If you’re heading to Denver anytime soon, or just want another reason to go, check out this promotional video about the fine craft brewers in the Mile High City via craftbeer.com. I’ll be heading there in a few months, and this video is making me thirsty.
- Matt Pritchard
Dubbed “Movember,” the men of Big Sky Brewing are putting away their upper-lip razors to get mustachioed in an effort to raise awareness and money for cancers that affect men.
This is second year the guys over at the brewery have taken on this hairy challenge.
On Nov. 1, the generally bearded crew shows up clean shaven. The Movember team will spend the following 30 days growing, grooming, and pridefully sporting their new mustaches for cancer. The event’s official rules prohibit beards and goatees.
To donate to the cause, check out www.threesevenseventyseven.com.
May the stache be with you.
- Matt Pritchard
Zephyr Adventures of Red Lodge is offering a brewery tour in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming that also involves day hikes around Yellowstone National Park, and biking in Grand Teton National Park and along Beartooth Pass. The trip, from Sept. 9-14, takes participants to six breweries: Bozeman Brewing Co. in Bozeman; Lone Peak Brewery in Big Sky; Grand Teton Brewing in Victor, Idaho; Snake River Brewing in Jackson, Wyoming; Red Lodge Ales in Red Lodge, Montana; and Yellowstone Valley Brewing in Billings. In addition, there’s a brewmaster dinner at Montana Ale Works in Bozeman and a visit to MSU to learn about hops and barley. At $1,700 it’s an expensive excursion, but still a cool idea.
- Matt Pritchard
Just back from a great trip to Los Cabos, Mexico, and I have to say there’s not much in the way of craft beer down there. However, I did manage to check out the only brewery in southern Baja California, Baja Brewing Co. It was started in 2007 by several guys from Colorado who went down there and realized it was dry when it came to microbrews.
They now have two locations, one in San Jose del Cabo, which is where the brewery is, and another new location in Cabo San Lucas. Both locations have food, everything from burgers to pizza.
At the San Jose del Cabo spot last week they had seven beers on tap:
Baja Blonde - a Mexican style light lager, which also comes in a bottle. ABV – 4.5 percent, IBU – 20
Raspberry Beer - ABV – 4.5 percent, IBU – 14
Escorpion Negro - a black lager that’s smooth and light. ABV – 4.5 percent, IBU – 18
Peliroja Red - a malty, hoppy, fruity ale. ABV – 5.5 percent, IBU – 40
Burro Brown - a brown ale made with four kinds of English barley. It was smooth and just a little sour. Had a few over the trip. ABV – 6ish percent, IBU – 25
Mango Beer - comes with a chunk of mango. It wasn’t too sweet and wasn’t my favorite.
They also have a drink where they mix their Raspberry Beer with the Escorpion Negro, the waitress called it the “girly warrior.” It basically tasted like raspberry soda.
David Hatfield, who manages the San Jose location, said it wasn’t easy setting up the brewery with all the red tape in Mexico. He said there are only two craft breweries in Baja California, their brewery and one in Tijuana. And even now it’s not all smooth, they have trucks drive all their ingredients (hops, barley, etc.) down the treacherous Mexican Federal Highway No. 1.
Baja Brewing Co. also must have the one of the best logos of any brewery, in the U.S. or Mexico. Hatfield said they looked at around 100 possibilities before settling on their choice.
It’s a fun place to check out if you happen to be down that way. I know I’ll be thinking of it all winter, just to stay warm.
- Matt Pritchard
Recently, I decided to take my well-earned free time and limited coin down to the Blacksmith Brewery in Stevensville for a little “What’s on Tap?” investigatory “research.”
Over the two hours or so that I spent in that wonderful, vintage brick tasting room I had the chance to observe a good cross-section of the North Bitterroot citizenry.
There was the athletic couple who had just cycled in from Lolo; the old-timers reminiscing on the government bunglings of wildfires past; there were felt cowboy hats, young sweethearts and even an employee of the valley’s other brewery. There was (no big surprise on a Sunday afternoon) one bartendress.
There was also a sign on the wall for farm fresh eggs … only $3! While that was tempting, I instead opted for a selection of new and seasonal brews just to get a sense of what the modern Stevensvillian was drinking these days.
Hopper Hefeweizen – 6.0 %
Unfiltered with a mellow gold glow, the Hopper (surprise, surprise) is anything but hoppy. Sporting a rich malty, yeasty aroma, the first sniff brings to mind subtle visions of apricot and citrus. The flavor is full and satisfying with a texture that you can feel on your tongue. Stemming from the annual arrival of the summer grasshoppers (“The hoppers are out”) this brew has been on tap since the beginning of June.
Cuthroat IPA Nitro – 6.2 %
Cuthroat is the Blacksmith’s bread and butter IPA and one of their most popular beers; throwing it on a nitro tap offers some interesting and welcome diversity. For an IPA, this brew is extremely pale with a light wheatish yellow hue. With a slow-rising, delicate yet satisfying nitro head, this brew has a surprisingly subtle aroma compared with the usual Cuthroat. The usually robust flavor is somewhat downplayed by the smooth nitro texture but the aftertaste (BURP!) is quite pleasing.
Simcoe Pale Ale – 6.2%
Noticeably dark for a pale, this beer (the brewery’s newest offering) has a copper/sunsetty appearance. The aroma is striking; floral with a strong vanilla presence and the first sip is almost exotic with that same floral character with an excellent hoppy sustain. Robust, the aftertaste almost pushes itself out through the nostrils. This is a proud Blacksmith brew with the same underlying tones that I find in the Brickhouse Blonde among other Blacksmith staples. Very intriguing.
Blacksmith IRA – 7.4 %
Hold on to your hops, friends, because this Imperial Red Ale is strong and persuasive. Dark red with a slight yeasty haze the aroma is deceptively mild though hoppy and fully indicative of the beer’s flavor. The flavor is quite wonderful with a strong malty opening and a quick hoppy zing that rolls from the tip of the tongue to the back and settles nicely, lingering in the back of the mouth and into the throat. This would be a great beer to start off a Friday evening session.
Also on Tap at The Blacksmith
- Brickhouse Blonde
- Montana Amber
- Pulaski Porter
All great beers and worth a trip down the Bitterroot, but in the words of the great Lavar Burton, “Don’t take my word for it …” go taste ‘em yourself! Cheers!
I used to walk around the concourse at Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium during Dynamo Kyiv soccer games thinking about how lucky I was to be doing my initial journalism internship in a country on the brink of revolution. It’s every reporter’s dream. At least it is for those reporters who got into this to be foreign correspondents. A ticket to the Ukrainian Premier League games was fairly affordable, so I’d buy a bag of blackened sunflower seeds and sit up on the wall of the stadium watching during the late summer of 2004.
After the match, I’d usually meet up with the mixture of journalists, politicians, pundits, bloggers and foreign embassy staff for a stroll through Kyiv. We’d stop at the little roadside kiosks and purchase any cold beer we could find. We’d usually get a few bottles of the Slavutych and walk two or three miles to find a small Ukrainian-style eatery. Sometimes we’d opt for Georgian food in the trendy neighborhoods popping up around the city center.
Beer, politics, football, art, social networking face to face, I cannot think of a more idyllic time in my life. The memories sustain me to this day.
Even in the midst of the chaos of the upcoming national elections, there was an optimism and a calm that ran down the heart of the city like the central metro line. The football matches were almost serene, a far cry from the boisterous English Premier League events where paddy wagons are parked outside to haul away dozens and dozens of rowdy fans at a time.
I missed out on seeing the amazing Andriy Shevchenko, the 2004 European Footballer of the Year, who was by then playing for Serie A Milan, but his legend lived on in Kyiv that summer. On a side note, he’s now back with Dynamo Kyiv, and I look forward to seeing Sheva, as the fans call him, lead Ukraine to a 2012 European Championship.
The thunderstorm that hit in late August was the most violent display I’d ever seen. The green sky reminded me of warnings I’d heard about tornadoes forming, and the thunderclaps were so loud they rattled the glass in our building. I refused to take the elevator, having been stuck in and old Soviet-style elevator for four hours a few weeks before.
We took the subway into the heart of town headed for Olimpiysky National Sports Complex, where the Ukrainian National Team was preparing to play a friendly against arch rival Turkey. There is no love lost between the country of the Cossacks and the homeland of the Tatars, or Turkic raiders.
My companions and I grabbed a couple Obolons, a lesser beer than the Slavutych, but we were parched and tired of dodging the sudden down pours that would flood intersections in seconds. By the time we reached the stadium, my clothes were absolutely soaked, and I had to stop at a restaurant to ring them out in the sink.
I was shocked to walk into the stadium and find the mood much less bright than at the Dynamo Kyiv matches, those sunny, lazy Saturdays a distant blur in the cold, hard concrete of the Olympic stadium. There were guards everywhere, steel-eyed military types with huge machine guns lined every walk way, and this caused us to keep our conversation quiet and to a minimum.
We bought our blackened sunflower seeds and walked to our seats at midfield and about halfway up the deck from the field. We wouldn’t move again the entire match. A line of soldiers bearing heavy duty weaponry extended from the field to the top of the stadium, and at least 300 police officers lined the inside of the pitch looking back at the crowd. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so trapped in such a large stadium in my entire life.
I don’t even remember the score of the game, just that Ukraine went on to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, where they made it to the quarter finals. The difference between the attitude of the easy going Saturday games at Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium and this International Friendly was amazing. More than 100,000 people filled the stadium that day, and it took us nearly five hours to get home through the crowded streets of Kyiv.
A cold Slavutych or two definitely made the commute easier especially since enjoying your beer while walking around town or riding the subway was perfectly acceptable, but I had never realized the almost frenzied nature of football fans when they take the world stage, and my thoughts on the ride home were about football, guns and beer.
I can imagine there is some of that and more going on in South Africa right now.
There was never a more welcome sight. After several sweltering days in the Havana heat, my brother and sister and I were looking for some relief. It came in the form of a vending machine. A vending machine that dispensed cold beer. At night, after the cafes close, the only options are nightclubs, where every Cuban girl seems to have an American guy radar built in.
For the first couple of nights, we sat on the promenade in front of our hotel. Men with woman on their arms would walk by and pour a shot of fine Cuban rum in your cup, if you happened to have one. If you didn’t, they poured it right into your mouth. And the rum is good, but it’s sticky and sweet, and all the concrete that drowns out the green in central Havana raises the temperature of the city immensely, and it raises your thirst. The water is no good, as I can attest to. I had to drink a little out of a tap after a long hike. Four days later, I felt like dying.
Some say Cuba is a model for socialism. More doctors per capita than anywhere on earth, health care and all kinds of great benefits for the people. Maybe it’s true, when I first wrote about it, I slammed it for being false advertising. I did witness a lot of poverty there. Several years later, I don’t necessarily hold the same opinions about Cuba. As someone aptly criticized in my article, “A yanquee’s first visit is not enough to form a solid opinion on Cuba.”
And the socialistic aspects of Cuba are debatable, but the discovery of a beer vending machine was like finding an oasis for two very thirsty guys and their sister. It was about two blocks from our hotel, and we had to go together, because the pimps would literally strong arm you inside the houses of ill repute. For a Cuban Peso, we’d buy either a Cristal, which is a super-light lager that tastes a little like heaven when you’re thirsty enough, or a Bucanero Max, which is an 8 percent malt liquor. Super heavy malt and high alcohol wouldn’t seem like the kind of beer you’d want in that high humidity, but late at night, beer never tasted so good. Not having to deal with bar tenders in the night clubs or storing beer bought during the day was priceless, and we visited the machine nightly.
In between forays to purchase good Cuban cigars or to check out Hemingway’s Finca de Vigia, we’d sneak back to the machine for a cold one and walk around what had been Chinatown. There were some 20,000 Cubans of Chinese ancestry when the area was a cultural melting pot of Havana before the revolution. Now you’d never know a Cuban of Chinese ancestry to look at them. We wandered around for two days without even knowing we were in Chinatown.
During the hottest parts of the day we’d find some shade and a Cristal to sip on. Mojitos were good, especially at the La Bodeguita Del Medio, but the Cuban beer made to exacting German standards was some of the best of the Latin American varieties we’d tried. We even stopped in at Hemingway’s old haunt, El Floridita, for a daiquiri Papa style.
But I could imagine the old man sitting on a fishing boat hunting Nazis during the war. He’d have a cold Cristal in hand and another six in a cooler nearby.
At night he probably grabbed a Bucanero for the heavier malt and sturdier taste. That’s how we imagined it, so that’s how we played it.
At times I think every place should have a beer vending machine. Yes, you’d have to make it inaccessible for kids. I’ve even thought you could put a license reader on the machine that would only allow you to purchase one if you have a driver’s license and are of age but friends poked a lot of holes in that idea.
Whatever, in an urban area that experiences that much heat, I can totally see how beer vending machines would be a very cool thing.
(Author’s Note) This blog post is from a former blog written from 2005 to 2007 called “Will Blog For Beer.” Periodically I like to pull out some of my favorite posts, pictures and videos and repost them here. I took this trip to Cuba during the summer of 2006. During that trip, Fidel Castro handed power of the government over to his brother Raul, marking the first transition of power in Cuba since the revolution. I flew to Cancun that night and wrote a story that made headlines in my own newspaper in Oregon as well as the wire around the country. You can read parts of my article Cuba Day 1, cuba day 2 and here. Thanks for reading!
This is a long one, but the pub scenes and whiskey stores are fun to see.
This year’s tour started with a bang, as I introduced Oregon craft beer lovers to some of our best Montana beer. We opened bottles of Big Sky’s Ivan the Terrible, cans of Kettlehouse Brewing Co. Cold Smoke and Double Haul IPA as well as some Red Lodge Bent Nail IPA. While I was introduced to new West Coast craft beers that are, as of yet, unavailable in Montana.
The highlight of this year’s tour, other than hanging out with many craft beer lovers who are skilled in the art of conversation, was visiting a restaurant that I like to think I might have had a little influence in shaping.
Many years ago, while my best friend and I were attending community college as full-time fathers, husbands and bar tenders, we would gather, as our schedule allowed, at a small place called Venti’s Bento. Our good friend Dino Venti ran the place on a budget, but the food had out-of-this-world quality and a healthy angle that we were both looking for at that time in our busy lives.
Dino didn’t imbibe, but one day we got to talking about putting on just a couple of taps of something really special. Well, a few weeks later, we showed up and Dino had our favorite beer on tap. A whole keg of North Coast Brewing Co.’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. Our mouths agape, we took a seat at the bento bar and ordered up our first pints ever of that magic elixer. We could not believe we were having it in pints. Bottles are great and have their own magic, but the draught is a deep magic all its own.
Next came a keg of Stone Brewing Co.’s Arrogant Bastard, another gem to have on draught. Soon, Dino had to limit the number of pints served and raise prices, as he was the most popular little three-tap in town.
Flash forward a few years. Dino built a bigger restaurant across the street with a basement bar called, of all things, The Basement Bar. Along with his talented graphic designer wife, Leslie, Dino has cultivated a great hangout for Salem’s bicycle culture, especially the free ride culture. Still, more than anything, Dino is a restaurant owner who cares about individuals. I’ve heard he’ll still care for people who have no food and no money to buy food with.
On Saturday night, I spend the evening with many friends who showed up to just say hello and fellowship for a few minutes before we headed back to Montana.
I started with the first and worked my way through the others as the evening wore on. It’s nice to know that Dino still is serving great beers, and unless things have changed, I don’t believe he ever touches the stuff. But he trusts his friends and patrons, and he provides them a place that is truly worthy of conversation and fellowship. At this point, Venti’s Basement Bar is my favorite beer bar anywhere.
If you find yourself passing through Salem on that venerable artery of commerce and culture called Interstate 5, head toward the giant gold statue on the Capital building and look for Court Street. A rooster marks Venti’s Cafe, where you can order a Ninkasi Tricerahops with your teriyaki chicken over rice with vegetables or head down to the basement bar where you likely will find an amazing assortment of beers on tap and in the bottles.
Congratulations Dino and Leslie, you’ve done an amazing job.
I’m not going to assume all of you have seen the movie “Beer Fest,” but if you have, then you know what I mean. I’ve always wanted to drink from a boot, and thanks to beer buddy Beau, I can now say I have.