Thursday, May 22, 2014

Milwaukee Beer

It’s the Beer That Still Makes Milwaukee Famous!

Our recent trip to Milwaukee for a college graduation also turned out to be a great opportunity to sample the local beers. And I was glad to find a wide variety of IPAs available. Although I was really on vacation more than an official Taste N Trip, I realized that I had a few good pictures to share when I got home, so why not write a new blog post? After all, it isn’t always about wine!
We started our Milwaukee trip around noon on Friday and stopped at Gordon Biersch in the Southwest terminal at LAX.  The California Pizza Chicken BBQ pizza went well with a tall Märzen, my favorite beer from GB. This Märzen has flavors of dark roasted malted barley and a caramel malt aftertaste, with a small amount of hops.
Alcohol by Volume: 5.8%     
Bitterness: 18 IBU
Residual Sugar: 2.8%
Yeast Strain: Weihenstephan 34/70
Hops: Hallertau aroma

Dinner with our niece, and soon to be University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee grad, Barbara, was my intro to the dining scene downtown. 
Barbara suggested Carson’s Ribs of Milwaukee and the food was excellent!  I had ribs of course. My first beer was a Bell's Oberon, a wheat ale fermented with Bell's signature house ale yeast, with a spicy hop character and mildly fruity aromas. Additional wheat malt adds a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer.
Alcohol by Volume:  5.8%
Original Gravity:  1.057
Available: Summer, March - Labor Day

Devon & Ned ready for a Saturday brew tour.  Hilton Garden Inn, Milwaukee.
Based on Ned’s recommendation, Devon, Ned and I went to the Water Street Brewery for lunch.
Water Street Brewery
I had the house IPA and it was very good! I also had the famous, local Usinger’s Vienna Sausage and it hit the spot. I would have enjoyed a second IPA, but I was pacing myself.
The brewery also had a large collection of beer memorabilia and some cool neon signs. 

Pabst Mansion
Continuing on with our all beer theme we visited the Pabst Mansion  built by Captain Frederick Pabst, Milwaukee’s famous beer baron, in 1892. In 1908 the mansion became the Roman Catholic Archdiocese residence for the archbishop until 1975. 
Eventually it was opened to the public in 1978 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. 
We didn’t take the full tour, but we had a great overview just talking to the knowledgeable staff in the gift shop. The gift shop had an interesting past, it was originally the Pabst Brewing Company Pavilion at the 1893 Colombian Exposition, also known as the 1893 World’s Fair, in Chicago. The Pabst Brewing Company was awarded a Gold Medal for Brewing Excellence at the Exposition. (There was actually no blue ribbon, only in the marketing department.) The entire pavillion was dismantled, crated and sent back to Milwaukee during the summer of 1895, where it was added on to the right side of the residence.
After the Pabst mansion tour we caught the Preakness Race at the Milwaukee Ale House.  They had a great Garden Veggie Flatbread special appetizer and 16 ounce cans of Milwaukee Brewing Company’s Hop Happy IPA for a special $3 Brewers baseball game price. Go Brewers! Go California Chrome!!!
Brewed with three different kinds of hops, this IPA is balanced by the oats added to the mash. The oats not only add an unexpected sweetness, but also a heavier mouthfeel.
ABV: 7.7%
IBU: 51
Hops: Columbus, Cascade, Fuggle
Malts: Pale Ale Male, Munich Malt, Caramel Malt, Oats
OG: 18.4º Plato
TG: 4.0º Plato

My second beer (hey, the race lasted for SEVERAL minutes!) was Hop Freak Double IPA. It’s infused with Organic Jasmine Tea from the local Rishi Tea company. The tea gives it a sweet, floral aroma. Strong citrus notes come from the generous amount of American hops. Hop Freak is even hoppier than the Hop Happy IPA, but a sizeable malt bill adds balance to it out.
ABV - 8.7%
IBU - 80
Hops - Centennial, Cascade
Malts - Two Row, Barley Malt, Munich, Caramel

Meeting up with our niece and her friends we made a well-planned visit to the Milwaukee Brewing Company for their 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm brewery open house, only to find them sold out! Oh well, I’d already cleverly had their Hop Happy IPA and Hop Freak Double IPA at the Milwaukee Ale House.  No wonder they were sold out, with the low price of admission and the quantities of beer offered.  According to their website $10 got you:
  • MKE Brewing Pint Glass
  • Beer (Lots of it)
  • A token for more beer.
Plan B: We went to The Wicked Hop in the historic Third Ward for drinks and then dinner. It had a little something for everyone with a good beer, wine and mixed drink selection. I had The “Billy Bob” for dinner, a pulled smoked pork shoulder served open-faced on garlic Texas toast, topped with a tangy Carolina Gold BBQ sauce. It was pretty good, but I think I like a less sweet BBQ sauce, and the pulled pork was in huge chunks that were not as tender as I would normally expect in this type of BBQ.
The weather, outdoor seating, and atmosphere were all very good. The Milwaukee Pedal Tavern rolled by us occasionally. The Pedal Tavern is a unique operation—it seats 16 people who pedal around the 3rd Ward while drinking BYOB beer (up to 3 cans) and it stops at 3-5 bars, with seating starting at $25 per person. I guess the guy steering is sober.
I had an OK bottle of IPA from Capital Brewery in Middleton, WI. Mutiny IPA has a bright amber hue with an upfront florally citrus hop aroma. Mutiny packs a punch yet remains remarkably drinkable.
MALTS – Brewers, Caramel
HOPS –  Warrior, Cascade, Simcoe, Summet
ABV 6.2%
IBU 70
OG 16.2%

Post dinner fun included a trip down the street to Club Charlies. I liked the beer selection here better and I had a Boulder Beer Company’s Mojo IPA Nitro (on tap). I had a pint and a half of it. That’s because after drinking a half pint I realized the glass was cracked and sent it back for another pint.  It was a very good citrusy IPA, with or without the microscopic glass shards.
Mojo India Pale Ale is pale in color but packed with flavor, Mojo reflects the perfect balance of hop bitterness and malt character. The unique Amarillo hop creates a big citrus flavor with an ultra-crisp dry finish.
7.2% ABV

Club Charlies was a fun atmosphere with one of the best behind-the-bar-paintings I’ve seen in a long time. The very large painting is a combination of 5 Botero paintings done by Monika Essen from Michigan.

After Charlie’s we stopped back at The Wicked Hop again for a nightcap (it was on our way) and this time around I had one of my favorite IPAs—Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. It was advertised by this sign hanging in the Men’s Room…
Strange marketing, but it worked! 
That was Saturday… whew!

Sunday was graduation day and started with an excellent brunch at “The Knick” bar & restaurant located in The Knickerbocker Hotel.  The pre-brunch Bloody Mary was excellent, although I don’t go for pickles or olives in mine the way it is typically served in Wisconsin.  
I had a fantastic Eggs Benedict once I managed to talk them in to preparing it southwestern style by substituting a chipotle mayo dressing for the traditional Hollandaise sauce. And a second Bloody Mary with brunch was excellent.

Everyone disappeared immediately after graduation, so Devon and I headed back to the Third Ward to check out a restaurant still on our list: Swig.

My first beer was a Lakefront Brewery IPA. It pours a hazy orange with a rocky white head that lasts, and leaves soft lace on your glass. American Cascade and Chinook hops dominate the aroma, yielding a citrusy, floral bouquet. The hops give a nice bite to the flavor profile, but this beer is well balanced with a full body and smooth malty flavor to back up the hops. It finishes smooth and crisp with a lingering hop flavor reminiscent of fresh ruby red grapefruit. 
6.6% ABV

We enjoyed the fresh baked Pita Bread and Hummus starter, it was served with sprouts, red onion, feta cheese, and a tomato cucumber salsa.  

I had a special for dinner--Scallops and Brussels Sprouts with chunks of Pancetta and it was delicious!
During dinner I drank a Bell's Two Hearted Ale. It has an intense hop aroma and a good malt balance. Hopped with only the Centennial hop it has grapefruit and pine resin aromas. A significant malt body balances the hop presence along with the fruity aromas of Bell’s yeast.
Alcohol by Volume:  7.0%
Original Gravity:  1.064


Wisconsin Beers
Bell's Oberon (wheat ale)
Water Street Brewery IPA
Milwaukee Brewing Company Hop Happy IPA
Milwaukee Brewing Company Hop Freak Double IPA

Capital Brewery Mutiny IPA
Boulder Beer Company’s Mojo IPA Nitro
Lakefront Brewery IPA
Bell's Two Hearted Ale

Other Beers
Gordon Biersch Märzen
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

 Seems like it's always Miller Time in Milwaukee.

All in all I guess I drank Wisconsinably!

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival 2014

The Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Association held its 2nd Annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival on April 26th. Tent-like booths of wineries, breweries, food vendors, arts & craft vendors lined the entrance to Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce. In front of the winery a stage with three different musical acts entertained the festival-goers.
The Sierra Pelona Valley is a nice background for the 2014 souvenir glass. This is the first time I've ever noticed the blue sky and clouds reflected by a red wine.  In this case, the wine is a 2012 Harris Vineyard & Winery Syrah.
The Reyes vineyards are some of the most scenic in the area.
The weather was nice with moderate temperatures, a clear sky with some puffy clouds, and a little windy, as usual. All-in-all a perfect day for wine and food tasting while listening to some great music.
As I entered the festival I ran into Eve Bushman of Eve's Wine 101 with Murray Wood of College of the Canyons Culinary Arts Capital Campaign and Amanda Benson, Business Travel Manager, Hyatt Regency Valencia.  A donation from the festival will benefit the Institute for Culinary Education at College of the Canyons and will help them with consolidate their three separate facilities to a permanent facility on the Valencia campus.
Matthew Booth from the College of the Canyons Culinary Arts program poured Harris and Reyes wines in the VIP area.  We started our wine tasting here with the 2012 Reyes Chardonnay.
I also tasted some of the red wines in this great line-up: a 2011 Reyes Quinn's Zin, a 2011 Reyes Merlot, and a 2012 Harris Vineyard & Winery Syrah.  I enjoyed the Merlot and Syrah the most.
Rare and chilled: the 2012 Rosa's Choice Rosé from Reyes Winery is a blend of Chardonnay, Muscat and Syrah. And despite these pictures, it does not turn your fingernails blue.

The climate in Agua Dulce is very dry with only about 22 days of precipitation in a year on average (and probably less in the current drought), so irrigation of the vineyards is crucial for a good yield.
And they're off!  Early festival-goers checking out the food and wine before the crowds arrived.
Food, wine, beer, spirits, art and cigars--something for everyone.
Pulchella Winery is a very popular wine and one of my favorites now for two years in a row.  I made sure to visit them first.  Their red wines from Paso Robles were all winners with me!  I tasted the Cab, Syrah and blends:
2012 “Distinguished” Cabernet Sauvignon
2012 “High & Lows” Syrah/Grenache
2012 “Relentless” Syrah
2012 “Awakening” Syrah/Petite Sirah

And the dragonfly label is cool too! (Libellula Pulchella is a common North American skimmer dragonfly.)
Due Nasi (Italian for Two Noses) is a hobby wine and they poured a nice 2013 Grenache from Los Olivos.
What the heck, a little light beer before tasting more wines can't hurt! I had a glass of Leffe Blond. Its a blond abbey beer made with a pale malt and it has a slight hint of hop bitterness (6.6%).  I liked it and they gave away a logo glass. Good marketing.
What the heck, a little hoppy beer before tasting more wines can't hurt... right!  Well I had to try the Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Company's Desparado IPA anyway. Its an American style India Pale Ale brewed with Amarillo, Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Columbus, and Falconer's Flight (a blend of unique hops from the Northwest, including Citra®, Simcoe®, and Sorachi Ace along with experimental hops and other NW varieties). It had 6.8% alcohol and 70 IBUs and it was great!  Now where's that water to rinse the beer out of my glass...
It turned out that there wasn't any water for rinsing glasses! Although there were drinking water bottles available they weren't very obvious either.  So I have a couple of rinses with San Antonio 2010 Heritage Blanc--and it was surprisingly good!  Even after the bitter hops taste wore off. I'm not a big fan of Sangria or Pinot Grigio, but the Maddalena 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2011 Zinfandel were both very good also.

The Reyes Winery table was well stocked with some of the wines that were at their VIP table.
Agua Dulce Winery's 2008 Zinfandel was still tasting very good!
The Gott Wine teeitup and the Short lil Bastard wines both had unique labels and were very good.  I especially liked the 2011 teeitup Blend (58% California Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Merlot) produced and bottled by Reyes Winery and the Short lil Bastard 2008 Napolean Complex (Bordeaux blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Petite Verdot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, 2% Merlot) bottled by Leona Valley Winery.  You can read more about the teeitup wines in my 2013 review here. Speaking of Short lil Bastard, we missed Douglas Gould this year!

High Desert Cellars/Chavez Vineyards poured a nice 2010 California Syrah Rosé.
I tasted a very good 2011 Cabernet Franc at Antelope Valley Winery/Donato Family Vineyard.

Lee Williams of Golden Star Vineyards & Winery pour his award-winning Purple Haze (a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot and Malbec) as well as a 2012 Chardonnay, 2011 Merlot, 2012 Syrah, 2011 Zinfandel.  I'm still a big fan of the Purple Haze!
Some people methodically work their way around the tasting circuit and some just bounce around randomly like ping pong balls. It's a study in queue formation process. I try to avoid long lines for tasting and look for photo ops.
Well we're glad two people drank wine and a winemaker was born! Donna Harris had her trio of Harris Vineyard & Winery red wines available for tasting: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Cabernet Franc, and 2012 Syrah. All were very good! And Devon liked the dry Sangria that Donna was testing out for a friend.  Kym Cappi of Kym’s Kreations created the Uncorked Kreation that Donna is holding.

Stephen Hemmert/The Oasis Vineyard poured his specialty--a 2010 Zinfandel.  Very good!
LA International Wine Competition had a full line-up of wines.
I was delighted to see Hearthstone Vineyard & Winery added to the line-up this year! I’d tasted their wines at festivals and visited their winery in Paso Robles last year during the Paso Robles wine festival in May. I liked the 2010 Pearl then and the 2012 was just as good.  Getting to their table late in the day I managed to get the last taste of Pearl and their Pinot Noir. 
The wines they poured included:
2012 Pearl (60% Roussanne, 40% Viognier)
2009 Fireside Claret, Paso Robles (
47.5% Cabernet Franc, 47.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot)
2009 Lodestone, Paso Robles (54% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 16% Mourvèdre)
2010 Pinot Noir, Paso Robles
2010 Syrah
Six Foaks wins the prize in the hobby wine maker category with the biggest selection and the best wines.  I liked their vertical of 2010-2012 Syrah and 2012 Cabernet. 
And they were very knowledgeable, friendly, and had great artwork on their labels painted by one of the Six Foaks.

Coruce Vineyards & Winery had some very good wines. Bruce and Wendie Marriott were pouring a 2012 Viognier, Central Coast/Bien Nacido Vineyard, a 2010 Syrah, Central Coast, and a 2009 Zinfandel (85% Zinfandel, 10% Syrah, 5% Petite Sirah).
The VIP tent grilled chicken was a little smoky and very good. I went back for seconds.
Mickey's Momma's California Style Barbeque Sauces were back again this year with their tasty Lemon & Pineapple BBQ sauce and a Teriyaki & Peppercorn BBQ sauce that had Jack Daniels in it.  Last year we bought a bottle of each, but this year we didn't make that mistake, we bought two bottles of each! They're GREAT!
Le Chene French Cuisine served Chef Juan Alonso’s salmon cakes.
Rattler's BBQ served BBQ, garlic rolls, cole slaw and mashed potatoes--now that's a LUNCH!  And it went well with my Maddalena Cabernet Sauvignon.
Porto's Bakery & Cafe served several fantastic filled pastries.
Vincent Hill Station Restaurant & Saloon served ribs and pasta--another LUNCH award!
Tochigan Farms Salsa samples tasted great and fresh and the HOT was pretty good.  We bought some HOT and when I tried it at home it seemed VERY HOT, but still great!  And my sinuses have been very clear...
This year the truffles from Truffles n Toffee were even better (and less squirty) than the wine-filled ones they experimented with last year. Espresso and Raspberry were my two favorites.
Robert Reyes--Fine Art Painter, Vineyard Painter, Wine Maker, Dive Master, Certified Welder, General Contractor, Golfer.  Wow, what doesn't Robert do? His paintings were on display, but I don't think I've seen his welding yet...
Silvina Day Fine Art showed some very colorful and scenic prints.
Nice wine art by Hard Art/Michael Harder.
Loom in the Living Room/Linda Gue, hand weaver, makes original loom art like these colorful scarves.
Patina Soul makes very interesting candle holders. (A suggestion for next year is to fill those bottles with sand, so they don't blow off the table again when the winds pick up.)
Rui Wu of the Chinese Daily News (left) and friends.
A fun group pose.
Best tattoo with wine.
Robert Reyes (center) finishes his last winery tour of the day.
Luis from M Cigars was rolling some fine cigars with Nicaraguan tobacco.
Synchronized cigar smoking trio puffs up a cloud near the Leffe, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden beer tent.
The Still Moving Project played their original music with a unique blend of melodic rock-country-folk-jazz. 
Jon Stephen, Nuevo Flamenco Guitarist, played his own genre of Tropical Brazilian Guitar.
Lauren Koval, jazz vocalist, with the Paul McDonald Trio, performed Latin Jazz & Standards from the Great American Songbook.
Quattro, the 2013 Latin Jazz Grammy Nominee for Best New Artist, played their Latin-Pop-Jazz-Classical blend that’s in their debut album "POPZZICAL.” The band is Giovanna Clayton on Cello and vocals; Lisa Dondlinger on Violin and vocals; Kay-ta Matsuno on Guitar and vocals; and Jorge Villanueva on Percussion and vocals. Listen to their introduction and first song here.

The clouds increased a little at the end of the day and it looked dramatic over the tents.
I'm always glad to be at any Reyes Winery event and I'm glad that they spelled my name right!

More Narrative pictures on the Taste N Trip Facebook Page.


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