Sunday, June 29, 2008

1,016 words

A decadent midweek lunch at Pizzeria Delfina made even more transcendent by an extraordinary off-menu addition.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

From Pizza Port to the port of Necromanteion

Arriving in Oakland after a quick weekend visit to San Diego, we were met by a bit of a surprise upon stepping out of the airport. With something in the range of 1,000 wildfires currently burning around Northern California, the midsummer light had taken on a yellowish hue, diffuse to the point that it now has an autumnal character, the air tinted with an aroma redolent of a morning's smoldering campfire. Heading into the secluded, windless nooks of the Ross Valley, the effect was intensified into a throat-scratching, permanent dusk, creating a bit of collective tension between the knowledge that the fires were miles away and the twitchy animal instinct for flight.

Why introduce a summary of our most recent visit to Solana Beach's little slice of craft beer heaven thusly, with such unrelated pissing and moaning? To be blunt, there'd be no greater pleasure than to sit down and extol the glory and virtue that Pizza Port can provide, but a deeply unsettling cranky factor has made it impossible to share with care. Now, four days after we've returned, the smoke not only continues to linger, but is intensifying; the headache it's caused has settled into a dull drone, accompanied charmingly by a nasty case of cotton mouth and the inability to take a good, deep breath, along with necessitating a cabin-fever inducing house arrest. Put together, it's not terribly conducive to good writing. But I can't put this post forever. Ergo, we'll just forgo the usual attempts at insight and humor, and hope that the images can provide enough interesting detail on their own:

I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't at least assert to you, the potential SoCal-bound, touring beer enthusiast, the importance of making a visit to Pizza Port in Solana Beach a high priority. Between the house brews, Lost Abbey labels, and the short but stunning guest draught list (La Folie on tap, anyone?) it's a can't-miss destination. When you're done there, swing by the Whole Foods in La Jolla to stock up on bottles of all the Port and Lost Abbey creations you forgot to get at the brewery (like the bottle of Devotion that I'm saving for the day my taste buds return).

Do I even need to bother mentioning the pizza's pretty good, too? And seriously, Junk in the Trunk Dunkel?

(For a little extra interest, check out the details about the stout mentioned in prolific brewer/blogger Tomme Arthur's recent post about the San Diego county fair.)

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Like my living room, but with a stock ticker

Which, if I were you, I'd be leaving turned off for the time being, especially if you're trying to relax with friends over a drink. This story from yesterday's AP newswire offers an interesting glimpse into what some people think is missing from the bar scene: pour-it-yourself beer taps, at your table. While the creators obviously left no legal stone unturned before unveiling this depressing convenience in Georgia, they're certainly missing out on some other aspects - the social one being the biggest head-scratcher for me, as I imagine it is for anyone who goes to bars hoping to a) talk to people other than those at my "private reserved table", b) chat with a bartender about what's on tap, what's new around the joint, and other general breeze-shooting, and c) crazily, pay someone else to pour me a drink for a change.

Here's the video for even more insight. Why not just stay at home, folks? Granted, if those taps were hooked up to something like Delirium Tremens instead of Miller Lite, this post might have had a different tone...

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Monday, February 25, 2008


I recently opined that there might be a subterranean shortcut to Belgium somewhere in San Francisco due to the recent outcropping of north European specialty bars and restaurants, and I think we may have found it - and you certainly need to go underground to find it. While La Trappe's upstairs dining room could still be mistaken for the model North Beach Italian restaurant that it replaced on the corner of Greenwich and Mason, what with the simple line of small, flower-adorned tables against the tall windows overlooking a turn on the cable car route, it's when you venture downstairs that you think you may have struck upon an anomaly in the space-time continuum and were spit out in a ratskeller style tavern just north of Reims.

Free the Chouffe!

And ohhhhhh, what a tavern it is. 150-plus bottled Belgian-style beers plus just about a dozen brilliant tap choices, and with a menu perfectly suited to pair with the beverage choices a la bière et gastronomie belge, the cellar space has a small bar where you can belly up and chat with the bartender about your choices in the beer book (which isn't even entirely necessary, as the book has detailed descriptions of every single offering), a dozen or so tables, and a dark, cozy, low-to-the-ground (as you'd likely need to be by the end of the night) lounge that in any other locale would likely be called a "chill room", but here, with the low stained-glass monastic lighting, stained glass windows, candlelit tables, and furnished nicely in dark, dark wood, the proper name would more likely be "the refectory."

And in due tribute, we kept it mostly monastic in our (admittedly limited) tasting choices for the night. Off the tap list I had the joy of trying the Konongshoeven Quad (and yes, as of September, 2005, once again officially a Trappist product), a thickly syrupy cara-molasses monster that still paired far too well with my frites with spicy aioli, and Des enjoyed a bottle of the Rochefort 6 (they were out of the 8 and didn't offer the 10, sadly), which was surprisingly rich and full-bodied for being at the low end of that brewery's range, a nicely spicy, well-balanced mahogany treat that only made me yearn for the 10 (which I still haven't found, thank you very much) all that much more.

Quad the pleasure, quad the fun!

The real winner of the evening's cavalcade of the malted stars was the (on tap!) Gulden Draak, a dry black behemoth with a nearly impenetrable root beer float head on it, deliciously reminiscent (but stonger, intenser, deeper, and just "more-er") of some Belgian stouts that we've been comparing lately. A gift to the patient drinker, as it took about 5 minutes to pour, it matched as well with the charcuterie and cheese plate as I imagine it would have with dessert. And the food, not an afterthought, was quite good as well: I decided to save the chicken waterzooi for our next visit as I was drawn to the Marin Sun Farms burger (okay, I was really just drawn to the frites, but still) served on a brioche, while Des enjoyed the coconut curried moules et frites (again with the frites!) served in a branded Wittekerke mussel pot.

More bread, please.

As dark as it is down there, and as dorky as I generally feel taking photos of food and menu pages (doesn't stop me from writing about it, though, does it?), I do always manage to get a shot or two of the little sprout (here seen "all done" after reading the beer book, which does give you the chance to see just how nicely it's put together - see the flipped and zoomed version below). Page 14 (!) doesn't really do the menu justice as it's all about the bottles they stock from European countries outside of Belgium, but I do think I'll have to give the Babycham a go next time I'm in the 'hood looking for a warm summer's lunchtime bevvy. (Oh, and that one that Mia's covering on the bottom? That's Belzebuth, the 13% abv strong pale from France. She's hiding it in fear we'd mistakenly order it.)

Beware the Belzebuth!

Unlike another recent Belgian cuisine outing we took, La Trappe completely deserves a re-visit, if not just to try the stewed apples, but also for the other 13 pages of that book to go through. Next time, maybe I'll glance through the door at the end of the hallway past the restrooms to see if my hunch is correct, and that the Manneken Pis is only a few steps further along.

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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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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Beer alert - Abt 12 on tap

Almost deserving of those high tech little Drudge sirens, new Belgian-inspired beerstaurant in the Mission The Monk's Kettle looks likely to draw a certain breed of drinker purely on this promise alone: They're serving St. Bernardus' awe-inspiring Abt 12 on tap. That's like finding the monks of Westvleteren singing Christmas carols on my doorstep on choral risers made of cases of yellow cap.

Here's a quip from their info page:

We looked around this city recently and saw that the choices for beer were too limited for a city that thrives on good tastes. Plenty of wine bars, yes, but what about the beverage we all love to love? We are in a city saturated with breweries (in California, and up the coast in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska as well), but there is so little in the way of a place to get a quality beer. And so, we are changing that.

Hear, hear! I'll admit I'm a little skeptical, purely based off the shiny-fancy Cigar-Aficionado-color-scheme website. But I'm easy to persuade. Verrrrrrrry easy....

Thanks, Alex, for the tip...

PS - Yes, we're all quite aware that there hasn't been much action lately on the old Pfifferroo, but that's all about to change, what with updating this site being #78 on the new year's resolutions list (#32: design a bottle opener for infants; #29: figure out where all these flies are coming from; #8: learn Uzbek) and a huge deluge of backlogged half-posts and photos and reviews and all sorts of crazy crap. But don't expect much until the holidays are through. Have a crazysafesexybeer holiday, all!

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