That's right folks. Despite the many attempts by purveyors of many delicious alcoholic beverages, I have returned safely from a personal odyssey of sorts. Like Ulysses, I was beset with many pitfalls along the way. When you are surrounded by awesome beer after awesome beer, in the absolute ground zero of American craft beer brewing, there is only one way out. Start drinking, and don't stop until you find yourself back in an airplane, headed out of the belly of the beast. Once you are clear of the danger, accurately assess that everything--personal gear and actual person--is in tact. Then just recline your seat and hand that flight attendant $5 for a can of Heineken. It's almost nap time.
Actually I came back, left again, returned a second time, left yet again, and now am back in Atlanta for a whopping 4 days. Then I leave again on Friday. Sound fun? Depends how you feel about airplanes. And drinking. And drinking on airplanes. If you don't mind those things, like me, then it has been great. D.C., Nor Cal, Denver, and back to Denver in 32 days by the time I get home next Monday. Why do I do it to myself? Some people like to climb mountains. I'm pretty sure I couldn't do that very well. But, I know damn well there aren't many mountain climbers that could handle my month of September.
What have I been doing? Well first I visited my brother and his family in D.C. I know, it does not sound very strenuous or exciting. But, knowing what lay in store for me in the weeks to come, I had been avoiding sick people in Atlanta the whole week prior. Then I show up in D.C., and there is a sick 4 year-old that wanted to jump all over Uncle Fred. What can I say, I'm pretty irresistible. I managed to get out there in pretty good shape.
I then was home for one day before heading to California. This was an 8-day trip centered around The Skunk Train. For new readers, the Skunk Train is an old 1800's steam engine that you can ride through the redwood-covered mountains of northern California. It's basically a tourist thing. You pay money, and it takes you through some beautiful mountain countryside, over rivers, through tunnels, etc. Scenic and relaxing. Two of the train cars are open-air deals. Not impressed yet? Well on the Saturday after Labor Day, the train is reserved for employees, friends and family of 4 of the most dynamite breweries in northern California. Picture a raucous keg party, on a train, in the redwoods. Half-way through the trip we get off the train for a barbecue, and the breweries set up their kegs and coolers and all that. There's a live band, a bunch of crazy people that started drinking in the morning, and general awesomeness everywhere. The ride back into town is typically more subdued than the ride out. People are pretty......um, tired? You could call it that. In fact, many are so tired, that they are just taking a nap for the hell of it. You might say that they were passed out, but only if you wanted to be 100% accurate. Trust me, pacing yourself is the key to this thing. If you don't pace yourself, and you wind up "napping" on the ride back, there will be plenty of people having a lot of fun at your expense. Sounds childish, I know, but consider just how far your judgment can be compromised by alcohol. Playing with passed out strangers is amusing, I don't care what anyone says.
The rest of that 8 days involved visiting and touring breweries: Sierra Nevada, Bear Republic, Russian River, 3rd St. Ale Works, Lagunitas, Anderson Valley, North Coast, Moylan's and Magnolia. We watched football in Santa Rosa at a place called John & Zeke's. Early NFL games start at 10 am out there! To translate: After drinking heavily due to vacation excitement for 3 days, the Skunk Train has you drinking beer (I started w/ Lagunitas L'il Sumpin' Extra at 8-ish %) at 11 am, then the following day, football games start at 10 am. Let me see mountain climbers order Racer 5 IPA before breakfast. We went to a Chargers/Raiders game (opening Monday night game) at The Coliseum in Oakland--20-yard line, lower level. The game was won in the last 18 seconds. Pretty sweet. We attended a gourmet food show in the Presidio (thank you, Lagunitas for making us "employees" for the day), and bummed around San Francisco for a day. Did we go to Fisherman's Wharf? No. Cable cars? Try again. Coit Tower? Have you seen that hill? Do I look like a mountain climber? Right, we didn't go there either. But, if you would like to know about The Gold Cane, Zeitgeist, or many other weird SF bars, just ask. Then we came home. We met some interesting people along the way, took some great pictures, learned what the Cupid Shuffle is (worse than the Stankey Leg), and drank a god-awful amount of beer. Luckily the hotel in SF had a giant scale we could weigh our luggage with. We took on a lot of cargo (i.e. beer), and had to adjust our gear to avoid airline surcharges. Relax, all of the beer made it home safely.
Four days after that was over, it was GABF time. It was my 3rd year in a row. Great event, great atmosphere in town, tons of industry and non-industry events, some seedy places mixed in; GABF has it all. For those of you who have never been, let me warn you about one aspect of this thing that you may not be prepared for without my help. First of all, the number of beers and breweries there is out of this world. Look at the winners at www.gabf.org. Some local brewers brought home some hardware. Norm from "Cheers" speaks before the medals are given out. A carnival atmosphere, for beer lovers. I mean, what more can you ask for? Well, for one thing, I would like everyone to stop farting so much. All over the place. Thank god the ceilings are high and there is adequate ventilation. Are there that many people with unstoppable flatulence, and how did they all wind up in the same place? I mean, there is more crop dusting going on in that place than.....I can't even think of an analogy. Cut it out fellas. Be a little more considerate regarding your intake of beans, or sauerkraut, or whatever it is that you seem to be eating an awful lot of before this event. If you suddenly and unexpectedly walk into a noxious gas cloud, don't look around and try to guess who it was, because someone else is going to do it again before you can isolate who dealt the first one. Just be pissed off at everyone, because if they didn't fart in your general area, they did it in someone else's a few minutes ago. I figure, hey, all these smelly bastards are guilty. Other than the methane level, it really is a good time. Just don't say I didn't warn you. We also visited New Belgium, Oskar Blues, O'Dell's and Left Hand while we were there.
OK, now the title reference of this post. Tomorrow (Friday) at Metropolis, we have a cask of He'Brew Jewbelation 13. This beer debuted at GABF (it did not, to my knowledge, fart on anyone), and is outstanding. It was made with 13 different malts, 13 different hops, and is roughly 13% alcohol. Wow. This one comes in an 11 oz. glass, so if you are concerned about driving, just don't have two. Darren Quinlan will be on hand with the technical specs on the beer, and will be happy to talk about beer, GABF, bar mitzvahs, whatever. Great guy, go check him out.
There should be two beer dinner menus on the Taco Mac web site, with Pay Pal links if you are interested in coming. The first one (10/20 at Duluth) is with Duvel, and the other brands they own. You may have heard of Ommegang, Chouffe (yes, that one) and Maredsous. This dinner is going to be for Belgian beer lovers, and people interested in learning more about them, alike. The second one is a collaboration between Terrapin and Left Hand. It is the first of a four-dinners-in-four-cities tour they are doing together. It is 10/26 at Lindbergh, and there will be some specialty beers being served. What are you waiting for? Sign up already!
The picture is of our table at the pub at North Coast Brewing Co. in Ft. Bragg, CA. The beers are a whiskey barrel-aged Old Rasputin and their 20th Anniversary Ale, which is a barrel-aged strong ale brewed with agave. Both were outstanding. This is right before the platters of oysters, crab cakes and crab legs came out. We followed that up with prime rib. Memorable dinner to say the least. I will get a slide show together eventually, I promise. Anyone out there who can show me how to do that, I would appreciate the help. I am new to this whole digital picture thing. If I have to figure it out on my own, it is going to take an eternity.
I promise not to go so long between posts in the future. I have been busy trying to get caught up with my actual work in between these trips, and this blog became a casualty of my time limitations. I have to go now, because my flight leaves in the morning. Back to Denver for a brewery visit and a Cowboys vs. Broncos game in the Mile-High city. Don't hate me, but I love the Dallas Cowboys. I know.....I've heard it all.
P.S.- Michael Irvin was framed, and I can prove it.