How hard is it to pass the exam for the first level of the Cicerone Certification Program? I found out a couple of days ago.
First, some background. Though 7x7, like many other publications, has covered the topic of Cicerones previously, let’s review: In 2008, steadfast in his determination to improve service to beer consumers, Ray Daniels, renowned beer writer, judge, and festival organizer, established a certification program for beer professionals similar to the sommelier certifications for wine. Fast forward to today: There are more than 5,000 people certified at the first tier, Certified Beer Server; more than 200 at the second level, Certified Cicerone; and a scant three at the top of the hop heap, Master Cicerone.
Last July, Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan started brewing what would become time capsules of a summer in Sonoma.
The two founders of the newly-formed Almanac Beer Company added 250 pounds of hand-picked blackberries from Sebastopol Berry Farm into used oak wine barrels containing the Belgian-style golden ale they had contracted to be brewed by Drakes Brewery. The Duvel yeast in the beer discovered that it had additional material to work with and set about converting the sugar in the berries into alcohol. Over the next eleven months of barrel aging, the flavors of the malt, hops, berries, and oak melded and mellowed.
Last February, a prototype of their beer was a sell-out favorite at SF Beer week. In May, the brewing pair did some barrel tests and tastes, blended the aged beer with a fresh batch of their Citra-hopped ale to brighten the character, then primed and bottled the result. On June 30, the beer will have had sufficient time for bottle conditioning and will be ready for drinking. The crisp and complex beer is recommended to be paired with rich dishes like creamy cheeses, roast pork and duck.
While their web site should soon list the area stores and restaurants that will be stocking the ale, their bottle release event is scheduled: City Beer Store on June 30. Jesse and Damian will be on hand to talk about this beer, as well as serving a sour version from the same batch. Hapa Ramen will be doing the food paring.
San Francisco’s liquid locavores, Regan Long and Sarah Fenson of Local Brewing Co. will take their popular Glen Park Pale Ale to ten bars and restaurants over the next five weeks. While the two are trying to satisfy numerous requests to return their beer to the masses, their primary purpose is to help promote the next step in developing their fledgling company: raising additional capital through Kickstarter to finance a brewery and tap room.
“The Monterey Bay has always been a great place to visit for its beautiful scenery. Now you can come for the beer!" Jeff Moses, owner of Night That Never Ends Productions, is hosting the 2011 Monterey Beer Festival, which is being billed as “the greatest assortment of beer ever assembled on the Central Coast.” On Saturday afternoon, June 11, more than 80 brewers will be pouring hundreds of the best beers from around the world. Monterey area chefs will make a wide variety of food available and live music will play throughout the day.
Coffee stouts and porters have been made for ages: Roasted and ground beans are steeped in the wort; the rich nuttiness of the coffee offsets the bitterness of the beers’ black patent malt. Sometimes milk sugar is added to a stout to make a coffee cream version. Finally and incidentally, the coffee beans add a little caffeine to the brews.
But earlier in this decade, American entrepreneurs on the lookout for something new noticed clubbers switching from drinking traditional beer or mixed drinks to Red Bull with vodka, and so it was only a matter of time before someone made a run at combining high alcohol malt beverages with caffeine, fruit flavors, and sugar. The logical extreme for this genre were products such as Four Loko, Joose, Max, and Core High Gravity HG.
In addition lacing up your White Buck Oxfords, Memorial Day weekend is also the time to officially scrub down and fire up the grill. And while there is season enough to put a flame under eggplant slices, skewered tofu, marinated portabellas, and the like, for this weekend I want a slab of something substantial, sentient even. But what brew to serve? I went deep to some local experts and got the following beer pairing recommendations for 2011’s opening salvo in the war on underindulgence:
If You're Grilling: Beef, Sausages, Ribs
Pair it With: 21st Amendment's North Star Red (an American Amber Ale) or Back in Black (a black IPA) or Magnolia Pub & Brewery's Spud Boy IPA
A crisp spring wind was blowing down Folsom at 5:30 last Sunday afternoon. The mid-May weekend was winding down and the street was so empty of pedestrians, parked cars and even traffic that I began to wonder if I'd missed Saturday's scheduled Rapture. The quiet of the street changed at the doorway to City Beer though; all the tables and stools were occupied and there was a steady but manageable stream of patrons with their personal selections of bottled craft brews waiting to be checked out. Splitting his time between the half dozen beer taps and the cash register, Craig Wathen quietly let each customer know that since they close at 6:00 on Sundays, this was last call.
If you’re looking for something to have with a tri tip, you might want to try this,” suggested Craig Wathen, the owner of City Beer Store in SoMa, as he handed me a .75-liter bottle of Sierra Nevada’s Ovila Abbey Dubbel off the shelf—a specimen big enough to contend with a bottle of wine. “It’s a hearty dubbel, almost chewy, but it’s got enough tartness from the hops to cut through the juice of a steak.”
Eric Clapton called Robert Johnson the “the most important blues singer that ever lived,” and to help celebrate his 100th birthday, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery will be releasing their tribute beer Hellhound on My Ale, early this May. The beer’s name is a play on words from one of Johnson's songs, Hellhound on My Trail; the beer marks another in Dogfish’s riotous lineup of “offscentered ales for offcentered people.”
It's a breezy midwinter evening in the Mission District and half a dozen people are huddled around a stainless steel contraption in a small backyard watching intently as a clear liquid drips out of a spigot. "We're distilling an all malt beer, without the hops, to make this whiskey," notes our host, who asked to remain anonymous due to the legal ramifications of his work. Unlike commercial whiskey, though, this newly distilled batch of "White Dog"—the unaged distillate that eventually becomes bourbon—will be cut with cold water and consumed fresh. No months resting in an oak barrel to add color, hints of vanilla, and the mysterious smoothness that comes with time.
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