantime, thirsty desert-dwellers have some great options within a few driving hours—including a neighborhood in San Diego called North Park. Located off Interstate 805 just south of the 8, North Park is bursting with places to ingest and imbibe all sorts of delicious food and drink. One of my all-time favorite places to have a beer (or four) is Toronado San Diego. I tagged along with my friend Justin, who got more epic tattoo work done by Adam Hathorn at Big Trouble Tattoo (conveniently located next door to and upstairs from the bar). Toronado is a satellite bar of its namesake…
15 Feb 2018
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The Rhythm, Wine and Brews Experience is coming up on Saturday, March 3. It seems to grow each year; the 2018 edition will feature the addition of the Stone Temple Pilots and a tiki bar. I’ll take “How to Get People Very Drunk” for $200, Alex. Now seems like a good time to share with you some tips and etiquette for beer festivals in general—especially how to get through them without making an absolute mess of yourself. Before I get to specific survival tips, I want to take you on a trip back in time—20 years ago, to be exact. I was a young lad taking his first overseas trip. I had been studying both the German language and German beer, and wanted to immerse myself in both. I got a job with a family just south of Munich helping them out with household and horse-stable chores. I ended up…
06 Feb 2018
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Writing a column about the history of beer is a much more daunting task than one might expect. As I stated in my last column, beer is the oldest alcoholic beverage recorded in history. In fact, “The Hymn to Ninkasi,"circa 1800 B.C., a tribute to the Sumerian women whose responsibility it was to brew beer, is one of the earliest writings that we still have today. They brewed beer by baking bappir (a honey bread), crumbling it in water, and allowing it to ferment, with the addition of honey and/or dates. The unfiltered beer then had to be drunk through a straw with a filter—much like the South American yerba mate tea. Allow me to digress here and offer a plausible theory of how the first beer came to be discovered. I say "discovered," because brewers are stewards of the yeast or bacteria that make sugary wort (the fermentable, hoppy…

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