Saturday, October 27, 2018

Flying B Ranch (Work Trip)

I've been camping since I was a child, always driven to get outside, discover and explore. Grew up preferring the mountains over the beach, humbled by the terrain. It was only later in life that I went to Europe and got off the east coast to see the wonders of the US. I am very fortunate to have a job that dangles the carrot or traveling to places like Idaho and the beautiful ranch known as the Flying B. The views, weather, beautiful skies and people working with the land was awe inspiring.

The Geography is very different from anything we know on the east coast. It appears to be mountains in the distance but we are actually in valley, it is flat over that ridge. The altitude is similar to Richmond and they get very little snow. We flew into Lewiston Idaho at the northern tip of this valley system and followed it around to the B. The ranch is in Nez Perce Indian territory, one of the last tribes in the US to settle on their reservation agreement. We floated the same river, clearwater river, where Lewis and Clark experienced this land in a dugout canoe. The valley where the lodge is scattered with shear cliffs and golden meadows of grass. Lawyers creek flows thru the middle and creates a couple of stocked ponds.

Taxidermy was on every wall in the lodge. The grand room had a brilliant stone fireplace with oversized arm chairs. The bar area had a casual family room with TV. Most of us got our own bedrooms that were super comfy and the dining room made for great family style dinners. Large patio, accessible from each bedroom had a huge fire pit, sauna and hot tub for star gazing. Small groups collected in all corners of the lodge at night around a bottle of wine, cigar or liquor bottle. The lodge had anything you could want on hand for your stay. The 24 hour travel day to get out there with jet lag made for a tough first day. 

I've never had a hunting license in my life, so I had to take the hunters safety course last minute and get licensed for all the activities. I have to say I was dreading the online course but it was very well written and I am glad it is mandatory. I have always respected guns and sportsman fishing/hunting. I have just never felt the need to pursue it. I am glad that I did. One of the things about the B that I have heard over and over is how well the dogs are trained and how well they work birds. I still find myself amazed by how it all works. These inland birds run to escape just as much as they fly. So the dogs work quickly back and forth running to be faster than the birds. If the birds are just out of the dogs sweep they very well can run away without ever being detected. The first part of the morning hunt it wasn't odd for the birds to be so heavy with dew that they just stayed hunkered down. Hunkered down to the point where we stepped on them, or dogs just picked them up.

Now I have done a fair bit of skeet shooting in my life and the group I hunted in had great success "wacking birds". It was quite the workout pushing thru tall grass, worrying about stepping on rattle snakes and being soaking wet. I would do it again tomorrow with zero hesitation. I actually had those pants from my cold weather camping wardrobe, looks pretty natural don't you think?

We went float fishing the last full day there. Down the fresh water river, the same river that Lewis and Clark floated down so long ago. Once again the scenic views from down in the valley were amazing. In this style fishing our guide paddled and directed trolled thru parts of the river. My boat only caught two fish, but Tony's guide went with different bait and was very successful. The people of Kamiah and surrounding areas are complete lovers and protectors of their habitat. Many of them have worked as guides for a long time and feel it is as important to protect the habitat and its' inhabitants than it is to make sure you kill or catch anything. I love that spiritual balance and humble existence with the earth. Not to be all hippy dippy but I learned that philosophy young and this place really spoke to everything I've ever done.

I wish I could have stayed a few more days. I want one more cup of coffee with these views or one more beer with my guide at the truck after a long afternoon hunt. I want to see those dogs work on their best days and their worst. The balance out here was just perfect, it was the great adventure of Rawls and Clark. Sure, he took the most epic and expensive shower bath of his life, but opportunities like this don't come around too often.

I will be back Idaho, save that spot by the fire for me or just bury me at the B.

- Mitakuye Oyasin

Monday, June 18, 2018

Boulevard Brewing (Kansas City, Mo)

Tom, Tony, Chuck, Sam and I tripped on over to Kansas City to Boulevard Brewery. It was pretty obvious there would be some stories to be told especially with Dominic and Brad showing us around the city. I was very excited to see the city, try the local food and see the grand facility.

The first night we went to a buttoned up BBQ spot which was fantastic. We ordered family style and got so full of delicious meats it didn’t look like we could do much drinking. We stumbled to a couple bars, the last one featured a Thrash Grass band that was an amazing medley of metal and blue grass. When we headed back to the hotel we stopped at a cookie spot where Chuck got this giant ice cream sandwich. Highlight story of the first day was this man with ice cream sandwich is lactose intolerant and was up all night having regrets.

Second day was a busy one: breakfast, brewery, BBQ, baseball game and more nighttime shenanigans. Solid base layer of corn beef hash and a Bloody Mary to set me up for a long day of drinking. At the brewery we got a complete tour of the entire facility complete with roof top access with cityscape views. Boulevard has done a wonderful job of establishing themselves in their home market and not losing their charm while growing their distribution and production. The new beer hall had a feeling of heritage and was very tastefully done. 

We hustled to the famous LC’s BBQ joint before heading to the stadium for the game. This is the spot that is off the beaten path where the locals go. Our Uber driver was actually surprised that we knew about it. The food here only helped to solidify my love for this town. It was such a down home greasy spoon where all that matters is flavor, and it had plenty of that. We ordered pans and trays of everything and some KC pils to wash it down with. I find it hard to even look at these pictures with out getting hungry.

After a brief parking lot nap and a few otter bongs, we set off to see the Kansas City Royals play the New York Yankees. The weather looked dodgy at hell, yet we only saw a little bit of rain. The food coma was strong and it was really nice to just sit still. This was only the 2nd major league game I have ever been to. It is amazing the scale and grand nature of a major league ball park. Don't go hard on the second night or the plane ride back will suck. For me it didn't, but there are other stories to be told. . . by someone else.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Rayon Vert 2012 (Green Flash Brewing)

The comical picture below on Facebook today reminded me I had this post in the hopper. I went to San Diego on Green Flashes dime a couple years ago and visited all of their facilities. I feel the same way as the guys with the sign pictured below. There was a time when my company picked up the Green Flash contract that provided Virginians with a taste of the west coast magic. Green Flash seemed to be snow balling out of control, aggressively borrowing and building assets for the future. One of those assets I fell in love at first sight is Alpine Brewing, in a little shack in Alpine Ca.

Group of co-workers went down to Va Beach and brought back a case of 2012 Rayon Vert, old graphics and everything. The label reports, continuously evolving and I'm not one to at least give it a try. As expected, it was a gusher. It was the wildest of ales, throwing carbonation and money all about. Reckless with my heart burn and full of funk. 

This is the final farewell, the goodnight kiss, thanks for the memories and that epic trip to San Diego. As usual, we shall pull up our boot straps and trudge on against the forces of evil. To the former employees, you were a loyal ambitious group not deserving of your fate. To Alpine Brewing, please don't forget me, we will meet again in whatever form you take. Tis only beer, but this was a punch in the gut. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Yellow Belly (Omnipollo Collaboration)

I am at the point in my relationship with craft beer, that I don't loose my mind over whales anymore. Yellow Belly maybe the last notch on my bed post, the final conquest. We have reached mass saturation in this town. You can skip the new hot double IPA, NEIPA, fruited sour or adjunct stout with out fear of there being nothing interesting next week. I've chased Yellow Belly for the past few years and I missed the few cases that came to market last year. This year I had to tell customers it was coming, how expensive it is and not to refuse it.

Yellow Belly is an FU to racism and ignorance. The outside label is a symbolic representation of the cowards, the inside label a definition and statement of intolerance. The beer is sweet and chewy. It reminds me a little of CBS with a slight syrup flavor that hangs on the lips. The ABV is completely masked with sweetness. I actually only bought two for myself and left another for a co worker. 

If you aren't familiar with Omnipollo, they are a brewery in the 12% distributing family that have some of the most dynamic beers and labels. This beer is a collaboration with Buxton Brewing from the UK. Omnipollo is a gypsy brewer that brews several beers with Buxton and even does a Yellow Belly Sundae . . . Ok, Maybe one more whale.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Founders 20th Anniversary

Long story, but Founders Brewing is now one of my favorite breweries at my disposal right now. They had us up to the brewery in 2017 for their anniversary trip and despite the rain and cold it was a great time. I hate being so removed from this trip as I type this, but I am headed to Sweetwater this weekend and don't want two back logged work trip entries.

Some people hate cover bands and even more people have grown to hate Guns N Roses, but not me. I love GNR and my friends usually choose to karaoke this band at every opportunity. It turns out that a bunch of brewery employees are in bands but came together one night to do GNR at the owner loved it so much they were asked to be the opening performer for the anniversary party. So . . . . Tom Brooks and I stood in the rain and rocked our faces off. 

It was right before the return of CBS which I was bummed they didn't have the anniversary, but I did get a sneak peak and taste of this years brewery focus, Solid Gold. WE got drenched in rain and spent nearly the entire day at the brewery drinking pretty high gravity beers, I had to tap out, not drunk just full. I did get a chance to meet California Founders Rep Stuart Sloan and his father Richard at the party which was cool. Such an odd thing meeting people you know through Facebook, Instagram and podcasts. 

We did spend Saturday brunch at Grand Rapids Brewing Company. This is apparently where all of the Founders reps go to recover when they come back to the mothership for events and meetings. I mean . . . . look at that Bloody Mary bar! They also make their own infused vodka. 

All and all it was a fantastic trip. Founders really knows how to host a guy and will get you drunk. The Tank Bender anniversary ale was like a sipping whiskey. I wish we had better weather, I would have loved to soak up more of the local flavor, maybe next time. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Bravo (Firestone Walker Brewing)

Well another year older and deeper in debt. Last Wednesday night, I celebrated my birthday (March 2nd) the way I wanted to, in my garage with a good cigar and a beer. It was a wild day, one that was forecast to have crazy wind and rain storms. I originally was going to Total Wine to audit the store and pick up these supplies. They had lost power due to high winds and were closed, so I went down to Corks and Kegs instead. I was so surprised to see all of the highly limited Capt. Lawrence beer still on the shelf as well as left over boxes of Firestone Walker Bravo and Perennial Sump bottles. These sure are odd times in beer indeed, but in this case it worked out in my favor.
I am sure that Firestone Walker can weather the storm this year. They saw huge success with the Luponic Distortion series last year and will continue to roll those in 2017. The biggest change so far this year has been the down sizing of the reserve series package size from 22oz to 12oz bottles. You still get that swanky little box tho . . We also get a Va. brand rep fresh off Terrapin Brewing servitude as well as Leo Vs. Ursus, An unfiltered imperial IPA in 4pks 16oz cans. I see lots of Firestone IPA's in my future this year. Even Union Jack pricing has gone down to match Easy Jack.

Bravo is a brilliant way to ease the public into this new format. It is the first beer ever to wear the reserve series stamp, series 001. I know, barrel aged brown ale, who does that? Well Firestone does, and they do it really well. This beer is bright with the barrel character that you have come to love from all the other releases. This beer has the perfect amount of sweetness to pair with a large gage cigar. This is a beer that I sipped on for nearly 2 hours, from right out of the fridge to room temp (garage room) it was so smooth. I'm sure there are probably a few more of these around so pick it up if you see it, 

Friday, March 3, 2017

12% Imports

This is one of those posts where I took the pictures so long ago that I don't have much input about the beer itself. I do feel like these are under appreciated breweries and the beers go largely unnoticed for a number of reasons. These are all property of 12% imports, which is an importer, like a distributor inside of a distributor. They pulse their products into the market based on a pre sell system that make many customers uncomfortable, and see limited distribution. Its a shame these incredible breweries don't get wider spread brand recognition because they release some very good beers.

Off Color Brewing - Sparkles and Trouble - Chicago Illinois - Off Color produces very delicate beers mostly belgian or german influence, some wild fermented beer and added fermentables often to create unique combinations. I have reviewed Dino Smores before by them which I didn't particularly care for, but these saisons, farmhouse, and gose beers are top notch. So if you tire of IPA's and malt bombs pick up a saison from these guys.

Against the Grain - Coq De La Marche - Louisville Kentucky -

Evil Twin Brewing - No Hero - Brooklyn New York -