The Day in Pictures: Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival 2014

The Day in Pictures: Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival 2014

The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival has become one of the most consistent and well organized festivals on the craft beer calendar and this year did not disappoint. The list of breweries and beers was mind blowing, the food choices were fantastic and varied and the music quite entertaining. While this year's event felt a bit more crowded, the crowds were well behaved, and though the lines could get quite long they were a lot of fun and it allowed one to slow down a bit and enjoy your beer. I've said it before and will say it again, this is my absolute favorite festival of the year and the organizers hard work should be commended. They take what must be an organizational nightmare and make it look easy. 

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Beer for Beginners

Basic beer ingredients

Basic beer ingredients

Along with this blog, I write beer columns for two Southern California weeklies (Craft Beer Corner at Gazette Newspapers and First Draft at The Beach Reporter). For those of you new to the world of craft beer I think you'd enjoy my most recent series in the Gazette. In those columns, Beer 101, I explore the basic ingredients in beer.

The first of the columns explores the role of malt in beer production, the second the effects of brewing water and my most recent deals with hops. Yeast will be published in the coming weeks and a soon as it is I'll put a link here. While these aren't comprehensive studies of these ingredients (I am limited to 800 words after all) they are, I think, a good introduction to the ingredients you'll find in a typical beer and they point to where one could find more in-depth sources.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing them. 

Beer 101 Malt

Beer 101 Water

Beer 101 Hops 

Beer 101 Yeast (in print June 19, 2014 link available June 21 2014)

JustAnotherBeerBlog's Favorite Beer Podcasts

Finding a good, well-produced beer podcast in the iTunes or Google Play store is like finding a good beer at the corner stop and shop; you're going to have to wade through a lot of crap to find one or two golden nuggets. Below is a list of my favorites, many of which I've been listening to for several years, and some I've just discovered. Hopefully you'll like my choices and find something new to enjoy. Don't see your favorite on this list? Add it in the comments.

Craft Beer Radio podcast. This was the first craft beer podcast that I subscribed to (way back in 2005) and I've been a fan ever since. While this isn't the most polished podcast and some might find the show a bit too "talkie," Jeff and Greg offer a fun and interesting take on beer and beer tastings.  Through the years their beer knowledge and palates have matured, so for me this podcast is like spending a couple of hours drinking beer with good friends. The show is basically two guys in a basement tasting beer. In each show Greg and Jeff taste through four or five beers, discussing the history of the beers' styles, talking a bit about the company that brews the beer, and offering up conversational tasting notes. 

Beer Sessions Radio Professionally engineered and produced, Beer Sessions Radio features Jimmy Carbone, a New York publican who owns several craft beer bars in New York. Each week he sits down with craft beer enthusiasts, industry insiders and/or other craft beer bar owners to talk about the industry, craft beer trends, and all things beer. Because the show is produced in New York it's East Coast focused, but that's a good thing for this West Coaster, as it helps me stay abreast of industry news and beers from another side of the country.

The Beerists is a relatively new show (debuting in 2012) and an irreverent, some might say offensive, look at craft beer and the industry. The show centers on a weekly conversation and tasting of four or five beers. Like Craft Beer Radio, the hosts offer nuggets of information while they taste through the week's beers, but they don't take themselves too seriously and the show has a fantastically entertaining tone. The show is also one of the only beer podcasts that has a female host (a voice missing from craft beer).  

The Brewing Network Finding The Brewing Network on this list should come as no surprise to anyone who listens to beer podcasts. The Brewing Network offers some of the most popular podcast content on the web. Focusing mostly on home brewing, the network features six individual podcasts, each with its own unique take on craft beer and home brewing. The Sunday Session, is the flagship of the network and tackles both home brewing and craft beer topics. Recently they've talked to malting and brewing scientists, the head brewer at Boulder's Left Hand Brewing Co., Annie Johnson the 2013 home brewer of the year, and members of Southern California's oldest home brew club, the Maltose Falcons.  Other shows on the network include the Jamil ShowBrew StrongHome Brewed Chef, and Dr. Homebrew. All of these shows are also well produced and wonderfully informative. I listen to all of them on a regular basis. 

Beer Smith Home Brewing Blog. Probably the most technical of the home brewing podcasts on the web, Beer Smith is produced by Brad Smith the creator of Beer Smith Brewing software, an industry standard recipe development software used by both professional brewers and home brewers. Each week, Beer Smith offers an hour-long in-depth discussion of some technical aspect of home brewing. It can be a little dry, but it's always informative.

Basic Brewing Radio/Video I started listening to Basic Brewing in 2005 with their debut episode and have been a regular listener since. While they may not have the most technical home brewing show, Steve and James produce a solid show for beginning and intermediate home brewers, walking them through the process in easy step-by-step fashion and talking about the problems and issues that home brewers may encounter. For example, recent episodes speak to concerns about the chemicals we use in home brewing and their toxicity.  

One of the more interesting podcasts I recently discovered, and admittedly one that I don't listen to very often, is 1beer1song a podcast that pairs a beer with a song, combining beer and music discovery together in one podcast. This one might be a bit too specific for many, but I quite enjoy it. 

Another new discovery for me is the review video casts from the Beer Temple bottle shop in Chicago, where owner and Siebel-trained and certified cicerone offers weekly reviews of the beers in his shop. Some might find Chris's take a bit pretentious or over the top but he gives a very detailed review and brings his cicerone and beer judge training to his descriptions, andnas a result, his reviews are well informed and wonderfully in depth.  

Honorable Mention: New Brew Thursday. Unfortunately the guys at New Brew Thursday have unplugged the mics and cameras and gone on to bigger adventures. First started in 2008, this simple podcast, which feature 3 guys sitting around talking about beer, evolved over the years to become one of my favorite and one of the more informative and well-produced shows on the web. Their reviews were very good, the interviews with industry insiders were always informative, and their "Master Pairings" with Stone Brewing's Doctor Bill Sysak added depth to the show. Although they aren't producing new shows you can still watch the archives. 

Better Dead than Red?

Ok, I’ll admit it, I don’t like red ales. No matter how hard I’ve tried I find all red ales cloyingly sweet and far too malty. Even those that claim to be hop forward come off too sweet and often syrupy. And before you accuse me of being a biased hop head, you should know that I take pleasure in traditional milds, ESBs, browns and other malt forward ales. There's just something wrong with reds. It’s not just one style of red either, every red ale I’ve tried, from American reds to Irish, from hoppy red IPAs to Imperial reds, the style just doesn’t agree with me me. Hell, I’ve even experimented with making my own red ale and ended up hating that too.

Imaginary label from an imaginary brewery

Imaginary label from an imaginary brewery

I’ve home brewed since the early  90s and like most home brewers I have dreams of going pro some day (if anyone’s interested in financing that dream I’d be glad to take your money). My brewing partner and I have gone as far as creating a concept, label art, posters and signage for our dream brewery and in this imaginary landscape one of our flagship beers is called “The People’s Red Ale.” Brewed with Maris Otter, crystal 60L, a bit of roasted barley, hopped with Fuggles, and fermented out with an Irish ale yeast (WLP004) this beer was popular. Friends, family and even complete strangers raved about it, but me, I hated it. So we tinkered with the recipe, making the beer more hop forward, changing hops, switching base malts, raising and lower the amount of roasted barley, changing to a more neutral yeast strain and while everyone else enjoyed our efforts I just couldn’t find it in me to like this beer. Not one to give up I decided I’d go on a personal quest to find the perfect, no wait, who am I kidding? I’ve just been looking for an enjoyable red ale.

It’s been nearly eight years since we brewed that first batch of the People’s Red, and I’ve tasted many, many, some might say way too many, red ales since then and I have yet to find a red I like. I will admit there have been some that came close to changing my mind, Bear Republic’s “Red Rocket,” Hopworks Urban Brewery’s “Abominable Ale,” Alesmith’s “My Bloody Valentine,” and a Smithwicks in a tiny pub in Southern Ireland didn’t get spit out, but I didn’t go in for seconds either. Well, that’s not totally true I drank my fair share of Smithwicks on that trip to Ireland, but that was about context not taste. I’ve tasted, dumped, and spit my way through many a modern red and I just can’t find one that suits my palate. Maybe it was the George Killian’s that we binge drank in high school that turned me against this style. Maybe I’ve just become prejudiced to the style and anything labeled red triggers some innate reverse Pavlovian response.  Or maybe, as much as it pains me to write this, I just don’t like that particular style of beer. How can that be? I’m a beer guy (note not a snob) and I rarely turn my nose up at a beer, but try as I might I have found no love for the red. And while I haven’t given up on my quest, I may just be tilting at windmills.

Do you have a red I might like?  Do any of you have a particular style you dislike? Let me know in the comments. For those of you who might be interested here are two of my People's Red home brew recipes "The People's Red Ale" and "The People's Red (for real people)." Feel free to critique.