If you missed the humorous Part 1, click HERE.
Raise your can of beer on high
And seal your fate forever
Our best years have passed us by
The golden age of leather
On Thursday the 21st, I went to Disneyland-For-Adults, also known as Virginia City, Nevada. (Well, it's the new Disneyland for me, even though the town was founded in the early 1860s and I've been going there since the early 1970s.)
I bought a 'Bucket Of Blood' T-shirt...
...I purchased a lovely Squeek Steele compact disc ('Old West Saloon Piano - Vol. 1') which includes the mystical Squeek Steele original 'Virginia City Waltz' which takes me back to a past life I lived in Virginia City when I was a recently freed Black slave Christian preacher... [Don't ask and I won't tell.]
...and I bought a (link-->) Name Train.
I had a 601 I.P.A. (and another nearly beer-like beverage which shall not be mentioned). I got to pet 3 nice, old dogs and met a couple cool dudes in an underground saloon that takes cash only. No credit cards, no debit cards, no checks, and they won't serve you beer based on your good looks. I tried that. They said, "No."
All in all, it was a great day and I came home happy. I wasn't as happy as the little girl who was given an official NFL football by the Panthers' running back last weekend, but I was pretty happy.
But at home I was greeted by 3 pieces of bad news. The test results were in: My sperm count is too low to ever make babies; my girlfriend is pregnant; and I may need hip replacement surgery. (One of those three things may be true, by the way.)
Once upon a time, before old age set in, I was a beer-drinker and a hell-raiser. Today, I drink very little beer and raise no hell. Every dog has his day, and mine was 1982 and '83. I don't remember those days, but I'm told that I had a great time. (All I really remember is tripping and falling head-over-heels down some concrete steps in front of a bowling alley with a bottle of Coors in one hand and a glass of gin & tonic in the other. This gives you some idea of what a class act I've always been. But I still don't feel that I was fully responsible for that little incident. I mean, seriously! Allah's Unholy Trousers! Only an idiotic architect puts steps in front of a bowling alley, which everyone knows is really just a bar with balls!)
There are some things I know a great deal about, and some I don't know nuttin' about. In that second category is The Kardashians. I keep seeing and hearing that name, but without TV service, all I think I know about them is that they're some slutty sisters, or something. They're basically Paris Hilton with more breasts. Is that right? Am I even in the ballpark?
One thing I do know about is beer. My lifelong quest to find the best beer is over and I'm here to report the results. My journey began at about age 14 and continued for the next 42 years, and I have finally settled on my Top Ten Favorite Beers.
True, my favorite beer style is probably India Pale Ale (IPA), but a person needs variety in his life, so my list includes at least one beer to fill every need. Sadly, a lot of really excellent beers that I enjoy a great deal were necessarily left off this list, but what can ya do? 'Hop Knot', 'Icky', 'DayTime Ale', 'Odell Red Ale', Track 7 'Anniversary Pilsner', to you and your brothers, I apologize. I used you but didn't include you.
I'm certainly no brewski neophyte, and I've tasted most of the most highly praised beers around. Everything from the legendary 'Pliny The Elder' and Stone's 'Ruination Ale' all the way down to Schaefer and Lucky Lager. My boys - beer-drinkers extraordinaire - will remember "The Schaefer Club" as well as the Lucky Lager bottle cap fun:
And if Lucky Lager was good enough for Jimi, it was good enough for me. ...That is until beer got really good and Lucky Lager wasn't good enough anymore.
In my opinion, the Craft Beer thang has gotten out of control at this point, and the blokes who write brew reviews have gotten a bit ridiculous, too. You'll find many of them at the website Beer Advocate, and in 2011, I poked a little fun at them with my blog bit titled (link-->) I DON'T ALWAYS DRINK URINE, BUT WHEN I DO, I PREFER 'DOS EQUIS'.
And believe it or not, little ol' me was once ripped off by some dudes at YouTube. I don't really mind that they stole my idea. I was flattered, actually. But they could have at least given me some public credit for inspiring them to post what they have at YouTube. Here's my original idea...
(link-->) Blind Beer Taste Tests (Or, Beer Battles: Who Hops To The Top?)
...and here's the copy-cat version at Youtube...
(link-->) Brew Battles
OK, so without further yakking, let's get to perhaps the single most important list ever compiled: My Top Ten Favorite Beers (Which Goes "Up To Eleven"). These are not in any particular order.
Mammoth Brewing Co.
Mammoth Lakes, California.
The label says: "Our ode to the Owens Valley and the Highway 395 corridor. IPA 395 is designed to taste and smell like an Eastern Sierra thunderstorm." It's brewed with locally grown sage and juniper berries.
This is a big, heavy beer in every way. It's 8% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 70 IBU (International Bitterness Units), and when I'm in the mood for it, I love it. But I'm only good for one or two at most of these beers. It's just "too much" for everyday drinking and beer sessions. It's kind of cool though that I can see Interstate 395 from the front door of my house, and I have sipped an IPA 395 while watching the traffic zoom North and South on that highway.
BIG SKY IPA
Big Sky Brewing Co.
Back when my brother Nappy and I were conducting our Blind Beer Taste Tests, BIG SKY IPA won the entire the contest. It is a perfectly balanced (Hops to Malt) ale and may in fact be the perfect brew. Conduct your own Blind Beer Taste Tests and see if BIG SKY IPA doesn't kick booty. It's a champion!
BIG SKY IPA is horribly underrated by beer snobs (aka "website reviewers") because its hop bite is smoothed out by its malt profile, which is outstanding.
You see, there's a certain kind of guy who calls himself a "Hophead". What that usually means is that he craves (or says he does) the hoppiest, most bitter beer he can find. Since there aren't any more sabre-toothed tigers to kill, wars are mostly fought by pushing buttons, and the social engineers have propagandized everyone into falsely believing that women are as tough or tougher than men, men have few ways of proving their "manhood" nowadays. So they have resorted to fighting with food and beer.
The man who will eat chili that's like fire and then stand there with tears pouring out of his inflamed eyes, all red-faced and panting, with smoke rising off his tongue and tell you how much he loves that chili and how "It just can't be hot enough for me!", he's the same sorta guy who will tell you a beer can't be hoppy enough for him. These self-proclaimed "Hopheads" won't be satisfied until they're chewing on a mouthful of raw hops. THAT would be the ultimate beer for them.
Frankly, I think they're all full of it. They're poseurs trying to find a way - ANY way - to prove their manhood in the matriarchy we've become.
For the man who is a "confident heterosexual" and doesn't feel any need to prove his machismo, there is BIG SKY IPA - a beautifully balanced brew with no pretensions. Possibly perfect.
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
For several years, this was my all-time favorite beer. The story of how it came by that name is funny. I like people and companies that have a self-deprecating sense of humor.
SUCKS, once seasonal and hard to find, is now readily available year 'round. That's because we loved it so much. I guess Lagunitas heard our voices crying in the wilderness and met our demands.
This one almost glows an unearthly orange color, and at 63.21 IBU, this is about as hoppy as I like a beer to be. Granted, IPA 395 clocks in at 70 IBU, but it doesn't seem like it due to the addition of the sage and juniper berry flavors. There was a time when I seemed to like the "Hop Bombs", but I eventually grew tired of the sameness of them. SUCKS is more than bitter enough for me. A hop-forward, high-powered classic that, again, I can only drink one or two of in a session.
SIERRA NEVADA OKTOBERFEST - 2015
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
This was a "one-time only" seasonal brew in which Sierra Nevada (the company most responsible for the Craft Beer explosion in America today) teamed up with German brewer Brauhaus Riegele to create this malt-forward "festival lager".
If you missed it, you missed out. It ain't comin' back. But, boy, was it great! Honestly, if this were brewed year 'round, it would quite possibly be my regular "go-to" beer. Damned delicious stuffs!
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Simply put, this is a heavy hitter and my all-time favorite Wheat ale. It's got a very distinctive taste and clocks in at 7.50% ABV. You don't want to drink too many. Well,... you WILL want to, but I don't recommend it.
STONE SMOKED PORTER
Stone Brewing Co.
I have never tasted a Stout that I liked. Man, if I want chocolate, coffee, and mud mixed, I'll mix my own, thank you very much! And the only Porters I like are all "SMOKED". I love "smoked" anything! Cheeses, peppers, ice cream - you name it. Even as I type these words, I have two different brands of liquid smoke in my refrigerator and I add them to much of what I eat.
As much as I dislike Stouts and Porters, that's how much I DO like Smoked Porters. And I think my favorite is probably by Stone, which is peculiar since I am not a fan of any other Stone beers. But they nailed it with their Smoked Porter. I just wish it was more readily available. The Epic Brewing Company in Salt Lake City also makes an excellent Smoked Porter. It's almost a tie, really. Maybe the slightest edge to Stone, but if I could get a bottle of Epic for a dollar less, that would probably be enough to sway me on that purchase.
Great Basin Brewing Co.
I often say, "I only like coffee-flavored coffee and beer-flavored beer." That's 100% true when it comes to coffee and about 97% true when it comes to beer. There are 3 beers that are exceptions, and Cerveza Chilebeso is a major exception. It's a jalapeno pepper-infused beer with almost no heat. I thought I might like it better with a bit more heat so I added some cayenne powder to it a couple times. What I found was that as the heat increases, the delicate but very pronounced jalapeno pepper flavor begins to fade.
Great Basin brewed this beer with very little heat and got it just right in the process. Unfortunately, CHILEBESO is only a Summer seasonal, but if it were available all year long, I would drink it all year long. Easily my favorite chile pepper flavored beer. In fact, I'm just going to go ahead and call it my favorite beer, period.
Odell Brewing Co.
Fort Collins, Colorado
My brother Nappy and I had our first Odell IPA at a bar called 'GRANNY'S CLOSET' in Flagstaff, Airheadzona. It was the first time we ever noticed that natural "citrus" flavor that somehow develops in some of the very best IPAs. And Nappy and I became instant fans of the Odell Brewing Company which, today, I still consider excellent and probably the best that Colorado has to offer.
I can say for Odell what I also say for the Deschutes Brewing Company: Everything they make, I like (except when it comes to beer styles I simply don't enjoy, such as Stouts, Porters, Belgian-like ales, etc.)
There are a lot of IPAs out there, but Odell is better than nearly all of them.
PIGEON HEAD PILSNER
Pigeon Head Brewing Co.
This is a very crisp, lighter bodied beer for swilling after the lawn has been cut or while playing a game of Wiffle Ball.
Like I said, you need a beer for every occasion, and this is PERFECT for the dog days of Summer. For a lighter bodied beer, it has an exceptionally distinctive taste that I love. It's a classic beer type with a classic beer flavor profile. My favorite Pilsner without a doubt, created by a small, under-the-radar brewery.
MIRROR POND PALE ALE
Deschutes Brewing Co.
This is an exceptional "go-to" beer. It's a wonderfully balanced, great-tasting pale ale. Deliciously goes with whatever you're eating. And I have often said that THIS is the beer I would use if I were attempting to introduce a macro-beer drinker to craft beers. 'Mirror Pond' is really the perfect bridge between the macro and the micro. The Coors or Bud drinker will enjoy the body and depth of flavor without it being too much of a shock to his system.
If I were still drinking beer on a very regular basis -- and with Sierra Nevada's 'Oktoberfest 2015' gone forever now -- 'Mirror Pond Pale Ale' would protly be my normal "go-to" brew when Cerveza Chilebeso was out of season.
So sorry, 'Summer Shandy'. I really do love ya, but something had to make way for this beautiful Deschutes Pale Ale, and you, my friend, were the low beer on this totem pole.
"Mirror Pond Pale Ale plays well with others."
For Christmas, my friend FAE (you know her!) gave me the book 'The Best Beer In The World' by Mark Dredge, and I've skimmed around in it. A fun, entertaining book. And one passage in particular made me reconsider how I ought to end this Top Ten Favorite Beers list. I realized that my list really needed to go "up to eleven" and conclude with something unlikely but warranted.
On pages 219 and 220, Mark Dredge writes: "The mood of the place and the beer are inseparable from the moment you're in. ... You cannot replicate any place or flavor by sitting on the sofa and cracking open a few bottles. ... Some beers just stick in the memory so clearly because they tasted so good. These beers are often those unforgettable one-off experiences that will likely never be repeated."
Indeed! I'm still crazy after all these beers. But after all these years and all these A-list Craft beers, you want to know which one was my all-time favorite in the way that Mark Dredge described it above?
It was either 1981 or '82 and my friend Dean and I went to Catalina Island to camp out for about 3 days and nights. Dean wasn't old enough to legally drink yet, but I was, and I bought us a six-pack of what was then considered top of the line macro-brew (meaning cheaply made and nationally distributed for America's uninformed, unenlightened taste buds).
Dean and I set up our campsite in Isthmus Cove, then I buried that six-pack in ice in our ice chest, and we went on a strenuous, mostly uphill hike. It was blazing hot and we were tired and sweaty when we got back to camp about three hours later and opened that ice chest.
Both of us sucked down three ice-cold beers each in about 8 minutes total time. To this day, no beer ever went down faster or better. My all-time "best beer moment" belongs to...
[Copyrighted image borrowed from Tavern Trove, with gratitude, apologies, love, hugs & beer suds!]
Yes, HENRY WEINHARD'S 'PRIVATE RESERVE'. Sorry, beer snobs, but it's a historical fact and I can't change it. When you're dying for an ice cold beer, it almost doesn't matter what it is - micro or macro, Big Sky IPA or Henry Weinhard's - when any beer will do, any beer will do.
I love the Craft Brewing experience in the U.S. today, but I won't pretend that there's no place in my world for Mickey's Big Mouth. Those, baby, are my roots! I won't deny where I came from.
Wow! All of this beer yak has made me thirsty.
...I need a cold Mojito!
~ Stephen T. McCarthy