Beer Nirvana: Great American Beer Festival 2018

If you haven’t heard of the Great American Beer Festival before (GABF for short), all you really need to know is that it’s heaven for beer lovers. GABF is the premier U.S. beer festival and competition representing the largest collection of U.S. beer ever served.

The first GABF was held in 1982 at the Harvest House Hotel in Boulder, CO. At that time, there were just 24 breweries, 47 beers and 800 attendees. Two years later, the festival moved to Denver, CO, and by the tenth festival, its scale grew to 150 breweries, 500 beers and 7,000 attendees. In 2000, after years of continued growth, GABF moved to the Colorado Convention Center. This year’s festival claimed the largest participation yet: 800 breweries, 4,000 beers and 62,000 attendees!

That said, GABF has been on my bucket list for years. I am thrilled to say that 2018 was my first time attending the festival, as well as my first trip to Denver (but certainly not my last!). Since I’m still riding the high from my trip, I wanted to take a moment to recap my experience for those of you who have been considering attending GABF in the future.

First, a word of advice… altitude sickness is real folks! Be sure to drink plenty of water—at least pint for pint with your beer. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!


Even before I stepped foot in Colorado, I was overwhelmed by the huge number of amazing breweries that people recommended I visit while in Denver. There is certainly no shortage of good beer to drink in the Mile High City! Below is a recap of just some of the stops during my stay.

Cerebral Brewing
1477 Monroe Street
Denver, CO 80206
Tap list:

This local favorite had a little something for everyone! Every beer in our flight was solid—list and pictures below!

  • DH International Waters – Citra dry hopped Pilsner, 5.0%
  • Severance Package – Oak-aged wild ale with blueberry, vanilla & maple syrup, 7.8%
  • Cheat Code – Hazy Double IPA hopped with Galaxy, El Dorado, Mosaic and N1/69, 7.8%
  • DDH Remote Island – Imperial IPA dry hopped with Galaxy, Motueka and Hallertau Blanc, 8.2%
  • BA Safe Word – Barrel-aged imperial pastry stout with cacao, coconut and cassia bark, 12.8%

Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project
925 W 8th Avenue
Denver, CO, 80204
Tap list:

This brewery features beer styles from around the world, including a Basil IPA, a Polish Grätzer, and a Turkish Coffee Stout. I also loved to see that they offer plenty of gluten free and gluten reduced options for those who need it.

  • Pahk the Cah in the Yahd – An appropriately named Hazy NE IPA with Azacca, Mosaic, Apollo & Citra hops, 6.5%
  • Hickory Peach Wee Heavy – A smoky, fruity, malty treat, which brags a 2018 World Beer Cup Silver for Experimental Beer, 9.3%
  • DDH Brett Barrelfruit NEIPA – Fermented in American Oak barrels with Belgian and Brett yeast strains, then double dry hopped with Azacca, Apollo, Citra and Mosaic and fruited with mango and pineapple, 8.7%
  • Turkish Coffee Stout – Robust and smooth with cardamom and orange peel, 7%

Our Mutual Friend
2810 Larimer Street
Denver, CO 80205
Tap list:

A short stumble away from Ratio Beerworks, this little gem offers a wide range of styles, but is probably most well known for their sour and Brett style beers. They also have some pretty awesome looking merch!


  • Festbier – An all-Colorado-ingredients Märzen, 4.8%
  • Saison Trystero – A brett saison, which snagged both WBC gold and GABF silver, 6.6%
  • Gratitude Five – Brett ale aged on peaches, 7.8%
  • Sur Framboise – Raspberry sour wit, 7.0%
  • Canela Mundo – Russian Imperial Stout with cinnamon, vanilla & lactose, 10.0%

Woods Boss
2210 California Street
Denver, CO 80205
Tap list:

The ornate woodwork in this beautiful log cabin style taproom gives off a rustic vibe, making it the ideal place to feel right at home.

  • Don’t Mess With the Trail God – Imperial IPA with Chinook, Bravo, Centennial, Mosaic, and Eldorado hops, 10.6%
  • Peachwald – The peach version of The Oswald, a hazy IPA, 7.5%
  • Peach Camp Sweep – Imperial Cream Ale with peaches, 7.5%

Great Divide (two locations)
2201 Arapahoe Street
Denver, CO 80205
1812 35th Street
Denver, CO 80216
Tap list:

Great Divide.jpgBrian Dunn first started Great Divide back in 1994, and it has been a staple in Denver’s beer community ever since. Their beers are widely distributed, well recognized and well respected. The Yeti Imperial Stout is just one of their year-round favorites.

Bierstadt Lagerhaus
2875 Blake Street
Denver, CO 80205

This is the Denver go-to if you’re a lager fan. They believe in tradition and brew classic lagers that can withstand the test of time. They resurrected an 84-year-old brew kettle from Germany, and stuck with a strict Reinheitsgebot process (German Beer Purity Law), using only the holy quaternity of beer: water, malt, hops and yeast.

Falling Rock Taphouse
1919 Blake Street
Denver, CO 80202
Tap list:

Falling Rock boasts a constantly changing selection of 75+ quality beers on tap and 130+ in bottles. Simply put, it’s the place in Denver to find a wide selection of renowned, rare and limited availability beers.

13th Street & Ford Street
Golden, CO 80401

Yeah, yeah… I know what you’re thinking, but I assure you that the drive out to Golden will be worth it once you take this free—and very informative—tour, followed by three free beers at the end!

I got to see a brief history of the company, followed by a walking tour of the production space. As impressive as the massive tanks are, I think what blew me away the most was their canning line (short video below!).

They had lots of brands to choose from that day, including Coors Banquet, Coors Light, Blue Moon, Killian’s Irish Red and Sandlot Stout.

Getting an inside look at this large scale production facility certainly draws a crowd, so be sure to line up early for this tour unless you plan on killing your whole day in Golden.

One other thing to note: They don’t allow backpacks or purses, so be sure to pack light for your tour! Check their tour page for all the details.


Now on to the grand finale! There are essentially two parts to GABF: the brewing competition and the festival itself. Each year, thousands of breweries from around the country submit their beers to be judged by the Brewer’s Association in hopes of earning a token of brewing excellence. These beers are said to be the best examples of each style in the country, so you should make it a point to try them whenever you have the chance! The festival is your opportunity to walk around and try one-ounce pours of some of the best beers in the US. It’s a perfect opportunity to meet some new friends and to try some beers that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get your hands on.


As I mentioned, GABF is the largest beer fest in the country. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how big it really is…

Competition Stats for 2018

  • 32nd edition of the brewing competition
  • 8,496 entries plus 101 Pro-Am and 49 Collaboration entries
    • Commercial breweries are allowed to enter up to four beers in the competition
  • 2,404 breweries competed in the competition from 49 states plus Washington, D.C. (no Mississippi)
  • 293 judges from 13 countries
  • 102 beer categories covering 167 different beer styles (including all subcategories)
    • Average of 83 beers entered in each competition category
  • Category with the highest number of entries was Juicy or Hazy IPA with a total of 391 entries
    • The next most popular category was American-Style IPA with 311 entries.
  • 280 medal-winning breweries (including Pro-Am and Collaboration)
  • 306 total medals awarded plus three (3) each for Pro-Am and Collaboration
    • The state of California took home 72 of those medals, 11 of which were given to Orange County breweries
  • 537 first-time GABF entrants
  • 31 first-time GABF winners

Image result for gabf medals

Biggest Winners for 2018 (3 medals each)

  • 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend, OR
    • GOLD – Baywindow: Berliner-Style Weisse
    • GOLD – Passionate Envy: Fruit Wheat Beer
    • SILVER – P2P: American-Style Stout
  • Alesong Brewing and Blending, Eugene, OR
    • SILVER – Terroir Pinot Noir: Experimental Beer
    • SILVER – Terroir Pinot Gris: Brett Beer
    • BRONZE – Touch of Brett Mandarina: Brett Beer
  • Lewis & Clark Brewing Co., Helena, MT
    • GOLD – Miner’s Gold: American-Style Wheat Beer with Yeast
    • SILVER – Pompey’s Pilsner: Bohemian-Style Pilsener
    • BRONZE – Prickly Pear: Classic English-Style Pale Ale

2018 Winners from Orange County, CA

Medal Brewery Beer Category City
GABFbronze The Bruery Mischief American-Belgo Ale Placentia
GABFbronze Unsung Lumino American Lager Anaheim
GABFgold Barley Forge Grandpa Tractor Dortmunder Costa Mesa
GABFbronze Green Cheek West Coast IPA is Dead! American-Style IPA Orange
GABFbronze Green Cheek Fools & Babies English Milds Orange
GABFgold Noble Aleworks Nobility Imperial IPA Anaheim
GABFsilver Stereo Robot Imperial Red Ale Placentia
GABFbronze Stereo Wall of Sound Oatmeal Stout Placentia
GABFsilver Riip Black the Ripper American Black Ale Huntington Beach
GABFbronze Gunwhale Ales Hayshaker Classic Saison Costa Mesa
GABFsilver Beachwood Udder Love Sweet Stout Huntington Beach

Notable Neighbor Awards

  • Beachwood Blendery – Long Beach, CA
    • GOLD – Funk Yeah: Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale
  • TAPS – Corona, CA
    • SILVER – Irish Red: Irish-Style Red Ale

You can view the full list of winners here:

Festival Stats

  • 37th anniversary of the festival
  • Over 800 breweries in expanded festival hall
  • 4,000+ beers served at the festival
  • 62,000 attendees
  • 584,000 square feet of festival hall
  • 4,086 volunteers (festival and competition combined)

This year, I attended the Members Only session (members of the Brewers Association or American Homebrewers Association only), on Saturday afternoon. Next year, I’d love to go with a full brewer’s pass to enjoy more of the event. The members session is known to be less busy than some of the other sessions, and is also the only one to include actual glass tasting vessels, rather than plastic. Tickets for this session are also a few dollars cheaper than the others, so it’s really the most bang for your buck if you have the credentials needed to purchase them.

Waiting in line, before the madness begins!

My friends and I were watching parts of the awards ceremony as we were standing in line and waiting to get in. Once it was go time, we headed straight for some of our top priority beers.

It wasn’t before long that I found out the almost-two-years-old brewery I work for, Stereo Brewing, won not one, but two medals this year! I was so overcome by excitement that I forgot all about tasting any beer for almost an hour!

However, once I got myself back on track from all the excitement, I was so pleased to be able to try so many amazing and unique beers, and talk to so many fellow industry people–some of whom I already knew, and others I didn’t. I even got a chance to hang out with some old co-workers and friends at the festival!

The #BeValiant crew!

With so many beers on tap to try, there just isn’t time to try them all. For that reason, you should download the official GABF app before you leave. Prior to the festival, they will post a map of all the participating breweries, as well as the beers to be available.

By the time I got back from GABF, I had already decided to go again next year! In case you’re wondering, yes, the dates have already been announced (for the next five years), so mark your calendar now!

Great American Beer Festival Schedule

2019: October 3-5
2020: September 24-26
2021: October 7-9
2022: October 6-8
2023: September 21-23

To learn more, visit

Leave me a comment below and tell me if you’ve ever been to GABF, if you went this year (and which beers blew your mind), or if you’re planning to go next year!

OC Beer Week is April 21-28, 2018

We’re halfway through OC Beer Week, so today I’ll be talking about what it is, when it is, where it is, and how you can participate!

In short, it’s a week long craft beer celebration throughout Orange County, CA. Many of the local breweries hold special events (including tap takeovers at local restaurants and other venues), releasing special beers, and of course, the OC Brewers Guild sends the week off in style with a giant beer festival to conclude the festivities.

Why not take some time this week to explore some of the 40 breweries in OC, and the amazing beers they have to offer—I mean, do you really need one more reason to go out for a beer?


Similar “craft beer week” events happen all over the country, especially in April and May. If you’re not local to Orange County, then research your area to find out what breweries around you do to celebrate craft beer!

Dates: April 21-28, 2018

Events you can attend:

Third Annual Orange County Brewers Guild (OCBG) Invitational

  • Date: Saturday, April 28, 2018
  • Time: 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
  • Location: Newport Dunes
    1131 Back Bay Dr.
    Newport Beach, CA 92660
  • Tickets:
    • General Admission: $65 if purchased online (link below), $80 at the door
    • VIP Admission: $75 (admittance at 3:00 pm)
    • Designated Driver: $20
  • Ticket includes: Unlimited beer tastings from your favorite OC breweries (100+ beers to choose from!), commemorative festival glass, water, live entertainment
  • Buy tickets on Eventbrite

OCBG Invitational.jpg

First Class Pizza IPA Fest

  • Date: Wednesday, April 25, 2018
  • Time: 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm
  • Location: First Class Pizza Woodbury
    6420 Irvine Blvd.
    Irvine, CA 92620
  • Beers on tap:
    • Noble Ale Works: Because You’re Worth It, Big Whig
    • Bottle Logic: An Elegant Beer For A More Civilized Age IPA
    • Unsung: Metaplex, Cygnus Loop
    • Chapman Crafted: Have A Nice Life
    • Beachwood: Citraholic
    • Artifex: So Choice IPA, Orange You Different Hazy IPA
    • Stereo Brewing: Astral Plane Hazy IPA, Childhood’s End DIPA
    • Tustin Brewing Co.: Old Town IPA
    • The Good Beer Company: Monopoly On Truth
    • Offshoot Beer Co.: Taste that Taste NE DIPA, One (1st Anniversary) NE IPA
    • Karl Strauss: All The Single Hazies

Tustin Brewing’s OC Beer Week Beer Dinner

  • Date: Thursday, April 26, 2018
  • Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
  • Location: Tustin Brewing Co.
    13011 Newport Ave.
    Tustin, CA 92780
  • Price: $50 per person
  • Includes: Prix fixe menu with beer pairings for each course. Reserve your spot ahead of time, seating for this event is limited.

Special Limited Beer Release at Stereo Brewing

  • Date: Friday, April 27, 2018
  • Time: 4:00 pm – 10:30 pm
  • Location: Stereo Brewing
    950 S Via Rodeo
    Placentia, CA 92870
  • Beer Details: To be announced; but trust me, once you find out what they’re putting on tap, you won’t want to miss it!

You can also visit the OC Brewers Guild website, where they’ve posted a calendar with a more complete list of events.

So this week, go out, enjoy a local craft brew, and appreciate all that Orange County has to offer!

National Beer Day

You know on occasions like this, I have to throw you a dose of history with your beer knowledge!

Every year on April 7th we celebrate National Beer day, marking the anniversary of the day in which the Cullen–Harrison Act was enacted, allowing people to buy, sell and drink beer containing up to 3.2% alcohol by weight (or 4.05% by volume).

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the legislation on March 22, 1933, remarking “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” Sixteen days later when the law went into effect, people all over the country gathered outside of their local breweries in anticipation. On the first day of sales alone, 1.5 million barrels of beer were consumed, inspiring the holiday we celebrate today.

Happy Days are Beer Again

The Cullen-Harrison Act redefined an “intoxicating beverage” under the Volstead Act, and should not be confused with the day the Eighteenth Amendment (prohibition) was repealed (which was December 5, 1933). This year, we celebrate 85 years of being able to buy, sell and consume alcohol in the US!

As if you didn’t already have enough reasons to crack open a beer today, here are a few more to consider. In moderation, beer can have good effects on your body! For one, beer contains antioxidants, which can lower your risk of heart attack, diabetes and bone disease. It can also help ease stress—a truly theraputic mental wellness benefit.

Beer also has social benefits. Many of us make lifelong friends through visiting local breweries and talking to the person next to us. Or maybe it’s bonding with your co-workers over a few cold ones during happy hour. Beer is also known to increase your confidence, making it that much easier to make a new friend!


Today, you can celebrate in several ways:

  • Visit your favorite local brewery and maybe even make a new friend while you’re there.
    • Pro tip: Consider bringing home a crowler or growler of your favorite brew to be enjoyed later!
  • Crack open a old one to enjoy with some friends. Maybe even make it a group bottle share!
    • Pro tip: Download Untappd to rate and notate any beers you drink, so you can remember them for later.
  • Try a new beer that you’ve never had before.
    • Pro tip: Check Beer Advocate or Untappd for ratings if you come across something you’re unsure about.
  • Homebrew your own beer, whether you’re an expert, or just a beginner.
    • Pro tip: If you’re just getting started, you can find my homebrew guide here.

I hope you all take the time to enjoy National Beer Day. Leave me a comment below to tell me how you celebrated the day!

Pie + Beer = Happiness

Today is March 14th, which means it’s Pi Day! If you’re a sweet tooth like me, then you’ll agree that beer and pie are equally awesome, and make a great match! So today, I figured I’d post some recommendations of some beer & pie pairings, along with some make-at-home recipes to celebrate the love of beer and pie!

Pro tip: Save these suggestions for later and use them for holidays, parties, and other gatherings!

Pairing Recommendations:

Crooked Stave Mama Bear’s Sour Cherry Pie paired with Polly’s “Old-World” Cherry Pie

Pollys cherry pieCrooked Stave is an artisan brewery located in Denver, CO that specializes in Brettanomyces fermentations and barrel-aged sour and wild ales, so naturallly this sour cherry pie is something special. Crooked Stave In 1968, the first Polly’s was established in Fullerton, CA, and the “Old-World” Cherry Pie in this pairing was one of the original pies, and continues to be one of their most popular varieties throughout their various Southern California locations today. The tart cherries in the pie will mesh perfectly with those in the beer.

Julian Apple Pie Hard Cider paired with Julian Dutch Apple Pie

Julian Cider & Pie.jpgI know this is a cider and technically not a beer, but close enough! Julian makes some of the best pies in the country, and their cider is equally delicious, making this a perfect pairing. If you’re lucky enough to live close to Julian Pie Company, then this pairing is for you! And good news for those of you don’t live within driving distance: they offer expedited shipping options to bring the pie right to your door! This pairing makes for a delicious double dose of Julian apple pie goodness!

High Water Sugaree Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie paired with Cheesecake Factory’s Caramel Pecan Turtle Cheesecake

A bit of forewarning on this one: this Sugaree Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie from High Water is a seasonal release (usually available from October-December), so finding a bottle in March may require calling around or checking online at some of your local liquor stores or chains like Total Wine, BevMo, etc. However, the search will be worth it when you taste this pairing! Brewed with Vermont maple sugar, bourbon-soaked oak chips, and Japanese pecans, Sugaree offers a big slice of flavor through smooth, toasty malts. CCF_CaramelPecanTurtleCheesecakeYou’re first met with pecan pie aromas, then charred marshmallow hits your palate before the vanilla, whiskey and maple on the finish. And although the pairing isn’t technically pie, I think we can all let that slide for a slice of Cheesecake Factory’s Caramel Pecan Turtle Cheesecake – a small slice of pure heaven for the taste buds!

Funky Buddha Key Lime Pie Tart paired with Marie Callender’s Key Lime Pie

Funky Buddha Key Lime PieThis tart pairing is a story of East meets West. Funky Buddha is a cult-favorite brewery located in Oakland Park, FL and is known for its off-the-wall, often fruit-enhanced beers like Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, Sweet Potato Casserole, and Blueberry Cobbler.Marie Callenders Key Lime Pie Marie Callender launched her legendary pie business in the early 1940s right here in Orange County, CA and 70 years later the company continues to serve up her famous pies all across the country. Enjoy this pairing of something fun and modern paired with a traditional classic.

Angry Chair Coconut Cream Pie paired with Claim Jumper Coconut Cream Pie

Angry Chair Coconut Cream Pie Located in Tampa, FL, Angry Chair prides themselves on brewing beers that they like to drink, but allows the public to determine their “core” beers; they say that “if you like the beer, we will keep brewing it.” Well their head brewer Ben Romano seems to do just that with his impressive ability to create decadent pastry stouts (among other things), beginning with his roots at Cigar City Brewing.Claim Jumper Coconut Cream Pie Claim Jumper opened their first restaurant in Los Alamitos, CA in 1977, and has since added about 40 locations to its lineup. Their pies are also readily available at local grocery stores, which is very convienient. This pie is made with 100% real coconut, and will compliment the Angry Chair beer nicely.

Bottle Logic Pumpkin π paired with Coco’s Pumpkin Harvest Pie

Bottle Logic Pumpkin PiUnfortunately for us, this beer is a seasonal release, and is seldomly available outside of having it on draft at Bottle Logic‘s tasting room. But in my opinion it’s a terrific beer and a great representation of pumpkin pie, and with the ever-so-appropriate tie in to today’s theme. If you are lucky enough to find this beer, try pairing it with Coco’s Pumpkin Harvest Pie.Cocos Pumpkin Harvest Pie Coco’s began with one small restaurant along Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County, CA in 1948, and has now grown to more than 70 locations across the Western US. Thier twist on a classic pumpkin pie is made with a velvety pumpkin chiffon and finished with fresh whipped cream.


For those of you who like to DIY, or are interested in a more savory way to enjoy your pie, here are some fun recipes to try!

Hearty Steak and Ale Meat Pie
Recipe from:

Steak & Ale Meat Pie


1.75 – 2 lbs Roast (Chuck or Rump)
¼ Cup Flour (all-purpose)
1.2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
3 Tbsp. Butter
1 Large Yellow Onions, Sliced (Approx. 1 Cup)
1 Tbsp. Garlic, minced
1.5 – 2 Cups High Quality Dark Ale or Stout (divided)
¼ Cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp. Tomato Sauce
1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
½ Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Chopped Rosemary
1 Bay Leaf, Whole
¼ Teaspoon Ground Thyme
1 Cup High Quality Beef Broth
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
⅛ Teaspoon Black Pepper
5 Large Mushrooms, Sliced (any variety)
2 Medium Size Carrots, Sliced
1 Tbsp. cornstarch or 2 Tbsp. Tapioca Flour
1 Egg (beaten)
1 Sheet of Puff Pastry
Additional Salt and Pepper (to Taste)


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl mix the flour and garlic powder. Set aside.
  • Cut the roast into 1.5″ – 2″ cubes.
  • Place the beef into the flour mixture and toss to coat evenly.
  • Place a dutch oven (or large pan) over high heat. Once heated, add 1 tablespoon of butter and let melt to coat the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the beef to the hot pan and sear on each site until crispy (about two minutes per side).
  • Place the seared beef on a dinner plate and set aside.
  • Reduce the temperature to medium and add 1 tablespoon of butter followed by the onion and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes until the carrots and onions are soft. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.
  • Add ½ cup of beer to deglaze the pan. Make sure to scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon.
  • If necessary, add another ½ cup (if the original amount cooks off quickly). Let cook for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the Worcestershire Sauce, balsamic vinegar, tomato sauce, sugar, rosemary, bay leaf and thyme.
  • Add in the last cup of beer, beef broth, salt and black pepper and stir.
  • Add in the mushrooms and seared beef and stir.
  • Place the dutch oven in the oven and bake for 90 minutes (covered).
  • When done baking, mix the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water and add to the beef mixture. Set aside for 5 minutes to thicken.
  • Transfer the beef mixture to a pie dish or other deep dish container.
  • Turn the oven temperature up to 400 degrees. Unfold the puff pastry and lay flat.
  • Beat the egg with a tablespoon of water and brush lightly across the puff pastry.
  • Place the puff pastry on top of the pie dish and, using a knife, poke a hole or two in the top (to allow air to escape).
  • Transfer the pie to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Beef & Guinness Hand Pies
Recipe from:

Beef & Guiness Hand Pies.jpg


1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup onion finely chopped
2 Medium Sized Potatoes diced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup sweet peas
1 bottle Guinness Stout
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 packages of Deep Dish Pastry Shells (4 Shells total)


  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown beef and onion then stir in the vegetables, thyme, Guinness, Worcestershire sauce and seasonings then bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 7-8 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  • Roll out pastry dough and cut out 16 – 5 inch rounds and 16 – 5.5 inch rounds.
  • Spoon filling onto 5 inch rounds, brushing milk around the edges and cover with the 5.5 inch rounds and press with a fork to seal.
  • Bake 12-15 minutes and serve warm.

Chocolate Stout Cream Pie with Irish Cream Whipped Cream
Recipe from:

Chocolate Stout Cream Pie


For the pie:
1/2 recipe all-butter pie crust
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 large egg yolks , lightly beaten
1-1/3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup stout or chocolate stout (choose one that isn’t too bitter)
7 ounces dark chocolate (50-62% cacao, semi/bittersweet, depending on brand), finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:
1 cup heavy cream , well-chilled
1 to 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar (depending on your sweetness preferences)
2 tablespoons Irish Cream liqueur
Chocolate shavings (optional)


  • Prepare and blind bake a single pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan. Cool crust completely before filling. As a time saver, you can also use your favorite store-bought refrigerated pie crust, blind baked according to package directions.
  • Place chocolate in a large bowl and set aside. In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in egg yolks until almost combined, followed by milk, cream, and stout until fully combined. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Lower heat and cook, whisking, until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Pass custard through a fine mesh-sieve set over the bowl of chocolate. Discard any bits of cooked egg in the sieve. Add butter and vanilla extract to the bowl and whisk until the mixture is combined and smooth. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the chocolate pudding and refrigerate until room temperature, about 30-45 minutes.
  • Pour cooled chocolate pudding into the cooled pie shell and spread until even. Lightly cover and refrigerate until fully chilled and set, about 6-8 hours.
  • Just before serving (no more than an hour prior) place cold heavy cream in a large, chilled mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Using a hand mixer (or the stand mixer), beat cream on medium speed until just starting to thicken. Add sugar and liqueur and continue beating until you have medium peaks (don’t beat it too long, or you’ll make butter!).
  • Spoon or pipe over chilled pie. If desired, garnish with chocolate shavings. Slice into wedges and serve.

Not Your Mom’s Apple Pie A La Mode
Recipe from:



Not Your Mom’s Apple Pie
Vanilla ice cream
Whipped Cream


  • Place 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream in chilled float glass
  • Fill with Not Your Mom’s Apple Pie
  • If desired, top with whipped cream

I hope that this gives you some fun ideas on how to celebrate Pi Day. Comment below to let me know what you favorite pairing is!

8 Beers to Drink This Valentine’s Day

If you’re trying to find just the right beer for Valentine’s Day this FeBREWary, look no further! Whether you’re indulging by yourself, or searching for a gift for that special beer lover in your life, this list is full of delicious selections for your enjoyment!

Bruery Terreux Goses Are Red

Bruery Terreux – Goses Are Red

Style: Gose

ABV: 5.3%

Color: Pink/Rosé

Aroma: Fruity, sour, oak

Taste: Fruity, tart, spice (coriander), salty, oak, crisp

Bonus Info: Wheat-based beer aged in an oak foeder with grapes; reminiscent of a rosé wine

Beachwood Strawberry Provence

Beachwood – Strawberry Provence

Style: Fruit Lambic

ABV: 6.9%

Color: Orange/Pink

Aroma: Strawberry, funky

Taste: Fruity, tart, sour, funky

Bonus Info: A barrel-aged Brett saison from Propagation Series 2.6e5

Boulevard Love Child #8

Boulevard – Love Child No. 8

Style: American Wild Ale

ABV: 9.0%

IBU: 9

Color: Pink/Orange

Aroma: Funky, fruity

Taste: Funky, sour, fruity, tart

Bonus Info: Boulevard’s Love Child series feature a blending of multiple vintages of a Flanders-style sour red ale with a sour Belgian-style golden ale

Alesmith My Bloody Valentine

Alesmith – My Bloody Valentine

Style: American Amber/Red Ale

ABV: 6.66%

IBU: 32

Color: Deep Mahogany Red/Crimson

Aroma: Citrus, floral, piney, earthy

Taste: Sweet, caramel, dry finish

Bonus Info: Also try the Halloween version: Evil Dead Red Ale

Sam Smith Chocolate Stout

Samuel Smith – Organic Chocolate Stout

Style: English Stout

ABV: 5.0%

IBU: 28

Color: Black

Aroma: Chocolate

Taste: Chocolate, creamy

Bonus Info: Organic, vegan, brewed with well water

Rogue Chocolate Stout

Rogue – Chocolate Stout

Style: American Stout

ABV: 5.8%

IBU: 69

Color: Ebony/Black

Aroma: Chocolate, spicy, fruity, herbal, floral

Taste: Bittersweet chocolate, oats

Bonus Info: Pairs well with beef dishes or decadent desserts


Rogue Double Chocolate Stout

Rogue – Double Chocolate Stout

Style: American Stout

ABV: 8.8%

IBU: 68

Color: Ebony/Black

Aroma: Chocolate, spicy, fruity, herbal, floral

Taste: Bittersweet chocolate, oats

Bonus Info: 2010 World Beer Championships gold medal winner

Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout

Evil Twin – I Love You With My Stout

Style: Imperial Stout

ABV: 12.0%

Color: Black

Aroma: Alcohol, chocolate

Taste: Chocolate, roasty, alcohol

Bonus Info: A variation of their Even More Jesus offering

The Bruery White Chocolate

The Bruery – White Chocolate

Style: Wheatwine

ABV: 13.8%

Color: Deep Golden Amber

Aroma: Chocolate, vanilla, sugary, alcohol

Taste: Barrel/woody, chocolate, vanilla, coconut, honey, caramel, alcohol

Bonus Info: Started from a base beer called “White Oak Sap,” it’s aged in bourbon barrels for about a year, then receives a generous helping of vanilla beans and cacao nibs

With plenty of styles to choose from, you’re sure to pick just the right beer to enjoy this Valentine’s Day!

Pro tip! If you’re looking to really do it right this year, try pairing one of these tasty beers with some chocolate covered strawberries or some beer-inspired chocolates! Both chocolate and beer can be aphrodisiacs and cause feelings of euphoria, but remember not to over-indulge, otherwise you could end up with the opposite effect!

Off Flavors in Beer

I recently took a class to learn more about common off flavors in beer, and thought I’d share the experience with my readers! The sensory analysis class I attended was offered through the Orange County Brewers Guild and focused on seven common off flavors, although there are many more to learn about beyond that. Additional sessions of this OCBG sensory analysis class are still available; tickets are $45 per person, but well worth the price of admission in my opinion. Details on upcoming classes are available at the end of this post for those who are interested in learning more!

As an alternative option, you could purchase the spiking kits online and try this at home, however, the kits are a bit pricey, and I felt that having an instructor available to explain each flavor and answer any questions was very valuable.

Before I go through each of the off flavors, I think it’s fair to note that the base beer we used for each sample was Miller High Life (yes, that’s right, the champagne of beers!). If you’re going to try this at home, I’d recommend starting with a very light, bland lager like this one so that the off flavors have nothing to hide behind. Once you know what to look for though, it would be great to try with other styles to see how those off flavors can change.

The other important thing to mention is that not everyone can taste or smell every off flavor. Some people may not be able to perceive any off flavors at all, so don’t worry if you can’t catch every detail if you try this yourself. Now, let’s get to it!

1.) Acetaldehyde [ac-et-al-de-hyde]

This hard to pronounce compound is acceptable to a degree in some beers, and is often found in very light lagers, especially Bud Light.

Described as:Green-Apple

  • Green apples
  • Carved pumpkin
  • Cut grass
  • Paint


  • Unfinished fermentation

2.) Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS)

DMS is often more perceivable through aroma than taste, but if your base beer is a corn-based lager, it may be harder to spot this off flavor.

Described as:Corn

  • Creamed corn
  • Cooked vegetables
  • Truffles
  • Shell fish
  • Tomato juice (usually in darker beers)


  • Bacterial infection
  • Low pitch rate or unhealthy yeast
  • Lack of proper brewing practice
  • Unfinished fermentation

3.) Isoamyl Acetate [ahy-soh-am-il as-i-tayt]

This ester is produced by yeast, and is present in all beers at different levels. Although it serves as a signature flavor element in certain Belgian and German wheat beers, it may not be desirable in other styles.

Described as:


  • Banana (think banana runts)
  • Pear
  • Circus peanuts


  • Yeast strain/improper yeast management
  • Wild yeast infection
  • Unfinished fermentation (unfortunately, this flavor won’t go away though)

4.) Diacetyl [dahy-uh-seet-l or  dahy-as-i-tl]

This off flavor was one of the easiest to perceive, at least in my opinion. It is a byproduct of some yeast strains, especially English varieties.

Described as:movie-theater-popcorn

  • Buttery (think movie theater popcorn)
  • Butterscotch
  • Oily/slick mouthfeel


  • Contamination, either in the beer or draft lines
  • Bacterial spoilage (Pediococcus or Lactobacillus)
  • Unfinished fermentation

5.) Infection/Contamination

This one is obviously unacceptable in any beer. You may not notice this as much in colder beers, but it becomes more apparent as the beer warms up.

Described as:Vomit Emoji

  • Rancid
  • Bile
  • Stomach acid
  • Sour milk
  • Vinegar
  • Buttery or slick mouthfeel


  • Contamination, either in the beer or draft lines
  • Bacterial spoilage (Pediococcus or Lactobacillus)
  • Improper sanitization

6.) Oxidation

This off flavor is caused when beer is exposed to oxygen at the improper time. Some oxygen will always make its way into beer, but at higher concentrations, it becomes more apparent.

Described as:Cardboard

  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Old books
  • Rotten pineapple
  • Dry mouthfeel


  • High storage temperatures
  • Post fermentation aeration
  • Excessive aging

7.) Light Struck

If you’ve ever drank a Corona that’s been sitting in the sun for a few minutes, then this off flavor should be pretty familiar. Be careful when sampling this one – you’ll want to smell the beer from farther away, as you can easily go nose blind to this intense aroma.

Described as:Skunk

  • Skunky
  • Sulfur


  • Exposure to light, usually in clear or green bottles

Besides identifying off flavors, it’s important to try to recognize all favors – intentional or otherwise. When describing beer, I find it helpful to reference the flavor wheel below, which can help you describe the aromas and flavors you’re experiencing.

Flavor Wheel

If you live in or around Orange County, CA and would like to take the class yourself, you can purchase tickets through the links below. The current available date and location options are as follows:

Bootleggers, Prohibition & Al Capone

Today is January 17th, which means it’s National Bootleggers Day! While this probably doesn’t mean much to most people, I like that it gives us a chance to think about alcohol and what it means to us. I’m amazed at how far alcohol laws in this country have come in the past 100 years, but I think it’s equally important to remember what it took to get there, and how far we still have to go.

Ninety-eight years ago today, on January 17th, 1920, the Volstead Act (or National Prohibition Act) was enacted to carry out the intent of the Eighteenth Amendment, which prohibited the sale of alcohol, leaving the country dry for a painfully long 13 years, and in turn, opening the door for illegal bootlegging and organized crime.


It didn’t take long for people to realize that prohibition wasn’t working, and bootleggers quickly came to the rescue of thirsty Americans, providing illegal alcohol to those seeking it out. They started by smuggling booze from Canada or Mexico, and later, many distilled their own liquor in backwoods and other secluded areas and sold it to speakeasies, which popped up by the thousands.

All of this was happening not long after World War I, and our country was going through a new period of extreme highs and lows, from the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression. Crime rates were skyrocketing, and most bootleggers weren’t just supplying alcohol to consumers — they were also involved with mobsters, loan sharks, gambling, prostitution, extortion, political corruption and murders.

It quickly became clear that the Volstead Act’s primary target was the working-class poor. Law officers would often look the other way while many of the upper classes acquired large stockpiles of alcohol, buying out inventory of liquor retailers before the act took effect, and poor families would be punished for having just one or two bottles of homebrew.


In just the first six months of Prohibition, the federal government filed cases for over 7,200 Volstead Act violations, and by the end of the first year, that number jumped to nearly 30,000 cases, and continued to rise dramatically throughout the course of Prohibition.


Perhaps ironically, today is also the birthday of Al Capone, who is arguably the most infamous Prohibition-era bootlegger. Also commonly known by his nickname, Scarface, Capone was the co-founder and boss of the Chicago Outfit, a mafia organization which was involved in a wide range of criminal activity, but was most well-known for distributing illegal alcohol during Prohibition. Capone was later convicted of tax evasion, imprisoned at Alcatraz, then passed away several years after his release from cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke at age 48.

Finally, on March 22nd, 1933, thirteen years after it all began, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act into law, legalizing beer and wine with an alcohol content of 3.2% or less, and a few months later on December 5th, 1933, the ratification of the twenty-first Amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment.

So how should you celebrate this monumental day in history? Perhaps with a glass of Templeton Rye, or as they affectionately call it “The Good Stuff.” This Prohibition-era whiskey company was started in the small town of Templeton, Iowa, and according to them was Al Capone’s whiskey of choice. If you’d like to raise a glass in celebration, you can try one of the classic cocktails below. Cheers!

Whiskey glasses

2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 Maraschino cherry (for garnish)

  1. Pour the whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until outside of the glass is very cold.
  2. Place a maraschino cherry in a chilled cocktail glass. Strain the contents of the mixing glass over cherry and serve.

1 teaspoon absinthe
2 ounces rye whiskey
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 sugar cube
A few drops water
Lemon peel

  1. In a mixing glass, muddle a sugar cube with a few drops of water, then add the bitters. Mix until dissolved, then add the rye. Add plenty of ice, and stir for about 30 seconds.
  2. Pour the absinthe into a chilled Old Fashioned glass, and rotate glass until the inside is well coated; discard the excess. Strain the liquid from your mixing glass into the Old Fashioned glass. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the drink and serve.


Brunch & Brews

My friends and I try to get together as a group for Sunday brunch at least once a month, mainly gathering at one of our homes. This is a tradition that I look forward to every few weeks, but as the theme is usually potluck, I often find myself struggling with what dish to bring. And as if food weren’t hard enough, I know my friends are always counting on me to bring just the right beer to pair with our meal.

As I started to prep for this month’s event, I thought I’d make a list of some brunch beer selections to help those of you who may also be wondering what to bring to your next brunch event!

  • AleSmith – Sublime Mexican Lager
    • This beer is light, crisp and refreshing, making it the perfect choice to sip on all morning long. Bonus points if you incorporate it into a spicy michelada (see recipe below)!
    • Substitution: Lagunitas – Pils
      Get the same crisp and refreshing qualities from an option that’s readily available on store shelves year-round.
  • Karl Strauss – Grass Skirts & Tiki Shirts
    • This mimosa-inspired kettle sour is tart, juicy and tropical, and is sure to please even the non-beer drinker on your list! Stop by their Anaheim location to pick up a growler before heading to your next brunch!
    • Substitution: Green Flash – Passion Fruit Kicker
      A mouth-watering wheat ale featuring a tart blend of passion fruit tea and passion fruit juice that still checks the mimosa box!
  • The Bruery – Mash & French Toast
    • This bourbon barrel-aged barleywine is loaded with flavor — maple, cinnamon, nutmeg & vanilla make this the ultimate brunch selection. Topping out at over 13%, it’s a sure-fire way to kickstart your Sunday Funday!
    • Substitution: High Water – Campfire Stout
      It’s a s’mores-inspired beer brewed with graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows, and although it’s just as tasty, it’s much lighter at only 6.5%.
  • Bottle Logic – Ground State
    • This 13.4% barrel-aged breakfast stout has dark and roasty undertones, complete with just the right amount of barrel-aged coffee beans and Vermont maple syrup, making it a instant favorite at first sip!
    • Substitution: Founders – Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS)
      It has similar notes of coffee, bourbon and vanilla, with a slightly lower ABV of 11.2%.

With a list like this, you’re sure to be the MVP of brunch! Leave a comment below with your favorite brunch brews!

The Beer Freaker’s Spicy Michelada

  • AleSmith Sublime Lager (substitute: your favorite Mexican-style lager)
  • Tajín (substitute: salt)
  • Tapatio (substitute: your favorite hot sauce)
  • Picante Clamato juice (try the spicy variety!)
  • Lime juice
  • Lime wedges (for garnish, if desired)

Take about a tablespoon of Tajín (or salt) and sprinkle it on a small plate. Rub a slice of lime around the rim of the glass and then press the rim into the Tajín, covering the rim completely.

Fill the glass about about a third of the way with the Clamato juice. Add a few dashes of hot sauce, plus a few dashes of lime juice to taste. If you used Tajín for the rim, you can pour any excess from the plate into the glass.

Fill the rest of the glass with cold beer. Garnish with a slice of lime and enjoy!

Drink Local, Drink Independent, Drink… Whisky?

OC Brewers Guild Invitational 2017
OC Beer Week (May 19-28) is in full swing, which means there’s no better time to drink local! Kicking things into high gear is today’s marquee event: the second annual Orange County Brewers Guild Invitational, taking place at Center City Anaheim. The brewery lineup isn’t limited to those located in Orange County though—prepare to take your pick from over 140 beers provided by 70+ of California’s best craft breweries!

Asylum BrewingIf you’ll be in attendance, be sure to hunt down Asylum’s booth and get a beer from yours truly! If not, what are you waiting for?! Tickets are still available here. The pours are unlimited, so naturally I recommend you get a tasting of both Monsters We Breed (double IPA) and Casanova Frankenstein (imperial stout). Even if you’ve already had a chance to try them, come say hi!

World Whisky DayFor those not in Southern California this weekend, you’re still in luck! Expanding beyond the reaches of OC Beer Week are two other equally important and much larger libation celebrations: American Craft Beer Week (May 15-21) and World Whisky Day (today, May 20)! So make sure you support an independent craft brewery near you (or two, or three…), or sip on your favorite bourbon, rye or Scotch! If you’re a bourbon fan (like myself) and want to try something different, check out this year’s signature WWD cocktail: The Oak Tea. If beer is still your one-and-only, don’t worry. There are plenty of killer bourbon/whisky barrel-aged beers that I think more than qualify as a celebration of both American Craft Beer Week and World Whisky Day! Check my suggestion list at the bottom of this post!

If you want to earn some extra credit in the good karma department, don’t just drink local and independent beer yourself—save a friend from the perils of terrible, corporation-owned macro beer! And don’t just preach to them about it, buy them a round and prove you care! In 2016, craft breweries composed 99% of all the breweries in the U.S., but held less than 13% volume share! If you’re going to drink those beers regardless, make them count and support small, local businesses! You’ll find greater variety, higher quality and best of all, just better tasting beer.

Wherever you are this weekend, cheers, prost and salud!

Here’s those barrel-aged suggestions:

  • Bottle Logic – Fundamental Summation, BA imperial vanilla coffee stout, 13.8% ABV
  • Prairie Artisan Ales – Barrel Aged Bomb!, BA imperial stout, 11.2% ABV
  • The Bruery – Mash & Vanilla, BA vanilla barleywine, 13.3% ABV
  • Boulevard – Bourbon Barrel Quad, BA Belgian-style quadrupel, 11.8% ABV
  • The Bruery – Black Tuesday, BA imperial stout, 20.3% ABV

Top Five Recommended Beer Styles Countdown: #1

This is it! You’ve made it all the way to today’s post, which is the final in my series of recommended beer styles. If you’ve missed the previous posts, you’ve clearly been living under a rock! Click the link below to see the first four.

This post is part of a mini-series – See all posts in this series

And the winner is…

#1: Porters, Stouts & Imperial Stouts

I find that a lot of beginner beer drinkers are put off by these dark beers because it doesn’t look like the Coors or Bud Light they’re used to seeing and drinking. There’s a lot of misinformation spread about dark beers that make people think they won’t like it: they’re too thick, too high in alcohol, and too high in calories. Maybe some are, but these characteristics certainly do not apply to all. Open your mind and don’t let yourself miss out on a good thing!

Let’s dive right in to each of these related styles. The first time someone asked me what the difference was between a porter and a stout, I was stumped. I have since researched the answer, only to find there are several theories. Feel free to come to your own conclusion, but the answer I choose to go with is that a stout is simply a stronger version of a porter. In a sense, that means all stouts are porters, but not all porters are stouts.

A porter is a style of dark beer which was first developed in London in the 1700s. They are brown in color, but usually will have some degree of clarity in comparison to the other varieties below. They often reveal notes of chocolate, caramel, and nuttiness, and are usually fairly low in ABV (around 4 to 5.5%).

Stouts are, as we now know, a stronger version of a porter. Usually ranging from 5.5 to 8% ABV, these beers have flavors of roasted coffee and dark chocolate. They’re usually very smooth and rich, and can often have a creamy mouthfeel, especially when served on draft over nitrogen (or “nitro”) instead of the standard CO2 line. Stouts are usually very dark brown to black in color and opaque.

Finally, there’s the imperial stout (my personal favorite of the bunch). For any beer style, if you see the word “imperial,” know that you’re getting a (relatively) strong beer. Similarly to the traditional version, imperial stouts are almost completely black in color, but clock in with an even higher ABV that’s typically between 8 to 12%, but can reach much, much higher. You can bet that imperial stouts also share the same coffee and chocolate flavors as stouts, but are richer, robust and intense.

When cellared correctly, a quality imperial stout can hold up for years to come, which is why I like to stay stocked up! Next time you find one that’s especially tasty, try buying two bottles—one for now, and one for later. The flavors and aromas of imperial stouts can change, and like a fine wine, become even better over time. Stouts marked as “barrel aged” evolve exceptionally well. With proper cellaring (and quite a bit of patience), the noticeable presence of alcohol can fade into the background, giving way to smooth, subtle flavors of the barrel it once lived in.

Now, with your newfound expertise on all things dark beer, impress your friends and order one with confidence!

May I suggest…



  • Karl Strauss – Peanut Butter Cup Porter
  • Founders – Porter
  • Bottle Logic – Cobaltic Porter
  • Deschutes – Black Butte Porter


  • AleSmith – Speedway Stout
  • Barley Forge – The Patsy
  • Firestone Walker – Parabola
  • Founders – Breakfast Stout
  • Bottle Logic – Ground State
  • Highwater – Campfire Stout


Imperial Stouts: 

  • Goose Island – Bourbon County Brand Stout
  • The Bruery – Black Tuesday or its variants (Grey Monday, Mocha Wednesday, Chocolate Rain)
  • North Coast – Old Rasputin Imperial Stout
  • Deschutes – The Abyss
  • Great Divide – Yeti
  • Founders – Imperial Stout

Cheers and thanks for reading! I hope you’ve all enjoyed this series on my recommended beer styles.

Comment below and let me know which porters and stouts you like, and what else you’d like to learn about in future posts!

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram or subscribe below. New beer adventures and posts are always in the works!