Election Season

I have a few outlets where I’m able to express myself, and while this space has been reserved for my comments about the adult beverage industry, this shameless post is a video about my campaign for Upland City Council. Hope you enjoy, and please be sure to visit my campaign website for more information. Yes, donations are needed and appreciated. Thanks, and sorry for the change of topics…

Fine Dining To Go With A Great Bar

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The Pines Modern Steakhouse at San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino. Photo courtesy of IEShineOn.com

If you’re going to drink, you also should eat. I recently visited one of the Inland Empire’s best steakhouses and found great food, great beverages and great service. Take a look at my story about The Pines Modern Steakhouse, as it appears in IEShineOn.com.

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Rapid Pace Keeps Wicks Brewing Co. Growing

40-ieshineon-inland-empire-wicks-brewing-co-redlands13There was no soft opening for Wicks Brewing Co. when it opened three years ago. The Riverside brewery came storming out of the gates with a full brewpub restaurant, craft beer operation and “brew on premises” system. The pace hasn’t slowed for Ryan Wicks and his father Brad. Check out the full story at IEShineOn.com.

The Last Name in Craft Beer

LNB_Logo_NewDale Bros. Brewery has always been on a last name basis. But from now on, Curt and Andy Dale, the brother owners of Dale Bros., will literally refer to their popular Upland brewery by its last name.

That’s because Dale Bros. Brewery has changed its name to Last Name Brewing.

Announced Saturday at the highly anticipated “The Big Reveal” special event, the brewery built mystery over the past month for the special announcement. Naturally, it came as part of a big celebration with live music, food and the release of the brewery’s first Belgian White Ale.

LNB_Bottles_Year-RoundAfter 13 years under the Dale Bros. moniker, the change was done for trademarking purposes and officially goes into effect today, May 1.

“It turns out there’s another Dale in craft brewing, and in all fairness, he was here first,” said Andy Dale.

His brother added, “While it was really hard to think about giving up our company’s name, we knew it was the right thing to do.”

Established in 2003 by brewmaster Curt Dale, the brewery was one of the founding breweries of the Los Angeles-area craft beer movement and is considered the “dean” of local breweries. In 2007, Andy Dale joined the company to head up business development and help with the brewery’s first substantial expansion at the brewery and into restaurants and bars. They eventually began bottling their beers, which are currently available at most local stores that sell craft beer.

“Being two brothers with the last name Dale, it seemed like calling the company Dale Bros. Brewery was a natural,” said Curt Dale.

LNB_Bottles_SeasonalBest known for its flagship amber lager Pomona Queen, Last Name Brewing will still be located at 2120 Porterfield Way and will continue to brew Pomona Queen and its vast assortment of year-round, special and seasonal brews, including several new beer releases later this year, said Karen McMillen, Last Name Brewing co-owner and marketing chief.

“Call us whatever you want,” said Andy Dale. “We’re still the same people, making the same great beer.”

McMillen said the brewery team worked with Pasadena-based branding and advertising agency Echo-Factory to develop the new name.

“We wanted something that we could transition our existing branding to easily and that captured the feel of who we are,” McMillen said. “With the boom in the craft beer industry over the last decade, trying to come up with a new name that both ‘fit us’ and that we could trademark was a challenge.”

The Best Beers? Ask the Judges

thumb_IMG_6506_1024Tables for two filled the spacious room typically filled with wine tasters during the annual Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona. With the Fair still months away, the space leading from the Fairplex Flower and Garden building usually sits quiet during this time of year.

But for two days in early April, the room was bustling with activity. Servers attentively cleared empty glasses and pitchers at each of the tables, diligently replacing them with fresh beverages and ensuring that each of the nearly 100 guests would not go thirsty.

The gathering of distinguished craft brewers, home brewers, beer industry professionals, alcoholic beverage writers and Beer Judge Certification Program certified judges from throughout Southern California examined more than 1,000 beers from around the world in 97 different categories to determine the winners of this year’s Los Angeles International Commercial Beer Competition.

thumb_IMG_6508_1024When the foam settled, an English Old Ale aged for a year in oak barrels with Brettanomyces yeast emerged as the 2016 Best of Show. Gaderian from San Diego’s Council Brewing Co. was declared the top entry by the expert panel, which included the most celebrated beer judge in California, Jim Wilson, from Redondo Beach.

“Usually, higher alcohol beers with more intense flavors fare well in the Best of Show judging,” said Wilson, noting that last year a Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout from New English Brewing in San Diego won the top prize.

Wilson is the only Grand Master Level III BJCP Certified judge in California and the state’s only Grand Master of any ranking living south of Santa Barbara. To further put his expertise in perspective, there are 9,500 BJCP judges worldwide, and only 14 have earned Wilson’s rank or higher.

This year’s entries included beers from around the globe, including Brazil, Bavaria, Belgium, Canada and all corners of the United States.

“I’ve judged 10 of the last 12 Los Angeles International Beer Competitions. Over that time the contest has become sophisticated, well organized and huge with thousands of entries judged in 97 different categories,” Wilson said.

Another judge, home brewer Stephanie Collins from Claremont, noted that the reviewing panels included “a good mix with a lot of talent and people who love beer.” A fan of sour beers, she was paired with me in evaluating French and Belgian-Style Saisons, Brown Porters and Belgian-Style Fruit Beers.thumb_IMG_6520_1024

The complete list of medal-winning beers is posted at www.labeercomp.com. Entries will be available to sample at LA on Tap, a public tasting event on May 7 benefiting The Learning Centers at Fairplex. For more information about the participating breweries and to purchase tickets, visit www.laontap.beer.

Be sure to check out my other stories at IEShineOn and the Foothills Reader Sunday insert in the Los Angeles Times.

The Secret Club

12973042_10153795661978813_6381892529046587664_oProhibition era-style speakeasies are once again returning to prominence, except now they are legal. While Los Angeles and other major cities around the nation have their share of these hidden bars, there has yet to be one thumb_IMG_3392_1024surface in the Inland Empire — unless it’s so secret that I haven’t heard about it. The closest thing to a speakeasy now operates in the Claremont Village. To find out where it is and what makes it special, read my story on IEShineOn.

The Educational Aspects of Alcohol

My interest in adult beverages goes back long before I was even legally able to drink alcohol. From collecting beer cans and beer signs in high school, to gaining exposure to great wines while working at the Los Angeles County Fair, to experimenting with various cocktails as a I got older, to now writing about beer, wine and spirits, it seems I’ve always had a passion for adult beverages. Moreover, I’ve always been fascinated – and curious.thumb_00409_s_15am63mzjj0409_1024

For example, my early beer tastings always included a wide variety of imported beers (and I added the bottles to my collection). And even though I hadn’t yet developed a taste for wine, I took a wine education course in college.

As I grew older and beer gave way to mixed drinks and my more advanced wine palate, I wanted to learn how to make a good cocktail. Unfortunately, the period during the 1980s into the 2000s was the “dark era” for quality mixed drinks. Pre-packaged mixers, sodas and canned juices were the norm, with little attention to quality fresh ingredients. As documented (sort of) in the 1988 movie “Cocktail,” there was more focus on flashy bartending skills than on superior drinks. The priority was on banging out as many drinks as quickly as possible.

thumb_00089_s_15am63mzjj0089_b_1024Because this is what I grew up with, the only exposure I had to complex cocktails was when I was too young to care. But over the past decade I remembered that early introduction that came from watching my dad wield creative concoctions at home, and I decided the time had come to learn how to make a good cocktail.

I subscribed to Imbibe magazine and found the BarSmarts online bartending program. Still, I’ve never worked behind a bar in my life (except with family and friends). That program opened my eyes to a wealth of valuable intelligence, beginning with the history of fermented liquor to advanced bartending practices. Fortunately, my discovery coincided with the somewhat recent resurgence of the craft cocktail. It expanded my taste for certain spirits and helped me to better understand, appreciate and mix a well-made cocktail. It’s the kind of education that shouldn’t be limited to bartenders.

My most recent bit of schooling takes me back to beer. Of course, beer today is a completely different product than it was 20, 15 and even 10 years ago. The world of craft beer grabbed me hard and has my attention. I’m not yet brewing, but I want to know how and perhaps try.

My latest plunge is an extended university course at Cal Poly Pomona that covered the inner workings of the craft brew world. The four-week “Culture of Micro-Brewery and Handcraft Beers” class explored the history of beer back some 7,000 years, to the European development of ales and lagers, to Prohibition in the United States to today’s craft beer explosion.thumb_IMG_3295_1024

Michael “Porter” Barichere, who admittedly is not a brewer but a major craft beer enthusiast, teaches the class. He also works at BevMo in Chino Hills and leads the Friday night in-store sampling sessions. Porter formed the Chino Valley Beer and Friends group to help publicize local beer-related events.

Located in a classroom adjacent to the university’s own craft brewery, Innovation Brew Works, the class is remarkably interesting; you won’t find students nodding off watching the clock waiting for the bell to ring. Almost everyone in the course I took already had a decent knowledge about craft beers, but that certainly wasn’t a prerequisite.

Talking and sampling great beer is not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon. But perhaps the best aspect is the interaction between Barichere and the students, who all have the chance to talk about their favorite brews. I routinely left each class session with notes about beers I need to find and sample, and breweries I need to visit.

Another session featured a guest appearance by Koby Harris, the chief brewer at Innovation Brew Works, who shared several of the brewery’s beers and led a tour of the brewery. Nothing like watching the beer-making process in action.

Yet another session focused on the science of beer making, with a Cal Poly microbiology graduate student explaining the role that yeast plays in creating different beer styles. Different types of yeast yield different flavors and styles.

As he should, Barichere opened every class with a reminder about drinking responsibly, designating a driver and knowing the higher alcohol content that comes with craft beer. Our instructor gave rightful attention to the dangers that can come with alcohol consumption.

As far as I know, you can’t find this kind of education anywhere else locally. Check the Cal Poly Pomona Extended University website for future class offerings. Cheers.

Sid Robinson is managing partner of the strategic communications and public relations firm Robinson and Associates, LLC. (www.robinsonandassociates.us). His articles about craft beer, wine and spirits also appear in publications such as Foothills Reader and 909 Magazine.

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