Barbarella
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Beer and rugby are more or less synonymous. — Chris Laidlaw

I like to think of myself as pretty hip. It’s not as if I’m walking around with an iPad or anything, but when it comes to most things, I’m definitely more “early adopter” than “laggard.” I was the first among my group of foodie friends to point out that burrata (a gooey-centered mozzarella) had become the chocolate lava cake of 2009 — the latest “in” food to appear on all restaurant menus.

On the day the iPhone was released in June 2007, I stood in line with David so he could be among the first to pick one up. When something fresh is produced, the sooner I acquire it the better, so that I can get as much use out of it as possible before the next thing comes along, beckoning me with its nerdy siren call. Us early adopters don’t care much for what is; we want to know what’s next.

But one cannot be forever vigilant. As hip as I like to think I am, one recent fad has just about passed me by, and it’s my own damned fault. I was too busy huffing fermented grapes to notice that, to the rest of my comrades who pride themselves on being in the know, beer had become the new wine.

Oh, there had been hints, but I could not fathom beer existing outside of its role as manly social lubricant. High school keggers and college parties fueled by Natural Light had fomented my prejudice against bitter beer.

The first time I went to Blind Lady Ale House in Normal Heights (one of many new beer-centric bars), I ordered a glass of wine. Only now do I realize what a fool I’d been, clinging to my glass of mediocre merlot as I shared pizza with a handful of draft devotees.

Toronado, Pizza Port, Karl Strauss, Stone Brewing, Ballast Point — I was familiar with a number of San Diego’s brew-tastic joints; I’d even eaten at a few of them. But in the past five years, I could remember ordering a beer only once...and David was quick to tell me that didn’t count because “pear cider is not exactly beer.” Speaking of my man, he was way ahead of me on this one — on our last few grocery runs, he’d been skipping the wine section and bringing home strange-looking bottles with even stranger names on the labels, such as Arrogant Bastard, Moose Drool, and La Fin Du Monde (“the end of the world”).

“Where did you find those?” I asked. The only beer brands I knew were the ones I’d passed in the supermarket — the Buds and Coors whose gigantic displays featured digital clocks counting down to the Super Bowl; beers aimed at guys who consider drinking a hobby (with that low-alcohol content, you can pound ’em all day and remain standing long enough to hoot and holler at the television screen in the final minutes of the game).

“Whole Foods,” David said, as he cleared space in the fridge for his bottles. “You know, you might like some of these.”

“I seriously doubt it,” I said.

Because I’m totally down with the slow-food trend, I was quick to RSVP when I caught wind of a “fresh dinner” event happening at Stone Brewing Company in Escondido. Each ingredient from the menu was to be procured from a local farm on the same day as the meal. The chef and his staff drove all over the county to collect fare from eight farms (including Peterson Specialty Produce, Wing Lee Poultry & Meats, Carlsbad Aqua Farm, and Suzie’s Farm).

I don’t really think about breweries making beer. It’s not that I didn’t understand the concept, it’s just that — having never sampled the concoctions from any of San Diego’s 33-odd breweries — I tend to think of them more as restaurants that serve beer than breweries that serve food. It was David who informed me that Stone (makers of that Arrogant Bastard stuff he’d brought home) is favored among “beer geeks,” the malty libation’s version of the “wine snob.” Still, as we drove from Hillcrest to Escondido, it had yet to register that I’d be ordering beer with dinner.

Before we were seated, patrons were allowed into the huge space that houses the fermentation tanks. Each of us received a tall glass of fresh, unfiltered beer, poured right from the tap of the tank. I had one sip and declared it too acrid for consumption. Back in the mingling area, I offered my ration to a guy I’d just met, a naval submarine engineer who reacted as if I’d just handed him a 20-dollar bill.

David assured me that not all beer is bitter and reminded me of the flavored Belgian lambics I’d enjoyed. When the server came around, I trusted David to make my selection for me. There is nothing that David is not particular about, be it liquor (Junipero is his favorite gin, Grey Goose his preferred vodka), wine (Carnival of Love, the Prisoner), or beer (Dark Lord, Bourbon County). He once tasted over a dozen different bottled-water brands in one sitting before settling on the Spanish Mondariz brand (which, he often laments, is no longer attainable here).

“What do you have that’s on the sweet side and not hoppy?” David asked our server, his head gesturing my way, thereby outing me as the beer novice. The server brought me a glass of white ale. I was pleasantly surprised when the refreshing sour/floral flavor paired well with the first course.

David, always looking for new experiences, had ordered a dark and viscous Belgian beer that resembled motor oil (we were informed that Stone’s menu offers an extensive selection of beers they don’t make themselves).

“Try this,” David said, sliding his glass toward me on the dark wood of the table.

“That’s okay, I’m liking this one,” I said.

He nudged the glass closer until it clinked against my plate and said, “Come on, can’t hurt.”

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Comments

PistolPete Feb. 17, 2010 @ 10:55 a.m.

Great story Barb. Being a beer affic-drunk, I can assure you that there are some good beers out here. Personally, I prefer the German beers, biers, lagers and ales. America's Germany is located in the middle west however. I'm partial to Leinie's myself. I used to eschew the snobby foo-foo beers but have relented quite a bit and have tried many amazing beers that I never thought I would. I also prefer the thicker, darker beers that breweries are offering. While growing up, I sampled Leinenkugel's Bock a few times. The s*** was so thick, you could stick a lead pencil in it and it would not tip to the side of the glass.

My favorite dark beers include: Leinenkugel's Bock(unavailable in it's original form) Leinenkugel's Creamy Dark Oggi's Black Magic Stout Guinness

My favorite fruity beers include: Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat Blue Moon

My favorite lighter beers include: Leinenkugel's Classic Amber Miller High Life Heineken

Friends don't let friends become beer snobs. After six, they ALL taste the same...

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Tttea Feb. 18, 2010 @ 12:09 p.m.

Gee, Barb...

Seems hubby may not have found the beer if the economy hadn't tanked.

You call yourself a foodie? Do you even recall how to boil that egg? Do you do it? Enjoying eating expensive or exotic foods or calling yourself a foodie doesn't make you a foodie, it makes you skinny used to be heavy girl with and appetite. You're a wanna be classy/wealthy person who is trying way too frickin hard.

Diva..

We've known about the Arrogant Bastard for a decade.. your hubby isn't hip and your column is becoming a bigger joke than it was before you lost the weight, gained the hubby and the overpriced condo, and lost all that income.

now that you don't have all the access from two years back, who are you, really??

You're supposed to be "San Diego woman tells all".

That should read "prententious immature female writer has a column"

How about have a little honest in your divaship or really, find a passion and embrace it.. if you still like to eat, call yourself an eater.

You're writing yourself into irrelevancy and you seem not to notice.

T

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david Feb. 18, 2010 @ 12:52 p.m.

I've been into the good stuff since the 80's when I was brewing my own, T. And one doesn't have to know how to cook or enjoy cooking to be a foodie and appreciate good food.

I'm just sayin'...

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PistolPete Feb. 18, 2010 @ 2:01 p.m.

Ouch, Tttea. I must admit that you are entitled to your opinion and at one time I thought along similar lines but Barb seems to be the type of person to sit down with a lovable loser and no account boozer like me to at least learn something new about a fine beverage like beer. I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't a huge fan of Barb's when I started reading her column but she has shown that she has alot of heart for us "commoners". :-D

If anything, Barb is just guilty of being a Sandy Eggan. That CAN be remedied with a few doses of Midwestern humor and rebeliousness.

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prinzeugen Feb. 18, 2010 @ 8:18 p.m.

Welcome to Beer-topia! I think beer has come a long way! Tttea who...?? I think I will have a nice Widmer Hefe to finish the night!

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PistolPete Feb. 18, 2010 @ 9:16 p.m.

There's a show called How Stuff Works on Discovery right now. Tonight's episode is how beer is made. Pretty interesting. I've been a beer drinker almost 30 years and I'm learning new stuff on here.

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Robert Hagen Feb. 18, 2010 @ 10:30 p.m.

Ttea:

The proof is in the pudding, and its obvious you're one of those contrarians for its own sake. Diva is an outstanding writer, so much so that more people read her than the SD Union- on any given day.

The beer thing: I drink beer in order to avoid drinking Jack Daniels. Because I'm an addictive sort, and I'll swig whatever is in front of my chops pretty much like beer. But I do love the stuff. My take on beer is that I'm going to get a fresh Take on the situation- a Tecate.

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PistolPete Feb. 18, 2010 @ 11:35 p.m.

Lulz, diego! I'm off to the can and then the gas station for a pack of cowboy killers and I'll be doing so with an ice cold silo of Coors Light in my meaty palms. Haven't had a brew since Super Bowl Sunday.

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David Dodd Feb. 18, 2010 @ 11:36 p.m.

"You're writing yourself into irrelevancy and you seem not to notice."

I've been thinking about this sentence all f&@!ing day, and only now have I reached the conclusion that it's the stupidest statement I've ever read. One can do much toward self-irrelevancy, but writing is not one of them unless suicide immediately follows. And even then, who can say? The most ironic part of it all is that harsh critics ensure that such an irrelevancy never occurs. Congrats, Tttea. You've made irrelevancy quite relevant.

And, you've made the "WTF comment of the week" dartboard in my brain, something to throw at while laboring over cooking dinner or while writing about f!&@tards who write before they think. Again, congrats.

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SDaniels Feb. 19, 2010 @ 12:56 a.m.

re: #1: Pete, have you tried Stone Brewery brews? Tasty stuff. I like to go to the brewery and have a bowl of their cheddar soup, too--food is elsewise no good.

Oh yes, that's right. "Elsewise" isn't a word. Neither is "irrelevancy." ;)

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PistolPete Feb. 19, 2010 @ 1:18 a.m.

;-D I've only tried the bottled Arrogant Bastard(fitting that the words that describe Charger fans comes from a town 25 miles away) & Stone Pale Ale. The Brewery is close to me and I have an old customer from Shell who works there. I must go to a tasting sometime. I hear it's quite the place...

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PistolPete Feb. 19, 2010 @ 1:29 a.m.

I also highly recommend Lightning Brewery in Poway. After tasting the crap from Pizza Port in Carlsbad a few years ago, I kind of pooh-poohed local brews as being not worthy of a Midwest drunk like myself. Then I tasted Arrogant Bastard and SPA and I gave SoCal another chance. I found Lightning in a bottle at Bevmo shortly after discovering it one day at the Poway Brigantine.

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Barbarella Fokos Feb. 19, 2010 @ 7:47 a.m.

I appreciate your thoughtful, intelligent comments. Pete, thanks for the recommendations! I'm going to a beer bar tonight, and I'm bringing your list with me. Diego, thanks for the kind words about my writing (blush). Refried, I love that you spent all day pondering this -- syntax is sexy. ;)

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PistolPete Feb. 19, 2010 @ 11:13 a.m.

Barb, the Leinenkugels are going to be hard to come across in this area. Ralphs, Albertsons and Bevmo USUALLY carry the bottled Sunset Wheat and Classic Amber. Those are the usual suspects trucked in from Wisconsin. The Bock 1888 and Creamy Dark you MAY find at Bevmo in a seasonal sample pack. The Summer Shandy is a summer only beer. Depending on where you go, you'll find other companies shandies. Your best best for find any kind of Leinies is going to be The Yard house and I believe Toronado. For my birthday last year, I found a few bottles of Sunset Wheat at a nicer dive bar here in Esco. I guess the tarbender's BF found it and had her order a case.

Based on my list, I'd definetely try to sample the Blue Moon if you've never had it before. It's similar in taste to the Summer Shandy because of the hint of coriander. Be sure to get an orange slice too.

If you ever see a variation of a beer called Berghoff's, be sure to sample that as well. Berghoff's is a Chicago classic. The brewery also had a sister restaurant by the same name but it closed down years ago. The brewery remains however. It's a German beer so it's best at room temperature.

EDIT: Looks like I was wrong somewhat. http://www.berghoff.com/Berghoff/home2.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Berghoff_(restaurant) The restaurant was re-opened.

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Landfish Feb. 20, 2010 @ 10:23 a.m.

one of the better articles I've read.

Also, if David likes Grey Goose Vodka tell him to buy the Kirkland brand from Costco. It's the exact same Vodka and you pay $10+ less for it.

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Barbarella Fokos Feb. 20, 2010 @ 12:24 p.m.

Thanks, Landfish. Great tip! We had no idea. Now, just need to get a Costco membership. And, if we end up buying vodka in bulk, probably need to obtain a membership in AA as well. ;)

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Robert Hagen Feb. 20, 2010 @ 5:57 p.m.

Vodka! What a concept! We used to drink Stolichnaya's vodka and mix it with Kool Aid when I was in high school in East San Diego. We loved it, and the best thing was, none of us had cars. There was no way we could get in trouble.

Diva, what I really like about your writing is that you're sincere, you paint a picture and you never waste a word. I try to incorporate that in what I'm up to. I've learned to incorporate that in my stuff, so you influenced me. Everyone has their own style- or at least should. And you definitely do.

As for beer, if I'm in a class joint and looking to make a good impression, I simply order a Samuel Adams Boston Lager. I'd drink it all the time but when you drink as much beer as I do, that small price differential adds up quick. Another good ale- Corona Especial with a lime wedge in it. Another one- Newcastle's, room temperature- you'll think you died and went to heaven. That would be my recommendation.

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PistolPete Feb. 20, 2010 @ 9:12 p.m.

To all you Bock lovers out there, I tried a Sierra Nevada Glissade Golden Bock tonight. Not a bad Bock. It was different from the traditional Bocks that are out there. Lighter and smoother.

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bohemianopus Feb. 22, 2010 @ 8:29 a.m.

Great article! I really enjoyed reading this. BTW: TTTEA sounds like one of those Teabagger Party people. Same sense of logic.

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RN_trauma903 Feb. 24, 2010 @ 5:35 p.m.

Jeff and I had a great time with you at the Fresh Dinner...and he was very happy to finish your unwanted IPA, too! Hope to see you and David again soon!

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