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Mixing Business and Pleasure

October 12, 2010

This past weekend, I had the misfortune (or is that fortune?) of being away from home on business travel.  Early Friday morning, I was wisked away from the wet, cloudy Puget Sound region down to warm, arid southern California.  Palmdale, to be specific.  First impressions: wow, it’s brown.  Sage brush everywhere.  And joshua trees.  This isn’t the SoCal that most people envision.  No, this place is the desert.  It has a different climate than Los Angeles, the closest major city.

Being one that is adverse to boredom, I began to set about planning for at least one excursion into the city.  I had also recalled that Mike, from Thank Heaven for Beer had moved to the Los Angeles area some time ago.  I contacted Mike, to set up a time to meet, share some beer and chat.  We settled on Saturday, based on the way my work schedule was shaping up.  Well, the way things were going, my schedule kept getting delayed later and later.  Finally, by about 7:00 pm, I was back to my hotel room, starving and plum tired.  I was tempted to just grab a quick bite to eat and call it a night.

I’m glad I didn’t.  I called Mike for directions, grabbed my stuff, and hopped back into the car.  Pasadena, here I come!  (Holy crap, Californians drive FAST!)  Mike and his wife were wonderful hosts.  Their warm hospitality filled my belly with Cincinnati chili and some great homebrew.  First up, Mike served his interpretation of an English pale ale.  It was crisp and refreshing.  You know when you get one of these because the hops are more subdued, giving room for a slightly maltier nose than its American counterpart.  Next, we shared a sour beer with wheat and rye.  This beer was probably my favorite of them all.  Even though it weighs in at around 8 or 9% ABV, this is a beer that would taste absolutely amazing after an afternoon of yard work.  The nose on this beer was rather funky, like a wet gym sock.  Don’t let that deceive you, though.  The flavor was anything but funky.  The alcohol was well-disguised with a really nice tang from the “bugs.”

Mike also shared some lambic-style beer that is still a work in progress to some extent.  About seven months in, it had some of that tartness you’d expect.  Right now, none of it is sitting on fruit, although he several ideas for what to do with this one.  Fruit.  Geuze.

Probably the most unique of the beers Mike shared, was his Death by Chocolate.  He’s chronicled some of his efforts on this beer.  Weighing in at about 23% ABV, this is a dessert beer.  I can see myself sipping this beer with a slice of decadent chocolate cheesecake.  Sipping this beer took me back to various times where I was able to sip on some port.  Simply put, this beer is much like port, but made with barley.  Raisins and chocolate really came out in the flavor profile.

While all this beer was being consumed, great conversation was taking place as well.  We spent a couple hours chatting about all sorts of things beer related.  Future brewery plans.  Current plans for a nano-brewing effort.  The local beer scene.  Large vs. small breweries.  The future of craft beer.  Homebrew successes and failures.

Due to the events earlier in the day, our visit was somewhat limited.  But sometimes, these things can’t be avoided.  I may have the opportunity to make it back down there.  We’ll see.  You can bet that I’ll make every effort to make another visit happen if I’m down that way again.  Not only is Mike a great guy and host, he’s an accomplished brewer that has a bright future in the industry.  You can see from his arsenal of brews that he’s not a one-trick pony.  No, he shoots for the extraordinary and is having great success in that regard.


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