A Week Of Family And SoCal Breweries
By now you likely noticed I’m not updating this page much anymore. You might even have noticed that old posts are disappearing. After ten years (3/10/05 was my first post) and 3,500+ blog entries, I’ve finally decided to work my way through my archives and scrub some of my less flattering rants and unnecessary posts from existence. Not everything I’ve written since day one reflects my current ideologies. My vocabulary and worldview has matured. Also, you know, the world is smaller than ever and I don’t want people to see something insensitive I wrote in 2007 and feel like that reflects who I am in 2015. So yeah, while I haven’t posted anything new lately that doesn’t mean Swan Fungus has been totally inactive.
My private (read: non-blog-worthy) life has also gone through some upheaval lately, and while I used to never shy away from sharing all the gory details with my audience times have changed. If I’m forced to navigate rough waters I’d rather do it without people watching or knowing my every step. Sometimes, it turns out, privacy and anonymity can be good things! Very good things!
Going forward (or until I change my mind again) this space will likely consist of the following: travel stories, reviews, interviews, record label updates, and mix tapes. Not much else, really. I would consider things like concert reviews or photography dumps to count as travel stories. If you come to this page I want you to see something substantive. And if I’m going to devote my time to a post I want to feel like it has worth. Make sense? Good. Let’s get started then.
This past week my sister came to visit. She recently took the LSATs and is awaiting offers from law schools, so I think her trip to Los Angeles was a reward for all the studying and stress that comes with taking the exam and sending in applications. Our goal was to maximize the amount of fun we could have given my work schedule, so just about every activity we planned between her arrival late Tuesday night and today when she left involved either alcohol or food.
First things first, upon her arrival I had a bottle of Almanac Dogpatch Strawberry awaiting her. We then realized I didn’t have the right shampoo and conditioner for her, nor did I have any food in my fridge. So she treated herself to fro-yo and we explored the fancy Walgreens in Hollywood before heading home for a beer. I gave her my last Not Your Father’s Root Beer, which I’m pretty sure she loved. Everyone loves that beer. It’s kind of awesome. We turned in on the early side because Wednesday was going to be a very full and very boozy day.
We awoke early and grabbed coffee before hitting the road. Originally my plan was for us to hit three or four breweries and then wind up at Pizza Port in San Clemente for dinner, but as we ventured further south into Orange and San Diego counties we realized better opportunities were presenting themselves along the way. We stopped first at Stone, where we dined on duck tacos, brussels sprouts and sausage mac-and-cheese. She ordered a flight of beers that included Ruination IPA – which is apparently going to be retired in the near future, or maybe undergo a recipe change – Arrogant Bastard, Chai-Spiced Russian Imperial Stout, and The Mighty Mighty Bastogne. We skipped the brewery tour because she’d already tasted most of the beers they give you at its conclusion, and also we wanted to hit as many tasting rooms as possible so we had little time to spare.
Even though it wasn’t on our agenda, when I learned that Lost Abbey/Port is about 3 miles from Stone I felt like an asshole for never having visited before. I thought we were going to head straight to Ballast Point but as it turned out the Lost Abbey/Port stop was one of her favorite tastings of the day. We befriended a guy named Franklin who is now connected to both of us on Untappd, chatted with people who we bumped into at Stone, and shared our itinerary with other weekday travelers on similar brewery tour/tasting room circuits. Most of the tasters there are just a dollar or two, and they offer a bunch of specialty and seasonal offerings that can be hard to find even at reputable craft beer bars in LA. Hop-15, Ten Commandments, Road To Helles, Red Barn Ale, and Queen Anne’s Revenge were had, along with The Hop Concept’s Citrus & Piney. I chatted with one of the server’s about last weeks surprise tapping of Duck Duck Gooze, which I was very sad to have missed. Had I not thought it was an April Fool’s joke, I might have sped down to the tasting room to try it. Of course, it sold out in 45 minutes so there’s no guarantee I would have gotten a taste. Oh well! Before leaving we grabbed some glassware and bottles of Red Poppy Ale and Barrel Aged Santa’s Little Helper.
From there it was on to Ballast Point. The last time I visited the tasting room was long, long ago. Way back in 2009. A lot has changed since then, and Ballast Point has been at the forefront as SoCal’s craft beer scene began its boom. When LA Beer Week was little more than an undersold tasting event at the Fonda Theater, Ballast Point was there pouring tastings of Sculpin and Victory At Sea and earning fans and followers that would stick with them for years to come. Their new(ish) Mirimar location is a testament to how far they’ve come. A beautiful tasting room with full kitchen treated us to a number of experimental and classic beers as well as a delicious plate of truffle fries. Fresh Sculpin IPA – as it always is – was delicious. This Ship Is Bananas, Wahoo Wheat with Thai Chili, Boots To Roots Cream Ale, Fathom with Orange and Vanilla, and Ginger Big Eye IPA rounded out our flight. Sister grabbed a couple bottles of Indra Kunindra and more glassware on our way out.
Our next stop was supposed to be AleSmith, but when we learned that Green Flash/Alpine was even closer, we raced over there to try and squeeze another tasting room into our schedule. This turned out to be a good choice because a) it meant we didn’t have to drive an extra hour out of the way to try some fresh Alpine brews, and b) sister was starting to get very drunk so the comedy increased exponentially everywhere we went from here. We even called mom to let her know that even though her daughter was inebriated her son had taken charge of the adventure and was going to get her home safely. I don’t think mom was amused. Hop Head Red, Imperial IPA, Duet, West Coast IPA, Hoppy Birthday, Dry Ace, and 12th Anniversary Sour Ale all wound up on our flight here. I think it was at Green Flash when I realized we were only about 15 miles outside of downtown San Diego. We started thinking about grabbing dinner in the Gaslamp Qaurter instead of at one of the Pizza Port locations. Alas, we still had another stop to make before we could break for dinner.
Sadly, the last time I visited the AleSmith Brewery was also way, way back in 2009. They’ve modernized their tasting room as well. Not to the extent of Ballast Point, but still the place looked and felt much nicer than it was back then. With my sister slowly starting to fade into drunkenness, we opted only for a flight of .394 Pale Ale, Nut Brown Ale, Grand Cru, and Speedway Stout. This was the shortest visit of our day. We decided to head down to San Diego to stuff our faces with yummy food before braving the traffic-ravaged roads north.
We wound up at a place called Barleymash watching the Dodgers / Padres game. We’d finished drinking and focused on filling our stomachs with copious amounts of food. After a heaping kale salad with pears and goat cheese the one-two punch of “San Diego Iron Fries” (a skillet filled with fries, short ribs, pepper-jack beer cheese, sour cream, guac, and salsa) and “Surf ‘n Turf burger” (burger patty topped with Maine lobster meat) more than did the trick. We headed home, guts full and thirsts satiated. It was a productive Wednesday.
Thursday featured a trip to The Bruery tasting room in Placentia where we tasted Bierbara, So Happens It’s Tuesday, Smoking Wood with coffee, Floyd D’Rue, Chocosaurus Rye, Humulus Lager, White Oak, Smoking Wood with blueberries, Smoking Wood with molè, and Grey Monday. Through a connection to a friend who is a Hoarder’s Society member we were able to drink glasses of Wineification II and Melange #10 as well. Lunch that day was pretzels and jerky. To be honest I probably could have gone the entire day without eating after the caloric explosion of the previous day, but I rallied like a pro and snacked while we drank. The Bruery was something of a Mecca in terms of this trip, because it’s my favorite local brewery and my sister has held it in incredibly high esteem even though a lot of the specialty beers don’t make their way to New Jersey often. Thanks to our own Society memberships she’s had access to Chocolate Rain and some of the other “rares,” but availability beyond the care packages I send her is limited. I think she fell in love. She certainly spent enough money on beer and apparel to warrant my assumption. Before leaving we stopped at the fulfillment center to pick up some bottles of Smokey & The Bois and Melange #3 we’d had set aside for us, and then it was back to LA. Dinner was at Seongbukdong, where my sister tried bibimbap and galbi jjim for the first time. Afterwards it was home for some TV time and relaxation. And more beer.
Friday I had to work so I was dropped off in the morning and picked up in the evening. I think she went shopping on Robertson all day. Thankfully she saved most of the shopping for days when I had work. Originally our plan was to head up to Universal Studios for their new Springfield experience with fully-functional Krustyburger and Moe’s Tavern. Alas, when we realized the park closes at 8pm and most of my friends work until 7pm…there wasn’t any chance for us all to hang out and eat and drink as if we were Simpsons characters. So…instead we wound up at Little Jewel of New Orleans stuffing ourselves with crawfish mac-and-cheese, hush puppies and po’ boys. From there it was over to Blue Palms with Erin and Rachel for beers. And from there it was over to the Frolic Room for shots and beers and bad jukebox selections. Our 2am walk home was cold and uphill. My sister remembers none of it. Mission accomplished.
Saturday too, I had to work. So my sister went on a boozy ladies’ brunch with my friends and sent me pictures just to make me jealous. Then I think she went window shopping on Rodeo Drive because…I have no idea. That seems like a waste of time to me. We reconvened after work for a nice dinner at Animal, where we dined on bone marrow, hamachi tostada, veal tongue, a biscuit and gravy topped with foie gras, brussels sprouts, pig’s head, and oxtail poutine. Then it was over to Mohawk Bend for Maryn’s birthday celebration. Finally, my sister got to hang out with all my friends. On her last night in town. I hope it was worth the wait.
Today she departed. I had to watch Game Of Thrones and then Silicon Valley at home by myself. I think she would call the trip a success. I know I would. One look at the last seven days of alcohol consumption on Untappd – and my Uber receipts for the past week — is all the evidence I need.
Should any of you ever come to Los Angeles and have a mid-week day free, you can expect the same kind of courtesy from me. Which is to say I’ll drive you all over Southern California so you can drink delicious beers (as long as I get one sip of each pint/taster) and disgusting amounts of food. I’ll even photograph some of it, and then maybe post a blog about it. Just like this one.
Blueneck – Counting Out [MP3]
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