Grand Cru Wine and Spirits.

I finally had a chance to check out Grand Cru Wine and Spirits located at 3433 Murphy Rd in Nashville. This is a nice little wine shop, but with a decent beer selection of about 100 bottles. I picked up this year's seasonal release of Stone Double Bastard; grab one before they are gone. I have seen this classified as an American Strong Ale, but I would put this one in Barleywine territory. I also forgot to mention in previous blogs that Nashville now carries the Saint Bernardus beers, which this store had available. I highly recommend the St Bernardus Abt 12 if you like Belgian quads. It pairs wonderfully with cheeses like gouda and brie, as well as cured meats. Definitely check this place out, as we need to support craft beer retailers. Phone number is (615) 627-3900

A beery look back at 2008

All the other beer bloggers are doing it, so what the heck. Here is a summary of the beers and places based on my 2008 travels.

2008 Worst Beer - Bud Light Chelada: Curiosity got the best of me. I was watching football with one of my neighbors and he offered this up. It was a 16 ounce can and I tortured myself for 12 ounces. The pale lager meets corn syrup, clam, lime flavor, tomato juice was just a flat out disgusting, adjunct laden mess. Even 20 drops of hot sauce could not help this foul concoction. This is either God’s practical joke on the beer world or the flagship beer from Satan’s brewery. This was not a drain pour, it was a toilet pour. Bleck! Now I don't mind a Red Eye (or Red Rooster), but it needs to be made with a good tomato juice and a solid lager. Wynkoop in Denver, CO brews a chili lager that makes a stellar example.

2008 Favorite Beer - It's a three way tie, none of which are available in Nashville. Sorry!

Lost Abbey Veritas 003- This is a blend of Angel's Share, Amazing Grace, and Cuvee de Tomme. I tried this at a Ratebeer grand tasting in Carlsbad, CA.
Pours a murky amber with a light beige head. Perfect mouthfeel and texture- wow. Nose of christmas spices and dark sugary malts. Flavor of dark fruits, cinnamon, banana, caramel, chocolate, and a hint of brett. Semi dry and oaky finish with some very small citrus accents.

Lost Abbey Cuvee to Tomme- I had this beer at a tasting in Chattanooga, and was lucky enough to grab two bottles of this rarity when I visited the brewery.
Pours a murky dark amber with creamy tan head. Nice complex aroma of brett, cherries, and earthy malt. Body and texture are perfect. Nice harmonious flavors of cherry, dark Belgian malt, vanilla, tobacco, and banana. Finish is dry with the oak characteristics coming forward, with a touch of moderate sourness on the tail end. Alcohol is well hidden. Excellent transition of flavors on the palate.

Stone Bourbon Barrel Russian Imperial Stout- I sampled this at the Stone Brewery Bistro and Gardens in Escondido, CA. Pours black with a thin brown head. Aroma of dark chocolate, vanilla, and dark roast. Full bodied with slick, slightly creamy texture. Initial flavor of dark bakers chocolate, mild coffee, cherry, and vanilla that transitions to nice bitter and peppery hoppiness mid palate. Some of the wood comes out in the finish along with a slight bite. Wonderfully complex.

2008 Best Beer Trip -
This is easy. It would be my trip to San Diego to attend the Ratebeer summer gathering. The red carpet was rolled out for the group at Lost Abbey Brewing, Alesmith, Stone Brewing Co., and Ballast Point. The tastings at Lost Abbey and Stone featured several extremely rare brews. I also participated in a beer bar crawl that included Toronado, Hamilton's, O'briens, and Ritual Tavern. The trip ended with a grand tasting at Pizza Port in Carlsbad, CA. There was just an insane amount of beer that people brought to share.

2008 Favorite Brewpub - There were several newly-visited brewpubs this year, and
Fifty Fifty in Truckee, CA was the pleasant surprise. This little brewpub was recommended to me by a member of Ratebeer (hint: he loves snakes and is very outspoken) . It is located about 40 minutes outside of Reno, NV near Lake Tahoe. The drive from San Fransisco to this brewpub is absolutely beautiful. It takes you through the Sierra Nevada mountains and right by the historic Donner Pass. The head brewer came from Flossmoor Station in Flossmoor IL, and was one of the pioneers in barrel aging beers. The brewpub is small but cozy with a contemporary ski lodge decor. Every beer I sampled was outstanding, especially the Rockslide IPA. Unfortunately, the Eclipse Stout was not available.

2008 Favorite "Dive" - Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel, CA. This is a textbook definition of a "mom and pop" operation. For starters, you are required to order food before they will even serve you a beer. The food is ok, but the beer selection is outstanding. The owner cellars kegs and bottles and is always bringing out great vintages, some of which are available for take out. Bring your own glass unless you like drinking out of a paper cup. Honorable mention goes to Track 84 in Warwick, RI.

2008 Favorite Beer Bar- Hamilton's Tavern in San Diego, CA. It's nothing fancy but so what? It's a neighborhood bar with an outstanding beer selection, ranging from west coast beers to Belgians. The patrons are a nice mix of locals who enjoy a good beer. Every time I have been there, they always had FRESH Russian River Pliny the Elder on tap. That stuff is nectar of the gods.

2008 Favorite Beer Store
- Holiday Wine Cellar, Escondido, CA. They have an outstanding
selection of West Coast and Belgian beers, including some rarities. Beer gets equal respect with wine and is displayed and stored under proper conditions, something you don't see very often.

2008 Douche Bag of the Year- Dan Onorato. This Pittsburgh councilman targeted beer drinkers and levied a last minute "pour tax" to fund a Port Authority capital project and collected more than needed the first year. Did he try repeal the tax once the project was funded? Nope. He left it in place and tried to spend the funds elsewhere, only to have it overturned by a judge. He was kind enough to lower it from 10% to 7% but the tax remains. Beer lovers and bar owners are mad, and I don't blame them. Let's all toast a paper cup of Bud Chelada to Mr. Dan Onorato, Douche Bag of 2008. Honorable Mention: Mike Seate- check out samples of his idiocy here and here.What is it about Pittsburgh that produces these dim bulbs?

2008 Under Rated Beer City- Pittsburgh, PA. Fat Head's Saloon, Smokin' Joes, Sharp Edge Creek House and Emporium, Church Brew Works, and Bocktown are just a few of the many places in or around Pittsburgh where you can grab a good beer. Be prepared to pay a little more due to stupid state laws and local taxes. In PA, carry-out beer must be sold by the case. The exception being that you purchase beer from a deli-restaurant, in which then you must pay full retail price for the beer. If you drink beer at a bar in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), you must pay the Onorato "pour tax."

2008 Most Unique Brewpub- Church Brew Works- Pittsburgh, PA. This is a large church that was vacant and
converted to a brewpub/ restaurant. Sacreligious? I don't think so. Tearing down a nice building like this would be much worse.

2008 Most Impressive Place to Drink A Beer- Stone World Bistro and Gardens, Escondido, CA. You can take a brewery tour, hang out in the gardens, or enjoy a meal in the chic indoor/outdoor dining area. They really went all out in planning and building this "campus." It's quite impressive and like nothing I have ever seen. You just have to check it out.

That's it folks. Who knows where my beer travels will take me this year since the economic outlook is not so hot. Cheers