My Craft Beer Obsession

Those that have followed me over the years know as much as I love triathlon, I have a tremendous passion for beer. It all started in 2005 when I moved to Boulder, CO which many of you know is a huge beer town and home of the American Homebrewers Association. Like most, I drank BMC beers (Bud, Miller, Coors) with an occasional Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (when I felt crazy). When we moved there I noticed there were a lot of breweries in town. So I started visiting them and tasting and going to festivals and sharing with friends. I remember going to a the main liquor store there every week with my buddy Jayson and each getting a mixed 6 pack of different beers, come home all giddy with excitement. We'd carefully taste them and rate them on Beer Advocate. I'd read every book and magazine I could get my hands on. I wasn't training, so BEER was my passion (hence the 45 pound weight gain..haha). By the time we moved back to San Diego I felt like I had a degree in craft beer. I started home brewing obsessively and become really good at it. I got to the point of building a business plan to open my own brewery in 2007 called Four Corners Brewing Co. With my dads help I put together a business plan, logo, artwork, had a line up of beers and started going after funding for it. Then in October of 2007 plans changed drastically. Our place burned down in the Cedar Creek Fires. All of my equipment and work became ash. We were devastated. Starting from scratch again was not my idea of a good time so I turned back to endurance sports to "start over." To this day, I still feel like I made the right decision and haven't looked back.   Over the past few years in triathlon I've come to find out that the two actually go together pretty well and just as you assume a triathlete owns a bike;  they love beer the same.

san-diego-beer-glassThe United States craft beer industry is booming. The recession actually fueled the boom as history shows when the economy takes a downturn tobacco and alcohol sales take an upturn. This time it was different though. Craft Beer pioneers such as Anchor Brewing Co (one of very few breweries to survive prohibition by brewing sodas and selling black market beer on the side), Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada helped bring craft beer to the masses years ago. Then over the past several years breweries such as Stone Brewing (west coast) and Dogfish Head (east coast)  put out "extreme" beers, which in my opinion started the mass exodus of breweries that has put US on the map as having the best beer in the world (one of the few things we are the best at these days). Sure, I may be a little biased since I grew up in San Diego, live nearby and work down there which is considered the "Beer Capital of the US" and some would argue the world. It's an exciting time to be a beer enthusiast. There are breweries, gastro-pubs, and bars opening up every single week around here and makes for some fun experimentation, social interaction and every single dollar is well spent in helping a long-standing tradition of craft beer boom again.

beer1One of my favorite things to do after a race or long/hard workout is to sit down with a beer. For some reason I love taking pictures of that first one poured, almost like it's a work of art. I'll pour it carefully, make sure the lighting is just right - adjust it accordingly and snap the photo while my mouth is drooling. Sometimes my wife will catch me in the act and just snicker although she's used to it now. Then as I would a glass of fine wine, I'll study the color, head, aroma, retention and take that first sip, taking in all the flavors in complete satisfaction of another successful workout completed. That first taste seems to ease the tension in my muscles, release the mental strain of the workout and with each swallow, my mind replays the workout and overwhelming motivation takes over me. Usually the beers stop at two, especially with the "extreme beers" as they fry your palate and hit you harder and I have a family to run! The days I drink with friends or do yard work around the house I like to stick with the "session beers" which are basically beers with lower alcohol content so you can consume more without getting wasted but still deliver that great quality craft beer taste and have a refreshing quality to them.

1So this is why I drink craft beer and make such a fuss about it. If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon or you prefer wine, I suggest you give it a try. If you don't like beer, you haven't tried the right one yet. I am convinced anyone and everyone can find a beer they like. Unlike wine, beer actually holds the ingredients that you smell and taste. You know those vanilla and caramel notes you smell in your wine? Ya, those are not actually in the wine - what you smell and taste are just grapes. Beer? Yup, those coffee notes, those tart cherries, that chocolate taste or those hops? Those are the actual real ingredients! Having a hard time justifying buying a $14.99 four pack? Compare it to your wine purchases and it makes it easier to pull the trigger.

Learn to appreciate beer, some of my best conversations came over a glass of craft beer. It tends to cut through the small talk that unfortunately consumes so many adult conversations. Yes, I know work is busy, the kids are growing up fast and training is hard. Share a few good beers and you'll make real friends that open up to you. Beer becomes a truth serum in a way - it gets rid of the insecurities we all have and breaks down that wall we put up in conversations. It can deepen a friendship or make a new one. If you consume responsibly it can effect your life in a very positive way. Of course with beer comes those times where we aren't so responsible and we make an ass of ourselves (me included) ha! Comes with the territory and I'm OK with that.

So cheers to a good beer! I leave you with a few tips, a few pet peeves and some of my favorite brews! I would love your comments!

  • Proper glassware is very important in beer consumption. The reason why you don't drink wine out of the bottle is the same reason why you shouldn't drink beer out of the bottle! Your cheating yourself out of all the delicious flavors and aromas! Serving different style beers in the right glassware is key. Use this page as a great guide. **Side note, drinking a session beer out of the bottle while you are working around the house, on a boat, plane...etc is acceptable haha!

  • Never freeze your glassware! Unfortunately the trick bar tenders and restaurants use to mask the flavorless BMC beers have transferred over to homes! You don't want your craft beer ice cold! It masks all those beautiful flavors and aromas, the whole point of spending that $14.99 for a four pack!

  • Try to buy your beer from local breweries or liquor stores. Support local! It's what will keep great beer in the fridge. Buy a growler, fill it up at your local brewery or find a liquor store in town that carries a great variety. Develop a relationship with the owner and they'll bend over backwards in trying to get your requests in the store.

  • New to craft beer? There are a ton of beer rating websites. I again, prefer Experiment with different varieties, there are a ton of them and ask your craft beer friends for advice.

  • Don't drink and drive. This is an obvious, but all those years you drank two beers and felt fine to drive can be different if your putting away two beers with 10% ABV content.

  • IBU's. International bittering units. You see this on beers more often these days. The more the units, the more bitter and likely it has more hops in it.

  • Don't ever buy Mr. Beer. If you want to home brew, do it right. Go to your local home brew supply shop. If you don't have one nearby, you can buy from dozens of online shops.

  • Try pairing beers with food just like you would with wine. We host beer tasting/pairing parties which is always a really good time.

  • Cook with beer. You can create great food with beer because beer is food! Right now we are marinating some pork with for a Stone Smoked Imperial Porter chili!

  • Don't be an ale snob. Craft breweries are putting lagers back on the map. They can be extremely refreshing and not leave you with that fogginess that often times comes with a lot of ale the night before!

Some of my favorite beers:

DIPA's (Double IPA's): Russian River Pliny the Elder (very hard to find in bottles now), Bear Republic Cafe Racer 15

IPA's: Ballast Point Sculpin, Green Flash West Coast IPA 

Pale Ales: Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale, Stone Brewing Pale Ale

Pilsner: Lightning Brewery Elemental Pilsner

Lager: Maui Brewing Bikini Blonde, Sam Adams Boston Lager (one of the few mass market craft beers I enjoy!).

Brown: Dogfish head Palo Santo Marron, Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar

Stout: Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout, Alesmith Speedway Stout

Porter: Stone Brewing Smoked Porter, Breckenridge Vanilla Porter

Winter Warmers: Deschutes Brewing Jubelale, Sierra Nevada Celebration

Barley wine: Avery Brewing Hog Heaven, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot

Belgium: Lost Abbey Ten Commandments

Sour: Russian River Supplication


Jim said...

West Coast's Green Flash IPA with Grilled Cheese and Tomato Bisque Soup at the Yardhouse Restaurant eaten at the bar. My perfect meal.

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