Monday, January 28, 2008

The "lost" year, ep. 1 - the highlight reel

As promised, here are some of the great things about 2007 (that I neglected to mention previously) they made me reach for a nice, celebratory beer:

The Belgians are coming! The Belgians are coming!
It was the year of the Chouffe, as three new Belgian bars - The Trappist in Oakland, La Trappe in North Beach, and The Monk's Kettle in the Mission - all introduced the masses to what has really been a tenet of beer epicurean/snob life for ages: Belgian beer is a perfect match for the Bay Area's foodie obsessives. Mussels steamed in witbier? Chimay cheese plates and frites with curry ketchup? Add these venues to the ever-expanding Frijtz franchise, and these joints'll soon be outnumbering the taquerias.

The Healthy Spirits & City Beer Store Nexus of Beerjoy
Trace circles around Healthy Spirits, the City Beer Store and Toronado on a San Francisco map, locate the point at which the circles intersect, and dig a hole at that spot, you're likely to strike a portal to Belgium, or at the very least, Valhalla. With peerless square footage dedicated to the proper storage and glorious display of some of the world's rarest malted concoctions (I write as I finish a glass of Allagash Musette), these two newcomers to the retail scene promise to be for beersnobbery what Plumpjack was to winesnobbery, which is to say, open it up to the masses for everyone to play along. Especially Healthy Spirits - located in the aptly named Eureka Valley neighborhood on the north border of the Castro, it's a true oasis behind an unassuming corner store facade. Outstanding.

Maui Brewing Company makes case for serious brewing on the islands

So what if I told you that there's a little brewery in a run-down old strip mall in the midst of the condo-mania that is the northwest coast of Maui? And that one of their specialties is a coconut porter? And that they package limited quantities of their beers in cans? And that they don't even have outdoor seating? Not interested? What if I told you that for all that is good and holy in the name of Gambrinus that you have to go? You'd think I was joking, wouldn't you. I'm not. It's actually quite phenomenal. Seriously. Some of the best brewpub beer I've ever had. Even their Belgian is extraordinary. And that coconut porter? It's amazing. And the cans? Well, read this.

DeProef does it all

This was the year we discovered the panoply of offerings from this Belgian brouwerij (thanks, Shelton Brothers!) which could easily be called upon to introduce anyone to any style of Belgian ale. In a recent discussion with the buyer at Healthy Spirits, who denounced their version of the Flanders wild ale for not being brett-y enough, I opined that, like the rest of their selections, acted as a gateway version to the more seriously nuanced interpretations you could find. Everything from an imperial saison to a dark all-malt quadrupel to a old-style witbier, these guys can (and do) run the gamut with style.

Up next: the stuff from last year that I wanted to spend more time bitching and moaning about, but didn't...

Pfun pfacts! Hey kids, did you know that in Austria, a Pfiff is a measurement of 0.125 liters, and asking for a "Pfiff" in a restaurant will get you a teeny glass of beer? Try it!

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