Friday, March 29, 2013

Winter 2013 -- West Coast -- Fred Meyer supermarket (Portland) / 冬2013 - 西海岸 - フレッドマイヤースーパーマーケット(ポートランド)

Just before I arrived in Portland, a friend posted a couple of photos of himself marveling at the huge wall of beer at this recently revamped Fred Meyer supermarket in the Hollywood District of Portland. He said that he sort of went into a "standing coma" as he tried to take it all in.

So, of course, one of the first things I did after hitting town was to go check it out myself.

Really, the selection is that good, especially for well-known Oregon, Northwest, and West Coast brews. It definitely has the largest number of beers I’ve ever seen in a supermarket. Two long aisles: one filled with US macros and imports; the other loaded with maybe 300+ kinds of micros in packs and bombers. Also, lots of discounted bottles pile high in wire bins.

No, you are not going to find many great lambics, sours, or rare barrel-aged brews here - but for the exceptional selection and reasonable prices, it is a very good place.

Fred Meyer
3030 NE Weidler St.
Portland, Oregon United States 97232

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Winter 2013 -- West Coast -- Arch Rock Brewing Company / 冬2013 - 西海岸 - アーチロック ブリューイング

A total of 409 new breweries opened in the United States in 2012. Here's one of the first to open in 2013.

Arch Rock is a very small brewery in Gold Beach, OR (actually just down the road, in Hunter Creek), which opened on January 25, 2013. Only two beers (a lager and a porter) were available when I visited, though apparently they have just added a pale ale. As they grow, they plan to add seasonals and others (IPA, triple, stout). So far they are making 15-barrel batches, and the brews are available at several local bars and restaurants, as well as in 32oz and 64oz growlers at the brewey. A small taproom fronts the brewery, but it didn’t appear to be in operation yet. I had a chance to talk briefly with the friendly owner, Larry, and the brewer, Charles. Charles worked at Uinta Brewing in Salt Lake City for five years and later at Grand Teton Brewing in Idaho.

Gold Beach Lager
Has a mild grassiness, and low hop nose. Hazy dull yellow color, with a creamy off-white head. The initial flavor is of slightly harsh grass and grain / mid palate is lightly sweet, with milled cereal notes / pleasant traces of bitterness in final. Thin-medium body. Actually, a bit heavy for a lager. Not bad at all, though.

State of Jefferson Porter
This one features a smooth chocolate aroma. It's pitch black, with translucent edges. A gentle coffee initial / chocolate notes come out in mid palate / very good balance in the finish. Medium body. Though it was served too cold, it's a pleasant, well-balanced porter.

I'll certainly stop in again next time I'm in the area to see how they are developing.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Baird Beer Brunch in Hong Kong / 香港で ベアードビールブランチ

Here's a post on Martyn Cornell's excellent blog, Zythophile, about a recent beer breakfast held at The Globe in Hong Kong, in which each of six Baird beers was matched with a different dish. Bryan Baird's comments are summarized succinctly, along with the author's detailed evaluation of each beer. Have a look:

Baird Beer and Breakfast

The six pairings:
1) Cured ocean trout, cream cheese, and cucumber + Single-Take Session Ale
2) French toast and bacon +  Rising Sun Pale Ale
3) Chinese steamed buns with sugar-braised pork and hoisin sauce + Red Rose Amber Ale
4) Cumberland sausage and cheddar roll + Angry Boy Brown Ale
5) "Mini-burger" + Suruga Bay Imperial IPA
6) "Chocolate and Caramel Beignets”(actually, deep-fried Mars bars!) + Kurofune Porter

                                                          Source: Zythophile

Monday, March 4, 2013

Winter 2013 -- West Coast -- Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles / 冬2013 -- 西海岸 --、ファイアーストーン ウォーカー ブリューイング, パソローバルズ

I grew up in San Luis Obispo, just over the grade to the south of Paso Robles. In those days, there were very few wineries in the area. They were mostly small, local operations run by Italian-American families. The main one that I remember was Rotta.

Now, of course, the large swaths of the Central Coast are overrun by grapes, and the wine and wine tour business is visible everywhere there. One of the earliest of these was Firestone Vineyards in Los Olivos, whose owner's son and son-in-law founded Firestone Walker Brewing Company. From the get-go, Firestone Walker's beers have won numerous awards, including World Beer Cup champion for mid-sized breweries in 2004, 2006 and 2010 -- for which there were surely many competitors.

The brewery is just off Highway 101 (Ramada Drive), a few miles south of Paso Robles proper. Their large taproom stand right in front of the brewery. It features a massive dining/bar area, with booths, large tables, and a wacky U-shaped bar with a funny revolving faux bottling line of blinking bottles passing overhead. The decor is sort of modern/industrial, with metal sheet ceilings, a slick cement floor, and aluminium "Diamond Plate" (that bright silver material used for fancy-dancy pickup truck storage boxes) halfway up the wooden walls.

They had 15 beers on tap, along with several local wines. The staff was knowledgeable about the beer they served and were fairly friendly, too -- but perhaps a tad too rushed, even though the place was not really all that crowded. I have read about poor service at this taproom. But our server was pretty good. However, another one sat right outside our window, chatting away on her cell phone for quite some time.

The food was good, too: we had tortilla soup, fish tacos, and jicama salad.

The beers on draught are in all great condition: fresh as can be and served at proper temperatures, and they are much much better than FW stuff in bottles. You can order flights of four generous samplers or individual beers, as you like. Anything from the Reserve series is definitely worth trying. I had a sampler flight of the following four: Pivo Pils, Taproom IPA, Walker's Reserve Robust Porter, and 2012 Double DBA.

They also have "Library" sales -- bottles of earlier vintages for consumption on premises only, this to prevent high-priced resales on eBay, etc.

 Wish I’d had more time here. I certainly do plan on going back.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Winter 2013 -- West Coast -- Los Angeles / 冬2013 - 西海岸 - ロサンゼルス

I spent about a week in Los Angeles last month. My primary purpose was not really beer hunting, but rather visiting movie-releated sites and catching up with an old friend. We managed to see the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, explore a wonderful Stanley Kubrick exhibition at LACMA, walk around Griffith Park, stroll among the shops on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, and see some treasures (e.g., Ellesmere Chaucer) at the Huntington Library and Gardens.

That said, beer is never too far from my mind, and I did manage to get to a few stores and one brewery. Los Angeles seems to be regarded as a craft beer wasteland (with a few exceptions, such as Craftsman and The Bruery), expecially when compared to all the brewing activity just south, in San Diego. But here are some places that were definitely worth a look:

We stayed near LAX and went to the nearest Whole Foods Market on a few occasions

Whole Foods Market - Plaza El Segundo
This store has a good selection for a supermarket in Los Angeles, especially for micros and even not-so-micro craft beers. A small shelf of European (Brit/Ger/Belg) beers. It also features the biggest selection of Japanese craft brews I've seen anywhere in the US.

Hitachino Nest, Ise Kadoya, and more

There are two main sections for beer: both are near the back of the store, one on the right side and one on the left. Six-packs of recent releases are stacked here and there. One shelf with a limited number of singles. Prices are medium to somewhat high (My son tells me that he and his friends call Whole Foods, "Whole Paycheck."). This one does not have as good a beer selection as Bay Area or Portland Whole Foods stores, but it is quite good for LA.

Lone Hill Liquors
This is a medium-sized store in a small shopping center, and it is way out of town, in the suburb of Glendora Quite a drive to get there. And, to be honest, I was a bit disappointed.... but just a bit.

The store has long rows of coolers filled with a decent and balanced selection of world beers, with an emphasis on West Coast brews. Good selection of glassware, too. Very friendly and knowledgeable staff (not sure if it was Stan, the owner, or not). A very good place for the area, but maybe not really up to the level of its current RateBeer "World Class" rating. I think that perhaps locals and/or regular customers may get special orders and other rare things that are not out on view for the walk-in customer.

Ladyface Ale Companie Alehouse & Brasserie
Before leaving Japan, I checked around and found a "Best of LA" feature on the LA Weekly website, whch listed Ladyface Ale Companie as the "Best Brewery" for 2012.

It's not actually in LA but rather in Agoura Hills, out in the San Fernando Valley. So we stopped in on our way north on Highway 101. This was on Superbowl Sunday at around noon, and there were only three other people in the place. In fact, the bartender said that they would be closing at 3pm, since business had been so poor on the Superbowl days in each of the previous two years.

Ladyface has been open only three years (as of January 20). The decor is a mix of SW country-western/industrial. Large panel illustrations of their Art Nouveau-inspired beer labels are prominent on the walls. It has seating for maybe 180 people, 12 at the bar, as well as tables outside. Big fermenting tanks dominate the space along one wall.

There were 15 taps, with some guest selections. They have growler sales (I bought a growler of the excellent Chesbro IPA to take to friends up north) and also guest bottle sales -- but no Ladyface bottle sales. I had samplers of three brews, two of which were great and one which wasn’t. If I lived anywhere nearby, I’d probably be a regular, since there doesn’t seem to be much else for craft beer in the SanFernando Valley. I wish I'd had more time to explore more of their beers. Next time.

Note: Here is a link to a lengthy interview, in Japanese, with Ladyface founder, Cyrena Nouzille, on the Beer Study Group website: Ladyface Ale Companie CyrenaNouzilleさん インタビューその①

And here is another link to an article on the L.A. Weekly Blogs site: LadyfaceAle Companie Celebrates 3 Years as a Top L.A. Brewery