Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Judging The Best In Fest Beer

Curtis Taylor with Beer Judges: Erin Peters, Monie Wickenden, Zach Rosen, and Joby Yobe.

For the 22nd Annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival
Casa Pacifica's Best in Fest Beer Competition was recently held at Barrelhouse 101 in Ventura. Curtis Taylor, Certified Cicerone, selected the beers and orchestrated the beer judging event. Curtis’ blog, HopHeadSaid.com, focuses on beer and food pairings, so he knows what he’s doing.

The entries were judged by a panel consisting of cicerones, certified beer judges and industry experts that included:

  • Erin Peters, Beer Judge & Journalist, practically wrote a book while tasting, but must have known what she was doing, otherwise she wouldn’t be   called “The Beer Goddess.”
  • Monie Wickenden, Beer Specialist at Wine Warehouse Beer.
  • Zach Rosen, Certified Cicerone, beer educator, writer, chemical engineer and deep thinker, appeared to be the most expressive taster and really pondered the beer pairing possibilities.
  • Joby Yobe, proprietor of Barrelhouse 101, also started the Ojai Beverage Company. Joby said that he, like everyone else, has liked IPAs on his beer journey, but his favorite style, depending on the situation, is now Belgian beer.
The craft beer entries were picked up from festival-participating breweries on a Friday beer run that started in Santa Barbara and ended in Agoura Hills. 
Donuts - The default food to pair with beer.
The beers were served (along with coffee and donuts) on Sunday morning at Barrelhouse 101 before they opened for regular business.
The Judges In Action
The judges evaluated each beer style on aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall impression in a blind tasting at the bar. In addition to a lot of viewing color, sniffing aromas, and tasting the flavors in each beer, the judges made food pairing suggestions as they tasted. The beer pairings will be posted on HopHeadSaid.com in an upcoming post.
After about two hours of judging the eight different beers, the top three beers were selected for a second round where they would vie for the Best in Fest award. While the first round was an individual activity for each judge, the second round was done in a collaborative format at a table on the patio (because by now the bar was open for business). 
The four judges had an animated discussion about the relative merits of each beer and selected a winner from the three different styles.
This part reminded me a jury process, where there’s an opportunity for the more compelling arguments to influence the overall outcome. Either way, I would have found it a tough decision to make.
Boris-Oatmeal Stout, Delusions of Grandeur-American Barleywine, Santa Barbara Pale Ale-IPA
The first place award went to the The LAB Brewing Company’s Boris, a barrel-aged Oatmeal Stout (9.6% ABV and 49 IBUs). Way to go brewmaster Roger Bott (aka "Dr. Hops)! 
The other two beers that made it to the second round included the Pure Order Brewing Company’s Santa Barbara Pale Ale, which is really an India Pale Ale (7.7% ABV and 80 IBUs), and not necessarily the last or least, the Institution Ale Company’s Delusions of Grandeur American Barleywine (12% ABV and 100+ IBUs).  Congrats to brewmasters James Burge of Pure Order Brewing Company and Ryan Smith of Institution Ale Company, your beers impressed the judges.
You be the judge!
If you can make it to the festival, try checking out these beers for yourself.  No promises that they’ll be able to serve each beer entry at the festival, due to quantity limitations, but if you download this list of beers you will be able to look for them and pick your own winner(s).


See you at the festival!
#cpbestinfest

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival 2015




The Third Annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival was held recently at Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce. The nonprofit fundraiser raised money for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Santa Clarita which will be be held on Saturday, May 16, 2015, 9:00 am at Central Park in Santa Clarita. 
The festival showcased over 100 wines from the Sierra Pelona Valley and Antelope Valley AVAs and from as far away as Paso Robles. Breweries and tequila producers from Southern California, fine dining restaurants, gourmet food companies, and artists & craftsman from the Santa Clarita area were there with something for everyone. Live entertainment on stage included The Still Moving Project, Just Us, and Sierra Highway.
The event was well attended by some dedicated and hearty patrons willing to brave the unusually cool and (later in the day) rainy spring weather. Robert Reyes, artist, owner and wine maker at Reyes Winery was on the job again, as every year, ensuring that the event went very well.
I enjoyed the third annual wine festival this year and was glad to see some new wineries pouring their wines. As usual, the food was fantastic and there was plenty of it! I especially liked the set played by The Still Moving Project.
The Still Moving Project
There's only one thing I would change about this festival, and that's how they have messed up the name of TASTE N TRIP in their publication for the last two years.
The "corrected" version in 2014.
I appreciate the acknowledgement very much and the fact that they can spell "Gary Coon" correctly, but TASTE N TRIP, come on, how hard can that be? Especially after I mentioned it last year and joked about it in the blog. I guess I was too indirect.
Listed right above "The Clarita Santa Signal Valley" in 2015.
So it isn't TRIP N TASTE, it's TASTE N TRIP! Word dyslexia is a dangerous thing, maybe that's why I never get any email...
Photo of Gary Coon by Lee Williams

Cheers!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

100% Kona Coffee

Kona Coffee Blossoms
Kona Coffee - The Real Deal or Surprise?

A few weeks ago I stayed in Captain Cook, Hawaii, while attending the Kona Brewers Festival (beer, that is) and I met Tom Butler, a local coffee farmer and the President of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association.
Tom Butler
Tom gave me a tour of his farm and he spoke about the challenges facing the small coffee farms like his on Kona. He reminded me that Hawaii is the only state in the US producing coffee and that coffee has been growing in the Kona area for over a hundred years. 
100-Year-Old Coffee Tree Trunk with Orchid
His farm and many surrounding ones were originally planted by Japanese coffee farmers as evidenced by the 100-year-old coffee tree trunks in the area. There are about 3,000 acres of coffee growing in the North and South Districts of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii and only these can produce beans that can be labelled as Kona coffee.
Kona Coffee Cherries, 2010 - Courtesy of Bud Jenkins
Kona coffee beans are known worldwide for their complex and pleasing flavor and they don’t need to be blended with other beans to taste good. So what makes these coffee beans so different? Kona’s ideal coffee growing conditions with volcanic soil and organic matter, the moderate weather with warm, sunny mornings, rainy/overcast afternoons, and about 60+ inches of rain per year provide a magic recipe for growing excellent coffee.
Kona Coffee Blossom and Cherry
But it’s not all that easy to grow and harvest Kona coffee. The small coffee farms planted on hillsides can be challenging to maintain and require manual labor in harvesting “cherries” as they ripen in different stages on the same tree. And since 2010 they have had to combat the Coffee Berry Borer pest and the devastation it creates that can ruin up to 20% of a crop.
Coffee Trees on Moki's Farm, Captain Cook
The relatively small quantities of Kona coffee beans harvested and the high costs of farming in Kona are why you see 100% Kona coffee prices that can be twice as expensive as Arabica coffee grown in other parts of the world. But that’s not what has the coffee growers in Kona excited, it’s what the large coffee distributors are doing to their Kona coffee brand.
Kona Blend (Kroger Customer Connect confirmed this coffee contains 10% Kona.)
As I learned from Tom, the “Kona” blends that are sold damage the reputation of Kona coffee and that leads to damages of the Kona coffee farmers’ economic interests. An example of this occurred in December 2004 when an article published in Consumer Reports magazine confused “Kona coffee blends” with “Kona coffee” and concluded that Kona coffee can be “second rate” on the basis of a mistaken belief that “Kona blends” are the same as “Kona coffee.”
Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee Company Sells 100% Kona Coffee and these Kona Blends
According to the Kona Coffee Farmers Association there has been a statute in Hawaii that allows for a “10% Kona coffee blend.” which can be equally confusing to consumers, who often don’t know what they are buying and who may believe that they are buying a blend of several Kona-grown coffees when they’re not. Last year the Hawaii County Council requested that the Hawaii Legislature raise the minimum Hawaii-grown content in coffee blends to 51% and to require disclosure of the origin of foreign-grown coffee on the label. Since I left Hawaii I have heard that the bill was already dead and that it was “killed in committees by big money.”

I’ve read that it’s difficult to enforce brand integrity for other food and beverage products. Jamaica relies on the Regulatory Coffee Industry Board to license the sales of Jamaica Blue Mountain® Coffee.  And to be an official Napa Valley Wine the varietal names must have at least 75% of their volume from the grape designated, and the varietal name must appear on the label with an appellation of origin.
100% Kona Coffee - Lions Gate Farms Kona Peaberry & Moki's Farm Estate Coffee
I like Kona coffee very much, and although I’ll be the first to admit it’s a little pricey, it’s unfortunate that you can’t be sure about the content and origin of the coffee that you’re buying.  In my own research I found a few “Kona” coffee blends in local grocery stores that had no explanation of the contents or percentage of actual Kona coffee beans. Regulating product brands like Napa Valley Wines, French Champagne, Washington Apples, Florida Oranges, and Idaho Potatoes can be done and we ought to be able to count on buying “Kona Coffee” that contains 100% Kona coffee beans, or at the very least, a majority of Kona coffee beans with an explanation of what the other contents are and where they are grown.

Mahalo
 
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Friday, March 20, 2015

Kona Brewers Festival 2015

Celebrating the 20th Kona Brewers Festival
The Kona Brewers Festival is the main event of several fun days that include a Brewers Pa’ina food and beer pairing dinner/art auction, and the Brews and Blues party. I made it to these events and enjoyed craft beers, gourmet food, live music and hula entertainment at the luau grounds of the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel in Kailua-Kona. I didn’t make it to the Homebrew Competition, a local competition sanctioned by the American Homebrewers Association. I'm sure it would have been interesting with some unique brews.
A Brewers’ Pa’ina and Art Auction
Presented by the Kona Brewers Festival, Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel and Donkey Mill Art
Center.
The rainy weather from earlier in the week faded away just in time for the ocean-side beer and food pairing under the stars. Kona Brewing Company beers were showcased and most of the dishes included craft brews. 
The art and culture of Hawaii were featured through live entertainment and a silent art auction. Proceeds benefit nonprofit organizations working on behalf of children and the environment. 
I was very impressed with my first Kona Brewing Company beer taste of the evening—a Kiluaea Crater Dampfbier. It was a pleasant surprise to have a Bavarian style “steam beer” in Hawaii! 
My first pairing was a refreshing Lemongrass Luau blonde ale (5.8% ABV, 20 IBU) that went very well with a green salad, grilled hamakua mushroom poke, roasted baby beets, marinated cherry tomatoes, and black-eyed peas with Portuguese sausage. 
I liked both the Lavaman Red Ale (5.6% ABV, 30 IBU) and the Aina Brown Ale (6% ABV, 29 IBU) with the beer-basted, smoked BBQ Baby Back Ribs and the Kalua Leg of Lamb Soft Tacos with Slaw, Pico de Gallo, Kona Avocado, Chipotle, Cumin and Honey dressing. The Aina Brown Ale is made with Kalo (the Hawaiian name for the Taro plant); finally, something with Taro in it that I like!
The Castaway IPA (6.0% ABV, 50 IBU) paired very well with the Casarecce and Rigatoni pasta dishes, and being an IPA it was a favorite of mine. 
Three beers were served at the dessert table. The first I tasted was the Pipeline Porter (5.3% ABV, 23 IBU), followed by the Vanilla Thrilla Imperial Stout (8.8% ABV, 50 IBU), and a Raspberry Chocolate Porter made specially for the event, based on the Black Sand Porter (6.2%, 45 IBU) with organic raspberries and local cacao nibs added. The Pipeline Porter was interesting because it included freshly roasted 100% Kona coffee. I liked the Vanilla Thrilla Imperial Stout best and I enjoyed it as dessert!
Let's hear it for the Kona Brewing Company folks that made it all possible!


Music Students Playing Like Pros
Brews and Blues (Bluegrass) Concert
Part of the Kona Brewers Festival is about blending brews and blues, well, maybe bluegrass anyway. The “Brews and Blues” concert at the luau grounds featured the Aloha Bluegrass and the Whipstitch Sallies.

I really enjoyed the Whipstitch Sallies with Katie Burk on fiddle and Allie Burbrink on banjo and guitar. Their Americana and roots music were a great combo with the luau setting. Watch the Whipstitch Sallies video here.
The Aloha Bluegrass Band and played a mix of original and traditional songs and featured some very talented musicians: Rion Schmidt (banjo), Katy Rexford (fiddle), Justin Morris (bass & Dobro), Matt Del Olmo (guitar & bass), Keoki Kahumoku (ukulele & guitar). They were comfortable switching instruments (guitars, ukelele, bass and Dobro) and I particularly enjoyed listening to their last song featuring the Dobro. Watch their video here.

BREWS FOR THE BIG ROCK
The Kona Brewers Festival with 50+ Brewers! 
The festival began after a Hawaiian blessing and a drum chant.

I hoisted my commemorative beer mug, checked my ten four-ounce brew tasting coupons (which is the equivalent volume of 3.3 twelve-ounce beers), and looked forward to an afternoon of unlimited gourmet food samples from the Big Island’s best restaurants, musical entertainment, and the world-famous Trash Fashion Show. The festival promotes recycling awareness and raises funds for local charitable organizations.
BEER!
I focused on tasting beer from Hawaii, Oregon and California and managed to taste 21 brews. Somehow I missed a few Hawaiian beers, but I enjoyed all of those that I tried. Here's the list of beers I sampled:
  Bear Republic Brewing Co - Apex, Seasonal IPA
  Big Island Brewhaus - Hoptopias Imperial IPA
  Breakside Brewery - Safe Word Triple IPA
  Burnside Brewing Co - Other IPA
  Eel River Brewing Co - Emerald Triangle IPA
  Green Flash Brewing Co - Jibe Session IPA
  Green Flash Brewing Co - Soul Style Single IPA
  High Water Brewing Co - No Boundary IPA
  Honolulu Beerworks - Surf Session IPA #4 Waimea
  Kona Brewing Company - Aina Brown Ale
  Kona Brewing Company - Dampf Bier
  Lagunitas - IPA
  Lanikai Brewing Co - 808 IPA (Imperial India Pale Ale)
  Lompoc Brewing - Pamplemousse Citrus IPA
  Maui Brewing Co - Lorenzini Blood Orange Double IPA
  Mehana Brewing - Mauna Kea Pale Ale

  Mission Brewery - Shipwrecked India Pale Ale
  Stone Brewing Co - Stone Delicious IPA
  Stone Brewing Co - Stone Ruination
  Waikiki Brewing Co - Eee Pah IPA
  Widmer Brothers Brewing - Upheaval IPA


OK, I am a fan of IPAs, but this festival had plenty of different beer styles, including some lighter beers.
Hawaiian beers that rated 4/5 or better.
Oregon beers that rated 4/5 or better.
California beers that rated 4/5 or better.
My favorite beers that I tasted at the festival.
Why are the people serving beer looking so happy? It must be a fun job! And they get to wear their green t-shirts on St. Patrick's Day too.
Even though there were thousands of people at the festival, there were no long lines to find beer or food. It was thoroughly relaxing and totally enjoyable.
Rich Dirk, brewer/owner of Elk Head Brewing Company, spreading the Unfiltered craft brew message with friends.

FOOD
This festival had plenty of delicious food!

The first sample I tasted was the Pork Belly Musubi from Chef Noah Hester at Blue Dragon.
50 Shades of Adobo by Broke Da Mouth Grindz & Catering was very creative.

 The Pork Slider from Paradise Brewing Co. Tap and Grill was a meal in itself!
Chef Ash Danao and the Rolls With It crew served Pork & Beef Sliders with Kalo Ketchup. 
 Hmmm, looks more like avocado than meat though.
They were good anyway!  As were their avocado french fries.

BITE ME Fish Market & Grill serving Fish Tacos.

Chef Peter Abarcar, Jr from the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel was doing something big with pulled pork tacos!

Tracy's Tasteeze Deli served some excellent Paniolo Corn Chowder! And I got to use my Spork (Spoon-Fork combo), but the spoon was more like a flat shovel. It worked anyway...
I had to go back later on and try their vanilla and chocolate desserts; they were both great.

Humpy's Big Island Alehouse served a lighter version of Pulled Pork on a cracker, they were good, and light. Just what I needed!

MUSIC
Jive Nene kept things rolling with their groove-centric, soul-istic, and funk-tastic sounds before the Trash Fashion Show.




TRASH FASHION SHOW
 Late in the afternoon things got trashy and the crowd went wild!












It was all great fun, but I enjoyed the Brewers’ Pa’ina and Art Auction the most. It had the beer (without the little tickets on your wristband), food, and musical entertainment in a relaxed atmosphere. The Brewers Festival was a good way to experience the ten breweries from the islands and others from Oregon and California. I liked the brews from Hawaii, Oregon and California.

Festival Organizers: Kate Jacobson, Mattson Davis, Cameron Healy
Based on the turnout of 3,000+ (mostly local) festival-goers, I'd say the organizers were successful in putting on some great events, increasing awareness of beer and food pairing, and raising money for local charities.


Aloha!

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