Monday, April 30, 2007

Lots of cleaning

It's Monday; it must be time to clean the draft lines. I also cleaned a bucket full of picnic pumps that had come back with root beer kegs.

I climbed into the kettle and scrubbed it out with acid.

The heat exchanger was due for its monthly cleaning. Just to be different, I unhooked a pipe and ran a couple of hoses in order to run the caustic backwards through the loop. Backflushing should clean more gunk out.

Fermenters #4, #6, #7, and #8 all got cleaned this morning.

Tomorrow: deliver root beer to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Kegs on a Saturday

The pub was almost out of All American Gold, so I came in today to fill a couple of kegs with the freshly-filtered batch.

While I was here, I figured I'd get a head start on filling next week's kegs. I didn't have any clean ones, so I washed a couple dozen half-barrels and filled root beer orders for the next two weeks.

Two new beers

They're finally ready: Stüvenbräu Maibock and Jack of Spades Schwarzbier went on tap today! As I mentioned when I filtered this beer, it was supposed to be named Queen of Clubs, but it was too light. Drinking the finished beer, I'm thinking I should have named it Nine of Diamonds instead. It's a tasty beer, but it's not a stylistically-correct Schwarzbier. The Maibock, on the other hand, is chewy and creamy and malty and warming and really quite good.

(Does anyone around here play Sheepshead? It'd be fun to get a regular game going here at the pub.)

I filtered six barrels of All American Gold into bright beer tank #2. Just in time, because the pub's on its last keg of the old batch. I'll have to come in tomorrow to fill up a couple kegs.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Cleaning, transferring, kegging, festing

A long, busy day today:

  • Cleaned, sanitized, and pressurized two bright beer tanks. One will receive Tin Lizzie Hefeweizen later today, and the other will get All American Gold tomorrow.

  • Cleaned Fermenter #9.

  • Transferred seven barrels of Tin Lizzie Hefeweizen from Fermenter #4 to bright beer tank #3.

  • Cleaned and filled some kegs for the pub and for tonight's festival.

  • Loaded up the van and drove to Lincoln for the inaugural Haymarket Cork & Ale Festival, which featured several Nebraska breweries and wineries, along with a representative from the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission. His job, as he explained it to us, was to make sure that we didn't drink any beer during the event, and he hovered around the room for the entire three hours, keeping an eye on the tables. In all the dozens of festivals I've worked at, I've never heard of such a thing. As you can imagine, the brewers were a mighty grumpy bunch by the end of the night. I've heard rumors that the State is planning to do this at even more festivals in the future.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Support Your Local Brewery

The Brewers Association has created a grass-roots organization dedicated to protecting and preserving our access to great beer.

Support Your Local Brewery is a national, grassroots partnership of beer enthusiasts, professional trade associations and brewers dedicated to supporting and protecting the legislative and regulatory interests of small, traditional and independent craft breweries.

Beer Activists are the Minutemen and Minutewomen of the brewing community. Just as the patriots of the revolutionary Minute Man Guard answered a fledgling nation’s call to action, Beer Activists support their local brewery at a moment’s notice. When you become a beer activist you’ll be asked to respond to Beer Activist E-Action Alerts sent to your e-mail inbox. Your help will be needed to contact your legislative representatives when state or federal regulatory initiatives threaten the livelihood of your local brewery.

Support Your Local Brewery!Sign up as a Beer Activist!

Sign up! I did.

Germany's cheap beer under threat from biofuels

It could happen here in the USA, too...

Brewers and farmers say an extremely poor barley harvest in 2006 has exacerbated an emerging trend of converting barley fields to growing the plants used in biofuels, such as rape seed. The amount of land used for growing barley in Germany is receding by five percent a year.

The march of biofuels is inexorable. Of the 12 million hectares farmed in Germany, two million are already being used for plants which can be turned into biofuel.

"Biofuels are monopolizing the land," said Manfred Weizbauer, the head of the German millers' federation, which is calling for a cut in the subsidies granted to biofuel crops.

Read more at China Post, of all places.

Head start: Scientists crack beer-froth enigma

It's research like this that makes me wish I had followed up my physics education.

There is the nagging question of whether life exists other than on Earth. The enduring mystery of who made us -- and why.

And then there is this: Why does the foam on a pint of lager quickly disappear but the head on a pint of Guinness linger?

Answers to questions 1 and 2 are still being sought, but the Great Beer Riddle, at least, may soon be solved.

Writing in the prestigious British science journal Nature, an elite scientific duo say they have devised an equation to describe beer froth.


Moved a lot of beer

It looked like a busy day on paper, and so it was. But everything went smoothly, so it was no more than a day's work.

Six and a half barrels of Stüvenbräu Maibock got filtered into bright tank #4.

Five and three-quarter barrels of Jack of Spades Schwarzbier got filtered into bright tank #1. It was supposed to be named "Queen of Clubs", but after I tasted it today, I decided it wasn't big enough.

Eight barrels of Bugeater Brown Ale got filtered into bright tank #1.

The 3¾ barrels of Harvey's Märzen got put into kegs. The empty bright tank #2 will receive the new batch of All American Gold on Friday.

The 3⅔ barrels of Impromptu Pale Ale got put into kegs. The empty bright tank #3 will receive the new batch of Tin Lizzie Hefeweizen, also on Friday.

Tomorrow: Fill kegs, and pour beer at the Haymarket Cork & Ale Festival in Lincoln.

Rye I Oughta...!

Tom came by today and helped brew seven barrels of Rye I Oughta...!, a pale lager containing 50% rye malt. (Actually, Tom did pretty much all the work, as usual.) Other than a slow runoff, the brew went pretty well. It should be ready to tap in three or four weeks.

The current batch of Bugeater Brown Ale is getting nastier by the day. I suspect it picked up way too much air when I filtered it last month. This morning, I sent the last 2½ barrels down the drain. I cleaned, sanitized, and pressurized the tank, and I'll filter the new batch tomorrow.

Tomorrow: Filter the Maibock, filter the Schwarzbier, filter the Brown, keg off the Märzen, and keg off the Pale.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Back to reality

Wow, do I ever have a lot of catching up to do at the brewery this week.

There's a massive pile of kegs in the cellar that need cleaning. I set up the keg cleaning machine so the caustic would be hot by the time I finished the weekly draft line cleaning routine.

Keg pile, before and after cleaning

Keg pile, before and after cleaning

While I was cleaning kegs, I also cleaned the empty bright tank #5. While that cleaning cycle was running, I kegged off the small amount of Hefeweizen remaining in bright tank #4, then cleaned that tank. Now I can filter the Maibock and the (completely-inapropriately-named) Schwarzbier into those two tanks on Wednesday.

While continuing to clean kegs, I transferred 14 barrels of the root beer that I made last week into the two empty root beer tanks in the cellar.

While continuing to continue to clean kegs, I ran four bags (200 pounds) of rye malt through the mill in preparation for tomorrow's brew. The mill is in the brewhouse on the second floor of the building. The keg washer is in the basement. I got my exercise for the week.

Then I finished cleaning the kegs...well, almost. The machine decided to quit working with five kegs left. I think it just got tired.

I was told that the health inspector was not at all happy about the mold in cellar. It seems to me that if he'd come do an inspection when I cleaned it, we'd all be happy. Instead, he prefers to do these surprise inspections for some reason. I'm going to have to add "mold scrubbing" to my weekly line-cleaning routine.

The root beer orders continue to stream in, and the stream will only get bigger as May 20 approaches. This is my busiest time of year. It wouldn't be so bad if there were some beer involved, but it's all that stinking sugar water.

By now my back was telling me that I was done for the day. A couple of Stouts at the bar, and I walked home.

Tomorrow: Brew Rye Lager, Dump Brown Ale. The rest of the week looks busier and busier.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

What beer geeks know: Certain brews require finesse in the serving

This appeared at Days That End in Y today:

If you're used to popping the top off a cold one – and then another – this knowledge might seem arcane. But don't dismiss it. Tap into this beer brain trust, and you'll fully appreciate some of the world's best brews.

Here's a smattering of what beer enthusiasts know – and you should, too.

Read the entire article at The Dallas Morning News.

Titletown Open XIII

I swear I'm getting stupider in my dotage. I didn't realize until this morning that I didn't eat last night, consuming my nutrition in liquid form instead. The thing that triggered this memory was the enormous pounding in my head that woke me up before sunrise already. I grabbed a couple of bagels in the hotel lobby, drank 94 gallons of water, and stopped by Walgreen's to stock up on aspirin on my way to Titletown Brewing and the Titletown Open Homebrew Competition XIII.

If you've never participated in a beer competition before, these pictures should give you an idea of what goes on; they're a lot of fun. I've participated in this one every year since 1999, and I can't wait for next year!

The judges at work

The judges at work

Mike Conard, Competition Organizer

Mike Conard, Competition Organizer

Near table: Judges Dave Taylor and Trevor LaRene. Far table: Judges David Oldenburg and David Siegel

Near table: Judges Dave Taylor and Trevor LaRene. Far table: Judges David Oldenburg and David Siegel

Near table: Judges Jason Johnson and Richard Stueven. Far table: Judges Jeff Bushner and David Malcolm. Background: Stewards Ryan Loock and Bob Ferguson

Near table: Judges Jason Johnson and Richard Stueven. Far table: Judges Jeff Bushner and David Malcolm. Background: Stewards Ryan Loock and Bob Ferguson

Entries awaiting their turn

Entries awaiting their turn

David Siegel sleeps off the first round

David Siegel sleeps off the first round

The Best of Show Round

The Best of Show Round

The winners list should be posted at any minute now. Thanks to Official Competition Photographer Dan Rogers for taking the pictures!

We all hung around at Titletown to enjoy some of David Oldenburg's fine beers. David was a local homebrewer who started working at Titletown a couple of years ago as an assistant brewer, and he got the head brewing job last July. I didn't try all of the beers, but he was pouring a Mild, a Scottish Ale, and an IPA that were all very clean and tasty. David, his wife Lauren, and I went out for the traditional post-competition sushi at Little Tokyo, just around the corner from the brewery. After a terrific meal and a bottle of Tiger beer, we dropped by Hinterland Brewing, conveniently located right across the street from Titletown. Brewer Joe Karls was offering a couple of really nice oak-aged beers, one of which was flavored with coffee.

And on that pleasant note, we all headed home.

Tomorrow: Back to Columbus, which isn't worth writing about.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A quick trip back to Green Bay

This weekend, the Green Bay Rackers homebrew club convened their thirteenth annual Titletown Open Homebrew Competition. I've served as a judge every year since 1999, and this year was no exception. Unfortunately, Paris (who is also a Certified Judge) is working in England, and couldn't come along this time.

I drove from Columbus to Omaha to catch my flight at 9:00am. The flight to Minneapolis only takes about an hour, as does the next hop to Green Bay, where I arrived just after 2:00pm. I rented a car and drove south to Appleton to meet some friends at the Stone Cellar Brewpub.

Stone Cellar Brewpub, Appleton, Wisconsin

Stone Cellar Brewpub, Appleton, Wisconsin

Loriann Andersen, Dan Pleshek, John Peterson, and I enjoy beers at the Stone Cellar

Loriann Andersen, Dan Pleshek, John Peterson, and I enjoy beers at the Stone Cellar

As this was a social visit, I didn't have my notebook with me, so I can't give you many specifics about the beers. This is the third time I've been to the Stone Cellar since my former colleague Steve Lonsway took it over. The first time, there were still some beers on tap from the previous owner, and Steve hadn't finished the intensive cleaning that the brewhouse desperately needed, so his own beers were no better than ordinary. They had greatly improved and were quite tasty when I stopped by last year. This time, they were uniformly outstanding. There were maybe ten different styles on tap, from a light Honey Ale to a Vanilla Stout, along with a couple of Bocks. Damn fine beers.

I thought about stopping at Titletown Brewing in Green Bay before checking into my hotel, but as it was already near midnight, I decided that sleep would be the better part of valor.

Tomorrow: The Judging

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pint drinkers lose £1.3m every day

If you're paying for a pint, you should get a pint. Seems fair.

A new survey by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has revealed that one in four pints in the UK are served less than 95 per cent full and this is costing beer drinkers a staggering £481 million every year.

CAMRA has today launched a nationwide petition calling for the Government to end short measures as they promised a decade ago.

For the first time in its 35 year history, CAMRA has taken out advertisements in order to let consumers know how to make a stand against this unfair practice.

The CAMRA survey of local authorities' trading standards departments has revealed:

  • A shocking 26.6 per cent of all pints served are over 5 per cent short measure

  • The worst example found was 13 per cent short of a full pint

  • 76 per cent of pubs goers want the Government to stick to its promise to ensure drinkers get a full pint.

(Read the entire article at This is Hertfordshire.)

It seems to me, though, that we have the opposite problem here in the States: glasses are too often filled right to the brim, with no head whatsoever. Not only does this detract from the aroma and mouthfeel of the beer, but the server generally spills a fair amount while delivering the pint. I'm a big fan of calibrated glassware that has a "full measure" line that allows for a fair pour plus a proper head. Here's a picture of an example from Rastal.

Rastal glass

Brewers Association 2007 Achievement Award Winners

The Brewers Association has announced the winners of the 2007 Achievement Awards:

Read more about the awards, their history, and these three deserving gentlemen at (PDF)

Delivery, and more keg-filling

Obviously after the Week So Far, I wasn't going to get any beer brewed this week. Unfortunately, I forgot to tell local homebrewer and occasional brewery helper Tom Froehner about the changes to the schedule. I'm told he waited in his car for an hour or so waiting for me to arrive, but I was picking up the delivery truck in Duncan.

I loaded up the three pallets of kegs and drove them to Norfolk, unloaded the empties at the brewery, returned the truck, and got myself back to the brewery around 1:00.

Tom was having a beer at the bar when I got back, so I joined him for one, bought him one, and went to the cellar to fill some beer kegs. We only needed five, so it didn't take too long.

We had another beer or two, including a sample of the Queen of Clubs Schwarzbier out of the fermenter. It's a bit disappointing; it's red-brown instead of black, it's very light-bodied, and hardly roasty at all. It's not a bad beer by any means, but it's way off-target. It's a perfect candidate for renaming, and I'll give that some thought this weekend.

I headed home to get everything together for this weekend's trip to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where I'll be helping to judge the Titletown Open homebrew competition.

Man exiting bar with beer bottle sues for tripping

File this under "O" for "Only in America"...

A man injured by his beer bottle after tripping out of an Alton tavern last year is seeking more than $200,000 for neck, face and chest injuries.

He claims that as he was leaving the premises at 2505 State St. on April 8, 2006, he tripped over a toejam at the exit, causing him to fall onto and fracture the beer bottle he was carrying. He was exiting the tavern with a bottle of beer to consume on the parking lot area, the complaint states.

Read the entire asinine article at The Madison Record.

Another half-day

We're trying to get Paris on her way again. We got to Omaha just after 11:00, and the weather looked good, and the flights appeared to be on time, so I dropped her off and went back to the brewery. The plan is to run some rye malt through the mill and set up the brewhouse so I'll be able to brew tomorrow.

There's a fax on my desk, dated yesterday, from our wholesaler in Norfolk. They want 30 five-gallon kegs and 10 half-barrels of root beer. They want them tomorrow or Friday. I'll be in Green Bay on Friday, so that clarifies the schedule a bit. Also, there was a message from the Grand Island wholesaler who placed last week's order this week for pickup yesterday; they added more kegs to the order and said they'd pick it up next Monday instead of yesterday.

So I filled kegs. Lots of kegs. Drained two of the seven-barrel root beer tanks completely dry, and had to steal some out of the tank that's dedicated to the pub. Good thing I made five batches yesterday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tuesday: Two days in one

After yesterday's fiasco, I hoped to get a lot done today to make up for it.

I found a message on my desk, dated Monday, from the Grand Island wholesaler who didn't place his usual order last week. So he placed it yesterday, and the message says that they'll pick it up today. So much for getting a quick start to the day; I had to fill those kegs right away in case the driver showed up this morning.

I crashed the tank of Bugeater Brown Ale, that is, I turned down the temperature to near-freezing in preparation for filtering the beer later this week. Pretty much every beer in the fermenters - Gold, Hefeweizen, Brown, Schwarzbier, and Maibock - is either ready to filter or will be ready by the end of the week.

Today's Big Project was making 35 barrels (1,085 gallons) of root beer. (Whee.) Fourteen barrels went into fermenter #1, another fourteen into fermenter #2, and seven into one of the three dedicated root beer tanks in the cellar. I lifted thirteen 100-pound bags of sugar and dumped them into the kettle. One of these days, I'll figure out an easier way to get this done.

I didn't bring my computer along today, but it was just as easy to do the recent tax return from home.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Update bugs

In my zeal to make the fixerror.php script secure against spammers, I seem to have introduced some syntax errors into the code. I think it's working now; at least, I was able to send myself an update. Sorry for the inconvenience. Again.

Why Mondays Suck

Today is a prime example of why Mondays deserve their bad reputation.

I had my last chiropractor appointment this morning. My head, neck, and back have been increasingly painful after each visit, and the Last Straws were today's "headache treatment" (shining a laser on my arm) and "allergy test" (his assistant touched various vials of potential allergens while pushing on my arm with her other hand). That's not medicine, that's laying-on-of-hands faith-healing new-age homeopathic nonsense. Someone has written a testimonial singing the praises of this claptrap; I would have been laughing out loud while reading it if I hadn't been shaking my head at some people's credulity.

Paris has been assigned to a project in England. She was scheduled to leave Omaha around noon, then fly through Newark to Birmingham. But today's storm has put most of the East Coast under water, and her flight was delayed for several hours. We had a few beers in the airport bar, and around 1:30 the airline told her to go to the gate in case they got clearance to leave. So I left her there and headed for home, stopping at the Crescent Moon and Aksarben Brewing for one beer each. I thought about stopping at the brewery, but it was after 4:00 when I got back to Columbus, so I went home. I walked in the door, fed the cats, and checked the phone messages to find that a very irate Paris was at the Crescent Moon, pouring down some Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and complaining loudly about the airline. Long story short: there was no way she was going to get to start this trip until Wednesday. So five minutes after I arrived at home, I was back in my car heading for Omaha. We had a couple of beers and some dinner at the Moon, and got home - again - at 9:00, just in time to watch the Sharks win the third game of their playoff series against Nashville.

So I should have done the taxes today, and made some root beer, and got a beer or two ready to filter. None of it got done.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Beer 'stripped' off the shelves

[Edit 2007-04-17: Added a picture of the label in question.]

I'll go out on a limb here and venture a guess that this beer probably won't ever be available in the USA, at least not with the label in question.

A Belgian lager with a risque marketing strategy has been stripped from sale.

Bottles of Rubbel Sexy Lager featured a picture of a woman with a removable swimsuit on the label.

Drinkers could scratch her clothes off to leave her naked, reports Sky News.

The beer is brewed by Brouwerij Huyghe in Melle, Belgium. You can read the entire article at, among other places.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th

Not much happening today.

I hadn't received the weekly order from our Grand Island wholesaler, so I gave them a call. The guy who places the orders was out today and yesterday, and nobody else seemed to know about an order, so I figure maybe they don't need anything this week.

I filled out some paperwork for a festival we'll be attending in Lincoln later this month.

Willie happened to be up on the roof today and noticed that the glycol machine that cools the fermenters was iced up, so he called the refrigeration guy. He showed up around 2:00 and took a look; there may or may not be a problem, so I'll probably go in tomorrow and see what's going on and maybe add a few gallons of glycol to the reservoir.

Monday: Paris is leaving for two weeks in Loughborough, England, so I'll drive her to the airport in the morning. When I get back in the afternoon, I'll make 28 barrels of root beer and do the Federal Excise Taxes. Sometime next week, I'd like to brew some Rye Lager.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

More kegs, and a tour

I cleaned the rest of the kegs leftover from yesterday. It's amazing how much space there is in the cellar without three weeks' worth of dirty kegs on the floor!

A group of teachers (I think they were teachers, anyway) came in for a brewery tour at 6:00.

Tomorrow: some paperwork, some phone calls.

Kurt Vonnegut dead at 84

I post this here not only because I enjoy Vonnegut's work, but also because he was the descendant of a prominent brewing family.

Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922, a fourth-generation German-American and the youngest of three children. His father, Kurt Sr., was an architect. His mother, Edith, came from a wealthy brewery family.

The brewery in question would have been the "City Brewery, P Lieber & Co" in Indianapolis, which later became the Indianapolis Brewing Company.

Kurt Vonnegut's grandfather was Albert Lieber. The recipe for a dark lager beer that Peter Lieber devised was brewed by Wyncoop [sic] Brewing, Denver, in 1996 to celebrate the new library there. It was called Kurt's Mile-High Malt. A "secret ingredient" of the brew was coffee.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Cleaned some kegs today. Two dozen down, two dozen to go. I'll get the rest of them tomorrow.

Two old beer stories

1) That 1998 Thomas Hardy Ale in my cellar is positively green compared to this stuff.

A century and a half ago, their dark-brown contents would have tasted something like a barley wine. Today, however, they have changed beyond recognition, entrancing beer lovers and biotechnologists alike.

A stash of ancient beer was recently found in a vault under the streets of Burton upon Trent. The bottles were cool and still had corks and wax seals in place. "It was always rumoured that there were some vintage beers on site, but uncovering such an interesting collection is fantastic," says Steve Wellington, head brewer of Worthington White Shield, of the find.

Read the entire article, including tasting notes, at

2) How Piast beer got its name, and what happened to the man who named it.

He was searching for anchovies.

A friend had told Jerry Rawicki about a market that carries dried, headless anchovies called sprats, a delicacy when he was a boy in prewar Poland.

But when he got to the market that day, Rawicki saw something that eclipsed even anchovies.

In a cooler beside the cash register, the retired optician spied a brown beer bottle that took him back 60 years.

He pulled one out. The oval label was red, rimmed in gold, just like he remembered. A man who looked like the king of spades was peering from a shield-shaped crest.

Rawicki, 79, bought four pints and hurried home.

Read the entire article at

Russian Fisherman Detained in Japan for Illegal Beer Run

"B-double E-double R U N ... beer run!"

A Russian mariner sailing his inflatable boat to Japan’s coast to buy beer was arrested by local police on the way back, the AFP reported on Monday.

Sergei Vashkevich, the off-duty chief mate of a merchant ship, landed on the eastern tip of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido Saturday and bought a case of beer for $80 at a highway rest stop.

Read the entire article at

Bugeater Brown Ale

Tuesday, April 10: Brewed seven barrels of Bugeater Brown Ale. The yeast came from the cone of fermenter #8, where the Queen of Clubs Schwarzbier is lagering.

A guy called from Norfolk this morning. He's got a restaurant where he's very enthusiastic about selling my beer. I need to send him a current beer list, and I gave him a contact at our Norfolk wholesaler so he can place an order. One new customer is a Big Deal for us; even if he only buys one keg a week, that translates to a 13% increase in beer sales! (How's that for small time?)

Tomorrow: back to the chiropractor, then clean the massive pile of kegs I've been ignoring for three weeks.


Monday, April 9: The chiropractor said this morning that the X-rays showed arthritis in my neck and back, but it's not clear what's to be done about it, so I went to the brewery and got back to work. Cleaned the draft lines, scrubbed out the kettle, and cleaned fermenter #9 for tomorrow's batch of Bugeater Brown Ale.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Return to Normalcy (long)

So, I guess it really has been two weeks since my last post. There's lots of catching up to do...

  • Tuesday, March 27

    Cleaned the draft lines. Ordered a couple of pallets of malt. Tried to order six different varieties of hops, but only two of them were in stock. (The conversation sounded a lot like the Cheese Shop Sketch.) Ordered root beer extract. Drove out to Duncan to pick up a pallet of sugar. Did all that and still made it to my allergist appointment at 2:00pm.

  • Wednesday, March 28

    Cleaned and filled kegs. Cleaned, sanitized, and pressurized bright beer tank #2. That's where the Märzen will get filtered when I get back from California. Our flight leaves Omaha at 7:00am tomorrow, so Paris and I are going to spend the night there rather than get up at 4:00am. We stopped, of course, at Crescent Moon for beer, and dinner, and more beer. We should have headed to the hotel, but someone at the bar talked us into going down the block to Sullivan's Bar. Paris karaoked, I didn't, and we left at closing time.

  • Thursday, March 29

    The alarm went off plenty early, after about two hours of not-very-refreshing sleep. But just before it did, the phone rang; it was the front desk, telling us that the airport shuttle was about to leave. We quickly got our shit together and got out the door and on the bus. The shuttle company offers parking services at a much lower rate than the airport garage — $4.50 vs. $11.00 per day — so our plan was to give them our keys and let them park the car. That plan was shot down when we arrived at the airport and realized that we had left half our luggage in the car. I got off the bus and into a cab and went back to the hotel, then parked our car in the airport garage after all.

    The flight to Minneapolis left on time, as did the flight to San Jose, but we didn't get our usual first-class upgrade on either leg. We landed in San Jose around 11:30am, rented a car, and stopped by the hotel to come up with a plan for the rest of the day.

    Thursday's Plan

    Thursday's Plan

    Our long-lost friend Choo met us at Faultline Brewing in Sunnyvale for lunch and beers. The Hefeweizen was outstanding, and the Best Bitter was also very good.

    Paris, Choo, and Richard celebrate their reunion

    Paris, Choo, and Richard celebrate their reunion

    We all headed over to BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse in Cupertino. It's a restaurant, all right, but their beers are actually brewed at the BJ's in Vacaville. The Nutty Brunette Brown Ale was excellent.

    Our final stop was the Firehouse Grill & Brewery in Sunnyvale. They offer several very good beers, including the Double IPA, the Pale Ale, and the Red Ale.

  • Friday, March 30

    Not only will we be pub-crawling today, we'll be scoping out locations to watch tonight's Sharks vs. Coyotes game.

    Friday's Plan

    Friday's Plan

    We found a prime game-watching spot upon arriving at Jack's Brewing in Fremont. There are at least eight million televisions in the place, the beers are good, and the barbecue smells fantastic.

    Jack's Brewing, Fremont, California

    Jack's Brewing, Fremont, California

    The Pleasanton Main Street Brewery is just up I-680 in Pleasanton, of all places. Paris and I had a quick snack here, along with a set of beer samples and a pint apiece.

    Pleasanton Main Street Brewery, Pleasanton, California

    Pleasanton Main Street Brewery, Pleasanton, California

    Our next stop was an old favorite just on the other side of town. In the early 1990s, you could find me at The HopYard just about every day. It's not a brewpub, but it's an excellent alehouse with a fine kitchen and good people. I hadn't been there in more than eleven years, but Rob still recognized me!

    The HopYard, Pleasanton, California

    The HopYard, Pleasanton, California

    Game time was approaching, and we decided to head back to Jack's to watch the game. A couple of phone calls convinced Choo and another old friend, Brian, to join us there. (Brian and I were colleagues during my pre-brewer life.) We got a table, we got beers, we got dinner, and the Sharks got a win! A good time was had by all.

  • Saturday, March 31

    Saturday's Plan

    Saturday's Plan

    We got to sleep in a bit this morning before heading over to Campbell's Sonoma Chicken Coop. (They changed their name the following week, and are now known as The Roost Brewery.) Paris' friends Karen and Court met us for lunch at this unusual self-service restaurant. They actually open at 8:00am for breakfast, but the bar doesn't open until 11:00am. The ESB and the Pale Ale were very good beers.

    Sonoma Chicken Coop (Roost Brewery), Campbell, California

    Sonoma Chicken Coop (Roost Brewery), Campbell, California

    Sonoma Chicken Coop (Roost Brewery), Campbell, California

    I checked my email while we were there only to find thousands of "Undeliverable" bounce messages. I thought I had plugged the security holes in my brewery update form, but it got hacked again. Not only was I forced to inconvenience the site's users by shutting down the script again, but it now appears that has been blacklisted by some ISP's.

    Our afternoon was spent at the original Gordon Biersch location in Palo Alto, a favorite hangout of mine back when I worked in the area. We were joined for dinner by Paris' friends Tricia and Rudy, whom we hadn't seen in many years. Back in the day, Gordon Biersch offered just three beers, Export, Dunkles, and Märzen. Now there are more like six beers on tap.

    Gordon Biersch, Palo Alto, California

    Gordon Biersch, Palo Alto, California

  • Sunday, April 1

    Finally, the day we've been waiting for! A couple months back, our friends Matthias Krümberg and Janine from Germany told me that they were planning a trip to the USA, but would only be able to visit California. Paris and I decided to meet up with them and take them to a Sharks game. Choo pulled some strings and got us tickets just a couple of sections over from where Paris and I used to sit. (I'm pretty sure she'll be reading this, so I'll leave it up to her to tell her heroic tale.)

    Sunday's Plan

    Sunday's Plan

    We instructed Matthias to park in the garage across the street from the Tied House and meet us at the brewery for lunch.

    Tied House, San Jose, California

    Tied House, San Jose, California

    A Sidebar in Teal

    Paris and I both had Sharks season tickets from Day One, way back when they played in the Cow Palace. Indeed, that's where we met. I gained some small notoriety in the infamous "Section 107", where I was known as "The Go Man". (The November and December 1992 Sharks Mailing List Archives contain some references to those early days, if you don't mind scrolling a lot.)

    The Sharks moved to their new San Jose building in 1993, and Section 107 moved almost as a unit to the new Section 209. With few exceptions, I was at every home game, regular-season and playoffs, until I moved to Hawaii. The last game I attended was a 6-2 playoff loss to the Detroit Red Wings on May 19, 1995.

    After lunch, we walked over to the arena and waited for Choo to deliver the tickets. Some people from the old days, Doug, Jim, and others, recognized the "Go Man 107" jersey, and we shared some laughs.

    Game Day at HP Pavilion, San Jose, California

    Game Day at HP Pavilion, San Jose, California

    Game Day at HP Pavilion, San Jose, California

    Once inside, we headed for the Gordon Biersch taps. Seven and a half bucks for a cup of Märzen! (That's $30 every time I made a beer run, and I remember making four such runs.) Thus armed, I went up to my old seat, 209/15/20, for a bit of nostalgia.

    Section 209, Row 15, Seats 19 and 20

    Section 209, Row 15, Seats 19 and 20

    Matthias and Janine get set for the game

    Matthias and Janine get set for the game

    The Go Man Returns

    Thanks, Choo!

    OK, this is supposed to be a beer blog. I'll stop raving about the game (although I've always considered beernhockey to be one word) except for one more thing: the aforementioned Jim Walsh, who still sits in Section 209, rearranged Row 15 so that we could sit in our old seats! Jim, you absolutely made my day. I owe you a beer.

    After the game, we swung by a local Beverages & More! store to stock up — mainly with Gordon Biersch Pilsner and Märzen — for the evening's barbecue at Choo's house.

  • Monday, April 2

    Matthias and Janine wanted to spend a couple of days in San Francisco before their flight home on Thursday, so Paris and I offered to be their tour guides. We dropped off their car and stuff at their hotel and headed north on 101 for pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, the City, and the Bridge and the City. Just a bit further north is Muir Woods, where we worked up a nice thirst by means of a three-mile hike through the redwoods.

    Monday's Plan

    Monday's Plan

    And lest you think I'm going off on another beer-irrelevant tangent, our next stop was Moylan's Brewery in Novato for lunch and beers. The India Pale Ale was excellent.

    Moylan's Brewery, Novato, California

    Moylan's Brewery, Novato, California

    On the way back to the City, we swerved over to Fairfax and the Iron Springs Pub & Brewery. A few years ago, I got an email from former colleague, hockey player, and chess maven Ben Skrainka telling me that his cousin, Michael Altman, had opened a brewpub in the Bay Area. Now I finally had the opportunity to pay him a visit. Mike is just about the friendliest, most enthusiastic person I've ever met in the beer business, and if you've met many brewers, you know that's saying something. He found the time to give us a quick tour of his brewery despite it being the height of dinner rush, not to mention needing to hurry home to his ten-day-old son. I highly recommend this fun place, full of good beer and good people!

    Iron Springs Pub and Brewery, Fairfax, California

    Iron Springs Pub & Brewery, Fairfax, California

    Michael Altman, Paris, and Richard in the Iron Springs brewhouse

    Michael Altman, Paris, and Richard in the Iron Springs brewhouse

  • Tuesday, April 3

    I wanted to hit a couple of brewpubs in San Francisco on our last day in town, but the Giants' home opener is today, and the 21st Amendment Brewery is within spitting distance of the ballpark, and traffic is diabolical, so we decided to head to the coast instead.

    Tuesday's Plan

    Tuesday's Plan

    Our first stop was another old favorite, Seabright Brewery in Santa Cruz. All seven beers were good, but the Brew Ribbon and the Oatmeal Stout were really memorable.

    Seabright Brewery, Santa Cruz, California

    Seabright Brewery, Santa Cruz, California

    The plan was to visit Coastline Brewery, also in Santa Cruz, but upon arriving around 1:30, we learned that they don't open until 4:00 in the afternoon.

    Coastline Brewery, Santa Cruz, California

    Coastline Brewery, Santa Cruz, California

    Finally, the last brewery of the trip was Half Moon Bay Brewing, which despite the name is actually located a mile or three north of Half Moon Bay in Princeton-by-the-Sea. The Sandy Beach Blonde Hefeweizen and the Paddle Out Stout were quite good, as was the Illuminator Doppelbock, the first lager ever brewed here.

    Half Moon Bay Brewing, Princeton-by-the-Sea, California

    Half Moon Bay Brewing, Princeton-by-the-Sea, California

  • Wednesday, April 5

    The flights home were uneventful, except we did get our first-class upgrades this time. We left San Jose around noon, and got home just after 10:00pm. I don't think I even had a beer all day.

  • Thursday, April 6

    Back at the brewery, catching up on everything. Monthly state and federal tax returns and operations reports. Fill kegs. Answer phone messages. And most importantly, filter the Märzen so I can keg it and tap it tomorrow!

  • Friday, April 7

    Kegged three half-barrels of Märzen and hooked them up for the pub. Drove three half-barrels of root beer to Council Bluffs and picked up seven empty kegs from same. This was quite a feat in my PT Cruiser, which I had to use because someone took the van. While I was in the Omaha area, I stopped by Beertopia to pick up a dozen or so new beers.

Whew. It's taken me two days to type all this up, and I'm still two days behind. The day-at-a-time posts will start again now, beginning with Monday, April 9.