Monthly Archives: November 2009

Beer and Homebrewing Holiday Gift Guide 2009

Holiday Gift Guide 2009

To help you with your holiday shopping for that beer lover or homebrewer that you know, or as a resource to figure out what you want for the holidays, I’ve formulated with the following Holiday Gift Guide. If you have any more suggestions, list them in the comments and I’ll update the article.

This guide has recommedation for book, movies, glassware, homebrewing, draft equipment, neon signs, and beer.


Reading and learning about beer can be almost as fun as consumption of beer. The following are some recommended books on the subject.

The following are some great books on the subject of homebrewing.

Holiday Gift Guide 2009


Movies with a beer theme can be great fun to watch and the documentaries are informative. Here is a list of movies about beer.

  • Strange Brew (1983) is a classic movie with Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas about trying to get a free case of beer.
  • Beerfest (2006) (Blu-ray edition) is a new classic comedy about beer. Octoberfest, brewing, beer games competition, slapstick comedy, this beer movie has it all. Das Booooot!
  • Beer Wars (2009) is a recent documentary about the beer industry and the 3-tier system of distribution.
  • Artie Lange’s Beer League (2006)


As craft beer lovers know, beer is always best poured into a glass and especially good if you can drink it from the preferred shaped glassware. Beer Advocate has a great guide to beer glassware.

  • Pilsner glasses use these for all of your lagers and German style beer.
  • Double walled Pilsner glasses, keep you beer colder in one of these and admire your beer in this interesting glass.
  • Beer Goblet glasses for all of your big Belgian beers like strong, dubbel, tripel, etc.
  • Beer Steins are great for American craft ales, English ales, Oktoberfest beer, Vienna lager, and dark lagers.
  • Weizen glasses are frequently sold as pilsner glasses. Use them for your wheat beers.
  • Double walled weizen glasses keep your beer colder longer and look cool too.
  • Imperial pint glasses are great for just about any American or English ale.
  • Snifters are good for the high gravity ales like barleywine and Belgian-styles.
  • Tulip glasses are great at collecting and concentrating the aroma of the beer. I liket hem for almost all styles but they are traditionally best for Belgian style beer and double IPA.

Continue reading

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2009 Barrel Aged Beer Festival at The Bistro

Pouring beer at the Barrel-Aged Beer Fest

On Saturday, November 14, 2009 we made a short journey to Hayward, California to attend the 4th Annual Barrel-Aged Beer Fest, which is organized by The Bistro. When we arrived, we encountered 65 wood barrel-aged beers from about 30 different breweries, all available for tasting form the souvenir tulip-shaped glass. The tasting was $40 and included said glass, a very detailed listing of the beers available, and 10 tasting tickets, additional tickets were available to $2 each but I didn’t need more.

This beer festival featured some of the most interesting beers, in a wide variety of “styles,” from breweries all across the nation, all with two common themes: wood barrel-aged and high alcohol content. Although most were West Coast based breweries other breweries from other parts of the country and the world were there, such as Avery (Colorado), Allagash (Maine), Dogfish Head (Delaware), and Rodenbach (Belgium).


The festival itself, on average, wasn’t terribly crowded. I only had a little bit of trouble getting around when I first arrived but within 20 minutes the number people around was manageable. The people attending the festival and serving the beer all were very interested in beer and all seemed to be enjoying the beer being sampled at this event.

There were no two beers that produced a similar tasting experience, each beer was very unique, interesting, and well crafted. This would be no surprise when inspecting the beer list and the details of each beer. The “styles” ranged from barleywine, imperial stout, Belgian-style strong dark ale, Scotch ale, doppelbock, Flemish red, IPA, fruit beers, and many were blends of everything in between or experimental styles crafted very well. I’m using “style” in quotes because it seems like by-the-book styles were thrown out the window in favor of creating something very interesting and delicious with a complexity of flavor and aroma. Next, the alcohol content by volume ranged from 6% at the lowest all the way up to 13% for the strongest, with the median being around 9%. On top of that, add the diversity of barrels used to age the beer: bourbon barrels from a variety of makers, wine barrels from various styles of wine, brandy barrels, neutral barrels, and toasted oak barrels. Finally, each beer was aged for different amounts of time with the shortest for 2 months and the longest for 2½ years.


With 65 very interesting beers available, it was difficult to figure out what to try so after my first beer I talked to one of the servers and I also ran into the future owners of 510 Brewing Company and Peter from BetterBeerBlog, all of whom had some great suggestions. The following are some brief notes about the beers that I tried at the event. Continue reading

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AleSmith IPA Review

AleSmith IPA bottle and glass

AleSmith is an awarding winning brewery out of San Diego, CA where all of the employees are homebrewers. In fact, according to their website, the owner and the head brewer were both past presidents of their homebrew club.

AleSmith touts that, “every AleSmith ale is an all-natural, unpasteurized, handcrafted artisan product brewed using only premium domestic and imported malts and hops, precisely conditioned water and our quality yeast strains.” This quality craftsmanship is readily apparent when you try the AleSmith IPA, an IPA that has won numerous awards including Silver at the World Beer Championships and Bronze at the Great American Beer Festival. The brewery describes AleSmith IPA beer as follows:

Deep golden to light amber color, and a nice off-white head, with good retention when properly served. Starts off with pleasantly strong hop flavors, balanced by a firm malt backdrop, then fades to a dry finish with a lingering hoppiness.

AleSmith IPA being poured into a glass

Where I Found It. BevMo in La Quinta, CA.

Serving Type. 22 oz. bottle into a glass.

Date Reviewed. June 26, 2009.

Appearance. AleSmith IPA has a golden honey color with an orange hue. It is very clear as long as you don’t pout the yeast into your glass. This IPA has a foamy and frothy head that lingers for a very long time. It just doesn’t seem to go away; half-way done with the beer and there is still a thin layer of head on top.

Smell. This beer smells like hoppy goodness. The sweet maltiness combined with the fruity hops made me think of fresh plums while I was taking the photos. There is a hint of vanilla or caramel and the hops are clean and fresh. This IPA has a slight hint of cedar (instead of pine) and a slight hint of spice but also fruity like fresh pineapple. There was a slight bready yeast smell when I first opened the bottle but could not pick it up after that.

Taste. I tried AleSmith IPA closer to 50ºF on a hot evening in the desert and although it does not sound like ideal conditions, it was fantastic. This beer has a nice malt flavor with a hint of caramel and vanilla sweetness. The maltiness is topped by a generous dose of hops. The hop flavor is like white pepper spice, grapefruit citrus, and for the first few sips I tasted fresh plum.

Mouthfeel. This is a big IPA and has a smooth silky nature to help glide the strong flavors through your palate. It is a full bodied beer that is almost creamy in texture and well carbonated.

Drinkability. This is a smoother IPA that has a nice balance between smooth bitterness and spicy bitterness with a bite.

AleSmith IPA from above

Rating. My ratings below are on a five point scale with five being the best score.

  • Appearance (20%): 4.5
  • Smell (20%): 4.5
  • Taste (40%): 4.5
  • Mouthfeel (10%): 4.5
  • Drinkability (10%): 4.5
  • Overall: 4.5

Caption on the Bottle

The following caption appears on the back of a 22 oz. bottle of AleSmith IPA:

I prefer AleSmith it’s pretty awesome. That’s what our People’s Choice Award says to us. Each year at the San Diego Real Ale Festival , everyone is asked to vote for their favorite beer. In 2001, they chose AleSmith IPA over all the others. If you like your beer hoppy, you’re gonna love this one.

AleSmith IPA is brewed using only premium-quality malts, along with pounds and pounds of the freshest hops and our championship yeast strain. Even the water we use is precisely conditioned to make sure everything is just right for the best possible product. The results is a hoppy, malty hand-forged American-style IPA with a tantalizing aroma and a flavor that’ll have your taste buds in ecstasy!

The brewer’s yeast at the bottom of the bottle is living proof that this is a top-quality bottle-conditioned beer. Conditioning in the bottle gives the beer a lush, velvety texture that you just can’t get with force-carbonating. The bubbles are smaller, giving your taste buds a lot more surface are to grab onto, and the difference shows from the first sip to the last.

To serve, chill to approximately 45-50º and pour gently into an AleSmith pint glass, leaving the yeast in the bottle. To learn more about AleSmith Brewing Company and our many other premium products, please visit our website.

AleSmith IPA back of the bottle


  • Style: IPA
  • Brewery: AleSmith
  • Alcohol by volume: 7.25%
  • Original Gravity: 1.072
  • Final Gravity: 1.018 (calculated)
  • Hops: Columbus, Warrior, Amarillo, Simcoe, Cascade, Chinook, Palisades [source]
  • Beer Advocate rating: 4.36 (as of Nov. 15, 2009)

Other Reviews

AleSmith IPA glass

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Adnams Broadside Review

Adnams Broadside bitter

Over the summer I was on vacation in London and took advantage of the opportunity to try as much English beer as was reasonable, especially the ales on cask. One of the more memorable bitters that I tried from the cask was Adnams Broadside bitter at the Seven Stars pub, near the Royal Courts of Justice. It was not only one of the tastiest cask ales that I had on my trip but also one of the freshest (when I tried it the first time). Even though it was starting to get stale when I visited the same pub the next day, it is not the fault of the brewer and Broadside is still a tasty beer.

Adnams is a brewery, located in Southwold, England, that strives to make beers for the “most discerning drinkers – drinkers who cherish individuality and seek out brands with personality and style.” Although, Adnams beer can be found in bottles and kegs, they claim that their specialty is beer from a cask. From the myriad of cask ales that I had on vacation, I would have to agree that they do cask ale very well.

Broadside is an award winning Extra Strong Bitter ale that was named after the “Battle of Sole Bay fought against the Dutch Republic in 1672 off the Southwold coast.” The Adnams brewmaster website says the following about the flavor of Broadside:

Rich in fruitcake aromas, almonds and conserved fruit. A wonderful balance of malt and hop flavours and a pint to savour. Brewed with Maris Otter mal, sourced locally to the brewery with the addition of two traditional English hop varieties.

Date Reviewed. August 11, 2009

Where I Found It. Seven Star Pub in London, England.

Serving Type. Served from the cask.

Appearance. Broadside has an off-white head with loose foamy bubbles and does not last very long but is likely due to the way it was poured/pulled. This beer has a beautiful red-brown ruby color and is crystal clear.

Smell. This beer has a sweet biscuit/amber aroma with a nice roasted malt accompaniment. It has a slight fruity hop bouquet, which is very subtle and goes very well malty sweet aroma.

Taste. Broadside has a distinct roasted and sweet malty flavor with a hint of vanilla or caramel. The bitterness in this beer is noticeable, in a good way, much more than some of the other bitters that I tried during my London trip. The hop bitterness is refreshing and balances very nicely with the malt sweetness. It reminds me of an American amber ale like Ballast Point Calico, or should that be the other way around.

Mouthfeel. This is a medium bodied beer with low carbonation. It is flavorful and not watery.

Drinkability. On a hot day this beer was not as thirst quenching as some of the lighter-flavored bitters. However, the deliciousness of this beer was a refreshing change of pace.

Rating. My ratings below are on a five point scale with five being the best score.

  • Appearance (20%): 4.5
  • Smell (20%): 4.0
  • Taste (40%): 4.5
  • Mouthfeel (10%): 4.0
  • Drinkability (10%): 4.5
  • Overall: 4.35


  • Style: Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB)
  • Brewery: Adnams
  • Alcohol by volume: 4.7%
  • Hops: “two traditional English hop varieties”
  • Malt: Maris Otter malt
  • Beer Advocate rating: 3.95 (as of Nov. 12, 2009)

Other Reviews

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