Beer Over Here
Monthly Open House Party at Golden Pacific Brewing Company
Golden Pacific Brewing Company in Berkeley, California
The July Open House Party had live music, food and lots of beer.
The Ugly Hawaiian Shirt Contest hosted by Mike Pitsker
On the last Friday of every month, the Golden Pacific Brewing Company in Berkeley, California holds an Open House Party, where for a scant $10 the first 900 or so guests can drink beer, eat food at various booths, and listen to the sounds of a live band. At the invitation of GPB sales honcho Mike Pitsker, I attended the July event on the 26th, and had a great time.
The $10 entrance gets you six tickets, each good for either a mug of beer or a food item. Choices for eats when I went were three kinds of Montibella gourmet sausage served in hot dog format, two kinds of quesadillas, and American style beef tacos. Beer choices were GBP's Golden Gate Pale Ale, GG Amber, GG Hefeweizen and, easily my favorite their Golden Bear Hibernator Winter Ale, which really tasted great when the fog suddenly rolled in just before seven, dropping the temperature about 10 degrees in a matter of minutes. The $10 entrance for all this was even more amazing when I heard it had recently been raised from $5.
Live music performed by the versatile jazz/rock/beyond group Diego's Umbrella added to the festive feeling, as did the several friendly dogs brought along by their masters.
Another highlight of the afternoon was the Ugly Hawaiian Shirt Contest hosted by Mike Pitsker, himself decked out in an Aloha shirt of monstrous bad taste. In order to qualify for entry, Mike says, your shirt must be uglier than his. One winner is selected in both male and female categories, and the prize is a case of their beer.
Golden Pacific brews nice, straightforward honest beers that are well-balanced and pleasant. It seemed like their entire line had that highly drinkable session quality. No wonder hundreds of people showed up for this event.
The open house parties are held between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m. on the last Friday of each month between March and October. You won't a better beer deal in the SF Bay Area, and a friendlier bunch of people. For more details and a description of the brewery and its products, visit www.goldenpacificbrewing.com
Christmas in July at Barclay's
Phred Kaufman, Barclay's manager Matt Salie, and Bridgeport Bay Area Rep Marcie O'Loughlin enjoying Christmas in July
Barclay's Restaurant and Pub, located in the Rockridge area of Oakland, is one of the best ale houses in the East Bay. The neighborhood is home to quite a number of first-rate restaurants, and centers around a large food market, making it a mecca for foodies of all stripes.
I was fortunate to visit Barclay's on July 25th, the first night of their annual Christmas in July event, where the holiday ales and barleywines made for the previous winter are back on tap and real holiday food is served.
Barclay's didn't invent the Christmas in July concept, however. The custom was apparently started by Judy Ashworth, former publican of the Lyon's Brewery of Dublin, California. She has since retired (though there are rumors brewing of her long-awaited return to pubdom) but the tradition is now carried on by a number of Bay Area beer spots.
For these events, a cross-section of the holiday ales, barley wines and other winter beers of a season are put in cold storage until July 25th, when they are brought out and tapped for an appreciative crowd. Since these kind of beers age well, many are curious about how their favorites have aged over the six to eight month time lag.
Interestingly, Bay Area is one of the cooler parts of California during July, particularly San Francisco proper where frequent fog and daytime temperatures between 10 - 15 degrees C are common. Somehow, heavy beers high in alcohol don't seem out of place.
Though Oakland in July is a fare measure warmer than San Francisco across the bay, it was a chillier than usual evening on July 25th when the just-arrived Phred Kaufman and I took the BART subway from San Francisco over to Oakland. We managed to taste through about eight offerings, though my note-taking activities stopped around number five. For a sloppy review of the beers and how they tasted, see the Brew Crew feature below.
The chance to have full-on holiday meals is just as big a draw as the ten or so holiday ales being drawn all night. Examples on the Holiday Food menu were Roast Turkey with Sweet Potatoes and Cranberry Sauce, Stuffing and Gravy, Vegetables, and Mashed Potatoes ($13.95); Smoked Ham with Yams, Stuffing and Gravy, and Vegetables ($13.95); and Prime Rib au jus with Horseradish Sour Cream, Fingerling Potatoes and Vegetables ($14.95). No doubt, we were in deep American Holiday Dinner territory.
With our Japan-sized appetites, Phred and I decided to limit our food choices to the lighter things. (Neither of us would admit it, but I think we both wanted to leave plenty of room in our stomachs for the huge, heavy beers which were to follow.) From the Holiday Menu we chose Mussels and Clams Sauteed in Creole Sauce and Liberty Ale ($5.95), Pot Pie of Chicken and Turkey Sausage with Salad ($9.95) and Dungeness Crab Sandwich on Sour Dough Bread with Pepperjack Cheese and Shoestring Fries ($12.95).
Barclay's continues this event for several more days until the saved holiday beers run out. If you miss out, there's always next year.
Brews in the News
This feature is on vacation this issue. More new beers in September.
Holiday Ales at Barclay's
Though there were only two of us, Phred Kaufman and I did our best to drink a crew's worth of holiday ales at Barclay's Christmas in July event. Since these beers among the world's heaviest, we stuck to small 10 oz glasses and shared. Since our tasting was conducted in less-than-scientific conditions, the regular rating system has not been used.
Deschutes Jubelale - Deep brown, fruity aroma, tangy malt with a big warm taste dominated by spicy fruit, with a long spicy hoppy finish. This was quite superb, but very typical of the high quality of every Deschutes beer I've had.
North Coast Brewing Wintertime Ale - Deep brown, with an initial blast of Belgian yeast aroma followed by light dried fruit flavors with a hint of sweet spice and smoke. Dry, lingering finish.
Rogue Yellow Snow - This was the lightest of the holiday beers. Pale gold with a shocking white head, tart aroma, lots of wheat malt flavor, but amazingly dry and drinkable.
Moonlight Santa's Tipple (on handpump) - Deep brown, complex malt flavors on parade, little bitterness but fair amounts of deep roasty flavors to counterpoint the sweetness. Not so heavy, but intensely flavored and well balanced.
Bridgeport Ebenezer - Dark brown with reddish tinges, tan head, thrillingly complex malt flavors that gradually unfold in the face of bitterness from what seems like several varieties of hops.
Hoptown Old Yeltsin Imperial Stout - This was the most astonishing of a very superlative bunch of beers we tasted. Opaque BLACK, tan head, smooth and soft texture with giant flavors with a sherry-like funky sweetness and a flavor that was very grandly aged (OLD but not at all off), like the aroma of a good cigar. It was hard to believe it was only 7 months old. A very big beer, yet there was a short-lasting tanginess in the finish.
All that ale's ya'
As the US economy turns downward, times are getting tougher for smaller brewers, with quite a number of closings in recent years. The same is happening in Japan, as companies who started microbreweries in the mid- and late 90s are finding out that microbrewing can mean macro losses.
Compared to 20 years ago in the U.S., and 10 years ago in Japan, the amount of beer choices available in both countries is staggering. So much so that it is easy to take all of these good brews for granted.
I do meet a lot of people who profess to like the better, more distinctive beers, but tend to only drink them on certain occasions. Sadly, most of the time they are satisfied with mass-produced lager. Yes, in California supermarkets one often sees 12-packs of such beer for lest than a six pack of the good stuff. And after work in Tokyo, tired folks walking home from the train station find it easier to buy a few cold cans of Asahi or Kirin from a vending machine or a convenience store than to maintain a stash of better beer at home by purchasing it ahead of time from a quality liquor store or by mail order. We humans certainly are creatures of convenience, and are always looking for a lower price.
Yet the fact that there IS a choice is cause for celebration. But since we've had good beer available for several years now, it's harder to remember when we didn't have a choice.
One big reason we have a choice is not simply that smaller breweries are making better ales, but rather that people like us are buying them. If nobody bought the good craft beer we now have available, it would cease to be available. Please show your support for better craft beer by buying it whenever possible. You may be drinking less, but you will be drinking better and supporting those small brewers who can't afford expensive advertising and promotional budgets. They can only keep brewing if you can keep buying.
Brews News Readers Raise $204 for AIDS charities
Sincere thanks to Andrew, Daniel, Jack, John, Mark and Robbie for their total of $204 in sponsoring me AIDS Walk in San Francisco on July 21st.
This year's event hosted over 25,000 walkers, and raised over $3.5 million dollars for 36 AIDS charities and organizations. To find out more about this yearly event, go to www.aidswalk.net .
The 10 km walk through Golden Gate Park was made even more enjoyable since I was walking with my old friend Jeff and his cheerful daughter Camille.
Since I was late to meet someone, I ran the last mile, but still didn't suffer any stiffness or soreness that night or the next day. That's probably because living in Tokyo entails a lot of walking every day (and many nights you can find me walking to someplace for good sake or beer).
Though I send out Brews News for free as a pub-lic service, I do solicit donations from Brews News readers every summer for my participation in this charity that continues to make a difference. I am looking forward to your support next year. Thank you.
Hop Pellets, 13 varieties from Cascade to Willamette, with alpha acid ratings. 100 yen for 30 grams, plus shipping.
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I totally agree with your observations on the puritanical segregation of eating and drinking in North America. Only at Mexican restaurants do North Americans override this unfortunate paradigm by ordering up continuous rounds of frozen tropical drinks with their tacos, nachos and chimichangas. But you fill up so fast doing that...
Do you remember first getting into the Japanese way of eating every day? Not just the izakaya style in which you also imbibe, but the style that to new arrivals seems to consist of endless small plates of appetizers? I remember liking everything, but even after eating tons of small plates of food, feeling like I hadn't yet finished because the Main Dish never came out.
It didn't take long to get over that, but now when I go back to the US and Europe, I have the opposite feeling: I get one plate with three things: a piece of meat, some potatoes, and a veggie...and then I am stuffed and the whole show is over. Like eating a cannonball instead of a bucket of assorted ball bearings.
I think to fully enjoy the izakaya style of drinking, you have to first enjoy the izakaya style of eating. Which is what I will certainly be doing in just a few short hours!
Thanks, Matt, for the great way you summed it all up. Too much of one thing is boring, not to mention filling. I would wager that most Brews News readers drink more than ten different kinds of beer each month - variety keeps us feeling alive.
And pass the ball bearings,
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