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HomerNo, I haven’t changed this blog from a place for imbibers to a study in Greek literature… no, I’m writing about our favorite yellow beer-lovin’ fella and his trip to the Kwik-E-Mart. Now Homer Simpson can get everything he’s ever dreamed of in a single pint… a pint of ice cream that is!

Ben & Jerry’s is releasing a one-time only flavor, “Duff & D’oh-Nuts”, for the premeire of The Simpson’s Movie in Springfield, Vermont. Yes, that’s Duff as in Duff Beer, and D’oh-Nuts as in Homer’s favorite breakfast, coffee-break treat and late-night snack. And those crazy folks at Ben & Jerry’s are putting both of these into ice cream. They say it will be “a combination of chocolate and cream stout ice creams with glazed chocolate donuts.” Hmmm… donuts…

Read more about it here!

And for those who can’t make it to Vermont to try this delicious sounding concoction, you can always add your own donuts to Ben & Jerry’s only other beer-flavored ice cream, “Black & Tan”.

Beer Quote:

“Ah, beer, my one weakness. My Achille’s heel, if you will.”
– Homer Simpson

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HollisterWhile the wineries surrounding Santa Barbara have been slowly growing in both popularity and reputation over the past ten years or so, the quirky comedy Sideways has brought even more attention to Southern California’s answer to the Napa Valley. And while visitors to Santa Barbara are constantly reminded in almost every restaurant, bar and tourist publication of the vast array of local wine available, there is some great beer to be found here if you know where to look.

The LA Times recently featured a great article about beer in wine country, and I was lucky enough to check out a few local breweries for myself.

Surrounded by a sea of big-box stores in the Santa Barbara suburb of Goleta, the recently opened Hollister Brewing Company is not exactly what one would consider a tourist destination. However, for a change of pace after a day or two of wine tasting, their house-brewed beer is well-worth seeking out. Skip over the relatively mundane Sands Session Ale, and let your palate explore their more robust and flavorful offerings. For hop-heads, the White Star XPA has a big grapefruit aroma that carries through the flavor, finishing with a moderate but palatable bitterness. It is served on a nitro-tap, typically used to give stouts their creamy head and mouthfeel, an unusual twist that makes this Extra Pale Ale even more enjoyable.

For those who enjoy maltier beers, both the Table 42 Red and the Milk Stoutare excellent choices. The red ale is a very drinkable session beer, full of caramel and bready flavor with just a hint of butterscotch. The stout is smooth, creamy and sweet, which is exactly what makes a milk stout more approachable to those who find dry stouts, like Guinness, too bitter and sour. Imbibers who like a bit more “funk” in their beer will enjoy the yeasty, slightly tart Farmhouse, a saison-style ale that can is excellent with spicy Asian-influenced cuisine.

And while all the beers I’ve mentioned so far are very solid offerings, the real stars here are Holister’s two wheat beers: Hollister Hefe and Magic Clamps Weizenbock. While the German hefeweizen style is common in many American brewpubs, few acheive the right level of banana and clove aroma and flavor that make a hefe much more than a wheat beer. Hollister gets the flavors here just right, along with a spritzy, lively carbonation that makes this an excellent refresher on a hot summer day.

Weizenbock is a much less commonly found style both here and abroad, maybe due to the fact that Germany’s Aventinus Weizenbock is so close to perfection that few will attempt their own take. I’m very glad that Hollister took on the challenge. Their Weizenbock, in both aroma and flavor, with its spice, fruit and richness will remind you of both banana bread and fruitcake. And for as strange as that may sound for the taste of a beer, it really works here. I daresay it is the best American example of this style I have ever tasted.

Hollister is a brewpub and restaurant, so I shouldn’t forget to mention the food. They offer a wide variety of unusual pizzas, but for as delicious as the menu descriptions sound, the pizza is merely average. Maybe this was because it was overshadowed by the appetizers we enjoyed beforehand. Their tortilla soup is rich in flavor without being too spicy, and their mac & cheese made with pancetta and gruyere is just simply delicious.

We’ll continue with two more Santa Barbara beer stops in upcoming blog entries, so stay tuned…

AventinusaventinusDefinition: Weizenbock
A richer and stronger (i.e. higher alcohol, Bock strength) version of a Dunkel Weizen (a German dark wheat beer). It has the signature banana and clove aroma and flavor typical of German weizen beers, along with flavors of darker fruit (raisins, cherries, figs) and rich caramel malts. Aventinus is the most famous and best example of this unique style.

Beer Quote:

“Beer that is not drunk has missed its vocation”

                                                    – Meyer Breslau

Father's Office SignIn the LA scene of clubs and cocktails, Father’s Office in Santa Monica is a welcome oasis for excellent beers and one great burger. Hiding behind a 1950’s facade of an “old man” bar, a bright modern interior of blonde wood is lined with gleaming silver taps from some of the finest craft breweries in the West: AleSmith, Anderson, Lagunitas, Rogue, Russian River and Stone are among the standouts collected here. For a visitor from the East Coast, this was a “pint of gold” at the west end of the rainbow.

We ordered a couple of burgers from the bar, along with an order of sweet potato fries. The fries arrive first in a miniture metal shopping cart just as we snag a coveted table. A slightly crisp exterior with just enough salt gives way to an almost custard-like middle of sweet potato goodness. Hands down, these are the most perfectly prepared fries of any kind I have ever found in a bar.

The burgers arrive shortly after. While the fries are marvels of simplicity, the burgers have layers of complexity one does not expect from “pub grub”. Topped with tiny tender fresh spinach leaves, carmelized onions, and crumbled blue cheese, the smokey bacon-infused patty of medium rare beef acheives both meldings and contrasts of flavor that make you taste something new in every bite. We swear there is something fruity in there (fig jam?) by the time we are halfway through. Whatever all the individual ingredients actually are, this is a burger to be savored.

Craftsman LogoAnd while the food may be reason enough to drop in, the beer is why you should plan to stay awhile. I enjoyed two incredible beers from the Pasadena-based Craftsman Brewing Company that evening at Father’s Office. My first was their Smoked Black Lager. I see this as the perfect alternative to a potentially heavy smoked porter (one of my absolutely favorite styles) for a backyard summer barbeque. While many beers that are black in color have charred or burnt flavors, and many smoked beers have the potential to be a bit harsh on the palate, there are no such distractions here. Rich roasted flavors with just the right touch of woody smokiness permeated what is actually a relatively light in body and easy to drink brew. Plus, this beer goes just perfect with the bacon and blue cheese of the burger.

My second beer from Craftsman was their totally original Triple White Sage. Think champagne meets Thanksgiving, but in the most delicious way. Yes, you can smell and taste the sage in this beer, but for as strange as it sounds, it matches perfectly with the both sweet and dry qualities of this Belgian-inspired ale. Without the sage, this brew reminds me of some of the best beers I’ve had the pleasure to taste… Tripel Karmilett, Saint Sylvester Trois Monts, and Brooklyn Local 1. But with the sage, it transforms an already potentially incredible beer into something completely unique and amazing.