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Wine Has Sommeliers. Now, Beer Has Cicerones

POSTED ON August 28th  - POSTED IN Uncategorized


If you’ve been to a fancy restaurant, you’ve probably seen a sommelier — those wine experts who make sure you get the best possible match for your meal. But what if you don’t want a chardonnay or pinot? What if you want a nice cold beer?

Johnny Knight / Courtesy of Ray Daniels

Johnny Knight / Courtesy of Ray Daniels

A new program is working to bring this same level of knowledge to the world of malt and hops by turning out batches of certified beer experts known as Cicerones.

Ray Daniels, a Chicago brewer, started the Cicerone Certification Program five years ago. And he jokes that he did so for a fairly simple reason: bad beer.

“You’d go into a place that had a lot of taps, that you’d think might know their beer. And they really didn’t,” Daniels sighed. So Daniels came up with the Cicerone exam to standardize a canon of beery knowledge.

There are three levels of of Cicerones, starting out with Certified Beer Servers (an online exam), Certified Cicerones (an in-person test, complete with a tasting component), and the top level of Master Cicerone (an in-person exam lasting two days). The exams focus on five basic components: keeping and serving beer; beer styles; flavor and tasting; brewing process and ingredients; and beer and food pairing.

This may sound a bit complex. And it is: Only about a third of test takers pass (and the numbers are even lower for the Master Cicerone certification). But Daniels stresses that he’s not trying to set up some elitist system. Enjoying a beer is a simple pleasure. It’s just that beer itself isn’t so simple.

Apps Help Steer You to the Right Beer

POSTED ON August 26th  - POSTED IN Uncategorized


ibeer.jpgIn this city, it’s not difficult to find a good beer. Even In this city, it’s not difficult to find a good beer. Even Portland’s tiniest corner stores have a microbrew selection.

The real question here is, which beer tonight?

Will it be the Belgian wit, or the black IPA? Will you go to that pub around the corner, or venture out in search of undiscovered quaffs?

Technology is here to help you decide.

Untappd, a popular social drinking app for iPhone and Android, lets you interact with beer buddies who use the app, by borrowing a few tricks from Foursquare. Like Foursquare, Untappd lets you check in at bars to tell other users what you’re drinking and how you liked it. The app also lets you see what others are drinking nearby.

Those who prefer to drink at home can still check in, rate their beer and leave notes to guide other drinkers. Frequent users of the app can earn badges, from “Newbie” to “Risk Taker” to “Brewery Loyalist.” You can also link the app to your Facebook and Twitter to share your activity with social media friends.

Pintley, a free app for iPhone and Android, will keep you from spending 20 minutes in front of the beer cooler, trying to decide which bottle to choose. The app uses users’ beer preferences — Are you a wheat drinker? The lager type? Do you like hoppy beers? — to build a list of beers to try. After tasting a new beer, use the app to rate it for other users, and bookmark beers you liked enough to buy again. As you use Pintley, it gets smarter, using data from your recent purchases and reviews to suggest other bottles you might like.

Got a hankering for that particular microbrew you tried last month when it was guest brewing at your favorite taproom? Instead of hunting all over the city, use TapHunter to locate bars serving it up tonight. The free app, available for iPhone and Android, lets you search by beer, or browse nearby brewpubs to see what’s on tap. The drawback: TapHunter’s list of pubs is incomplete, and the event tab didn’t yield any results on a recent search, despite Portland’s wealth of beer-related events.

Just for fun, download the free iBeer app for iPhone and Android, which turns your phone into a pint that’s foamable, guzzlable and sloshy.

10 Brilliant Brown Ales

POSTED ON August 14th  - POSTED IN Uncategorized


If you think brown ales are blasé, these 10 will change your mind: From mellow to megahopped to downright meaty, they’re totally diverse and style-stretching. Even their hues are different!

browns2Calicraft Oak Town | Color: Pumpernickel  Flavor: This 6.7%-ABV beer tastes like wood… in a good way! Barrel-aging gives the brew an earthy oakiness you feel like you can gnaw on. The bitterness of roasted malt connects seamlessly to that of Cascade hops, and the beer only gets more luscious as it warms.

Smuttynose Durty | Color: Pine cone  Flavor: Hops rev up this “hoppy brown ale” so much, you could argue it’s better termed a black IPA. Polaris, Simcoe and Nugget hops shoot citrus and pine through ashy malt; it’s a brown ale made for hopheads. (Drink it along with us, here.)

Figueroa Mountain Davy Brown Ale | Color: Dark chocolate  Flavor: This 6%-ABV easy-drinker is delightfully roasty; it might come close to falling into porter status if Northern Brewer and Cascade hops didn’t swoop in with mellow bitterness.

Uncommon Bacon Brown Ale | Color: Espresso  Flavor: A nut brown brewed with real pork and toasted buckwheat, this organic, 6.8%-ABV can is liquid breakfast. Don’t let the meat turn you off: There’s just a wisp of cooking bacon, and the swallow’s clean and tight.

Tenaya Creek Calico Brown Ale | Color: Nutella  Flavor: Nice nuttiness pervades a laid-back, 5.6%-ABV sip; balanced Chinook hop bitterness lifts up the swallow at the end.

Santa Cruz Mountain Organic Dread Brown Ale | Color: Mulch  Flavor: Roasted organic malts read so dark and earthy, they’re almost tart—think bittersweet chocolate—but even-handed hops bring the 5.4%-ABV drink into balance.

Ninkasi Brewing Adds Distribution in Southern California

POSTED ON August 13th  - POSTED IN Uncategorized


Ninkasi Brewing today announced expanded distribution throughout Southern California.

ninkasi-vanilla-oatisThe Eugene, Ore.-based craft brewery has signed agreement with six independent wholesalers in Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego County to distribute its flagship and limited release offerings in 22 oz. bottles and kegs.

“Our newly added capacity has allowed us to join the party in San Diego and to be a part of this new rebel alliance that is changing the face of craft beer in Los Angeles,” said Marty Ochs, the company’s vice president of sales.

In San Diego, Ninkasi signed with Craft Beer Guild Distributing of California, the newest extension of L. Knife & Son’s growing national craft wholesale network.

“With L. Knife in San Diego, we are able to be a top focus from day one and grow together,” said Ochos.

An alliance of five independent Anheuser-Busch wholesalers — Straub Distributing Co., Ace Beverage Co., Mission Beverage Co., Triangle Distributing Co., and Heimark Distributing — will distribute Ninkasi throughout the greater Orange County and Los Angeles basin areas.

“We are built to grow as deep as we can,” said Ochs. “Our strategy has always been slow and methodical. We will move at the pace at which those markets determine we fit.”

The strategy seems to be paying off. Ninkasi was ranked as the 30th biggest U.S. craft brewery by the Brewers Association in 2012. Its beer is currently only available in six states – Oregon, Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Washington – as well as Vancouver, B.C. The company expects production to total 90,000 barrels in 2013 up from 68,427 a year ago.

In Southern California, Ninkasi will roll out its flagship offerings — Total Domination IPA, Believer Double Red, Tricerahops Double IPA, Oatis Oatmeal Stout, and Vanilla Oatis Oatmeal Stout – this month. The company’s seasonal and specialty varieties will be released on a limited basis throughout the year. To help support the new markets, Ninkasi will hire at least six new sales and marketing managers, Ochs said.

Can You Hydrate Yourself With Beer?

POSTED ON August 9th  - POSTED IN Uncategorized


There is nothing more satisfying than a nice, cold beer to quench your thirst after mowing the lawn or riding your bike. In ancient times, it was safer to drink beer than water, but the beer back then was much lower in alcohol. Most beers today are above 5% ABV, making them questionable in regard to hydration.

BeerBeer is made up of water, barley, hops, and yeast. All of these natural ingredients are healthy sources of carbohydrates, fat, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and they also contain electrolytes and phyto-nutrients. The fermentation process also has a positive effect on these ingredients by promoting increased bioavailability and enzymatic activity. This essentially means that the brewing ingredients are changed to a form that makes them readily absorbed and usable by the body.

A study published in The Journal of Applied Physiology explored the hydrating quality of alcohol after exercise-induced dehydration. In the study, 2.2 liters of an alcohol-free beer, along with a 1, 2, and 4% ABV beer, were consumed across the study. The study suggests that beverages with low alcohol concentrations have “a negligible diuretic effect” when consumed in a state of exercise-induced dehydration, meaning that hydrating with water or a low-alcohol beer (~2% ABV) is effectively the same. They also found that a 4% ABV beer had the same hydrating qualities but just took longer to achieve the same results. That’s good news considering you won’t find too many 2% beers.

So the next time you’ve worked your way into a sweat, go ahead and grab yourself a cold session beer and hydrate yourself.

Do Dark Beers Have More Alcohol Than Lighter Beers?

POSTED ON August 6th  - POSTED IN Uncategorized


You can’t judge a beer by its color. It’s a common myth that dark beers have more alcohol, are heavier on the palate, and have more calories than their lighter counterparts.

iStock_000009227815XSmallIt’s hard to say how this myth began, but the idea that a dark beer is somehow heavier or higher in alcohol than a lighter colored beer might come from the “meal in a glass” marketing concept that Guinness came out with years ago. At 126 calories per 12 ounces of Guinness, it is actually lower in calories than a lot of beer. American lagers like Bud, Miller, and Coors actually have closer to 145 calories for the same serving. Most of the calories in beer actually come from alcohol, which is 9 calories per gram. Guinness is around 4.2% ABV, while a golden-colored Belgian triple can weigh in at as high as 11% ABV!

Some dark beers like Schwarzbiers are very light-bodied, easy-drinking lagers. They tend to get their color from a special darkening agent called Sinamar, which is actually a very dark extract made from concentrated dark malt. The alcohol content for Schwarzbier ranges from 4.4% to 5.4% ABV. Don’t fear the dark beer!

What Do The Numbers 8, 10, and 12 Mean on Some Belgian Beers?

POSTED ON August 5th  - POSTED IN Uncategorized


At first glance, those numbers might seem to refer to alcohol content, but the answer is not that straightforward. Historically, Belgian monks in Trappist monasteries and abbeys brewed beers using a system called Belgian degrees.

Large beer goblet chilledThe Belgian degree is a measurement used to determine how much sugar is in an unfermented beer. By knowing the quantity of sugar in the beer before and after fermentation, the brewer can determine the amount of alcohol produced. To understand what a Belgian degree is, one has to understand what the specific gravity of a beer is. When you dissolve sugar into a solution, the liquid becomes denser, causing a calibrated floating device called a hydrometer to float higher. The measurement given by a hydrometer is called specific gravity. The specific gravity of water is said to be 1.000. By adding sugar from malted barley and other fermentables, the specific gravity increases. An original specific gravity of 1.060 would yield a beer with a Belgian degree number of 6. You obtain this number by subtracting 1 from 1.060 and multiplying by 100. So a beer with a gravity of 1.080 would measure 8 Belgian degrees, and a beer with a gravity of 1.120 would yield 12.

Beers like Westvleteren XII originally had an original gravity of 1.120, which produced a beer in the 12% ABV range. Today, the original gravity is closer to 1.086, and the alcohol is closer to 10.5% ABV, yet they still label the beers according to the old-school Belgian degrees number.

Palmilla Voted Best Mexican Restaurant in South Bay

POSTED ON August 5th  - POSTED IN Uncategorized

Palmilla-BrunchWe are thrilled for our friends over at Palmilla Cocina y Tequila Restaurant for being voted Best Mexican Restaurant in all of the South Bay!

To celebrate this honor, Palmilla Restaurant is kicking off Mexican Riviera Brunch this Saturday, August 10th and continuing every Saturday and Sunday from 10AM – 2PM. Created by Executive Chef, Christina Cipres, this beachside brunch will feature new menu items, morning cocktails and a build-your-own fresh fruit mimosa table.

For additional information, visit