OREGON: Southern Oregon

We started day two of our journey with a scenic drive up California’s rugged North Coast from Eureka to Crescent City, before we cut across the mountains to Oregon and found ourselves in Grants Pass.

My wife loves to make beaded jewelry, so our first stop today was Fire Mountain Gems, a huge mail order gem and bead company. We took a tour of their facility.

This may sound lame, but it was a fantastic tour. They do everything at their facility but make the product and print the catalog!

If you’ve ever wondered how catalog sales works, take this tour. Stop by at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. on weekdays.

20131231-101248.jpgMy wife was in heaven!

Following the tour, we drove down the street to Wild River Brewing and Pizza Company.

Good pizza and decent beer.

  • Kolsch
  • Honey Wheat
  • Bohemian Pilsener
  • IPA
  • ESB
  • Raspberry Brown
  • Surprisingly, my favorite here was the Pilsener.

    20131231-101445.jpgMy flight at Wild River

    Next, we headed off to Central Point, home of the Rogue Creamery and some awesome Blue Cheese!

    We traveled a short distance down to Medford and the Southern Oregon Brewing Company.

    Nice pub atmosphere with a small crowd gathered to watch the Oregon Ducks take on the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl (spoiler – Ducks win).

    I tried a sample of eight beers:

  • Na Zdravi
  • The “Pale”
  • Nice Rack IPA
  • Woodshed Red
  • Redwood
  • Pinup Porter
  • Old Humbug
  • Holy Water
  • Another surprising favorite for me here — Holy Water, a maibock, was crisp and refreshing and had a wonderful hint of honey.

    20131231-101607.jpgMy flight at Southern Oregon Brewing

    After a quick stop at Harry & David‘s for some post-holiday bargains, we headed on to Ashland.

    Arriving in Ashland, we checked into the historic Ashland Springs Hotel.

    This 88-year-old hotel has been lovingly restored and we enjoyed a comfortable, European-style stay. The room was comfortable and warm and the hotel was within walking distance of our dinner destination…Standing Stone Brewing Company.

    20131231-101943.jpgThe lobby at Ashland a Springs Hotel

    This was, by far, my favorite brewery so far on this trip. Standing Stone lives up to their website description:
    “Standing Stone Brewing Company is a family-owned, full-service restaurant-brewery committed to craft beers, great food, happy customers, fulfilled employees, community and sustainable business. We seek to ensure customers feel like friends, employees feel like family, our community values us as good neighbor and we leave the world a better place. Handcrafted beer is our passion and we love to share it!”

    Our dinner was fantastic. I had top sirloin (SSB raises it’s own beef one mile away) and my wife had trout. Presentation, flavor and service was flawless (this place feel like an Oregon version of Stone Brewery World Bistro in Escondido).

    The beers were the best of the day as well:

  • Barley Wine
  • Farmer Brown Ale
  • I (heart) Oregon Ale
  • Amber Ale
  • Twin Plunge 2IPA
  • Steel-Cut Stout
  • Noble Stout
  • My favorites we the stouts and the I (heart) Oregon Ale.

    20131231-101741.jpgStanding Stone
    20131231-101749.jpgMy flight at Standing Stone

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    NORTH COAST: Humboldt County

    As an antidote for all the holiday hustle and bustle, my wife and I decided to take a quick year-end road trip. Of course, to me this means beer trip.

    I set my sites on Humboldt County and Southern Oregon, since I haven’t tasted in those regions.

    It’s a six hour drive from our house to Eureka, so naturally my first stop was in Healdsburg for lunch at Bear Republic.

    I’ve been here several times and it never disappoints.

    I love their Brewers Mac & Cheese; what a tasty lunch! I paired it with something different than my usual IPA…I tried their winter warmer Old Saint Chango. Loved the hint of Mexican chocolate.

    20131230-095622.jpgBear Republic’s Mac & Cheese

    We hit our first Humboldt destination, Eel River Brewing, at 4:20 p.m. (seemed appropriate). There was a lively crowd watching the final 49ers game of regular season.

    We chose to treat Humboldt County as a “progressive dinner,” so we ordered an appetizer (potato skins) and a sampler of five beers.

  • Acai Berry Wheat
  • California Blonde Ale
  • Organic Amber Ale
  • Organic IPA
  • Organic Porter
  • Everything Eel River brews is organic and all tasted fresh. All five beers were good, but the Porter was the best of the bunch.

    20131230-095958.jpgThe crowd at Eel River
    20131230-100006.jpgMy Eel River flight

    The next stop was Lost Coast Brewery in the heart of Eureka. This was to be the biggest disappointment of the day.

    The restaurant was busy. It’s in an old building and I noticed a variety of odd scents (non-food) as we entered.

    We ordered clam chowder and salad here. I decided against the sampler of 10 beers and instead ordered their Indica IPA.

    Oddly, I never got my beer! That was a first…going to a beer joint and the beer order disappears. Probably a good thing, as the Lost Coast beers I’ve had in the past have never ranked very high on my list.

    We finished our first course and headed on.

    20131230-100340.jpgThe crowd at Lost Coast
    20131230-100347.jpgMy empty coaster at Lost Coast

    Next stop: Mad River Brewing in Blue Lake.

    This was a nice comfortable pub, a place where a local could hang out and socialize.

    No food here, but I sampled five serviceable brews.

  • Steelhead Extra Pale Ale
  • Jamaica Brand Sunset IPA
  • Steelhead Double IPA
  • Steelhead Extra Stout
  • Gimme S’more
  • The Gimme S’more stout was a treat.

    20131230-100621.jpgMad River Brewing
    20131230-100628.jpgMy flight at Mad River Brewing

    On to our dinner course at Six Rivers Brewery, the second female-owned brewery in California.

    Even though we arrived after 8 p.m. on a Sunday, we had a 45 minute wait. There was a youthful, vocal crowd and it was trivia night.

    The service wasn’t as bad as some of the Yelp reviews suggested (although the hostess was a little sour).

    We decided to share some nachos with tri tip and I ordered a half flight of beers:

  • Six Rivers IPA
  • Sasquatch Double IPA
  • Hammond Trail Cream Ale
  • Strong Blonde
  • Yule Winter Spiced Ale
  • I was disappointed by the IPAs. Neither were hoppy at all. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the Yule Ale. It had a enjoyable blend of spices.

    20131230-100854.jpgThe crowd at Six Rivers
    20131230-100901.jpgMy flight at Six Rivers
    20131230-100908.jpgThe enormous nachos!

    We booked a room at the historic Eureka Inn.

    It’s a cool old hotel, reminiscent of the hotel in The Shining!

    Super big rooms but cold as Hell! Bring extra blankets if you stay here in winter. Although, what I found in the nightstand led me to believe they expected us to keep warm another way.

    20131230-101158.jpgAt least it was still in the wrapper!

    Cheers!

    GOLD COUNTRY: My first Father-Son tasting

    My oldest son, Nick, finally turned 21 this month. I was able to go beer tasting with him this afternoon.

    We went to New Helvetia Brewing in the Land Park area of Sacramento. I’ve been before, but this was his first time.

    We got a sampler of eight beers consisting of:

  • Buffalo Lager
  • Saison Solon
  • Red Wheat Ale
  • Zeppelbrau
  • Thunderbeast IPA
  • Rough & Ready Red IPA
  • Homeland Stout
  • Mystery Airship
  • What a pleasure it was to sit down an enjoy a few handcrafted beers with my son. We talked about beer styles, music, living regionally rather than globally. It’s amazing how we connected over beer and conversation.

    I am really looking forward to more experiences with him (and my younger son, Tony — once he hits 21).

    20131228-181733.jpg

    20131228-181741.jpg

    20131228-181749.jpgMy son Nick

    RECIPE: Christmas Eve Chili

    1-1/4 lb ground beef
    1-1/4 lb ground pork
    1 large onion, diced
    1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes w/ jalapeño
    1 15-oz can red kidney beans
    1 15-oz can white kidney beans
    1 15-oz can black beans
    1 package Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit
    1 16-oz can Modern Times Blazing World Amber beer (or your favorite Amber beer)
    1 8-oz can tomato sauce
    1 tbsp brown sugar
    2 tbsp Gentleman Jack

    Brown meats and onion. Drain.

    Mix diced tomatoes, beer, chili spices packet, cayenne packet, salt packet and tomato sauce together in big kettle. Simmer for 15 minutes.

    Add meat and onion mixture. Simmer for 30 minutes.

    Add red, white and black beans. Simmer for 30 minutes.

    Add brown sugar and Gentleman Jack. Simmer for 30 minutes.

    Add masa packet. Simmer for 15 minutes.

    Serve with cornbread, sweet pickles, shredded cheddar cheese and your favorite California Craft Beer!

    20131224-195649.jpg

    SHREVEPORT: Great Raft Brewery

    So, I’ve spent the last 6 months working a great job in Shreveport, LA. But life has its twists and turns and I will be returning to my native California next week.

    Since I arrived here in June, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opening of two craft breweries. Now that Red River Brewing and Great Raft Brewing have launched, Shreveport can boast being the only city in Louisiana to have two craft breweries.

    I had the pleasure of sampling some of Great Raft’s beers tonight. During a “Keep the Pint Glass” event at PieWorks in Shreveport, I tried Reasonably Corrupt, a tasty black lager, and Commotion, an enjoyable, well-crafted pale ale.

    I also enjoyed chatting with Lindsay Nations who, with her husband Andrew, is a co-founder of the brewery. Read more about their story here. I have great confidence that their worthy beers and enthusiasm can help transform this community into a craft beer haven.

    Great Raft’s tasting room opens on Friday, December 20. It’s located at 1251 Dalzell Street, Shreveport.

    20131212-222859.jpg
    The enthusiastic crowd at PieWorks enjoys beers from Great Raft Brewery

    20131212-223019.jpg
    Great Raft’s pale ale, Commotion

    SAN DIEGO: Modern Times Beer

    During my Thanksgiving visit to San Diego county I was able to visit Modern Times Beer. What a treat!

    The ambiance is amazing:

  • A comic book wall
  • Wall art of Michael Jackson and Bubbles made out of Post-It Notes
  • Beer selections on repurposed pallets
  • A granite bar with a base made of books
  • So cool!

    Even better…the beer was great.

    I tried the core four. Lomaland, a saison, and Black House, an oatmeal stout, were great. But I was knocked out by a couple hoppy surprises — Fortunate Islands, a wheat ale, and Blazing World, an amber.

    I’ve never had a wheat or an amber so hoppy!

    20131202-104045.jpgFrom left to right: Lomaland, Fortunate Islands, Black House and Blazing World.

    20131202-221113.jpgRepurposed pallets.

    20131202-221121.jpgPost-It Note art — Michael Jackson and Bubbles.

    20131202-221128.jpgThe comic book wall.

    20131202-221136.jpgAn awesome hangout.

    Modern Times Beer, located at 3725 Greenwood St., San Diego (across from the Sports Arena) is open daily Noon to 9 p.m.

    (Full disclosure: I donated to Modern Times Kickstarter campaign, but I guarantee I would have been equally impressed regardless!)