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Dec 18, 2014

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American Beer Month: 2000 Tasting
Beers to inspire a brewer

by Todd Ashman

Todd Ashman brews at Flossmoor Station Brewing Co. in Flossmoor, Ill. In July 2000, his beers had won five medals in the last three years at the Great American Beer Festival, and captured two silver medals in the recent World Beer Cup competition.

Reflecting on my early days of craft beer enjoyment, I must say that I was in the right place at the right time. I moved from Texas to Cotati, Calif., in early 1987. After a few months Rohnert Park became my home for the next eight years. I was living in wine country -- Sonoma County, it was wonderful. It wasn't long though before my interest shifted to beer. There was lots of it too. Brewpubs were starting to open nearby. My favorite grocery store, Oliver's in Cotati would prove to be one of the best stocked stores in the North Bay area. I guess I'd have to say they are partially "to blame" for my current career choice.

The Sonoma County Beerocrats get credit, too. I was introduced to homebrewing by these folks at the height of their 10-year reign as Homebrew Club of the Year. Many of the members of the Beerocrats were professional brewers and some of that rubbed off on me.

Living in Northern California had some great advantages. I lived very close to some great breweries. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico was a four-hour drive. I have to tell you if you get a chance, go! It's like a pilgrimage for me. The draft line up is always great and there is always something pouring that makes it worth the trip. My introduction to Sierra Nevada products was with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale I remember it well as it was my first experience with hoppy beer. I was sold. This was it. I wanted to brew beer like this and be able to call it my own.

SNPA - Light copper in color with a white head. Wonderful cascade hop aroma is very inviting. The beer delivers on its promise and the hops are there. Medium bodied with a touch of malt sweetness. The hop finish is this beer's trademark. If you ever wanted to know what Cascades hops are like this is the beer to taste.

Anderson Valley Brewing Co. in Booneville was harder to get to. Taking Highway 128 from Cloverdale looks easy on the map. Switchbacks and a two lane road keep the pace fairly slow at times. I made many trips to the Buckhorn Saloon. I was always in for a treat. Special beers like Centennial (every 100 brews) or Horn of the Beer. Great place, but watch out for those tractor seat barstools!

Belks Bitter ESB - Pale gold color with a white head. Mild hop aroma. Moderately bitter with a light to medium body. Nice malt sweetness that leads into a light hop finish. I think I'd like to drink this beer all summer long. Might be a good choice for those just starting to drink craft brewed beer.

By the mid-90s I pretty much knew I was going to be a brewer it was just matter of getting all my ducks in a row. In 1995 I attended a conference in Portland, Ore., hosted by Brewing Techniques magazine. I was making contacts, talking to brewers and exposing myself to the beers of the Pacific Northwest. There were two breweries that made a big impression on me.

Hair of the Dog is a very small brewery that brews very big beers. I got to meet Alan Sprints who was good enough to share many of his fine beers. When I left the brewery my future seemed certain. I was going to brew. It was just a matter of where...

Hair of the Dog Brewing Golden Rose - Wow! What a beer. Deep Amber color with a tan head. Aroma is a blend of alcohol and sweet malt. Starts off with a sweet malty note and the alcohol reminds you to sip this beer. For a beer of this strength the body is in the medium range. I imagine an alcohol tolerant yeast is used and a fermentation temperature warm enough to attenuate thoroughly. The bottle states that Aromatic and Honey malts are used as is Belgian candi sugar. These ingredients are apparent in the flavor. This a wonderful beer and if you can find it treat yourself.

I brew El Diablo, which is my attempt at Golden Rose. If you are in the Chicago area in November stop by Flossmoor Station. We should be serving it.

Full Sail Brewing Company in Hood River has to be one of the coolest places. When I went there I stepped into the tasting room and got a beer. I then went straight out on the deck and couldn't believe what I was seeing. There must have been 60-plus sail boarders on the Columbia River. Then of course I fully understood why it is Full Sail... These guys produce a solid lineup of beers. One of the beers that I really enjoy is the Amber Ale as well as the Imperial Porter.

Full Sail Pale Ale - Straw/Golden ale with a white head. Aroma gives a big hop dose right up front. Umm, Centennial hops, my favorite. Medium bodied and a great malt base. Centennial hops are very floral and herbal. I find this beer to be very drinkable.

At Flossmoor Station we take the next step and brew a similar beer but to IPA strength. We call it Todd & Jeff's Excellent IPA. It's a seasonal so be sure to call before coming by if your are looking for this one.

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