On Monday, I finally did it. I stopped putting it off as I had for months and months and took the Certified Cicerone test!
Grayson drove down from Santa Barbara and picked me up at 6:30am. We fought a mess of traffic all the way down to San Diego and wound up at Stone Brewing, where the test was being administered.
Since it was only 9:30 and the test didn’t begin until 11am, Grayson and I wandered through the gardens behind the brewery.
It was an absolutely beautiful day! We debated whether or not we should just skip the test and spend the whole day sipping beer outside.
We scouted out a picnic table, sat down in the gentle sunlight and did our final cramming session. Note: If not for this final study hour, I would’ve missed at least six extremely random questions on the test.
Around 10:30am, we headed into the brewery and joined the group of about fifteen, almost all of whom were also in the midst of a final cram session.
A view of the mezzanine where the torture test would take place.
The test was far more intense than I even imagined. After over a year of studying, you realize how much you’ve learned and how much you have yet to discover. There was a three hour written test with essay questions, food pairing recommendations, style questions, draught system maintenance and troubleshooting and history questions. This was followed by an hour of tasting – off-flavors, style discrimination and beer acceptance. THAT was followed by a filmed demo – “show and tell us how to do this”. After four of the most intense hours of my life, Gray and I headed downstairs to stuff our faces, drink good beer and forget about all that had just occurred. Mac ‘n Beer Cheese with sausage and a Lukcy Basartd for me and Barbecue Duck Tacos with some other delicious beer for Grayson. The proctors called us all back upstairs to go over the tasting portion so we could find out if we passed that section.
BOOM. Passed the tasting! As for the written portion, I honestly have no idea if I passed or not. I feel relatively good about the majority of it (excepting the essays which I’m hoping for partial credit), but fully expect to have to retake it. I find out in seven weeks whether or not my low expectations will surprise me or not!
As for now, I’m sitting in my parental unit’s home in Colorado with the fireplace on and a hot cup of coffee, gazing out over the mountain range before we go to the gun range and Grimm Brothers Brewhouse (in that order). Commence relaxation in 3…2…1… And a belated Happy Thanksgiving to all!
I had an interview in San Diego yesterday and it was getting to be around lunchtime. I figured that I should probably enter this interview with a full stomach to level my head. Enter: Stone Brewing. Again! I can never get enough of either this place, or San Diego in general! My pops ordered the Oaked Arrogant Bastard. He graciously let me steal a few sips. I love how the oak chips slightly mellow out the bitter bite of hops without really diminishing the wonderful, mouth-puckering IBUs. Both the beer list and the food menu were quite slim because they’re in the midst of an expansion. A new building will be going up behind the current one, and all the bottling/production will go in there so that more fermentors can fit into the current building. Luckily, we were able to find a few things to consume, small menu aside. The prime rib melt – so far the best thing I’ve eaten at Stone. Mushroom pillows – so far my least favorite thing from Stone. The mushrooms had released all the water while cooking and made for a sloppy mess. I like mushrooms at times… This was not one of them. My mumsie got the duck tacos – sweet barbecued duck topped with fresh tomatoes, onions and sprouts, served alongside spiced rice, beans and corn salsa. For dessert we split the orange chiffon cheesecake. This was like eating delicious air! Incredibly light, creamy, not too sweet with a perfectly crumbly crust. After fooding, I had the interview and we cruised down to San Diego for the William Fitzsimmons concert in Little Italy. A few pictures of that will come later! First, we had to stop by my favorite bar in town: Craft & Commerce. Both Michael Skubic from Hess Brewing and Jeremy Moynier from Stone Brewing recommended the Up In Smoke. I had to try it. This is a very, very smoky/scotchy drink! I’ve always been afraid of bastardizing beer, but I’m glad I got this! The sweetness and carbonation of Allagash Curieux along with the tang of the lime juice balance the smoky scotch, with big cubes of ice to mellow the blunt alcohol. This baby is a slow sipper! The real question now is what beer cocktail to try next? After Craft & Commerce, we sallied over to Anthology and spent the night being lulled into mellow, happy oblivion by William Fitzsimmons.
I was blessed enough to be able to have a mid-week weekend down in San Diego with our family friends. Prepare for an onslaught of pictures. Stone Brewing – I made my own flight: Oaked Arrogant Bastard, Black IPA, IPA and Smoked Porter. Depressing Beer Mac ‘n Cheese. This was not even half as good as the first time I went there! They served it in a mini bowl with three pieces of sausage and still charged an insane amount. Mac ‘n Sadness. Pictures of my pops taking pictures of me in the beer garden. We’re cool like that.
Our families spent the evening sipping fine brews, wines and playing charades. My throat still hurts from laughing so much. I loves me these people!
Next day! Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern. Turkey chili and an albacore tuna melt on parmesan-crusted bread. HEAVENLY! Three-quarters of our family friends: Dave, Terry and Jenn. The other quarter – Bryce and me, being ourselves. Walking the harbor after lunch at Jimmy’s. Ditto. The view at Cabrillo National Park. The monument at the park. Pops and Bryce pretending to be normal… Pops and Bryce being themselves. Pretty aperture. Gazing at the military base. Boat. Museum a la park. Preserved inside of the lighthouse. Gorgeous ocean views. A beautiful bathroom overlooking the ocean. A bathroom I wouldn’t mind living in. Definitely wouldn’t mind the view. Peaceful sigh. Concert time! Gorgeous venue – Anthology. Food? FOOD! Organic chicken breast over truffle risotto. Beer!!! Mission IPA. Dave Mason. Awesomeness.
TODAY! Look familiar? Growler fills at Hess Brewing – Barleywine and coffee porter. My pops says that their barleywine is his all-time favorite, and that’s saying something! He’s very picky about his barleywines. Thanks to tasting room manager Michael Skubic for letting me drop by early – (your mini-growler awaits you at Enegren Brewing)! And good to meet you, Curtis! I didn’t find out what you were planning on brewing with all the grains you got! Iron Fist! Growler fill of Velvet Glove and a quick taster of the Martial Law.
SLEEP TIME! Up early to go to the shooting range! Fancy heeled boots and guns – yay or nay?
After Ballast Point, it was time for fooding! We headed over to Stone Brewing for lunch. Once Matt dragged me away from gazing adoringly at the brewery, we walked around the beer gardens while we waited for an outdoor table. This place is absolutely stunning! Buddha – a preview of how I was going to look and feel after consuming foods. I ordered the Vertical Epic 11.11.11. I am absolutely in love with this beer. The beautiful deep maroon beer is topped with a creamy, lacy head that emanates the slight aroma of cinnamon, a hint of chiles and clove. This tastes like heaven – honestly. Wonderfully malty with a hint of cinnamon and a slight kiss of chiles – not enough to be bitter or spicy, but just enough to give a warm essence of happiness and the aura of a cool autumn evening. The tail end features a slight bite of hops, rounding out what might be my favorite beer to date. It’s that good. We perused the menu, placed our orders and were treated to a personal tour while we waited for our food thanks to Commander Matt’s friend from high school who’s currently employed there. The regular tour had already taken off, as you can see in the bottom right, but we got to walk straight up the stairs and get a closer look. We stared into the line of never-ending fermentors. A look inside the mash tun. Glorious. The view looking into the bistro area. As you can imagine, the view into the brewery is a million times as magnificent. DROOL. After walking around in a dazed, happy stupor, we returned to the table and were immediately greeted by one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had at a brewpub.We split the prime rib melt – thin slices of tender beef covered in a smoky mayo, studded with bits of Anaheim chiles and topped with a slice of jalapeño havarti… …and the Mac ‘n Beer Cheese – drenched in Stone Smoked Porter and garlic beer cheese with generous slices of Stone Smoked Porter sausage hidden throughout. Both dishes were demolished.
After the meal, this Buddha was rolled out to the car and we headed to our final destination – Iron Fist Brewing – Coming soon!