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laughren - book cover Picmonkey 

A Beer Drinker's Guide to Knowing and Enjoying Fine Wine

by Jim Laughren, CWE


Crosstown Publishing 2012

ISBN 978-0-9855336-1-8

203 pages, soft cover, $16.95


The best teachers are always the ones secure enough in their knowledge that they convey the message in simple and un-pedantic style. Such is the case with Jim Laughren. Obviously deeply knowledgeable about wine (he's a Certified Wine Educator), Laughren is similarly familiar with beer.

It's surprising that so many of today's craft beer devotees are clueless when it comes to wine. After all, both beer and wine are fermented beverages and have been around for a long, long time. Maybe searching for the latest variations on the pervasive India Pale Ale theme doesn't leave room for exploring other drinks. If so, that's unfortunate because in discovering wine, these beer drinkers might be doubling their pleasures. A Beer Drinker's Guide to Fine Wine makes the case for doing just that.

In early chapters, Laughren explains similarities of the brewing and vinification processes, the physiology of tasting and the steps taken to analyze a wine. He also makes sense of some of the arcane winespeak, or argot of the “wine geek.” Beer drinkers who chat about IBUs and ABVs (International Bittering Units and Alcohol by Volume) shouldn't find daunting their vinous counterparts' discussions of degrees Brix at harvest (a measure of sugar or ripeness) or the different French oaks used in barrel construction. Knowing the jargon may help one understand a subject, a good thing if it leads to enjoyment of it. Laughren also takes his readers through a world tour of wine producing regions, providing helpful background additional to the geography lesson.

Throughout, Jim Laughren conveys a lot of basic (and not so basic) information and does it in a straight-forward and good humored manner. A Beer Drinker's Guide to Knowing and Enjoying Fine Wines is a product of substantial scholarship. It does a great job of explaining wine in clean and simple fashion. And it's fun to read.


Reviewer Dan Clarke was fortunate to be introduced to the pleasures of both beer and wine in childhood (sips from Dad's paper cup at a ball game and Wente Grey Riesling with Mom's oven-fried chicken). 

Friday, 07 June 2013 01:41

June 7, 2013 Beer Pick of the Week


West Coast IPA Green Flash 2 Picmonkey

West Coast IPA


 Green Flash

 Location: San Diego

 Style: West Coast IPA

 Alcohol: 7.3%

 IBUs: 95

 Serving Style: 12 and 22-ounce bottles and on draft

 Available: Year-round in California and 40 other states


Appearance:  “Clear. It's an IPA, but it's not pale, which speaks to its malt characteristic.”

Aroma:  “Pronounced hoppiness.”

Taste:  “A lot of West Coasts IPAs are one side (just hoppy), but this has a significant malt profile. So it's balanced.

Food Affinity:  “Pork tenderloin, prepared with rosemary, garlic and mustard—my favorite dish.”

General Background:  The reviewed beer is West Coast IPA made by Green Flash Brewing Co. in San Diego. It has spawned a whole genre of beer known as “West Coast IPAs.” Other breweries use proprietary names for their products made in this style.

Jeff Smith mug shot Picmonkey


reviewed by Jeff Smith, a home brewer and long-time fan of West Coast IPA.


Monday, 03 June 2013 21:05

New Microbrewery in Oakhurst

Southgate Brewing in Oakhurst PicmonkeyFrom left, Lindsay and Casey Hawkins, owners of Southgate Brewing Company and brewmaster Rick Boucke, toast the success of their new Oakhurst brewpub.

Beer lovers have a new place to try just outside of Yosemite National Park. Southgate Brewing Company opened their doors in Oakhurst—about 15 minutes south of Yosemite--just prior to the start of the Memorial Day Holiday weekend and so far, the public has loved the new microbrewery and restaurant.

Owner Casey Hawkins said it’s his staff’s attention to service and detail that has helped them gain a quick following.

“We have a knowledgeable, dynamic team that delivers top notch service to every guest in a fun, family friendly brewpub environment,” he said.

“Our menu pairs beautifully with our house made beers and is thoughtfully sourced, featuring American Pub fare with some exciting twists. Fried Artichoke Hearts and House Made Potato Chips are a great way to start your meal. Our South Gate Burger is made with grass fed beef from Painted Hills Farm, and our Mary's free range chicken is another house favorite,” said Hawkins.

Ingredients are locally sourced, with cheeses coming from local dairies, most of the produce sourced from local growers and even the ice cream for their root beer floats comes from Reimer’s Vanilla Bean ice cream. For patrons looking for wine instead of beer, local Idle Hour Winery wines are featured on the menu.

While the food has been earning praise, it’s the microbrews that many people are coming for, and those too have earned commendation from the public.

“We have the Deadwood Porter, a smooth dark porter with roasted malt and coffee flavors, the Gold Digger Blond, an easy drinking pilsner-style beer lightly hopped and great on a hot day. We have the Sawtooth IPA, A west-coast style IPA with a slightly tropical/citrus flavor and smooth finish and our Glacier Point Pale Ale is hoppy pale ale with grapefruit and citrus flavors and my personal favorite,” said Hawkins.

Editor's note: Planning on being in the Yosemite area? In Taste California Travel's Resource Directory, you will find a link to the website of Southgate Brewing (in the High Sierra section of our Beer listings). Also in the directory are links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in the area.

Thursday, 30 May 2013 19:33

May 31, 2013 Beer Pick of the Week


Censored Pickmonkey 2




 Producer: Lagunitas Brewing Co.

 Location: Petaluma, CA

 Style: Red/Copper Ale

 Alcohol: 6.7%

 IBUs: 39

 Serving Style: 12 oz. bottles and draft

 Availability: Year-round in California and 37 other states.


Appearance:  “Like a bright, well-used penny,”

Aroma:  “Very light malt nose.”

Taste:  “A full-bodied, surprisingly crisp malt flavor with a very gentle finish.

Food Affinity:  “Would go with barbecued foods—ribs for sure, maybe pork tenderloin.”

General Background:  Brewery says this beer was originally named “Kronik,” but federal authorities deemed that to be a marijuana reference and put the kibosh on it. As a joke they resubmitted with new “Censored” identity and the BATF accepted that label. Ah, bureaucrats.

Michael Mallett Mug May 2013 Picmonkey 

Reviewed by Michael Mallett, a trans-personal astrologer in Sacramento.


Sunday, 19 May 2013 18:00

May 17, 2013 Beer Pick of the Week

GK-tap2 Picmonkey 



Producer: Oskar Blues Brewery

Location: Longmont, Co and Brevard, NC

Style: Imperial Red Ale

Alcohol: 8.7%

IBUs: 60

Serving style: draft and pint cans

Availability: Year-round nationally.


Appearance:  “Nice amber color.”

Aroma: "A little citrussy hoppiness, followed by malt.

Taste:  “Nicely balanced beer between hoppy and malty. Has a malty backbone balanced by an appealing hoppy bitterness.

Food Affinity:  “Would be good with spicy foods. It has enough malt to balance any of the spices.”

Nate Folsom Photo Picmonkey



--reviewed by Nate Folsom, a wine merchant in Sacramento



Editor's note: In 2002 the craft brewery Oskar Blues put the first of their line of beers, Dales' Pale Ale, in a can, a revolutionary move at the time. Actually there are many advantages to “bottling” in a can and Oskar Blues, as well as 30-plus other craft brewers who've followed suit, will celebrate the Burning Can Festival at Bohn Park in Lyons, Colorado Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1 of this year. We like their style.

Sunday, 19 May 2013 17:23

May 10, 2013 Beer Pick of the Week

El Steinber Single Picmonkey

El Steinber


Producer: Anderson Valley Brewing Co.

Location: Boonville, Mendocino County, CA

Style: dark lager

Alcohol: 5.5%

ABUs: 25

Serving Style: Draft and 16 oz. cans

Availability: Year-round in California and much of the U.S.


Appearance:  “It's dark.”

Aroma:  "Nose is subtle, but some toasty malt apparent."

Taste:  “Roasted malts give you more of that roasty/toasty, grain flavor that is typical of dark lagers. 'Chewier' than typical light lagers.”

Food Affinity: "Sauerbraten mit Spätzle und Rotkohl."


M.E. No 

--reviewed by Michael Eady


Saturday, 04 May 2013 21:52

May 3, 2013 Beer Pick of the Week

La Trappe Quadrupel Trappist AleLa Trappe Quadrupel glass  bottle Picmonkey


Producer: Brouerij Koningshoeven

Location: Tilburg, The Netherlands

Style: Quadrupel Trappist Ale

Alcohol: 10%

IBUs: unknown

Serving style: Sampled from 11 oz. Bottle

Availability: (Presumably) world-wide, year-around


Appearance:  "Dark amber to reddish-brown."

Aroma:  "Fruity, some prune and toffee."

Taste:  "Maple and sour cherries, but mostly prunes. Viscous and rich, yet with a lightness and subtle effervescence in mid-palate. Almost sweet (but not quite) in its long finish. Big and fairly alcoholic, it's a drink for sipping, not slurping.Maple and sour cherries, but mostly prunes. Viscous and rich, yet with a lightness and subtle effervesence in mid-palate. Almost sweet (but not quite) in its long finish. At 10% it's fairly alcoholic. Definitely for sipping, not slurping."

Food Affinity:  "Your reviewer's notes at tasting suggested smoked gouda cheese; dates stuffed with a little blue cheese, then wrapped in bacon and baked; roast pork with prunes, mashed potatoes and carmelized onions. Later he found suggestions at the brewery website to include stews and spicy dishes, grilled ribs with sweet-sour sauce and rich chocolate desserts. Three specific recipes included a venison goulash, doughnuts with pureed dates and French toast with pear and blue cheese."

mug of Dan  Picmonkey


reviewed by Dan Clarke, who enjoyed this Dutch beer at the suggestion of his friend, Sean-the-Cop, on the day Willem-Alexander succeeded his mother, Queen Beatrix, to become Holland's first King since 1890.


Thursday, 25 April 2013 18:59

April 26, 2013 Beer Pick of the Week


Six Rivers Raspberry Lambic Picmonkey


Raspberry-Lamic Style Ale


 Producer: Six Rivers Brewery

 Location: McKinleyville, CA

 Style: Belgian lambic style ale

 Alcohol: 7.4%

 IBUs: 13

Serving Style: Available on draft throughout Northern California and in growlers only at the Humboldt Co. brewery.


Appearance:  “Somewhat cloudy. Not as deep red as Lindemans Framboise, more of a darker, brownish red.

Aroma:  “You can smell the raspberries.”

Taste:  “Dry and light. Refreshing and 'cideresque'.”

Food Affinity: “I've had it with a big pretzel from Freeport Bakery with chipotle aioli and that was good. It would best as a starter or aperitif before a meal. or after dinner accompanying anything with vanilla ice cream."


Marlo Beer Reviewer Picmonkey 2


                    --reviewed by Marlo Bakes, who identifies herself as a foodie and beer connoisseur.


Friday, 19 April 2013 21:02

April 19, 2013 Beer Pick of the Week


Twilight Summer Ale Picmonkey

Twilight Summer Ale


Producer: Deschutes Brewery

 Location: Bend, Oregon

 Style: American light pale ale

 Alcohol: 5%

 IBUs: 35

 Serving Style: 12-oz. Bottles and draft

 Availability: May through September most of the western U.S. and British Columbia and Alberta in Canada.


Appearance:  Golden to light amber in color, lots of small-bubble carbonation and a nice head.

Aroma:  Faint hoppiness with some citrus aspects. Maybe a little pine resin and orange peel.

Taste:  Malt with restrained hoppiness and subtle citrus. Light-to-medium body. The carbonation gives an overall brightness to the feeling in the mouth. There's flavor here, but it doesn't overpower. Twilight Ale goes down easily and one glass invites a second.

Food Affinity:  The “brightness” mentioned earlier makes it a likely companion to much spring and summer fare. Among the possibilities . . . a shrimp cocktail, a Cobb salad or grilled piece of salmon, especially with a citrus glaze.

mug of Dan  Picmonkey 

 Reviewer Dan Clarke is looking forward to more bottles of Twilight Ale with this summer's barbecues.


Thursday, 21 March 2013 19:06

March 22, 2013 Beer Pick of the Week

DBA Tap Handle Picmonkey 

Firestone DBA


Producer: Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Location: Paso Robles, California

Style: English style bitter/amber ale

Alcohol: 5%

IBUs: 30

Serving style: 12 and 22-ounce bottles and draft

Availability: Year around on the West Coast


Appearance:  “Golden brown/amber brown. Beautifully clear considering it's not filtered.”

Aroma:  “Very little.”

Taste:  “It's an older, English style of beer, not one that punches you in the face. It's what an ale is supposed to be—smooth and complex.

Food Affinity:  “It's a very food-friendly beer for richer food. A roasted meat dinner—something with gravy. Or perhaps with mushroom parmigiana or a rabbit stew.”

General Background: Today's Pick was poured from draft. Firestone Walker considers the DBA (Double-Barreled Ale) their flagship product. It is partially fermented in American oak barrels which the brewery says enhances its fullness and “the clean briskness of the finish.”

Dan Scott Picmonkey


Reviewer Dan Scott lives in Sacramento

and describes himself as a “Beervangelist.”

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