Big Brew NY Returns To Westchester

Not all beer festivals are created equal. Big Brew NY is back for 2015 and it sounds to be an awesome time.

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Continue reading “Big Brew NY Returns To Westchester”

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Karl Strauss Brewing- San Diego- BBC14

While the panels and speakers at the Beer Bloggers Conference in San Diego were very informative, it was really nice to get out and speak to some people from local breweries.

On Friday evening, we headed to Karl Strauss Brewery for some beer, tacos, and good conversation.

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Beers on draft included the tower 10 IPA, Big Barrel IPA, Wreck Alley Imperial Stout, and my favorite, the Red Trolley Ale. The outdoor beer garden was nicely set up with strings of lightbulbs illuminating the sandy ground. I also thought it was great that there were games and things to play with scattered around. A box of dominoes and cards held court on one table, ladder golf was set up in a corner, and inside the brewery next to shelves of barrel-aged beers was the Karl Strauss cornhole set. The presence of the games as well as the communal picnic tables outside gave a friendly, party atmosphere.

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After we filled up on tacos and beer, Chris Cramer, the CEO of Karl Strauss, came up to the front to speak. His talk was incredibly entertaining and also insightful. Contrasting solid facts with witty anecdotes really worked for the crowd. Although it did start to get loud towards the end of the speech, Chris did hold the crowd’s attention well.

What I thought was most interesting was the legacy of the man who was Karl Strauss, Chris’s relative that he lovingly referred to as “Uncle Karl”. Strauss was born and raised in Germany and studied brewing at the technical university of Munich-Weihenstephan, where he earned a degree in malting and brewing science and a Master Brewer certification. He moved to the US in the 1930s, where he settled in Wisconsin and got a job at Pabst and steadily moved up the ranks. He actually was a part of the team that reformulated the recipe for Pabst Blue Ribbon. Karl worked as Vice President of Production until his retirement after 44 years with the company.

 

Chris Cramer was inspired to bring good beer to San Diego through his travels. He tried Real Ale while in Europe, and at a brewpub in Australia, he saw the small production and how good the beer was and thought it could be feasible to take back to America. At a family event, he told ‘Uncle Karl’ about his idea, and Karl was delighted to pass on the brewing knowledge he has gained over his lifetime.

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The story of Karl Strauss was a feel-good one, since it stemmed from family and hard work. Karl taught Chris and his partner, Matt Rattner, the quality control he had learned from his days at Pabst. The beer was held to a higher standard, with the independence and unique brewing recipes of a small batch, with the diligent quality control of a commercial brewery.

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Karl Strauss Brewery opened in 1989, and celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

BrewTravels: San Diego, CA (BBC14 Part 1)

I find the best way to explore new cities is to start off with a beer in my hand. That is what I wanted as soon as I stepped off the plane, traveling from the east coast to San Diego, California. I arrived a day early for the Beer Bloggers’ Conference so I could explore the city on my own a bit ahead of time.

It’s amazing how saving money will cause me to go out of my comfort zone. Not wanting to pay for a $27 cab ride from the airport, and realizing that hotel was not as close as I realized, I decided to navigate the public transit system. and won! The bus line runs 24 hours and was much easier than I expected and I felt somewhat less touristy. The trolley was simple as well. After I salivated all over the bus looking at tons of taco joints, I checked into my hotel and planned the rest of my day. I originally set out for Seaport Village, but hunger for sustenance in my belly and liver won over and I stopped in the Knotty Barrel on Market Street. A nice little bar with outdoor seating and an indoor shuffleboard table, happy hour had just started so I decided on a beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts and a nice big lump of beer cheese (made with Allagash Black) with pretzel bread. What made me really happy was that I had not had OR heard of many of the beers on the menu.

I started off with a Grazias Cream Ale from Hess Brewing. Malty deliciousness, it reminded me of those Vienna finger cookies I used to devour when I was a kid. A nice simple style that went well with the bread and cheese.

My next pint was from Acoustic Ales, another San Diego brewery. I enjoyed their Shake Your Money Maker Brown chatting about New Haven with not one but TWO people sitting on either side of me. It’s funny how you can go all the way to the other end of the country and bump into people who lived in New Haven.

I never actually made it to Seaport Village, although there are still a few more days if I really want to. I ended up spending my paycheck before it got direct-deposited throughout the Gaslamp Quarter. As a brewer, bartender, and audio engineer, I work with my hands a lot. So nail polish isn’t something that sees my nails a lot. But a few beers deep and no plans to wash dishes until Tuesday, I decided I needed a manicure from the ladies at Va-Va-Varnish. It was a great little space and if I had more time, more cash, and longer nails I would have considered more of their services.

I also did some shopping for non-beer related merchandise since I figured I’d spend more than enough on beer in the coming days. Lots of interesting shops, but I am still on a quest for a coozie to add to my collection.

I’ll be at the Beer Bloggers’ Conference until Sunday, so check in on here for my daily recaps, as well as drunken/witty posts on Twitter, beer porn on Instagram, and the beers that I remember to check into on Untappd. All under @nowbeerthis.

 

 

Beer And Music Fest: Road Jam

Summer is brimming with festivals. If you live in Connecticut, there is one next weekend that is definitely worth checking out. Two Roads Brewing Company, out of Stratford, is holding its first-ever concert at the brewery. The festival of music and beer is called Road Jam Fest, named after their new raspberry wheat ale.

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The festival music lineup includes Atlas Gray, a soulful, piano-driven band from Hartford, local funk favorites The What Up Funk Band, jam collective The Alpaca Gnomes, and the Boston reggae crew John Brown’s Body. They are all a little different, but they will all provide lots of good beats to get beer-lovers dancing.

Tickets are $25, which gets you into the show and your first beer. Although the brewery itself is large, if the happy hour crowds are any indication, the limited number of tickets are going to go fast. Luckily you can get them ahead of time, on BeerFests.com. Beer tickets will be $5 each, which is a pretty decent deal for a beer at a festival, especially when you’re buying it RIGHT WHERE IT WAS MADE.

Food trucks will be present. Despite the spacious lot, parking can be tough there when it’s busy. Two Roads encourages carpooling, and I agree because it’s a festival, and an important aspect of that is cramming a whole bunch of people in one small vehicle, right? Anyway, the party starts at noon on Saturday, June 28. See you there!

Beer On The Gwar-bie: 5th Annual Gwar-B-Q Heats Up

As many of my reviews will show, I am a big fan of metal. It goes without saying that I love beer. I also enjoy barbeque. Lucky for me, there is an event coming this August that combines that sweet trifecta, and it is called GWAR B Q.

This year’s celebration is somewhat bittersweet. Gwar’s frontman David Brockie passed away in March. I myself wondered if the Fifth Annual Gwar B-Q would take place at all without the fearless leader. However, the show will still go on, and concert-goers will have the opportunity to party even harder in Oderus’ honor.

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GWAR B-Q 2014 takes place on Saturday, August 16 at Hadad’s Lake in Richmond, VA. A public memorial will also be held for Brockie the day before.

This year’s lineup features BODY COUNT (Ice-T’s metal band!), Goatwhore, Connecticut’s own Hatebreed, the Meatmen, Revocation, and more. Check out the full lineup here. It’s recently been announced that Gwar will indeed be performing. The lead singer is up in the air right now, although rumors seem to suggest that Beefcake the Mighty will take up those reins.

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As you may already know, Gwar has their own beer. According to their commercial above, the Gwar brew will be flowing copiously on August 16.

More awesome things? Well Hadad’s Lake is a waterpark, which has everything you would expect including a BLOB. A music festival at a waterpark is pretty much a summer dream- I can’t wait to see the red/brown water after everyone getting doused with Gwar Guts dives in. You can also dry off in the skate park, or not- and participate in the annual Spew-O-Lympics. Last year’s events included something called “Sperm and Slide and Die” and winners are determined by “obviously drunk judges”.

The barbeque is also sponsored by Slave Pit, Inc. as well as Ring Dog Rescue, which suggests that there may or may not be adoptable doggies there. Either way, I think it’s great that the sponsors are the group of artists and musicians that Gwar started from, and PUPPIES.

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Tickets go onsale Friday June 6 on the Gwar B-Q website, with 3 price levels. $45 is the single ticket, which is honestly a pretty good deal for an all day concert. $65 gets you a ticket and the official Gwar B-Q 2014 T-shirt. I am always kind of surprised that the shirts are black, because you can’t see the fake blood stains. If you are feeling like a serious baller, there are also VIP tickets for $150 which get you into the show with a shirt, as well as access to the official pre-party and after (Gwafter?) party. You also get a meet and greet with Gwar, Ice T, Hatebreed, and Bam Margera. Seriously, it’s kind of worth it just in case there’s a possibility of seeing all those guys in the same room and maybe even getting photo evidence.

So get your meat on- make Oderus Urungus in that bloody pit of horror in the sky proud, and get your tickets to the 5th Annual Gwar-B-Q when they go onsale June 6!

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Last Minute Thrash: Scott Ian Comes to CT!

In probably one of the best last-minute announcements I could imagine, last night I got word that Anthrax’s Scott Ian will be bringing his Speaking Words North America tour to the ballroom at the Outer Space in Hamden, CT this Friday.

I’m in love with the spoken word narratives from people like Henry Rollins because musicians of their ilk have so many great stories to tell from their experience in the music industry. Unfortunately I never got to see Black Flag before I saw Henry’s spoken word. So for this Friday’s show with Scott Ian, I’m especially looking forward to seeing one of the men behind the band that I’ve seen thrash live completely solo, relying only on his prose to convey his stories.

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The review of his Pittsburgh show is stellar- check it out here. and don’t touch his beard, but check him out at the Outer Space this Friday, March 7. Tickets are available at the door or online here. If you’re not in CT, or not around this Friday, you can try and check out one of the other remaining dates on the tour.

Q&A: Cerebral Ballzy

Cerebral Ballzy is a punk band from Brooklyn, that can more accurately be described as a party. From their beginnings of living off of cheap beer and pizza, the band has grown up a bit, but still stays true to having a blast on stage and bringing on new fans to hang out with them. They will be playing a show at the Space in Hamden, CT on Saturday, February 8. I chatted with guitarist Mason Orfalea.

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Cerebral Ballzy’s first self-titled record dropped in 2011 and earned some serious buzz. Their second record, Jaded and Faded is slated to come out later this year. In between, they’ve released a few 7-inch vinyls and cassettes. Since this is an analog beer blog after all, I asked Mason the most important question, whether or not their new record would be out on wax. He said something that I definitely agree with; “I’ve always liked being able to go into a record store and come out with a handful of awesome records.  Their is something different about being able to tangibly hold a record in your hands.  I think a lot of great material gets missed as a result of our fast paced download culture.” So their latest will definitely be out on vinyl, and you can pick up the “City’s Girl”/”Another Day” 7-inch here and now.

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The show at the Space, as well as a few of their other upcoming gigs, are all ages. I asked if there was a difference between playing for the all-ages clubs versus 21+ venues, but Mason says no;  “When your at a Ballzy show normal rules don’t really apply. You think we give a shit what the drinking age is?”

Rules certainly don’t seem to apply; after all, I was advised not to have any expectations of Cerebral Ballzy’s latest tour, dubbed a “nepotistic art tour”. As Mason states, “Expectations lead to disappointment, and Cerebral Ballzy never disappoints anybody ever.”

The band has been a hit on the festival circuit taking them around the world the past several years, playing fests like Leeds Festival in the UK, Summer Sonic Festival in Japan, and Pukkelpop in Belgium. This year they’ll be on SXSW, as well as the epicness that is Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas. Mason sent me a video of the last time the band was in Vegas…

Another fun fact: Lead singer Honor Titus is the son of Dres from the legendary hip hop duo Black Sheep. I asked if hip hop had an effect on Cerebral Ballzy’s sound, but Mason says not more than any other kind of music, “We listen to all sorts of music. Obviously we like hip hop, but it hasn’t influenced us any more than other genres of music.  We like good hip hop, but there’s a lot of shit out there.”

Mason tells me, “When we first started the band we would live off of 1$ Coors 24’s and 1$ slices of pizza.  We kind of had an unofficial rule that it was unacceptable to spend more than a dollar on anything.  Now we’ve moved on to drinking Cristal out of Dixie cups.  Classy shit.” Classy shit indeed. The show at the Space is sure to be a good time, with local openers Political Animals, whom I have only seen live once, but it was inside a skate park so that’s kind of a testament to their awesomeness. Rumor has it Black Sheep is going to play a set as well, since they will be performing with Cerebral Ballzy on the tour. So check it out, punk rock, hip hop, all inside a music venue that’s been bringing some of the best new artists to CT for 10 years and running. Plus tickets are under $20! Click here to pick them up ahead of time.

Hudson Hop and Harvest 2013

Last weekend I volunteered at the Hudson Hop and Harvest Festival in Peekskill, NY. I had attended the year before, so when I found out they were looking for volunteers this year, I jumped at the chance. This year’s festival was moved to a larger location, at Riverfront Green Park, located just on the cusp of downtown Peekskill with a beautiful view of the water.

I spent the evening pouring beers from Peekskill Brewery, Troeg’s, Victory, Smuttynose, as well as Doc’s Hard Cider. It was great to see beer geeks and beer n00bs (sorry, I had to) alike enjoying great brews together alongside delicious food with awesome live music all day. Seriously, I only encountered a handful of snobs, and the douche baggery was kept to a minimum. Cheers to the woman I watched eat a whole Mt. Hood Hop and wash it down with a beer. If you’re going to be ridiculous at a beer festival, at least entertain me, and this lady won for the day. Seriously though. Everyone there was out for a good time, and most people seemed to be genuinely interested in trying new beers. Kegs of Oktoberfest offerings seemed to kick the fastest, with people still celebrating the beginning of October.

My favorite beer of the day was Peekskill’s Simple Sour. I am not the biggest fan of the berliner weisse style. However, Peekskill’s was slightly sweet, and very refreshing. It was unfortunately the only beer I was able to taste from Peekskill Brewing, and I look forward to tasting more from them.

Music was provided all day with Evan Watson, Fundimensionals, Elijah and the Moon, Mary C and the Stellars, and Saints of Valory. 107.1 The Peak WHUD, one of my favorite radio stations, sponsored the event. They play an awesome mix of alternative music, their ever-changing playlist pretty much sounds like most of my record collection, except with less metal and hip hop. Lots of surprises and “deep cuts” from well-known artists.

Did I mention there was food? So much food. Trucks and booths were set up everywhere, and I unfortunately did not get to sample nearly as much as I would have liked had I not been working. I very sadly missed visiting a booth from a place called the Waffle Cabin and was very disappointed. So after getting handed a flyer for an upcoming show there, I ended up at the Birdsall House after the festival for a pint of Empire Cream Ale on a nitro line and a beet-and-grain burger with goat cheese and spinach. Awesome food, and a really cool beer-garden style patio on the side. I highly recommend it, despite how busy it was because it was a post-Hop and Harvest hotspot.

Judging from the success of the past two years, it seems like the Hudson Hop and Harvest Festival will be an annual event for years to come. I can only hope that each year continues to get better as it has so far!

Bloodstock Open Air 2013

I don’t usually post about events that I have absolutely no way of attending, but this one is too awesome not to mention.

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It’s the annual Bloodstock Open Air Festival, which takes place in Derby, UK August 8-11 at Catton Park. I found out what it was through the Wychwood Brewery website, who offered a contest for bands to get a spot onto the festival. They also have the most badass shirts for the fest. Hobgoblins are incredibly metal, after all.

Aside from having the best name ever of a metal festival, the lineup is also incredible. The headliners for the three nights are King Diamond, Lamb Of God, and Slayer, respectively. Some of my other favorites include Gojira, Anthrax, Municipal Waste, Exodus, and DevilDriver. You can check out the extensive, full lineup here.

I especially like that the biggest stages aren’t named for corporate sponsors. The main stage is appropriately titled “The Ronnie James Dio Stage”, and the other bigger stage is named after Sophie Lancaster, a girl who was attacked, basically for dressing like any other average metalhead, and murdered in 2007. There is also a “New Blood” stage for up-and-coming metal bands to perform on, which is where Skreamer, the winner of the Wychwood competition, will be performing. Another awesome part? All the bands invited to play on the New Blood stage also get a shot at playing Germany’s Wacken Open Air and Slovenia’s Metal Camp, since they are partners with Bloodstock. How cool is that if you’re a new metal band from the UK?

It’s almost like it’s a festival with a heart, as strange as that is to write. Plus, the ticket prices honestly aren’t that extravagant for what you’re getting. A weekend pass, which includes camping and runs from Thursday-Sunday, is 125 Euros, or about $164 American. If I could make it to England for a weekend, I’d absolutely be there. If you have a flexible job and money to spare, definitely hit up Bloodstock Open Air this year.