Sunday, July 22, 2007

Coffee Porter is Delicious

OK, so I'm going to toot my own horn, but I have to say that the coffee porter finally is carbonated well and damn if it doesn't taste fine. It the best beer I've brewed to date, and I will definitely make this again. It should get even better in the coming months.

In the meantime, I think the next batch is going to be an all-grain saison. I brought back some culinary lavender from Washington state and might throw in a teaspoon or so.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Seattle Pub Crawl

Today was our last day of vacation - well, technically I'm on 'vacation' tomorrow but will be on airplanes most of the day.

We checked out of the hotel and put everything in the rental car, then walked down to Pike Place Market. After looking around for a bit, we were seated on the second floor of Lowell's for breakfast. Pretty good breakfast grub; not as good as The Oak Table in Sequim, but the view of Puget Sound made up for it.

After breakfast, we walked around a bit; Mom did some shopping. A lot of the stores on the lower levels weren't open yet. After a brief tour, we decided to split up for the day and meet back at the hotel at 7pm. I walked around some more, picked up another memory card for my digital camera, and a souvenir t-shirt for my nephew (he's obsessed with the Space Needle right now, so what better place to buy a shirt!).

Right at 11am, I was waiting outside the door of Pike Pub & Brewery. I had tried a few of these long ago, well before I joined RateBeer, and was anxious to get some notes. I wasn't disappointed. I took a nice long break and enjoyed the following samples: Naughty Nellie's Ale, Pale Ale, Weisse, Bitter (FSB), IPA, Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale, Monk's Uncle Tripel, XXXXX Stout, and Tandem Double Ale. I also bought a bottle of 2006 Old Bawdy Barley Wine to bring back.

After that session, it was time for a bit of a stroll. I went downstairs to Western Avenue and found Market Cellar Winery, which back in 1995 was called Liberty Malt Supply. It was here that I bought my first homebrewing book, a second edition Papazian "Joy of Homebrewing". There are still beer supplies now, but the wine stuff seemed more prevalent. I picked up three beer books (two on half-price) from the Classic Beer Style Series: Porter, German Wheat Beer, and Belgian Ales.

From this area, I walked for a nice long distance up to Elysian Brewing Company. By the time I got here, I was hungry for lunch. I had a small beer sampler before getting my steak & frites with bleu cheese. Unfortunately, I couldn't handle another big session of sampling after Pike, so I stuck with the basics. Plus, you can't just choose any old beer for your sampler at Elysian. They do it for you, no matter what you ask for. They were also out of two beers I was hoping to try while there. The bartender was also my server, and I wasn't too impressed with him or his attitude. Regardless, the food was pretty good and the beers weren't bad. I tried Hydra Hefeweizen, The Wise ESB, The Immortal IPA, Perseus Porter, Prometheus Stolen Fire IPA, and Dragonstooth Stout. I also bought a bottle of Avatar Jasmine IPA to bring back with me.

Time for more walking! I headed back toward the water for the long jaunt to Pioneer Square, the older district of Seattle. I had forgotten just how hilly some parts of the city can be .. really gave the calves a workout. After walking to and around Pioneer Square, I settled on another beer break at The Collins Pub, where I chose a bottle of 2006 Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws. Yum.

After that, I started heading back toward the area of the hotel - taking my time and checking out the city and the people. I was cornered for a bit by an ambitious college girl named Jasmin who was stumping for Greenpeace. Tried to get me to sign up and rally against global warming, etc. But as I was in no hurry and a bit buzzed, I explained to her about the local problems of abandoned mine drainage which isn't as much of a problem in Seattle. That threw her for a loop and I bid adieu as her eyes started glazing over.

I decided to grab a light sandwich before meeting the parents, and ended up at theTwo Bells Tavern. I enjoyed a Mac and Jack's African Amber Ale with my burger and chicken & lime soup.

Shortly thereafter, I met my parents and we headed out to the airport hotel. After dropping off the rental car, I enjoyed a few more West Coast beers in my room (had no more room in the suitcase), namely Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Widmer Bros. Broken Halo IPA.

After this, it was time for bed because I had a 4am wakeup call in order to make my 6am flight to Salt Lake.

All in all - a damn fine trip.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Waterfalls, Lavender, and Seattle

This morning, we headed over to the best breakfast place that I have ever had the fortune to visit: The Oak Table Cafe. After all of these years, it was still terrific ... how one place can make the best bacon and eggs with side of pancakes so far beyond any other I've tried ... it just blows my mind.

After fattening up and checking out of the hotel, we started west again on Highway 101. We stopped by Sunny Farms, a really nice farm market and picked up a few munchies & drinks for the day. It was raining out, but that's rather typical for this area.

We drove through Port Angeles and out to Crescent Lake, where we stopped midway to take the hike to Marymere Falls. Even with the drizzle, it turned out to be a very nice hike and not crowded at all. Even got to see some banana slugs.

From Marymere Falls, we headed back towards Port Angeles and decided to take a small side trip up the Elwha River. All the different times that we'd been past that park entrance and never went ... odd. Anyway, it was really pretty up that way, despite the fog and rain, and we got some great shots of one of the reservoirs.

From there, it was time to gas up in Port Angeles. At that point, I grabbed the local paper: thePeninsula Daily News. Why? The day before, two very bizarre (one tragic) incidents occurred. The first was some idiot who got drunk and led police on a high speed chase through downtown. Not that odd, except for how it ended .. his car drove off a pier and flew 180 feet into the bay. Yeehaw! See this article for the amusing details.

The second article was more tragic in that later I found out that one person actually died. A family was coming down off of Hurricane Ridge and lost control of their RV, rammed several cars, and went off into a 20-foot deep ravine. "Luckily", this happened closer to town, and not way up in the hills, where a vehicle could plunge several hundreds of feet. That article is here.

Our last stop before leaving the Olympic Peninsula was in Sequim at the Purple Haze Lavender Farm. This is one of my wife's favorite shops (last time we brought home several splays of dried lavender on the plane), so since she couldn't be with us both I and my mom picked her up some lavender stuff.

At last, it was time to bid au revoir to the Olympics and head to Seattle. We drove down and caught the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry just in time for downtown Seattle rush hour. Good times! The trip over was nice, though very overcast and cold. We didn't have far to drive to make it to the hotel over on 5th Avenue (right next to the Monorail tracks).

After all of the driving and rainy weather, we decided to just stroll down the block to find a place to eat. We were recommended to Amore, a small bistro, and were not disappointed! During dinner, I tried an Alpine Weizen Bock and a Maritime Pacific Imperial IPA. Food was delicious!

After this late dinner, the parents were ready to retire. I watched a bit of TV but was still keyed up, so I decided to walk down 5th for a while. It was almost balmy (for Seattle) and the rain had stopped; perfect evening for a stroll. Within 15 minutes, I round myself walking into the Seattle location of Rock Bottom. I ambled up to the bar for a sampler and tucked in. I sampled Daylight, Faller Wheat, Peashooter Pale Ale, Rain City Red, Brown Bear Brown, Flying Salmon Stout, and Hop Bomb IPA. This was my first experience at a Rock Bottom, though I'd tried a few at festivals. I still have not been to the one in Pittsburgh (Homestead) and I'm still not in a hurry.

The more interesting part of the experience was striking up a convo with the guy two seats down at the bar ... long story short: he was up from L.A., first time in Seattle. Turns out he's originally from Williamsport, PA and had two siblings who attended the university where I teach. Furthermore, it turns out he's the brother-in-law of the lawyer who did the closing on my house two years ago. Small world freakyness!!

After that, I walked back to the hotel and called it a night.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Day in Victoria

Today was the Victoria trip. After a quick cup of java in Sequim, we drove to Port Angeles, parked, and caught the 8:20 ferry to Victoria, B.C. When we lived in Sequim, it seemed like every time we would take guests to Victoria, something interesting would happen on the ferry. Like the trip in May 1995 when the Northwest Cross-Dressers convention took a tour that day. Tons of men dressed as women (some with their wives in tow) were on the ferries over and back, and all over town. Quite a show, that trip.

Today we experienced a burial at sea. It was raining out, so we were inside the entire time and couldn't see what might have been going on. But once we were out of the harbor and into the Straight of Juan de Fuca, they stopped and had the ceremony before heading on to Canada.

Once we got over, I oriented my parents at the visitor's center. After that, since they wanted to see stuff that I already had seen - we decided to meet back up at 7pm to catch the ferry back to Port Angeles.

I started by walking around and seeing what had changed since my last visit in 2000. Hard to tell, really, but I decided to try some beer places (2000 visit was pre-beer rating) that I'd not visited. First, I stopped by the gift shop at the Vancouver Island Brewery. I've never tried their stuff, and I didn't get a chance this time either. I did, however, buy a pack of beer trivia playing cards.

Next I walked (and walked) until I reached Spinnakers Spirit Merchants. I was looking for any interesting beers and also some farigoule (thyme flavored liquor), on the off chance they had it (which they didn't).

For lunch, I stopped at Spinnakers Brewpub. I tried several beers before having a nice mushroom soup and smoked fish platter. Then I tried some more beers. These included Doc Hadfield's Pale Ale, Dunkelweizen, Hefeweizen, Honey Pale Ale, Iceberg Pale Ale, IPA, Jameson's Scottish Ale, Mitchells ESB, and Titanic Stout.

After that meal, I was ready for another walk. So, I headed back along the harbor until I crossed back over into the downtown area. My next stop took me to Swans Buckerfield Brewery at the Swan Hotel. A beer sampler included Appleton Brown Ale, Buckerfield's Bitter, Extra IPA, Pandora Pale Ale, Raspberry Ale, and Swans Oatmeal Stout.

The rain had stopped and the sun was now out - time for more strolling. Next, I wandered over for a single pint of River Rock Bitter at the Canoe Brewpub. While there, I asked about getting some good Thai food, and was directed to Baan Thai on Blanshard Street. It was a nice little walk up there, and by the time I reached the restaurant, it was dinner time. Good stuff! My head was sweaty by the time I'd finished, always a good sign in spicy eating!

I did some more meandering through town, now too thoroughly stuffed for more beer (travesty!). I did stop at a smoke shop and pick up a Cuban cigar for the boat ride back (tradition for me). I then met my parents and caught the ferry back to Port Angeles.

I capped off the day with a Deschutes Obsidian Stout.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Off To The Olympics (Mountains, That Is)

We left Vancouver just after 8am and headed up I-5. It was a beautiful day and perfect for a scenic drive. In a short time, we were in Olympia, where we left the interstate and headed up highway 101. This led us up the western shore of the Hood Canal, a very nice drive. I was surprised at the little amount of traffic for July ... perhaps because it was Monday?

Regardless, it was a painless drive on 101, which eventually led us into our destination of Sequim. Sequim (pronounced "skwim") has a special place in my heart because Dana and I both had a nine-month fellowship at Battelle here in 1995. It has been, and continues to be, a hot spot for retirees moving up from California. In fact, the average age is 68 (shudder). The town has really changed a lot, but at least the major attractions (nature) is still there.

After checking into the Sequim West Inn (meh), we drove to Port Angeles and had lunch at the Crabhouse. Unfortunately, they no longer carried the delicious fried razor clams. I did enjoy the shrimp, though, and my dad said that those were the best fried oysters he had ever had. During lunch, I was able to get two local draughts: Dabob Bay IPA and Dosewallips Special, both from the Hood Canal Brewery in Kingston.

After lunch, we walked around a bit in downtown before stopping at Swain's General Store. I bought the hydrometer, thermometer, and carboy that I still use today at Swains in 1995.

From here, it was time for some nature, so we drove up to Hurricane Ridge for a while to look around. Beautiful as always, were were extremely lucky to have good weather on this day. The next two days were solid rainy. Got some great pics and again saw a black bear (always do when I go up there). Coming back down the mountain, I again thought how tricky that road would be in a large vehicle (like a bus or RV). I wondered if there were ever any accidents. Oddly enough, tomorrow there will be one (more on that tomorrow).

From Hurricane Ridge, we drove back to Sequim, where I showed my parents where we used to live, work, and hang out. We stopped down at Port Williams and walked along the beach a bit. The end of the day was capped off by dinner at The 3 Crabs in Dungeness. I re-enjoyed Alaskan Amber on tap.

Later at the hotel, I had an Wapati IPA from Portland Brewing Co..

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Heading to Portland

We left this morning at about 9:15 Boise time and headed over to Portland via I-84. Hit the same long construction zone from Friday's Hells Canyon trip, but once we got past that, all went well.

Not much to mention for this day, other than a lot of driving again. Pretty desolate in eastern Oregon, with some forest land here and there. The drive got more interesting once we hit the Columbia River and the gorge closer to Portland.

Once we were about 35 miles out of Portland, we got off I-84 and took the scenic highway which takes you past several waterfalls, such as Horsetail, Bridal Veil, and Multnomah and ultimately up to the Vista House, the best view from any rest stop I've ever been to.

It'd been a long day, so after we checked into the hotel in Vancouver, WA, we had dinner at a local restaurant and called it an early night. I didn't fret too much, since at some point in my life I plan to visit Portland for at least a week to hit all the different breweries and pubs for which they are so famous. Tonight I settled on a Deschutes Black Butte Porter at dinner, and then a bottle each of Redhook Long Hammer IPA and Deschutes Bachelor ESB at the hotel before turning in.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Jail & Sockeye

So after yesterday's lonnnggg journey, we decided to chill out in Boise for the day, do some laundry, etc. After a leisurely breakfast, we headed to the east side of Boise to visit the Old Idaho Penitentiary. Interesting, but also rather depressing.

Next, we had a late lunch at the Sockeye Brewery, a brewpub in west Boise. Here, we met up with a fellow RateBeerian BückDich (aka Jordan) for a few pints. He told us more about the area and we BS'd about, what else, beer. While there, I tried the Horse Thief Hefeweizen, the Dubbel Tail, some of the Dagger Falls IPA, and, for rating number 1800, the Galena Summit Kölsch Ale. Nothing fancy, I know, but it was a nice kölsch to be fair.

After lunch, Jordan had to be getting off to work (I'll now plug the Superb Sushi in downtown Boise). I gave Jordan the two Penn Brews I carried from D's 6 Pack, and he presented me with a bomber of Full Sail Black Gold Barrel Aged Impy Stout. I would have much rather been able to get him some East End Smokestack, but it wasn't out the last time I was there.

After a few errands, we headed back to my brother's place to relax. We had a late dinner again, steak and lobster tails, and played cards. During the course of the evening, I tried North Coast Pranqster, La Trappe Tripel, New Belgium Skinny Dip, and Deschutes 19th Anniversary Golden Ale.

Friday, July 13, 2007

One "Hell" of a Road Trip

Got up this morning and headed back to the Alamo in Boise to pick up our rental car (a Toyota Sienna, actually), and after yesterday's fiasco we were hoping to be placated and on our way. My brother and I show up at 8:45 and find out that the car still hadn't been cleaned.


Anyway, at 9:15, I finally get the stupid thing and we head back to my brother's house. Now we can begin our day, albeit a few hours later than we'd hoped, since it was going to be a long one.

We drove up I-84 into Oregon to Baker City, then headed on the scenic route 86 driving east towards Hells Canyon. We stopped for lunch in Halfway, Oregon at a place called Mimi's Cafe ... very nice little place to eat if you ever find yourself in Halfway.

From there, we continued on to Hells Canyon. Very nice drive the whole way, and the weather was beautiful if not a bit hot. Once you get toward the Oregon entrance to the canyon near Oxbow, you can take a 23-mile long, single lane road down to the damn and visitors center, which we did. Pretty drive and very impressive to visit. Once we got to the center, it was 105 degrees in the canyon ... felt like standing in front of a hair dryer.

On the way back out, we stopped a couple of times to pick some ripe blackberries and, of all things, apricots. Apparently back in the day, there were a couple of brothers who owned orchards in the valley before it was dammed up, and you can still find plenty to eat near the road.

From Oxbow, we continued on Rt 71 to the Oxboy Reservoir on the Snake River, where it reached the high temp of the day ... 109. Ouch. We continued on 71 to Cambridge, then took 95 to New Meadows, hooking up with 55 that took us into McCall. By this time, we got a good afternoon storm and between the rain and passing over some big hills, the temp by dinner time was 65 degrees. Quite a differential from a few hours before!

By the time we hit McCall, we were all tired of driving, and needed dinner. Didn't realized before I drove past it that there was a brewery in town. So, dinner was at the McCall Brewing Company. While there, I tried the Mountain Light, the Hefeweizen, and the IPA. I opted for fish and chips, which were absolutely horrid ... just sopped with grease and squirted when cut into. Everyone else got a roast beef sandwich, and there were pretty good. I ended up eating half of one because I couldn't stomach any more fish.

After dinner, we drove down 55 for two more hours until we reached Boise and Meridian. All tolled, we put in 430 miles in 12 hours.

I finished up the day with a Big Sky Scape Goat Pale Ale and a Kona Brewing Fire Rock Pale Ale. And we played more blackjack.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Downtown Boise

Today we all decided that after a long day of traveling, it would be best to just go to downtown Boise (about 30 minutes east) and check out the town. You can look up the pertinent facts, but suffice to say that for a state capital and small city, it is very nice and easy to get around in.

We parked downtown and spent a few hours just wandering around, checking out different parts of the downtown, window shopping, etc. Of course, as the late morning/early afternoon wore on, the clouds departed and we were now in full sunshine ... at a lovely 98 degrees. By later that afternoon, it was 102. It's true that a 'dry heat' is more tolerable than high humidity, but hot is still hot.

For lunch, we went to the TableRock Brewpub. It's a nice little restaurant near the Julia Davis Park. Over lunch, I tried a few samples as well as tastes from the beers my family enjoyed. These included the Orange Blossom Special, Laughing Dog Pale Ale, MacLobie's Scottish Ale, Peregrine Porter, St. Andrews Amber, HopHead IPA, and the Hopzilla IPA. All in all, not a bad lunch.

From there, we strolled over to the Idaho Historical Museum where we learned quite a bit about the state. Rather impressive setup considering it only costs $2 to get in.

At this point, we decided that it was time to get some groceries for dinner before picking up the rental car (more on this below), so we headed back to the car and drove over to the Boise CoOp, a very nice grocery store with huge selections of great foods. The beer selection is pretty good, including a bunch of Belgian beers, and in Idaho you can break six-packs (as with Oregon & Washington). I snagged a few to try while at my brother's place.

Now, I mentioned before about a rental car. My brother's car sat all of us, but it's a bit sporty and uncomfortable on longer trips. In addition, after my parents and my visit with my brother is over, I'm driving my parents over to the Northwest for a few days ... hence the need for a rental.

So, we head to the airport where we're told Alamo exists. Sort of. Turns out, they're not really at the airport, but about a mile away. That delayed us a bit. Originally, we were going to pick it up as late as possible because we didn't want to have to pay for an extra day (huge charge), because we'd be turning it back in Seattle in the early evening.

Well ... we get there and find out that even an extra four hours is going to cost a full day ($130!), which sucks considering a full week was only $413 when we booked it. We decided to worry about that later and take the car now, since we didn't want to have to drive back to the airport later that night or the next day.

Get everything set up, go outside. All looks well on the outside. My mom and I get in. Smells like fish. There is a tree branch in the front seat, an ice cream drink lid in the second row of seats, stains all over the floor, ice cream stain on the doors, and a child's toy in the very back. Assholes hadn't cleaned the van.

Go back in to complain. No other cars available (have to rent a corporate for one-way drives), and it will be at least an hour or more before there is someone to clean this van. Long story shorter, we leave with intentions to come back the next morning to pick up. We're assured it will be ready anytime after 6am, cleaned and ready to go. I leave a clipped message on the voice mail of the branch manager, who had left for the day (natch).

Enough of that - we head back to my brother's (now in rush hour traffic) to relax for the evening. That night we made dinner at his place: fresh sockeye salmon, grilled, and my brother made an awesome risotto. That evening, I tried a Deschutes Inversion IPA and a RJ King Wingwalker Lager, both beers my brother had bought before we arrived.

The rest of the evening we spent playing blackjack before heading off to bed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Heading Off to Boise

Today I started my vacation. I'd been looking forward to this for a while (months) particularly since I'd be seeing my younger brother for the first time since January. He moved from Pittsburgh to Boise and will be there for a couple of years, unless he decides to stay.

Anyway, despite this excitement about traveling, I was also a bit bummed because my wife could not accompany me due to her work schedule. We'll make up for that next summer!

I left Indiana around noon and headed to Pittsburgh. I was thinking about having lunch at the Rivertowne Pour House, but decided against it because of time/traffic. I stopped at D's 6 Pack to pick up a couple of bottles to take to Idaho for a fellow RateBeerian (BückDich). I couldn't find a couple that I was hoping for, so I grabbed him two Penn offerings (St. Nikolaus and Penndemonium). I also got two bottles of Southampton (Grand Cru and Abbot 12) to have later (and I should have grabbed that 07.07.07 while it was still available!!!).

From D's, I drove to Robinson and had lunch at Bocktown. While there, I sampled the Sprague Farms Lightning Ale and the Great Lakes Prohibition Pils. Awesome fries at Bocktown.

Finally, time to head to the airport. Parked off-site and caught a shuttle over, checked in and hung out at the gate. My flight from Pittsburgh to Salt Lake City left on time, arrived early, and was without incident.

Too good to be true, of course. How foolish of me to expect with my Irish luck that the whole trip would go smoothly. Upon arrival at SLC, I found that my 45 minute layover was going to be at least a couple of hours. I was supposed to leave at 7:35, but actually left at 10:00. So, while waiting there, I sampled some Utah brews at both the Wasatch Pub and Squatter's Pub and Brewery. If you're going to be stuck at SLC for an hour or so, I recommend Squatter's.

At Wasatch, I tried the Polygamy Porter and the Hefeweizen. Now I was hungry, so I decided to have a small pizza at Squatters Pub and try their beer sampler, which included Provo Girl Pils, Full Suspension Pale Ale, Chasing Tail Ale, and Captain Bastard's Oatmeal Stout. Passable offerings, but nothing spectacular ... hardly surprising for Utah beers considering the overall religious tendencies of the state.

The flight to Boise got in by 11:00pm, and I took a cab to my brother's house out in Meridian. He had already been at the airport to pick up my parents, whose plane arrived on time two hours earlier.

By the time I arrived, everyone was pretty tired from traveling. I had a few snacks and tried a New Belgium Skinny Dip before heading off to bed.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Franziskaner Clone Revisited

This past Tuesday (July 3), I hosted a brew party with a former student and his friends who were interested in homebrewing extract batches. As they had tried the Franziskaner clone I made back in January and liked hefeweizen, they decided to go for this one as their first attempt. I followed the same recipe as before, with the exception of using the Weihenstephan yeast strain, rather than the Bavarian wheat strain.

We started around 4pm and I let them do most of the brewing work. We were finished around 7pm with the brewing. I let the wort chill just a bit longer while I grilled hot dogs and we played cornhole (like horseshoes, except with bean bags) in the back yard. Over dinner, we enjoyed some Troegs Dream Weaver Wheat and a growler of Marzoni's Avalanche IPA.

As of today, the primary was still bubbling a bit. I'll rack to secondary tomorrow or Tuesday and bottle it up in a few weeks. I'll keep a six pack as a "brewing fee", but the rest will be enjoyed by (hopefully) some new homebrewing fanatics.