My California Beercation: Diary Entry 1

If you’re friends with me on Facebook or are a member Bluegrass Beergeeks, you probably saw my incessant posting about being out in California and visiting breweries.  I’d like to take this time to apologize for you not being there. It was awesome.

My posts would ebb and flow, but I honestly made a lot of ground in ten days with a ton of running thrown in there so posting everything wasn’t my top priority.  Since it was a ten-day span, I’ve decided to spread my little diary out to make it readable (yea right) and throw some pictures in the mix.  I didn’t take any notes or write down any beers, rather I’m using my memory or what I can recall from it.

Day 1:

Louisville Airport, or SDF as the cool kids like Dawn Howard call it, is a pretty shitty airport for beer.  On the A terminal, I think you have a Chili’s and the B terminal is like some combo of Pizza Hut and Wing Street.  Probably the worst airport to ever have a layover in, but the best airport for people watching.  This is where Kentucky gets its stereotypes.

So beer number one of the trip was a Rebel IPA from Sam Adams. Drink number two was a Wild Turkey neat on the 3.5 hour flight.  Not a very good start to a beer vacation.  Upon arriving, we learned that we had an hour and a half delay in Vegas.  While my two buddies snuck out and went to the MGM to gamble, I tried to find the Gordon Biersch to grab a decent beer.  Like an idiot, I got lost and wandered out of the airport to only have to go through security (then go through again since I had water in my water bottle) again.  So I was stuck at some shitty mexican joint drinking a Sam Adams Lager instead of playing blackjack and losing $100.  Instead of wasting time at the bar paying for overpriced drinks, I bought a book instead.  Because I am a loser.

Our flight finally landed in Reno about 11:00pm and I knew our chances of hitting a bar were pretty slim.  An hour drive to Lake Tahoe (and no open bars) found me slugging back a New Belgium Ranger IPA at midnight while making all the stuffed animal and bear figurines look like they were doing it.

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Day 2:

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An early riser by nature, I was up by 5am on California time. Damnit. Did a short run through Lake Tahoe, got lost on some trails per usual, and then headed back for a meeting and then lunch.  The only reason I was in Tahoe (and the main reason this trip was planned) was to help pace a running buddy during the Western States 100 mile race.  A race that goes through mountains and canyons from Squaw Valley to Auburn, CA. Tomorrow would be a long day.  I’ll admit, I spent a bit of time working out the logistics of trying to hit a bunch of breweries in the time that I had out in Cali, maybe too much.  My first stop was going to be Tahoe Mountain Brewing.

The first beer I chose was South Pacific Provisions, a farmhouse ale fermented with Lychee and Brett.  photo 3(3)My other patrons chose from the flagship lineup and we all passed around our beers to try.  Nick chose the Hop Dragon DIPA (solid), Danner chose the Ranch Dog Red Ale, and Jeremy chose the Sugar Pine Porter and Double Oatmeal Stout (both great offerings).  Pucker up fellas, I gulped down my first beer and ordered a Recolte du Boise Apricot, a barrel aged sour with Apricots.  “How do you drink this stuff” was a common answer after my friends took a sip.  Amazing beer.  I was looking forward to bringing some back, but due to a law, no beer could leave the facility. Damnit.  The lunch cap was a Four Roses barrel aged barleywine that I kind of felt that I had to drink since I was there.  It came in a bottle with Sharpie markings on the top of the cap and no label.  It resembled a homebrew in looks, but not in flavor. DAMN it was good.

While Nick, the guy running, had to go to a meeting, me and the two other guys found ourselves at another bar, The Bridgetender.  Jeremy went for his favorite Fat Tire and Danner and I slugged back a couple imperial red ales while having the bartender take pictures of us drinking to send to our “nervous before a 100 mile race” friend.

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Day 3:

No beer.  Crewing and running from 8:00pm to 2:00am. 126065-062-017tI was hoping for a beer to be waiting for me at 2:00am, but my crew failed me (I even gave them $20 for beer!).  Alas, I’d need to wait. Soaking wet from crossing a nipple-high river and beerless, I was not a happy camper.

Day 4:

I managed to snag about two hours of real sleep in the back of a van (Matt Foley style) and awoke outside a small area with a bunch of shops.  I honestly had no idea where the hell I was when I woke up, I just knew I had to pee and my legs hurt like hell.  Luckily, a dinner was open and I casually asked what the California ABC law was on how early was “too early” for a beer. I popped a Lagunitas IPA at 9:30am and we headed towards the finish line.  Now my buddy wasn’t able to get down foods for most of his journey, so we got him on a schedule of turkey meat, Tums, and Sprite to get him across the finish line.  Pretty proud of the guy for gutting it out when he was feeling like shit, after saying goodbye after his epic journey, it was time to start my own.

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Heading southeast, Drakes was the next stop en route to Santa Cruz.  I’ve always been a big fan of their IPAs.  They had just did a release of their Aroma Coma IPA the day before, so I ordered a pint as soon as I walked in the door.  Nice little tasting room with a sweet food truck outside.  Also, in a pretty industrial part of town so it kind of stuck out.  Aroma was good, but last years was better (no, seriously it was).  I then got a a bunch of samples of stuff that were pretty much taproom only:

5000– Blend of Dry-Hopped Belgian Golden Strong aged in Muscat Barrels and Hefe with Fantome Yeast.  Best one of the group.

Rakish Ryewine– High West Rye Whiskey Barrel-Aged Ryewine. No…just no.

Zinhonic– Imperial Stout aged in Red Zinfandel barrels- Gross. Didn’t finish it.

Brandy Barrel– Imperial Stout aged in Brandy Barrels- Not bad

Move Me- Honey Wheat with Cherries. Solid.

photo 2(5) I headed south with one last stop to visit my best buddy and bartender at Sante Adairus Rustic Ales, Bird.  Bird’s been tending at SARA for a bit now and loves it (No, I’m not getting you SARA beer) and the brewery is becoming one of the most popular ones in the U.S..  I strolled in and the first thing he said was that I looked fat. Some things never change.  I grabbed a seat at the bar, pet all the dogs running around (how every bar should be, amirite) and ordered a beer or five.


Vanilla Joe– A Robust Porter with Verve coffee and Vanilla Beans

Cask 200– Tart, solera style saison

831– West Coast IPA

Posermobile– Imperial Stout

Anniversay Pail– APA

photo 3(4)With those five under my belt and a total 12 hours of sleep since Thursday night, Bed Time for Bonzo….Check out the next Diary entry for my trip to Russian River and San Fran, hanging out with Tim and Adair from SARA, fat seals, a crazy bottle tasting, Firestone Walker, and Beachwood.



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